By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! As we sat waiting for the others to join us in the restaurant, I brought up again the issue of entering through the kitchen and what other diners might have been thinking as they saw us access the dining area from there. I told Tayo that ladies of class like us shouldn’t have done such a thing. “Oh, bother you! You snob!” she flung at me when I told her that we lowered our prestige as decent customers by crawling into the place through the kitchen.
People might think we went to negotiate for lower prices or for free food! I was joking of course. I mean, unlike your Treena, Tayo is heavily loaded with the relevant currencies of the world! Through her acute business acumen, mind you!
“The place is infested with rats, Tayo dear, and some might be hidden in your skirt, even as we’re speaking,” I joked. “ Nonsense! Isn’t this skirt too tight and too short for a mouse to hide in?” “You can’t say. Rodents are getting quite smart these days as they try to keep up with increasing human wisdom and cunning. That kitchen is filthy.” “No, it isn’t! You didn’t look around properly.
You raced through as if you we were being pursued. Oh, I forget that you haven’t been here for many months now. The restaurant, along with several others in this area was shut down because of poor sanitation by the Department of Health. It was around the time they shut down END TIMES SUYA too.”
“Oh, I had forgotten all about that your outfit? This place was re-opened. Why wasn’t yours re-opened too? You asked Peter to see that staff there clean up the place and comply with the rules. Didn’t he do that?” “Peter did his best, but there were forces against us. Another person with an eye on that place offered behind my back, a much higher rent than we were paying. So, the temporary shut down was used as an excuse to send us packing.”
“Oh dear! I’m sorry. Did you have to forfeit part of your rent?” “No, Seb saw to it that I didn’t. Thank God. He wrote to them from his Law firm here, and they sent me a refund fast.” “Come again. Seb practices Law here? I didn’t know that.” “I can’t believe that you are that disinterested in Seb, Treena dear. Incredible!
Anyway, he’s in partnership with three other people here, pays his dues and is qualified to do anything through that firm. I don’t know what the rules are, but he’s not doing anything illegal. He studied Law here, and practised here for a while, remember?”
“I’m not a dunce. Of course I know all that. It’s just that it didn’t occur to me that he can still be relevant in practice here.”
“You can ask him that when you see him. Come on, let’s go have another look at the kitchen you so much dislike so that you can appreciate the changes that have been made all over the place.”
Tayo was right. I hadn’t looked properly. The kitchen looked bigger and with more modern and cleaner equipment. The loo area had been sealed off and given another entrance. This time around there were more members of staff around than when we passed through. You should see how Tayo was mobbed by the workers, even though some of them couldn’t speak English. They clapped, pumped her hand and patted her on the back as they bade her welcome. To me, it seemed it was that attention that made her say we should come inspect the kitchen.
She was grinning happily as she chatted with them, using hand signs in some cases. And me? They merely smiled and nodded at me. That was okay for me. I was there to eat, not to share fellowship with them. You see, Tayo tips big whenever she eats there. She not only tips at the table, she goes to the kitchen to tip the cooks. She also tips those who bring the take-aways she’s ordered to her apartment, hotel, or wherever she’s staying. One can’t compete with that.
When we returned to the dining area, Seb and Belinda were already there. Gentleman to the core, Seb came to pull out chairs for us, and we brushed cheeks with him and then with Belinda, and took our seats. Trust Tayo, she and Seb spoke with their eyes and next thing was they both got up at the same time, and told Belinda and me that they had something to discuss. I looked at Belinda, curious to know how she was taking it. Actually, I’ve never wondered how she sees the very close relationship between her fiance and Tayo. I mean, if you don’t know how they relate, you could think they might be lovers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. They can both sleep in the same room and nothing out of place would happen. I don’t even think they fancy each other in a romantic way. As if she knew what was going through my mind, Belinda cleared her throat to get my attention and then sighed.
“Are you alright?” I asked anxiously.
“Er, I’m okay. I know I shouldn’t ask you this, but what is it that Seb and Tayo wanted to discuss out of our hearing? It’s not that I’m being suspicious about their relationship, but what could they possibly want to discuss that you, as Tayo’s best friend, and I, as Seb’s fiance, should not hear?”
“Belinda, the truth is that Seb and Tayo have been best friends for a long time, and have always been very supportive of each other. There are things that they know of each other that I don’t know, and I’m not curious to know. It’s one of those close platonic relationships that is rare to find. The relationship is good for them and the rest of us too. ”
“Hm! Well, I’m not querying it, but it can be hard when one’s beloved is willing to discuss something out of one’s earshot. One just wonders if one has stopped being relevant in his life.” “I wouldn’t see it as such, if I were you. I’m sure Seb will discuss with you whatever he knows is relevant to your relationship. Maybe what they’re discussing has to do with their own mutual interests. Like business, their children or something.”
“And you feel I don’t need to know? Sorry, it’s a bit unacceptable for me.” “Discuss it with Seb then. That should set your mind at rest.” “Maybe I will. Thanks for listening to me, though.” “You’re welcome, Belinda.”
I’m no idiot. She brought up the matter so that I could take her feelings to Tayo, who hopefully, would then check the way she relates to Seb. Hm! She doesn’t know the sort of person Tayo really is.
As we sat there in silence, Marje (Edmund’s daughter) strolled into the restaurant, looked around and then headed for our table. She looked embarrassed as she greeted me and then turned to greet Belinda. I introduced them.
Belinda sprang to her feet at once. “Edmund, Tayo’s cousin’s daughter? Oh, I’m so glad to meet you, my dear,” she said as she hugged Marje over and over again. She then asked her where the father was.
“He’s outside, talking with er, Mr. Seb and Auntie Tayo.” “Is that so? I’ll go join them. Seb is my fiance, you know. See you.” With that, she left us.
“Auntie, let me first of all apologize for creating a false impression of my relationship with my dad the first day I met you. It wasn’t my intention to do that, but dad assured me that you would see it as a joke and wouldn’t feel offended. I’m sorry, auntie. Auntie Tayo told me just now that I should make sure that I apologize to you this evening. Don’t be annoyed, ma.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Marje. It wasn’t your fault. You just went along with what your dad wanted. I had no reason to doubt what he told me, and yes, I was angry when I found out the truth. However, I wasn’t angry with you, but with him.”
“Forgive me, auntie. Even before I met you, dad had told me several times that if he will take a wife again, it would be you. He spoke of you in such a glowing way, and when he told me that grandma (Tayo’s mum) supports his view and that you’ve been close friends with Aunt Tayo since childhood, I wanted his desire to come through.
At least, so that he can settle down at last. This was why I played that role he gave me. He said it may jolt you when you know that he has a young fiancee, and you may see him in a better way; thinking he is an eligible man to marry. He said you would laugh when you get to know the truth. So, I thought no harm was being done.”
“Oh dear, Marje. Poor you! The truth is that I’m very fond of your dad, but not to the point of wanting to be his wife. We have never had a relationship, other than that of being good friends. As for mama, she wants him back in Nigeria from Angola, and since she knows that he likes me, she feels that if I agree to marry him, he might be encouraged to come settle back again in the country. He’s fun to be with, but I don’t feel drawn to him romantically. I’m sure he knows this.”
“Thanks for opening up to me, auntie. I’m sure dad knows deep down that he doesn’t stand a chance, but he does enjoy chasing after you. He hasn’t said so, but that’s what I think.” “I learnt you’re engaged to be married soon. Fantastic! When’s the date?”
“Ah, ma, that engagement is off. He got one of my friends pregnant last year, but I got to know only last month.” “I’m sorry, Marje. How awful. So, he’s a father now? Is he going to marry the lady?” “No, he’s not going to, and he’s not a father because the lady miscarried the pregnancy.”
“So, all’s well then. We thank God. Your relationship with him is still intact,then.”
“Auntie, with me it doesn’t work out that way. The fact that he had sex with one of my friends means that he cannot be trusted. Never be trusted. If it had been with a total stranger, then I can forgive if he’s remorseful. But for him to be having a romantic relationship with my friend, with me around in town, is very cruel. It doesn’t show love, it doesn’t show affection, it doesn’t show respect. He said it was my friend who made a play for him, and in a moment of weakness he made love to her.”
“And that once led to pregnancy? It can happen. Did he report it, or you found out?”
“They both hid it from me, and he went to be with her when the miscarriage happened, just before the tenth week.
It meant he wanted the baby. He said my friend refused to go for an abortion. He knew it was wrong to have sex with my friend, but at least he would have had the commonsense and decency to prevent pregnancy. Was he so weak that he couldn’t stop to take precaution? I think he wanted the baby. Auntie, sorry he’s not worth being discussed. I threw him out of the flat, and that was that.”
“You were living together?”
“Sort of, auntie. Dad had met him. So also had auntie Tayo and my cousins here. Everyone liked him. He’s so respectful and humble and achieving. He’s doing his PH.D like me, and working part time. Dad agreed that we should share dad’s flat in Hammersmith so that we can save up money for our own apartment. After the disrespect he showed me and our relationship, it would be stupid to allow him to continue to stay with me. ”
“What did your dad say?”
“I told him only today. He was shocked. He suggested a reconciliation, but I don’t want it. It’s over.”
“That’s a great pity,” was all I could say. Sad, isn’t it?