“Is she all there? As in mentally?”

“How do you mean?” Aunty Joy asked.

“I noticed sometimes that she acts really strange.” I said cautiously.

“How strange?”

“Like there is an occasional flash of mental imbalance.” I said, choosing my words carefully.

She remained silent for a while as if trying to measure my words. I had called her earlier in the day to discuss the unusual sparks of insanity I had witnessed in Lola the past few weeks. Most of her displays were comic at best and worrisome at worst. I was convinced that a lot of water had gone under the bridge the past four years. I needed to find out.

“What happened? What did she do?” She asked anxiously. I didn’t want to go into specifics as I was sure she could guess.

“In the past, while we dated – yes, she had the tendency to throw the occasional tantrum but she never showed any inclination towards getting physical. We had a little disagreement and it almost became physical. At other times, she would go into trances where she began to utter unintelligible mumbo-jumbo”

Aunty Joy toyed with the chips on the plate in front of her as she seemed lost in thought. She had added weight again; her habit of always eating chicken and chips was her undoing apparently. I could see that in no distant future, she would be where she had begun or beyond it. I shifted in my seat to watch her more closely as I detected that she had become a bit uneasy with the topic. It could only mean one thing.

“Well, she had an episode after her husband died.” She said reluctantly. “She became quite suicidal…so we had to take her to Yaba for a few days.”

“Ha! Yaba?!” I exclaimed. “Why am I just hearing this now?” I wasn’t happy that she had kept this piece of information from me.

“I didn’t think it was necessary as she was suffering from depression. She only spent three days there after which she’s been in good spirits ever since.”

“You didn’t think it was necessary? I see.” I said, quietly. I was angry at myself for not seeing this before and how could I? It was a selfish ploy the whole time and not her genuine concern for me or Lola that led her to push us together. She was tired of having Lola as her responsibility. She was trying to shift the responsibility to me.

“So is there any other thing that you’ve hidden from me because you thought it wasn’t necessary?” I asked, unable to hide my annoyance.

“Ah ah! Its not like that oh.” She said, her face turning into a disappointed frown. She looked away for a few minutes before she continued.

“Lola always thought her husband’s death was her penance for the way she treated you. Even when we tried to convince her otherwise, she wouldn’t listen.” She paused to gauge my reaction but I kept my face totally bland. She continued after some time when she saw no discernible expression from me.

“Lola needs you back in her life. She always has. I’ve never seen her so happy in the last four years than she is now…just give her some time.” She said.

“How about me? Do I really need her and all her…drama? Have you considered that?” I asked.

“I have. Why else have you not been in a steady relationship?” She asked frankly.

The truth of the matter was that I was probably the most confused as to what I really wanted. I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted from this. At the beginning, all I wanted was some form of closure but now, I wasn’t so sure. Aunty Joy had seen that and taken advantage of it. I couldn’t really blame her though. One thing was sure – my senses were tingling badly. I had a premonition that nothing good was going to come out of this. I had to get out before I got hooked and before Lola got too dependent.

I was eager to get back to work because I was overcome with boredom after the first few weeks of nothing but TV, food, sex and hanging out with Max. Bola’s persistence added a new twist to my life. I was flattered that she continued to call me despite the fact that my interest had toned down a notch but I always made sure I returned her calls. However, my interest piqued again when I ran into her the day I went for a general check up with Dr. Usman. She hadn’t been on duty that evening but she confessed she had taken a peek into the doctor’s notes to confirm my appointment was for that day, hence her presence.

I was once again overwhelmed by her vivacity and the sheer force of her personality. There was no need to thread softly with her as there was no threatening clouds of the past cautioning us but the absolute freedom of just enjoying each other’s company in real time as far as we could go. When I offered to take her somewhere so we could have dinner, she counter-offered with dinner at her place so I agreed.

She lived alone in a very nice and tastefully furnished 2 bedroom apartment in a very nice area at Magodo. The compound was large with three other apartments with ample parking space The sitting room was small but compact and very comfortable.

“I know what you’re thinking.” She said mischievously as she watched me look around appreciatively when we stepped into the sitting room. She took off her jacket revealing the fitting top she wore beneath that barely held her massive breasts in place.

“You do? What am I thinking?” I asked.

“You’re wondering what man pays for my apartment.” There was a sneer in her voice when she said this. It was so funny I had to laugh.

“Why would you even think I’m thinking that?” I asked laughing.

“Its the way you men think. You automatically conclude that I must have a sugar daddy somewhere that pays for this. Its really annoying.” She said with such disgust that amused me.

“Oh, so you’ve been bringing men home?” I said feeling a tinge of jealousy.

“Not really? My ex said that the first time he came here.” She said.

“Ouch! That must have hurt.” I said.

“It did.”

“Well, you’re apartment is very nice.” I conceded.

“My dad owns this place. He let me have it when I told him I wanted to live on my own.” She said.

“You seem to be all about emancipation, lady. Its one of the things I find irresistible about you.” I said honestly without meaning to.

“Oh yeah? That’s so sweet.” She said blinking her eyelashes. She switched on the LCD and handed me the remote. “Please make yourself comfortable while I cook up some spaghetti. Do you like spaghetti?”

“I love spaghetti.” I said.

“Great!” She said, quite pleased.

As she turned to head to the kitchen, I asked, “Mind if I join you in the kitchen? Watching TV bores me these days.” I asked.

“Would you? You’re welcome to.” She said smiling. She put in some music before we headed inside the small but neat and spacious kitchen.

We talked on lighter topics as she went through the motions of cooking. There was a feeling that overwhelmed me with the way we talked, the way she moved purposefully and laughed heartily at my jokes. For a second, my mind wandered to what a future with her would be like. Me, her, a conversation in my kitchen with a ring on her middle finger. As if to confirm the epiphany, the smooth, silky voice of Michael Bolton’s Soul Provider wafted into the kitchen from the sitting room.

“Dance with me Bola.” I said suddenly. She turned to look at me surprised.

“You like this song too?!” She exclaimed as she hurriedly cleaned her wet hands on a dry napkin which hung on the window protector. She took my extended arms and I pulled her close. We waltzed clumsily to the music, stepping on each others toes in between laughs. I stared into her pretty eyes as her smile gradually faded, giving rise to an expression so sincere.

I made a move to kiss her and stopped halfway. She covered the remaining distance and when we kissed, I felt a fire that I had never known. In our kiss was clarity; a certainty that she was the one my deeply wounded heart had waited for this whole time…

Malcolm O. Ifi.