“You mean he did that?” Akoji’s smiles can be handled on bare hands. He waits for the person on the other end of the call to finish talking. Then with a deep breath and a change in facial expression that means he’s not interested in the new line of discussion, he clears his throat.
“Look man, I don’t know.”
He keeps quiet again as the person interrupts him, ranting for another minute.
“I know. I understand, but you guys don’t seem to understand.” He removes his seatbelt. “You have to understand that this is me trying to make a meaning out of my life. This is me trying to fix back loose edges, OK? Nothing more than that.”
The person wants to talk further but Akoji is done.
“Look man, I have to be somewhere right now, OK? My love to everyone.” He ends the call without waiting for any response.
Whenever he ends calls like this, something pricks him. Something wants to make him feel sad, guilty or disturbed as the case may be. But it’s not entirely his fault, is it? Moving on in life is letting go of distractions, because staying connected with one’s distraction will amount to self-deceit which he’s not cut out for.
Getting down, he glances up to see the beautiful house towering high up and for some weird reasons, he could feel his heart beating really fast. He drags down the edges of his polo, removes his face cap and shades and keep them back on the backseat of his car. Wearing dark shades and a face cap into a house you are not part of will give a false impression, or, so he thinks. Pressing down the lock button on his car remote, he walks the little distance to the gate and taps it lightly.
The gateman peeps through the door hole and Akoji sees the smile on his face as he hastily opens up and lets him in.
“This way, sir.” The gateman says quite too politely for his position.
Akoji tries really hard to suppress the ill feelings he’s having. He needs to go with his characteristic iron expression this time around.
“You are welcome, son.”
Akoji is taken aback by the excited greeting from an elderly woman just as the gateman opens the front door to grant him entrance into the house.
Noma didn’t tell him he’s been invited… well, more like summoned, for a family meeting, he groans.
“Hope you didn’t have challenges locating this place?” Mrs. Gina asks, placing a hand on his shoulder and leading him into the room proper after excusing the gateman.
“Not at all, ma.” Akoji finally finds his voice. “I took note of landmarks while driving her back home that night, and…”
He’s still speaking when the words gradually fade off his lips on spotting Noma. There’s something really unusual about the young woman he couldn’t seem to have a grip on and now, much more than any of the numerous times he’d thought about it in recent times, he admits that Noma is drop-dead gorgeous. She’s on an Ankara gown that’s barely half her thigh length long. She lets her hair drop down in a carefree fashion; the way one feels when in the comfort of her home and there’s no makeup whatsoever to distort the natural form of her face.
But damn, she’s beautiful, Akoji almost spills out.
“He’s a banker, mummy, taking note of details is part of their professional ethics if he mustn’t be fired.” Noma jeers, coming closer to where Akoji is sitting. The latter could barely breathe well as he tries to stabilize his eyes from going up north and down south Noma’s alluring physique. It won’t be a good thing for the older woman to think of him as a pervert at first sight.
He gets up and Noma takes his hand.
“I’ll love to show you something… someone!” Noma says, glancing over at the older woman and the latter nods in the affirmative.
“When you both are done, come over to the dining table immediately. Is that clear?” Mrs. Gina winks, excusing them.
Akoji on his own part couldn’t decipher or comprehend any of the happenings around him at the moment. What’s so amusing and exciting to the lady? Why is the older woman giving a total stranger so much homely treatment like a son that just returned from a long journey? For no reason at all Akoji knows he ought to be scared following Noma as she turns into a passage.
“You may need to prepare for this, alright?” She whispers.
Akoji could only nod his head. He hopes to survive today without throwing caution to the wind.
Noma slowly and gently opens the door to one of the rooms and steps in. Akoji reflexively makes a sign of the cross at the door, before stepping in after her; his face towards the floor like he read something from there. Inside, however, when Akoji finally raises his head up and his eyes meet a form on the large bed, he gasps and almost drops down in shock.
“Please, let him in.” He says into the receiver, not taking his gaze from the computer in front of him.
The door opens almost immediately.
“Good morning, sir.” A man greets him, still standing at the door.
“Come right in, HOD.”
The other man, in a plaid white shirt on blue trousers walk briskly into the large office – arguably the largest in the entire university – and takes a seat.
“HOD Fine and Performing Arts, Mr…”
“Lawani, sir. Gbenga Lawani!”
Professor Audu Akpa finally takes his eyes off the computer to look at the dark man sitting across the table in front of him. He removes his eyeglasses and places it on the table, takes up his cup of coffee and sips a little.
“A memo was sent from my office.”
“Yes sir.” Lawani Gbenga draws forward towards the edge of his seat. “It was delivered to my office and got into my hands yesterday.”
Professor Akpa clears his throat. “So what has been done about it?” He finds a plain paper and picks it up.
Lawani Gbenga shifts uncomfortably on his seat. “Erhmm, sir. I… we… after yesterday’s ehm… ehm…”
“Dr Lawani,” Prof interrupts him. “The invitation was given to us by His majesty himself.” He pauses. “Do you understand me?” He continues as Lawani Gbenga nods quickly in the affirmative. “You and your team must put up the best presentation at that august occasion. Have I made myself clear?” He makes sure to use his most polite voice – not yelling, yet not so subtle. Being the VC of a university as esteemed as the University of Ilorin requires much more than academic prowess. “I don’t know what it will take, but whatever it’d take us to have an outstanding rendition from your students at that occasion, please do.” He relaxes against the back of the chair. “Good luck!” His tone is dismissive and Lawani Gbenga knows better than to remain sited.
The latter gets up immediately and out of the VC’s office.
Professor Akpa draws his intercom closer, punches a few keys and waits…
“We are going out in five minutes.” He replaces the intercom and stares into thin air for a while before clicking the ‘shut down’ option on his computer.
Akoji stands transfixed to a position as he tries to suppress the emotions gushing out of his heart. He looks down again at the girl. How could she be five when she barely looks two? Nothing in the little girl is to be desired, pardon his thoughts. Her hair thins out so much so that’s it’d changed color from dark-brown in the photo from her childhood he saw at her mother’s place to a pale golden yellow color. Large and sunken eyes fix into orbits in a head big enough to rival the size of the other parts of her body put together. She’s completely thin at the extremities, something in similitude with a thin layer of flesh over thin bones. One can virtually see all her ribs and the only sign of life left as she lay on the bed is the weak and not-so-obvious in and out movement of her chest, indicating that she’s still breathing. Akoji feels scared to move, scared to talk and scared to even look in Noma’s direction.
“Meet Hallie, my daughter.”
Noma’s voice is shaking and Akoji swallows against a tightness in his chest as he walks over to the edge of the bed. From that height, he gazes down, taking barely a split second to access the entire frame of Hallie’s body. He bends down and places a subtle peck on the girl’s forehead.
“She was born with sickle cell disease, and we’ve been battling this in the past five years since I had her.” The tears are rolling down Noma’s face now and she’s making no effort to dab or clean them off.
“Yeah. You want to ask about her father, yeah?” Noma smiles amidst her tears like a perfect mind-reader and Akoji just stands there, looking lost and helpless, with eyes urging her to speak on.
“I got pregnant and had to drop out of school against my wish…” She sniffs in. “…but that wasn’t as mind-wrenching as losing my both parents in the midst of it all.”
With this, Akoji closes the little gap between them and pulls her now shivering body from excessive tears into his hand in a warm embrace. Noma hesitates at first but gradually releases herself until her entire body shakes vigorously in Akoji’s firm hands. Tears pour down her face like mighty gushing waves and she holds tighter onto Akoji as though something is coming to devour her. Akoji just lets his right hand rock up and down Noma’s back, without saying anything, without making any attempt to stop her from weeping. After nothing less than fifteen minutes, she appears a little satisfied with the tears and slowly withdraws from the hug.
“You wonder why I didn’t ask you to stop crying?”
Noma blinks a teardrop. She’s actually been wondering the whole time in his hands.
“Some say the world is a vale of tears, Noma, but I say it’s a place of soul making. Sometimes, tears are all the cleansers we need to wash the soul clean.”
Noma looks at him with such an intense admiration in her eyes. His words aren’t just wise but makes so much sense to her right now, maybe a little more. Perhaps, all the tears she’s had to shed in the past few years are making her soul and who knows, he may be her soulmate right in front of her. She stops her head before it would fantasize any further.
“Mummy thinks…” she starts, but sees the confusion in Akoji’s eyes and smiles. “Oh. Mrs. Gina.” She points a finger. “She took me in when I had nowhere to go. She’s not my biological mother but she’s worth more to me than my parents put together.”
Now, Akoji is even more confused. The lady is talking with bitterness. Like someone aiming for vengeance or a revenge of some sort. But who avenges dead people? Akoji thinks.
“Anyway, as I was saying…” Noma tries to clear her voice a little. “She asked about you after you dropped me off that night. Mummy has this discerning spirit that she likes to call ‘the prophetic dimension’.” Noma chuckles in spite of her pained self. “Well, it works sometimes, even though I still believe it’s mere coincidence.”
Akoji manages to smile at the way Noma is describing her mother’s ‘gift’.
“The long and short, Akoji, is that, she insisted I told you about Hallie before anything else. I realize that if you want to be a part of my life, be it in a little way or otherwise, you must know the most important person in my life.” She pauses to breathe. “I love my daughter, Akoji. I love Hallie more than anything else in the whole world. It’s just unfortunate that God decided to punish the sin of her father and I by letting her come down with sickle cell anemia, but as long as she’s still breathing for me, as long as she still has the littlest ounce of life in her, I’ll never trade her for anything.”
She moves closer to Akoji, the latter apprehensive, not knowing what she’s up to this time around.
“If you think you feel anything for me as you said, then you must feel same for my daughter. Else, use the door out of our both lives.” Noma drops the words like they burnt her mouth, hurries out of the room and shuts the door hard behind her.
Akoji stands frozen to the same spot he’s been the whole time.
Prof Audu Akpa raises up his head as the door to his study opens. His hand is holding tightly to the mouse of the desktop computer in front of him, and a smile curves around his lips as his wife draws closer to him.
The fair-skinned, well-trimmed woman in her fifties approaches the table at the other end of the room gracefully. Each step shows prestige; the class of woman she is – an academician extraordinaire. Herself and her husband have risen to the peak of their careers as professors with so much money and of course, so much love between them.
“Professor VC, Sir!” She calls out with a teasing voice, setting down the fruit salad in a transparent glass plate in her hand on the table in front of him.
“No. NO way!” Professor Audu Akpa reacts. “My VC title starts and ends at UNILORIN, honey. I’m not a VC in this house. Here, I am the husband of this gorgeous woman and father of my adorable girls.”
Professor Iye Akpa scoffs, pulling a seat closer to her husband’s before sitting on it. She stretches to see the content on the screen of the computer. “And you say you are not the VC in this house?” She gradually collects the mouse from her husband’s hand and navigates the internet page. “You go to work early and return late all weeklong, yet you still go to the office on Saturdays. As if that’s not enough, you bring left-over work back home. Now tell me exactly how we’re not more used to your VC title than the other two you just mentioned.”
“C’mon, Honey.” Professor Akpa says, giving her a light nudge on the left side of her waist. She tries not to laugh from his tickles but he continues until she bursts into laughter. “You see now?” He winks coyly. “There. Right there. That’s my role as a husband of a beautiful woman.”
Iye Akpa doesn’t appear interested in the lovey-dovey moves her husband is displaying right now because, to her, they don’t feel right. She’s not used to it, it’s unlike him to be romantic. Very much unlike him.
“So what’s with you and this Onitsha festival these days?” Iye Akpa raises an eyebrow. “You have talked about it enough times in the past week for me to write an encyclopedia on it and here you are on the internet still browsing about it? What’s going on?”
Prof Akpa lets a genuine smile tug at the bends of his lips while picking up his wife’s hand and holding it in his.
“I told you about the…”
“The invite?” Iye Akpa cuts in. “The invite from the Obi himself. I think I know quite a lot already about the invite, honey.”
Prof Akpa chuckles. “Perfect then. So we are preparing. That’s what’s going on.”
As if a keg of petrol suddenly drops on fire, Iye Akpa laughs hysterically, clapping her hands together.
“If my memory serves me right, Honey, you are not a fan of traditional stuffs. You like things prim, proper and in order. Not something that keeps you confined to some cultural beliefs whatsoever. Was that not why you embraced the western lifestyle so much so that we were all beginning to wonder if one of your biological parents had untold ancestry in oyinbo land?” Prof Akpa glances at her and she chuckles too. “Yes o. It’s that bad. Or, should I say it’s that good?” Her front head squeezes slightly. “Well, what I’m saying is that, why all the sudden passion and interest in traditional stuffs?”
“That chief blew our minds, Honey. God!” He exclaims, still looking awestruck. “A traditional ruler with such a vast mind as well as numerous degrees to his credit both home and abroad. A fluent speaker, great researcher, accurate orator. Mehn, I was challenged that day.”
Iye Akpa shrugs in resignation. “So how do you plan to take up the challenge?”
“By giving a mind-blowing presentation at the festival, of course. Chief must be impressed. We have to bring to full bare the raw talents and gifts embedded in students of UnIlorin performing arts department. The Obi must love us.”
“And why is that?”
Prof Akpa doesn’t seem to understand his wife at all right now. After the several explicit explanations and the woman is still asking why he wants them to render an excellent and impressive performance? Does it sit proper in her head that they are talking about the most prominent traditional ruler in the whole country as far as royalty is concerned?
“You know what, Honey? Thank you for the fruits, OK? I need to concentrate on what I’m doing.” Prof Akpa tries to hide his provocation, using a calmer voice.
“Relax!” Iye Akpa says, standing up. She wraps her arms round the man’s shoulders. “You seem to be in a hurry all the time, my beloved husband. And in your haste, you step on too many people.”
Prof Akpa’s eyeballs shoot open.
“Why does it seem like you are always in a competition? You always have this constant need to prove yourself.”
“What exactly are you talking about, woman?” Prof Akpa’s provocation can be felt in his voice now.
Iye Akpa curves her lips into a beautiful sweet smile. She unwraps her arms from her husband’s body, picks back her cell phone and walks towards the door.
Prof Akpa fixes his gaze on his wife, confusion looming through every part of his brain.
At the door, Iye Akpa stops and turns to face her husband. “You are good at what you do, Honey.” She smiles again. “You are not a failure. Never forget that.”
She opens the door and walks out. Prof Akpa sits back, looking pale like a pink ghost had struck him with a heavy metal.
Clinton walks through the midst of the clatter and loud greetings hauling at him from his employees, each in his or her cubicle with a computer in front and serious work ongoing.
Of a truth, software programming is what makes the world go round, Clinton would always say.
Probably, with better opportunities for Nigerians to travel abroad for specialty training like he did or for the Nigerian educational system to put in more efforts at training students in computer and its related subspecialties, he can only imagine the revolution that the Nigerian youths would bring to the world.
He pushes the door to the central control room open. This place contains lots of heavy gadgets that are not readily available in the market. In fact, he’d travelled down and imported them all the way from China. He’s about to build a networking empire in the second largest commercial city in Nigeria and there’s nothing stopping him.
“Odi, why is that machine making so much noise?” He turns inquiring eyes at one of his workers, the person that manages the control room.
Odi shakes his head in a carefree fashion before shrugging.
“You don’t know, Odi?” Clinton couldn’t believe his ears. “And you can face me to say that you don’t know? You don’t know why a gadget under your watch is making so much noise and nothing worries you enough to call my attention?”
“Boss,” Odi’s thick baritone voice comes through. “I was going to tell you. You have to add this to the next list of goods you’ll be shipping from China.”
Clinton lets out a sarcastic chuckle, just a way to prevent his hand from landing on the cheeks of the short and rotund young man in front of him.
“Do you know how much these machines cost?” He queries, trying hard not to raise his voice.
Articulately, Clinton gives an insight into the stress he undergoes to bring containers over the sea to Onitsha from China; the innumerable risks and of course, the exorbitant custom duties at the ports. It’s no news that his father’s influence has made import and export business a little less stressful for him compared to a number of his friends, but that doesn’t give Odi any right to watch gadgets damage without raising alarm.
“Is maintenance culture that hard for you?” Clinton’s voice goes higher than the one he’s been using, shifting the other person away from him involuntarily.
The myriad of tattoos on Clinton’s left hand comes into full and clearer glare as he raises his hand to point at Odi in provocation.
“Get out!” He yells.
Like his words carried transporting powers, the young man virtually flies out through the door in split seconds. Clinton hisses. He doesn’t know what is wrong with everybody. Nonchalance and carefreeness over what they cannot even afford to buy for. If he decides to take a disciplinary measure by asking the young man to pay for the repair of that machine now, he can only imagine how many months or years of his salary will cover for it and people will term him wicked at the end of the day. Clinton hisses again and trudges over to where the machine is wheezing out loud sounds enough to unsettle the usual serenity in the control room. He looks at it, taking time to assess from the front to back, up and down. Seeming unable to elicit any possible cause of the noise, he thinks of something, bringing out his phone in the process.
Noma takes gentle steps behind Akoji like a sheep led towards the slaughter. With hands holding tightly to a small handbag placed a little below her buttocks, she makes sure to take every part of the compound in as they walk to the flat which she supposes is Akoji’s.
“Welcome to my humble abode.” Akoji announces with a genuine smile curving around his lips but it’s not anything to last long as a voice comes calling from inside his kitchen.
Noma is taken aback and Akoji looks confused for a moment until the voice comes again, this time louder…
“Welcome baby. I’m trying to hurry and finish preparing your favorite food. I’m sure you can’t wait to devour this.”
Confirmed. Akoji almost exclaims.
It’s now certain that he’s not hearing voices and that someone is actually in his house, in his kitchen. Someone, no other than the forcefully clinging Agefu. In less than a minute, his meeting with Noma in Areli gardens where she had gotten extremely provoked flashes through his head, remembering how he’d sworn never to elicit or give Noma reasons to be that angry again. Not as long as his heart chooses her and is ready to keep her forever, if God wills.
They are more or less a set of different duos now than they’ve been in the last couple of hours.
He’d stood aloof and confused in the room with Hallie after Noma walked out. There’s no fun in denying the fact that his heart had gone out to Hallie long time, before ever meeting her. It may have something to do with the conversation and advices from his mother. Whatever. He’s careful not to term the feeling deep down his heart as pity. Regardless of the manner he’d learnt about Noma having a baby, the talk with his mother set up a new perspective in his mind much more than Mr P had let him see. Akoji resolved long enough that no matter what, he’d stick with Noma, especially if there’s no marriage or man waiting up somewhere in the future for her to come back and be his. He fears that and finding no appropriate way to ask, he prefers to just quietly deny the possibility.
When he finally managed to join them at the dining table earlier, Mrs. Gina had this sweet smile lurking around her lips. She let him eat a handful from his plate of hot jollof rice before pouring out questions in streams and batches.
“Noma has a lot of battles going on in her mind per time,” The woman started this with a low voice, shortly after she’d asked Noma to go get more food from the kitchen – perhaps her tactic of keeping Noma out of the conversation. “Her heart seems impenetrable, because of the several issues she’s had to go through at such a young age, including losing her parents. Are you sure you would help her fight her battles and not remind her of the injuries she’d sustained at previous warfront?”
Akoji took in a deep breath, dropped the spoon in his hand back onto the plate. He held Mrs. Gina in a square stare, eyes looking characteristic of one that don’t know what the future holds particularly but knows who holds the future.
“I choose her, ma’am. I choose her frailty, her fears, her strengths, her weaknesses, her insecurities, her worries and pains.” He spells out clearly. “I choose to take her henceforth as if she’s wearing my own skin.”
The smile and nod from Mrs. Gina confirmed that she’s completely impressed and satisfied with Akoji. Long after they’d finished eating, they all sat on the couch in the siting room to gist a little, with Noma recounting some devastating episodes of vaso-occlusive crisis she’d witnessed, sometimes alone with Hallie and at other times, Mrs. Gina always came through. Mrs. Gina even muttered a not-so-loud discomfort over Noma’s refusal to live with her and preferring a separate apartment for herself and Hallie. They laughed and looked sad, and felt speechless for a while, and rattled words severally until Mrs. Gina asked to retire back to her room.
“Mummy, I want to see him off to his house.” Noma called out to the woman already climbing the stairs.
Akoji was taken aback. His house? He couldn’t place how he felt about that statement.
Mrs. Gina shrugs. “No problem, darling. Just make sure you come back in time since you insist on feeding Hallie yourself later today.”
That’s how they got into his car and drove down to this end of town where he lives. He’s not an untidy person, but he didn’t think throughout the ride back home, that his house is in the best presentable state to receive visitors, or better still, to receive someone his emotions are strongly pouring out to.
Akoji gains back his composure, turns and ask Noma to please make herself comfortable in the sitting room before heading in the direction from where the voice came. Few seconds and Noma shifts uncomfortably on the couch as loud yells come from where she supposes to be the kitchen.
“By the time I’m out of here, man, my spare key should be in your goddamn hands and you should be more than ready to return it to me.” Akoji’s voice is so hot it could fry yams. “I guess I gave you an undeserving privilege, and since you don’t mind abusing it all the time, please, return my spare key!” He removes the phone from his ears with an intensity that one would think he’d throw the device onto the flaming cooker.
Agefu is still facing the pot, looking morose and not knowing what to expect after Akoji’s call. If the young man could scream at his own very dear friend this way, then she can only imagine her fate.
“To be kind, Agefu, I’m going to ask you to leave this place once. And don’t let me take you out myself.” He walks over to the fridge and picks a bottle of chilled water which he gulps down his dry throat all at once.
Agefu takes slow steps towards Akoji’s position beside the big refrigerator. The air condition in the kitchen makes her not sweat at all, and if at all, just a tiny droplet on her forehead. She wears no expression on her face.
“Akoji, I want to ask you a sincere question.”
The latter, appearing not interested, just urges her to go ahead and be brief about it.
“What exactly do you want in a woman that I’ve not given you, Akoji?” The lady uses her hand to adjust a fallen strap of her singlet.
Akoji feels an unsettling chill down his spine.
What he wants in a woman? He questions himself in his head.
The poor girl right in front of him has done a lot. If for nothing, those nights when he comes back really tired from work and Patrick must have smuggled her into his house. She’d clean everywhere, dust the large TV and sound gadgets in the sitting room. She’d do the dishes, sweep, lay the bed and much more so, make delicious meals of different recipes and stock them up in the fridge for him. And, of course, as shameful as Akoji feels in admitting this, he’d have his way with her later some of those nights. It’s some, not all nights, but it was more often than not anyway. However, since the turn out of events with Noma, he’d promised himself not to do that anymore. He owes every lady a large chunk of respect. Nothing gives him access and the right to mess with any lady’s body until they’re legally married.
That’s what the bible says, that’s how it should be, he reiterates.
“Agefu…” Akoji starts, picking up her hand. “You are a wonderful woman, Agefu. You are a beautiful promising young lady with a heart of gold, ready to give her all and share her last with the man she loves.” The lady blinks off the weight of pain that’s about to set in her heart as Akoji continues. “But I don’t know how to force love, Agefu.” Akoji is soft with his voice, hoping not to wound her deeper than this next announcement. “With you, my heart has refused to find love. And no, you are not a terrible person…” He shakes her hands firmly in his. “You will find someone that loves and appreciates you, Agefu. You will.”
The girl swallows, obviously trying not to let tears fall. She stares at Akoji helplessly but that’s nothing to last long as she grabs her denim from the handle of a chair in the center of the room. She keeps her eyes locked on Akoji while pulling the thick clothing through her hands.
It’s true. She affirms. She’d tried forcing her way through the ribcage, intercostal muscles, the cardiac muscles and all those several chambers in a bid to get into one young man’s heart; one person that’s her everyday crush and dream man. She’d wrongly presumed that getting him to sleep with her will make a difference. Well, it did for her but guess men don’t attach so much emotional importance to sex the way ladies do – the way she foolishly did. These thoughts make her heart sink. Using a palm to cover her mouth however, she closes the gap between them and gives Akoji a quick but tight hug accompanied by a passionate kiss before dashing out through the door.
Noma hurriedly tiptoes from behind the kitchen door she’s been hiding and watching the whole time. She couldn’t eavesdrop clearly because their words were not loud and audible enough for her to hear. But she saw everything. The tenderness and strong emotions in Akoji’s eyes when he approached the lady in there. Akoji’s eyes, on a very good day, could melt the strongest of hearts, let alone when he gently and lovingly picked up her hands. She could bet she noticed Akoji’s lips quiver while he spoke, the type that connotes a man’s hunger for something only a woman he loves can give.
Akoji is taken by this girl. Noma tried in vain to suppress this thought from coming to mind the whole time she watched them to no avail.
How would he not be taken by her after all they’ve shared anyway? Noma’s head queries again. Well, her doubts became clearer when the girl hurried over to hug and kiss Akoji before turning in the direction of the door. She could see how Akoji looks pained and disappointed. He even couldn’t let her hands go for a while, well until the lady persistently dragged herself off his firm grip.
Snap out of this jealousy, Noma!
Noma jerks back as the door opens. The lady stands for a while, maybe taking in all of Noma’s physical details and perhaps crosschecking it in her head with all her very numerous unquantifiable endowments. Noma realizes the fact in no time – she’s nowhere near this lady; not in endowment or whatever she can offer whenever she’s required to. From nowhere in particular, Noma could feel a staunch inferiority complex pulling down all the confidence left in her heart.
Few minutes after the lady is gone, Noma finds solace in a frame hanging on the wall to the left side of the sitting room. She doesn’t know why the artwork looks entrancing to her all of a sudden, but she sure needed to get rid of all the ill feelings the ongoing event is setting loose in her mind right now, and not at a later time. More fascinating is the portrait paper photograph of Akoji attached to the lower end of the frame. He is dressed in a typical Igbo man’s attire, all glammed up with beads and even a staff to match. Noma finds herself admiring the young man in the picture much more and that reminds her of something.
“I’m sorry about that…” Akoji’s voice startles her and she almost falls over in shock.
Catching her breath, she turns to see him still holding onto the kitchen door knob.
“It’s fine.” Noma says in a dismissive fashion. Then decides to change the topic. “You know one very funny yet serious fantasy I had while growing up?”
Akoji tries to get over himself and into the cheerful mood Noma is creating. “To be a fairy goddess?” He smiles while suggesting this.
Noma frowns lightly and smiles again, nodding her head from left to right.
Akoji puts a finger on his lower lips, thinking, “To be the strongest man in Babylon?”
“Oh God.” Noma groans in frustration. “Where on earth were you born?” The question doesn’t require a response as she continues immediately. “Well, I used to fantasize about being a princess of a large royal empire. You know? Married to a prince charming…” Her smiles grow broader and Akoji just nods like an agama lizard. “Seeing you looking like a prince in this your photoshopped photo just reminds me of those early life crazy fantasies.” She touches the photo in utter admiration with her right hand.
Akoji clears his throat in a not so loud manner. “They may not be crazy fantasies, Noma. They may be heart desires that God is always ready to grant.” He takes her hand in his and Noma’s mouth feels like it’s filled with sugar.
She shrugs, turning her back. “They were mere fantasies jor. You are charming. Right. But you are not a prince, or does royal blood run inside of you?”
Akoji blinks his eyes. He is about to answer, when Noma nudges him.
“Now look at you?” She’s laughing out loud now. “You are not a prince. Don’t try to fake it. It’s not your responsibility to fulfil every incomplete story of mine, Akoji!”
Akoji swallows. “Try me!” He says coyly, drawing nearer.
To be continued next Saturday.