As soon as Folake entered her apartment, Cooper bounded towards her, hyperventilating and growling. He hopped on her and she smiled, ruffling his fur. She set Cooper down, put some food in its plate and went to her room, already kicking off her shoes.
“Whew! What a day. Thank you, father, for everything.” Folake paused. Something was bothering her conscience. She sat on her bed, searching her heart. Was this related to her meeting with Seun? Was this about the Tope situation? Was the Holy Spirit trying to communicate something to her?
She ran through her day’s activities mentally. Then it came to her. Her brief interaction with Akor replayed in her mind and with the benefit of retrospect, she realized that she must’ve come across as curt. She picked her phone and dialed Akor. It rang and rang but he didn’t take the call. This further perturbed her. Perhaps he was mad at her. She shook her head. All she wanted was sleep. She took off her clothes and changed into a maxi gown. Her phone rang.
“Hey Bro Akor.”
“I’m sorry I missed your call. I was in the toilet and I usually take my phone to the toilet oh, I don’t know why I left it on the bed today.” There was an awkward pause before Akor chuckled and said, “pardon me, TMI.”
Folake chuckled too. “I want to thank you and also apologize about earlier today. I didn’t mean to be rude or to cut you off like I did, I was just… there was a lot going on in my mind at the time. I was very disturbed.” Folake hissed. “I don’t think I’m making much sense. It’s been a very long day.”
“It’s fine, really. Bad days happen to the most of us. Here I was thinking you just didn’t like my face.”
“Want to talk about your long day?”
Folake sighed. “Family issues jare. Let me spare you the details.”
“Trust me,” Akor replied. “it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. But if you do, I’ll be glad to listen.”
Folake angled her head as an idea popped into her mind. “You’re a vet doctor, you should know something of how the brain works, right?”
Akor tutted. “It’s been a while and my neuroscience must be rusty right now, but I should still have some scraps lying around in my head somewhere.”
Folake laughed. “You talk as if your head is a junkyard.”
With a chortle, Akor said, “Well, isn’t it in a way?”
Folake shook her head. “Okay, so, if a person is born a leftie and along the line, they are forced to start using their right hand in school, can it have a repercussion on the functionality of their brain?”
Akor whistled. “I was expecting an easy punch like which part of the brain controls breathing and heart rate. You’ve come with a research question.”
Folake laughed. “Come on. You don’t have any idea?”
“Of course, I do. Errr… why don’t you give me five minutes to do a quick brush up and then I’ll call you back.”
“Bro Akor, I’m not asking for a dissertation o, just tell me what you know.”
“I like to go all out. Give me five minutes.”
Folake rolled her eyes. It was obvious this dude wanted to impress her. “Your time starts now.”
Akor ended the call and frantically ran to grab his laptop. He quickly pulled up articles on the internet. Scanning through abstracts of papers and typing in questions into new tabs. He scrawled points on a flashcard. When he had garnered enough information, he sighed and redialed Folake.
“Took you long enough, doc.” Folake said over the phone.
“How many minutes extra did I take?”
Akor scoffed. “Come on, give me some credit now. I tried.”
“Indeed. Now, let’s hear what you have.”
Akor cleared his throat. “Good day ladies and gentlemen. Here on slide 1, we have the outline that will be guiding this presentation.”
Folake burst into laughter. “Be serious now.”
“The part of the brain that’s responsible for cognition, learning, emotions, initiation of movement and so forth is called the cerebrum. Now the cerebrum has two halves, the left and right hemispheres. Do you follow?”
“Good. There’s something called the ratera- latela- lateralization of the brain hemispheres.” Akor paused to laugh at his own blunder. “The lateralization of the brain hemispheres. Repeat it.”
Folake laughed. “The lateralization of the brain hemispheres.” She said ‘lateralization’ with an intoned flourish to spite Akor.
“Whatever. Don’t feel sleek. What that means is that one hemisphere of the cerebrum has a functional dominance over the other. And typically, the right hemisphere of the cerebrum controls the left half of the body, and vice versa.”
Folake frowned a little. “Why?”
“Something about the midline crossing of the neural pathways in the central nervous system. So, for the naturally righthanded person, the left hemisphere is functionally dominant and the reverse is the case for the lefthanded person. Now, here’s why forced switching of handedness could lead to a decline in cognitive function.”
Folake drew a deep breath.
“Research and postmortem analysis have shown that for those who are righthanded, certain areas of the left cerebral hemisphere are more developed than the right cerebral hemisphere. Also, the two hemispheres serve different functions. If I remember correctly, the left hemisphere does more of language processing than the right. Now, when a person is forced to switch hands, it could muddle up their cognitive function and also take a toll on their emotions, leading to trauma and psychological damage.”
Folake squeezed her eyes shut. She remembered all those months of Tope crying and sulking, struggling and hurting. She hated herself for being unable to stop the damage, for having no better solution than candies. But she was only a young girl herself. What did she know?
“I hope this is satisfactory to some extent?”
“You’ve done an excellent presentation. Thanks.” Folake sighed. “My brother was forced to switch. He’s been sinking academically since then. He’s been failing JAMB and WAEC, he’s depressed and just yesterday I got to know that he’s been doing drugs. He overdosed on heroin and we had to rush him to the hospital.”
Akor drew a deep breath. “I’m so sorry.”
Why do I keep nodding when I’m on the phone? He obviously can’t see me.
“Thank you very much, Bro Akor.”
“You can call me Akor.”
Folake smiled. “Good night and thank you once again.”
“Do you mind me praying with you?”
Folake shook her head and immediately remembered that Akor couldn’t see her. “I don’t.”
“Dear God, we thank you for your daughter, Folake, I pray that you will fill her heart with your peace and comfort. For her brother, I pray that you will grant him rest and cause him to see the Light. Thank you, God for answered prayers. In Jesus’ name we have prayed. Amen.”
“Amen. Thanks… One last thing, the name is pronounced foh-lah-keh,”
“That’s what I said now, Folake.”
“Nope, you keep saying foh-lah-kay and every time I hear it, it does my body one kind.”
Akor laughed. “I stand corrected. Good night. Wait, if it’s pronounced like that, why do people call you FK?”
“Would you rather they call me ef-keh?” Folake burst into laughter.
Akor too laughed, not knowing what was funny but finding Folake’s laughter titillating.
“I had a secondary school mate, he’s an Igbo boy from Onitsha. He used to call me ef-keh. ‘ef-keh can I borrow your note.’ He’d say. My friends and I always had a good time yabbing him.” Folake laughed some more. “His name is Success Ogburuche.”
Akor laughed. “Good night, ef-keh.”
Folake dropped her phone and sighed, a smile on her face. This man succeeded in making her laugh on a day like this.
Thank God for his life.
The next day, Folake received a text from Akor.
-Can we hang out after church on Sunday? Since Dasola has travelled home, I was hoping we could grab some of Christy’s akara together-
-You know Dasola and I buy akara after service?-
-Let’s just say I’m a keen observer-
-Stalker, you mean?-
-This is the point where I call the cops-
-Hehehe. The cops. Someone has been watching too much of Hollywood TV. I think you might need to edit that bit of our little script, this time put into consideration the fact that the story is set in Nigeria-
-Lol. Okay, this is the point where I call vigilante-
-You are funny. But don’t use funny to deflect my question-
-Sure, I’ll hang out with you. You are sha buying-
Seun ran into Goke’s room, pumping fists into the air and shouting, “Raaaa!”
“Why you dey shout, na?” Goke turned on his sliced-bread-thick mattress, grumpy from sleep.
Seun held up his ticket strip and phone on the other hand. “The bet came through!”
Goke goggled in disbelief and Seun repeated his statement, this time with a lavish garnish of swear words. Goke jumped from the bed.
“One twenty freaking thousand.” Seun replied.
“Omo!” Goke put a finger on his lower lip. He tapped Seun’s shoulder. “Guy, you sabi wetin we go do?”
“If you’re thinking of asking to borrow this money, forget it.” Seun said, shrugging off Goke’s hand.
“F’ara buruku bale jare, (calm down) we fit double this money. I check fixtures yesterday, Chelsea dey play Arsenal tonight, and I get sure two odds. If we use this money bet again,” Goke clapped and made a whistling sound. “Jack pot!”
“I no do. If the bet cut, nko?”
“Guy, e no fit cut. I don do my projections. Arsenal go win, 2:1. E sure me die.”
“I no do oh.”
“If the bet come through, we go split the money equally, but if e cut, I go pay you back.”
Seun considered it for a moment. “If e come through, we go split am 60:40.”
Goke eyeballed him. “You too like money.”
“Wetin I for like before? You sabi how much pampers be for market?”
They both laughed.
“Abi now, my pikin no fit suffer.”
“Ko ye ki baba jiya, k’omo na tun jiya (A child shouldn’t suffer what the parents suffered).”
They fist bumped and settled to play FIFA, while they waited for the match fixed for the evening.
True to Goke’s prediction, the scores between Arsenal and Chelsea was 2:1, for the most part of the match. Then at the eighty-second minute, Chelsea equalized and by the end of the match, Chelsea had scored another goal. Goke and Seun lost the bet and the money.
On their way out of the crammed viewing center, a guy jostled past Seun. Seun grabbed his shirt and spun him around.
“Are you blind?” Seun barked the question.
“Ogbeni, you dey spit on me.”
Seun headbutted the dude. A fight started. Goke came to separate them. Seun beat the living day lights out of both Goke and the guy who jostled him.
“You have till next week to pay me my money!” Seun bellowed at Goke with one final kick.
“I’m not paying shishi.” Goke retorted.
Seun let out a chilling chuckle. “I dare you to mess with me.”
Goke sprang up. “You no fit do me anything!”
Seun nodded, clenching and unclenching his fist. He threw a punch at Goke’s face. Goke blocked it and pushed him off. Goke called Seun a vile name and limped off.
Seun stood there, outside the viewing centre and he could feel himself sink into a sour mood. He needed a drink and a smoke.
While he took greedy drags from his spliff, a thought that had been crystallizing in his mind resurfaced.
Operation get my baby a good Mama. He laughed.
Yesterday, his Mum, Mrs. Eucharia Farolati, called him and like the typical African mother would to her son pushing thirty, she heckled Seun about when he’d bring a wife home. It wasn’t the first time she’d raise the subject, but yesterday, Seun decided it was time to settle down especially now that he had put Felicity in the family way. He didn’t want his child to be raised by separated parents. He had heard that parental separation took a toll on children. But he also knew he couldn’t marry a woman like Felicity, neither did he want his child to be raised by her. She had too much audacity. She was so liberal and forward thinking that Seun doubted she had any moral standards left in her. He didn’t want a wife who would challenge his authority or question him. He didn’t want a mother who’d teach his children to talk back at elders because they had rights or teach them to do whatever appeals to them. He wanted a woman that he could easily subjugate. A woman who would never think of revenge sex if he did what was only expected of a man. He needed a woman who would pander docilely to his every decision, a woman who would raise his children in the fear of God. He needed a good old church girl.
He took a gulp of brandy as he hatched a plan in his mind.
When he got the church girl he needed, he’ll play smooth and get married to her. Once they’re married, the ‘till-death-do-us-part’ lock would have clicked behind them and then he could roll out his secret: he had a child outside. She’d probably cry and fall apart, and then she’d go seek counsel from her pastor. She’d be told to forgive her husband and accept his child as hers since they are now one before God. She’d be devastated for a while, but eventually, she’d follow the godly counsel like the good girl she is. Once his wife agrees, he’d take his child from Felicity. Surely, Felicity will be glad to part with this child that must be a nuisance to her, considering how driven she was.
Seun licked his lips. This is looking good.
Folake naturally came to mind as the perfect fit for his church girl wife. She was demure and orderly. In all his years of working with her, he never heard her utter a curse word and whenever there was a disagreement, she was always quick to apologize. She never showed cleavage or joined her colleagues at the club to celebrate a company win.
Seun remembered how she preached to him the other day at the restaurant. Her wit and pure intent. He smiled. A good girl, with a pure heart was the easiest person to beguile.
Just like Eve, their mother. Seun thought and chuckled.
Doesn’t that make you the serpent?
He shrugged to his own thought. Serpent or whatever, his child deserved a good mother and he needed a woman that’d give him peace, regardless of what he gives her.
The thought of a new adventure thrilled him. The last time he did a thing like this was back in his university days when he took on bets and pursued the most fervent sisters in fellowships. It always brought him great delight whenever he got them laid and popped their prized cherries. But there were some, like Stella, that were impossible. The day he approached Stella for counselling in her fellowship, she took one long look at him and laughed.
“I’m not counselling you. A brother will.” She’d said.
Before he could say anything else, she handed him over to Bro Uyi. That annoying, persistent pest.
He kept going after her, trying new ploys and schemes until she confronted him with the truth. Seun could never forget that evening on the pathway that led to Agric faculty. He was walking beside her, trying to make small talk when she stopped and turned to him.
“You stood right there,” She pointed to the gmelina tree a few feet away. “under that tree, to bet that you’d get me.”
Seun remembered how naked he felt.
“You think it’s all fun and games, but Satan is using you and the only wage he pays is death. If you won’t receive the life Jesus is offering you, don’t trip up his children. God doesn’t joke with his children.”
Seun felt cold. He took a step back and fled Stella’s presence. Since that day, he didn’t let himself go anywhere near her. She was scary. Seun hoped that Folake was not like Stella.
The first step in getting a church girl is crossing the unequal yoke barrier.
Folake walked out of the board room, jubilant. She wanted to get into the privacy of her office to do a careless dance. Her phone started ringing.
“Seun!” She enthused over the phone. “You won’t believe what just happened.”
“I got the promotion!” Folake gasped, realizing she was shouting. “I got it!” She repeated in a giddy whisper.
“Wow!” Seun’s voice had an edge. “I’m so happy for you.” He wasn’t. He felt an illogical anger at Folake and her stupid excitement. The promotion she’s rejoicing over was his job. His job. She was happy to take his place. Seun gnashed his teeth, willing the spell of fury to pass.
The spell passed. He became rational again. He was the one who walked away from the job. Someone had to take up the position.
“You deserve it, really.” Seun said evenly.
“Awwww,” Folake held a hand over her chest. “Thank you. And thank you for being a good boss and for your generous advice the other day.”
Seun bloomed under the compliment, more than he’d ever admit. “Come on, it’s nothing.”
Folake smiled. “I’m sorry I left you at the restaurant the other day like that. An emergency came up at home and I had to run.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I hope the problem has been sorted?”
“Yeah, thanks for asking.”
“So, FK, I’ve been unable to get the things you said the other day out of my mind.” It was partly true. “I was thinking, do you mind me coming to your church on Sunday?” It was important to ask questions rather than make statements when trying to get into a church girl’s head. There’s something about dithering that appeals to them. Something about being pathetic that magnetizes their compulsion for fixing people. This mix of pity and fixing compulsion blend with time to look like affection.
Folake’s mouth fell open.
Thank you, Jesus.
“Sure. Sure. I’ll text you the address. I’m glad to hear this.”
“Thank you so much, FK. Thank you.” Then, there’s the superfluous gratitude. Equally very essential. Massage their ego. Make them know that their crappy attempts at fixing you are all you’ve ever needed.
Pastor Bernard, Folake’s pastor, preached a storm that Sunday morning. Folake kept nodding and jotting all through the sermon. The few times she glanced at Seun; she saw that he was paying rapt attention. He showed up after the praise and worship session and came to sit right next to her. Although Folake felt a bit uncomfortable with the way Seun insisted on having the teenager next to Folake move over for him, she was glad he came. Something about his manner was territorial but Folake waved it off. He was wearing a vintage shirt with jeans. She liked his simplicity.
When the sermon was over, PB, like most members fondly called their pastor, made a call for those who had not yet accepted Jesus. Folake was fighting the urge to look at Seun, she didn’t want him to feel pressured. She prayed silently in her heart for him.
Holy Spirit, convict him.
She heard the sniffles first. She couldn’t stow the urge to look. Seun was in tears.
Oh, dear. Glory to Jesus.
“Please excuse me.” Seun mouthed as he stood up.
Folake shifted her legs to make room for Seun. She watched him walk down the aisle, with soulful chords playing on the keyboard, to the altar. A smile was on Folake’s face, and a sheen of tears in her eyes.
After service, Seun came to meet Folake.
“Congratulations, Seun. You are now a member of God’s family.”
Seun did an unsure chuckle. “I can’t explain this joy in my heart.”
It’s the joy of salvation. Seun predicted in his heart.
“That, my dear, is called the joy of salvation.”
The same cliché hogwash.
Seun smiled. “They said I need follow up.” He sighed. “I have a problem.”
Concern beclouded Folake’s face. “What is that?”
Seun sighed again. “I find it hard opening up to new people. I told you all about my Dad and stuff now,”
Folake nodded. Seun started walking towards the church gate, she walked in step with him.
“I want to be followed up by someone I can trust, someone I’ll be comfortable with.”
“The church will give you someone sound and reliable.” Folake responded.
“I have no doubt about that…” Seun faltered. “never mind.”
“No, say what’s on your mind.”
“I want to ask a favour, and it’s totally okay if you decline.”
“Can you follow me up?”
Folake paused, a little frown appearing on her forehead.
“It’s fine if you don’t want to…” I’ll just need to regroup and strategize again.
Folake’s frown disappeared. “It’s okay. I will follow you up.”
Seun smiled. “Thank you so much, FK. I can’t wait to unpack all Christ has in store for me.”
Folake smiled. They continued walking.
Akor watched Folake leave with another brother. He had been standing there, waiting for her. Waiting for a signal, a pursed lip, a wave. Anything at all. She was gone. He felt sheathed once again in that uncomfortable membrane of invisibility. He maintained the smile on his face with a lot of effort.