So my pen went on a very long holiday and didn’t get back on time. Pweee!! sorry about that. A lot also kept me away: a blown power pack was one of the lot.Well, I’m right here, and I’m taking back my space. Hey! get back here with me! Winks! I’m really giving my best to this story and I know you’ll like it, just like others.
If you have forgiven my long absence, sit down and get back on the train with my fav characters: Nimi, Laye and Ken.
Her journey home that evening was the longest Nimi had ever taken. Tears pooled in her eyes and flowed ceaselessly. She didn’t mind the curious glances she got from people whom she shared the tricycle with. By the time she alighted at her bus-stop and made her way down the street to her house, the rain she had dreaded earlier came in torrent. This time she neither walked fast nor prayed against it. She felt no concern for her braids already soaking wet. Her tears and the rain blended together. Where one stopped, the other continued.
The street was deserted, save for the few who took shelter in front of their shops or unfenced compounds. She heard a few whistles calling to her, but she didn’t stop. The rain was less heavy than the one pouring in her heart and manifesting in her eyes.
Her heart burned within her chest. She clenched it and staggered a little. Her world had shattered. She could take no step further. She sank into the water puddle in the middle of the street few feet from her house. Around her, the rain poured. Bits of sand and stones stuck to her clothes. She felt content sitting right in the middle of the street. It made sense that she should drown herself in the sorrow that followed her breakup with Raymond.
Someone must have seen her fall, because in no time she was pulled back to her feet, and was staring into the concerned eyes of a middle-aged man.
“Are you alright?” He asked, concern outlining his words.
She looked at him for a few heartbeats but said nothing. When she didn’t say anything, he led her away from the pouring rain and under one of the roofs of a shop that provided shelter from the driving rain.
Curious glances met her when the man led her there. She said nothing, neither did she meet anyone’s eyes. She looked at the man who had helped her briefly before turning away to stare into the pouring rain.
“I’m fine. My house is close. I’ll go now.” she said in a low tone, barely audible above the sound of the rain on the zinc roof. She was about to cross the gutter separating the front of the shop from the street when she remembered she hadn’t said thanks. She turned to him, “thanks,” she added.
She walked away then. The strange silence didn’t affect her. She was sure they would talk about her. They would wonder about her strangeness, and someone who knew her among them would point out that she was the sister of the lady who married her husband’s friend. She wasn’t Nimi to so many on her streets and beyond anymore; she was the sister of the one who committed an abomination.
That had never really mattered to her. It was her sister’s life after all. Her sister hadn’t listened to any reason back when she had done what she did. All hell had broken loose. Her father threatened to disown her, her mother wept her eyes out; and she quarreled nonstop with her. In the end, they had accepted what they couldn’t change: her sister loved her husband’s friend more than she loved her husband. How it got to that was a long story she wasn’t even ready to relive just yet. She only wanted to mourn her shattered relationship because of what was no fault of hers.
She dragged herself into the quiet house disturbed by the sound of the rain against the roof. Her eyes darted right and left. The living room was arranged neatly, she noted with joy. The last thing she wanted adding to her sorrow was her mother’s nagging on orderliness. It was yet another scar her sister had left behind: her two-year-old son. Much as she loved her nephew, she couldn’t stand that they had to be responsible for him because of her sister’s irresponsibility. If it weren’t for her two younger siblings, she would have looked for her sister even if it took forever. Not loving his father didn’t mean she should not love her own son.
She walked across the living room, shoving her sister’s problems from her heart again. She had enough of her own. She padded the carpeted floor lightly to avoid being heard. That would have been impossible though because of the sound of the rain. She passed the line of rooms on the corridor. The first room was her parents’ room, next to it was the one shared by her brother. In between the rooms on one end of the corridor and the other stood two bathrooms and toilets. She walked by slowly to the room that her younger sister shared with her nephew. It was formerly her room. She caught snatches of a song as she made her way down to the room. Her room was the last. She opened the door and pulled herself in, leaning against the heavy wooden door.
Her eyes were dried with tears, saved the water dripping from her hair and falling on her face. She forced herself up and took down her towel from the door. She wrapped it around her head and pulled off her wet clothes. She took the heap and dropped them into a basket beside her bed, then she unwrapped the towel from her head and wrapped it around her body. A shiver ran through her like lightning in a cloudy sky. She hugged her shoulder and thoughts of Raymond filled her.
Why would he leave her? Why would he allow his mother dictate to him? Why wouldn’t he remember all they had shared?
Few hundred miles away, same questions plagued Raymond’s mind as he looked out of his window into the rainy darkness enveloping the outside.
What Nimi’s sister did wasn’t her fault. The decision was her sister’s. Hers alone. Why then did his mother shift it to Nimi? Oh no, a little voice stopped this line of thought. It wasn’t just your mother. Her prophet confirmed it; the voice reminded him. The same prophet that told you when you would get a job and you got it. The same prophet that assured your mother that your father who ran away to be with another woman would come back begging, and it happened. Why should he be wrong about Nimi now?
Raymond roughened his hair with his fingers, confusion biting deep within him like teeth on a juicy meat. Worry lines marked his forehead like tribal marks on the cheeks of a Yoruba man. If the prophet was true to his prophesies, how come he felt so guilty letting Nimi go. It was almost like a big hole now occupied where his heart was before. He felt empty and alone.
Nimi completed him. She loved him with all her heart. That, he was sure of as he was sure of the day breaking in the morning. From the moment their eyes had met in the bank that morning two years ago, he had fallen for her. The moment he asked for her pen and brushed her fingers as she handed it over to him, sparks of love had ignited within him. Each time they locked gaze and she smiled at him, he knew there was no turning back.
Starting a relationship with Nimi had been pure pleasure. They clicked right from the start like the lock on a briefcase. She loved what he loved and enjoyed what he did. Their differences were almost non-existent. He recalled each smile, each laughter; he recalled each tender moment lost in their own love world. His friends envied him and waited patiently for his wedding invitation. How would he tell them it was over now? What reasons would he give?
‘We’re not compatible spiritually. My mother wants someone who will complement me and stay with me forever. You know my father left my mother, and it seems infidelity runs in Nimi’s family. She doesn’t want me going down that road.’
A shudder ran through him. Everything sounded shallow. He hated himself and what he had done to Nimi. He hoped she would forgive him and understand where he was coming from. He could never disobey the woman who had given her all for him when his father left them with nothing. The woman who only wanted the best for her only child.
It wasn’t wrong to end a relationship because of her. He repeated this to himself. It should have made him feel good, but he felt like a trailer ran over him and crushed his heart. He placed a hand over his chest. Relief washed over him like a cleansing tide. His heart was beating. The only problem was each sound called for Nimi. Each rhythm yearned for her gentle and sweet presence.
It would take a whole lot than river bathing to cleanse him of Nimi. His mother and her prophet better be ready.
It wasn’t the way Layefa planned to end her day, but what choice did she have? Seeing her mother on the balcony told her she was yet to see the worst of the day. After spending hours sketching and re-sketching, just to impress the new ED, and still had nothing impressive, she had no intention of hashing anything out with her mother. The weather didn’t put her in a good mood either. She should have gone home with Nimi if not for her meeting with Raymond.
For a moment, she allowed her mind to drift from the predator that was watching her with mean eyes and thought about her friend.
How would things end between them? She pondered, concerned filled her eyes. What would happen to her friend if Raymond truly breaks up with her? She sent a word of prayer to heaven’s ears on behalf of her friend; then she faced the armored tank waiting for her.
She put one step in front of the other, drawing close to the place of war. When she got to the balcony, she greeted her mother. “Mama, good evening.” She said.
Her mother gave a long hiss. “What exactly is good about this evening, Layefa? Tell me?” She fired at her, standing up straight and adjusting the wrapper around her waist.
“Well, I went out, and I’m back safely,” Layefa replied with a sigh.
Her mother gave a mirthless laugh. “Your mates are returning safely to their husbands’ houses, Laye, not to their mother, who have toiled tirelessly to bring them up.”
“And here we go,” Laye muttered under her breath. She held on to her bag. A look of controlled misery settled over her features, but her posture straightened as though she might allay that misery with sheer physical effort.
“You have refused to see the man of God with me. This is a spiritual problem, Laye.” Her voice lost its hardness, taking a negotiating tone. The corners of her rigid mouth softened.
Her words grated Laye’s already fray nerves. “Mama, nothing is wrong with me. My man will come at the right time.” She told her calmly.
“But when?” her mother burst out in anger. “Is it when I die, or when you become too old to bear children?”
Laye knew the routine. Her mother would soon start crying. She didn’t want her to cry. “Mama,” she said, moving closer to her. “Very soon, I’ll bring your son-in-law. You will like him.” She smiled.
Her mother’s eyes filled with hope. “Really?” she quizzed, hope dancing in her eyes like embers of flame.
“Yes, very soon.” She assured her. She placed her head on her shoulder. “Let’s go inside, Mama.”
Mother and daughter walked into the house, hand in hand. It was one of those rare mother and daughter moments for Layefa. She liked it. She didn’t allow the false hope she had given her mother to stop her from enjoying the moment. What does it matter if Ken has not even noticed her? She would only make him do. She wasn’t so bad that he wouldn’t want her.
Photo Credit: Lois Temitope