Tomilola knew that most times when women caught their husbands cheating, it was either through text messages, discovering a strange female underwear, or a lipstick or foundation stained shirt—as was common in the movies she watched on free nights. In he own case, it was quite different. Lukasz was an artist, and making sketches of his love interest was his own way.

Hair tinted into black and brown ombre, high cheek bones, slender neck and beautiful eyes, on oil and water color, and charcoal made her intuition flicker. After all, he wasn’t a man of many words.

At the airport, she bought a ticket. As she nudged her way out of the building amidst people and different sizes of luggage, she decided for a moment whether to have Pizza or a cheap cup of fruit punch. In the end, she chose neither and decided her empty stomach was best.

Her mind drifted to Jenny. They had met while she was shopping for wall décor for the new condo she and Lukasz had bought. When Jenny offered to drive her home that day, Tomilola thought she had a car. She was surprised when she saw a Honda power bike, black and sleek. She almost immediately fell in love with the thick helmet, the purr of the engine and the way they maneuvered their way through the busy streets of the dark metropolis lit up by elegant streetlamps and neon signboards; her arms tightly wound round Jenny’s stomach. She was the only good friend she had.

Ten days later when she arrived home, her sister’s driver picked her up at the airport. His batik clothes reeked of beer, and she disliked him immediately.

“Welcome Ma”, he half shouted smiling. It was a perfect smile. It perturbed her that such a man could have that kind of perfection.

At the back of the car were a magnum and a blue box of Swiss truffles. “Probably given to her by one of her misguided lovers” thought Tomilola. She crossed herself and muttered a quick prayer for the forgiveness of her malicious thought. The ride was bumpy, and it made the magnum roll on its sides, making whatever fizzy drink it contained foamier than usual. The morning sky was already phasing into noon, so she searched for the AC switch and eased herself into a more comfortable position. Sweat moistened her laps and armpits. The driver muttered apologetically, “Sorry oh madam. Rain will soon come quick quick, and everything will be cold.”

Her sister’s house was slightly unchanged. The flower bed was overgrown with weeds, and a large stem of bitter-leaf stood out amidst them. The fence was still secured with electrified iron barbed wires. However, she was impressed by the new Persian rug in the sitting room; it had different shades of green (mint, leaf, forest, lemon).

Remi was wearing a pair of green Arabian pants. Her lipstick was coral pink, and it reflected the chocolate brownness of her skin. Remi gave her a brief side hug and led her into the bathroom as if to say, “You stink.” The bathroom smelled strongly of eucalyptus oil and disinfectant, and the tiles on the wall had peeled off in different parts, revealing the naked concrete underneath. When she turned on the shower, it hesitated for few minutes and then the water came out not in the normal forceful, energetic spray, but weakly and slowly.

Several minutes passed by, and she heard Remi yell downstairs, asking her to come down to eat lunch or if she wanted to remain a snail in the bathroom. Tomilola went to bed immediately. Even though the scent of peppery Egusi soup stimulated her nostrils, she still drifted off to sleep dreaming about faulty showers and the bottle of brandy she had bought on the plane which was well hidden in her bag.

For weeks, Tomilola scanned the city for film shows and book stores while trying desperately to push Lukasz’ phone number out of her seemingly empty head. Her itchy fingers longed to dial it. She wasn’t just a loser. A miserable one that wasn’t content with defeat.

She was cutting ice cold Mackerels for lunch on a plain brown cutting board and flinging the pieces into a round stainless bowl in the kitchen when Remi walked in wearing a crew neck t-shirt with TGIF scrawled across it horizontally; it made her neck look longer. The kitchen was painted yellow, and it glowed brilliantly whenever sunlight leaked through the windows. So does he know about it? Remi inquired, pointing to her sister’s inflated belly.

“Of course he does” she replied hotly as she chopped the fins off the pieces of Mackerels.

“What will happen to it?” Remi asked further.

Tomilola had intended to ask what she meant by what would happen to it, but the words that came out of her mouth were “I dun no” which she uttered with a careless shrug. “I really don’t know,” she repeated softly to herself as she dropped the knife and caressed the edge of the mug where her lips had been and smeared the residue of the deep brown coffee which trickled down its sides.

At first, she didn’t suspect Lukasz. It was difficult to suspect a calm easy going man, who loved his job above other pleasures of life. It happened on the eve of Christmas after she had waited desperately at a Thai cuisine they had booked together to commemorate their wedding anniversary. She ordered a plate of stir fried glass noodles and white wine to quench the ravenous hunger which pummeled her stomach, after which she flagged down a cab to take her home. Seeing him in his studio, head bent over a half finished painting of that same face, she snatched the painting and threw it in the pool. She watched with glee as it sank to the bottom but horrified at the thought that the painting’s lips twitched into a mocking smile.

Lukasz face turned red. “What on earth do you think you’re doing tee!” He exploded without warning. She felt the anger rise steadily in her; “You want to explain why she looks like Bradford’s sister? You’ve been painting her these fucking months!” The guilt on his face and the silence shocked her out of her senses. She slumped onto the patio, the green and red Christmas light bulbs which she had hung on the walls several days earlier, blinking harshly at her. Just before she passed out, it dawned on her that Bradford’s sister was Jenny.

On unbearably boring days when Remi had gone out, she attended mass in a massive Victorian styled church that had a large bill board in front of the gates which read “no to abortion” with a red blurry picture of a fetus. She liked the way the gravel-filled footpath made crunchy sounds whenever she walked on it. The crucifix on the altar was regal—polished wood, with Onyx and Jade edges and the candles beautifully patterned with paschal symbols. The smoke from the incense often triggered the memory of the day after she had downed three glasses of pilsner in an expensive night club with beautiful leather paneled walls; a Korean girl who wore a pretty platinum toe ring had pushed a lit cigar into her mouth. Two days later, she coughed incessantly and Lukasz panicked, thinking she had got pneumonia.

Months later, Remi was making sandwiches due to her sister’s unpredictable appetite and placing them on a thin silver sheet of aluminum foil when the contractions came. Many hours later, after enduring the choking smell of disinfectant which invaded the hospital hall, she was allowed to visit Tomilola. The baby was peacefully asleep in its mother’s arms. The mahogany chair creaked as Remi settled her large body on it.

What are you going to name her? She asked as she fiddled with a loose, dangling blue button on her shirt that gleamed softly in the fading evening sun.

“Rain” Tomilola replied without thinking twice.

Like shower of blessings? Remi looked like she was stifling a laugh.

“No. Rain of love”

Remi wanted to say that the baby’s father didn’t even love her, but she kept her mouth shut. Tomilola stared at her sister silently like she knew what was on her mind.

Thunder rumbled in the sky which had already turned gray and accompanied by a strong wind that slammed the windows and doors. The rain came first in tiny drops, then a torrential downpour. Tomilola watched as the water slithered down the corrugated iron sheets in long, spiral lines onto the ground. It was the first rain of the year, and the smell was invigorating.

I’ve finally found the thing to keep my life firmly in place, she muttered and closed her eyes. She was filled with an unexplainable gratitude.



Image by FED x via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - AdejoyeMy name is Oluwatoke Adejoye and I was born in Ondo state, Nigeria in 1995. I’m currently in my finals as a law student at Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo state. After my law degree, I intend to proceed to the Nigerian Law School and devote more time to writing. These days, I juggle lectures, writing my finals’ project, and immersing myself in literature. When not doing any of those, I turn to video games.


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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

14 Responses to “Hairpin | by Oluwatoke Adejoye | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. Ayodeji Emmanuel 2016/03/11 at 10:34 am #

    nice one dear

  2. Temitayo Fatoba 2016/03/11 at 11:41 am #

    Wonderful script…More power

  3. Tejumade Ogunsua 2016/03/11 at 11:54 am #

    Lovely piece!

  4. Olugosi Toba 2016/03/11 at 12:50 pm #

    Hmm… Mine blowing !

  5. Akinyosoye Bolanle 2016/03/11 at 3:29 pm #

    your literary piece provokes an applause of ear cracking sounds…you practically annihilated any thoughts that this is your first piece, it’s like you’ve written several books…am still in awe at the display of the veracity of the depth of your intellectual prowess.

  6. dera 2016/03/12 at 4:46 am #

    this piece got me like….wow! it’s just beautiful. you have a strong thing going on, keep it going mama!

  7. Yetunde 2016/03/13 at 12:26 am #

    Interesting piece… Good job.

  8. toluwany 2016/03/13 at 4:39 am #

    Awww…proud of u dear. Keep it up

  9. Busola Adejoye 2016/03/13 at 6:38 am #

    Proud of you Toke….lovely piece!!!

  10. kuye temitayo 2016/03/13 at 10:29 am #

    100% real, nice one

  11. Omolafe Tosin 2016/03/13 at 1:41 pm #

    Nice rhythm, steady tone and mood, neat arrangement and structure… inshort, fabulous piece. A job well done girl. The sky is the starting point for you. Anticipating more, my Ponsuki of life. Lots of kisses.

  12. bunmi 2016/03/13 at 4:05 pm #

    Keep it up toke

  13. ojimba chioma 2016/03/15 at 6:33 am #

    Beautiful write up Miss Oluwatoke Adejoye… Keep it up

  14. Nicholas ALADEJANA 2016/04/13 at 1:04 pm #

    I had to save this page so i can read it offline at my liesure anytime. I have seen the spirit of Chimamanda in you since our first year. I wont be surprised if i dont meet you at the Supreme Court because you’re busy delivering a lecture on literature at Buckingham. You’re a worthy friend. This is great. I did not expect less anyway.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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