• Stories

    Me, John and Love – #3 PATRA

    The book cover was ready at last.

    All three samples of it.

    The package my client, a bestselling self-published author, paid for covered two design samples, but my persistent indecision over the serif and sans serif fonts warranted a third sample.

    It was a romantic suspense novel, and while she often favoured bold handwriting fonts, the serif had my vote. Nonetheless, the client had the first and final word, unless when they gave me leeway as a designer.

    This one never did.

    So, when she got back to me with her choice, I’d lift the watermarks, apply her corrections, and do the final touches to the design.

    That would happen somewhere between tomorrow and next week. I’d worked with her three times in the past and she could make an instant decision, or take the stipulated one week to do so.

    Twice she’d changed her mind a few days before her publishing date. Naturally, she paid a supplementary fee to have me redo a cover that was already approved.

    Thinking sweet potato fries and smoked codfish sauce would do well for dinner, I got busy in the kitchen. I was expecting guests. Plural, because Tracy wasn’t going to miss her chance to get details on what she’d witnessed earlier on my front porch.

    The fries were set on the kitchen table when I heard the rap on the door.

    It was Tracy.

    Chef Tracy Zelunjo.

    That was how she’d introduced herself when I moved into the neighbourhood. For a while, she’d been ‘Chef Tracy’ until we got close enough to lose the title.

    I didn’t let just anyone into my inner circle. No, thank you.

    My other guest was my best friend in the world. She really was, and it was not because we’d known each other since secondary school. There were people I’d known for longer, people I grew up with, and I didn’t think of them as friends, let alone best friends.

    “Tracy insists you were almost lip to lip with a guy out here. What is going on, Patra?”

    Ronnie Ketandu never wasted time with preambles, not when it had to do with family or close friends. Or when she was not in the mood to beat around the bush.

    Since I operated on direct and straightforward myself, I liked her way.

    “I need to start on the sauce, so come in with your questions.”

    As I’d done hours earlier with the fella responsible for the verbal drilling they were going to subject me to, I left them at the door to do the needful before coming in.

    Everyone knew the rule when they were walking into Patra’s home–no footwear. If you crossed the living room, there were flip flops to use for the rest of the house.

    If you wanted them, that is.

    I made sure to keep the entire house dust and dirt free. Yeah, I was that kind of neat freak.

    My kitchen was large enough to accommodate an island and a five-piece dining set. When I had more than that number to feed, the extras took up the stools around the granite counter.

    That rarely happened. Thank God!

    “I’ll take over that sauce,” Tracy said as soon as she walked in, and nudged me away from the gas cooker. “I don’t see green pepper anywhere. You know I like to see green in a sauce.”

    “You like to see green in everything,” I told her, and went to the fridge to get her one.

    As she wasn’t going to need either of our help, Ronnie and I got busy with setting the table.

    I’d learned from having these two women in my life that you could love and admire people differently. While growing up, I used to think I had to have ‘a type’ in everything.

    My taste, my pleasure, my love–had to be one thing.

    But you could like one thing, then another, and yet another, equally or differently, it didn’t really matter.

    Ronnie was stylish, her hair always in place, makeup on point, and her clothing carefully selected to suit the occasion. She was a couple of inches shorter than I am, so would be what was called average height. Then she had that body that was perfectly in the middle of curvy and slim.

    With her skin the rich, warm shade of caramel, she caught more attention than anyone I knew did.

    Now Tracy was the exact opposite. Petite at five feet two, skin dark like expresso, her hair natural, coiled and often untidy. Like now when more than a few strands had escaped her hair clip.

    And she didn’t care.

    It wasn’t that Tracy was rough and careless with her appearance. Not in the least. She liked form fitting clothes and wore them well in her slim build. I liked to think that she didn’t believe everything should be tightly in place.

    With Tracy, all things had their flaws. And it was better that way.

    “Now, tell us about the hunk who had you pressed to his body like he was dying to devour you,” Tracy said, breaking into my thoughts, and starting off the conversation as we sat down to eat.

    My body temperature went from cool to blissful warm as I remembered that moment, and how much I’d wanted John to kiss me.

    “Let me tell you that I cursed you for interrupting us.”

    “Are you serious?” A frown marred Ronnie’s pretty face. “And what happened to your vow of celibacy?”

    “Nothing. I’m still celibate. I intend to be until marriage. Or until I find myself in a commited relationship.”

    I’d been vocal about my decision to be celibate because I figured it would help me stay accountable. There was nothing I hated more than not being a woman who kept her word.

    “Yet you were in a man’s arms and cursed Tracy because she interrupted whatever it was that was going on between you.”

    “I also blessed her for that interruption,” I said and shrugged. “I’m not always going to get it right, Ronnie. Not having sex is like an extreme drought for me. There are days when all I think about is how to slake this dry-throated thirst.”

    “It’s all I think about every single day.” Tracy let out a sigh. “I want a man with whom I can have legal and binding sex.”

    “Legal and binding my ass.” Ronnie snorted. “Keep quiet, let Patra fill us in on what she was doing. Who’s the guy anyway?”


    “Which John?” Ronnie asked. Then it dawned on her because her eyes widened. “John Dumbiri from that night? Didn’t you promise you’ll stop chatting with him?”

    “Who is this John?” Tracy wanted to know.

    “We found him three, or is it four months ago at the backyard,” Ronnie replied. “He was unconscious, but we were convinced he was dead. You need to see us in mega panicked mode.” She laughed. “Jide came up with the idea that we go dump the body somewhere because if the police found it on the premises, we’d all be arrested for murder. Or at least, Patra would be.”

    “Eh!” Something of a gossipmonger, Tracy’s eyes rounded with awe. “Did you succeed in dumping his body somewhere?”

    “We couldn’t decide where, so we carried him inside and left him in the room Abba was using at the time. He woke up after that, and all but gave us heart attacks by his appearance at the kitchen door.”

    “My goodness! But why did he pass out like that?”

    I answered Tracy’s question this time. “He had party drugs. According to him today, it was his first time and would be his last. He was in a despondent state and wanted to forget his sorrows.”

    “If he was despondent, he should have got drunk and passed out, not try out drugs,” Tracy said.

    “He had alcohol too, according to him. Anyway, he came because he wants us to date with the view of getting married.”

    They both stared at me. Tracy made a sound in her throat, it could have come from excitement. Marriage always excited Tracy.

    Ronnie though didn’t look impressed. “He actually mentioned marriage?” she asked with another frown.

    “He did. He’s sure I am the woman for him.”

    “How can he be sure when you barely know each other?”

    “Maybe he’s sure, Trace, because they’ve been chatting and talking on the phone for months now. Although Patra said she’d stop more than a month ago, it’s obvious they continued.”

    Her tone was accusatory. Ronnie didn’t like it when I hid things from her. When anyone she was close to did, for that matter.

    “Even if we’ve been chatting that doesn’t make him sure. I think it was just a sneaky line.”

    “A sneaky line like a lie? Why does it have to be a lie and not the actual truth?”

    If I were the type to roll her eyes, I would now. Tracy created romantic worlds out of nothing. A man could say ‘boo’ and she’d see it as the opening to the perfect happy ending.

    “A lot of men use marriage as a lure to get into a woman’s panties, Trace,” Ronnie said. “You’d think they’d come up with new tricks, but they never do. They don’t, because this one works. It works because too many women are too desperate for marriage.”

    “Too many women. For example, me.”

    Ronnie reached over to touch Tracy’s hand. Letting her know she wasn’t judging. “Not just you. Me, too. We’re so conditioned to believe marriage is a woman’s salvation that we pursue it with the frenzy a fanatic does religion.”

    The comparison caused me to laugh.

    After a moment, Tracy and Ronnie joined in.

    “I know all about fanatics pursuing religion,” I said when our laughter died down. “Anyway, I don’t trust a man who leads with a promise of marriage. To be honest, I don’t even want to deal with men now. This is Me-time. I want to see who I am without a lover in my bed. Gosh, I’ve had way too many of them there.”

    It wasn’t like I believed in the double standards where a man could be as sexually active as he wanted while a woman had to be chaste. Or the closest thing to chaste.

    But thinking of how freely, and wildly, I’d indulged in the pleasures of sex with near careless abandon, I was often chagrined.

    Like an alcoholic would after they found sobriety.

    “That’s in the past. Leave it there and go on with your move forward,” Ronnie said.

    “I think you shouldn’t turn John away altogether. Nothing says you have to walk on the path of remaking yourself alone.” Tracy pushed to her feet. “I made the sauce, you fried, it’s Ronnie’s turn to do the dishes. I’ve got to turn in early. I promised Kele I’ll cover his shift tomorrow.”

    Knowing her, I asked, “How much did he pay?”

    “I said seven k. But he pleaded it down to five. I told him I won’t be so kind next time. Goodnight, ladies. Thanks for dinner, Patra.”

    “Goodnight,” we called out. Then I shook my head. “That girl like money sha.”

    Tracy never did anything for free. Okay, let’s make that, rarely, because there were moments her heart won the battle over her unrepentant love for money.

    “You should have been honest about still being in contact with him,” Ronnie said as she gathered the dishes and moved to the sink.

    “Oh, Ronnie,” I groaned. “I didn’t because I was ashamed of how I’d become addicted to hearing from him. I tell myself he’s bugging me, but I become restless when he’s late with his messages.”

    “So you like him.”

    “I think I do, Ronnie. But what if it’s the part of me that likes having a man around that thinks I like him? I’m tired of meaningless relationships. Not just tired, but actually distressed that I indulged in them so long.”

    “You know why you did.”

    “Is that truly allowed to be an excuse–I trivialized sex because my mother is a pretentious fanatic Christian?” I hated the urge to cry, so I shut my eyes instead. “There are days I wish I can put back the hand of time, Ronnie.”

    “You’ve had six months of success, that’s more of a victory than putting back the hand of time.” She sent me a warm look. “Forget the past, focus on being your best self in the present, and look forward to the great future ahead of you.”

    “That means I should ignore John, doesn’t it?”

    “It means you keep doing what you’re doing, and if he is serious and means business, let him show you he deserves to have your attention.”

    “I can do this, can’t I? I won’t one day forget my decision and dive into bed with him, will I?”

    Ronnie smiled. “There’s nothing wrong with having or enjoying sex. Let’s be clear on that, girlfriend. What you decided, and it is you who decided, let me remind you. And only because you wanted a change in your life. Remember?”

    I nodded, smiling a little. Yeah, that was the great thing about Ronnie. She knew how to restore my faith in me. She’d always been my number one cheerleader.

    “That’s good. Keep that in mind. You decided to not take sex lightly anymore. If John is serious and you choose to be with him, that’s fine. If you really mean to wait until your wedding night, that’s also fine. You’re doing this for you, no one else. So, be sure what you want and do it. Okay?”

    “Okay, Ronnie.” Happy to have her in my life, I strolled to the sink and put my arms around her, hugging her tight. My bestie.

    She was right.

    I chose to do this, and only for me. I didn’t know what John was going to do, but I knew I was on point with what I wanted to do.

    Stay true to my new vision for me. No more taking the easy route of satisfying my flesh when my mind and heart were completely dissatisfied.


    Our new stories Her Love Story and For Love and Family are available on Okadabooks and Bambooks.

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