“Thank you Mummy, thank you Uncle Tee!” Nnamdi beamed, hugging them both. Odera did the same right after his older brother, then the two boys took off into the arcade.
Akudo stood there, smiling at the receding figures of her sons, unable to wipe away the smile that stretched across her face.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen that look on their faces.” She let out.
“What look?” Timeyin asked absentmindedly, staring after them as well.
“That look of utter and complete joy. I got so carried away with sorting out our survival after their father died that I never really took them out to do anything fun. I would drop them off at my mum’s on holidays, and buy them toys for at-home play; but outside of the occasional birthdays, I have not really taken them out just for fun.” She ended, her voice a little sad.
“Wow.” Timeyin sighed.
“What?” She asked, looking at him.
“I’m here wondering how in the world you do it all, and you are beating yourself up about not doing enough?” He gave her an annoyed look.
“What can I say? ‘Mum Guilt’ is a real thing.” Akudo shrugged.
She turned back towards the boys and sighed.
“They are usually happy boys but…this level of excitement…the last time I saw that was…actually, come to think of it; the last time I saw it was the last time you took them out.” Akudo turned her head to him.
A look passed between them.
She thanked him without saying the words, he responded with a slight nod of his head.
“Let’s take a walk.” He suggested.
She glanced back in the direction her sons had ran.
“They’ll be fine.” He said, leaning in. “They have Roselyn remember?”
“Sorry, force of habit.” Akudo smiled shyly.
“I understand.” Timeyin smiled.
Akudo gave the nanny instructions to keep her eyes on the boys, before joining Timeyin.
They walked in comfortable silence for a little while.
The night before, Ifunanya has asked Akudo a question after Akudo had filled her in on the whole Femi and Ronke debacle, then brought her up to speed on her “situation” with Timeyin.
“Just out of curiosity, do you ever subconsciously or consciously compare him to Edozie?”
Akudo thought for a little while before she answered.
She actually did not.
The two men served very different purposes in her life.
She was young, innocent and completely oblivious to the world’s ugliness when she married Edozie. At the time, she needed the guiding and protective way he loved her.
Now, as a woman who had lived through loss, hardship, prejudice and betrayal; and come out of it a more discerning woman, she would be drawn to a man who respected the woman she had become, and encouraged her ambitions.
Timeyin was that type of man.
“So, Nnamdi and I had a chat when you were in the restroom.” Timeyin began.
That snapped Akudo out of her thoughts. “Oh? What about?”
Timeyin chuckled. “He actually walked up to me and said: ‘can we have a chat, man-to-man?’”
Akudo hung her head. “I don’t know what I am going to do with that child.”
“You will do absolutely nothing! I like his maturity, it’s endearing.” Timeyin scolded.
“It is mortifying. Oya, what was this man-to-man chat?” Akudo asked.
“Well, he wanted to know where this was going.” Timeyin said, pointing at Akudo, then at himself.
Akudo stopped walking.
“You are kidding right? Tell me you are kidding.” Her voice was not loud, but it was definitely panicky.
“Nope. His words were ‘I know you like my mum, so what are you going to do about it?’”
Akudo’s mouth fell open.
“Akudo, don’t have a heart attack. I told him I did like you, but only as a friend; and even if there was more to it, it was really none of his business.” Timeyin said, turning so that he stood in front of her.
Akudo closed her mouth, and swallowed. It was not the answer she would have preferred, but at least Timeyin had not engaged her son in a conversation about their…whatever this was.
She also supposed it was less mortifying that Nnamdi observed Timeyin being fond of her, and not the other way around.
“You can breathe now Akudo. I certainly didn’t tell him about your proposed arrangement.” He ended with a wink.
Akudo smacked Timeyin on the chest, a reluctant smile making its way to her lips.
He staggered backwards a little, laughing.
Akudo’s breath caught. Holy heavens the man was dreamy. She did not think it was possible for him to get any more attractive; but then he laughed, and the air in the mall suddenly got warmer.
“Let me get some cash.” Timeyin said, still laughing.
That was when Akudo noticed they were standing in front of an ATM Gallery.
When Timeyin had called to make good on his promise to take her sons out, she had not expected them to end up at a mall. Especially considering how her sons sang his praises the last time they hung out with him.
Now that she took a better look around, she could understand why Timeyin chose this particular mall. Aside from having a sizable arcade for children, there was a lot to explore for adults.
She glanced behind her and saw one of her favourite cosmetics chain stores.
“Hey, I’ll be over here.” She called out to Timeyin, pointing towards the cosmetics store.
He glanced over his shoulder long enough to nod, then busied himself with the ATM.
Akudo trotted into the store, and made a beeline for the lipstick stand. The attention she got the night of her reunion made her more keen on embracing colours; and there was no better time than the present.
She was trying to decide whether to go for the dark red or dark purple, when she glanced up towards the store entrance and noticed Timeyin step out of the ATM Gallery.
She was about to ask a store attendant to help her choose when she noticed Timeyin come to an abrupt stop. The smile that had graced his wonderfully handsome face, suddenly vanishing.
Something was wrong.
She saw him talking but could not see who he was talking to from where she stood in the store.
She pulled out her phone and texted him.
She glanced up. She heard the distant chiming sound, and saw him reach into his pockets then look at his phone.
He kept glancing up at the person momentarily and nodding so the person knew he was not trying to be rude. He typed something quickly, put away his phone and put his arms across his chest and continued to speak with the person.
Akudo’s phone buzzed, and she looked down at it.
She abandoned her lipstick shopping, and ran towards the entrance to take a peek at the girl who monumentally broke Timeyin’s heart.
What she saw was enough for her to understand why Timeyin had sworn off pretty girls.
She was beautiful and slender; with a modelesque figure – every man’s dream. Her skin even had an effervescent glow to it.
She watched their exchange and noticed that while Timeyin was tense and stoic, Ini’s body language was overly friendly; maybe a little flirtatious.
The nerve of her. After all she did?
Akudo suspected she was likely up to old tricks. Well, not on her watch. It was time someone gave Ini a taste of her own medicine, and Akudo was going to have fun doing it.
She gave herself a once-over, and wished she was wearing a form-fitting dress for this performance. Nonetheless, her fitted Ankara blouse over skinny jeans would have to do. She slipped on her shades; they always made her feel powerful. In Akudo’s mind, they made her look wealthy too.
She strode to where they stood, swishing her hips a little more than she usually would.
“Hi handsome.” She said, appearing at Timeyin’s side and wrapping her left arm around his waist before touching her cheeks to his and making an audible kissing sound.
Timeyin was a little surprised at first.
She wished she had not worn the shades so that she could say ‘play along’ with her eyes, but she did not need to. He caught on and put his right arm around her waist, gave her a sidelong glance that made her almost forget she was acting, before saying “hey babe.”
Akudo got her wits about her in time, turned towards a befuddled Ini, and stuck her hand out. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I’m Akudo. You are?”
Crap! She was not supposed to give her real name.
“Ini. Nice to meet you.” Ini said, taking her hand. Ini’s eyes showed that she was not glad to meet Akudo, and that made Akudo’s grin wider.
“I’ll let you guys finish.” Akudo said sweetly, then turned her torso towards Timeyin, giving him a full hug.
He squeezed back, one arm just below her neck; but it was the arm that held the small of her back to him that sent a spark of electricity coursing through her.
She hated how much of an effect his touch had on her.
She pulled away, and walked a few feet to give them privacy; but kept herself within sight so that Ini would be uncomfortable enough to speed up the conversation.
It worked. They soon said their goodbyes, and Timeyin turned towards where Akudo stood.
There were hard lines on his face from the unpleasant encounter, but somehow it managed to make him look sexier.
Akudo struggled not to gape at him. He was like the hot hero in one of those action movies that walked away from an explosion in slow motion. He even had both hands in his pocket to boot.
Akudo was quite grateful she still had the shades on. She would have been horrified if Timeyin could see just how attracted she was to him.
He got to where she stood, and casually flung an arm around her shoulder. She looked over his shoulder and noticed that Ini was watching.
She wrapped an arm around his waist, and they walked further from where Ini stood.
To an onlooker, they were two lovebirds and he was whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Meanwhile, he had simply said, “thank you;” but because Ini was watching, Akudo giggled loudly and leaned into him.
Akudo was not sure where the pretense stopped, and reality began.
She had a sneaky suspicion that it was the same for Timeyin.
“That was delicious!” Akudo said, as she plopped onto Timeyin’s sectional sofa.
After a fun day with the boys, Timeyin had asked to make dinner for Akudo at his place.
Actually, he had mentioned his culinary skills and Akudo had joked that she did not believe he had any.
Naturally, he had to redeem himself.
“So how does it taste?” Timeyin asked.
“How does what taste?” Akudo asked perplexed.
“The foot in your mouth?” He grinned.
“You are petty sha. You can’t even let it go.” Akudo rolled her eyes.
“How can I? When you went on and on about how it wasn’t possible that I could cook.” Timeyin countered.
“Hey! Those were not my words. However, I am glad I was wrong.” She replied, making a face at Timeyin.
Timeyin brought out a bottle of wine, and two glasses.
“Confession time. The reason I insisted on driving you here and taking you home myself was so that you won’t have an excuse not to drink wine with me.” He said with a mischievous grin as he set her glass on a tray in front of her.
She held the glass for him to pour some wine into it, then thanked him and took a sip.
“This is nice.” She said, then took another sip.
“I have been known to have good taste in wine.” Timeyin grinned.
“Your modesty is praiseworthy.” Akudo rolled her eyes.
“Hey, I say it like it is.” Timeyin quipped, the corners of his mouth going up.
You sure do. Akudo thought to herself. It was possibly the one big thing that attracted her to him.
She rubbed the back of her neck distractedly, and took in his decor.
“Now that I know you are over Ini, I can ask: Was she instrumental in your decor?”
Timeyin glanced around his apartment, his brow furrowed. “Why?”
“It certainly looks like there was a woman’s touch.” Akudo responded.
“Why couldn’t that woman have been my mother?” Timeyin asked, an eyebrow going up.
Akudo met his gaze, amusement shone in her eyes.
“Taking advantage of my mother’s exquisite taste in art does not make me a mama’s boy.” Timeyin shot back, realising why she was on the brink of bursting into laughter.
“Definitely not when you put it like that.” Akudo said, stifling a giggle.
“Laugh if you want Akudo but I happen to love my mother, and I am not ashamed to say she picked out a few art pieces for me.” He said casually, joining her on the couch.
Akudo would have laughed if he wasn’t so damn sexy when he was being straightforward. Instead, she found herself wondering why bachelors vehemently rejected the idea of their mothers having any input in their homes.
“How is Femi?” Akudo asked, suddenly remembering that she had only checked on him once since he was discharged.
“He is fine. Healing up nicely. A few days ago, the barbarian decided to go to the gym against the doctor’s orders and ended up bursting his stitches. He is much better now though.” Timeyin said, rolling his eyes.
Akudo chuckled. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“Is your neck sore?” Timeyin said, dropping his wine glass and touching the groove between her neck and her left shoulder where she had been rubbing.
Akudo stiffened a little at his touch.
If he noticed, he did not show it.
“You are all knotted up.” He said, then got up and disappeared into one of the rooms.
He returned a second later with a tub of Mentholatum.
“I don’t think that’s necessar-” Akudo began.
“Oh come on. It’s a shoulder massage, not a seduction Akudo. You can relax.” He teased, gently turning Akudo’s upper torso so that he could reach both shoulders from where he sat beside her.
Akudo made to respond with a smart retort, but let out a loud groan instead.
“I’m sorry, were you trying to say something?” Timeyin cooed.
Akudo could not see his face, but she knew he was gloating. She would allow him this because what he was doing to her shoulders and neck was heaven.
“The proper way to do this is for you to lie flat, naked or topless at least.” He quipped.
She smacked his hand in response, but did not smack it away. She was enjoying the massage, and she was not going to let some cheekiness get in the way of that.
“You are so easy to mess with.” He laughed.
“Ronke used to say that all the time.” Akudo said. The latter three words came out quieter than the others.
Timeyin slid the neck of her blouse down a little to give him better access, then continued.
Akudo let out a quiet groan.
“It’s okay. In time, the pain will pass.” He whispered.
Akudo knew he was not referring to the knots in her shoulders.
She kept in touch with Ronke’s cousin and knew that Ronke was doing well, but she was not going to let herself think about Ronke. It was just too painful.
When he was done, Timeyin slid the neck of her blouse back in place and let go.
Akudo thanked him, then leaned into him until her head was resting on his chest.
He did not protest. He merely adjusted himself to a lying position, his head propped up by the arm rest.
She knew she was crossing the very lines she had drawn, but it felt good to rest her head on a warm body. Besides, she had already made it clear that nothing would come of their situationship; so there really was no harm in a little flirting. Besides, there was a question she wanted to ask him, and she did not want to be staring at him when she did.
“Before we had to rush off to deal with the Femi and Ronke saga, you said you already knew that I…felt something for you. What did you mean by that?” Akudo ventured.
“I mean I knew.” Timeyin said casually. “Just because of things you did here and there.”
“Like what?” Akudo asked, sounding unconvinced.
“The kiss on the night of your reunion?”
“It was a friendly peck on the cheek!” Akudo protested, her eyes flying open.
“Akudo, don’t delude yourself. There was nothing friendly about that so-called peck.” Timeyin said matter-of-factly.
Akudo knew he was likely sporting a “who are you kidding?” look on his face but she did not want to see it, so she closed her eyes again. “Whatever. What else?”
“You also said you dialed my number without thinking.” He responded.
“What?” Akudo’s brows furrowed in confusion.
“At the reunion, when you were calling me because men kept asking you to dance and you needed an escape? You said you dialed my number without thinking.” Timeyin elaborated.
“Oh, I did didn’t I?” Akudo had forgotten about that.
“Well don’t flatter yourself.” She quickly added.
“I had no intentions to.” He retorted.
Something about his tone made Akudo flinch at the words. It was almost like he had accepted that as much as he knew Akudo liked him, he was not going to do anything about it.
This was what she wanted, so why did it make her a little sad?
“I love your hair.” He said suddenly.
“Thanks. That makes you and maybe 5% of the Nigerian population – male and female.” Akudo responded, her eyes still shut.
“What’s not to love? It’s curly, versatile, and looks pretty damn sexy.” Timeyin said, touching a lock of her hair as though to confirm his statement.
“I agree completely, but a lot of people prefer permed and fake hair. Not knocking fake or permed hair because to each her own and hey, I use attachments too from time to time. What I don’t understand is the disdain for the natural way hair grows out of a black person’s head.” Akudo ended.
“They must be high.” Timeyin concluded.
“I agree.” Akudo chuckled.
“So what was Ini saying back at the mall? You seemed so tense.” Akudo asked.
She felt Timeyin stiffen, then relax.
Did he still have feelings of anger towards Ini? If so, did that mean he still had feelings for her?
“Nothing really. She was just being overly chatty and friendly. Asking how I was, and saying I looked good and it was good to see me again…” He trailed off.
“No wonder you looked like you were about to punch a wall.” Akudo joked.
“Well, I wasn’t angry per se; just annoyed that she wanted to act like nothing happened.”
“I hate when people do that.” Akudo said quietly.
Akudo arched her back and tilted her head till it was upside down so she could look at his face.
“Don’t let it get to you. You deserve so much better.” She said, meaning it.
“Thank you.” He smiled down at her.
“Has anybody ever told you how beautiful your eyes are?” She said, before thinking through the words.
The look he gave her when he thanked her almost had her losing herself in those gorgeous eyes.
“Says the lady with eyes that could make an entire nation go to war.” Timeyin quipped, an eyebrow going up.
“I am sure there was a compliment in there somewhere, but why did you have to liken me to Helen of Troy? Of all women!” Akudo groaned, sliding back down to her original position.
“Oh stop deflecting. You have beautiful eyes, accept the compliment!” Timeyin mock ordered.
“Yes sir.” She chuckled.
They remained in comfortable silence for about half a minute.
“Akudo?” Timeyin called.
“Yes?” She answered.
“We never did finish that conversation we started at the restaurant.”
Akudo groaned. This evening was going so well. Why was Timeyin trying to ruin it?
“Timeyin, there is really nothing to talk about. We won’t work.” She sighed.
“Only because you don’t want us to work – which is fine, but then why bring it up?” He queried.
“I was just trying to give you the benefit of being right about there being more – even though nothing can be done about it.” Akudo shrugged.
“That makes no sense Akudo.” Timeyin said, a hint of annoyance in his tone.
“Well, it’s the truth. Besides, you are young, good-looking, kind, doing well for yourself; you can have any girl you want.” She said, exasperated.
“I am very aware of that.” Timeyin’s tone was calm, grave even. “Only a foolish man will pursue any girl simply because he can have any girl. I know what I want, and I go after what I want.”
The bluntness of his words hit Akudo like a brick.
It was clear he felt insulted that Akudo would imply that he explore options he was not interested in, just because they were options.
“I’m nothing special Timeyin.” Akudo said quietly.
“I disagree, and I’ll prove it. The first night we met, you stood up to shake my hand.”
Akudo blinked where she lay. “What? Oh. You noticed that?”
“I did. I think it’s courteous to do that when you are meeting someone, especially for the first time. People take it for granted. I like that you did not. I won’t judge a person that does, but it was cool that you didn’t. I also like the way you shake hands. A proper grip, not that finger tapping thing that Ronke and many other women do. So annoying.”
Akudo let out a quiet chuckle.
“Asides that though, you are thoughtful. You are fiercely loyal, and you love wholly and completely. I have seen people who have suffered half of what you endured with Ronke, and none of them would do what you did for her. The list is much longer, but I’m sure you get the point. So I would appreciate it if you never said you were not special…ever again.”
“Point taken.” Akudo’s voice was barely a whisper.
“It is not my style to force a girl’s affections. I just wanted to know why you brought up the topic. At this point, I am ready to move on to a different one entirely.”
“I’m surprised you did not try to find out what I like about you.” Akudo said, her voice still quiet.
“No need. I know you are dying to have a little bit of this Itsekiri goodness.” Timeyin said, his words oozing mischief.
“Itsekiri!” Akudo exclaimed, completely missing the point of Timeyin’s statement. “I knew you were not Yoruba, but I couldn’t figure out your tribe!”
“You don’t know how many people constantly assume I am Yoruba. I have even had several people call me ‘Timilehin’; like I don’t know how to pronounce or say my own name!” Timeyin said with the tone of one that had dealt with this frustration more than once.
“Our people sha.” Akudo laughed.
“Tell me about it.”
“So what does it mean?” Akudo asked, picking at a loose thread on her sleeve.
“It’s actually short for ‘Oritsetimeyin’, and it means ‘God is behind me’ or ‘God has my back’.”
“That’s cool. Do you have any siblings? I just realised that we have never talked about your family.” Akudo said.
“Or yours for that matter. I mean, outside of your nuclear family.” Timeyin said.
“True.” Akudo agreed.
“Well, I’ll start. I have an older brother Gbubemi, and a younger sister, Weyinmi-”
“You have to do names and meanings. I am so intrigued!” Akudo said, cutting Timeyin off.
“Okay.” Timeyin chuckled. “‘Oritsegbubemi’ means ‘God has answered my prayer’, and ‘Oritseweyinmi’ means ‘God is with me’. I also have an aunt who is dear to me. She is my dad’s only surviving sibling. Aunty Tosan. It’s ‘Oritsemaruntosan’ in full ,and it means ‘God knows best’. My dad died when I was about ten years old, and my mum has raised us ever since.” Timeyin ended.
“Interesting. Let’s go back to Aunty Tosan; what’s the story there?” Akudo asked.
“What? Her name?”
“Yes. ‘God knows best’? There is definitely a story there!”
Timeyin laughed. “There is actually, smarty pants. My grandmother wanted more sons. She had lost a lot of babies before my late aunt and dad were born. By the time Aunty Tosan showed up, she was hoping for another son. She ended up with a daughter, and figured God knew best.” He ended with a shrug of his shoulder.
Akudo adjusted herself where she lay on his chest. His shrug had made her slide a bit.
“Indeed he does. Speaking of God, you and your siblings all have ‘Oritse’ names.” She pointed out.
“Yeah, God was really important to my parents.” He said casually.
“And you?” She asked, a little more quietly.
“He is important to me too.”
Akudo let out a breath. She didn’t even realise she had been holding her breath. Why did it matter what he felt about God? She would still be friends with him even if he was an atheist; as long as it did not develop into anything more.
“Your turn!” Timeyin announced.
Akudo cleared her throat. “Well, I am the first of three children. Akudo is just Akudo, not short for anything.”
Timeyin chuckled at that.
“It means ‘an abundance of peace’, but some people like to translate it as ‘peaceful wealth’ because ‘aku’ is also the word used for ‘wealth’. I have a sister and a brother – in that order. My sister’s name is Ifunanyachukwu, which means-”
“Love of God?” Timeyin cut in.
“Good guess. ‘God’s love’ is more like it. Did you try to guess based on your knowledge of what ‘Ifunanya’ and ‘chukwu’ mean?” Akudo teased.
“Good effort. In Igbo, as I’m sure is the same in Itsekiri, translations are not always so literal.” Akudo said.
“So, Ifunanya is my immediate younger sibling. She lives in Canada with her husband; baby on the way.” She paused to smile up at him.
“Thank you.” She continued. “Then there is Azuka my brother. His name means ‘the past is important’, ‘there is strength in the past’…you know, in that ‘experience is the best teacher’ kind of way.” Akudo explained.
“So, aside from Ifunanya, the rest of you have names that could possibly mean something else? What glorious confusion.” Timeyin joked.
Akudo pinched him.
“Ouch!” He let out, before ending in a chuckle.
“Azuka works at Ama Breweries in Enugu.”
“Okay, I need to be friends with him.” Timeyin said with emphasis.
Akudo pinched him again.
He winced and then tickled her.
She jumped, and he went still.
Unsure of why he had suddenly gone still, Akudo arched to look at his face.
The grin he wore could be best described as sinister.
Before Akudo realised what was happening, he began tickling her mercilessly.
She burst into a fit of giggles, begging him to stop.
When she saw that her pleading was not working, she maneuvered into a sitting position until she was sitting astride him. She struggled to grip both his hands with hers, but he twisted his wrists, grabbed both her hands, and pinned them behind her back.
In doing so, he was forced to sit upright.
Suddenly they were both sitting up. Her on his lap with her arms pinned behind her, and her face only inches from his.
Her eyes dropped to his lips, her mouth suddenly going dry.
She licked her lips instinctively, then moved her gaze back to his eyes.
They were both panting slightly from the recent exertion, and staring intensely at each other.
It was happening again. This was also a scene Akudo had only seen in movies, and it usually ended up with a full-on make-out session.
The way Timeyin was looking at her made her want to devour him, but she could not give in to that. Especially not now that Timeyin had made it clear that he wanted more than a casual relationship with her.
“I give up, just please no more tickling.” Akudo suddenly blurted, turning her gaze into a more playful one.
Timeyin relaxed, the sexual tension between them dissipating somewhat.
“Okay.” He said, then let go of her.
She climbed off him.
He swung his legs off the sofa and planted his feet on the ground, then relaxed his back onto the back rest of the sofa. She sat a few feet from him and reached for her wine glass, and he did the same.
They had been so distracted with their conversation that they had hardly touched their drinks.
“You ever thought about having more kids?” He asked, suddenly.
Akudo’s head snapped in his direction, a look of amusement on her face. “Where did that come from?”
“Nowhere. Just curiosity. If you were not so hell-bent on remaining single, would you consider having more children?”
Akudo was quiet for about five seconds.
“Actually, and don’t tell my mum, but yes. I have always wanted four children. I probably would have had two more if Edozie hadn’t died. Even now, I get a little sad sometimes when I think about it. If I were being perfectly honest, I would not mind having two more children if I was open to remarrying. Like I said though, don’t tell my mum.” She ended with a smile.
“Why? Has she been trying to convince you to remarry?” Timeyin asked.
“Oh no, certainly not. I sorta gave her the impression that I was not going to give her more grandchildren back when Edozie was alive – I like to mess with her from time to time like that. It would kill the joy for me if she knew I was going to.”
Timeyin shook his head. “This woman gave you life, and look how you treat her.”
“Oh be quiet jo.” Akudo shooed, then sipped from her glass.
Timeyin sipped from his, then glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late.”
“I don’t have a curfew. Do you?” Akudo said, an eyebrow going up.
“Very funny.” Timeyin chuckled. “You don’t seem worried about your neighbours anymore and what they’ll think.”
“Oh they can all go to hell.” Akudo quipped, before taking another sip of her wine.
Timeyin gaped at her.
Moments later, he set his wine glass down and clapped.
“Bravo! I did not understand why you felt the need to appear ‘chaste’ to your neighbours, but I always thought it was absolutely unnecessary. You owe them nothing other than being a respectful and considerate neighbour. I am so proud of you.” He ended, picking up his glass and clinking it with hers.
“You are right. I don’t even know why I was stressing myself over that.” Akudo said.
“You seem different.” Timeyin said thoughtfully. “Like you have been reborn or something. You know, like a phoenix in all of that fiery red glory.”
“I like blue.” Akudo winked.
“Blue works too. Actually, a flame is at its hottest when it burns blue, so that is even more fiery.” Timeyin said, nodding.
“Blue Phoenix it is!” Akudo said, clinking glasses with him again.
They both laughed.
“But what was it though? Was it the whole Ronke episode? You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” Timeyin said after the laughter had died down.
“Timeyin, I had a meltdown in your presence and you did not let me regret it, I think its safe to say I can talk to you about anything.” Akudo stated.
Timeyin only smiled.
“It’s all of it really. Life is too short, and too stressful, and too beautiful, and too complicated, and so bloody short. I do what I need to do, and I mind my business while doing it. I deserve to live a little!”
“That you do!” Timeyin agreed.
“Anyway, leave that dull topic. Let’s do something more fun.” Akudo suggested, turning to face him completely and folding her legs on the sofa.
“Okay, what do you have in mind?” He said, adjusting so that his upper torso was facing her.
She finished the contents of her glass and set it down.
“Let’s play a game of preferences!”
“Game of preferences?” Timeyin asked, perplexed.
“You know, I mention a category and we say what our preferred choice is? I don’t know what it’s called but that’s what I call it. Apart from the fact that it is a great way to learn about a person, it’s also quite revealing.” Akudo grinned.
“Okay, I’m in. You start.” Timeyin said, before finishing the contents of his glass and setting it down.
“R&B or Hip Hop?” Akudo asked.
“Alternative Rock.” Timeyin said without missing a beat.
“What?” Akudo gaped at him.
“You heard me.” Timeyin said, standing his ground.
“Are you a White boy?” Akudo teased.
“I take offense to the assumption that only White people appreciate Alternative Rock.” Timeyin shot back, feigning seriousness.
“I like a good Nickelback and Hoobastank every now and again, but come on; over Hip Hop and R&B?” Akudo insisted.
“Yes! It is not in every black person’s blood to love Hip Hop and R&B over all else. Besides, have you listened to Linkin Park? Staind? 3 Doors Down? In fact, I will make you listen to some after we are done with this game. I bet you know and love many of their songs but you just didn’t know the Artists.”
Akudo rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Moving on. Books; fiction or non-fiction?”
“Fiction.” One of Timeyin’s legs was on the sofa now.
“Good. I would have thrown you out of your own flat if you had said otherwise.” Akudo stated. “Best movie of all time?”
“Local or international?” Timeyin asked.
Akudo thought about it for a second, then decided it was good to separate them.
“Let’s start with international.”
“Scarface, hands down.” Timeyin tapped his knees to emphasize that there was no contest.
“Are you kidding me? If you had said ‘Titanic’, I could have seen reason with you; but Scarface?! You are such a guy!” Akudo said, throwing her hands in the air.
“Last I checked!” Timeyin said, his eyes sweeping over his crotch area briefly.
Akudo rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I don’t care what you say. The best movie of all time is The Sound of Music.”
Timeyin blinked at her. “Akudo, no.”
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
“Just NO! Are you serious? A musical?” Timeyin argued.
“Yes, the best one EVER.” Akudo persisted.
“I could agree that it is the best musical ever, but not the best movie ever. Haba!” Timeyin challenged.
“See ehn, we will just have to agree to disagree. Oya, best movie local.”
“Living in Bondage, without a doubt. It broke my heart and scared the shit out of me, all at the same time.” Timeyin said.
Akudo threw her head back and laughed. “I won’t even argue. Agreed!”
“Okay, let me do some.” Timeyin said, taking over. “Basketball or Football?”
Akudo rolled her eyes. “Seriously? You went straight to sports?”
“Answer the question jo!” Timeyin insisted.
“Gymnastics.” Akudo said, then stuck out her tongue.
“What? That wasn’t even one of the options!” Timeyin protested.
“Neither was Alternative Rock!” Akudo shot back.
“Valid point. Okay, moving on. Blonde or Brunette?” He grinned.
“Oh good grief. You keep picking categories that don’t apply to most heterosexual women.” Akudo complained.
“Ah-ahn, do you prefer blonde men or brunette men? How does that not apply to heterosexual women?” Timeyin asked, feigning innocence.
“Oh, is that how we are playing it? Fine! Brunette.” Akudo said, scooting closer to him and turning her face mock-serious.
“Big or small?” Timeyin asked, not bothering to hide the mischief.
“Big.” Akudo answered, meeting his gaze. “My turn. Slim or curvy?”
“Both!” Timeyin answered immediately, his gaze getting more intense.
“Azuka or Nkiruka?” Akudo asked, maintaining her straight face.
Akudo blinked in surprise, then doubled over in laughter.
“You know what it means?” She asked, coming up for air.
“Well, you said your brother’s name is Azuka and it means something about the past but considering the look in your eyes when you asked, I am guessing it can also mean something sexual; so I just went with ‘both’.”
Akudo laughed some more.
“Azuka, when literally translated, means ‘the back is better’; and Nkiruka literally translates to ‘what is in front is better’. When Igbo men want to be naughty and speak in code or slang, ‘Azu’ now becomes what is at the back – the bum, and ‘nkiru’ becomes what is at the front – the boobs. So when you hear someone talk about Azuka and Nkiruka with regards to one woman…well, you get the picture.” Akudo finished, chuckling.
“So my answer is still valid!” Timeyin announced victoriously. “I don’t discriminate. I love ‘em both!”
Akudo shook her head and laughed some more.
She did not realise how close she was to the edge of the sofa, and nearly slipped.
Timeyin caught her in time.
“Hmn, tipsy already?” He grinned
“Go jo, I only had one glass of wine.” Akudo said, smacking him playfully.
“Well, you said you don’t know how much it takes to make you tipsy.” Timeyin teased some more.
“True, but I am sure it will take more than one glass.” Akudo said, adjusting herself so she was back on the main breadth of the sectional, and no longer at the edge of it.
Timeyin still had his hands on her waist. She put her palms on his to guide them away, and suddenly felt a surge of electricity course through her from where their skin touched.
She looked up at him at that moment.
His eyes met hers. He seemed to have the same surprised expression that she did.
Had he actually felt that?
Slowly, she found herself getting lost in his gaze again.
Without thinking, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his.
He stiffened at first, and she could tell that he wanted to resist her; or at least not respond but she did not care. Not this time.
Well, she did care but something about the knowledge that nothing more could come of what was between them freed her of her inhibitions somewhat.
There was a hunger inside of her that she had not realised was there, and it ran so deep. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and pressed her body to his.
It was at that point that he slid the hands that were already on her waist around her and pulled her to him, deepening the kiss.
She parted her lips, allowing his tongue to explore; but she was not ready for the things his tongue was doing, the sensation it stirred in its path. It was nearly driving her mad.
She knew she should stop, her mind was nudging her to do just that, but she could not break away.
She felt herself being lifted, as Timeyin hoisted her up then gently laid her on the couch, their lips still entwined.
He took the hands she had interlocked behind his neck, one in each of his hands, and crossed them over her head.
It was then that he pulled his lips from hers, breathing hard.
“We can’t do this Akudo.” He breathed.
Akudo looked in his eyes and saw that he wanted her just as badly, if not more so; but he was restraining himself.
Something she should have been doing.
Timeyin must have seen the signs of lust disappearing from her eyes because when he spoke, his voice was clearer.
“You are not about to start freaking out over kissing me and take off running are you?” He asked, tightening his grip on her hands.
“No.” She breathed. “Not this time. And you are right, we should stop.”
He let go of her and Akudo stood up, struggling to gather her thoughts.
The last time a man made her feel this way, she had married him. That realisation had her pulling away from Timeyin. Her body almost physically ached at the action – like it belonged to Timeyin and she was forcefully ripping it away.
But it didn’t, and they were never going to be so her body better get with the program.
She groaned silently.
She could not remember if it was Ronke or her sister that had recommended a dildo; but aside from the fact that straddling an inanimate object just felt strange to her, she liked a warm body. A warm, hard body.
How had she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life without a sensual touch, or a kiss? Or sex for that matter? She had not really thought through exactly what this sacrifice meant. No wonder her mother had mentioned a ‘friends with benefits’ situation. This path she was on was a lonely one, and not just in the way she had thought.
But what had been that thing? That feeling? Should she really be ignoring it?
Ronke’s words flashed in her mind.
Don’t let your self-imposed widowhood rules get in the way. Let yourself love him.
Perfect timing for those words to show up and add to her confusion.
No! She screamed back at her mind. Not happening.
“Akudo,” Timeyin began, rubbing the back of his neck and looking away from her where he sat. “If there was ever a sign that we should give us a chance, I think that was it.”
“Look,” Timeyin continued. “I have been hurt in the past. More than once, and I am not eager to go down that path. I was serious when I said I was not going to force you, but even I cannot deny what just happened. You can’t say you did not feel it too.” He looked up at her now.
“It’s of no use Timeyin. We are doomed and you know it.” Akudo sighed, pacing the full length of his living room.
“How?” Timeyin asked, his volume going a bit higher than he had intended.
“Well for starters, we can never get married!” She exclaimed. “Before you say it, I know you are just trying to get to know me, and not asking me to marry you; but getting into something serious means it is with the hopes that it will lead somewhere. Well, it can’t go anywhere so why bother?”
“Okay, first of all; I am not afraid of marriage, so you don’t have to explain yourself or make assumptions on what I might be thinking when you mention marriage. Second, why are you so sure we can never get married?” He was standing now, watching her as she paced.
She stopped pacing and blinked at him. “Do I need to state the obvious?”
“Please do, because it’s certainly not obvious to me!”
“I am a widow.” She snapped.
“So?” He shot back. “Lots of widows get remarried.”
“Yes, but it is rare; especially if the groom has never been married! In this society, I am not considered a ‘fresh model’; I am an ‘after two’, and I have birthed another man’s children. Your own mother wouldn’t be in support of you having anything to do with me, much less marry me.” Akudo finished.
“Akudo, I am not a part of that society. When I look at you, I see a woman. Not a widow, not a mother of two, not a pre-owned model; I see a woman. A woman that I am insanely attracted to, and have hopelessly fallen for despite my best efforts.” Timeyin said, his tone soft and firm all at the same time.
Akudo pinched the bridge of her nose. “You won’t understand. Actually, you do but you are choosing to live in denial.”
“No, I am choosing my own reality. You need to accept that people’s realities are different.” Timeyin said, a little anger seeping into his tone.
“Be that as it may, our society-”
“To hell with society!” Timeyin snapped, gripping her by the shoulders. “All I know is that I want you. I don’t care about society and its ridiculous biases, I want you.”
Akudo shook her head and looked up at the ceiling. “It won’t work Timeyin.”
“Give me a reason, and one that makes sense. Don’t tell me you insist on remaining a widow for the rest of your life because this evening has proved that your heart, mind, and body disagree with that; and you can’t fight all three. Don’t mention society either because the blue phoenix I spoke to less than an hour ago did not give a damn about society. So give me something that makes some real sense.” Timeyin ended, dropping his hands from her shoulders; his chest heaving.
“We are not islands Timeyin. We live in communities, we marry into families and we care about our family’s opinions. It’s easy to damn society when you want to go for what you want, but can you honestly tell me that if your mother objected to a relationship between us, you would proceed? Be honest with yourself, and remember you have one parent. Would you really do this without her blessing?” She was staring intently into his beautiful brown eyes.
He was silent as he held her gaze; the mild flicker in his eyes the only sign that he was mulling over the possibility of her words.
“You know what?” He said eventually. “Let’s grab the bull by the horns. I want you to meet my mother.”
Akudo blinked at him.
Slowly, the corners of her lips curved into a smile. She put her hand over her mouth in a bid to stifle her giggles.
“What’s funny? You don’t think I’m being serious?” Timeyin asked, the look of seriousness remaining on his face – no doubt to let her know that he was not joking.
In as much as Akudo was not willing to admit that she too had fallen for Timeyin, she also knew that she did not want a relationship with him.
She wanted something with him, that’s for sure. Now that she knew he was just as attracted to her as she was to him, she could use it to her advantage whenever she craved a man’s touch.
When the time came for him to move on and be with someone else he could potentially marry, she would give him his freedom. It would likely hurt, but her heart would fare better knowing that the day was coming. Besides, she was not vindictive enough to keep him to herself when she knew she could not give him what he wanted.
In the meantime, he could make both their lives easier by just going with the flow. Instead, he would rather have the truth of their lives and their society smack him in the face.
Well, if anybody was going to knock some sense into that head of his, who better than his own mother?
“Nope! I know you are dead serious, and I would absolutely love to meet your mother.” Akudo said, beaming; then she toppled over in laughter at the utterly baffled look on Timeyin’s face.