“Ben just wanted to hit it and run, didn’t he? Explain what happened to Peju.” Clara said, her coal pencilled eyebrows displayed frown lines. Her lips did not betray her thoughts but Peju already knew what they were. The two ladies had laughed about Sade’s news before she joined them for lunch at Café Brauge.
“I didn’t tell you so that you could tell the whole world.” Sade looked wounded. Her eyes darted from Clara to Peju.
“I have known you since our days at Manchester Uni Sade.” It was Peju’s turn to be angry. “Who will I tell your business to if you tell me? Shebi, the only women I spend time with are you two. Most of my time I spend at home attending to my husband’s needs and making sure our two children look fabulous.”
“Sorry,” Sade mouthed. She picked up her mug and took a sip of her frothy cappuccino.
Chatter from the table in the corner of the teashop and the clattering from the kitchen reached them in frequent bursts but a strange quietness had taken hold of the trio. The picture was that of three fed-up women rather than three old friends.
Peju pierced the heart of her melon with her fork and watched Sade tuck into a creamy chocolate eclair. Peju did a quick adding and subtracting to find out how many of the calories Sade had consumed would be used before the end of the day. Plates of warm croissants and golden chocolate toffee swirls were in the middle of the table: pastries and cakes that Sade had ordered as soon as she walked in. Sade and her love of food, Peju thought as she bit into her melon cube. Picking fruits as her breakfast after an early morning bedroom session with her husband, house chores and the school run by even her own standards was impressive.
“Do you have to put every food you see in that mouth?” Clara’s voice forced Peju to her left where the former was, perched on a chair in a dress that showed more than it covered. Clara’s eyes had picked Sade up as if she were a rat covered in raw filth that smelt worse than it looked. Peju wondered why Sade had always preferred Clara to her. Since she introduced the two, Clara had made it obvious, she’d prefer to stay home and watch Northern British soaps than hang out with Sade. Yet Sade would rather go to Clara’s flat in Park Lee than come down to Peju’s house which was only a few streets away from Sade’s home and work.
“Leave Sade alone Clara.” Peju said as soon as she realised Sade wasn’t going to say anything to defend herself. Her neck stayed curved, as her hands tore apart the last chocolate eclair. “She has a curvy figure. She is not a lepa like you.”
“Sade is six dress sizes away from lepa joo.” Clara chuckled.
“She just needs to lose a bit of weight.”
“Aah, a bit of weight or a couple of stones. Don’t sugar coat it Peju. This is the reason I’m sure Ben dumped her. He decided he didn’t want her donkey rump to suffocate him. Ikebe fit kill jare.”
“What happened exactly with Ben?” Peju turned to Sade. She’d hoped to tease it out of her voluptuous friend slowly and watch her unwrap her latest woe as if she were peeling an orange. The version she’d heard from Clara didn’t make sense, seeming exaggerated and a tad fictitious. Clara narrated that Ben broke up with Sade after he saw her big buttocks unclothed. According to Clara, Ben had needed his inhaler during their coupling session. And decided he couldn’t risk his life battling those things again.
“Our colleague told me he has a thing for black women.” Sade looked at her hands as she cleaned them with disposable wipes, working from the tips down the lengths. “Exotic birds was the word he used.”
“Well, it isn’t a bad thing finding out your English boyfriend prefers black women.” Peju said, ignoring the wide smile brightening Clara’s Face.
“No,” Sade met Peju’s gaze. “I didn’t think so until I saw Ben making out, tongues and all with our new Ugandan nurse at the back of the surgery last Friday.”
“Ouch.” Clara rolled her eyes. Her eyes did not reflect the mood of the other women, choosing instead to flit over to the table in the corner to gape at the suited man rapping away on his laptop.
“Don’t worry Sade, you will find a good husband like my Femi someday.” Peju took hold of Sade’s hand. She felt bad for laughing when Clara compared her friend’s backside to a fat donkey’s rear. “I have always prayed for a man like Femi for you. I know you are not a young sisi anymore but it will happen soon. You have hope, unlike our sister here who keeps dating married men.”
Clara returned her attention back to the ladies. “I thought we were talking about Sade. Wetin concern me for Sade’s matter? I had it last night in James’ car and this morning girlfriends in the shower, so no pity party please.”
Although Sade smiled, Peju’s face maintained her stern expression. Since Femi told her he saw Clara with his married colleague in broad daylight, the situation had stalked her at bed time and given her insomnia. Insomnia that Femi had dubbed a blessing to their marriage because in the past, her eyes would have closed as soon as the softness of their beddings welcomed her body. She would have needed Femi’s coaxing offer of a massage to wake her up. A massage that had never materialised in their 13 years of marriage. It had always ended before it started, his demanding hands finding a way under her nightwear to those parts she was sure needed no massaging.
Clara had dated married men before but she’d usually gone with men whose wives had lost hope of them ever finding redemption. The type of men whose happiness depended on their weekend guzzling. The type who loved varieties in shape and colour: who blamed their infidelities on their adverse immigrant experiences and unachieved dreams. Femi’s colleague, James could never be described as the type that could cheat. He seemed as polite as his pregnant wife, greeting Peju with a face that told her, fighting his shyness was a constant battle.
“Stop messing about with James…” Peju warned.
She waited for the waiter who had advanced towards them to clear their plates away before continuing. “My husband is not impressed with your antics with his colleague. He has asked me to stop spending time with you.”
Clara straightened her neck. “If you don’t want to meet up, that’s fine. I have a full time job anyway. You are the one who gets bored at home and arranges this whole charade.”
Peju saw Sade checking the plain silver watch on her wrist. “Please Sade talk to her. She is going to get hurt if she continues like this. Remember that woman that beat her up last year and posted dog excrement in her letter box?”
To Peju’s surprise Sade remained quiet. It wasn’t the first time that the latter had chosen a side without uttering a word. When Sade asked if Clara could give her a lift back to work, Peju saw it as her friend’s way of silently sticking with the wrong friend again.“
Clara I cannot continue to see you if you don’t change your ways. My darling Femi is right, a self-respecting married woman should not be socialising with you. I will tell you the truth even if Sade refuses.”
Sade rose, belting her mac jacket in a hurry. The accused did not shift her eyes from her accuser. A smile danced round her red glossed lips as she stared at Peju ranting. Her smooth, oiled legs remained crossed, suggesting she wasn’t ready to budge.
“So, has your darling Femi asked you to stay away from Sade too?” Clara asked, laughing. The sort of laughter that growled from the deepest part of the belly but did not chase out the coldness from the eyes. She laughed even when Sade tried to pull her up. “She is a sinner too. She slept with your fantastic husband Peju.”