The first month of Pomaa’s self-imposed exile was absolute. Ibadan society was not so varied that she could not bump into anyone who did not previously know of her wedding, or have some hand in it somehow. She was an event planner. Everyone from the mushroom seller to the staff at all the top hotels had heard some detail about the calamitous end to her would-be marriage. Their condolences, side remarks and nervous chuckles about the oddness of it all drove her to seek refuge in the solitude of her house. If she was going to be felt sorry for, it was going to be alone.
Had she made the right choice? Perhaps it would have been better if she had just left with Frema and her mother the month before. Mama had begged her to come back to Kumasi with her, but that would involve a different sort of ache. The idea of aunties and neighbors traipsing through her house to heap pronouncements of shame and indignation on Femi, their pulling her aside to get more information, and her mother weeping at the unfairness of it all did not appeal to her. Staying in Ibadan was painful, but she could endure it.
There was that word again: endure. It was not always like this when she first moved to Nigeria. It was new, fresh, and exciting…something so different from Ghana, and yet very much the same.
Madame Okoye was right; Pomaa was not well travelled. She had never felt the need to leave Ghana. Her country had everything she needed, as far as she was concerned: Beaches, mountains, and if she were ever so inclined, elephants and wild birds if she travelled far enough north. Besides, her cousins always complained of the cold in England, and Frema said Americans were just barely educated racists. Why would she travel abroad to freeze and be badly treated? In Ghana, she at least was assured of a certain level of respect. Her education and her father’s profession assured her of that, at least. She might not have ever left Ghana if not for the assignment Miriam, her former boss had insisted she accompany her on. Pomaa recalled how sweaty her palms were that day.
“But Miriam, you know I have a well-documented fear of flying? And now you want me to take three planes to get to where?”
Miriam looked at her kindly. “To get to Ibadan, Nigeria. Pomaa, you are the only assistant planner I can trust.” She paused and handed her a box of tissue. “You can practically run this operation on your own. I need you at my side. Why are you sweating so hard?”
“Because I’m afraid the plane will fall from the sky! You know I can’t swim!”
Miriam laughed sweetly and assured her everything would be okay. And she was true to her promise. They had been part of a network of event planners to execute a week-long conference on education at the University. There were delegates from all over West Africa. Femi had been a speaker there, discussing the link between non-traditional education, self-sufficiency and technology. It was the day he mistook her for a waitress and asked her for a cup of tea. She was insulted. He was smitten. Their mutual attraction was obvious, and that had been the end of it.
“So you won’t be returning to Ghana?” Miriam asked in disbelief. “This is a shock! What will I tell the others?”
“Tell them whatever you like,” Pomaa grinned. “Tell them I was too afraid to take all those flights back to Ghana and opted to stay. But you must know this, Miriam: I’m more in love than I’ve ever been before…and I know this is the man I’m destined to be with.”
Miriam’s persuasions to reconsider fell on deaf ears. Pomaa had made up her mind, and had already made her plans. She was great at what she did. She would start out fresh, sourcing contracts from all over the city. Getting new clients would hardly be a problem, plus, she had Miriam’s reputation for perfection to buffer her foray into this new venture. Madame Okoye had been particularly impressed with Pomaa’s penchant for budgeting and procuring unique items. She never had enough positive things to say about Pomaa to her brides – that is until she discovered the romance between her son and Pomaa. Things got rather thorny after that.
Pomaa contemplated all these as she drove into the city and walked into her modest office on day 60 of her banishment. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed the cream colored walls, accented by burnt orange and copper colored adinkra symbols. It was the only touch of home she permitted herself. As she traced her fingers along the mahogany desk where she had conducted business for three years, her leasing agent had arrived with a stack of papers, looking grim faced. He placed the forms on the desk and stared at her silently.
“You can leave everything to your next tenant, if they can make use of it,” Pomaa said. “I won’t be needing any of it.”
“Are you sure you won’t reconsider?” he asked. “You know you are one of my best customers. I never have to chase you for money!”
Pomaa laughed, but she was resolute. She would be leaving Nigeria in 30 days.
“If you say so,” the man sighed. “It’s a shame to see you go. My son still talks about his twenty-first birthday that you planned. How will we top that?”
She murmured something noncommittal about waiting till thirty to do another big party. She thought about all the ceremonies and festivals she had been a part of – weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies – all those smiles and tears that had been an integral part of her life. She signed her termination contract. There was nothing else to do there.
Soon, Pomaa felt strong enough to take short walks around the area. As it was in all of Africa, people moved on with their lives and tended to their own concerns. Malaria needed treating. Politics had to be debated. Electricity had to be rationed; and then there was the necessity to complain about all the woes the government had heaped on the people. Her neighbors soon forgot all about Pomaa’s misfortune as though it had never happened. Plus, there was an even bigger concern. A drought had fallen over the middle belt, killing the entire corn and okro crop. What should have been fields of lush green and gold were nothing but a deathscape of brown decay. Pomaa did not know if the corn was “this high” – as high as Frema wanted it to be when she came home – but she did know that June. It was time to go leave.
Pomaa stared at her pile of suitcases that contained her most precious items: gifts from clients, dresses sewn for glamorous occasions, and an avalanche of shoes she accumulated over the years. Everything else had been given away or sold. Ayo would be arriving to take her to the airport soon. Pomaa dragged one of the lawn chairs onto the veranda to wait for her friend. She closed her eyes, letting the sudden hot breeze that whipped through the yard wash her entire body.
Her eyes flew open.
Someone was there.
“Femi?” She sat straight up in her chair.
“This has to be a dream. What are you doing here?”
The question was unkind. He had to know he was not welcome. How dare he show up unannounced and unexpected? Pomaa glowered at him.
“Pomaa, please don’t be angry with me,” he pled. “I was weak. I never should have let my mother separate us. I should have stood up to her.”
Femi took a cautious seat next to her on the bamboo lawn chair.
“Can you ever forgive me? I’m begging you to forgive me, my sweet Agyapomaa…”
Pomaa fought back the urge to cry. How could this be real? How could Femi just materialize at the right moment, saying all the right things? She hated her heart for betraying her. She was sure he could hear every thump as it beat wildly behind her breast. He must have, because Femi waited neither for confirmation nor approval before he kissed her.
God, his lips were as soft as she remembered. His tongue searched her mouth, seeking secrets that they had once shared, creating memories for the days ahead. Of course she would take him back, especially when he was cupping her breasts like this, biting her now erect nipples, turning them this way and that with his thumb…
When Femi reached under her skirt, Pomaa put up her hand to stop him.
“Let’s take this inside,” she whispered.
“No, Pomaa,” he growled. “I need to have you right here, right now. I’ve missed you so much baby. I don’t care who sees!”
He was not to be reasoned with. Soon his lips found hers, ministering to them in a way only he had ever done. Was there a drought in the land? Pomaa couldn’t tell. A cataclysm was coursing through her thighs, destroying everything in its path. All the doubt, grief and anger she had felt in the last three months was washed away in the rising tide of the orgasm building inside her. Femi lapped hungrily, feeling her quiver and squirt uncontrollably, delighted by the sound of her ragged breathing and soft curses. She reached down to touch his head. She loved the softness of his afro between her fingers. The oil he cared for his hair with was so divine.
But Femi was gone.
“Sweetheart, are you ready to go yet? Oya, why are you sweating so much!?”
Ayo was standing over her, jiggling her car keys. It had been a dream.
“It’s hot here, jor,” Pomaa grunted, wiping slobber from the side of her cheek.
“Very hot. Look at how your thighs are sweating. I can see water on your dress!” Ayo pulled the green cotton maxi dress forward so Pomaa could see for herself. She bowed her head and muttered that it would soon dry. She was not about to admit to having a wet dream about the guy who had dumped her like a bag of gari.
Ayo called the watchman to put Pomaa’s suitcases in the car. Pomaa thanked him for her service and put a small envelope in his hand. He flashed her a toothless grin and tapped the envelope to his forehead. Go well, sister he said. Ayo put the car in gear and took her away from the place she had called home for three years. The two women rode in silence for a long time. Ayo cleared her throat, a habit that betrayed that she had bad news to bear.
“What is it, Ayo?” Pomaa asked. “Did someone at your church steal the offering again?”
“No,” Ayo laughed. “Nothing as bad as that – or actually, it may be worse. I don’t know if I should tell you.”
Pomaa tapped her on the hand.
“Nothing can hurt me, Ayo. What is it? Tell me.”
“Femi has been sick.”
“Oh. I see…” Pomaa felt her pulse quicken and her mouth go dry. She searched for some gum in her bag, trying to appear unconcerned. “Any idea what’s wrong with him?”
“No one knows for sure. But – and this is the part I don’t know if I should say, but I think I must – Madame Okoye has hired Lucinda to be his private nurse.”
Well then. That explains why all of Pomaa’s texts to Lucinda had come back with ‘Can’t talk. Busy at work.’
“Are you angry?”
Pomaa cackled. “Why should I be angry? Femi is sick. Lucinda is a well-trained nurse. It makes sense – right?”
“Oh. Okay! I was worried for nothing then. Wow. I’m so proud of you for getting over him so quickly. If it was me, it would pain me forever ooo.”
She wasn’t angry at all. She was livid! And Ayo wouldn’t stop talking. Ebei. She felt dizzy.
“Is there any chance you could get me to the airport any faster? I just want to get this out of the way.”
“Of course, sweetie,” Ayo said compassionately. “I know how you feel about flying.”
Shit. The three flights. Somehow, she’d forgotten all about them.