I stirred the food continuesly but it was not turning out the way I was taught.
Something must be missing out.
I have added all the required ingredients but still it was still very watery and light.
What I’m I really missing out?
I have watched Stella prepare it more than twice.
Ijeoma handed the cooking over to me today.
She said I have to be the one to make lunch for the entire house.
Stella endorsed it and I smile so well when I saw what was on the food menu.
This afternoon is going to be the best because I’m fully in charge.
“Don’t cook rubbish o… this one you are acting like you knows how to cook. Madam and her husband will be having lunch, their son inclusive…. that’s the boss himself. Stella won’t be able to remedy it if you cook rubbish. You have been here for more than four months, you supposed to know how to cook perfectly. I’m only warning you ahead of time so that you don’t disgrace yourself and your entire village people today.
Ijeoma said to me that afternoon.
“You worry about me too much. I guess is time to start focusing on yourself more. You are afraid of me cooking rubbish…not to worry, even madam and her entire household will be pleased. You will hear of all the good that they will say about me. Just watch and see Ijeoma.
She clapped her hand together in mocking way but I didn’t pay attention to her.
After she left I began my cooking with so much assurance on myself.
I felt good because I know I was not going to mess up.
I was certain at first that my food will turn out delicious and Ijeoma will bury her head in shame
Not untill I realized instead of turning out fine the soup was very watery and not good to look at.
I can’t run my mouth at Ijeoma and still mess up.
She will ridicule me before dragging me to the mud.
I tasted it again, trying to figure out what was missing but I still can’t tell.
“No… this isn’t happening. I can’t mess up this food. everyone is looking out for lunch…I can’t give story and end up disgracing myself….
I muttered within myself as I continued pacing up and down.
Why is the food still watery… Why is it tasting like this? Why… why…
Questions flooded my head that I can’t answer.
I was in a state of dilemma.
Is almost time for lunch and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I was cooking.
I’m in a serious deep trouble. I may even get suspended or sacked if my employers finds out that a simple local delicacy as oha soup I can’t prepare it.
Oha soup maybe simple but is one of the most difficult food to prepare.
Ijeoma does it well and it tastes great.
Stella knows how to prepare everything.
I thought making it won’t be an issue because I have seen how it’s been done severally.
Is one of the delicacy that Mrs Kanu enjoys with her husband.
I can’t possibly make a mistake. No, I can’t.
I tip toed to the door to check if I can get any sort of help before Ijeoma will comes into the kitchen but I got none.
I left my phone at my quarters, I could have used it to search the internet maybe I will get the soup right.
Now, I’m left with nothing except a pot of watery disaster.
I said a prayer to God for help but I wasn’t even concentrating on it. My mind was distracted but I just needed to do something quick before it becomes late.
Not this time that Phil was begining to show likeness in me. he was moving close unlike before. I can’t come and mess up now and make him dislike me.
“Oh God help me…. I’m in serious deep shit…
The water has refused to dry, even if is a little. probably it will thicken that way but
No matter what I do there was no improvement.
A voice startled me from behind. I quickly turned and it was Phil coming into the kitchen and walking up to me.
I quickly flashed him a smile before covering the cooking pot and standing in front of it so that he won’t see the disaster that I was making.
“… you are in charge of lunch today? That’s great. What are you making…
He said still moving close. I stood overshadowing the cooking pot.
“Mmm! Oha soup…
“Oh, interesting. Are you almost done or you need help…
“Yes, almost through… with the soup…
I said shakily
He smiled as he came to stand beside me. His warm skin touched mine unknowingly and sent shiver down my spine
“Can I have a taste… please?
He sounded like a child begging for a biscuit with a very cute smile on his face.
How can I even give him a taste of the rubbish I’m cooking?
How do I even come out of this?
Even after putting all the ingredients, it was still looking like a river scattered with oha leaves, stock fish, meat and other things each in a different part of the boiling pot.
“…Is there a problem? Or you don’t want me to be the first to taste the food…
He said again and chuckled.
“Uhmmm! Phil I want you to be the first to taste my cooking but I haven’t added all the ingredients yet…I need to add more seasoning cubes and salt… also crayfish too…
That’s the only lie I could come up with. I wish he can be gone already.
“Okay…no problem Keji. Open the pot let me see the face of the soup. How it looks will determine how it will taste…
I thought of a lie but it wasn’t fort coming. I need to do something so that he can leave the kitchen and allow me strategies on what exactly to do.
I opened my mouth but shut it again.
“…Is there a problem?
he asked concerned.
I admitted with a nod.
His face changed into a frown. I felt at that moment that I can trust him and he will keep my little secret within ourselves
I don’t know what gave me such guts maybe I was just tired of lying to cover up my shit.
I opened the pot of boiling disaster with my eyes closed and he suddenly burst out laughing.
I looked at him and he was really trying to control his laughter.
“…I.. I’m sorry but I.. can’t help it. I’m not laughing at your soup but at the way you closed eyes when you opened the pot…
I wish I can laugh too but my heart was racing. His reaction was relieving but how do I remedy this.
Philip took the spoon and stir the soup. He later dropped it before removing it from the cooker.
“I’m really sorry Phil. I thought I got this but it turned out to be a mess. I don’t know what to do… I’m very ashamed of myself. Even if you understand but others who are waiting for lunch won’t. I’m really confused because I added all the required ingredients it still didn’t make sense. I’m sorry Philip…I really messed up today’s lunch… and I don’t know what to do…
I continued apologizing to Philip who seems like he doesn’t mind.
“Is fine Keji. Things like this happens sometimes…is not your fault. Is not your common tribal local delicacy that you are already used to. Growing up…I usually watch either my mom or our cook back then prepare this soup. I’m not a great chef but I know together with you this soup will turn out great.
I nodded. But if anybody walks into the kitchen and see him cooking that may not go down well with his parents or the entire house.
That was why we are employed as cooks.
It was as if he understood my fear when he later said
“…There’s nothing to be afraid of Keji. I got you covered in this one. I will tell anybody that walks in that you are teaching me how to prepare oha soup…but that’s only if the explanation is necessary…
We started all over. I have to remove the meat and some of the stock fish that was used in my watery soup.
I poured the remaining things away and washed off any sign that will link me to it.
I followed every of his instructions and it was fun working with him.
“The mistake you made in the first soup was that you added too much water and you didn’t add the soup thickener. You can either use cocoyam or the other powder ones that help in thickening soups like this. Next time don’t add too much seasoning cubes. We’re lucky to still have fresh oha leave in the fridge…
I was just nodding to everything he was saying like an agama lizard.
Ijeoma came into the kitchen and I was just about adding the oha leaf which was the last part of the soup preparation.
Philip stepped away as Ijeoma entered and folded his hand in akimbo style as if he was just watching while I do the cooking.
Ijeoma greeted him and did not hide her surprised face when she saw Philip in the kitchen.
“Keji, can I have a taste of your cooking now before I leave…
He said it to Ijeoma’s hearing. I know he didn’t want Ijeoma to find out that he was actually the one teaching me how to cook the meal.
He stretched out his hand and asked me to put some in his palm and I quickly did.
He tasted it with a nod.
“You did so well Keji. I know how difficult our Iocal soup can be but you nailed it. Thank you for putting me through on how to prepare it. next time Ijeoma will include me in the list of cooks…
Ijeoma started laughing so loud as if someone was stroking her armpit.
She probably enjoyed the way Philip mentioned her name.
…. Keji, give Ijeoma some to taste so that she can also confirm of what I said.
I did as she also stretched her palm towards me.
Philip looked at her and asked.
“So…what do you think Ijeoma? Keji nailed it right…?
“Uhmmm! Well sir…she tried. I wouldn’t say she nailed it though because I’m more of a great cook than her. to be frank it’s not so delicious, she used Yoruba style in making it instead of the normal igbo way… anyway, I’m surprised that the soup turned out good though..
Philip washed off his hand and turned to leave.
“In the next thirty minutes I will be on the dining room with Mom waiting…
He massaged his two palm together, winked at me before turning to leave.
A loud laughter from deep within erupted through my mouth as he walked away.
“I came to inform you that is lunch time already. This simple soup took you almost three hours to prepare… well, I can see who kept you in the kitchen for so long. The boss is probably hungry and which was why he came to the kitchen. Instead of you to hurry up so that he can have lunch you decide to engage him in your boring conversation. Even though the soup is not all that delicious but atleast is manageable. Everyone will just manage it like that. My oha soup beats every other person’s… even Stella’s confirmed it. You are just a baby compared to my cooking… anyway, take plates out and start dishing out food, is almost past time. Don’t allow the boss’s praise or his close presence to gets into your head o! You are still not his type and neither from his tribe. Let me warn you before you gets your hopes up. Move out of the way let me pass….mtcheeeeeewwee….!
She sighed heavily as she walked pass me and still didn’t stop talking.
I was too excited and didn’t reply her or even pay attention to her.
That was how Philip saved my ass from being whooped.
He just showed up that day and helped my troubled soul.
What could i have done if he didn’t show up that day.
We get to laugh over it after few days when he invited me to sit with him by the pool side during the weekend.
He asked if I was seeing somebody, like in a relationship. that was the third time he was asking me that within two weeks and I still told him that I’m very very single.
“Why…. ? I’m surprised that you are single..
Maybe because I picture you differently Keji…
He said while looking from my eyes to my lips.
My heart skipped as I imagined him kissing me for the very first time.
I’m so much into Philip that even my body language speaks loudly of it.
Is very difficult for me to hide my feeling whenever we are close to each other.
I guess he knows it too but seem to be acting all cool.
He is very careful in other not to make mistake.
Philip is an articulated kind of person.
I replied him with a smile
“Seeing me differently still doesn’t change the fact that I’m still single Phil. I decided not to rush into a relationship like I used to do. I want something serious with somebody my heart yawns for… a very unique man whom I always want to call mine. I’m single because I want to be not because there’s no man in town who wants me. I want something different from what I used to have…
He smiled and decided not to ask me further questions.
I noticed the juice jug was running out before excusing myself to refill.
When I turned to look back at him he was looking at me and this was like the fourth time I have caught him looking at me from behind.
I flashed him a smile and he smiled back.
As I stepped away to get more juice in a jug my phone started ringing.
I didn’t know until when I returned and he was holding it.
“Kunle have been calling you…and he left a message which shows on your screen.
My heart skipped a little because new messages usually pops up on my phone screen whenever my phone is locked.
I poured more drink into his cup after dropping my phone back to the table without bothering to look at what Kunle sent.
“Are you two seeing each other? I mean Kunle…
“Mmmm! Yes…I went out with him like three times but there’s nothing serious is going on.
He was quiet as he looked at me.
“You hanged out in a bar? Hope you didn’t get drunk Keji? Or you visited his place…I don’t know why I’m not comfortable with the way you made hanging out with Kunle appear…but I guess my major concern is you getting drunk …and somebody taking advantage of you…
I rubbed my two sweating palm together and said.
“I didn’t get drunk Phil. The last time I got drunk was the evening I met you. Ever since then I have become more discipline than ever. I’m no more the arrogant, worldly Keji. I still have a little bit of every thing….crazy inclusive but my better side wins over the other part of me. I hanged out with Kunle in a bar…a very big executive bar and I also visited his place but nothing serious happened… neither did I drink out of proportion…
I said trying to sound convincing.
He took a sip from his juice cup before setting it down.
“Okay. You initially made it looks like you don’t like Kunle. I was even trying to convince you about him but you appear uninterested. I really don’t know Kunle but looking at him that day he was out for fun and had that desirable looks for you but you seem like he wasn’t your kinda man. What made you to suddenly reconsider him…?
As I opened my mouth to speak, his phone began to ring.
He answered the call and it was his mother who wanted him to drive down to somewhere and pick up something for her.
He stood and said we will continue our discussion next time.
I just felt it in my guts that Philip was slipping off again from me.
I looked at the message from Kunle.
“Baby I have been calling. I really missed you my love. Please, try let’s see, either at my place or at the big boys joint. I miss your pretty face Keji, your smile and your soft skin… Love you XOXOXO…!
This Kunle chose to send this kind of message at a very wrong time.
Why now that I’m with Philip who was showing interest in me already.
Something I have waited so long for and it was finally happening Kunle just want to destroy it with his senseless message.
I don’t know why he has refused to heed to the fact that I don’t want him.
I hope Philip won’t take anything about Kunle personal.
Three days later Philip still haven’t invited me to sit with him in the evening like he used to.
I was patient and waited for a week even two weeks but nothing.
He was hardly around and whenever he is he remains upstairs in his room.
I was looking for opportunity to see him but none came.
Untill one evening we were informed to make room and prepare a nice continental dish because Philip will be having visitor.
I saw when he left that weekend to the airport to pick his visitor.
I heard Ijeoma saying to my hearing that is his fiancee who went for her masters abroad.
They said her name was Amara.
Even Mrs Kanu seems happy as the visitor arrived.
I saw the skinny tall and beautiful girl hugged Mrs Kanu so tight.
They all seem happy even Philip was smiling.
She put a hand to Phil’s waist, kissed his cheeks again for the second time.
I guess she whispered how much she has missed him to his ear.
Two of the house staffs came to carry her luggage inside.
I gasped out in defeat. There was nothing left for me to do.
Philip and his woman are back and I guess their next agenda will be wedding.
At work the following day, Stella noticed my sad demeanor and asked if I was alright.
Ijeoma without waiting for me to reply said.
“She thought the boss will fall for her charms but his God is alive. his wife to be, our very own daughter of the soil and beauty to behold is back with a master degree. She even speaks like a foreigner and the boss can’t take his eyes away from her. Unfortunately, our very own sister ofe mmanu here can’t take the heart break…. hahahaha. She thought is by making oha soup or other of her concortion… or looking beautiful, she didn’t know there more to a man’s heart. Keji is suffering from heart breakage. Stella she will be alright…
Stella didn’t pay attention to what Ijeoma was saying.
She walked up to me and asked if I was alright and I told her that I’m very fine.
I even smiled to prove it but deep within Ijeoma was right.
Even though her English sound stupid but I’m seriously suffering from heart “breakage”
I’m just trying to be fine and move on.
I will still not consider Kunle even though I needed distraction right now.
Is probably because of the call and message Phil saw made him kept me at a distance.
I told him the truth without mincing word.
I really don’t know how to deal with Philip and his woman who suddenly appear when Philip was giving me a green light.
The worst was when Ijeoma asked me after two days to take drink to Philip and his Amara by the pool side where they were swimming together.