Beneath The Sunshine

20210412_112605_0000

ONE

The pink streaks were too small. Two of them ran parallel to each other at the far end of the test tube. Her foot pressured the pedal of the bin, flipping its lid open. She watched the test tube get sucked into the bottom of the bin by sanitary pads and rose tissue paper. Kaimara didn’t trust the first result. She picked the second tube lying on the slab of her office’s bathroom.

Her urine looked like the apple juice she drank the day they meet. Another twin pink streak appeared, confirming its predecessor’s result. Another human being was growing inside her. The reality of the changes she was about to experience flooded her. It was still working hours and screaming wasn’t on the menu. But it didn’t stop the soft whimpers that left her mouth.

Kaimara prayed the walls of the bathroom were thick enough. To hide the truth from someone who was miles away from her. Kaimara’s reflection looked back at her. There was something different about this mirror Kaimara. She had grown in the past three weeks since he left.

“Kaimara, oga is looking for you,” Olisa, the office cleaner, called out from behind the closed bathroom door.

Kaimara rushed to pack her truths away. The test tube went into the bin along with its pack. She splashed water on her face and wiped the moisture away with her face towel. It was a good thing she didn’t wear makeup today. It would have been a disaster as she would become the topic for the gossipers. Mascara and crying were like water and oil- they never mixed well.

“Kaimara hope all is well? Hope nothing happened to you?” Olisa asked with a hybrid look of suspicious and curiosity when Kaimara pulled the bathroom door open.

“I’m fine, Olisa. Thank you. You said Oga dey find me?” Kaimara said.

“Yes, he talk say make you con help am for store.”

“Okay. Let me go fast.”

Mr Jakande, a business mogul owned The Furnitr. Everyone knew he lavished government money on his store. But no one spoke out because the salary was robust. Before graduating from Lagos state university, with a degree in architecture. Kaimara applied to work as an intern at The Furnitr.

Kaimara had vivid her own dreams and ambitions. But her mother advised her to first learn from an established person before going to do her master’s degree. The job was tedious, but Kaimara had the determination to learn how to start a business from scratch. Except, now that dream of becoming a business mogul was hanging by a thin thread called pregnancy.

After meeting with Mr Jakande who wanted to verify a sales order, Erimipe didn’t login in before going on his off day. Kaimara took a sick leave. The Uber driver made a friendly gesture by tuning his radio on. Kaimara hummed the lyrics of Ojuelegba. The song was calming. It was what she needed to arrest the chaotic thoughts bouncing around her mind.

Fehintola and her partner, Itoro, lived in a two-bedroom apartment. The couple started dating in their last year at the university. Kaimara envied the fluid communication between Fehintola and Itoro. She rang the doorbell and leaned on her toes, still humming Wizkid’s song. Fehintola felt nostalgic. A month ago, both she and Itoro held Kaimara in this same position as she broke the news of her breakup.

“What will I tell papa?” Kaimara asked between sniffles, “Will mama understand?”

“Take a deep breathe. Take, drink this,” Fehintola said, handing her a glass of water.

Itoro was still at work. Kaimara gulped the taste-less fluid in seconds. The sun showed off its rays like a peacock flattered its wings.

“Any better now?” Fehintola asked.

“Yes. Thank you,”

“Stop telling me thank you. How did you find out? Does he know?”

Fehintola was a good listener, but her flaw was she was a detective underneath her shy smile and brown eyes. Kaimara laughed for a long time. She wasn’t laughing at how the pink streaks had mocked her doubt or how Mmasi had given her owl gaze. She laughed because there was no way she was going to tell him she was pregnant.

“He doesn’t need to know.” Kaimara finally said when she stopped laughing.

“Who doesn’t need to know what?”

Itoro walked in, struggling to untie his necktie with one hand while trying to shut the door with the other. Wet patches of perspiration decorated his armpit and the collar of his powder blue shirt.

“That I am pregnant. Yayy me!” Kaimara groaned with sarcasm.

“What?” Itoro let out.

His black pupils strolled from Kaimara’s tear-stained face. Then back to his partner’s face for signs of the joke in what Kaimara said. He didn’t find the joke because Fehintola nodded, confirming what her best friend said.

“It’s his own say? Will you tell him?” Itoro asked, taking the couch opposite the women. He was free of the choking necktie and now reaching for his shoelaces.

“Why is everyone asking me that? It’s not fair to tell someone who has moved on with his life. I don’t want to trap anyone’s son abeg.” Kaimara said.

“You’re funny. You know he didn’t have a choice. I still think you should tell him,”

“We all have choices. I should go home. It’s already late. Mama would get worried.” Kaimara said.

“Kaim, think about it. I get you feel betrayed, but it’s his right to know too.”

“I’ll think about it, Itoro. Thank you for taking care of Fehintola.” Kaimara said.

Mama had gone to bed. Papa was brewing coffee when she got home. His company was having a board meeting again. These men never go tired of trying to outrun their competitors.

“Good evening, papa. Meeting again?” Kaimara asked although she knew.

Midnight coffee meant midnight concocting with his board of directors. The fifty-year-old man- wrapped his body inside the warmth of his bathing robe. Mr Kachi Echioma turned at the voice of his daughter.

“Ah, Kaimarachukwu. Your mother was getting worried. She doesn’t realise you’re now an adult,” he smiled, “I will see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Papa.”

TWO

“Excuse me? Is this seat taken?”

Kaimara’s braids hugged her neck as she turned. The man wore sneakers paired with a cobalt shade suit. He didn’t get the dress code for the event. Because why would he wear a suit to a picnic event?

“No, it’s not,” Kaimara said, pushing the plastic chair forward for the man who took it and sat beside her.

“So,” the man said.
He was trying to make small talk, which he was bad at. Somade had invited him to his group picnic. He was a very persistent man, and it turned out Jirola needed the break.

“Jiji! My guy!!!! I been think say you no go show. How far?” Somade cackled.

Jirola rolled his eyes at Somade’s nickname he refused to let go. Half way through his greeting Somade sighted Kaimara sulking.

“Kaimara? Ahan you didn’t tell us you were coming,”

Kaimara rose, plastering a superficial smile as Somade pulled her into his wide arms. “Somade, hi,” she whispered

“See this girl forming classy for me. Shake this shyness, joor!” Kaimara blushed. Why was Somade being Somade in the presence of his friend, she didn’t know a thing about?

“Jirola this is Kaimara. Kaimara, Jirola,”

The two in question shook hands like two enemies calling a truce. Jirola’s grip was harder than usual. He wondered if he held on, Kaimara wouldn’t let go.

“Hi,” they muttered at the same time. Somade giggled at how shy the two of them became. Kaimara was confident and with distinct opinions, while Jirola was a leader with an open mind. The perfect pair, Somade thought.

“You guys should come join everyone. It’s a picnic, not a funeral.” Somade said. He separated the locked hands shaking. And pulled Kaimara and Jirola towards the main picnic table.

The sun’s setting created a swirl of orange, pink and red clouds. Everyone watched the sun dim and disappear down the horizon. Somade reached for his instant camera. The group took pictures. Even Kaimara took one with Jirola. It had been a long time since she felt so free and in tune with her thoughts. If it was the fresh air the trees used to put on a dance show for her soft skin. Or the way Jirola’s eyes twinkled when their eyes met. She enjoyed the feeling.

THREE

“Kaimara, ezigbo m, when did you get back last night?”

“Mama,” Kaimara started with a drowsy tone. Her mother opened the curtains allowing sun rays to skip into the room bringing its warmth along with it.

Mrs Sochima Echioma stood with her thick hands at akimbo, looking at her daughter roll out of her bed.

“Mama good morning. What time is it?” Kaimara asked.

“Its time for you to help me make banga soup for Sunday family meeting.”

“Mama ooo,” Kaimara grumbled, stamping her feet on her soft rug.

Mrs Sochima glared at her before raising her voice, “Enyena m ahu ahu! Better adjust that your face and meet me in the kitchen, me osiso osiso,”

Kaimara’s mother walked out of her daughter’s room to the kitchen, hoping she didn’t have to shout at Kaimara again. Kaimara brushed her teeth before joining her mother. The woman who was already sieving boiled palm kernel fruit into a mortar.

“Ezigbo m, help me pound the palm kernel,” Mrs Sochima ordered. She moved to the dried fish, breaking them into the bowl of boiling water she placed inside the sink.

“Okay, ma.”

Each time the pestle smashed a palm kernel fruit. And its burnt orange juice splashed the walls of the mortar. Kaimara felt a twitch in her stomach. Her conscience was telling her to talk to her mother. To tell her about the life that was becoming a reality inside the mushy lining of her womb.

“Mama, I want to tell you something. Promise me you won’t shout or do anything else?” Kaimara asked.

“What is it this time?”

Mrs Sochima poured the dried fish into the sieve she used for the palm kernel. Her leg hooked the second kitchen stool dragging it towards herself. When she balanced well on the stool, she studied Kaimara’s face for hints of what she wanted to talk about.

“Ehm. Mama,” Kaimara sniffled back non existent catarrh. At this point she had stopped pounding and was looking straight at her mother, “Mama, Adi m ime,”

Mrs Sochima thought she heard wrong. She rid her body of the lie fast. She laughed at the prank her daughter was playing on her early Saturday morning.

“I see. You think you can escape cooking with me, bah? Lota has gone back to school, who will help me if not you. Better stop let us finish fast.”

It was until Mrs Sochima saw Kaimara’s eyes cradle tears. She rushed towards Kaimara. The mid-forties woman knelt as she caressed her daughter’s wet face with her palm.

“Ifunaya m. Is it true? You’re pregnant? I di ime?”

“Yes, mama. I am pregnant.” another set of warm tears bounced down Kaimara’s cheeks. Her mother’s own were not far behind. Mrs Sochima staggered until her buttocks hit the tiled floor.

“Is it for him? Does he know?” her mother asked in a very low voice. The steam rising from the dried fish and the broken palm kernels saw their conversation.

“Yes, mama. No mama”

“Heuu. Kaimarachukwu. Its alright. Do you want to keep it?”

Mrs Sochima chose her words with care. She remembered when her own mother had asked her the same question. The year when Kaimara was still an embryo inside her womb. Mr Kachi and she did the deed before marriage. She had no right to judge her daughter for something she did too. Kaimara loved that Yoruba boy with everything she was and had, but what did he do? He left.

“Yes, mama.”

“It’s okay Ifunaya m. I will talk to your father.”

FOUR

Lota was running late. She knew it would upset Kachi because he was the last child to leave school again. It was the third time that week.

“Aunty Lota, since I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Kachi, I’m sorry, ehn. Aunty Lota bought you chocolate. Let’s go home.”

Lotachukwu loved Kachi the moment her eyes saw him wrapped with his cotton shawl. Her elder sister’s delivery was a tough one for their family. During the delivery, Kaimara lost so much blood her mother had to donate to help the doctors save her life.

Few months after Kachi’s second year birthday, Kaimara got a scholarship in UK to do her masters. When she came back a year and six months after, Kachi was already talking and walking. Kaimara made sure to video call home every day to talk to her son.

Exactly two weeks after Somade’s picnic, Kaimara got a text from an unknown number. It was the simplest yet most complex set of words she had ever read.

“Hi, it’s me.”

Somehow she had a gut feel the message was from Jirola. Two straight days she searched Google for the right response. To his three words sitting with double ticks in her inbox. Kaimara went as far as making up a hypothetical scenario to hear Fehintola’s opinion. Oblivious to the fact that her friend was the case study of this hypothesis. Fehintola gave her every girl dating rule.

“Don’t reply, leave it. Make him wait.” Fehintola had told her.

Kaimara thanked her and assured her she would reach back to the supposed friend. That night Kaimara got home, she punched a response going against what her best friend advised. Her phone lit up, followed by her inbox ping. He had replied to her.

[31-08-14, 09:00pm] Kaimara: Hello? You’re bold for someone I don’t know.

[31-08-14, 09:02pm] Jirola: I get that a lot. It’s me Jirola. I got your number from Somade. You should know he didn’t give it up with ease though.

The pair shared parts of themselves with one another until it was midnight. Jirola ended the chatting because he had an interview in the morning. He made her feel in tune with herself. He told her he was already working for Julius Berger. And he studied civil engineering at the University of Calabar.

His mother was furious when he told her he got admission into an eastern university. And not the University of Lagos like she wanted. His mother didn’t approve of many things, but she was his mother. There was a limit to how far he could go against her.

The awkwardness when they met the first time had soon become a thing of history. Jirola and Kaimara knew they wanted something together. Mrs Echioma welcomed Jirola into her home while her husband sat him down with a glass of whiskey. Mr Echioma became a detective. He asked Jirola every question he could concoct. To make the boy seem unacceptable to his daughter and wife. But Jirola was a gentleman, and he respected their daughter.

“Lota, I owe you one again,” Kaimara said.
Running her interior decorations company and being a mother was very hard.
Whenever Lota was on holiday. She stepped in to relieve their mother of her baby-sitting Kachi for Kaimara. Everyone in the family loved Kachi. The only problem was that he had Jirola’s eyes. Whenever Kaimara looked at her five-year-old son. He remaindered her of how his father left her with a superficial reason.

I’m going abroad to further my career.

Itoro and Somade tried to talk to Jirola. If he wouldn’t talk to Kaimara, he would talk to his guys. He told them the same thing he told Kaimara.

A week later, Kaimara picked the shattered glass of her heart when she got her job at The Furnitr. When her tummy showed around the ending of her second trimester, she resigned.

With her savings and investment from both her mother and father. Kaimara opened her own home interior decorations company. Within a year of establishing her business, she grew but still felt incomplete. Part of her regretted the truth she held back from her son, Kachi.

FIVE

Nigeria had changed. Surulere was no longer the same, but it still had its busy traffic trademark. Jirola drove down the street. Searching for the address he copied off an interior decorator’s website. He had seen a unique sofa with Yoruba words etched into the wood of the sofa. The perfect sofa to match his minimalist personalty.

“Hello, sir. Welcome to Kachi’s Home. How can I help you, sir?”

Jirola allowed the deep scent of finished wood and paint to fill his olfactory senses. Before replying to the young receptionist. It was a one-story building with a balcony that displayed best-seller furniture.

“Yes, hello. I saw this chair and I want to get it. How do I do that?” Jirola asked. He placed a flyer with the sofa he wanted in front of the receptionist.

“Okay, sir. It’s NGN 100,000 sir. Would you like me to make an order?” the receptionist asked.

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Sir, placing the order will take a few moments. If you don’t mind, please, take a seat at our lounge. Thank you,” she replied.

Jirola traced the direction the receptionist gave him down to a hallway. The lounge was towards the end of the ground floor. Jirola touched an orange stool with a gold plated top. His hand was testing the stool for its durability when he noticed a small boy crouched behind the stool. The boy would not be over four or five years old. Kachi remembered his mother’s warning not to talk to strangers, but this man didn’t feel like a stranger.

”Hello, my name is Kachi. What’s yours?” Kachi asked.

Jirola took a curious look at Kachi. The store looked like it belonged to his parents. “Hey, it’s nice to meet you Kachi, my name is Jirola.”

“Okay. My mummy sells the best chair in Lagos, make sure you buy. Bye-bye.”

Kachi ran off before Jirola could reach out to know more about him. The receptionists brought Jirola back from his wandering thoughts with details for delivery.

“Somade said Jirola is back in town, Kaimara. Did you know?” Fehintola asked.

Kaimara scoffed before rolling her eyes. She ignored the question as her fingers punched the keys of her keyboard. She had a lot of work and Fehintola wanted to talk about Jirola. After six years, they still cared about him.

“Kaima. You know he will find out. Lagos is big, but it is a small place.” Fehintola started, but Kaimara interrupted her halfway.

“I don’t care, Fehintola. Allow me work. All I know is he won’t take my baby away from me. I will do everything in my power to protect Kachi!” Kaimara snapped.

“He is Kachi’s father too. Be honest with me, do you still love Jirola?”

Kaimara’s fingers froze as they were about to hit the keys of her laptop. She gave Fehintola a dirty glare before pushing her chair backwards to stand to her feet.

“Why would you even ask me that, Fehin?” Kaimara argued.

“That’s not the answer. It’s a yes or no question. Do you still love him?” Fehin pushed Kaimara’s buttons with steady force.

“I don’t know okay. You of all people know how miserable I was when he left. I begged him Fehin. I told him to fight for us, but what did he do? He ran off like the mother’s boy he is to America. I hope he found his ambition that was worth more than our love.”

Kaimara collapsed on the floor of her office. Her silhouette heels slide themselves in the direction she tossed them as she fell. She held her face in her palms to hide her soft sobs. She still loved him, that much was clear to her.

“Jiji my guy. Why you no talk say you don land Lagos na? I for don con pick you. How about that side, na? Any babes?”

Somade had been pestering Jirola since he called him after he had arrived in Lagos. Jirola first had to fight his firm mother, Mrs Wosola Popoola. She tried so many times to link him up with women from respectable Yoruba homes, but he always stood them up. He wasn’t interested in dating anyone, not after what he did to the woman of his dreams six years ago.

“Somade, it’s fine guy. I already rented my apartment beforehand. Nireti helped me the entire process.” Jirola said, adjusting his bluetooth speaker.

“Alright. How is Nireti?” Jirola could feel the strain in Somade’s voice whenever he mentioned Nireti.

“She’s cool. Ehn have you heard from Kaimara these days?” laughter flowed from Somade’s mouth to Jirola’s ear.

“Jiji.don’t tell me you still have feelings for her after what you did to her?” Somade grunted out.

“You know that isn’t the story. Answer. Please. If possible, do you have her number? Abeg send am.”

“On one condition,”

“What?”

“Promise me you won’t enter her life to leave her heart broken again?” Somade said.

Jirola’s heart pounded. Once, twice. He filled his lungs with the chilly air of his car.

“Yes, I promise,” he replied. He meant it. He only hoped Kaimara would believe and forgive him.

SIX

“Mummy your phone is ringing,” Kachi called out. Taking his focus from the cartoon characters dancing on their Television.

“Who is calling?” Kaimara asked.

“Iono mummy,”
“Hello?” Kaimara asked the person on the other end of the call.

“Kaimara?”

You don’t forget the voice that whispered promises of eternal love to you. The richness of his Jirola’s voice pulled Kaimara into the hands of nostalgia. It flipped memories after memories. She remembered the taste of his lips when they first kissed. How he made her felt after he they made love for the first time.

He was gentle and loving with every stroke. Kaimara believed peace didn’t exist, but Jirola changed her opinion. He gave her peace. And then he tore it away from the core of her heart. Kaimara ended the call.

“Mummy wots wrong?” Kachi asked. Kaimara shook her head despite the free falling tears that bathed her round cheeks.

He didn’t even expect her to pick the call, so when she hung up on him, he knew he deserved it. The conversation wasn’t for the phone. They had to sit face to face to talk. He needed to find her.

Two days later, Jirola scrolled his call log for Somade’s number. An inbox interrupted his scrolling- it was a notification for his sofa delivery from Kachi’s Home.

Jirola’s eyes read through the attached newsletter from the store. He found nothing interesting until he saw her name.

Kaimarachukwu Echioma, CEO of Kachi’s Home.

She stood by the entrance of the store when Jirola arrived. The black pants she wore hugged her curves in all the right places. She trapped her voluminous hair he enjoyed strolling his lean fingers through between twists on her head.

“Kachi, wait small. Aunty Lota will be here soon. She’s helping grandma.”

“Okay, mummy. But you promise to buy me more sweets,” Kachi tried to bargain.

“Did he say mummy?”

Time stilled inside the Kachi’s Home buildings.

“Kachi, go upstairs. Aunty Lota is coming,” Kaimara said.

“But mummy!” Kachi stamped his small foot. Jirola’s mouth widened as emotions purged through him.

“I said go upstairs, Kachizamekpere. Now!” Kaimara bellowed. The five-year-old shuffled himself to his mother’s office. Fearing what would come after if he disobeyed her.

“You have a son?” Jirola asked.

“Not here. Let’s go somewhere else,” Kaimara said, grabbing her bag and phone from the receptionist’s table. Jirola willed his shocked legs to follow in Kaimara’s wake.

They drove in silence until they reached a deserted street. Neither of them spoke they stared out of the window. Jirola waiting for Kaimara to explain and Kaimara waiting as well for an explanation.

“You have a son. Wow,” Jirola broke the silence. “You actually have a son.”

“Yes, Jirola. If you hadn’t left me you would know,” Kaimara replied with thick sarcasm.

“What do you mean? Is he my… my… son?”

This time Jirola turned his torso to face Kaimara. Fehintola, her family, even Somade had begged her to tell him. But no one begged Jirola to stay back.

“Yes.”

Jirola held his mouth to stop the sadness, anger, and fear from gushing out. Kaimara closed her eyes, but it felt like she was still looking at him.

“You left me Jirola. I found out a week after you left. There was no point trying to reach you when your family didn’t even approve of our relationship,”

“My mother, not Nireti or anyone else,” Jirola argued.

“Semantics Jirola. Anyway,” Kaimara opened her eyes to face Jirola with the truth. “I didn’t want to hinder your ambition any more. I didn’t want to abort either. Kachi was born out of love. It would be cruel if I didn’t give my son- our son- a chance to experience life in all its spectrum.”

Jirola nodded in agreement. His anger was dissociating as the second hand rode the clock. He knew he felt a certain pull to Kachi the day he met him, if only he realised sooner. Blood after all is thicker than water.

“You never got married or you know any other man?”

Kaimara remembered how territorial Jirola was. It wasn’t a surprise when he tried asking her about her past lovers.

“No Jirola. I didn’t want any man to disrespect our son. Why did you leave?” She asked him hoping he would be truthful.

“Mrs Wosola Popoola set everything in motion. She applied for the scholarship. She made me go. I swear to you I didn’t have a choice, and it was sudden I couldn’t explain either.” Jirola confessed.

Kaimara blew out a frustrated breath, “We all have a choice Jirola. I too had a choice, and I picked wrong because it scared me you would take Kachi from me. But it’s not my right to keep Kachi away from his father.”
“It’s my fault for making you feel sacred. I should have fought harder. Yes, you’re right. I have a choice. I know things are different for both of us, but I hope you can allow me into Kachi’s life, I want to be a good father. Please think about it. And I’m sorry,”

“I don’t have to think about it, you’re his father. It’s your right. But please don’t leave him.”

“I won’t. I promise Kaimara.”

The pair allowed silence to creep back in. It was like how they met. That familiar awkwardness drenched them.

“So?” Kaimara started but held her words when Jirola claimed her full lips with his own. She tried to pull back, but he wasn’t only kissing her. He wanted to set everything right again.

“Kachi needs a baby sister. Don’t you think?” Jirola whispered, caressing her lips with his familiar gentleness.

“Jirola!!!!!” Kaimarachukwu screamed out.

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