“Why are you crying?”
Agnes pushed away from his chest. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just relieved…?”
Chris looked over her head at a grinning Rachel. “What are you laughing at?”
And then, as the grin slowly disappeared,Chris kicked himself mentally and added, “Won’t you come and hug me? I’ve missed you o, very much sef.”
The smile reappeared, and Rachel pushed by Agnes to get into her brother’s open arms. Chris hugged her laughing form, feeling all sorts of sensations crowding his chest. He closed his eyes and pulled her into an even deeper hug – smiling at the low ‘awww’ that came from the watching girl.
Finally he pulled away. “You’re so much bigger. And more beautiful,” he told Rachel as he stroked her cheek. The girl lowered her eyes. “Thank you brother,” she responded. Reaching for the bag he had let go off to hug Agnes, Rachel continued, “Shey you will have your bath? I – or rather we made amala and efo riro.”
It was over twenty minutes later before Chris emerged in a crisp white t-shirt and black shorts, towel carelessly thrown around his neck. Wide grin hiding the turmoil within, he said, “Imagine me – being waited on by two of the most beautiful women anywhere. I must have done something good this week – though for the life of me I cannot figure out what that might be!”
He liked how Agnes’ eyes gleamed as she laughed, braids flying across her face, red-covered shoulders shaking. He pulled back a chair and joined them at the table – as Rachel made to stand up. “No,” Agnes intoned. “Please, let me.”
Chris’ eyes followed her gently moving rhymes-in-motion hips, thoughts all over the place.
What does she want now? Why is she doing this?
“Brother, your girlfriend is really nice. Auntie Agnes, I mean.”
Chris turned to his sister, left eyebrow raised in inquiry. “Girlfriend? Is that what she told you she is?”
Rachel shook her head. “Mba o, she did not say anything like that. But the way she has been worrying and talking – ” The younger girl broke off as the subject of their conversation emerged carrying a heavy-laden tray.
“I hope you’re really hungry,” Agnes said.
Wielding the bamboo toothpick like a small knife, Chris poked at the holes in his teeth and regarded Agnes with a mix of emotions – mostly curiosity and suspicion.
“What are you doing here, Agnes?” he asked. Rattling pots and plates betrayed Rachel’s location, and he didn’t think she would be coming out any time soon.
“Well, Chris I – ” She was fidgeting. “I miss you. I didn’t know exactly how much – till I waited for you to come to work and you did not. And Temi – I don’t know what’s wrong with that girl sef. Considering she’s my sister’s mentor – you would think she would be more forthcoming with me. But no o – all she said is ‘Chris is stressed. He needs some time off’. Brrrr,” she shuddered. “Annoying girl.”
“I don’t understand. Why the sudden interest in my whereabouts?” As Agnes began to speak, he waved in an away motion. “Yeah. I get. You missed me and what not. My question is – why? Why do you miss me after so long? Why did you even leave in the first place?”
Agnes sighed. “Chris, I was afraid. No serious relationships – at least that was what I was telling myself at that time. You were moving too fast for me – ”
“And I’m slow enough for you now?”
She smiled. “Not exactly – I’m catching up.” She stood up and walked to his side of the table. “I’m – I’m sorry. I was just so afraid. It all happened so fast…” Dorrobucci started to play from somewhere in the living room. Agnes stopped and looked at the sofa – particularly at the red and gold purse that lay on it.
“Phone call?” Chris asked.
“Mmm – hmm. It can wait sha. I need to bare my mind.”
An ungainly picture popped into Chris’ head at those words – but he shook it and forced himself to concentrate on her words. “…you notice I haven’t dated anyone since you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? And how am I supposed to notice?”
She stamped a small foot. “Na wa o, Chris. We work in the same – ”
The ringtone cut into the conversation with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel and Agnes sighed. Chris watched as she moved over and snatched the purse, impatience in her every move.
“Yes?” she barked as soon as she picked the call – and then her voice softened. “Oh. Hi Nnamaka.” She was quiet for a bit – and then she said “Now?” sounding upset.
And then she sighed and mumbled “Okay. I’ll text you the address.”
She hung up and turned to Chris, fingers flying all over the phone screen as she spoke. “I have to go. There’s some sort of family emergency and my sister and I are the only ones in town. She’s on her way to get me.”
“I’ll help you pack,” Rachel said from the doorway, and both women walked out of the living room while Chris cradled his head in his hands, lost in memories.
The sun was shiny – but not too hot as Chris led Agnes out of the rusty-red gate into the almost-deserted street. He felt her eyes on him – but he was watching an approaching CRV. “Is that her?”
Agnes’ eyes followed his – and then she nodded. “Na she be dat o – crazy Nnamaka. Sweet too!”
She waved, and the vehicle slowed almost immediately, moving in a crawl by the time it stopped beside Agnes. There was something familiar in the way the driver cocked her head, but it was until he was about to greet her it came to him with the force of an angry slap from a frustrated wife.
“Chris, meet my sister Nnamaka,” Agness had said – and so Chris bent his head to stick his hand through the passenger window for a handshake – but then his eyes met those of the girl at the steering wheel – meet the glint of mischief shinning in their depths – and his hand froze.
Froze, because he recognized the eyes.
The last time he saw them, they were closed in passion, above a mouth that was making sounds for the same reason as they met those of another woman – Temi, his superior at work to be exact.
She was the girl in red.
Going through the motions,
Shocked awake – rude emotions
A kiss so great
Quantities measured – memories treasured
Trust fragile; completely fractured
From duct to ticker tape to surgery scars
Picking shards of what was once a heart;
Chris stood in front of his house, on legs that seemed as though they were made of something a lot less dense than bones.
They were shaking.
They were; or at least, he was that way because of the sounds that came through the door.
Sounds of laughter. Sounds that confused him because –
They weren’t the sounds he was used to.
He could hear Agnes’ laughter loud and clear. The other voice sounded like his sister’s – but it didn’t sound like his sister’s. There was a color; a richness…something beautiful he had not – he had never heard in it.
A sharp something pierced his chest…somewhere around his heart area; and he realized, with some surprised, that he was feeling jealous.
How come I never make her laugh like that?
He hunched his shoulders and reached for the door handle. It yielded easily underneath his reaching fingers and the voices in the room went quiet. Dragging his bag behind him, he stepped into the apartment and pushed the door shut – and then turned to face the occupants of the living room –
A large form threw itself into his arms, a soft and hot mouth pressed itself against his face and neck, while words muttered over and over slowly made its way into his ears.
Chris closed his eyes and inhaled – the curious scent that was a mix of Dettol and strawberries – a scent that seemed to land at the bottom of his belly. She felt very good in his arms –
A wetness trickled down his neck, and he slowly but steadily held her away from himself. He wanted to look in her eyes, he wanted to watch her lips frame words she so obviously was full of. He held her away but held her, heart beating like a parade drum, while he looked at her face – aware of Rachel standing beside the table, hands softly folded against her thighs, smiling prettily.
He looked at Agnes’ face – and he was stunned what was seeing.
Twin streaks of tears.
A little something for my new UNILAG friends. Thank you.
I got tired of being single
I got tired of being tired of being single
I got tired of being – ah, you know the picture,
No photoshop. No Flash. Non-Fiction
So I made my own creation;
Anastacia; I called her
You should see the looks of consternation;
I arouse every time I call her
Or rather; she calls me
Spends hours with me on the phone,
Leave all those Moremi girls staring jealously
See Nike looking. Jealousy!
You know how girls are na
How they ignore you; leave you in your plight
And when someone else wants you; they see the light
Me? I carry shoulder and waka far!
“Where’s your girlfriend?” They’d ask,
“Somewhere in the UK,” I’d answer,
Suddenly I acquired fifty Facebook stalkers,
Hundreds of Twitter followers,
And even window eavesdroppers!
I knew it couldn’t last forever, so I choose Nkem;
“Anastasia broke my heart,” I said
“Ohh baby,” she sighed, cradling my head on a pair of cushions
This is heaven; I thought and surrendered my mumu buttons
It was fun for the next three months,
Nkem was most anything a man could want,
Till one Sunday in my room, me listening to Asa;
A knock on the door, “Who’s that?”
The answer came “Anastacia.”
I thought it was a joke till I remembered what Anastacia means…
The man attached to that shoulder is seated – looking very comfortable – head thrown back in laughter, eyes on her; that is, until I interrupt what seems to be a moment.
He looks startled – and then disinterested. His white shirt stands out against the soft blue that is the walls, the coffee brown that is the table top, and the darkened skin that is him. His sideburns look like brushes –
He’s a ‘fine boy’. And frankly, I hate fine boys.
Especially when they are looking at my woman as though they are the obese kid running home for lunch, and she is the Maggi billboard at the bus stop. You know, that Maggi billboard that has all those dishes that look like party cooking.
I want to say she looks shocked at the sight of me – I want to say her face is drained of color; she looks even more pale and she stammers. I want to say she said “I can explain” but no.
The only thing she says is ‘babe!’
And the pleasure in her voice is unmissable. She comes over, hugs and kisses me softly. Her lips linger against mine – and then she leans away, holding my hand.
“How was the day?” she asks.
She realizes she isn’t getting any response – so she looks at me. As she realizes I am staring straight ahead, she chuckles softly.
“Oh. Sorry. Darling, this is Lanre, my ex. Lanre, meet my boyfriend – ”
Remember what I said about that skeptical part?