It was the dining set Chikanyimma loved the most, the one whose plates were embroidered on its four edges with violet and red flowers, the one her favourite aunt, Nnenna, had presented to her and Kachi as their wedding gift. They had received several dining sets on their wedding day, but this one from aunt Nnenna, Chikanyimma held with high regard.
“See, it’s a set of four,” she announced to Kachi as they unwrapped their gifts in their modest apartment weeks after the wedding, “Just perfect for us and the two cuties we would have. I will keep this set until our family is complete.”
“Very well then,” Kachi said smiling at her excitement. Chikanyimma had not ceased to amuse him. He could not get enough of her innocent looks and sincere laughter, the way her eyes twinkled and her lips tilted upwards ready for a smile. He mostly laid back and watched her enthusiastically open the gift items, shrieking as she revealed who had given what.
One rainy Saturday evening when lightning struck and thunder bolted repeatedly, that was the set Chikanyimma lifted high into the air and smashed against the wall, sending the splinters flying dangerously across the kitchen. Hot angry tears streamed down her face and watery mucus raced from her nose, settling around her lips. She screamed and her voice was drowned in another bolt of thunder. Kachi was away at Abuja, undergoing an intensive seven-day training by his company, and it was only the second day since he left.
Chikanyimma didn’t know for how long the twins had stood by the entrance watching her, but as she crumbled helplessly to the floor by the kitchen cabinet, she saw them, their eyes wide with fear holding their breath, their feet bare, clutching each other in their matching night gowns. She bowed her head in defeat for what seemed like a fraction of a second, and when she raised it, she spoke in a tone unflinching, void of expression, “Go to your room… now.” The twins walked away without a word, but as soon as they shut the door to their room, Akunna said in a whisper, “I think mummy has run mad,” and Nwakego began to cry. Akunna held her twin’s hands tightly, and together they sobbed silently, not uttering any word further until they fell asleep curled up on the bed.
Chikanyimma locked the kitchen door and took the key to her room. Her six-year-old son, Ahamefuna, walked the posterior length of the room in tandem gait, counting, “three, four, five, six…” with every step he took. When he reached the end of the room, he made a turn and walked back with new counts. Chikanyimma slammed the door shut, and hovering close to him, she screamed, “STOP IT! JUST STOP THIS!” But Ahamefuna only made another turn, oblivious to her presence.
Dragging him by the arm, she led him to his room where all his colouring books lay horizontally arranged on the floor. All the while, Ahamefuna struggled, yelping, trying to free himself from her firm grip. She sat him on his bed, but he slipped to the rugged floor.
“Aham, you know it’s past your bedtime,” she spoke in a quivering voice.
“One, two, three, four…” he was counting again, this time his fingers and toes.
“Ahamefuna,” she shook him hard, looking him squarely in the face. Stunned, he looked into her eyes. Trying to hold his gaze, she clenched her teeth and said in a low voice, “it’s past bedtime.”
He looked away immediately, “four, five, six, seven…”
Chikanyimma stretched out on the floor, some distance away from Aham. She was silent, only the tears flowed.
After Saturday’s lecture, Kachi sat in his hotel room sipping a cold beer and going through facebook when he saw Tamuno’s update.
He had met Tamuno only once during his last trip to Abuja, the night before he was bound for Lagos. She had accompanied her friend to visit Babatunde, his colleague, and they all hung out at the hotel’s bar. He remembered her as the shy undergraduate who was not as flirtatious as her friend. She mostly fiddled with her blackberry and laughed good-naturedly at the lamest jokes. She had never taken alcohol, so Babatunde had ordered five-alive for her instead. She frequently put her hand through her hair and avoided Kachi’s eyes. A week later, he received a facebook friend request from her which he accepted. Twice, she called him. First, to know if he had had a safe flight to Lagos, and later to know how he was faring. Kachi remembered she was beautiful.
Now that he saw her update, he clicked on her name, and scanned through her pictures. She smiled sweetly in most of them. He hadn’t noticed her dimples and firmly-set jaw the night they met. She was more beautiful than he realized, and he had a crushing urge to see her again.
He reached for his phone to dial her number. She answered at the fourth ring.
She didn’t sound as upbeat as Kachi expected. “Hi Tamuno. This is Kachi. Do you remember me? We met some…”
“Sure, Kachi. I know. Did you think I was gonna delete your number?”
“Ohhh,” Kachi laughed awkwardly. Tamuno sounded brazen now, making him feel a little stupid. “Of course not, you would not delete me. You may have errr… lost your phone or flashed it and lost all your contacts.” Tamuno laughed and Kachi relaxed.
“Been a while… A long long while really,” Kachi said.
“Yeah, since you fashied my side nao”
“Haba! I didn’t. It’s work, you know…”
“Oh, please. Tell me another lie.”
Kachi laughed again, more heartily. He sensed Tamuno smiling at the other end. “Okay, how about if I told you I wanted to see you again. Would you think I was lying?”
Kachi laughed exaggeratedly. “Am I permitted to prove you wrong?”
“Good luck then.”
“Give me an address.”
“I’m in school, University of Abuja. It’s at Gwagwalada. And if you get lost, mine is not the number to call.” She hung up.
By this time, Kachi knew she was excited.
P.S: I hate to sound typical, but… to be continued 😀