The front elevated stone-walled detached house surrounded by a neatly-trimmed lawn, a lawn tennis court at the far end of the medium-level fenced courtyard and an open shed that housed the massive generating set was looking dewy, dreary and deserted – a usual after-the-rain scene.
Reginald marched toward the mosaic-tiled terrace in quick steps, wanting to get out of the damp open-air. He punched the bell and tapped his left foot impatiently. The dark mahogany door was pulled open by a sombre-looking Razak.
“Good evening sir.” He greeted in an equally sombre voice.
Reginald responded with a nod, not particularly moved by Razak’s sombreness. The compact-sized never-says-much butler was always quiet and solemn-faced and hardly ever showed a flicker of surprise at anything.
H strode through the main living room, oblivious to the opulence of the vintage furnished area. He only vaguely noted the new presence of an odd-looking sculpture on the wall as he made past it into the hallway that led into the family living room. He didn’t need an oracle to know that the odd-looking statuette was his father’s newest collection.
As he’d expected his parents were in the bright sunlit room. His father had a copy of the News magazine raised over his face and his mother was seated eyes glued to the TV screen tuned to her favourite channel – Africa Magic. His parents were creatures of habit and this was part of their weekday evening relaxation hour.
He drew into the room. “Good evening, dad.” He greeted with a slight bow of his head.
The scanty grey-haired man on the chaise-longue lowered the magazine to scrutinize his son with dark piercing eyes.
“Reginald.” His father never called him ‘Regie’ – he didn’t believe in shortening names. “So you finally decided to grace our home with your presence after nearly a month of absence.” He said in his deep baritone voice.
“It’s only been three weeks, dad.” Reginald countered lightly moving closer to stretch out his hand to his father.
Raymond took the hand in his usual knuckle-breaking handshake. “Which is why I said nearly a month.” He let go of the hand. “How are you Little man?”
He always called him ‘Little man’ even now when he towered over him at a little over six feet. His father was not only a creature of habit, he was also a little un-African in Reginald’s estimation. Maybe it was his many years in the UK or maybe he wasn’t just traditional enough… whatever the reason Raymond Akin-Thomas had never been the usual African husband or father.
“I’m good, dad. And you, hope you are enjoying your retirement?”
Raymond had announced his official retirement from managing his multi-million naira food and beverage company at the turn of the year. Leaving his immediate younger brother, Ronald to take over from him.
“What’s not to enjoy?” Raymond’s laughter was deep and raucous. “I get to sit back daily on my recliner and either read my favourite Mags or watch my favourite TV programs. And when I’m not doing that, I get to run after your pretty mother trying to getting me some.” He gave him a roguish wink.
His mother snorted from her position on the four-piece sectional slate-blue silk sofa.
“Oh Jesus!” Reginald muttered under his breath, taking that as a cue to march over to his mother’s side.
He just wasn’t in the mood for blushing tales from his father.
Rebecca Akin-Thomas was a trim, pretty woman. Her oval, dark face hardly showed any sighs of old age and her natural long hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck in a knot. She was dressed in her usual brocade caftan, a dark olive-green one today.
Reginald bent over to give her a hug. “Good evening, mum.” He greeted.
“Hello darling.” Rebecca smiled up at him.
She was big on endearments and only used their full names when they were in trouble.
“How are you, dearie?” She asked patting the space beside her. “You are looking somewhat thinner.” She observed poking his ribs through his long-sleeved sky-blue striped shirt. “Have you been feeding well? Eating healthy food not junks?”
His mother was a health nut, which was probably why at almost sixty, she still managed to look slim and firm-bodied.
“I’m okay, mum.” He replied wriggling out of reach of her poking fingers.
“You shouldn’t be asking him that question.” Raymond reproved from behind his magazine. “He’s a man, not a boy… a thirty-six year old man.” He lowered the magazine to focus his reproving eyes on Reginald. “When I was your age, I was already married to your mother and we already had you and your brother, Ronald. Thirty-six and still not married… what a disaster!” He shook his head and raised the magazine again, grunting disapprovingly behind it.
His mother turned back to him, continuing from where she’d left off as if his father had not just ranted.
“Darling, when you are leaving I’ll pack you some nicely home-cooked food to take along.” She told him with a smile. “I think you are in need of my specially prepared delicacies.”
“Absolutely not.” Raymond tossed the magazine on the stool beside him. “He wants a woman cooking his meals, he should go get a wife.” He turned his dark disapprovingeyes to Rebecca. “You are my wife and you cook for me.”
“And he is my son and I can still cook for him, dear.” Rebecca rejoined mildly.
“He might be your son but he’s no more a boy.” Raymond argued. “When a boy becomes a man, he gets a wife to attend to his needs.” He tossed Reginald a ferocious stare.
Reginald watched the exchange without so much as a flicker. When you were a part of the ‘R.’ Akin-Thomas family, weird verbal displays were nothing to worry about – it was just the norm.
“Read your magazine, darling and don’t hyperventilate.” Rebecca told him in a soothing voice. “You know how that makes you restless before bed.”
Raymond grunted and picked up the tossed aside magazine. “I dare say I shall be requiring a massage if I’m going to get any rest at all tonight.” He muttered flickering through the pages.
Rebecca rolled her eyes dramatically, causing Reginald to smile. “Then you’ll be getting some. Now allow me to talk to my son in peace.” She said firmly.
“With your father constantly interrupting me I almost forgot.” Rebecca said crossly turning back to an insouciantly smiling Reginald. “Amaka called me yesterday, all bubbly and excited to announce that Ama would soon be getting married to a top-notch photographer and videographer.”
Reginald groaned inwardly. Amaka was Ama’s mother and had obviously been bragging about her first daughter’s marriage proposal.
Rebecca chatted on oblivious to Reginald’s frowning exasperation.
“Can you imagine that? Beautiful Ama is getting married. Amazing, right?” She gave a low laugh, settling back against the sofa. “For a moment there I thought you were considering marrying her yourself.” She chortled. “But obviously she was not meant for you as she’s marrying this photographer, what’s his name again… I do believe Amaka mentioned it.” Her forehead creased in concentration.
“I’m not surprised she was caught by some other man.” Raymond put in lowering his hands again. “That’s what happens when a man hesitates too much – he loses his fish along with the bait.” He dropped his legs from the chaise and sat up. “Take for instance when I met your mother…”
“Oh heavens, not that story again.” Reginald groaned.
“Be quiet and listen.” Raymond rebuffed. “When I met your mother that slow-thinking James Kadiri had his eyes on her and had had them on her for a little over a year without doing anything about it. And you know what your smart-in-the-head-and-quick-on-his-feet father did, eh?” He looked at Reginald with smug eyes.
“You’ve told us a million times, dad.” Reginald grimaced.
“Then one more time might just teach you something, Little man.” Raymond retorted. “I made my intentions clear your mother at once, let her know I’ve got eyes for only her.” He winked at his wife, who shook her head with a roll of her dark-brown eyes. “I courted my pretty Rebecca and in less than four months made an honest woman of her.”
“More like I made an honest man of you.” Rebecca debunked with a chuckle.
“And the result was still the same.” Raymond continued with a laugh. “I claimed the woman James had been eyeing as mine because I was man enough to make the commitment. Therein lies the lesson for you, son.” He finished swinging his legs back on the chaise.
“Well, my belief is that when a girl is meant for you, she can’t be taken from you.” Rebecca said robustly giving Reginald a pat on the thigh. “You just have to wait for your own girl.”
Raymond humphed. “At the rate he is hesitating, he’s going to wind up girl-less.”
“Of course not.” Rebecca disagreed vehemently. “Regie is going to find his own perfect match, aren’t you, darling?” His mother turned to him, a proud smile lacing her faintly-painted lips.
Reginald gave a deep sigh but before he could reply, his father said from his chaise.
“He’d better find her fast before someone else does and claims her for his own.”
“No one else can take her if she belongs to you.” Rebecca assured him.
“She won’t belong to him unless he gets off the fence and pays the right price.” Raymond refuted.
Reginald pushed back into the seat, balancing his head comfortably on the head rest, he allowed their voices to drift over his head as he listened absentmindedly to their debate.
This was the fringe benefit of being a part of the ‘R.’ Akin-Thomas clan, you got to hear your life dissected and deliberated by nosy, righteously-interfering family members without being required to make any contributions whatsoever.
He sighed with cosy affection when he heard his father say – ‘he should woo her until she surrenders to him’ -.
Yes, that is what he should do, woo Ama until she finally sees that he was the man she needed not some top-notch Photographer.
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