They sat outside the apartment eating from a plate of roasted corn and boiled pear. It was weekend and they had decided to stay at home, rather than go out. She enjoyed spending time with him, be it in the office, at home or anywhere else. Her wish would finally come through when he proposed and they got married. It would be the best day of her life. Her smile thinned into a frown when she noticed the person coming in through the gate. She turned to look at him and his excited expression made her feel worse. She hoped she wouldn’t have to compete for his attention when they tied the knot. Why does his best friend have to be a girl? How many guys out there had girls as their closest friends?
“Hello lover birds,” Bina waved at them and settled on the long bench beside him.
“Look who the cat dragged out of the bin,” Tjay drawled.
She hit him on the shoulder.
“Ouch! Don’t you know it’s not lady-like to punch people?” he eyed her.
Bina rolled her eyes.
“I am serious,” he feigned been hurt.
“Guess what?” her coffee brown eyes sparkled in delight.
“What?” his full attention was directed at her.
She stretched out her left hand. The gold ring on the third finger glittered.
“Wow!” Adiza felt a pang of jealousy. If Tjay was wealthy, he would be able to purchase a ring as lovely as Bina’s own, but, he wasn’t. Nevertheless, he was a hardworking young man who had a bright future.
He pressed his lips together and stilled the anguish he felt within. It was high time he dealt with his feelings for her. Even if he had to relocate to another part of the country, he would do it.
“Eru proposed last night,” she bit at her bottom lip.
“Hmm… don’t you think you guys are rushing it?” he stared at the ring in contempt.
She hit him on the shoulder again.
“Hey! Stop that,” he rubbed his shoulder. If they were alone, he would have resorted into tickling Bina until she begged for mercy, but he doubted if his girlfriend would condone their act of play. He would never understand why women see other women as threats.
Adiza tried to overlook their playful attitude, but couldn’t. Why wasn’t he as free with her as he was with his childhood friend? Maybe because he had known Bina for more than a decade, she reasoned.
“I am meeting his people this weekend,” Bina grinned from ear to ear.
“Nice,” he wanted to be happy for her, but, he couldn’t force it. His heart was bleeding that very moment. Was he really going to lose her? Why didn’t he open up to her sooner? He had been such a fool.
“Congratulations,” Adiza smiled at her.
“Thanks,” she beamed and got up, “I have to go; I have an errand to run.
“Okay, let me see you off,” he got to his feet.
“See you later,” Bina waved at Adiza and turned to leave.
“I will be right back,” he winked at his girlfriend and followed his childhood friend out of the compound.
Adiza sighed and folded her arms across her chest. The sooner Bina got married the better for them all. She didn’t like the idea of sharing her man with another woman.
The Ogheneochuko family were excited to meet their only son’s fiancée. She was beautiful, educated and from a well known family. They were glad that he had chosen well.
Bina was flattered by their attention. It was good to know that she would be getting married into a good family.
Eru was happy that his family had grown fond of his fiancee. They had dinner the night they arrived, talked about preparations for the wedding and turned in for the night.
Bina woke up early that Saturday morning and found her way to the kitchen. She made herself a mug of tea and toast. She ate, left the used cup, plate, toaster and cutleries in the kitchen and returned to her room.
Hours later, while they all had breakfast, Mrs. Ogheneochuko asked if she had been in the kitchen that morning and she admitted it.
Ejiro, Eru’s younger sister, the only girl in the family and also the last child of their parents, was around with her husband, Omoefe and her children.
Ejiro advised Bina, “Your maid or house help might not always be around to clean up after you. As a woman, you need to take charge of your home.”
“Exactly,” her mother added, “You need to be a good home maker.”
Her husband nodded in affirmative.
Eru felt very ashamed. All had gone well since they arrived. He hoped that his fiancée wouldn’t spoil the good rapport she had with his family with her carelessness.
Bina pushed her plate away and looked from mother to daughter, “Is it because I left that cup and plate in the sink?”
“That is how it always starts,” Ejiro waved a finger at her as if she was a naughty child.
“From a few dirty plates to a whole messed up kitchen,” Mrs. Ogheneochuko added.
Bina gave a shake of head; she felt that her fiance’s mother and sister had ganged up against her, “Wow… just one cup and one plate.”
“Will you just apologize and accept your mistake?” Eru was beginning to feel irritable.
She turned to him. She felt upset that he had taken sides with his family instead of supporting her and coming to her aid, “Apologize? For what now?”
Eru pushed his half-eaten plate of food away. His appetite had flown out of the window, “I want you to apologize for your behaviour this minute!” If she apologized, he believed that his family will forgive her and overlook what she had done.
They all stared at her like a disobedient child.
Bina hissed and clapped her hands together, “I have seen wonders in this life. Why are you making a mountain out of a mole hill?”
Ejiro hissed and directed her sad gaze at her brother, “Is this the kind of woman you want to marry? You are on a very long thing.”
His annoyance increased. He folded his arms across his chest. He would make her apologize to his family whether she liked it or not. He had thought that she could change, but, it seemed that she was beyond help.
“Someone who refuses to listen to you,” his father shook his head, “Major disrespect.”
Eru felt saddened that his father was also disappointed, he turned to his fiancée, “Bina, this is more than leaving a few plates in the kitchen.”
“It isn’t. Your mum and sister are just creating an unnecessary scene.”
Ejiro pushed her chair backwards and got up, “Look at this… this thing. How dare you speak to us this way? Don’t you have manners at all?”
Omoefe, her husband, squeezed her by the hand.
“Honey, let me put her in her place. She is all beauty and no brains. She lacks manners, decorum and etiquette,” Ejiro flared.
Bina started to laugh.
“I want you to apologize to my entire family this minute,” Eru glared at her. What he feared had eventually materialized.
She stared at him angrily, “I will do no such thing. I cannot believe that you are dancing to their tune.”
“If you won’t apologize to them, then you are not ready to get married,” he lashed out.
Her eyes widened in astonishment, “What do you mean?” she whispered.
“I don’t think I want to be married to someone who doesn’t listen to me. Someone who speaks to my family, people I have known all my life… anyhow. It is unacceptable,” his eyes turned red.
Ejro smiled and sat back on her chair. She was glad that her brother had taken control of the situation.
Bina shook her head and tried to hold back the tears threatening to spill all over her face.
“Please give me back my ring,” he stretched out his hand and avoided looking at her.
She opened her mouth and closed it. She looked at them all, then back at him. It was the seventh time someone she was planning to marry would break up with her. Was she cursed or something?
“Give me my ring,” he reached out for her left hand and slipped the gold ring off her finger, “You don’t deserve this,” he hissed.
Tears streamed all over her face. She staggered to her feet, walked out of the dining room and found her way back to the guest room. She packed her things and headed out. The security guard allowed her out of the compound. She stood at the gate and sighed. How was she going to get home?
The ringing of his phone woke him up. He opened his eyes and found Adiza sleeping beside him. She came into his apartment that morning and found him still in bed. She teased him, calling him ‘lazy-bones’, but now, she had also fallen asleep. He smiled and reached out for his phone which was on the rugged floor. He noticed that he had several missed calls from his childhood friend. Wasn’t she supposed to be with her fiancé and his family? He sat up and picked the call.
“Tjay… I have been trying to reach you,” she sounded exasperated.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” she sounded like she had been crying.
“What is it?” his heart missed a beat.
“Please, come and get me.”
“Where are you?”
“Somewhere in Ikorodu.”
“Why don’t you take a cab home?”
“I need you.”
He scratched a spot on his scalp, “Where is your fiancé?”
“He is with… he has called off the whole thing,” she sobbed.
“Ah-han! What happened?” he became worried.
Adiza woke up and turned on her side.
“Please come and pick me up.”
“Okay, okay, text me your exact location.”
“Thank you,” she sounded relieved.
He hung up and sighed. He couldn’t imagine what might have gone wrong. He felt sorry for her.
“Who was that?”
He turned around and found her seated on the bed, “It is Bina. I need to pick her up at Ikorodu.”
“Why?” she frowned.
He got down from the bed.
“Why can’t she get a cab or something?” she observed him.
“She is in no condition to come home alone,” he opened his wardrobe.
“What does that mean?” her eyes drilled into his bare back.
“Eru called off the wedding,” he belted his brown Chinos trousers.
“And so?” she cared less. She wasn’t happy that her boyfriend had to be dragged into his childhood friend’s mess.
Her response caught him off guard. He glanced back at her in surprise.
“Is this how you will continue to be at her beck and call? What happens when we get married?”
He blinked and began to laugh. Women and their vivid imaginations never ceased to amuse him.
“This is not funny. I am beginning to think that there is more to this your so called alliance with her.”
He stopped laughing and placed both hands on his hips, “Haba Adiza.”
“Why should it be you all the time? Why can’t she call someone else?”
He picked up the car keys on the table.
“Don’t go,” she pleaded. She had thought they would spend the weekend together.
“I have to. She needs me,” he tried to make her see reasons.
She got down from the bed, “I need you too.”
“Come on Adiza. You know that you have me one hundred percent.”
She closed the gap between them, “Then stay with me, you can call one of those cab drivers to pick her up and take her home.”
He sighed heavily, torn between pleasing his girlfriend and helping his friend, “I will be back soon,” he pecked her on the forehead and headed out.
She bit at her lower lip. Was it possible that her man had feelings for his friend? If he does, what does he feel for her? Was it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?
Bina started to cry again when she saw Tjay’s car. He helped her with her bags and they got into the car.
“What happened?” he didn’t like the way he saw her. Her eyes were red, her face was red and she looked like her whole world had ended.
“He chose his family over me. He collected his ring,” she sobbed, “Tjay, I think there is something wrong with me. All the men that proposed to me always leave me, why, why Tjay?”
He pulled her close in a hug, “It is going to be all right.”
“I don’t have anyone. I am all alone in this world,” she sounded distressed.
“No, you are not. You have Granny and of course, you have me.”
She stopped crying. He was right. He had stood beside her despite all odds, “Thank you for always been there for me.”
“You are welcome,” he released her and started the car.
Lolly was taken by surprise when Tjay brought her grand-daughter home. Bina narrated what happened at the Ogheneochuko’s place. She wished she could ease the the young girl’s pain.
Tjay tidied Bina’s room and watched her fall asleep. She held unto his hand and refused to let go. His girl friend called several times, but, he couldn’t pick her call.
Lolly watched him in amazement. She had always sensed that the boy had deep feelings for her grand-daughter. His actions over the years confirmed what she thought.
Adiza stood outside the gate and kept on knocking. It was six in the evening and she had not seen her boyfriend. He refused to pick her calls or reply her text messages. If she find him in the Udeme’s place, he would have a lot of explaining to do.
The security guard opened the gate and allowed her in. Her anger intensified when she saw Tjay’s car parked at a corner. She marched into the house and sat in the living room. The housekeeper offered her a drink but she refused it. A few minutes later, Tjay walked in.
“Babe, what are you doing here?” he sat beside her.
“I should be asking you that,” she looked him up and down.
His puzzled gaze focused on her frowning face.
“You left home this morning and you didn’t even bother to call.”
He had been distracted, he had thought of calling her that morning, but, it skipped his mind, “Can we talk about this later?”
“No!” she flared.
He seized her up. What was wrong with her? Why was she so angry? If she was here to pick a fight with him, her timing was totally wrong. He took her by the hand and led her out of the house. He didn’t want anyone to hear them arguing.
“Are you okay?” he looked deep into her eyes.
She placed a hand on her hip, “Are you in love with Bina?”
He crossed his arms and stared back at her, “You know I care a lot about her. She is my childhood friend.”
She shook her head, “Do you love her or not?” her heart lurched as she waited for his response.
“What are you driving at?” he tried to avoid her question.
“There is something going on between you two,” she pointed an accusing finger at him.
He chuckled, “You are imagining things,” he tried to make light of the situation.
“No! I am not,” she eyed him.
He looked at her closely. He had never seen her that upset. If she had discerned how he felt about Bina, then he didn’t do a good job hiding it.
“You are in love with her. I have eyes… I see things, I hear things,” she shot him a cold stare.
He pressed his lips together. He didn’t know what to tell her.
“Why did you ask me out in the first place?” she felt frustrated. She couldn’t believe that she had been dating someone who was in love with
“Let me finish!” she raised a hand, her cold eyes bored into his sober ones.
He remained silent and just watched her.
“I can’t do this anymore. I cannot be in a relationship with someone who loves someone else.”
Seeing her hurt made him feel pained. Dating her had soothed his aching heart. Maybe he shouldn’t have started something he couldn’t finish.
He had been lying to himself. He thought he would be able to get over Bina, date then marry someone else, but, his heart remained hers completely. He had made a big mistake.
He stepped forward, “I am so sorry.”
“Keep your sorry to yourself,” her disdainful look seized him up.
“Please forgive me,” he clasped his fingers together.
Her hazel eyes shone with unshed tears, “Goodbye Tjay,” she turned around and sauntered away.
“Adiza!” he called out to her, but she kept on walking.
…To be continued