Two Years Ago…
“Sis, I can’t wait to move in with you!” Onyinyechi gushes, apropos of nothing.
I turn sharply away from the mirror before which I have been preening, and admiring the dress I had on, and face her. She is reclined on the sofa, a faraway look in her eyes.
“Meehn! It will be totally awesome!” she goes right ahead, oblivious of my shocked countenance. “We will lie awake far into the night, gisting girly gist. We’ll go shopping together, and – and…” She loses steam. “In fact, Ada, it will be awesome!” she concludes, focusing now on me.
“Oh my God!” she gushes again, rising from the sofa on which she had been reclining and rushing towards me. “Kai! Nwa n’idi uto! This wedding gown fits you perfectly! Lekwa flat tummy!” She rubs her palms up and down my midriff. “How come you don’t wear show belle –?”
“Crop top!” I correct automatically.
“Crop gini? Cheregodu before ibido nke ndi graduate! Show belle joor,” she argues good-naturedly.
I laugh, brushing aside her compliments. “So, this one and the one I wore before, which one is better?” I ask. “Of course, I’ll use a jacket if I’ll wear this one, because it’s a tube gown, and my Chigo’s church –”
“Everything you wear fits you. Nnem, inwero aru na-aro akwa,” she declares in a tone that brooks no argument.
I groan inwardly as I start undoing the side zipper of the dress I am wearing, making a mental note to call Ijeoma to come over and help me choose which gown I’ll be marrying my Prince Charming in.
I drop the gown in a heap on the bed; I’ll pack it up later.
“Ehee, nne-nne, isi n’oo gini?” I start, shifting the novels on the sofa to make room for me to sit beside her.
“Ehn?” Onyinyechi tears her eyes from her phone which she is fiddling with, probably chatting on 2go, as usual.
“I na-emoove in with onye?” I ask.
“You now! Won’t you and Chigozie let me move in with you guys?” she asks, wide-eyed.
“No,” I answer quite frankly. “What newly-married couple will let a grown woman move in with them? What girly gist do you even want us to be gisting in the middle of the night, when I’m supposed to be trying to obey God’s instruction to increase, multiply and subdue?” I ask, chuckling.
She laughs too. “Oh! No wahala then! I guess I’ll just keep saving up to get my own apartment. Those people agwulam ike, I’m telling you!” she says in a good-natured tone, referring to her parents.
I roll my eyes. “You’re not working! Where are you saving from?” I ask, laughing.
She laughs too. Onyinyechi is older than me by four years. She is my father’s half-brother’s daughter. Her parents are… well, I lack words. Long and short is that, Onyinyechi and her three brothers solely run their day-to-day lives. Sometimes, her brothers travel for days, and return home, without either parent’s knowing where exactly they went to or what they’d been up to. In fact, now that they are all grown-up, everybody cooks his/her own food. The good thing is that there is always food in the house.
Despite my encouragements, Onyinyechi has given up on education. She did not make her papers during her SSCE. And she tried again after that. Twice. She consoles herself with the fact that it isn’t everybody that must go to the university. She has tried her hands at some small businesses, like selling recharge cards, running a phone-call center, and making plantain chips which she supplied to retailers. Now, she is waiting for that ‘mega-rich Prince Charming to come in his pure white steed and sweep her off her feet.’ Literally. I mean, that is how she describes it.
Three Weeks Ago…
I am wiping nail varnish off my toe nails, in preparation for my pedicure, which I do by myself. You see, I saw and got this pedicure set off the internet, in a moment of impulse buying, and it cost me some pretty penny. I can’t go and be dashing salon people money to be doing my pedicure. And I’m not taking my stuff to them, and then pay them money on top of that. Call me stingy, like Ijeoma does, anytime she sees or hears that I’m doing my pedicure by myself… I don’t care.
So, I am wiping these nails, and watching Season Two (or is it Three?) of Desperate Housewives for the second (or is it third?) time. My phone rings. Looking at the screen, I see ‘Onyii b’anyi Calling.’ I pick up with my left hand, my right hand still rubbing the red-stained cotton wool on the surface of my right big toe.
“Nne-nne,” I greet cheerily.
“Why you no wan answer me now?” Onyinyechi asks without preamble.
“I am answering you now! I just took your call, not so?” I query back.
“No,” she says. “I mean, on Whatsapp. I have been chatting you up like since day before yesterday.”
“Oh! That! They said my Whatsapp version has expired. Yet, I can’t download the current version. So, for close to a week now, I haven’t been on Whatsapp.” Then I ask, “So, what were you trying to say?”
“Long story, my dear. And I don’t have credit.” She sighs heavily.
“Ok, nne, ka m kpoo gi back,” I say, feeling some empathy for her at once.
“Ehee, kee nke na-eme?” I ask when she picks my call.
“My dear, good news first. I am getting my own apartment! Yay!”
A few seconds of silence follow her announcement, and then I say, “I thought you were staying in your uncle’s BQ? Why are you moving out?”
“The man is burning my cable joor!” she says with another sigh.
“How?” I ask, getting slightly irritated that she’s making me pull out the story from her bit by annoying bit.
“He is always monitoring me! Telling me when to come back and all! I am an adult for Chrissakes!” she whines.
“Ok. I get it. But you know, houses are not that cheap in Lagos…at least, from what I have heard. If you take all the money you’ve saved up from your salary to get a house, you won’t have any savings o! And remember you will have to furnish the house and buy your own food. These are the things you should consider before getting a house,” I counsel.
“Now you’re sounding like my uncle’s wife! Sheesh! You’ve turned into an old woman. It is only one child you have o!” She chuckles.
“Well, that may be so. But I’m sure you know what I’m saying is reasonable. Just manage that your uncle’s BQ, you hear? Emeka will soon pop the big question, and then you’ll be moving into his place –”
“Which kain Emeka?” she says scoffingly. “We broke up o!”
I am not ready to hear this breakup story. I don’t want my airtime to be exhausted, so I say, “You guys will find your way back, like you always do, dear. You are both made for each other.” I hope I sound convincing.
“Ok. I hear you. Well, the reason I called is to ask for your assistance.”
The reason you called? I scoff silently. Duh! It’s my credit that is burning to the ground! Aloud, I say, “How do you mean?”
“Assuming I get the house anyway, I’ll need some money to furnish it. Can you help?” At my silence, she adds, “Just about 100k. Maybe 80, if you can’t do 100…”
What! I scream in my head See as this babe dey talk 100k as if say na 100 naira o! Where does she think I get money from?
“Hmm… where am I supposed to get that kind of money?” I ask, letting my irritation leak into my voice.
“You can ask your husband,” Onyinyechi says offhandedly, blithely unmindful of my aggravation.
I could have proceeded to verbally re-set her brain, but the thought of my airtime stop me. “I will be honest with you… We don’t have that kind of money.”
“Anything at all, just send. You hear?” she wheedles.
“Ok. Just don’t get your hopes up,” I say. Then, in an ingenious moment of brain wave, I add, “Meanwhile, can’t you ask your parents?”
“They already have their hands full with other projects. I don’t want to disturb them.”
Yeah! I am the project-less individual to be disturbed, okwa ya? I think wrathfully. “Anyway, like I said,” I speak up, “I’ll see what I can do. But, with the way things are, nothing will happen o! You know I don’t have a job yet.” And then I add playfully, “Oya, bye-bye, don’t burn all my airtime.”
“Ok. My fingers are crossed. Bye!” She ends the call.
“This girl is not serious,” I mutter to myself, picking up another wad of cotton wool and soaking it with nail polish remover to continue with my pedicure. “I should ask my husband indeed.”
I remember my husband telling me severally that he doesn’t like Onyinyechi when we were dating. It even became a source of misunderstanding at one point. I made up my mind to let him be. After all, it is me he is marrying, not my cousin. Besides, he likes all my friends and siblings. A person is allowed to dislike somebody, provided he doesn’t make a habit of it, right? It should be in one of the laws of Nigeria somewhere.
I am sitting across from my husband on the dining table, while he eats his dinner of moi-moi and – wait for it – fried plantain. I honestly do not know how he got on to that weird food combo, but anytime I make moi-moi, he’ll ask for fried plantain. Anyway, there he is, eating his food, and here I am, telling him of the gyms I checked out, and how ridiculously expensive it is to be a member, all the while, eyeing him, and waiting for him to say, “No problem, I’ll give you the money to register.” And he isn’t saying it.
“Did Onyinyechi call you today?” he finally asks, cutting short my prattle.
“No, she did not. What happened?” I ask, unsure whether to be concerned or not.
“Are you sure?” he asks, giving me a suspicious look.
“Yes, I’d remember if she called now,” I say, my brows furrowing in incomprehension.
He fiddles with his phone a bit and drops it on the dining table, moving it across to me. I pick it up and read the message on the screen:
“Good day, Chigo, I hope everything is fine? Please, I need the sum of 100,000 to furnish my apartment. I am sleeping on the floor, and I don’t even have curtains. My apartment is not looking fine at all. God bless you in anticipation. Acc. No: 0034579018, Ecobank, Onyinyechi Okolie. JJ”
“Wow!” I exclaim when I’m done reading the text message. “When did you two become this close?”
“We are not close,” my husband replies. “I am still shocked. If not for my name in the text, I would have thought she mistakenly sent me someone else’s text message.”
“Well, we spoke some three weeks ago, and she asked me for 100 thousand, but I told her we don’t have it. She suggested I should ask you, but I know you won’t answer me. So, I didn’t bother. Then, I forgot all about it.”
“Why me? What about her boyfriend?”
“They broke up.”
“Her parents, nko?”
“They have projects, and she doesn’t want to disturb them,” I reply, making quotation marks in the air.
“So, I am the one without a project, eh?” he growls, frowning as he does so.
“Hey, don’t look at me! Was I the one that sent you the message?” I say, smiling and giving a shrug of my inculpability.
“So, you did not ask her to send me this message?” he queries, eyeing me beadily.
“No,” I deny. “If I did, I would have given you a heads-up. You know me now!” Still smiling, I pick up the fork he dropped in his tray and spear the last plantain, popping it into my mouth before I realize that it is past 7pm, and I shouldn’t be eating anything again. A la weight loss. I groan, still chewing the plantain.
Just then, a sleepy-eyed Gabby walks past me, towards a plastic stool where I keep a cup of water for him; he is clutching a teddy bear. After drinking the water, he adjusts the teddy properly in his arms, plants a kiss on its nose, and waddles off, sleepily, back towards his room.
I look up to see that my husband is observing him too. He bursts out into laughter when Gabby walks past the door.
“I really should take that teddy away from him!” I exclaim, laughing along. “Is a boy supposed to be fond of a teddy bear?”
Written by Adaku J.