Timeyin glanced down at his watch, then continued to tap his hands on his right thigh.
He had arrived at the airport with time to spare.
The plane had not touched down yet. Lagos traffic could be unpredictable and he had not wanted to take any chances, but even he had to admit he left his house a little too early.
He had been inexplicably restless the last three weeks. Well, truth be told his restlessness could be explained; and in one word: Akudo.
He missed her. It made him cringe to admit it but he did.
Choosing to be her accountability partner with regards to her certification exam meant that he was more or less calling or texting her everyday.
It had started out harmlessly and without attachment; but with each passing day, he began to look forward to his daily check-ins. They were not always phone calls; in fact, most times they were WhatsApp messages. However, they had become a part of his daily routine.
He knew that their frequent communication would come to a stop, or at least slow down once she and her sons had gone to the United States for the summer holidays, but he had not expected to be this affected by it.
What was wrong with him? After the Ini debacle, he had decided to give himself a break from women. Not a perpetual break of course, but he was planning to take a lengthy vacation from relationships – ironic considering he was never really in a relationship with Ini.
For all intents and purposes, she had used him and dumped him. It was not the first time his heart had been broken, but it was the first time it had been done so cruelly.
Afterwards, he had more or less become a shadow of himself. He had plunged into a dark abyss of misery and it took a while for him to get himself out of it.
Actually, now that he thought about it, Akudo had been instrumental to his recovery.
He was still a wreck when Femi invited him to dinner with ‘one hot babe from his secondary school days and her friend,’ but his decision to attend the hangout at Femi’s place in a bid to apologise for his unpleasant behaviour at the dinner marked the beginning of his healing.
It began because he channeled his attention from self-pity, to wondering who the hell the beautiful spit-fire thought she was.
It all more or less progressed from there.
As much as his growing fondness for her surprised him, he was sure he was not going to do anything about it. Aside from the fact that it was too soon for him, Akudo’s body language showed that she was not interested in a relationship – and he was grateful for that. He had fallen victim to the charms of pretty women one too many times.
He let out a quiet sigh as he turned to look out into the airport parking lot.
She was beautiful though; and effortlessly so. That was probably what kept his attention floating back to her. She did not have to try, but she was not even interested in trying. It was just what it was, and the woman just went about her business completely oblivious to it.
He had almost scoffed when Akudo was lamenting about how gorgeous Ronke was, and how Ronke did not need to do half the stuff she did to hold onto Femi’s attention.
He had surprised himself by not gaping at her.
Was she kidding? Ronke was plain compared to her.
A smile spread across his face as he remembered how beautiful she had looked on that particular night.
When she stepped out of the hotel, she could not see him but he could see her. Every inch of her, thanks to the bright lights surrounding the external corridor.
He had always noticed her beauty, but this…lord have mercy.
He had not planned to still be gaping by the time she got to where he stood. In fact, he had pulled himself together before she realised where he was. Then she smiled when she made eye-contact with him, and it had been the end of him. How was he supposed to think straight when she smiled like that? And in that dress? And with that body?
Once they had flowed into easy conversation, he was sure the worst was behind him and he was determined not to make a fool of himself the rest of the evening. So when she insisted on taking a taxi home, he did not put up much of a fight.
He was not sure how strong his resolve would be if he was alone in a car with her…in that dress, with that body.
Then the minx had to go and kiss him.
Timeyin put a hand to his left cheek subconsciously.
He could not begin to explain the things that that singular, very unplatonic kiss on the cheek had done to him.
He had spoken to her as if the kiss meant and did nothing to him; and for that, he was utterly proud of himself. What Akudo did not know however, was that he stayed rooted to that spot for almost a whole minute after the taxi had driven off.
He had to mentally will himself to move.
He was besides himself with confusion; so much so that he drove back to Osas’ place and told him all about it.
Osas had groaned in that “here we go again” manner, and told him point blank that he was in love with Akudo. Utter ridiculousness of course but because Osas had front seat viewing into all his past relationships, Timeyin could see how he would think it was love, but it was not.
It was something, that Timeyin was willing to admit; but ‘love’ was not quite the word he would use.
“You damned near orgasmed from a kiss on the cheek! The cheek T!” Osas had shouted, tapping his right cheek with his index finger for emphasis.
Timeyin had simply rolled his eyes. For a guy who was quiet, Osas sure did know how to be dramatic.
Osas had proceeded to tell him that there was nothing wrong with falling in love, but he not only needed, but deserved to get laid several times, and by several women before he could entertain the thought of loving again.
As much as he agreed with Osas that he had no business falling in love with anybody anytime soon, Timeyin had never developed his friends’ knack for sleeping their way out of a heartbreak.
Timeyin shook his head at himself. Osas would laugh at him mercilessly if he found out that he had jumped at the opportunity to pick Akudo from the airport. Never mind that she had asked only because she was arriving at night and did not want to risk a taxi. Osas would not believe him.
In fairness to himself, he had tried to keep away from her.
After the night of her school reunion, he kept his communication with her at a minimum. She had reciprocated. She must have felt it too; that thing that should not have happened between them. It was a clear sign that she wanted no part of it, and he was happy to oblige.
By the time he ran into her at a lounge, and heard her talk about a certification exam, he realised that he never had anything to worry about in the first place.
She was a widow, trying to better her life and that of her children. He respected that; especially because he was raised by a widow.
He gladly offered to help, and has been blessed by the friendship that had blossomed since.
Osas could laugh till his heart’s content and it would not matter. Akudo was his friend, and he missed her; it was as simple as that. Timeyin knew where the line was, and he was not going to cross it. He was enjoying her company, and he would like to believe she was enjoying his. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that.
His phone beeped.
He got out of the car and walked to the Arrival gate.
He could have waited till she sent a text saying they had picked their luggage and were on their way out, but sitting in the car alone with his thoughts was not doing him much good.
Roughly forty minutes later, Timeyin caught sight of Akudo pushing a trolley with luggage and constantly looking to either side of her to make sure her sons were within reach.
He smiled sadly. How had his mother managed?
He promptly pushed through the crowd of people waiting, and made his way to them.
Her eyes lit up as she saw him, then her face was back to checking her sides again.
When she lifted them up, he was right in front of them.
She looked tired. He wanted to give her a warm, long hug just for the mere reason that she looked like she needed one. Alas, he had to be mindful of the little men who stood with her.
“Hey you.” He said with a smile, reaching over to give her a quick side hug.
“Hi. Thank you so much. I hate to inconvenience you like this.” Akudo said.
“Nonsense. I was glad to come.” Timeyin said, taking the trolley from her.
“Good evening sir.” Akudo’s older son greeted.
“Good evening. How are you?” Timeyin responded, glancing down at the boy he suspected was a spitting image of Akudo’s late husband. He had Akudo’s eyes though; those beautiful slanted eyes.
“Fine, thank you. Yourself?” He responded.
Timeyin exchanged looks with Akudo, Akudo rolled her eyes in that “I don’t know where he learns these things” manner.
He smiled back at the boy. “I’m doing good, thank you.”
“Mummy, is he a taxi driver?” The younger son asked, his back to Timeyin.
Timeyin chuckled, but he could see that Akudo had gone white in the face.
“No he is not, and don’t be rude. Greet!” Akudo ordered.
The little boy turned around to face Timeyin, and forced out a barely audible greeting.
The resemblance was not striking, but the younger son certainly had more of Akudo’s features.
“This is Mr. Timeyin. He was kind enough to agree to pick us up and take us home.” Akudo said to her sons, as she mouthed a silent apology to Timeyin.
Timeyin shook his head gently to let her know he had not taken offence. He threw in a smile so she knew he meant it.
“This is Nnamdi.” Akudo said, placing her right hand on her older son’s shoulder. “And this rude one is Chidera.”
“Nice to meet you.” Timeyin said, smiling at both of them before turning his attention to Akudo. “Let’s get going.”
“I cannot thank you enough. Bringing us home was already too much. You really did not have to help with the luggage too.” Akudo said, as she walked Timeyin back to his car parked outside her gates.
“Oh come on. Like I am going to leave you to haul all those bags while wrangling two kids?” Timeyin said, giving her a pointed look.
“Anyway, I’m still grateful sha.” Akudo said, smiling.
“It’s no problem. You are welcome.” He said.
“So the nanny;” he continued a moment later. “If anybody had walked in about the time we arrived, they would have thought she was their mother.” He remarked. He had been shocked at the way Roselyn had screamed and rushed to them, lifting both boys in her hands at the same time; the joy on her face was unlike any he had seen in a long time.
Akudo laughed. “Yeah, I don’t know how I got so lucky with her. She loves me like I am her sister, and loves my children like they are hers.”
“Don’t get me wrong, there are times she proper drives me crazy; but her good definitely outweigh her bad.” Akudo ended.
Timeyin only smiled. He supposed she was lucky. His mother had enough terrible experiences with nannies that as soon as they were old enough to do chores, she rid herself of all her Help and roughed it out.
“So, back to the grind? I hope you have not forgotten all you studied?” Timeyin asked, just as they got to his car.
“How? When my accountability partner was keeping me honest every single day.” She said in mock exasperation.
“Well, you need that kind of discipline if you are going to pass.”
“Yeah, you are right.” Akudo sighed. “It’s just, this next week and half is going to be rough.”
“My mum travelled to the East for two funerals, and they are a week apart. I cannot drop the boys off at her place until she gets back. By then, the exam would be over. Because of all the time I lost during this US trip, I need to really put in the time this weekend; but I cannot study with the boys around.” Akudo said, sounding defeated.
It made him sad to see her so distraught.
They remained quiet for some seconds as he thought of a solution.
“I could take them!” He blurted out suddenly.
“What?” Akudo blinked.
“We can maintain the schedule we had before you traveled for weekdays, but this Saturday and Sunday I will come pick them at about Noon, we’ll go do something fun till about 6PM. That gives you 6 hours. Will that work?”
Akudo was quiet for a little bit.
Was there something wrong with what he said?
He thought through everything he had just said, then a thought occurred to him. Could it be that she was uncomfortable with her sons spending that much time with him?
The thought of that stung a little, but he supposed it was fair. How much did she really know of him? She was a mother, it was fair for her to be hesitant.
“I’m sorry. I should have thought about that. It’s probably uncomfortable for you…” He started.
“No, no; it’s just. I mean, I appreciate what you are doing. That’s sweet of you.” Akudo rambled.
His heart sank. His suspicions were correct.
He understood, but it still hurt.
“So what other options do you have?” Timeyin asked, trying to change the direction of the conversation. He could see that Akudo was struggling between how to ensure she did not offend him or hurt his feelings, and the need to protect her sons. There was no point prolonging her anguish.
“I don’t know.” Akudo said quietly, after a long sigh.
Timeyin glanced in her direction and sighed inwardly.
She had worked so hard, studied so hard for this exam. It would be terrible if she failed because she could not get some hours to herself.
He would try one more suggestion, and if she was still uncomfortable with it; he would respect her choice and help her make the best of the time she had on the few weekdays left.
He turned to face her.
“How about four hours, I promise to keep the fun within the mainland so you can easily reach us, and I take the nanny along?” He offered.
Akudo blinked up at him. He could tell she had not expected that.
Before she had a chance to protest, he continued.
“You need the time Akudo. I don’t want all your hard work to go to waste. I know you trust the nanny, and she looks like she could drop-kick me if she smelt any foul play. Your boys will be happy, and have so much fun that they will go to bed almost immediately they get back – giving you even more time to study.” He finished.
“That could work. Yeah, let’s do it.” Akudo said thoughtfully, after a brief silence.
“Yeah?” Timeyin confirmed.
“Yes.” Akudo said, smiling up at him. “You are too kind to me.”
Timeyin merely smiled, but said nothing. How was he supposed to respond to that?
Suddenly Akudo closed the gap between them and threw her arms around his shoulders, and squeezed.
The gesture took Timeyin by surprise but slowly, he wrapped his arm around her waist and squeezed back.
He lowered his head so that he could breathe in her scent.
She smelt just as beautiful as she looked.
It was too bad that they were both emotionally unavailable; he may have actually enjoyed a relationship with her.
“Thank you.” She said, still in the embrace.
“Anytime.” He responded.
She pulled away, then smiled up at him. “Same time tomorrow boss?” She said mischievously.
“You bet.” He replied.
She made to turn away then said. “Oh by the way, Dooshima has been asking after you. I think the lady is smitten.”
“Dooshima?” Timeyin asked, struggling to remember. “Was she the one that said ‘literarily’ when she meant ‘literally’”?
“Damn! Why you gotta do her like that nau? That lady is a self-taught Robotics engineer oh.” Akudo said, smacking him playfully.
“Sorry! I was just trying to make sure you were not referring to the one that left with Osas.” Timeyin lied.
“Sure!” Akudo said, obviously not believing him. “So, should I give her your number or do you want hers?”
“None of the above please. She is not my type.” He said with a simple grin so she knew he was being lighthearted, but serious.
“Alright, goodnight then. Thanks again.” She said, backing away, then turning towards her gate.
“You can tell Dooshima that I appreciate the appreciation.” Timeyin called after her.
“Oh whatever. It’s your loss anyway.” She said casually. “You guys could have made some academically brilliant babies.”
He laughed at that.
The telltale signs of that laughter stayed with him the rest of the night.