Sunday, 4 July 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twelve)

 



The living room wafted of fried beef and onion. Greetings and talks rented the air as we welcomed our long-awaited guests- Khalid’s parents.

 

Khalid’s parents sat on the green sofa while Khalid, dressed in a red t-shirt and black pair of chinos, occupied the wooden chair opposite Rasheedah. They exchanged glances and communicated with signs while both parents discussed.  

 

Khalid’s father was dressed in a white-laced kaftan and red cap. He was a tall and rotund man with dark skin. Khalid’s mother wore a sparkling blue-coloured iro and buba and gold scarf. She had fair skin, the colour of papaya. Her lips were thin, and it looked almost inexistent, save for when she smiled. Khalid’s skin colour was a blend of the two; chocolate. With the way they were dressed, it looked like they were returning from a ceremony…but they weren’t.

 

The trays placed in front of them contained samosas, mint sweets, and fried beef. As I dropped two bottles of water on the table and was returning to the kitchen, I overheard them talking about how they enjoyed their short trip to England.

 

I returned to the living room and added an extra tray of fried beef on the table in front of them as I cleaned my sweaty palm with the tip of my veil.

 

They muttered thank you, and I smiled in return. I was heading to the room when Dad called my name. “Rafiah, you should be here. You’re the eldest child and should partake in decision making,” he stated, and I grinned and took a seat beside the TV.

 

I glanced at Rasheedah and noticed that she and Khalid were communicating through texts. I couldn’t help but stare at them with a look of jealousy. I might not admire the setbacks of their relationships, but they were definitely in love with each other.

 

I imagined Munir taking the place of Khalid, but I winced instead. I hadn’t been able to imagine myself and Munir as a couple.

 

Khalid’s father’s croaky face drifted me back to reality. He was talking about the main suspect being a strong opponent who was contending with him for the senatorial position. Therefore, he believed the person must have a hand in the threat.

 

“He is trying to scare me from contesting by threatening people close to me, like the wife-to-be of my only son,” he said, and Khalid’s mother nodded in agreement.

 

“We have reported the case to the police and, believe me, necessary actions have been taken,” Khalid’s mother added.

 

“I have also reported the matter to the Executive Governor. He is solidly behind us. He has assigned security agents to monitor the actions of Honourable Olowolayemo. I promise you that we have his full support,” Khalid’s father chipped. “I’m sorry for causing you great panic. I cannot imagine how you all must have felt. We deeply apologise for the inconvenience and are assuring you that everything has been settled. You will never receive any letter of threat again.”

 

Eh, we brought some presents from England,” Khalid’s mother grinned as she handed a large package to Mom. “Please, help us manage it.”

“Ah, manage ke? This is too much,” Mom said as she collected the package with a grin.

 

Khalid’s mother adjusted her buba and stared at us with bright eyes. “When are we resuming the wedding plans?”

 

“Immediately!” Mom said with excitement. “I’ve missed planning my daughter’s wedding. It keeps me busy and delighted,” she was saying as she turned towards Rasheedah. “Bring my phone so that I can call the caterer. I hope someone else hasn’t been hired her for the next two weeks. By the way, the price of tomatoes has increased oo….” She whined.

 

The wedding plans resumed that very second. Mom had told Khalid’s mother about the attitude of the wedding florist and how skilled the caterer was.

 

I glanced at Dad and noticed that he was not excited about the news. Instead, a look of worry was evident on his face and I knew that he wasn’t convinced everything was fine.

***

Two weeks had passed, and our lives had returned to normal. There were no more letters of threat, and we had almost forgotten that there a night where we all sat in the living room with quivering lips and wobbly legs.

 

Things had returned to the way they used to be, and I hoped it continued that way. Rasheedah would be getting married in a week, and work had been fun. Munir still spent lunch with Asmau and me. Moments spent with Munir were always fun. We would talk about politics and entertainment as we devour plates of jollof rice.

 

I was at the office, staring at the screen and pretending to understand the text that appeared. I squinted my eyes and yawned loudly. I couldn’t keep my eyes steady. I opened my bag and brought out a pack of bubble gum to save myself from falling asleep.

 

Mrs. Bola appeared that very minute, her high-heeled shoes making clacking sounds as she sashayed into the office. “We have a meeting at the board room, now!” she said with a wide smile.

 

Mrs. Bola was dressed in a black pencil shirt and grey shirt. She wore black stiletto heels, and as she graced the office, her strawberry-flavoured perfume wafted through the air.

 

“It will be a brief meeting. Five minutes tops,” Mrs. Bola stated as she walked out of the room.

 

I grabbed my jotter and pen and headed to the board room with Asmau beside me. When we got to the board room, almost everyone was seated. A seat to the far left of the room was unoccupied, and another in between Joe and Chuks. So Asmau and I split and I took the one at the far right.

 

As I took my seat, I looked up and noticed Munir smiling at me. He winked, and I smiled shyly, opening my jotter and placing a biro in between. I will be lying if I say there weren’t butterflies in my stomach.

 

I read the last content I scribbled on my jotter and wondered what the meeting was for. Then, I felt a nudge and whipped my head up. It was Esther handing a note over to me. I knew it would be from Asmau. I opened it to read its content.

 

Who knows what warrants this meeting on a hot Wednesday afternoon. But, it had better be worth it. Before Mrs. Bola made the announcement, I was planning to go to the kitchen and have a brief nap.

 

I chuckled, and I tore a part of my jotter and wrote a note.

 

Like thirty minutes could have passed on a regular time…but meetings? We’d still be at five minutes.

 

I folded the note and gave it to Esther, who rolled her eyes and passed it over. Asmau grinned at me after reading and gave a thumb up.

 

Mrs. Bola finally appeared, and I adjusted myself on the seat.

 

“I’m sorry about the impromptu meeting,” Mrs. Bola waved a hand. “I promise to keep it short so that everyone will resume their duties. So, our very own couple, Tolu and Najeebah, are getting married this Sunday!” she squealed in excitement, and colleagues banged their hands on the table to celebrate with them.

 

Sadness engulfed my face as I surreptitiously glanced at Najeebah, whose eyes flickered with happiness. Suddenly, my mouth turned bitter, and I wished I had faked eating an infected meal and spending hours in the toilet. I wished that I hadn’t accepted Tolu’s proposal. I could have been neutral like Asmau, Munir, Esther, Chuks…and everyone whose hands did not shiver when they see their ex every morning.

 

Mrs. Bola talked about everyone contributing two thousand naira each to buy a lovely gift and celebrating our colleagues’ big day by making sure that we grace the event. The board room burst into merriment, and I tried hard to fight the hot tears that were struggling to flow through my cheeks.

 

“How will you spend your honeymoon?” Joe said, and people cackled in response.

 

“Janet, I keep telling you to say yes to me so that we’ll make another beautiful couple,” Adekunle chides Janet and people laughed.

 

I forced a smile and watched as people wished them a successful wedding. Finally, Mrs. Bola dismissed the meeting, and we all returned to our desks.

 

As I prepared to resume my boring task, Mrs. Bola’s PA walked towards my desk. “Mrs. Bola sends for you,” she said.

 

Asmau smiled at me and drew a love sign as I walked out of the office.

 

About two minutes later, I was in Mrs. Bola’s richly-furnished office, and she had gestured that I take a seat. Mrs. Bola’s office is the definition of ‘exquisiteness.’ The walls were painted orange and white and contained pictures of Mrs. Bola, her husband, and her five-year-old daughter.

 

I’d seen her daughter once during the last end-of-year party, bawling her eyes out and requesting more chocolates. As I watched Mrs. Bola type furiously on her keyboard, I wondered how she managed to run Fulaan and spend time with her family.

 

“I’m so sorry, Rafiah. I just need to send this mail,” she said as I watched her rounded spectacles reflect the light emitting from her computer.

 

Finally, she raised her head and smiled at me. “How are you doing?”

 

I was taken aback by her question. I stared at her with confused eyes. “Err…I’m fine.”

 

“Are you sure, Rafiah?”

 

Mrs. Bola had a unique way of pronouncing my name, with the ‘r’ sounding a bit weird. Asmau and I would giggle about it… but right now, I was confused. Would I be losing my job?

 

“I’m fine. Is there a problem, ma?”

 

“Well,” she started and took off her glasses. “I understand it must be mortifying to see that your ex is getting married.”

 

“Oh,” I said.

 

“I totally understand, Rafiah. You do not have to pretend. What’s worse is that Tolu ended it on his own accord. You would have wanted you two to be together. Look, I’ve been there before. Before getting married to my husband, I had once been in a relationship with a colleague at my previous place of employment. He was a top official in the company, so it made everything complicated. People started spreading rumours that I was sleeping my way to the top. I would work hard to get promoted, but people would attach my success to my love life. When the relationship finally ended, my fellow colleagues openly mocked me. I would cry profusely before resuming work every morning. I tried my possible best to concentrate at work. It was tough, but I scaled through all of it. Starting a romantic relationship with a fellow colleague is a risk; sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Mrs. Bola held my hands and looked me deep in the eyes. “I wish you the very best, Rafiah.”

 

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Bola,” I said with wet eyes.

 

“You’re welcome,” she smiled at me as I walked out of her office.

 

As I was returning to the office, I continued to gasp in surprise; knowing full well that I’d just discovered Mrs. Bola’s soft side.

 

So, with the strict rules and scowling looks, Mrs. Bola could be nice! But I changed my mind as I got to the entrance of the office. I took out my phone and sent ‘Let’s meet in the kitchen!’ to Asmau.

 

I pretended to take water from the dispenser as I waited for Asmau. She arrived seconds later and hurried to where I was standing. “What’s up?”

 

I told her all that transpired in Mrs. Bola’s office, and she widened her eyes in surprise and shock. Asmau remarked that she had no idea Mrs. Bola could be kind and considerate.

 

We took a seat, and I log into Instagram and checked Tolu’s profile. How could I had missed out on the post he made this morning…about being eager to tie the knots with the love of his life?

 

“Rafiah,” Asmau took my phone. “It’s time to let go of this obsession with Tolu and Najeebah’s relationship. It’s time to move on,” she said in whispers.

 

“Okay,” I replied.

 

“Will you attend the wedding?” she asked.

 

“I don’t know yet,” I shrugged.

 

“I won’t be attending. I have a doctor’s appointment on Sunday. So it’s okay if you decide not to…” she was saying when my phone chimed.

 

I grabbed my phone from her to read the message.

 

Will you be attending the wedding?

-          Munir.

 

I don’t know yet. Will you?

-          Rafiah

 

If you decide to attend, let me know. I’d like to be your date. I think it would be great if someone keeps you company. You don’t mind that I accompany you to the wedding, do you?

-          Munir

 

I smiled and replied:

No, I don’t mind at all.


Don't miss out on the previous episodes:


Episode One


Episode Two


Episodes Three & Four


Episode Five


Episodes Six & Seven


Episode Eight


Episode Nine


Episode Ten


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