The morning seemed like a beautiful one; the sun was up, the sky was blue and not a single source of drama was in sight. I got up from the living room couch, which had become my ‘bed’ ever since Mother took up residence in my home, said my morning prayer and reached out for my phone on the centre table.
The time showed eight o’clock, and I gave a sigh of relief. There was still about an hour to laze away before I had to get embroiled in the usual work rush.
I got up and walked to the kitchen – that part of my house that now looked entirely renovated, thanks to my mother. The dishes were neatly arranged, the foodstuff labeled, and the gas cooker thoroughly cleaned.
I heaved a small sigh as I stood there in the tidy kitchen, and mentally said some thanks for this woman. Clearly, she deserved a little effort from me in return.
“All this for me?” Mother exclaimed in delight as she moved toward the dining table, clad in her night robe.
On the table was laid out three dishes – one of boiled plantains, another of stew and chicken, and then egg sauce. The place setting was for one person, and I wasn’t having any breakfast.
“Yes,” I said as I pulled back a chair for her, gesturing for her to take a seat.
She readily obliged.
“Breakfast is served,” I said in a mock French accent.
“Okay,” Mother said, smiling as though she’d finally figured out a puzzle, “what do you want?”
I faked a frown. “Nothing! And I’m hurt you’d even think that I’d do something nice for you in exchange for something.”
“I know you, Emeka. Or have you forgotten I’m your mother?”
“No, I haven’t.” I chuckled as I sat down next to her. “Well, if you must know… I just wanted to say thank you.”
“Well, you’re welcome, my darling.” She raised a hand to my face, cupping my chin and giving it a gentle shake. Then she reached for her fork and speared a slice of plantain before adding, “And just so you know, I’m not telling you anything about me and your father.”
“Awww come on!” I whined, giving a startled laugh as well. I supposed there was an ulterior motive to my gesture that even I wasn’t aware of until right then. “I just want to know what happened between you two, that’s all.”
“No,” she replied firmly, the same answer she’d been giving me for a week now. She began scooping spoonfuls of the egg sauce and dumping them into her plate.
“So you’re just going to keep staying in my house and not tell me anything?” I scowled. “At least tell me – is it his baby?” He jerked my head toward her midriff as I spoke.
“What kind of stupid question is that?” she snapped.
One you aren’t answering, I thought. I said instead, “Oya sorry, I’m just curious to know what would cause this kind of conflict between you two.”
Mother sighed, dropped her fork on her plate and looked straight at me. “Emeka, if you want to know so badly, then call your father and ask him. You have a phone now, don’t you?” She waved her palm at the beautiful smartphone that I’d dropped on the table beside me when I sat down. Josh had gone ahead to get me the phone despite my protestation.
“You know he won’t tell me,” I replied.
“Oh well…” She shrugged and resumed eating. “Then I guess that’s it.”
“I’m your son. I deserve to know what this conflict between my parents is about. You know that, right?”
“We’re no longer responsible for you, my dear,” she said around a mouthful of plantain and sauce. “So, Social Services won’t arrest me for not telling my independent adult son everything now, would they?”
The woman was messing with me, I could tell. So I decided to try one last trick. I sighed, as though I’d given up on her ever telling me anything, and shrugged. “I guess I’ll have to find out when we travel.”
“Travel to where? Who’s ‘we’?”
I had her attention once again. “Oh.” I faked surprise. “Didn’t I tell you? When Amaka called three days ago, she suggested we go to London and confront dad.”
“And what did you say?”
“I said yes na.”
This was a lie, the part about me saying yes. Amaka had indeed suggested the trip. But I’d declined traveling with her, for personal reasons.
Unfortunately, Mother’s reaction to my ‘news’ was not one of care. She gave me a nod and returned to her food with the words, “Oh, ok then.”
Goddamnit! This woman sef! I mentally threw up my hands in exasperation. I however took consolation in the fact that no matter how reticent she acted on this issue, eventually, this dispute between her and her husband would be aired, and a resolution arrived at. My sisters would make sure of that.
A brief companionable silence elapsed as Mother continued with demolishing her breakfast, a silent testament to my culinary skills, and I idly explored the different aspects of my new phone.
“So how are you doing?” she finally decided to ask, her manner one of someone who’d been debating in her mind whether to speak or not.
“I’m good,” I replied, unaware what her sudden concern was about. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh nothing, I just –”
“Let me guess,” I interrupted, suddenly catching on. “It’s been a week since Jude’s coma and you want to know how your fragile and delicate son is dealing with it.”
“Well, when you put it that way, it does sound like I’m being overbearing.”
“Come on, I’m just checking up on my son,” she said, a tad defensively. “You were a wreck when you found out.”
“Yes,” I admitted. “And seven days have passed since that wreckage. So I think I’m good.”
“If you say so,” Mother said as she sipped at her tea. She exhaled a bit after setting the cup down, and said, “Anyway, I spoke to Janet and she said Jude is out of the ICU now. It seems he’s making progress for them to take him off their critical watch. So, according to Janet, it’s just a matter of time.”
I gave her a smile of acknowledgment I didn’t feel. As much as I effected a nonchalance to any updates on Jude’s status at the hospital, I appreciated my mother’s effort to bring me up to speed. And I suspected that she knew, hence her dedication to keeping me posted in spite of my discouraging reaction to her reports.
Don’t get me wrong, I was happy there was development in Jude’s situation. But for some reason, the fact that his memories – of me – were likely never to come back put a damper of any real enthusiasm I might feel for his recovery.
Just then, my phone vibrated. It wasn’t a call. It was a memo, sent by Josh.
“Is that work?” Mother asked.
“Yep” I replied, getting up from the table. “I’m going to get ready. We have a big day today.”
Last week, my boss’s boss, Chief Bassey had given the production team of Demoniker’s upcoming album a week to come up with three new tracks for the album. Today was the day Isaac and I would present our efforts to the man. We were ready with three songs we were sure would blow everyone, including Chief Bassey, away.
At least we hoped so.
By the time I was ready for work, I took another look at the time, and just like that, I was set in instant panic mode. It just then dawned on me that some time ago, I’d set the time in my parlour an hour slower, which meant that all that time I thought I had an hour to burn, I was in fact setting myself up for some major tardiness to work. And this had to happen on a big day such as this!
“Just great!” I hissed, as I struggled inwardly with my panic.
“What’s the problem?” Mother said as she cleared the dining table.
“I’m so late, that’s what! Goddamnit!”
“No cussing, Kevin,” she scolded.
I ignored her, while muttering to myself as I moved about the parlour, gathering my things: “What to do…what to do…”
“You know what to do!” she yelled from the kitchen. “You’re just being too Kevin to do it.”
I chuckled to myself. She was right. I knew exactly what to do to help with just how bad my lateness to work would be. I was just being obstinate about taking on that course of action. But this was an emergency. So I picked up my phone and began dialing.
“I still can’t believe you talked me into taking you to work today, after the way you acted that day,” Samuel complained as he maneuvered his way through the morning traffic.
I sat next to him, staring resolutely at the road ahead. “How did I act? And on what day?” I knew exactly what he was talking about. I however sometimes enjoyed making things difficult for my friend.
“Abegi!” he huffed. “You know what I’m talking about – when I told you about what happened to Jude and you blanked out on me and acted like you didn’t care. Only for your mum to call me hours later to tell me how you were crying like a baby and spreading snot all over her body.”
I gasped inwardly. That bitch! It was now obvious to me that something had to be done about this chumminess Mother seemed to be sharing with Samuel. I couldn’t have this unrestrained flow of information between them go on any longer.
“Ok, you look like you want to slit someone’s throat,” Samuel said teasingly after a quick look in my direction.
“Yes, my mother’s. But perhaps I’ll start with yours.”
“Can we schedule that for a later date please? I’m busy now, driving you to work.” He gave me a cheeky grin that was so infectious, that it made me laugh.
“I’m sorry,” I finally said.
“It’s alright,” he replied. “I’m just glad you’re not still beating yourself over it. Shit happens, and once in a while, we find ourselves in the middle.”
I nodded in appreciation of his words.
Just then, he turned the steering wheel of the car to the right, indicating his intent to drive into a petrol station on that side of the road.
“The gas tank is almost empty,” he said in response to my puzzled look.
Samuel pulled up right beside one of the tanks, and called on the attention of one of the attendants. “One thousand five hundred!” he hollered at her. Then he began looking around, while he fidgeted on his seat.
“What is doing you?” I said, eyeing him.
“Oh boy, it’s like I want to piss o.”
“Go now. There’s an eatery right there.” I pointed at the KFC restaurant standing in the premises of the fuel station. “Pretty sure they have a convenience you can do your business in.”
He nodded, and started out of the car. I opened my car door as well and stepped out. While Samuel darted off in the direction of the fast food restaurant, I stood, observing the fuel attendant and idly watched as the numbers on the fuel metre progressed.
And then, a presence fell over me with the kind of suddenness that startled my reflexes into action before I could think. The person had come upon me from behind, and I jabbed my elbow backward, connecting the joint with the person’s chest with a force that caused him to release an audible whoosh of air.
“Oomf!” the man choked out.
A microsecond after my attack, I felt a surge of mortification. My chagrin increased when I turned around to face the grimace of pain on a very familiar face.
“Kuddus, hey!” I yelled in surprise.
“Hi, Kevin,” he groaned.
“Oh God, I’m really sorry.” I touched a hand comfortingly to his shoulder. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I reacted too fast.”
“Why, you thought I was a robber?”
“Something like that?” I said, while chuckling. I wondered just how much psychological damage that armed robbery attack I suffered in my home had had on me. “Does it hurt?”
“No, I’m just groaning because I like it so much.”
Kuddus noticed my stricken expression and said, “I’ll be fine, don’t worry. So what are you doing here?”
“I’m heading to work. We just stopped to by fuel.”
“Me and my friend.”
“Oh,” he said simply. After a beat, he said, “You never called.”
I’d be unconsciously waiting for that. “Yeah, about that…”
“You lost my number, didn’t you?”
“Kinda,” I replied, some of my chagrin returning. The memory of watching with frustration as the piece of paper bearing his name got sucked down into the swirl of toilet water filled my mind.
“Well, Fate must have something in store, for it to let us cross paths again,” he said with a grin.
I laughed at his words. It was the cheesiest line I’d ever had. But I liked it.
We stared at each other for a moment – him studying me with disturbing frankness, and me returning his look with some reserve – before I finally asked, “How about you?”
“What are you doing here? Are you stalking me?”
“You wish.” He flashed me what I was now understanding was his trademark heart-melting smile. “I work at KFC.” He pointed at the eatery Samuel had disappeared into minutes ago.
“What happened, the bar too hardcore for you?” I teased.
“Nah, this just pays better.”
“Oh, that’s right – your book! The book you don’t want to tell me anything about!” I rumpled my mouth in a moue of mock-annoyance.
“I could tell you, over dinner!”
I felt my heart begin to fill up with an indescribable emotion. “But I told you –”
“Yea, it’s complicated, I know. But it’s just dinner, nothing more. I swear! I just want to get to know you.”
Kuddus looked at me in the eyes, and I could see in his own eyes something I’d only seen once – in the eyes of someone else, someone I loved. Someone who, despite everything, I still loved. And just then, a sinking realization dawned on me. There wasn’t going to be anything between Jude and me, not anything about what I most wanted. At this point, the only thing I could ever hope for from Jude was a friendship. All hope of resuming our romance was gone.
“Look,” Kuddus continued, “I know you’re not sure… But that’s how life is, you can never be too sure about anything. You just have to be willing to take risks and –”
“Okay, okay,” I chuckled. “You can stop quoting lines. I’m in!”
“Really?” Excitement instantly sparked in his eyes.
“Yes! But remember, nothing more.”
He simply smiled roguishly back at me in response.
We exchanged phone numbers. And then, he turned and started back for the eatery. I noticed that Samuel was already on his way back, and both men walked past each other.
When Samuel got to me, he handed the fuel attendant his money, and we got into the car.
“Who was that?” he asked, as he snapped on his seatbelt.
“Just some guy I met at the club where Demoniker performed,” I said with enough flippancy to discontinue Samuel’s interest in that line of query.
He grunted, turned the ignition and steered out of the fuel station. I reclined on my seat, my mind on the number I’d just saved on my phone. I could see the digits in my mind’s eye, and I contemplated them, contemplated the man who gave them to me, during which a swirl of thoughts and emotions began surging through my consciousness.
Written by Reverend Hot