Previously on Almost a bride…
Ihuoma looked hard at him before her face gave way for a bright smile. It was Femi, Femi Robert. She was excited, “Femi!!!”, she screamed.
“what are you doing here?”
“Ihuoma! It’s a small world. You work here now?”
“See you acting like a typical Nigerian, using question to answer question.”
“Haha, you this troublesome girl, you’ve not changed, Come here joor!”, he gestured towards her with his arms opened wide.
Ihuoma perceived the oriental smell of his perfume as they hugged. It had been 6 years since she last saw him. He hadn’t changed except for his fashion sense. He was always the butt of her jokes back in secondary school because of the XXL size shirts he always wore on his tiny frame. It seemed like he wore the same shirt from the start to finish of secondary school with the hope of growing into it. He tried to improve during his first year in the university but it didn’t last for long. He looked better now with his white Levis long sleeved shirt adorned with a cravat and brogues shoes.
“What brings you to the hospital today?”
“I’ve been having this persistent head ache and fever, and the analgesic i’m using hasn’t been effective. Infact I now have body pains. My leave starts tomorrow and I don’t want anything to disturb me.”
Ihuoma examined him and assured him he will be fine. She knew the diagnosis but she still directed him to the laboratory for further investigation and confirmation. He returned about 10 minutes later with the test results that confirmed that it was mild malaria. She prescribed the required drugs and directed him to the pharmacy.
“Sorry dear, you’ll be fine. Get your drugs and call me when you get home. Do you still live at Ikeja?”
“No, I’m now at Ikoyi.”
“And you came all the way to Akoka just to see a doctor?”
“No, I was appointed to oversee one of our branches in Akoka, so I’ve been here for a while.”
“Hmmm, the boss himself! We’ll talk later.”
Ihuoma concluded her report and was ready to go home. She put her purse, iphone and charger into her bag. As she hung her ward coat on the stand, Dr Ibukun walked in just in time for his shift. She signed out and headed home.
While preparing dinner, her phone rang. It was Femi.
“Hello Omalicha” he said, Ihuoma smiled to herself. It had been a while since she heard that name. That was what Femi called her while growing up after he heard the name in a movie. She found a name for him too after a girl named Ife declared her unconditional love for him in front of their JSS 2 classmates. Embarrassed, Femi ran out of the class in shame and Ihuoma nicknamed him Ife from that day on. They were inseparable during their teenage years but studying at different universities drifted them apart. Ihuoma got engrossed in medical school and the numerous rules in Femi’s school did not help their communication and so the friendship dwindled.
“How are you now, hope you are better?”, she asked
“The pain has reduced and I feel much better, thanks to you.”
“Thank God for that. It’s been a while I heard from your family. After you guys moved out of the street, it was difficult getting through to you. Send me your address, I’ll like to visit during the weekend.”
She was on night duty on Friday and there were several cases at the hospital. There was a man who was involved in a severe road traffic accident and he was the only survivor. Ihuoma had to do all she could to save the patient. When the middle aged man finally responded to treatment, she was relieved. She got home by 8 am the next morning. Tired as she was, she fell asleep the moment her head touched the soft pillow on her king sized bed. She woke up a few minutes past 12 pm, thanks to the shouting bout between 2 of her neighbors over who did and who didn’t park his car in the right manner. She cleaned her apartment, had her bath and was on her way to Dolphin estate. She wore a knee length pink gown that fitted flawlessly and a white mesh sandal. The gown molded her torso beautifully and complimented her feminine shape. On arrival at Femi’s house, the gate to the block of flats was open. She climbed the staircase to the second floor and pressed the door bell. She was delighted to see him, he looked better and he just had a haircut. He wore a T-shirt with shorts that revealed his fair hairy legs and he had a chin curtain shave.
“How was the drive here?” he asked
“It was fine, surprisingly. I came in through Obalende and it was a smooth ride.” She replied as she settled into the couch admiring his apartment. A drawing of him, a painting of Fela and a few awards hung on the wall. The white paint on the wall brightened the room as all the vents were down. The air-conditioning system was on and she could smell the strawberry scent of the room.
They played catch up. Femi talked about his university experience, furthering his education and the stress of working as a business consultant at Digital Power firm.
“…and I just finished my master’s degree”, he concluded.
“Congrats dear, I’ll be writing my residency exams soon too” she said.
“You want to do it in Nigeria?”
“Yes” she replied. “If I want to practice here, I think it’s better I do my residency here.”
He looked unsatisfied, “This country get as e be jare but if you want to do it here, no problem.” He cleared his throat, “girl, you are getting old o. How are you doing in this business of dating?You know you should be married by now sef”, he said with a smirk on his face.
“You are also old Femi, in case you don’t know. I’m only twenty six and the last I checked, we’re age mates, remember?” She said as she rolled her eyes and gave a sarcastic laugh.
He teased her about how the biological clock was unfair to women and quite advantageous to men like him. He also insinuated that she was being choosy about men beacause she knew how beautiful she was. He noticed the frown forming on Ihuoma’s face and quickly changed the topic.
“What can I offer you o jare?”
“What do you even have in this place?” she said with a straight face in an attempt to get back at him. He knew her motive but he ignored her and she laughed at him.
“But why is it that in this part of the world, we teach girls to aspire to marry and not boys? It should go both ways” she shouted in between her laughter as she threw one of the throw pillows at him.
Femi laughed heartily, “Don’t tell me you’re one of those feminists, because you just sounded like one of them.” He returned with a plate of peppered snail, a bottle of Ruby and placed a wine glass on the stool in front of her.
“On a serious note, how is your boyfriend abi fiancé?”
Ihuoma sighed and narrated her ordeal with Johnson to him. He felt sober and tried to cheer her up, “come here dear, it’s alright”, he said. They hugged and he tickled her. She couldn’t stop laughing.
“Look at you, you’ve not outgrown your ticklish nature”
“You’re not serious. Please don’t try that again.”
“You’ll be fine dear”, he said to her.
She didn’t want her story to dampen their mood so she changed the direction of the conversation. “How is Ife?” she teased. He pretended as if he was upset with the question but he could’nt hold it for long as this had always been his Achilles heel.Anytime he was feeling sad about something, he’d smile whenever she called that name.
“Your friend is single o, do you have anybody for me?” He smiled.
He recounted his own share of heartbreaks; Ada, the first girl he loved dearly and dated for a year and six months, broke up with him after their graduation from the university. She wanted to get married immediately but Femi wasn’t ready so she left. When he was ready to marry, he met Bimpe. He later discovered she was a woman of low virtue and was only interested in what she could get from him. Emily was different, he was planning to propose to her after their vacation in the States. The plan took to its heels when Femi introduced her to his friend who disclosed that Emily was a colleague’s girlfriend at work.
Ihuoma was silent for a while, “Dont worry, we’ll be fine”, she finally said
“Sure, we will.”
It was about 3 pm and Femi suggested an outing. They went to The Palms in Femi’s black ford explorer where they saw Think Like A Man. During the movie, Ihuoma observed that couples in different corners of the hall were all loved up, laughing together and it looked like they were the only single ones around. Femi noticed she was downcast. He put his arm around her and put her wandering mind to rest. After the movie, they went window shopping just like old times. Ihuoma saw a bag she liked and Femi was happy to pay for it. Things had certainly changed. Now they could afford to buy what they wanted. As night approached, Femi became hungry and so did Ihuoma. She only had sandwich and tea for breakfast and the meal had since expired in her stomach. While they were walking out of the mall, Femi carried Ihuoma off the ground and talked about how small she was. She was very happy, she hadn’t been this happy in a long time.
Femi drove to Four points restaurant, Ihuoma was impressed. As they entered the restaurant, Femi held her hand in his arm like she was his bride. He brought out her chair for her to sit just like gentlemen do. They ordered for food and drinks while they chatted away. They talked about anything and everything. Even when the food was served and they started eating, it didn’t stop the conversation. It was while she was laughing to one of Femi’s numerous jokes that she almost choked on her food. Femi was quick to relieve her but not after she had messed her dress up. He took his napkin, cleaned the food particles off the corners of her mouth and her dress before following her to the wash room. They returned to finish their meal before they went back to his house.
Ihuoma didn’t bother to enter his apartment again as she had to be on her way. She thanked him for a beautiful day well spent,“It’s almost 10 o’clock, let me be on my way.”
He walked her to her car, hugged her and she drove off. He stood and waved her goodbye until the back light of her car was out of sight. She saw him through her rear view mirror and she thought of how perfect he was. Femi was the picture of what her Ideal man looked like. He showed all the signs needed to prove that he loved her but he never said it. She feared that if she took the bold step to declare her love for him, she may destroy the beautiful friendship between them. He had everything she wanted in a man, but he would be someone else’s knight in shining armor. Was he brother zoned or was she sister zoned? They would never know.
“He is like a brother to me” she said as she laughed to herself.
She decided to call her friends, she had not heard from them throughout the day and it was unusual. She put a call through to Lala. “Hello Lala, wassup?”
“Babe nothing much, I’m here with Nini at Upturn bar, the karaoke here is the best! Where are you?”
“I’m on my way there.”
“Alright, see you soon dear”
Their friendship started after they survived the rigorous registration process in 200 level together. They became bosom friends and were fondly called the three musketeers by classmates and friends.
Lala and Anini were singing or better still shouting, when she got to the bar. Ihuoma took her turn to sing her favorite song- All of you by John Legend and everyone applauded her performance. They soon got tired and took their seats talking about how the day went.Ihuoma told her friends of her visit to Femi.
“Sister Ihuoma, this friend that you’re always talking about, you guys seem perfect together, why have you not given it a try?”Lala asked. Anini shook her head in agreement.
“Hmm, I…“, she said as Anini cut her off.
“Girlfriends, can you see who I’m seeing?”
They all looked towards the direction of her face.
“I’m not interested, read my lips. What is it with guys, you just don’t like to accept no as an answer!”, the lady screamed.
The three musketeers walked up him.
“Hello Jacob” they said in unison as they stood right in front of him.
To be continued…
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