Amaka Nwafor rifled through her wardrobe. She was out of outfits, date type outfits to be specific. This was her first actual date with Ikenna. Not a quick lunch in her office as per the usual routine. He was coming over. Amaka blinked through the recollection of the last time Ikenna was in her house. She had never seen Nabila like that, and the thought that Jamal could even say such things left her in a daze. That night Amaka contemplated the charming character she knew to be Jay and decided that you never really know a person. Listening to Nabsy get up every 20minutes to pee; Amaka could no longer remain impartial. Jamal was going to get a piece of her mind and very soon too. One minute he’s ready for a child, the next he’s crushing his wife like a dry twig. Clearing her thoughts Amaka refocused on her work/full time mother wardrobe. The only dresses she owned belonged in the Femi era. Just more stuff she kept around to remind her of prodigal husband. It was a pity that now she had use for them, they no longer fit.
Pick one already. Amaka sized up her slim pickings and decided on the red. He liked her in red.
Ikenna Nwosu whistled when he came to pick her up.
“You are very obedient”
“I stick with what works” Amaka said
“Oh it works” he nodded appreciatively. His eyes undressed her. “It is not polite to stare” she resisted the urge to fold her rams across her chest.
“When they see you in that dress, they’ll understand”
Amaka’s phone rang and her face dropped, flipping it shut she delivered bad news
“Sorry that was Amina”
“Yes, the twins are running a temperature. I’m sorry. I can’t leave”
“Stop saying that. Go pick them up”
With Amaka her children came first, without a doubt. But she couldn’t help but notice that once again this was a date that was not finished and Ikenna did not look too happy about that.
“Thank you for driving all this way” Amaka walked briskly towards Amina’s front door.
Within seconds of bringing the children back home, her heels were off, her hair in a plait down her back and she was cuddling and kissing sweaty foreheads. The door bell rang just as she convinced Chiamaka the brown liquid on the spoon would not be bitter; with her daughter in her arms she opened the door to Ikenna.
“You didn’t let me finish. I was going to offer to help” Ikenna said, jacketless. He pointed to his now parked car.
“It’s alright. I got it.”
Amaka stepped aside and he entered. He tickled Chiamaka’s chin
“Uncle Ikenna” she croaked sleepily. Of course she remembered him, Amaka rolled her eyes. He drowned the twins in presents the first time he met them in her office.
“Maka J” he coined that nickname within minutes “Mommy says you’re sick”
“Yes” she opened her arms and Ikenna carried her, holding her head to his chest. “That’s why you need to take your medicine” he gently chided, and they both disappeared into the living room. Amaka ignored the lurch in her heart at the sight of Ikenna carrying her child.
“I don’t know how you would have done this without me” Ikenna said when he dropped to the sofa three hours later. His sleeves were pulled up to his elbows and he was half-lying down from sheer exhaustion. He stretched his feet- shoes had been discarded by the first hour- and stifled a yawn
“Yes” Amaka said patting him on the back “You are a life saver”
They both fixed their gaze on the sleeping children
“I want one” Ikenna confessed
“Take your pick and leave the money on the table”
Ikenna laughed quietly. He was serious. But instead he said “Can I have some of that?” he stole her mug and sipped the coffee. Amaka slapped her forehead, he was hungry, and they never made it to the restaurant.
“Stay here” she ordered. Walking to the kitchen, she banged a pot on the stove and got to work.
“My mother said now is the best time to ask a man for a favour” Amaka remarked as Ikenna wolfed down her pepper stew and Ofada rice.
He nodded; too busy dismembering a chicken leg. “It’s about your ex-wife” Amaka paused tentatively, expecting a resounding no
Ikenna took a gulp of his ice water, wiped his mouth with a napkin. He avoided Amaka’s gaze, this worried her, was he a wife beater, no probably a drug addict. Jesus Christ it was crystal meth wasn’t it.
“I wasn’t a very good husband” he said regrettably
“I find that hard to believe” her voice was hoarse
“I never had any time for my wife. Always working you see” He clinked the ice cubes in his glass. “It wasn’t such a problem in the beginning; she knew who I was when she met me. But my late nights got longer, we stopped talking as much. Eventually...”
Amaka saw it, he strayed. Probably with his secretary or personal assistant
“It was so cliché. Sleeping with her ex”
“What?” Amaka spluttered.
“I came home and there they were, in our bed rolling around...,” Ikenna stared at his plate like it was a window to that Swiss winter two years ago. The heavy smell of cigars in the air, she told him she had quit. The electric fire, her blond hair splayed across the sheets, her laugh, and her voice......
“I’m sorry Ikenna it wasn’t my place to ask”
Ikenna had never told anyone that. Not his family and definitely not his friends. They drifted apart was his story. He stared at his hands “I have never told anyone that”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. This was wonderful” he said changing the subject. Amaka was all too ready to comply; she stood to take his plate to the kitchen. He held her hand stopping her “Your turn” he said
Amaka wanted to refuse, but she opened the flood gates. Ikenna noted her expression “as much as I want to know how anyone could ever leave you, if you don’t feel comfortable”
“I don’t feel comfortable”
“Ok. I was just curious because Maka J and Buzo kept asking to be told daddy’s story. I am sorry I brought it up”
“I started it.” She glanced at her kids on the floor “I was really looking forward to going to Kano. A whole weekend of pampering in the Balarabe estate” she sighed dreamily.
“You never know you might still be able to make it.”
“Can you believe Rabi is getting married? Time really flies. Last time she was in a relationship, the twins could barely walk”
Ikenna was watching her “You are a great mother Amaka and you deserve a vacation. If the twins are feeling better before the weekend, you will drop them off with their grandparents and come away to Kano with me”
“Come away with you? You make it sound like we’re eloping when we both have invites”
Ikenna smiled “Come on Maka, can’t you see it now. Red dust and sand dunes, horses, ladies in half-tops selling milk in calabashes” Amaka laughed
“Good night Ikenna” she kissed his cheek and retreated to her bedroom.
Ikenna Nwosu opened his eyes to see Maka J and Buzo standing over him in their pyjamas, they began to tickle him. It was the best start to a morning he had in a long time. Amaka walked into the living room, Ikenna and the twins were drinking cereal from identical green bowls and watching cartoons. They looked so cute, all three, sitting cross-legged on the floor, shoulder to shoulder, that she didn’t reprimand them for being too close to the TV.
Ikenna saw her and offered her a spoon. She sat and joined in his Coco Pops, that lurch was in her heart again.
“See Uncle. He uses his wristwatch to fight aliens” her son explained
“I still say Wolverine is better”
“Uncle that’s silly” Chiamaka said
“Hey” Amaka started to scold her
“That’s okay” Ikenna interceded “What does she know, she’s just a girl.” Chiamaka attacked him with tickles, probing his ribs with her fingers. “Girls are better than boys.” She insisted. Chibuzo fell on the floor laughing. Ikenna struggled to breathe “Mommy help me” he said, Amaka’s heart lurched.
Ikenna was released, “serves me right” he gasped. “Amaka are you alright you seem...distracted”
“You are so good with them”
“Practice. I have nieces and nephews”
“You must be the favourite unc...”
“I love your braids” he played with her hair. “Thank you” Amaka breathed. Those eyes never left hers. It’s like he could see her naked; physically and emotionally. He saw that she wanted a family, that she was incapable of being casual. What he wanted from her, what she thought she needed to move on, would not work. She just wasn’t wired that way.
“I won’t hurt you Maka. I swear”
“I can’t do this.” Amaka got up and walked into the kitchen. Ikenna walked behind her and placed his hands on her waist, turning her around slowly.
“I want to give us a try”
“Us? We haven’t even had a proper date. How do you know this is what you want?”
“Date? Amaka we are past that now. We eat lunch together in your office nearly every day. This is not the first time I have slept on your couch. Be it because your best friend breaks down or because your children are sick.”
Ikenna placed his hands on her shoulders, “why would I stay if I didn’t care about you?”
“You are not ready for all of this.” Amaka gestured to her kitchen, the living room
“I am ready to feel like I have a reason to be here. If these are the Saturday mornings I have to look forward to...” Ikenna did not finish
“It’s frustrating when you do that. Leave sentences unfinished”
Ikenna held her neck, “This is what I mean” he said right before he pressed his lips to hers. Amaka stayed still as Ikenna kissed her closed mouth. It had been so long...she was used to men running for the hills once they learnt about the kids, complaining about her emotional baggage but never giving her a reason to leave it behind. To meet someone that insisted on staying because he loved the children, because he wanted her to know that second chances were possible. Someone who held her like this, so close their bodies meshed. She kissed him back. The way she remembered to, she had after all only kissed one person in her life.
Ikenna pulled back, stared at her face, “I dream of you every night,” he said whispering
“This is so much better. Your lips are so soft.” He kissed her some more, very gently till she felt confident enough to twine her arms around his neck and kick it up a notch. She stood on her toes and bit his lips causing him to hold her tighter, it hurt.
“I’m sorry” Ikenna apologised breaking away
“No no, don’t be sorry.” Amaka shook her head pulling him back to her.
The phone rang in the distance, whoever it was could wait. She and Ikenna kissed, expressing unfinished sentences with tight embraces and dancing tongues. He kissed her mouth, like one who thirsted for it long before now. His arms imprinted themselves into her waist, when it seemed she could take no more, he would hold her tighter, say something low in his throat and her desire would be re-fuelled. The landline still rang, but it would take strength Amaka did not possess to drag her away from Ikenna’s lips
“You are perfect” he whispered. He kissed her to show it
Amaka could only muster a giggle, when she got her breath back
“From the moment I saw you, I knew I wanted this” Ikenna said as he nibbled her ear lobe. Her heart lurched non-stop now, and she liked it
Her mobile phone began to ring; it vibrated against the wood of the dining table
“Mommy” Chiamaka called
Amaka and Ikenna jumped apart, their faces hidden in shame. Chiamaka giggled, she delivered the message “Big Mommy is on the phone,” the Motorola handset in her little hand
“I’ll call her back”
Amaka figured it was probably to finalise the twins’ arrangement for next weekend. The children would be with the Cokers’ as she was now most definitely going to Kano.
Chiamaka went back to watch cartoons and Ikenna pulled Amaka back to him. His lips took up where they left off, on her neck, drawing those letters with his tongue and making her toes curl with delight
“I should make breakfast” Amaka sighed
“Absolutely” his hands caressed her cheeks, stroked her hair, and traced eyebrows. He bent to kiss her
“You’re not listening to me”
The door bell rang. Loud and shrill, it did so twice more till the twins annoyed at the constant interruption to their viewing peeked through the window. It was no one they recognised and Mommy said to never open the door to strangers
“Mommy” they chorused
Amaka pulled away from Ikenna “I have to get that”
“Sure” he said still kissing her
“Let me go” she giggled as he kissed that spot behind her ear
“I can’t” he said holding on, wrapping his arms around her frame. Amaka began to sway with the sense of it all, when the doorbell went off once more, a long deliberate sound of impatience.
“I really have to go”
Ikenna would let her walk a few steps then pull her back for a kiss, flicking her bottom lip with his tongue then tugging on it gently, before giving in for something soft and deep; this went on for three successions. Amaka put her foot down, after she stole one last long kiss
“Come back soon” Ikenna said with a naughty smile
Amaka skipped her way to the door; her maroon kaftan hung one shoulder low, displaying her bra strap for all to see. Her hair was messed up; the expert fingers of Ikenna stroked it to perfection. She was ready to greet whoever was at the door, her face happy and joyous and satisfied.
“Maka baby, I’m all yours” a familiar gruff voice. A familiar face. The prodigal husband returned.