“You cannot seriously think that I’m going to bed with you after this lousy egg-stew, Mike” Jennifer said and guffawed. Her eyes were watery, she laughed so hard she could hardly breathe. She had just finished a plate of rice and egg stew cooked by Mike Asiedu, her Mr. Fix-it Joe or so he claimed. He lived across from her and sometimes dropped by after work.
They’d stood outside her gate for late night chats many times, usually after Theo had been seen to bed. Tonight he had come over with his self proclaimed world-class egg-stew.
They were nestled in her beat-up sofa eating food he knew he had not cooked.
“Jennifer, you don’t respect me… I can have any girl with this egg-stew,” He said with a mock gasp. He shook his head sadly “You should feel blessed, this recipe comes from a long line of Asiedus, respect the craft, woman!”
“Michael Nana Kwamena Asiedu, it is your bold faced lie that I respect, didn’t your sister bring this egg stew three days ago?”
“Eh heh!”, he replied,dramatically, like he had found the answer to herpes, “I knew it tasted salty.. I had to cut up some onions to make it better. You owe me Madame”
“You’re crazy you know that… Come on, let’s clean this up.” Mike followed her to the kitchen.
Jennifer was feeling calm. Mike had a way about him that made time spent relaxing. It had been almost a year since he moved into the neighbourhood.
Call it chance or fate, it was he whose car broke down at the junction that turned into their street and it was she who knew where he could find the nearest decent mechanic. She did so when she slowed to a stop one evening after picking up Theo from school. They rode in her Volks Wagon together to pick up the mechanic who could help. It was pretty obvious they going to be friends after that conversation.
Jennifer knew Mike wanted more. It showed in ways he didn’t say. It showed in his genuine care for Theo, how he called every evening to make sure she was home safe; the annoying funny pictures he sent to her during the day she was at work. He was tender and attentive to her in ways she had not experienced in a long time.
She knew it would be a mistake to take him seriously. She wasn’t completely free. It was hard to tell if she would ever be.
“So,” Mike started, “How’s the little man doing? Today must have been rough for him”.
Jennifer sighed, “You can say that again,” she handed a washed plate to him for wiping.
“I really don’t get it, Mike, he’s been awfully quiet lately. He likes to help with dinner most times if you can believe it. It’s just not the same now. If I shout at Theo, he doesn’t respond, if i speak gently, all i get is a yeah or uh-huh. It’s really frustrating, Mike. Maybe I should just take him to his da-”
“Hey.. hey”, Mike said soothingly, and pulled her in his arms. “This isn’t supposed to a soppy kind of night. You had your chance earlier today. You don’t get to cry now”,
He was always dry in his humour, tough with his care . It made Jennifer smile.
“What?”, she said because he was staring.
He quickly turned around casually and he said, “You know when I was child, my mother would order me to stand in the middle of our corridor whenever I did something bad. She would say nothing, go about her stuff and I would be stuck there like a statue.”
He laughed as he recalled the memory “Now I’d be standing there going out of my mind wondering what kind of punishment this woman was going to find for me. Eventually, since I wouldn’t be able to stand still any longer, I’d ran to her and apologize. I don’t know how she did it but it always worked”
“Ha! Doubt it will work with my Theo. He wasn’t always this quiet, you know” Jennifer said, more to herself than Mike.
“Well, Maybe you should do less talking and more listening. He’s heard all you have to say. Let him come to you, Jenny” he said gently.
They both fell quiet. It was comfortable.
Jennifer asked off-handedly, “How come you haven’t married yet? You would make a cool dad. Plus you wouldn’t be eating your sister’s food all the time, or mine!”
She laughed to keep herself from fidgeting.
There was a long pause.
“I’m waiting for you to stop being a coward”. With that, he kissed her on the cheek and walked into the night through the kitchen trap door.
SHE is a collection of short fictional narratives that represent different (love) experiences of Ghanaian women