Remi Ayorinde smiled at her reflection in the mirror. I look absolutely wonderful, for a sixty-year old. She turned her face from one side to the other. Satisfied with her inspection, she patted it gently. Of course, there are a few wrinkles here and there, but I’ve fared a lot better than most.
She allowed the towel wrapped around her chest to drop and still looking at the mirror, she slowly turned around, looking her body over. When she faced the mirror again, her hands went up to cup her breasts gently, then a slow smile lit up her face. They are a tad fuller than I’m used to, but I must admit, they are perky!
Her hands dropped and she gently ran her right hand over her belly. The fold she had always hated, on the lower portion, was gone. A tiny part of me misses that proof that those beautiful babies came out of me, all those years ago… A very tiny part, though.
She giggled and ran her hands on both sides of her waist, before twisting to look at her back. Bye-bye, love handles and Spanx!
Suddenly, she felt the need to dance for joy and the smile on her face grew wider. Who would have thought that the body I had as a girl would return? Omo was right… Dr. Abiodun does really good work.The door opened then and Tayo Ayorinde came into the bedroom. She turned and when their eyes met, he smiled. “Admiring yourself again, I see.”
Self-consciously, she picked up her towel from the floor and wrapped it round her body again. His smile grew wider. “Your body looks so amazing now, darling. You don’t have to hide it from me anymore.”
She shrugged and picked up a bottle of body lotion from her dressing table. “Good morning, Tayo. You didn’t come home last night.”
A guilty look flitted across his face. “I’m sorry about that.”
Passing the bottle from one hand to the other and without looking at him, she asked, “Are you really?”
“Save me the lies, please. I’ve had a lifetime of them, so I’m sick of them now.” She looked at the clock above the mirror, before turning to him. “It’s almost noon, Tayo. Our children are arriving today and not only did you not bother to spend the night here; you also didn’t bother coming home early enough. You also seem to have forgotten the small matter that is my birthday.” She shook her head sadly, before looking back to her reflection. “You seem to be forgetting what’s important. Who is she, this time? She’s obviously got a hold on you and is making you slip.”
He sighed deeply. “Are they here yet?”
She turned back to him and slowly, let her towel drop to the floor again. She squeezed some of the lotion into her palms and rubbed them together, all the while looking at him. In slow circles, she applied the lotion on her belly, before moving her hands to her breasts. His mouth opened slightly and his eyes widened appreciatively, then he moved closer to her.
Breaking eye contact, she turned back to the mirror and slowly applied some of the lotion on her shoulders. “We’re all having lunch together. You have barely enough time to wash the stench of sin off you, before they arrive.”
Tayo closed his eyes for a few seconds, before sighing deeply again. Turning away from his wife, he walked to the bathroom, shedding his clothes on the floor as he went.
“I’m fine, mummy.”
She shook her head gently. “No, darling, let’s try again. How are you?”
Tolu’s smile slipped a little and she shrugged. “I’m trying to cope. It’s not been easy, though.” She looked down at her almost flat tummy. “All I can think of, sometimes, is “Why?” I know I shouldn’t question God and all that, but it’s so hard not to ask that question, mummy.” She frowned and shook her head. “So hard!”
Remi draped a hand over her shoulder and pulled her closer. “I know, darling. I often find myself going down that route too. Then, I remember that our faith gave us Ayomide, in the first place, and I hope again.”
Both women were silent for a few minutes, lost in their own thoughts. Soon, Tolu shook her head and chuckled lightly, “Enough of the sadness. We have a party to plan.”
Following her cue, Remi laughed. “Plan ke? What have we been doing all these months? Abeg, it’s time to kick back our heels and have some fun. Biola assures me that she’s got all the vendors under control. Our own na to wear cloth, come party.”
Both women burst into laughter. “Where’s that husband of yours? He didn’t spend enough time with me, before going to find his father. I haven’t seen him in ages, you know.”
Still laughing, Tolu responded, “You saw him in church, on Sunday naa. Allow me enjoy you first o, before he takes all your attention away.”
“Seeing him on Sundays is not the same thing as sitting to chat with him, jare. In church, he has no time for anybody, but his congregation.” She rolled her eyes mock-sternly. “No special treatment for me, sef, as Mama Pastor.”
Tolu stopped laughing and sighed. “Tell me about it.”
Her mother-in-law cocked her head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “Are you guys okay?”
She was silent for a while, prompting Remi to ask, “You know you can confide in me, darling, right?”
“I know, mummy.” She looked at her mother-in-law earnestly. “I just need more attention from him, that’s all.” She frowned slightly. “Sometimes, between the time and attention he gives the business and the church, I feel like a decoration on his arms.”
Remi shook her head gently. “Come on, baby, don’t feel that way. Deji adores you. I see the way he looks at you, all the time, and it warms my heart to know that my son found true love in you. He is a passionate person, so he puts his all into everything he does." She sighed deeply and continued, "However, on occasion, that is a weakness.” She put both hands on Tolu’s shoulders. “Tell him how you feel, so that he’s not ignorant of your needs. Give him a chance to make you as happy as you’ve made him.”
Tolu nodded and was about speaking when the doorbell rang. Remi smiled and stood. “I bet more of my brood have arrived. Let the fun begin!”
They met Femi and Nike, just as the housekeeper was taking their overnight bags from them, at the large foyer, in front of a curved staircase. Moving closer, a smile on her face, Remi exclaimed, “Hello, my beautiful people!”
With a huge smile, he took quick strides on the black marble floor, crossing the distance between them. “Look at you, Mummy. You don’t look a day older than forty!” Holding her left hand in his right, he spun her around, then pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her. “Happy Birthday, my stunning mama.”
Laughing, Remi replied, “Thank you, son.” She brought her right hand up and gently ran it over the left side of his face. “You do know the way to a woman’s heart.”
Gently, he broke the hug and pulled his giggling wife closer, before winking. “I try.”
“I see that, darling. Both of you look so beautiful together.”
Her dimples flashing, Nike smiled shyly. “Thank you, mummy and Happy Birthday to you. Femi is absolutely right; you do look amazing.” She pulled away from her husband to hug his mother. While both women hugged each other, Femi pulled Tolu closer and hugged her. “Hello, beautiful,” he whispered.
She laughed and hugged him back, before allowing him lead her, by the hand, into the living room on the left, his wife and mother following closely.
A few minutes later, Deji came downstairs with his father and they joined the group in the living room. Instantly, there was a flurry of activity, as they all went round hugging each other and exchanging pleasantries.
“See as you don dey fat,” Deji teased his brother loudly, draping an arm over his shoulders. “Only six months of marital bliss and your belle don dey turn to puff-puff.”
Femi burst into laughter and pointed to his smiling wife. “Na her fault o! The babe wan scatter my body with her cooking.” He shrugged. “As she don swear say no other woman go find me attractive again, me sef don gree say, I no dey market again.”
Everyone burst into laughter at that, as they took their seats. “And about time too,” Remi said, smiling fondly. “You had me extremely worried, at that point in your life, when you just had to chase everything in skirts.”
Casting a quick look at his wife, Femi protested feebly, “Come on, mummy. That was such a long time ago.” He put an arm around Nike’s waist and continued, “This woman, right here, holds the key to my heart.”
Nike smiled shyly and leaned into him, while Remi looked into her son’s eyes and nodded, still smiling. “I’m glad.”
Feeling a hand on her right knee, she looked down to see her husband’s left hand, his wedding ring, prominently displayed. Slowly, she covered his hand with her right hand, but some of the light left her eyes, when she looked up at him.
Softly, he whispered, “Happy Birthday.” He looked like he wanted to say more, so she waited, head cocked to the side. He sighed lightly and squeezed her knee. “Happy Birthday,” he repeated. She nodded gently and looked away, only to find Deji watching them.
The doorbell rang a little later and Femi’s surprise, when Jumobi walked into the living room with Tunde, was evident. He removed his arm from Nike’s waist and stood to slap his best friend, lightly, on the back. “Hey, I didn’t know my mum invited you for lunch.”
Standing beside Tunde, his sister gave a one-sided smile. “She didn’t. We’re together.”
He removed his arm from Tunde’s back and frowned at him in confusion. “Together?”
Smiling a little, Tunde nodded and responded, “Uh-huh… together.”
His brow knitted some more. “Really?”
“Yes. Really,” Jumobi said, with a sassy grin and spread her arms wide. “Now, come give me a hug.”
With both arms around his sister, he stared at Tunde, who calmly walked off to exchange pleasantries with the rest of the party.
When he went back to his seat, Nike, who had been watching the entire exchange, nudged him with an elbow and whispered, “Chill, jor. They’re both adults and he’s a good man.”
He looked at her, shook his head lightly and whispered back, “I’m just shocked, that’s all. I didn’t know they were seeing each other.”
She shrugged. “Maybe, he didn’t tell you, because he anticipated your reaction.” Laying a hand on his arm, she continued softly, “You’re very protective of Jummy, but you don’t always need to be. She’s a strong and independent twenty seven-year old and I’m sure she’ll be the first to tell you that she can take care of herself.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but finding himself at a loss for words, he nodded instead.
Everyone was talking at the same time, so Jumobi leaned closer to her mother. “Mummy, I could eat a horse right now. What’s for lunch?”
Remi laughed, stood and tugged her daughter’s arm. “Let’s go find out. We have to wait for Dayo, though.”
She pouted. “He isn’t here yet?”
“You just got here, yourself,” her mother retorted, tugging more insistently. As they walked out of the noisy living room, she added in low tones, “You didn’t tell me you were bringing a guest over, for the weekend. What’s the story there?”
She laughed. “Guest? Mummy, Tunde’s like a member of this family and the story’s that we are just having fun.” She shrugged. “Let’s see how that goes.”
“Hmm… Fun.” Remi sighed deeply. “I’ll have one of the maids make up a guest room for him.” She turned to her daughter and wagged a finger. “I won’t have anyone sneaking around in my house, young lady. You know how I feel about that sort of thing.”
Laughing again, she responded, “We’re not having that kind of fun…” She winked. “…Yet.”
Her mother shook her head gently. “I hope you know what you’re doing. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
She halted abruptly and laid a hand on her mother’s arm. Frowning slightly, she asked quietly, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
Remi shook her head and reached for her daughter’s left hand. “No, darling, I’m not keeping anything from you. I just think that you’re in a hurry to prove something to the world and that may backfire.”
She squeezed her mother’s hand. “I’ll be fine, mum.” Holding hands, they continued walking, in silence.
Just when Remi was about turning the handle on the heavy kitchen door, Jumobi nudged her shoulder with hers, making her pause and turn. “You do look wonderful, mummy. I still can’t get over the subtle changes in your body.” She winked and whispered conspiratorially, “You are proof that a little nip and tuck never hurt anyone.”
Her eyes shining with suppressed humour, Remi whispered back, “You forgot to add ‘lift’ and em…” She tapped a finger on the left side of her head, before nodding. “Ehen, Lift and inflate.”
With a quick look at her mother’s chest, she replied. “Yes, those too.”
Just as they started laughing, Remi turned the handle and they walked into the kitchen.
Dayo walked into the dining room, just as members of his family were taking their seats around the long and shiny ornate table.
The first to notice him, Jumobi said, “Hey, look what the cat finally dragged in. You didn’t ring the bell.”
Grinning, he reached her first and trapped her neck in the crook of his right elbow, till she squealed. “Potty mouth, I came in through the back door.” He let her go then.
“Lunch was supposed to start almost an hour ago and we were all starving.”
Leaving her to get to his mother, he said, “By ‘we’, I’m sure you mean ‘you’. With your fascination with food, I’m not sure how you’ve managed to keep all that flab off.”
Casting a quick look at Jumobi, Remi found her sticking out her tongue at his brother’s back. “Be nice, Dayo,” she told her son.
She allowed her second son pull her up from her chair at one end of the table, and they hugged each other. “Happy Birthday, mum. I’m sorry I got here late. I was somewhat busy.”
His sister rolled her eyes, pulling out the chair on Remi’s right. “I bet you were.”
Remi chucked lightly. “That’s alright, darling. However, whenever you have an appointment with someone…”
“Always call and let them know, if you’re going to be late,” Dayo finished up for her, with a quick grin. He had heard that from her, too many times in the past. As his mother took her seat again, he looked around the table, then waved and smiled. “Hey guys.” He got smiles and several pleasantries in return.
Tunde was seated beside Jumobi and the only vacant seats were both on his father’s left. He sat next to Tunde, deliberately keeping a seat between him and Tayo.
“Good afternoon, sir.”
From the other end of the table and casually unfolding a napkin, to place across his laps, Tayo replied, “Good afternoon, Dayo. We hardly see you these days.”
He shrugged. “I’ve been busy.”
“Doing what exactly?” his father asked, his tone mocking. “It’s not like you go to work or anything like that.”
From his seat on Remi's left, Deji said, “Hey guys, it’s too early for this. Can we all eat in peace?”
Still looking at his father, Dayo laughed and slowly clapped his hands. “And my big brother came to the rescue.” He turned to Deji and stopped laughing. “Thanks, bro. I can fight my battles, though.” He turned back to his father, his eyes cold. “I would have thought that you, of all people, would understand how busy I get, considering the fact that you are quite... em… experienced in that field.”
“That’s enough, both of you,” Remi said, her tone sharp. “It is my birthday and I will not have anyone spoil my day. Is that clear?”
Both men stared at each other, till Dayo broke the eye contact, to look apologetically at his mother. “I’m sorry, mum.” Arms resting on the table, he formed a steeple with his hands and bowed his head. “I’ll be a good boy now.”
There was an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds, till everyone started talking at once, to cover it. Just as Tayo reached a hand to open the bowl closest to him, his wife’s voice stopped him. “Please, say a prayer for us, Deji.”
He looked up at Remi, found her watching him and his hands dropped. Looking at his first son, seated beside her, he smiled gently. “Go ahead, son.” He looked around the table. “Let us pray.”
As soon as all heads were bowed, Deji closed his eyes. “Thank You, Father, for a beautiful day and for the life of this beautiful woman you have blessed us with. Thank You for the gift of life graciously bestowed on each of us on this table. Thank You for the food before us. We are grateful for all You have done for us. We ask that You unite us in love, where love is lacking and strengthen the cords of love, where it may be waning.”
Two pairs of eyes opened immediately and found each other and the longer they stared, the frustrations the owners felt, at being apart, shone through. They weren’t listening anymore, as Deji prayed.
“In the Jesus Name, we have prayed.”
The eyes snapped shut immediately, as everyone chorused, “Amen!”
Along the entire length of the gold brocade runner, on the table, were different bowls, in which were different meals. As they helped themselves to whatever they wanted to eat, there was easy conversation and laughter around the table.
After swallowing a ball of pounded yam and egusi soup, Tayo smiled to his wife. “Darling, this is delicious. It’s great that you took Biola’s advice and hired the caterer.”
Pausing in the process of putting a piece of moin-moin in his mouth, Femi said, “Oh, I thought Mr. James made all the food. I didn’t know you got someone else for this.”
Remi nodded. “I’m so glad I hired Biola. I now see why she’s such a successful event planner. The girl pays such attention to even the tiniest details!” She took a sip of water. “Even though we had originally hired the caterer for the party, she suggested having the lady handle today’s lunch too. I’m really glad that I listened to her.” She smiled. “Having everyone, over here, put their feet up, while someone else did all the cooking was such a luxury.”
She put a forkful of boiled rice and efo riro into her mouth and chewed, eyes closed in bliss. When she swallowed, she opened them and looked down the table, at her husband, nodding. “I think you should try this too. It was cooked to perfection.”
When Nike declined a serving of ice cream for dessert, choosing a small glass of juice instead, Jumobi said, “You haven’t really eaten much, Nike.” Her brow knitted in concern. “I hope you’re alright.”
“You think say every woman sabi chop like you?” Dayo said, laughing.
“Ha ha,” Jumobi retorted, glaring at him.
She turned back to her sister-in-law, who smiled and responded, “I haven’t had much of an appetite lately.” Nike looked up at her husband, an eyebrow raised. When he smiled and nodded gently, she looked round the table with a shy smile. As soon as her eyes met Remi’s, she said softly, “We’re having a baby.”
The excitement on the table was palpable, as everyone congratulated the couple.
“This is the best birthday present ever,” Remi declared later, as they all went back to the living room, her right arm around Femi’s waist.
“You mean that wrapped gift I gave you earlier isn’t good enough?” he asked, with a wink, eliciting laughter from her.
“I’m so thrilled for you,” Tolu told Nike, as they sat beside each other, their knees touching. The look on her face grew wistful, as she hugged her knees with her hands. “A child is such a wonderful blessing.”
Nike placed her right hand on Tolu’s left and squeezed. “That is one blessing you’ll receive again, sis.”
“Amen.” She smiled. “Have you seen a doctor yet?”
Her dimples flashed. “I suspected for a few days that I am preggie, so I finally went to the hospital yesterday. I haven’t registered for antenatal clinics yet, though. The doctor says it’s too early to. He just gave me some drugs… supplements, I guess.”
“Oh, you just found out?”
She smiled some more and nodded. “We’re just six weeks old.”
“That’s awesome. You have to rest as soon as you feel tired. Your husband kuku knows how to, so allow him pamper you. Na big work your body dey do o.”
While Nike laughed, Tolu’s blackberry phone peeped and she picked it up from the space beside her. Seeing that it was a new message, she opened it.
“We have to talk.”
Apprehensive, she typed, “We have nothing to say to each other anymore.”
“We’re not done yet and you know it. I’ll leave you alone, for now. Later.”
Hands shaking, she deleted the chat. Luckily, Nike had been pulled off by their mother-in-law, so she didn’t have to explain why she was suddenly jittery.
Tunde took a drink from the glass in his hand. “Is your wife not someone’s sister? And if I remember correctly, you are friends with her brothers.”
“Cut out the crap, man,” Femi bit out. “What games are you playing, exactly?”
He laughed. “Games?” Sobering up instantly, he pointed his left index finger at his best friend. You cut the crap out, Femi. I don’t need your permission to date a beautiful woman, whom I find attractive, whether she’s your sister or not. I thought you understood that already.”
He shrugged and shook his head. “Jumobi is a grown woman, in case you haven’t noticed and she happens to like me a whole lot… Lucky me, right?”
A speechless Femi was left on the foyer, staring at him with narrowed eyes, as he turned on his heels and went up the stairs, his glass of bourbon in his right hand.
Jumobi retched again and with both hands, gripped the toilet bowl, as her stomach emptied its last contents. She was still for a few minutes, in a bid to get enough strength to stand upright.
When she finally did, she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror and passed a trembling hand across her sore belly, before stepping into the steamy shower stall.
In his room, Dayo paced the marble floor. This was certainly a stressful day.
He looked at his wardrobe and quickly looked away and continued pacing, slowly getting agitated. Soon, he took off his clothes and went to take a quick shower. It took all his willpower, not to race to the wardrobe, by the time he came out of the bathroom.
I’m in control, he assured himself, as he walked calmly there, pulling out his small suitcase.
When he rummaged through it and found what he was looking for, a smile lit up his face.
Immediately, he hummed the lyrics of Black Eyed Peas’ song, to himself, I gotta feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night.
Deji was pleasantly surprised when his wife cuddled up to him that night. Lying down in the dark, a smile lit up his face, when he realized that he was going to finally get lucky, after months of what he had considered drought.
She had been quite the aggressor, as they made love. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he had gone with the flow and allowed her ride out whatever storms that, evidently, raged within her.
When she was sure that her husband had slept, Tolu removed the arm she had draped around him and rolled over to pick up her phone from the top of the bedside drawer, on her side of the bed. She opened the last chat she had received a few minutes after taking a shower. Sure enough, the incriminating picture was still there. Underneath was the message, “Avoiding me is pointless, sweetheart. I told you we have unfinished business, didn’t I?
When Deji suddenly turned, her heart jumped into her mouth and she put her left hand over her mouth to stifle the cry that threatened to erupt. He was still fast asleep and had only turned to lie on his back.
What kind of a mess did I get into?
Quickly, she deleted the chat and replaced her phone on the drawer. Rolling over to Deji again, she reached down and pulled the duvet over their bodies. As soon as she put her head on his chest, the tears started falling.
TO BE CONTINUED
To read other parts, please go to:
Part One: TABOOS