23-25 As soon as Abigail saw David, she got off her donkey and fell on her knees at his feet, her face to the ground in homage, saying, “My master, let me take the blame! Let me speak to you. Listen to what I have to say. Don’t dwell on what that brute Nabal did. He acts out the meaning of his name: Nabal, Fool. Foolishness oozes from him.
25-27 “I wasn’t there when the young men my master sent arrived. I didn’t see them. And now, my master, as God lives and as you live, God has kept you from this avenging murder—and may your enemies, all who seek my master’s harm, end up like Nabal! Now take this gift that I, your servant girl, have brought to my master, and give it to the young men who follow in the steps of my master.
I let my lip stick tube hover over my lower lip. What am I doing? What do I think this is going to achieve. I apply the lipstick and smack my lips. I pout at my reflection and bat my attached eyelashes. I don’t look too bad. All I should do now is to put some clothes on. What do I wear to the first major art exhibition in a recently opened gallery in Lekki? A shirt dress and a really nice pair of sneakers. I could manage that. I hum to myself as I get the clothes from my wardrobe. I am excited, I admit it. I have never been to an art exhibition in all of my thirty years – yup, I need to remind myself daily of the thieving hands of time. Is it me or are my shoulders getting broader? And what are those tuber of yams I have for legs? I laugh at my feigned dismay. I like it when I can laugh at myself. I should do it more often. I have never had problems with my body. I love my thick shoulders and my muscular legs, I guess they are the dividends of my one time maniacal working out. I still work out, but I try to avoid anything intense.
I wiggle my backside at the mirror before I step out of the room. I laugh as I speak into the phone telling Phillip I am on my way. I am going with the flow. I love Okada rides, but no Okada rider will take me from the mainland to Lekki without my robbing a bank. I make use of the BRT buses and finally get a bike from one of the roundabouts to the Gallery. There is the Keke Napep option but, ‘no, thanks.’ Philip sees me as I alight from the bike. I say a very cheery hello to him and take his offered hand. It is so soft. I take a sneak peak at his nails – manicured and perfect. I pretend to trip and place my hand on his muscular chest. So hard. So refined and clean. I let out a wistful sigh.
‘You good?’ I nod. I nudge him with my elbow. ‘You look dashing.’ He smiles selfconsciously. I resist the urge to roll my eyes. I wait for him to return the compliment. I may as well be dead if I were holding my breath waiting for it. He doesn’t. I refuse to let the disappointment dampen my spirits. I smile as I get introduced. I watch the other women watch him. He is really good looking and all that good stuff. It is nice, and fancy and not my kind of thing. But I am having fun. You know that feeling when you are with the most handsome guy in a room? That sort of thing.
After the exhibition, Philip invites me to go for lunch at another fancy restaurant. I let him hold my hand as we walk in. His grip is warm but firm. I could get used to his soft hands. We see Eloho and she waves us over.
‘Mario!’ We embrace each other. ‘Elle.’ She smiles at Philip. ‘From now on, I am no longer underestimating Abigail.’ I smile shyly as we seat across from her. ‘I am so glad to see you. My date stood me up.’ She takes a sip from her glass of wine. ‘Not really stood up. There was an emergency.’ She smiles at the both of us. ‘I am so glad to see you’. Her eyes twinkle when they rest on me. I laugh. ‘Whatever you are thinking Elle, just let it remain in your mind.’ I am distracted fro my reading of the Menu by squeals.
‘Aunty Abebi! Aunty Abebi!’ I can’t resist the urge to roll my eyes. I fix a wide smile on my face and throw my arms wide open as I scoop a set of triplets into my arms. ‘My angels, how are we doing?’ They are talking at the same time. ‘Mummy! See Aunty Abebi’ ‘Mummy said you were not coming back.’ ‘You don’t like us anymore, Aunty Abebi? We miss you.’ They drag me away from our table to their mother’s. By the time I return, Philip and Eloho are looking at me expectantly.
‘The Dan-Philip Triplets. I was like their nanny until a few months back.’
Philip nods. Eloho spreads her arms, ‘And Abebi?’ I look into the Menu. ‘My name is Mario now.’ Philip raises an eyebrow. ‘I changed it.’ I shut the Menu as if to put an end to the questioning. Eloho shifts in her seat. ‘I will still come back to that.’ Philip laughs awkwardly. ‘So, are you still a nanny? The other night, Abigail said you are a business woman.’ I cringe inwardly. ‘I used to sell stuff. I haven’t sold since the end of last year.’ Philip picks up from there. ‘So what do you do now?’ I bite my lip. ‘I am unemployed at the moment.’ Eloho pats my hand. ‘It’s okay. Keep applying and volunteer to when the opportunity presents itself. What did you study though?’ I plead with Eloho with my eyes. Philip smiles at me. ‘One of those really irrelevant courses.’ I quip. Nobody laughs. ‘I don’t know. I started with a Diploma in English Language. I didn’t make cut off, so in my second year I was moved to Philosophy. By my third year, I had eight carry over, I was looking at being asked to withdraw, so I changed departments again, this time to African History or something. We were just five in the department. I had two extra years. I wasn’t even sure where I was again. I was just doing electives to boost my GP and leave. I still left with a pass. What did I study? I honestly don’t know.’ Philip mutters, ‘I am sorry.’ I smile at him. ‘It is okay. I guess.’ ‘So, any plans to continue trading or baby sitting?’ I look at him squarely in the eyes. ‘No.’ Eloho phone rings and she picks it. After the call she gets up from her seat. She says her good byes and pulls me aside in a big hug. ‘God has everything covered. Believe.’ I wrinkle my nose while returning her hug. when it is just the two of us, it takes a while for Philip to meet my eyes. When he finally does, he starts talking. I guess he is weighing his response to my revelation. ‘I have a degree in Communications. I graduated with a two one. Being a fitness trainer is my side hustle’. I like the sound of that. It seems my life is made up of bits of side hustle. ‘Apart from my fitness business, Dotun and I are thinking of floating a foundation – like a sports academy, getting kids of the streets through sports.’ When he finishes talking, I take his hands into my own. My rough palms and my claw-like artificial nails gingerly grasp his hands like I am holding a glass bowl containing eggs. ‘I have no big dreams, Philip. I don’t want to float a foundation. I don’t want to be a business woman. I don’t want to be a baby sitter. I don’t want any of that.’ His forehead wrinkles in confusion. ‘What do you want, Mario?’ I let out an exasperated sigh. ‘I don’t know.’
‘… Honesty is costly. It is so expensive. That a person can afford be on the receiving end of it should be the measure of wealth. Philip hasn’t called in two days. He sent me a text that he had a nice time. Of course, he is too well mannered to send me a text containing his real thoughts. He is the gentle man who would invite me for another date to explain why we would be better off as friends. And I know that is what he plans to do next.
I am glad for one thing. That I have been able to shake off any illusions of perfection that he may have had from the start. I would have liked to control the progression of whatever is happening between us. But I can’t anymore because I am a clueless thirty year old whose idea of relaxation is a glass of chilled Bailey and whose sense of drive and ambition is totally nonexistent. Philip told me that it is okay not to have big dreams, but it is not okay not to want something from life.
I laughed into his face. There is one thing I want in life. I just want to be happy. That’s all I have ever wanted. To be in the middle of so much laughter and gladness. I just want to be happy. That’s all I want. I don’t want to leave a legacy, please. When you are dead, you are dead, life goes on. The world has a very short term memory. I don’t want to be rich, ….