Sola remained quiet even though it was her turn to speak. As each second ticked away, I adjusted my expectations from support to understanding.
“It’s not done. Bimpe, it’s simply not done. Blood is thicker than water . . .”
“But we are not related by blood—”
“Who said anything about his blood? I’m talking about Motunrayo, your younger sister!”
She hissed the way our mothers used to. The way we said we would never do.
“Have you?” Her voice was soft. Her eyes were hard.
“No o! What kind of person do you think I am?”
“I don’t know. Love makes people do stupid things.” She spat the word love as though it was bitter kola.
“Well, I haven’t!”
“Keep your legs closed and run as fast as you can.”
I tried to make her see that love could be sweet like chilled ripe mango slices. For two hours her eyes remained hard, the way my father’s and mother’s had been two days ago.
Finally, Sola shook her head and said, “Bimpe, love is not enough. Are you forgetting where we come from?”
I returned to my flat at 10 p.m., took two tablets of Paracetamol, and whispered for sleep to come. My phone rang.
“So, what happened?”
“Segun, it didn’t go very well.” I fluffed my pillows, sat up, and took a deep breath. “She said I was there to look after my sister not look after her husband. That it might even look like we conspired to kill her—”
“God forbid! I’m sorry . . .”
“We can’t let other people dictate our lives. What we have is real.”
“You don’t mean that—”
“I don’t know again. I still think it’s too soon. She just died six months ago!”
“How long do we have to wait? One year, two years, ten years? What if they never come round? I survived cancer. I narrowly missed that plane crash. I survived the accident. I feel like I’ve cheated death ten times. Bimpe, life is short.”
“Hmmm . . .”
“Say something . . . please.”
“Some days I feel good. Some days I don’t. If Motunrayo is looking down on us, would she approve?”
“We’ve been through this a million times! She wanted me to remarry—”
“But did she want you to marry me?”
“Life is for the living. She wanted me to be happy. I’m happy. Aren’t you?”
“But everybody can’t be wrong!”
“Who is everybody? We don’t have to stay here. I told you I have an offer . . . we can move to—”
“Didn’t you hear my mother? She said it doesn’t matter where we go, bad luck will follow us and blow us like wind; we will never have roots!”
“Please stop crying.”
“I can’t. My father threatened to disown me! You don’t know what it’s like. Your parents are dead and your uncles worship the ground you walk on.”
“Let’s wait. I have so much to lose . . .”
“That’s not true.”
“Really? Listen to how it sounds, ‘He married his late wife’s sister’. Okay, what of, ‘She married her late sister’s husband’?”
Segun sighed, “Okay. How long?”
We waited another six months during which time, my father spoke to me twice, scowling as he did. Segun took the job abroad and relocated. I convinced him that we should cut off all communication to test the strength of our love. He did not like my gamble, but I needed to know if grief had masqueraded as love.
I waited for my feelings to go away. They left and returned with gale force. His absence made me weaker, made my love stronger, and my resolve tougher, so that when we finally reunited, l threw myself at him and he kissed me in the hotel lobby, not caring if any of the people shuffling through life might recognise us. I felt their eyes when I kissed him back. We broke away as we became conscious of their whistles.
He took my palm, “Feel my heart, it’s racing for you.”
I took his hand, “Feel mine too.”
We did not consult anyone after that. For the next three months, we made plans for me to join him like children whispering, “sssh, sssh,” in the dark. The day before I was to travel, I called my mother because she had said, “I don’t approve. If you marry Segun, your father will live as if he has no child left. As for me, I have lost one child. I cannot lose the other. I will always be your mother.”
I thought she would weep, but her voice trembled as she said, “Se je je oko mi.”
That evening, I ordered room service and pushed the omelette around the plate, then cut it to pieces. Nervous, I stood by the eleventh-floor window and watched ants clear the pool area for the live band. The first strains of the piano reminded me that my feet were cramping. I sat on the bed, leaned back on the headrest, pulled my knees to my chin, and wondered if black was an appropriate colour for darkness.
The twenty-four-hour wait seemed longer than the last two months of Motunrayo’s life. One day, when I visited her, I placed my mouth close to her ear as she dragged out the words, “After I’m gone, make sure he marries again. But not someone prettier than me.” I am prettier than my sister is and she grew up in the shadow of my beauty. Did she see Segun’s love for me and mine for him spark, although we did not, during the long days we spent waiting for hope and battling sadness?
One night I walked in on him keeping vigil by her side. I noticed how handsome he was and thought how lucky she was to have him. Because I have been unlucky in love, I wondered how it would feel to be loved by a man like him. Was that when I jumped off the diving board into the heart-shaped pool? I fell for Segun while Motunrayo was dying not after her death.
Crying, I called my mother again.
“Mummy, it’s me. Please soften the ground for me. Tell Daddy I have come to my senses. Tell him I am coming home.”
She said, “Ose oko mi!”
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
Se je je oko mi – be careful my child
Ose oko mi – thank you my child
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City by Jenifer Cabrera@CreationSwap: http://www.creationswap.com/media/12111