Curse of the Rose (Episode 4)

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“He that would enjoy the scent of the rose must risk the prick of its thorn”
– Kanayo Anigboka (Kani)

Nkoli spun around and around in front of the mirror. She felt like a child again, the wind in her hair, her head thrown back, her eyes reflecting the sun. She could even hear her sister by her side, screaming that her skirts swirled higher. There was a knock on the door. Her eyes popped open. She stopped and grabbed the sink. The room was turning.
  • I‘m coming. Nkoli called at the door

She washed her hands in the sink and shut her eyes at the feel of the warm water on her hands. The red lipstick from her purse glided over her lips smoothly and gave her a red smile. She ran her hands down the A-line cut short dress she was wearing and took a deep breath before she swung the door open.

The pleasant lady, one of the organisers of the writing workshop she was going to teach, escorted her to the room filled with the participants. She smiled her red smile when she sighted Kayode and easily went into his arms. Gentlemen Only, Givenchy. That old smell filled her nostrils. She felt a strangeness and took two steps back from Kayode.

  •           You look great Nkoli. How long has it been, two years?
  •           How come it feels like ten?
  •           Oh but your days have only grown longer. I read about the awards and prizes you’ve         been earning.
  •           But then, it could also be that I’ve spent too many days doing absolutely nothing.

They laughed and the curious faces in the room stared up at them. Some didn’t try to conceal their smiles. Others wished they would become so successful one day, they’d be able to keep people waiting while they had a chit chat.
  •           I was delighted when I heard I would be facilitating the workshop with you.
  •           Oh I wasn’t, I cursed my luck.

They laughed again as Kayode pulled out a chair for her.
  •           Hi everyone! Nkoli said pleasantly.
  •           It’s delightful to see such young emerging writers…

***
Nnadi stirred the stew. How long before he put it down? He wasn’t sure. He was lost in the circular movement. His girlfriend was perched on a high chair behind him going on and on about her new friends from her Makeup class.
  •           So Ifeoma insisted that she would not do what she asked her to…
  •           Sorry… she who? Who are we talking about now?
  •           Jenny now! Are you even listening?
  •           Of course I am. Go on…

He tried to listen to his girlfriend but he heard a distant ring of laughter from last week. Her gentle hand on his shoulder, the way her eyes had sparkled at his jokes. He had wanted to hang on, to push his luck and talk more but he had been afraid of wearing off the moment. He wanted it to be the last thing he saw, that he dreamt about. Maybe he should have stayed. Maybe if he had, by now his phone will be ringing with her calls. What will they talk about?
  •           Hey I read you in the news
  •           Yeah. More and more awards. It’s beginning to wear me out.
  •           I can imagine. What do you need?
  •           A time off everything. Let’s have a getaway. Somewhere far?
  •           Hawaii?
  •           Oh perfect. Very perfect…
His girlfriend slapped his arm
  •           What?
  •           You weren’t even listening.
  •           Who said I wasn’t. I was waiting for you to land
  •           No. you were smiling sheepishly into the pot of stew
  •           Oh but I was just trying to garnish it with smiles.
The girl didn’t laugh. She stormed out of the kitchen.
  •          Oh come on! You were supposed to laugh. Baby!
He wiped his hands on a napkin and went after her.
***
  •          Oh wait. You and Kayode have started dating again
  •           Nobody said that. We just had a nice time is all.
  •           So you left the workshop they sent you to go and teach in and started following man.         Poor writers.

Nkoli laughed easily. She hadn’t laughed easily in a long time.
  •           Salam. Go away biko. I don’t even have your time this evening.
  •           How will you have my time? All that’s in your head now is that man.

They laughed. Salam turning the red stew determinedly. Nkoli sat on the Kitchen Island watching her.
  •           So, rice or spaghetti
  •           Oh anything my darling. Anything! Nkoli threw her hands in the air dramatically

Salam smiled.
  •           It’s a good week.
  •           It’s a good week.

Salam smiled again.
  •           Anyway, he’s coming over for dinner.
  •           He’s what?
  •           I invited him over
  •           And you’re telling me now?

Salam turned to Nkoli, the ladle waving in her hand. Nkoli stood up and made for the door, Salam chasing her with the ladle.
  •         I’m going to dress up! Nkoli shouted as she ran to the bedroom        
  •          Dress up? She’s dressed already. What is she going to dress up for? Psst. Salam                   muttered as she went back to the stove.

***
He had burnt the stew. Each spoon increased the scratchy taste on the surface of his tongue. His girlfriend smiled. She had said it was delicious. It wasn’t. Her stew last week had been better. Afoma was wrong. His girlfriend was a good girl. She could cook. His mother would love her. Maybe he’ll take her home to meet his mother. Maybe he would marry her. He smiled at her.
  •           What?
  •          Nothing… you’re just beautiful.

She smiled shyly.
  •           I think I would go into the office tomorrow.
  •          On Sunday? Why?
  •           We’re expecting potential investors on Monday and we’d be showing them slides of our proposed strategy, so that…
  •           It’s ok baby, do whatever you need to do.

His mouth stopped chewing the food and he smiled sadly. He shook his head. She would pick up. Will she?  He rubbed his chest and prayed the hollowness away.
***
Salam watched proudly as Nkoli and Kayode laughed. Touching each other’s hand at every excuse. Nkoli loved happy days. She saw the good in everything. Salam’s stew as always, was delicious.
  •           Hmmm… nice. You cooked it? Kayode was looking at Nkoli.

Nkoli shook her head and Salam kicked her under the table.
  •           Yes I did. A stiff smile was stuck on Nkoli’s face
  •           Delicious. I love it. Hmm…

Nkoli gawked at Salam but Salam wasn’t looking
  •           Yes. Nkoli is an awesome cook. The lie left her mouth sweetly.

Some of the joy sipped from Nkoli. She sought for it in the glass of red wine. She took a big gulp and reached for the bottle for more
  •          Easy girl. The night is still early. Kayode’s hand brushed hers on the bottle.

She felt the tingle again. Good sign. She smiled and returned her hand to the fork.
  •          So are you working on anything new?

Nkoli chewed down hard on the rice. It tasted like sadness. She looked away. Salam answered for her.
  •          She’s taking a break.
  •           Lucky you. A writer who can afford to take a break.

Nkoli’s lips couldn’t turn up in a smile. The week couldn’t be over. Not yet. She tried again. The lips curved a little.
  •           So what are you working on? Mr. Writer who never takes a break. Nkoli asked
  •           You.
  •           What? Nkoli and Salam
  •           I’m working on you. He reached over and perked Nkoli on the left cheek.

She knew he had smeared the blush powder on her cheek. She rubbed the spot with her right hand, circling and circling, smoothing the colour over her warm skin.





Story written by +Nnedinma Jane Kalu 
Nnedinma studied Biology but works as a freelance scriptwriter. She lives in Enugu from where she sees the world in the pages of books. She is a co-writer at the Radio drama series Purple produced by Flint Productions. She participated in the Writivism writing program 2014 and is an Alumini of the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop.

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

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