“I want you”
Claire stared at the WhatsApp message. She wanted her brain to interpret something else, or for the letters to rearrange themselves. Neither happened; of course. But she didn’t have an answer to the missive, so she was hit by instant regret. Why had she opened his message, for pete’s sake?
Fola expected immediate answers. Though Claire had read receipts off, he always checked message information to stalk whether he had been read or not. It was annoying, but all conversation about it resulted in squabbles. Claire avoided squabbles like the devil’s tail. Sewa called it her trauma showing out, but Claire lacked energy for petty dramatics.
Thinking of Sewa, she dialled the other woman on WhatsApp. She also reacted 😳 to Fola’s message.
Sewa’s hail was medicine. It broke Claire’s face into a grin and infected her with cheer.
Both women broke into laughter. Between chuckles, Claire told Sewa about Fola’s message.
“Dickodemus hasn’t earned visa to Medina; has he?”
Claire palmed her face.
“Why are you like this?”
“How am I bawo? What else do we call someone who beds everything that moves?”
“Forgive me. He used to bed everything that moves. Granddaddy Pele stopped playing ball but remains legend; you know? I like to give people their flowers”
Another fit of laughter ensued. It was punctuated by cheeky insults and counter insults; but wasn’t that the sauce of all great friendships?
“Are you considering sleeping with Dickodemus?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. But that’s secondary. I don’t speak Hausa enough to go to a hospital, and you made me swear to STI screening before any sexual partners.”
“WHISPAAA! And if I had a pound for how many times I’ve told you, I could be a naira millionaire.”
Claire rolled her eyes. Hissed.
“The charge is a penny, Arab money. Why are you such a hoodlum?”
Sewa retorted with a longer hiss.
“I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I’m Dr. Sewa of the Arab Money dynasty. You might be a poorly employed Nigerian youth, but I charge in Dinars outchea. If you can’t afford my charity consideration of one pound just say that”
Claire was hollering before the fake outrage was done. Sewa was chuckling too. Chanting na why ah no dey epp peepu be this.
“On the real, Clearscence, Whispa’s network is a directory of the best trained healthcare providers across the country. How did you imagine command of Hausa could be a barrier to accessing whatever services you might want? Have you forgotten Whispa is how I found hospitals in Enugu without speaking a lick of igbo?”
“By the way, talk to someone first. It feels like Fola being in your face is sabotaging ideals you’ve upheld all our life.”
“You’re the calmer one and I respect your decisions. We both know that. I however can’t help thinking this is environmentally influenced. For my sake, please chat with someone at Whispa first.”
“Hmm. Okay. That’s not too much to ask”
Sewa requested update on the Family Life proposal, and Claire was excited to narrate her meeting. When they exchanged byes, Claire’s stroll had her at the junction to Fola’s lodge.
Sewa would find Fola and talk that message over.
The little voice in her head chirped; unbidden. Choosing to not overthink, Claire turned into the street. The closer she got, the harder her heart thumped. Her palms got sweaty. Air got heavier. And oxygen seemed scarcer.
This was why she avoided confrontations. Her body revolted against uncomfortable conversations.
“Fola don’t kill me! Ha! You will kill me!”
The screams froze Claire’s feet before hastening them. The lodge was quiet. Other housemates must have left for fellowship before the scuffle ensued. She had never suspected Fola was violent but…
She opened the unlocked door to a side view of Fola. Penis-deep in his pregnant, married neighbour. His head swung to face the intrusion and his jaw fell.
“Cl… Cl… I can ex…”
He staggered off the bed and towards her. Bathed in sweat. Breathing heavily.
“It’s not… It’s not what…”
The words jolted Claire and she blinked. Once… Twice… Fola was a foot away. Naked. Arms reaching towards her…
Claire took a shaky step back. Then another. What did she want to say? Was there an appropriate response to… this?
“So… Sorry. Excuse me”
Hand still on the door, she pulled it shut. A buzz like the sound of radio static filled her head and the world started to feel slow. Like she was sinking in quicksand. Claire executed a brisk 180. Ran. Back at the junction, she collapsed against a mango tree. Body shaking. Heart racing. Tears pricking the back of her eyes. Breathing mouthfuls of oxygen. A thought flashed: Fola hadn’t worn a condom.