Eugene thought about her friend’s violent reactions whenever she was been teased about the opposite sex. Back in college, Ada was never like that. Though younger than the other girls, she was the most matured and friendly of the lot. In fact, she got on with the guys so much that they believed she was going to be the first to settle down in marriage. All that changed after she returned from her houseman ship program at the University of Ibadan five years ago. She suddenly became a recluse. Eugene knew something must have happened to keep her tensed and uncomfortable at the mention of the opposite sex and relationships. But how can I help her when she refused to talk about it. Have all my friends go crazy? She thought, her face a mass of expressions.
”Ada, the best way you can heal and get over whatever happened in the past is for you to talk about it. Believe me, you will feel a lot better the moment you put this load off your chest.”
“I can’t, talking about it would refresh the episode, the very matter I want to forget.”
“So you admit that something did happen?”
“Do you know that sometimes the fear seems so thick, I remember my helplessness, I could almost touch it, the emptiness of my life envelops and overwhelms me. At times, I feel like running mad, wish I could lose my mind so I don’t have to feel the darkness.” She said as hot tears ran down her cheeks.
“Don’t go any further if it hurts that much?” She rose wrapped her in a comforting embrace.
Moments of comforting silence went by, giving Ada enough time to compose herself.
“Sorry to dump my baggage on you, I came here to get some fun, laugh and have a good time, not to have a pity party.”
“Never mind, these shoulders have specially been built for loved ones to lean on in times like this and haven’t you given me your listening ears and shoulders during my own times of pain and depression?” Eugene stood, touching her shoulders and gesturing with her hands.
“Darling, you might never be able to move ahead if you don’t get over whatever happened in the past. You need to acknowledge it, come to terms with it, deal with it and cast it into the sea of forgetfulness.” Eugene paused, her eyes transfixed on Ada as she drew closer to her. “That is when you will be able to move on.”
An uncomfortable silence ensued as Ada looked away from her friend’s penetrating stare, her hands wiggling in nervousness. For a moment, the only sound in the room was the tick, tick of the clock elegantly sited on the shelf in the living room.
“Enough about me, how are things with you? How is Zach, I have not seen him for a while now.”
Eugene reluctantly dragged her eyes away from Ada and walked towards the east window, adjusted the drapes of the curtains which fell exquisitely on the gold tiled floor. “Zack? She grimaced, pursed her lips and waved her right hands nonchalantly.” He is gone off as usual, not one to be indoors unless he is ill.”
“Yes really. I almost slipped into depression this morning when I began to think about how unfit myself and Zach are, how irresponsible he is, the state of my marriage and so on. But I was quick to turn away from those destructive thoughts and began to see the good things that has occurred since we got married.”
“Like the pregnancy?”
“Yes my friend, like the pregnancy.”
“Worth being joyful about considering that many are desperate for such a miracle.”
“What about Liz, it is quite an age, I saw her last at the get together party which was about six weeks ago.”
“She is busy building up a career and burying her head in office work.” Ada heard the iciness in Eugene’s voice.
“I admire her strength and courage.” Ada replied.
“Hmnn, I have not seen someone so terrified of commitment like Liz. I see fear written all over her whenever I mention marriage and commitment. That explains why she is so married to her career, as if that will take away problem.”
“Don’t be so hard on her, that godforsaken son of a devil Matt Oladele or whatever he is called caused that damage. She used to be fun, loving and carefree about life.”
“Spare me the details, who has not been hurt by some man before? Haven’t you? Haven’t I? didn’t we put it behind us and move on? For not moving on, she has admitted that the beast still has power over her and that is very annoying.”
“Maybe she still need more time to heal.”
“After how many years?” Eugene shouted. “Liz has healed, but she is now a case of once beaten twice shy. She has replaced work for love and romance in her life. How long will she carry that façade of composure as if it doesn’t matter, when we all know it does? How long will she hide under her career?” Her face became flushed with the heat of her emotions.
“You sound a little angry, is there more to this?”
“Yes I am angry at the way a smart and beautiful woman like Liz is wasting away all because she is afraid to take a chance in love. Many happily married women today kissed a number of frogs before they finally met the prince.”
“Wow! I love that analogy, that is a good one.” Ada clapped her hands together, her laughter ringing out like a symphony orchestra.
“Anyway, let’s pray and stand by her. We have each other and that’s the most important fact. I must be on my way, need to catch up with someone before 6pm.” She stood on her feet and slung her beige colored bag on her shoulder.
“Could this someone be a gentleman?” Eugene rose up from the couch and fell into step with Ada as they walked out of the living room together.
“You will know the details in time, trust me.”
“Hmmnnm,”. Eugene took a deep breath and held Ada’s hands together, her eyes hovering over her with concern. “We have to talk about that matter. Believe me, that is the only way forward.”
Eugene smiled with satisfaction as she entered into one of her stores at Allen Avenue, Ikeja. She was pleased to see an increase in the traffic of customers at the store as they queued before the payment centres . Business is booming. The decision to go into retailing after leaving full time Bank employment has definitely paid off. Turning in a monthly profit return of forty percent is not bad at all in just a period of twelve months. She thought.
Suddenly, someone caught her eye. She looked more closely to be sure her senses are not playing games on her. This is Angela Okereke. Yes, a fatter and more rounded one, but definitely Angela. “Angela?” She called out.
The woman turned towards her, paused for moment, then her eyes lit up in recognition. “Eugene? Bishop Richardson Secondary School, am I right?” She asked as her mouth curved in a smile.
“Yes , you are right. Still the ever bright student.” Eugene remarked, her eyes sizing up her old college mate.
“You sure are looking very good.” Angela said as her eyes took in Eugene’s beautiful fair skin, the well groomed hair and fingernails. She did not miss the expensive jewelry, gold embroidered boubou and of course the gold layered sandals. She is either a rich man’s wife or she is a rich madame. Angela thought and concluded within herself. Her eyes did not miss the baby bump which the flowing boubou could not hide.
Eugene did not fail to notice her scrutiny and was pleased that she looked her best. As they chatted and compared notes, she could not help but notice the shabby, almost faded cloths on her old college friend.
“Do you shop in this store?” Angela asked.
“No, I own the store.” Eugene replied, her head held high in a confident gait.
“Oh! You own this store? That’s a big deal, very impressive.” Angela exclaimed and began to feel inadequate in the face of such opulence and achievement.
“This should be your last pregnancy or should I say the love child?” Angela eyed her closely. Momentarily lost of words, Eugene stared at Angela and she could see a glint in her eyes.
“This is my first child.” The confident smile suddenly began to fade.
“Really?” Angela’s face lit up in feigned surprise, pleased to see that her well to do college friend doesn’t have it all in her grasp as she appeared to do.
“Late marriage. I feel blessed to carry this pregnancy at my age.”
” Don’t say that. We achieve milestones at different times of our lives. I think the most important thing is that we get to achieve them, regardless of the time it happened. For some it could be early, while it could be later for others.” Angela smiled, pleased that she has an advantage over her on something.
“I suppose you have a football team of babies in the house.”
“Not at all , I have just three. A boy and two girls. My first child is twelve years, second nine and the third is seven years.” Angela replied, an element of pride in her voice.
“Interesting. You must have started quite early.”
“Yes I did.”
“Well, it was nice seeing you again. I look forward to seeing more in the store.” Eugene smiled and gracefully ended the conversation that was gradually becoming a contest of achievements.
They embraced once more and bided each other goodbye.
A shadow of melancholy fell on Eugene after her old friend left. She noticed the pride in Angela’s voice when she talked of her children. But this is also a baby, she tenderly touched her bump. It doesn’t matter how old her children may be, what is important is that I am not childless. She thought.
Different strokes for different folks. She continued in her thoughts. I am blessed with financial abundance enough to cater for many children, but she who has many is obviously going through a financial struggle.
Well, that’s life. I give thanks for my lot in life. I don’t have everything, but neither am I complaining, but I have more than enough to be thankful for. She encouraged herself and found her spirit lifted once more.
“Madam, your attention is needed at the cash office.”
“I am right on the way.” She hurried downstairs to the cash office. Thoughts of Angela and her children all forgotten as she became engrossed in the flurry of activities in the store.