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For Want Of A Child

For Want Of A Child XX

Masthead 20

 

 

Almost six months after Sofia’s burial, Frank woke up for the first time in his house.

 

It was a few minutes past four in the morning and there was power, so for the most part everything was quiet. The only thing interrupting the silence was the hum of the air-conditioner. He sat up in bed, and then stood up.

 

The curtains whispered as he parted them. Outside, everything was deathly still.

 

It was a short walk to the small cabinet in the corner of the room. He opened it and withdrew a Jack Daniels bottle and a glass. The dash of drink he poured into it barely covered the bottom, which was fine by him. He covered the bottle and replaced it in the cabinet and, carrying the drink walked out of the room and into the living room.

 

He wanted to think.

 

He flicked on the light switch and reached for the remote, wanting to play the Bez cd which; as far as he was concerned was gathering dust in the CD player – and then he abruptly changed his mind. The silence was calming.

 

He turned the light off and sat in the darkness, sipping Jack Daniels and thinking.

 

Some light made their way through the curtains and ended up against the wall, giving some illumination for the room. He thought about the curtains and smiled, mentally thanking Igo for changing them. After finding himself unable to stay long in the house because something about it unsettled him – almost violently, he spoke to her about it. She’d taken his keys, one weekend under the pretext of cleaning out the house.

 

When he’d gone there the following Monday, the curtains and wallpaper were gone.

 

Igo’s image stayed in his mind, long after he had stopped thinking about the curtains. Igo.

 

It made him happy; happy even though he couldn’t explain how they had just fallen into the groove of lovers. They spent time together, saw movies, talked, walked – she came to his shop and he visited at her store. He liked to sit on the shop’s verandah, sip diet Pepsi while listening to her banter with her customers. She always wanted to leave whenever he got there, but he sometimes calmed her and sat with her until it was evening. And then, he would stand and she would bade goodbye to her staff, and they would get in his car or hers – depending on what the plans were – and they would just go.

 

He liked to be around her.

 

Watching her talk was some kind of pleasure to him – it was like listening to Tuface sing. He liked how her lips moved when she pronounced words; how she cocked her head when listening, how she flicked her fingers impatiently when she was listening to something she didn’t agree with. He liked how she wore her clothes; how she didn’t wear them…

He liked the last one best.

 

He had avoided asking her if she was seeing anyone; it didn’t look like she was considering she always had time for him, was always willing to see him no matter what time it was. But he didn’t want to assume. He had learnt the worst way that you never knew with women.

 

What if she wasn’t seeing anyone? What did he want from her?

 

He was in love with her; he had stopped trying to figure out when that happened because he realized he had never actually stopped loving her.

 

That was unsettling. As unsettling as the suddenness of his phone ringing.

 

He took the call; Fola.

 

“Oga you no dey sleep?”

 

His friend laughed. “Man, I just remembered I didn’t tell you something Stella asked that I tell you.”

 

He was out of the hospital; had been out for some months now. He and Stella were living together in the same house, still husband and wife. They seemed to be making a go of it; he liked that.

 

“What’s that?” he asked, sitting up and cursing silently as he almost spilled whiskey on himself.

 

“She’s cooking some kind of treat later today and wanted me to invite you guys; ‘you guys’ being you and madam.”

 

“Okay. We’ll be there – what time would be good though?”

 

“I’m thinking six-ish.”

 

“Sounds good. Tell her we’ll be there, and thanks for the invitation.”

 

“Oga, tell her yourself. Me, I want to sleep.” The phone clicked.

 

Standing up, Frank downed the last of the whisky. And then he went to the kitchen, rinsed the glass in the darkness and carried it to his room.

 

And that was it for the day.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

The bed was rocking a bit too sharply for him to sleep in it comfortably. “I like what you’re doing but you’re doing it too fast,” he mumbled. “Slow down baby.”

 

The chuckle that followed his words were completely unexpected. “Wake up jare!”

 

He snapped up to find Igo regarding him with a smile, looking as though she’d stepped right out of his dreams. She looked good in light blue blouse and white jeans that hugged her curves quite closely, with a black scarf wrapped around her neck. He mentioned how beautiful she looked; she blushed and kissed him softly.

 

“Thank you,” she said.

 

Rising off the bed, Frank stretched. “What time is it?” he asked.

 

“Something past ten, I think. James had made you very lazy, abi? You hardly go to the shop anymore,” she said teasingly.

 

“I think you’re right,” he answered, looking serious. “I have been relying on him more and more lately. Maybe – “

 

“Maybe nothing,” she interrupted him. “I was teasing – besides, there’s nothing wrong with taking things a little easy. Life’s too short.”

 

He nodded his agreement. “What me to make you breakfast?”

 

“No o. Breakfast ke? What I need you to do now is to have your bath and dress up. We’re going out; there’s something I need to show you.”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“Where are we going?” Frank asked for the hundredth time.

 

“Will you be patient?” Igo grinned at him. “You’ll see when we get there – which will be soon.”

 

They were driving along Adeniran Ogunsanya, and for a small moment Frank thought they were going to their old house. As though she could read his mind she said, “That’s not where we’re going, though I think it would be nice if we said hi to mama. She would like to see us – if you don’t mind.”

 

“I wouldn’t mind that.”

 

Before long, they were driving into a side street. Igo parked behind a huge palm tree and got out of the car. “Come,” she said, holding his hand and running across the street.

 

“Here we are,” she said as they stopped in front of a building with a locked space in front of it. She eased back her shades and reached in her bag for a set of keys.

 

“Close your eyes,” she said to him, bubbling over with excitement.

 

“What?” he asked, more surprised than anything.

 

She giggled. “Trust me jo!”

 

Nodding, Frank closed his eyes. He could hear the turning of the key in the locks, the click-clacking as they opened, and then he felt her warm hand in his again.

 

“Come, and walk carefully,” she breathed in his ear.

 

They walked slowly, he leaning heavily on her as she guiding him carefully. They made it into the room without bumping into anything, Frank observing that his feet were now on a smoother surface – similar to tiles. He heard a light switch click, and then Igo spoke.

 

“Oya open your eyes.”

 

He blinked at the harsh fluorescent – and then his mouth dropped open.

 

They were in a store, a store way larger than her other one. There were aisles and rows of stuff upon stuff – he was impressed.

 

“Baby! Wow – when did you put this together?”

 

She smiled prettily. “Well, I’ve been wanting to expand for a bit now but I wasn’t sure. You coming back…” She looked away – and then looked back at him, trying not to cry. “I just knew I had to do it. It was time. It felt – feels right.”

 

He pulled her close and kissed her. “I’m so proud of you. Well done.”

 

Her hand fluttered excitedly as she led him from aisle to aisle, talking him through stacks of product after product. His smile was genuine when he reached over and hugged her again.

 

“This is impressive, darling. When does this come open?”

 

She rested her head on his shoulder. “Hmmm, you know I haven’t really thought about it, but maybe in two weeks or thereabouts.” She shrugged a pretty shoulder. “I just want some…some other things cleared up, so I can jump into this with both feet.”

 

Frank thought he heard a note of uncertainty in her voice but wasn’t sure.

 

“You know, maybe you should pick a bottle of white wine – or maybe red for the Akanjis for when we go there later,” she perked up again.

 

“That’s – that sounds good,” he responded. “Let me go find a bottle.”

 

He walked down the aisles again, looking around admiring Igo’s handiwork. He wasn’t surprised about the store; she had always been the ‘doer’ in their relationship. He was content with his tailoring something; wasn’t looking to expand or anything. It was part of why he’d liked her – been drawn to her in the first place. She challenged him.

 

He found the aisle for wines and he looked through; remembering a particular one he’d had back in Priye’s place…Picpoul de Pinet; it was called.

 

Sure enough, he found a bottle and was starting to turn away when; on sudden impulse he took a second one. “Found a good one,” he said as he hurried back to where he’d left Igo.

 

“Great! I was going to ask you to take two, I always feel somehow about giving someone just one of something.”

 

Frank grinned. “Okay, remember that when it’s time to buy me a car!”

 

She laughed. “Let’s go see mama, and then zip home quickly to freshen up before going to see Stella and Fola.”

 

“Sounds good.”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Frank?”

 

“Hmm?” He turned away from his perusal of Ikorodu Road speeding past and faced her.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked, also turning away from the windshield to look at him. Her hair; her natural hair stirred softly in the car air-conditioning; she must have applied a fresh coat of lipstick because they looked shiny. Her brown eyes were tinged with concern; as was her voice.

 

He felt a sudden urge to kiss her.

 

“I’m fine. I’m just thinking how good it was sitting with mama and talking about old times. You know, she knew us during the best years.”

 

“Yes,” Igo agreed. “I could see she wanted to ask us what the next thing is – but she also didn’t want to make things awkward, you know?”

 

“I’ve been thinking that myself,” he said as he reclined his seat. And then, he laid back in it and just looked at her.

 

“Well,” looking away hastily when she turned to find his eyes on her. “I’m happy – more than I have been in years. It’s like I’m getting to know you all over again, and the sex? Oh. My. God.” She pinked around her cheeks and neck.

 

Frank laughed quietly.

 

“What I’m saying is; I like where we are now, and I will follow you wherever you lead. You’re happy too, Frank. Your cheeks are filling out again.”

 

He smacked her thigh lightly. “You would know, won’t you?”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Zip me?”

 

His hands trembled as he placed them on her waist. The ankara gown she had on was of a blue, black and gold pattern; it shimmered as she shivered. She smelled of tangerines; soft and tangy at once and he buried his nose in her neck, covering it with soft bites that made her jump, zipper a soft whisper of sound as he pulled it up.

 

“You better stop that or we’ll never leave,” she sighed as she turned and put her arms around him. “See what you do to me,” she said.

 

Frank held her gently, shaking his head in wonder at the soft tremors that shook her. “You this woman, you love me.”

 

She nodded slowly, keeping her eyes on his. “I do, Frank. I don’t think there was a time I stopped.”

 

He cocked his head, his face an expression of wonder. “You love me,” he said again, this time surprise giving his voice a high note.

 

She pushed at his chest. “Like you don’t know. Go jo,” she said, pushing him again, playfully. “We do need to go, baby. You look amazing by the way.”

 

He turned this way and that, showing the grey buba and sokoto off to her. She didn’t speak again, but the look in her eyes told him everything he needed to know.

 

And then some.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

Fola looked a lot better than the last time they saw him. His skin was almost back to normal; the dead look that hung around it was finally dissipating. His face was normal again, the only discord note was the left socket where an eye used to be. Now, a glass replica sat in place; but it reflected light in an unnatural way Frank found disconcerting.

 

Whenever he was around people, Fola wore shades but that night being what it was…

 

“Hey man,” he hugged Frank. “The graft is taking; quite nicely too,” he said, waving his arm in his friend’s face.

 

“The kids are holidaying with their grandparents so we have the house to ourselves,” Stella added as she hugged Igo. She; on the other hand was quiet, demure even. She held her end of the conversation; making jokes and laughing when necessary, but there was something different about her, something calmer.

 

Frank mentioned it to Fola when they were done eating and stepped out onto the balcony.

 

“Yeah, she’s a lot different. I guess she didn’t think I would take her back; you know, after…” he waved a hand over his face. “But I thought about it; thought about the kids and so on. Besides, her mother sat her down and talked a lot of stuff into her head. Things are a lot better now, especially since I behave myself too.”

 

“I’m happy for you, man. I like what I’m seeing, and I hope it continues to be just like this.”

 

Fola nodded. “Thanks – and you know, I could say the same thing to you. I saw how madam just held onto your hand and kept feeding you stuff. You guys back together?”

 

“You know, I think I should go see her. There’s something I would like to ask. Thanks, Folly!” he yelled over his shoulder as he darted into the house, leaving his friend wondering what suddenly happened.

 

Frank followed the sounds of the women’s voices; they were in the kitchen. Stella was washing the dishes while Igo stood against the cooker, arms folded over her chest.

 

Stella was talking. “…and have you told him?”

 

“Told me what?” Frank asked, startling both women. Igo recovered first, shrugging indifferently. “What makes you think you’re the ‘he’ she’s talking about?” she asked him, smiling.

 

“Well…” he let his voice trail off as he realized Fola was standing behind him. “Er…”

 

“Are you okay? What is it?” Igo went from asking him to asking Fola. “What did you do to him?”

 

Frank grabbed her shoulders roughly – and then released them. “I’m sorry,” he said, watching Igo wince and rub her shoulders. “I’m really sorry.”

 

Suddenly he knelt down. “This is really not how I wanted to do this, but I cannot wait anymore. He looked up, at Igo’s shocked expression, complete with streaming eyes. “Frank?” she said, “You’re scaring me.”

 

“I don’t mean to, look – “ he scratched his head. “Look, you’ve just been so wonderful to me, you know? I really wasn’t the best husband, and even after we went our separate ways I still went and did – “

 

“Frank – “ she started but he cut her off.

 

“No wait. Let me finish. You have been my friend, my partner, my guy – and I mean that in the most sincere way. I think about the things I forgot, I think about the things I took for granted. How some guy hasn’t seen you out there and took you away, all this time will forever baffle me.

 

“But I’m grateful and I’m not waiting anymore. Igo, will you please marry me?”

 

“Again?” Igo breathed softly.

 

“Again,” Frank agreed.

 

By now Igo’s tears were a torrent that ran into her mouth and off her chin; but, oddly did nothing to dim the brightness of her smile. She nodded dumbly, putting her arms around Frank as he stood up and then they hugged each other like old friends grateful for one another.

 

Frank, liking how he could feel her heart beating against his chest heard Fola comment somewhere in the background; “This is the best yet.”

 

Suddenly, Stella spoke up. “This might be a good time to tell him, ‘go girl.”

 

Frank pushed away from Igo and looked down at her. “Tell me – tell me what?”

 

He could see some fear hovering around the smile she gave him, and before he could query the reason for it she said, “I’m pregnant.”

 

 

 

*******************************************************************************************************

That’s All Folks!

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For Want Of A Child XIX

Masthead 19

 

“Your phone is ringing Frank,” the man to his left said.

 

He shook himself awake. Sure enough, the phone was singing its signature tune; not loud enough to disrupt the going-on but loud enough so the people immediately around him could hear; one of whom happened to be Sofia’s father.

 

“Excuse me,” he said, moving away from the men who were filling the grave and reaching for his phone at the same time. The funeral service was over and people were leaving – not that there were a lot of people, just immediate family and some friends.

 

As he put the phone to his ear, he could see Sofia’s mum smiling at a weeping couple while wiping tears of her own. Strange; he thought now, how she’d even heard of the news.

 

According to Sofia’s dad she called the day after the accident, asking to speak to her daughter urgently. Trying to stall, the man asked what the problem was and she said she’d had a terrible dream and wanted to pray for her daughter.

 

The man had started crying and the woman joined in.

 

“…Frank?”

 

“Ah – sorry, Igo. I was…distracted.”

 

She sighed. “It’s fine, Frank. I was just asking if you can talk now or – “

 

“Sure I can. The service is over; the grave is being filled as we speak. I’m just waiting to pay my respects and I’ll be home.”

 

“Okay. I’m making afang – afang and amala. You didn’t have anything when you left the house this morning, and I’m sure they didn’t serve refreshments at the funeral.”

 

“I’m not hungry, Igo. Thank you.”

 

“All the same, you must eat. Hurry back, baby.”

 

He disconnected the call, pocketed his phone and turned – just in time to receive a hug from Sofia’s mother. She held him close and sobs started to shake her all over again, and Frank buried his face in her shoulder, hiding his tears as best as he could.

 

When she finally let him go, she looked closely into his eyes even though he was trying to avert them. She held his hand and smiled.

 

“Oh Frank, you must think me your enemy because I opposed your relationship with my daughter.” Frank started to say something but she held up her hand and stopped him. “Please let me finish.”

 

Frank nodded.

 

“I imagine you cannot exactly feel how it is; a mother about her daughter. But I know you understand. I know you miss her too, Frank. She loved you and I’m sure you loved her; if for no other reason than the child she was carrying. Your child.”

 

She wiped his eyes – wiped the tears streaming from them – and then hugged him impulsively. “Don’t be a stranger, okay? Come and see us as often as you want. You matter.”

 

As she stood back, she noticed he was staring at something – and her face followed his gaze. “He’s been sober since the accident,” she said, referring to Ales who was kneeling beside Sofia’s grave as they filled it. “He’s been sober and feeling some sort of way. He wouldn’t eat; he would sit in his sister’s room and cry. He doesn’t go out any more too.”

 

“Survivor’s guilt,” Frank supplied, wondering why he wasn’t angrier with the brother than he was.

 

She swung his hand playfully – and then let it go. “So maybe some good somehow managed to come out this, abi?”

 

Without waiting for his answer, she turned and walked away.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

A week after the funeral, Frank was able to talk with Fola in the hospital.

 

“Four months and it still feels like last week,” Frank said, hands in his buba pockets as he addressed the man laying on the bed. “You though, are a sight for sore eyes.”

 

Fola’s laughter was a relieving sound. “I feel better, Frank. Oyinade’s honey and ori solution has been a great help.”

 

Frank nodded, comparing the Fola he was speaking with now with the one he had come to see all that time ago in the hospital. The bandages were off, the skin was a mass of scabs that peeled off in flakes, his face was almost back to normal but for the eye and a huge black patch. His spirits were higher than usual.

 

“It is good to see you like this, Folly.”

 

His friend grinned. “Hey, life goes on right? No be so Afo dey talk am?”

 

“Na so o,” Both friends chuckled.

 

“So, how far with Stella now? I hear she came visiting again last week.”

 

Fola grunted as he tried to sit up – Frank quickly bent over and helped him. “Yes she did o, and I agreed to see her finally. I don’t think she had any idea how bad I was – she just stood by the door there and cried.”

 

Frank looked at where Fola was pointing, imagining Stella standing there, hands choking the life out of each other, tears streaming down her face. He recalled seeing her again two months before and thinking how much weight she’d lost. She did love her husband in her own crazy way…

 

“Frank, how about you? How you dey?”

 

He had given Fola a blow for blow account of Sofia’s funeral but they hadn’t talked about much else. Now, he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.

 

“I just feel this deep sadness; mostly because she was so young and she didn’t have to die. She died as a result of someone’s carelessness – someone else’s demons killed her. That’s how I feel for the most part. That; and the calm she brought around her.”

 

“Hmmm,” Fola stated. “You know what I find most interesting?

 

Frank shook his head.

 

“I’ haven’t heard you mention the baby once. Isn’t that why you were marrying her?”

 

Frank nodded. “I also thought about that, you know. And I realize at the end of the day, it wasn’t about that – it isn’t about that anymore.

 

“Amen bro,” Fola said. “You know you have to move on sha.”

 

“Move on to what? Everything in due time, guy.”

 

“You still staying at Igo’s place, right?”

 

Frank nodded. “Yeah. I’m afraid I’ve cost her a couple of boyfriends too. But the woman won’t allow me leave – and honestly, I don’t want to. Not yet. I cannot go back to that house yet. It depresses me like you cannot believe.”

 

“Hmmm,” Fola said again. “Hey – how far Idowu sef?”

 

“Idowu!” Frank ejaculated, hitting himself on the forehead. “You know, I’ve practically forgotten about that woman. She has herself a boyfriend now – they’ve been dating for a while sef.” He chuckled. “They should sha give me wedding invite make I fit arrange jollof rice.”

 

Fola chuckled. “When is Igo coming to see me again na? That woman though, she’s like twenty if she’s a day! I wonder how she does it.”

 

“Tell me about it,” Frank said, thinking about the time he’d seen her naked. It was amazing that her breasts still fought gravity off in spite her age. Maybe the truth that they weren’t all that big to begin with…

 

“The company HMO is taking care of the hospital costs o,” Fola interjected. “Those guys are something. You know they refunded the initial deposit sha? So all this time, and it’s not costing me a dime.”

 

“It’s costing you other things.”

 

Fola nodded soberly. “My guy, you have no idea how much I’d give to be out of this bed for good. I dey try waka up and down small daily sha, so that I don’t get bed sores again.”

 

“Yeah. That first month was rough – “

 

There was a knock on the door – and excited yells of “Daddy! Daddy!!” broke out. Frank and Fola, mouths hanging open, watched as Fola’s children rushed into the ward and all but jumped on their father.

 

“Children, you know I told you no rough business. Daddy’s just getting better.”

 

And there she was. Stella.

 

Frank thought she looked more beautiful, but he preferred her with more flesh. He hugged her gently and smiled at her. “It’s good to see you,” he said as she released him. Gently, he wiped the tears that had pooled at the bottom of her eyes and nodded. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “He’s happy to see you.”

 

Fola was struggling to wrap his left arm around both his children at once while a tear slipped out of his one good eye. Frank cleared his throat. “I’ll be outside,” he said but mostly to himself.

 

No one else was listening.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“What do you think is going to happen to them?”

 

Frank popped another piece of meat into his mouth. “Hmmm, I really haven’t thought about it. They still love each other; that much is clear. Fola has forgiven her; that much is also clear – what I don’t know is if they can try again.” He picked his teeth and then sucked air through the holes. “Your afang is the standard by which all afang should be measured. Thank you.”

 

Igo blushed prettily. “Your words are a meal of their own, sir. You’re welcome.”

 

He sat back and drank water while Igo cleared the table. And then, carrying his glass he walked to the kitchen where he found her bent over the sink. For a small moment, his glance lingered on the seat of her shorts and how tightly-stretched it was – and then he cleared his throat and looked away.

 

“You know,” he began. “I haven’t gone out in a while. I feel a sudden urge to see a movie. Will you please come with me?”

 

She smiled over her shoulder. “You need to ask? Sure I’ll come – on one condition.”

 

“I know, I know. You get to pick the movie, You know,” he sighed. “I would have thought at least one of your boyfriends would have corrected that behavior by now.”

 

His steady gaze held no guile. Igo smiled again.

 

“You couldn’t change it in twelve years of marriage. What makes you think anyone else stands a chance?”

 

Frank raised his hands in surrender.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

As with most everything else, one thing led to another.

 

It started when, at some point in the movie, Frank leaned over and rested his head on Igo’s shoulder. She put her arm around him and he snuggled closer, liking the soft scent that streamed from her neck. He knew if he looked down he would catch a glimpse of her blue bra; he knew it was blue because he had walked in on her while she was dressing. He kept his eyes on the screen however, trying to ignore her presence – which was as pointless as trying to ignore a fire on the dashboard while driving.

 

Igo, on her part liked how his warm breath tickled her neck, liked how parts of her felt hot and cold at the same time, liked how her nipples tingled as they hardened. She looked down at him; noticing how his whole attention was on the screen and silently prayed he wouldn’t notice the two pebbles on her chest.

 

Suddenly, her breath caught as he raised his head and looked at her.

 

Frank saw moisture gather on her upper lip, saw the tip of her tongue dart out and lick some of it off – he had been married to her long enough to know the signs.

 

It was the most natural thing in the world for him to kiss her.

 

He found her ardor most encouraging and he slipped his hands on her waist – well, as much as the awkward cinema seats would allow – and leaned into the kiss, eagerly dancing around in her mouth with his tongue, tangling her lips with his.

 

She met him all the way, sighing and moaning softly, wrapping her arms around his neck and claiming his stubborn mouth with hers. They kept on, only stopping when they nearly fell out of their seats.

 

“Kilon shele ni beyen?!” Someone yelled from the back.

 

“Omo, won kiss ni sha,” was the whispered response.

 

Frank chuckled softly as he picked his ex-wife off the floor. “Are you okay?” he asked, taking note of her dreamy eyes.

 

“Let’s go home,” she said.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

There was some kind of eager shyness about the way Igo closed the door behind Frank, put her arms around him and kissed him.

 

Frank kissed her back, tangling his hand in her hair. It wasn’t as though it was new; after all he had been married to this woman for twelve years. But it was different; and even though it wasn’t the kind of difference he could point a finger to, his every sense told him it was different.

 

It was different.

 

He kissed her – and then started to cough as something got stuck in his throat. He staggered backwards, coughing violently as Igo followed him, fright making her eyes bigger than usual. Frank stumbled into the living room and Igo followed, flicking on the light switch, wringing her hands, anguish stamped all over her face.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked the suddenly-silent Frank.

 

He nodded and opened his hand. There was a half-eaten stub of popcorn resting in it, looking all innocent; unaware it had just almost killed someone. It was obvious where it came from; she was the only one of them both who had any popcorn.

 

She sighed. “Baby, I’m so – “

 

He pushed his lips against hers, aggressively rushing her against the settee. She moaned softly as he took nips of her neck – and sighed as he palmed the bra-supported firmness that were her breasts. His mouth stayed in the hollow at the base of her neck, eliciting breathless gasps from her while his hands tried to figure out what to do with themselves.

 

Igo, somehow sensing his frustration pushed him away, took off her top and danced back into his arms. Together they unraveled the mysterious contraction called bra and stopped in their antics to watch as Igo sent it sailing in the air. Their eyes followed it, watching the perfect arc it described and ended on the arm of the sofa.

 

“Perfect,” Frank said, looking in her eyes and then letting his gaze fall to linger on her breasts. “Perfect just like you.”

 

“Why, thank you sir,” a smiling Igo said, and she kissed him slowly.

 

“Bedroom?” Frank asked.

 

She shook her head. “Sofa.”

 

 


For Want Of A Child XIIX

Masthead 18

 

 

It was a quarter past twelve; according to the clock against the wall above the bed.

 

Frank could hear what the old man was saying, but he wasn’t listening. His gaze; all of his attention was on the figure lying on the bed with eyes closed, looking pale as a faded red dress.

 

He wasn’t thinking anything. He wasn’t even capable of thought.

 

“…was high but nobody noticed anything; not even when we said goodbye to mummy. I just came home; she asked him to bring her to you, said a friend of yours had an accident and she needed to be with you. How is your friend by the way?”

 

The older man noticed Frank’s fixed stare, nodded and continued speaking.

 

“As far as I was concerned, they were with you. All I expected to hear was how your friend is doing and when they were coming home. The next thing I know my phone is ringing and it’s a Road Safety Marshall asking if I know so and so…” his voice broke. “Oh God. How do I tell her mother?”

 

The spell that held Frank immobile finally let him go. His gaze was steely; his jaw clenched as he faced the man. “Where is she?”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

The mortuary was cold; colder than Frank imagined. He walked behind the girl leading him, trying not to think about what was waiting, what he was about to go see. He didn’t bother telling himself it wasn’t real; the smell of chemicals that stung his nose and made his eyes water were real enough.

 

Their footsteps rang loudly in the enclosed space, and Frank wanted to tell the girl to hurry it up. Finally, she stopped in front of a set of drawers and consulted the pad in her hands. Nodding to herself, she flexed her fingers in the gloves, snapped the gum she was chewing sloppily and pulled the lower of the drawers out.

 

There she was. Sofia.

 

But for the flaccid whiteness of her skin and an angry gash above her left eye, she could as well as have been sleeping. The calm, relaxed looseness he kissed whenever he woke before her was very present –

 

He shuddered. He had suddenly wanted to hug her.

 

“Something – maybe the car engine block or something crushed her chest. She had to have died immediately. Em…sorry sir, who are you to her?”

 

“Why?” He didn’t look away from Sofia.

 

He could hear the girl fidgeting. “Well, the doctor didn’t tell her daddy because he thought it might not go down well – “

 

“They know she’s pregnant. Actually, it’s my baby she’s carrying. We were about to get married.” He turned away.

 

“Oh. Sir, I’m so sorry sir.”

 

He was almost at the door before he answered; “Me too.”

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

Darkness.

 

“Igo…”

 

“Frank! I have been calling…are you okay? What’s wrong?”

 

“I…think I just hit someone…something…I don’t know…”

 

“Okay, calm down. Where are you?”

 

“I don’t know…I’m just…” Silence. “Somewhere in Palm Groove…I was trying to get home…”

 

“Can you be a bit more specific?”

 

Pause.

 

“I think I’m somewhere around Larex hotel…”

 

“Okay, stay there. I’m on my way.”

 

Darkness.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

I’m cold.

 

What am I doing beside this river?

 

Where was I before? Where am I coming from? Where am I going?

 

God I’m cold.

 

This cannot still be Lagos; all this fog. The harmattan is not that bad na.

 

Wait. Who is that? Who are…

 

…you…?

 

Sofia?! What are you doing over there? Whose that little girl with…wait.

 

Is that my child? I have a girl?

 

Don’t wave at me like that. Where….where are you going?

 

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!

 

Don’t take her! Don’t take my girl with you!

 

I’m coming! I’m – YEEEEEEE! This water is burning!

 

Sofia! Sofia!!!

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

SOFIA!!!!

 

“Frank! Frank!! You’re dreaming! Hey, it’s a dream!”

 

He sat up, naked torso glistening. He could feel cold air on his arms and chest; at the same time he could feel the wetness of sweat. There was someone sitting beside him, and he reached out with clutching hands.

 

“Sofia?”

 

“No o, this is Igo.”

 

Frank swallowed. “I’m – I’m sorry. I’m…” he paused and looked around. “What’s going on? Where are we and how did we get here?”

 

“We’re in my house, and I brought you here – drove you here actually.” It was dark but he could feel her eyes boring into him. “What happened, Frank? What’s going on? Who is Sofia, what happened to her and how come you drove into a parked car? You’re not drunk – or is it drugs?”

 

Frank swung his feet off the sofa and onto the floor, and buried his head in his hands.

 

“Could I have some water please?”

 

Igo scrambled to her feet wordlessly and left the room. Moments later, the lights flicked on and she came in bearing a bottle of water and a glass.

 

“Thanks,” Frank mumbled softly, taking the bottle and glass from her. Quickly, he poured himself a glass full and gulped it down almost immediately. And then, he put the glass down and looked at his hand. It was trembling violently.

 

“Oh God,” he began, “Sofia is…Sofia is the girl I was going to marry. She was carrying my baby…and now she’s…” he couldn’t continue, instead he kept repeating “Oh God.”

 

Igo cradled him against her t-shirt-covered bosom, her tears mingling with his.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

Sometime later, a much-calmer Frank finished narrating the tale to the listening Igo seated a settee away, long legs tucked under her, her chin in her hands, hair held back with a hairnet, tears glistening in her eyes. Frank himself was rather dry-eyed and steady; something that could be attributed to the colorless liquid in the glass he was carrying, a glass different from the one Igo handed him a few minutes before.

 

Of course, the colorless liquid wasn’t water.

 

“It’s just like okada accidents; very rarely do the riders get hurt, but the passengers barely escape with their lives. He was barely scratched; at least from what I could see.” He sighed. “The idiot ran into a parked trailer.”

 

Igo wiped her eyes slowly. “I don’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ doesn’t begin to cover it.”

 

“I’m just confused. What is going on? Why now – why is everything falling apart all of a sudden? I would ask God but all I have done lately is to blame Him for everything including my own nonsense.” He raised the glass to his lips and swallowed. “The person I feel most sorry for is Sofia’s father. How is he going to tell his wife?”

 

“I’m sorry Frank,” Igo said, sniffing. “I can’t help but wonder why you didn’t tell me about Sofia sha. Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“We are just becoming friends again, Igo. I wasn’t ready to lose that. And then, it just never seemed like the right time. I’m sorry.”

 

She wiped her eyes. “It’s okay, Frank. I would have liked to meet her.”

 

Frank set the cup down and fished for his phone. It wasn’t where he expected it to be; his hip pocket so he started to pat around him.

 

“That’s strange,” he mumbled.

 

“What are you looking for?”

 

“Eh…my phone, wallet and…” his voice trailed off, his eyes followed Igo’s pointing finger to a side table, on top of which lay the things he was looking for.

 

“You need to tell me how you got me and my car here – or did you leave it there?”

 

She chuckled dryly. “I’ll tell you as soon as you’re done with your phone.”

 

He took the phone off the side table and unlocked it, and then rose and walked to Igo’s side of the room to squat beside her. “This is Sofia,” he said, his voice breaking.

 

Igo leaned forward and looked at the picture Frank was showing her. It was of a smiling Sofia, playing with her hair and laughing at something beyond the camera.

 

“She’s beautiful,” Igo said softly – barely catching the phone in time as Frank suddenly let go of it. Placing the phone beside her, she pulled him to herself.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“It was Sunny drove me to where you were. When we found you, I just moved you to the passenger seat and drove. Sunny followed me. We also carried you in.”

 

“‘Sunny’ would be…” Frank’s waving hand hung the question in the air.

 

“The gateman,” Igo said simply. “He’s a good driver.”

 

“Well, my thanks to Sunny. And to you,” he continued, looking at her warmly. “I’m thankful, Igo.”

 

She waved away his thanks. “You would do the same for me.” There was a moment of silence, a moment in which she glared at him, daring him to disagree. “What happens now?”

 

“I can’t go home – at least not yet. She did all the décor, the painting – “He broke off and sighed. “I can’t handle that…”

 

She cradled his face. “You know that’s not what I’m talking about, Frank. What happens with Sofia?”

 

Resting his head against her chest, he closed his eyes. “I don’t know, Igo. Maybe they would wait till her mother gets back before proceeding with funeral arrangements or something. I think that’s just going to be a private ceremony – I don’t even know.”

 

“What a time,” she sighed. “And your parents? Do they know? I mean, if she’s pregnant they must have met her, right?”

 

Frank groaned. “I can’t even tell mama. Not yet o, ha. The woman will kill me or something.”

 

Igo sighed. “What a time,” she said.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Ah….haba na. No be so we talk am o,” Priye’s lamentations sounded like an auto-tuned artist’s voice.

 

“What am I supposed to do, ehn Priye? The matter no tire you reach me.”

 

“E no suppose tire me reach you na. And then, Folly bin tell me say she don carry for you sef.”

 

At that moment, Frank realized he hadn’t even spared a thought for the baby Sofia had been carrying.

 

His baby.

 

He wiped his eyes and sighed. “It’s almost as though she just came to play briefly in my life, Priye. I mean, what was the point of it all? Is she dead for the sake of a story or what? My guy, I tire.”

 

“I tire join you. I bin wan talk say God know how far, but you no believe in God. To say you send am now, you for see pessin blame. Abi na my fault?”

 

Frank’s chuckle lacked humor. “Actually na her brother fault. The guy bin dey alright when e dey drive am – e don high go far. The guy no come get any injury.”

 

“Guy – “ Priye started, and then kept quiet. There really weren’t words. “Una don find Folly wife?”

 

“There was nobody looking for her – well I wasn’t, but Folly’s dad was just telling me she’s with her parents in PH. The man requested for a meeting, so she might be showing up sometime soon.”

 

“Abeg when she show, just break one of her legs. I go do thanksgiving.” The friends’ laughter filled the semi-abandoned hall of the hospital before Priye continued. “How Fola himself sef?”

 

“Some of the wounds don dey dry, but im face man, im face don dey wrecked beyond recognition. Im left eye no get hope, dat one don blind. But dem get hope say im body go still dey alright.”

 

“I know say nothing go change whether I do Stella anything or not – but man, e go help me feel better small.” He coughed. “You see why me I dey maintain say marriage no be for mi?”

 

“Dat one na just excuse jo. How your people for dat side?”

 

“Ol boi!” Excitement suddenly jumped back into Priye’s voice. “De mosquitos wey dis side man, dem no get part two! As a soji guy I arrange mosquito repellent for hand, but dem militant pass the ones wey dey Lag. I swear, dem dey enjoy the tin!”

 

“Hehehehehehe! Shey una don dey settle di matta sha?”

 

“I no even care jare. Konji wan kill me for hia. All the gehls ehn, either dem too old or dem too young. I no even understand…”

 

“Priye, nothing do you. I go follow you talk later.”

 

Frank pocketed his phone and walked towards Ward 9.

 


For Want Of A Child XVII

Masthead 17

 

 

“I go like kill pessin sha o.”

 

Frank sighed and rested his head against the wall, moving gently so as not to jostle Igo who was asleep across his thighs. He was tired; his eyes and arms were heavy but every time he closed his eyes he saw an image of Fola trying to speak.

 

He shuddered.

 

Priye, hands in his shorts pockets was pacing back and forth angrily, mumbling to himself. Frank wanted to tell him to keep quiet but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He was thankful Priye hadn’t been with them when they went in to see Fola.

 

He probably would have brought the hospital down with his screaming.

 

“Where she dey? Where dat elephant dey, ehn Frank?”

 

“Priye,” Frank whispered, “calm down jare. You know say Igo dey sleep sha?”

 

Stopping in his tracks, Priye looked down at his friend’s thighs – at the woman fast asleep on them. “Where Sofia dey?” he whispered.

 

Frank shrugged. Priye looked at his friend – and then at the sleeping woman. “Ol’ boi, na hot ewa agonyi dem go take baff you,” he snorted.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Frank, how we wan do dis matta now?”

 

He opened his eyes to find Priye and Igo regarding him with two completely different expressions. Priye’s was impatient; Igo’s was worried.

 

“Are you okay? You’ve been mumbling in your sleep, apologizing to someone named Sofia. Who’s that, by the way?”

 

Priye grinned. “Wetin I talk? I no tell you? When man begin dey – YEPA!”

 

Frank stood and stretched, grinning down at Priye who was rubbing his smarting ankle, the ankle Frank just kicked. Igo cocked her head to the side, a question on her face as she looked from Frank to Priye and back again.

 

Frank shrugged. “Which matter be dat, Priye?”

 

“I wan know as we go dey look after Fola ni,” Priye answered, hopping on one foot after the other. “All of us no fit dey here together; Uncle just call me make I show for villa. E be like say dem wan settle the land matter finally.”

 

Frank nodded. “No wahala. You dey go your waka. I go call James make e come stay here small – then I go carry Igo go her house make she dey go her shop, from dere go my own go freshen up. I go come back come relieve James.”

 

“But you know say dis work no be our own o, you know. If I begin provoke now call somebody her name gan-gan you go dey yarn opata.”

 

Frank ignored Priye, instead walking towards the nurse station.

 

“Excuse me nurse…” he addressed the first white-wearing figure he found bending over a computer behind the reception desk. “I’d like to make enquiries about a patient please.”

 

She looked up, another confirmation of the slang nurses are beautiful. Smiling, she asked for the name of the patient, greeting Igo and Priye politely as they walked up beside Frank.

 

“Hello nurse! Ol’ boy, I think I’m about to be sick! Person can request for a special nurse, shey?”

 

The big beautiful woman tried not to laugh at Priye’s antics as she scrolled through the computer, searching for the patient Frank had named. “Mr. Akanji…Mr. Akanji…” she muttered, squinting at the screen. “Oh. Yes…Akanji…burn victim…”

 

Her voice trailed off into silence as she read the case file. And then, all traces of the smiles that previously adorned her face gone, she spoke. “He’s stable now, though he’s still being heavily sedated. The doctor just finished the morning rounds, and say he’s no longer in critical.”

 

Igo closed her eyes and muttered ‘thank God’ while Frank nodded, feeling relieved. His eyes scanned the walls for a clock. Finding one he looked at the time; eight past seven.

 

“We need to go away for a few hours – they’ll be somebody around in case he wakes up and needs anything – “

 

“That’s okay, sir. Just take this your friend along when you’re going.”

 

Priye’s smile widened. “But o, isn’t this a hospital? Don’t you treat sick people here anymore? I’m sick – I need help!”

 

Frank tried not to laugh. “Let’s go jo,” he said, grabbing Priye’s arm and pulling him along roughly. “Thank you,” he said to the nurse over his shoulder. He could hear her giggle at something Priye was doing – and he moved quickly, dragging his ‘sick’ friend after him.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Thank you again, Igo. Having you there made a lot of difference.”

 

They were in front of her house, a bungalow affair in a quiet neighborhood. Igo’s head rested against the headrest, and she looked at her ex-husband, a somewhat somber smile playing around her glistening-in-spite-of-the-harmattan lips. “Of course, Frank. Like I would be anywhere else.” There was a pause while she continued to look at him. “What happens next? Who’s taking care of the financial aspect of this thing?”

 

“Well, the doctor told me Fola’s wife paid a deposit of five hundred thousand already, and if there’s any more required, I’m sure between me and Priye we can cover it – at least for the moment. I wish it hadn’t come to this sha,” he concluded.

 

She touched his shoulder lightly. “You know if you need anything – ANYTHING – you can always ask me, right?”

 

He smiled at her and patted her hand. “I know, Igo. Thank you.”

 

She nodded, and then leaned forward and kissed him before opening the car door and getting out. And then, she leaned through the window.

 

“You…em, want to come inside? I could make you some breakfast…”

 

Frank was tempted. He really did not want to be alone; Igo’s presence was a balm.

 

But there was Sofia to think about. “I really shouldn’t,” he said. “Thanks anyway. Definitely some other time.”

 

Igo nodded. “That would be nice.” Standing away from the car she said, “My love to Sofia,” and darted into the house before Frank could hide his surprise. Laughing softly, he started the car and drove away.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Hey babe,” Frank said into his phone as he opened the door.

 

“Hi darling,” her voice was heavy with sleep.

 

“Exams are over now, shey? The thing to be doing is sleeping, abi?”

 

“Abi o. I cannot come and die na; after all I am not the first graduate from my father’s house.”

 

“Hehehe.” Frank wiped his face and closed the door behind him before flicking the light switch. No power. He sighed.

 

“Is something wrong, Franklin honey?”

 

“Em…no – well, yes there is.” He paused. “I lied to you last night. I didn’t come home – in fact, I’m just getting home now.”

 

“Franklin! Why would you do that? Where were you?”

 

“I was at the hospital with Fola. His wife poured boiling oil on him.”

 

Her scream was loud enough to wake his neighbors two blocks down the road. He didn’t want to imagine what was happening in her house.

 

“Oh my God! Franklin! Are you okay? Where are you now? Why would she do that? Is he okay? What’s happening – “

 

Over her excited chattering he heard a door slam open; he could hear a deep growly voice, sounding concerned. And then his girlfriend spoke; “Calm down daddy. Frank’s friend had an accident.”

 

“Where are you now?” she asked again.

 

“I’m just getting into the house. I want to rest a little, freshen up and head back out there. His wife is nowhere to be found and we haven’t contacted his folks – though now I’m thinking maybe I should. They deserve to know.”

 

She sighed. “Sorry, babe. I’ll come be with you as soon as – “

 

“Isn’t today your mother’s trip?”

 

“Yes it is but – “

 

“There’s no hurry. Stay with her; spend time with her till she leaves. I’m sure Fola isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and I’ll always be here.”

 

She was worried. “Are you sure? I could come see you, and then we – “

 

“Honey, don’t worry about it. See your mother off, and then we’ll talk okay?”

 

Sighing softly, Sofia replied. “Okay. I’ll try not to worry.”

 

“Don’t. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Tell her I said safe journey, okay?”

 

“Okay dear.” She sighed. “I’ll talk with you later, love. Bye.”

 

He nodded – and then realizing she couldn’t see him he hastily said “Bye!” and hung up.

 

Frank removed his shirt and closed his eyes.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

He just wanted to rest his eyes for a few minutes – but when he opened them again the sun was down, power was back and his phone was screaming.

 

“Yes?” he said into the phone, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He couldn’t believe he had slept that long; apart from the shadows that hung around the room like living things there was also the loud rumbling in his stomach. He closed his eyes and focused on what the voice on the phone was saying.

 

“Oga Frank, I don dey call you since. Oga Folly don wake up, e dey ask for you.”

 

“Okay. I’ll be right there.”

 

Disconnecting the call, he put the phone aside and jumped up. If he had been a bit more patient, he would have seen several missed calls – one from a particular number. But he wasn’t and he didn’t.

 

Not that it would have made any difference.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Fola, Frank. How are you feeling?”

 

The thing on the bed groaned and Frank had to remind himself it was a human being; his friend, Fola aka Folly pumping, the fine boy of their graduating class.

 

The burns were no longer visible; bandages covered half Fola’s face, his entire chest are and left arm. The sickening smell of antibiotics hung heavy in the room like cigarette smoke; Frank noticed the IV attached to his friend’s arm.

 

“How…do I…look like…I’m feeling…?”

 

Frank shook his head, turning away as hot tears burnt his lids. “You look like crap,” he said, and grinned at his friend. The facial muscles twitched – and then, Frank realized Fola was trying to smile. “Very…funny…”

 

His voice was like a rough whisper of sound; like when jeans-clad thighs rubbed against each other. The bed’s weight dipped as Frank sat down, and he held his friend’s undamaged right hand.

 

“I’m so…high…they say they’re….pumping me full of morphine…I can’t feel anything…” He looked at Frank. “How…how…bad is…it…?”

 

Frank swallowed. “That doesn’t really matter now. What happened?”

 

Fola sighed, and a tear spilled from his one left eye. “Man…Stella o…Stella did this to me…Stella…my own wife…oh God…”

 

Frank could barely contain himself, and it was all tears in Ward 9 for a while…

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“Apparently, he came home late from some office something, smelling of alcohol and perfume – maybe even a lipstick stain or two. They had an argument about it and he said he hadn’t been doing anything untoward.” Frank sighed and rubbed his eyes, stretching the arm holding the phone to keep it from cramping.

 

“I guess she got tired of his excuses, and you know Stella and her temper. Only this time they weren’t excuses. He was telling the truth. She asked him to sit to dinner – insisted in spite of his claim to have been well fed at the party. So he sat, and instead of dinner – or at least food, she served him hot oil.”

 

Igo’s gasp was a compliment to his own sigh. “How could she…? Oil! God…”

 

“Yeah. It’s all just…” he rubbed his eyes again. “He just kept crying, Igo. The whole time I was there, he was crying. I didn’t know when I joined him myself. The bandages help though, he doesn’t look half as bad…”

 

“Who’s there with you? Have you been able to reach his family?”

 

Frank hit his head. “I forgot! Thanks for reminding me. Let me do that now, I’ll call you back.”

 

He disconnected the call – and then realized he didn’t have any of Fola’s people’s numbers. He scratched his head for a bit before walking towards Ward 9.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“…okay, Kunle,” Frank said and cut the call before leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. The call with Fola’s family had been stressful; from his mother’s screams to his father’s deep inaudible grunting. He had kept the information to a minimum; all he said was their son had been in an accident, but still…

 

And they kept asking where his wife was.

 

He sighed. Where is Sofia?

 

He looked at the time before dialing her number; 9:13 pm.

 

The phone began to ring. He closed his eyes, expecting a click and ‘hello’ from the other side.

 

No such luck.

 

He dialed again. Same thing; long ring, no pick.

 

Worried now, he typed a text; Where are you? Are you okay, has your mum travelled? Let me know what’s going on. I’m worried.

 

He read through once and hit send.

 

After a few minutes, he dialed again.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

Frank stood in the exact spot he met Sofia in, smoking a cigarette.

 

Smoke from his nose, mouth and the cigarette drifted towards the fluorescent bulb, wrapping it in a hazy kind of halo. He looked at it and at the flies hovering around it, and for a moment wondered if they were the same flies that were flying around that night he met Sofia.

 

They couldn’t be. It was raining.

 

She still wasn’t picking; still hadn’t called back. There was the temptation to be worried but he couldn’t afford the luxury. Igo had asked him to call back after talking with Fola’s family but he thought the better of it. It bothered him slightly to find things were still that vibrant between them.

 

Like that is going away anytime soon. Ah. Who am I kidding?

 

He pulled on the cigarette and mentally applauded Fola’s father for coming with another of his sons; Fola’s younger brother. None of the girls had been allowed to come; the mother had fought and screamed to no avail. The man wanted to see just how bad it was before involving the women.

 

Frank could still see the man’s face as he stood looking down at his son; the son he could barely recognize. As much as he tried to contain his emotions, the senior Akanji made no attempt stop the tears as they flowed down his seamed cheeks and into his beard.

 

At least, his family is here now.

 

He was tired.

 

Where is Sofia?

 

As though on cue, his phone started to ring. Extinguishing the cigarette, he eagerly pulled the phone out of his pocket but was slightly disappointed when he saw the call wasn’t from Sofia as he’d thought, but from a number he didn’t know.

 

He sounded subdued when he said, “Hello?”

 

“Frank?” It was a voice he didn’t know, but something about it sounded familiar. What got his lower belly churning however was the watery, quavering quality the voice had.

 

The person; the older man who was speaking had been crying.

 

“Who is this?”

 

“Frank,” the man cleared his throat. “This is – I am Sofia’s father. I’m sorry – there’s been an accident…”

 


For Want of A Child XVI

Masthead 16

 

“How bad is he?”

 

They were standing in the lobby of the hospital; same hospital he had come to meet her when Efe had gotten herself in trouble; same hospital he met Sophia in.

 

So long ago…

 

Igo; demure in red blouse and blue jeans, looked everywhere but at Frank as she answered. “I haven’t seen him – nobody has been allowed to see him. But the doctor says it’s real bad.” She gripped his arm and finally met his eyes, concern making hers darker. “Frank, she poured boiling oil on him!”

 

The floor swung up and hit Frank in the face with no apologies. He staggered and would have fallen if it wasn’t for Igo’s grip on his arm. She held him steady and led him to a bench set against the wall.

 

“Excuse me,” she said to a frowning woman who shifted grudgingly as though she had wet the bench. Igo set Frank down gently and touched his forehead.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I’m – I’m fine. I just…” Her palm felt soft and warm; her face glistened in spite of the worry that put wrinkles where they didn’t belong. The neck of her blouse fell loose; presenting a lighter shade of skin, lighter than her face and arms. He could also see two protuberances; two black-wrapped protuberances…

 

Hastily he looked away.

 

“Frank?” Igo said plaintively as she took her hand away from his head and straightened.

 

“Where is Stella now?” he asked through gritted teeth.

 

“Nobody knows. She called Efe and together they brought Fola to the hospital, and then she said she wanted to go see to her kids. She didn’t come back. Efe says the house was empty when she went by there on her way back home. She probably just took the kids and left for God knows where.”

 

Frank’s hand came up; he wanted to say something, but he changed his mind. Igo, who could tell what he was thinking said, “She’s at home with her family. She just waited for me to get here before leaving.”

 

Nodding gratefully, he rubbed his forehead. A small throb had begun somewhere in the back of his head and he felt overwhelmingly tired. He tried not to think of his friend, a few meters away…

 

“Which one of you is here for Fola – “ the woman, a doctor recognizable by the stethoscope hanging almost negligently around her neck, adjusted the reading glasses she was wearing and looked at the file open in her hand. “…Mr. Fola Akanji?” She looked up and squeezed her face.

 

“Here,” Frank rose and, with Igo hanging onto his arm, stepped away from the wall and towards the woman.

 

She met them halfway. “I’m Dr. Sheye.” Her handshake was firm. “Your friend is stable but in critical. He suffered third degree burns to his face, upper body and arms.” Frank’s ears started roaring; he heard the doctor through layer after layer of static. Beside him Igo tensed; her nails were cutting into his arm.

 

He struggled to focus on what the doctor was saying.

 

“…might lose sight in one eye, facial tissues are badly damaged, extensive surgery will be required and maybe some grafting, but for now, the focus is to keep him alive.”

 

Frank tried to talk; but for some reason, he couldn’t.

 

Igo asked; “When can we see him?”

 

Dr. Sheye shook her head. “It’ll be some time yet. But he’s okay, and we’ll do our best to care for him. You pray too, okay?”

 

Igo nodded. “Yes we will, thank you.”

 

The doctor turned to go – and then turned back. “Are you related to Mr. Fola?”

 

Frank nodded.

 

She removed her glasses – and he saw empathy in her eyes, something he would never have thought possible. “Who did this to him? His file says it was boiling oil.”

 

Frank swallowed. “It was his wife.”

 

She shook her head. “That is…that is horrifying.” Putting her glasses back on, she touched his arm lightly. “We’ll do our best.”

 

Her sensible shoes made almost no sound as she turned away and disappeared into the door she came out from.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“I appreciate your being here,” Frank said softly.

 

“Oh Frank,” Igo said, raising her head from his shoulder where it had been resting, “Of course. Efe called me in a panic after Stella called her. I’m sure you understand Stella wouldn’t call you herself.”

 

“She knows I’ll probably kill her or something.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head against hers, which she’d put back on his shoulder. “And he was telling me he was fixing things o, just last week or so.” He sighed. “This life sha.”

 

“I didn’t even know things were this bad between them,” Igo said softly. “Baby – I mean Frank, were we ever at this point? The point where you started to feel as though you had to hit me to make me listen or shut up?”

 

“I should be asking you that. She’s the one who’s been doing the beating na.”

 

There was a moment; a small pocket of time in which Igo looked at Frank with an I cannot believe you said that expression while trying not to laugh. But then Frank decided to top it with a wink.

 

Igo’s laughter was explosive – so explosive, dozing people in the lobby started awake and some nurses came running to see what the noise was about. The only thing they saw were a running couple; a man holding the arm of a woman as they ran towards the exit. Frenzied laughter followed the running figures; frenzied laughter and a drawn out hiss from a frowning woman seated on a bench.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

“We aren’t supposed to be laughing about this,” Igo managed to choke out amidst spurts of laughter.

 

“So stop na,” Frank said, hands on knees gasping for breath. “Man, I haven’t run that hard in a while.”

 

Igo stopped laughing and looked at him. “And smoking and drinking – Frank, you don’t take care of yourself like you used to.”

 

The frown that colored his face made him look unfriendly. “Why would I? You left me, remember?”

 

“But I didn’t leave you Frank! I…you pushed me away, you asked for the divorce! I didn’t have a say in how the whole thing played out! I just stood and watched!”

 

He was suddenly subdued. “I know. And not a day goes by I don’t wish – “

 

His phone started to ring.

 

Cursing softly, he kept his gaze on Igo’s face as he struggled to pull out the device. After a few minutes of struggling he was able to get the phone out of his pocket. It was Priye calling.

 

“Guy where you dey?” Was his friend’s raucous salutation.

 

“Where I dey?” Frank intoned. “Which kain question be dat? Wetin happen?”

 

“Guy cool down na. We dey fight ni? I dey travel tomorrow – uncle say make I show villa na im I reason am say make we commot dis night. After I free you now, I go call Folly…”

 

The woman he hadn’t stopped looking at could see depression set on his features. Reaching out a hand, she rubbed his shoulder nearest her, sending some warmth into it. He nodded gratefully before speaking into the phone; “Guy, na hospital I dey so o. I dey hospital with Folly.”

 

There was a moment’s pause – and then, “Which hospital una dey?”

 

Frank told him which hospital it was. “I’m on my way,” was all Priye said and hung up.

 

“Priye?” Igo asked.

 

Frank nodded. “He can be annoying at times, but he’s a loyal friend. He didn’t even ask what happened, just said he’s on his way.”

 

“Well – “

 

Frank’s phone started to ring again. This time it was Sofia.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hi baby,” came the gushing reply. “You didn’t let me know you were home and I was getting worried. Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Frank was grateful as he felt rather than saw Igo walk away to give him some space. “I just ran into a little traffic. How is everyone?”

 

She chuckled softly. “Ales is happy for me, mummy is using the age difference between us as an excuse to be grouchy; dad is…well; dad.” She laughed again. “Everything is fine! Stop worrying so much, you hear?”

 

“Okay,” Frank mumbled. “I’m glad at least they’re not fighting us.”

 

“No o,” she answered, sounding surprised that he would think such a thing. “Why would anyone want to do that?”

 

“I don’t know…maybe – “

 

“I already told you to stop worrying! Everything will be fine; I promise.”

 

“Okay.” He sighed.

 

“Goodnight, my darling.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Frank looked at the warm phone, wondering why he didn’t tell her where he was. The first excuse that jumped into his mind was that he didn’t want her to worry; but as he looked at the red-blouse-wearing woman walking towards him, he wondered if it was something else.

 

“Can we got back inside?” she asked, hugging herself for warmth. “It’s cold here.”

 

“Okay,” Frank said, putting an arm around her.

 

Together they disappeared into the brightly-lit interior of the hospital.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

Frank started awake suddenly; Igo was shaking him gently. “Frank, Fola is conscious. We can see him now.”

 

He raised his head from her thighs where it had been resting and stood up, stretching and yawning. She rubbed his shoulders lightly and smiled at him. “Are you okay?” she asked.

 

He nodded, querying the warm feeling he had from being around her. He wanted to touch her, he wanted to hold her and say nothing, just lose himself in the warmth that was her. He was actually stretching a hand to pull her back as she preceded him into the corridor that led to the ward

 

Why am I thinking these things now? Which kain wahala be dis now?

 

when guilt assailed him and he flinched. Igo saw the movement from the corner of her eye and stopped. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked him again.

 

He nodded. “I’m just, you know nervous. I don’t know what to expect.”

 

The nurse leading them turned and addressed them in a voice as stiff as her demeanor; “You will please be quiet; you will not agitate or stress the patient. Also you must; under no circumstances show any reaction when you see patient. He will be looking at your faces for a clue of how bad he looks; he must not know. Else, he might give up fighting and give up.”

 

Frank wanted to point the absurdity of her closing sentence but thought the better of it. “We understand,” he said instead, rubbing his hand on Igo’s back in a circular motion. She wriggled and looked at him over shoulder. “That feels nice, thank you.”

 

Instantly he took his hand away from her back.

 

Her face registered surprise. “Why are you stopping now?”

 

He shrugged. “You are not supposed to enjoy that. You’re supposed to take it as a matter of course. The money you paid does not include enjoying it.”

 

“Oh you – “ she swung her purse at his head; he ducked and she missed, almost slamming herself into the wall. The nurse turned and frowned at them; Frank waved an apology while trying not laugh as Igo righted herself. She frowned at him and slowly drew her forefinger across her throat. Frank started to laugh –

 

The nurse cleared her throat. “Come in quietly,” she said sternly.

 

In spite of the nurse’s warning and what they also knew, Igo couldn’t contain her gasp of horror at the sight that was once a healthy, handsome man of thirty-something years. Now, Fola looked like a survivor of the zombie apocalypse depicted in the Resident Evil game. His injuries were burns and so couldn’t be wrapped; the gory details were clear to see.

 

One side of his face and his entire chest were a mass of purpling flesh. His left eye streamed water, his undamaged right hand clenched and unclenched as though trying to grasp air. But for a few patches here and there along his left leg, his lower body was untouched.

 

There was strangled sob from behind him; Frank heard Igo rush out of the ward. He could barely hold his tears in himself; they crawled slowly from behind his eyes as he looked at what was left of his friend.

 

“He is in a lot of pain but we’ve sedated him and he will go under soon enough. The Dr. just thought you would want to see him; to see for yourself how he’s doing.”

 

Frank nodded. “Thank you,” he said, swallowing painfully to get the words out. As he watched, his friend’s clutching hand slowed – and then dropped onto the bed. For a terrifying moment, Frank thought he’d died.

 

“He’s asleep. Let’s leave him alone for now.”

 

As he stepped outside the ward, the first thing he saw leaning against the opposite wall was a weeping Igo. She raised her head and looked at him.

 

“I’m so sorry. I just couldn’t….” she shuddered. “Frank, what sort of woman does this to her husband? What sort of woman?”

 

He opened his arms to her and she collapsed sobbing against his chest. Frank looked up, finally understanding why blaming God for things never made sense.

 


For Want Of A Child XV

 

Masthead 15

 

 

Fola couldn’t hide his excitement. “Man! Isn’t this what you’ve been praying – “ He saw Frank’s frown and corrected himself. “ – what we’ve been praying for? I don’t understand. Why aren’t you bringing the house down with excited noise?”

 

Frank sighed. “You don’t understand…”

 

“Oga, I am not a woman. Make me understand. What is the issue?”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“You’re pregnant?”

 

Sofia, standing away from Frank, nodded. He rushed towards her excitedly and carried her off the ground, swinging her around and yelling.

 

“Franklin!”

 

He snapped back to himself and put her on the ground gently. “Sorry,” he said. “You’re right. We don’t want to hurt the baby.”

 

She turned her nose at him. “Yimu, baba pikin. I’m not at that point yet – “

 

“But you have to be careful! You cannot just be saying – “ He broke off as he noticed her frown and folded arms. “I’m sorry.”

 

He put his arms around her gently. “You’ve made me very happy, Sofia.”

 

She looked up at him. “Are you sure, Franklin?”

 

“Of course I’m sure. What do you mean?”

 

Sofia pushed out of his arms. “I’m pregnant, Franklin. I thought you were going to ask who the father is.”

 

Frank’s eyes widened. “Why would I ask that?” He said, walking towards her. “Who else could be the father?”

 

He was going to hug her again, but changed his mind when she put her hand against his chest.

 

“We need to talk – or I need to, and you need to listen.”

 

Frank nodded. “I’m listening.”

 

“I’m pregnant for you, and I’m happy about it. But I really want to know, what do you want?”

 

“Uh? What do I want?”

 

Sofia smiled. “Listen. I love you, I do. And I want to…I like the idea of carrying your baby. But I won’t be your baby mama. I don’t want to have a child without a father. So here’s what I think. If you want me to get rid of this pregnancy,” her voice shook at that. “…I will. But if you want me to carry it to term, you’ll marry me.”

 

She walked to Frank and kissed him softly. “I know that’s a lot for you to take in at once, so I’ll let you think about it.” She carried her bag from where she’d dropped it and went into the house, leaving Frank staring after her.

 

Marriage?

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“So what’s the problem?” Fola asked again.

 

Frank looked at his friend angrily. “For someone who’s supposed to be smart you can be a mumu sometimes,” he retorted.

 

“Oga calm down. I’m saying this is what you want, isn’t it? A child of your own? And a woman to go with it? You could do worse – “

 

“I’m not sure I want to get married ever again o. Do you know how scared I get just thinking about it? Man, if someone had told me Igo and I wouldn’t make it…” He shook his head. “I’m not sure I can go through all that again.”

 

Fola put his arm around Frank’s shoulder. “I think I understand, bro. I’m married to a woman who beats me! If I was the abuser wouldn’t everybody be telling her to leave? But where do I go? Where do I start from? I’m just trying to make the most of the situation man. Live day to day. Even I have had to rethink my ways, and become a better husband.

 

“I know you, Frank. We’ve been friends for a while. I was there when you and Igo started, remember? Sofia’s no Igo; and that’s the best part! Like I said before you could do a lot worse. And really, fair is fair. Do you think she’s being unreasonable; or you just want to eat your cake and have it?”

 

There it was.

 

It occurred to him that maybe he spent too much time thinking about himself and his problems. He had been all indignant about Igo cheating on him with a younger man, so angry and hurt he hadn’t bothered to find out why. He still wasn’t talking to Efe…

 

It’ll be nice to think about someone else for a change.

 

Frank squeezed his face. “Man, I hate it when you make sense. I prefer the fish-eating beer-drinking you jare.” He patted Fola on the back. “Thanks man.”

 

Fola nodded. “So what are you going to do?”

 

“Marry her na.”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

The smell of vegetable and afang welcomed the couple as they walked into the house on Ibeju street. Mama Omure hovered in the background, waiting impatiently for Frank to enter the house. As soon as he and Sofia were in, she grabbed the poor girl and hugged her to her bosom.

 

Mama Omure had an impressive bosom.

 

“My daughter! My daughter!! See how beautiful you are! Eh – hope my son does not stress you o! Eh! Welcome! Welcome!!”

 

Sofia was blushing, unable to look at the older woman. Mama Omure released her and stood back, turning to precede them. The moment her back was turned, Sofia faced Frank and pulled her forefinger across her throat. He laughed.

 

Mama Omure led the way to the back of the house where her husband sat in his usual chair, fanning himself and wondering what the noise was about. When he saw Sofia, his lined and aged face cracked and made way for a smile.

 

“Hehehehe! He haff bring me – brung me a daughter! Ah, I can go and die now! Fine gehl, come and sit down with me!”

 

As a blushing Sofia went and settled herself gingerly in the older male Omure’s lap, Frank’s mother pulled him aside. “My son,” she began, choosing her words carefully, “Frank…I don’t know o, maybe she hasn’t told you but I think…”

 

“Yes, mama. She’s pregnant for me.”

 

Have you ever seen a sixty-something year old woman dance shoki?

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“Ah!” Sofia belched and leaned back in her seat. “Mama you have killed me o! This food is mwuah!!!!”

 

Laughter rippled across the table and Frank followed it with grateful eyes. His mother was beaming; feeding fish into his father’s mouth as she was. Sofia held his hand under the table and the warmth in her hand flowed into his heart.

 

He was happy.

 

Later, he helped his father to his room, waiting till the man was comfortable. As he made his way out of the room his father called him.

 

“Frank, come hia.”

 

“Yes papa,” he said, and walked back to the man’s bedside.

 

“Takia of dis pikin, you hear? Na good pikin o.”

 

“I know, papa.”

 

“Okay. Gerrout of my room. I wan’ sleep!”

 

Frank chuckled as he obeyed. He walked to the kitchen, where Sofia was helping his mother tidy after the meal. They were having a conversation about the government and change; but Frank wasn’t interested. He was watching Sofia.

 

She looked over her shoulder at some point and caught his eyes on her. Smiling shyly, she blew him a kiss. He looked away, feeling some kind of warmth in his belly, and then with unusual suddenness he moved till he was standing behind her, dipped his hand into his pocket and whipped out an imaginary ring.

 

“Will you marry me?” he asked the stunned girl.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“How old are you, Mr. Frank?”

 

Everyone within vicinity of the woman’s voice looked up at the question, ‘everyone’ being Frank, Sofia, Sofia’s brother and her father. Sofia’s mother, who looked something like Diezani Alison-Madueke was the one who asked the question.

 

She was sitting in a love seat directly opposite the couple. Frank and Sofia were holding hands; Sofia’s left hand displayed in such a way that the elegant engagement ring was obvious to the eye. She squeezed Frank’s hand reassuringly, all the while trying to catch her mother’s eye. The older woman pointedly ignored her daughter and keep staring at Frank.

 

“Well?” she said.

 

“Ah – “ Frank started to speak but Sofia’s father, a copy of Papa Ajasco except he had a full head of hair left his position beside the sitting room window and came to stand beside the couple.

 

“Walk with me, will you Frank?” he said.

 

“Yes sir,” he responded and let go Sofia’s hand. As he rose, the older man winked at his daughter, walked to his wife and kissed her gently on the forehead. Then he put his arm around Frank’s shoulders and led him down a corridor. Frank tried to ignore the weight on his shoulder, choosing instead to stare at pictures that lined the walls. And then the man stopped in front of a door, took his arm off Frank’s shoulder and opened it.

 

“In here,” Sofia’s father waved him into a room that looked like a mini office, complete with file cabinet and desktop computer. He showed Frank into a sofa facing the desk and he took a seat on a stool facing it.

 

And then, he cleared his throat.

 

“I hope you understand; it is not my wife’s intent to be disrespectful. She’s just concerned for her little girl as I am.”

 

“I understand completely sir,” Frank said.

 

The older man shook his head. “I don’t think you do, Frank. But that’s okay. I mean, I have nothing against anyone wanting to marry my daughter, I just wish you had waited and married her before impregnating her.” He waved Frank to silence. “Now, you want to tell me why you haven’t married till now?”

 

Frank sighed and slowly began to tell his prospective father-in-law about his failed marriage. The man listened without interrupting, and when Frank was done he stood up.

 

“Thank you for being frank with me, Frank,” he started – and then he chuckled loudly as he realized what he’d just said. “I appreciate forthrightness and I think you have that. I won’t ask you to take care of her; I know you know your job. And I have to admit; I haven’t seen her this happy since.”

 

The man led the way out of the room, and laughter pointed them in the direction of the living room. Both men stood by the door and watched as Sofia, sitting on her mother’s lap showed off her ring to her mother and brother. Her brother; Ales was pulling her cheeks and laughing as Sofia acted shy.

 

“My son, the recovering addict. Did Sofia mention him?”

 

Frank shook his head. “No – I mean yes; she tells me about him but she never mentioned anything about addiction. What’s his substance?”

 

Nodding approvingly, Sofia’s dad answered “Codeine, sedatives, cocaine, hash – you name it; he has done it before. This is the most sober I have seen him in a while. I try to enjoy it while it lasts so I don’t have my hopes dashed. Sofia’s ever the optimist; never gives up on him.”

 

Suddenly the man leaned close to Frank. “Take care of my little girl.”

 

Before he could recover, the man was in the room laughing along with his family. Frank definitely felt threatened.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“Your father’s rather…intense,” he said.

 

Sofia grinned happily. “I hope he didn’t scare you or threaten you. He’s like that, but really he’s just a big teddy bear. Think of the Kung Fu panda.”

 

Frank blinked. “Who?” he asked.

 

“Never mind. Just be as you’ve always been and everything will be fine. Okay?”

 

“Okay.” There was a pause. “He asked if you’d discussed Ales’ drug issues with me. Of course I said no, that you only mentioned you had a brother.”

 

Sofia kissed him. “Oh baby, he was testing you. He knows I told you already; have you forgotten how we met?”

 

Frank stared at his fiancé, mouth open. “Na so,” he muttered after a short while. “My father-in-law to be already thinks I’m a liar.”

 

“No,” she shook her head, weave flying this way and that, “your father-in-law to be knows you can protect his daughter; from him if need be.”

 

“Okay o. I’ll tell him you said so.”

 

She looked at him fondly. “Will you stop your worrying? Everything will be fine, I promise.” Taking his hand, she held the back of it to her mouth. “Say it with me: everything will be fine.”

 

“Everything will be fine,” Frank repeated.

 

“Okay then.” She grabbed his neck and pulled him towards herself, kissing him fiercely for about six seconds. “Goodnight, my darling.”

 

He watched as she exited the car and walked into the house gate, turning to wave at him once. He waved back and she disappeared within. He exhaled and, catching himself in the rearview mirror, grinned.

 

I’m happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

 

As though in answer to his question his phone started to ring.

 

He pulled out the device and took the call. “Hey Igo, how are you – “

 

A barrage of words he barely heard assaulted his ears. “Calm down! Calm down – I cannot hear what you’re saying! What is it? What happened?”

 

He heard her swallow over the phone. “FRANK!” She yelled excitedly – and then she seemed to calm herself. “Frank, Fola is in the hospital and it’s really bad!”

 

Frank didn’t know when he dropped the phone.


For Want Of A Child XIV

 

Masthead 14

 

 

The sun was calling it a day; kissing the tall roofs of Palm Groove with fiery red lips when Priye and Fola; straining and staggering moved the last of the furniture from the back of Priye’s Uncle’s truck into the house.

 

“Drop am hia,” Priye said.

 

Fola shook his head. “No o – Frank said we should put it against the wall.”

 

“Yes na; we go put am down fest come shift am go wall.”

 

“No. It can affect the rug – “

 

Priye dropped his end of the settee. “Na why I dey quick tire for you be dat – you and your yeye English. Who you wan kill?”

 

“That’s I get tired of you too, you and your nonsense broken English. When it’s not as though you’re not educated…”

 

“Guys! Guys abeg chill! Haba na,” Frank said as he walked into the room, clutching a bottle. “You both are here for me, can you not forget that?” He looked Priye in the eye and shook his head. “Priye….”

 

Grumbles pouring from his lips sounding like a rumbling stomach, Priye hoisted his end of the settee and moved it along with Fola till they got to the desired wall. Carefully both men lowered it till it was sitting properly. Fola exhaled and wiped his forehead as Priye slumped on the settee.

 

As though on order, Sofia emerged from another room bearing a tray with cold drinks. “Thanks guy,” she beamed at the breathing-hard couple. “I didn’t think to bring alcohol, but next time I promise.”

 

Fola couldn’t hide his admiration. “It’s not a big deal o jare. This would do fine for me. I don’t know about Priye sha.” He took a bottle from the tray as Sofia lowered it before glancing at Priye. “How about you, area?”

 

“Like say I no dey drink minerals. Thank you jo,” the last part he directed at Sofia as he took the remaining bottle off her tray.

 

Sofia smiled and softly nudged Frank. “Where’s James?”

 

“Oh a customer called about an urgent delivery and I figured it would be best if he handled it himself.” He put his bottle to his lips.

 

“Chei!” Priye exclaimed. “This house come fine. Abi how you see am?” He asked Frank.

 

The friends moved for Frank as he joined them on the sofa and together they looked around the apartment. It was finally together; everything was as he wanted it. He nodded his appreciation and touched bottles with his friends.

 

“Thank you guys,” Frank began. “To new beginnings.”

 

“Yes o,” Fola started before suddenly laughing. “Oh men,” he started, wiping his mouth. “New beginnings. Hehehehe.”

 

Priye and Frank exchanged glances. “I’m sure you’ll share what the joke is abi?” Frank asked.

 

“Sorry jare. It’s not a big deal and it’s not you, Frank. You remember when I told you we were celebrating our boss’ sixtieth birthday?”

 

“Yes, that was last – about two months ago na,” Frank interjected.

 

“Well, you won’t believe what happened. My oga has this secretary; Eyitayo. Crazy woman. Anyway, while we were worrying what to buy oga and all that, she decides to surprise the sixty-year old with a blowjob.”

 

Frank spluttered. “What??” he said incredulously, catching Sofia’s eye on the opposite couch. Fola nodded, smiling.

 

“You heard me right. Blowjob.”

 

“Na my kind secretary be dat,” Priye said, nodding. “Ol boy!”

 

“The problem was oga, according to office gist, had never experienced a blowjob. Not once. You can imagine what that would do to a happily-married sixty year old bj virgin.”

 

“Oh man,” Frank said, slowly shaking his head.

 

“That’s right. The man simply went insane. And of course, his wife had to bear the brunt of it. I can’t even think of what happened – maybe he would have gotten away with his sudden requests for head had he not mistakenly shouted the secretary’s name during a session. In short sha, oga’s marriage is on the rocks.”

 

“Oh man,” Frank said again. “That’s a secretary from hell. How are you guys taking it?”

 

Fola chuckled. “It’s a joke in the office. Guys be asking if they can experience her life-changing oral skills and what not. Crazy girl just says ‘let me know when you’re sixty’.”

 

Amidst the general laughter, Priye said, “Na de madam fault na. How woman go allow her husband reach sixty years without giving him once? Shay she wan make de man get cancer ni? She’s evil!”

 

Frank chortled – and choked on his laughter as he caught Sofia’s unsmiling face.

 

“So it’s the wife’s fault?” She asked Priye.

 

“Yes na,” he answered enthusiastically. “Every woman should know to never let her man go without any of these three things: food, sex and head! What was she looking at for sixty years?”

 

Frank and Fola couldn’t hide their surprise at hearing their friend speak proper English.

 

Priye shrugged. “Because I no dey use am no mean say I no get am,” he said.

 

Sofia shifted forward. “So if he wanted…if he wanted head couldn’t he have just asked for it? Instead of allowing some other woman corrupt him for the one he has been with – “

 

“You be woman na. Wetin you know about those kain tins? Abeg enter kitchen jo,” Priye interrupted her.

 

“Now hold up – “ Frank started to speak.

 

“Don’t worry baby,” Sofia said, smiling. “I should enter the kitchen?” she asked Priye. “What do I know about such things? Maybe not much, but I know someone like me gave birth to you, and she didn’t do it in the kitchen. Maybe you should think about that, the next time you embarrass her by insulting women.”

 

In the silence that followed Sofia stood up, took the empty bottle Frank was holding, kissed his cheek and disappeared into the house. Fola looked like he was struggling to hold back a fart – laughter erupted from him suddenly. The other two eyed each other and then joined in.

 

“I like this your madam, Frank! I swear! She’s a keeper!” Fola whispered loudly. “How body, Priye?”

 

The laughter started again, with Priye looking embarrassed. “An na play I dey follow am play o wey she jus’ enter me like dat,” he grumbled.

 

“What do I always tell you about this your woman talk? What do I always say, ehn Priye?”

 

“Ehn, e don do na, Frank. Shebi my eye don clear now?” He put his bottle on the table and stood up. “Where she dey?”

 

A frown appeared between Frank’s eyebrows. “Now hold up – “ he started.

 

“She’s in the kitchen like you asked her to go,” Fola said, holding up a hand before Frank’s face, effectively silencing him. “Go and find her,” he concluded to Priye who nodded and disappeared into the house.

 

“What – “ Frank started again but Fola hushed him. “What do you think he wants to go and do – beat your woman?” Looking at Frank as though something was growing on his face, Fola found the remote. “Can we watch some soccer?”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“There’s enough fuel in the gen for the night,” Fola said, indicating the generator as he stepped out ahead of Priye. “I made sure he filled it.”

 

“Thank you guys!” Frank enthused.

 

Priye and Fola faced their grinning friend as he stood outside his gate – the gate to his new house. It was dark; the groans of a thousand generators filled the night with raucous noise.

 

“No be anything na. We dey together always.”

 

Fola nodded and pounded Frank’s back. “What he said.”

 

Together they turned to go; Fola leading the way to the truck that brought them. From where he stood he could hear the engine come on in spite of the generator noise, and he waved before turning to go in the house.

 

As he opened the door Sofia hugged him. “Hello Franklin,” she said before she kissed him. He kissed her back, mouth lingering on hers before he turned away to close the door behind him. “I expected you to leave with them,” he said.

 

She shrugged. “I just didn’t want you to be here by yourself for another night. But if you don’t want me to stay – “

 

He put his arms around her again. “It’s not like that at all o. Why would I not want you to stay? I just – “ he broke off, looking everywhere but at her. “You don’t like being alone with me is all.”

 

Sofia stepped out of his arms, turned her back to him and hugged herself. “It’s not like that, Franklin. It’s not you…”

 

He stepped up and put his arms around her gently. “It’s okay, really. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to, and you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. There’s no hurry.”

 

Sofia turned in his arms and pushed her mouth against his, kissing him lingeringly. “You sure about that?” she asked.

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“It’s not fun talking to papa again since he coughs half of the time,” Frank said into the phone in his hand. “At least he’s out of the hospital.”

 

Knocking the ash off his cigarette, he leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling while listening to his mother. It was early evening yet; he expected Sofia anytime from that moment.

 

“…yes ma, Idowu told me. I’m sure papa is still upset with me about that but it’s not my fault. The heart wants what it wants.”

 

“So when are we meeting this new girl of yours?” His mother asked.

 

“New girl? Mama, I’ve been dating Sofia for almost five months now!”

 

“As long as I haven’t met her she is still new. So…”

 

Frank chuckled. “Don’t worry mama. I will bring her to you as soon the time is right. There’s no need to rush o. Not when it comes to matters like this – “

 

“You don’t want to rush?! Frank, how much longer do you think your father has on this earth? How much longer do you think I have for that matter? My son, don’t make me start talking like those Nollywood women o!”

 

They both laughed at that.

 

“Mama, I will bring Sofia to greet you soon. I promise.”

 

The relief he heard in her voice was worth it. “That is good, ehn Frank? We thank God.”

 

His phone beeped, indication that another call was coming in. “Mama I have to go,” he said.

 

“Take care, my son. Give me notice before you bring her o,” his mother said before hanging up.

 

He took the second call.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hi Frank,” Igo’s matter-of-fact tone came on.

 

“Igo! So good to hear your voice. How na?”

 

She chuckled lightly. “I’m good o. Really good. You nko?”

 

“Everything is fine. What’s going on?”

 

“Well…there’s this – “ there was an awkward pause. “My boyfriend needs a tailor urgently, Frank.”

 

He sat up, forgetting the cigarette in his hand for a moment. “And you recommended your ex-husband?”

 

“No, silly! I recommended a very dear friend of mine.” She cleared her throat. “We are friends, are we not?”

 

Frank took a deep puff from the cigarette before speaking. “Ah – sure we are.”

 

“Okay then. I’ll just send him to the shop.”

 

“Let me know soon as he gets there, I’ll call James and tell him to get on it immediately.”

 

“Thank you, Frank.”

 

“At all. After all what are friends for?”

 

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

 

“There you are.”

 

Sofia came in the house and hugged him, burying her face against his shoulder. He hugged her back, tangling his fingers in her coiffure and closing his eyes, inhaling the rich smell of her. He made to ease away from her – but she held on tight.

 

“Are you okay?” He tried to lift her face to look at her but she moved her head away and put it back where it was. The sour taste of unused adrenaline was in his throat; his palms began to perspire in spite of the air-conditioned room they were standing in.

 

“Sofia…?”

 

She inhaled and lifted her face to his. In the white light of the living room he could see her face clearly; she was pale and looked like she had been crying.

 

“Kiss me, Franklin.” She said.

 

He obliged, and for the next few moments all that could be heard were soft moans and inhaled breaths. Then she pushed away.

 

“Franklin,” she sighed. And then she stared fixedly at him. “I’m pregnant.”