Funke’s sleep was rudely interrupted by her alarm. She stretched her arm to kill the alarm when she realized it was a phone call.
“Why didn’t you return my call all through yesterday?”
“Babe, I’m sorry. Why are you calling so early?”
“Aunty, it’s 9:30am all over the world” Tosin responded sarcastically “Are you trying to represent Nigeria in some sleep Olympics?” She added.
“Oh! 9:30? Wow!
“Yes, wow! The entire universe woke up long ago” Tosin rubbed it in. “There’s this gig I wanted to talk to you about. Girl, it’s a dream project and you should totally hop in. I can send you tickets to come in to Lagos first flight on Monday, and you should be back in Abuja before COB”
“Hmm…” Funke was gradually getting oriented in time, place, and space. Her alarm did not ring because she has no alarm for Saturday. It was a phone call, not an alarm. Tosin is discussing business with her as usual. She winced as she pulled herself to sit up in bed “…babe, I’m just tired. I can’t take up another project yet. I’m afflicted with a crisis from missing my doctor appointments because of work, and you know I need to focus my energy on making my product a household name before it runs its marketing life cycle.”
“Take some pills or something “. Tosin interrupted “You can’t miss this for anything in the world. Even me sef, I have malaria but I don’t let it stop me.”
“Girl, did you just say malaria?” Funke often wondered if Tosin’s ambitious self had suppressed her emotional intelligence. Whenever she is excited for work, her people’s skills and empathy took a nose dive “Let’s have this conversation later please. I should be in Lagos before the month runs out. I’ll let you know”.
“You don’t wanna miss this for anything, Funke”
“I know. Thanks, dear. We’ll talk later”. Seriously? Malaria? When will Tosin learn to not centre herself on people’s issues? She is an amazing soul, except whenever she decides to be tone-deaf and Funke does not have a calorie of energy to lecture her for the umpteenth time on how different the affliction of an autoimmune condition is from malaria, which the average african adult has partial immunity to.
Funke’s body felt as though she just returned from a war with the Taliban. Every joint ached. Her muscles were sore, her eyes were tired. She needed sleep, more sleep, plenty sleep, but sleep did not produce rest nor refreshing. People hardly sleep through pains. Even when they do, the goal of sleep is hardly achieved. She dialed her doctor’s office and asked if she could come in by 3pm. The receptionist placed her on hold for a minute, and confirmed a 3pm appointment. Funke thanked her and ended the call shortly before Femi walked in.
“Good morning, babe. I didn’t expect you to be up”
“Tosin woke me up with a call”
“Is she okay?”
“Sure. She had this project she wanted me to take up “
“Babe, I love you and want the best for you, you know I’ll support your dreams and aspirations to the ends of the earth, but babe, you don’t look well. You need a long break, and more importantly, you need to resume clinic.” Femi sat by her side and took her hand in his.
“I have a 3pm appointment today”
“Great! I’ll be home before then. I need you to rest and eat while I’m gone.”
“Where are you off to?”
“Gym, babe” he moved tresses off her face “This is why you should rest. You’ve forgotten my Saturday routine. I don’t want you to forget my name.”
“You’re not serious” Funke shoved him away and watched him change into his gym outfit
It has been ages since she visited the gym. Perhaps she should cancel her membership, however, for someone who is not a socialite, the gym is where she meets decent people and maintain her desired social class. She used to participate in the Abuja truppr monthly 5km run, and to make that less exerting on the body, she periodically joined the Asokoro division in their weekly challenges. Understanding exercise to be a discipline, she also did some 3km morning run three times a week to keep her body primed. It did not take long for her commitment to exercise and fitness to produce the opposite of what she expected. She complained to her doctor who advised her that running was a poor exercise choice for her health status. While Funke was committed to cardio and fitness, running was exerting so much pressure on her joints and aggravating inflammation. She has mastered the act of driving her body against inflamed joints, but she also knew the foolhardiness of disobeying what your body is saying. She gave up on running for brisk walking, but it appeared as though her hip joints just could not take it. On further research, she learnt that swimming was a wholistic forming of exercise, catching every part of the body and every muscle in a swipe. Funke ordered a couple of bikinis and paid eighty thousand naira for a 3-month Blu Cubana membership. She also engaged the services of a highly recommended instructor in town. People gained mastery in less than three months, but she knew her health status might make her require a longer session. The first day was much anticipated and it was memorable as the last day she went near the pool. Training was amazing and she discovered she was more comfortable under water than she had expected. However, hardly had she driven home that her joints locked up in affliction. It was her most painful episode. She remembered sending Femi a text message and him rushing down to her apartment in Asokoro in a panic. Femi is a very composed man, even under pressure. However, his composure gave way for panic on that day. He had called her doctor late in the night when she could not sleep, and he had recommended that she increased the dose of some pills, resumed her prednisolone tablets, and let go of swimming. Femi thought a warm bath might help ease joints stiffening up and prepared a warm bath for her. Femi was no doctor, but he was her doctor that night, perhaps a nurse as well. He had bathed her because her stiff joints inhibited her, fed her, administered her medications as the doctor instructed, and tucked her to bed. She drifted to sleep 2hours afterwards and that was the end of her Michael Phelps adventure. The most he would allow her do for exercise is a leisurely walk, and the most she did to tone her muscles were crunches and lifting 5kg dumb bells.
Femi completed his fitness schedule for the day and sat in his vehicle to organize the week. He organizes everything including scheduling visits and calls to friends and families. People think he is a great guy and wonder how he has been able to stay in touch with everyone. He is the galvanizing friend who makes it impossible for a group of friends to fall apart even as they marry and relocate across the world. He is the referee who meddles in disputes and ensures peace is not just restored, but animosity is thrown out the window, misgivings are forgiven, and affection is restored. Femi will not ask you to forgive a wrong for the sake of friendship. Rather, he would listen to both parties, let you know where you went wrong and how that made the other party react in a certain way, address the other person, and bring all parties together in a video call for a peaceful resolution. He was looked upon as the doyen and his words were respected. A phone call took over his screen as he was scheduling social engagements and birthdays for the week. Unlike many people, who being wary of scammers, ignore such calls, Femi as a businessman would pick but allow the caller speak first.
“Hello Oga, suna na Ali sir.”
Femi recognized the voice of the young man from the airport and remembered he had asked him to give him a call. He had a quick conversation with Ali and requested a meet up after church the following day. The conversation ended with Femi giving Ali directions to his apartment. Hardly had Femi dropped the call that his phone rang again. It was his mum. Femi expected it to be a long call and realized he should be on his way home if does not want Funke to miss her appointment. It was 2pm. He turned on his bluetooth to connect the call to his stereo, and started the drive home.
“Bawo ni my dear, how is my favorite son doing?’
Femi and his mum exchanged sweet pleasantries and gossip on the ride home. Who else to fill you in on the events you have missed in the extended family if not your darling mother?
“So how is Funke?”
“She is doing great!” Femi, knowing his mom knew this was exactly why she called, and simply laid a foundation of gossip to ease into an uneasy conversation.
“The last time you came with her, she almost could not do anything. Is that the kind of wife you want?”
“I’m just saying. A woman has to be strong. That one does not look like she can cook a meal, how much more carry pregnancy to term.”
“Mother!” Femi became emotional. It was a mix of pain and anger that could produce masculine tears. Funke has done nothing to deserve to be spoken of in this manner.
“I am only concerned as a mother should be. There are lovely girls in Lagos if you are unable to find one in Abuja. Strong and beautiful girls. Chief Alabi’s last daughter just returned to Nigeria and she now works at KPMG, even your childhood friend Kemi Coker, do you know she is now at Chevron? She was the chief bridesmaid at a wedding party I attended today, and the best news is that she is very single and ready to mingle.” Mrs. Alao presented her thesis.
“Mom please…” Femi began to protest.
“I actually gave her your number and told her you asked after her and would love to hear from her.” She added.
“No! You didn’t!” Femi exclaimed in shock.
“Yes, I did.” She chuckled. “I know what’s best for you. I know what you like. An intelligent, physically endowed, financially independent, ambitious, and beautiful woman. Just like your dad. But Funke is weak, physically weak. Almost physically challenged if you ask me…”
“Enough! Enough, Mom!”
“Femi, you are raising your voice at me!”
“No, I’m not. But you are disrespecting my girlfriend, and expect me to be calm about it. You did not raise me to keep mum when loved ones are disrespected.” He threw a low-key emotional blackmail at her.
“She’s not family.” Mrs. Alao responded in kind.
“She is to me. And she is about to be your family and you will love, defend, and respect her as your child.” Femi retorted calmly but with emphasis, stressing every word.
“This conversation is not over, dear” Mrs. Alao reverted to a friendlier tone “Don’t get worked up, dear. You are my son and I love you”.
“This conversation is over mom.” Femi responded firmly and respectfully. “Funke is my life and I will appreciate that you love and honor her. I love you mom.”
Femi ended the call and deleted the conversation from his head. Not on his watch would he allow his mother disrespect his lady. Mrs. Alao was once Otunba. Alao’s girlfriend and his father respected and honored her in private and public. He would not allow his mother run his life nor dictate who to love. The challenge at hand now was how to shield Funke from the unrelenting attack from his mom, and get his mom to accept and love her. One thing was as sure as night and day, Funke goes nowhere.