The early morning sun kissed the leaves of the Baobab tree gently blowing in Tunmi’s spacious compound. Somewhere not too far off, you could hear the nasal voice of the Muezzin calling the Muslim faithfuls to prayer. Tunmi, still lingering between that oh so sweet moment of deep slumber and wakefulness snuggled deeper into the comforts of her duvet trying to catch the last dregs of sleep but that is not to be. The wet sloppy kisses from her soul mate finally succeeded in doing what the combined noise from her alarm clock and the mosque down the street couldn’t.
“Ok, ok, ok I get it Fluffy, I’m awake now ok”, she said with a soft chuckle, scooping the little Terrier in her arms and sinking her face into his soft cuddly body.
It’s been their early morning ritual since…. oh no, the memories came rushing back and she instinctively held Fluffy tighter. The startled yelp from the dog made her realize she was probably strangulating him and she consciously loosened her grip as she allowed herself to travel just one last time down that road.
It was the dawn of October 18th, 2002. She had turned on her bed to snuggle into her fiancé, Kayode’s arms when she felt the empty space. Thinking he was in the bathroom, she sunk deeper into the luxurious satin spread on the majestic six by eight bed. She was at Kayode’s house for the weekend preparatory to their traditional wedding coming up the following month and Kayode’s mum had requested to see her so they could finalize arrangements. Kayode had travelled on a business trip the night before and had promised to be back before she left. That’s one thing she loved about him, he never passes up an opportunity for them to be together; but then she loved everything about him too. No man had ever made her feel so alive like Kayode; finally her dream was coming true. She was about to get married to the love of her life and what more, she was already carrying his baby.
She smiled as she rubbed her still flat tummy marveling at the life growing inside. She was sure that Kayode would spoil the baby silly just as he does her. She blessed the day fate brought them together at the Fresher’s night on campus 5 years back. From the moment their eyes locked in the crowd she had instinctively known that there was something special about him even though they didn’t exchange even the simplest of greetings.
Two months later, fate brought them together again at a friend’s party and that was it. There was no going back. They were an item on campus and even when a lot of odds seemed to be stacked against them – she was a Christian and he was a staunch Muslim, the only son of the famous business mogul, Alhaji Fatai Bademosi while she was the only daughter of a primary school Headmaster. Her mother died while she was a toddler and her father had to raise her 3 older siblings and her all by himself. He never remarried and Tunmi always marveled at that height of sacrifice.
Feeling the pressure on her bladder, she got up groggily to go to the bathroom wondering why Kay as she fondly called him was taking so much time. She’d been asleep the night before when she felt a presence beside her on the bed and knew instinctively it was Kay. Only he could smell that way.
“I bet he’s snuck off to read one of those comic books again”, she thought to herself. She had teased him to no end about his love of comics, but then that was one of the reasons she fell hopelessly in love with him, his rugged look belies the boyish charm that is brazenly on display whenever they were together.
“Well, I’ll surprise him”, she muttered as she stealthily opened the door. Her brows crinkled when she met an empty toilet. Shrugging, she obeyed mother nature as she emptied a bladder that was threatening to let loose.
“He must be with his mum”, she said to herself with a smile. The two of them were inseparable and Tunmi felt blessed that Kay’s mum loved her almost equally. She was about to snuggle back in bed when all of a sudden she felt an eerie chill that did not come from the air-conditioning unit in the room. She thought she heard Kay’s voice but was not sure. She grabbed her housecoat, flung it on and found her way downstairs to look for Mom and Kay.
With a ready smile on her face, she flung open the kitchen door but the smile froze when emptiness stared her back. Now puzzled, she crossed over to the sitting room, and stood there transfixed at the door. Sitting right across from her was an ashen faced mom, Tunmi had never seen her like that before. She…she looked like death warmed over. Tunmi flicked her eyes to the left and saw two elderly relatives of Kay all wearing somber looks.
At that moment Kay’s Mom looked up and saw Tunmi then belted out a strange laughter. “Tunmi, there’ll be no wedding again” she managed to say amidst fits of maniacal laughter. “Kay, your Kay is gone, he’s dead. There was an accident”, she continued laughing hysterically now. Mrs. Okeowo, Kay’s elderly aunt who had all along been sitting by her junior sister, gave her a swift slap and suddenly the laughter stilled.
Tunmi groggily woke to find herself in the hospital, Kay’s sister Romoke and her own dad staring at her with varying degrees of worry.
“Dad, Romoke, what…what are you doing here?”
“What happened”? She feebly asked. Thankful she was awake at last, her dad got up from the chair and moved swiftly to her side. Then it all came rushing back and she screamed and blacked out again.
She spent two weeks in the hospital before she could be discharged. The trauma of losing Kay and the pregnancy was heavy on her. She could not just imagine living without Kay. He was her life, her breath, her all…and losing the pregnancy? The only part of Kay she could hold on to, that was the last straw. Twice she attempted suicide until Fluffy came into her life; a gift from Kay’s sister who had become her best friend.
Since then, the two of them had been inseparable. Fluffy had been more than a companion to her, he literally helped her through the healing process. And now, six years later, it looked as if Fluffy was ordained to play another role in her life.
She had been going through her squats at the gym, so absorbed in the drill that she didn’t notice Fluffy was no longer by her side. He would usually sit an arm’s length away from her watching her moves while she worked out. It was an instant moment of panic for her, Fluffy had grown to become an appendage. Quickly she scanned through the gym, her heart in her mouth until she saw him, sitting enthralled by the biceps, or so it seemed, of a fair skinned hunk lifting weights.
Immediately Tunmi was irritated. “Who does he think he is, flaunting his nakedness in front of a poor canine?” She muttered under her breath as she strode briskly to retrieve her treasure. Just as she got to him, he finished with his moves and rose, a smile on his lips.
“Hi, my name is Kehinde, this must be your dog”, he said as he extends his hand to Tunmi who ignores him. He drops his hand in embarrassment.
“Obviously,” Tunmi retorted rudely. “Now if you’ll excuse me, am done for the day,” she snapped as she brushed past him. Just as she reached the door, she turned back to see him looking at her with a smirk. Disgusted, she swiveled and storms out.
Since that chance encounter, she had known no peace. Kehinde just happened to surface anywhere she went – gym, cinema, the mall and yes, even the pharmacy down her street. Every time, he tried to strike a conversation, Tunmi was quick to rebuff until the incident at the mall. He had just tried his come on gimmick again when she hurriedly side stepped him intending to beat a hasty retreat. He rushed after her shouting when she heard the screeching of the brakes and a thud. Startled, she looked back to see him flat out on the ground. He had jumped in front of a car trying to drive out. Quickly she raced over to him, shouting.
“Are you crazy? Do you want to kill yourself”, she asked as she bent over him. She could see he had a cut on his head. With the help of onlookers, she was able to get him in her car and take him to the hospital. Things took a different turn from there and now eleven months after, she was about to take another major decision of her life…