Desola returned from the shopping mall, with her head as stuffed as it was that morning. The only difference was, she arrived back home with two happy girls she didn’t leave her home with.
She had spent her day, helping the twins shop for their school uniforms and new clothe. When she saw Richard and his children in Chloes’ Accessories shop that morning, the first thing she thought of was to turn around and bolt. But then, she noticed that Kenny was crying.
Richard was shouting at her to quit crying.
Kenny’s response to her dad tugged at her heart.“I don’t want to go clothe shopping with you daddy. Mummy knew what to buy. Why don’t you know everything like my mummy did?”
Desola walked towards them. Kenny ran to her as soon as she saw her.“I miss my mummy. Shopping with her was fun.” The girl sobbed.
Taye started crying too.
Later, after Kenny and Taye had perked up – thanks to two jam doughnuts she bought them – Richard handed her his debit card. “Please can you help them, if you don’t mind? I would really appreciate it.” The girls added their voices to their dad’s. Both chorusing, “Pretty please.”
“Their uniforms and sports kits….are too tight. They want new shoes and dresses too for church. Get yourself anything you want. Thank you.” He passed her a handwritten list.
She took the list from him after he had scrawled his pin number on it. Although, he avoided looking at her, he looked so sad, she wanted to hug him.Then, he and Junior had left the girls to it. Nothing had prepared Desola for how much the girls loved shopping.
When they left the mall, she was sure Richard’s card had a big dent in it. By seven pm, the girls were asleep, snuggled together on the sofa. She carried them to her bed, one after the other. Not long after, Grace came out of her bedroom. She served herself, some of the rice and meaty stew her flatmate cooked and went to sit beside her on the sofa.
“Your children were so noisy dear. I need to start charging you rent for those two girls. They are in my flat, more than I am these days.” Grace said between mouthfuls.
Desola rolled her eyes. “My children?” She pointed at the shopping bags in the corner of the lounge. “I saw them at the shopping mall with their dad. They were kicking off. They needed some school uniforms…..”
“So, their daddy’s special friend came to their rescue.” Grace interrupted her, smiling.
Desola ignored the subtle mockery, she heard in her voice.
Grace continued, as if she hadn’t said what Desola heard.“Those girls are cheeky. One of them came to my room and asked me, are you Aunty Desola’s grandmother. How can I be your grandmother at forty four? Do I look that old to those two rats?” Grace asked her.
Desola started to giggle. “I am so sorry Sister Grace. I am sure it was Kenny that said it. Taye is the quiet one that takes after her mum. Kenny is the outspoken one, like her father.”
Grace sipped her drink and returned her attention to Desola. “I told her, let me catch you. And she said, no, you can’t run fast enough cos my grandma can’t run fast.”
Grace put her tray on the table after a few more mouthfuls. Desola could tell her older friend was about to embark on the topic, she started to chew on a while back.
“You need to let go dear.”
Desola’s face creased up. “I have already let go of him. I look after his daughters because he pays me. And they like coming here Sister Grace.”
“I mean, you have to tell him you can’t look after the twins anymore.” Grace lowered her voice. “Agnes is not going to molly-cuddle them, the way you do. She told me, she thinks they are spoilt. Rotten is the word she used. They are going to be heartbroken when she becomes their dad’s wife. You will be too, dear. We both know Agnes will cut the contact you have with them. She has said she will give up her teaching job to become a full housewife to Pastor Richard. My dear, where will you be then?”
Desola tucked her palms between her leggings-clad thighs.
“I know you love him dear. You do. More than any woman should love a man. That is why, you are avoiding Brother Alex like he has a bomb strapped on his back. But, that man is a good man, if only you can give him a chance.”
“I am avoiding Alex because I don’t like him enough to want to marry him. We don’t know anything about each other, yet he told Ife’s dad he wants to marry me. He called me yesterday and said he would like to see me. I told him I am busy because I don’t know how to turn him down. You know, I can’t marry him Sister Grace.”
Sister Grace and her, exchanged a look. What passed through their minds were unspoken, but Desola guessed although, she had never spoken about the night she spent with Richard- she knew her flatmate knew. She suspected it was perhaps due to her noticing the new relationship between him and her. A relationship characterised with the spate of rows noticeable with unsatisfied lovers. Friends who once danced the dance that couldn’t be unwritten, but, yet couldn’t be continued.
When Grace slipped out of the flat to go to work, Desola heard her greeting Richard at the front door. Seconds later, He walked into the lounge. He had changed into a pair of dark blue jeans and a sky-blue chambray shirt.
“Don’t tell me Taye and Kenny are asleep. They know, we are supposed to go upstairs for dinner.” He fumed when he saw her alone.
She wondered why he didn’t tell her they were going to Agnes’ flat for dinner. “Sorry, I had no idea you are going for dinner upstairs. They were so tired. Where is junior?”
“He is on his way. I asked him to change his shirt. He spilled juice on it. Agnes values good presentation.” Richard went to the sofa to sit beside her. “Thank you for doing the shopping with them.” He told her, glancing at the shopping bags in the corner.
“Do you want to have a look at the receipt? It’s in my bag.” She told him.
“No. I trust you.”
She stretched because tiredness had started to kick in. “Remind me to give you your debit card.”
His eyes followed her body when she stretched. She wondered if she could tell him to go and wait for Junior upstairs without causing another row. He didn’t seem as if he wanted to row with her. She wondered if he would bring up the issue of Brother Alex’s interest in her. He didn’t. Instead, he asked her about her sister. She told him how Fausat seemed to be coming to terms with the death of her baby.
“My Uncle has stayed away from our house. At least, I know he is not going to attack her again.”
Richard placed his hand on her left one. A moment passed without both of them saying anything.
“I am worried about the girls. What happened at the shopping centre?” She asked, changing the subject.
“Nothing much. They just keep going on about missing their mum these days. I think it is because they are seven now. They have a better understanding of what happened last year, now.”
“Well, you need to hurry up and set a date with Sister Agnes.”
He gazed at her as if searching for something.
She held his gaze with confidence. “I don’t know why you need the children at your dinner. You and her should be using this opportunity to get to know each other.”
Richard smiled. “I am not sure Agnes feels comfortable dining alone with me yet.”
His mind went back to the few occasions that Agnes had dropped by at his house. On each occasion, she had a sister or two from the church with her. Once, she had turned up with James, her son. Richard had found it amusing that, she thought it necessary to bring a bodyguard despite donning on a dress that was so lengthy, even her feet did not peak out. Her neck was not left uncovered. It was ruthlessly swathed with a brown shawl. Her lips were so dry that Richard wanted to ask his fiancé, if she had ever heard of the small invention women use to gloss their lips. That day, it had hit him- Agnes was too different from his late wife. Different too from the women he usually went for. The type who didn’t feel the need to run to their Pastors to confess after watching actors kissing on TV. The type that would not hop in bed with strangers. But were confident enough to revel in their beauty. Something told him, sex with Agnes would occur once a year. Perhaps twice, on his birthday and at Christmas, if he was lucky.
“You are free with me, aint yah? I don’t give off a weird vibe, do I?” He asked, wanting her to say anything because he could tell she was thinking something.
“Her husband died several years ago. Give her time to get used to you. Don’t act like you men do around women. Take it slow.” She advised.
“As opposed to pouncing on her? Sweetheart, I am not like that. You know me very well.”
Her face lit up with a question. He grinned as her hand went to her new wavy tresses. She started to play with her hair.
The grin on his face widened. “What happened between us was different. I didn’t pounce on you. We both wanted to. Didn’t we?” His lips parted slowly.
She let his grin turn into puckered brows.
“What happened between us was special. Wasn’t it? Adesola? Talk to me sweetheart.”
She sighed “It’s in the past now. You need to be working on developing chemistry with Sister Agnes not thinking about the past. Why don’t you go upstairs by yourself? Junior can stay here when he comes.”
“Thanks for the advice sweetheart, but I know how to woo women, that I want to woo. I had some practice before I married my wife. And she wasn’t easy to get.” He moved closer to her. “You remind me of her, you know. The way you blow hot and cold with me.”
She felt his hand on her face. His fingers traced her cheek. It felt so supple on her skin, that she forgot for a few seconds, why she promised never to let him that close again.“You need to go upstairs….please.” She muttered.
His eyes did not leave her face.“I can’t go upstairs, when it’s you, I would love to spend the night kissing.”