“This is delicious!” Jumoke gushed, taking another piece of barbecued beef. “How did you say you made it again?”
Remi laughed, it made her happy to see other people enjoying her food. “Are you sure you want me to explain it?”
“You’re right, I don’t want to know.” she replied and bit into the meat again. “You know you should be a chef or something.”
Remi laughed. “A chef? You want my parents to kill me? I’m going to be an engineer o, my father doesn’t want me to be anything else.”
“I believe that, he’s always calling you his engineer.”
“You see!” they laughed and drank from their glasses. There was a comfortable silence between the two girls as they sat in the sitting room, each lost in her own thought about the future.
“Why don’t you like my brother?” Remi suddenly asked.
Jumoke stared at her for a while. “Why are you asking me this?”
Remi shrugged. “I’m just curious. You barely talk to him and when you’re together in the same room, you can’t wait to get out.”
Jumoke smiled uncomfortably. “I just… I just like to keep a good distance from boys.”
“Why, because you think that if you stand close to him for a minute you’ll get pregnant?”
Now Jumoke laughed uncomfortably. “It’s a personal thing Remi.”
“Okay what if I’m in the room when he’s talking to you?”
“What?” she asked confused.
“I said what if I’m right by your side when he’s talking to you? At least you won’t get pregnant when I’m there.”
“Remi stop joking about this please.” Jumoke was getting more uncomfortable. “I can’t handle boys now, I want to focus on my studies.”
“And that is your problem! You’re too serious to have fun! How will talking to my brother make you lose focus? I have a boyfriend but that didn’t stop me from being the best maths student in Oyo state.”
“Can we talk about something else please?”
“C’mon Jummy, just talk to him! He really likes you.”
“So that’s why you’re talking about him! He told you to talk to me.”
“He really likes you Jummy…”
Jumoke wiped her fingers on a serviette and started to gather her things. “I have to go.”
“Are you leaving because I brought up my brother?” Remi was surprised.
“No…” she lied. “I just remembered that my mum told me to make lunch. We’ll see later.”
As Jumoke walked out of her house, Remi realized how offended she felt. Why was Jumoke so insistent on not having anything to do with her brother? Was it too much to ask for her to at least grant him an audience?
“I told you she was snobbish!” Gbemi said triumphantly, glad to finally see her sister offended by her new friend.
“I mean why wouldn’t she just talk to him? If not for anything, for me at least! I even offered to be there with them o! She’s so pompous!”
“That’s exactly what I’ve been telling you all this while.” Gbemi replied, twirling her hair around her finger. “So Lanre is not good enough for her. Our brother! You know how many girls want to be around him? But your friend is too good for him.” she hissed. “Her parents are not even as rich as ours, I don’t know what she’s so proud of!”
Remi shook her head in confusion, she was really disappointed in her new friend.
Jumoke and her brother Korede, lay side by side in his bed and stared at the rolling ceiling fan.
“Do you think I did the right thing?” she asked.
“Yes I think you did. You don’t have to talk to someone if you don’t want to.” He replied.
“But she looked really offended and I think she’s still angry. We were supposed to meet at Mama Yellow’s store but she didn’t come…”
“You did the right thing Jumoke.” Korede said sharply, so that Jumoke turned to him.
“Are you angry…?”
“I don’t like Lanre.”
Jumoke was surprised. ”Why? Did he say something to you?”
“No but I just don’t like him. There’s something about him… he makes me uncomfortable. Stay away from him Jumoke.”
“Even if it means that you’ll stop being friends with Remi.”
“Yes, if that’s what it takes.”
Jumoke laughed. “Korede you’re being a baby. How can I stop being friends with her because you don’t like her brother?”
“Call me a baby if you like, I just don’t think that anybody should force you to talk to someone you don’t want to. If she’s really your friend she won’t get angry about it.”
Jumoke was beginning to get offended at the attack on her friend’s integrity. “You know what, let’s talk about something else.”
Korede shrugged and stared back at the ceiling.
“I’ve told her to forget about that girl. I don’t know why she still hangs around with her.” Gbemi said to her mother as she dangled her legs from the bed.
“I can’t just forget her.” Remi replied. “She’s my friend…”
“Even if she thinks your family is not worth talking to?”
“Who else does she talk to apart from you?”
“You’re the one that is always being mean to her. Jumoke is nice…”
Mrs Williams was more concerned about the conflict between her daughters than about whether Jumoke was talking to other members of her family or not.
Mrs Oludare and Mrs Williams sat side by side at the wedding reception of their friend Mrs Dauda’s daughter. It was a society wedding and both women had dressed their best, still it was obvious who the wealthier one was. Mrs Williams’ mint green lace and yellow gele and ipele stood out in the crowd.
“I haven’t seen Jumoke in a while.” She said to her old friend.
“Ehn… I noticed that Remi also hasn’t been at our house in a while. They’re probably preparing for their exams. You know in a few weeks they will write WAEC.”
“Yes… but isn’t that why they became friends in the first place? To help each other prepare for the exams? Or did you tell her to stop coming to our house?”
Mrs Oludare was confused, it seemed that her companion knew something that she didn’t. “Why would I do that? I don’t know what’s going on between them but I’ll ask Jumoke about it when I get home.”
“My daughter is just trying to help yours.” Mrs Williams shrugged and reached for her glass of wine.
“Mrs Williams was asking me why you haven’t been to their house recently. Is everything alright?” Mrs Oludare said to her daughter later that evening.
“You don’t look like everything is alright. What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry about it Mummy, I’m handling it.”
“Jumoke! Talk to me please.”
Jumoke told her mother what the trouble was.
“Hmm…” she said afterward. “Just be careful. Your brother is right, you don’t have to talk to someone when you don’t want to. I know you like Remi and she’s been of great help to you but tread carefully with her.”
“Yes ma.” Jumoke replied.
Mrs Oludare couldn’t get the conversation out of her head, and she wondered what to make out of the situation her daughter had just told her about. She resolved to keep an eye on her daughter and her new friendship.
Two days later, while Jumoke was waiting for Mama Yellow to waddle around her store in search of the tin of milk that another customer had asked for, Remi came into the shop. Jumoke shifted from one leg to the other uncomfortably, wondering if she should greet her or wait for her to greet her first. Mama Yellow eventually handed her the bottle of oil that she had asked for and she walked out of the store.
“Bye Remi…” she said as she walked past her.
Remi did not reply but she walked on and tried not to feel too badly about it.
“Jumoke!” she heard Remi call some seconds later.
Remi walked up to her and smiled awkwardly. “I’m angry with you.”
Jumoke kept quiet and listened.
“My sister thought you were a snub and you proved her right! What did my brother do to you that makes you so rude to him? Can’t you at least talk to him for my sake?”
“It’s not that simple…”
“What is so complicated about it? If you think my brother is a bad person that means you think I’m a bad person…”
“It’s not the same thing Remi…”
“So you’re willing to sacrifice our friendship because of your pride right?”
“Remi you’re the one who’s not talking to me.” Jumoke pointed out. “The last time I came to your house, your sister said you weren’t home but I saw you looking at the gate through your bedroom window.”
Remi looked away uncomfortably and asked, “Are you ready for Maths?”
“I’m still reading…”
“I’ll come to your house tomorrow.”
The girls parted ways and Jumoke smiled, she was glad to have her friend back.
The next week, Jumoke was back at the Williams’ house. She sat in the kitchen and stared at all the equipment in it. She’d seen it so many times but couldn’t get over how nice it was.
“One day, I’ll have a kitchen this nice.” She thought.
She didn’t see Lanre staring at her from the door, he stood there for quite a while before she finally did.
“You look beautiful in that blouse.” He said and walked away.