Akudo took another look at her ensemble, then nodded to herself.
The first time she was meeting Edozie’s mother, she was a bundle of nerves. She had fallen hopelessly in love with Edozie, and could see herself with no one else. However, that meeting was going to define the course of their relationship.
Edozie had said she had nothing to worry about, and that even if his mother was being difficult, it would not change anything for him. She had nodded, in spite of her nerves, but she knew that if Edozie’s mother rejected her, she would not marry him. She loved him, but she was not going to marry him without the consent of his only parent.
Needless to say, her anxiety knew no bounds.
Not today though.
Today, she was relaxed and in great spirits. She felt no pressure to be anything but herself. Unlike her first meeting with her late husband’s mum, she was not eager for this woman to like her.
In the week that passed since Timeyin had uneventfully announced that he wanted Akudo to meet his mother, Akudo had done a lot of soul-searching.
She accepted that she had grown very fond of Timeyin, maybe even fallen for him. How could she not? He was honest, straightforward, kind, supportive, playful, serious when he needed to be, and had the right amount of ‘naughty’. Who would not fall for a man like that?
He was great, but her decision not to pursue a relationship with him was final. Ifunanya tried to get her to see things differently, and Ronke’s last words to her continued to haunt her, but things were not as black and white as those two thought they were. There were lots of murky grey areas, and Ifunanya and Ronke could choose to live in a bubble, but Akudo would not.
As Akudo turned to the side and took in her simple black blouse tucked into a long, flowy, Ankara skirt; a wave of sadness swept through her. The events of the day would change the course of whatever she had going with Timeyin for good. They hadn’t defined what was between them, mostly because she hadn’t wanted to; but whatever it was had been beautiful. It saddened her to think it would change, or be completely over.
It wasn’t as though she did not know this day would come.
She took one more look at herself, grabbed her purse, and walked out of her bedroom.
Timeyin parked his car outside his mother’s home but left the engine running.
His day had got off to a rough start.
The night before, he had quarreled with his closest friends over his decision to pursue a relationship with Akudo, and his emotions had carried over into the present day.
“I think it is utter ridiculousness that you have fallen in love so soon after Ini, but it is you; I don’t think anybody in this room is surprised.” Osas began.
“Who said anything about love?” Timeyin nearly screamed.
“You are taking her to meet your mother, Tee; lie to yourself if you want, but we aren’t stupid. And it’s fine, whatever, she is cool beans, but I just think you are moving too fast.” Osas ended.
“That is what you have a problem with?” Femi asked, flabbergasted. “How about the fact that she has been married before?”
“And has kids!” Taiwo threw in.
Tuoyo, Taiwo’s boyfriend, had glanced over at her when she said that.
“So what?” He queried.
“What do you mean ‘so what?’ That’s tough baggage to walk into. Let’s be honest man. If she was just widowed with no children, then it’s like a clean slate; but fathering children that aren’t yours is not something to take lightly. Especially when you have the option not to.” Taiwo said simply.
“You can’t help who you fall in love with, and their past should not be a hindrance or a deterrent.” Tuoyo disagreed.
“That’s the point babe, it’s not her past. It is her present and future. The children currently exist, and they will continue to.” Taiwo shot back.
“So because her husband died and she has kids, she does not deserve to find love again?” Tuoyo asked, not believing what he was hearing.
“Nobody is saying that but-” Taiwo began.
“That’s exactly what you are saying!” Timeyin nearly bellowed.
“Look, I am not saying she does not deserve to love again, but me personally, that’s just too much baggage for me.” Femi said casually.
Everyone in the room turned to look at Femi.
“The first night we hung out with her and Ronke, you dragged me there because you wanted her. Now she has too much baggage?” Timeyin said in disbelief.
“No, I wanted to sleep with her; not take her home to mama. There is a clear difference.” Femi corrected.
The room went silent.
In a flash, Timeyin was lunging for Femi.
Tuoyo blocked Timeyin’s path just in time, begging him to calm down. He turned, and shot Femi a disapproving look.
“What? He asked a question and I answered. Besides, he knew that already; I made it very clear to him back then.” Femi defended.
“Look, do you love her?” Tuoyo began, turning to Timeyin and ignoring Femi.
“We wouldn’t be having this conversation if he didn’t.” Osas let out from where he sprawled out on one of Femi’s couches.
Tuoyo shot Osas an angry look.
“I don’t know…sometimes love is just not enough. I mean, there is love and then there is common sense.” Taiwo said, trying again to dissuade Timeyin.
“Seriously?” Tuoyo said, turning to his girlfriend; annoyance strong in his tone.
“It’s like two sickle cell carriers. You can be in love all you want, but it is a bad idea.” Taiwo persisted.
“How is that even the same thing-” Timeyin began, then stopped and closed his eyes, reining in his anger. “You know what? I don’t need this.”
He got up, grabbed his keys and took his leave.
Taiwo and Tuoyo tried to call out to him, but he kept walking.
He went to bed angry at them, and woke up still upset. He mulled over the entire thing in his head. He accepted that, in their own way, they were trying to look out for him; but he could not get over the fact that all except Tuoyo could not see past her widowhood and the fact that she had children. These were his closest friends, he would never have guessed that they were part of the “society” that Akudo had spoken so strongly about.
He shook his head, and rubbed the back of his neck.
He knew it was all nonsense, and he knew what he wanted; but if three out of four friends who were enlightened, and grew up in what he believed was a more open-minded generation felt this way, his odds were looking quite bleak.
As he sat there in his car, praying harder than he ever had, he realised that he did love her.
Damn Osas. How did he always know?
Timeyin was not sure exactly when it had happened, but he could not deny it now. Not with the way his heart thundered out of his chest at the fear of what would happen during and after the encounter with his mother. Then there was also aunt Tosan – she was a force all on her own. Those were the two most important women in his life, but he knew that if they did not give their blessings, he would go it without them.
This is something he had never contemplated, but for Akudo, he would.
He laughed at himself.
He was willing to bear his mother’s disappointment, and incur the wrath of his beloved aunt; if it meant he got to be with a woman who was hell-bent on not being with him.
He must be mad.
He should drive over to the Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba and admit himself. Perhaps they would be able to diagnose the specific strain of madness he currently possessed.
Why did I have to fall for you Akudo? He asked himself.
He was doing well. He had finally come out of the deep sea he plunged himself into after what Ini put him through, and was content to stay afloat for a while before he even considered another woman.
How had he let himself fall?
He let his mind drift to the weekend before, when he had invited her over in a bid to prove that he could cook. Considering the unspoken and spoken words between them, how had he thought it was a good idea to be alone with her? Of course he hadn’t been thinking. He had told himself instead that they were just friends; and since she did not want anything more, he was not going to push it.
By the time they ended up in a precarious situation with him pinning her hands behind her, he knew it was time for her to leave before he did something he would regret.
He had tried to be slick by suggesting it was late, but the minx had asked him if he had a curfew. He could have found another reason to take her home but the dare in her eyes, those beautiful almond-shaped eyes of hers. He just could not resist.
It was at that point that he had lied to himself about having everything under control.
When she nearly fell off his sofa and he had grabbed her by the waist, a mild sensation had coursed through him; but he ignored it. It was not until she placed her hands on his and he felt a jolt, that he realised he should have taken her home when his good senses were telling him to. That jolt had been hard to ignore. He saw the surprise in her eyes, and was still in shock himself when she reached forward and kissed him. When she pressed her body to his, he lost all sense of reasoning. He did not realise how much his body ached for hers. When he pulled her close, the feeling was indescribable.
How had he thought he could stay friends with her?
He wanted that, and so much more. He was not going to settle for less. It was the knowledge that he did not quite have her that had him pulling away from her. It had been physically excruciating to do so – another sign.
He pinched the bridge of his nose as he leaned back into the driver’s seat of his car.
He could feel himself slipping.
He could not let it happen again.
This was his last effort to prove to Akudo that they belonged together. If it did not work, he was going to walk away from it all. The attraction, the friendship, everything.
He could not go down this path again.
He saw a car pull up behind his.
Akudo was here.
She had insisted on driving herself to his mum’s place so that she did not have to rely on him for a ride home in case things turned ugly.
Her faith was awe-inspiring.
He got out of his car, and walked towards hers.
She stepped out of her car, and greeted him with a smile.
“Hey you!” She beamed.
Something about the way she smiled calmed the thundering in his chest.
He made it to where she stood, and was going to go in for a light hug, but she squeezed.
When she pulled away, he observed her.
“You are not nervous?” He asked, an eyebrow going up.
“Nope!” She quipped.
Of course she wasn’t.
“Well that makes one of us.” He rolled his eyes. “You look great by the way.”
“Why thank you kind sir.” She responded in a Southern American accent, then curtsied.
He rolled his eyes again. “I’m glad this is fun for you.”
They took a step in the direction of his mother’s gate, then he remembered something he was going to tell her, and stopped.
“Hey, can you do me a favour?” He began, turning to face her.
“Sure, what’s up?” Akudo asked, the smile still lingering on her face.
“Can you not mention the boys?” Timeyin saw the smile vanish from her face as soon as he asked the question. A look of defiance took over, so he quickly continued. “I am not asking you to deny their existence, only that you not mention them. I want her to get to know you as a person. Not as a mother, or as someone who has been previously married. I just want her to see you.”
Akudo’s features softened.
“Please. If you lead with motherhood and widowhood, biases get formed and walls go up. I want her to see the individual first.” He begged.
“But being a mum is part of who I am. It’s part of the package.” Akudo protested.
“I know, but I want to know my mother’s true opinion of you before she finds all that out.” Timeyin persisted.
Akudo looked away. He could tell she was considering his words.
“Fine, but if she asks me pointedly, I will not deny my children.” She said, finally.
“Fair enough.” Timeyin said.
“And you have to promise me that you will tell her after I leave.” She added.
“Today?” He asked.
“Yes, today. You can wait until you have her ‘true opinion’ of me, but you have to tell her today.” She insisted.
Timeyin sighed. He was not sure if it was that Akudo was uncomfortable with his mother not knowing the whole truth, or if she was eager to prove that a relationship between them would never work. Either way, he did not have a choice in the matter.
“I promise.” He said quietly.
“Good. Now, shall we?” Akudo said, livening up.
“Thank you so much for having me ma.” Akudo said, squeezing Timeyin’s mother’s hands.
“It was absolutely my pleasure. Take care of yourself.” She said, squeezing back.
“Let me see her off.” Timeyin told his mum.
“Of course!” She responded, before offering another smile to Akudo, and waving.
Akudo walked ahead of Timeyin, a million thoughts swarming in her mind.
The visit had actually gone quite well. The woman had not tried to be overly friendly at first – which Akudo figured was fair, but as the visit progressed, they found that they had a few things in common. A love-hate relationship with heels, a shared interest in Logistics as it pertains to Nigeria, and a love for Ankara that was most detrimental to their pockets.
By the end of the lunch, Akudo found herself saddened by the fact that she would not have a relationship with this amazing woman after all.
“So, what do you think?” Timeyin asked when they had made it to Akudo’s parked car.
The eagerness in his voice made her chest tighten.
“She is wonderful.” She offered.
“Yeah, she is the best.” Timeyin said, smiling.
“Remember your promise?” Akudo said, giving him a warning look even though her heart was crumbling.
“Yes. I’ll do it now.” Timeyin said, his tone grave.
Akudo leaned forward on her toes, and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
“Bye.” Her voice was barely audible, but she had succeeded in not choking on the word.
She felt the back of her eyes tingle, and quickly unlocked her car.
“You’ll be home, right?” Timeyin asked. She could tell that he noticed the finality in her tone when she said ‘bye’.
“Yes. The boys are at my mum’s and I gave Roselyn the week off so we should be able to talk.” She was already in her car, and strapping on her seat belt.
“Okay, see you later.” He said, waving.
She only smiled, but didn’t look at him. Her eyes had already began to water.
She had successfully driven away before the first teardrop fell.
Timeyin walked back into his mother’s house from the exit that led into the kitchen. He knew that was where his mother would be.
Years of living without a house help had made the woman develop a preference for doing her own dishes.
She had put away the extra food from Akudo’s visit, and was washing the pots.
“Iya mi. I knew you’d be here.” He said lightheartedly, trying to hide his nerves as he walked into the kitchen.
“So what is her story?” His mum asked, stopping him in his tracks.
“Ma?” He blurted, completely taken aback by the question.
“What is her story? You were nervous the entire time so that tells me there is probably something about her I will not like so before I give you my opinion, I want to hear her story.”
He sighed. Of course his mother noticed how nervous he was. Nothing ever got past her. He walked over to the kitchen sink where she was, and tried to take the dish sponge from her.
She whacked his hand.
He winced, rinsed his hands, then reached for the kitchen napkin instead and started to dry the dishes Akudo had washed earlier.
He sighed again.
“Oh heavens, how bad is it?” His mother asked, setting down the pot she had just washed, and leaning on the sink.
“No, it’s nothing bad…per se.” Timeyin struggled to get the words out.
His mother rinsed her hands, dried them, turned to face him and crossed her arms at the chest. “What is it?”
She was staring at him so intensely, he began to stammer.
He stopped speaking, and closed his eyes. He had hoped to get her opinion of Akudo before telling her she was a widow with children, in the hopes that he could use her original opinion against her when she put up a fight. He might be willing to pursue a relationship with Akudo without her blessings, but he was certainly going to try to get her blessings if he could.
“She is a widow.” He let out.
“Oh.” His mother said, surprised. “She’s young.”
Timeyin’s eyes flew open. That was not the reaction he was expecting. Then again, his mother was not the theatrical kind.
“She married young.” Timeyin replied, choosing his words carefully.
After a pause, his mother turned back towards the sink and continued doing the dishes.
“For how long now?” She asked.
“About six years.” He responded, praying that didn’t make things worse.
“Does she have any kids?”
“Two.” He took a deep breath in readiness for her disapproval. The blow was coming, he could feel it.
His mother turned to look at him, her expression serious. “You realise how much of a responsibility that is?”
“Yes ma, and I am ready for it.” He said solemnly.
“Have you met them?” She asked.
“And?” She queried, rubbing at a difficult speck on her frying pan.
“I love them.”
“How did they take to you?”
“They like me. The younger one gave me a tough time at first, but he is now my little guy.” Timeyin smiled as he said that, temporarily forgetting he was in a fight for his future.
“Is she open to having more children?” His mother continued, putting away the sponge; then proceeding to rinse the pots one at a time.
“Yes.” Timeyin answered after a moment. He almost forgot he had asked Akudo that very question only a week before.
Timeyin’s mum stayed quiet until she was done rinsing the first pot.
“So, how does she feel about all of this?” She asked.
Timeyin blinked. Where was the rage, the anger, the “are you mad?”
He was taken aback by her line of questioning, but he figured she was building ammunition to throw in his face. Now, he wasn’t so sure anymore.
“Excuse me?” He asked, utterly bewildered.
“You didn’t hear my question or you don’t understand it?” His mum asked, her eyes still on the pots.
“I..em…you are not upset?” He asked.
“Upset? Why?” She asked, scrubbing at a speck she missed.
“Because I want to marry a woman who has been previously married, and has kids?” His tone was riddled with a mix of exasperation and confusion.
“Well it’s not her fault that her husband died now is it?” His mum asked pointedly, glancing back at him.
He stared at her incredulously.
She rolled her eyes.
“Look, like any mother, of course I would like it if the first fruits of your wife’s womb were yours, and I know that your aunty Tosan will chew your head off but; I cannot, in good conscience, reject a woman who would make you a suitable wife just because she has been married previously. Especially since the marriage ended through no fault of hers. Besides, I know all of my children, and I know you Timeyin. You are the child that hardly gave me any trouble; but when you want to be stubborn, there is absolutely no stopping you.” She glanced in his direction at that.
Timeyin knew it was pointless to deny it. Especially since the subject at hand was one he was ready to fight for.
“Quite frankly,” his mother continued. “I am impressed she even wants to get married again.”
It took him a second to realise what his mother meant. He had not quite recovered from the fact that she was not throwing pots at him.
“You never considered remarrying?” Timeyin asked, leaning on a cabinet and folding his arms.
He had actually never had this conversation with his mum.
“No. Goodness no.” She answered without hesitation.
In that moment, he saw Akudo in her. Were all widows like this? So vehemently against remarrying?
“Was it because of us? The kids?” He asked cautiously.
“Nope. It’s not easy raising children alone. I definitely could have used the help.”
“Oh. So why didn’t you remarry then? Or were there no suitors?”
His mother gave him an incredulous look.
“Young man, don’t underestimate your mother. Let me put it this way: half the guys you called ‘Uncle’ that visited after your dad died were not relatives.” She ended, turning back to her pots.
“What?!” Timeyin let out, shocked. Completely forgetting the reason for their conversation.
“Yep!” His mother smiled, a mischievous look taking over her features.
Timeyin mentally ran through all the uncles he had known growing up. She could not be serious. A few had to have been relatives.
“Uncle Sam?” He asked.
“Not your blood uncle.” She replied with a sly smile.
“Uncle Weyinmi?” That one had to be.
Timeyin could not believe it.
“Uncle Ete?” He asked. Uncle Ete was definitely somewhere on the family tree.
His mother did not bother to respond, she just laughed.
“Uncle Edema?” At this point Timeyin was throwing out all the names in his head. ONE had to be a real uncle.
His mother gave him a look that implied that he should have known that particular Uncle was not a relative.
“Uncle Osas?” This time, his tone was almost pleading.
“He is not even Itsekiri.” His mother chuckled.
“Oh my goodness! So all those guys were just trying to get at you?” He asked, shaking his head in disbelief.
“There were many more that never made it to the house. Those ones were your father’s friends, that’s why you saw them.” She responded.
Slowly, Timeyin let out a chuckle.
His mother had always been beautiful; even now, with more than a few grey strands on her mane, she was still a sight to behold. It really should not surprise him that men had wanted her.
“Na wa oh. Well, at least we had Uncle Jonas.” He said finally.
His mum only grinned.
“No! Not Uncle Jonas?” He gasped in shock.
“Especially Uncle Jonas.” She grinned mischievously.
“NO! He was my guy.” Timeyin said, putting his hands to his head dramatically and dragging the last word.
She laughed. “That was part of his strategy. He was convinced that if you guys loved him, it would make winning me over easy.”
“I feel duped.” Timeyin lamented, his shoulders drooping.
“Oh be quiet. You benefited from that relationship more than he did.” His mother scolded playfully.
“You never gave him a chance?” He asked, his tone losing the humour a bit.
“Nope. The man was persistent though. If I wasn’t so determined, he would have worn me down.” She answered, a faraway look in her eyes.
“So why didn’t you?” Timeyin asked quietly.
“Honestly?” She glanced at him briefly.
“Marriage is just too much drama.” She let out.
“What?” Timeyin could not believe the words coming out of his mother’s mouth. His early memories were of happiness and love between his parents; so what was she talking about?
“Seriously. Don’t get me wrong, your father was a wonderful man and a great father but, he was a man – which meant I had to massage his ego, deal with his nuances, tolerate a lot of his excesses. I mean, I miss the man I won’t lie; but lord knows I like being able to make a decision without tiptoeing around his feelings!” She said, waving the pan in her hand for emphasis.
“Jeez mum, do you have anything good to say about my father?” Timeyin asked, an eyebrow going up.
“Oh come off it. I said he was wonderful. What I am trying to say is, I would not have accomplished my dreams if he were still alive. I have wanted to be my own boss for as long as I can remember, but your father felt that I was better suited to a simple government job or being a full-time housewife. I was happy, but I was also quite miserable.” She said, looking at him long enough so he saw she meant it.
His chest tightened.
He could not imagine his mum miserable. She had done such a good job of hiding it.
He remembered when she had saved enough to open her first fabric store. The pure joy on her face had made his heart warm. He shuddered to think that she may have never accomplished that if his dad were still alive.
“Okay mum. No more please, before you destroy the name of a good man.” He said, in a bid to lighten the mood.
“Oh please. You know all you men are the same…well, maybe not you and your brother because I raised you different.” She winked at him, then set the last pot down and squeezed his cheeks.
Timeyin groaned and rolled his eyes.
“Now back to your question of why I never remarried. It wasn’t just the stresses of marriage. There was also the matter of not believing I could meet a man quite like your father; and also the guilt of feeling like remarrying was the same as replacing him when I knew he could never be replaced. There are a lot of emotions involved in this thing called widowhood. Which is why I asked how Akudo feels about all this. Is she really ready to go down this road?” His mother was done with the pots now, and had turned to face him.
“Actually, she was so sure you would object. She said she wasn’t going to give me an answer until I spoke with you and got your blessing.”
“Hmn…sounds like deflecting. Have a heart-to-heart with her. You have to be sure this is what she wants.” His mother said thoughtfully.
“Yes ma.” He nodded.
“As for my opinion, I think she is lovely. She was honest, transparent, straightforward. She was not trying to impress me, and it allowed me to see her for who she was. I suspect she was so sure I would not approve that she did not feel the need to be anything but herself. It worked in her favour.” His mother smiled.
“If I were being perfectly honest, I would prefer you for you to marry a girl who has never been married; but if Akudo makes you happy, then I approve.” She ended with a smile.
Timeyin smiled back. His mother would never know the monumental relief that washed over him at her words.
“Nevertheless,” his mother continued. “You need to make sure this is what she wants.”
“Thank you iya mi.” Timeyin said gratefully.
He made to leave then turned back towards his mum, a feeling of sadness overcoming him.
“Does the pain ever go away?”
She let out a sad smile. “Not entirely. Actually, the pain is not a problem. It’s the memories and loneliness; but it gets better with time. I suspect it gets even better if you let yourself love again.”
He walked over to her, and kissed her on the forehead. “Thanks mum.”
The entire drive to Akudo’s place, Timeyin kept thinking of how he would use his mother’s approval to convince Akudo. He realised just as he parked his car at her place, that her approval had never been the issue from the beginning. Akudo herself did not want a relationship, so this good news may very well be of no consequence.
He was still trying to figure out his strategy when she opened the door, and a giggle almost burst out of his throat.
She was wearing an unflattering bubu. It was perhaps the most matronly thing he had ever seen her wear. He suspected that it was supposed to somehow prevent him from being attracted to her. If only she knew it was not just her body that drew him to her. This may very well be the last night he spent with her, but he was going to make the best of it.
“So,” he began, wrapping his arms around her from behind. “I just discovered that ninety five percent of the uncles I knew growing up were wolves. In other news, my mum loves you.”
Akudo had stiffened at his touch because she likely expected him to be in a rotten mood, but when she heard the last part of his sentence, she whirled around, breaking away from him. Her eyes going wide.
“What?” She asked, in shock.
“You heard me, she loves you. I told her you were a widow with two boys, and it did not change her opinion of you.” He said, still unable to believe the words himself.
Akudo gaped at him.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. “You were wrong Akudo. I have her blessing, so can we please give us a chance?”
Akudo shook her head as she struggled to hold his gaze. “We can’t. It just won’t work.”
He kissed her lightly on the lips. “Why?”
“Your mum-” She muttered.
“She approves, and from the little I know of your mother-in-law, she will too. Your mum will come around.” He whispered onto her skin, as he kissed her neck.
“But I have children.” She let out in between quiet moans.
“I know. I love them.” He said, kissing the other side of her neck.
“I know you do but…” She trailed off.
He stopped kissing her, but held her firm; returning his gaze to hers.
“But nothing Akudo. You are the only one standing between us. Why?” He asked.
“Well, maybe I am not ready.” She said, her tone uncertain.
He took a step back, then ran his eyes down her upper torso. “Certain parts of your anatomy seem to disagree.” He smirked.
She jumped back in horror, breaking his hold and crossing her arms across her chest. If she were of a fairer complexion, she would have gone red in the face. “That’s not fair! You know my body responds to you.” She exclaimed.
He stepped closer, his grin absolutely devilish. “Does it now? In some places, that would be considered a sign.”
She took a few steps back, extending her arms forward to keep him at bay.
His face turned serious.
“Seriously Akudo, why won’t you let us be together? What are you afraid of?” He demanded.
“I don’t know.” She whimpered. She suddenly covered her face and sobbed.
Timeyin was confused. Was it something he said?
It absolutely broke him to see her cry.
“I didn’t mean to yell…” He said, trying to reach for her.
“No. Please.” She said, taking a few steps back.
“It’s not you. I am just…I want to…ugh! Why can’t I even speak?” She said, frustrated with herself.
“I have had a long, and honest conversation with myself since I left your mother’s house, and I just can’t do this Timeyin. Believe it or not, I really want to; but I just can’t. I am just…I don’t know…” She trailed off, sobbing some more.
Timeyin stood where he was, unsure of what to do; of what to say.
“I have only been with one man, ever! In my life! And he was my world, and then he died and I never thought I would ever be over him. Yet I find myself wanting to have a future with you, and I don’t know if that makes me a bad person. I just…I have been through so much. I have had people turn away from me just as much as I have had people try to take advantage of me. I have had people who went from being my friends, to seeing me as a threat to their marriages and I…I just finally got to that place where I got strong, and accepted that I was going to go this alone and then you show up and…and you are sweet, and kind, and I know it is ridiculous but I just feel like I have had my happily ever after, and have no business looking for another. Besides, I still don’t understand what you see in me, and I think you deserve so much better-”
Timeyin rushed to her and wrapped his arms around her, cradling her head to his chest as she sobbed loudly. He held her until she had stopped, and her breathing had steadied.
He pulled away, held her face and looked into her eyes.
“You are it for me Akudo. ‘Better’ does not exist. You are all I want. All I have ever wanted. I wish to God that I was your first; believe me, I do. But I am absolutely content to be your last, if you will let me.” He ended.
“I don’t deserve you.” She wept.
He crushed his lips to hers.
She responded with a hunger so fierce it made his ears ring.
He met her hunger fire for fire. He wanted her, and had not been subtle about it. Even now, subtlety was nowhere to be found as he gripped the small of her back and pulled her closer.
She pressed her body into his, finally letting go of all her inhibitions, all her insecurities, all her excuses.
When he pulled away, it was with more than a little effort but the words needed to be said.
“It is I who is not deserving of you Akudo.”
She shook her head in disagreement, but he continued.
“You deserve so much more than I can give you in this lifetime, but I promise you that I will not stop trying till my last breath. And if we are lucky to have another lifetime together, you can bet the hustle will continue in that lifetime too.” He breathed.
She allowed herself a small smile, tears running down either side of her upturned lips. “Ose, hustler of laive.” She let out, her voice hoarse.
“You know how we roll.” He responded with a light chuckle, as he wiped her tears with his fingers.
She looked up at him. “I love you Oritsetimeyin.”
His breath caught.
He suspected she did, but he never dreamed he would hear her say it. Even while he prayed that she would consider a relationship with him, he knew it would take a while before she let herself admit it; and he had been ready to wait.
What he was most unprepared for was the impact the words had on him, coupled with the perfectly sexy and accurate way she pronounced his full name.
He pulled her back to him as he took her lips again, this time he let himself freefall. He knew the depth of his kiss would tell her just how much those words meant to him, but he didn’t care.
He wanted her to know.
He wanted the whole world to know.
He knew Akudo’s mother would be hard to convince.
He knew his Aunty Tosan would be even harder, but he was confident that peace would reign because there were just as many people rooting for them.
More important, he knew he had found his happiness and nothing, no one, could take that away from him.