“SWAYED IN THE BREEZE”
©️Ife Grace Dada
This is my prayer request for a husband: A tall, dark-skinned, broad-shouldered man who is a medical doctor.
I stumbled on Lanre along the hospital’s corridor one afternoon on my way out of my uncle’s consulting room. That day, I knew with all assurance that I had met my man. Surprisingly, the fever disappeared too. Weeks later when I and Lanre would court, I’ll discover the extra features, the things I liked but I didn’t pray for, the toppings on my strawberry ice cream. I would come to know the dark piercing intelligent eyes, the soothing sound of his voice and the strong arms that made me feel safe when we hugged.
“So what do you do?” Lanre asked. I had returned back to the hospital some weeks later and pleaded with the nurse to drop my file on Lanre’s table.
Lanre’s eyes bored into my soul as he waited for my response. My heart fluttered.
What was the question again?
“P-Pardon?” I stuttered.
“I mean where do you work?”
“You know what? Why don’t we talk over a drink tomorrow?”
” Are you really feeling feverish?”
I smiled. “I’m fine now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I stood up and walked out.
The day I accepted Lanre’s proposal, I walked into the bungalow where I managed Shade’s catering business wondering if I had made the right decision. There was fear mixed with excitement, the fear taking the larger portion. What was it like to spend the rest of your life with a man?
I turned. Melissa was standing at the entrance to Shade’s office. Even though my sister hadn’t been to work in a year, I had effectively managed the business far beyond her expectation.
“Where is my apron?” I asked.
“Over there.” Melissa said, pointing at a corner of the office. My white apron was neatly folded on a chair.
“Has any order come in yet?”
“Yes. Three wedding cake orders. Mrs Akpan’s daughter has her convocation fixed for next week and she wants us to handle the cake and the snacks.”
“Good. Let’s get to work. Please tell Rita to leave the counter and join me in the kitchen. Lara should be able to handle sales there.”
“I accepted Lanre’s proposal today.” I said quietly
Melissa stared at me. I couldn’t tell if she was excited at the news. Even though we were close friends, I have never been able to decipher the hidden expressions behind her face.
“Nice.” Melissa said finally.
My eyes caught a small beautifully decorated wooden basket on the table. Whatever was inside the basket was protected by little red roses neatly arranged on the surface.
Not again, I uttered, frowning.
I picked it up, pushed Melissa aside and marched to the kitchen.
“Didn’t I instruct all of you not to accept any package from DNL courier?” I barked. The girls, covered in flour stared at me. ” For God’s sake, I don’t know the guy sending these things and I’m tired of returning it back day after day. Do you know that I pay to return these packages every time they get to my table?
“Yemi brought it.”
I turned to face Melissa. “Which Yemi?”
“Your secondary school sweetheart. Or have you’ve forgotten how he chased you from JSS 3 till you graduated? That guy doesn’t look like he will give up on you so soon.”
“This is unbelievable.” I said and marched out of the kitchen.
Yemi’s black Jeep was parked in front the building that evening as I stepped out, tired and weak. He bounced towards me, smiling. His face- handsome and with striking features- clearly belied his brown stained teeth.
“My beautiful Princess.”
I hissed. “Yemi, I don’t have time for your gibberish today.”
He held my hands. “Let me take you home.”
I pulled away from his grasp. “I’ll take a taxi.”
He grabbed my hands again and swung them playfully. “At least for old time sake.”
He led me to his car and as I reclined against the seat silently muttering some ‘thank you’ words to the inventor of the air conditioner, my eyes caught a pack of cigarettes at the rear seat. I shook my head as I remembered how Yemi had swore some days ago that he had stop smoking because of me.
I pulled the seat backwards and settled into a more comfortable position. Yemi began his rants about how badly he loved me and how he believes we will eventually get married. I slept off mid-way through the talk.
A hand tapped me. I turned, my eyes heavy. Then I faced the other side and returned back to sleep. When I finally woke up, it was dark. I sat up. The car was still running. Yemi was playing candy crush on his tablet while music played softly slow from the car’s stereo.
“You must have been really tired.”
“What’s the time?” I asked.
“Some minutes past 8p.m.” he replied.
I got down from the car. “Thanks for the ride.”
“You want me to pick you up in the morning?”
I shook my head. “No thanks.”
The moment I stepped into the house and heard Deaconess Patience’s voice, I wanted to run out.
“I have been waiting for you.” The deaconess said, her voice ringing through the house. I walked towards the living room just as my mother stood up.
“I should set dinner.” My mum said and left me to the mercies of the abrasive woman.
I sat down. Deaconess Patience adjusted her wrapper and moved close to me, taking the exact position of a woman ready for a hot gossip.
“What’s going on between you and Felix?”
I shook my head. Now I wished I was still asleep in Yemi’s car.
“Stop that!” The deaconess shouted. She moved closer again.” I am a woman like you. I know when something fishy is going on.”
I frowned. What’s this woman saying?
“Listen to me. I and your mother have been friends before you were born. In fact the day, you arrived planet earth, I was there with Felix. Just so you would know, he cried that he wanted to carry you that day. When I placed you gently on his laps, he giggled excitedly.”
Now I was getting irritated.
“So tell me, why don’t you want to marry my son?” I didn’t respond. “Is it because he doesn’t have a car yet?”
“Listen to me. When your father and mother got married, They had only one mattress and few pots. I remember how your mother’s stove would bring out pure yellow flames and all her pots became as black as charcoal. After cooking, she had to use water to quench the fire because the stove knob would not turn. She will blow and blow the fire away until her eyes becomes red. But look at them today.”
“Patience, food is ready.” My mother called out.
Thank God, I muttered silently.
The deaconess nodded at my mother and then faced me again. “I want you to think about all I have said. I know my son. He will take care of you very well. Don’t despise the days of little beginning.”
I entered my room slowly, thinking of James, Chuks and Jerry. They would need an answer to their proposal soon. My phone vibrated. I rummaged through the bag for my phone. It was Pastor Ajayi, the short pot-bellied widower who hadn’t stopped calling me since the day he proposed.
I shall give all of them an answer tomorrow. I have an answer.
Shade burst out of the bathroom holding a wet and crying David . I took the six month old baby from her and began to play with him.
“You won’t believe that Deaconess Patience desperately wants me to marry her son.” I said as I sorted out David’s clothes.
Shade didn’t respond. I glanced at her. I wanted my cheerful sister back. Ever since Jide jilted her after getting her pregnant, she had remained in a melancholic and gloomy state.
“I accepted Lanre’s proposal today.” I continued.
Shade spun around and faced me. Her face was hot with rage. She grabbed her baby from my hands.
“I’m returning back to work tomorrow. I want you to clear out your things from my office.” Shade said, her voice trembling.
She marched out of the room, the door bang shut behind her.
I stared at the door, stunned.
“SWAYED IN THE BREEZE”
©️Ife Grace Dada
“My answer is No.”
I gaped at James.
“You can’t just give me a No without a reason. Am I not good enough for you?”
“I’m in a relationship. That’s all I can say.”
James shook his head. “Before I made my proposal, I asked if you were engaged, You said No. What happened between the day I proposed and now. Did another guy more satisfying than I am suddenly showed up out of the blues?” James said, loudly.
“You are shouting.” I said, looking around.
James barked louder. “So all those evenings that I took you out. The pizza I got you every weekend. The pop corn-”
“Do you want me to return them?” I said sharply. “When we became friends, I defined our friendship. I told you never to try to get me anything if it’s going to be from an ulterior motive. Come to think of it. You are not even ashamed of yourself. Pizza and pop corn is what you are crying about. So the guys who gave me perfumes and designer wristwatches should hit their heads on the wall because Funmi refused to say Yes to their proposals. You irritate me.” I stood up and walked out of the restaurant.
I was still angry when I entered Shade’s Catering Home. Chuks was waiting for me at the corridor and as I led him into Shade’s office, I narrated my experience with James. Chuks remained silent as he picked up my laptop and began to make the installations.
“What are you doing here?”
I raised my head to find my sister standing akimbo at the entrance. I didn’t respond.
“What are you doing in my office?”
“Shade, I’m not in the best of moods right now. Just go away.”
Shade rushed in and closed my laptop hard. Chuks looked at her, shocked.
“Are you out of your mind?” I said, fuming.
“Didn’t I tell you not to come here again?” Shade said. “Get out of my office.”
I grabbed my laptop from the table. “Is it my fault that Jide left you? For goodness sake, Are you the first person to get pregnant out of wedlock?”
Shade marched towards me. She raised her hand.
“Go ahead. Slap me.”
She returned her hand to her side. “Get out and never come back here.
For the next three months, Shade didn’t talk to me even though we shared the same room. She wouldn’t allow me touch David and my ‘good morning’ was always met with silence. We-I and mum- pleaded severally but Shade didn’t bulge. I became depressed coupled with with the fact that I was getting uncomfortable in my relationship with Lanre. The recent discoveries scared the hell out of me. I was faced with a proud and stubborn African man who had no feelings whatever. There were nights when I would cry my eyes out as I remembered his sneers when what I craved for were his encouraging words. I remembered his words, those words that bit me like a scorpion would do its victim.
“You are stupid and useless” Lanre said to me one morning as we drove out of his friend’s apartment. Ken had invited him for lunch and had specifically requested I came along. It was a wonderful time. I had been engaged in a fine debate with three of Lanre’s friends over what a wife’s responsibility in the home should be. We have gone back and forth, sharing ideas, disagreeing, agreeing, and laughing at stories, jokes, But as I took a brief glance at Lanre, I saw his face was blank and immediately I knew I was in trouble.
“How could you allow your mouth roll anyhow in the midst of men? Don’t you have the courtesy to be quiet?”
“Because I’ve never been intimidated in the presence of men. Wait a minute, the intelligent discussion that I had with your friends upsets you? ”
“Didn’t you see Tobi’s wife or Ken’s fiancee? Can’t you see how properly they behaved?” He hit his hand on the steering. “See, If you marry me, you must do everything I say. You will add ‘sir’ to every statement you make and you will kneel to greet me every morning. I am not going to enter the kitchen to help with your chores. And you will wash my clothes, with your hands. So all that rubbish you were saying there, they have no place in our home. Nonsense.”
I sat there, my eyes glistening with tears.
He muttered as he drove into Farida shopping mall.”All these ladies that think they can take over from men. Look, I will clip your wings. I will show you that I am the true son of a Yoruba man.”
He parked. “I want to pick up some things for my mother. Think about all I have said and have sense again. Because now, your brain is dead.”
I didn’t take my eyes away from him until he stepped into the mall. Why was I still clinging to him? Was love worth sacrificing my happiness? Would I be able to endure his insults the day I become his wife? I redirected my thoughts to the times he would wrap his hands round my waist and speak softly to my ears. The evenings when we talked and laughed and my heart swelled with love.
A phone vibrated. It was Lanre’s phone. I picked it up and looked at the number. I battled between swiping to the green or the red.
A lady’s voice. A nut flew out of my head.
“Hello.” I whispered, trying so hard to feign Lanre’s voice.
“Hope we are still meeting at the hotel tomorrow.”
I stopped. The voice was familiar. My heart beat thumped.
“Who is this please” I whispered again.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t save my number. Why are you whispering? Is my sister there?
” Shade.” I called softly.
“Yes, it’s me.”
I’m at a meeting now.” I said between clenched teeth
“Don’t forget the condoms.” She giggled. “Tomorrow night, I’m going to give it to you hotter than the last time.”
Lanre opened the door and entered the car. Quietly, I handed over the phone to him and stepped out of the car without uttering a word.
Published By: Ifeoluwa ORISAKAHUNSI