Key To My Heart



♣ ♥ ♣ 

NNE-BEN’S cookout was a popular fest in their small town. It happened quarterly, not everyone in town came—that would be impossible. But a good number of people did, and it was always a good occasion for folks to mingle and socialise.

Theirs was a big family, one of the largest families in the town. There seemed to be an Akubuilo from the Ike-Akubuilo family in every clan of the town. That was how wide they’d spread themselves through marriage and sheer ancestry lineage.

They owned a big compound too. Some folks said that the Ike-Akubuilo compound was even larger than Obi Ikelue’s compound. It might be an exaggeration, for no one has ever taken measurement of both compounds, but it was a close comparison all the same.

Nna-Ben, that would be Ben’s father, when alive had been a red-cap chief in the Palace of Obi Ikelue, and he had entertained much. The tradition of cookouts had started with him—actually with the birth of his first son, Benjamin, according to Nnadim’s narratives. He had been so overjoyed at birthing a son after close to a decade of only female children from two wives.

The first wife, Nne-Dora, had unfortunately died at childbirth. But her three daughters had never felt the lack of a mother for Nne-Ben had gathered all the children of the household and brought them all up as her own. That was the kind of generous woman she was. And it was that generosity which propelled her to continue with her husband’s fest even five years after his death, Patti supposed.

“Nne-Ben, this one is looking like it will be bigger than that of Easter period oh.” Patti observed, smiling as she dropped one knee in respect to the woman most likely in her late fifties. “There are more people today. It’s like everyone has been waiting impatiently for this day to come, so they can come and feast.”

Nne-Ben, garbed in her usual Yoruba style wrapper and blouse, sent up a smile from her stool. “That is the way it should be. Folks should come together and have fun, talk and laugh together. It is not only in the time of sorrow and mourning that we should unite as one people.”

“You speak the truth, Nne-Ben. But nobody does it like you do it.” Patti generously praised. “I can never imagine doing all the work that involves feeding a throng of people like this. You’re the best at this.”

“Your grandmother, God rest her pure soul, was even better at entertainment.” Nne-Ben laughed. “She and Nnadim entertained folks every year at Christmas and Easter while she was alive. And greater crowd than this frequented her cookouts.”

“Oh yes, Nmaa was good at organising and entertaining people.” Patti remembered fondly. “With her gone, I guess that part of Chimezie’s family is gone too.”

“It doesn’t have to be. You can restart it, it is not as difficult as you can think. Meanwhile, as practice, take this tray of garden-egg and groundnut-pepper sauce to the elders’ table. Announce to them that the ofe-nsala and fufu is on the way.”

“I will do that gladly, Nne-Ben.” Patti received the tray and with her smile still bright on her face, started in the direction where the elders sat on one part of the zinc-canopied shed.

She served the meal-starter, helped her grandfather and Mama-Onye to get their own share and then shifted behind to linger in the background, absently listening to conversations between the elders as they ate and praised Nne-Ben.

“Your grandson is doing a great job in the clinic. Everyone is full of praise for him.”

Nnadim’s enthusiastic words seeped through her wandering mind and Patti switched her attention on the conversation going on between him and Mama-Onye.

“He is indeed the son of his father’s father.” Nnadim went on. “A true hard-worker and very dedicated too. We’re blessed to have one of our own return here to serve us.”

“It is the way it ought to be.” Mama-Onye responded, dipping the tip of a garden-egg into her small dish of groundnut-pepper sauce. “Young people, after learning, should come back home and help us old and rural folks with the knowledge they have acquired.”

“Hmm, it is the way it should be but it is not always that way. Our younger generation are more interested in big cities than in our small towns and villages.” Nnadim made a noise like a deep sigh. “But who would blame them, eh? Our towns are almost in a state of dilapidation, so how can they want to live in it?”

“And if we all run away, who then will restore things?” Mama-Onye dismissed the argument. “We must make sacrifice for what is our own. This is their home and they should offer their services to develop it again. Isidore is doing that and your granddaughter, Patti has been here five years now and she has brought with her new ideas and changes.”

“Oh yes, they’re both hardworking. They both possess same kind of spirit, I am thinking. The spirit to give back and not question what it costs them. And they are both single.” Nnadim said the last with a deep chuckle.

“That they are. And I can tell you that that fact has not eluded either of them.” Mama-Onye let out her own chuckle. “My old eyes are seeing something, and maybe the wish of our forefathers may be fulfilled after all.”

And what wish would that be? Patti thought with a scowl. That the Chimezie and Obinze family be united as one through marriage? Well, if that was their wish, they’d be needing another daughter to help them bring that wish to birth because she, Patti, was not interested in Isidore—or any other man for that matter.

No longer interested in the conversation, Patti heaved off the wood pillar she’d been leaning on and turned towards the opposite end where folks of her age were seated, talking loudly, as was the habit of the over-energetic generation, and entertaining themselves.

“I was just thinking of walking around to find you.” Ben hailed upon seeing her. “Come sit beside me and cast away the loom of dullness that I’ve been fighting off the last half-hour.”

“I see no loom of dullness.” Patti teased. She didn’t want to sit with him, not when he was being this openly affectionate. “Let me…” the words trailed off as she caught sight of Isidore talking with Iloba at the south-end of the shed. “I think I should indeed sit a while. Your mother assured me that the food is nearly ready and I’d hate to miss my share.”

“There is more than enough for everyone.” But Ben happily adjusted on the bench and made room for her. “You’re looking exceptionally beautifully this evening. I tell you, feminine wears fit you better than those trousers you go about in.”

Patti laughed. Ben always complimented her, even when she wore the trousers he was complaining about. “But the trousers suit the work I do. I cannot be going about the farm in skirts and dresses. Mba, that cannot work.”

“Well, I am glad you shed them for this evening’s occasion.” Ben held out the tray of cooked groundnut to her. Waited for her to fill her hands before setting it down again. “Tell me when you’re going to allow me take you out on a date, eh, Patti?”

And this exactly was why she most often avoided him. But she’d forgotten that in her bid to… what had been her intention dropping down beside Ben at the sight of Isidore, eh? She didn’t even like the man, so what was she doing showing off to him that she had other men interested in her?

No, this was not her, not at all. She must mind herself, another mistake was not allowed.

“Ben, you should be thinking of taking one of these beautiful, younger girls out on a date not a middle-aged woman like me.” She playfully chided. “Haven’t you noticed that Isioma keeps looking in your direction?”

“She does? And how would you know that?” Ben quickly shifted his gaze to where Isioma was sitting with her friends.

And in truth Isioma’s eyes were on him before she swiftly shifted them away. “

“I am a woman, am I not?” She wouldn’t have told him of Isioma’s interest in him if she wasn’t clutching at straws. “But this whispered secret does not mean you should take her for granted oh. Isioma is a beautiful, well brought-up young girl and should be courted like one.”

Ben looked at Isioma again and then frowned as he brought back his gaze on her. “And who said I want to court Isioma? It is you, I am trying to court and you know it, Patti.”

“Why beat a rock that will not shed water when a free-flowing stream is nearby, hmm, Ben?” Patti cracked open a groundnut bud, popped its content into her mouth and smiled gently at him. “I have descended from that ship, my dear friend, and I don’t plan on embarking on it ever again.”

“You’re a young woman, Patti. At least I have a year over you so I know you’re still young. And as a woman, you will need a man. Every woman needs a man, didn’t you hear Chaka-Chaka sing it?” Ben teased.

Patti snorted. “This woman doesn’t. I am fully content being on my own.”

But her gaze shifted to Isidore and she hastily swept it back when their eyes met. Why the heck was he staring at her? And had her heartbeat faltered in that manner over a mere glance?

No, it was irritation—she was irritated with his unflinching stare.

♣ ♥ ♣

ISIDORE was irritated—and only with himself.

He hadn’t been able to stop staring in her direction. And even now when she’d finally spared him a glance, she’d quickly looked away and refocused all of her attention on Benjamin. Was there something between them? Was that why she was always unfriendly towards him?

Isidore hated that he wondered. He wasn’t even interested in her, for heaven’s sake. She was so not his type. For one thing, she was rude and completely annoying. Then she wasn’t even pretty. Well, not facially—she would never be that. But with her usual denims and jeans wears switched for a maxi chiffon dress, there was now a touch of softness to her that kind of made her appear pretty.

And why he would find that look attractive, Isidore didn’t know… and didn’t like it. He shouldn’t be thinking of her, he should be listening to Iloba. And what had he been saying?

Ah yes, the need for the working youths of the town to come together as one voice and approach the state government about needed developments in their town.

Knowing he’d only heard half of what had been said, Isidore cleared his throat and tapped a pat on Iloba’s back. “Your thoughts are absolutely correct, Ilo. What we need to do now is to choose a day and gather ourselves, then decide on how we will go about things officially. See if you can get in touch with others, I am new here and won’t how to go about it. When you have a date agreed upon, communicate it to me and I will surely be there.”

“I will do that, Isidore.” Iloba dropped his head in a nod. He stammered a little so his usually tried to take his words slowly. “I think I can have as much people as would be interested organised by the end of the month. The last Saturday of the month will be a perfect date. I will check with others, then get back to you.”

“Please do that.” Isidore got up from the bench. “Let me go around and greet some people I’m sure I’ve not seen in ages.”

But instead of going around, he made straight to where Patti was seated—now laughing gaily with Ben. His teeth clenched, but Isidore told himself it was because he’d chewed some of the kolanuts they’d passed around for the elders.

“I hope I’m not intruding on a private joke. Ben, how are you?” Isidore smoothly held out his hand to the other man, who shook it enthusiastically. “Your mother has once again outdone herself… that is what I keep hearing.”

“No one does it like her.” Ben beamed a proud smile. “She was born to entertain and make people happy and she does so effortlessly.”

“When it is a gift, it is always effortless.” He looked at Patti. “Hello, Patti.”

Patti made a show of shifting her gaze to him. “Hello, Isidore.”

“Isidore, with you here, I won’t feel like I’m abandoning Patti. Please sit and keep her company while I go attend to the music.” Ben was already on his feet. “We must have some dance before eating, for once the body is heavy with the weight of good food, it cannot move to the beats of music.”

“That, my dear fellow, is the truth. The exercise of dancing will even provide our tummies more room to swallow more lumps of well-pounded fufu.” Isidore joked, patting Ben before he marched off. “May I sit?” He asked, returning his gaze to Patti.

“If you like.”

Her disinterested answer revived his irritation but Isidore neatly shelved it and lowered to take the space Ben had vacated. Then almost hissed when she shifted away from him. “Trust me, I have no body odour.”

“Never said you did.” Patti told herself she would soon switch places but she still sat there. Much to her annoyance.

“Of course you didn’t, you just don’t like me. Is it because of Ben? Is he your boyfriend?” Isidore told himself it was the teeth of irritation that gnawed his insides, not anything else.

“He is not my boyfriend.” Patti raised her head and looked at him. “I am not interested in him, not like that. I am not interested in any man either.”

Isidore’s mouth curled in a sneer. “And why is that, someone broke your heart?”

“Yes, my ex-husband did.”

And his mouth dropped open. Isidore literally felt it lower and stay suspended as he stared at her.

Dedication: For all June & July Celebrants, may your lives be blessed.

*eBook Purchase made easier! Via: *RECHARGE CARD PINS!*

29 Responses to Key To My Heart

  1. nykky says:

    ok nau let the discussion begin. Dr you can give your shoulder for her to cry on and her healing will start from there. Thanks for the update TM

  2. favour says:

    Wow….ex-husband?i totally didn’t see that coming.

    Good job TM

  3. mercy says:

    wow…..!speechless I totally didn’t c this coming TM

  4. Me too, I didn’t see it coming when I was writing it. I mean I knew she’d been married but I don’t know she was going to toss it out like that… Lmao.

  5. Asheadzi says:

    Thanks for the update TM..Isidore and Patti are making progress..

  6. Patience Bassey says:

    Patti had been married? Wow, didn’t see that coming

  7. Jeffrey Jamez says:

    ah…ex husband…the worse kind….waiting to hear the full story.

  8. Dhebra says:

    What! Ex-husband???

  9. Ego says:

    Eeh, so Patti was married?…. wonders

  10. Laminah says:

    Wasn’t expecting that….but…hmmn, that’s TM doing what she does best. More inspiration for you.

  11. Datoks says:

    What!!!Patti ve bn married before
    .whoa didnt see dis coming

  12. imotolab2014 says:

    Knowing he’d only heard half of what had been
    said, BEN cleared his throat and tapped a pat on
    Iloba’s back. “Your thoughts are absolutely correct,
    Ilo. What we need to do now is to choose a day and
    gather ourselves, then ………

    Typo error.

    btw…..exhusband???? chai

  13. Nene says:

    Ex husband?? Nice shocker!

  14. Ex husband? It must be a huge heart break for their marriage to have ended.

  15. Roselyn says:

    Awwwwwwww! Ex-husband! Hmmmmmm! Must have been very painful. Thanks TM, do have a blessed weekend.

  16. Grace says:

    Hmm ex-husband no be small story go dey behind their breakup oh can’t wait to hear d full gist, tm well done

  17. Paula says:

    Now we are getting the details

  18. Toyenlon says:

    No wonder Patti was like that, she must have goe through a lot in her last marriage. Nice oe TM.

  19. Ziza says:

    TM, a certain cassie magazine is posting TMU on Facebook, did you consent to that?

    • No, I did not consent to that, Ziza. But I just saw it after your alert. That Cassie Magazine will be cursed from the root of its existence. I will curse it. Thank you.

  20. kemmy says:

    never saw this coming. thanks for sharing

  21. Ziza says:

    Thought of attacking them, but decided to ask you first. It was really heartbreaking seeing your stories there.

  22. mady says:

    hmmm…ur teeth is clenched cos of d kolanut u ate?? ur luv-lies don dey graduate

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