Ekene was on her way to the lot when she observed Ndidi walking towards her car.
“Hello. Ndidi, right?”, she stepped forward to shake hands with her.
“Hi, Ekene. You’re leaving?”
“Yes, I have to run some errands”
“It was very nice meeting you today. I joined Elyon not long ago and I don’t know a lot of people”
“Really? I’ve been coming for almost 1 year. I own my own business, so I have a lot of time on my hands. Coupled with the absence of a husband and children”, Ekene informed her.
“You’re not married? And your insight during the discussion was so deep”, Ndidi marvelled.
“So what kind of business do you do?”
“I own a boutique where I sell women’s clothes and accessories. Pink Crayon on Adeola Odeku in Victoria Island”
“You own Pink Crayon?”, Ndidi exclaimed.
“I keep meaning to pop in but I never have. Today, I was actually going to pick up some outfits for myself and my 2 sisters -in -law. They are twins and their birthday is coming up”
“Wow! Let’s go together and I’ll help you choose”! Ekene offered.
“How about your errands?”
“Cancelled. Business comes 1st”
“You have to give me huge discounts, O”
“Of course. I promise you won’t be disappointed” Ekene reached for a hug.
“Let me drive behind you” Ndidi reached into her bag for her keys.
“Nice bag. Fendi. I have the red one in stock”, Ekene commented, eyeing her black bag.
“Please, this one was a birthday present from my husband. I can’t afford another”, Ndidi protested.
“When you see it, you will change your mind” Ekene winked.
“I hear you”
“Right behind you. O, do give me your number first” Ndidi brought out her phone.
“Hello, Chike” Ijeoma said into her phone.
“Why did you skip work today?”
“I wasn’t feeling too well”, she replied, biting her lip.
“Really? Have you taken medication? Are you in the hospital? ” he sounded very concerned.
“It’s not that serious”
“Will you make it tomorrow? I miss you”
“Not sure……I took 3 days off”
“3 days? How am I to survive 3 days without you?”
“Benita will gladly keep you company”
“Who? That overstuffed turkey?”
“Or you go back to the girl you brought to Mr. Jaiyesola’s party”, she muttered.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you. She is nobody” he apologized
“I got rid of her when you left. I spent that night relieving your kiss……”
Ijeoma blushed. “That shouldn’t have happened”
“I have never felt what I felt that night. Even if the world had ended, I would be glad I got a taste of your lips. They were as luscious as they look”
“Please I am still married”
“Gini ka I na-eme with that loser? Divorce him, let me show you how much I love you”
“And what reason would I give?”
“It’s obvious the 2 of you are not compatible. He never deserved you” Chike asserted. “I promise to marry you, if you leave him. Even if it means adopting Kevin and Jonah, I don’t mind”
“I’m serious. Anything it takes to have you in my life for keeps, I will do it”
“Chike, it’s not that easy”
“It is, Ij love m”, he coaxed. “Let me love you like you need to be loved. Allow me to hold you in my arms every night. Let your sweet face be the last I see before I sleep”
“I need time. This is not the same as when one was single. It’s not straightforward at all”, she bit her lip.
“I don’t see any problem. 2 people who love each other should be allowed to marry”
“How about your children? What will they say?”
“They are not kids. The youngest is 5. Their mother is doing a good job of poisoning them against me. Since they believe all the lies their mom has been telling them, let them continue”
“Hmm. Na wa O!” “What do you say?”
“It ain’t gonna be easy”, she sighed.
“Nothing good comes easy”
“I tell you”
Miriam and Regina were at a dress maker’s. They had to make outfits for a wedding aso ebi. An old friend was getting married. While they flicked through magazines, selecting styles, they discussed.
“What’s up with Ekene? “, Regina asked
“She’ll soon be here. Her guy asked her to drop his younger sister at the park. She’s off to school, or something” Miriam replied.
“Has she started again? That is how she was serving Ibe and his sisters till he dumped her for that politician’s daughter” Regina snapped.
“I hope history does not repeat itself”
“I really hope so. She tends to be naive. Though I met the Fred and felt he was genuine. You can never tell though. Men these days…..”
“You’re preaching to the choir. See my condition” Miriam pointed discretely to her abdomen. “Who would have thought I would be a perpetual aso ebi wearer till this age? If not that Tessy has been a friend for long, I would have declined. This thing is getting too much”
“Magnus finds it so funny when I talk about weddings in Nigeria. He believes we make too much of a fuss”, Regina smiled.
“What do you expect? He is a man”
“If he had to fork over thousands of naira as we do, he would be kinder”, Regina reached for her phone. “Let me check if he has replied my last message. He was driving when I sent it”
“Hmm. You guys are really close”, Miriam observed.
“Yeah, he’s so easy to talk to. He listens and he’s caring. How I wish I could find a man like him”, she looked up dreamily.
“I hope you are not falling for him?” Miriam asked
“Falling? How can? ”
“I just enjoy chatting with him. Both of you have so much going on. You are busy either at work or with counseling, Ekene is occupied with her beau. What did you expect?” Regina shrugged.
“You’re a big girl”, Miriam shrugged. “What do you think of this style?”
Regina accepted the magazine she had passed to her and peered at the page she was pointing to. “Not bad. I like the neckline”
“Have you chosen yet? ”
“No. Most of the styles are so similar. I sent a picture to Magnus yesterday. He has not commented on it. Usually, his eye for style is impeccable”
“Magnus?” Miriam queried, eyebrows raised.
“Nne, the handshake has crossed the elbow. Be bold enough to admit it”
“I don’t have anything to hide. His family knows me. We are not doing anything funny”
“Does his wife know how much time you spend chatting? “Miriam pressed.
Just then, Regina’s phone rang. “Hello, Magnus”, She answered. “I’ll soon be through. Yeah, we can meet up. Miss you too” She ended the call.
“Miss you too?” Miriam was incredulous. “Are you for real?”
“Miriam, we are not the same. Unlike you, I control my emotions”
“At least, I……..”
“At least you what?” Regina’s tone was angry.
Ekene chose the moment to make her appearance. “Hello, girls”,She greeted, hugging the 2 of them.
“You took forever” Miriam murmured.
“I had some big spenders at the boutique. Even the wife of the commissioner of works”, She sat down and began to flip through a magazine.
“The dough is rolling in” Regina laughed.
“Let it roll in, abeg”
“So, I will be leaving shortly” Regina was looking at her phone. “Okay, he likes the style. Let me just show Zainab before I go”
She got up to show the dressmaker the style Magnus had approved.
“Who likes the style?” Ekene asked Miriam.
“They are just friends” Miriam snorted.
“So,his wife knows? ”
“I doubt she knows how close they are. They chat everyday from morning to night. The other day, they were at the cinema. Now, they are headed to who knows where”
“I doubt she knows what she is getting into”
“I have been there. My dear, it is a slippery slope” Miriam shook her head sadly.
“How do you feel, by the way?”
“The morning sickness and all would be bearable if he were by my side. He doesn’t pick my calls anymore. Though I was prepared to raise the baby alone, I wouldn’t have minded some encouragement” She whined.
“I’m always here for you”
“If Fred will spare you. Why did you have to drop his sister off today? ”
“She’s 12. He was on call at the hospital. I couldn’t let her go to the motor park alone, could I?”
“Be careful not to give him the impression that you are to be ordered around” Miriam warned.
“My dear, I have learned my lesson. This time around, he had to prove himself before I even allowed myself to feel anything. If not that the girl is a minor, I would have declined ” Ekene insisted.
“I guess any relationship will involve some give and take. You can’t just keep receiving. That being said, I heard he bought you a great pair of shoes?”
“Yeah. It was supposed to be a joke. I told him he couldn’t guess my size and he went ahead to not only guess right but to buy the shoes” Ekene smiled.
“Hmm. Dating a widower has perks, I see”
“I think because he has been married, he has some knowledge of what women like that other men may not have” Ekene mused.
“As long as he does not compare you to his late wife”
“He really makes an effort not to talk about her. If I ask, he answers questions about her but, keeps his answers brief and changes the topic immediately”
“Do you think he is over her?”
“That is what I am afraid of. The future of out relationship hinges on that”
Regina came back to say goodbye. She had needed to have her measurements taken as it had been a while since she made any dresses there.
“I’ll see you, ladies. Be good”, she blew kisses at them.
“You be good”, Ekene wagged a finger at her.
Regina laughed as she sauntered out.
TO BE CONTINUED.
*Gini ka I na-eme with that loser?: What are you doing with that loser?
*O na wa: Seriously?
*Eyah : Expression of empathy