“We have a project that we think you are the perfect person to oversee,” Mrs Ajayi said.
“Is it church project?” Imade asked.
“No, my dear. It is personal. Something that has been on our heart for a while. We want to acquire an orphanage.”
Imade gasped, “that’s amazing!”
“Yes. We want to do something about the rise of abandoned babies in Nigeria.”
“Oh, wow. It sounds exciting. Please tell me more.”
“It’s a relatively small outfit owned by someone. However, they are relocating out of the country in a few months and they want to sell it off. We would like someone on ground with your experience and expertise to oversee the acquisition.” Mrs Ajayi paused. “The orphanage is in Benin.”
“Benin?” Imade echoed even as a big smile spread through her face.
“We thought that since you spent part of your childhood there, you will be better equipped to handle the transaction as a lawyer.”
“Mrs Ajayi, can I ask a question?” Imade asked. “Why me? I’m sure you have other options.”
“Truthfully? God gave me your name when I was praying about it. It was so clear but I struggled a bit because I know you may not want to leave Abuja, you know.”
Imade giggled. “Funny story, about a month ago, I began to feel the leading to leave Abuja, even if for a short while. I wasn’t sure where I was going to yet but the thought was laid in my heart and I was going to share it with my friend but she had a lot going on and I got sidetracked and sort of forgot about it until now. But right now, it makes perfect sense to me.”
“Hallelluyah! I know my Abba doesn’t make mistakes. I told myself I wasn’t going to try and convince you, that if you didn’t feel led to go, I will go back and pray for God to show me someone else.”
“Well, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea at first, let me confess. I guess that’s why it was easy to forget about it. But I guess it’s time.”
“So, is that a yes?” Mrs Ajayi asked.
“Yes ma. Here I am, send me.” Imade opened her arms wide in a dramatic way.
“Perfect. Ah, thank you Jesus. Thank you.”
There was a buzz in Imade’s steps as she prepared for her trip to Benin. As she got more and more used to the idea, she was thrilled by the thought of doing something different. Something meaningful.
Negotiating the purchase of an orphanage was something she had never done but was looking forward to. Thoughts of Lamide and her almost-wedding faded from her mind.
“You look different,” Yvonne said when they met for lunch at The Breakfast Lounge, a restaurant Mena had introduced to them recently. She had not told Yvonne yet about her impending trip to Benin. She had wanted a face-to-face meeting especially because she knew Yvonne would feel her absence more than her other friends.
“How?” Imade asked, grinning. She lifted her caffe latte to her lips and drank. “This drink is heaven, I swear.”
“For someone who recently had to let go of a “premium man”, you don’t look it.”
“Oshey premium man. No be only premium man, na premier league. Abeg don’t stress me. If I cry, you will say I am crying. If I am happy, I am too happy. What can I do to please you, oh goddess?”
“Oh, she’s got jokes!” Yvonne leaned back in her chair, laughing. “Hallelujah!”
“Babe abeg, don’t make me laugh,” Imade said, chuckling.
“Anyway, I have news,” she began.
“I knew it! Oya tell me, who is he?”
“Yvonne Odinakachukwu! So, it’s only man that can make me happy? Hay God! See, you’re cancelled. Infact, I’m going. Pay for our food.” Imade pretended to stand, while Yvonne burst into fresh laughter.
“My friend sit down jor.”
“You think so little of me,” Imade placed a hand on her chest, mimicking a British accent.
“Oya talk to me. No jokes. What’s up?”
“I’m leaving Abuja for a bit. Travelling to Benin. I have a project I need to oversee for Mrs Ajayi.”
“Yeah. Except, it isn’t. I have kinda had the feeling that I would be leaving Abuja soon. I just ignored it.”
“Er…okay. When you say ‘leaving’, what does that mean? How long is the project going to be?”
“I’m not sure. As long as it takes.”
“What exactly is the project? Are you going to open church there?”
“Haha. Very funny but no. I will be negotiating a deal for an orphanage. I’m going to be the point person over there, overseeing the legal aspects…and maybe other things.”
“Oh…I see. That’s…that’s nice, I guess.”
“You should be happy for me. I’m getting out of your hair.”
“Are you for real? Our lunch dates are what keep me sane sometimes. I am…happy for you. I just…I will miss you.”
“Aww. Look at you.” Imade smiled, teasing. “You have Olive and hubby to keep you company.”
“Well, I will admit…I am a little jealous.”
“It sounds like an adventure. I mean, when last were you in Benin?”
“Probably after secondary school, I think. I can’t begin to imagine what that place would be like.”
“Exactly. I don’t have that kind of luxury to just…travel. I have to think of Olive, then hubby and other commitments.”
“I guess that’s life. The pasture always looks greener on the other side. I mean, let’s not forget the fact that I am probably going to get lonely over there.”
“We should talk every day on the phone.”
“Yes, we should.”
“So, how do you really feel about this whole thing? Like, for real?”
Imade let out a loud sigh, “A part of me is excited, the other is terrified. I mean, the last time I upped and left my comfort zone was when I went for my Masters’ and even that was hard enough. Like you said, it sounds like an adventure but you know how I feel about change.”
“Yeah! Remember that time we had women’s camp meeting and you said you were not attending because you couldn’t sleep with dozens of other women on a foam that wasn’t yours? God, you were spoilt sha.”
“I’m not spoilt…just principled.”
Yvonne laughed. “When you get married, I wonder how you are going to cope with all that change, cos mehn…nothing changes your life like marriage.”
“Maybe that’s why I’m not married yet,” Imade stuck out her tongue, playfully.
“Tah! You think anybody likes change? When Ben and I got married, I noticed he liked to sleep with the lights on and I just couldn’t understand it. I mean, you’re sleeping so what do you need light for? To see in your dream? That’s how we fought about it oh. Anyway, to solve this problem, he bought me a sleep mask. So now when I want to sleep, I have to blind myself first. Talk about change!”
“Are you serious? How come you’re the one who has to compromise? Why not him?”
“See baby, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt to do, it is to find out the ‘why’ behind something. We actually sat down to have a talk about it and apparently, he had an experience in his childhood that left him afraid of the dark. This man was too ashamed to admit that he had a phobia for darkness instead he was busy forming macho. Anyway, if you tell him I told you that, I will deny it. So, it just made sense for me to take one for the family, see?”
“Hmmm…interesting. Somebody should study this institution called marriage and give everybody expo abeg.”
“Ole! Good thing is there are loads of materials and people who share their knowledge about marriage that you can learn from. Sha, make sure the one you follow is collecting expo from God’s word.”
“Kai, I’ll miss you sha,” Imade said.
“Aaaaw. I’ll miss you too. You will miss the city sha. Abuja is one of a kind.”
Imade sighed; “I know. Well, let’s hope it’s not for so long. I will be back before you say Jack Robinson.”
“Ugh! Do people still say that? You’re so old school, Ima. Don’t let Benin reject you o.”
Both women burst into amiable laughter and Imade realized it had been a while since they both laughed this hard, together. Yes, she would miss Yvonne. Definitely.
Mrs Ajayi held both her hands.
“I don’t know what it is, but God has a lot in store for you in Benin,” she said.
Imade nodded. They were at the airport, waiting for her flight and she was suddenly feeling jittery.
“Look at me Imade,” Mrs Ajayi ordered. “I want you to relax and let God do what he wants to do with you. You are an amazing woman and His thoughts towards you are thoughts of good, always. Always, my dear. Never doubt that.”
Imade nodded, feeling her eyes well up with tears. Why was she crying? what was wrong with her?
“Go and shine, my dear.” Mrs Ajayi said, just as they called Imade’s flight.