– the fun-loving, but hardworking single parent

By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers!  Talk of the wind blowing weeds into your garden of lovely roses! It was a Saturday  mid-morning and our materials supplier had just delivered the various materials we were going to use for Heather’s white wedding in Accra.  We were in high spirits as we admired one material  after the other.

We had scaled down our budget, and instead of three outfits each for us and for Heather and Robert, we decided to have just two.  While the gals would wear the same materials, Heather and her husband would wear the same.  They cost us an arm and a leg, but they were so lovely, and we had been told by our supplier that she had them specially designed and made for us only.

That meant that we are unlikely to see the materials on anyone else; at least not in this country.  I smiled as she lied through her teeth.  For those materials to be exclusive only to us, we would have had to pay ten times more than she had sold them to us, for the manufacturer to make any meaningful profit.  We didn’t dispute her claims, however.  Rather, we praised her efforts at getting them for us.   They were all in velvet lace, and they were simply gorgeous.  We discussed the outfits we would make out of them..

We of course, as mothers-of-the day, would have ours made into buba and iro, as we should look  regal and dignified  on the occasion.  I suggested that Heather should have hers made into buba and iro too,  but Boma disagreed, saying that as a much younger person to us, she should wear long skirts and tops which many of her age-mates opt for, while Robert can have his made into long Senegalese  caftans.

“Hm!” sighed Liz.  “I agree with Treena that Heather should change into buba and iro, as she too should look dignified on her big day, and not like the single girls around her. Long skirts are smart, but they’re not as dignifying as buba and iro on a great occasion like one’s wedding.”

“True,” agreed Boma,  “but can Heather walk smartly in iro?  I’ve never seen her in an iro and buba outfit.  My daughters stick to long skirts and tops.  They avoid iro and buba, or the double wrapper of Rivers State because they say they can’t tie the wrapper properly, and they trip and fall over when they try to walk in them.”

“Well, that was our experience too in our younger days when our mothers were initiating us into it,” observed Tayo.  I suggest we ask Heather what she would like both materials made into.  Let’s not waste time arguing about it.  Shall I ring her  or will you do that later, Treena dear?  We have other things to discuss.  What tailors to use, securing the booking of  three luxury vehicles for Accra, etc.   The Saturday before Easter Sunday is almost here.  We have to move fast.”

“I’ll discuss the matter with Heather later,” I told her.  “Oh, someone’s driving in. Are you expecting someone this morning, Tayo?”

“No.  Who can it be?  Oh, it’s your husband. It’s dear Seb. I wonder why he’s here so early in the morning.    I hope all ‘s well.”

“He probably heard about the aso-ebi and he’s come to put a stopper on it,” said Becky.  “I’ve been having this feeling that he wouldn’t support it if he gets to hear of it.”

“If that’s the case, he needn’t have come here,” reasoned Boma. “All he would have done would be, get Treena on the phone and blast her head off.   Look, he’s looking very worried and pensive.”

“I’ve noticed that too,” said Tayo.  “Our aso-ebi wouldn’t get that much attention from him. I hope there isn’t a hitch about the wedding arrangements.  Anyway, we shall soon know.  Here he comes.  Hello Seb, my sunshine!” she said,  going to welcome him into her sitting room and for a second or two he held her in a tight embrace.

“Break it up, Seb dear,”said Liz, going to pull them apart. “What have we done wrong this time?  You look like the sky has fallen down somewhere.”  She too hugged him, followed by Boma and Becky.  I merely nodded at him from my chair.  He nodded back in a distracted manner.

Tayo’s steward came in to ask him what he should serve him – food or drinks.

He shook his head, still looking lost.  My heart tugged a bit. I hope our children were alright.  I didn’t want to seem panicky so I didn’t ask him.

“Good morning my sweethearts,” he said with a forced smile.  “Sorry to disturb your meeting but let me get straight to the point.   I got a call from mama, that is, Tayo’s mum, saying I should come with Tayo to Abeokuta at once,  because papa is feeling very very poorly.  Tayo, can we leave straightaway?”

You can imagine the commotion his announcement caused.  I jumped up from my chair to join the gals who had crowded around him, wanting to know more.

“The truth is that that was all mama told me.  She said she didn’t want to tell Tayo herself, as she would panic and begin to weep.  All the other children are already gathered in Abeokuta.”

“Oh my God!  It  must be very serious then. We must all go down there with Tayo, and straightaway,” I said, looking round at Liz, Becky and Boma.

They all nodded in agreement.  Tayo, ever the strong lady, went to sit in a chair, crossed her legs, and beckoned to Seb.  He sat with her on the couch.  In a broken voice, she asked him pointblank  if her father was dead.

“Oh no!  Don’t think that way, Tayo dear.  Mama would have told me if that was the case, and I would have told you the truth.  All I know is that he had a rough night last night, and this morning, he was too weak to be taken to the hospital, according to his two personal doctors.

They’re there in the house, trying to revive him.  He’s on drip, and there’s talk of blood transfusion. Now, now, Tayo sweetheart, don’t cry.  You’re a strong lady.  Aren’t you the rock around us all here?  Pull yourself together and let’s be on our way.  My jeep can take all of us, or would you want your driver to drive along behind us?”

Tayo got up, dabbed at her eyes, thanked Seb, and said it would be best if her two drivers came along so that the rest of us can have transport back to Lagos, and Seb would be free to return to Lagos any time he wanted, and not have to wait for us.

“That makes sense, darling,” he told her.  Now, go get ready and let’s leave.”

After Tayo had left the sitting room, the rest of us began to make telephone calls home to tell our families we were going with her to Abeokuta.

Trust nanny.  She said we would need her help in Abeokuta and asked  if she could go  with us.  See the itchy feet woman?  Is she a doctor or what?  Anyway, not wanting frostiness in my home, I told her she should speak to Seb about it, since he was the one taking us all there.  I went over to him and handed him the phone.  Instead of taking the phone from me, he pulled me down to the settee and gave me a peck on the cheek.

“My love, you look lovely,” he whispered in my ear.

I was so shocked that I got up at once to leave the room.  He told nanny he would ring her back, and he got up to follow me to the dining area.

“Hey, don’t run away from me, Treena dear,” he said coming to block my way.

“I should,” I told him.  :”What was all that about?  Even if we didn’t have a crisis on our hands, you have no business kissing me and calling me ‘Love’.  I can tell you’re very sober and not drunk. Could it be a case of mistaken identity and you thought I was Belinda?  I’m waiting for an explanation.”

“You don’t get it, Treena dear,” he said, shaking his head.  “It couldn’t be  a case of mistaking you for Belinda. It was silly of you to think that.  Look, you and I have to start rehearsing for the wedding.”

“I beg your pardon!  Rehearsing what for the wedding, if I may ask?”

“How to be affectionate towards each other, so that we would present ourselves in Accra, as a loving husband and wife.”

“You’re not my husband, Seb.”

“Right!  We both know that.  Still, we don’t want to put our divorce on display during the wedding, do we?  Think of the in laws who will attend from Europe and the West Indies.  Think of the friends and relatives there who really don’t know what has happened to our union.  Come on, it’s only for a couple of days.  That’s all.  Tayo suggested it, and I heartily bought the idea.  Didn’t she tell you?

She said we shouldn’t upset Heather by acting like a divorced couple; turning our faces away from each other, or refusing to sit together, and all that.  That’s why she’s included me in the change of outfits that you gals have bought, so that people would perceive a good and caring union. The six of us will wear the same outfits, throughout.  I’ll go change too when you gals change at the reception.”

I shook my head several times to clear it.  I thought I was dreaming.  I mean, would Tayo betray me to such lengths?  Shouldn’t she have discussed these crazy ideas with me first, and sought my approval before going to tell Seb?  Life-long close friend or no life-long close friend,  I thought Tayo had overstepped her bounds this time, and I decided silently that I was going to teach her a lesson she won’t forget in a hurry.  I’ll think up a plan that would knock her sideways, if not out totally.  I sat apart from the others in the dining area, deep in thought.  Seb looked at me anxiously, then left to go join others.

Tayo emerged looking so sad and dejected that my heart went out to her, but then I remembered her treachery, and even though I went with the others to console her, I didn’t put my arms around her like they did.  Seb was looking on from a distance; himself looking sad.

We all trooped out  and began to get into the vehicles. I was going to get into mine when Seb came to  pull me away roughly, to go join the others and himself in his jeep.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked in a harsh low tone.  “What sort of friend are you?  Is this the time to bear the poor lady a grudge when her father could be dying any moment now?  I’ve never known you to be so selfish!  Now, go sit next to her and do your best to show her that you care.  You’re not the only one with feelings, you know.  Don’t be callous and throw away a good friendship.  Now, come on.”

Ashamed of my self, I got into the jeep and went to sit next to Tayo at the back.  Seb sat on her other side, and the vehicles left in a convoy.  Tayo was looking so miserable that it was impossible to keep up my anger.  It began to dissolve, and I put my arm around her, whispering words of comfort to her throughout the journey.  I’m not a saint, but….
Tara.

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