Kehinde swaggered into my sitting room, clutching a medium-sized orange bag, “Ha! Tinuke, I told you my tailor, Mama Folake, is superb.” She balanced her huge back on my couch, and slowly she unzipped the bag and brought out the Indian lace, unfolding it to my view.
“This is the latest material I told you about. Mama Folake has performed wonders on it.”
“Trust me nah, I go pepper them for that party, ahhh they wan try?” she broke off in pidgin as she usually did when excited.
I smiled sheepishly and took the glittering cloth from her, admiringly turning it in different directions and nodding in satisfaction like an agama lizard that just finished a meal. “This cloth is really beautiful, Kehinde. And the colour suits your complexion.”
“Oh really? Let me wear it so you will see the fitting.”
She grabbed the cloth from my hands and began to strip till she was in her underwear. She wore the clothes and turned one-eighty degree. She asked, “So how do you see it, Tinuke?”
“You look heavenly,” I complimented.
“Thank God for my husband. Do you know he gave me two hundred thousand naira for this material?” She puffed up her nose and slightly pouted her lips.
“Oh, you are indeed lucky to have such a man,” I said, just as I knew she would like it. She loved to bask in the euphoria of compliments. But her next word threw me off balance. “Tell your husband to give you the money, let me take you to where we can get you this beautiful lace.”
I masked my displeasure with a smile. “We just paid our Ola’s school fees, and we have other pending priorities to take care of. Maybe when he is buoyant enough, I will tell him.”
She sneered. “That’s why I like my David. He always budgets my needs and excesses, despite taking care of his responsibilities,” she said with a hint of pride and mockery.
After Kehinde left I sat on the couch, thinking about how lucky she was to have a husband who adored her. She had been my neighbor for the past year, and she never hesitated to flaunt David’s generosity. One thing with her numerous visits to my flat was that she filled me with the feeling of an unappreciated wife, and infused a sadness in me until the next time I saw or ran into her, flaunting a Birkin bag or a Louboutin shoe David bought for her. She had that boisterous pompousness and larger than life attitude of a woman living the life others can only dream of.
I was bemoaning my unfortunate self when my phone rang. I looked to see the caller, and it was my husband, Tunde. I let it ring for the second time before I picked.
“Hello, Baby,” he said with an air of excitement. “What are you making for dinner? Guess what! I just got a raise! Can you prepare something delicious for us tonight?”
“Are you there baby?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m here,” I said, unimpressed and angry.
“But you sound distant. What is the matter?” he inquired.
“So does it mean you will increase my monthly allowance now that you have gotten a raise? Or appreciate me as a wife.”
“Please, Tunde,” I said, already irritated. “I have a slight headache. I will see you when you come home.” I ended the call, almost crying, thinking of how Kehinde’s husband would have gotten her beautiful gifts to celebrate a raise. I was frustrated at his nonchalance toward my happiness.
That night, when he returned from work looking stressed, I couldn’t care less. I had earlier fed Ola to satisfaction, and made sure I emptied every content of the pot.
“Baby, please, serve me my dinner. I’m really hungry,” he said. He removed his clothes while I watched, seething.
“You will have to take tea or cornflakes. I wasn’t able to make dinner. My head hurts so much,” I lied and laid a hand on my head sighing.
“It’s okay, I will fix something for myself,” he murmured. I knew he thought I was being mischievous. He later entered the room and handed me something wrapped in a small box. I unwrapped it and opened the box. It was a gold necklace. He said, “Baby, please, I will increase your allowance. But let us finish our project.”
“So because we have a project then my needs will not be met?” I said, not minding he just gifted me a necklace that must have cost fortune. He ignored me. That night, we didn’t speak much, and I went to bed more frustrated.
I was in the market when my phone rang. It was Kehinde. “Hello,” I answered.
“Girl, guess what?” She sounded so excited. I wiped off the sweat on my forehead with the back of my palm. The sun was dealing with me. “My David just got me a new Highlander, 2019 model. Can you believe it?” she screamed.
“Oh, congratulations, dear. That calls for cele—” Before I could finish my sentence she hung up. I was happy for her, but inclined to be sad at my bland life. I continued with my purchase, the cloud already pregnant. When I was done I rushed to my old 2006 Sienna, turned the ignition, and drove home.
As I drove into the compound, I saw Kehinde and some of her friends having a get-together close to her new car. I alighted from car and made to sneak into my flat. But she had seen me. “Oh, Tinuke, come and have some champagne and pizza. My David said we should celebrate.”
l stopped in my tracks. “Okay, dear. I’m so happy for you, but first let me go inside and drop my bag.”
“Alright, make it snappy.” she said.
I entered the house feeling down. Kehinde’s husband had gotten her a 2018 Toyota Tacoma the previous year, and had now gifted her another car. And I was still struggling with the old rickety car I had been driving for ten years.
“Tinuke, darling,” Kehinde called, “we are waiting for you.”
“Oh, in a jiffy,” I replied and quickly took the bags to the kitchen, dropped it on the counter, and rushed out to celebrate my friend. She let me open the car and admire the beautiful interior. We ate roasted chicken and pizza and drank champagne.
“My David has sworn to spoil me,” she said. “He is living up to his promise,” I muttered.
That night, when my husband returned from work, I barely spoke to him. I was an unhappy woman and my marriage was strained. Tunde tried talking to me, but I returned his efforts with scorn. Soon we drifted apart, as I cared less about him or his work.
Every time I ran into Kehinde it was either David had planned a vacation, or he got her one gift or the other reminding me how stale my life was.
Three weeks later, on a Monday morning after my husband had gone to work, I heard some noise coming from Kehinde’s flat. People were arguing and quarrelling. I heard a woman shouting, “How can you owe me two hundred thousand for six months? Do you want to spoil my business? You know you don’t have money, yet you want to buy everything in my shop.”
Fifteen minutes later, the angry woman stormed out of Kehinde’s house, shouting and cursing with Kehinde tagging behind, pleading, “Please, I will pay you.”
The woman said, “If I don’t get my money by tomorrow I will call the police.”
Kehinde ignored me when she saw me, dashed into her house without a word.
What is happening? I thought. Kehinde didn’t look like one who would run into debt. I dressed up and left for the salon. There I met Kehinde’s friend. She narrated how Kehinde’s husband had lost his job a year ago, and how they were neck deep into debt. It was there I understood that the cars were sent by his brother who was in America, for sale.
After I arrived home that day, I entered the kitchen and prepared rice with shredded chicken sauce, put it in a flask, and drove to my husband’s office to surprise him with lunch. As I drove to my Tunde’s office I wondered how I hadn’t seen the blurred lines in Kehinde’s life. I pushed her thoughts from my mind and started taking mental notes on what to cook for my darling Tunde for dinner.