Akudo rolled her eyes for the umpteenth time, grateful that it was a phone conversation.
“I don’t understand why you hate your father’s house so much.” Her mother bellowed from the other end of the receiver.
It was just like her mother to use guilt as ammunition.
When Akudo’s husband had died, her mother had expected her to move back to her family home.
It had been a fight to convince her otherwise.
Her mother had used everything in the book, then threw the book itself at her.
“You can’t take care of these children by yourself.”
“You shouldn’t live in that house alone.”
“What will people say?”
“Do you hate me that much that you cannot live with me?”
“What did I ever do to you?”
Akudo’s personal favourite was “It is culture!”
It was not, but far be it from anyone to get into an argument about culture with Patricia Nwodo.
Even when it was clear that what Patricia wanted was nowhere near the laws of the land; as long as it got her what she wanted, she would say it was.
She used to go with the close sibling “it is the way things are done;” but after more than a few rebuttals from her children, she deemed it all “culture.”
Ironically, Igbo culture demands that when a man dies, the wife is to remain in her husband’s “compound,” and with his kin.
Her mother was choosing to turn a blind eye to that because they resided in Lagos, not the village.
“Mummy ibiakwa.” Akudo warned. She was really not in the mood for her mother’s antics. “I have said that the boys can spend the holiday with you. I don’t understand what the problem is.”
“So you will just bring them, then go back as if you are a stranger. Why can you not spend the night too?” Her mother questioned.
“They will be on holiday from school. It is two weeks! Do you want me to sleep in your house for two weeks? I have a job!”
“I know that but you will be bringing them on Saturday. Why can’t you just sleep till Monday morning and then go to the office from the house here?”
Akudo opened her mouth in disbelief.
“All you have to do,” her mother continued, “is wake up really early and you can drive straight to work.”
“Mummy, the house is very far from my office. That means I will have to get on the road by 5:00AM!”
“Ehen? So?” Her mother said, unfazed.
Akudo scolded herself for even bothering to explain. She knew her mother well enough to know it would not make a difference.
“Mummy, I will bring them Saturday and sleep; then come back Sunday afternoon.”
Her mother let out a very long, drawn-out sigh. “No problem. I don’t have a choice. I don’t understand why I require a visa to see my daughter but it is okay. Just sha bring me my grandchildren. At least they will give me joy.”
Akudo groaned, and rolled her eyes again.
“I will see you tomorrow ma.” She let out, finally.
“Okay oh, bye.” Her mother said, then hung up.
Akudo shook her head as she stared at her phone like she could see her mother’s face.
She knew it was an unfair comparison, but a small part of her wished her mother were more like her mother-in-law.
Her vivacious mother-in-law was very nearly the opposite of her mother. “Mama Jay”, as she preferred to be called was carefree and laidback.
When she offered advice, it was always punctuated with “but the decision is yours at the end of the day.” Unlike the “take my advice” or “just do as I say” that she typically got from her mother.
In all honesty, they had led very different lives. They had also been raised differently so it really was not a fair comparison.
Patricia Nwodo grew up in Eastern Nigeria at a time when life was simpler, and in a rural community where most men felt their money was better spent educating their sons rather than their daughters. She married very early and had her dreams of being a college-trained nurse cut short by a husband that wanted a more “grounded” life for his wife. Her husband spoilt her to the point that it took her years to learn to fend for herself and her children after his sudden demise.
She was taught that children were meant to take care of their parents once they were financially stable. She had done as much with her parents and surely, her children would do the same. As a result, she toiled for her children knowing that a time would come when she would depend on them for survival – never doing more than she needed to.
She was almost the polar opposite of Jane Nnamani – who was fiercely independent, and believed nobody owed anybody anything; and that it was a person’s own responsibility to take care of themselves.
Jane grew up in Western Nigeria, child of highly educated Easterners who believed girls had just as much right to education as boys. She did her Bachelor’s Degree in London where she met and married her husband – a staunch academic who encouraged her ambitions. They relocated to Nigeria, and had two sons. A few years later, her husband died of acute pneumonia and she made the difficult decision to leave her sons with her mother, while she pursued her Masters and PhD. She got a teaching job in the United States afterwards and sent for her sons. Sons that she raised with the same mindset.
It was truly not a fair comparison, but still… if nothing else, Akudo wished that her mother were more lighthearted. The woman had endured a lot after her husband’s demise, but even after things got better, she still lived her life like everyone was an opportunist just looking for a way in.
Mama Jay, on the other hand, believed that a person held the key to their own happiness and she was always happy. Quite frankly, her son’s demise had been the only time Akudo had seen Mama Jay’s cheerful disposition change. Even then, she continued to soothe Akudo with words of encouragement. A lot of those times Akudo wanted to break down and pour her heart out to her, but she had to remind herself that the woman was being strong herself. Akudo may have lost a husband, but Mama Jay had lost a child – Akudo could not even fathom the pain.
It was somewhere around the third year that Mama Jay finally seemed to return to her former self. There was a quiet sadness that lingered in her tone whenever she called. Almost as if calling Akudo reminded her of her son’s death; but she maintained her cheerful disposition.
Akudo’s mother on the other hand, had cried louder than anybody in the room when her husband died – wailing and asking God why he took a man so young. She cried when Akudo had no appetite – wailing and asking her why Akudo wanted to send her to an early grave, and insisting that she would not eat until Akudo ate. The woman had even wailed and thrown herself on the ground during the funeral.
Everything just had to be so dramatic with her.
So as much as Akudo hated to do it, she could not help but compare.
Her phone beeped. It was a text message.
Akudo hated games; and if Femi was not so damned charming, she would have told him as much.
Though she hated to admit it, something had stirred in her when she saw him at the dinner. She was not sure what it was, but when they were saying their goodbyes at the end of the night, he had put his hand on the small of her back while he hugged her. That had sent a strong sensation surging through her.
At first she thought, in absolute horror, that she may be attracted to him.
It took her roughly forty eight hours to realise that she had merely missed the touch of a man – well at least her body had.
It was of no use though. She had no intentions of getting into a romantic relationship with anybody, so her body might as well get used to cold pillows and colder showers.
Yet…she could not shake the feeling that Ronke may have been right about her need to socialize.
Even though Akudo was not keen on going out socially; when she sat at the restaurant that evening, she realised how much she missed having a social life.
When Femi had finally turned his attention to Ronke, it would have been the perfect time for her to pretend like she suddenly needed to be elsewhere, and take off. However, she found herself wanting adult company.
It should not have surprised her really. After she had Odera, her social life became almost non-existent. Between work and the children, she had her hands full and was always too exhausted to hang out with anybody.
There were the occasional office events, and perhaps a movie here and there that Ronke dragged her to but for the most part, she hardly went anywhere. After her husband died, she more or less became a recluse.
She convinced herself that this definitely needed to change..
Her phone beeped again.
Akudo rolled her eyes.
She was well aware of the fact that Femi wanted her, or at least had wanted her at first. She used almost every trick in the book to get him to turn his attention to Ronke at the dinner and at some point, she was considering being blunt and saying “I think you two would be great together, so why don’t you spend some time getting to know each other?”
Thankfully she hadn’t needed to. Heaven knows Ronke would have never let her hear the end of it.
To the best of Akudo’s knowledge, the pair had really hit it off and were spending a lot of time together. However, Femi still sent occasional messages. Cryptic messages where he tried to sound like he was just checking on her, but would subtly hint towards his attraction to her.
She really hated it when men did that. Yet, she had not told Femi off. He was charming, but not charming enough to make her lose her senses. So why hadn’t she?
Her phone rang. She took one look at it and smiled.
That was her reason.
She did not want any awkwardness with the man her best friend was hopelessly in love with. Or any awkwardness with her best friend for that matter.
“Babe, how far?” Akudo said, taking the call.
“AK I dey jo. How body?” Ronke replied.
“Body dey inside nightgown jare. What’s good?”
“Nothing much jo. Just dropped by my man’s place. He said you guys were just chatting.”
Akudo smiled. Ronke deserved an award for her attempt at sounding nonchalant. If she had not emphasized the “my man”, Akudo may have believed she was.
Akudo knew, because Ronke did not do a particularly good job of hiding it, that Ronke was threatened by her constant communication with Femi.
Akudo never initiated conversations with Femi, and kept well away from him but she was not going to tell Ronke this. Aside from the fact that it would destroy her self-esteem, it would likely affect their friendship.
Akudo also did not feel the need to give Ronke any reassurance that there was nothing between her and Femi because she had felt insulted, and more than a little hurt that Ronke would think she was capable of such.
“We were.” Akudo said at last, keeping her tone even.
“Baby, what were you discussing with my bestie?” Ronke purred, obviously to Femi but not taking her lips from the receiver so that Akudo could hear.
Before Femi could answer, Akudo heard soft moans, clicking and smacking sounds.
Ronke was kissing him. Kissing him while she left Akudo on the phone.
Akudo’s ears heated.
Her knee-jerk reaction was to hang up, but she knew it would be an easy victory for Ronke. Instead, she took a deep breath. It was barely audible.
“Take it easy oh. You know where this kind of behaviour leads.” Akudo said casually, a mental note to reward herself with her favourite wine for sounding perfectly unfazed.
“Ah babe, that ship has sailed since.” Ronke responded, with what Akudo imagined was a wave of her hand.
“Chai. Why am I not surprised?” Akudo said, rolling her eyes in jest.
“Can you blame me? This man of mine is hard to resist.” Ronke cooed, kissing Femi some more.
“So? Did you scream anything from the Spartan movie?” Akudo wasn’t quite sure how she had thought to ask that.
Ronke laughed. “Babe, the sex was so good we rewrote the whole movie!”
“Damn!” Akudo heard Femi say.
She didn’t blame him. That was quite the description.
The thought of sex that good had Akudo aching slightly in her pelvic region.
The thought of sex at all.
It had been so long.
“Damn is correct.” Akudo said quickly, getting her wits about her. “Anyway, I’ll leave you two to it. Later nau?”
“M-hmn.” Was all Ronke muttered before the clicking and smacking and moaning continued.
Ronke had let the phone drop from her hand, but she purposely did not hang up the call.
That was low.
Akudo cut the line just as the moaning was getting louder.
For the hundredth time in that month alone, Akudo asked herself how and why she was still friends with Ibironke Akande.
She leaned against a wall and closed her eyes, but she could not shut out the sounds. The sounds of lust, ecstasy, desire. The sounds that confidently made promises of pleasures to come. The sounds that would undoubtedly lead to more sounds.
Akudo groaned quietly, slowly opening her eyes.
That cold shower beckoned like a guardian angel that truly understood her torment, and she answered gratefully.