“So … what’s your story, Adoo? Who are you and what are you doing in Jos?”
“I could ask you the same question, Toby.”
He shook his head. “Nope, I asked you first, so no cheating. Go on, spill it.”
Adoo shifted in her seat, feeling she had been put on the spot. True, she owed this man no explanations, but she didn’t want to whitewash anything; her mistakes and her pain were her responsibility. Much of what had happened over the past four years had been as a result of her lapses in judgement. She had made mistakes, but who hadn’t?
She cleared her throat before speaking. “I’m here in Jos because it’s the perfect place to raise my son and have an easy-going life. I’ve had the opportunity to develop my cake-making and decorating skills by taking some short courses and tutorials and lots of practice. I love the fact that I’m able to do what I love and make a decent living.”
“I’ve never actually got to know a cake maker,” he said. “It sounds like something unusual. It must be interesting though.”
“It is. It’s also very cathartic,” she answered. “Sure, Jos is not the most bustling city in Nigeria, but I’m fine with that: I like the pace.”
“Why do I have the feeling that you just gave me the sanitised, factory-made version of your life?” he said gently.
“I don’t know you well enough to give all the gory details,” she said. He raised his brows and chuckled.
“Touché. Now it’s my turn, I presume?”
Adoo nodded and he spoke. “There’s nothing spectacular, I’m afraid. I have a brother and two sisters, and all but one live out of the country. My parents are in Kogi. No wife, no kids at the moment. No madness, leprosy or domestic abuse in my gene pool, as far as I know.”
“And you’ve got a sense of humour too? My goodness, you are the stuff of every single-and-searching girl’s dreams,” Adoo quipped. She immediately regretted the comment. The last thing she wanted was to give him the impression that she was out to catch a man. He seemed to miss it completely though, his expression remaining unchanged. Adoo was relieved.
“And what are your dreams, Adoo, if you don’t mind my asking?” He leaned forward slightly, pinning her down with his look. Her breath caught in her throat. She wasn’t sure how to answer that. How long had it been since she had actually dared to dream about a life beyond what she had? There were the usual “if onlys”, but actual dreams that could turn into life-changing events? She couldn’t remember. She had spent so many years living life one day at a time that she hadn’t actually sat down to think about the future.
“Sometimes life gets in the way of dreaming, Toby,” she answered, looking down to avoid revealing too much of her inner turmoil.
“Not life, Adoo. People. People get in the way of dreams.” She looked up and saw him regarding her with a frank stare; nothing untoward, but enough to unnerve her. He was too perceptive for her comfort. She decided to direct his comment back at him as a question.
“What would you know about that?”
“More than I would like,” he answered, a faraway look coming over his face.
They were silent for a moment and then Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ came on. No-one in the room paid attention to it except Adoo, whose ears had pricked up at the first strains of the song. The soft piano played a melancholy tune, echoes of anguish flowing through the melody.
She began to hum along.
“You know this song?” Toby asked. Know it? She had lived the song.
“There are few songs in this world that capture a moment of weakness as perfectly as this one.”
He looked thoughtful for a moment before speaking. “You sing, don’t you? Why don’t you karaoke it then?” Adoo was just about to refuse when something in her pushed back. Why not? She got up slowly and went to the pick up the microphone.
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