The Three Musketeers by Temitayo Olofinlua
A 33pendownforfriendship writing competition entry
A creaking door. Slow moving feet. Murmurs. That was the noise that woke you. You had fallen asleep while putting your child to sleep. It had been a hectic day: the child dedication at church and hosting friends afterwards. By evening, your mouth was tired of saying “thank you for coming”; your whole body, weak. And your crying child became a perfect excuse to leave the living room.
“What is this noise?” You wondered as you got up carefully not to wake the sleeping child. You pick your way through the darkness in the room. You open the door slowly.
That was when the sitting room lights came on. For some seconds, you shut your eyes immediately to get accustomed to the startling brightness. When you opened your eyes, they—your husband, Wale and your two friends, Halima and Ogadinma—were singing “Happy birthday”. That was when you saw the transformed living room: a banner wishing you happy birthday; balloons spelling 33. It was your birthday, you had forgotten. The demands of motherhood had sapped you of all memory of the day. It was your birthday, they had remembered. They had put everything aside to surprise you.
You stood rooted to the ground, shocked at first.
“How did they plan this without you suspecting?”
That was when they started coming to you, one after the other, bearing gifts and hugs and warm kisses. That was when you started crying. And Wale walked over to you and licked every tear drop.
“Aww, sweet love,” Halima cooed.
Then, Wale carried you in his arms to the chair specially decorated for you. You sat, like a Queen.
“Today, I just want you to know how special you are,” he said.
His words opened a dam within you. The tears would not stop. You sobbed, your palm over your lips.
“You have been an amazing friend, these five years.”
Your birthday was also your traditional wedding anniversary. You had deliberately chosen the day saying you wanted two important events in your life to collide into one, so that your lives can make fireworks. But those five years of marriage have also been the most trying years of your life, with you trying to conceive, with his family being on your neck as though you had a baby factory in your backyard, with him fabricating excuses warding them off as much as he could. When it seemed that he had exhausted his pouch of excuses, your child happened.
Your child, Iyanuoluwa, arrived when you did not expect her, when all else had failed: IVFs, prayers, anointing oils. She took a firm seat in your womb and you were unaware.
“You have also been a good mother to Iyanu,” Wale continued, and started walking closer to you before giving you a kiss that swallowed your lips and your tongue and made you one.
Then, he started walking towards the fridge.
“I do not say this often but you are one of the sweetest people I know,” Halima started as she took us all on a journey of how we met. She was the awkward Northern girl with an accent stuck in a Lagos secondary school. You were the daughter of the soil who walked around, a smile planted on your face, as though you owned the land and all those who walked on it. You would later be her desk partner, along with Ogadinma. The three of you, on that eleventh bench in a class of 33 would share tales, of boys, bras and bullies.
Just as 33 friends cannot play together for 33 years, you three have stuck together. They were your pillars of support when you were at your lowest, even though you were miles apart.
Wale soon returned with three bottles of 33 Export Lager Beer, a bottle of water and several wraps of suya. The bottles were so cold they were sweating. The smell of the suya enveloped the room.
“Dear, I will drink your own for you!” He said with a cheeky grin.
“At least I don’t need anyone to eat my suya for me.” You laughed.
That was when it occurred to you. He was recreating the day you first met. A bar. Halima, Ogadinma and you, a table with three bottles of 33 Export Lager beer half-drunk. Wraps of suya, half-eaten. Wale walked in and pulled a chair on your table. Weird at first but that night, the four of you spun wools of words that tied you all together in friendship, only that the wool around Wale and you was romantic.
Iyanu soon started crying. Her cries were shushed by gentle pats as she went from one caring hand to the next. Each face looked into her eyes, searching for similarities, drawing permutations.
“She has your eyes.”
“This one will be stubborn like you o!”
That talk continued into the early hours of the morning. After several bottles of 33 Export Lager beer, your friends retired to the guest room, their room for the next one week.
A halo hung around you, as you looked from Iyanu smiling with her eyes closed, to your sleeping husband, breathing softly beside her. You wondered about the spirit of true friendship; how it stretches beyond itself and never breaks, how in one stretch, it can reach beyond one generation.
You were already crossing into the land of dreams when a piercing cry woke you. Iyanu. You picked her up, sat with your back against the wall, placed your breast in her mouth. You dozed off only to wake minutes later. Your child, now asleep in your arms. You place her gently on the bed. A look which you call “to cry or not to cry”, appeared on her face.
“Hush little baby don’t you cry,” you sang.
“Now, you have three mothers…”
Iyanu smiled, as if she understood, as if she knew that it takes a community of friends to raise a child.