Nafisat sat in silence for what seemed like minutes. It felt like a scene out of a movie. Actually the past 24 hours could have been the script of a melodramatic nollywood movie. Unfortunately, she was the protagonist in this movie and was not in the least bit entertained. Farida stood perfectly still, her eyes darting from hers to Nuhus, who had also not said a word. Farida was wearing a loose blue Kaftan which that exposed her soft shoulders. Her full breasts spilled out of the top of the dress and she was barefoot. Her hair was pulled up in a messy bun and she was wearing no make-up. Farida always wore make-up until 5 minutes before she fell asleep when she would cleanse tone and moisturise religiously. She had never forgotten for the 7 years they had been friends, even when she was drunk. There was something about her look that made her seem more vulnerable. Her perfectly put together look made her seem unapproachable which was something they had in common. However Farida was warmer and always had a smile on her face. She was a natural sales woman and could talk to anyone about anything.
‘Hey Rida, fancy seeing you here’ said Naffy with a soft smile breaking the silence
Farida stared back in silence, and she seemed lost for words. She turned back without a word and walked into the kitchen, closing the door firmly behind her.
Nafisat turned to Nuhu and said ‘Guess you didn’t really want me to come to Abuja did you?’
‘I will not insult your intelligence and make up any stories. It is what it is’
Nuhu’s honesty was a quality she usually admired, but it meant he was insensitive if he felt he was telling the truth. He had the most absurd opinions and they once had an argument that poverty was necessary in order for there to be balance in the society.
‘But why Farida? You can have anyone else, why my best friend?’ she asked quietly, staring intently into his eyes.
‘Nafisat, it wasn’t a calculated move or something....’ he said, reaching out to hold her hand
Her skin crawled at his touch and she moved away from his reach.
‘I cannot honestly say I am surprised. Maybe this is why I decided not to call first.’ She replied, almost to herself
Nafisat got up and walked towards the door, with Nuhu right behind her calling out her name. Her head was suddenly spinning and she felt dizzy. Nuhu watched her miss her step and reached out to steady her. She caught herself in time and gave him a resounding slap across his cheek.
Ifiok who had been standing in the corridor watching the drama unfold shouted ‘Ahhhhhh’ before he put his hand across his mouth to stop himself. He knew his oga fired people for much smaller transgressions.
No one paid him any attention, and Nuhu followed unshaken. He pulled at her hand again and this seemed to make Nafisat loose control. She screamed all manners of profanities at him in Hausa as she walked towards the gate. Nuhu stopped following her, because there was nothing to be gained, and watched her walk out of the gates. He did not really know how to beg.
Nafisat walked hastily down the badly lit roads, not sure exactly where to go. Tears rolled down her eyes, and her heart raced. She had a splitting headache and was overcome with exhaustion. Nuhu could have been with anyone else, she had resigned herself to that faith. She knew her marriage was one that would be fraught with infidelity. After all she was not exactly Holy Mary. But Nuhu was never one for small scale scandals. He had to pick the one person he knew she would bother her. She did not have a lot of friends, so his chances of hurting her with infidelity were slim.
Nafisat walked on the sidewalk of the poorly lit legislative quarters until she was back on the main road. She walked on the sidewalks of Apo in the direction she had come in until she got to the motorway and she could not walk any further. She stood there, pondering where to go. She did not want to go home but there were few people she wanted to see in her current state. She wished she could see her father but he was away at an ECOWAS meeting in Mali.
A black car suddenly pulled up next to her. The tinted windows came down and she stared into the car with a curiosity. A dark middle aged man with a pot belly flashed her a huge smile and asked
‘Where are you headed, can I give you a ride?’
Normally, she would respond with a purse of her lips and keep walking. She could not remember the last time she had been offered a ride actually, as she rarely walked anywhere. But tonight was not like every other night. She thought she had nothing to lose and the man looked harmless.
She hopped into the car before replying, ‘I am heading to Maitama’
‘Oh ok, that’s funny because I am just returning from the Hilton, but I could take you’ he offered smiling sweetly. He immediately began to indicate to make a u-turn. He spoke with an accent, although she could not make out exactly where it was from. He drove very slowly and carefully, like he was not in any hurry. She was a speed daemon, and everyone in Lagos was always in a hurry.
‘My name is Kwame by the way, what is yours?’ he asked smiling sweetly
‘Nafisat, So you are Ghanian?’ she asked, uncharacteristically forward
‘What gave me away? Could it be my extremely unique Ghanaian name?’ he asked with a loud laugh
He seemed to be in a great mood and had a loud voice that echoed in the car.
‘So what brings you to Nigeria?’ asked Nafisat
‘Well I am a consultant, and I use that term loosely, there is an Aviation Safety Workshop that I am running with the Nigerian Government so I am here for the next month…’
He spoke slowly, with his accent seeming more pronounced now that she could place it. She listened to him talk about aviation safety records in West Africa with incredible passion. He seemed to enjoy having someone listen to him, despite the fact that Naffy barely understood what he was talking about.
‘Well enough about me and my boring obsession with aeroplanes’ he finally said. ‘What do you do?’
‘I am also a consultant, but a Financial one’ she replied
‘Ahh I see, and can I ask why you are walking by the motorway so late at night? It is actually quite dangerous you know, especially when you are walking the same way as oncoming traffic, safety statistics show that most accidents with pedestrians occur because they are not facing oncoming traffic, especially in dimly lit areas such as here’ said Kwame
‘Well, I did not exactly plan on walking tonight. I just found out my boyfriend has been sleeping with my best, actually my only friend. So I was not exactly left with many options.’
‘Oh wow, I am really sorry to hear that’ he sounded genuinely concerned and Nafisat marvelled at how some people could care so much about a stranger’s problems. Bayo was the same. He handled so many cases for distant relatives for free and gave it as much commitment as he did anything he worked on.
‘Matters of the heart are a delicate thing my dear, one must really proceed with caution’ said Kwame in a fatherly tone
‘I think all those emotions are greatly exaggerated by too many Hollywood movies and love songs. Love only exists for a tiny percentage of people’ replied Nafisat
‘I am afraid I must insist we have a drink and talk about this. I would like the opportunity to convince you that Love is the greatest thing on earth’ replied Kwame with a smile
‘Money is the most powerful thing on earth. And the love of money is the greatest love there is. Just take a look at these people hawking at this time of the night in such fast moving traffic, it is the pursuit of the ultimate love.’
‘I completely disagree my dear, you will be surprised how much money each of these people earn is given to a loved one. Their families are usually the reason they work so hard. How did such a young privileged girl such as yourself get so pessimistic? asked Kwame with surprise ‘You are clearly not poor because you are so well spoken and put together’
‘Maybe that is the reason I am so pessimistic’ Nafisat replied ‘I am a product of money, I spend more on my nails than most people here earn in a month. I cannot pretend that I do not want to continue this lifestyle, like I want to know what it is like to not have options or to want something and not be able to get it. I cannot apologise for this. Love is all well and good but it does not pay the rent or pay for holidays. This undying never ending love that we seem to advocate for is not a realistic.’ Nafisat was surprised at her outburst, but now that she had started, she could not seem to stop.
‘Since you don’t believe in love then it should not hurt you that your boyfriend and friend are having relations…..”
“You see that’s the thing..” Nafisat interrupted speaking louder “I am not asking for a 100% commitment or anything, I am not unrealistic, everyone cheats at some point or the other…”
“I actually beg to disagree..” interrupted Kwame
“but what is actually hurting me right now is the fact that Farida is my closest friend here, and for her I know this was not an accident, it was a careful scheme she plotted to get him because she wants to get back at me. She has her pick of men because she is sexy, and Nuhu rarely chases after women because they come too easily to him. I really don’t know why I am so surprised, she has done worse things to other people since we’ve been friends, I guess I somehow thought I was an exception, clearly I grossly overestimated her.”
“Why do you seem more angry than hurt?” asked Kwame
“Because I am so fucking angry right now. I am angry at Farida, at bloody Nuhu, at Bayo and mostly at myself for getting caught up in this crazy web of lies and deceit in the name of love.” Replied Nafisat with tears in her eyes, her voice shaking with emotion
Kwame did not reply to her outburst, he drove through the sporadically lit motorways to Maitama. She seemed troubled and he felt sorry for her and responsible for her at the same time. He drove back towards Hilton as she ranted about the problem with trusting people. She had a lot on her mind and it seemed easier to vent to a complete stranger who did not know her or her flaws.
Nafisat suddenly noticed that they were already in Maitma. She had been talking for the whole ride which was well over thirty minutes. She gave him directions to her house and they took a turn past the Farmer’s Market which was still bustling with lights and activity despite it being past 8pm.
‘Ahhh so this is the place my colleagues speak so fondly about’ said Kwame
‘Oh the market, yea it has quite a lot. I would recommend the fresh smoothies’ said Naffy
‘Should we get some?’ asked Kwame
‘Ermm sure why not. My house is only a few minutes from here actually so I could walk home’ replied Naffy
‘You seem to like walking’ replied Kwame as he parked the car next to the market
‘I actually rarely walk. I usually drive, but I also do not usually get into a stranger’s cars or talk about my personal life. Tonight has been an exceptional night in many ways.
‘Well I hope that is partly a good thing.’ said Kwame
Nafisat smiled as they got out of the car. They walked into the stalls amongst aggressive traders selling little bits of everything. She lead him to the stall which was filled with the loud groans of overworked freezers.
‘So what’s good here?’ asked Kwame looking around
‘I always go with the Banana and Mango’ said Naffy
‘Well I don’t like Bananas, what else would you recommend?’ replied Kwame
‘I have only ever had that, but I am sure they are all good’ said Naffy
‘Oh I assumed you came here often’ said Kwame
‘I do. Every day when I am in Abuja’ replied Naffy
‘And you have the same thing every single time? Asked Kwame with a look of complete shock on his face
‘Err of course. I like it, why would I want to change it?’ asked Naffy equally surprised at his apparent shock. ‘It is consistent’
‘Yes, consistently boring’ he laughed in his characteristic loud voice
‘It is safe’ she replied
‘When has anything remotely exciting ever been described as ‘safe’? he asked enjoying her getting defensive
The traders watched them banter not exactly sure what the argument was about.
‘We get plenty plenty flavours oga’ said the trader. Apple, Mango, Pineapple, Coconut, Banana…’ he ranted on pointing at each fruit as he mentioned their names
‘Can I have pineapple and coconut’ he ordered
Nafisat ordered and insisted on paying as a thank you for the ride. He graciously accepted and sipped on his smoothie as they walked back to his car.
They drove the few meters to her house and sat in the car sipping their drinks. ‘So you somehow know everything about my love life, what about yours?’ asked Naffy
‘Well I am married with two kids’ he said with a smile. He pulled out his phone and showed her a few pictures of his family. He had two beautiful girls aged 11 and 7 a plump wife with warm eyes and dimples.
Nafisat watched him as he flicked through the pictures, he was so animated as he spoke about them and had a story to tell about each picture. She felt a pang of jealousy at how in love he seemed.
‘You are a very lucky man. You seem to have it all’ said Nafisat quietly
‘Well for a long time, I did not have anything at all. But sometimes, the thing you crave the most is right in front of you, but you are ignoring it. Because you are looking for something grander. Nafisat I have only known you for less than two hours so this might be completely premature. But unlike most people, your problems seem to me completely of your own doing. Everyone has a shot at happiness; you just have to take it. Get rid of people around you that are toxic. Starting with your boyfriend and best friend. Make new friends. Don’t hold on to the old ones because you’ve known them for a long time. Most relationships run a natural course. Find someone who makes you happy all the time and don’t let that person go. Life is too short to be unhappy my dear, especially for someone as young and as privileged as yourself.’ said Kwame. He spoke very slowly stretching out his sentences and laying emphasis on certain words.
Nafisat listened in silence at his speech. She felt like she was back in her principal’s office in JS3 when she was called in for calling her teacher a ‘hairy baboon’.
‘Thank you for that. I actually listened to you. Again exceptional night.’ Nafisat got out of the car as the security guard knocked on the car window to tell them they could not park there.
‘And you were right about the coconut and pineapple. It was lovely.’ She said with a conceding smile
‘It was nice to have met you Nafisat. You made an otherwise dull evening interesting’ replied Kwame
Nafisat walked up to her house sipping the last of the pineapple smoothie. It was much nicer than hers and after Kwame forced her to try it, she ended up taking his. The house was quiet and Adamu jogged ahead to open the doors. She walked into the room as he turned on all the lights and the air conditioning. She told him not to bother as she was going upstairs to her room.
He called out to her ‘Aunty, akwai letter daga Lagos’
She wondered what documents her boss could have sent her so soon. She was surprised that no one from the office had called her all day. She had not given a thought to when she would go back to Lagos, and wondered if the letter would mean she would have to go back the following day. She could not afford to be idle with so much on her mind.
Adamu handed her a blue envelope. She was surprised as all the company documents usually came in their official white envelopes. She could not imagine who it could be from as no one knew she was in Abuja. As soon as she flipped it, her heart did a little skip.
She had teased Bayo incessantly about his illegible handwriting. He had written her name boldly and his attempt to make it legible made it worse. Naffy sipped the smoothie as she walked up the stairs contemplating weather to open it.
For some reason, tonight’s dramatics could not seem to end. She sat at the edge of the bed and took off her mum’s shoes and rubbed her sore feet. Her mum’s heels were not really meant for walking, especially not on concrete sidewalks. She knew her mum would never wear them again once she saw the state of the bottoms.
Nafisat pulled out a cigarette from her bag and smoked it slowly while staring at the letter. She was not sure she wanted to open it. A part of her really wanted to know what Bayo would say. Her muscles still ached from their marathon love making the previous night and felt genuinely hurt by him because she trusted him. It was ironic that she trusted him knowing that he, like her, was a cheat. Nafisat always knew Nuhu was unfaithful, theirs had become more of a relationship of convenience more than anything else now. They understood what was expected of them and acted accordingly.
With Bayo all the rules just seem to fly out of the window. Nafisat thought about Kwame’s little speech a couple of minutes ago. She decided to give Bayo a chance to tell his story and tore up the envelope to read his handwritten letter.