“Andrea is Jennifer’s sister,” Niyi added when Sade remained in the same position, staring at him as if he had just announced that he had five wives and a mistress back home.
“Lovely to meet you.” Andrea stepped forward, holding out a slim hand that had a gold bracelet attached to it.
Sade shook the hand. Her lungs filled with air again, relieved that the woman wasn’t much more. She couldn’t remember if Jennifer ever mentioned having a sister.
Not that the women looked anything alike. Andrea’s eyes were olive green. Jennifer’s were brown and she had the airs of someone that knew how to live which wasn’t apparent in the blonde woman’s polite manners.
Andrea left for home after the introduction, telling Sade it was lovely to meet her again. Sade relaxed a bit but she still couldn’t shake the uneasiness that weighed her down. She dumped her bags on a stool in the lounge but fought the temptation to sit down.
She was studying the new array of pictures on the room’s white walls when he came back from walking Andrea to the car.
“Good to see you love.” Niyi reached for her and hugged her.
As soon as he let go, she returned her attention to the room, carrying her shoulders high so he knew how uncomfortable his introduction –of her as his sister –made her.
The pictures in the room included one of a younger her and the brothers, arms linked. Smiling with the easiness of teenagers.
Jennifer’s pictures on the wall were bounded in metallic silver. Her poses and styling bore a hint of professional aid, as if the woman knew what the future held.
“I would have tidied up if I knew you were coming.” Niyi straightened the muffled cushions on the black leather sofa in the room. The house was spotless, exactly the way he loved it to look like. What bothered him was the way she kept avoiding his eyes. “I told Andrea you are my sister because I don’t want her and the rest of Jennifer’s family thinking that I have moved on. Andrea is struggling to cope. It happened in her house, you know…”
“The overdose?” She corked her head towards him.
“Yeah. Andrea and her husband were on holiday. Jennifer was baby-sitting their dog.”
“Were you there too…when it happened?”
He nodded slowly and then picked up her bags. “I hope you packed enough for a month.”
A smile lit up her face. “No. I’m going back tonight. The last train is around midnight.”
“I will drive you back tomorrow. First thing in the morning if you insist.” He continued when her lips started to move in protest. “Technically, morning counts from when one wakes up and I love sleeping in on a Sunday. I hope late afternoon…evening…ish is fine?”
Her laughter was soft. Not the usual giggles that echoed louder in his ears.
“Why don’t you use the guest room, get changed and I will order us pizza.”
Perhaps because of the questions in her head that remained unasked, when she finally succumbed to sleep in the guest room, it was a short sleep characterised with restless limbs.
His voice, the restless limbs and her unsettled brain woke her up a couple of hours later.
He was conversing in Portuguese but she couldn’t tell where in the house his voice was coming from.
Sade heard her name and what sounded like a chuckle. A slight headache made her wonder if to get out of bed to get some water. She tried to reach the bedside lamp on the table, knocking her handbag off. The knock sent the contents of her bag clattering around the room. She pulled the duvet cover off her and sat up slowly as if hurrying the actions would make her temple’s throbbing worse.
A knock on the door startled her. Her eyes tried to search the dark room for her dressing gown as the door opened.
“Are you okay?” Niyi asked, flicking the light on. His eyes took in the soft mounds that her flimsy nightwear did not cover before she had a chance to pull the duvet back in place.
He stopped by the door, gazing at her.
Gazing at the woman that made his dreams beautiful for all those years. The timing was bad. Terrible, even. But he had her at last.
“When you knock you are supposed to wait for a response.” Sade’s eyes narrowed in mock disapproval
Niyi moved closer and started to pick up the contents of her bag. “You haven’t grown out of your sleepwalking yet?”
“Hey, I’m not the one that sleep walked to Baba Landlord’s safe and then proceeded to talk myself out of the situation making Mama blame all her enemies that followed her from Osogbo.”
Niyi winked as he passed Sade her bag. “I found myself in front of that safe. Never underestimate God’s grace.”
He took a seat close to her on the bed. She noticed he hadn’t gotten changed for bed. Instead of asking him why, she asked about Jennifer. Why Jennifer would tell Peju he’d physically assaulted her. It was either her sanity or Peju’s relationship with her brother-in-law. Her sanity won.
Niyi sighed and rubbed his jeans cladded legs. “I have no idea why Peju will take a silly conversation so seriously. I don’t care about what she says but when it affects us…”
Sade patted his shoulder.
“You know how cheeky Jennifer was. I know you only met her once.”
She nodded. How could anyone forget meeting a woman that introduced herself as “a very bad girl”?
“According to Jennifer, Peju asked her about this carpet burn on her back. Jennifer with her hilarious sense of humour said, your brother-in-law did that to me. If I’d known then Peju would read something else into it…”
“I promise, I will ignore her from now on.”
A moment lapsed before he continued, “I have been thinking of resigning from the NHS and moving up North. Andrew wants me to join his agency as director.”
“It will be good for you to be close to your brother.”
He cupped her face with his right palm. “Femi is old enough to wipe his own bottom now. I’m moving to be with you. I want us to work. This is why I told Mama about us when she called.”
“You told Mama? What if she doesn’t want us to be together? She sees me like her daughter, Niyi.”
“I don’t care what she says. We are going to be together.” He closed the gap between them and kissed her.
She let go of the duvet cover and drew him closer. Kissing him felt good. The more they kissed, the more she craved.
Her hands held him tighter and she vowed never to leave his side.
She let go briefly so he could take of his tee-shirt, revealing the washboard abdomen that her fingers traced delicately. His mouth claimed hers again, teasing her, so that by the time he unbuckled his belt, her body willed her to say, yes.
The ring tone of his phone woke him up in the morning. Slowly he withdrew from her and grabbed his shorts from the floor. After dragging his shorts up his middle, he tiptoed out of the room, trying not to wake her. She looked peaceful. Happy.
By the time he got downstairs, where he’d left the phone, it had stopped ringing. The three missed calls on the screen alarmed him. He walked into the kitchen and tapped on the screen. Femi picked up the phone on the other end and from the way his “hi Big Bro” sounded, Niyi knew his younger brother was in trouble.
“It is Clara, egbon mi. That woman won’t stop until she ruins my marriage.” Femi’s voice reduced to a whisper. He sounded out of breath too as if he was walking away from something.
Niyi sighed and pulled his shorts higher. He felt cold, thanks to the nagging blustering wind that had descended on the South from the cold North.
“You’ve finished it, right?”
The thought of Sade’s naked form in his bed pushed him to hurry the conversation. He’d told his brother to end the affair, when he found out five years ago. Since then Femi had told him at least three times about Clara reigniting the flames of their affair.
“The woman knows what she wants and she is stubborn,” he moaned once after telling him how Clara forcefully disrobed him, the day she invited him to her house to fit a light bulb.
“I went to her house to tell her last night Big Bro. She refused to let me leave.”
Why did you go to her house? Could you not phone her? He wanted to shout but held back, knowing from experience, Femi would only tell him what he wanted to know.
“Clara then said the whole world will find out about us if I dump her.” Femi’s voice rose to a squeaky pitch, “She told me… that her son is mine.”