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Friday, November 22, 2013

NO RETURNS

Image from here



‘I knew you should have pulled out,’ she says, tossing the test strip to the ground.

‘I tried,’ he says. He wants to reach for her face and smooth the lines that have appeared across her forehead, take her hands in his and stop her chewing on her nails. ‘I thought you were on the pill.’

‘I was. God, I am!’

She stands and starts pacing.

‘Well,’ he says, ‘you know they say these things aren’t one hundred per cent.’

‘You could try not to sound so… undisturbed.’

‘Why?’

‘Why? Why?!’ She stops in front of him, her eyes wide and incredulous. And angry, because she knows that he knows why. Or at least her reasons why.

‘Yes, why can’t we have a baby?’

‘And take care of it how?!’

‘We’re not exactly poverty stricken.’

‘Not exactly, no, but with this baby,’ she laughs, ‘with this baby we’ll soon be spacing out our meals – one-oh-one if we’re lucky.’

‘Don’t be a prophet of doom.’

‘Oh I’m not; one-oh-one is very optimistic.’

‘Really.’

‘Do you know how much baby food costs? And if the baby has your appetite, we’re finished!’

He stops himself from laughing. She is angry. She continues before he can speak.

‘And we haven’t even talked of clothes and toys, hospital bills…’

‘Onome.’

‘Jesus God! What of when it’s time to start school? Are we going to send our child to some converted flat that some person who knows nothing about anything decided to call a school?’ She shudders. ‘Aunty Morayo International Private School… something like that.’

‘Onome, we’ll be okay. We’ve been saving.’

‘Ehn, but how much now. How much?’

He looks at his wife, her small body tense, and imagines her nine months into the future. She will not be delicate and fussy in her pregnancy – he knows her – and part of him wishes she would. He wouldn’t mind the chance to have her really depend on him for once, let him take care of her. He finds the thought of her waddling about the house, slow and heavy with their child, hands on her hips, strangely erotic.

‘Wale! You’ve not heard a thing I’ve been saying abi?’

‘I’m sorry.’

She sighs and looks deflated. He stretches his arms out.

‘Come.’

She looks at him, like a suspicious child.

‘Come where?’

‘Come here.’

She eyes him for a moment before obeying and going to him. She stands, not touching him, but close enough so he can take her hands and lower her gently onto the couch, in the space between his thighs. She leans back into him, and he wraps his arms around her, nuzzles her ear.

‘We will be fine.’

She half turns, an attempt to see his face.

‘How do you know?’

‘It takes more than money to raise children well, you know.’

‘I know, but money is important too. And we don’t have enough of it.’

‘We don’t have a surplus, but we’re okay.’

‘But –’

‘And we’re getting better. The store is starting to pick up; you have your job. Things are getting better. Say it with me: things are...’

‘Things are getting better.’

‘Not quite the spirit there, but I’ll take it.’

‘I’m sorry. But I don’t know if we’re ready yet. I just want them to have the best.’

‘They already do, with you.’

She says nothing, but he knows he’s getting through.

‘And me,’ he says. ‘At least, I hope and me.’

‘You’re the best,’ she says, as simply as she says the day of the week.

‘Great. With two of the best people in the world, how can our kids not be awesome?’

She smiles. ‘I don’t think they have a choice.’

‘Exactly!’ He plants a kiss on her neck. ‘Besides, we can’t ask God to take it back. No returns or refunds.’

‘Nope.’

‘So, my darling,’ he sings, turning her around to face him. ‘What do you say?’


‘I say… let’s do this.’

Friday, November 8, 2013

THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR

Image from here

Nonye was tidying up the kitchen when she heard a knock at her screen door. She froze for a moment, then tiptoed to the kitchen doorway. Her heart sank as, peeping through, she confirmed what she already knew. It was her neighbor Taribo, smile in place. She leaned against the wall and tried to breathe quietly. Maybe if she stayed absolutely still he would be convinced she no longer existed. But she knew he would not leave. He was not stupid enough to believe that Nonye would go out leaving only her screen door locked, especially with the recent burglaries around off-campus housing like theirs. Plus, and more damning, Nonye knew that with his hound’s nose Taribo would have smelled her cooking as always, appearing like a ghoul whenever there was something on her stove.

‘Nor-nor,’ Taribo called, his over-familiar tone even more grating than the shortening of her name. ‘It’s like something good is happening in that your kitchen, ehn.’

He would not leave.

Forcing a smile, Nonye went to open the door. Taribo’s dark face gleamed with sweat and delight as she undid the door latch. He moved to take a step in, but Nonye remained standing in the doorway. Taribo stretched his neck to look past her, toward the kitchen.

‘Nor-nor, are you cooking?’

I don’t know; are you an idiot?

‘Ehn,’ Nonye muttered.

‘It’s smelling like jollof rice.’

Is that a question?

‘I’m bringing my plate o.’

Nonye considered Taribo’s hopeful face. Should she take the same approach as Justina, the girl from three rooms down, who had declared right in Taribo’s face one day – and loud enough for the whole compound to hear – that her parents hadn’t sent her to Uniport to be his personal cook? Nonye had imagined Taribo slunk away after that, to lick his wounds in private. For a couple of weeks he stopped showing up at Nonye’s door, and in gratitude Nonye had said several prayers for Justina. She had never expected that he would recover, but Taribo’s shame wore off and he resumed his visits, avoiding Justina’s room like the devil lived with her. Justina said Taribo persisted with Nonye because she was ‘too nice’. But Nonye found Justina’s approach, effective as it was, too direct for her tastes.

‘It’s not ready,’ Nonye finally said.

‘Ehen? Okay, no wahala.’

Taribo started to leave and Nonye’s heart soared. Was he taking a hint, after all this time? People did change!

He turned to Nonye again.

‘What time should I come back?’

How about quarter to never!

‘Twenty minutes.’

Nonye watched Taribo until he disappeared. She went into her kitchen. Humming a tune, she found her 350-gram salt container and emptied all of its contents into the simmering pot.

Nonye was sweet when Taribo returned. She served him a steaming heap of jollof rice on her best plate and insisted he ate in her room. She set out a smaller portion for herself and they settled down on the floor, Taribo’s tongue hanging loose and wet with anticipation.

Nonye raised the first forkful.

‘Bon app├ętit,’ she said, her smile so tight she thought her face would rip apart.

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