They say some love stories were made in heaven. Well, some are not, some are made here on earth by the characters themselves choosing to give in, compromise and stay with what matters. Femi and Banke are one of such characters, and yes, they exist, in my head and in most of our hearts. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed dreaming it! (I honestly tried to make it short) This is one of those stories you finish in your head find it hard to articulate. Havent sweated on an ending like this before, but hey, what do I know? To understand the story better, please read the first two instals! http://www.naijastories.com/2010/05/new-beginings/ http://www.naijastories.com/2010/05/new-beginings-2
Femi had always thought he was good at masking his feelings. That day at Tit’s son’s birthday proved him wrong. He was a man and he didn’t cry about it, not right there anyway. But the tears dropped when he shaved, when he laughed and while he waited for sleep. For the first time in a long time, he had dared to hope, for all of a second. He had let the gusher out and had gotten shy again. His phone rang and he unwillingly came out of his blank reverie
“Hey, man what’s with you? I’ve been calling your number for hours now! Ki lonshele?”
Bayo was his friend, his brother, his kin and the only one who had an idea of what was going on with him. Like a ‘true blood’, Bayo did not interfere. He provided information when necessary, dropped hints when he felt Femi needed them. Like letting him know Banke had been unattached for two years, relevant information like that. He had put his phone on silent. He didn’t want any calls, didn’t want any sympathy. All he needed was just some peace and quiet for one day. He needed that much to be set for real life and work on Monday. Plus, that Saturday was remarkably the worst he’d had since he returned.
“Guy, how far now? Person no fit sleep again?”
“Which kain sleep, I was calling to find out if you wanted to join us for lunch? Me and the girls were going to V.I. for some Chinese and I thought, hey, like old times, you know…”
“Really? I hope you guys had fun”.
He got up from his recliner/sofa and walked through the otherwise empty room to the adjoining toilet. His stuff were on the high seas. He’d told everyone he was coming home, and all that was home was coming with him. Till then, his life was content, with all the space in it. Right now, who could not wait for nothingness to fill the numbing void he felt. The gang still kept the same routine then. And he had wondered if they were still close. He was the only one who had been missing out. He should do something about it, what to do, what to do, and how to do it right…
“Fun ke? We never reach now! You go come?”
“I’ll let you know”
“Aite mate. Be easy”
“Yeah… hey, hold up, Is Banke’s son with her?”
Bayo had cut the call before he could complete the sentence. He didn’t know why he asked. The words had tumbled out before he could stop them. It didn’t matter now anyway. He decided to take the well needed shower. And maybe go out for some food, it had been about 24 hours since his last solid meal. Maybe hang out with the gang… Maybe see her… Maybe get some answers… Maybe find a way to work it out….
Titi did not know how to console Banke. These things never really go according to script. There were so many faults, so many mistakes and yet no one to blame. It was as if life mischievously happened to make them miserable. Yes, miserable because when Banke cried, Titi’s heart broke. Since that first day in University, she had taken up a sort of guardianship role for the little lady. Not that this entailed much action on her part. Most of all, she had tried to just be there or be close when Banke needed her. True to type, Banke never complained. She didn’t pass the bulk to the silly maid who was meant to be watching the kids. Particularly when it was discovered that the maid was busy flirting with the DJ while Tega went in search of his mom. She chalked it up to destiny! “Destiny my foot!” Titi thought.
She watched Banke attempt to smoothen Tega’s rumpled hair. The little lad was a joy to behold. His dimples were like laughter magnets. They drew a laugh, at worst, a chuckle out of you every time he had them on. And the boy almost always had them on. His mother smiled through the wet lashes that gave her away. Titi did not know what to say anymore. She had spent the entire evening of the day before assuring her friend that she had done nothing wrong. She had taken risks, yes, but she had saved a life too!
“Banke, are you sure you are up for this? What if he shows up?”
“Then I’d see him, smile and let him know it’s good to see him again?”
“But are you ready to?”
“Will I ever be?”
“We can cancel, or postpone. Bayo would understand. I can say we are sorting out stuff from Demi’s party and want to rest before Monday”
“And that will buy me time… and more tension”
“But babe, you cannot expect to fill him in on 6 years today now!”
“I’m not sure I ever want to fill him in at all” Titi looked at her son and kissed his dimpled cheeks.
“Honey can you do something for mummy?”
Tega nodded excitedly. Her little prince was always eager to be mommy’s handy man. The high point of his day was carrying her bag to the car, bringing her a glass of water, pulling dragging out the chair for her on Sunday morning at breakfast, anything to make Mommy say thank you. She had a feeling Bolade put him up to it… But she loved the boy fiercely and sometimes got scared that he was growing up too quick for her heart. He needed so much more than she could give. Sometimes, she just didn’t know where to start…
“T-baby, can you ask Ndidi to lock my room and give you the keys?”
“Are we going out again, Mommy?”
“Yes we are, my love! Now hurry!”
Titi knew when to back down. Banke was doing this the hard way. She put down the glass of juice and looked at her friend again, hoping for some sign…
“If he’s going to be there, I’m going to face him. He has seen Tega already, so there’s no point hiding him. And you know Tega loves Chinese noodles.” she said as she tucked Tega’s hair brush into her bag. Banke understood her friend’s concern, but she was laying all her cards on the table too soon. She had held out for Femi for far too long. It was time to either close the books or move on.
Since Femi left, even after they finally broke up, she’d been accused by Titi and Bayo of measuring her prospective dates and boyfriends by Femi’s standards. The different men were either too tall or too short or too ambitious, or did not understand her, or did not feel right… the list was endless. Only Femi had felt perfect. She called it the curse of the first love. They kept in touch for a while after the both decided to see other people. His program was over, but he wasn’t coming home. They both knew he had nothing to come home too. His parents were gone, and so was his Father’s estate. She… well, she was a young love that didn’t hold the promise of certainty. She would have moved to the ends of the world for him, but he never asked. She hinted and felt the shame of the rejection, twice. And she concluded that Femi could do without her neediness. He had enough on his plate. Not like she agreed with his chosen course of action, but she understood it. She respected his unspoken wishes and herself, and decided to keep her desires to herself. hopefully, some man somewhere had the same magic that Femi Ajai had, and he would one day work it on her and she would swoon like she had done as a naive freshman way back then.
She did not know why but she needed an opportunity to explain to him, about Tega, about how she felt when she realized he’d left her. They had shared so much in those 6 years they shared, together and from afar. The 5 years after that had been a mixture of hell, numbness and confusion. It was time for closure.
She had chosen a pair of jeans and a simple chiffon top. He earrings were all the accessories needed to glam up her simple look. She didn’t need to impress him with too much fashion, she thought. She wasn’t trying to woo him! She matched stilettos with her earrings and settled for the functional brown bag. She could stuff Tega’s PSP and a pair of flats in there should it come in handy. She strapped Tega in at the passenger’s side of Titi’s car while she got in the back with Titi. She smiled for her friend’s benefit and squeezed her hands for effect.
“It’s not a firing squad now, Titi! Haba! It’s Femi now! He’s only a guy, it’s no big deal. Once I get the opportunity to clear the air, we’ll all be fine. It’s just the tension it will cause that I am concerned about, nothing more.”
Titi smiled. Her friend had never lied so badly.
Femi was early. A sudden impulse got him out of the house in 30 minutes. He headed straight for V.I. and called Bayo for directions on the way. On instinct, he picked a corner table and dragged an extra seat for a fifth person, he didn’t know what he was doing, but he knew he wanted her to be comfortable. He wanted to understand what was going on. Was she married? Divorced? Single parent? Obviously! But how? Bayo never gave him any premonitions of anything of the sort. It was worse than a shocker. He had just stood there, pain written all over his face. He carefully dropped her hands, excused himself and walked away. He heard her drag his name on her tongue… it felt so good, to hear her call him with so much need… but it was so confusing! He needed clear answers. Simple ones. Maybe he had come expecting too much. She could have been married, but he would have known that. Bayo would have mentioned it. And after all the questions he asked, he now understood why his friend gave dodgy answers. He definitely was expecting too much. She should hate him, and she would have a good reason too.
He had tried not to think too much about her since he decided on his return. Before then, he was fine with her thriving in his subconscious. Every girl he had been with had heard about her. How amazing she was, how she was like a model girlfriend. In the end, they accused him of expecting them to be like her. He chalked it up to loneliness, being far away from all that he grew up with. But in the last one year, he knew he had been living a lie. Banke was more than a memory. Somewhere in him, he wanted to be a better man, a bigger person, for her. He didn’t deserve her then, he definitely hadn’t earned the right to her now. The least he could do was try…
When she walked in holding her little man, his heart did the double flip. It was true, she really did have a son, he was right there, beaming for all he was worth. She saw him and stopped in her tracks. The little boy did not notice the falter in his mom’s steps as he walked on. Half way through the restaurant, Banke called him back.
“Tega, darling, wait for mommy”
The boy squealed with laughter and ran into his mother’s arms. He was saying something to her but she was looking at Femi. She smiled anxiously and walked into his waiting arms.
“She went down the road to pick something from the supermarket” We didn’t see Bayo’s car, so we thought you guys wont be here. I stayed so that…”
The words caught in her throat as his hands touched her forehead to pull back a stray strand of her braids. She was so beautiful, he could not believe the number of years that passed. She had bloomed with time and he suddenly felt like he was a fool for all the years he had not had with her. He realized that her little man was looking at him quizzically.
“Tega, come and meet my friend”
The boy smiled forward and the many words rushed out
“Good afternoon, my name is Tega.”
“Hi Tega, how are you?”
“I’m fine…. I saw you at Mide’s party, but you did not stay… and my mommy said…”
“Tega!” she half screamed, half laughed. She held the boy and covered his mouth with her slim fingers, “I’m sorry, Femi, he’s usually not this talkative… ”
“It’s fine, I’m no stranger, he just doesn’t know me yet”
At that minute, Bayo walked in and hailed his friend from afar.