-the funloving, but hardworking single parent

By Treena Kwenta
Hi readers! The gals went back to their food while Seb went to meet his dame at the gate. We had hardly settled back into our chairs when he returned, took his place beside Peace and asked me if he could proceed to having the dessert ahead of the rest of us.

“Do you mind, gals?” I called out to the others who were eating on the dining table.

“Mind what?” called back Liz.

“Mind Seb going ahead of you to the dessert table.”

“No,” said Liz, Boma and Becky.

“Seb dear,” called out Tayo, “I don’t mind, only if you take the fruit salad or apple pie, and steer clear of the cream caramel. I want to have the first helping so that I can serve myself a large portion. I’ve eaten mainly chicken only so far tonight so that I can have the calorie space for my passion.”

“But cream caramel is my passion too, Tayo dear,” said Seb. “You know that, so, since I’m a special guest here this evening, let me go first so that I can have the largest helping.”

“Okay, let’s see who gets to the dessert table first,” said a jovial Tayo, as she sped away and got there first.

Actually, being at the dining table already, she was nearest the dessert table, but that didn’t stop Seb racing there as well.

It was a delight seeing them fight over the spoon like little kids. Tayo won, or Seb allowed her to win.

But after heaping the stuff on a plate she gave it to Seb. He gave her a peck on the cheek and raised up his plate as a sign of victory. We all applauded, before we headed for the dessert table ourselves.

I could see Peace watching us all behave like kids in great amazement. At a point she looked puzzled; particularly as words of endearment flowed easily between Seb and Tayo.

“Peace, won’t you have some dessert?” I asked her from my seat on the other side of Seb.

“Thanks, auntie, I will.”

Actually, it wasn’t because I wanted to play the perfect hostess that I asked her. My curiosity had risen to great heights and I wanted an opportunity to ask Seb what happened when he went out to meet Belinda.

“You returned very fast,” I said, feigning concern as soon as Peace left us. “Hope all went well. We were hoping Belinds would join us here for a bite.”

“Were you? You can’t be serious. If she stormed out of my house because Peace was my guest, how do you think she would react to being asked to come eat in the same room as Peace? Wouldn’t that be inviting trouble?”

“She wouldn’t dare make trouble in my house. Mind you, she has every reason to be aggrieved. What woman would tolerate her man bringing in a woman who may be his bride? I’m amazed that you allowed that to happen.”

“It was to please my parents, and have them leave me alone about this re-marrying business.”

“I see. What did Belinda want here? Why did you come back in so fast?”

“I didn’t see her, or, rather, she didn’t wait to see me.”

“Are you kidding?”

“I’m not. It’s quite certain now that I have informants in my house. Someone told her that I was coming here, so, she turned up to hand over a package.”

“Oh really? Is it the engagement ring you gave her or what?” I asked mischievously. No, I wasn’t hoping that she would break off their engagement, but some discomfort in their relationship would not break my heart.

“Not so fast. She isn’t thinking of ending the union. She brought the air tickets for our flight to Accra tomorrow morning.”

“Did she decide that, or you both decided that together and you forgot?”

“I didn’t forget. I thought it was off her agenda since she deserted me. I was going to travel later.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“I’ll go, of course. Coco is still over there, making all the arrangement for the re-opening of our branch there. She’s booked an appointment for me to see some investors the day after tomorrow.”

“What are you going to do with your guest?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. You can’t have her here, can you?”

“That’s out of the question, Seb dear. It isn’t that I don’t want trouble from Belinda, but it isn’t just right that your girlfriend should come stay with me here. Even this reception is not quite it.”

“I asked Tayo to arrange it.”

“Say that again! You mean Tayo knew about Peace, and your visit here?”

“Yes, of course. I told her that you almost passed out when you thought I was asking you to put her up here with you during this visit.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is. I could sense the relief in your voice when I told you that I was only seeking your permission for her to stay in your chalet.”

“Okay, maybe you’re right. So, what are you going to do with her now?”

“I’ll have to take her to the airport quite early for her flight to Abuja, before dashing across to the International Airport to join Belinda. She’ll take another plane from Abuja to Jos. I’m sure she’ll not mind. She’s done extensive shopping already, and for most ladies, that’s all that matters.”

“Is she Peace or Patricia?” I asked suddenly, trying to catch him off balance.

“She’s both,” he said easily. “She was given Patricia at birth, but when she returned to Jos after her brief marriage here, she er, became sort of deeper in her faith, so, she took the name of Peace.”

“So, she was married before? I didn’t know that. Who was the lucky man, and did they have kids?”

“Er, I think it was Boma’s boss at the time. FD, Boma’s late husband was alive then. The man was having problems in his marriage and he dated Peace who was a youth corper there, and that was it. They had some kids, who at the man’s sudden death, (of which his relatives accused Peace of), were taken away to Port Harcourt. They also sent her out without a kobo. To their credit, they’ve really taken good care of the kids. The first two are graduates, and the last two or three, I can’t remember how many, are in the secondary school. They’re okay.”

“Does she have access to them?” I asked.

“I had to arrange that about ten years ago.”

“Come again! Peace is not a stranger to you?”

“Not really. She was brought to my place when her in-laws threw her out, by a friend of mine who was close to the late husband, since she’s from Jos like myself. That was the first time I met her. I took pity on her then, gave her some money, and paid for her to return to Jos. The other man also helped her with some money. I was shocked to see that she was one of the ladies my family had arranged for me to see when you and I were in Jos. She too was shocked to see me after so many years, but we played along and pretended we were meeting for the first time.”

“Hm! This is an interesting story, Seb.”

“And it is the truth. Don’t you see how she treats me with deference, calling me ‘uncle’? That’s not the language of a would-be bride.”

“Does Belinda know this story?”

“I told her, and she was with me when I was arranging for the in-laws to allow Peace access to her children. She goes to visit them every September in Port Harcourt. The in-laws don’t allow her to have them in Jos. They said it’s because of the frequent outbrea ks of riots there. I’ve had no contact with her for a long time, and it was the same man who brought her to me then, who came to ask me to intervene on her behalf and speak to her in-laws.”

“Why you? Do you know them?”

“I do, and you know one of them too. He was your boyfriend at a time. The drunk – Jerry.”

“Jerry? He wasn’t a boyfriend as such.”

“He was. He dated you for quite some time after the divorce from his European wife, but you refused to marry him. Till date, he hasn’t given up. He was all over you at Ann’s traditional wedding. Belinda and I saw everything.”

That shut me up. I asked why Belinda stormed out of his place if she knew Peace’s story.

“She didn’t believe it’s a chance meeting, and she didn’t actually know who was coming to Lagos. She probably thought it was some other lady. When she saw Michel bring in Peace from the airport, she thought I had planned to come install her here in Lagos. She refused to listen to reason. I hope you believe my story now. You can verify it from your ex-boyfriend, or, ask Peace herself. She’ll talk if she knows you know Jerry well.”

I did no such thing, but I was overwhelmed by Seb’s story. The gals, who knew that I wanted time to quiz Seb about Belinda, had kindly ‘detained’ Peace at the dessert table, chatting.

From time to time, Tayo would cock an eye at me to find out if I was through with my conversation with Seb.

At last I nodded at her and they ended their chat with Peace and she returned to Seb’s side.


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