“Finally!” Ronke exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air for emphasis.
“What? You knew?” Akudo asked, staring at her best friend wide-eyed.
“Me and anybody who has eyes! That guy has been in love with you probably since he met you the day before your wedding!”
“Oh come on.” Akudo rolled her eyes.
“Babe, I’m serious. Of course since you only had eyes for your husband, you never noticed.”
“I find that very hard to believe.”
“I find it hard to believe that you didn’t notice! All that attention Nonso gave you, the extra long hugs and the long conversations?”
“Ah-ahn nau, we were close friends. He was my homie jo.” Akudo said, shooing the idea away.
“Homie ko, housie ni. The guy was crazy about you jo. Shebi he finally confessed it?” Ronke hissed.
“Whatever abeg. The person my heart breaks for is his girlfriend.” Akudo said sadly.
“I know oh, after wasting her time for eight years-”
“Nine babe. ” Akudo cut in.
“Nine?!” Ronke bellowed.
“Yep! They were already dating before I got married so it’s actually like nine and a half sef.” Akudo said.
“It will not be well with that guy. Nine, in fact let’s just call it ten years? Ten years! I tire for the girl sef. What could he possibly be saying to her to keep her for ten whole years without taking the next step? Is she a learner?”
“Babe, some men are fantastic excuse manufacturers. You will just be there, building with the guy and you wake up one day and ten years have gone by.” Akudo sighed.
“God forbid!” Ronke said, snapping her fingers to boot. “Anyway, by God’s grace, she will find someone that will love her as she deserves.”
“How? When Mr. Man has not broken up with her.” Akudo said, hissing.
“What? After that declaration he made to you, he still had the heart to continue with the girl?”
“My dear, I saw them together at an event last weekend oh.”
“O ma se o. You see? This is how men get castrated. How will you string somebody’s child along like that when you know your heart is no longer there?” Ronke said, clapping her hands dramatically.
“Babe, I just tire.” Akudo sighed.
“But come oh, did you say ‘event’? You have started going out?” Ronke said, glaring at her friend.
“Maybe. Not really. Somehow.” Akudo avoided eye contact.
“Akudo Joyce Magdalene Nwodo Nnamani! Have you been hanging out without me?”
“I hate that you know all my names.” Akudo retorted annoyed.
“Stop deflecting.” Ronke said, ignoring the angry look on her friend’s face.
“Calm down jo. I really didn’t want to go, but it was a work event and it would have looked bad if I didn’t.”
“Okay fine, but why couldn’t you even tell me about it? I have been walking on eggshells around you and asking myself how long is a reasonable time to grieve, but babe it’s been like three years!”
“Five actually.” Akudo said, quietly.
“Fi- Are you serious? Five whole years? Are you kidding me?” Ronke shouted.
“Keep your voice down nau, haba. I have neighbours oh.” Akudo said, gesturing with her hands.
“See, babe. First of all, we are going shopping tomorrow for new clothes.”
“What’s wrong with my clothes?” Akudo asked, shooting her a look.
“Let me rephrase. Tomorrow we are going shopping for clothes that are neither black nor grey, and are in season.”
Akudo shot her an even meaner look, but Ronke ignored it.
“And you are going to have to stop wearing that wedding ring.”
“No.” Akudo said, defiantly.
“What do you mean “no”?” Ronke asked, gaping at her.
“I am not ready.” Akudo said, quietly.
“You will never be, but you have to let it go; let him go.” Ronke said, bringing down her tone a few notches.
“I have. I have let him go, but I still need the ring.”
“For what?” Ronke asked, puzzled.
Akudo looked up at her friend, then looked away.
Slowly, Ronke’s features turned to surprise, and then to anger as realisation dawned on her.
“Are you joking? So because one or two insecure, sex-starved women whose husbands have wandering eyes think you are a threat, you have decided to hold onto something meaningless as a form of ‘protection’?”
“It’s not meaningless Ronke!” Akudo snapped.
“Forgive me for using the wrong term but the point is, you are no longer married. By the way, newsflash! The ring will not stop men from ogling or approaching you so it really is not that much of a protection. Besides, your social circle, and I use the term ‘social’ very loosely, already KNOW you are single, so what’s the point?” Ronke finished, praising herself inwardly for not using the “w” word.
Akudo knew Ronke had a point, but her point was only valid if she were interested in a relationship, and she was not.
“I might as well be upfront with you; I am not interested in remarrying.”
Ronke blinked, her expression unreadable.
“I’m sorry but I didn’t say it sooner because you seemed so determined to get me back on the dating scene, and I’m just not looking to settle down again.” Akudo ended.
“AK, who the hell cares if you re-marry?” Ronke finally said.
It was Akudo’s turn to blink, in confusion.
“Sure, if you find love again and you are willing to, why not? But that is entirely up to you. All I want is for you to date! Or at least have a bit of a social life. Go out, have fun, do something for yourself. You are only thirty-two for goodness sake! You are much too young to be withering away.”
“I have two kids under the age of nine babe, it’s easier said than done.”
“I know single mothers with kids younger than yours that still make time for one owambe or another. You haven’t even made an effort. For instance, you have a whole week to yourself; what have you done?”
“Well…I was planning on going shopping with my best friend tomorrow.” Akudo said, a sheepish smile spreading across her face.
Ronke rolled her eyes, then walked over and put an arm around Akudo.
“Just be getting me worked up anyhow. We will go shopping, and you will have fun.” Ronke stated.
“If you say so.” Akudo smiled.
Ronke glanced up at Akudo’s hair. “So…any chance you are tired of this your natural phase?” She frowned.
“Babe, let it go. The hair is here to stay. However, with the kids away, I guess I could get it braided.” Akudo shrugged.
“Thank you lord!” Ronke said, throwing her hands skyward.
“You are so dramatic.” Akudo said, rolling her eyes.
“You wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t.” Ronke retorted, enveloping Akudo in a tight hug.
“Move jo, you are crushing me.” Akudo laughed, breaking free of the hold. “By the way, you won’t believe who I ran into outside the venue for the office event.”
“Who?” Ronke asked, standing up.
“Femi Odebiyi!” Akudo announced.
Ronke, who was headed towards Akudo’s fridge, stopped and whirled around. “The same Femi Odebiyi? As in, Femi Odebiyi that you used to have a major crush on in secondary school?”
“One and the same.” Akudo responded, mildly flustered.
“Femi be-still-my-beating-heart Odebiyi?”
Akudo chuckled. “The same one jo. The things you are supposed to remember, you won’t. Gist you are supposed to forget, you won’t. I am tired of you.”
“How can I forget? The way you spoke of him in Uni, we were tempted to track him down so you guys can kuku get married.” Ronke teased, resuming her trip to Akudo’s fridge.
“What?” Akudo asked, somewhere between amused and astounded.
“Yes nau. The only reason we didn’t do it is that we didn’t know where to start looking and if we had asked you for his details, you wouldn’t have given us. If only we had Google back then.” Ronke sighed.
“Thank God we didn’t.” Akudo said in relief.
“So? What happened?” Ronke asked as she popped two slices of left-over pizza into the microwave.
“Nothing. We just said hello. I was in a hurry, my taxi was already waiting.”
“You don’t even know how to give somebody gist. Move jo.” Ronke said, shoving Akudo on the couch and reaching for her laptop. “Let me Google the guy sef.”
“There!” Akudo said, pointing at his picture in the search results.
“THIS is Femi Odebiyi?” Ronke exclaimed, enlarging the photo.
“Yes.” Akudo said simply.
“AK, he is HOT!”
“I suppose he is a little easy on the eyes.” Akudo shrugged.
“A little easy on the- what? Woman, he is a work of art!” Ronke gaped.
“Ibironke Akande!” Akudo scolded.
“Babe, it is like you are not seeing what I am seeing. The good lord definitely didn’t rush when he was making him.”
“Oya, I have heard; abeg give me my laptop.” Akudo said, reaching for her laptop.
Ronke pulled it out of her reach. “I mean, this guy is built like King Leonidas!”
“King Leonidas nau, that Greek king in the movie 300. This kin one will give it to you so good, he’ll have you screaming THIS…IS…SPARTA!” Ronke let out, with the last three words said as though she was moaning in ecstasy.
Akudo burst into a fit of giggles. “Hope for you, there is none.”
“Ose Yoda. Abeg if you are not interested, let a sister try her luck oh.” Ronke said, not missing a beat.
“Be my guest. You’ll find his business card in my purse.”
Akudo watched, in utter amazement, as Ronke rummaged through her purse until she found the business card.
“You are actually going to do this?” Akudo said, shocked.
“Babe, this is not like when we were young. These days, you can’t wait around; you have to take what you want.” Ronke responded.