Lanre couldn’t get Jumoke out of his head and it didn’t help that the girl avoided him like a plague. All attempts to talk to her failed and he was beginning to feel frustrated. The previous day, he had seen her walking towards Mama Yellow’s store and noted how she took a detour to avoid meeting him. Yawning, he waked into the kitchen to get something to nibble on and found Remi putting a baking pan into the oven.
“I hope I’m going to get to eat whatever it is you’re baking?” He said interestedly.
“Don’t you always?” she eyed him playfully.
“I just thought I should remind you.” he said with a smug smile and munched on some cashew nuts.
“Well I guess it’s good that you reminded me, because Jumoke is coming here soon and I’m sure that she’ll love the cookies I’m making.”
“Wait.” He stopped chewing. “She’s coming here?”
“Yes. She is.” Remi replied wiping the counter.
“Alright what?” she asked, eyeing him.
Remi laughed as he walked out. “You like her, don’t you?”
Lanre shrugged and started to walk away. “Just make sure my cookies are reserved.”
“Walk faster,” she said. “Your cheeks are turning red!”
Heart pounding, Jumoke stood outside the door and hoped that one of the girls and not Lanre would open it. Her mother and Mrs Williams had planned for her and Remi to have study times at the Williams’ house.
“It’s like history is repeating itself,” her mother had said. “You know, her mother used to teach me maths when we were in school too.”
The door opened and Jumoke’s heart sank.
“Hello.” Lanre said with the familiar twinkle in his eyes.
“Hello.” She replied, looking behind him as he opened the door.
“Sit down and make yourself comfortable, Remi is making something for you in the kitchen. She’ll soon be here.”
She nodded and kept her eyes on the television, NTA was showing a documentary on basket weaving. Lanre was seated adjacent to her, he had a book in his hand but she knew that he wasn’t reading it. After an awkward silence in which Jumoke wondered why Remi was delaying her so much, he finally spoke.
“So how are you preparing for your exams?”
“Well.” She simply said without breaking her gaze from the television.
“Okay…” he stared at her slim fingers and how they curved around her book. “You have nice nails.”
She glanced at him and refocused her gaze on the TV. “Thank you.” she muttered.
Another silence passed and Lanre wondered what else he could say to break the ice.
“So why don’t you like me?” he blurted. “Did I say or do something you don’t like?”
She opened her mouth to respond to him but couldn’t think of the appropriate words.
“Jummy!” Remi said excitedly, coming into the room just then. “Sorry I kept you waiting, I was making something for you.”
“Your brother said so.” Jumoke replied with a forced smile. “So where should we sit?” she rose hastily from her seat.
“Ah ah! Won’t you even ask what I made for you? Why are you so serious about work?”
“We’re writing our exams next month!” she replied seriously, wondering why the other girl was asking such a question.
“Calm down jare.”
“Okay, what did you make for me?” she asked when she saw that Remi would not budge.
“I made you chocolate chip cookies.” She replied with a flourish.
“You’ve never heard of chocolate chip cookies?” Remi asked amused.
“No, I haven’t.” Jumoke was beginning to regret coming to the Williams’ house. Was Remi trying to make her feel inferior?
“Anyway, I made them for you and I want you to eat them first before we start anything okay?”
Jumoke had had enough. “Look Remi, I appreciate what you’ve done but I really want us to start working. I promise I’ll eat as much as you want me to eat after we’re done. I’ll even take some home if you don’t mind, but I’ll feel very unserious if I start eating now when I came here to work.”
Remi stared at her for a while, trying to decide whether to be angry or not. She felt as if Jumoke had told her off.
“Okay.” She said, deciding not to be angry. “Let’s go and work.”
And so it was that Jumoke and Remi became study partners and eventually friends. Remi told her new friend about all the countries she had visited and intrigued her with stories of the various cultures she had experienced. But Jumoke wasn’t the only one who was learning something. Remi learnt from her financial prudence and ambition. Jumoke had never been out of the country but she was conversant with foreign history and cultures. If the information was available, Jumoke read it up and added it to her reservoir of knowledge.
Gbemi felt threatened by this new relationship. She didn’t like Jumoke, there was something repelling about her that she couldn’t quite explain. She was too ambitious, almost arrogant. Jumoke intimidated her, in spite of the fact that her parents were richer than the Oludares. To make matters worse, Remi talked about her often and found every excuse to go over to her house. Nothing she said or did could make her sister part ways with her.
Lanre was reaching the height of his frustration with Jumoke who was proving more difficult than he had imagined. She was simply not interested in him and would have nothing to do with him.
“Where are you going?” Gbemi asked, pausing from her meal of cereal.
“Jummy’s house.” Remi replied, adjusting the strap of her sandals.
“Can’t you sit in your own house for once? Must you always make a nuisance of yourself?”
“Gbemi I’m not in the mood for your trouble.” Remi replied dismissively and walked away.
“You’re not in the mood for me right? Is she your sister? Is she your sister?!” she yelled at her sister’s retreating back.
Lanre had watched the whole exchange. “Why don’t you like Jumoke? The three of you can be friends…”
“I don’t want to be friends with that snobbish girl. She thinks she knows everything but she hasn’t even been out of this country before.”
Lanre laughed. “You feel intimidated. You really want her to be your friend but on your own terms.”
“Lanre are you alright?” she asked sarcastically.
“You know I’m right. Talk to her, she doesn’t bite…”
“And how do you know that? She doesn’t give you any attention, or do you think I’ve not noticed how she treats you? Instead of you to forget her and focus on other girls who really like you, you want to die over one girl who doesn’t care about you. Nonsense!” she hissed and walked away, leaving her brother starng at her abandoned food.
“Can’t you talk to her for me?” Lanre said to Remi two days later.
“No Lanre, I can’t ask a girl out for you. What girl wouldn’t want to listen to you? You’re too fine not to be able to talk to a girl!” she said with an amused smile.
“But she won’t even talk to me or allow me to talk to her! Listen, all I want you to do is to persuade her to hear me out.”
Remi sighed, stretching out on her bed. “I don’t want to get involved in this Lanre. Please, whatever is going on between the two of you is not my business and I want it to stay that way.”
“C’mon Remi, you won’t do this for your own brother? I really, really, reeeally like this girl.” He said in his most winning smile.
“What do you want with her Lanre? Jummy is not one of those girls you meet on the road.” Remi asked him seriously.
“Of course I know that! Why do you think that I really want to be with her? I really really like her Remi, please talk to her for me.”
Remi sighed. “See you sounding like a love-struck teenager…”
“I am a love-struck teenager!”
“You’re already nineteen.”
“I’m still a teenager.” He quipped.
She rolled her eyes. “Jummy is a very serious person, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“You’re the best!” Lanre said, pinching her chin playfully.
“Go away jo!”
“So, you and Remi seem to be getting closer…?” Jumoke’s mother said to her as she styled her hair into cornrows.
“Yes, I like her a lot and she’s helping me to understand maths better.”
“That’s good. But what about her twin, I don’t really see you two together and you don’t talk about her.”
Jumoke exhaled. “I don’t know Mummy, I don’t really like her and I don’t think she likes me too.”
“Ah ah? Why?” Mrs Oludare stopped combing the portion of hair she had been about to weave and listened to her daughter.
“Well… I really don’t know why. She’s always been that way to me, right from the very first day she came here. It’s like she wants me to beg to be her friend and I don’t have time for that. If she doesn’t want to be my friend, that’s her business.”
“But how does her twin feel about it?”
“Remi doesn’t force me to talk to her. In fact, she sometimes defends me when Gbemi is being nasty.”
Mrs Oludare was not comfortable with this news, how could her daughter be a source of conflict between twin girls who had been living together in relative peace and harmony before one of them became friends with her daughter? She sensed that this could be a serious cause for concern in the future, but how could she make her daughter understand this?
“Jumoke, I think you need to reconsider your friendship with Remi.” She felt her daughter tense up. “Listen, they are twins, and they are much closer than you can ever imagine. If the other girl doesn’t like your friendship with her sister then I think you should retrace your steps.”
“But Mummy,” Jumoke countered not understanding her mother’s reasoning. “Shouldn’t Remi be able to make her own friends? Must they both have the same friends?”
“Jumoke, what I’m trying to tell you is that you should be careful about creating conflict between the two sisters. How would you feel if someone was coming between you and your brother?”
“But Mummy it’s not the same thing! Gbemi is just being silly.”
“I understand that Jumoke, but sometimes you just have to make room for other people’s weaknesses.”
Jumoke shook her head. “I just don’t understand why I have to be the mature one. Why can’t she do the right thing?”
Mrs Oludare shrugged. “Just think about it alright?”
Jumoke nodded and straightaway forgot about it.