Timeyin parked his car at the restaurant, pulled down the driver-side visor, and checked himself.
Akudo called, and asked that they meet for dinner. It was a little odd considering that he had been with her only a few hours ago. She must have something important to tell him that she was not able to mention because her sons and the nanny had returned from their walk a few moments after he arrived.
Timeyin smiled at the memory.
When Akudo unlocked the door, and the boys caught sight of him, they ran into his arms screaming “Uncle Tee!”
The questions began soon after. “Are you here to take us out?” “Where are we going today?” “How come we have not seen you since the last time you came?” “Don’t you like us anymore?”
Akudo had to pry them off him, but not before they made him promise to take them out the following weekend.
The excitement on their faces had warmed his heart, but the hug that Odera had given him afterwards had his heart almost flying out of his chest. The little man had not been his biggest fan at first, but after two days of non-stop fun, Timeyin had succeeded in winning him over.
He was not sure why, but that mattered to him.
He got out of the car and walked towards the restaurant.
He was talking to a waiter about a table for two, when he spotted Akudo.
He let out a breath.
Even with the weariness that took over her features, she was still beautiful.
She had more or less dropped off the face of the earth after their encounter on his birthday, and he could not blame her. She had said that she did not want to be romantically involved; then she had kissed him. Obviously her body, or her heart – he wasn’t sure which – disagreed with her decision. Then he had kissed her too, and quite thoroughly. The kiss had left him feeling breathless, but it reinforced what he already knew – he wanted her, all of her; and he was not going to settle for less. So when she disappeared, he stayed away too; a part of him accepted that he may never see her again.
So her appearance at his doorway, especially at such an inopportune time, took him utterly by surprise. The glimmer of hope dimmed abruptly when he realised what must have been going through her mind at seeing a half naked Ronke on his couch. In that moment, he felt he had lost any chance of being with her and his heart had sank at that thought. Actually sank.
That was not a good sign.
He was allowing himself to care more than he wanted to. Until she agreed to a relationship with him, and he meant, truly agreed; he would be putting himself at risk by baring his heart to her.
He could not do that.
“Hey you.” Timeyin greeted, planting a light peck on her cheek before taking the seat opposite her.
“Hi. How are you?” Akudo asked.
“I feel like I should be asking you that question. You don’t look much different from when I left you earlier.” Concern laced Timeyin’s tone.
“I’ll be fine.” Akudo sighed. “In time I will.”
Timeyin squeezed her hands as a show of empathy, before reaching for the menu.
“Will you believe that I am not surprised by what Ronke did?” Akudo said after a loud sigh.
Timeyin lifted his gaze from the menu. “Seriously?”
“Nope.” She breathed. “She once said you were her back-up plan.”
“What?” Timeyin dropped the menu back on the table.
“Yeah. She claimed it was a joke, but I knew it wasn’t. The first night we met, I was venting to her about how rude you were and she mentioned your good looks. I don’t even know how she noticed with the face cap you had on but…anyway, so when she said it, I knew she was not joking.”
“Wow.” Timeyin said.
“You know I would never-” he quickly added.
“I know.” She said, cutting him off and giving him a small smile.
“It seems like there is something else on your mind.” Timeyin said after a little while.
“Well, ideally all of it should not matter but…” Akudo began.
“But what?” Timeyin asked, urging her on.
“Our friendship was a little strained after that, and to be honest; at first I was not sure why it bothered me so much. I told myself that after listening to your story about Ini, I had subconsciously become protective of you. The day you came over to help me with the painting, Ronke and I had it out. I said some mean things to her. Things she needed to hear, but…I could have been more gentle. I couldn’t believe how angry I was.”
I realise now that…” She trailed off, looking away.
“You realise what?” Timeyin urged, his heartbeat picking up speed a little. Was she about to say what he was thinking?
“I know I do not want a relationship, but I did not like the feeling that came over me when I saw Ronke on your couch.” Akudo glanced up and met his eyes.
His stare must have made her uncomfortable because she averted them again.
“It was not because it was Ronke,” Akudo continued. “I…would have felt that way if it were anybody.”
“So what are you saying?” Timeyin asked, careful to keep his face expressionless.
“Oh good heavens Timeyin, help me out here.” Akudo said exasperated.
There was a giggle making it up Timeyin’s throat, but he halted it in its tracks. He needed to hear her say the words. There needed to be no mistakes or confusion. He needed utter clarity about what she wanted, so he stayed silent.
“I am saying that I am willing to admit that I feel something for you. Something more than just physical attraction.”
Timeyin groaned inwardly. It was not quite the answer he was expecting.
His phone rang. He reached for it, but kept his eyes on her.
“Not good enough. Besides, I already knew that.” He quipped.
Akudo smacked him on the arm. “What are you feeling like?”
He laughed, and looked at his phone.
“It’s Femi. Give me a second.” He said, raising his index finger.
“Yeah, guy wetin dey?” He said into the receiver.
The blood suddenly drained from Timeyin’s face at what his best friend was telling him.
“Ronke did what?” He yelled.
Akudo’s head was running a mile a minute as she drove to the police station.
Ronke had stabbed Femi. She had actually stabbed Femi.
Akudo was not sure what to make of it all. With what she witnessed at Timeyin’s place earlier, it was clear that Ronke was the one more likely to get stabbed. Unless she stabbed him in self-defense? Maybe he had attacked her? Timeyin did say it was a broken piece of glass. There was definitely an altercation of some sort. If this was the case, then Femi had some nerve throwing her in jail for it. She may have wronged him, but she did not deserve to be physically assaulted and then thrown in jail.
Akudo gripped the steering wheel tighter to steady her shaking hands.
Akudo considered parking by the side of the road and putting a call through to Femi, then she remembered he was in the hospital.
Timeyin said Femi had managed to drive himself to the hospital, and had lost a lot of blood. Perhaps she needed to wait until she found out what happened. Besides, he was sort of her friend too, and he had got seriously hurt. She really should not make any assumptions at least till she was sure he was okay, and heard the full story.
Timeyin was on his way to the hospital. They had agreed to split up; he would check on Femi at the hospital, while she would try to get Ronke out of jail.
The rapid beating of Akudo’s heart calmed somewhat as she remembered how Timeyin had asked if she would be okay going to the Police Station on her own.
She had responded in the affirmative and was about to tell him to call her as soon as he confirmed that Femi was doing okay, when he reached forward and kissed her forehead before turning away towards his car.
She had stood there for a second, a little out of sorts.
He cared for her.
She knew he was physically attracted to her, and sure he wanted a relationship with her but he actually cared about her. The act had not been premeditated. It had been very natural; like a different way to say “take care of yourself.”
Akudo smiled to herself.
As sweet as the thought was, it was all for naught. Nothing could come of it. When all of this Femi and Ronke nightmare was over, she was going to have to talk to him about that.
“He lost some blood, but not enough to put him in any real danger. He is stitched up and good to go, but I want to keep him here for 24 hours so that we can make sure that all is good. He should be discharged tomorrow evening or the day after at the worst.” The doctor said, reassuring Timeyin.
“Okay.” Timeyin let out the breath he had been holding in.
“Your friend will be fine. Let’s just thank God that no major arteries were hit.” The doctor smiled.
“Thank you so much doctor.” Timeyin said gratefully.
Timeyin took a deep breath before turning the knob. He was not sure the sight he would behold, but he steadied himself with the knowledge that Femi was going to be fine.
He pushed the door open.
“Heeeeeeey.” Femi greeted, his voice croaky.
The top half of his bed was elevated so that he was almost in an upright sitting position. A bandage ran from his left shoulder, down his chest, under his armpit and back up the same shoulder.
Timeyin sighed in relief. The injury did not seem bad at all.
“I hear you got stabbed. Does that mean you have legit street cred now?” Timeyin teased, making it to the bed in two strides.
“You be idiot.” Femi said, rolling his eyes but extending his good arm for a handshake.
Timeyin allowed himself a small chuckle as he shook his friend’s hand, then sat on the bed-side chair.
“Guy, what happened?” Timeyin asked, his tone becoming grave.
“Men,” Femi began, dragging the word. “That girl is bonkers. Will you believe that after that stunt she pulled, she came back to the apartment yelling at me? And for what? Because she saw me having lunch with Aduke.”
“Aduke your investment banker? The one you grew up with?” Timeyin asked, his brow furrowing.
“Yes! She followed me to the restaurant, saw me hugging my childhood friend, and decided she was going to get back at me by sleeping with you! When I told her I could not deal with her crap anymore and I was ending the relationship, the crazy bitch stabbed me!”
“Are you serious?” Timeyin asked incredulously.
“Guy, I swear down. She is nuts!” Femi ended.
“Damn. That is crazy…” Timeyin trailed off.
He suddenly felt very sorry for Ronke. The Ronke he knew, though territorial, was full of smiles and playful. For her to resort to violence, it meant this was likely not her first heartbreak. The story reeked of a person hitting the final straw.
“By the way, sorry you got caught up in all the drama men. I still can’t believe she would stoop that low. Like what was she hoping to accomplish?” Femi said, snapping Timeyin out of his thoughts.
“To get your attention I guess.” Timeyin met his gaze.
“Guy abeg. I was dating her. She had my attention, but it just wasn’t enough for her.” Femi responded.
Timeyin said nothing, but spoke with his eyes instead.
“Guy, are you trying to imply that I deserve this somehow?” Femi asked, adjusting himself where he lay.
“You certainly don’t deserve to get stabbed but guy, let’s be real; you no try.” Timeyin said matter-of-factly.
“I don’t believe you men. Are you serious right now? Do you know the things I had to endure while dating her? She was possessive, controlling, overbearing-”
“Yeah but she may not have had to be all that if you had just respected her.” Timeyin groaned, cutting Femi off.
Femi blinked, and looked ready to say more but Timeyin continued.
“Dude, you love women and women love you. You say it all the time; but you have to know that when you decide to commit to one woman, you can’t be living like you are not. You and I know you were not faithful to her.”
“That was once, and it was in the beginning. I never slept with anybody else after that.” Femi said sharply.
“Be that as it may, you still weren’t committed to her.” Timeyin persisted.
“How?” Femi shot back, his anger growing.
“You know that when a man wants a woman, but is not ready to commit and she is, he will tell her what she wants to hear, and do what she wants him to do so that he can get her. ” Timeyin responded, his tone even but firm.
“I was dating her exclusively. If that is not the definition of commitment, I don’t know what is.” Femi insisted, tugging at a loose piece of thread on his bandage.
Timeyin sighed, he needed to use a more direct approach.
“Remember Sade?” He said.
Femi’s head snapped up, his jaw hardened and his eyes narrowed to slits. “What has she got to do with this?”
Timeyin knew the topic of Sade was a sore one for his friend, but he had to make a point.
“You were devoted to her, you talked about her all the time, Osas and I hardly saw you when you were with her. Hell, you damned near worshiped the ground she walked on.”
“Yeah, and look how that turned out.” Femi snapped.
“I know, she dumped you; it didn’t end well. The point I am trying to make is that you were committed to Sade. With Ronke, it was lust from the get-go. You wanted her, but you knew she wanted more, so you gave her what you thought she wanted but your heart was never really there. Let’s be real.”
Femi opened his mouth to speak but the defiance in his eyes showed Timeyin that he was about to argue, so he held up a hand.
“Guy, be honest with yourself. Think about it. You can say you are outgoing and friendly all you want but I know you. Your flirtatious nature was non-existent when Sade was in the picture; but with Ronke, you act like you are not even in a relationship when you guys are out in public.”
Femi averted his eyes. It was the first sign of agreement that Timeyin had seen.
“You know you don’t love her.” Timeyin’s tone was quieter now.
“I never said I did.” Femi retorted, his eyes still averted.
Timeyin sighed. At this point, it was best to leave Femi with this thoughts.
“Anyway, I’ll let you rest. I’ll check on you later.”
Timeyin was already by the door when Femi cleared his throat.
“You make me out to be the devil, but I did like her. I liked her a lot, and wanted to see where things would go.”
Timeyin did not bother to look back when he said “Guy, you and I know it wasn’t going anywhere.”
Akudo heard her phone buzzing in her handbag.
It was likely Timeyin trying to call her back after seeing all her missed calls, but she was not in a position to answer the call.
She was racing to the hospital.
On arriving at the Police Station, she was told that there was no bail set for Ronke’s arrest, and there was more or less nothing she could do to get her out.
She had called her uncle who was the Police Commissioner for the area. Ronke definitely had to answer to the crime, but it was not so heinous that she had to spend the night in jail. Besides, the way the attendant Police officer had said “that fine yellow girl that stabbed somebody” had sent shivers down Akudo’s spine as she remembered what Ronke had been wearing earlier that day.
The dress was short. Ronke was hard to miss in a room because of her complexion and beauty, how much more when she was scantily clad.
Between the Policemen and her cell mates, she was essentially a sitting duck.
Akudo sounded as frantic as she felt when she was speaking to her uncle. He hurriedly made some calls, then called her back to say that Ronke’s incarceration was ordered by the Deputy Inspector General of Police. It was above his pay grade and his hands were tied.
“If you know the person she offended, I suggest you go and beg the person.” Her uncle had said.
She was on her way to do just that.
Akudo knocked quietly before poking her head into Femi’s hospital room.
“Hey beautiful.” Femi said, a smile spreading across his face.
Relief washed over Akudo. She had not had a chance to talk with Timeyin since he left the hospital and was not sure what to expect.
“Thank God.” She breathed, rushing to his bed. “Are you okay?”
“I am now.” He grinned.
She rolled her eyes. The injury obviously did not affect him that much.
“I am afraid to even ask how it happened.” Akudo said, placing a tentative hand on his bandages.
His muscles flexed at her touch, and she realized suddenly that he was not wearing a shirt. She ran her eyes across his chest, then down to where his abdomen disappeared beneath his trousers.
Yep! The man was a work of art.
“Sorry, I hope that didn’t hurt.” She said, clearing her throat and reminding herself of why she was there.
“Only a little. As for what happened, don’t worry; Tee will give you the gory details. Let’s just say your friend and I are done.” Femi said, a little less humour in his tone.
“That much is clear.” Akudo said sadly. “I wish you hadn’t cheated on her though.”
“I didn’t.” Femi groaned, rolling his eyes. “Everyone just thinks the worst of me. I did not cheat on her. She saw me hugging my investment banker, who happens to be my childhood friend, and assumed I was cheating on her.”
“Well did you tell her that?” Akudo asked.
“Yes! She tried to apologise but I was done. I am so done Akudo. She was choking me. I ended the relationship and told her to pack her things. She threw a fit, broke my brandy glass and stabbed me with a piece of it.”
“Oh!” Akudo gasped, her eyes growing wide.
“Yep! Now I am the bad guy lying in a hospital room with a stab wound in my back.” His jaw tightened, like the thought had him getting upset all over again.
Akudo sighed. She knew no good could come from Ronke’s insecurities, but this?
“I am so sorry to hear that.” Akudo said, her head hung.
“It’s not your fault beautiful. You need to be better at picking friends though.” Femi said, using the index finger of his good hand to tilt her chin up.
Her friendship with Ronke might be irreparably damaged, but Ronke was not an evil person. Sure she made bad decisions driven by her many insecurities, but she was a product of her experiences, and she never set out to hurt anyone.
More important, Femi was as much to blame for Ronke’s psychotic break as Ronke was. Besides, Femi had no right to question Akudo and her friendship choices.
She cleared her throat, and tilted her face away from his hold.
“I came to ask for your help.” She began.
The smile on Femi’s face faded. “If you are here to beg on her behalf, don’t bother.”
Akudo turned her upper torso to face him fully, flabbergasted.
“Are you serious?” She asked, the shock evident on her face.
“As a heart attack. Look around you Akudo, I am in a hospital. A hospital Akudo; your friend put me here.” He seethed.
“Nobody is refuting that, but you cannot let her rot in jail.” Akudo tried not to sound like she was pleading.
“Not rot, but two nights should teach her not to go around stabbing people.” Femi quipped, turning away.
“Two ni-what?” Akudo nearly screamed.
Femi gave her a look that seemed to say “That’s me being gracious. I could increase it.”
Akudo closed her eyes and bit back the words she really wanted to say. Ronke was more or less at his mercy. She had to choose her words carefully.
“Look, you may not have loved her, but I know you felt something for her. You would not have had me lie to protect her at the reunion if you didn’t. That act alone meant you cared about her. I mean really cared.” Akudo paused.
“Yep, and look where that got me.” Femi said, doing a sweeping gesture with his good hand for emphasis.
“Femi, please.” Akudo begged.
Femi rolled his eyes.
“Fine, one night; but it’s because of you.” He emphasized his reluctance.
“Femi, it’s not safe for her to spend a single night there.” Akudo pleaded.
“Akudo, she stabbed me. She has to do one night at the very least. She has to know she cannot get away with such behaviour.” Femi said matter-of-factly. “Perhaps next time she’ll think twice before she goes around stabbing people.”
“Fair. That’s fair. I understand the logic, and she should be punished – no question. However, there is absolutely no telling what harm will come to her from just one night of being in that jail. I have been there, I wouldn’t even want my worst enemy there. Femi, please.” Akudo persisted.
Femi looked away. “I’m sorry Akudo.” His tone was firm.
Akudo sat there for a moment, unable to believe Femi’s insistence.
She sighed to herself.
Should she really be surprised? Could she really blame him? If she were in his shoes, would she not do the same? If she were violently attacked, would she not insist on at least a week in jail? So who was she to judge?
If Ronke were not in a vulnerable position, and she did not love her in spite of her wrongdoings, she would not be here.
Akudo sighed, deep and long, then got up from where she sat at the hospital bed.
“You have every reason to be upset, but you know in your heart of hearts that you played a part, however small, in this outcome. She was wrong, there is no denying that; but the more important question now is if you are willing to let her get seriously harmed, and possibly sexually assaulted for it.” Akudo ended.
Something flickered in Femi’s eyes, but he said nothing.
Akudo sighed once more, and made for the door.
She had only taken one step when Femi spoke.
“Akudo – three, Femi – zero. Checkmate.”
She spun around, not sure what he meant by that.
“Head back to the Police Station. I’ll make the call before you get there.” His tone was flat.
Akudo’s eyes widened. She rushed back to him and hugged him. “Thank you.”
His response was a grunt as she was squeezing his wound.
“I’m so sorry.” She said, jerking her hand away but remaining close. “I hope I didn’t hurt you.”
“If you weren’t forcing my hand, I would have told you that the pain was worth having you touch me.” He kept his tone flat, but the twinkle in his eyes gave him away.
Akudo rolled her eyes, smiling.
She reduced the intensity of her smile when she spoke again, so he knew she meant it. “Thank you so much.”
“Just go.” He shooed her away with his good hand. It was a playful dismissal, but Akudo wasn’t going to hang around to give him a chance to change his mind.
She rushed to the door.
“Hey Akudo?” Femi called out.
She stopped with her hand on the knob, and turned her head to him.
“Timeyin is a good guy. Don’t hurt him.”
The smile that lingered on her face faded.
Of course he had noticed the spark between her and Timeyin; he would have been blind not to. As much as she wanted to be upset or offended by the remark, she could not be. He was only looking out for his friend; she could not hold that against him.
Nevertheless, she was not going to respond to that statement; she suspected Femi did not require a response either.
She turned the knob, and walked out of the hospital room.
Akudo put a call through to Timeyin as soon as she was outside the hospital. He met up with her at the Police Station where they filled each other in, and got Ronke out of the holding cell.
Ronke’s steps had faltered when she noticed who her rescuers were. That manner of irony would have the same effect on anybody.
She walked up to them, and locked eyes with Timeyin.
“Don’t worry about it. Come on, let’s go.” Timeyin said, responding to her silent apology.
Akudo walked ahead of them.
She had given Ronke a once-over to make sure she was not harmed. She could not see any visible scars or bruises. She had blood stains all over her, but they were mostly on her dress and were likely Femi’s.
Timeyin bade them farewell and promised to check on both of them later, while Akudo drove Ronke back to her apartment.
Akudo had her walls up. She suspected that Ronke was going to try to launch into another apology during the drive, and she was not interested. She was just going to get her home safe, then call her cousin to come over and spend the night.
To Akudo’s amazement, Ronke did not say a word. She just stared ahead, like she was in a trance, or in shock.
By the time they made it to Ronke’s apartment, Akudo’s anger had thawed a bit, the melted part replaced by worry.
Akudo let Ronke lead the way. Once Ronke unlocked her apartment door, Akudo walked ahead of her. She turned on the lights, then headed straight to the bathroom. She plugged her tub, and ran some water.
She checked to make sure there was a clean towel and soap, then stepped into the bedroom to lay out some clothes.
She knew Ronke was watching her; possibly wondering if she deserved what Akudo had done, and was doing for her.
She needed a lesson in what real friendship looked like.
“Take off your clothes and get in the bath.” Akudo ordered.
Ronke looked more than a little unkempt and smelt of stale urine.
Ronke started to undress where she stood but Akudo stopped her.
“No. Take them off in the bathroom.”
Ronke did not argue.
Akudo found a plastic bag in the kitchen, and packed up everything Ronke had removed. From her wig, to her panties. She tossed them in the trash. She was likely not going to be a part of it, but this was going to be a new chapter in Ronke’s life. She did not need anything that would remind her of this horrid day.
When Akudo returned, Ronke was sitting in the tub and staring at the opposite wall.
Akudo rolled up her sleeves, lathered the soap on the sponge and began scrubbing. When she got to her right hand, Ronke winced. It was the only movement she had made on her own since she got in the tub.
Akudo turned her hand over and noticed her palm was a mess of red streaks. She poured some water over it, wiping at it with her fingers until all the dried blood was gone. She noticed that Ronke had two deep cuts: one in the middle of her palm, and another one that cut across the middle of all four fingers. Akudo did not need a soothsayer to tell her it was from holding the broken glass that she stabbed Femi with.
She sighed, and continued scrubbing.
When she was done, she rinsed her down with the water in the tub.
“Stand.” She ordered.
Ronke obeyed, and Akudo unplugged the tub. When the water was drained, she turned the faucet on tap mode and rinsed the sponge thoroughly.
She lathered on some more soap and started all over again, giving Ronke a thorough bath. When she was done, she switched the faucet to shower mode and watched as the water rinsed all traces of soap, blood, and dirt from her body.
Satisfied, she said “let’s go”; but she did not move. She waited for Ronke to towel down, put on the towel, and step out.
They headed to Ronke’s bedroom.
Akudo went to the top of her chest of drawers where she kept her cosmetics, then turned to her. Ronke pointed at the correct lotion. Akudo reached for it, then handed it to Ronke.
“Where is your First-Aid?” Akudo asked.
Ronke pointed at the top part of her wardrobe. Akudo located it, grabbed a pack of wipes, then sat down beside Ronke on the bed.
She pulled out the Methylated Spirit, a cotton ball, gauze, and a roll of plaster.
She waited for Ronke to finish applying lotion to her body before taking her right hand and cleaning the wound.
“I am not suicidal you know.” Ronke said, startling Akudo.
Aside from the fact that it was the first thing she had said since they got her from the station, the voice…it almost did not sound like hers. She knew jail or prison changed people, but was that possible after only a few hours?
Akudo ventured a glance up at her, but she was staring straight ahead; a faraway look in her eyes.
“I know you think I am. I saw you purposely leave the door ajar when I was in the bathroom. I understand why you think I would be, but I am not.”
She paused a little, then continued.
“Remember that dinner date that first night? When we both thought I had succeeded in charming him? Well guess what? I hadn’t. He still wanted you.”
Akudo stilled for a second. She was not sure what was coming next, but she was not going to go down this path with her so she remained mute, then applied the methylated spirit-soaked cotton ball onto her wound.
“Yep! He still wanted the pretty girl he fell in love with back in SS2; he only chose me because he felt you were too much of a challenge, and I was not. Oh no, I have to use his words exactly. He was not in the mood for a challenge, so he went for the easier option – me.” Ronke finished with a humourless chuckle.
Akudo’s heart sank.
If Femi had used those words, he was a bastard for it.
“He called me ‘easy’ Akudo. It felt like Esosa happening all over again, and I just…lost it. I don’t even remember picking up the glass, if you can believe that. I vaguely remember him screaming, calling me crazy and bolting out the door. There was blood everywhere…” Ronke trailed off.
Akudo applied penicillin to the wound, and would have applauded herself for how perfectly unfazed she was acting; if her emotions were not all over the place at hearing Ronke’s tale.
“It’s amazing how a day in jail puts things into perspective for you.” Ronke continued. “I mean, I can see everything so clearly now. Everything. I can see where I went wrong, how I set myself up…everything.”
She turned her head to look at Akudo.
“You were right. I need to learn to enjoy my own company, and truly love myself before getting involved with another man. Planning my whole life around a man has not worked for me. I don’t know why I never saw it before.”
Akudo layered the plaster over the gauze, then tore it from the roll when both cuts were fully covered. She packed the items back into the First-Aid box, and returned it to Ronke’s wardrobe.
Ronke put on the clothes Akudo had laid out, while Akudo put a call through to Ronke’s cousin. She gave a quick summary of what occurred, leaving out the part about Ronke stabbing Femi, but telling her enough to make her pack an overnight bag and come over quickly.
“I’m really not suicidal.” Ronke said when Akudo got off the phone.
“I know, but you should not be alone tonight.” Akudo responded, figuring she could not give Ronke the silent treatment the entire time.
They remained silent as Akudo tidied up the room, before heading to the kitchen.
“I’m really not hungry.” Ronke called after her.
Akudo ignored her.
Ronke did not have much in her kitchen – no surprise, considering she spent all her time at Femi’s. Akudo found two eggs, and was able to salvage two sweet potatoes from a batch that had gone bad.
She fried the potatoes and made egg sauce, then sat opposite Ronke at her dining table, and glared at her until she finished it.
Ronke took her plate to the kitchen, and Akudo followed.
Akudo took the plate from her before it hit the sink, and washed it.
“Thank you.” Ronke said where she stood a few feet from her.
Akudo knew Ronke was not just thanking her for doing the dishes, but she remained quiet.
Akudo put away the dishes she had just washed, dried her hands, and had just replaced the kitchen napkin when Ronke spoke again.
“You’ve stopped wearing your ring.”
Akudo instinctively looked at her left hand.
Of course Ronke would notice. Even in her current state, with all she had been through today, leave it to her to notice that.
She had taken it off the night she kissed Timeyin. She could not stand to look at it after that. She felt like a hypocrite – kissing one man while she wore the ring of another.
Truth be told, she had actually stopped feeling ‘married’ a long time ago. Now that she had developed feelings for another man, it seemed wrong to wear it.
Akudo walked past Ronke, back to the living room.
She picked up her handbag and glanced at her wristwatch. Where in the hell was Ronke’s cousin?
Ronke walked to where she stood and stopped beside her.
“I know you may never forgive me for what I did; but can I ask you one question?” Her tone was cautious.
It was likely a question Akudo had no intentions of answering, but she was curious; so she turned and gave Ronke an expressionless look. One that told her it was safe to ask, but she may very well not get an answer.
“Does he make you happy?” Ronke asked.
That was not the question she was expecting. What’s worse, she wanted so badly to answer truthfully. She wanted to tell Ronke that Timeyin made her feel like a young girl again, butterflies and all. She wanted to say that she lost all reason when he kissed her. She wanted to say she wished she could have another lifetime where she got to experience a life with Timeyin. She wanted to say so much, but she did not.
Ronke had lost that privilege.
Instead, she looked away.
She knew it was more or less an answer, but a part of her felt like Ronke had suffered enough. It was okay to gift her a small assumption.
Ronke sighed. “Then don’t let your self-imposed widowhood rules get in the way. Allow yourself to love him.”
Akudo turned to look at Ronke, who held her gaze and nodded slightly – a nudge for her to follow her heart.
A loud knock sounded at the door.
Akudo broke her gaze from Ronke’s and marched to the door.
She greeted Ronke’s cousin, gave her some instructions, then bade them both farewell.
As she drove home, Ronke’s words echoed repeatedly in her mind.
Don’t let your self-imposed widowhood rules get in the way. Allow yourself to love him.
If only it were that easy.