“I did not know it was this serious o!” I say, abandoning the mop, and dropping into a seat, unsure how I feel about this development.
“Well, I don’t even know if I am as serious again,” Ifeanyi responds. “I mean, I love her, but there are a lot of things that I’m worried about.”
I nod him on.
“Ok. Leticia is very lazy,” he says with a deep sigh. “As in, very, very lazy!”
“What did she do to make you conclude that?” I ask, trying as much as possible to be objective.
“Her roommate travelled since last month, and do you know that their room hasn’t been swept since then? The plates and pots are all used up, and guess what she has been cooking? Indomie!” He shakes his head in incredulity before saying, “Ok, remember that day I asked you for ingredients for ofe egusi?”
I nod in affirmation.
He continues, “I went out that day, and bought all the things you told me, and gave her to cook for me. After a lot of arguments and pleading, and excuses, she did. Chai! You need to see the soup, Ada. Egusi was one side, water was one side, oil was one side, like they were all quarrelling amongst each other. I couldn’t even bring myself to taste the soup. We later ate out that day, and she promised that she can cook, just that she wasn’t feeling top notch that day. But I don’t believe her.”
“So…? Now what?” I quirk my brows at him.
“I’m changing my mind. How can I marry someone that cannot cook and keep a home?” He gestures at me. “Look at you, the way you keep my brother’s house. That is the kind of woman I want.”
For some reasons I cannot understand, Anyi’s words annoy me.
“Are you done?” I ask, feeling the spark of irritation light up inside me.
“Ok. Number one,” I begin, adding a forefinger accompaniment to my words, “you don’t compare people. Leticia can never be me or like me. Everybody is unique in their own special way. Number two, are you marrying her in order to get someone to cook and clean for you? Because if that is the case, then, you should just get a paid help. Different people have different qualities. I am sure there are qualities in her that made you love her in the first place. If you love her, as in, really love her, the fact that she cannot cook and clean shouldn’t be an issue. You could send her to catering school, or employ a house help. You make the whole marriage thing sound as if the woman’s sole responsibility is to cook and clean, like you need a house help that you can be sleeping with and making babies with without feeling guilty. That’s so not cool!”
My phone is vibrating in my pocket, so, I get up to remove it and check the caller. It is Nkaiso, probably calling to know the outcome of my discussion with Nneamaka.
“Are you paying attention at all?” Ifeanyi’s voice snaps me out of my slight preoccupation.
“Yes! Sorry. A friend is calling, but she – it can wait…”
“So, you’re saying I should go ahead?” he asks impatiently, hanging on my every word.
“I’m not saying anything o!” I say in mild protest. “You know just how much that girl and I love each other. But I’m advising you as a woman. The fact that she can’t cook and clean is not enough to not marry her. There are women that can cook and clean, yet, do not respect their husbands. Of what use are their cooking and cleaning skills then? Just make your choices properly and carefully, because at the end of the day, na forever tinz, unless you want to go through divorce,” I finish, standing and reaching for the velvet box.
“Wow!” I say as I stare admiringly at the ring inside it. “This is really lovely! Where did you get it from?”
“I ordered it online,” he answers curtly, obviously disappointed at my vague response to his query. He holds out his hand for the box.
I hand it back to him and get up to continue my chore, while he walks out of the sitting room.
“Hmm!” I mutter to myself. “Like play like joke, this nonsense human specimen is about to make a grand entrance into this family o!” I barely suppress a shudder at the thought. “God please, don’t let this happen,” I finish, lifting my eyes heaven-ward in supplication.
Just then, my phone vibrates again.
“Hello, NK,” I speak into the phone, still struggling to untangle the ear-piece. “Hello?” I say again, putting the phone to my ear.
“Ada dear, how is everything?”
“Fine oh! Shey you’re calling about the birthday party?”
“Yes! I’m sorry, I have to opt out of the whole thing,” Nkaiso says, sounding as apologetic as she can manage over the phone.
“What happened nau!” I almost scream.
“I’m sorry jaré. My husband has to travel. He won’t be around during that period.”
“Ooooom! What kind of travel is this one nau!” I grumble.
“Sorry dear. His office people sent him o! There’s no way around it.”
I hiss, a sound which is a cross between displeasure and commiseration. “No problem sha. So, I’m on my own, eh?”
“Not exactly. I will come and help out anywhere you wish me to,” she offers.
“Aha! I will remember that!” I crow.
“No problem!” She laughs. “I’m truly sorry, especially considering that I’m the one who suggested this whole thing in the first place.”
“Ah! It’s ok now! It’s not your fault. But you’ll make it up to me by coming to help, so, no qualms.”
“Ok dear, bye.” And she clicks off.
On Saturday afternoon, Chinwe, Nneamaka and I are crowded in my kitchen, while Nneamaka teaches us how to make spring rolls and samosa. We are like her apprentices, cutting, chopping and mixing, and always asking ‘Am I doing this right?’ We were happy and eager to learn.
Ifeanyi pokes his head through the kitchen door several minutes into our work.
“Ada, I’m going out…” He pauses mid-sentence, causing Nneamaka and I to cease our chatter and look up at him. He is standing there by the kitchen doorway – or rather, his head is poking in through the doorway – his jaw dropped and his face a mask of absolute wonder and amazement.
My brow furrowing, I follow his gaze and find it resting on Chinwe, who is busy mixing flour and water with her hand, like a child cooking sand food.
She is also speaking. “Nne, this thing that I’m mixing now…” She looks up to see Nneamaka looking at her and then at Ifeanyi. “Did I do anything?” she asks, an uncertain expression on her face.
Her question seems to untie Anyi’s tongue, and he asks tentatively, “Chinwe…?”
“Yes?” she answers, raising her brows questioningly.
“Chinwe Okonkwo?” he asks again, still tentative, but a bit more bolder, like a child learning to put one foot in front of the other.
“Ehen?” Chinwe answers again. Irritation is beginning to colour her voice.
“My God! It’s Chichi-Sweet!” he suddenly bellows, walking fully into the kitchen. “You don’t remember me, do you?” he asks, gesturing at his face and down his body in excitement. “Ifeanyi Ugwu… Skin Dudu…”
“What?! I know… I heard… You’re…” Chinwe stammers, dividing a look and pointing her flour-messed-up forefinger between me and Ifeanyi.
“Yes!” Ifeanyi almost screams. “I am!”
They’re both laughing and coming close to each other. Chinwe tries to hug him, and then lifts her messy palms with a laugh, obviously suddenly realizing the flour all over them. Then, she tries a side hug, not quite sure if she should. They clumsily come together, and the hug ends up as a shoulder/rib bump.
Ifeanyi sits on the only high stool in the kitchen, while we continue with what we were doing before the reunion between him and Chinwe. The chatter between the two apparently old friends begin to bounce about in the kitchen, leaving Nneamaka and I as spectators, smiling, chuckling and nodding at intervals of their animated conversation.
“Kai! This boy! You have not stopped lying!” Chinwe screeches at Ifeanyi, pretending to pelt him with one of the gizzards she is washing in the sink.
Ifeanyi is regaling us with stories of how they both attended Federal Government College, Enugu. He was in SS2, when Chinwe was in JSS3, and he always found himself in a position to save her from one punishment or the other, because she always looked like she was going to drop dead any minute, so frail did she look then. Presently, he is telling us about Chinwe’s brush with Prefect Chidimma, the wickedest female prefect back then, who swore that Chinwe insulted her, and must pay. He even had to pretend to like and date the prefect for a while, seeing as he was the hottest and coolest senior boy, to get her to cool her antagonism toward Chinwe.
“And after all I did for this stubborn little girl, she could not even say ‘Senior, good morning’ any time she passed me!” he said, making us all laugh out loud.
And all the while, I am thinking exuberantly and with a wide grin, Oh, this is good… This is very good! I didn’t even have to introduce them!
Written by Adaku J.