‘Adeyeni, eni a wifun oba je ko gbo o’, Mrs BabaOye followed her fleeing son into the kitchen that hot noon. She’d brought up the issue of his relationship with Folorunsho for the umpteenth time that day and he’d excused himself to get some drinking water, a move she understood was a dodging tactic. He said nothing and went straight to the plate rack where he got a cup and went onto get a bottle of water from the refridgerator.
‘Exactly what do you think you’re playing at?’ She asked as he drank from the bottle, dropping the cup on the kitchen table against which he now leaned to face his mother.
‘I’m just going to pretend I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said as calmly as possible.
‘Oyinbo ni ko ma so nibeyen,’ she mocked his American accent. ‘May the stream from which you ought to drink not flow past you.’
‘Calling some fake girlfriend before everyone so that-‘
‘Mum! I was talking to Martha? You know Martha? She’s my friend?’
‘Mi o mo fun e o’
‘And I never said girlfriend? Person no fit make call in peace again eh?’
He went to the trash can and dropped the empty bottle in it.
‘I’m only just saying, if you love Folorunsho, tell her,’ his mother insisted, following him with her eyes. ‘Be a man and stop this hide and seek.’
‘Mum!’ He gave off a scornful laugh. ‘You should really stop being ridiculous, really?’
He came back to her.
‘Am I the one being ridiculous? Ko ro gbau lenu e.’
‘Wo ibe ni ko joko si ti omo fi ma marry mo e lowo.’
‘Who cares!’
‘Oh really? You don’t care? Let’s see about that then’
‘Mum, Folusho is my sister and everybody knows that-’
‘Maybe you’ve tried hard to make everybody see it that way but I don’t. And neither does your sister, and neither will your father anymore because I will-
‘Mum you won’t do a thing.’
‘Oh yes I will. You two have been at this game for so long I think it’s time you stopped, just own up to your feelings and-‘
‘Mum. There are no feelings. Folusho is my sister’
He scoffed.
‘So you have no feelings for her?’
‘Just answer the question’
‘Mum you’re prying-‘
‘You’re prying into my private affairs and I don’t like it.’
‘Adeyeni,’ she spoke calmly now, and slowly too, ‘if you love a girl, it is your duty as a man to let her know so you don’t lose her to someone else and wallow in eternal regret. Perhaps I never told you, your father asked me to marry him the very day we met.’
Yeni looked at her rather surprised.
‘Yes, I was about eighteen then and waiting to be admitted into college, he was already in college, in his third year, we met at a friend’s birthday party. We were at the same table and we’d all been introduced and were having a great time. It was time to dance and everyone left but us so we started talking. Out of the blues he just told me how much he liked me already and that he’d like to marry me and then he went on to tell me his future plans of finishing school, getting a job and settling down and asked if I could wait for him…’
‘He didn’t even care to know if you felt the same way about him?’
‘Of course he did but then he said he knew it all could be a bit overwhelming for me at that point so he wanted me to think about it and see if we could work things out. He took my address and my friend’s you know in case I tried to disappear,’ she giggled and continued, ‘there was no phone then, and four years later we were married.’
‘I see.’
‘So, there’s nothing wrong with securing your position in her heart even if you both are not ready to get married.’
‘I don’t know about that, he grunted.’
‘I know that girl loves you, I can tell. But I can also tell you’ve successfully confused her. She probably isn’t sure in what light to view you or what to hold you as. Today you’re a doting friend with an ear for all her worries, tomorrow you’re standing aloof as if all that matters is fulfilling your fraternal responsibilities. You’re complicating issues Yeni. When you first met her, you were all so over her we all were thinking you’d pop the question soon enough and then- you just let everything fizzle out?’
‘She’s like a part of the family already.’
‘Of course she is but not by blood? Who brought her into this family in the first place? Aren’t you the one? I see you all the time, the way you go about, repressing your feelings, acting like all is well, trying to be the good brother- you’re just making things difficult. How long do you think you can keep up with this for?’
He folded his arms thoughtfully, looking into space.
‘Adeyeni,’ She put a hand on his shoulder, ‘ I know you’re a very rational person and you would put the happiness of others before yours any day but I can see happiness in this for you both. I just don’t want you to become that bitter, miserable man who couldn’t own up to his feelings until it was too late. Look at your uncle Bayo?’
‘Everyone is confused, we don’t know what you guys are doing anymore. The cat and rat game you’ve been playing in recent times is not even helping matters.’
‘We’ve not been playing any –‘
‘And you’re aging fast too, look at you,’ she smiled and poked his beard-
‘Stop mum’
He brushed off her hand
‘Be there getting angry,’ she prodded, ‘see as you shrink face like correct shaki’
‘Mummy.’ Someone interrupted them. Folusho.
‘Oh, you’re here,’ she said to him. ‘I’m leaving now ma, bye bye ma, she turned to go’
‘No, he’ll take you.’ She stopped her.
‘Mum?’ He shot her a protesting glance.
‘Right to the door of your hostel,’ she ignored him. ‘Come on now, she nudged him gently, go, go, go.’ She followed them into the living room and bade them farewell after giving Folusho some money.
The ride back to school was mostly silent, during which time Yeni thought about the things his mother had said. He’d first met Folorunsho about five years earlier. He’d just returned to the country after a long study and work stint in the US. He’d gone down to the village with a friend to attend his father’s coronation as a chieftain in their village and their car had broke down. It happened that they needed water and Folorunsho and her friend happened to be returning from a public bore hole facility where they’d gone to get potable water. They’d asked them for water and she’d stopped to help against her friend’s advice, the latter hurrying away for fear they might be head hunters. On their insistence, they’d helped her back home, chit chatting on the way and thus, their friendship had started. It had blossomed over the last five years during which she’d come to the city where he’d resettled, to study Microbiology at the Federal University in the heart of the metropolis. She often went over to his place which was more like a family house where his banker sibling lived with him and where his parents stayed whenever they were in town. His parents had relocated to their country home upon his father becoming a chief- they both had successful businesses from which they could afford to go into a pseudo retirement and enjoy old age.
Everyone accepted Folorunsho as part of the family, in fact she’d brought the two families, hers and the BabaOyes into a new found friendship and they all treated her like a daughter and sister.
Yeni on the other hand tried his best to mask his feelings and play the self conferred role of a big brother to her. He’d check on her in school, send her money, they’d hang out and attend events and functions together sometimes; and each time it appeared he was on the verge of owning up to how he felt about her, he simply stepped back or disconnected for a while. If Folusho, as she was fondly called by all and sundry- the verbally lazy folks as she would say- felt or thought he had any feelings or affections for her, she played along, the game of pretence and repression.
Just as his mother had said, Yeni drove her right to the front of her on campus hostel residence.
‘Thank you,’ she smiled when he’d stopped.
‘Say me well to everyone.’
He nodded with a forced smile. She opened the door.
‘Wait,’ he said hesitantly
‘What?’ She turned. He looked straight ahead.
‘I think I need to… need to say something quickly and I need to know what you think or how you feel about it,’ he dragged each word, turning slowly to her.
‘Okay,’ she payed him full attention.
‘Can you look away? Please. Your stare’s a bit discomfitting.’
‘Okay,’ she sniggered and complied, ‘whatever this is about.’
‘First, I’m not angry about the Felix episode, at all. I mean, I was but hey, who anger epp?’
Felix had been her on and off boyfriend for a while, until he was caught dealing drugs, almost implicating her in the process.
‘Really?’ She touched her chest in mock relief. ‘That’s so relieving.’
‘You have a right to do whatever you want and be with whoever you want, you’re an adult after all.’
‘I know right?’
‘Stop doing that, please,’ he sounded a bit miffed, his breaths heavy and uncalculated.
‘Really? I should stop doing what? She looked him square in the eye, ‘It’s been like a month or how many weeks? And you’re telling me you’re not angry? After all the pleadings? A month old grudge?’
‘I wasn’t keeping a grudge’
‘Oh yeah?’
‘You went out with a drug dealer?’
‘So what? I apologized. I didn’t know he was a drug dealer did I? He was an high school senior and friend? She defended and went on, and if you hadn’t chickened out of our movie seeing plans that night would I have considered his invite? Have I ever, to the best of your knowledge, gone to an all night party outside school before? Ever? And you went on treating me like a piece of shit for just that one mistake?’
‘I didn’t treat you like-‘
‘You know what? Just forget it.’
She resigned.
‘I’m just going to go,’ she turned.
‘Wait,’ he took hold of her hand and she turned to look at him, bewildered.
‘Sorry,’ he let go. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Yeni? ‘
He was looking away now, running his fingers over his head and fidgeting with the steering wheel with the other.
‘What’s come over you?’
‘Nothing. Look I’m sorry,’ he turned to her again. ‘It’s just, all these, it’s so confusing and getting increasingly difficult to just watch and pretend day after day like everything is fine when it’s not. I mean I can’t even do one thing without thinking about you and it’s so frustrating because – you’re just all over the place, all over me and- I don’t know what to do or if I should just watch and let you go with another man… And I’m here dying to tell you how much I love you and how much you mean to me and how-
‘Wow, wow, wow, wait up, she stopped him. Then turned a full sarcastic stare on him for almost a minute. She clapped her hands three times.
‘Really? Finally? And this is the best you could do?’
‘What? He was rather confused by her reaction. He looked at her like an eager dog waiting for a drop from its master’s table.
‘I feel insulted,’ she spat.
‘So this is it? All the attitude? And there I was thinking oh, I messed up big time. I should have known better than go out with a drug dealer, maybe he’s tired he’s always coming to my rescue? I should really be more careful?… This is it?’
‘O get ara e at all! Oniranu!’ She grabbed her bag and got out of the car.
‘Alainikanse! She slammed the door.


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