DILEMMA - Episode 2

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - married, middle-aged and gray haired men, burst out laughing, phone, hands, Lil Kesh's efejoku, bare-bodied young men, like bread soaked in water.

At the beach, she sat at a plastic table in a makeshift tent with Ijeoma and Thelma. The tasty smell of suya and chicken being grilled by a mallam a few paces away wafted into their nostrils. They sipped cocktails from decorated glasses and laughed heartily at lewd jokes as the cool wind swept their hair-extensions this way and that. They could easily have passed for unmarried young ladies in their seductive bikinis that bared a large chunk of their light to very light skin bodies. Only a small silk scarf thrown haphazardly around each of their thighs kept their moderacy in check. This was their Friday ritual. Before marriage, it had been clubbing, usually at nighttime. But now, they couldn't keep late nights anymore and opted to hang out instead on Friday afternoons at the always effervescent Lekki beach where they could watch the type of young men whom they would have loved to be with but with whom they couldn't be because they had married pot bellied, middle-aged and gray haired men who promised a life of affluence. They also liked being checked out by these bare-bodied young men because it reminded them that they were young. Being married to clumsy old men made them forget.

As they laughed now at something Ijeoma said, she wondered if it was time to bare her heart out and share her troubles with her friends. Wasn't it true that a problem shared was a problem half-solved? She had kept it from them initially because as much as she knew they wouldn't be judgmental and criticize her for sleeping with an old lover, she liked to keep the scandalous parts of her life to herself. She'd told them when she first bumped into Chima at the boutique but she had conveniently forgotten to mention it when their romance kicked off. Ijeoma was saying something now and motioning with an almost imperceptible tilt of the head towards an exquisitely built bare-bodied young man that stood a short distance away from them.

"Uju, that guy is checking you out o." She said and burst into uncontrollable laughter with Thelma.

Uju sized him up from a corner of her eyes. She didn't turn her head in his direction because she didn't like any of these men to think less of her. She liked to appear disinterested and unapproachable so that the boys here would know their place. Only the really daring men tried to sweet-talk her into an affair each time she came here with her friends and she didn't mind this. A few overzealous ones even held their hands and tried to make them go over and swim.

"He's cute," she whispered.

"Yes. And he keeps staring at you. He's not even trying to hide it," Thelma said, flicking a lock of hair that had strayed and covered her left eye.

Uju thought to herself that she already had too much man problems in her life and didn't need to add any more. But, by Jove, she found him hot in his orange shorts that sat lazily around his waist and barely covered his two perfectly molded butt-cheeks.

"Let him stare. He's not my type."

"Whaaaaat?!" her friends chorused.

"Madam, please tell us what your type is." It was Ijeoma. "Men like chief? Fat men who walk around like bread soaked in water or those senile ones who look like they should be confined to an old-people's home."

Uju and Thelma burst out laughing but Uju's was a self-conscious and controlled laughter. She could still feel the young man's eyes poring over her as he stood idly on the sandy shore sipping something she couldn't name from a red disposable cup.

"Ehn!! Leave him for me!" she said at last. "At least he's not short like some people's husband."

Thelma went into an uncontrollable fit of laughter that was heady and left her coughing and wheezing and Ijeoma scratched her forehead and said: "It's not funny."

The young man approached them now, the glasses of his brown shades glittering in the afternoon sun. The contours of his six packs were perfectly outlined in a way that left Uju imagining just how much effort he was making to keep his stomach sucked in or perhaps it was all real. His walking about bare bodied, the shades, the orange shorts that clung lackadaisically to his waist, they all revealed his desire to impress.

"Hello ladies," he said, and Uju was a little disappointed that his voice didn't quite match up to his physique. It was a little shrill, almost feminine. She let her friends respond to his greeting.

"Can I join you?" he continued. His English seemed impeccable.

Lil Kesh's efejoku came on now and serenaded the entire beach atmosphere with its alluring beats. People moved about as though their steps were timed to match each bass note that came off the boom box speaker. A young boy pulled a struggling girl out of a tent and tried to get her to dance but she seemed shy and reluctant and merely stood still turning slowly from side to side.

Ijeoma motioned for him to sit and Thelma gestured towards her glass of cocktail. "Care for a drink?"

"Oh! No. I'm good." He held his disposable cup up for them to see. "I brought my own drink."

An awkward moment of silence passed and in that time, Uju could tell that he wasn't entirely comfortable talking to three girls by himself. He'd pushed himself after an initial moment of indecision. She couldn't help but draw a comparison between this young man and Chima. They were both seductively built and had sensual pink lips unlike the black, parched lips of most men she knew, including chief. But Chima had no fear or coyness in him. He could hold his own anywhere. He loved the public and the public loved him. Many times in their school days, he'd mounted podiums to give speeches and presentations without qualms, whereas most other students were quick to recoil into their shells at the thought of going before an audience to speak. He was easygoing and soft spoken and his well-tutored mouth knew just the right things to say at the appropriate moments; like when they'd met up at his place after he'd asked her over and she'd told him as she walked in through the sliding glass doors that she was married in order for him not to get any ideas.

He'd guffawed and said: "We're two mature minds. Whatever we do stays between us." And then, as an afterthought, he'd added. "And I don't mean anything inappropriate." And later when they'd exhausted themselves on his bed, his white sheets strewn haphazardly across their naked bodies, she'd patted his chin with its week's growth of scraggly beard that felt like the bristles of an old toothbrush and asked in a teasing tone, "Sorry, what were you saying just now when I came in your apartment?"

He'd given off a wide grin that appeared wanton and said in his defense: "This isn't inappropriate. I was here before your husband." And she'd stared at him and thought just how much she'd loved him before their split, and how much she still loved him. He was always able to tear down her defenses with as little as a touch. They connected in so many ways and on levels that she and chief could never connect.

And now, as she recalled these events, she realized that he hadn't been surprised to learn that she was married. Did that mean he'd already known. Had he probably run a background check on her and initiated their 'coincidental meeting' at the boutique in CMS? Was he the mastermind of this whole thing? She wasn't sure. People could be dubious when it came to money. Had Chima fallen to an all-time low? Low enough to extort her? She unlocked her phone and began to search for his contact details and then changed her mind. She would call him later. Her friends would be curious if she excused herself to talk to him over the phone and if she did it in their presence, they would be more than willing to listen in on her conversation with him. She felt bad keeping all of this from them. They never kept things away from each other. Their friendship was the kind where there were no secrets; the kind where insults were their stock in trade so that they used them as greeting and laughed as they hurled those profanities at each other, never getting hurt by the underlying meanings of the words they uttered. She had to tell them, and soon too, if she didn't want them feeling betrayed. The young shirtless man was saying something to Thelma. He seemed to be easing up and his words came out more coherently now, and not tentatively like they had been at first.

"You really don't look married," he was saying to a flustered Thelma whose hand was held up so he could see her expensive gold ring. He didn't seem deterred or intimidated. "Lucky man," he said, and turned to Uju now. "You seem withdrawn. Am I really so disgusting that you don't even want to talk to me?"

She took her hand to her hair and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

'I'm just really tired, that's all."

"Awww! What a pity. And I was just going to ask you to dance with me. Four of us sitting down here like this, it's a waste of good music. Lil Kesh must be pissed at us right now."

"Some other time perhaps." She gave a feeble smile and unlocked her phone again.

"Ok. I'll hold you to that promise," he said, "Ladies, please give me a few minutes. I'll be right back." He got out of his seat and trudged toward the mallam's barbeque stand, his legs sinking in the sharp sand as he went.

"I think he likes you," Thelma said and giggled.


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Kadiri Alex

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: DILEMMA - Episode 2
DILEMMA - Episode 2
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - married, middle-aged and gray haired men, burst out laughing, phone, hands, Lil Kesh's efejoku, bare-bodied young men, like bread soaked in water.
Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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