“Are you still there? Please make sure Chika gets this message. There is really no time; a few hours at most”, and the line went dead.
It had been over two hours since Femi got crouched on all fours and at intervals on his knees too so his joints all snapped and got back into position as he stood taking the pressure off them. Photo shoot sessions for babies were his favorite project that is if you take out the discomfort and stress involved. In a previous session, the one year old who was to be taken photos for a birthday album threw such a tantrum he toppled over Femi’s Nikon D500 shattering the lens. He put the last bit of his equipment in the back seat of his much deteriorated Subaru started the vehicle and sighed deeply. All he wanted was to get home, take a shower, and get a hot meal and some sleep; a pretty decent request he thought but that would be impossible. Chika had chosen that Friday evening to celebrate his birthday which was actually on earlier in the week on Tuesday.
At about 6:30 pm, Femi had managed to snake through the budding traffic and back home. The house was already a hullabaloo of activities at that time with caterers catering, event planners planning, DJ doing his thing and guests arriving. The furniture had been moved around with decorations and costumes setting up the theme for a 90’s party. The buffet table held enough savory meals to feed an entire village; Toke had really gone all out and overdone herself this time. He scoffed as he passed through acknowledging a few hellos from the chattering early guests. A quick shower and two shots of vodka later he was set to join the party. He pulled out the parcel from beneath his bed and rubbed his hands admirably over it. He had put it lots of time and thought into it and was sure Chika would love it. With this in mind and parcel in hand, he walked towards Chika’s room.
He still remembered the day clearly. It was the beginning of summer and they had all been at the fundraising volley ball game. Chika’s team had emerged winners and being his boisterous self, he ran around the make-shift pitch doing the ape victory dance. Femi captured the exact moment he leaped for joy, fisting the air; in all of his elements. And now, he felt his stomach knot all over worrying if Chika would find it good enough. Chika was still fumbling with the curls of his hair while simultaneously taking a call.
“Gosh, I’m not a child mum! I’d be fine. Just please get here safe and we can go celebrate together tomorrow”, silent pause followed by Chika pacing, arranging and rearranging his dresser. “Yes”, said Chika, another silent pause. “Yes” and more silence which seemed to stretch for eternity. “Okay mum, Love you too”, he said dropping the phone letting out a long sigh. Being an only child of his single mum, he understood how easily she got worried over him. Femi who stood so close to the wall he could have melted in finally cleared his throat. Chika did a full spin and was back to his bubbly self.
“Ahn ahn, when you enter? You don dey here since?” Before Femi could respond, Chika spotted the parcel in his hand and exclaimed “Yes!! The first gift of the night” he said amidst chuckle. Femi felt himself coming at ease as Chika unwrapped the gift still chuckling but then the chuckling ceased and was quickly replaced with furrowed brows.
“Is this…Am I…Are you…waittt”, Chika was mumbling. And Now Femi was chuckling. “Yes it is a painting by Leroy Adefimihan of you. I thought you would like it”, he responded to the still stunned Chika. “But how did you get him to do this?”Chika said finally getting his voice. “Remember the high profile confidential shoot I had at the start of the year? Well it was of him and I asked for this in exchange for my services.” Femi retorted. When Chika looked up, his eyes were already welling. “Thank you so much”, he said. “This means a lot to me. My father would have loved this. I don’t even know what to say”, he continued his eclectic person kicking in. “Thank you, Thank you, Thank You! Like I could kiss you right now”
Femi swallowed hard and before he could stop himself, the words were out of his mouth. “Kiss me”. And then time stood still. He felt his heart racing and beads of sweat trickled down his spine. The room began to spin until he felt woozy yet all that was in just a second as Toke walked in immediately.
She threw quick glance at the painting Chika still held. “Oh nice, you got a painting. You need to be downstairs though, party boy. Everyone is waiting”, she said whisking Chika out of the room and into the already thronging party.
Femi managed to relax his nerves enough to get his legs moving and his pulsating heart steady. He walked past Doyin sitting by the stairs clearly uncomfortable with the party, drinking of the devil’s piss and grinding away to death in the name of dance as he would say. Femi walked past Ethan clowning way, wringing his way through the crowd grabbed a bottle of vodka off the bar and made his way towards the balcony, everything a blur to him. He downed half the bottle in a single swig before letting himself think or even begin to feel. Maybe Chika didn’t hear or he could laugh it off as a joke or he won’t remember even.
He had about a quarter liquor left and he was sufficiently drunk enough to drown himself when the slide door to the balcony opened and a figure stepped on closing the door behind. He could not make out the face and the figure did not respond to his call hence setting off his paranoia.
“Did you mean it”, and oh, but Femi could make that voice out in the midst of a crowd singing kumbaya at their loudest. The headlight of a passing vehicle shone momentarily on Chika’s face, illuminating his tensed jaw and the vulnerability in his eyes. Without hesitating, Femi walked up to Chika, taking his face in his palm, putting his lips to Chika’s and igniting a passion strong enough to weather storms.
The door to the balcony began to slide open as the entangled men jumped apart. A breathless Doyin still at the door beckoned for Femi to come to him. Closing the door he narrated in short breaths and as rapidly as his tongue would allow the message he had just received.
“They said she was in an accident and that she is asking to see her son” Doyin said breathlessly. “What do we do?”