Tooni smiled out of her reverie as she was tugged at by one of her young charges. It was hilarious to see her mum struggling with trying so hard not to mention the issue of marriage. Mrs Adesida had received a call from one of their distant cousins to inform her he was getting married and would be bringing his fiancée to see her. As soon as she dropped the phone, she sighed. “That was Moji’s son he is twenty-six and is getting married.”
Tooni scowled ready to put up as much resistance she could muster should her mother go into her usual “marriage talk” again. However, she shrugged noncommittally. “Good for him.”
“ Is that all you are going to say?” Mrs Adesida asked with a huge disappointment evident on her face.
“Mother what do you want me to say?” Tooni asked exasperatedly.
Mrs Adesida sighed again, heaved and broke into a song and dance as she gave Tooni a hug. “Your visit means a lot to me. I won’t overshadow our time with a quarrel. However, do know that not talking about it does not make it go away.”
Another tug and this time she could hear from a far away distance “Auntie Tooni Auntie Tooni, see my drawing” the young child announced proudly.
Tooni gathered her thoughts together and chided herself was woolgathering while working.
Tooni Adesida volunteered with a young achiever club in the city where she took the ages 7-10 drawing lessons for one hour every Wednesday.
The time with the children was one of the things she looked forward to every week. They were all a delight to work. She never seemed to be more amazed at the kind of work they turned it. Raw talents that need direction and guidance and the world would not know what hit them when the next Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci resurfaces.
Once all the kids had left, Tooni spent the few minutes she had to arrange the room used and out away all the pencils, paintbrushes used .she was so engrossed that she did not hear when her colleague came behind her.
She squealed in fright. ” I did not hear you come in.”
“Sorry I scared you,” Amanda apologised and went on in one breath.
“I came by to let you know that little Tooni lost her mum to cancer .”
Little Tooni as the name stuck was a seven-year-old girl in her class who was also her namesake.
“Aww, that is so sad,” said Tooni trying to imagine what her life would have been should she had lost her mother. But she had lost her father at a tender age. She remembered the heaviness and loss that hung around the family like a cloak. She could not wish a loss of a loved one on her enemies, but this was one of the harsh realities of life that even children could not be shielded.
“I never noticed. Little Tooni has carried on with the same demeanour as she always has. Very excited and enthusiastic about her drawings and the class. She is so friendly with all the other children,” Tooni shared her observation with her colleague.
However, Amanda had a different reason for sharing the loss of the girl’s mother.
“what I am trying to say to you is that you might need to speak a few words of condolence to her dad.”
“ Why?” asked Tooni puzzled. “I rarely see the parents when they come to pick children. You should inform them at the reception.”
“I was thinking it would be a good avenue for you to meet the man. He is a widower, and this might be an opportunity.”
Tooni’s eyes went round as this bizarre scene playing before her. She closed her eyes and shook her head from side to side. Trying to Calm the seething anger welling inside of her
“How callous can you be. Should I be dumb enough to go with your advice, would it to a man who is mourning the loss of his dear wife? Or do I look like someone on a manhunt, husband hunt or whatever hunt you all think I should embark?”
“No Tooni, you do not look like it, but your life oozes it even if you think you hide it well.”
Tooni did not think she heard Amanda well.
“Amanda, what you have said is not only mean, but it shows that you have never been and cannot be my friend. I am on no manhunt, that I am not married is not a design of mine, that I hope to be married someday might be my mothers wish, but mine is to live my life and enjoy it married or not. So if you think my life oozes manhunt. You have better check again as you sure are receiving wrong signals which might be a reflection of what you are feeling. I thought you were my friend. But now I know better”
“I am your friend Tooni, which is the reason I am concerned. I might be approaching it in a wrong manner and that I apologise”
“I have not asked for your help and please stay away from me,” Tooni whispered agngrily.
“I am sorry,” Amanda raised her hand in defence. As Tooni walked away from her without a backward glance.
The birds were chirping away a lovely soprano on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning. Tooni sat out in the garden enjoying the morning sunshine just lazing with a book. How to meet date and marry a guy in 21 days. She bought the book out of curiosity and found the book not only hilarious but crazy.
She still would not accept she was on a manhunt, but sometimes she could not deny the thought of what her life would be like if she were married and had a family.
“I was not going to push any buttons like go look for any man, but there might be some information that could be helpful in this book,” she reasoned.
“Good morning Madam,” Sule the security man cum gardener called out.
Sule has been with Tooni ever since she moved into the area. He joined her as a single man, got married and went on to have five children that often left Tooni in wonder how he coped with living expenses on his meagre salary.
Good morning Sule,” Tooni responded, curious about the smile on his face.
“Sule you look so happy today. what can I do for you?”
“Ha Madam, I been happy wai! I get Amarya coming to me. He responded in his poor English mixed with his local Hausa language.
‘Amarya,” Tooni called out, with a questioning look and a frown on her brows and eyes mirroring her confusion.
“Yes Oga Madam, Amarya. My second wife.”
The book Toke was holding felt from her hands as she gazed at the man in bewilderment.
“Sule, you are getting married again?” she croaked in disbelief.
“Yes, Oga madam. My Amarya is a beautiful young girl and from my village. She would come and help Uwargida with all the housework and children.”
“But Sule, you have five children, and you are barely coping financially. Another wife means more children. How do you intend to take care of them?”
Sule smiled so stupidly, Tooni felt like slapping the smile off his face. What illiteracy could do to a man transcends beyond his generation? He was building a village without any means of giving those children a means to prepare for the future
“Allah will take care of the children. Oga madam. Do not worry.”
Too dumbfounded for words, Tooni went back to reading her book but the sanctity of the moment had been broken. She found herself on the same page for ten minutes as her mind kept processing what Sule had told her.
She was shocked when she looked up, and he was still there.
“Oga Madam I’d been wan tell you that our neighbour,” he paused pointing to the walled house on her right.
Tooni recalled the walls were not always this high when she first moved in ten years ago. You could literally have a conversation with your number over the fence but as the years when by, the walls got taller and taller. You had neighbours, you had no clue what they looked like even if you met in the shopping mall.
Lowering his voice as if he was aware someone one on the other side was listening to their conversation.
“His wife have died.”
“His wife died,” Tooni corrected wondering why she bothered.
“His wife died,” he repeated proudly.
She shook her head. The man never ceases to amaze her. Somedays, he would speak impeccable English, and some other days she would cringe as he mixed both present and past tenses interjecting the wrong verbs or adjectives.
“I been say you suppose to greet him. As his wife died, if he wants to marry, he go marry you.”
She cursed on her breath with the little Hausa words she had been able to garner from her security “shege danbanza dan buro uba,”
Oga” Madam,” Tooni was shocked he still dared to stand there like he had dementia.
If it was in the office, the man was as good as fired. She fumed under her breath.
“Sule, Please leave now before I do what both of us would regret,” she gritted her teeth as she picked her glass cup of orange juice, book and walked back to the house leaving behind a shattered serenity. Her world is being thrown into a tupsy-turvy.
The one moment her mother was struggling to stop the pressure, her friends and gardener took over the baton. She did not know which was worse but that of the gardener sucked more.