Read the previous part here: http://ifekleva.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/marriage-palava/
The rest of the week seemed to fly past her. Relatives, friends and well-wishers walked in and out of their family house in Owerri. Despite the gloomy atmosphere, some local folks still got a chance to pass cheap gossip. Top on their discussion was about how the deceased’s firstborn child had not settled down talk less of have an issue.
‘Maybe he cursed her during his lifetime.’ One young lady said to her friend as they walked out of the family compound, generally referred to as Mazi Chike’s compound by members of the community.
‘What I heard is that she married, but she did not bear any children so the husband sent her away. Poor girl!’ her friend replied.
‘Chi moo…’ the gossip girl replied as she grabbed her breasts and shook her head from side to side.
Then the gossips typically twisted their upper lip in a certain manner that feigned pity and went on to talk about some other pressing issues.
Ada could not be bothered. The loss of her father was enough pain already, she wasn’t about to include the silent ridiculous whispers of rumor mongers.
The date for the funeral soon arrived. As the church service came to a close, Chinwe, alongside two other men, walked towards Adaobi, who was still dabbing her swollen eyes with a white handkerchief.
‘Ada, I’m so sorry.’ Chinwe said solemnly as she hugged her friend of many years.
‘Wow! You came!’ she hugged her back and sniffed.
‘Ofcourse I did. Your dad was dear to me too.’ She paused and looked back at the two men behind her.’ Look, I came with my husband, Idris.’
‘I’m really sorry about your loss, Ada. ‘ Idris quickly said as he shook hands with Ada.
‘It’s okay. Thanks for making it. I really appreciate.’
The other man seemed quite reserved. He simply raised a hand and bowed courteously from where he was, saying all he had to say by that simple gesture. Ada bowed back in response. She figured he must be Idris’ friend, and just then Chinwe introduced him, confirming her thoughts.
The reception followed soon afterwards. The compound was filled to overflowing by the known and the unknown. Palm wine flowed like streams of water, people ate to their fill. The poor widow, Ada’s mother, sat in her room alone as was demanded by tradition and nursed her mourning heart in silence. Ada and her sisters littered the living room in different sitting postures as well, it wasn’t right for them to roam around in merriment, seeing they just lost their father. If anyone of them even wanted to, the gossips in the village was enough reason to keep them in check. Some might go ahead to say that the child was the witch who was responsible for the old man’s demise. They weren’t set to take the chance. When the reception was coming to a close, well wishers came in to give the family their best wishes one last time before heading back to their different destinations. Chinwe and hubby, as well as Taiye, the man they came with also came to say hello to the family and left for their hotel. The weekend ended and Ada and her sister Ebuka returned to Lagos. Clara returned to her family, and Amaka returned to the UK, leaving their poor mother to continue her customary mourning.
Having spent two weeks out of the office, there was a pile up of work to be done on Ada’s arrival. She seemed to bury her nose in her pile of work that everything else seemed nonexistent. First was to meet up with deadlines and make up for lost time, but primarily, it was to serve as a distraction from her inner pain. Interestingly, not many people knew about her loss and so there were very few condolences. Ed who hadn’t seen her in a while didn’t know where she had been and didn’t bother to ask, much to her chagrin.
One evening, several weeks later, Ada was about leaving the office for the day when she got a call on her cellphone. The number was a strange one but she picked it nonetheless.
‘Hello!’ she said into the receiver in her pristine European accent, one she usually adopted at work.
‘Hello Ada. How are you?’
‘I’m okay. Who am I speaking with, please’ she said politely.
‘My name is Tai Adegoke. You probably don’t remember me. I came with Idris to your dad’s burial ceremony a few weeks back.’
Ada frowned slightly.
‘I remember you, Taiye. T’was really nice of you to have come.’
‘Of course. You are welcome. So how are you, I’m asking in relation to the unfortunate occurence. I believe you are back on your feet?’
‘I am. Thank you very much. I don’t remember giving you my number though.’ Ada muffled a giggle as she said that, hoping it was audible enough to make the statement sound as polite and harmless as possible. As far as she knew, he was only being nice.
‘Yes. I got it from your friend, Chinwe. I hope I haven’t overstepped any boundaries and gone ahead of myself.’
‘No you haven’t. I appreciate that you’ve cared enough to check on me.’
Chinwe, you have me to answer to oh, you hear.
‘And I hope I’m allowed to call you once in a while.’
‘Well, as long as it doesn’t get uncomfortable, please do.’ She smiled. This was an intelligently polite man.
‘Oho. Thanks then. Have a goodnight miss.’
She got into her car and drove herself home. Later that night, she called Chinwe, thanking her once again for coming for the burial, and demanding to know why she had given a stranger her number.
‘Well, he asked for it. He seemed nice, so you know, I just felt it wouldn’t hurt.’
‘Chinwe, don’t go giving every nice fella my number o, haba! I just hope this isn’t one of your schemes to match make me sha, ‘cause babe, I’m not interested.’
They both laughed it off and went on talking about other things. Chinwe was very good avoiding direct answers; she was a master at the art. Ada knew that quite alright, but then she didn’t want to push things too far and get her hopes up about anyone, and she knew for certain that if Chinwe told her more, she would tell Tai’s motives and prejudge him. If he called her again, then she would know he might be having intentions, but if he didn’t, she wouldn’t be disappointed. As she closed her eyes beneath her duvet, her mind drifted to Eddy, her corporate crush, and then did a quick reminiscence of Tai’s face.
He’s actually cute, though…
Ebuka Amadi had just concluded her passing out parade ceremony. She had worked her service to Lagos for convenience, and had worked in a primary school on the mainland. Being a philosophy graduate, the courses she was eligible to teach were those of the arts and she had done justice to them so much that the principal of the school had offered to retain her to teach and even increase her salary. As tempting as that was, however, she wasn’t settling. Her ultimate plan after service was to move in with her big sister in her small flat at Obalende and have her sister get her a job in any of the top paying companies on the island. As far as she was concerned, her sister was connected enough to help her find her first job. It seemed like a plan.
Tai called Adaobi the following week and made some small talk about his work as a petroleum engineer who really didn’t stay in one place due to the nature of his job. He was at Akwa Ibom on a contract job when his friend Idris had told him he was visiting at Owerri. Since he was on his two-week-off shift, he decided to go say hello to him in Imo, and that was how he found himself at the funeral. He was a widower who could very well relate to the loss of a dear one, hence, he and Ada had a few things to talk about. He had called later that week, and soon, he was calling at least once in two days. Ada found a good friend in him soon and began to feel very comfortable with him in conversation.
At work, Ed was still there somewhere. Ada suspected that he was flirting with her with the way he brushed her hand and looked at her on several occasions. He usually came around her desk more often than necessary for every excuse in the world. He had her heart racing every single time and she really couldn’t help it. Many of her female colleagues had noticed the footsie the two were playing, and those close enough to talk were starting to tease Ada and ask her what was going on. One afternoon was particularly spectacular.
Ed walked over to her desk in his familiar confident gait and then rested himself on her table, leaning close enough to breathe into her face. Adaobi was terribly uncomfortable, but too embarrassed to move away.
‘Cece, I need a favour.’
The throat lump again!
Ada couldn’t speak, so she nodded.
‘Help me watch my desk. I need to get somewhere and might take a while. You can move over there if you want, you can take anything you want from my drawer. Just watch it for me, will you. Hmm?’ his eyes were darting all over her face as he spoke barely above a whisper. They finally settled on her lips and got her far more uncomfortable. Yes, she felt slighted by his ridiculous request, but she needed to get him out of her face as quickly as possible so she jumped off her seat and said it was okay in a manner that shocked even her. She couldn’t look at him. Ed smiled with a corner of his lips and then sauntered away as proudly as he had come.
It was unclear to Adaobi why Ed was so indirect and inconsistent with her. Today, he was all affectionate and hope-raising, the next he was curt and hardly even noticed her. She didn’t enjoy the fact that he was playing games with her emotions, it was too much for her to handle. she knew she had to do something.
This just has to stop. And fast!