This is part 3 of the arbitrary short story series: Spur of the Moment. If you missed part 1 and 2, click here and here respectively. And since we are mostly stuck at home, I will do this weekly, every Friday. Do share the link with your friends so this #lockdown #stayhome #WFH situation stays interesting. Enjoy!
Kofi says he’d like to pick me up after work. I feel it’s too early to indulge in this kind of clingy behaviour but I remember his car and say yes. There is still the question of whether I like him or his car more. But let’s take it one step at a time.
I check my phone. If he is what he says he is, he should be waiting outside. Yes, outside. Too many enthusiastic observants in church. Too ready to feed the grapevine with juicy news. I can do without that. Thank you very much.
I grab my bag and say my goodbyes. Tommy is the last one. He’s talking to one of the backup singers. Tommy is always talking to a girl, I note wryly. I don’t want to interrupt so I wave. But he turns towards me and says, “Sunday then?”
“How early do you think you can make it?”
I stop, thinking. Early enough. Does he want us to practice one more time? I think we have the song down to a pat. But I ask him.
“Yes, I was hoping for one more run through. If you don’t mind that is.”
“That’s okay,” I say. I will be at church early anyway. Part of being involved. God and service and all that. Not that I mind. It keeps things interesting. Tommy and I can practice one last time before singing to the congregation.
“See you then!” he says brightly.
He has a lovely smile. It’s just his dreads that I utterly detest. But that is a personal bias. It just seems like too much work to carry on one head. And to be bound to one hairstyle is depressing. Locked, just like the name denotes. I like having choices.
I nod, smile again and I’m out. I check my phone for a message from Kofi to say he is around somewhere. Nothing.
I’m already walking out of the church premises so I don’t bother yet. Ah, there it is. White LED lights gleaming in the dark like a beacon. I walk towards the car and before I get there, he gets out and opens the door for me.
First surprise of the evening. I’m just a girl from West Africa. All this chivalry? I remember Steve Harvey’s movie and say nothing.
Kofi tries to make small talk. He asks how church went. It was only a rehearsal, I inform.
And then my phone begins to ring.
Second surprise of the evening.
“Why is he calling you?” Kofi is understandably confused.
“I don’t know.”
And right there, I block his number.
“Unblock it,” he says, glancing at my phone.
“I want to talk to him.”
My face is a mask of befuddlement.
“What’s going on between you two?” I ask.
“What’s going on between us?” He looks genuinely surprised to be asked that question. “Let me talk to him.”
“Not on my phone…” My phone begins to ring. I am a bit startled. Sometimes I think the entire world is a bit mad, keeping gadgets that give us small shocks because they go off without warning. I take an uncertain breath and a quick glance tells me it’s Jojo’s wife. I frown. Kofi frowns.
“Well?” he asks.
I give him the phone because at this rate, I don’t like just how much I am getting involved in this. A part of me is screaming that this is a very bad idea but I justify it with the reason that I am walking into it with my eyes open.
“Joe.” Kofi’s voice is flat. There is a hard edge I am hearing for the first time. I stare at his profile. It’s hard to see his beautiful eyes from this angle.
“Oh, it’s you…”
His expression softens. I can hear only one side of the conversation. Kofi is still driving and I am also concerned about the crazy drivers on the road.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” he says and listens. He begins to frown.
“She did?” Kofi is looking at me. “No, no …that’s all on him…. He needs to deal with it. No one buys it anymore… Yes, I know we go way back…”
There is half a minute more of back and forth between Kofi and Jojo’s wife. Then he ends the call. He is gripping the wheel tightly and I want to ask but I say nothing.
“You don’t trust me,” he says finally, looking at me.
He stares ahead of him.
“Are we going to talk about this?” he asks a few minutes later.
“I don’t want to. I’m tired,” I add, seeing his perplexed look.
“Tomorrow then?” he is hopeful.
My phone rings. It’s my mum.
“Hold on, I have to take this…mum?”
She wants to know where I am. She needs a crate of eggs. I remind her that it’s past 8pm and I might not be able to get to the kiosk which sells eggs before it closes.
She wants me to try. She wants to bake tomorrow. I almost feel like reminding her that she had the option of telling me early in the morning but I don’t. It’s my mum. I end the call and look out my window. Suddenly, I wish I was not sitting in here, in this darn Mercedes with my ex’s best friend. I hated complicated and this was getting complicated.
Kofi says something but I pretend not to hear. I am remembering how everyone thought Jojo was The One. My mum, the pastor, my friends, everyone. Until it had gotten real messy. I shuddered. It was madness to even get this close to his world again. Madness.
I needed to stop this before someone got shot. Again.
They say I take risks. And generally, I am a good risk taker. That’s what has gotten me this far. In business. In relationships. In life. And now I am probably taking the biggest risk of my life. My best friend’s ex. Well, we are not best friends anymore. After the stunt Jojo pulled, it is a wonder that he has any friends. And of course, I know what they say about picking your friend’s damaged goods. But Lucy is anything but.
She’s exquisite. A big word with a simple meaning. If I have Lucy in my life, everything would be worth it. Except she was Jojo’s and now I have to deal with his demons. And truly, I was never really on the scene. I only heard about her like any best friend should. And stayed out of the way once I saw what was at stake. But that was easy to do. There were over 3,000 miles between Jojo and his girlfriend in Ghana, and me. Until a couple of years ago when he messed up and came scurrying back to England, his tail between his legs and a parade of angry women in his wake. I was about to hit the gym when my phone rang. Of all the days to get a call like that. It had to be the day when the city was having its One Day of Summer.
“Hey bro.” Jojo had sounded as if he was in the next room.
“Yo! You back?” We reserved the worst of our brand of pidgin when we talked to each other.
I did a double take. But only for a second. He should be telling me what’s up. Why was he back?
“You tell me.”
“It’s been wild, man.”
“Yeah.” He drawled. “I got baby mama issues.”
“What?!” This was news to me.
I frowned. Darcey from university? Were they still on and off? I asked him.
“She came back. Man, she’s driving me crazy. She wants the ring.”
“Yeah.” There was a pause.
Me, I was still trying to work out where that left him with Lucy, his steady girlfriend for about a year.
“So Darcey got a kid?”
“Nah.” Jojo sounded confused.
“But…” I was also confused. “You said you got baby mama issues.”
“Nah, not Darcey. Look man, can we talk? I need a drink like crazy.”
I frowned. That was not good. Those were things we said back in university.
Apparently, he was already on the way there. I wasn’t pleased I was going to be missing my workout. I loved the way my abs were shaping up and it wasn’t happening because I was sloppy. But my best buddy needed me and anyway, it had been a while. In 20 minutes, I was walking up to him in the bar. He was already on his second pint.
We thumped and pumped each other’s backs and hands like any pair of respectable best friends would. He looked good. He had gained a few pounds but he looked good. Kelewele and kenye did that to you. Effortlessly. He said the drinks were on him. I decided I would add some chips to give it a foundation. I’d never been good at holding my drink.
We talked about everything but the baby mama issues he was having. I even gave him a top line load down on how the business was doing. Our business. Equal partnership. He had left me in charge of his bit while he was out on the continent falling in love. It wasn’t a big deal as long as it was making money, and it was.
Apart from that, I don’t remember what else we talked about for the first 30 minutes. Catching up, I suppose. But after that, slowly but surely, the confused story of the baby mama, Darcey and everything else in between came tumbling out.
Darcey wanted the ring because she felt Jojo had been pulling her along for far too long. She was tired of the whole friends with benefits thing. She was stalking him on Twitter and Facebook. White Girl M.O. We laughed a bit about that. But I was cringing inside. Why did people not carry signs on them that they were borderline psychos? It would help a great deal.
Anyway, Jojo had blocked her everywhere but there was the baby mama. A Ghanaian. Living in Manchester. Old family friend. They had hooked up once and she said she was having his baby. Jojo thought she had been messing with him. He even thought that if it were true, she would be dignified and do the 21st century thing- keep the baby and give him or her her last name. But baby mama had called her mother and her mother had called Jojo’s family and drinks had been exchanged. All the time, he had been in Accra, dating the most beautiful girl in Ghana.
“You’re kidding!” I had stared in shock at my friend.
“No man. See, I’m engaged.” He threw his arms, looking as surprised to be in this situation as I was.
“And Lucy?” I needed to know.
“Ah, that is the best part of this crazy situation. Baby mama called Lucy. Yup,” he adds, nodding at my surprised look. “Don’t ask me how she got her number. How she even knew. But she calls Lucy, tells her I’m engaged to her, and next thing I know, there are police men at my gate.”
“Yeah. Lucy’s ma is crazy.” He went silent, staring unseeingly into the half pint beer glass.
I mulled over what he’d just told me. I realised that the situation was bad. Bad for my friend.
In the end, I ended up paying for everything. And his taxi fare, too, since he was too wasted to get back home by himself.
That was the beginning of the end. I should have seen it then before allowing five years of hard work go down the drain because I was in business with a friend.
The wedding was a month later, just before the baby bump began to show.