April was Kayode’s favourite month of the year; it was a saner version of December. The last month of the year was always the busiest for Kayode, where he makes fifty percent of his profits. He usually has a function on every day of December, including the 25th. While people celebrated Christmas with family and friends, Kayode was always cooking.
However, in April, the events were not as much, and definitely not as demanding. So, he could enjoy the Easter celebration, attend events, go to church, and still make a healthy income. This April was quite the opposite. There was no event, no church, no Easter celebration, and his mind was busy.
Kayode spent the whole of April brooding. For the first two weeks, he shut everyone out with the perfect excuse that he was obeying the government’s directive of self-quarantining. He slept, woke up, read novels, alternated between eating cereal and bread, watched films, and went back to sleep. He was getting countless calls for bulk food delivery from some of his high network clients but Kayode refused to enter the kitchen to cook anything. The last food he had made was the amala and gbegiri for Funmi on her last day in his home. He ate the cold meal that was meant for her because he had a rule that he could never throw food away. Food was his first love, too precious to go to waste or be discarded. He had not tasted the meal though, and that was the last actual meal he ate, till Soji rescued him.
Soji waited for the self imposed two weeks to end before he visited his younger brother again with his fiancée. They were not prepared for what they saw. For one, they had knocked, banged on his door, and called his phone for about two hours before getting a response. When Kayode finally opened the door to let them in, they found his usually impeccable living room in disarray. There were books, empty bottles, and cereal boxes tossed all over. There was a duvet half on the couch, half on the floor. And good Lord! What was that odour?
“What is going on here?” Soji asked. Kayode did not answer. He looked so unkempt; like he had not taken a shower in at least two weeks.
Soji’s fiancée began to pick up some of the bottles on the floor. Soji looked at his brother and shook his head.
“Please. Just go take a shower,” he advised. Kayode didn’t even argue. He just went, defeated.
Soji joined his fiancée in tidying up Kayode’s living space. Twenty minutes later Kayode came out, smelling better and dressed cleaner, to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and sandwich toast from his kitchen.
“I see you have made yourself comfortable,” he said to Soji nodding to the direction of the kitchen.
“We figured since we will be here for a while, we might as well feed ourselves, knowing that our host won’t do it” Soji said, motioning to Kayode to sit.
“You really shouldn’t have bothered coming,” Kayode retorted, but he sat down.
“What is wrong with you? What are you brooding over?”
Kayode stayed silent, seriously frustrating Soji. He picked up the remote to turn on the television.
“I hope this doesn’t have anything to do with Funmi, and how she was mysteriously recuperating from her illness here?” Soji asked, even though he sensed the answer already.
“What if it has to do with her?” Kayode arched an eyebrow as he asked.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Soji said, obviously in disbelief.
“Toh! I don’t know what to tell you nigbana.” Kayode changed the channel on the television.
Soji was shocked. “Since when did this madness begin?”
“Why does it have to be madness?” Kayode replied the question with his own. It was high time he stopped Soji from treating him like he was still a teenager. “I don’t expect you to understand that I have liked your friend since the first day I ever laid my eyes on her, or that the few days I spent nursing her have been one of the most purposeful in my life.”
Soji was finding it hard to believe his brother’s words. “Are you listening to yourself? She is old enough to be your older sister as it is.”
“But she is not my older sister!” Kayode interrupted.
“It’s not done Kayode! And stop acting like a teenager because she probably turned you down. It’s the sensible thing to do.”
“She hasn’t turned me down, I haven’t asked her anything yet,” Kayode retorted and relaxed back into his seat.
“Then I think you should ask her,” Soji’s fiancée said as she came out of the kitchen with two plates in her hands..
Stunned, Soji turned away from Kayode and towards his fiancée. “Ah ah! Doyin, what are you even saying?”
Doyin sat beside her soon to be brother-in-law and put her hands around him, facing Soji. “ Soji, stop being so old-school. This is the 21st century, a person has the right to be with whomever he or she desires, as long as it’s mutual. Love is all that matters. I don’t see why people should deny themselves of happiness.”
For the first time in a long time, Kayode felt heard. He hugged Doyin, and whispered a “thank you.”
Soji rolled his eyes. He just could not bring himself to understand this so-called affection Kayode was making himself have for Funmi. “But the feeling is obviously not mutual! Why am I the only one seeing this?” Soji picked a toast to bite.
“Well, we don’t know any of that yet. Kayode still has to make a move,” Doyin said putting an end to that conversation.
In fact, that conversation and the possibilities it held if he at least tried was what got Kayode through April. He had focused his energy on cooking and other purposeful activities as he thought and strategised about the best way to approach Funmi. He decided that the brief distance was necessary. Her time at his place must have made it clear to her that he had feelings for her. He needed to let that sink in first, and hopefully have her miss him a bit before making his next move. His only prayer was that she would actually miss him.
Saying Funmi missed Kayode was an understatement. The first week after leaving him was the easiest. She had called him the next day to thank him for his care, and then she focused on taking her drugs and eating well to get better.
Funmi did get better; then the inner turmoil began in the weeks that followed. She realised that she actually desired to enjoy more of the affection Kayode had showered her. She even found herself hoping he’d call. He didn’t. It was almost as if she had imagined the affection from him while she was at his place.
Why am I even still thinking about this? Today was her first day back to work since the lockdown, and there was so much to do. They had just been awarded a contract from a foreign NGO to provide daily lunch meals for ten vulnerable communities in Lagos, and she had called a meeting with the staff that will be involved directly in the project to discuss. The meeting was to begin in ten minutes, but Funmi sat in her office desk with one thing on the forefront of her mind: Kayode.
“I need to stop this nonsense,” Funmi chided herself, and focused on the proposal her assistant had submitted earlier. Today was the 8th of May, exactly three weeks to her 39th birthday, if there was ever a time to stop chasing shadows, the time was now. There was so much planning to do to ensure that her company stayed afloat post Covid-19.
Imagine her shock when she entered the conference room and saw Kayode. How could she not have known that he was one of the three vendors that would be pitching for the job? But then again, how could she have known when she was busy thinking about him, instead of going through the proposal that had been submitted?
The meeting had been a success. The ideas that the vendors had proposed were even better than the plans that Funmi had. The recession was obviously making people sharper, and a contract to feed five thousand people every day for two months was going to be mega for anyone who won it.
Funmi found a way to wear her boss hat, and not allow herself be influenced by sentiments. Her guard was not necessary however, as Kayode stood out. Since his price was higher than the woman who came close to his performance in the pitch, Funmi awarded the contract to the both of them. Kayode would cater to the larger communities, almost 70 percent of the entire contract, while the woman would take care of the rest.
Funmi was excited as she departed the conference room for her office. A part of that excitement came from seeing Kayode. As he gesticulated with his hands during his presentation, her mind wandered to memories of how those hands had changed her drip, cooked her meals, and held her in his arms. For the first time after any meeting, Funmi was tempted to linger and socialise just to get a chance to speak with Kayode.
Somehow she resisted enough not to break a 17-year tradition. So, here she was, back in her office pining over Kayode. She was tired of being like this; she needed to get him out of her system one way or another. She called her secretary to invite Kayode in to see her.
Ten minutes later, Kayode was seating across her office table, and she wasn’t sure what to say to him until he broke the silence.
“I’m glad you considered us worthy of the contract,” he said with a smile. He was relieved that he had not messed up his speech; a really difficult task, with Funmi looking at him expectantly.
“You deserved it.” She said, returning his smile, and then continued, “I am sorry I invited you in without prior notice. I just really wanted to say thank you again, for saving my life.”
Kayode laughed. “That’s exaggerating it a bit o. Besides I was glad to be of help. I didn’t want you to leave, remember?”
Funmi remembered all too clearly A part of her also wondered why he had not tried to keep in touch, but she wasn’t going to ask. She did not want to make it obvious that she wished he had called.
“I like… I like your lipstick,” Kayode stuttered out of the blue, and Funmi didn’t know how to respond. Even Kayode surprised himself by his outburst, but he couldn’t help himself. He’d been focused on her lips every time she spoke at the meeting.
“Red suits you,” he continued, and smiled.
Funmi blushed. If she were any fairer skinned, she’d be red in the face. She didn’t know how to respond to his compliment. Finally, she said, “You shouldn’t be looking at my lips.”
“I can’t help it. I tried.” Kayode held her gaze, forcing Funmi to look away into her laptop.
She took a breath, “No one tells me these kinds of things Kayode, I am not even sure how to react.” She looked back up at him.
“I really can’t help myself,” Kayode said, and as though he needed to prove it. He reached out to hold her right hand. They both felt the connection from the contact, and though Funmi tried to pull away, Kayode held on.
“Am I coming on too strongly?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Funmi responded, and Kayode smiled. Then she continued, “You didn’t call me all through April, and suddenly you are holding my hands and commenting about my lipstick. What do you want Kayode?”
Kayode finally released her hands. There was no turning back after this. He looked straight into her big brown eyes, and professed, “I want you, Funmi.”
“What?” Funmi asked, shocked at the boldness of his response. She rose up from her desk and went to stand by the window. Kayode went to her, and held her loosely by the waist. Now that he had started telling her his mind, there is no stopping him. He needed to lay all his cards on the table before his newfound confidence flew out the window. He had not plan to do any of this today, in fact he didn’t plan on speaking with her privately, but fate had thrown him a chance, and he was not going to mess with it.
“We are not children. I made it obvious when you were at my place. I want you, Funmi.”
Funmi was shocked to hear him say her name; it had always been prefixed with Sis or Madam, or just wouldn’t say her name and just start talking. For some reason that seemed to have changed. It was as if Kayode read her thoughts because he responded to it.
“You have never been Madam to me. I didn’t start liking you weeks ago. I have always cherished you in my mind, but you have just been so unattainable.
Funmi turned from the window and faced him, “What makes me attainable now?”
“I don’t know,” Kayode said, but he was already pulling her into a hug.” He missed touching her.
“I am at least six years older than you Kayode, even if I decided I like you back, there is so much against us, so much against this,” Funmi mentioned her concerns. A part of her wanted to sink into the hug and live her imagination of the past few weeks, but the other side was struggling to be rational.
“This can’t lead anywhere Kayode. You need to start seeing me as your Madam, your big sister. Maybe even a career mentor,” Funmi said.
Kayode held her even closer, “My career is doing fine, and I don’t need you as my Madam. I darn well don’t need a big sister. What I need is a woman, a lover, and you are the only one I want–”
“I don’t see how–” Funmi started to respond, but Kayode cut her short with his lips on hers. Neither of them would forget this kiss in a very long time, no matter what fate decided.