Kunbi arrives Lagos Sunday evening. She is tired from her trip and saunters into the apartment she and Wale share. She drops her weekend bag and slumps into a settee. Wale who is watching a football match in the living room looks up and smiles. “How was your trip?”
“Hectic”. She yawns.
“Mumsie and your boyfriend?” He asks as he pauses the match with a remote.
“They are both fine”.
“I suppose he has warned you stay away from me”. He says giving her a mischievous look”.
Kunbi eyes him but refuses to respond.
“What? He asks, pretending to be surprised. “I only made a statement. It is an assumption which means no harm”. He chuckles.
“Wales, please, I am not…..
The doorbell rings and Kunbi points to him. “Saved by the bell. I’ll get it”.
She opens the door and meets Sola, who is looking casual in a blue polo Tee-shirt and faded jeans. He just got his beard shaved and he is looking younger and very handsome. Kunbi suddenly feels like a shy school girl in his presence. He smiles at her and she notices his perfect dentition again. She is embarrassed at her attraction to him and wonders why she is so jittery in his presence.
“Hi, when did you arrive?” He says breaking into her thoughts.
“Hi…I arrived some minutes ago”. She steps aside. “Please come in”.
“So, how’s your mum and boyfriend?”
Kunbi turns to look at him with surprise and gives Wale a quick glance.
“Did I say something wrong?”
“No. I’m just surprised that I have been a topic of discussion at a round table conference”.
Sola laughs. “Guilty as charged”.
“Sola, just ignore her. Please sit down”. Wale says laughing.
“Actually, I came to see Kunbi”.
Kunbi is shocked. “Me?”
“Of course. I want to take you out”.
“I…em…you know I just came back. I’m really….” She stammers with embarrassment.
“Please don’t say no. Pleaseeee”. He stresses.
“But you know….”
“Just a drink. Cross my heart”. He smiles as he puts his right hand on his chest.
Kunbi is confused and she looks at Wale who nods signifying his answer.
“Oh well! Okay. Let me change into something else”. She shrugs.
As she walks towards her room, Sola rubs his palms together and grins at Wale. “Thanks, man”.
“Be careful and don’t forget what I said”.
“I promise, I would never hurt her. You have my word”.
She has a quick shower and wonders what to wear. A simple dress should do just fine. There is no reason to go overboard with my appearance. She was unsure of Sola’s intentions but the earlier she drew boundaries for them, the better for her. She smiled as she sat in front of her dressing mirror and applied light make-up. He is handsome, no doubt. Get him off your mind. She shook her head to dispel her attraction to him. She was committed to Ola and he meant the world to her. His behaviour of recent was however a source of concern. She sighed as she stood up and looked at herself in the mirror. I am sure I am just being apprehensive over nothing.
“I’m ready”. She says as she walks into the living room where the men are engrossed in the football match paused earlier on.
Sola is speechless as she looks at her.
“Are we ready?” She asks when she notices he is just staring at her.
“You are beautiful”.
“Thank you. Wales does not like me getting home too late”. She says trying to steer the conversation away from her looks.
“Take your time”. Wale smiles.
“Thanks man”. Sola stands up as he stretches his hand to Wale for a handshake.
As they get into Sola’s car, Kunbi tries to start a little conversation to quell her anxiety. “Wale says you were course mates in school”.
“Yes, he was one of the brilliant ones. First class in Architecture is no mean feat”.
She smiles. “Wales has always been a book worm. I remember him coaching me on science subjects when I was about to write my final exams in Secondary school”.
“He is very fond of you”.
They arrive at a bar in less than fifteen minutes. As they walk into the bar, Sola acknowledges the greeting of the doorman with a smile. He takes note of a table for two at a corner and walks towards it leading Kunbi.
Kunbi orders a glass of chapman and Sola decides to do same just to give her a sense of safety on the drive back home.
“I guess you are wondering what this outing is all about.” Sola asks.
“Of course. I am”.
“I know you are hooked”. He smiles. “I just want to….”
She raises her brow and he starts laughing.
“What?” She asks surprised.
“You need to see the expression on your face”.
She relaxes and smiles. “Really?”
“Yeah. You had this look of disbelief as if you thought I was going to tell a lie”.
“I did not intend to be rude”. She apologizes. “I wanted to be sure you meant what you were about to say”.
“I know about Ola. I don’t think it should stop us from being in the friend zone”.
“Friend zone or Friends without benefits?”
“Friends without benefits. I stand by my word”. He says smiling.
They talk for about an hour on various issues relating to work, politics and family and are relaxed as they laugh.
Sola begins to pick up Kunbi every day during lunch hour. They vary their lunch venues from time to time depending on Kunbi’s choice. Sola is insistent on paying for their lunch each time even though Kunbi kicks against it. She decides to start getting him groceries in return, dropping them in his car during their lunch dates and he is appreciative of her kind gesture. Even though he had stated right from the start that he would remain a friend without benefits, he sometimes wished they could take it a step further. He had given his word and he was not going to break his promise. Many nights, alone on his bed, he wondered if Ola was truly worthy of her love. It was evident she was committed to him. She spent her weekends with him in Ibadan and he felt a tinge of jealousy. He loved her but realized quickly that it was not mutual or was it?
His parents had died in a car accident when he was just four and it was a miracle that he had survived. The car seat in which he was strapped had been his saving grace. His cries had alerted rescuers who got him out of the mangled car and took him to the hospital after informing the police.
Weeks after he was discharged, he was handed over to his aunt, his mum’s younger sister. She was a single mother with a son she doted on. She had been physically abused in her marriage and recently left her husband to save her life and retain her sanity. He had grown up with his cousin and his aunt only as she refused to remarry. She was scared and felt marriage was not worth trying again. She had shown him much love and he had never lacked. His aunt’s idea about marriage and relationships however rubbed off on him. Memories of his parents’ marriage was a distant past and he had no idea if marriage was worth anything to them. He therefore steered clear of serious relationships preferring to remain a friend. He was scared of commitment. Quite a number of ladies he liked in the past noticed his aversion for commitment and eventually got into serious relationships with other men and got married. He was such a cool guy and many could not understand his fear of commitment. At forty, he was still single. He found it difficult to rise above his fear of marriage. Could it be different with Kunbi if he was given a chance? Was marriage truly worth it? He thought.
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