Night approached quietly. But the village was still bustling with activities. Women sat in groups and gossiped away. Men talked about the latest happenings in the village, neighboring villages, and the country at large. Having only gotten independence two years back, the country was undergoing major changes from the the era of colonial rule.
In some other male gatherings, a radio was close-by, and the men quietly listened to the news updates.
The night was far spent. And at the Akiri’s, dinner was long over. Chief retired to his study, and the others to their room. Everyone seemed exhausted from the day’s activities.
However, Rodah couldn’t sleep. How could she, when her thoughts lingered on Ese, and most especially, on the reason for their quarrel?
Ese had been like a sister to her, since childhood. But Rodah was sure, the years they spent apart had taken it’s toll on their friendship. All the same, she couldn’t help but admit that Ese was right.
Mrs. Eugene had told her to take the man her best friend was in love with. And she wanted to do just that, without considering Ese’s feelings. Rodah felt bad for being such a bad friend. And she just didn’t know how to make things right between them again.
The long stroll with Aaron earlier that evening opened her eyes to the fact that, she was drawn to the man. A little brush against her shoulder, or his hands slightly brushing against hers, made her long for more than a brush. A hug, maybe. But something more.
On getting home, she didn’t feel so good having to separate from Aaron, as he made his way to his room to freshen up. She had to freshen up too. But thoughts of him lingered in her head.
And when they finally ate dinner with her parents and the other officers, although quietly, they didn’t seem to be able to keep their eyes off each other.
She knew she was into him. He was getting under her skin very fast. Too fast for her liking. And she couldn’t help but think, he was also into her.
“Hmmmmm”, Rodah sighed, and turned on her bed. She had been trying so hard to sleep. But since sleep seemed to have deserted her, she got out of bed, put on her night robe and made her way to the sitting room. Thanks to fire lamps hung at strategic spots to illumine the house.
In the sitting room, she noticed the door leading to the balcony was open. Breeze blew in, causing the curtains to fly restlessly. Rodah was sure someone was outside. Maybe her dad, mom, or one of the servants.
She stepped out into the balcony. The night air was cold against her skin. And the crescent moon had just appeared, giving the darkness a little glow.
In the far distance, she could hear voices, discussing into the night. But she didn’t care about them. Not when she spotted Aaron relaxing on the long bench. A tumbler and a bottle of water sat next to him on the floor.
“Hi”, he greeted, upon seeing her.
“Hello”, she managed a smile, “I’m guessing you couldn’t sleep”, she took the empty space on the bench.
“You guessed right”, he smiled lightly, “and you?”
“I couldn’t either”, she sighed,
“Is something bothering you?”
“Care to share?”
“Nope!” What good will it do to tell him he was the reason for their quarrel? “Tell me something about yourself. Something I wouldn’t ordinarily have known”, she changed the topic. Aaron let out a light chuckle.
“If I do, will you tell me what’s bothering you?”
“Yes”, she agreed.
“Ok. My mother died giving birth to me. I was her first and only child”, he said.
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry”.
This time he laughed, “you didn’t kill my mother, did you?”
“No. But, it definitely isn’t a good experience”.
“No. It isn’t”, Aaron admitted, “my father couldn’t bear her loss. He got into womanizing and eventually died. He willed all his wealth to me – a wealth I would have lost, had my nanny, Mrs. Helen, not taken charge. She stood by me all through the years and cared for me like I was her own son. She’s the woman I call mother now”,
“Wow. You mean she didn’t steal from you?”
“No. She had no reason to. Besides, she had just lost her only child – a 4 months old baby in a fire accident and her husband, blaming the death on her, asked for the marriage to be dissolved”
“That was wicked of him”, Rodah was furious.
“Yes. It was. She often told me, she was at the verge of suicide when my father hired her to care for me as I had no mother. She was glad to accept the position. Taking care of me was like having her child back in her arms, alive. And for years though, after I learned about the circumstances surrounding my birth, I blamed myself for my mother’s death. It took me a long time to overcome it. And Mrs. Helene was a big help”.
“Oh dear. I can only imagine”,
“My father trusted her enough to put her in charge of my inheritance. And after I had clocked 18, she sent me out of the country for further studies. After studies, I decided to get work experience over there. I finally returned home at age 30, to take over my businesses and join the navy”.
“That was a long time over there”, Rodah said, thoughtfully., “no wonder your accent is different”.
Aaron laughed. “Everyone who has ever commented on this issue, says I talk through my nose”,
“You do”, she mimicked him, and then laughed too.
After they had recovered from the laugh, Aaron turned the table on her. “Your turn”, he said, “what’s bothering you this night?”
“Errr….”, She rubbed her head, “I’m just worried about my friend”.
“Well, friends do quarrel. In my experience, it’s helps the friendship grow stronger. I’m sure you two will make up”.
“Well, maybe not in this case”.
“Why do you think so?”
“Because what makes us quarrel is serious”,
Aaron chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck, “I over heard her say something about you stealing her man. Is that it?”
“Well, kind of. But she’s somehow wrong about the situation”.
“How wrong? I do think though, she has a right to be angry, if you actually took her man”.
Rodah chuckled, “a man snatcher I am now. Hmm”, she sighed, then looked back at Aaron, “what if I tell you the man I’m accused of snatching, is you?”
“Me?” his brows went up.
“Yes you. Just in case you haven’t noticed, Ese is head over heels in love with you. She had thought you’d return to their home to stay for the period you’re in our village. Worse? She thinks I tricked you into staying in my home instead, and will now go ahead to force you into having sex with me, being my boyfriend and then husband”.
Aaron laughed hard this time. Rodah found herself laughing with him.
“She must have a very active imagination”, he said at last, “although I don’t mind some of it. In fact, I’ll be happy to have all of her imaginations come to pass “.
Rodah raised one brow at him. Her heart did it again, missed a beat, “you will be happy to what?”
“Ok. Let’s cut the formalities. I like you, Rodah”, he swallowed, “I actually don’t believe in love at first sight but the moment I set eyes on you, folding those clothes in your friend’s sitting room, I thought, wow, what a beauty. But of course, I don’t believe in love at first sight. But then, you showed up here, Chief’s daughter, and we have talked for a bit.
“We’ve only known each other for….. say two days”.
“I know”, he laughed, lightly, “believe me, I’m surprised at myself too. And your friend, she is angry because it is possible she sees the future”.
“You’re not serious at all”, Rodah laughed. Aaron joined her.
“Ok. Your turn. Do you, or do you not find me attractive?” Aaron asked, after he had recovered from the laughter.
“Attractive?”, Rodah swallowed. The man did not know what he was talking about. Heck, she could kiss him at that moment and pull him into her room for a shag. But she swallowed instead, “I may have studied in Europe, but I’m still Nigerian. And you, may have lived most of your life in Europe, but you’re still Nigerian”,
“What has being Nigerian got to do with anything?” Aaron asked.
“Well, in Nigeria, a woman is not allowed to express her feelings for a man, especially not to him, else he starts to look down at her”.
The laughter that erupted from Aaron’s throat startled Rodah. She had just indirectly confessed to having feelings for him and now, he was laughing at her. She felt embarrassed. But it didn’t stop her from speaking up.
“You see, you’re already laughing at me”.
“Oh…no no no…I’m sorry. But don’t get me wrong please. What you said about Nigerian women not expressing their feelings was what made me laugh. I actually detest that in most of our women. A woman has to be free to tell me she likes me. And I like that you felt free enough to tell me why you’re at loggerheads with your best friend. I will also appreciate if you can tell me what you feel for me”.
Rodah sighed, and then looked away, “I don’t know Aaron. I don’t. Sometimes I’m sure I do feel something for you. Other times I say, well, maybe I should find a way to move away and give Ese some space to have you. I’m confused”.
The silence that followed was almost unbearable.
A while later, she felt his fingers underneath her chin, before they turned her head to face him, “I refuse to believe you’re not sure about your feelings for me”, he said.
“I like you, Aaron Obara. I find you attractive. I wouldn’t deny that. But I don’t think it is enough to quarrel with a friend I’ve had since childhood”.
Aaron nodded, stroking her hair, “ok. But can you give me this night? Then by morning, if you still feel you want to pull back because of your friend, I’ll understand”.
“And if I give you this night, what will you do with it?” Her brows were raised now. Aaron’s eye lit up.
He got to his feet and pulled her up too, “come with me”. She obeyed, as he held her hand and led her to his bedroom. He turned the key in the lock, afterwards, before turning to face her.
“Is this what I think it is?” Rodah asked. Her heart had started to race, again.
“And what do you think it is?”, Aaron moved to stand in front of her, so close, she could feel his breath against her face. Subsequently, she felt it against her open shoulder, just before he moved to plant a light kiss there. His hands moved to wrap themselves around her waist, and then pull her against his hard frame.
A tingling feeling spread through her body. Rodah knew she should turn away, but she couldn’t even bring herself to talk, let alone move. Besides, Mrs. Eugene’s words rang in her head again. The man was hers, not Ese’s. And if she was right, then this man was the man she’d eventually say yes to at the altar.
Or was she mistaking?
Rodah didn’t have time to think more about that. Aaron was already wreaking havoc on her body. His lips found hers, parting it and sucking, while probing with his tongue.
She kissed him back, almost matching his passion. Warning alerts went off in her head when Aaron started to undress her, squeezing at the soft moulds on her chest at the same time. But she ignored them, and even moved to undress him.
The duo soon found themselves on the bed, stark naked. But when he started to plunge into her, the spring bed creaked, making noise at each movement.
“The noise will disturb the house”, Rodah whispered,
“Yes. Let’s take the floor?”, Aaron suggested.
And so he took off the bedsheet from the bed and spread it on the floor. There, they spent the entire night, making love.
Day break came sooner than expected, to meet intertwined hands and feet. They didn’t have much sleep earlier. Soft cool wind blew into the room. Aaron hugged Rodah closer to him. His finger ran to and fro the length of her arms, leaving goosebumps at its wake.
“Good morning”, Rodah whispered, then turned to face him. Her hands found their way to his chest.
Aaron planted a light kiss on her lips, “good morning love”.
“Love?” Her brows shot up, “one night earned me that title? It that was I so good?” She teased. He chuckled.
“You were far better than I thought you’d be”.
She smiled, “and you almost killed me with pleasure”.
Aaron laughed. He remembered having to cover her lips with kisses, so as to prevent her moans from waking up the people in the house.
“But there’s something we didn’t think about”, she said. Aaron noticed her countenance darkened a little.
“What’s that?” He pulled her closer,
“What if I get pregnant? ”
Her question was meant to be a serious one, so she wasn’t sure why Aaron chose to laugh, instead of being concerned.
“What is funny?” She asked.
“I’m sorry love”, he apologized, “I didn’t mean to sound rude. It’s just that, if you get pregnant, then my plan worked”.
Rodah frowned, raised herself on one elbow and looked down at him, “what plan?”
“Well, since you’re thinking of getting your friend closer to me so she can woo me”, he chuckled, “I’m busy making sure you do not make that choice. At least you won’t, if my seed is already here”, he touched her belly.
Rodah laughed and shook her head, “that was what you meant when you said I should give you one night?”
“Exactly”, he turned her over and planted more kisses on her lips, eyes, forehead, nose and back to her lips.
“Wait. Answer me one question”, she pushed him back a bit, so she could look into his eyes.
“Ok love. Shoot”,
“Why don’t you like Ese?”
“Ese again?”, he rolled off from on top of her to his side, face up, “are you so desperate to get rid of me?”
“No. I am not. I just want to know why…”
“Because I am very attracted to you, Rodah”, he cut her short, “I don’t hate Ese. I owe her my life. If not for her help, I wouldn’t even be here with you. But I don’t find her attractive. She’s a beautiful woman, true. But my heart is somewhere else”.
“So are you still going to run away from me?” He asked, when she said nothing.
“No”, Rodah laid her head on his chest. His hands wrapped her waist and pulled her closer, “I do like you, a lot”, it’s just unfortunate that being with you has cost me a dear friend”.
“Don’t give up yet”, he started to plant kisses all over her face again, “Ese might turn around”.
“I pray she does”.
Aaron was making moves for another round of lovemaking for the morning, when a loud knock at the door startled them.
“Oh God”, Rodah whispered.
“Who is it?” Aaron asked,
Rodah bit her lips to hold back the groan that almost escaped.
“Oh, Chief”, Aaron answered, “I’ll be with you shortly”.
The duo got up, and started to get dressed. Rodah snatched the bedspread from the floor and quickly laid the bed.
She was still at it when she noticed Aaron was going for the door. She tried to tell him to hold on a she was not properly dressed yet and still needed to hide, at least under the bed, before her father could be let into the room.
Aaron only smiled away her fears and reached for the door. The bolts were forced back and the key turned in the lock. Aaron swung the door open and Chief, still in his wrapper and singlet, stepped into the room.
While Aaron locked the door, Chief stood, motionless, as his eyes fell on a disheveled Rodah. Her hair was a mess and she was trying, fruitlessly, to properly adjust her nightie. It was the best she could do, since Aaron was determined to shame her.
She wished for the ground to open and swallow her. But no. It wouldn’t. She stood there, feeling her father’s eyes burn into her. And when she couldn’t stand the silence anymore, she spoke up.
“Daddy I can explain”, she said, finally mustering some courage to look up. But then, confusion set in. Chief wasn’t red eyed, as he was supposed to be. Instead he was smiling, from ear to ear.
“Don’t bother explaining anything my dear”, he waved her to silence, “I’m very ok with what I’ve seen”.
“Seen?”she looked at Aaron. He smiled at her, lovingly.
“What is going on?” Rodah finally asked,
“You had sex with the man I have long chosen to be your husband, my dear”, he grinned, “I feared you wouldn’t like him. Now I’m sure you do. We should plan the wedding right a…”.
“Wedding? Marry? What is this,” she looked from Aaron to Chief.
“Please sir, let me explain something to you”, Chief gestured at the empty bed. Although reluctant, Rodah sat. But she never took her eyes off the men. She needed to know what was going on.
Aaron was supposed to be scared by Chief finding out about their sexcapade and Chief was supposed to be boiling with anger. But no. Both of them stood, smiling.
“Mr. Aaron Obara didn’t only come here for a recruitment exercise”, Chief started, “I’m sorry I kept you in the dark. I should have told you about my arrangement, but I wasn’t sure what your reaction will be”.
“And so this was all a set up?”
“Not exactly a set up”, Aaron spoke, moving to sit by her side. He took her hand. But she pulled it away.
“If it is not a set up, what is it?”
“For months, I sent letters to the navy headquarters about having a recruitment exercise for our youths here”, Chief said, “I got no response. In fact, I had given up on the idea, when Mr. Obara walked into my office, one afternoon. He apologized for the delayed response as he had personal business issues to attend to.
You may not have heard of him, but Mr. Obara is one of the wealthiest Nigerians I have come across. The wealth his father left him as a baby has doubled, five times over in monthly revenue”,
“So you sold me to the highest bidder”, Rodah accused.
“No”, Chief countered, “We were still awaiting your return. And since I missed you so much, I had your picture on my table. Aaron and I, we discussed the recruitment exercise and after we were done, he picked up your picture and asked who you were. I told him. And he immediately told me he was interested in meeting you. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I thought it was he wanting to meet you, in exchange for recruiting our people. But it isn’t. He is just really interested in you. So I agreed.
Now, we are all here, we were not sure what your response would be. So I left it to him, since he said he was really serious, to try and see if you’re interested”.
“Just like that”.
“Well, not just like that”, Aaron said, taking her hand in his again, “I have been drawn to you, even before we met. I don’t believe in love at first sight and so I was really surprised I was drawn to you. I told your father, I would love to meet you. And he agreed, after promising to break my head if I toy with his only child”, Aaron chuckled,
“Then when I first saw you at your friend’s, I felt the same way I did when I first saw your picture. But the person in the picture was different from the person I saw that morning. I felt same way but I knew I was looking forward to meeting someone else. I didn’t know that someone else was still you. Pictures don’t fit you, you know. You’re much better in person. Much more beautiful…”
“Don’t flatter me, Aaron”, she cut him short, “You planned this with my dad from the start and no one told me. So how did you know we had something going on here?” She turned back to her father.
Chief grinned. “I was in my study last night, minding my business, when I heard noise. I thought hoodlums were trying to break in. But after tracing the noise to your door, I heard something else. And I promised to return this morning to confirm. Stop feeling ashamed, my dear”..
“Ashamed?, Rodah threw her hands up in frustration, “I’m baffled, that you’re here, smiling. Most other fathers I know would pick up a cutlass and chase Aaron out of the house, before coming to face me. But not you. You’re happy about this”.
Aaron laughed. Chief patted his daughter’s cheeks. Your mother will be happy too”, he got to his feet.
“Mummy is in this too?” Her eyes widened in surprise, “How much did Aaron pay you people?”
“Nothing. Just knowing he is very capable of taking care of you, is enough for us. You two better get up and about, before the rest of the house wakes up. You still have some recruitment exercise to carry out”, Chief finished and left them.
Rodah turned her eyes on Aaron, “you’re unbelievable”.
“I know. Are you going to change your mind now, because you think we set you up?”, he asked, caressing her right hand.
Rodah sighed and looked away. Yes, this was like a set up. A pleasant one though, because it meant she didn’t have to hide her affair with Aaron from her parents. Besides, they were talking marriage, not just a boyfriend and girlfriend issue. Then there was also Mrs. Eugene, Ese’s mother.
She was right, when she said the stranger was hers, not Ese’s. And to think she had been entertaining thoughts of letting go of Aaron, so she could help Ese get him. How stupid she would have been.
“Hello?” Aaron’s voice interrupted her thoughts, “you’re not talking to me. Are you still angry at me?”
“Yes”, she said, “I am angry”, she moved closer and planted a kiss on his lips, then pulled back to look at him, ” that’s all the kiss you get until I find it in my heart to forgive you”, she got to her feet.
Aaron held her hands and pulled her back, this time, on his laps, “so when are you going to forgive me then?
“I don’t know. So I suggest we leave this issue alone and prepare to get to work”. She struggled to get to her feet, but he held her down.
“Yes madam”, he kissed her ear fondly.
The recruitment exercise was faster that day. Or was it because the people they attended to for the stage two were few in number? Rodah wasn’t sure.
Ese didn’t show up at all. And Rodah somehow felt disappointed. She had hoped to see Ese and then call her aside so they could trash out their issues once and for all.
Even Aaron noticed Ese was absent. He shared Rodah’s concern though.
After the exercise, Aaron sent the junior navy officers ahead, while he and Rodah spent time strolling around Iri. It was a thorough sightseeing experience.
The Sunset met them at the main market. Mrs. Akiri had asked Rodah to branch by the market later in the day to buy items for a fresh fish egusi pepper soup meal, along with some dried meat.
Aaron was by her side when she priced the fishes from one of the market traders. But she noticed, the woman, as well as other traders, wouldn’t stop looking at them. It was obvious what ran in their minds were thoughts of Rodah being with the stranger who mostly talked like a British.
More gossip would follow, Rodah knew. But that was their own cup of tea.
Rodah had just bought the last item and the duo were heading out of the market, to start their journey home, only to run into Ese. She had a basket in one hand and Rodah was sure she came to buy some items for cooking.
She didn’t look like she did the day before. She wore a simple outfit and looked down to earth.
“Rodah”, she called, excitedly, and then jumped into an embrace with a still surprised Rodah. A hug was definitely not what she had expected. Even Aaron had his brows raised in surprise.
“Ese”, Rodah pulled back to look at her. Then hugged her again, before finally pulling back from her arms, “I have missed you. You didn’t come for the recruitment exercise today”.
“No. I couldn’t. My mother isn’t feeling well. Had to take care of her”, she turned to Aaron, “Hi, Aaron”.
“Hi”, Aaron greeted back, “what’s wrong with your mom?”
“Yes. What’s wrong with her?” Rodah asked, really concerned.
“Well”, she laughed, “news of my recklessness seemed to have filtered into her ears, and she’s wondering what a devil of a child I am”.
Aaron chuckled. Rodah laughed.
“I hope she gets well soon enough”, Aaron said, then excused himself, saying that there was an item he wanted to check at a store. After he left, the women returned to their discussion.
“I understand gossip is the one thing that moves around here. Mama shouldn’t take them seriously. She has to get well”, Rodah said.
“Yes. I prepared some herbs for her and she has calmed down a lot”,
“Can I see her tomorrow morning? I’m sure Aaron will love to see her too”, Rodah asked, looking really worried.
“Yes. I’ll tell her you’re both coming over”. Ese was unmistakably excited.
“Thanks dear”, Rodah hugged her, “I’m happy we’re back to talking terms”.
Ese laughed, “abi? Don’t mind my burst of anger o. I’m just tired of Iri and I need a man to get me out of here”.
“But someone will show up”, Rodah encouraged her, “someone who will love you and no other”.
“You must be a prophetess. Mama said the same thing when I got home yesterday. She said the man coming for me is more handsome and wealthier”, she giggled like a baby.
“Urrr… really? You think you can make me jealous ba?” Rodah made funny faces.
“Yes I can”, Ese laughed.
The ladies spent time some more, catching up, when Rodah sighted Aaron from a distance, waving at her. He was tired of waiting for their conversation to come to an end. He didn’t think being in their midst was right, especially as he knew Ese had been gunning for a love affair with him.
Rodah got the message. She quickly rounded up talks with Ese and then promised to be at her house the following morning, with some fruits and some conventional medicine for her mother.
Ese was grateful and she said so.
Rodah caught up with Aaron and their journey home started. But Ese stood rooted in one spot, watching them hold hands, talk and laugh like two lovers. They seemed really happy in each other’s company.
It was not until they turned into another street and disappeared from sight, that Ese turned around and headed into the market to buy the things she came for.
©Karo Oforofuo. August 2017. All rights reserved
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