Niyi dropped Sade off at home because she insisted, exaggerating her tiredness. They parted on her doorstep, his palm resting on the curve of her left hip as they hugged.
When Sade woke up the following morning to do three dozen sit-ups instead of cooking a full English breakfast, she knew her depressive mood had lifted. Her new mood pushed her to agree to meet Clara in the Town centre that afternoon.
Sade wasn’t angry that Clara told Peju she’d had a relationship with her husband back when they were still students. She’d known the truth would come out one day. This was what she explained to her friend as soon as she met her in the middle of Selfridges.
“So, if you are not angry, why didn’t you tell me you were going out with Niyi then? I didn’t even know he was in town.” Clara said without looking at her friend. Her hands were busy wrapping a scarf she got from the sale’s section round her neck. She pouted as she examined herself in the mirror.
“I didn’t go out with him. Not the way you think.”
Sade didn’t like knowing her friends had turned her life into something they could chew like meat. “I have known Niyi since I was a child so I don’t think of him the way you think of every man you see.”
“Niyi is bad news babe. We all know how he prostituted himself in Portugal.”
“He was a male escort Clara. I’m sure he didn’t sleep with anyone.”
“As if you don’t know escort is just a glorified term.”
Sade followed Clara to the jeans section. The jeans, all shades of different sizes and colours called out to her. But she was no longer in a mood to shop. She wanted to defend Niyi instead. The heat with which he snarled at her bullies in school, beating the tallest one with a twig and earning himself a suspension in the process was not something that could be forgotten.
“We all have a past Clara.”
“Did Peju tell you he beat up Jennifer?”
Sade followed her friend to the till. “Yeah, I heard that too.”
“So, what the hell are you doing with him?”
“I’m not doing anything with him. He is practically family. Okay madam? We are just friends.”
“I hope you remain just friends. I remember how he tried to use style–style to get between your legs when we all went down to Portugal. That my dear, no be brotherly love.”
As they took the lift upstairs, she decided it would be unwise to let slip that Niyi and her had planned to spend the evening in her flat. He had hinted that he missed Mama’s cooking – explaining that no one could get efo riro as spicy and tasty the way Mama perfected it. The only other woman that could get that perfect taste was Sade. No one else.
“Your mum taught me well.” she had said, laughing because he had revealed that Peju served him quorn sausages and what looked like orange mash the night before.
That was why Sade invited him to her flat. It had seemed a natural thing to do. She had spent her teenage years tending to his needs. In return, he protected her like a brother would.
The three of them had grown up together, shrouding each other’s secrets from the world but sharing those secrets with each other.
When Niyi left Nigeria for Manchester, the trio had become a duo. And although, Femi and Sade had joined him three years later, the oldest musketeer never truly re-joined the group. A year later, he left Manchester to work in a Sao Vicente holiday resort on the Madeira Island. Sade received the odd phone call from him but when he moved to Lisbon, those calls had thinned until they stopped coming.
Peju moaned about the summer heat despite the quiet whirling of the fan in the conservatory. Despite heaping on more deodorant spray this afternoon, her dress had started to feel damp around the bust area.
Clara was sitting on the sofa beside her, legs crossed. Peju motioned to the jug of cold orange juice she had placed on the table between them.
Clara shook her head. “Talk to her Peju. I know you are angry with her but she doesn’t know Niyi like you do. She thinks he is still the same Niyi she grew up with.”
Peju glared at the empty cup on the table. Her children’s playful screams were louder than usual because Femi bought them cones of ice cream at the park.
“Big Bro always gets what he wants.” Peju hissed “He is not like my Femi. There is this cold side to him that gives me the chills.”
“I reminded her that he assaulted Jennifer.”
“To be fair, the three of them were so close as children. It will be hard to convince her he is bad news. I’m sure his addictions will wake her up soon enough.”
“And what if that doesn’t happen?” Clara filled her cup up. “Sade is not like me. She wants to settle down as soon as she can.”
“Well as soon as she becomes his wife, he will shine her eyes to the truth.”
“What is that supposed to mean? Abeg, your tone dey worry me.”
Peju moved closer to her friend, whispering the words that followed in Yoruba. She didn’t want her children to overhear their conversation. “Big Bro wants to move back home in a few years. He needs a woman by his side.”
“So? Most Naija men wan tie the knot. They just don’t want to eat the same stale stew every night.”
“Well, he only wants to get married to hide the fact that he loves doing it with men.”