Akudo hung the new painting on the wall, took a few steps back, and frowned at it.
She had used a measuring tape and was certain the nails were drilled into the middle of the wall, but the space on either side of the painting looked unequal.
She would have decided not to hang the picture up at all if she had not already drilled three holes. Now she had to hang it up to cover the holes, but she was going stir crazy trying to figure out why the mathematical middle did not match the visual middle.
Her phone beeped.
Akudo pinched the bridge of her nose.
She should have known Ronke would show up at her door eventually. Especially now that the events of the previous night showed Ronke that Akudo was not a threat to her relationship.
Akudo unlocked her front door, then walked towards her bedroom.
Seconds later, Ronke opened the door.
“Na wa oh. No ‘hello’, nothing?” Ronke called after her.
Akudo ignored her.
Ronke stopped halfway to Akudo’s bedroom, then continued after Akudo a few moments later.
“Nice painting, but it’s off.” Ronke quipped.
Akudo threw her hands in the air in frustration but said nothing.
Ronke let her bag drop onto Akudo’s bed, before sinking into the bed herself. “Okay, let’s hear it. What happened?”
“Nothing.” Akudo said, a little too quickly, as she rummaged around in her bedside drawer. She could feel the incredulous look that Ronke was giving her, but she did not turn to look in Ronke’s direction.
“Babe. If you don’t start talking, I am going to take a fight to Timeyin’s doorstep because clearly, whatever he did was so bad that you cannot even talk to me about it.”
Akudo sighed, then straightened.
She knew Ronke meant it without even looking at her. Unlike her, Ronke was extremely confrontational.
“Seriously, it’s nothing. I have had time to think about it, and I think I may have been wrong.” Akudo let out, sitting down beside her friend.
Ronke looked puzzled. “You are not irrational, neither are you prone to anger so I highly doubt that it was your fault. Just tell me what happened.” Ronke urged, her voice quieter than usual.
“What did Femi tell you?” Akudo asked, venturing a glance in her friend’s direction.
“Not much. He said he went to get you a taxi, came back and saw you screaming at Timeyin.”
Akudo winced. “Well, I would hardly call it screaming but…”
“Look, long story short, he was a gentleman and I was rude.” Akudo, ended; making to stand up but Ronke grabbed her by the arm and gently guided her back to a sitting position.
“When have you ever known me to want the short version?” She asked, piercing Akudo with a stare.
Her relationship with Ronke was by far Akudo’s most dysfunctional. She loved Ronke through and through, but Ronke only seemed to love her as long as she was not threatened by her.
Ronke loved that Akudo loved her unconditionally, and could always count on that – which was why she often took the love for granted. She knew that no matter what she did, Akudo’s love for her would always triumph. Akudo was growing tired of this song and dance, but Ronke had been her unwavering rock since the death of her husband. That counted for something.
Besides, Ronke was the only one she could pretty much discuss anything with.
Akudo let out a breath, and told Ronke everything.
“The worst part is that he actually apologised for his behaviour at that dinner, but I ignored all that the moment he implied that he came to the dinner with the express intention of getting laid.”
“Babe,” Ronke began, leaning in. “You know that the two most common ways for guys to cheer themselves up are alcohol and sex right?”
“I know; but I had a mental picture of you crying in my lap because Timeyin slept with you and jilted you, and I just lashed out at him.” Akudo explained.
“I don’t know whether to be offended that you think I would sleep with a man on the first night, or be moved by the fact that you were fighting for my honour.” Ronke said, an eyebrow raised.
Akudo nudged her playfully. “Go jo. Now you sound like Timeyin. Contrary to what you may think, I actually believe it is possible for a man to say the right things to a woman and weaken her resolve to the point that she may end up in bed with him even on the first night. Sure, a woman should be able to resist, but a man should not lie to get her in bed in the first place! Especially if he knows that she is not looking for a quick fix. That manner of deception is just evil.”
Ronke just gave her a bemused look.
“Oh shut up.” Akudo said, rolling her eyes.
Ronke made no secret of the fact that she found Akudo’s position on male-female relationships “cute”. Akudo was a sheltered ‘good girl’ that married as a virgin, and Ronke would never let her hear the end of it. Akudo especially hated that Ronke felt she could not speak on the matter because she did not have enough “experience.”
“I believe in being on the same page.” Akudo continued, sounding more defensive than she intended to. “If the woman wants a good time, then by all means. If she doesn’t, don’t act like you want to get to know her just because you want to get into her pata.”
Ronke smiled, then wrapped her arms around Akudo’s shoulder and squeezed. “Thank you for defending my honour AK.” She said, feigning a British accent.
“You are just a cow.” Akudo said, hissing as she pulled away from Ronke.
“So ordinarily I would say you should forget about it and move on but I know you, you won’t be able to rest until you apologize so…” Ronke trailed off.
Akudo closed her eyes and groaned. Ronke knew her too well.
“Besides, he is my guy’s best friend so you won’t be able to avoid him anyway.” Ronke finished.
Akudo opened her eyes suddenly. “Yes I can. It is you I have a relationship with, not your boyfriend; so I don’t have to see his best friend if I don’t want to.”
“Yes but are you going to avoid visiting me or hanging out with me? At some point you are going to run into him.” Ronke said matter-of-factly.
Akudo grinned in response.
“Hell no! I am not letting you return to obscurity because you don’t want to deal with Timeyin.” Ronke scolded, recognizing Akudo’s grin.
“Fine, whatever. I would prefer to send an apology text but considering that I called him a serial heart breaker, I figure I should do a proper phone call.”
Ronke gasped. “You actually called him a heart breaker?”
“Not using those exact words, but more or less. Why?”
“Babe, the reason he was in such a bad mood at the dinner was because he recently got his heart broken!” Ronke said, throwing her hands in the air for emphasis.
Akudo’s jaw dropped.
“Oh no.” She exclaimed, covering her face in shame.
When she removed her hands, her eyes were filled with regret. “When can I see him?”
Akudo barely heard anything Femi and Ronke said. Her mind was a flurry of activity as she played out all the different scenarios in her head.
Ronke had called for an impromptu dinner at the restaurant of a swanky hotel in Ikoyi, and talked Timeyin into joining them.
She neglected to mention, of course, that Akudo would be there.
When it felt like she may end up with a migraine, Akudo blew out a breath and told herself that if it crashed and burnt, at least she would have apologised.
Sometimes she hated this part of her.
The part that was perpetually restless when she wronged someone. She believed in doing the right thing, but she hated the hold that not doing so had over her. She knew people who would shrug off even worse “crimes”, and move on with their lives.
She was not as lucky.
Her conscience was a relentless, vicious and unforgiving nag.
“Hey, here he comes.” Ronke whispered loudly.
Akudo snapped her head towards the entrance before she could stop herself.
Timeyin was making a beeline for their table, and Akudo was not sure if it was the carefree confidence he exuded or the way the tailored attire fit his body perfectly, but her mouth suddenly went dry.
His steps faltered a bit when he saw her. Then he came to a stop completely as if debating whether to turn around and leave, or stay. He looked away as he shook his head in that “I should have known” manner.
When he turned his gaze back to their direction, he stared straight at Ronke with a look that could freeze lava. To Akudo’s utter surprise, he continued his approach to their table. His hands were now in his pockets; his jaws tight and chin high.
There was only one chair available, the one directly opposite Akudo.
Timeyin pulled his right hand out of his pocket long enough to pull out the chair and sit.
He turned his head to the left and fixed Femi with a stare.
“Hey, it was all her idea.” Femi said, raising one hand in his defence and pointing the other at Ronke.
“Wow, nice.” Was all Ronke said to Femi with mild annoyance before turning to Timeyin. “Just talk. Please.”
Ronke stood up. “Babe, let’s get dessert.” She said to Femi, inclining her head towards the buffet.
“What? I’m not done with my meal!” Femi protested.
“Dide jo!” Ronke ordered, forcing Femi up by the arm and dragging him towards the buffet.
Timeyin watched them leave, and Akudo used those seconds to pull herself together.
By the time Timeyin brought his eyes to rest on her, she had squared her shoulders and sat up straight.
She cleared her throat to speak but he sighed, pulled his hands out of his pockets and clamped them together on the table.
“Look, our friends are dating, so we will probably run into each other from time to time. There is no need for it to be awkward.” He let out.
“I agree.” Akudo said quietly, feeling deflated. She did not think she could feel any worse. Despite how she had treated him the previous night, he was willing to move past it. How had she thought he was anything but decent?
“Good.” He said firmly, then his hands were back in his pockets; his eyes averted.
“Nevertheless, I am sorry.” Her voice was barely a whisper, but he had heard her. When she looked up, he was staring right at her, and the look on his face was one of surprise.
“I said, I am sorry. I should not have said what I did. That was not fair to you.” She breathed, lowering her eyes again.
He paused for what seemed like forever.
“Wow. I didn’t know you had it in you.” He said eventually.
“What?” Akudo’s eyes shot up, not sure how to feel about him throwing her apology back in her face. She noticed the corners of his mouth twitch, and remembered.
She smiled and looked away.
“Doesn’t sound nice when it’s directed at you does it?” Timeyin asked, humour lacing his tone.
“I suppose I deserve that.” Akudo admitted.
“Anyway, I kinda get where you were coming from; but I appreciate the apology all the same. ” He gave her a full smile to show he meant it..
“I see a smile. Does that mean it is safe to return?” Ronke said, approaching the table.
Timeyin rolled his eyes at her.
“Oh thank goodness! I was enjoying that food.” Femi said, breezing past Ronke and hurriedly sliding into the seat he had vacated.
Ronke only shook her head.
“Want to grab some food?” Timeyin asked Akudo, gesturing towards the buffet.
Akudo laughed a little harder than she had laughed in a while. If anybody had told her that she would be enjoying a conversation with Timeyin, she would have laughed in the person’s face.
With the tension diffused, they spent the rest of the meal having casual conversation. By the time they were leaving, the topic had moved to the party of the previous night.
“I swear I thought Ronke was going to stab her.” Timeyin said.
He and Akudo trailed behind Femi and Ronke – who were lost in conversation themselves and could not hear them.
“I honestly did not know anybody else noticed.” Akudo laughed.
“What? Even a blind person would have noticed. That time when Ronke displaced the chic that sat beside Femi, I was so sure a fight was going to break out.”
Akudo laughed. “Oh come on! My friend is not violent.”
“I find that hard to believe but I’ll take your word for it.” Timeyin said with mock seriousness.
Akudo jabbed him playfully.
“So what did you think of the gang?” Timeyin asked a few moments later, turning to look at her.
Akudo made eye contact with him and realised he really wanted her opinion.
“Oh, are you guys a close-knit bunch?”
“Well, the two girls that came together are Femi’s friends. I hardly know them; but the others, we’ve all been friends since Uni.” He said simply.
“Oh okay. Well I like Osas-” Akudo began.
“Ugh! Most girls do. I can never understand it.” Timeyin cut in.
Akudo chuckled. “Really? Most girls? He seemed like a loner.”
“Yet he did not go home alone. He never does. It happens that way every time. I swear the guy just needs to bottle up whatever it is he does and sell it, I will buy.” Timeyin said, throwing his hands up for emphasis.
“In fact, you tell me. Maybe you can explain it to me. Since you think he is a loner, then why do you like him?” Timeyin asked, folding his arms expectantly.
Akudo shrugged. “The wit, the bluntness. There is just something appealing about a man who says it as it is. No airs, no pretenses.”
“Wow. So I just have to be sharp-tongued sarcastic ass to get the women to fall all over me? Got it.”
Akudo chuckled. “That’s not what I said, but why bother? What will you do with all that attention? You don’t seem like the type that can handle more than one woman.”
“You have psychoanalyzed me already?” Timeyin asked playfully, fixing her with a stare.
“No!” Akudo laughed, raising her hand in protest. “It’s just a feeling. Anyway, I also liked Taiwo and her boyfriend. They are not married right?”
“Ah, the nauseating two – that’s what I call them. No they aren’t. It’s pretty sickening that they act like they are abi?”
“This your bad belle is on another level oh.” Akudo teased.
“It’s not envy!” Timeyin said defensively. He paused, then added “okay, maybe a little.”
“I don’t blame you.” Akudo said, a sad smile tugging at her lips. “They are cute. The boyfriend…”
“Tuoyo.” Timeyin said.
“Yes, Tuoyo. I’ve been struggling to remember his name. He reminds me of Edozie – my husband. That was his name.” She ended with a sigh.
“Aaaw, look at the two of you getting along.” Ronke said, appearing beside them.
They had been so engrossed in their discussion that they had not seen her walking back towards them.
“Well that’s what you wanted isn’t it?” Timeyin asked pointedly.
“Yes. I am glad there is peace in the land. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to steal my friend. I don’t know about you but some of us have work tomorrow.” Ronke said, pulling Akudo away.
“It was nice to actually, finally meet you Akudo.” Timeyin called out.
Akudo looked back and smiled at him, then waved.
He waved back, returning the smile.
“So?” Ronke prompted, after they had driven in silence for a while.
Akudo, who had been staring out the window lost in her thoughts suddenly whipped her head around to Ronke. “So what?”
“Are you going to tell me how you and Timeyin solved your issues or am I going to have to tickle it out of you?”
Akudo instinctively shifted closer to the passenger side door.
“Focus on your driving jo. ” She chided playfully. “And we didn’t have issues. ”
Ronke waited expectantly.
“It was really quite simple. I apologised, and he accepted.” Akudo said, turning her attention back towards the window.
“Just like that?” Ronke asked, not believing her.
“Men don’t hold grudges like we do.” Akudo chuckled.
“Go jo. So what are you feeling like now? An expert on men?” Ronke taunted.
Akudo did not answer.
“I am joking nau ah-ahn, somebody cannot play with you?” Ronke teased.
“You think I have your time?” Akudo said, not taking her eyes off the window.
“I see Timeyin left an impression.” Ronke said moments later, her tone a little less humorous.
“What? Why do you say so?” Akudo asked, surprised.
“You are smiling. We are on third mainland bridge, and there is nothing but water to your right and you can’t possibly be smiling at the densely packed buildings beyond the horizon.”
Akudo shook her head and smiled. There was no harm in being honest.
“I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.” She said quietly. “It felt…good.”
“What do you mean? I make you laugh all the time.” Ronke said, feigning offense.
“Go jo. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, just making sure you were not catching feelings for Mr. Timeyin.” Ronke said, stealing a quick glance at Akudo.
Akudo shot Ronke an annoyed look.
“I know, I know. You don’t want to love again or marry again. Whatever. Just asking sha.” Ronke said, taking her hands off the steering wheel briefly to raise them in surrender.
When Akudo resumed her stare out the window, Ronke said “Anyway, that’s good sef because if this thing does not work with Femi, Timeyin is my back-up plan.”