Timeyin flipped through television stations absent-mindedly.
He finally settled on one of the local news stations, then tossed the remote control on the couch beside him.
His phone buzzed.
The smile was still on Timeyin’s face when he set his phone down on the stool beside him.
When he first met her, he thought she was a married woman out to have some inappropriate fun. When he found out she was a widow, he felt a little bad for making his original assumption. Quite frankly, it was the only reason he apologized after Ronke told him he had upset Akudo with his behaviour the first time they met. After all, he had not been rude; just uncommunicative.
He regretted his apology almost as soon as it came out because Akudo proved herself to be a self-righteous, stuck-up person at the end of the night. So her apology the very next day had him so shocked that he had no choice but to change his opinion of her.
After yesterday though, he discovered he had not even scratched the surface of who she was.
He noticed her from the moment she walked into the Play.
She was beautiful, yes; but that was irrelevant. There was something different about her. Different from the other times he had encountered her.
It was a certain…determination; that was the best way he could put it. Whatever was going through her mind when she arrived at the Play certainly affected her gait and persona. He had not thought much of it until she asked him to move over rather than sit beside Ronke.
That was certainly odd.
Clearly, something was amiss in Bestfriend Land but that was none of his business.
He had only recently started to get back to being himself after his last…situationship. He could not call it a relationship if he were being honest.
All he wanted to do these days was keep happy, and focus on work and his personal projects. Most of all, he wanted to keep her far from his thoughts.
He was doing so successfully, until Akudo asked about her while he was driving her home.
Well, Akudo asked why he said he did not do pretty girls. He pushed down the lump that suddenly rose to his throat as he tried to play it cool. After all, he could have made that statement about any woman in his past.
Then she said she heard that he was quite the opposite of a heart-breaker, and he knew immediately that Femi had told Ronke.
It was humiliating enough as it was. The last thing he needed was random strangers knowing his business, then making him talk about it.
By the time he parked the car in front of Akudo’s house, he could not wait to get his hands on Femi. Sometimes the man just did not know when to shut the hell up.
When Akudo asked him to come in for a meal, he was too preoccupied with his thoughts to notice she was being serious until she insisted.
It dawned on him at that moment that she was likely feeling guilty for bringing up the topic.
He managed a small smile, and politely declined but she had turned off his ignition and taken his key.
That took him utterly by surprise.
Aside from the fact that he was not expecting it, it seemed absolutely out of character for her. Nothing about the Akudo he had encountered in the recent past implied she was capable of doing something like that. If anything, that seemed more like something Ronke would do.
He sat there, gaping at her receding figure as she gave the gate man some instructions before walking into her compound.
When he finally got over his initial shock, the questions started swarming in his mind.
Was she truly just being gracious? Or was she lonely and in need of company? Would the guilt let her go this far? They barely knew each other so why would she think it safe to invite him into her home? What if he was a serial killer? Hell, what if she was a serial killer? A black widow perhaps?
The last thought made him chuckle a bit. It seemed very unlikely. If it was, he would give her a standing ovation for her acting skills before she took his life.
He finally accepted that he did not have a choice in the matter.
Leaving his car parked outside her compound and taking a taxi home would be overly dramatic. It would look especially as if he was angry at her. It was Femi’s head he wanted, not hers.
His stomach grumbled as though to nudge him.
He sighed, and got out of the car.
They ate in relative silence. It was mildly awkward only because Akudo was trying hard keep the topics light. He was not sure if she was trying to keep from mentioning anything that might reopen old wounds for him, or if she was trying to keep the mood light because she was hoping for him to end up in bed with her.
She said her sons were away at their Grandma’s; and as far as he knew, she was alone at home.
It was looking more and more like she wanted sex.
Aside from the fact that she was “bad market” – a widow with two boys meant there was a good chance she would be clingy – he was just not in the mood.
He decided he was just going to be polite, but not overly friendly; and then take off as soon as he got a chance.
He had already agreed to wine, so he did a mental calculation for how long it would take for him to drink a glass of wine without it being too obvious that he was trying to leave.
Besides, there was still a possibility that she was only returning his kindness; and if that was the case, he did not want to end up feeling like an idiot by being rude.
When she gasped at finding out that an old classmate had died, he only asked what was wrong because it would have been awkward not to. However, as she told him about what she endured in secondary school, and how guilty she felt hearing about the death of the person who had tortured her, something stirred within him.
He had dealt with his fair share of bullying in Secondary School, and once when he and his old school buddies were reminiscing, someone had said “they were children back then” and it had pissed him off. It took a special kind of wickedness to mete out the kind of punishments that seniors did in their time. That manner of evil did not exist in children. This topic was a sore spot for him, so he had no qualms telling her that she had no reason to feel guilty.
It was hard to see her cry though. It had been extremely difficult for him to keep his distance from her as she did. His natural instinct was to comfort, but he already suspected she wanted sex; making body contact would definitely be sending the wrong message. Especially since she appeared vulnerable.
He knew where the line was, and he was not going to cross it.
He squeezed her knee because he felt it was too impersonal to just hand her the tissue box; but after that, he kept his hands to himself.
The way she had cried though…he knew there had to be more to it.
Though a voice kept saying “don’t meddle, it’s none of your business, no attachments, remain polite and leave”; he felt a strong urge to speak, to help her feel better. He knew if she talked about whatever it was that was really bothering her, she would feel better.
It is none of your business ooooooh. The voice in his head seemed to scream, but he spoke anyway; he asked her what the matter really was.
At first he was surprised at how easily she opened up to him. She seemed very much like the type to keep things close to her chest – just like him. By the time she was done however, he could not help himself.
Lines be damned. He pulled her to him, and held her until she had cried her fill.
Mumu! How are you going to get yourself out of this mess? The voice in his head asked, but he ignored it. He would cross that bridge when he came to it.
If he came to it. For at that moment, all he saw was a woman who just needed a break.
“I am so sorry.” Akudo said, as she slowly pulled away from him when she was done crying.
She cleared her throat, and excused herself.
When she returned, her face was clean and a little damp from being washed.
She was looking everywhere but at him.
Timeyin realised she was mortified at the fact that she had just bore her soul to a man she hardly knew.
“You can’t leave me to drink this wine alone.” He said, sounding very much like the last five minutes had not happened, as he lifted a glass in her direction.
She offered a tight smile, and walked over; grateful for the distraction but still very aware of what had just happened.
“Her name is Ini.” Timeyin began.
The look of horror on Akudo’s face was unbearable. She likely felt better, but she would not realise it if she kept dwelling on the fact that she had broken down to a near stranger. He had to help her forget that part. Besides, Akudo had exposed him to a side of her that she guarded very closely. It was only fair that he did the same.
“Who?” Akudo blinked in confusion, taking the glass from him and joining him on the couch but keeping a good distance between them.
“The reason I don’t do pretty girls. Her name is Ini.” He said, looking up at her with a sad smile on his face.
“Oh.” Akudo let out.
She did not say any more because she wanted him to continue. Timeyin knew this, and would have joked about it, if the mere mention of the name did not make his chest hurt.
“Iniubong Obot. One of the most beautiful women I had ever set my eyes on, and by far the one who hurt me the most.” Timeyin breathed.
He told her about the lady he thought was the love of his life, and how she flirted with him endlessly – leading him to believe they had something. He discovered, rather painfully, that she never even considered a relationship with him.
It was an abridged version because Timeyin suspected Akudo had the sordid details, but was surprised that she looked surprised.
“Didn’t Ronke tell you any of this?” He asked eventually.
“No. She just said you were heartbroken.” Akudo blurted out.
“Oh.” He said, surprised.
“Does she know all of this?” Akudo asked.
“I don’t know. The reason I got upset in the car was because I thought Femi told her, and she told you. The whole story I mean.”
“No. Not at all. Besides, men are not known for their storytelling skills, so I am sure Femi probably just said ‘some babe broke his heart’.” Akudo said.
She was trying to reassure him. That was kind of her.
Timeyin smiled. “You are probably right. Sounds exactly the way Femi would put it.”
There was a short pause.
“For what it’s worth,” Akudo began. “I believe in karma. It never fails. She will get what she deserves.”
Timeyin opened his mouth, then closed it. When he opened it again, there was a smile tugging at the corners. “I was actually going to say something about me not caring what she does with her life, and even wishing her well but since we are being honest here, YES! I believe in karma too damn it.” Timeyin said, clinking his wine glass to hers.
He succeeded in getting her to forget about her mortification; albeit temporarily.
There was a knock at the door.
It was Jelili, her mechanic. He had come for her keys as instructed.
That was Timeyin’s opportunity. He finished what was left in his wine glass, and waited for Jelili to be on his way before getting to his feet.
“I need to call it a night.” He said.
“Thank you so much…for everything.” She said.
“Not a problem.” He quipped. He knew what she meant, but he was not going to let her dwell on it. “The food was great, so was the wine. Thank you. Thank you also for talking me into it. I’m sure whatever I would have found on my way home would not have been half as good.”
“Suuuure. Abeg, abeg; don’t flatter. ” She threw back. “Let me have your number so I can check on you and make sure you got home safe.”
“Okay mum.” Timeyin teased, then called out his number to her.
She dialed it immediately and he saved hers.
“May I have my keys now?” He asked, pretending to beg.
She chuckled, and handed them to him.
They bade each other goodnight, and he had driven home replaying the entire visit in his head.
She had showed no signs of regret or that she was about to launch into seduction when he had got up to leave. She truly had just been trying to repay his kindness, and soothe her guilt for bringing up a sore topic.
He felt terrible for thinking she was a lonely widow looking to get laid.
He replayed all she had told him. Secondary school, the trials she encountered since her husband died…It was amazing how you never really know what people are dealing with when you see them walking down the street.
He was glad that things had taken a different turn the night they met. When Femi told him to be his wingman that night, his intention had been to get Akudo in bed. In fact, his words were “guy there was this babe I was dying for in Secondary School that I never touched. I ran into her the other day and she is even hotter. I need to get me some of that.”
Knowing what he knew now, Timeyin was certain that if Femi had dug his claws into Akudo, he would have probably left her more broken than he would ever know.
He suddenly felt this urge to protect her.
He knew he had a soft spot for widows because he was raised by one, but this was different. It was not sexual, or possessive; just a feeling he could not shake – especially after hearing all she had been through.
He picked up his phone.