“What’s in a Name?” by Amanda Olive Amoah.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Rodney found this out the hard way when he broke up with Amanda. His reason? She somehow managed to manipulate him into spending every single second of his life with her! Ah!

Amanda – one who is fit to be loved, lovable. Rodney translates this as someone with the power to hypnotize you into caring about and doing things for them even when you don’t want to; and that’s not very convenient, is it?

He loved Amanda more than he cared to admit, and it scared him silly. People were starting to notice that there was very little he wouldn’t do for her, very little that he wasn’t willing to give up – for her. His friends were calling him otoolege now. He knew they were just envious and yet, it got to him. He couldn’t afford to lose his place as the ‘leader’ in their group. That was the real reason why he broke up with her.

Fast forward to two weeks after the breakup, and enter Esi Belinda. Esi Belinda had a good enough face; he could work with that. Her personality was a bit flat, but surely, he could change that.

The deciding factor was her name combo: Esi-Belinda. Wow! The safest he could have wished for. Esi was simply a girl born on Sunday and Belinda meant beautiful snake. Beautiful snake paaahn?! He had laughed till he had tears in his eyes when he had found that out.

He found snakes disgusting; in his opinion, even the most beautiful snake could not be lovable. He would be safe with this beautiful snake born on Sunday. He would be the man!

The first couple of weeks went great, she cooked for him, washed his clothes; all things that Amanda refused to do.

In the third week, things began to change.

First, he found himself doing her assignments. Next, he was losing sleep because he had to stay up all night, either out with her friends, painting her nails or doing some other activity she had dreamt up. What was all this?! Would he never know any peace?!

That was the build up to him being in Esi Belinda’s hostel one hot Sunday afternoon, but not with her in her room. He was at the back, at the washing area, all alone, sweating half his body weight away. He must have been a sight to behold; a 6 foot 5” “macho man” with charcoal skin bent over a tiny bright pink bucket that his hands seemed to have trouble fitting into. His well-toned abs ,exposed, the racetrack for the drops of sweat that raced to his waistline. Brows furrowed and the tip of his tongue sticking out in concentration, his hands rubbed away at the sudsy contents of the bucket. Satisfied with his work, a small smile tugged at his lips as he squeezed, and then shook out what he had just washed.

And that was how Amanda found him when she click-clacked in her turquoise heels that complemented her form-fitting white church dress to get her towel off the drying line. Tall, sexy Rodney, shirtless body glistening, big smile on his face, holding up the most gigantic, most misshapen granny panty she had ever seen, stretched out between his hands!

“Ei!”, she couldn’t help it. The word jumped out of her throat making him turn sharply.
His face had immediately been wiped clean of the smile and was now contorted in an emotion she couldn’t put a name to. Maybe it was many emotions mashed up into one. She burst out laughing.

Several times he opened and closed his mouth, as though searching for words to explain the situation. He seemed to give up and walked to hang up what he had washed. Struggling to suppress her giggles, she followed him and touched his face.

“I’m sorry.”
He turned his head away from her.
“Rodney, I’m sorry…”
This time, he gave a tiny nod.
“I’m making jollof. It will be ready in 30minutes”

He turned to look at her. A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips.
They both knew he would be at her door before it was ready.

“The Love Nest” by Linda Asante.

The street was empty of the screaming children and flustered mothers. The stalls had all been packed up and put away to the side of the road. The market woman had covered them with bamboo leaves to protect from the sand. It was a vain effort because the dust in the air after the market day settled everywhere, but they did it nonetheless. Consequently the leaves and everything in sight wore gleaming brown coats.

Ebo took long lazy strides, dragging his feet along in the dirt on the street.  His worn out loafers were open in the front showing his dirt clogged nails. He had rolled up his black trousers to expose his extremely hairy legs, and tucked into them his black shirt.  It was stained with blotches of paint from his last job but it was his finest so he had donned it anyway.  Of course, he had undone the first few buttons of the shirt to show off the hairs on his chest. Ebo took out the stick he’d been chewing from his mouth and spat on the floor.  He was getting close. He cupped his hands and rubbed them across his face.  The hair bristles on his face were short and spiky. He hadn’t shaved in days, but the look suited him.  He took a look at his grubby hands, and then hid them in his pockets. He probably should have washed his hands.  No time for that now, he was closer. And she was waiting. He was sure.

He could spot the place up ahead; where they were to meet. It was slightly off the side of the road where a tree stood among the bushes. This tree was special. It was an old one, extremely long and barrelling up to the sky, and yet its leaves fell really low like a rich velvet curtain.  Behind the tree, two thick branches came down and crossed each other creating a hammock-like nest, a love nest.
He saw her waiting for him. There was excitement in her eyes as she sat in the nest, her bare feet barely touching the floor and swinging above the fallen leaves. She was beautiful. Ebo walked faster with anticipation.
He slowed down when he came to the tree, and crept towards it. He would surprise her and catch her off guard. Then they would laugh and roll around in the leaves.

But when Ebo jumped around the tree to where the hammock was, she was not there. He almost laughed out loud. His imagination was very active. Ebo shook his head and sat in the hammock.  He couldn’t believe he had fooled himself to believe she would really come. The corners of her mouth had upturned in ridicule, not excitement, when he had asked her out. How dare he, a painter express interest in his Massa’s daughter? She was only mocking him. He had hoped too much.
Well, all he had to do now was imagine he didn’t really care. And as Ebo pushed off the ground and swung himself back and forth, he could feel himself caring less and less. But he still couldn’t shake off and imagine away that feeling of disappointment.