Love’s Legacy

She heard another knock on the door, this time louder than the first time. Anjola smiled. Mama Lekan was making good on her promise.

‘Perhaps she wants to return it because the light is back.’ She muttered as she stood up thoughtlessly and slipped on her slippers before hurrying to unlock the door.

“Mama Lekan,” she began as she opened the door. “I really didn’t expect you to….”

Her eyes widened in shock as she saw who was standing at the door, and then in horror as she remembered she had not bothered to tie the loose belts of her housecoat. He seemed just as taken aback. His eyes had reacted with a trace of surprise and something else Anjola couldn’t place as they dipped below her face to the open housecoat and stayed there. She slammed the door in his face and put a hand over her mouth.

‘What is he doing here?’ She thought and then pulled the belts of the coat firmly around herself before she opened the door half way and peered at him. “Hi, what are you doing here?” She asked as their eyes met.

He stared at her for a few seconds before replying. “Just for the record, I need you to know that I plan on erasing that image from my memory bank.”

She pushed her hair behind her ear and avoided his gaze. “I was expecting someone else….how did you find me?”  She tried to peep behind him, half expecting to see Gbade or Lolu.

“I did send a dress to this address,” he said making a conscious effort to keep his head up and his eyes looking at her face.

“Oh! Yeah,” she said with a shrug. “You could have called though.”

“Yes, I could have,” his mouth bore the hint of a smile as he leaned forwards and took a step into the room, “but I figured you’d be at home.”

Anjola found him suddenly in her personal space and took a step backwards. “Of course come right in, no need to ask.” She gave a nervous laugh. ‘What is he doing here?’ She thought to herself however.

“You were expecting someone else….” He took another step in and she retreated as he kept his gaze on her face, grabbed the door with his left hand and shut it behind himself.

“No…yes, my neighbor, she borrowed a flashlight and promised to return it ….” She folded her arms across her chest and passed him an indignant stare as it occurred to her what he was thinking. “I wasn’t expecting a guy if that’s what you were thinking.”

He returned the stare and lowered his gaze to her pink house coat for a long moment. “I wasn’t judging.” He looked back up at her face without a smile.

She searched his eyes. “Why are you here?”

“I …wanted to see where you live.” He looked away from her and took another step in as he stared round at the room with interest.

“Oh,” she dragged her hands through the rough curls in her weave several times, hating the fact that she had not had time to brush it or look a bit more presentable.

“You live here.”

She redressed the house coat and folded her arms over it. “Yes I live here.”

“In this room,” he sounded a little stunned, “with just one window.” He pointed at it and turned back to look at the door he had just come in through.

“Two, actually,” she said showing him the smaller window beside the door, hidden by a small curtain. “That’s another one.”

He frowned and looked around the room taking in the sparse, shabby furniture and plastic carpeting.

Anjola followed his gaze, her heart racing at the absurdity of the fact that he was in her room. He turned around and stared at the six by four bed on which Simisola lay fast asleep and she stepped to the side as he did that. She noticed with dismay that there were clothes folded in a corner on the bed next to the wall but she was thankful she had bothered to change the bed sheet that morning. He moved in a slow circle, and she followed keeping a respectable distance.

“It’s small, there’s hardly any room to move. What happens when it’s hot and there’s no light?”

“We sleep in light clothes,” she replied as she spotted a hanger bearing underwear that she had washed and spread earlier that morning. “And I recently invested in a rechargeable fan.” She slipped behind him and grabbed it off the nail on which she had hung it and shoved it in the wardrobe. He was looking at her when she turned back and she blushed hoping he hadn’t seen.

“We, as in you and her?” he nodded at the child on the bed.

“We as in us, and a friend of mine.”

“The three of you in this tiny room?” he looked around the room again.

She shrugged and avoided his gaze.

“Where is your bathroom and do you have a kitchen? I don’t see any other doorway.”

“Outside,” Anjola replied suddenly feeling a little miffed. “We share. It’s a single room with shared bathroom and kitchen.”

He stared at her. “Seriously, how many of you live in the building?”

“Twenty, maybe more…”

He made for the door and she stepped back to let him pass. She watched as he opened it, stepped into the corridor then looked left and right. “The bathroom is outside.” He said coming back in. “You walk down the corridor in your towel to the room. I don’t even want to begin to think about toilet routines.”

“I have a housecoat which I wear over my towel out of the bathroom…..” She began.

“A house coat over your towel in that open …pack your things,” he said shutting the door. “Get her dressed too. You’re coming with me.”

Anjola opened her mouth but no sound came out for a moment. “You want me to pack my things.”

“Yes, this place is not a home. You can’t raise a child here.”

“I have been raising her here for the past five years. And successfully if I might add.”

“This is not a conducive environment for you and for your child.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.” Anjola said shaking her head. “You can’t just come here and tell us to pack up and leave.”

“Yes I can.”

“No you can’t.”

He gave her an impatient look. “How many people live in this place? How many men, to be precise, live here? What do you think they are thinking about when you’re strutting down the corridor in your night gown? It’s not a safe environment and I’m not going to leave you here, living like this.”

Anjola got angry just then. “Excuse me, you can’t just show up here and tell me what to do. I like living here. I’ve been living here for the past five years with no problems.”

“It’s not safe,” he said. “Pack your things and get dressed.” Then he looked down at her. “Or come like that if you want to. We can always get you a whole new set of clothes.”

“I’m not packing my things!” Anjola replied her eyes darting to her sleeping child and then back to him. “Just because you make decisions for the Shonibare family doesn’t mean you can make decisions for me. I’m not one of them.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “She is,” he said pointing at Simisola, “and I know my brother would never allow you both to live like this.”

“Live like how? What is wrong with this place?” She asked angry.

“Everything is wrong with this place!” he exploded. “Are you telling me you can’t see it? You walk around with your….” He pointed at her and raked his finger up and down, “house coat on the corridor and you think that it’s okay?”

“I’m not saying its okay. I do what I can to protect myself and I’ve been doing so for years.”

“Well it’s not enough…”

“Well it’s not your business!”

“She is now my business,” he pointed at Simisola. “And anything that concerns her safety is my business.”

Anjola took a step towards him. “Hey listen, Mister, you have no rights here. I don’t think I’m entitled to anything from your family just because I had a child for your brother. I’m not that kind of person and I don’t have that kind of mindset. If I did, I’d have come to you from the moment she was born and asked for a big house and fancy clothes. I’m not some charity project that you can just pick up and sort out because you have the means. I am a woman in my own right. I work hard, I earn my keep and I take care of my child. I don’t need you, or anyone else telling me that what I provide is not good enough. I am not leaving this place. You can’t make me.”

He stood quiet, staring at her for what seemed like eternity. He had probably never been spoken to like that before in his life. Anjola lowered her eyes and hoped he would just leave.

“I’m sorry,” he finally began in the softest of voices. “You are right, I can’t make you leave. But I can plead with you to consider it. Please pack your things, please find something to wear, please dress your child and please, let me take you out of this place because I would not be able to live with myself if I go back home and leave you here. It’s not safe for you, and it’s not safe for her. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know.”

Anjola felt something crumble within her. The wall she had started building the moment Jimi’s mother had told her to get out of his room and never come begging from their family to feed a child she wasn’t even sure was theirs. She stared into Folarin’s eyes and marveled that they were so much like Femi’s eyes, clear and honest, and so much like Jimi’s, intense. He was probably right. Big Tom was becoming a nuisance daily and a few other men had shown her they were hoping she would come to them with a need. They were probably waiting to make demands.

She thought about Gbade’s words. If she didn’t have to pay rent, she would have the extra for a good primary school for Simi. His offer was beginning to look good.

“Alright,” she said looking away from him, “since you asked so nicely.”

He sighed, nodded and started to turn around. “I’ll be in the car.”

“It’s going to take me a while to pack and get dressed.”

“I’ll give you fifteen minutes.”

“Twenty might be more realistic.”

“Fifteen,” he said as he left shutting the door.

She ran her fingers through her hair and let out a big sigh. “I can’t believe I just agreed to that!” she muttered.