“Mummy!” Nnamdi exclaimed from the back seat. “You said a bad word!”
“Sorry!” Akudo muttered.
She glanced over at the clock on her dashboard.
This was as late as she could be. Especially since there was a crowd of people trying to drop off their children at the same time.
She looked back towards the entrance of the school.
She was still there.
Akudo swore some more, but this time in her head.
“Mummy! Why are we not getting down?” Odera, her younger son, inquired.
“Em, we will. Just give me a moment.”
“But you are not doing anything.” Nnamdi quipped.
“And the car is no longer moving.” Odera added.
“I know, just one minute.” Akudo said impatiently, tapping her thumbs on the steering wheel and keeping her eyes pinned to school entrance.
“But we are going to be late!” Odera whined.
“It’s okay Dera, you can just tell Miss Ayodele that Mummy made you late.” Nnamdi said.
“Watch it young man.” Akudo scolded, making eye-contact with Nnamdi through the rear-view mirror.
Akudo sighed. It was really quite ridiculous when she thought about it.
Here she was, content to make her children late for school if it meant she avoided a foe who had made it her mission to slander her name.
She took several deep breaths, then turned off the ignition.
She figured if she hurried past, she would go unnoticed.
“Hello! Odera’s Mummy?” A voice called out.
Akudo swore under her breath, then turned in the direction of the voice.
It was the lady who had been chatting with the very woman she was trying to avoid.
“Hi. I am Demilade’s mum. He is in Odera’s class.” She beamed.
“Oh, hello.” Akudo said. She shifted the lunch bag in her right hand to her left, then extend her hand to Demilade’s mum. “It’s nice to meet you. Odera talks about Demilade a lot.”
“Almost every sentence Demilade makes is punctuated by Odera’s name. I just had to meet him. I met him last week when I came to pick Demilade up. Quite the bright young boy.”
“Thank you.”Akudo managed.
“Well, I can see you are rushing them in; let me not keep you. I just wanted to say hello.”
Her smile was so infectious that Akudo could not resist smiling back, in spite of her current frame of mind. “Thank you. Have a great day.”
Akudo ventured a glance towards Hajarat Lawal, who stood a few feet from Demilade’s mum; and as expected, an expression capable of melting stone greeted her.
She hurried after her sons who had already walked ahead of her.
Akudo had once been very good friends with Hajarat Lawal. They met two years prior when their sons were in the same primary one class.
It was their first day at a new school, and Akudo looked thoroughly lost. Hajarat had noticed, and helped her navigate her way around.
One-minute chats whenever they dropped off their children at school grew to longer conversations. Soon, they started to have even longer conversations at night when the children were in bed.
Hajarat was one of the people who helped Akudo come out of the hole she had crawled into mentally after her husband died, and Akudo clung to the friendship for dear life. Sure she had Ronke; but there were some things she simply could not discuss with her. Things Ronke would not understand like how to deal with children in the wake of a parent’s death. Hajarat had older children and was able to offer advice that helped Akudo sift through normal developmental changes, and changes that might have occurred as a result of the boys losing their father.
Hajarat’s help was immeasurable.
On a particular week about a year and a half later, Akudo had taken some time off work. As a result, she had extra time to spare one day after dropping the children off at school, and decided to accept Hajarat’s offer to head back to Hajarat’s place for them to catch up.
They watched some Nigerian movies, talked about a lot of things, and ate chicken till they could barely move. Akudo could not remember the last time she had that much fun.
Just as they were dragging themselves up to pick their children up from school, Hajarat’s husband returned from work.
Akudo knew from the moment she met Alhaji Lawal that he was a randy adulterer. If the way his eyes quickly traveled the entire length of her body did not give it away, the ever-so-slight lip-smacking on their next meeting did.
He had offered to drop the children off at school one particular week – something Hajarat said he never did. On one of such days, he arrived almost the same time she had. The unnecessary hug he gave her sent her alarm bells ringing very loudly, but she convinced herself that he was merely being friendly. It was not until she emerged from the school premises after dropping the children, and saw him waiting by her car that she realised she was wrong.
Hajarat had mentioned to him that she was a widow, so he felt the need to be “of help” to her. It was not her first time receiving unwanted advances from married men, so she thanked him rather impolitely while making a mental note never to visit her friend at home again. She was not going to put her friendship in jeopardy over a man that did not respect his wife enough to keep it in his pants.
Unfortunately, a busy-body parent who was acquaintances with Hajarat told her she had seen Akudo with her husband, hugging and discussing.
Hajarat did not believe it, and was merely mentioning it to Akudo as gossip from a lady who had been trying, to no avail, to get her attention.
Akudo, in a bid to be transparent and honest, told her friend the entire truth – including the part about her husband offering her money.
Akudo did not know if Hajarat confronted her husband and he lied to her that Akudo had come onto him, or if Hajarat preferred denial to the truth; but their friendship was never the same after that.
Akudo’s greetings were met with either grunts or unintelligible mutterings, but she never let it deter her. Hajarat had been too much of a friend to her when she needed one for her to give up so easily.
It was when she started noticing the dirty looks that a few parents were sending her way that Akudo realised that Hajarat had crossed the line into slander.
Akudo approached the school gate after dropping her sons in their classrooms and saw that Hajarat and Demilade’s mum were still standing at the same spot, talking.
“Have a good day.” She called out.
Demilade’s mum waved, but the warm smile from earlier was gone.
Akudo was so surprised that she stopped walking and stared, mouth ajar, at Hajarat.
Hajarat fixed her with a stare that was a mixture of scorn and triumph.
Akudo felt her ears burning.
Enough was enough.
She stumped towards her car, jammed the door shut and got on the phone with her boss.
“Good morning Mr. Steve. Something just came up at my son’s school and I may not be able to come in today. Okay. Thank you sir.”
She cut the line and dialed another number.
“Babe, can you tear yourself away from work? I know it is still morning but I need a makeover and… I knew you couldn’t resist. I’ll see you at the nail salon in twenty minutes.”
The following morning, Akudo was up earlier than usual.
She made lunch for the boys while the nanny, Roseline, got them ready for school.
She typically wore a formal shirt with slacks to work but this morning was different.
She laid out all the clothes she bought from her shopping trip with Ronke.
Ronke had suggested the red bodycon dress, but she still had to go to the office afterwards and to her, body contour dresses were not corporate wear.
The black skater dress would have to do.
She would pair it with a blazer to make it look understated enough for work, but that would be after she had dropped the boys off at school.
She would put her braids up in a bun, but that would also happen after she had dropped off the boys.
She slipped into her black heels, then walked to her full-length mirror.
She looked like she felt – sexy and powerful. Soon after, a quick sigh escaped her lips. It had been a very long time since she had felt sexy.
She stepped out of her bedroom to meet wide eyes and dropped jaws.
“Mummy, you look bee-yuu-tiful!” Odera said, running to her and wrapping his arms around her thighs.
“Thank you honey.” She said, her right palm instinctively resting on her chest. The boy knew how to pull at her heartstrings.
“Yes mum. You should look like this everyday!” Nnamdi quipped.
Akudo rolled her eyes. “Let’s go jo.”
“Madam you fine well well oh.” Roseline joined in.
“Thank you Roseline. You don put their bag for car?”
She gave her some instructions, then walked out with the boys.
Upon arriving at the school, Akudo pulled down the driver-side visor, and did a quick make-up check. The winged tips were a great compliment to her naturally-slanted eyes.
She re-applied the lipstick, smacked her lips together twice then flipped the visor back into position.
She saw her target and grinned.
She turned off the ignition, and glided out of the car.
Her phone beeped, and she glanced over at it. It was a text from Ronke.
Akudo chuckled. The woman had impeccable timing.
She had the boys hold their lunch bags so that her hands were free as she strutted a few feet behind them, swishing her car keys around her right index finger as she walked.
She would usually go in through the wider gate, to keep a good distance between her and Hajarat but today, she walked straight to the pedestrian gate where Hajarat usually stood.
The stars had aligned in her favour because on this particular day, Hajarat was talking with none other than the parent who had informed Hajarat that Akudo was seen hugging her husband.
As she approached them, she looked directly in their direction and saw their eyes widen and their jaws drop. The “informant” recovered quickly, and flashed Akudo an overemphasized smile.
“Mummy Nnamdi. Long time.”
“Good morning.” Akudo said curtly, only allowing a slight smile.
“Wow, you look very lovely.”
“Thank you.” Akudo replied, then walked past them into the school premises.
She did not pause or stop, and she did not acknowledge Hajarat.
The feeling was exhilarating.
Who knew? All this time she had been tormenting herself, waking up earlier than she needed to, being cross with the nanny. She had even toyed with the idea of changing schools all because she was trying to avoid running into a woman who had hurt her deeply.
Meanwhile, all she had to do was simply ignore her.