I knock on the grey front door and wait. I know Femi is probably in her kitchen, cooking one of her obnoxious healthy meals that have zero calories, or seated in front of her elaborate dressing mirror, trying on new shades of lipstick for her cosmetics line.
I am about to knock again when the door opens. Temi Dollface’s loud voice invades my eardrums, and I see one of my best friends, Femi Aina, staring back at me. She is only wearing a white sleeveless t-shirt that has Majek Fashek’s young smiling face printed on the front; the t-shirt is hanging on her supermodel frame and barely covers her crotch. Her usual signature thin rose gold choker shines from around her neck, and both her upper arms are encircled in matching rose gold spiral arm bands. Her black braids, long and thick, flow down and touch her knees. She is taller than me, even with my heels, and her brown skin gleams in a way that only her skin can.
“Madam three first classes!” she says, reaching out to hug me. “How are you?”
I have told her many times to stop calling me this, but Femi doesn’t listen to me; she doesn’t listen to anyone. Her mouth has a way of saying what it wants, whenever it wants.
“Femi, I have told you to stop calling me that,” I say. Our bodies are pressed close to each other. She smells of beans and spices.
“Why won’t I call you that? Is it easy? B.Sc. Engineering, First class. M.Sc. Supply Chain Management, First class. MBA, First class. Sometimes I wonder how you are even still my friend sef with this your hot head that refuses to rest,” she says, laughing. She takes my hand, pulls me into her apartment and looks me over from head to toe. “You look nice today o. See Christian Louboutin shoes. Na wa o!”
I laugh and we walk into the parlour. The room is small and cosy and all the curtains are closed. There is one tan three-seater leather couch backing the window, and in the centre of the room, there are four long mortars placed upside down forming a rectangular shape with a wooden plank nailed on top of them – this serves as a centre table (Femi likes eclectic interior design while it drives Maliq crazy). On the walls, there are bright graphic paintings of musicians: Notorious BIG, Maxwell, Alexander O’Neal, Aaliyah and Oliver De Coque. Femi’s acoustic guitar is on a raffia mat with an open book and a fancy furry pink pen beside it. Femi sits down on the raffia mat beside the guitar, and I sit down on the couch.
“Babe, have you heard Solange’s new album, A Seat At The Table?” she asks as she picks up her iPhone.
“No,” I say. When the album came out over the weekend, I was too busy in heaven with Kolapo to care.
“Okay. Let me play it for you. It is so nice. I have been listening to it all weekend.” She stops Temi Dollface’s Pata Pata, and Solange’s smooth voice fills the parlour from the two red external speakers on the tiled floor beside the raffia mat.
Fall in your ways, so you can crumble.
Fall in your ways, so you can sleep at night.
Femi drops her phone on the centre table and settles back on the raffia mat. “Babe you are looking nice o,” she says, eyeing me suspiciously. “Kolapo is really taking care of you. That is why you didn’t come to my show because you were busy with him abi? Na wa o! After twelve years of friendship, you just push me to the side like that because of a man.”
I laugh and lean back on the couch. I remember the first day I met Femi. It was 2004, and I was doing my Diploma programme in the University of Lagos. Maliq and I were sitting on a wooden bench outside the lecture theatre in Engineering, arguing about which Usher album was better, 8701 or Confessions. I said that 8701 was better while Maliq shouted, saying that Confessions was the best album Usher had ever released. With all our stupid arguing, we didn’t notice when Femi walked towards us; we only saw her when she was already standing in front of us. She was tall, brown skinned, stunning. She had cheekbones almost as high as the ceiling, and she looked like she just walked out of a fashion show and into our presence.
We had never seen her before.
She sat with us and asked us what we were arguing about. When Maliq could finally speak, when his light brown eyes had returned back to their normal shape, he told her. She told him that he was crazy to think that Confessions was the better album, and she looked at me and told me I was right. Then she winked at me. I will never forget that moment. I was an awkward, shy, pimple ridden girl of seventeen with only one friend, Maliq. And yet Femi saw me and she agreed with me.
From that day, the three of us became one.
“Femi, I didn’t leave you because of man,” I say, moving from one butt cheek to another on the uncomfortable leather couch. “I had something to do.”
“I was performing my EP for the first time and you had something to do? You that you have no friends apart from me and Maliq. And when you are not with us, you are either at work or with Kolapo,” she says, arching her thick right eyebrow. “You are lying. You were with Kolapo.”
I fiddle with my belt buckle and roll the taut minty gum around in my mouth because I do not know what else to say. I wish I never told Femi about Kolapo. But there was no way I would have been able to keep such a secret from her. She would have smelt him on me.
“Femi please drop it…” I say. “How was your show? Hope it was good?”
“I won’t drop it!” Femi says, as she collects her long limbs from the floor and comes to sit beside me on the couch. She takes her legs from the floor and places them on my lap. Even her toenails, painted a nude shade, are as beautiful as all the other parts of her body.
“Nana, you have fallen in love with this man. He is married Nana. Married. Kolapo will not leave Joke for you. Nana, you have forgotten our rule! We fuck these men and get what we want from them. We don’t fall in love with them. I wish Alhaji was still alive. Though you were crazy for him, at least I know you didn’t want to marry him.”
I close my eyes, and I feel all the blood in my body rushing to my head. I don’t want to remember Joke. I don’t want to remember Alhaji. I love Kolapo. I want Kolapo. That is all I want to think about.
“Femi, I have heard you…” I say, as I push her feet away gently from my lap. I stand up from the couch, remove my shoes and sit on the raffia mat. “How was your show?”
“It was good…” she says, sighing heavily. She lies down, raises her left leg and hangs it over the edge of couch, revealing her smooth hairless vagina. “You know Nigerians are not used to good music. Afro-soul music is hard for Nigerians to accept. But they liked it. And after the show, about five ‘old men feeling funky’ were running after me to give me their business cards. All these broke men who cannot even buy my body cream talk less of my handbag. I only do billionaires baby! You know now…”
I laugh. Femi has stayed the same after all these years. She moves from career to career as she pleases. In 2005, she won the Most Beautiful Girl in the University of Lagos pageant and that was when her life changed. Since then she has been a makeup artist, a model, a photographer and now, she sings. But most of her income comes from her successful cosmetics line, F cosmetics, which she started two years ago.
“And where was Maliq when all these men were chasing you?” I ask.
“He was somewhere…” she says, waving her hand in the air. “He knows that I belong to him so he doesn’t worry about all these other men. He knows now. After twelve years, where am I running to?”
I try to feel guilty for what I have been doing to Femi. But time has turned my conscience into a hard, scaly, impenetrable thing. Now, I just do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I try not think about the consequences of my actions.
“Where is Maliq?” I ask, trying to keep my voice in a straight line.
“You know him now. He is probably at the radio station or shooting that his documentary about Nigerian music in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s blah blah blah…” Femi says, rolling her eyes, pushing her braids away from her face in irritation.
I look at her face with a strong urge to slap her almost non-existent cheeks. How she can be so dismissive about something that means the world to Maliq? He has invested all his money in this documentary and yet Femi acts as if it is something that she can’t be bothered to think about. Sometimes I wonder why she agreed to marry him.
“Ok…” I say, stroking the lines on my left palm with my fingers. “So how is the wedding planning going. It’s in three weeks’ time. It’s almost here.”
“It’s going ok…” Femi says, sounding bored. “Chief sent me ten million last week so money is not an issue. My dress and your dress are coming in for Dubai next week. Also, don’t forget you are hosting my bridal shower o. Before you run away with Kolapo.” She winks at me, and I can’t help but smile.
“Does Maliq know that Chief is paying for most of this wedding?” I ask.
“Of course, he knows. You know he thinks Chief is my Godfather. I am a sharp babe now. You know me now,” she says, laughing a satisfied, triumphant laughter.
I want to judge her, but when I remember I am doing to her, my barely formed moral superiority disintegrates.
“Babe I am sorry o!” Femi says, sitting up on the couch. “I didn’t even offer you anything. I can order pizza from Domino’s or you can have some moi moi. Its fresh o. I just made it now. There is plenty egg and fish inside, and I even added shrimps sef. Or better still, I can just offer you cigarettes because that is the only thing that you and Maliq know. Well the good thing is that at this rate, both of you will die before me, and I will inherit all your priceless records and CDs.”
“No… it’s okay,” I say, laughing as I stand up from the raffia mat. “I am leaving now. I want to clean my house and do some laundry. I just wanted to come and see you to say congrats on your show.”
“You and this your clean clean Nana. Always cleaning something. You have not changed. Only God knows what bacteria and virus you are running from,” Femi says, shaking her head. She picks up my bag from the couch and looks inside. She takes out my Fendi perfume, sprays it between her palms, rubs her palms together and smells briefly. She puts the perfume back into my bag and brings out my makeup bag.
“That reminds me, I am sending you freebies tomorrow,” she says. “My driver will bring it to your office in the afternoon. Nothing fancy. Just some samples. Mascara and some shades of lipsticks. You can send them to people who order my products. I will email you the details. Also, you remember we have a panel at Landmark Centre on Friday?”
I exhale loudly. I hate public speaking, but since I own the largest online beauty store in the country, I have been invited to speak on a panel at a Beauty Conference. Femi will also be on the panel as well as a makeup artist, hair stylist and three beauty bloggers. When I told Kolapo about the conference, he said that Nigerian women would soon spend more on makeup than they spend on food. When I told him that most Nigerian women already spend more on makeup than they spend on food, he laughed until his eyes turned a painful red. I remember the way he throws his head back and clutches his belly when he laughs. I want to make him laugh like that every day for the rest of his life.
“I remember…” I say. Femi has removed my Tom Ford lipstick from my makeup bag and placed it on the couch. I know there is no use fighting her, because there is no way I will get the lipstick back. I walk over to her and snatch my makeup bag from her hand.
There is a click from the door. Femi reaches for her phone and turns down Solange’s voice. My other best friend, Maliq Abboud, opens the door and walks in. Femi walks to the door and stands in front of him. Maliq is taller than Femi by a good number of inches. When he tries to hug her, she swerves to the left.
“Where have you been?” she asks, arms folded across her chest. Her t-shirt rides up, and I can see the bottom of her buttocks.
“I finished my show at 3, but Sparkle couldn’t make it for her show so I had to fill in for her,” Maliq says. He tries to hug her again, but she swerves, again, this time to the right.
“Mr Nice Guy. Always filling in for people. Always saving the day. Super hero oshi,” Femi says, and then she hisses, a long-dragged out hiss. She walks over to me, hugs me, and kisses me on the cheek. “I will see you on Friday Nana. Talk to your best friend. He is annoying me.”
She walks to the couch, picks up my lipstick, looks back at him with knives in her eyes, and then walks out of the parlour into the dark corridor.
I look at Maliq’s face. His skin is light, smooth, beautiful. He smiles at me, a tired smile. I walk over to him and hug him. “I’ve missed you,” I say, with my arms around his neck.
His hands tighten around my waist. “I have missed you more, Nana.”
Elizabeth Edirin Enajeroh is a writer who hails from Delta, Nigeria and Freetown, Sierra Leone. She is inspired by her life, stories from her family, watching strangers, art, dance, music, books and everything that speaks. Her goal as a writer is to enter quietly into the lives of her characters so that she can unwrap their truth and expose it to the world. She blogs at Liz Light
Related country: Nigeria