“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Etomi!” the MC announced.
In a burst of light, my boss strode onto the podium and from where I was standing at the left side, inner part of stage, I could see almost all the attendees of the event get to their feet and applaud wildly.
Kareem was standing behind me. I could feel the heat from his body enveloping me.
“Stop it,” I whispered before moving to my left.
“No.” And he moved right back behind me.
“What are you doing? Don’t get yourself in trouble. There are eyes everywhere,” I warned with a short laugh.
“Do I look like I care?”
“Well, I care about myself. So please, don’t get me in trouble.” I stepped away from him again.
“We’re one now. Colleagues, lovers, soon-to-be boyfriends…you name it.”
I chuckled. “Stop deluding yourself. You’re only several means to various ends. Work and sex wise.”
“Ouch.” He clutched his chest in mock pain. “As painful and blunt as that was, I’m glad we’re on the same page here. Now shut up and enjoy the feel of my groin on your butt-cheek.” He moved in again.
I turned to look at him. He had on his disarming smile.
“You’re not that cute, I hope you know that,” I chided before moving away from him again.
“You’re not either, which is why we’re a perfect fit.” He moved back behind me.
“Good.” He let out a satisfied sigh of his own. “You know this is where I belong. Don’t fight it.”
I was glad he couldn’t see my smile as I surveyed what was going on before us.
The crowd was at capacity—party workers, sponsors, well-wishers, and journalists and television crews from both local and two foreign sports-news outlets. Mr. Etomi had taken his place at the spot-lit podium, and four other directors had arrayed themselves behind him.
“I want to thank everyone,” he was saying, “and most importantly, the directors and board members on ground. Your dedicated and relentless work has given this radio station this unprecedented blossoming path.” His face was beaming as he spoke. “As you all know, Preeq FM has agreed to form a coalition with the international football star, Kareem Wihu.”
Everyone indeed already knew that, as it had been on the news, but the crowd roared anyway, like they’d just found out.
“And…” – Mr. Etomi was bubbling over with pleasure – “our very own sports correspondent, Peka Bernard, will be anchoring a new show with our favourite football star.”
Everyone knew that too, but again they clapped with rowdy joy.
“Our partnership with Mr. Wihu’s management will birth a great platform to ensure that young citizens of our country with pure potentials and talent in any sport are trained, sponsored and granted the means to fulfill their dreams of being the legends they aspire to be.”
The crowd roared with approval.
“Do you like your jersey?” Kareem asked me. He had pre-ordered two of Nigeria’s world-cup jerseys as pre-birthday gifts for me. “Of course, you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be wearing it now.”
“You’re so impossible, you know that, yeah?”
“That’s not news anymore na.” Then he pulled off the shirt-dress he was wearing to reveal his very own jersey underneath. I looked at him with pure disbelief.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“And without further ado,” Mr. Etomi was saying, “here’s a look at the dynamic duo, Pe-Kar!”
Kareem’s’ picture and mine, along with the name of our new show, were splashed on the screens in the large room. And cheers, whistles and the stamping of feet broke out in acknowledgement. It felt almost magical.
“Do you think this is a sign?” Kareem whispered into my right ear. There was something in his voice I couldn’t place. But whatever it was made me aware of what could be…a future, something tangible and fulfilling.
In response, I let out a shaky sigh.
“I’m serious,” he said. “I mean, our names were coined together for the show. Like newlyweds.”
“Will you be my boyfriend, Peka?”
That wasn’t the expected response, and in my right mind, I probably wouldn’t have blurted out such inanity. However, the question, coming at me in this moment made surreal by all the cheering going on in our names, had me feeling euphoric. It was as if the announcement from Mr. Etomi had been perfectly timed with Kareem’s question while the audience’s appreciation of my boss’s declaration felt like our own soundtrack, in our own movie.
I looked at Kareem. He looked back at me. Something must have intimated to him how sweetly chaotic my feelings were, because he leaned in to give my left cheek a kiss.
“Don’t give me an answer now,” he said. “I’ll wait till the night is over.”
The backstage was dark and shielded from prying eyes, which meant no one could see what had been going on between us.
At least, that was what we thought.
“We’re pregnant,” Mundi said casually while he nursed his diet coke.
It took a moment for the rest of us at the table to process the news he’d just dropped. Then together, like we’d rehearsed it, Derin and I erupted into cheers and howls. Our exuberance attracted attention to our table, but we didn’t care.
“I’m going to be an uncle!” Derin exclaimed before turning to look at me like he’d just realised something profound and astounding. “We’re going to be uncles, Peka!”
“Oh my God! We’re going to be uncles!” I turned to Fara and gushed, “If my dad and your mom eventually get married, I’m literarily going to be an uncle! Woo-hoo!” I got up to enfold my two best friends in a hug. Mundi and Faramade gave me wan smiles in response. “But wait first o,” I said as I settled back on my seat, “so you guys actually do it? I can’t believe you guys actually do it.”
“Do what?” Vaughan asked, just then getting to the table from the convenience, where he’d been to earlier.
“The hump-hump, nookie-nookie nau,” I said with silvery laugh to Vaughn. “Apparently, Mundi could get it up for Fara, who is supposed to be his make-believe wife o.”
Faramade stretched out her hand to give my head an upside smack. “Don’t be so daft.”
“Ow! But it’s true na,” I countered, exaggeratedly rubbing the back of my skull.
“I’m inclined to agree with Peka. Who’d have thought you both would be getting your freak on?” Derin said whilst playfully nudging Mundi in the ribs.
I noticed both wife and husband weren’t as cheerful as we were. “What is it?” I inquired, dividing a look between them.
“Yea, you guys aren’t excited,” Derin said. “What’s going on?”
Neither of them answered. Instead, they simultaneously gulped their drinks.
“Well, will someone tell us why you both are so gloomy over such good news?” I couldn’t hide the concern in my voice.
After a beat, something that seemed like eternity, Mundi piped up. “The baby isn’t mine.”
The bombshell took a couple of seconds to sink in, and then I said in a low tone, “What?” I turned to Faramade. “What?” I said again.
“Whose is it?” Derin said, echoing my bewilderment.
Faramade wouldn’t look at us. “I can’t tell you –”
“Why not? We’re practically family. Why can’t you tell us?” Derin questioned.
“Because it’s mine,” Vaughan interjected. “The baby is mine.”
And together, Derin and I gave a chorus exclamation. “WHAT!”
Written by Vhar