“Family Friends” by Nana Owusu Bediako.

“So I’m sitting behind the counter at my Town Central boutique when Mike walks in. you know Mike, yes the-sweet-guy-who-always-shows-up-with-flowers-Mike. Don’t give me that look. You know very well there’s nothing going on between us—anymore.” I sigh.

Trust Vida to still give me the guilty feels even after all I’ve been through to prove that I’m a changed woman. A whole year has passed without my indulging in flings of any sort, you’d think I’ve earned myself a bit of respect among friends by now, yet Vida for instance never misses a chance to remind me of past crimes. Deciding that what I had to say was more important than putting Vida in her place, I go on with my narrative while overlooking the scowl on my friend’s face.

“So he walks through the front door and immediately looks to his left—towards the counter, as if to say that I’m the reason he was in the shop. He didn’t even pretend to be interested in any of the clothes on sale, he just walked right up to yours truly behind the counter and goes like ‘Hey, nice shop you’ve got here. I really love the décor’. Now I was just amazed by his presumptuous manner and need I remind you that my shop attendants are all teenage relatives of my husband so I was nervous he might let on that there was anything going on between me and him. In my haste to stop him in his tracks, I just blurted out a query, “what can I get you sir?” looking into his face with all seriousness.”

Vida has a distinct look of interest and alarm on her face now that gives me the confidence to go on with my story. I continue.

“That put him off his game for a moment, I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t pleased with what he’d just heard. Thankfully he realizes what I meant and goes like ‘yes ma’am I was walking on the opposite sidewalk when I happened to remember I needed a corset for a dinner I’m to attend this weekend. Looking around for a nice place where I could get what I needed, I happened to notice your shop across the street and here I am.’ He then smiled imploringly at me, as if to suggest that I personally help him with his purchase”.

Trust me, if you knew Mike as I do, you’d recognize that imploring look.

“He’s smart like that, saying one thing with his words and communicating his true meaning with subtle facial and body cues. I learnt that from him–.”

That’s when she cut me off, coming in like “You don’t expect me to believe that was his first time ever to set foot inside your boutique now, do you?” and leaving me all angry and flustered.

“Are you calling me a liar, Vee? I’m telling you it’s true. All that time we were seeing each other it was strictly at our favorite motel and nowhere too personal for both of us—well until he started acting all clingy and lovesick. Then he started suggesting stuff that would’ve made things awkward for me especially. Like more than once he threatened to mail flowers to my home address, and then he’d pester me to spend the night after our late evening rendezvous. Really awkward and cringe-worthy stuff that had me concerned about where our fling was headed.”

“Well you had to have known that things would have to end between you two sooner or later—.”

“—and I made sure it was sooner rather than later, honey! I’m not dumb.” I added with a chuckle.

“Well thank goodness for that. And you say he’d never been to the boutique before that. Why go there now? Why show up where he’d be least expected to do so after you’ve ended things with him?” Yes. Now she’s getting to the point in our conversation where I needed her to be.

“Honey, that’s the thing I can’t really figure out myself. But that was a dumb move on Mike’s part, trying to surprise me like that and expecting a warm welcome—in a shop full off witnesses!”

“Yes, really dumb, I totally agree.”

“Vee I’m telling you I told him off at once in front of everybody and watched him leave the store with a pained look on his face. I never saw him again since and it’s been a month now.”

“Hahaaaa, epic!” she cackled.

“I know right, but not as epic as mum used to do way back. Mum was carefree, but that was her undoing. I mean hear this: I found out when I was 19 that almost all our so called ‘family friends’ were actually her sexual partners over the years. And it wasn’t so hard to figure out since every night after they’d come visit, we’d hear mum and dad arguing loudly in their bedroom, and words like ‘whore’ and ‘cheat’ would be carried over by the wind to our bedroom right across the corridor…”

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