Getting down at the County bus stop, Valerie gave the slightly busy road a cautious look before crossing to the opposite side.
A sense of belonging filled her as she moved into the vivacious neighbourhood, a casual figure in beige coloured slacks and dark olive-green cotton short-sleeved shirt strolling on a Sunday afternoon. The tan handbag swung in her left hand as she walked down the street, toying with the handset in her right hand.
This neighbourhood had once been home. It was still home and would always be home. Each time she visited it was like coming to her very own family house.
Involuntarily her thoughts crept to Nathan… as it they were wont to do these days. She hadn’t heard from him in the last fifty-two hours or more.
Her fingers toyed with the phone keypad. Maybe she should call him… just to check on him, see if there’d been an accident or something. She quickly squashed the thought.
Crap, she was even counting the hours for heaven’s sake. Was she losing her mind? She wasn’t the clingy sort, who believed that their partners must call them all the time … and Nathan wasn’t even her partner.
They weren’t in a relationship for Christ’s sakes! He was a single-parent successful gospel singer and business man and she was… well an independent, self-sufficient woman.
She tugged the green marble single strand necklace round her neck.
Get a grip girl, she ordered herself, adjusting the dark glasses that shielded her eyes from the sunlight. She didn’t require the constant assurances of a man to feel content or happy, she reaffirmed silently with a stoic raise of her head.
In fact she wouldn’t give him another thought, she was going to spend a fun afternoon with Kike, laughing and having fun and all thought about men in general and Nathan in particular would be completely forgotten.
Feeling a like the super-single-sister she was, she pushed in the walk-in gate and strolled to the dark brown steel door. Pressing the doorbell, she hummed as she waited for it to be opened.
A smiling Yetunde opened the door some moments later. She was Mama Bee’s maid.
“Yeti, I thought you are supposed to find out who’s at the door first before you open the door, hmm?” She asked walking past the smiling girl into the spacious living room.
The rich warm colour combination gave the large room a homely welcoming atmosphere.
Valerie as usual took a moment to enjoy the sheer dance of colours in the room. It was a true reflection of Kike. And of Mama Bee, she mused. Mama Bee was a true colour diva herself.
“Aunty I look for window before I open the door.” Yetunde responded in pidgin.
“Okay ma.” She nodded. “But next time make sure you ask first before opening the door.” She sank into the deep cream coloured sofa facing the wall mounted TV, just so the softness can caress her body.
“Okay Aunty.” Yetunde nodded her head vigorously. “Em, Aunty na parlour here you wan stay? She asked now. “You no go go meet Aunty Kike for her room? Na there she dey since morning o.”
“What do you mean?” Valerie turned to look at her. “Didn’t she go to church this morning?”
Yetunde shrugged her plump shoulders. “Ah, Aunty Kike no go church today. Na only me go. E be like sai e get as body dey do am sha.”
“She’s not feeling well?” She frowned getting quickly to her feet.
“She no tell me sai she no feel well o.” Yetunde defended instantly. “I just think so because she no go church and she never chop anything since morning. And na better rice and moi-moi I cook o.”
Valerie laughed. “Oh Yeti no one is blaming you for anything. I’m going to Kike’s room now.” She headed towards the door just beside the dining room.
“Ah, Aunty Val shey you go chop sha?” Yetunde called after her, hopefully.
“Yes Yeti. You can bring something for me and Kike in about thirty minutes.”
“Okay Aunty.” Yetunde smiled, dropping into the seat beside her to continue watching her Nigerian home video.
Valerie pushed open the bedroom door without knocking.
“Oh my God!” She gasped. “What natural disaster happened in here?” She stepped cautiously into the room.
Clothes were strewn everywhere from bed to floor. Chocolate bar wraps, two empty cans of ice cream and a bottle of half-empty chardonnay lay on the reading table.
The only space as far as she could see was on the red sofa were Kike was sprawled staring with the most boring expression at Kourtney and Khloe doing whatever the Kardashians did on TV.
She picked up a yellowish-green dress as she walked gingerly to the sofa. “Babe, drinking at two o’clock in the afternoon, isn’t that a little too early even for you?”
Kike merely sniffed.
Valerie waited a bit for her to say something or maybe even look at her, she didn’t. She just continued staring morosely at the screen.
Leaning down she felt her temperature, then exclaimed. “Oh my God! It’s finally happened. A bad combination of chardonnay, chocolate and ice cream topped off with an unhealthy dose of Keeping up with The Kardashians have rendered you comatose. What the hell am I gonna do now?”
A snort came from the sofa.
Valerie flung the dress on the bed, followed by her handbag and phone. “A miracle!” She cried jumping up and down. “Thank you Jesus for restoring the ability to make sound.”
This time Kike snickered. “Stop that crazy jump.” She ordered. You’re making me dizzy.”
“Nope, the drink is making you dizzy.” Valerie disagreed lightly shaking her head. But she stopped the jumping, she’d gotten the response she wanted anyway.
She pushed Kike’s head up and sat beside her on the sofa. “So what gives with Marc?” She asked cocking her head to the left to look at Kike.
Kike scowled. “It’s that obvious? You take one look at me and conclude the problem must be Marc?” She got up and flung the sofa pillow on the bed.
Valerie watched the drama without so much as a flicker.
“You think all my life problems begin and end with Marcus Nweze, huh?” She demanded marching to the table to pour herself another drink. But instead of sipping the drink, she slammed the glass on the table. The white liquid bopped and spilled.
At Valerie’s quiet even stare, she groaned and dropped heavily on a stack of colourful tops, hands on her head.
“God, Val, look at this whole mess, what was I thinking of?”
“More aptly, what were you looking for?”
Kike shook her head. “The right dress to wear to church.”
“Hmmm.” Valerie looked at her for a moment then walked over to the bed, picking up clothes as she did so.
Kike watched as Valerie put back the clothes on hangers, walking to and fro the wardrobe. “Marcus dumped me for another woman.” She said in a dull voice.
Tell me something I don’t know, Valerie thought grimly. But she dropped the lemon-green top in her hand and walked to where Kike was crunched. She took her in arms.
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry.” She rubbed her hand down Kike’s back. “I’m so sorry that idiot hurt you.”
Kike pushed out of the embrace. “Idiot?” Her dark brown eyes were now tinted with fury. “He’s not just an idiot. He’s a lying, cheating, no-good son of a gun. An over-pampered son of a wealthy father, who at thirty-two still has the brain power of a toddler and an even smaller peepee.” She made a gesture with her fingers to indicate how small he was.
Valerie laughed. Kike never failed in rightly labelling her people.
Kike joined in the laughter, her fury forgotten. It felt good to laugh.
“I always hated his tiny almost non-existent eyes.” Valerie said when she sobered up. “Somehow they always showed off his dim-witted mind.”
Kike grinned, feeling better already, you can always count on your best girl.
“I just bet his new love is some ugly, overweight, gross-looking chick.” Valerie continued light-brown eyes flashing with malice.
“Oh no. She is in fact a tall and smoking hot voluptuous fair complexioned lady.”
That stopped Valerie. “You know the… lady?”
“Yeah, I met her at his place last night.” Kike nodded.
And at Valerie’s stupefied stare she shrugged. “I went over there to see him. Things hadn’t been going well between us since Valentine’s Day.”
She sighed. “Honestly, things hadn’t been going well since after the Christmas and New Year’s festivities.” She picked up a white polyester shirt. “Anyway, I got there and… there he was, all cosy with… Mirabelle.” She strolled to the wardrobe to hang the shirt.
“You’ve met her before?”
“He introduced us.”
Valerie’s eyes rounded. “He introduced you? To the woman he’s been cheating on you with?” She was momentarily speechless. The utter nerve of the man. “That selfish, self-absurd asshole introduced you to his … voluptuous yellow pawpaw boyfriend-snatching girlfriend?”
Kike laughed. Damn, nothing like sharing a heartbreak tale with your bestie. “He did. The self-centred bigot.”
A momentary silence, then Valerie asked. “And what did you do?”
“What any dignified well-educated responsible woman would do.”
Valerie waited, eyes narrowed.
“Slapped, real hard, his lying cheating face, then sashayed out of the house, without a backward glance.”
“Whoopee!” Valerie clapped her hands. “Good for you. And that is that with that loser. You have dealt with him and now we are done with him.”
She picked up the chocolate wraps on the table and tossed them in the dustbin.
Then opening her arms, she wrapped them round Kike. They both sighed deeply.
Nathan stretched his body languidly. He was feeling all loose and limber. His act at the church had ended at about twelve-fifty p.m. and he’d returned home almost immediately to shower and dove into bed.
He yawned as he tossed aside the coverlet, the coldness that slapped his warm body had him picking up the remote to turn down the air conditioner.
He picked up his phone. Six twenty-three. Unbelievable, he’d been sleeping for more than four hours. No wonder he felt this revitalized. He chuckled as he dialled a number, knowing something else that will further revitalize his mind.
Valerie twisted round as her phone rang. She got up from the bed where she’d been lying with Kike.
Seeing the way her eyes lit up, Kike knew instantly who the caller was.
A thrill of excitement cursed through Valerie as she saw the caller Id, but she purposely squelched it. Sliding up the receiver, she said as she placed the phone over her ear. “Hello Nathan.” Her voice was cool and calm.
Nathan’s deep laughing voice tingled her ears. “Hi Valerie. How are you this absolutely marvellous Sunday evening?”
Well, he certainly was feeling cheerful, after ignoring her for the better part of fifty-seven hours, she thought a little miffed. Then she gave herself a mental kick, quit the counting.
“I’m actually doing great.” She replied allowing some warmth to slip into her voice. There was absolutely no need to let him she was peeved that he hadn’t called.
Nathan strolled into the Kitchen. “Hey, I do apologize for not calling you since Friday morning. I tell you it’s been real hectic over here these last two days.”
Valerie sauntered over to the sofa. “Oh, no need to apologize for heaven’s sake. I know you’ve had shows to do.” She sat down. But points for you for doing so. “It was also a hectic Friday and Saturday for us at Chop N’ Munch.” Did he think he was the only one who had busy weekends? Duh.
He drew a can of juice from the refrigerator. “So I guess you didn’t miss me like I did you?” He asked in a pretend hurt voice, not really certain it’s pretence. He’d missed her, too much in fact. But obviously he was riding in that boat alone. Or was she just being a girl? Hiding her feelings as women were apt to do?
A mild tingle ran down her back. “You… missed me?” Oh thank God, I wasn’t the only one feeling this. Or was he being a guy? Lying about his feelings just to get her to fall for him?
“Yes I did.” Nathan responded in a soft voice. “I do love talking with you, you know.” At the hmm sound from the other end of the line, something curled inside of him. “Not talking to you for almost sixty hours had been a real torture.”
Ah, so he’d been counting too.
She stretched out on the sofa, her lips curving. “Hope it hasn’t made you suicidal?”
He laughed. God, this was what he’d missed, her quick banters. He settled into his leather sofa. “Not suicidal, but a real bundle of distraction.”
The tingle slicked down to her toes. “Hmm. Hope you didn’t mess up your lyrics.”
He chuckled. “Luckily I had really good backup singers.” He joked. “Else I’d have been tossed out on my ass.”
Valerie laughed. “I don’t believe you. The great Nate Phillips losing his lines… nice try.”
The sound of her laughter sent a slow quiver down his spine. God, he needed to get back to Lagos and see her again. If only Deji hadn’t committed them to the ICC concert.
“How mean of you.” He remonstrated playfully. “First you distract me, now you doubt me.”
She snickered. “Poor man, how about I make up for my meanness when you get back tomorrow?” She gave herself at mental knock at the question, now he’d know she was eager to see him.
Nathan grinned widely at the suggestion. Pleased that she was looking forward to his return. “Unfortunately can’t.” He sighed with regret. “Deji, my producer booked another show for tomorrow at the ICC. So I’ll probably be here for another two days.”
She viciously squished the flash of disappointment. “Oh, the All Jamz Nite Concert. Wow! That is so great. I hear it’s a real big deal. You must be proud. How did it happen?”
Settling back on the sofa, he proceeded to tell her about it all and more, enjoying her quiet hmms and low throaty laughs.
To be continued…
NB- Kudos to the #Italian national team. You really showed me tonight how ‘#Collective effort pays better than #Individual effort!’
I wish you guys the best! 💪🏾