Ronke Akande had approached this dinner like she approached her work projects. She had strategised and planned this night down to the last minute. Everything from how she would carry herself – appearing aloof but communicating enough to keep his interest – to how she would ensure that Femi Odebiyi was eating out of the palm of her hands by the end of the night.
The first wrench in her plans were her nerves.
She had thoroughly researched him, so she expected him to be good-looking and suave; but by Jove the man was divine! She had encountered handsome and sophisticated men before, but none of them had ever had this kind of effect on her.
When she had seen just how tall he was, she could not control the gasp that escaped her lips. His height was perfect. She was so sure that if they hugged, they would fit perfectly together.
It was so hard to concentrate on anything. His mere smile had her almost stuttering.
She had to pull herself together.
The second wrench in her plans was more worrisome.
The way Femi had hugged Akudo…she knew that hug. It was the way a man hugged a woman he wanted. She knew the hug because she had received many like it.
Perhaps he was just a bit of a hugger, or maybe she had just imagined it.
“So I hear congratulations are in order?” Femi said with a smile, after a quick glance at his phone.
Akudo rolled her eyes. “I have no idea why Ronke insists on celebrating it publicly. We could have just had wine and watched a good movie indoors.”
“Oh come on, where is the fun in that? Besides, if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see you again.” Femi said, a sly smile dancing on his lips.
Ronke shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
They were old friends, it was nothing. Of course he wanted to see Akudo again. Their last encounter was brief and the last time they had seen each other before then was over a decade ago. It was a perfectly platonic statement, and she really had nothing to worry about.
She returned her attention to Femi; he was so dreamy.
“You still have a sweet tongue I see.” Akudo said, shaking her head.
“Oh come on! Don’t make me out to be a bad guy. I’m just being honest.” Femi said, raising his hands for emphasis.
“Tongue…” Ronke thought to herself as she stared at Femi’s mouth. The things he could do to her with his tongue. Oh and the things she could do to him with hers.
“Right?” Akudo said, prodding Ronke and jolting her out of her reverie.
“Yep!” Ronke quipped. Praying it was the right response to Akudo’s question. It was much too embarrassing to say she had drifted off.
“See? Women can tell these things. We know when you are being honest, and when you are just full of it.”
Femi threw his head back in laughter.
“What is so funny?” Akudo asked.
Ronke was wondering the same thing. Had she missed a joke?
“You have not changed Akudo Nwodo. You still do not have it in you to use a vulgar word.”
Akudo averted her eyes, smiling.
This was Ronke’s chance so she jumped in. “This one?” She let out. “I have marks on my body from where she pinches me everytime I use a vulgar word.”
“Are you serious?” Femi asked, his eyes going wide.
“Yes. I don’t even know why she didn’t just join a Convent so we can hear word.” Ronke said with a roll of her eyes.
“…and deny the world all of this beauty? No way.” Femi said, his eyes going back to Akudo.
Ronke smiled in response, then swept some curls away from her face and looked away.
This was not going at all like she had planned.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. Nothing would have changed if I had joined a Convent but Ronke here? Now THAT would have been a crime!” Akudo said.
Ronke smiled to herself. She appreciated that Akudo was trying to help her get Femi’s attention. She was happier though to see that Akudo was not interested in Femi.
As much as she would like to convince herself otherwise, it was clear that Femi was attracted to Akudo. Ronke was confident that she could get Femi to like her; but she was not so sure she stood a chance if Akudo felt the same way about him.
The girl may say she is not ready to date, but sometimes it took the right man to change a woman’s mind.
“I agree, but I’m sure your Mister would have staged a protest outside the Convent. How is he by the way?” Femi asked.
Ronke’s breath caught. If Femi knew Akudo was available, it would make things difficult. She had to think fast.
Akudo looked down at her drink momentarily.
When she lifted her head, the smile was barely there. “He died.”
Femi’s eyes grew wide. “Oh my God, I’m sorry. I had no idea. When was this?”
“Just a few years ago.” Ronke blurted out.
Perhaps if Femi thought it was recent, he would know she was in no mood for a relationship.
“Left her with two handsome boys; but my friend here is strong.” Ronke added, stroking Akudo’s shoulder.
A look passed between them.
Ronke knew it was a cheap shot, but she was desperate. A recent widow with two boys was more baggage than most single men cared for.
She knew Akudo would be upset with her for divulging too much of her private life, but Akudo would forgive her eventually. She was not sure she could forgive Akudo if Femi chose her.
“I am so sorry to hear that.” Femi said, reaching for her hands. “How are you doing? Are you okay?”
Just like that, the attention was back on Akudo. Ronke was starting to get frustrated. Here she was, dressed to the nines and getting looks from every man in the room except the one she wanted.
Perhaps if she had worn the dress with the plunging neckline…
“I am fine. Some days are better than others, but I am fine.” Akudo said, smiling up at Femi.
“On a lighter note,” she added, freeing her hands from his, “I am actually glad you came because finally Ronke will have somebody to speak her tech jargon with.”
“Oh, you are a techie?” Femi said, turning his head towards Ronke.
“Indeed I am. Don’t let the dress fool you, I am a nerd and proud of it.” Ronke said casually.
“As you should be. What are you into?” Femi asked, taking a sip of his drink.
“Design, Sales or Development?”
“Design. My development days are over. I enjoyed it while I did it, but I find that I enjoy design better. I’m learning sales though.”
“Oh wow, you used to develop?” Femi asked, turning his torso to face her completely.
“Yes. Does that surprise you?” Ronke asked, straightening as she realised that she finally had his attention.
“Only because women coders are rare. What language did you code in?”
“PHP. Open Source all the way.”
“Ah, you are a LAMP chic.” Femi smiled, then took a swig of his drink.
“Oh please don’t tell me you are a Windows guy?”
“I do both. They both have their pros and cons you know.”
“You can’t be APC and PDP at the same time. You are either Open Source or on the dark side.” Ronke said, lifting an eyebrow and folding her arms across her chest.
Femi laughed. “I like you Ronke.”
Ronke grinned, then reached for her glass. “How can you not?”
Femi chuckled, then fixed her with an absolutely devilish stare as he lifted his glass. “I like that. Who modesty ep?”
“Nobody.” Ronke said, matching his sly smile as they clinked glasses.
Akudo cleared her throat. “Em, Association of Computer Nerds. Sorry to interrupt your Klingon but I believe someone else was supposed to be joining us? He was supposed to save me from this delightfully boring session of geek-speak.”
Ronke was surprised. She was so sure Akudo would disappear at the slightest opportunity, but she was actually asking for company.
She could not tell if Akudo really meant it, or if it was part of the act.
“I’m so sorry.” Femi said, picking up his phone. “He should have been here by now, but I don’t know what is keeping him.”
Femi dialed a number and put the phone to his ears. “I can’t believe you said Klingon. You are full of surprises Akudo Nwodo. I never took you for a Star Trek fan.”
“There are a lot of things you don’t know about me Femi Odebiyi.” Akudo replied, giving him a cheeky grin.
Femi smiled, then turned his attention to his phone. “Yeah guy, where you dey na? Okay, you are here? Outside. Just come in and I will wave to you.”
Femi hung up, then stood up and faced the direction of the entrance to the restaurant.
Moments later, a man dressed in a casual button-down shirt and jeans walked up to their table.
“Ladies, this is my friend Timeyin.” Femi gestured, sliding over to the next chair.
Akudo stood up, and extended a hand. “Akudo.”
Timeyin nodded in response, then reached over to shake Ronke.
“Ronke.” Ronke said, flashing him a smile.
From what Ronke could see, Timeyin was easy on the eyes as well. Even though he wore a face cap which cast a shadow over his eyes, and his clothes were plain, it was not hard to tell that he was handsome.
His build was slimmer than Femi’s but he was just as tall. If his friendship with Femi was any indication, he was likely a successful working-class man as well. Where had these breed of men been the last few years?
Ronke inclined her head and took in Timeyin’s full frame. He was not a bad back-up plan; but for now, she was content with the more broad-chested hunk that sat in front of her.
“Em, guy, do you want to sit there?” Timeyin asked his friend, gesturing to the chair Femi had vacated that was directly opposite Akudo.
“No, I’m good man.” Came Femi’s distracted response. He had resumed his chat with Ronke.
Timeyin lifted an eyebrow momentarily, shrugged, then sat down and called for the waiter.
Ronke noticed the exchange and smiled inwardly. Of course Femi had come with the intention of spending time with Akudo, and Timeyin was the wingman that was supposed to keep Ronke company. If only he knew that her plan all along had been to have him for herself.
As much as she felt bad that Akudo had to make conversation with a stranger that did not seem very interested in making conversation, Ronke was glad that she did not have to spend the rest of the night wrestling with Akudo for Femi’s attention.
She turned her attention back to Femi and flashed him her brightest smile.
The dinner was over, but Ronke could not stop talking about Femi as she drove Akudo home.
“Babe, I think he is the one oooh.”
“After one dinner? Na so e do you reach?” Akudo teased.
“What? This guy had me hooked from the minute I saw him!” Ronke exclaimed.
“I know, I heard you sigh when we got to the table.” Akudo chuckled.
“Oh my goodness, I didn’t even know anyone heard.” Ronke said, removing her right hand from the steering wheel and smacking her forehead with it.
“It was barely audible. I am sure I was the only one who heard it.”
“Okay.” Ronke said, relieved. “But babe can you blame me? I was already tingling down there when I saw how tall he was, then he spoke and I swear I went wet.”
“Ugh! Ronke! Why do you have to be so crude?” Akudo let out, shaking her head and looking out the passenger window.
Ronke giggled. “It’s true nau. I can’t believe how much we have in common. I don’t think I have had a conversation that good in ages.”
“I think that might have to do with the kind of guys you keep interacting with.” Akudo quipped.
“Low blow babe, low blow but nothing can bring me down tonight.”
“It wasn’t meant to be a blow. I honestly think you could do better with your choice of men and I have said as much.”
“I know.” Ronke said quietly, then added in a more upbeat tone. “Well, with any luck, Femi is it for me.”
“I hope so. I haven’t seen you this excited over a man in a long time.”
“I don’t think I have ever been this excited. We didn’t even kiss or make-out or anything; just had really good conversation. It was amazing.” Ronke smiled contentedly.
“Well at least you had a conversation. That Timeyin guy was acting as if he was forced to come.” Akudo said, frowning.
“That’s true. I barely heard any chatter coming from your side of the table. Was he really that bad?”
“Let me put it this way: If I was not keen on making sure you did not sleep with Femi on the first date, I would have left ten minutes after Timeyin showed up!”
“Ah-ahn! That bad? Was he being too forward or something?” Ronke asked, surprised.
“If he was being forward at least it would mean he was speaking. Will you believe I was the one trying to make conversation with him?”
“I’m telling you! I, who did not even want to be your wingwoman tonight, was the one trying to get a man to speak to me. Can you imagine? Every question I asked was either met with a one-line answer or a grunt. The man was having a better time with his phone!” Akudo ended, the events of the night getting her worked up all over again.
“Wow. I am so surprised. For a good-looking guy, he has such a foul attitude.”
“Good-looking?” Akudo asked puzzled. “How could you see anything under that face cap that he used to hide half his face?”
“I got a good look at him before he sat. Anyway, that’s not important. I’m so sorry to hear all this babe. I was hoping you would have a fun night too.” Ronke said, taking her right hand off the steering wheel momentarily and placing it on her best friend’s thigh in comfort.
“Anyway, the good news is that you have Femi right where you want him, so I never have to see the horrid Mr. Timeyin ever again!”
“Yep! Glorious solitude here you come.” Ronke joked.
“There is that smile! Don’t mind him jare, he should gan crawl back into the hole he crawled out of.” Ronke soothed, taking her eyes off the road long enough to smile at her friend.
They drove in comfortable silence the rest of the way.
“Goodnight babe.” Akudo said as she climbed out of Ronke’s car.
“Goodnight. Thank you again. You are the best wingwoman any girl could ask for.” Ronke called out.
Akudo waved away the compliment and walked to her gate.
Ronke watched her friend’s receding figure and sighed.
Even after two children and life’s trials, Akudo was an undeniably beautiful woman inside and especially out.
Her loose-fit blouse did not do a good job of hiding the curves that her skinny jeans hugged.
She had a figure most women coveted, and most men were crazy about: a slender hourglass that dipped ever-so-perfectly at the waist.
Ronke was no ogre herself. She knew she was easy on the eyes but it was with a lot of effort on her part.
She went to the gym religiously, and never missed her spa treatments.
She paid a premium to get her skincare products that were imported from the Middle East.
She had become an expert in make-up application, and had taught herself the art of seduction.
Despite all of this, she felt like she always came up short beside her best friend – though she would never admit it.
Akudo was effortlessly beautiful. In fact, if Ronke were being honest, Akudo seemed more beautiful without make-up.
She had a figure she did not even have to work to maintain.
She used shea butter as her lotion, yet her unbelievably translucent skin shone like it was constantly bathed in the milk of the most exotic animals.
Then there was her complexion. Ronke would never admit it, but she loved Akudo’s caramel complexion.
There was a time when Ronke believed wholeheartedly that the fairer-skinned complexion was the true definition of beauty, and she went to great lengths to take care of hers – including indulging in some lightening treatments. Now, she would gladly pay for a magic potion that would give her caramel skin. There was something utterly beautiful and unique about it.
All in all, Ronke knew that if Akudo put her mind to it, Ronke did not stand a chance against her.
She sighed and put her car in Drive.
As Ronke drove away from her friend’s house, she was glad that Akudo had not worn the bodycon dress that she had tried to convince her to wear.
For a moment, but only a moment, it looked like Femi was interested in Akudo. The dress may have been all Femi needed to completely ignore Ronke the whole night.
Moments later, Ronke shook her head as she quietly scolded herself for being worried.
As beautiful as Akudo was, she did not have Ronke’s presence, or her swagger. There were things nature could not just hand to you, and she had worked hard to become the woman she was – physically and socially.
She knew how to command a room, she was both street smart and poised, and by the heavens she knew how to get what she wanted.
There was never a chance that Femi would consider anyone else; not while she was in the room.
She was Ibironke Aduke omo Akande. She was beauty personified, and there was no man born of a woman that she could not have.