‘There’s something about me you need to know’ Ajuma said, just as Debo rested his head onto the pillow. He groaned into it with a loud “hmmmph” and turned away from her. Ajuma, it turned out, has plenty of things that need disclosing.
‘Again?’ he lamented in the dark, his arms folded across his chest. She hesitated. Debo unfolded his arms and sat upright. She switched on the light and turned to face him.
‘I have an archnemesis’ she said at last. Before he guffawed Debo searched for all the signs of seriousness he’d come to expect from her. There was the down-turned lip… Check… The furrowed eyebrows… Check… She had grabbed unto the edge of the duvet as though hanging on for dear life…check. It would be an abomination to laugh.
You had to take everything Ajuma said with a bushel of salt. She wasn’t a liar, per se; facts just seemed to hold less importance to her as they did to other people. As a joke, though not really, he called her Muddle. She was ordinary in that respect, incapable of the kind of reasoning that he was used to, yet extraordinary all the same.
‘It’s my step sister. After my dad married her mum we lived together for about five years from age fifteen…’
Here are just some of the things Ajuma had revealed to Debo over the year and a half they had been together. She was allergic to gluten. Her mother had died mysteriously when she was ten years old and from that age she was sure she could see ghosts, she even gave them names, one she called Perpetual, because ‘I’ve been seeing her forever’ and then the big one three months before they got engaged that nearly tore them apart.
‘You need to know this because I have a feeling she will be at our introduction this weekend.’ The duvet was getting hiked over their cold toes as she strangled it in her tight grip. Ajuma was thirty-four. Even though she wore the free spirit mask everywhere she went, leaping over barbed edged comments like a clueless gazelle, she wanted everything about their wedding to go well, and that included the disposable dress rehearsal that was taking place this Saturday. Debo didn’t care for any of it. They live together. They split the bills. As far as he was concerned there was nothing left but tradition, and, as it turns out, another thing from Ajuma’s past to worry about.
‘You’ve got your own Lord Voldermort.’
‘I’m serious. We were friends oh, when we first met. We used to gossip and chill. I liked parties; she liked to read but she used to help me with Physics and I used to give her gist and access. I even introduced her to that yam head Akin that she was in love with for years’
‘She hates you because of Akin?’
‘That’s the thing I don’t know!’
Debo asked his next question very tentatively
‘Was Akin one of your others?’
‘No! I would never do such a thing. Banke and I had different tastes in men anyway. She liked preppy, bookish types and I liked…’
‘All the others’ Debo muttered. Ajuma released the duvet and smacked his bare arm. It was a testament to how far she had come to be able to laugh about her biggest reveal, what Nollywood scriptwriters might call a ‘sordid past’.
‘She nearly ruined my life Deb. We weren’t even in the same University but she used to leak stories about me into Campus. I didn’t know it was her until one of her gist carriers became my friend and she told me. All the things I’d told her in my partying years…Once she was caught I confronted her and she became even bolder. She sent letters to my first boss that I was a husband snatcher, and I was soon sacked. Another boss sacked me because they had heard I got fired from my last job for stealing. All of this came from Banke’
‘So you think she’s going to try and ruin things?’
‘We’ll see. I haven’t even seen her since we were twenty one. Just…brace yourself’
He had more questions. Didn’t her family know about the feud and try to intervene, for example. Or why would a woman who hated another so much bother to attend her introduction? But Ajuma was done talking, and like a magi whose crystal ball had beamed out its final prophetic vision she sunk tiredly into her pillows and closed her eyes.
What Ajuma failed to mention was how stunning Banke is.
They had decided on a white theme for the Introduction, even though Debo’s mother was against it, muttering something about Orishas. He had thought it would look funereal, but on the day, people showed up over accessorized and, he had to admit, resplendent. He curbed all thoughts about how unnecessary the day was and tried to enjoy himself. Ajuma virtually vibrated by his side with joy, and tension he supposed. He remembered to give her hand a quick squeeze every now and then as they took pictures and made their way around the small marquee set up behind his parents’ house in Lekki and schmoozed with their guests. And then she treated his hands to the vice like grip that heralded her nervousness.
Banke stood up- tall, dark, with the faux pissed off look runway models wear. The white iro and buba cut oleku style showed off her long smooth legs. Winding up her throat like a caduceus was a heavy looking bronze necklace. She smiled
‘Banke. This is my husband to be’ Ajuma shoved Debo in front of herself like a shield. He promptly betrayed his protector role by saying:
‘You’re better looking than I imagined.’ Truly he had pictured someone who looked like a rodent, with an overbite and squinty eyes. This person was a goddess.
Banke dosed him a steely gaze. ‘Feeling’s mutual, especially as this one was never so discriminating.’ Ajuma tightened her grip.
‘Banke….behave yourself, behave yourself! Ehen. You can’t come here and intimidate me’ her voice trembled. Debo looked around. Caterers were milling about, the DJ was playing all the popular songs, yet here they were caught in the most bizarre triangle. He couldn’t believe this was happening, on this day. Women!
He heard Banke’s deep and throaty laugh, like a practiced villain’s, floating over the music. A shard of light, probably from one of the fancy chandeliers hanging off the ceiling of the marquee hit Banke’s face, illuminating her poreless skin and clear eyes. It seemed to grow brighter and brighter then it started to flicker.
‘Yeah darling, keep telling yourself thaaaaaazzzzzffffnnnnnhhhhiiiii…’
To the horror of Ajuma, Debo and their closest friends and family, Banke collapsed like a rag doll onto the floor, her limbs twitching, her eyes rolling into her head, under the dancing spotlight which soon ceased as mysteriously as it had appeared.
The fits had started suddenly when she was twenty. Very few people had known about it. One of those people was Akin. He left her soon after for vague reasons, she thought she knew why. She had been alone ever since. She took her Epilim religiously but she never knew what would trigger the fits. They hadn’t seen each other for so long; no one had seen her because she was trying so hard to hide it.
She started spreading the rumours about Ajuma by chance. Someone from Unilag had called her a ‘hot babe’ and Banke overheard. Something rose within her and she made a flippant comment. When she saw the looks on people’s faces, the shock, she became hooked and her antics escalated.
‘It made me feel better Ajuma, to try and steal your freedom when I had become so trapped. I was the good one. I don’t know how it all went so wrong’ Banke’s clothes were smeared, her beautiful face and necklace askew. She sat with her sister. They held hands.
‘Everyone knows…everybody knows the worst thing about me.’
Ajuma smiled. ‘Can’t you see? You’re free; you don’t have to hide anymore.’
Later in bed, Ajuma would reveal to Debo, ‘when I grabbed your hand I swear I saw her, amongst the guests. I saw Perpetual.’ And after everything that had happened, he was inclined to believe her.
Post by: @TahirahAvosuahi