Ronke glanced at her phone for the umpteenth time, a look of perplexity taking over her features.
“Why won’t she call me back?” She muttered audibly.
When she looked away from her phone to Femi who sat beside her on the couch, her expression changed to one of annoyance.
She unfolded her legs where she sat; stretched one of them, and kicked him.
“Hmn?” He responded; not taking his eyes off the television. His favourite crime series was on, and he was engrossed.
“She has not called back.” Ronke said.
“Who?” Femi asked, eyes still glued to the television.
“Ugh! You are useless whenever you are watching your shows.” Ronke said, kicking him again.
“Yet, it doesn’t stop you from disturbing me.” Femi said, not hiding his frustration as he pressed the pause button and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“If I am disturbing you-” Ronke began.
“Ronke, you made me pause my show and you know I like this show; so let’s not do this song and dance where you pretend to be upset, and then I have to beg you to tell me what it is.”
Ronke rolled her eyes. She had been dating him long enough to know he meant those words.
“Akudo has still not called me back.” She let out.
Femi blinked. “So?”
“What do you mean ‘so?’ It’s unusual!”
“Maybe she is busy. Please tell me there is some other reason you made me pause my show.” Femi said, trying his best to stay calm.
“She has been acting strange lately.” Ronke said, more quietly.
Akudo had been acting strange towards her since that night they rode together in the car and she told Akudo that Timeyin was her back-up plan.
What had she been thinking?
In truth, it was not entirely a lie because that was what she had planned the moment she set her eyes on Timeyin the first night they met.
Timeyin was meant to be the plan in case Femi did not want a relationship with her, but he did and things were different now. Especially since the more she spent time with Timeyin, the more she realised he was not her type. Even if Timeyin was still her low-key back-up plan, the only reason she would have anything to do with Timeyin is if she was trying to make Femi jealous.
Nonetheless, she really should not have said it out loud.
Regardless though, why was Akudo taking it so personally? She did not actually like Timeyin.
Aside from the fact that the woman made it clear that she was not interested in any romantic relationship of any kind, Timeyin was all looks and no personality. He would bore her to tears.
Nah, there was no way it was the Timeyin matter.
Femi groaned, then placed the remote control on the table in front of him.
“What happened?” He asked, turning to face Ronke and fixing her with a stare.
“Why are you looking at me as if I did something wrong?” She asked.
“I am just looking at you, but since you have more or less admitted it, what did you do?”
“Nothing!” Ronke hated how defensive she sounded.
Femi kept his eyes on her.
“Nothing, seriously.” She repeated.
Femi rolled his eyes, turned away from her and picked up the remote control again.
Ronke narrowed her eyes.
Ordinarily, she would stalk off to the bedroom and give him the silent treatment until he came begging but the last time she did that, he had ignored her and remained in the living room. The time before that, he had left the apartment completely.
Apparently they had passed that part of the relationship where he cared about her every tantrum.
“I think it’s because I don’t hang with her the way we used to.” Ronke said, thoughtfully.
“Then that’s an easy fix. Call her and ask her to hang.” Femi said absent-mindedly. “Just don’t make me lie for you again, I won’t do it.”
“Oh come on, you are still on that matter?” Ronke teased, tapping him playfully with her toes.
“I don’t understand why I had to lie to her that Timeyin wanted her at the Play. You could have just told her to come.”
“I told you, she would not have come if I had asked. Something is up, and that is what I am trying to figure out.” Ronke whined.
“Okay then, call her.” Femi said simply.
“I tried. I told you, she is not taking my calls.”
“Then go to her. If it bothers you that much, just go to her house.” Femi said flatly.
It was clear that he was more than a little annoyed with her, and if Ronke were not bothered by the growing distance between her and Akudo, she would have made a fuss.
She glanced at her watch. With any luck she could catch Akudo before she headed to FESTAC to pick up her sons. If the visit went well, she would not mind tagging along so they could catch up.
Ronke’s mind was a flurry of activity as she drove to Akudo’s house.
She knew it was selfish, and maybe a little cruel on her part to want to have Timeyin as well. Well, use him if she were being honest; but she was tired of being single.
She had to make this relationship with Femi work; and if there was any chance that he was starting to lose interest, she was going to snap him back into action by flirting with his friend. Men loved a good chase, she just had to keep him interested until he realised she was all he needed and then he would propose.
For as long as she could remember, she had always dreamed of “happily ever after” and what that meant for her.
The man would be tall, dark, and handsome – cliche, yes but it was what she always pictured. She liked a fairer complexion but only on women or babies; she preferred her men dark.
The wedding would be a destination wedding. Her locations of preference were Italy, Greece and more recently, South Africa. They would live in an expensive suburb, either in Lagos or Abuja. They would raise beautiful children who would attend elite schools that used full British or American curriculum, and had foreign teachers to boot so that even on Nigerian soil, they would have foreign accents.
When she met Femi, she made some adjustments to that dream.
She still preferred a destination wedding but she was open to a Nigerian wedding as long as it was large, and well publicized. If she was not going to be able to brag about the location, she needed to be able to brag about how much was spent and have her face splattered across magazines and entertainment sites.
Ronke sighed quietly as she drove.
Who was she kidding? It did not really matter where she got married. She was already thirty three and every relative she had, male and female were constantly reminding her that she was ‘past her prime’.
If she was not being constantly reminded of her peers who were married with children, she was being told directly or indirectly that she may very well end up an old spinster.
Just the other day, her Aunt Iyabo said that she was too old and the only men that would be interested in her were divorcees and widowers.
Her mother had not even tried to defend her. That had hurt Ronke.
Good men did not just fall from the sky and she had tried, heaven knows she had tried to find a good man. It would have been easy to throw in the towel, and allow herself become a concubine or girlfriend to any of the wealthy married men that had propositioned her; but she had not.
She had not because she wanted better, deserved better; and despite what anybody thought, she was a good girl at heart.
Yet it counted for nothing because at the end of the day, she did not have a “Mrs” preceding her name.
Her mother had merely sighed when Aunt Iyabo made the comment.
A long, drawn-out sigh; like she had resigned herself to the fact that those were Ronke’s only options.
Then she wondered why Ronke hardly visited.
Ronke was grateful that her mother lived in a different state. It made finding excuses to avoid visiting very easy.
Since she was twenty six, she had always returned from those trips in worse spirits than when she went.
Quite frankly, Akudo was the reason she had stayed sane through it all.
Most times she would go straight to Akudo’s house and cry in her arms.
In those moments, Akudo never failed to remind her of how beautiful she was and how the man God chose for her was still on his way.
Ronke sighed again.
Though she knew she was not always the friend Akudo deserved, she could not stand the thought that their friendship might be in jeopardy. Akudo had been the one constant source of support in her life. She may not have always done a good job of showing it, but their friendship meant the world to her.
She was not sure exactly what she did to make Akudo upset, but she had to make things right.
Ronke parked her car on Akudo’s street and frowned at the car parked in front of her.
It looked familiar.
She shrugged, got out of her car and made her way towards Akudo’s gate.
When she got to the front of her door, she heard laughter.
Akudo was not alone. With any luck, whoever it was would be leaving soon.
Ronke paused at the door.
Akudo’s unmistakeable laughter floated towards her.
Ronke smiled. She had not heard her friend laugh like that in years. Whoever this was, she would have to thank the person.
She lifted her hand to knock, but the door swung open.
“Timeyin!” She exclaimed, as she stared in utter disbelief at her boyfriend’s best friend.
“Ronke. Hi.” Timeyin said. He was just as surprised as she was, but he recovered quickly.
“Ronke. I did not know you were coming.” Akudo said, appearing beside Timeyin.
Ronke’s features relaxed into a look of suspicion. “It was meant to be a surprise.”
“You could have called.” Akudo snapped.
Ordinarily, Ronke would have been annoyed at Akudo’s tone; but that she had the tone at all made her even more suspicious. She sounded a hundred percent defensive; like she was upset that Ronke had encountered Timeyin at her home.
It was suspicious, but more hurtful than suspicious because Akudo clearly was not planning on telling her about whatever was going on between her and Timeyin.
“I don’t always call, and it has never been a problem.” Ronke said, her tone measured.
“I’ll see you guys later.” Timeyin said, walking around Ronke.
“Please, don’t leave on my account.” Ronke said, fixing Timeyin with a stare – her expression unreadable.
“I am not. I was already on my way out.” Timeyin said flatly, making eye contact and holding it.
“Thanks for your help with the painting.” Akudo said to Timeyin. “I really appreciate it.”
She smiled at him, and he smiled back before walking away.
Ronke watched Timeyin as he walked away.
When she turned back to look at Akudo, the smile she had offered Timeyin was long gone.
Akudo turned away from her, walked back into the house and left the door ajar behind her.
“O-kay…” Ronke began. “Are we quarrelling?”
Akudo busied herself with dusting her clean furniture.
“You are ignoring me now?” Ronke continued.
Akudo stood upright, turned around and folded her arms across her chest. “No.”
“No to which one?” Ronke asked.
“Both.” Akudo said.
“I don’t believe you.” Ronke said.
Akudo rolled her eyes, looked away, and began folding the napkin she had been using to dust.
“I mean, you don’t pick my calls; you don’t return my texts. How am I supposed to believe you are not upset with me?” Ronke asked, venturing a few steps towards Akudo.
“I did not say I was not upset at you. I said we are not quarreling.” Akudo said, her eyes still averted.
“Well what did I do?” Ronke nearly screamed, throwing her hands up in frustration. “I am not psychic, and you have been avoiding me. I also don’t remember us having a misunderstanding.”
At that, Akudo brought her eyes to rest on Ronke’s. “Really?”
Ronke maintained eye contact with Akudo, as she shrugged to indicate that she still did not know what Akudo meant.
Akudo’s stare was unwavering. Could it be…
“This can’t be about what I said about Timeyin?” Ronke asked quietly, not wanting to believe it.
Akudo’s eyes gave her away.
“Are you kidding me right now?” Ronke let out. “I told you it was a joke!”
“You and I know that was not a joke Ronke.” Akudo’s tone was quiet, but hard.
She walked towards the kitchen and Ronke followed.
“It was a joke, and even if it was not; why is that even a big deal?”
“I can’t believe you are actually asking me that right now.” Akudo spat, spinning around to face her. “You, who have had your heart broken more than once by people who took advantage of you. How can you even say it’s not a big deal?”
Akudo had a point. It still did not explain the distance, and her anger. Akudo could have just scolded her about it and they would have moved on – like they always did.
“Fine, yes; so it was a poor choice of words but-” Ronke began.
“Don’t lie.” Akudo cut her, turning back towards the kitchen sink.
“Akudo, why is it so hard for you to believe that-” Ronke tried again.
“Stop lying!” Akudo bellowed, turning back around. “I am not stupid Ronke, I know you. Anybody that has watched you these last couple of weeks can see it too. You are insecure in your relationship, and you are worried it may not be the happily ever after that you are looking for and because you are so desperate to settle down, you are happy to toy with an innocent man’s heart. The least you can do is own up to it.” She finished, turning back to the sink.
Ronke stood in silence for a moment.
So maybe she had been spending a lot of time with Femi, but that did not mean she was insecure. Femi loved her, and she loved him. Where did Akudo get off making such statements?
Akudo was right about Timeyin being her back up plan, but not in the way that she thought. Nevertheless, Ronke was sure now more than ever that Akudo had feelings for Timeyin and she was not sure how to feel about that.
It hurt that Akudo did not trust her enough to tell her, but how could she? Ronke had told Akudo to steer clear of Timeyin so should she really be surprised that Akudo did not tell her?
She was not sorry about what she said though. Akudo had made it abundantly clear that she did not want a relationship, so technically Ronke did nothing wrong. If Akudo fell for Timeyin after Ronke had staked her claim to him, Akudo needed to back off as the good friend that she was.
But if Akudo actually had feelings for Timeyin, this meant her friend had a chance at finding love again. She should be happy for her. In a way, she was. She did not even want Timeyin; she wanted Femi and was working hard to make that relationship work. So Akudo saying she was insecure in her relationship was not only untrue but absolutely uncalled for.
“For the record, I am not insecure in my relationship.” Ronke began.
Ronke blinked. Had Akudo just mocked her?
“Akudo, watch it.” She warned.
“Who do you think you are kidding? You spend every waking moment with him – as if being away from him meant you would make room for other women to swoop in and take him away from you. When you are in public, you are damned near glued to him. The night he had the get-together, you couldn’t even tear yourself away from him to pull me up to dance. You always force me to dance. Always! What do you call that if not insecurity?”
Ronke swallowed slightly.
She came here to make peace, but it was clear that was not going to happen today.
She reined in her anger. “I am not going to have this conversation with you Akudo. Since you want to stay upset, suit yourself.”
She grabbed her purse where she had dropped it on a couch.
“Ah Aunty Ronke. I say maybe I hear your voice.” Roseline said, stepping out of her bedroom and walking towards her.
“Roseline, how you dey?” Ronke said, turning her head long enough to acknowledge the housekeeper before continuing out the door.
She knew Roseline would be surprised because she was usually friendlier, but she needed to get out of there before she said things she may never be able to come back from.
The sound of her hand brake as she engaged it after parking the car jolted Ronke out of her thoughts. She had driven completely unaware of where she was going and absolutely lost in thought. She heard about people arriving at their destinations and not remembering the journey, but this was the first time it was happening to her.
Her breath caught as she thought of all that could have gone wrong on the road while she drove in a state of absent-mindedness. She resolved to make a conscious effort not to do that again.
She suddenly glanced up and sighed. Of course she had blindly driven to Femi’s house.
Akudo was right.
She knew Akudo was right, and that was why it hurt so much.
Femi was gorgeous, kind, playful, sexy, and successful. He was every woman’s dream and Ronke knew she would be stupid if she assumed that just sitting pretty and trusting him was all she had to do to keep him.
There was temptation everywhere, and women were desperate. There will always be someone prettier, with a better physique, and with more impressive skills in the bedroom.
She had seen a future with him, and it was beautiful. She wanted to bring it to fruition, and there was a good chance it would never come to pass if she stayed passive.
This was not some random bloke, or a fling; this was her life.
She wiped a lone tear, and turned off the ignition.
It did not matter that Akudo may have been right. She knew what this meant to Ronke, yet chose to make her feel bad for it.
For that, Akudo was a bitch.