The music from the stereo was on a jazz playlist as they passed the CMS Bridge. The night sky stared above them through the windshield, occasionally letting out streaks of silver lighting.
It had rained for two nights in a row, and a rainy week in the vibrant city of Lagos always altered its nightmarish traffic. Horns blared and thick clouds of exhaust fumes went up in the air as drivers tried to maneuver their way in the chaotic traffic, an old man in a rickety danfo bus hurled curses in quick successions at another driver in a c- class.
“Shey oriokpeni?! You are just an odinari driva! Abeg carry dis your jalopi comot here!”
A young boy approached their side of the traffic with a carton lined with sausages as he yelled “buy gala! buy gala!” She watched as the boy carefully maneuvers his body in between thin traffic lines as he runs towards a moving vehicle where a passenger had stuck out a fifty naira bill through a danfo window.
It was her favorite jazz program that was on air that night. She shifted her attention back to him inside the car. He checked the fuel-meter and wound up leaving the AC on. She had been watching him since they came back from her hometown to see her parents.
“Mba! This one will not happen! Not while I am still alive…Ebubechukwu take this man away and go and find a husband for yourself!” Her father yelled as she and Ola stood in front of him at her family house in Oba. Her mother had joined in immediately, “I makawa udili mmadu your father bu. You know the kind of man your father is, and you went to fall in love with an Ola!!!”
Ola had withdrawn to himself since their trip back from her parent’s place. He barely ate his food and spoke only when necessary, most times to ask how her day was at work. He watched TV with more level of concentration and came to bed late when he thought she was asleep. He was trying so much to hide the sadness that hung like eye bags underneath his eyes.
Ebube had just finished her national youth service and was working as a marketer with Fort Bank when they met. Femi, her colleague, had chosen that architectural firm during their marketing tour the week before.
Ola walked into the conference room where they were waiting flanked by two other staff members who constantly referred to him as “chairman.” He was tall and had a strong gait to his strides. He wore traditional attire. It framed his slim body perfectly. He had an oval face with small lips and full lashes that curled up his ‘sleepy’ eyes, and he never took his eyes off her throughout the meeting.
“We will open an account with your bank…” He said as he stood up to leave.
“Please drop your forms with my secretary, and Ebube may pick it up tomorrow,” he gestured at her before leaving the conference room.
She was irked by his crassness as they left the conference room.
“So madam, the ball is now in your court. Please don’t mess this up for us abeg” Femi added as they rode back to the bank.
“What do you mean by ‘please don’t mess this up for us abeg?’
“Ebube you know what I mean. It’s obvious that the man really likes you. He is the chairman of the firm. Play your cards well, and we won’t miss this”
“Wow! Femi you are such a condescending misogynist!” She yelled as the car pulled over at their office building. She stormed out of the car and banged the door so hard she hoped it slammed into Femi’s forehead.
As she drove home that night, she continued to berate Femi for making such reprehensible comments even as she hated herself for finding the ‘chairman’ attractive. She loved the way he looked at her throughout the meeting and had hoped for a decent time at lunch or dinner afterwards.
She called in sick the next morning.
“Femi has another thing coming if he still expects me to go and pick up those forms,” she muttered to herself as she stared the oatmeal that morning.
Later that evening as she glanced through a new edition of Vogue magazine, her phone rang. His voice came through on the other end:
“I was told by your colleague that you were ill when he came to pick up the forms this afternoon” he said after introducing himself briefly as Ola.
“…I don’t remember giving you my number Mr. Ola,” She retorted.
“Oh… Sorry. I hope you won’t get too upset, but I asked Femi for your number. I was worried when he told me that you weren’t feeling well today…”
Oluwafemi you are asking for it this time, and I am completely fed up of your foolishness.
“Please be upset at me and not Femi. He was very uncomfortable and refused to give me your number until I told him that I would only operate an account with your bank if you are assigned as my account officer…So he basically gave it to me based on business.”
“Oh… I see”
“Yes…So how are you feeling Ebube?”
“Fine…Mr.Ola, even with your ill manner of approach yesterday… I am doing fine”
“… I am very sorry about that Ebube. It was not my intention to offend you at all by my inappropriate behavior. I deeply apologize”
“You should know that first impressions matter a lot Mr. Ola”
“Let me take you to dinner and correct that impression you have of me”
Dinner that night was elegant. He had taken her to a private lounge at Ikoyi. The music was soft. The lights created an intimate ambience. It was beautiful, and she was completely sold by his charm. He told her stories from his childhood. He talked about growing up alone with his mother, the bond they shared. Ebube shared stories about herself with him. She felt a connection to him and knew he felt the same way. They went out some more after that night.
The night they made love in her apartment, she watched him as he slept naked next to her. She admired the muscular curve of his naked body through the reflection of the moonlight that streamed into the room. The grey reflection of moonlight on his dark skin was beautiful. Right then, she knew she was in love.
Ola had asked her to move in with him after he proposed. She was excited but would always imagined her father’s face when she told him about Ola. Her father often told her to take her time in finding someone to settle down with; someone from their place was the ideal man but a neighboring state like Delta was ok too “at least their traditions are very similar to ours, and we won’t have to travel far to settle disputes” he would always say.
Their father made his fortune from the importation of car spare-parts and rice farming. Ebube shared a close bond with her him as a child, one that has been strained over the years as she became an adult. He always supported his children with material wealth and attention in everything and wanted them to take over the business—he called it ‘Nnayelu and sons importing and exporting Nig LTD’—but Ebube wanted something different, and it broke her father’s heart when she said she didn’t want to pursue something in his line of business. They had a heated argument that night.
“It is Dubem that should be hot-headed Ebubechukwu not you! na-ibu nwanyi! You are a woman! How can you live with a man eh?”
She left her father’s study to pack her bags while Dubem sat quietly and watched with pleading eyes as she muttered to herself.
Dubem was the flip-side of her stubborn self— the other gentle and obedient half. He was the good twin who always did everything their father wanted the way he wanted it done. Dubem took over their father’s business and married the woman they had found for him, the woman he met only six months to the wedding.
“Where will you go to?”
“I don’t know…a hotel or something, somewhere else apart from this house”
“Just do what he wants you to do Bube…”
She turned to face him. His eyes said the rest—“I don’t want you to leave Bube.” She held his face and kissed his cheeks. She hugged and held him tightly.
“I wish I could do what Daddy wants just like that…just like you,” she answered in between tears. Sometimes she envied her twin brother, the ease with which he gave up his personal aspirations to live out their father’s dreams.
Ola looked very pale as he drove her to work that morning. This made her feel helpless.
Later that day her colleague Nneka questioned her absent mindedness so often that Ebube opened up to her. She found Nneka’s response irritating:
“Hia! Ebube, why should you let your parents decide who you fall in love with? That’s the thing with Daddy’s children like you. You have been so spoilt that you are not even allowed to make your own decisions.”
“…Look you can always elope with Ola and send your parents the wedding pictures or tell him to get you pregnant.”
She thought about the first option, but she knew Ola well. He would never agree to ‘elope’.
She closed from work early that day and took a taxi to her own apartment. As she sat outside her veranda and watched the stars, the palm fronds of the coconut tree swept through the railings of her verandah. The evening breeze made a slight whistle. There was a slight harmattan chill in the air. She heard the joyous cheer of “up NEPA!” as electric light flashed simultaneously through the houses in her street and her apartment. Her neighbors came out to turn off their generators. She hadn’t been home to her apartment since she moved in with Ola. She only came here whenever they had a fight. That night was different. She had left because she was tired of the way Ola avoided her. She missed him.
She felt a subtle and sharp prick on her leg and slapped hard at the mosquito as her front door bell buzzed.
Ola was standing in front of her when she opened the door.
“Why did you leave?” He looked sadder than when she last saw him that morning.
“You won’t speak to me Ola. I got tired of you avoiding me…”
“I miss you Bube…”
She folded her arms around her chest and stepped out of the way to let him in. They lay down on their backs in the small room facing the ceiling.
“What do we do?”
“Make love to me.” She held his hand and turned to face him.
“Bube…that sounds good, but I’m talking about the situation with your parents.”
“Yes Ola, get me pregnant, and they will leave us alone” She stared at him.
“Unless you have a better idea…I know you wouldn’t agree to elope with me and get married.”
“We’ll make beautiful children Ola, and we’ll name our first child Munachimso, for a girl and Chukwufumnanya for a boy.”
She held his gaze through the reflection of light that streamed into the room from the verandah. He came close and kissed her his hands stroking in between her thighs. He reached for her wetness, and she moaned softly as he caressed with his fingers. He made some gentle shallow thrusts the way she liked. He came on top of her, and she felt the familiar bulge of his erection. His eyes searched hers—“Bube… are you sure about this,” his whisper choked with emotion.
“Unless you don’t want to be with me Ola,. I have no doubts.” He stood up and undressed himself revealing his fullness through the elasticity of his briefs. He took her hands and dragged her up. She was completely naked underneath her transparent night gown, her nipples staring through. His eyes held strong admiration mixed with desire for her.
“Of course I want to be with you till I’m old and grey ‘nkem ‘ —‘my own’—to be the father of the children we would make and raise together… ‘Nkem’… ‘nwanyim’ — ‘my woman’… Her eyes softened. He held her close and kissed her deeply and with one swift move he tossed her silky dress to one corner of the room. They made love that night, and there were deep thrusts with pleasurable moans while she willed her body to mold a child inside her.
Days passed after that night in her apartment. They made love every other night, and she would pee on a stick to check for two red lines. She dreamt of a baby girl and visited the baby’s section frequently at the supermarkets.
Ebube woke up and leaped for the bathroom. Her stomach churned and recoiled as she retched into the WC. She had over slept that morning and Ola had left for work. She tore open another pregnancy kit and peed on a stick. She waited for some minutes before coming back to the room. That was when she picked up the phone and called her father.
“Ebubechukwu kedu?” His voice came through on the other end.
She was silent for a moment and took a deep breath before speaking.
“Papa, Ola and I have to go on with the marriage plans because adim ime and I am having this child in our marriage.”
Her father was silent on the phone. She pictured his face with the same stern look he had the weekend she brought Ola home to introduce him as her future husband. The same silence he would have during her marriage rites, and the same silence he would now use to communicate with Ola as his future son-in-law.
Post image by Stella Dauer via Flickr
About the Author:
My name is Ike Ijeoma and i am an aspiring writer, I have a blog at ijeomajoy.tumblr.com – where i blog about my experiences, food, lifestyle, short stories and poetry. I currently work as a fashion illustrator with a fashion label in Lagos and I hope to one day be bold enough to publish all my stories.