“Mummy! Green!” Akudo’s younger son shouted, snapping her out of her thoughts.
“Oh, sorry. Thank you Dera.” She said, glancing up at the traffic light briefly before putting pressure on the gas pedal.
It had been a little over a week since her falling-out with Ronke and the matter still weighed heavily on her mind.
She knew her words were not untrue, and she was willing to admit that she should have said them a lot sooner, but she could not help but feel guilty about how she had said them. She really hated this side of her sometimes.
She had actually attempted to put up a fight against her conscience, but the tireless nag always won.
The fact that she knew of Ronke’s insecurities was enough reason for her to have dealt the blow more gently.
When Ronke appeared at her front door that day, Akudo was only surprised; maybe mildly annoyed because she was not in the mood to do what she had started to do lately with Ronke – listen like she cared, and only give vague answers to piercing questions.
It was tiring for her because she only knew one way to be. So, compartmentalising how she related to someone she loved was exhausting.
Nonetheless, she could have found a way to be cordial, if Ronke did not have that look on her face.
First it was a look of mischief; like she had just walked in on Akudo and Timeyin having sex. Like she knew whatever secret they had been hiding, and they were fools to think they could keep it from her.
Then it graduated to a look of suspicion; like Akudo had no business having anything to do with Timeyin. It was this look that really pissed her off.
Akudo had planned to pretend like Ronke had never made the comment about taking advantage of Timeyin. She knew she had meant it, but she was ashamed enough to lie that she had not – that had to count for something. Besides, she was not angry that Ronke had said it, she was angry at the other implication of the statement; so why remain visibly upset?
When Ronke had eyed her suspiciously though, it re-awakened the hurt she felt when she first heard Ronke utter those words.
Akudo parked the car at the children’s school, and covered her face with her palms.
The things she had said.
How had she let herself get that angry?
A part of her was glad that she had finally given Ronke a piece of her mind with regards to her frenemy tendencies and excessive insecurities, but she had always planned that the latter would be in advice form; and if their friendship crashed and burnt after that, so be it. She had certainly not planned to be riddled with guilt afterwards.
She groaned as she got out of the car and gestured for her sons to do the same.
That day had actually been going so good before that. It was, quite frankly, one of her best days in recent times.
When she was laughing heartily a few minutes prior to Ronke’s arrival, she had no idea her day was going to turn sour.
When Timeyin had texted her about helping with her painting, she had panicked. She was still recovering from the fact that she had just broken down in front of a man she hardly knew, and he was offering to come back the very next day?
She looked back at the message, and the tightness in her chest gradually eased as she realised that there was no indication that he felt pity for her, it was just an offer of assistance. She also remembered how he had acted like nothing had happened when she returned from washing her face after the teary episode. It was as though he knew how important it was for her not to be treated like a victim.
He was a good man. Besides, the painting was really driving her up the wall.
When he arrived, he gave her a curt hello and busied himself with the painting. By the time he was done, she made no secret of the fact that she may very well steal his laser level. It was a fantastic tool.
She insisted he stay back and have lunch, and this time, he was not so reluctant.
“So…I know you told me about Ini in a bid to distract me from the panic attack I was having.” Akudo said quietly but audibly, as she ventured a glance in Timeyin’s direction.
“Ah, so she decides to talk about the elephant in the room!” Timeyin said, concentrating on his rice.
His tone was light, which surprised Akudo. She suspected the matter was still a sore spot for him and had struggled with whether to say her name or just say “your situation”. The former sounded less weird.
“Actually, I was just going to say ‘thank you’, and that you can be certain that your secret is safe with me.” Her voice was solemn.
He looked up at her just then, and something like gratitude flashed in his eyes before his features relaxed into mild amusement. “It is the worst kept secret so…”
Akudo smiled. “Good point. Nevertheless though, I just wanted you to know that.”
“Noted.” Timeyin said, smiling. “You should know, by the way, that realising that you are human is not a weakness; it is, in fact, a strength.”
He was speaking about her this time and she knew it.
Akudo looked down at her food. “Well, it sure does not feel like it when you sit where I sit.”
Timeyin said nothing.
“Anyway,” Akudo began, trying to sound upbeat, “can we talk about something else?”
“Sure. What do you want to talk about?” Timeyin asked, dabbing the corners of his lips with a serviette.
“Is it a horrid thing to say that I was surprised to hear your story?” Akudo ventured. Curiousity was getting the best of her but, she would back off as soon as Timeyin showed any indication of being uneasy.
“What part?” He asked simply.
“The whole thing. I don’t know, you don’t strike me as the kind of guy that things like that happen to.”
“Things like what? Heartbreak?” Timeyin asked, amused.
“I know it sounds silly but, yes. You are not a bad-looking guy, you are kind, and you seem like you are doing well for yourself so I expect women to be falling all over you.”
“Who said they weren’t?” Timeyin asked, giving Akudo a mischief-laden smirk.
Akudo was not sure if he was being serious or not.
He must have noticed, because he suddenly chuckled.
“On a more serious note, that wasn’t even my first heartbreak.” Timeyin said casually, then took a sip of his water.
“Wow.” Akudo remarked. She was genuinely surprised. She suspected it was because he was a good guy. She had an uncle who used to say “good guys finish last” whenever she would scold him about his various escapades with women. This was probably what he meant.
She understood the appeal that ‘bad boys’ had, but for as long as she could remember, she had always been attracted to good boys. They were much less trouble. It just made no sense to her to entertain the thought of a guy who would undoubtedly break her heart.
“Well, we womenfolk can be dumb sometimes.” Akudo offered.
“It takes a wise woman to admit that.” Timeyin said into his glass as he sipped, giving Akudo a wink of approval. “Anyway, most of them are married so maybe I just wasn’t the ‘one’ for them.”
“Unless you are a commitment phobe.” Akudo said thoughtfully, but playfully.
“They were relationships, not flings. Trust me, that wasn’t the problem.” Timeyin said, shaking his head.
“Okay, marriage phobe maybe? I have heard of guys who have no issues getting into relationships; but taking it to the next stage na problem.”
“Nope! Not that either. I actually look forward to marriage.” Timeyin said, standing and picking up Akudo’s empty plate along with his.
Akudo thanked him, then trailed behind him to the kitchen.
He was proving to be more and more interesting by the minute.
Her phone beeped.
She scanned it quickly, then groaned.
“What’s wrong?” Timeyin asked over his shoulder as he turned on the faucet in the kitchen.
“Nothing. It’s just- hey, wait. You don’t have to wash the plates. I can do that later.” Akudo protested.
“I know I don’t have to. I want to.” Timeyin said, glancing towards her enough to let her know not to bother arguing.
She sighed. He had not tried to sound noble or sweet by saying it was only fair that he did the dishes since she cooked. He was her guest, he knew he was not expected to do dishes; he just wanted to.
She liked that. He did not try to be suave or appear charming; just straightforward.
“So what was it? The thing that made you sigh just now.” He said, interrupting her thoughts.
“Oh.” Akudo glanced down at her phone again. “My alma mater group. Somebody shared a post from an advice blog where a guy was complaining about his girlfriend’s body count, and how he did not want to marry her because of it.”
“Why do people like to ask questions that they won’t like the answer to? No good can come of it. And why does that even matter? And Why is it constantly being used against women? A man can have several sexual partners and it’s okay; but a woman’s sexual history is something she is judged by. A man can have 20 women in his wake, but turn down a woman that has 12. How does that make any sense?” Akudo finished.
“I think the whole idea that a person should even ask about body count is ridiculous.” Timeyin began, drying his hands on a napkin before following her back to the living room.
“First of all, we are so much more than who we sleep with, so having that define a person is just ridiculous.” Timeyin said.
“Exactly! Besides, I personally believe sex is akin to a merging of souls – which is why it is often hard to pull away from a person when the relationship falls apart. It is not something that should be belittled in the manner that ‘body count’ implies. It is powerful; I mean look at Okafor’s Law for crying out loud.” Akudo said, gesturing with her hands for emphasis.
“Okafor’s Law?” Timeyin asked, looking at her with an amused, puzzled expression.
“You know, the law that says once you have had sex with a person, you are highly susceptible to doing it again?” Akudo said, matter-of-factly.
“I know Okafor’s Law.” Timeyin chuckled. “I’m just surprised that you know it, and even more surprised that you believe it.”
“Oh, it’s real. I’ve seen it happen.” Akudo said, her face straight as an arrow.
“Most people have, that still doesn’t make it credible. By the way, the law says ‘if a man has had a woman, he can have her again at any time.’” Timeyin said, amusement evident on his face.
“We are saying the same thing. The woman will give in to the man because she has had sex with him in the past; but a man will also give in if seduced by a woman he has previously slept with so the law works both ways.” Akudo argued.
“Okay, and you believe in it?” Timeyin asked, lifting an eyebrow.
“Yes, I do. It makes sense. If it weren’t true, it wouldn’t keep happening. This is why, if you have an ex in the same vicinity, you need to move to a different continent.” Akudo said.
Timeyin laughed out loud at that.
A smile tugged at the corners of Akudo’s lips. He was even more handsome when he laughed.
“You actually just made my point with that last part. Sex is a conscious decision. Even if I see one of my exes tomorrow, I won’t just jump into bed with her because I have done so in the past.” Timeyin said, after he came up for air.
“But if she wants you or at least wants to have sex with you, and she puts in the work; trust me, you will fall because it is a familiar place.”
“I disagree. If I don’t want to have sex with her, not even her naked body will make it happen.” Timeyin said firmly.
“I highly doubt that.” Akudo said, lifting an eyebrow.
“Well, we will have to just agree to disagree.” Timeyin said, smiling.
“So we will.” Akudo said, smiling back.
They remained in comfortable silence for some seconds.
“On the matter of body count, remember my friend Osas from the night at Femi’s?” Timeyin began.
“The brooding loner who always gets the girl? How can I forget him?” Akudo said, lighting up.
“Yes, him.” Timeyin chuckled. “One time we were all arguing about the whole body count matter and he said, and I’ll never forget this, if the square root of the girl’s body count is a double-digit, he won’t touch the girl with a ten-foot pole!”
Timeyin ended in laughter.
“I am inclined to agree, man or woman.” Akudo said, mulling over the words. “Especially since the smallest double-digit number is ten! That’s one hundred sexual partners.”
“At the minimum.” Timeyin reminded.
A look passed between them, and they both shuddered dramatically.
“Believe it or not, a hundred sexual partners is actually quite possible over the span of a man’s life, but I believe women have more self-respect.” Timeyin said, putting his hands in his pockets.
“Why? Because women are expected to hold themselves to higher standards?” Akudo asked, an eyebrow raised and a bit of the humour missing from her tone.
“Nope! Because women are raised to be responsible, and men are raised to be pampered and society encourages both – at least on this side of the world. So the odds are actually in the favour of women to end up being responsible adults that are conscious of the various hazards that can come with having that many sexual partners.”
“True. Then of course there is the thing about how we have sex with our hearts and you guys have sex with your members.” Akudo said.
“Which is not really true because that would neither explain prostitutes nor women who want sex-only relationships.” Timeyin countered.
“Actually, the theory of having sex with our hearts stems from the argument of infidelity. Where a man can choose to cheat because he is bored, wants ‘variety’, or simply because he can; women usually cheat because they are lacking something in their current relationship. If that thing is sex, then women can have sex without their hearts. Most times, especially in extramarital affairs, it’s attention or something along those lines. That is why some people argue that it is worse when a woman cheats; because there is a good chance that she has feelings for the person she is cheating with. It’s easier to walk away from a sex-only relationship than it is to walk away from one where your heart is invested.” Akudo ended.
“Wow.” Timeyin said, looking away and folding his hands. “You just gave me a proper lecture on a woman’s mind.”
“Well then, you are welcome.” Akudo beamed. “So on the issue of why women who do not have sex for a living are less likely to have triple-digit sexual partners, it’s because we usually take our feelings along for the ride. We would die before we make it to one hundred.”
“Wow. Good to know.” Timeyin said, meaning it.
Akudo realised at that moment that they had been standing the whole time. She thought to offer him a seat because she was really enjoying his company, but she realised that he may have been standing because he was planning to leave soon.
“Anyway, I best be-” Timeyin stopped mid-sentence and gave Akudo a funny look.
“What?” She asked, staring down her dress for a stain.
“I’m sorry, when you were talking about women thinking with their hearts. Did you say men think with their members? Or did I hear wrong?”
Akudo crossed her arms and looked away. If she was of a fairer complexion, she would have been flustered.
“Oh my goodness. Who says ‘member’?” Timeyin asked, laughing.
“Don’t make fun of me.” Akudo said, pouting.
“I am not making fun of you, I am just surprised. I don’t remember the last time I heard it put that way. How old are you again?” Timeyin chuckled.
“I am 32 and no, I don’t like saying crude words. Sue me!”
Timeyin blinked. “You are 32?”
Akudo looked at him hesitantly. “Yes, why?”
“I am older than you are!” He exclaimed.
Akudo smacked him on his chest. “You thought I was older than you?”
“Well, didn’t you?” Timeyin shot back defensively, nursing his chest.
“No! I mean, I figured we were age mates at best; but I definitely did not think you were younger. Jeez! So mean.” Akudo said, narrowing her eyes and shaking her head at him.
Timeyin, suddenly realising how Akudo perceived his statement, straightened. “No, no, no. You don’t look older, I just assumed you were because you sound older. You are quite mature for your age.”
“Nice save.” Akudo said, not convinced.
“I’m serious.” Timeyin said, wiping the smile off his face to show he was serious.
It actually was not the first time Akudo had heard that.
“Well, motherhood and widowhood will do that to you.” She said quietly, a sadness passing over her.
“Quite frankly I just thought you were one of those forty-something-year-olds that looked half your age.”
Akudo noticed Timeyin had acted like he did not hear the widowhood part, but it was okay. She did not want to dwell on it either.
“Now you have shifted to flattery?” She said, giving him a look that showed she did not believe him.
“No, I’m being serious. All these dem Halle Berry types that don’t age. So I even senior you sef?” He teased.
“Abeg abeg. I’m sure it’s not by much.” Akudo said with mock defiance.
“When is your birthday?” Timeyin asked pointedly.
“Can you imagine? We were even born the same year!” Akudo exclaimed.
“I did not say that. Just answer the question.”
“September 27th. I added the date in case we were born the same month so that you can claim a few days seniority.” Akudo said, returning his stare.
“Wait, your birthday has not even come yet? That means I am nearly three years older than you!” Timeyin exclaimed.
“What is nearly three years? It’s two years, full stop. No ‘nearly’ anything.” Akudo shot back.
“I was born in July young lady; I was well into my third year by the time you were born.” Timeyin said, a cocky grin on his face.
“It’s only two months!” Akudo said, rolling her eyes.
“My birthday is only three days into the month of July, so we have to count July. It’s three months, and it is definitely not ‘only’. By the time you were born, I could solve Maths.”
Akudo shot him an incredulous look.
“What? It’s true.” He said, standing his ground.
“How is that even possible?” Akudo said, chuckling in disbelief.
“We smart kids don’t have to explain ourselves.” Timeyin said, leaning against her front door and crossing his legs.
Akudo snorted as she struggled to contain the laughter, then gave up trying to contain it altogether.
When she came up for air, her eyes landed on her living room clock and she gasped.
“Oh goodness. I have to quickly tidy up some stuff and go pick my sons.” She said, reluctant to end the conversation.
She sensed that Timeyin knew that.
“I understand. I have to head home myself.” He said, pushing away from the door slowly.
“Thank you so much. You have no idea how much that painting was driving me crazy.” She said, gratefully.
“I was glad to help. It was driving me crazy too; how much more you that had to stare at it the whole day, everyday.”
Akudo chuckled, and opened the door for Timeyin; and just like that, her beautiful day had come to a screeching halt as soon as she sighted Ronke.
She needed advice on how to manage the situation. She could not call her sister Ifunanya, because she did not like Ronke; and she could not call her brother because he liked Ronke too much. She could not confide in Timeyin for obvious reasons, and other people in her life would ask her why she was still friends with Ronke if she told them the full story.
Regardless, something needed to be done.
Apologising would make it look like she was taking back what she said, so that was out of the question.
They were words Ronke needed to hear, and she had finally summoned up the courage to say them. There was never a chance their friendship was going to survive if she had not said them, not without risking her sanity. Now that she had, she felt hopeful that she could build a better relationship with Ronke.
The words had been spoken; they needed to be said, and that was final.
She just had to figure out how to move forward from here.