Gregg rarely spoke with his brothers.
His mother always called and was eager to visit. She wanted to know that he was doing well in the hustle of the city. She had changed, Gregg always said to himself after a phone conversation with her. The mother of his childhood would have been sure that the son she raised would be fine. Did she not teach her children to do all it takes to get ahead of others? On State election days did she not leave home early in the morning and return with large bags full of ballot papers and ballot boxes? Did she not have her children use palm kernels to create false thumb prints beside the image of their preferred candidate? As they stamped the prints she would explain to them that the candidate was paying good money for the service.
She taught them to fight for food at parties, and when they did not get food they had to pour sand in everyone else’s. Nobody eats if they don’t. She warned them never to back out of a fight except to get a stronger weapon or reinforcement. Fight back! Take what you want regardless of who gets hurts. Her children did her proud back in the days. At school, even the principal feared Gregg’s brothers.
His mother had willingly given up her wings when she entered her sixties. Even before his father passed, she had started to attend Church and became a staple at weekly Bible study meetings. She started to pray and invite clergymen to the house for family prayer sessions during which she would send for all her children to come home. She gave up jewelry after their father’s death and only wore modest clothing and a scarf. She spoke less, took sides with her sons’ wives and bought Bibles for her grandchildren.
Two of his three brothers had children from more than one woman although they were only married to one. Alfred, the brother whose children were from one woman was separated from his wife. She fled to her father’s house when her husband’s beating became intolerable. Her father, a wealthy man who traded in imported electronic appliances, had Alfred locked up.
His mother was furious and arranged for thugs to burn down one of the in-law’s warehouses. Even though the guard on duty swore that the thugs beat him ruthlessly and told him that the fire was the cost of the detention of their mistress’ son, there was no hard evidence, only a clear message that Alfred’s family was dangerous. The in-law dropped charges against Alfred and arranged for his daughter to relocate to the States with the children. The other wives of his brothers were subdued women, beat often.
Keysa was still telling him about her work day. She had been on the story since they got into the car, and halfway through the drive to the supermarket, Gregg had lost the direction of the story. Now she was scrolling through a grocery list on her mobile phone as they both strolled through the aisles in the supermarket. Gregg was pushing the cart and pretending to understand her narration.
“And I told Mr. Olawale not to copy me on emails simply because I am the Chairman’s daughter. You know he had said that to Oluchi? But he denied it to my face. It was while we were having that conversation that the Admin Director walked in and made that comment.” She was saying.
What comment? Gregg thought.
“Ghen ghen” was all he could afford, apparently the said comment was a decisive moment given her tone.
“I am telling you! We all froze! Talk about awkward!”
“It’s a really deep one!” Gregg added a light laugh.
“Sincerely! Really deep!”, Keysa stopped to examine a pack of cereal. She usually checked the ingredients and nutritional facts because according to her, she did not want to get fat from eating junk.
In his head, Gregg was imagining what life would be like if they were a couple. This had been his dominant thought since they left the office. They had such a flow. It was so easy to love her. He had never been close friends with a woman but here he was, relaxed with this one. What more could he ask for from a wife? She understood him. She was strong and bold and drove her own life, like his mother. His mother was never subservient to his father like his brothers’ wives were to their husbands, timid and controlled. He despised them greatly and would rather remain unmarried than have such women.
Keysa dropped the box of cereal in the cart and continued her story. She knew Gregg was not with her but continued anyway. It might be insensitive of her to ask where his mind was. He must be going through a struggle he was too embarrassed to tell her about. She had to assure him that it was okay to share anything with her. She was there to help.
“You friends with Frank?” Keysa asked.
“Frank? Frank who?”
“Frank from upstairs…. ermmm”
“Not friends per se, but we get along somewhat. He is not my type. You know what I mean?”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s all sissy and stuff”
“Oh I see”
“Why did you ask if we were friends?”
“Just wondering? You know all my friends”
And now he gets really engaged in this conversation, for the first time all evening. Keysa thought.
“I had no idea.” She replied.
“Frank is as random as it gets. I am curious why you’d ask that, any news with him?”
“Seems I should be asking you that”
“How do you mean?”
“By the way, daddy is throwing me a birthday bash in two weeks. I forgot to mention. Well of course you know my birthday is in two weeks right?” she changed the subject.
“Nope! I thought you were born in the month after December but before January”
She hit him with a pack of spaghetti then flung it into the cart.
“He calls it a birthday bash and my welcome-home party. I am unusually excited about it. I normally would not be and even protest, but I am happy to have this one. Problem is, I don’t have a date! I need a date in two weeks! That is so sad!”
Her usual stab to his heart!
‘Lamide’s obsession with ‘Greggy’ was waning. She tried hard not to concede defeat but with every sight of Keysa and her man entering and exiting Cyragon’s posh reception, the battle for love was slipping through her fingers.
Her last ploy hadn’t worked out as well as she’d hoped either. Or was she just being too hasty? It would take some time for the seeds to sprout. Surely they’d been planted. They had to.
The signs, if any, were extremely blurred. Keysa and Gregg were as close as ever, the obvious displays of affection albeit now subdued. Frank was still, well, Frank; the guy with very few friends. But Keysa had warmed up to Frank since she read ‘his’ letter. The subdued display of affection…Keysa warming up to Frank. They had to be connected. They had to mean something. But what?
“I can’t go on like this! Not anymore”, ‘Lamide tapped nervously on the polished front desk. She was losing her edge. Being in the dark was a strange experience. She felt weak.
Maybe it was time to raise the stakes?
Meanwhile, I planned to assign Gregg a book reading during his next session.
It was time he learnt about love.
…the story continues
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