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BN Prose: The Kindling by Abby Beckley



african_woman_detailAdunni caressed her belly with a deep satisfaction. After bearing six children her abdomen was still remarkably flat and even now with a brand new life beating away inside it gave nothing away. She had no need to visit her gynaecologist to know that she was expectant again; all the familiar symptoms were in place, the nausea that was only held at bay by highly spiced and peppery food, the tenderness in her breasts along with a heightened sense of smell. She also fell tired after the smallest exertion. After she gave birth to her son eight years ago she had promised herself that there would be no more. She had performed her duties as a wife to Adekunle more than sufficiently, her body was now to be hers and hers alone yet here she was, lying in bed next to his reposed body while he droned like a swarm of angry bees, overwhelmed with happiness at this new development. The reason for her joy was never far removed from her mind.

She closed her eyes and thought back to three months ago when her oldest daughter had expressed an interest in attending the local university. Adunni had tried to stifle her laughter at the thought of Adunni junior going to university, the girl had repeated primary three twice and had still not really caught up and here she was filling her empty head with grand thoughts of going to an institution of higher learning. She must have heard her classmates discussing it and decided she wanted to do the same thing whether or not she had the aptitude for it.

Adunni would have brushed the whole thing under the carpet and sent the girl to learn some sort of trade, she had no looks unlike her so could not rely on that to get her anywhere, however she was good with her hands but of course Adekunle had got wind of it and had been thrilled. No one in his family had been to university before, they had made their great wealth from the land and so he was determined that by all means his daughter should get her wish. They both knew that the only way this could be possible would be to throw money at the university. After a few enquiries they made an offer to build a new wing and renovate the dilapidated library. The dean jumped at the offer and ensured that Adunni would have a place unconditionally in which ever discipline she chose to undertake.

Once the building works were completed the university faculty had organised a party to launch the new Adekunle Adesanya library and to thank the Adesanyas for all of their generosity. Adunni had not wanted to attend the party, thinking the whole thing to be a ridiculous farce; she knew her daughter and was confident she would never graduate, but Adekunle kept on pressing till the very last moment and so she had dressed at a leisurely pace hoping to overrun his patience, had failed and finally deigned to accompany him. Now she shuddered at the thought of what might not have happened had she insisted on staying home and took to caressing her stomach again, smiling to herself.

As she had taken so long to be convinced to go along quite a number of people had already gathered in the university grounds by the time they arrived, the party was being held in the freshly mown garden in front of the library, it looked as though someone had attempted to repair the old fountain as it spurted water out haphazardly. The dean ran up to meet them. “Welcome, welcome Mr and Mrs Adesanya. Our guests of honour have arrived!” he called out to the crowd at large. He escorted them up the steps of the library where a thick red ribbon had been tied before the entrance.

“Ah but before we commence I should like to make a few introductions,” the dean said looking about him for the people he wished to introduce. “Ah here we are, this is Mrs Gloria Uhameze, our head librarian.” The dean urged her forward, she was a small stout woman with generous hips and a small bosom, Adunni wondered whether she wore her head tie so widely in a bid to balance herself out, she shook hands vigorously with Adekunle – Adunni could not be sure who was the more enthusiastic but was certain she would not pretend to be so, absurd waste of money that the whole thing was. Mrs Uhameze offered her hand to her but when it was met with a look of highest disdain she quickly withdrew it.

“Ah next we have Mr Tunji Roberts, head of the Engineering faculty, who was instrumental to the building of the new wing,” the dean spoke quickly to cover up the awkward moment.

As Mr Tunji Roberts stepped forward Adunni had to look up, being rather tall this came as a surprise to her, and then she saw his face and in that moment everything appeared to come to a complete standstill. He was taller than her husband, his skin was very dark and seemed to shine with health as did his eyes which were slightly deep-set, his nose was quite narrow and long, his facial proportions suggested that he might have forbears from the North, when he opened his mouth to smile his teeth looked very white against his skin. Adekunle shook hands with him and congratulated him on his work but Adunni could not bring herself to touch him for fear of exposing herself. She edged herself behind her husband and tried to slow down the whirring of her brain. Once the opening ceremony was completed she whispered to her husband that they should leave but Adekunle was enjoying the moment far too much; here were people of learning lauding over him and seeking his attention.

Adunni did not wish to make polite conversation with any of them and so she had gone to stand by the fountain, she let the sound of its irregular tinkling occupy her mind until she felt the presence of another person behind her. She knew before turning around who it would be because she had caught something in his eyes when they were introduced, for someone who lived behind a beautiful visage for as long as she it was impossible not to recognise that spark of attraction she so often inspired. What was most unusual was that for the first time someone had inspired that same attraction in her. Her senses had always been dormant in that regard and now she found it the most peculiar and thrilling and fearful sensation. What if he had noticed it too? How he had appealed to her?

“Do you mind if I join you?” Tunji Roberts asked in a voice so deep she could almost feel it vibrating in her bones.

“Yes, I mean no,” Adunni answered, she sounded breathless to herself.

“How about I wait here until you have decided which,” Tunji said with a teasing smile hovering about his lips.

Adunni had actually flushed, it was a first for her as she felt the skin on her face go very warm. She tried to pull herself together, she was a married woman, a mother of six. Adekunle had always been good to her and she had come to care for him in the way a cat appreciates the one who gives it the choicest fish and will stand to have its fur stroked if only in return for its meal, and this man, this man smelt of danger, of intoxication and recklessness. If she never saw him again all would be well but she knew as she looked at him and he returned her stare that that was no longer an option.

Photo Credit: Painting by Keith Mallett –