“I have a wedding to attend next month,” Ifeanyi says to me while we are in the middle of Sunday lunch.
My husband and Gabby are seated with us at the dining table, but my husband is immersed in his interaction with Gabby as he shows him how to eat without spilling his food all over the place. Ifeanyi has made a habit of coming by the house every Sunday for lunch since he moved out.
“So why are we being put on notice?” I say.
“I’m not done now!” he says with a chuckle. “I’m still giving you the information.”
“Ok. Go on,” my husband interjects, slightly more interested in the gist.
“I’m not telling you oh! It’s your wife I’m talking to,” Ifeanyi says, laughing. “This is our personal gist.”
“Hmm, this kain personal gist, ehn… Anyway, she’ll still tell me. I know where we use to meet,” my husband retorts with light-hearted humour.
I grin, happy that he’s letting go of the stiffness that usually befalls him during and shortly after his uncle’s visit. Uncle Donatus left our house yesterday after his case at the court on Friday, a departure I couldn’t wait to see happen. That man has honestly become an albatross in my matrimonial home. I’ll be very relieved when this whole custody battle is resolved and he returns to Ebonyi for good, and I won’t have to see him for a long, long time.
“Anyi, don’t mind him. I won’t tell him if you don’t want him to know,” I say to my brother-in-law, while winking at my husband.
“I saw that!” Ifeanyi bellows heartily, “Tufiakwa unu! This thing they say about husbands and wives being incurable gossips is true!”
“Na you sabi! Biko, finish your gist,” my husband says. “Now, I’m interested.”
“Anyway, it’s not such a big deal,” Ifeanyi starts. After a small pause and a quick contemplative look at me, he says, “I was thinking of going to the wedding with your friend, Mercy, as my date, and –”
“Ha!,” my husband cuts in. “Is that not –”
“And,” Ifeanyi firmly continues, “I think I’m beginning to like her a little, and of course,” – he hurries on when he sees me open my mouth to speak – “of course, I’m taking things slow with her. But, I just want to know if you think she’s a good person.”
There is a moment of silence as my husband and I exchange a look.
“Well?” Ifeanyi prods, now looking from me to my husband and back, clearly uncomfortable with our silence.
“Mercy…” my husband is the first to speak. “That’s the one who went with us to your wed –”
“Yes, she’s the one,” Ifeanyi interrupts, clearly unwilling to link this budding new romance with the disaster that is his former engagement.
My husband turns to me. “And isn’t she the one out of your friends who you say isn’t very nice?”
“Eehn, before,” I reply after a brief pause, my mental gears working quickly on how to play this. Mercy is certainly not any friend I’d qualify as my best friend; with her, I have come to realize that a little bit of distance is what I need to relate well with her. But I don’t want to stand in the way of her happiness. I sigh as I decide to be as frank with Ifeanyi as possible. “See ehn, Anyi, Mercy can be a bitch if she puts her mind to it, which is more often than not. But she’s actually a nice person.”
“Really? You used to always complain about her,” my husband says.
“Yeah. She was going through some stuff back then, and she was acting out. She’s okay now.”
“Mmhmm,” my husband arches a brow, “and how much is she paying you to sell her market like this?”
With a squeal of delight, I reach out my hand and make like I want to hit him, while he weaves slightly out of my reach with a laugh.
“Does it matter?” Ifeanyi cuts in. “I think Ada loves me too much to sell bad market to me.”
“Keep thinking, inugo? Tinker Bell!” my husband says.
This man sef! I think with exasperated delight. Mercy, if things don’t work between you and Ifeanyi, just know it’s my husband that poured san-san into your garri, and not me, I think, offering up the telepathic message to my friend.
To Ifeanyi, I say, “But seriously though, Mercy is an OK person. Everyone have their issues, of course, so she’s not perfect. And neither are you.” I look pointedly at him.
Ifeanyi grins at me. “Okay, I have caught my sub.”
“I just like that she doesn’t always wait for me to call first,” he continues. “She takes a lot of initiative in the short time I’ve known her. She was even the first to suggest that we go on a date. It’s like a breath of fresh air after all the stuck-up, stuffy girls that I’ve been with.”
“Yeah, Mercy can be forward sometimes. She must really like you,” I say.
“My dear, I’m sorry that I haven’t called you since,” I apologize to Chinwe over the phone. “So, how did it go in court on Friday?”
“Nne ehn, the story is long and funny!” she enthuses.
“Well, funny for you and Aunty Esther sha. Going by Donna’s cloudy countenance this weekend, I am sure it didn’t go well for him,” I say, remembering the way he kept bitching about everything and everyone when he came home from court. “He even told my husband that I was in court oh!”
“What!” Chinwe gasps. “How did he see you?”
“I guess he saw me when I was leaving with Mercy. He drove past us in the court premises. I didn’t even know what lie to tell, so I just kept mute while he kept going on and on about how I’m colluding with his enemies.”
“Ewoo! So, this means that you can’t come for the judgment?”
“I don’t know jaré! When is that?”
“Who knows what would have happened by then?” I ponder out loud. “I might still be there.”
“But I hope you didn’t have any issue with your husband over this?” Chinwe queries, concern heavy in her voice.
“He was already angry with me on behalf of his uncle over the fact that I sent the yeye man’s clothes to the dry cleaner, instead of washing them myself with hand. With hand oh! Not even washing machine! I was just looking at him, like, why would he even give me clothes to wash? Do I look like those his little girlfriends?”
“That man is not serious! Who gives another man’s wife his clothes to wash? I thought he was a hotshot lawyer? Does he not have money for dry cleaning?” Chinwe says.
“Leave him now! He saw the slave that his nephew married and kept at home nu! I don’t blame him at all! My husband now wanted me to go and apologize to him for taking his clothes to dry cleaner. Me, I refused oh!”
“Hian! Apologize for what now?”
“Exactly! Anyway, my husband was still carrying face for that one, so when Donna brought up the issue of me being in court, he didn’t ask me about it and I simply kept quiet.”
“Let’s think of a lie,” Chinwe suggests. “Maybe, you could say that you came to see me to pick something from me. And that his uncle saw you outside the courtroom, and not inside – I mean, that was where he saw you na. That should fly.”
I wave a hand in dismissal. “I don’t think I want to lie again sef! Well, if and when the issue comes up, I’ll make up my mind. Biko, gist me how it went in court.”
“Ehen! My dear! So, una Uncle entered witness box and gave his testimony. I pepper am ehn! Any testimony that he gave that wasn’t in his response, I attacked with an objection.”
“What did he say?” I ask with a laugh.
“He couldn’t explain anything from the witness box now! It’s not allowed. So, I had a field day, raising objections here and there, and the judge was letting me raise them, even though she didn’t sustain all of them. It was fun, throwing him off balance like that!” Chinwe giggles. It is evident that she is having fun with this case.
“Oh Lord!” I laugh. “No wonder he was so pissed!”
“That wasn’t all oh! When it was time for me to cross examine, he was not allowed to raise any objections either, as he was still in the witness box. So, I asked him all the questions that I deemed fit, without anyone stopping me. Mehn! It was fun!”
“Heu! See what you did to somebody’s father! How do you intend to make heaven like this?”
“Na him do himself! Call counsel, o ju! Ngwanu!”
“Well, good riddance! He deserved everything he got from you in court. Tomorrow, he’ll be wiser.”
“If he wants oh! He’s every prosecutor’s dream defendant, biko!”
“Ada, are you home?” a vaguely familiar male voice asks me over the phone later in the day.
“Yes, who is this?” I answer, taking the phone from my ear and squinting at the number on the screen. I do not recognize it.
“I’m coming to your house in the next ten minutes,” my caller says and ends the call.
Hian! Who is this now? I wonder out loud, while redialing the number. It rings out without any answer.
I promptly call Samuel, our gateman, and ask him not to let anyone in without telling me first.
Eight minutes later, the number calls back.
“Who is this?” I say upon picking up.
“Your gateman doesn’t want to let me in,” the man complains.
“Who are you?” I ask again, feeling my irritation bloom.
“Ahn-ahn! It’s me now, it’s –”
“Ebuka!” I say, instantly recognizing the voice. “Ebuka, when did you come back? Wait, let me ask the gateman to open the gate for you.” I end the call and move to the verandah. “Samuel!” I call. “Please, let the man at the gate in.”
“I’m back for good, until I figure out why Chinwe is refusing my proposal or she agrees to it, whichever comes first,” Ebuka is saying several moments after he walked into my living room.
Gabby is focused on the television and there is an open bottle of Coke on the stool next to Ebuka. My husband has been out with Ifeanyi since after lunch.
“Hmm! What about your job?” I ask.
“Well, some things are more important. In the few weeks that I went back to the States, I couldn’t really concentrate on my work. I had to resign so that it doesn’t mar my references.”
I shake my head, slightly dismayed at the sacrifices he is making for my friend who doesn’t seem too keen on him. I stare at him; he is a good looking, capable young man who seems very much into Chinwe. Why she is throwing him away is what I will never understand. When it comes to the issue of their relationship, I am secretly on Ebuka’s side, a fact I think he has realized and is capitalizing on every chance he gets.
“Have you called her then?” I ask.
“No. I’ll call her later. I came here straight from dropping my bags in my hotel room, to see if you can help me talk to her.”
I recoil from his words. I still feel scorched by the heat of Chinwe’s resentment the last time I got myself involved in their matter. “Mba oh!” I object. “The one I tried to talk the other time, she hasn’t finished forgiving me sef! Talk to her yourself. It’s better.”
“Ok. Well, I’ll go now.” He rises from the seat. “I’ll go back to my hotel, rest a little bit, and then call her.”
“Alright,” I say as I walk with him to the front door, mentally crossing my fingers and hoping Chinwe will come around.
Written by Adaku