It was Olive Imade hugged first when she met them at the door. Pretty, vivacious Olive who wrapped herself around Imade, like a branch clutching the nearest support for its growth.
Imade inhaled the cocoa-buttery scent of her hair as she held her, and it struck her how much she loved the girl.
“Hi baby,” she planted a kiss on Olive’s ear. “Have missed you.”
“’Kay,” Olive replied, with a wide smile.
She was at the phase where she responded to anything she didn’t totally understand with “okay”.
“What have you been up to, my darling?”
“Me and mummy go to the hospital, then Mummy buy me ice-cream. Chocolate ice-cream,” Olive narrated, beginning to squirm.
“Okay…okay, you want to come down, I get it.” Imade lowered her to the floor, before turning her attention to Yvonne. “Hi.”
“Hi to you too,” Yvonne replied.
“Olive baby, do you want to go to my room and play with your favourite teddies?” Imade suggested. Olive had fallen in love with teddy bears when she was two. Where other girls loved dolls, Olive adored teddies of different sizes and colours but she preferred the very furry kind. So, Imade had bought three teddies and kept at her place for whenever Olive visited. Olive called them her “Away Teddies” and often pretended that she had gone a long trip and every meeting of theirs was a reunion.
“Hurray!” Olive cheered and scurried away in the direction of Imade’s room.
Both women watched her as she left and Imade felt the tug of longing in her bosom. Children. Perhaps more than a husband, she wanted children. A little girl or a little boy she could call hers, running around her home.
“How is she doing?” she turned back to Yvonne, regarding her.
“Adjusting. She’s a strong girl,” Yvonne replied. “Maybe stronger than her mother.”
Imade sighed, settling on the couch. She had to admit, Yvonne looked a lot better than she did the last time she saw her. At least she had paid attention to her outfit – wearing a short wig, a dash of auburn lipstick and a plain brown jumpsuit that accentuated her hips and bum.
“Ima, I just want to say I’m sorry,” Yvonne started. “I know you were only trying to help and I lashed out and said some mean things. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
“Remember the IVF period?” Imade asked. “Babe, it was a really bad time for you, and for those that loved you. Maybe because we haven’t shared how much it affected us; you don’t remember how bad it was.”
Yvonne was silent.
“You withdrew from us emotionally, you lost so much weight, you stopped coming to church at some point. Babe, your husband was scared. And so was I. But I couldn’t help because you wouldn’t let me, you wouldn’t let anybody in. You weren’t responding to Whatsapp chats, you weren’t even answering phone calls. It was like you became a shadow of yourself.” Imade said. “And so, when I saw you, when I heard you that day talking about this thing with Olive. It scared me. It reminded me of that time and I just couldn’t bear to see you spiral again. I know I was a bit harsh with you that day, and I am sorry about that but please understand that it came from a place of love.”
Yvonne leaned forward, touching Imade’s arm slightly. “Thank you. I think you were right to be harsh with me. I needed that rude snapback because really, what am I? How long am I going to remain a baby? It’s like whenever I face adversity, I just crumble and give up. It worries me too because I am raising a child, what kind of model do I want to be for her? You know, being a Christian isn’t just for me alone, if I want her to learn about faith, how do I show her that I have worked by faith when I always give in to fear?”
Imade nodded, listening.
“I thought over what you said and I realized that you were right. I had already begun to slip on my quiet time, I would pick up my Bible to study and instead I will divert to Google and start searching for answers there. My relationship with God was beginning to fracture and it was spreading to other parts of my life. I realized I had given the devil a leeway into my life, I had let him plant seeds that grew fear in me. The devil was not the problem, I was. It was up to me to choose how to handle adversity. And I have decided to choose differently. I can’t continue like this; I refuse to stimulate a pity party or play the blame game.”
“Abeg o, which one be ‘stimulate a pity party’ again? Ah ah madam grammar, finish us,” Imade teased.
Both women laughed, the tension of the past week dispelling with the laughter.
“Anything to eat in that your kitchen?” Yvonne asked after the laughter subsided.
“There is vegetable soup. We can microwave it and make eba to eat. But I’m supposed to meet up with Mena later this evening so…”
“Don’t worry, na only me go chop.”
“Meanwhile, I have gist,” Imade said. “But I will give you while we are making your food.”
“So, wait, as you are now, somebody has proposed to you?” Yvonne asked as she dished the soup into a bowl. Imade had given her the details of the past week as they went through the process of making the meal.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Calm down, madam. I’m just joking. Like, I don’t know, but I expected some kind of buzz around you. I mean, it’s not everyday people get marriage proposals.”
“Hahaha, very funny.”
“So, how do you feel? What are you thinking?” They were back in the living room, where Yvonne rolled a chunk of eba and dipped in the soup before dropping it into her mouth. “Mmmm…this your soup is sweet.”
“Thanks. Funny, it’s been there for like two weeks. It has refused to finish.”
“Don’t change the subject, Imade. How do you feel about Lamide’s proposal?””
“I don’t know how to feel. I mean, on the one hand, I’m low-key excited. On the other, I am worried that a lot of our values don’t align. And I’m not one of those naïve girls that will say I can change him when we get married. Lamide is Lamide, and I think one of the reasons I find him exciting is because of how different we are. But I’m not sure if that is a good thing sef.”
“Hmmm…well, have you prayed about it?”
“So weird thing is, whenever I try to pray about it, it’s like there’s something stopping me. I can’t explain it, but the vibe is…you don’t need to pray because you already have the answer.”
“Eh eh, so what do you think the answer might be?”
“That’s what I am afraid of. Because, Yvonne, I won’t lie. I am tired of being alone. I crave companionship, and see eh…I crave sex too. Nobody told me celibacy at this age is harder.”
“Ah, I can imagine.”
“What? Why is your face like that?”
“I’m trying hard not to laugh…as in, your face when you said I crave sex was hilarious but laughing would be…insensitive of me.”
“So why are you still laughing? Abeg shift.”
Yvonne took a sip of water as her laughing fit dwindled. “Okay, seriously. What next?”
“I feel like my life is at a standstill right now. I mean, am I a fool at forty? I quit my job and can’t seem to make up my mind about a man. Maybe I should say yes. At least planning a wedding will give me something to do.”
“And then after that? Marriage is not an end babe; it is a means to an end. When you get married, you start wanting something else…like, there has to be more to this whole thing than this. If you are not careful, disillusionment creeps in and that’s why divorce rates are high. Many people put so much expectations on marriage that when they get in and those expectations are not met, they are disappointed and want to run out.”
“Hmm, okay, so what about you? Would you say that marriage disappointed you?” Imade asked.
“Eh, not quite. I think I knew before I got married that it was the beginning of something, and not the end of life’s woes. I mean, yes it was the end of society’s reproach but it was also the beginning of a new life where I could no longer think about just myself, I had to consider my spouse’s wants and needs too. And then bam…just when I was settling in, we start to have problems with conceiving, and the people who were shouting get married, get married! changed their tune to carry belle, carry belle! It’s exhausting, Ima.”
“So, if you could do it all over again. Go back to before you got married and make fresh choices, what would you choose?” Imade asked.
“I would choose to get married on my terms, not on society’s terms. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ben so much and he is God’s gift to me but one of the reasons I said yes to him was because he was the only one asking at the time and I thought my clock was ticking. And that is not a good enough reason to get married.”
“You thought? Madam, you were 31! Your clock was definitely ticking.”
Yvonne shook her head. “Who made that darn clock anyway? People, society! I need someone to show me where the clock is so we can destroy it cos it’s destroyed a lot of destinies. I mean, there are people who get married for the first time at sixty and they live long, happy lives. Why do we have to carry marriage on our head in Nigeria?”
“Wait o, me I’m just curious as to whether they were having sex while they were waiting till sixty because mehn…that one is not my portion abeg.”
Yvonne laughed, “my point is, in Christianity, the only clock we work with is God’s clock. So, if his clock is telling me to wait a little more, then wait we will. And I’m not just saying that because I am now married. You’re my friend and I love you and want the best for you, but if the only reason you want to marry Lamide is because you have no other option, then…”
“Do you remember that time you told me about that couple you admire on Instagram? The…uh…oh, I’ve forgotten their names. Anyway, you said what you wanted the most was a man who shared your love for God, someone you could do ministry with who will not think you weird when you want to do something because God told you to, do you remember?”
“Now, do you think Lamide is that man?”