She was already running behind schedule. A quick flick of her left hand told her she had barely eight more minutes to go. She wouldn’t have been running late if not for the I’m Nathan gorgeous-looking-time-wasting philanderer, she scowled, expertly scooping gleaming golden brown chicken into a serving dish.
Christ, if the damn man hadn’t slammed into her and proceeded to flirt with her… well, there’s no need to consider the fact she’d been flirting too. She wouldn’t have been if he hadn’t been gawking at her, she huffed.
Drawing aside the light coral apron, she marched into her living room in her blotch multi-coloured too mini-for-comfort print dress, a Christmas gift from Kike. She laid the chicken platter on the centre table and stepped back to survey and make sure everything was in place.
It was a small-on-size-but-huge-on-style room, or so she liked to call it. The wall was covered in rich golden bark colour, blending smoothly with the creamy brown ceramic marble flooring and the mixture of goldenrod and corn silk chiffon curtains. The sandy brown double-seater sofa and tan bean bag lying just in front of the twenty-one inch Ultra slim TV set were the only sitting furniture in the room.
And the only accessories, the reddish brown Persian rug bearing the weight of the glass top wood centre table, and the mother and child woodwork hanging just above the silver and black TV stand. A simple yet tastefully furnished room. She liked it that way.
The TV was now showing a repeated episode of Psych in mute version as Mariah Carey’s I wanna know what love is flowed softly from the mini home theatre just under it.
The centre table was now a collection of mouth-watering golden brown chicken platter, heart-shaped tray bearing the chocolate bars and huge box of crunchy peanut butter biscuits and two different pairs of wine glasses she’d laid out because Kike said it was crass taking alcoholic and non-alcoholic wine in same glasses.
Valerie gave a nod, satisfied that everything was set. Deciding she could do with one last look in the mirror, she dashed into her bedroom. Lightly made up face stared back at her… her usual make up style. She gave a retouch to her shimmering maple pink lips, pouted and blew a sultry kiss at her image. Her finger went to the simple vintage beaded necklace, she smiled at the brilliant mix of brown, green, turquoise and gold coloured bead. Lovely design there, she thought wondering if she should swap on a little more powder.
The clicking footsteps on the stairs, told her it was too late. Racing for her front door, she turned the key and had the door open before Kike could press the bell.
Kikelomo Adeyemo stood in front of the steel door looking incredibly sexy in a sheer red silk sleeveless ruched bodice A-line dress that did amazing things for her banana boyish figure. A figure that caused her untold grief, but she always said that whatever was lacking up front in her skinny straight body, she made up for with plenty of goodness out back. Kike had a way with words and she never lacked them.
“My oh my, aren’t we looking grand.” She drawled in her smoky voice, mischievous eyes sparkling with laughter as she scrutinised Valerie top to bottom.
“I heard there was going to be a wild party… so I thought I’d dress the part.” Valerie smiled.
“And I am liking it.” She grinned. “Except of course for the shoes.” She eyed the gipsy thong sandals. “That dress was meant for heels. But all-in-all you are still, top to bottom sheer hotness. Happy birthday girley, ready to party?” She winked.
Valerie’s laughter rang out as she wrapped Kike in a fierce hug. “So glad to have you here… as always. Happy Valentine’s Day”.
“And to you too, babe.” Kike hugged her back, giving her a peck on the cheek, she was an affectionate person. “Hmm, the big three O, how are you feeling?” She bent down to pick the tray of at least a dozen cupcakes.
“Wow!” Valerie exclaimed as she hefted up the cooler of drinks. “How many bottles have you got in here?”
Kike followed her inside. “As much as we need.” And rolled her eyes at Valerie’s raised brow. “It’s Valentine’s Day, babe, and your birthday too, your thirtieth birthday.” She whispered cupping her mouth with her hands. “We got to celebrate you entry into womanhood. We gonna party, girl.”
Valerie laughed as she set the cooler down beside the table.
Kike surveyed the table. Pleasantly surprised to see Valerie had set the right mood for the evening. “Wow! This is nice. And my favourite cookies too.” She flashed a grin. “Cookies and chocolate… yummy.”
Valerie chuckled. “So how did you escape Marc today? Any complaints about you spending Valentine’s Day with your gf?”
Marcus was Kike’s boyfriend of over a year now whom Valerie didn’t care much for, a feeling that had over the last few months become mutual. She believed that Kike deserved better than a boyfriend who flirted constantly with her best friend behind her back. But Kike seemed to care a lot about him, and of course she didn’t know about the flirting thing. Valerie had no intention of ever hurting her by letting her know.
“Oh darling Marc is feeling generous today.” Kike responded coming over to sit beside her on the sofa. “He came over last night to confirm if I was still spending Valentine’s night with you. And when I said yes and tried to apologise, he waved it off, saying he kind of had some other plans anyways.” She paused, seemed about to say something then shook her head.
“Then called this morning to wish me a happy Valentine’s Day and sent his sincere birthday wishes to you.” She shrugged. “I’m thinking he probably had some boys’ night out planned and was just thankful we have our own thing.”
On Valentine’s Day? Valerie doubted it. More like a girls’ night out thing, she thought viciously, the guy was such a sleaze ball. But she didn’t say anything, just nodded.
Picking up the bottle of bottle of Valmont she proceeded to unscrew it, but the damn thing was not responding. The nerves were setting in. She could feel it. The depression that usually went with this day. But she was having none of it, not day, never again. She twisted the screw harder.
Kike could feel the panic shooting through her. She’d seen it one too many times not to recognise it even when Valerie was fighting hard to suppress it.
“Hey, what are you doing with that bottle?” She said lightly. “Give it here.” Gently taking the bottle from her. “Allow us Pros to do the opening.” She winked, deftly unscrewing the bottle and picking up a wine glass to pour the wine.
Wines poured and passed, she waited silently for the next part of their usual ritual.
Valerie huffed out a deep breath in an attempt to calm her fraying nerves. She could feel the tears brimming in her eyes but she defiantly refused to let them fall.
Instead she lifted them to meet Kike’s calm patient ones. “You know I don’t know why you keep coming back. Year in year out, it’s same depressing ritual for the last ten years and… I don’t get why you keep coming back.” She watched Kike with brimming light brown eyes.
“Maybe because I’m officially your best friend forever… and a sucker for depressing Valentine’s Day rituals.”
She swallowed hard, smiling through tear filled eyes. “You are the best, you know that?”
Kike grinned. “That’s cos I hang with the best.”
She nodded. Bit her lips hard. “I’m done, Kike.” Though he voice quivered slightly, her tone was firm. “I’m done crying, wailing, moaning, cursing God. I’m done shutting myself up from the world. I’m done blaming myself.”
Something in Kike soared. Love and pride shone brightly through her eyes.
Valerie saw the look, and drew courage from it. “They are gone. They’ve been gone for twenty years…” She brusquely wiped away the tears that threatened to fall. “And no matter how much I cry and wish… they are never coming back.
No matter how much I miss… and I really do, they are never going to be here again. So I’m finally listening to you, to Mama Bee… and I am just going to live again. I’m putting this behind me and moving on.”
Kike took her hands, sniffing back tears. “Girl, I am so proud of you. And I know they will be too, hearing you say this.”
She looked at her and sighed. “Yeah, I guess they will be.” Her eyes stared into a distance, seeing them all again, seeing their laughing eyes, then she shook her head and grimaced. “It’s not going to be easy, you know. I’m probably going to freak out and waver and fall.”
“No you are not.” Kike disagreed firmly. “You know why? Because you are a strong woman. I don’t know that many people who survive losing their entire family in one fell swoop and still end up a beautiful successful woman.”
“Beauty is from God, my mama used to tell me. And the rest wouldn’t have been without you and Mama Bee.”
Kike shook her head. “Nothing is without our own personal will.”
“Maybe.” Valerie smiled. Then raising her glass of wine, she toasted. “To best friends and great people who never let you know.”
“To best friends and amazing strong women.” Kike pronounced.
Their glasses clicked and grinning widely they sipped.
Kike raised her glass again. “Here’s to you finally hitting the big scary three O. From now on the constant question would be – ‘when do we get to meet him?’ – ”
“Yay! Lucky me.” Valerie grinned a humorous light flickering in her eyes. But the light dimmed as her thoughts drifted to the him she’d met earlier
To be continued…