“You never called…or answered my calls.”
Honey is standing before me in a little white dress. She is sporting a different hairstyle from the braids I last saw her in. This weave leaves her with short bangs that fall on CT the sides of her face, almost covering her right eye. Her lips are a soft, pink shade matching the blush she has on her cheeks. A pair of yellow flats adorns her smooth, long legs and I catch myself staring longer than usual.
“Jide.” She has this understanding smile on her face.
“Hi,” I say for the second time, returning the smile as I walk to her. Her scent pulls me closer. I want to reply her accusation but my tongue feels heavy. I take her hand and lead her back to my office. I shut the door behind us, lean on it and gawk at her some more. I’m fighting with my words. They want to adore her and say things that I rarely say to women.
I finally speak up. “I want to let you know that I’ve missed you, Honey. I didn’t call because I just didn’t know how to handle the fact that you were constantly on my mind. I felt out of control. One minute I didn’t know what I was feeling about you and the next minute I’m falling hard. Just like that. What have you done to me?”
“So you missed me,” she says in a whispery tone.
“Yeah.” I want to kiss her so badly. “How have you been?”
She shrugs. “So, so.”
I put my hands on her waist and pull her close like it’s the most natural thing to do. There’s an irksome voice telling me to tread carefully because I know nothing about this woman. Well, I don’t see how that information is helping me right now.
We both go silent. We are at the start of something new but it seems we don’t know how to get in. Some people kick off a relationship with sex, some with a direct proposal but Honey and I unsure of how to proceed.
“What do you feel for me, Honey?” I ask. “And no Shakespeare dramatization, please.”
She giggles and I think it’s the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a grown woman in a while.
“I’m crazy about you, Jide.”
“If I tell you, you’ll be scared, so let’s just say I like you a lot.” Her hand rests on my chest and she straightens my shirt. I have a feeling this woman will treat me like a king. I smile as I recall the rush of starting something new and exciting, and how it’s always paralleled to none.
“Can I kiss you?” She makes a shy request which I don’t respond to with words. I simply tug her closer and taste those lips I’ve been dying to have for a whole month. They are still as soft as I remember. I make love to her mouth by nibbling and teasing, taking pleasure from the soft caresses of her lips. It is meant to be a short kiss but it lasts for a while. When we pull apart, I give her that snuggle I promised over the phone. And oh, she smells divine!
“Am I going to share you with other girls, Jide?” she asks. I try not to think of Ele and the other two who have been features in my life over the past weeks. They are as good as done. It’s not even a hard decision to make; I’ve always been a one woman type of guy. Once my heart is captured by someone, I have eyes for only her.
“No, it’s just you, Honey.”
There is a knock on my office door.
“Who is it?”
“DOM, sorry for disturbing you. Erm your intercom is not working…”
“Yeah, what do you want?”
“A patient needs to see you, sir.”
“I’ll be right out,” I reply the nurse outside the door.
“What is DOM?” Honey asks.
“Director of Midwifery.”
“But not the boss of you.” I pinch her nose. “You’re my oga now.”
She moves away from me. “Are you going to be long?”
“No. Please wait for me.” I offer her a chair and leave.
It’s the fastest ward round I’ve ever done. I return less than thirty minutes later and suggest we go somewhere for breakfast after we share another intense kiss.
We have breakfast in a café nearby. She orders for fries while I take pancakes that don’t taste as good as my mom’s. I don’t mind, though, I’m listening to Honey retell me how she got herself suspended from work.
“You should sue that chick.”
“Jide, I’m from a country that is homophobic, and I slapped an influential lesbian from a place where homosexuality was just legalized. Who will listen to my case?”
She has a point.
“Sorry about your ordeal. But on the bright side, you have new clothes and six weeks to be with me.”
“You and my dad.”
“Tell me more about your family.”
She tells me about them. They’re not completely Nigerian. Her mother was half-Eritrean and half-Shua Arab. This explains Honey’s light skin tone. But her shapely figure is fully Nigerian, of Urhobo descent from her father’s side.
We touch on other topics before coming back to the subject of our relationship. I’m realizing that she’s the type that likes things spelled out; unlike me, I just go with the flow. She wants me to reassure her that I’ll be devoted to her. I make no promises yet. I don’t want us to rush things.
“I hope you’re not staying in a hotel for the entire time, though,” I enquire.
“My rent expired ages ago, so hotel it is.”
“Why not come stay with me?” This is not me trying to get into her pants. I’m just concerned about the hotel bill she will accrue.
My request makes her smile. “Thanks for the offer but…”
“I’m not trying to sleep with you. I gave my word once and kept it, didn’t I?”
“Jide, we’re so going to do it if I stay with you.”
“Really? You think I can’t control myself?”
“I didn’t say that. What I mean is that the chemistry is strong. We both won’t be able to control it.”
“Trust me, we can.”
“We can’t, Jide.”
“Okay, me I’m challenging myself not to have sex with you.”
She laughs. “Impossible.”
“Honey, I’ve kept a platonic relationship before and I can still do it. Just trust me.”
“Hmm… Kissing, smooching, spooning and cuddling nko?”
“Spooning and cuddling? Haba! Even the pope cannot resist. But kissing and touching are allowed.”
“You can handle that?”
“Sure, I can.”
I see the disbelief in her eyes. It mirrors my own uncertainty.
“Well,” she says, “I love the challenge because I’m not ready to be a bride yet.”
“Oh, come on! You too?”
She cracks up. On my face is an expression of amusement but inside I’m brooding on the matter. I’ve always pretended that the Bridemaker stuff never bothered me but secretly it did, and it still does. And that’s why Honey’s body will stay in the confines of my fantasies and not my bed. I don’t want to know her that way yet. I’ve had enough sex to last me a lifetime. She won’t be treated like the others.
“So, deal?” she asks.
A mischievous smile is on her face. I’m curious about it but she assures me it’s nothing. We talk until twelve noon and just as we’re about to leave, she vacates her side of the table and sits beside me and takes a selfie. I steal a kiss when she is not concentrating. She pushes me off half-heartedly and I poke her side in a tickle. She squeals, jumping to a start. I stare at her. I can get used to this. It’s been so long since I’ve been this free with a female in a non-sexual setting.
I poke her again. She jumps off the seat and I pull her to my laps where I mercilessly tickle her until she begs me in tears.
“I just found my favorite past time. You’re so dead.”
She turns her face to mine for yet another kiss. It’s a quiet café; no one bothers us.
“Let’s go and see my parents,” I suggest. She gladly agrees.
On our way, we stop to get some red wine for my dad and a basket of fruits for my mom. When we get to the house, Tola and my mom are at the dining area, deep into wedding plans. Emeka is seated at one end of the table, moody like a black cloud.
When my mom spots Honey, she grins and calls her over. Honey gives her a hug and is offered a space to sit beside her. I hang with them for a few minutes before going upstairs with Emeka. I ask him to update me on his twisted love life. The last time we spoke he had told me Yazmin couldn’t come over because her father wouldn’t let her. The man insists that Emeka gets married to his daughter in Mexico once the baby is born, and both of them are to live there and not in Nigeria or even in the States.
“The poor girl is shattered,” Emeka informs me. “All the stress has gotten to her, thanks to her old man. But I just have to travel for the birth of the baby. The only issue is that Tola says I can’t leave until we get married.”
“When is this wedding sef?”
“In two weeks.”
“I thought it wasn’t until two months’ time. Why is no one updating me on these things?”
“That’s what I’m telling you. Everyone in this house is scared that if I travel I won’t come back. That’s why they’re rushing things. Me I’m just here looking at them. Nne is excited, Popsi has started telling everyone his son is getting married to an Adeniyi. You know how he is.” Emeka sighs tiredly.
“This is serious.”
I can’t believe Emeka is going to tie the knot. I know he doesn’t want to but he is so scared of my dad that he can’t do otherwise. I’m really worried about him and his contentment. Already, he looks depressed.
“You don’t have to do this, Mex.” I sit beside him. “Didn’t you listen to anything Kalu told you the other day? What’s the worst that can come out of this? Popsi disowning you? He won’t even try it. We got your back. And Tola, she’ll move on.”
“The girl loves me, Jide, and I think that’s all that counts.”
“How can you say that? How about how you feel?”
“Does it matter?”
“You will cheat on her like it’s going out of fashion once you get married, Mex. Is that what you plan to do? How you want to live as a married man?”
“Everyone cheats, Jide. Every single married man cheats. If not all the time; then at least, once. See popsi for instance.”
I look at him. “What did popsi do?”
“Oh, nobody gisted you?”
“Gisted me what?”
“When you were away, Nne left this house for like almost four months. At first we didn’t know why. It was later Aunty Chinazor told Oba that it was because Nne found out that popsi cheated like twenty years ago. There was some university chick that popsi used to take to one hotel then. I don’t know the details sha.”
But I do. I remember the time. 1995. I remember the woman’s face and I remember how I found out. I was in secondary school then. Reno, Shady and I were in our SS3 and misbehaved a lot. We always snuck out of school to attend parties and such. On this particular occasion we ended up in Reno’s uncle’s hotel, a place we always frequented. We were with our girlfriends. Reno hooked us up with one of their best suites that had a double room. The problem was that the walls in that hotel were thin. One could easily hear anything happening in the next room if its occupants were loud enough. And that was how we were hearing this couple have really loud sex. The lady was screaming her head off. It was entertainment for us. We jibed and called them names the entire time. When it all went silent, we continued our own little, private party. We were out of cigarettes and I volunteered to get some. The moment I stepped out of the room was the same moment the couple was stepping out of theirs. I don’t know why that night I didn’t ignore the voice that was telling me to turn and stare at them. I obeyed it and when I turned, I was staring into the face of my own father. In his arms was a much younger and curvier girl.
We were both shocked but neither of us said a word to each other. He walked right past me and I recall catching a fever at the spot. I was my mom’s favorite, the one everyone called her daughter, so you can imagine the kind of hatred I bore for him from that day. Later he gave me a stupid explanation, the type Emeka just gave now, that every man cheats. Afterwards, he bribed me constantly, giving me everything I asked for without questioning. I forgave him when I grew up and discovered married life is a lot more complicated than two people just saying their vows to each other. Nonetheless, I still believe there are men out there who remain faithful to their women; and I want Emeka to be one of them.
“Wait o, JD,” Emeka calls my attention, “you think Kalu is not cheating on Elsie?”
“Is he?” I ask.
“I haven’t caught him but that his born-again, over righteous acting no dey fool me.”
“No, he’s not cheating,” I maintain. “And he’s really born again.”
Emeka keeps quiet and his laughing face disappears really fast. It’s so unlike him. He is truly disturbed over his dilemma. I don’t know why he wants to subject his future to even more unhappiness.
“Just break Tola’s heart now, once and for all.”
“My mind is made up, Jide. They all want a wedding, they’ll get a wedding. I hope it makes all of them happy.”
I can see he is resolute on his stance. I won’t speak further but I won’t let him ruin his life. I make plans to discuss with Tola.
Noticing Emeka has withdrawn, I give him some space as I go back downstairs. My mom has smiles for me as I join her and Honey in the kitchen.
“What’s the grin about?” I ask. The woman looks at Honey and back at me.
“When is you people’s own wedding date?”
“Jeez, ma! What are you talking about?”
“She forced it out of me, I’m sorry,” Honey apologizes.
“What are you sorry for?” My mom scolds. “I would still find out. Jide tells me everything.”
I nod in confirmation.
“I’m happy for you two. When I met you, Honey, I knew my boy will fall hard.”
I tickle Honey. “You naughty girl, you told momsi I’ve fallen hard?”
Honey squirms while laughing. “No o! She figured that all on her own.”
I peck Honey on the lips and my mom doesn’t object.
“I invited Honey to come stay here but she wants to stay at her friend’s house instead,” the old woman reports as she puts a bowl of rice under running water.
“Yeah… She’s um… staying at her friend’s.”
A look passes between Honey and I. My mom doesn’t miss it but she says nothing.
“Mommy, I’ll always be here,” Honey promises.
I ask to be excused again and go in search of Tola. I find her in one of the guestrooms. She opens the door when I knock and a smile fills her face.
“If it’s not my hot brother-in-law.”
Her sassy look has returned. She purses her lips sensually and lets her gaze lower to my midsection.
“Have I thanked you for making me a bride?”
“Don’t rejoice yet.”
I shut the door and turn the key in the lock. Her carefully-shaped brows twitch in pleasure.
“You’re crazier than I thought, Jide. Under your parents’ roof with our partners around. Ooooh… come here, hotness!”
Her madness has returned too.
“Cancel the wedding,” I order her.
“Excuse me?” She stops.
“Cancel the wedding.”
“Is that why you came here?” Her countenance drops like a boulder from the sky.
“You’re not pregnant.”
I don’t miss the apprehension that flashes in her eyes.
“What does that mean?”
“It means what it means, Omotola. You are not pregnant.”
“Okay, you just have to leave my room. I’m irritated now.”
I stun her by marching towards her, slamming her slim frame on the bed and pinning her hands down with my knees. She struggles but can’t break free. I proceed to feel her tummy for a ten-week fetus that is supposedly there and just as I suspect, I find nothing.
“I said it. Nothing here.”
“Jide, don’t be stupid. You forget that I’m a doctor. It takes lot more to determine if a pregnancy exists or not.”
I free her and get off the bed. “You are going to tell Mex that you’re sorry, and that the wedding cannot go on because you lied about the pregnancy.”
She mocks with a sinister laugh. “I will marry Mex and there’s nothing nobody can do to stop me.
“You’re not listening, Tola. If you don’t cancel the wedding, I’ll tell everyone we had sex.”
“You’re just so stupid, Jide. Add delusional to your spite. Do you think anyone will give you an award for revealing the fact that you screwed your brother’s fiancée?”
I don’t have words for her. My mind is set on exposing who she really is and saving my brother from a huge mistake. I know I’ll lose a few hearts to this but I can’t sit by and watch Tola ruin things for Emeka, knowing I can do something to change it.
I march to the door, unlock it and stride out of the room. Honey and I hang around for lunch and leave at the appearance of dusk. In the cab back home I seek her counsel over Emeka’s issue.
“If you’re sure he’s just marrying Tola to please everyone, maybe you should call the family together and talk to them. In the end, parents want their children’s happiness. I don’t think mommy or daddy would be that difficult to soften. The only problem would be Tola sha. From her plans, she’s investing everything into the marriage.”
“Wedding. Not marriage. She just wants to be a wife badly. She doesn’t love Emeka.”
“But the way she was talking about him…”
“Trust me, she doesn’t love him.”
Honey doesn’t comment further on the topic. We stay silent in the cab and I busy myself creating goosebumps on her skin as she slowly drifts into sleep. She seems really tired. When we get home, I give her the privacy of my bedroom and go back to the hospital. On my way, my mom sends me a text, asking me to use a condom. I simply smile. Meddling, old woman.
On arrival at the hospital, I’m taken to see a woman who is supposed to have a caesarian section due to some complications but she insists on having the baby vaginally. I am called to help her through the process. I beg her to opt for the surgery but she declines, claiming God had revealed to her through her pastor that if she climbed the operating table she would die.
Being that she is already in labor, the doctors advise that I commence on the birth process. We begin and it takes us a grueling period of ten hours. Finally the baby comes and is pronounced dead by me a few minutes after delivery. The woman goes hysterical. I’m sad by the turn of events but there’s nothing anyone can do. I get set to go home after punishing myself in my office for a long time, going through the unfortunate incidence over and over and asking myself what I would have done differently to save the life of the baby. On my way home, one of the nurses at reception stops me.
“DOM, that woman died o.”
I spin around.
“Your patient. The one that her baby died.”
I go cold.
“How did that happen?”
“Oh God,” I groan and settle into one of the waiting benches.
“DOM, it’s not your fault. The woman was stubborn. With her weight, she should have listened to what they were telling her. I’m sure while she was pregnant she was sitting in one place for a long time. That alone can lead to an embolism. And you know the risk is higher with women who just gave birth.”
I recall writing in her file that her blood clotted too fast, asking that the gynae in charge take note. It might be that the woman passed away based on the reasons the nurse noted but I have a feeling there was a pre-existing medical condition which we all missed because we were sidetracked by the complications before us then.
“May she rest in peace sha. And may God punish all these fake pastors that keep causing the deaths of their members with their fake prophesies.”
I add an amen to that before I leave the hospital. I take a bus home. When I get into the compound, I find Ele outside where the water tank is, busy on her phone, wearing nothing but a short bathrobe. I ask her what she’s doing there.
“Oh. Free WiFi. The reception is strongest here. By six they’ll turn it off until twelve in the afternoon.”
I shake my head and enter the building. She tags along. When I get to my floor, she tries to follow me in. I stop her.
“Why? You’re tired? I’ll give you a massage.”
“No. My girlfriend is in.”
“Girlfriend? Since when did you have a girlfriend? Is it the tall one I saw you with last week? Or is that other darker one?”
“No. This is my girlfriend exclusively.”
“When you say exclusively, what does that mean?”
“It means you and I are done.”
She places her hand on her chest. “You just broke my heart, Jide.” She tries to touch me but I move back.
“But I have a boyfriend too na.”
“Since like forever.”
“And you never told me? You want one small boy to come here and break my head?”
“Relax. He’s not in the country. And he’s not a small boy. He’s thirty-eight.”
“Thirty-eight? Why do you like older men?”
“Why else?” she fixes her glare on my groin area. “Sugar daddy things.”
“You’re so unserious.”
“So you’re saying no more us?”
“Yes. Stay in your house.”
“Aww, it’s not fair o. Anyways, this is what you’ll be missing.” She unties her bathrobe and exposes her nude body. I turn to my door.
I insert my key into the keyhole.
I angle my head at her.
“My boyfriend proposed to me over the weekend.”
My hand freezes.
“Just out of the blue. On the phone he gives this long speech about love and drops the question from nowhere. And I’m like all that one is just talk. Me, I want a ring on my finger. Platinum, preferably, because it is stronger and will hold the diamonds much better than white or yellow gold. But that’s not the point, Jide. Should I commit to him since I’m not ready to leave Nigeria yet? I don’t want a long distance marriage.”
“I believe there are websites dying to have people like you write in to seek their advice, Ele. Email them.”
“You’re just so mean.”
I enter my house quietly and stop for a second to brood over the fact that Ele has now joined the list of women I’ve made brides. This makes solid my decision not to have sex with Honey. I don’t want to lose her to someone else.
I walk in and find her sleeping in my bedroom, the door wide open. She is wearing a silky nightgown that disappears under the duvet covering the lower half of her body. I have the urge to snuggle in with her but I fight it and move back to the sitting room where I fall on my favorite couch and go to sleep.
I wake up a few hours later, to the sound of upbeat music coming from the television. It is neither loud not irritating. In fact, I’m beginning to doze off again when my eyes catch a feminine form in front of me. It is Honey. She is in black gym pants under a fitted top. Following the movements from an aerobics instructor on TV, she does squats. I want to take my eyes away but I remember that she’s now my girlfriend and no one will fine me for ogling.
She switches to another routine. In this one, the instructor is asking her to spread her legs apart while her hands rest on the floor as she angles herself at 45°. And then she has to commence this twerking movement from nowhere. As in, is the instructor conspiring with Honey to give me a hard-on this morning bikonu? Which kain wahala be dis? Person cannot even sleep in peace again.
I listen to the voice of the Lord, telling me to unlook. I turn my head and slam a throw-pillow over my straining boner. I don’t know what type of wahala I’ve put myself into with this stupid no-sex challenge. It’s going to be harder than I imagined. Only the devil knows the type of thoughts flying around my head right now. God forgive me.
“Hey you!” Honey calls. I look at her. She is facing me and she has that mischievous smile again. It is only now I understand its meaning. She’s bent on making me break my promise to her.
“I know what you just did,” I tell her.
“What I just did?” She asks innocently. “Oh, the aerobics. It’s something I do all the time.”
“On the plane? Up in the air?”
I catch her right there. She releases a guilty smile.
“Just trying to keep fit.”
I point a finger at her but utter no words. She leans over and kisses me, her cleavage in my face. The sweet smell of her perfume mixed with her sweat intoxicates me. Jeez! This is going to be harrrd. Who sent me message?
“I’m going to have a shower,” she announces and walks away. Well, since I can’t sleep again, I follow her, and stop at the bedroom door, asking permission to gist her how last night went while she showers.
She agrees. As she walks into the room, I take a discreet photo of her backside. I will need it for later. Meanwhile, I’m thinking maybe she and I will have to go through that our agreement again and re-negotiate the terms because I don’t think I can last one more day having her walk around the house like this. She will just have to be wrapped up in a blanket anytime I’m at home.
As I ponder on this, I get a text from my mom.
I had a dream last night, Jide. Please pray. It’s about Honey. She’s your wife but the devil wants to take you from her like Ezinne. Pray against it. And please my son, don’t sleep with her or you’ll lose her. Please pray.
I go through the text again. She used the words ‘please’ and ‘pray’ three times. Interesting.
The old woman dreams a lot, especially after going to bed worrying about issues that don’t concern her. First she sends me a text about using a condom and now, it’s that I shouldn’t make love to my babe. I’m sure before she slept last night, her little head was panicking over her precious Honey being taken by another man the moment I make love to her. Don’t worry, ma, I have no plans to turn her into a bride.
No, but seriously, who am I kidding that I won’t touch Honey? Help me judge, abeg, Am I to unlook when I have this walking up and down in my house?
Image credits: www.informationng.com, tumblr.com