The Conclusion – Have Something to Say

As the hour drew closer, the knots in her stomach seemed to expand by the minute.   It did not help that she was running a bit late.  As she stepped over the wood threshold, she quickly skimmed the sitting area of the cafe.  Just then Mezu sidled up to her.

“Oh my you are just getting here as well”.  Bisi was grateful for his relaxed attitude which eased her anxiety.

“Pardon me for being late.  I sent you a text.  There was an accident on the highway”.

Within a couple of minutes they were seated and their server had taken their drink orders.  “Since there is really no pretty way to go about this, I am going to jump in right away.”

Mezu recalled:

“I must admit I was already in somewhat of a funk but it got worse after our breakup.  I felt rejected and inadequate. I needed to clear my head so once I was done with a series of interviews, I travelled home to visit my parents for the holidays.  My fortune seemed to taken a new dimension or so I thought that day at the Christmas festival when I first spotted Akunna.”  Idara pulled a chair next to his cousin who appeared preoccupied.  He followed Mezu’s line of sight which rested on the young lady.  There was a young girl by her side. 

“Cuz some flower seems to have caught your attention”  Idara’s  gentle elbowing interrupted his concentration.

On occasion, Mezu had to remind himself that he was the older of the two because of Idara’s special way with words.  That sounded like something his grandmother would say.   He construed Idara’s reference to a “flower” as the young lady in the distance. 

“Hmmm.  she does look familiar, that chic in the floral skirt” Idara muttered, perching his Tom Ford aviators on his forehead .

“Yes that is the one”.  Idara heard Mezu whisper under his breath.  Leaning forward, eyes squinted, “Oh my, is that not Akuns!!!”  Idara exclaimed, drawing stares from the people nearby.

“You know her?” Mezu turned to his cousin, confused.  “I sure do.  The last time I ran into her was at the LNG office in Abuja.  She had just been transferred from their Bonny office in southeast Nigeria to their head office in the capital city” Idara and Akunna Ejike were course mates in graduate school.” 

 “Perfect, that makes it even all the more easier” Mezu with sudden exhilaration, rising from his seat, straightened his pants.  “Middleman Idara, off we go to meet her”

Idara made the introductions but had to leave when he spotted a friend in the distance.  Mezu and Akunna had only chatted for a few minutes when he was informed of the chairman’s arrival.  With less than 15 minutes, he needed to get his father’s message to the chairman before the ceremonies began.  They exchanged numbers.

Due to a last minute schedule conflict, Mezu had to represent his father, the guest of honor.  Although, Mezu did not get another chance to speak with Akunna, the next day he called her and they hung out a couple of times before she returned to Abuja.  Mezu kept in touch after he got back from the holidays and six months later he travelled back to Nigeria.  He had informed his parents of his intention towards Akunna.  Although the parents knew each other, the families were formally introduced at the “ikwu aka” the first stage of the  Igbo wedding ceremony which culminated in the “Igba Nkwu” ceremony which was set for Christmas.

 

“Hi cuz.  I hear wedding bells in the near future.  Congrats”

“Idara, I apologize for not giving you a call sooner”  Mezu had not spoken to his cousin since the Christmas holidays. 

“Wow things must be going very well between the two of you, with a wedding already scheduled for the end of the year” 

“Overall it has worked out much better than I had anticipated, even though on some days I can’t help but wonder if things are moving a bit too fast”

“How do you mean?” 

“My ideal situation would be for Akunna to come over for a visit” Mezu reasoned it would give her a glimpse of his daily routine” 

There was silence. 

“Mezu, you know you are “onye nkem”, you are my own person”.  Mezu could not hold back but smile since that was a term of endearment used by their mutual grandmother to express how special one was and sometimes to butter them up to do her bidding.

Idara continued.  “I only wish you the best and so I will be frank with you.  Do you think it may help allay your fears if she visited before the traditional wedding and then you take it from there?”

Mezu had considered it but with both families involved and the chances of her getting time off on such short notice almost close to zilch, he decided it was best to hold off until after the wedding in December.  She could take full advantage of her four week vacation at the beginning of the year. 

“Oh by the way…

Uhh ohh..  Idara interuppted him mid sentence. 

“No it is not what you think, Akunna is not pregnant.  I got the job as a Director of Operations at Knowledge Management consultancy. 

“Congrats!!”  Idara whooped. 

“Yes it is exciting but it comes with big demands on my time and even one already familiar with how hectic things can get in this society, it will take some getting used to.  I hope Akunna is patient and eventually adjusts to the new way of life.”  Idara chatted with Mezu for a little longer before he had to take another call.

The wedding held and Akunna arrived a few weeks after he got back.  It was great feeling and he looked forward to having someone to come back home to at the end of a long day at work.  Her timing was perfect because things had slowed down at work.  It worked out because this was in between the end of quarters.  On weekends they visited friends and family or relaxed at home. 

Akunna returned to Abuja and during one of their phone conversations mentioned her concerns about leaving a lucrative career as a Lead Engineering Project Manager. 

“Zuzu I may not have it in me to start all over again.  I am glad you got this new job.  But let us face the facts.  Best case scenario it takes about 24-36months for you to file for your spouse.  However, before any of this can happen your green card has to be approved first before we can begin to think of applying for a work permit on my behalf?”

Akunna had made some good points but he hoped with time she would come around Mezu tried to addresses her concerns.  A month later she called it off because she could not see herself waiting in limbo.  Disappointed but somewhat relieved he did not force the issue.

As Mezu brought her up to speed on what had happened since their breakup, it was not lost on her the sense of urgency in his delivery.

“Wow! a lot has happened with you in the last 21 months.”

 

Taking a sip of her drink, she continued.  “It would be dishonest of me to fail to acknowledge my part in all of this.  I take full responsibility for not being upfront with you.  To think I could unilaterally decide to switch to friends “without benefits” status without having a full and open conversation with you was selfish and wrong on my part.  It is a prayer point to God to give me the wisdom and strength of character to speak and do in love what is right in His eyes in all my ways”

 

Bisi was scared that their relationship which was already on shaky ground would not survive any more blows.  At the time, it made good sense to hold off on telling him the truth: that she had made her decision to abstain from sexual intimacy until marriage.  She admitted she was not quite there and still had a lot of work to do in terms of improving her communication skills.

 

“For a while there I questioned everything and when you did that sudden 180 degree turn, I felt rejected on a personal and intimate level.  Bisi, thank you for sharing that with me”.

 

Mezu’s eyes softened.  Bisi could sense this was a catharsis not only for him but also for her.  He slowly brought down his head which was tilted backwards until his eyes met hers.  The intensity felt awkward and so she focused on her fingers gently tracing the rim of her glass.

“I would like us to start over”

Bisi’s furrowed brows were a quick giveaway.

“Trust me, it has been almost eight months and I have had a lot of time to think things over.”  Mezu realizing it was going to take a little more convincing, attempted one last plea.

“Please give it some thought.  I do not expect an answer right away.”   Mezu was relieved as the tension in her furrowed brows gradually eased up.

“I need time to get back to you”

‘Take all you need.  I will be waiting.”

Later on that evening Bisi’s mum called to see how her meeting with Mezu went.

“My dear ignorance is not innocence.  The other day I read an article about some city that has a law against men wearing short-sleeved shirts in public places.  The fact that it may not be enforced does not mean it does not exist.”

For a brief moment, it felt like she was having one of their many face to face chats.  Bisi could almost make out the contours of her mother’s gentle yet firm expression as her voice came over her ear piece.  “So let me get this straight, what is he essentially saying or not quiet saying about his marriage?”

Her mum explained that even from a legalistic aspect, in their experience, herself and Bisi’s father as lay marriage counselors to Nigerian couples, they were aware that customary, also known as traditional marriage is a well recognized form of marriage under Nigeria law.

“Some communities even take it a step further such that where the customary rights are not fulfilled, such a woman is regarded as a lover or concubine.  “Bisi love, I do not mean to bore you with all these details but my question to you is what has changed?”

“Mum, If you ask Mezu, he says based on all that has happened, he has a greater appreciation for me as a person and what we had going.  On the other hand, I am in a different place in terms of my spiritual walk. My personal relationship with God is my oxygen; my number one priority and I need to be honest with myself and him”

“So what are you driving at?”

“Asking us to get back together was the farthest thing from mind.  The whole point of meeting with him was because I thought he needed some sort of closure. I am glad we had an opportunity to talk.  I was quick to point out that even if I were to accept his proposal, there was the issue of his marriage to Akunna”

As if he had anticipated Bisi’s question, he clarified that it was only a customary wedding and that would not bar them from getting married in church.

Bisi rose from the couch.   “I agree that he has been married or is married, albeit not in church or by a justice of the peace, but nonetheless the fact is that it was done by native law and custom.  I believe that you do not need to be blessed by a priest or pastor for it to be a recognized form of marriage.  Back before the missionaries introduced Christianity our ancestors still got married.  Even in the Bible, I am yet to find anywhere where it says Christians have to be married in the “church” for it be recognized as a covenant made between the couple and God.”  Bisi pointed out as she made her way to her bedroom.

In one swift motion she pulled her Bible from under her pillow and flipped to the last book of the Old testament as she read it out and her mum listened:

“Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion, and your wife by covenant.. For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord.”

(Mal 2:14-16).

Right then she had her epiphany.  Bisi had her answer.

“Mom, I need to make a call.”

This is the conclusion to the story Have Something to Say.

Potent – Flash Fiction

Her ears perked up with the alacrity of a response to a drill sergeant’s orders.  Home alone with a horror movie marathon session as her company of choice for the evening, she could never be too cautious.

The screams were more than a few decibels louder than the audio streaming from the TV.  The frenzied pitch was unnerving.  As she pressed on the volume down arrow of the remote, the screams seemed even more intense.

Barreling down the hallway towards the screams, she thought to herself even at Usain Bolt’s pace she could not get to her “baby” fast enough.  Its intensity escalating by the nanosecond.

Jason! Jason! Jason!.. All she received in response were more screams in the direction of his room.  She froze in her tracks…shreds of fabric, picture frames knocked over, feathers, and wallpaper strewn all over the floor.

He bolted towards her. Almost knocking her over, she managed to tip her weight,  shifting her right foot forward.  Latching onto her waist, the sobs and shivers could not be controlled.

His room looked like a tornado casualty but with the walls still standing.  With the ripped pieces of Jason’s best speller award around them, hands still resting on his shoulders she stooped to his eye-level, “Jason what happened here?”

Nedu followed his fingers as he pointed towards the wood floors.

Just then she noticed a dark tray with what looked like cracked egg shells.

Right on cue, one, two, three, six, after ten, she lost count; egg yolk yellow chicks, with streaks of green and blue feathers around their protruding bellies, each about the size of her fist, come traipsing out from under his bed.  Small but mighty.

 

This original entry in response to a flash fiction writing prompt has been modified.

Have Something to Say II

Bisi’s photography workshop was at 11.15am.

Eva from church had told her about it.    She was first acquainted with Eva’s work at Light of the World church’s media ministry.  Their friendship began when they were paired off as prayer partners for the women’s ministry prayer challenge.  At their first meeting, Bisi gushed with praise about the brilliant job Eva had done with the mother’s day collage video.  Eva in her modest way was quick to state her gratitude to God.  “My prayer is that I use that talent to serve others and honor my Heavenly Father”.

They had both worked up a big appetite by the time their two hour tour was over.  They settled for a lunch spot known for their mouth-watering cast iron pan house cornbread. It was one of Mezu’s favorite weekend lunch spots.

“Great class.   For the breadth of material covered, I can’t believe we got it at that price.”  The two part workshop comprised indoor lectures and a photo tour. It covered material on photo editing software, tagging and taking pictures in RAW format for post photo processing.

“For a windy day, the sun held up really well.  The time went by so quickly, I did not realize it with all the walking”.  Bisi took in the elegant 1950’s glamour themed ambiance of the bank-turned-restaurant.  The dimmed lighting added to the relaxed and cozy feel.  The music selection alternated between classics by Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and do-wop tunes.  A charming compliment.

Bisi ordered the house Cobb salad.  Helping herself to one half of her half portion of their cornbread order, the meshing of flavors from the piping hot cornbread slathered with their signature whipped honey butter, more than made up for her throbbing feet.  Bisi was in her happy place.

She had ignored the earlier buzzing of her phone as they walked into the restaurant.  Feeling around her bag, she looked up from her meal “Eva, thanks again for letting me in on the class.  It has reignited my interest in photography.  What I enjoyed the most was that outdoor tour.  The fact that we were moving made the cold bearable.”

Three missed calls, one from her mother, another from her sister and the third number was Unknown.   Bisi listened to her messages and made a note to text her sister the information on the travel agent.  With the time difference back to five hours, she had an extra hour to call her mother in Nigeria.

As Eva settled back into their booth after excusing herself to the ladies room, Bisi looked up at her while tucking her phone into the front pocket of her crossbody.  “if I want to catch the next train, I need to get going”.

“I can give you a ride.  Eva needed some raw honey and organic cinnamon from the organic store in Bisi’s neighborhood.  She had to make a new batch of homemade cough drops.

Half hour later she was standing in her foyer.  She felt a vibration.

It was an Unknown Number. In one swift motion she swiped the green icon on her phone display.

“Hello….   Hello…”.  No response.  Just as she was about to hang up.

“Hi Bisi, its Mezu”

Bisi glanced at her phone screen again as if to confirm this was not all her imagination.

“I am sure, I am the last person you were expecting to hear from.”

**********************************************************************************************************************************************21 months earlier.

After Bisi got off the phone, for the next hour, she replayed different events leading up to the last hour.  All that kept running through her mind was their last somewhat heated discussion.  That was three weeks ago.  They happened to catch the last half of a TV talk show.  The question asked was if there are circumstances that justify keeping secrets from one’s spouse even if it happened before they met.

“I agree with the gentleman that certain things are best kept secret.  Why rock the boat by disclosing less than favorable information about something that happened before they met.”  Mezu quipped.

“I think it also depends on the nature of the issue, regardless of it is in the past, present or future.  Are we talking you had your first kiss in kindergarten or more like I have a certain medical condition, children born and unborn from prior relationships or even I made certain financial decisions that could have an impact on our future as a married couple.  I would think those are big issues that could have a huge impact on any relationship”

“I beg to differ. What good does it do? However, should he or she choose to share, then be strategic about when and how, would be my advice”

Mezu’s rationale was that a spouse may be less likely to walk out on a relationship in which many years have been invested especially with a few children to boot compared to the early years of the marriage.  For Bisi, the bigger issue was building trust, and as she put it “feeling safe” with the one person she would feel most vulnerable around.

“Mezu, it is a fact of life, as humans, if we live long enough, we will have regrets and do somethings we are not proud of.  No one is perfect.  However, in my opinion, trust is essential to any healthy relationship.  So even where we have made poor choices, part of taking full ownership is where one is truly remorseful and willing to face the consequences, whatever that maybe.”

Bisi acknowledged that the act of coming clean was no guarantee of receiving forgiveness, immediately or even in the future.  For her, making the confession was a pronouncement to one’s partner that I am changed and would like to be held accountable and willing to accept the consequences.

After a while their discussion took on a lighter tone but it was not lost on her that Mezu appeared a bit withdrawn.  She had to admit that Mezu’s views bothered her even long after their discussion.  Later that night, sleep seemed to evade her as the events of the day flooded her mind.  Under the comfortable covers, lying on her side hugging her pillow, eyes closed, she remembered the verse the pastor on the radio station program recited on her drive home earlier on that evening.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8.

You could hear a pin drop in her bedroom.  Her voice seemed louder than normal as she said the verse out.  She was already drifting off when she managed to rush through a short prayer asking God for wisdom and clarity of mind to continue to seek His face and obey even in situations where it ran contrary to the world’s standards.

Mezu called the next day, sounding like his normal self and whatever doubts Bisi may have had were put to rest when a few days later he suggested they catch a movie and dinner the following Sunday.

Things seemed to be moving along in their relationship.  However, the last thing on her mind when he called to cancel their date was his proposal.  It came to her as a surprise.  At first, she could not make out everything he was saying because his voice kept on breaking up due to the poor phone connection.  But in no time, Bisi heard him loud and clear.

Mezu proposed they take a break from each other to think about what they each want in a long term relationship because he had been doing some serious thinking about them and he had his reservations. The fact that she no longer spent the weekends at his place suggested to him they were drifting apart.

Bisi was shocked because when they had the discussion he seemed to be ok with it.  For a while their level of physical intimacy had been weighing heavily on her conscience.  Still a bit uncertain about how Mezu would receive her decision to completely abstain from having sex outside of marriage, she started spending fewer nights at his place.  When he asked why the sudden change, she explained she had to pick up the breakfast items an hour and a half before service for LOWs hospitality ministry.  It was more convenient to leave from her place since both the pastry shop and LOW were closer to her.  Whether or not he bought her half-truth, the issue did not come up again so she assumed he was ok with it.  Her prayer was that she would have enough courage to come completely clean with him and have “the abstinence talk” soon enough.

As she thought back to the breakup phone call which started off with his long speech or what sounded like ramblings, she recalled that he even had the audacity to slip in the option of coming over if she still wanted to hang out with him.  Even after so many months, Bisi could feel the heat rise in her face.  How patronizing of him.  He knew her too well. She would never agree to that.

As much as it hurt, to a certain degree, she felt like a heavy load had been lifted. The uncomfortable, rapid heart-beat sensation was becoming tiresome and lately, it was happening more frequently than she cared to admit.

Mezu called a few times after their “break-up”.  The first time was a week later; and the second, a week after.  Bisi was gradually getting used to the idea of being single, so when he called the third and last time she did not mince words.

“Mezu I appreciate your checking in on me.  However, I need to go cold turkey.  I need to get to the point where I am fine with not hearing from you”

“I get it. As you say, you don’t know how to handle the gray areas.  But what is the harm in friends chatting every once in a while?”

Friends indeed, she thought to herself.

“Mezu, I agree there is no harm.  But listen to what I am saying. I am not mentally and emotionally prepared for that right now”

Mezu must have finally caught on because the text messages and phone calls stopped when he received no response to the two text messages he sent after their last phone discussion.  It had been over a year since his last text message and his call today, from the Unknown number.

************************************************************************************************************************************************

Mezu’s coughing jarred Bisi back to the present.  She realized she had not said a word in what seemed like eternity.

“Mezu Hi”, It sounded awkward, since she seemed to be repeating herself.

“Hey, I am doing fine and you? It’s been a while.” Pause.

“You must be wondering why the call out of the blue right?  For Bisi that was a rhetorical question.  Pause.

“I do not want to take up any more of your time.  So let me get straight to the point.  I need to talk to you in person…please”

“About what”

“where do I begin?  How things ended between us, what has happened to me in the time in between”

“Mezu, what difference does it make?”

“It may not mean a lot to you.  But it would mean a great…”Bisi interrupted him before he could finish

“Mezu, hold up.  What is different now than then?  You are not dying from some terminal illness now or are you?”

Mezu chuckled but her silence was his cue that she did not share his humor so he quickly reverted to his serious tone.

“I really need… I would really appreciate it if you would grant me this one last request.  You don’t have to talk to me after that.  Scratch, lose even delete my number if you want”  Mezu pleaded.

“Yeah right!!  How is that going to work?  If I did not know any better, I would think were working for Scotland Yard since you seem to have a penchant for calling from Unknown Numbers.”

The silence between them made him uncomfortable.

“Bisi, are you still there?”

“Yes I am.  I can meet you at Zuby’s Café on Monday.  She immediately caught herself.  She was not prepared for the internal chatter, the suspense, the guessing games, the over analyzing.  It was best to nip it in the bud right away.

“You know what? let’s make that tomorrow at 4pm.”  Bisi quickly added.

“You know what? let’s make that tomorrow at 4pm.

Begin Where?

Friday Fictioneers: Begin Where?

 begin-the-route

Where do I begin?

It is all here.  The big, the small and even the tall; the old and even the brand new.  It may be intimidating for some and exciting for others.  Exciting for me, because I thrive on chaos, albeit organized but I am sure the obsessive compulsive may disagree.

Wrapped in his story or and her, there is a richness and there is grimness.

Whatever the case you will agree, it’s a medley and that mix is what piques my interest.

For starters, Historic Route 66, does it really begin here?

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers  Friday Fictioneers provides an opportunity to write flash fiction once a week.  This week’s photo prompt is from Jean Hays and copyrighted to her.  Other stories are linked by clicking on the this hyperlink.

 

Have Something to Say Part 1

Maybe it was just his carefree manner or the intensity of his gaze, but as he approached her with the drinks, Bisi could feel a slight release as the tension in her shoulders eased up a bit.   Maybe he was not a nut case after all.

A few minutes later, drinks in hand, they spotted a table in a quiet corner of the gallery.  “Did you find anything exciting or let me rephrase that, more like a piece you see yourself enjoying?”  Sidney, Mezu’s colleague at work, a self-acclaimed consummate art collector was quick to point out that an interesting piece must offer a certain level of satisfaction as well as fit in with the person’s space.  Mezu observed how she slowly set her cup down on the bench table, her way of buying time to contemplate her response.

“Let us just say even if I did, it is not part of this month’s budget, so it will have to wait.  In terms of scale, orientation and symmetry I must say, I saw a couple worth further consideration.   At a friend’s birthday brunch, I met an African American, a lawyer by training who is an art collector consultant.  She began collecting art out of law school, very knowledgeable”

Bisi was quite impressed, by her depth of knowledge and the fact that she has even placed the works of a number of famous Nigerian artists, the likes of Shonibare, Enwonwu, Ehikhamenor, Onobrakpaye,  Amadi-Obi, Chukwuogo-Roy and some others, she learned about for the first time.

Anyway, I digress.  I am learning quickly that the key to finding affordable art is to gain more exposure.  Beyond the art galleries and museums are art fairs and even exhibitions at the embassies showcasing international talent.  It’s truly the more you see, the more you learn and the more likely you can identify what you like.”

For the next hour, they talked about a variety of subjects.   Mezu noticed for the second time, Bisi taking a quick peek at her watch.  Picking up her napkin she placed it under her empty cup.   “I have to get going.”  Continue reading Have Something to Say Part 1

Have Something to Say

Mezu came back for the Christmas holidays a few days earlier.  Idara his younger cousin was also in town to visit their grandparents and today they were on their way to the Annual Village Fundraiser.  It was a nice day with the sunlight cutting through the smog.  Brown dust from the dry red soil trailed behind the cars and motorcyclists as they sped down the narrow and partially eroded untarred roads.

Mobs of pedestrians carefully maneuvered their way down to the festivities, walking down the man-made sidewalks created from the patch of road bordering the gutters and bushes not taken over by the cars and cyclists.  The music blaring from the village square added to the excitement in the air.  Notwithstanding bumper to bumper traffic, they were at the square in less than twenty minutes.  The part of the square with the football field where the dance performance was to take place looked very different today.

Mezu for a quick moment felt the flutters in his stomach as he made his way to the seating area where he could get a better view of the activities. The canopies were laid out in an almost perfect square forming a rectangular shaped like courtyard in the middle where the performances would take place.  Under the yellow tarp canopies were multiple rows of plastic white chairs.  As he reached for one of the chairs, he noticed a young lady to his left leaning against the metal pole supporting the canopy perpendicular to the one next to the one where he was about to pull up a chair.  From all appearances, the speaker had her attention.  She leaned in resting her weight on her right leg.  It seemed so natural, so effortless.  Even as the tassels of her white swiss dot lace shirt with capped sleeves darted aimlessly in her face, her gaze remained focused on the speaker.

Mezu observed the little girl tugging at her black and floral “Nigerian print” patterned long skirt, and not missing a beat, she gently placed her palm on the girl’s shoulder.  The little girl stopped the tugging and leaned in against the young lady’s hips.

Such graceful movements took him back to the meeting at the gallery.  The first encounter was almost a year and a half ago. Continue reading Have Something to Say

Plans are only good intentions

With the soft warm rays streaming in through the light peach linen curtains and the sweet aroma of Mum’s special lemon-coconut muffins wafting into my room, this had all the markings of a perfect day.  A half hour later,  I had just polished off the last of my muffin and off to school it was.

1st and 2nd period went by and then 3rd period came around and all it took was Ms. Rio walking in.   Continue reading Plans are only good intentions