It’s just a shame, I thought as I threw my head down and stared at the empty wine bottle in front of me, that I didn’t have more money…God I could use a lot more wine right now, I lamented as I stared from my glasses at Henry, Quinn and of course Sharon. It was almost unbelievable that we were all gathered together like secret war lords about to negotiate a war truce. If only Quinn knew how pointless this all was. When Sharon had pointed out that she was doing all of these out of desperation to win Henry’s affection, I had sincerely thought she was kidding but even a blind person could see the frustration on her face now as she glanced uncomfortably at us. No one was talking, no one was blinking, no one was saying shit…We were like molded statues but I could almost hear what she was thinking. If only she knew that none of it would matter in the end. Henry didn’t love her; there was no way he could. He had told me this himself. Sharon was the love of his life and would always be.
“But things change na” Quinn had insisted when she told me about her relationship with him.
“You don’t know him like I do, Q” I insisted as I struggled to keep the jealousy out of my voice.
“True but then, there is no way he can be in love with her all his life…not when she doesn’t want him” Quinn continued almost tearfully and I almost pitied her.
It was not like Henry to let go of things easily, especially grudges. I mean I was his best friend so believe me, I know. I could even recall the day we were trying to sneak passed the school gate back in secondary school. It was just right after the third period. Henry insisted we go to the game station two streets away from the school compound but the gateman wouldn’t let us through the gate.
“Oga wetin dey worry you na?” Henry scolded him angrily. “Which one be you own?”
“Shoo! See this small boy o! na me you dey talk to like that?” the shabby looking gateman asked. His teeth were stained with the famous dark powder known as snuff. “Them dey worry you?”
“Na your papa them dey worry” Henry retorted angrily while I giggled, enjoying the scene. I could see blood rushing to the poor man’s face but then almost like a flash, there was nothing. He was smiling now, walking towards us. I panicked.
“Look here Henry, I don first tell you say to pass here you need to drop something” The gateman suggested calmly and I was taken aback. I watched as Henry grumbled and then pulled out a fifty naira note from his pocket and handled it to the man. He turned and then winked at me and I winked back letting out a relief.
“Oya oga let us pass na” I pleaded letting my gaze linger on the man. He was now scowling at the naira note and then at me.
“Oya where your own?” he asked and my smile faded. This man wan do us ojoro o!“Ahan…oga no be fifty naira be that?” I asked uneasily.
“This one na Henry own…so na only him go pass until you bring your own” He insisted as he began to open the gate to allow Henry out. He was also glancing around to be sure no one was watching. Yeye man!
Rolling his eyes as if he had expected it, Henry produced another fifty naira note and handled it to the gateman who eventually opened the gate and let us out. After playing games for what seemed like an hour or two, we headed back only for the gateman to refuse us entry insisting on another fee. We went ballistic and pleaded and pleaded. We had spent eventually all that we had at the game station and had literally nothing left but yet, our pleas fell on deaf ears. The next day at school, our bullshit was announced at the assembly for the whole world to know and we were bulalaed mercilessly.
“That man would pay for this” Henry insisted as we walked back to our classes with amped difficulty- holding our bum bums like wayward children and crying like idiots. “He will pay…you’ll see” Henry insisted and I thought it was just an empty bluff…you know the type vengeful children make to themselves when they were squared but it wasn’t empty at all. Few years after we graduated and went to college, we ran into this unfortunate gateman at a club. He was now a security guard there but Henry had had him arrested almost immediately insisting that the man was a criminal and that he had been looking all over him. When asked what the man stole, Henry said his car.
So now, I quickly took a peek at him, his face stolid as a rock-no emotion, no smile, no wit, everything blank, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had really changed, if he was still my old best friend or someone worse.
“And you guys?” he was saying to me now and I felt my chest tighten as all eyes fell on me. Even though the music in the bar was loud enough to drown out my restless thoughts, I knew one word…just one wrong word would ruin this gathering.
“Ehemm” I heard myself stuttered and I swallowed hard. Sharon and I had rehearsed this scene a thousand times… why in fuck’s name am I messing up?
“We will be getting married in a few months, October to be precise” Sharon quickly broke in and I let out a sigh of relief as I threw on a fake smile.
“That’s like in four months’ time. Congratulations!” Henry responded and I nodded, glad that he was gradually buying into the lie. The fact that I could fool Henry just for a little moment was all the happiness I needed, so I sat up upright and decided to enjoy the show. Quinn was grinning too congratulating us like she truly meant it and that kind of sank my excitement. Couldn’t she see how wrong all this was?
“So how did you guys meet?” Quinn asked and I felt like slapping her. What in fuck’s name is wrong with her? I wanted to scream. I turned to Sharon thinking she would take charge like she always did as I allowed the errant thought of that night with her on top of me cross my mind but i was disappointed.
“Ehemm…” Sharon stammered and I knew I just had to save us somehow; anyhow so I quickly narrated the bullshit love story I had told Quinn before. She nodded grinning from teeth to teeth enjoying the cock and bull story but when I turned around to see if Henry was buying into it, I noticed how his eyes had twitched and his mouth had fallen apart and I knew, fuck! The war has start.
For the previous episode of THE EXES, kindly click here