Muna was not enjoying this role. She had played the comforter several times in Tami’s life and she was again towing that line as Tami broke down in her arms. Kunle had delivered a bomb that had wrecked her friend. Muna did not hate Kunle for this, he had been through a lot.
“I am sorry,” Muna said, running her fingers through Tami’s hair. “Kunle is just hurting, he’ll come around.”
“You don’t know that.” Tami replied through muffled tears. “You should have seen his face. He was so cold. I don’t know if he’ll come around.” She rambled.
Muna nodded. “You are right. I am not sure that he will come around. Heck! I wouldn’t come around if I was him.”
Tami sat up and wiped her tears.
“I know nothing I can say now makes sense to you but I hope that when sense finally returns to you, you would be able to do the right thing and apologize to Kunle for how you have treated him.”
“How about how he has treated me?” Tami retorted. “He is ending us. I didn’t end us.”
Muna chuckled. “You may not have said the words directly but you know that you haven’t been good to him. And calling off the wedding wasn’t exactly the right thing to do.”
“I lost someone!” Tami growled. “Doesn’t that mean something to you, Muna?” she asked. “You know how much Justin meant to me and you sit there and judge me?”
“Tami, I am judging you! You are making a big mistake putting Justin ahead of Kunle. That guy loves you.”
“And I love him but I can’t be with him right now. Is that too hard for you to understand? Are you so dumb that you don’t know how the heart works? I can’t just switch up on my pain like that. I am not like you. I am emotionally attached. I don’t do flings. I treat people like people.” Tami retorted.
Muna blinked. “The fact that you know about the pain and how it controls the heart says a lot about what you can control and what you have refused to control, but, I can’t have you insult me, Tami. Sort yourself out.” She said and walked out.
Tami exhaled. She had gone off on the wrong person. Muna was always down for her and she had used Muna’s emotional detachment against her. Tami sometimes attributed Muna’s cold nature to not finding the right man, but two decades, some years and several men later, she had resigned to believing that there was no man right enough for Muna. She just couldn’t bond with anyone.
“I guess it’s just you and I, right?”
Tami turned to see Amina standing by the door. “Hey? Are you okay? Is anything the matter?” she asked, flustered by Amina’s question.
Amina shook her head, taking a seat. “I have two questions.”
“Okay, ask them.” Tami replied, clearing her throat.
Amina folded her arms. “One, did he break up with you because of me?”
“He didn’t break up with me.” Tami replied defensively. “We are only taking a break to let things roll over and no, it’s not because of you.”
“There is no difference.” Amina replied, curtly.
Tami frowned. She wondered why she was even having this conversation with a teenager in the first place, but she was not going to be dismissive. She had to act like the adult. “What’s your second question, Amina?”
“Do you know how to cook? Because I am hungry.”
Tami nodded with a smile. “Of course, let’s go to the kitchen.”
“What do you think you are doing, man?” Muna asked, dumping her bag on Kunle’s table. “Are you trying to ruin Tami’s life?”
Kunle stared at her and rose to his feet. “Hi, Muna. It’s nice to see you too.”
“Cut the bullshit, Kunle. Why did you do that?”
He smiled faintly. “Would you like me to get you a drink?”
“Really? You think this is funny? Dude, you should know better.” Muna said, reaching for her bag.
Kunle grabbed her hand. “Muna, sit.”
Muna took a deep breath and then complied.
“I am sorry you feel this way but have you stopped to think about me for one minute? Do you know how I feel? Do you know Tami has done to me?”
She sighed. “Kunle,”
“No, Muna. Do you feel it is okay for you to storm in here and form fake deep for me, abi? Or do you really consent to everything Tami is doing?”
Muna swallowed. “Kunle, you know that Tami is my sister.”
“And does that mean that you shouldn’t tell her the truth? Muna, Tami is playing with me. I know stuff happened but she doesn’t have to treat me this way. I love her.” He replied.
She shifted in her seat. “I know and that’s why I am here.”
“What do you want me to do, Muna? Because I am exhausted and I’d give anything to have things right with Tami but I think I am out of ideas and I am losing her.” He asked, taking his seat.
“If I knew what to do, I’d tell you but what I know is, distancing yourself from her is not the right way to go about it. Tami loved Justin.”
“…loves Justin.” Kunle corrected. “She is still in love with him. And if she could love him so much, even in death, I can’t compete with that.”
“Justin is dead and you are not competing with him.” she replied. “Tami is just reacting to his death and that’s all.”
“Well, I am just reacting to how I feel and that’s all.” Kunle replied.
Muna took a deep breath.
“Why are you here, Muna? Because if you are here to work out things between Tami and I, I don’t think you should be speaking to me, you should be with Tami.” He said. “I have received several phone calls from the press because of speculations are flying about. Some are even accusing me of cheating on Tami. I am not the one you need to be talking to, Muna.” He concluded and opened the lid of his laptop. “I’ll like to be alone.”
Muna nodded and picked her bag. “You guys will get through this, alright?”
“I hope so.” He replied.
Dr. Chuks Ibekwe ate his dinner of pounded yam and okazi soup quietly. It was unusual of him as okazi knew its way to his heart but he was really worried. Tami was on his mind. He judged himself for having the confidence to eat when things were not going right in her life. He had promised her father that he would be a father to her and in his own way, he could say he had tried but he was about to fail at one of the most important duties of a father; giving his daughter’s hand out in marriage.
“Tami is on your mind, abi?”
Dr. Chuks turned to his wife. “How do you know?”
“Do you know how many years we have been married? If I vex you sef, you go still chop your okazi and goat meat but with Tami, you go lock up and now as I see say you don lock up, I know what’s up.” she rolled in pidgin before taking her seat beside him.
Dr. Chuks pecked his wife’s cheek. “I love you.”
“It’s not like you have a choice.” She replied, picking some meat from her husband’s bowl. “I had to marry you to upgrade your life.”
He smiled. “You’ll say anything not to admit how much you love me and it’s okay, denial works. But, I’ll rub it in your face so you don’t forget me.”
“How would I forget you?” she said, teasingly before kissing his lips. “Hmmm…still as I like it.”
“Was it supposed to change?”
Muna cleared her throat as she walked in. “You guys should take this to the bedroom, why displaying love here?”
“And who are you to tell us where to display our love?” Dr. Chuks asked. “In our own house o?!”
“And didn’t you say you would be sleeping at Tami’s” Mrs. Ibekwe enquired. “Abi, why did you come back home?”
Muna wore a fake smile. “I wanted Tami to get some rest so I came home but seeing you both like this, I am not sure I’ll be getting any sleep.”
“I don’t know what you are driving at young lady.” Dr. Chuks replied. “Go to bed.”
Muna smiled and turned away from them.
Muna stopped and turned to her parents.
“Muna, are you sure something didn’t happen between you and Tami?” Mrs. Ibekwe asked.
Muna laughed. “Mom, nothing happened. Goodnight.” She replied dismissively and hurried upstairs before any her parents would conjure more questions to bombard her with.
“They definitely had a fight.” Dr. Chuks said.
Mrs Ibekwe folded her arms. “How are you so sure?”
“I just have a hunch. I think we need to let Tami breathe so that she doesn’t explode and lash out on her sister or us.” He replied.
“Are you scared of manning up and telling Tami that she is annoying? Because I am not. And I’ll go to her house tomorrow to give her a piece of my mind.”
Dr. Chuks shook his head. “You are getting it wrong. This is not about a piece of your mind. If Kunle’s piece mattered, she’d be getting married in two days.”
“I understand but if we take it easy with her, she might end up not getting married at all. She is hurt and confused but she is in no way making the right decision.”
Dr. Chuks knew his wife had a point but he wasn’t one to bully people into taking decisions, especially life-changing ones. “What if Justin’s death is a blessing in disguise?”
“What do you mean?”
He took her hand. “Maybe Tami needs this, maybe this is her closure. If Tami can get past this phase and wants Kunle, then she’s fine… Else, she’ll find something or someone else and Kunle will too.”
“This doesn’t sound good. That man loves her. He has done so much for her. She can’t just do that.” She protested.
“Man, how could you do that?” Tito asked, slurping on her cocktail.
Kunle raised an eyebrow. “What are you saying?”
“You broke up with her,” she replied. “That’s cold, bro. You can’t just break up with a woman like that.”
He chuckled. “Tito, you advised me to break up with her.”
“I suggested that you take a break from the relationship to both clear your head not to break up with her.”
“Tito, you are an idiot.” Kunle said, laughing.
Tito smiled. “How did she take it? I’d have given anything to see her face when you told her.”
“You know you are wicked, right?” Kunle joked, taking his seat. “So, let’s ignore me and talk about you. Why haven’t you gone home to see your parents yet?”
“Our parents.” Tito corrected. “And from what Mom told me, I am not the only one who has been avoiding them.”
“I am pissed at them and they know why. Mom and Dad embarrassed me in front of Tami’s parents. I don’t want to speak with them.”
Tito sat back with a smile. “You can’t blame them, Kunle.” She started. “Mom and her friends are always in a competition and you just took the sting out of their excitement. She’s obviously going to be mad at you.”
“Should that be at the expense of my happiness? My fiancée needed me to stand by her, I would be stupid to jump into the marriage because my parents don’t want their friends to mock them.”
“I totally agree with you, Kunle.” Tito said. “The marriage is more important than the wedding day and it’s good you took that stand.”
Kunle took a deep breath. “I don’t care about how they feel right now, I only care about how Tami is taking this whole thing. Are you sure it’s going to be a nudge?”
“Yes. This is the right thing to do. Tami needs space to clear her head, but at the same time, you can’t afford not to be her shoulder because then you could lose her… You need to be so close, yet so far.”
Kunle drummed his fingers on the sofa. “Tito, you are confusing me. How am I going to be so close, yet so far away from her?”
“You’ll figure it out. You can’t afford to choke her with love and at the same time, you can’t starve her of it.” Tito replied.
He shook his head. “I shouldn’t have listened to you in the first place.”
“Don’t be ungrateful. At least, Muna came to see you, right? You have forced an impression on Tami. Now, we need to capitalize.”
“No, Tito. I don’t like this. Tami needs me to be by her side, not to be planning how to torment her.” He replied.
Tito sighed. “You are such a weakling. This is not about tormenting Tami. This is about realising if Tami is right for you and if you are right for her. I am sorry but this process is not going to be pretty. Brace yourself.” She concluded, rising to her feet.
“What do you mean?” Kunle asked, concerned.
Tito took a deep breath. “Goodnight, Kunle.”
“Good morning, Miss Tami.” Amina greeted as she joined Tami in the living room.
Tami closed the wedding magazine she had been reading and smiled at Amina. “Good morning, Amina. Are you ready for breakfast?”
“Not yet,” Amina replied, taking a seat. “Are we going to the foundation today?”
Tami nodded. “Are you missing your friends?”
“I don’t have friends.”
Tami folded her arms. “Why?”
“Do you have friends? Because I don’t see anyone visiting you here.”
“You have quite the smart mouth, Amina. I have friends, okay?” Tami started. “The fact that you don’t see my friends does not imply that I don’t have friends. Muna is my friend. Remember her?”
“Yes, I remember she left angry too.”
Tami rose to her feet. “That’s it! Go and get ready, we are going to the foundation soon.” She ordered, clearly tired of Amina’s wittiness.
“You are quite unlucky.” Amina replied.
Amina took a deep breath. “If the raiders did not come, Usman would have married me by now. You don’t have the raiders here, but you don’t want to marry.”
“Who is Usman?” Tami asked with a curious smile.
Amina smiled. “My beloved.”
Tami’s smile faded into a very ugly grimace. What did Amina know about love or even having a ‘beloved’? It all sounded weird to her. It wasn’t strange as she had heard and read of cases involving paedophilia in those parts of the country. Tami was convinced that a young lady like Amina wouldn’t have fallen in love with a boy her age, so she thought the worst of Usman. Was Usman a paedophile? She thought to herself.
“Usman is very kind. He doesn’t say too much, except that he loves me,” Amina started without any invitation. “I don’t know if he is still alive.”
Tami clenched her teeth. She was interested in knowing who Usman was just to satisfy her curiosity and at the same time, she was worried about triggering a series of unwanted reactions from Amina but she had to satisfy the stronger urge. “How…How did you meet Usman?” She asked, settling back into her seat.
Amina wiped a tear drop from the corner of her eye. “On the farm. He was with his father and I was with mine,” she paused to stop more tears from falling. “He came to help me tie my basket and told me that I was beautiful.”
Tami smiled. The worst was over. At least, Usman was someone’s son not someone’s father, but then again, maybe she was just a little ahead of herself.
“I miss Usman.” She said, breaking down in tears.
Tami took a deep breath and drew close to Amina. “I am sorry, I am sure he misses you too.”
“I don’t think so. His father never wanted us to be together. I was supposed to marry his father.” Amina replied.
“For real? What is wrong with those people?” Tami said. “You love his son, not him. He should deal with that.” Tami said. “When this is all over, you can go back to look for Usman. I’ll help you find him.”
“Will you?” Amina asked.
Tami nodded. “Yeah, I will.”
“It’s good to see you, Tami.” Mrs. Jacobs greeted as they walked to the common room. “How is Amina’s behaviour?”
“Quite remarkable.” Tami replied. “How are the other girls?”
Mrs. Jacobs stopped and turned to Tami. “Rustled. Ever since Amina tried to kill herself we have changed their utensils because we fear that the growing silence among them can only mean that they are considering the same thing. A lot of them have started crying unlike before, talking about how much of damage they have been through. Amina was a trigger.”
Tami sighed. “Can we handle this?”
“I don’t know. If whatever you are doing with Amina seems to be working, maybe all the girls need to come live with you.”
Tami chuckled. “Very funny. Amina has just been with me for a day and right now, we have no idea what she is up to with the other girls in there, I like to keep an eye on her.”
Tami’s PA hurried to meet them. “There is a problem. There is a story that Kunle cheated on you as the reason you are calling off the wedding and you know who when it comes to blogging wants to run with it, but she says that because you gave her front seat in your last programme, she’d like you to comment on it.”
“That’s nonsense. Tell her that I said the story is nonsense and the only reason my wedding is being postponed is because Kunle and I are trying to get past the death of a loved one which affects us both.” Tami replied.
Her PA nodded. “Okay,” she replied and disappeared down the hallway.
“How are you holding up?” Mrs. Jacobs asked.
Tami swallowed. “I am fine. I haven’t had time to mourn the dead because everyone seems to be poking into my wounds right now.”
“I am sorry about that, Tami, but don’t you think that this dead isn’t worth mourning?” she asked.
“I know how this may sound but I knew Justin. He was no good for you and I know he loved you in his own way but look at what it’s costing you. I don’t think it’s fair that you and Kunle are subject to ridiculous accusations by journalists. You don’t need this negative publicity and you can silence them by doing the right thing.”
“And you think the right thing is to marry Kunle?”
The matron nodded. “Don’t you love him?”
The matron chuckled. “Then what’s the problem?”
Tami looked away.
Tami turned to her. “What?”
“If Justin was still alive and he walked in on your wedding day, could he have changed your mind?” she asked.
Tami took a deep breath. “Yes.”