He watched her from across the hall, his eyes following her every move. Damn, she was beautiful! And she carried herself with the natural confidence of someone who knew she was beautiful. He wasn’t the only one watching her either. Men sitting next to their wives turned their heads as she walked past, but were careful not to look for too long. Young men sitting together nudged each other and stared openly.
They were at a wedding. He hated weddings. But his wife had dragged him along all the same, as usual. It seemed to him that not one Saturday could ever pass in Lagos without someone she knew getting married.
“They’re our good friends, Ebuka! We can’t not go to their niece’s wedding.”
It was funny how her friends always became ‘their’ friends whenever another wedding was imminent.
“You can go and represent us both, dear. I’m sure they won’t notice whether I’m there or not. It’s you they really want to see.”
“Nonsense! We come as a package. Everyone knows that.”
“We’re all going together, Ebuka! And that’s final. Unless you want to move to the guest room for the next two months!”
And so here they were.
The only good thing about weddings, as far as he was concerned, was the chance to feast his eyes. There were women everywhere! Young, old, middle-aged, light-skinned, dark-skinned, orobo, lepa, married, single… any type you liked. He was fond of all women. He didn’t have an exclusive type. He could find something to appreciate in any woman. He considered this a gift he had been blessed with.
His eyes wandered back to the woman he had been watching. She was exquisite. Her hair was natural and short; not long enough to be an afro, but not short enough to see her scalp. She was in her late thirties but could easily claim to be twenty-eight and get away with it. He decided it had to be down to her skin. She had beautiful, glowing skin that belied her age. Her generous hips swayed as she walked, her long flowy Ankara dress unable to do anything to disguise them. For a woman that age with hips like that, her waist was surprisingly small. Her bare shoulders were radiant and trim, and her neck looked long and delicate with no Brazilian weave to obscure it from view.
He licked his lips involuntarily, and imagined himself behind her, planting a tender kiss on the spot where her neck met the back of her head.
His four-year old son Nnanna ran up to him and hugged him, then clambered unto the empty seat next to him. Rose, their house help, hovered a few metres away, unsure whether to leave the child to his father and go off, or stick around in case she was needed.
“Nnamoo! Are you having fun?”
“You dey enjoy, o.”
“Na so I see am, o!”
Ebuka laughed. “O boy! Who teach you Pidgin?”
“Mummy? Chai, dis woman don kill me, o! She wan’ turn my son to Agboro!”
Nnanna laughed. “Daddy, what’s an Agboro?”
“A troublesome person. Like you.”
“I’m not troublesome!”
Someone placed a hand on his shoulder and he looked up. It was his wife’s best friend Tolu. She was a very stylish woman in her late thirties; pretty albeit in a slightly mousy way, and impeccably groomed. She always smelt expensive. Ebuka sometimes worried that she did not eat enough. Nobody was supposed to be that thin after four children.
“Hello, Aunty Tolu!”
“Hi, Nnanna! How are you?”
She turned to him. “I see you’ve been abandoned.”
Smiling, he shrugged. “As usual.”
Tolu’s accent was one-third British from her time in boarding school, one-third American from her time at university, and one-third Nigerian from… well, because she was Nigerian after all. He often teased her that she should make up her mind and choose one accent.
“It’s because you’re an anti-social bastard,” she said. “And I say that with love. Left to you, you’d both just sit here at this table throughout the whole wedding and not say hello to anyone. That’s why she always has to leave you and mingle.”
“Well, if she’d let me stay home like I wanted, there wouldn’t be any problem then, would there?”
Tolu shook her head in resignation. “I don’t know how she puts up with you.”
“That’s easy,” he said, “I’m loaded.” He put on a stereotypical Igbo accent. “Tuh much moni!!”
Tolu laughed. “Abi? Nothing do you, sha. So what are you doing?” She lowered her voice so Nnanna wouldn’t hear. “Checking out hot young babes?”
Ebuka tried to look horrified. “Me? Tufiakwa! How can? You know I only like old cargo.”
They both laughed. Tolu squeezed his arm. “I’m going to find your wife,” she said. “And tell her what you’re up to.”
“No shaking.” He gestured at Nnanna. “I get alibi.”
As Tolu walked off, Nnanna turned to him. “Daddy?”
“It means you’re my witness that I didn’t do anything bad.”
Nnanna considered this for a moment, his intelligent young eyes displaying the ticking of his mind. “Daddy?”
“What is old cargo?”
Laughing, he playfully pulled his son’s ear. “Your ear too big, you this boy. Stop listening to senior jokes! Oya, follow Rose! Go and find your sisters! Go!”
Grumbling half-heartedly, Nnanna ran off to join the waiting Rose a few tables away, and they set off together to locate his twin older sisters.
Yes, o. Peace and quiet at last. Where was he again? Oh yes! He scanned the reception hall, looking for the woman with the short hair.
His phone rang, interrupting his search. He pulled it out and examined it. Caller ID said ‘Nekky’. He put it on silent. He really didn’t have Nekky’s time right now. Thank God Ojiugo was safely far away. She would most certainly have snatched his phone and answered it herself if she had seen the name.
Two young women in their early twenties walked past his table. They had somehow managed to squeeze themselves into two of the tightest dresses he had ever seen. They both had manes of Brazilian hair almost all the way down to their waists, and were both clutching the latest Blackberry phones in their perfectly manicured hands. He was not a fan of this look, even though it seemed to be the ‘in’ look at the moment. He did, however, appreciate how nicely the two of them were built; from the curve of their backs to the tightness of their stomachs and the African fullness of their backsides. He had never been able to understand oyibo people and their obsession with boyish figures. Not that he had anything against lepacious women. All he asked, if it wasn’t too much trouble, was that they stuck out in the places where women were supposed to stick out.
The lighter-skinned of the two, whose dress was even shorter than her friend’s, saw him looking at them and maintained eye contact, her eyes full of silent invitation.
Na wa o, he said to himself. Children of nowadays. He turned away and continued his search for the original object of his interest. He found her halfway across the reception hall, sitting and chatting to three other women at a table. She had her legs crossed elegantly and was gesturing with her hands as she talked. She smiled and laughed a lot, flashing her beautiful, perfect white teeth. He was captivated.
Her Ankara dress had ridden up a little when she crossed her legs, and he could see a little bit of her thighs, her calves, her ankles, and her shoes. They were expensive-looking dainty silver sandals with six inch stiletto heels. He shook his head in pure bliss. This woman was simply made for him. The skin on her legs was soft and smooth, and he just knew exactly what it would feel like to touch. A droplet of sweat appeared on his temple, even though the air-conditioners in the reception hall were turned up too high and it was almost uncomfortably cold where he was sitting.
Tolu’s husband Dapo descended on him, extracting him forcibly from his reverie. “Ogbuefi!”
They shook hands and shared a man-hug. Dapo sat down. “Where’s Ojiugo?”
Ebuka shrugged and gestured in the general direction of the other side of the room. “She’s over there, somewhere. Socializing.”
Dapo sighed. “Women. Were you dragged here as well?”
Ebuka smiled. “Gbam.”
“Na wa o. I thought we were supposed to be the heads of the household! Masters of all we survey! When did this happen, Ogbuefi? When did we stop being head of the house? When did we suddenly become the special assistant to the commander-in-chief, in our own houses?”
Ebuka laughed out loud and held up his left hand. “You see this?”
Dapo looked. “Your wedding ring?”
Ebuka nodded. “When you receive this, it’s not only another ring that you exchange for it.”
“What do you mean?”
“What makes you a man?”
Dapo considered for a moment. “I don’t know. My balls?”
“Exactly.” Ebuka held up his left hand again and showed Dapo his wedding ring. “The day you put this on, my friend, you also handed your balls over to Tolu. They now officially belong to her to do with as she pleases. In fact, she has them locked up in a steel box at the back of her walk-in closet right now!”
“Nonsense!” Dapo retorted, “She carries them around with her! They’re inside her Louis Vuitton purse right now!”
Both men collapsed in fits of laughter.
“I want my balls back, jare!” Dapo said wistfully after they had regained their composure, setting them both off again.
Ebuka’s phone buzzed in the pocket of his sokoto. He pulled it out and looked at it. Nekky again. Some people just didn’t know how to take a hint. He put the phone back in his pocket.
“Who was that?” Dapo asked, looking at him curiously.
Across the hall, the captivating woman with the short hair and flawless skin threw back her head and laughed at something one of her friends had said. She was annoyingly beautiful. He felt a really strong urge to go over there and talk to her. He just wanted to be near her. As he watched, her phone rang and she answered it, and within seconds began to laugh with the person on the other end. He wondered who she was talking to.
He shrugged in answer to Dapo’s question. “Nobody.”
Dapo watched him for a moment, and then smiled. “Okay o!” He changed the subject and asked Ebuka about his Property Development firm’s latest project, a massive office complex they were building on Gerrard Road.
Ebuka sighed. “I think we may have bitten off a little more than we can chew, my brother. We’re way over budget and only halfway done. Which reminds me; very soon na for your house we go dey come chop, o!”
“No wahala,” Dapo said, “but you go first sell that your Range Rover, sha. Na that time wey I go confirm say e don serious.”
“I fit even sell our house join, sef. Wahala dey.”
Dapo scoffed. “Yes, but which particular house? Ole. You think I don’t know that Ikoyi itself now officially belongs to you? My friend, commot from here with that story!”
“No be only Ikoyi,” Ebuka said, “The whole South West is mine. And I’m in the process of buying South East and South South as we speak. Ode.”
“Before, nko? You go deny am, now! But all of us sabi wetin you and Fashola don plan finish, dey execute!”
Ebuka shook his head in exasperation. “Guy, I don only see Fashola once for my life! And na for function! The guy just shake my hand, talk say im dey hear correct tings about me. Finish!”
Dapo nodded enthusiastically and began to hum the theme music from ‘Tales By Moonlight’. “Story story…”
Ebuka smiled absently, giving up. His attention wandered back to the woman with the short hair. She had finished her telephone conversation, gotten up from her table, and was making her way across the room in his direction. She was looking right at him, an amused smile on her face. His heart quickened a bit, which slightly irritated him. He could not understand why she still had this effect on him.
Just as she reached the table, their daughter Lotanna appeared from nowhere and grabbed her around the waist. “Mummy!”
“Hello, darling!” she said to Lotanna. “Where’s your sister? Where’s Urenna?”
“She’s with Rose and Nnanna!” She pointed. “Over there!”
Ojiugo looked. “Go and bring them, darling. Let’s all sit together.”
Lotanna ran off and Ojiugo turned her attention back to her husband. “Nekky just called me,” she said. “She said you’re not taking her calls.”
Ebuka smiled sheepishly. “You know I love your sister,” he began, “but I swear, I just didn’t have the energy for her today. You know the woman can talk.”
Ojiugo pretended to glare at him for a few moments, and then she grinned. “She sabi talk, sha. No be say you talk. I had to pretend my battery was dying just to get rid of her!”
She hugged Dapo, told him that Tolu was coming, and then eased herself into the seat next to Ebuka. “My Oga,” she said, stroking the back of his head. “How, now? Did you miss me?”
Ebuka leaned back in his chair. “Me? For where? I was too busy checking out chicks.”