It’s been two weeks since Edikan went to Ghana and things had returned to normal. The adults had gone back to school. Edidiong was doing great and wouldn’t let me hear anything but how her dad promised her a trip to Texas during the summer to spend some time with Uzo, her best cousin. The two girls started calling each other that after the two summers they spent together. The first was when the kids travelled to the states during the summer break, two years ago. The second time was last year, when my sister had visited home with her kids and spent three weeks at my place. She had married an Igbo man who I should emphasize is an amazing husband. That explains why her daughter bears the name Uzodinma. I was checking out the latest orders we received when I got a call from Dami. Dami and I have been really close friends since my second year in the university and we’ve literally been through thick and thin together. I find it special that we’ve never really been apart from each other since we became close. We both obtained our masters degrees from the UK at the same time. We got back to Nigeria in the same month and have lived in Lagos since then. She got married a year before I did and fortunately for us, our husbands became great friends after we introduced them. I was pretty relieved to have something distract me from the numbers and logistics that crowded my mind for about four hours. “Hey babe” I answered enthusiastically. “Madam, wait for me to offer you a cow before you deem it fit to check on me oo” she responded in a feigned accusatory tone. “Pele baby. I have valid excuses but I’ll spare you the details. Ma binu. I owe you lunch. Just let me know where and when, and I’ll make it happen” I was sure the food deal would work. My friend is such a foodie and after two kids, she has absolutely no excess tissue to show for both facts. She laughed at my offer and as I predicted, accepted it. We talked about a lot of things, from work to the kids and even to the trip we’d both been planning for our families for over a year now. Halfway into pleading with her to send me some of the Ijebu garri her grandmother had just sent her, she interrupted me.. “Abeg! Before I forget my main reason for calling you, my wedding anniversary is around the corner. Lekan and I have decided to throw a party and babes, there’s no me without you oo. I know you’re better with details and these kinda things in general” she said in a pleading tone. “Whoop! Whoop!! Oga go and look for an event planner oo. My own is to come and eat on the ‘D’ day.” Of course I would help out; she didn’t need to ask. We spoke for a little while longer and I went back to my work.
The next two weeks got busy for me. Nini took ill so I had to cater for her while simultaneously running my business and planning Dami’s party. I could bet I had lost a pound or two. My baby was responding well to treatment so I was becoming somewhat relaxed. I just received a call from the lady who would most likely be the one to provide the meat recipes for the party and I was to meet her at Ikeja to discuss how things should work. Nini had just come home from the hospital where she was admitted and luckily for me, my mum had come over two days ago to help me out. Content that my child would be alright, I dashed out to make my appointment. After being stuck in traffic for an hour, I had to refill my fuel tank. I drove into the nearest fuel station and got in line. Before the next minute ran out, I noticed the Benz directly in front of me on the queue. I really don’t know how to name labels but I know a sleek car when I see one and this Benz was smoking hot. I was gushing to myself about how I need a birthday surprise like this when the Benz rolled forward to the pump. Thank God the line’s moving, I thought checking my time. The sales attendant replaced the nuzzle and tried to cover the tank but was having a hard time. “Na wa oo. Does the car have a special mechanism? Just twist the cork in or something” I mumbled as I honked twice. The driver’s door opened and I figured the person had decided to help the attendant out. That was the last of my thoughts concerning any fuel tank. Standing in front of my car was Amanze. The same Amanze I have been avoiding for nearly four months now. Of course he dealt with the cork in no time and turned to get into his car. For reasons I’d never fathom he glanced in my direction and stopped. He had seen me and I wanted to just disappear. He smiled, shut his door and walked towards me still wearing his smile. I can’t quite remember the facial expression I wore but it must have been awkward because I cannot imagine coming up with a nice one amidst the unease I felt. “I never thought this day would come” he said leaning down on my window. My mind was racing and I was still trying to figure out an appropriate response when shouts erupted behind us. “Make una comot this nonsense make person buy fuel. See this werey. You dey follow woman talk on top queue.” “Gerrout naa…who be this ones naa?” The shouts finally gave me what to say. “You should move your car before we cause a scene here”, I said trying to smile in the bid to allay the awkwardness.
He drove to a clearing towards the exit if the fuel station and parked there. I was next in line so I bought my fuel, all the while dreading the inevitable meeting I was about to have with Amanze. I parked directly behind his car and got down to meet him. He was already leaning on the trunk of his car, waiting for me. He looked pristine in his crisp white shirt and hourglass cufflinks, black pants and brogues. You’d think I’d have neither the time nor inclination to check him out. Well, I did. Before I could gather my thoughts enough to say anything reasonable on reaching him, he smiled and spoke. “Hello Edima. It’s a pleasant surprise running into you here. I was beginning to think Lagos was getting bigger I’d hoped and…” he paused. “You look great.” It sounded like he meant to say something other than great. I smiled back at him and to my surprise it was an authentic smile that meant I was truly glad to see him. Imagine the irony. I had been avoiding this man for four months and here I was glad that he’d run into me on a random day. I bit the insides of my mouth; probably an unconscious act to chastise myself. “Hi Amanze. Thank you. How are you?” I asked as I held out my hand for an intended brief handshake. “I’d be crazy not to be fine now. How’s your family and work?” he asked still holding unto my hand. “Great. Everything’s great. How’s your end?” “Business is good although I almost fired the Chef that prepared your order that day we met. Why pay him so much if a woman with such fine taste in food couldn’t come back even one more time to have another bite?” he laughed. So he was the owner of the place after all. Frankly I was not surprised; he looked like the man who might even have more going for him. “Aha! So it’s your place after all. Do you fire all your chefs for every customer that doesn’t come back in four months?” I asked sarcastically. “Look who’s counting. And I thought you’d probably forgotten all about me and my food” he said with an undertone of victory in his voice. “Good taste buds never forget great food. It’s funny how food beats people to it sometimes.” I was somehow enjoying the witty banter and the subtle flirting. He laughed so hard at my last retort. “Perhaps when next you come around, I’d personally make you one of my specials. That way you’d probably be forced to remember the food alongside the Chef” he said folding his arms across his chest and leaning back as if to get a better look at me. “You sound very sure I’ll be running back to your restaurant.” “I’m not quite sure ‘running’ is the right word but you’ll be back. I’ll try all the tricks in my hat to accomplish that one. Perhaps we’d start by exchanging numbers, if it’s not too much trouble” he said smiling. His eyes were brighter than I remembered them to be but that smile was just as striking as I recall. His white teeth and full lips and the unintentional confidence he reeked of. “I’d be a jerk to say no yes?” I asked knowing well what the answer would be. “Yes”. We exchanged numbers and shook hands again as we said goodbye. He walked me back to my car and stood by while I got in. “Lady those are some badass wheels” he said with his attention on my tires. “Thank you. My husband got them for me” I blurted before I could stop the second part from coming out. “Ah yes!” he said in a manner that seemed as though he’d just remembered that I am married. I honestly don’t know why I said that. It was probably my subconscious trying to protect my so-called marriage. I looked at him from my rear mirror as I drove out. He was walking back to his car with a content look on his face. I knew once again that this was shaky ground and that I had to be careful with this one.
I woke up on the Saturday of the party without any excitement. You’d think that after all the weeks Dami and I have spent running around that I’d be nervous, to say the least, about how everything would play out. Nonetheless, I got around to the things I had to do. I made a couple of phone calls to ensure the vendors were on track. It was a house party so we didn’t really need décor. Dami had a beautiful home with a lovely garden that would work just fine. I spent some time with Nini; it took me about an hour and 30 minutes to weave her full, natural hair into some style that I have no name for. She looked pretty and that’s all that matters. By the time we’d finished, it was already 1pm and I knew I had to hurry. I called the matron at my other kids’ school at 1.30pm so that I could speak with them as was our ritual. As you’d imagine, this ritual didn’t include their father who had not called me in two weeks. The few times, I’d tried, I got his machine and I just wasn’t given to all that drama so I faced other things. Just as I was about to step into bathroom, my phone rang. It wasn’t anyone whose number I had. I muttered a complaint as I picked up the call. I was already running late for my appointment with Dami. We had to go pick up the small chops. Thankfully, he husband was in charge of the drinks and music. “Hello” I answered a little irritably. “Good day Edima. It’s Amanze. You sound like it’s a bad time. Is it?” Butterflies I hadn’t realized lived in mu tummy suddenly came to life. I’d have known he was the one even if he hadn’t introduced himself. It was like some voice recognition program had been set in place. “Oh hi… Umm…How are you? I’m sorry, it’s not exactly a bad time. I just have a place to be tonight and I need to be on my way as soon as possible” I explained with a slight plea. “I can understand that. I can always call you back tomorrow. I’ve got an engagement myself.” “My apologies once again” I said applying my face mask. “No worries. Let’s blame Saturdays. They used to be a lot less busy for us all” he responded with a laugh. “Very well then, take care” I replied and dropped the phone on my table without waiting for him to drop the call. With a lot of effort, I ignored the butterflies still doing back-flips in my tummy over a man they didn’t know, and stepped into the bath tub. It was a quick shower since I knew I’d spend a quite some time making up and styling my hair. I quickly held my braids into an up-do and got my face done. For my eyes, I went for a smoky effect using nude shades and my mac lipstick in “media” worked its wonder as usual. I have to admit I loved who I saw in the mirror. I wore a fitted peek-a-boo blouse with lacy sleeves and a flared midi skirt with sandals and a pair of dropping earrings. I’d gone for simple and gorgeous and my mirror told me I’d chosen well. The colors sat well on my skin and matched my make-up. I got my car keys and purse and headed out. Nini insisted I had two spoons of her jollof rice before leaving and I hoped I still had some mint gums in my car.
The traffic was light and in no time, all the food had been brought to the venue. It was 4pm already so I asked Dami to go get dressed. I stayed around making sure all the elements were in place. I didn’t want any stone to be left unturned and in the next hour everything was set. By 5.30pm, the guests began to show up in trickles. I did a lot of hugging and pecking and serving that I’d already begun to feel tired. I quickly got myself a plate of rice and shredded beef sauce and went to the guest room to eat. I knew I’d be busy organizing stuff when the event was in full motion, at least until the VIPs were all attended to. So this meal was intended to be a life saver. The sauce was amazingly tasty and creamy. I soon got out noticing that the place was getting packed. The next two hours were really busy for me. The couple had made a grand entrance; thanks to the D.J and the M.C. When I thought things were pretty much great enough for me to hands off, I sent a waiter to get me a bottle of chilled white wine and a glass. I quickly spotted an empty and surprisingly secluded area around where the family cars were packed. Two randomly placed chairs were there and for some reason it was dark. Perfect spot! I quickly retrieved the wine and glass and headed off to my haven. I quickly took off my shoes as soon as I sat down and placed my feet on the other seat. I opened the bottle of wine and took a swig, totally ignoring the fact that I had a wine glass. After a couple of more swigs, I leaned back and let the effect of the wine kick in. I was slightly tipsy and very tired, and with nothing else to do, I slept off.
I am really glad that I have finally posted the long awaited 4th part of these series. I apologize for the delay and hope that the latter parts will come in quick successions. If you have not read the previous parts, do not fail to click on the following links.