Hello lovelies. It’s been a while. How have you been doing? If you are a newbie, welcome to the family and thanks for joining💃. Glad to have you here with us. Kindly start reading the story from the beginning. If you’re an old fan, welcome back, and let’s finish hard! If you probably missed out on the previous episode, well here you go. Enjoy today’s read🤩
The morning is calm and bright as ever. Tufts of white clouds, initially clammed at one side like cotton wool sticking together, now spread apart to join the vast blue expanse above. Yawning sleepily, I think to myself, how beautiful the sky looks today. I wonder if the sky has always looked this way or it is me who just hasn’t been observant. I make a mental note to make a date with nature and its many wonders more often. From now on, I’ll stare at the sky more purposefully, watch birds fly carefree, consciously inhale the air around me, and deliberately marvel at the greenness of grass and the beauty of nature surrounding me. For it is in some of these odd places that one finds God easily. Where did I read that? I don’t really remember but I smile to myself. From inside, I hear the clutter of cups and spoons. Mom must be setting up for breakfast. I go back inside to help her, but not before taking one long, deep ‘therapeutic’ breath, as my therapist likes to call it. Yes, even air can be therapeutic if inhaled properly, she’d say and I would always laugh. I believe her now.
‘Morning, son,’ comes the reply. A charming smile follows shortly after.
‘You’re up early today. What’s the secret?’
‘Morning fresh air. It’s therapeutic.’
‘Of course.’ Her laugh reveals clean, whitish teeth with unadulterated love seeping through.
I love her; this woman that holds our family together, I love her very much. I smile at Mom, somehow expecting her to read my thoughts.
‘Do you mind calling your father? We’re all set,’ she says instead.
‘No problem. On my way.’
The door to their bedroom is open. I remember the room looking so huge to me whenever I’d wander in here as a child and I would marvel so much at the hugeness of it all. I peep my head inside before tapping the back of the door gently. Dad turns his head sharply at the noise.
‘Morning, Will. How are you doing?’
‘I’m very well, thank you. Yourself?’
‘Can’t say otherwise.’ A raspy chuckle follows a smile. I smile back.
‘Erm, breakfast is ready.’
‘Alright. I’ll be down in a minute.’
‘Yes sir,’ I reply, then give a little chortle. Dad returns the favour.
This man who holds our family together, who loves me in his own silent ways, I guess I love him too. I whistle to myself as I descend the staircase.
We will smile and chat our way through breakfast, hold mini yet important conversations, and pick up on each other’s sentences before anyone has the chance to finish what they are saying. It would be accurate to document this morning as ‘The Morning of Smiles’ had I been one fond of journaling. Sadly, I’m not. So like air, I inhale, and like water, I drink, everything in. I usually document these moments of love in my memory’s journal. So that in times when I need them, I can retrieve and savour them for a long long time.
Later in the day, as I inch mom’s car out of the compound into the driveway, I remember I have a bone to pick with her about the fact that she did not tell me of Fafa’s whereabouts although she had known all along. Her reply is curt: ‘It didn’t hurt you to find out yourself either, did it?’ She proceeds to explode into a big laugh afterwards, feeling not even the slightest compunction for lying. I cannot even be mad so I choose to join in the laughter meant to irritate me. I find laughing beautiful now, more so, because of the one whom we are on our way to visit. She made me find living worthwhile again, something worth fighting for. I am oblivious to the fact that my thoughts have translated into a massive grin on my face and that Mom has been staring intently at me for a while. After some time, I notice and straighten up my face.
‘Care to share what’s funny?’ Mom asks in a kind of tone I know better than to indulge.
‘No, thank you,’ I say, then give a subtle laugh.
‘Well, whatever it is, keep thinking about it. I haven’t seen your smile so wide.’
To that, I offer no response, save a silly snort, although it is only I, who knows that it is not ‘whatever’ but ‘whoever’. Mom must have probably figured it out too—she’s pretty smart, after all—but I am not going to ask or tell. Because if just like Fafa, she is only pretending not to know how I feel, then it’s safe to leave it at that. Although one can never be sure unless one asks first right? Will I? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes friendship is better, even more fulfilling than romantic love. And we tend to forget that friendship can also be a form of love too; that it is in fact a greater form of love.
Deep in thought, I almost pass the house by. Mom gives me a confused stare, then chuckles. I reverse backwards and park in front of their gate. Mom exits first. I follow with a bag of goodies and a folded canvas. I stare at the wooden door of their front gate wondering how inside, a family of two lives. Before, I’d always think my family small, wishing for a much larger one with siblings and all, until I realized there are others with way smaller, maybe even none. Fate and time have taught me to never underappreciate anything I possess in this life anymore.
‘Oh hello Mrs Sue,’ Fafa squeals in delight, after opening the door on the second knock.
Mom goes in for a long hug, enclosing Fafa in the warmest one ever. Whatever is fueling the friendship between these two, I’m still deciphering, but it is beautiful to just look upon from afar without getting involved. Maybe it comes naturally between two women whose hearts resonate with each other. I’ve settled on that.
‘And why is he just standing there like…?’ I hear Fafa’s voice from somewhere in between my thoughts. I know that whatever she said was directed at me for sure. Yet when I lift my eyes to meet her gaze, I find no words on my tongue to utter in response. I only keep staring at her beautiful, but now squinted eyes, seated underneath her furrowed brows.
‘Sorry. Hey, Hello,’ I mumble later as we enter the room, still dazzled.
Is it my eyes or has she become more beautiful than when last I saw her? Fair to say I’ve just missed her.
‘What shall I offer you please?,’ Fafa’s polite voice cuts into my thoughts once again.
‘No, I’m fine,’ I reply, quickly this time round, as though to make up for my initial hesitance.
‘I’ll take water,’ Mom says out of courtesy. I doubt she is truly thirsty.
‘Sure,’ Fafa says, disappearing into the second half of the room.
‘Here you are Mrs Sue.’ She returns few seconds later, with a bottle of Voltic and a drinking glass placed on a simple white tray with pink and yellow lotuses drawn on either sides of it.
‘Thank you my dear,’ says mom.
Fafa glances at me for a quick second and my heart skips a beat or two but I still manage a smile. In that same instance, the gloomy sadness I’ve been trying to hold back suffuses my entire being. I had not wanted to think about this earlier but I couldn’t help it now. The fact that I am going to have to leave her behind soon hangs over my mind like a dark cloud. I also cannot help but wonder if there’s any possibility of my leaving affecting her in any way, even if not in the same way as it would affect me. I can’t exactly tell the answer to that. I guess I’ll have to wait to find out later.
‘My mom will be here shortly,’ Fafa announces.
‘Oh we can wait. Don’t worry dear. Look at you? Aw, I’ve really missed you.’
There is a certain childlike lovingness to my mother’s tone when she says that and I notice it. It’s always there whenever she speaks to Fafa, it is as though they are age-mates, and it makes her seem too young for her age, too young to be my mother.
‘Aw, I missed you more Mrs Sue. Unlike somebody, whom I did not even think of,’ Fafa replies, placing emphasis on the ‘not’ as though to ensure my hearing it.
I smile a quick, shy smile—and I don’t look at her—not quite knowing how to respond to that. I do not want to meet her gaze a second time. Mom cackles and Fafa joins in. Her mother, a beautiful, plumb figure with rosy cheeks and a captivating smile joins us at that moment. I, immediately, realize who Fafa got her cheeks and smile from. Besides that, most of her features are unique to her. One cannot state solidly that she is a replica of her mother. Nonetheless, Fafa’s mother exudes warmth of a certain motherly kind. Fafa has that too—I guess it’d explain why I feel comfortable in her presence mostly when we are together.
‘Hello Mrs Sue and the ‘mysterious’ Will. I’ve heard so much about you two. It’s nice to finally meet you in person,’ her mother says extending her hands for a handshake from both of us. Mom goes first.
‘Mom, really?’ Fafa mutters, rolling her eyes and shaking her head at the same time. She does that a lot.
‘We’re happy to see you too,’ Mom replies in her cheeriest voice. As usual, I just smile and shake the woman firmly.
It does not take long for these two women, strangers to each other few minutes ago, to be totally engrossed in endless conversation on many things. I can’t help but look on in awe as they share various motherhood experiences and divulge topics on issues about marriage, childcare, work, food right to church and community. I smile intermittently at Fafa while the two women do all the talking, all the while wondering why her mother had called me ‘mysterious’. We are almost like spectators in the room, although, once in a while, Fafa throws in some comments about something they are saying when interested. I, on the other hand, just sit and listen, uncomfortable with having nothing to say, only nodding and smiling when they make allusions to me or expect me to.
At some point, I beckon to Fafa with my eyes to come outside. The rush of outside air on my body feels liberating. Although the fan had been on, it had felt a little hot in there—more than a little maybe. Fafa comes out soon after, giggling and retorting on something her mother or mine must have said. I don’t ask her what it is though.
‘Why did you want to come out?,’ she inquires.
‘Let’s take a walk. It’s pretty uncomfortable in there just listening to the bickering of two old women with nothing to say.’
‘Haha, you should have seen your face. I was just waiting to see how long you would survive,’ she replies, laughing.
‘Yeah right. You noticed?,’ I say, joining shortly in her laugh.
‘Anyway, shouldn’t you tell your mother?,’ she says after the laughing ceases.
‘No, I don’t have to. Just a little stroll to stretch my legs. We will be back before any of them even realizes we’re gone. Those two look like they are having a good time. Let’s leave them to it.’
‘Then go alone,’ she jokes. I know she’s joking because the smirk is forming at the corners of her lips slowly.
‘Please. I’m your guest,’ I plead, playfully.
‘Whatever,’ she says, leading the way.
Outside, a car hurtles by at top speed, right outside their gate, leaving trails of dust and smoke to settle long after it has disappeared around the corner unto the main road. A shirtless boy of about six or seven, maybe, crosses the street, too, holding a black polythene bag in hand containing whatever. I look at him and wonder what’s in there. The houses on the streets are lined perfectly, each with huge walls and beautiful flowers peeping over the walls. We pass a small provision store in front of one of the houses with several people gathered there. All this while, I’m inside my head, thinking. After several minutes of walking in silence, Fafa blurts out, ‘Is everything okay?’
‘Yeah. Why do you ask?’ I say quietly, my tone pretentious, as though I haven’t any idea what she means.
‘You seem too quiet today. Even back in there. When you said you wanted to take a walk, I didn’t know it was a quiet one. I wouldn’t have come.’
I chuckle, then mutter, ‘Sorry, I’ve been lost in thought all day. How was your trip.’
‘It was fine, obviously. What are you thinking about so much?’ she asked, her eyes curious.
‘About everything. Just silently admiring life again.’
‘Well…okay,’ she says, sounding not too satisfied with my answer but unwilling to probe further either.
‘That reminds me. Did you talk with your father?’ she adds quickly.
When I nod, she says, ‘That’s good then. How did it go?’
‘Yeah, we had a nice chat. Resolved our differences and talked about our expectations of each other. Shared some old time memories too. He did like the wine more than the conversation though.’
Fafa throws her head back in laugher at that. ‘Yeah right. I’m glad,’ she says afterwards and flashes me a kind smile. I smile back.
‘Did you miss me while you were away?’ I ask.
The suddenness of the question throws her off. For a while, she says nothing, as though thinking whether to be honest or silly, before finally answering, ‘No, a big fat no!’
‘Liar,’ I mumble softly while smiling at the ground. ‘Then you soon will,’ I say, turning to look at her.
‘No, I won’t,’ she responds with a sneer, as if I have dared her to a losing challenge. Then, as if now thinking back on what I said, she quickly adds, ‘And why would I?’
‘Because I’m leaving,’ I say, my tone, soft.
She stops walking right at that. I feel a certain flutter inside my tummy. At least, her having a reaction at my saying that feels good.
‘To where?’ she finally asks, moving now. Her voice is rather calm, making it hard to detect what kind of emotion it bears.
‘To a place you cannot come easily even if you want to,’ I say and give a wry laugh, taking advantage of the moment.
‘Stop playing Will. It’s not funny,’ she says, not laughing.
I take a swift look at her eyes and see a glint of sadness in them. I sort of even felt it in her voice, in the way she said, ‘stop playing’. I may be imagining it too. Besides, it is what I wanted to happen. But whether imagined or not, it feels good to know that my leaving affects her in some way, however slight that is.
‘I’m going away to school. In the UK.’
‘Wow, that’s great news. Really? When are you leaving?’
‘In about six months time.’
‘Oh wow. I’m very happy for you Will. I really am,’ she says with the widest grin ever, as though to really prove how happy she is. But she didn’t need to. I’d still have known anyway even if she’d said nothing.
‘Thank you,’ I say, smiling back.
‘You know, I had also wanted to go to school this year. But it seems that won’t be possible now looking at my financial status,’ she says, uttering a few sighs.
‘Yeah. I might just have to wait another year hopefully but it’s fine.’
‘Maybe, you shouldn’t worry too much about that. Miracles happen everyday.’
‘Do you mean I might just get lucky and some sponsorship will fall from the skies and land on my laps like how the golden stool gracefully descended on Osei Tutu’s laps?’ she says and bursts into laughter.
I can’t help but break into laughter myself. ‘Queen of sarcasm, yes, that could also happen.’ She gives a silly laugh and I notice the slight blush on her cheeks. We turn silent after that, the sounds of our feet on the ground becoming noticeably loud now.
‘I think we should go back,’ Fafa speaks finally, ‘It’s getting late.’
‘It’s not late at all. The sun is still out. You’re just worried they might realize our absence.’
‘Well that too, if they haven’t already?’
‘Fine, let’s go back.’
We turn back towards the street from whence we came, passing by the house painted all-blue on the outside, from wall to gate to the outer of the main house inside. We had passed it few minutes past but now I watch it with interest, wondering if the insides are also painted blue.
As though sensing my thoughts, Fafa blurts out, ‘Why would anyone paint their house all blue? Isn’t it such a weird choice of colour for a house?’
‘People have different preferences in life, you know,’ I say, and we both laugh.
‘I guess so. So, what are you going to be doing before you leave?’
Little cupcakes of butterflies settle in my stomach at the realization that she has been thinking about my leaving. That it is something on her mind, makes me giddy, in a funny way I do not like but cannot stop myself from feeling.
‘Nothing much,’ I reply, ‘Just living my life while taking care of the visa processes.’
‘Oh, that’s cool,’ she mutters and grows quiet again.
I am not saying much myself. I don’t know what else to say. So instead, I reach for her hands and slid my fingers into hers and wait. When she doesn’t pull away, I smile silently to myself, knowing this moment too would be documented into my memory’s journal.
‘Will you miss me when I’m gone?’ I ask again, just to ease the discomforting silence building up.
‘Seriously, Will, stop sounding so ominous. It’s just the UK. You’re not going to die or something.’ she cries, frowning, and throws her free hand in the air.
‘And you won’t also die if you just say yes.’
When I turn to look at her, she is staring away in the opposite direction and I know it’s on purpose. I smile because this is the first time she has ever avoided my gaze. We’re almost at the front gate when I see our mothers coming out. She slips her hand away from within mine with such gentleness, as though not wanting me to notice it.
‘There they are. We were wondering where the both of you had disappeared to without notifying us?,’ my mom speaks first.
‘We just went for a stroll. Will wanted some fresh air,’ Fafa replies hastily. I nod in agreement.
‘Well it’s time to go home. I’d have left you behind if you hadn’t come just on time,’ Mom says jovially and we all laugh.
We say our goodbyes and as I’m driving away, our eyes meet, hers and mine, and for the second time, I notice the slight blush on her cheeks in the lowering of her eyes to shield my gaze. I remember then that I had forgotten to tell her about the painting. I’m sure she’ll see it and call me later. I can tell though that I was right about one thing—her knowing how I feel. Smiling, she gives one last wave purposely meant for my mother, before disappearing behind those black metal gates. I’d smile or grin occasionally, most of the way home, and if mom noticed, I cannot tell, because she never asked.
Yay! You made it to the end of yet another exciting episode. Thank you so much for reading and for riding along with me up to this point. I hope to catch you soon with the next and final episode of our story. Yes, it’s being a long ride but we’re finally here and I can’t believe it myself😚🤩. So stay tuned. Stay hopeful. Stay safe. And don’t forget to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Also please share as widely as you can, I’d really appreciate that a lot. Thank you.
Till next time…
Have a wonderful day…