Writer’s Word: I would like to thank you all so very much for reading the L.O.L series and enjoying it. I am glad I shared and got such beautiful feedback. I hope I can expand more and share with you guys. These characters mean a lot to me and are everyday people we meet and overlook, especially in the community. Thank you for welcoming them in your space of thought. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two.
This here is the final installation of the series. Read, enjoy and let us know your opinions in the comments.
The strong scent of Oudh began to reach around the room as Halima squirted the perfume onto her soft maroon scarf before throwing it around her neck. It dropped over her slim shoulders, settling above her outfit of neatly pressed matching Abaya. The pearl stud gleamed from her left ear hole when she lifted the fall of hair hanging over the ear and tucked them behind the ear. She stared at the piquant-faced girl staring back at her and a bottomless expression suddenly welled in her eyes. a shiver ran through her body, and she tried to tell herself it was from the air conditioner, one which she’d put on to combat the oppressive heat melting everything without on the streets of her Ikeja GRA home.
The mahogany room door was gently pushed open, and someone dressed in a simple black T-shirt and black skinny jeans ambled in.
Halima didn’t acknowledge her as she spritzed some more perfume behind her ears and along the long column of her neck.
“Haba!” her flatmate and former lover, Thelma, snapped as she waved a hand over her face. “Do you want to choke me with perfume – or her for that matter?”
“They say perfume behind the ears and along the neck increases your sexiness,” Halima said with a small giggle.
“Justin Timberlake didn’t say that when he said he brought sexy back,” Thelma replied dourly.
“He brought sexy back for guys. For us girls, we must make do with perfume behind our ears and –”
“Along the neck, got it,” Thelma said brusquely.
Halima frowned at her as she lumbered over to the bed. “What is wrong with you?” she queried.
“Nothing,” Thelma said curtly. “Just nothing.”
“Weren’t Ummi, Jamal and the rest of the gang fun to hang with?” she said, referring to Thelma’s friends, who she’d gone earlier to visit with.
“They were,” Thelma said.
“So what –”
“You must like her, right?” Thelma interrupted her. She gestured at her with a wave of her hand up-and-down. “You are dressed really nice. You must like her very much.”
Halima’s hand, of their volition, fluttered up to the scarf secured around her neck. Her face clouded a bit, just a fleeting expression that Thelma didn’t catch. “Maybe I do, maybe…I don’t know.”
Thelma lifted her brows, those thick, sleek arches that she had never once carved, styled or penciled, in an expression of patented disbelief. “You’ve been dating the woman for two months now. And you don’t know if you like her?”
“I do,” Halima snapped, suddenly feeling the rise of defensiveness. She glared at her flatmate.
“Maybe you do, maybe you don’t know. Now you do.” Thelma let out a bark of humourless laughter. “Your love affair with her must be so exciting.”
The sarcasm stung Halima and her scowl deepened. “Well at least I have a love life. I have a love affair going on with somebody.”
Thelma narrowed her eyes at her and looked like she was going to come back with a scorching retort. But she tightened her mouth and said nothing. The girl watched as her flatmate turned back to the mirror to preen some more. She shook her head behind Halima. She could not understand what a remarkable young woman like her could see in the fifty-something-year-old divorcee she was dating. The woman, Diana Okosuns, had money and a bad attitude, and in Thelma’s opinion, was totally unsuitable for Halima. Thelma couldn’t also get over the fact that the woman’s twin sons, who schooled abroad, were the same age as Halima. Halima didn’t need to be with someone crusty and old. She needed to be with someone like –
No. She recoiled inwardly from the inference. They’d had their moment. It had burned bright and burned out. Now they were better as just friends.
Are you really?
Thelma shut the pesky voice down and returned to looking at Halima as she gave a start. Her phone had just begun ringing, its accompanying vibration causing it to rattle against the top of the wooden dressing table.
Halima went to the phone, picked it up, stared at the screen and hesitated.
“Won’t you answer it?” Thelma asked.
“Won’t you stop policing me around?” Halima returned in a voice that lacked rancour.
“Sorry, madam, but your Rihanna ringtone is grating on my nerves abeg.”
“Close your ears, then.”
“Say it louder,” Thelma shot back. “I can’t hear you over all that shrieking coming from your phone.”
With a sigh and a clearing of her throat, Halima answered the call when the phone began ringing again. “Hey,” she said into the phone.
Thelma adjusted her position on the bed and picked up one of Halima’s fashion magazines, turning the glossy pages and acting like she didn’t care for the one sided conversation.
“I’m ready though. I thought we were supposed to do lunch at Oriental,” Halima said, and then paused abruptly before interjecting, “I’m not arguing with you. I just thought lunch was at the Oriental and I’m dressed for it. I’ll be overdressed for your place and I’ll end up cooking the lunch anyways.”
Thelma flipped another page over Adriana Lima’s exotic face and told herself to ignore the glum note she’d picked up on Halima’s voice.
“I know, I know – look!” Halima shot a quick look at Thelma and then turned her back to her, lowering her voice as she continued, “I am not arguing, I swear… I don’t want to fight too… Okay then… Just call me when you get here.”
She took the phone from her ear and dropped it on the dresser with a sigh. Her eyelids began to work furiously to keep the moistness that had gathered in her eyes at bay. She turned back to the mirror, and felt a jar run through her body when she met Thelma’s reflection staring at her from the bed.
Thelma was giving her a look, one she was very familiar with. It was a look that mixed several emotions into something solid, an abyss that was unfathomable to her. She knew the times Thelma had given her that look. It was the look she’d given her when she introduced Diana to her, the first woman she began dating following their breakup. It was the look she gave her when she returned from a date with Diana under the cover of rainfall that she imagined had cleverly hidden the tears she’d been shedding. It was the look Thelma gave her whenever she suspected something was not right with Halima, and she wasn’t sure how to go about fixing her.
But she didn’t need fixing. She was perfectly happy. Her life was good. And her relationship was good. Meeting Diana hadn’t been something she’d been looking forward to. Her breakup with Thelma was three months old then, and they’d been getting over the awkwardness and quiet resentment that plagued two ex-lovers who just so happened to share an apartment. And so, she hadn’t been looking forward to anything serious with anyone, not yet at least. Then she’d met Diana at the wedding she’d planned in Maryland; Diana was a friend of the family, who instantly imprinted on Halima with her hawkish eyesight. She was fifty-six, divorced, with an imposing figure and attitude. And she was a woman who got what she wanted, and she wanted Halima. Halima held her off for a week, wanting to be sure dating a much older woman was what she wanted; the woman was twice her age for crying out loud, even though she didn’t look a day over forty. But Diana wouldn’t give her space. She pursued her relentlessly, with gifts and overtures, until she buckled and went out on a date that led to many other dates and a lot of other things in between.
Things she couldn’t be bothered with examining, because she was happy – goddamnit! And why was Thelma still looking at her like that?
“Why are you giving me that look?” she snapped, defensive.
“Is it not your eyes you used to see me? Why are you looking at me that made you know that I’m looking at you?”
As intended, the roundabout remark caused a small bubble of laughter to escape Halima. She sighed again and turned around to face Thelma. Gesturing to her body, she said wryly, “So this exhibition won’t be getting seen at a fancy restaurant.”
“It’s not the end of the world, that,” Thelma said.
“Yea, I guess not.” She moved toward the bed, settling down on the sheets in front of Thelma.
“So she’s coming here to pick you to take you to her house?”
“Yes. She has to be in Abuja tomorrow morning and wants to spend some quality time with me.”
“What gets more quality than the Oriental,” Thelma said with a chuckle.
“That’s what I thought. Anyway…” Halima shrugged.
“Are you going to go to Abuja with her?”
“No, I don’t want to,” Halima almost whispers.
“I know.” Thelma nodded.
“No, you don’t,” Halima snapped, suddenly fired up again.
“Hian! Relax joor! I don’t care about your relationship, okay? At least not anymore,” she added as though an afterthought.
“So, you once cared?” Halima mumbled, biting on her lower lip.
“I’m not even going to give you the satisfaction of talking about that,” Thelma said, pursing her lips in a mock stern expression.
Halima laughed and involuntarily reached her hand up to draw her scarf down from around her neck. Suddenly, she realized something, and with a panicked expression, began to stand while simultaneously rearranging the scarf around her neck.
But Thelma had seen enough. With a stormy expression starting to brew on her face, she leaped up after Halima and grabbed at the scarf.
“What are you doing?” Halima yelped.
“That was not a hickey,” Thelma bit out.
“What are you talking about? Abeg leave me joor!” She clapped a hand over the hand Thelma had on her neck, preventing her from tugging the scarf away.
“Halima, you cannot be serious!”
“I said let go of me!” Halima screeched and jerked herself away.
The momentum with which she pulled away propelled her a few metres away from Thelma, who didn’t go after her. Then she stood where she was, trembling slightly, with the most unfathomable shift of emotions displacing themselves on her face.
“Please don’t!” she commanded in a husky tone.
Thelma kept quiet. For several moments, they stood there, not saying a word, letting what they both knew swell gradually between them.
A horn tooted right outside, beckoning on somebody. They did not move to find out. The horn blared again, impatient. And some moments later, they heard movement in the outer section of their house, footsteps pounding down the hallway. Halima seemed to cower at the sound, while Thelma straightened, turned combative.
The door of the room was jerked open and a tall, hard-bodied and dark-complexioned woman with catlike eyes that ended with lines that were the only indication of her age walked in. Short curls crowned her head and a mid-thigh-length, long-sleeved black dress draped over her sleek body. Cigarette smoke curled upward from the half-smoked cigarette in her red-taloned hands.
“Iranu! David horned twice and you didn’t appear!” Her eyes were on and words aimed at Halima, her manner entirely excluding Thelma like she hadn’t even seen her.
Thelma had never liked Diana Okosuns, and the woman had picked up on that way early in her relationship with Halima.
“I… I was looking for my purse,” Halima stuttered, now looking about.
“I came down after the first horn, and he sounded it again as I approached. Still nothing.” The woman looked very displeased that she’d had to come fetch her girlfriend.
“I… I needed the p-purse.” Finally Halima found it.
“You know I hate lies more than I hate men,” Diana spat.
“I was here. She was looking for her purse,” Thelma snapped.
“Halima, let’s get going,” Diana said, snapping her fingers and completely ignoring the existence of the third person in the room.
“I don’t want to go anymore, please,” Halima whispered then.
Thelma turned a sharp look to her. Her flatmate was standing there, shaking, with a hand clasped over her abdomen.
“I didn’t hear you,” Diana said coldly.
“Must be all those plastic surgeries,” Thelma snarked, rounding on her. “She said she doesn’t want to leave with you anymore.”
“I don’t remember asking you to speak.” The other woman turned a steely look to her.
“Oh good, you can hear,” Thelma retorted.
“Stop being a child please. It’s as unbecoming in a woman as a grown woman wearing skinny jeans and tank tops,” she sneered as she swept her mascaraed eyes over Thelma.
“Get out!” Thelma hissed, pointing a hand to the door before which Diana was standing.
“Halima, come let us go,” Diana turned back to her girlfriend to say through gritted teeth.
“I really cannot do this anymore,” Halima rasped.
Both Thelma and Diana were shocked by the import of what she’d now said.
“I’m sorry, what was that you said?” Diana narrowed her eyes on the woman, who still wouldn’t look at her.
Thelma fought back the savage smile she felt coming on and replaced it with a savage scowl as she cut in again, “Just in case you’re losing your faculties too, she just broke up with you.”
“After everything I’ve done for you?” Diana said with quiet vehemence, still focused on Halima.
Thelma walked over to her friend and raised her hands to her neck. Halima flinched, but remained unresisting as Thelma pulled away the scarf, turning her head to the side so the vast blue-black bruise that had marred Halima’s fair neck was facing Diana.
Then she said coldly to the older woman, “You mean after everything you’ve done to her?”
“What is that?” Diana breathed out, pointing.
“Certainly not a hickey, that’s for sure,” Thelma retorted. “You bitch – how could you!”
“Stop,” Halima whispered, taking Thelma’s hand away from her neck.
“I have no idea what you think you know,” Diana snarled at Thelma, “but we’re done here. Halima, let’s go.”
“Or what? You will hit her again?” Thelma spat.
“You’re too dramatic for my liking. Stop talking.”
“Come and make me.” Thelma took a threatening step forward. “But I must warn you, I’m not squeamish. I hit back.”
“I don’t have the time to deal with you.”
“Why? Because I’m someone your own size? I bet your ex-husband was weak too. I bet you hit him too, and that was why he left you.”
“Don’t you dare speak of things you don’t know,” Diana stormed.
“You’re right, maybe that’s not how it happened,” Thelma barreled on, her sneering complete. “Maybe he hit you, and you’re now dealing by hitting your lovers.”
Something flashed in Diana’s eyes, and it was all the warning that Thelma had before the woman swung a long arm, her fingers hooked and seeking blood. They got it; the nails raked Thelma’s cheek in a blow that stung. Thelma gave a small startled shriek before instantly retaliating with a backhand swing of her own. The back of her hand struck Diana flush across the face, sending the woman tottering to the side, dangerously close to keeling over on her stilettos.
Her hand was on her bruised cheek as she turned stormy eyes to Thelma. “You slapped me?” she hissed.
“It’s not a Nollywood film, honey. Yes, of course I slapped you. Try that nonsense you just pulled again and I’ll show more where that came from.”
“Takes one to know one.”
And just then, Halima broke down into tears, burying her face into the ends of her scarf and her palms as her body shook to her sobs. The two angry women were startled out of their altercation by her outburst and stood there, watching her, unsure what to do.
Then Thelma moved over to her and pulled her consolingly into her arms. She felt so frail. Thelma felt her will firm then, her will to never again let anything hurt Halima. Her cheek still smarted from Diana’s scratch but she didn’t care.
“You may leave now,” she turned to address Diana in an icy tone.
“You don’t even know me,” Diana said. “Why have you always hated me?”
“I don’t need to know you to know we don’t want you here.”
“Look, little girl, you don’t want to mess with me.”
“Was that a threat? Because if it was, I feel I should remind you that Simi and Jaiye over in Canada are not only oblivious that their mother is a dyke, but should not be made to see the evidence of how depraved she can get in bed.”
A ghostly look eclipsed Diana’s face and she said in a hoarse tone, “What evidence? I swear, if you –”
“Just keep any harm away from us, and you’ll get to keep your family.”
“Is this what this has now come to?” Diana looked from her to Halima. “Eh, Halima? Is this what it has now come to?”
“It came to anything when you hit me the first time,” Halima managed through her tears.
“I apologized, you dramatic twat,” Diana snapped.
“And it never stopped. You hit me after for spilling a drink on you, and for mishandling your purse, and for not wanting to go down on you,” Halima sniffed.
“Ah great, you’re also a rapist!” Thelma interjected.
“Please leave now,” Thelma said.
“I love you so much, Halima.”
“Your own kind of love is what waits for us in hell,” Thelma cut in again.
“I admit I have a problem,” Diana continued, her manner a shocking roundabout from the virago who had entered the room. “Baby, I’m deeply sorry. I will change, I promise. I will change. Just don’t leave me. I’ll do anything you want me to do.”
For one breathless moment, she waited. And so did Thelma, as Halima drew herself out of her arms. She felt a wrenching of her heart as she suddenly began considering the fact that Halima might forgive this woman and accept to work things out with her. Halima went over to the bed, pulling off her Abaya to reveal the slender form clad in silky new underthings. Then she turned to Diana. Her expression was flinty and her tone ice as she said, “Leave.”
Diana reared back. Thelma was taken aback too. This was a side Diana obviously hadn’t seen and one Thelma only saw in the rare moment Halima was pressured to make a tough decision. The ice came out of her friend then, and whatever decision she made was unflinching.
Diana ventured, “Look, baby, I said I’m so –”
“I said you should leave,” Halima said coldly.
Diana looked at her a long moment. Halima’s resolve communicated itself and she sighed, before turning and walking out of the room. Thelma followed after her from a distance to lock the front door behind her.
When she returned, Halima had curled up in her bed. She was the one to speak first.
“I’m sorry,” she said from the bed.
“For what?” Thelma frowned as she moved to the side of the bed.
“You like people but you never liked her. I should have picked up on that, on your strength to make me stop being with her the first time she hit me.”
“These things happen,” Thelma soothed. “We don’t know why we suffer in the name of love and companionship, but yeah, they happen just the same.”
“But you were always so good to me.”
“I wasn’t always good to you. I cheated on you.”
Halima gave a soft chuckle. “All you did was kiss Wura.”
“I shouldn’t have.”
“I don’t blame you anymore. And I’ve forgiven Wura. It was sort of understandable, what happened. She was distressed, first her miscarriage and then she was going through her divorce. It was a vulnerable moment. Vulnerable women are a huge weakness for you.”
“Well, now you’re the only vulnerable woman I want to be my weakness,” Thelma said with a wry smile.
There was a pregnant pause, before Halima said, “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“Yes,” Thelma said simply.
Another moment passed as Halima reached her hand forward to thread her fingers through Thelma’s. Then she said softly, “I still love you.”
“I still love you too,” Thelma responded. The words came out just as softly and calmly, as if something was being lifted off her chest and she could finally dance again.
And she sought for a stamp on their renewed declarations when she bent forward to kiss Halima.
Written by ThatGayCousin