Tunmise drove into the compound as Baba Kasali let her in. She was glad to see Baba Kasali and the way he waved at her as she drove in indicated the feeling was mutual.

While Audu, the other gateman was very efficient at his job, he lacked the perkiness of Baba Kasali that she enjoyed. When she was a lot younger, Baba Kasali had always been her comic relief, even though he shamelessly asked for tips.

His usual style was to talk your ears out and then not-too-subtly chip in his reward. Whether it was for the conversation or opening the gate, Tunmise could not tell, all she knew was she didn’t want him any other way.

She parked her car under a coconut tree at the side of the house and walked towards him.

“Aunty Tunmise, Ekaabo o, eku ojo meta, inu mi dun lati ri yin o (Aunty Tunmise, welcome, it’s been a while, I’m so happy to see you),” he greeted cheerfully in his heavily accented Ijebu accent.

“Ese o(Thank you), she replied mirroring his mood and pretended to walk away.

He rubbed his protruding belly and smiled sheepishly as he said, “O ti pe ti mo ti rin yin, se eni ri mi? (I haven’t seen you in a while, won’t you see me?)”

The man was incorrigible, Tunmise thought fondly. She had barely gotten home and he was asking for money.

“Ehn, mon rin yin (yes, I can see you),” she answered, feigning ignorance.

He just kept the sheepish smile on his face, knowing very well she knows what he meant.

His smile was so contagious, she joined him. “Baba Kasali, e ti change (Baba Kasali, you’ve not changed). She brought out two notes and handed it to him.

“Ti awon aburo yin ni (it’s for your younger ones – a cultural belief that recognizes everybody as family).”

“Ehn ehn! Se won ti increase sha? (Ok! Hope they haven’t increased? Referring to his children).”

“Ah, won ti o. Iya Ramota se bimo ni, Iya Kasali o nipe bimo (Oh yes, they have. Ramota’s mother just gave birth and Kasali’s mum is close to her due date).”

“Oga o, e ku ise, e take care (Wow, well done, take care),” she replied, making her way to the front door.

The door opened just as she was about to ring the doorbell. She regarded the lady at the door, first with surprise and then her signature quiet perusal. They had similar colouring, height and oval face, she thought but their eyes differed. While the lady’s were cat-like, hers were somewhat round.

“Hello, I’m Tunmise,” she said at length.

“Sandra,” the quiet voice offered. “Welcome. Your mother and brother are in the dining room having lunch.”

Tunmise thought she had a nice voice, the kind that could sell as an On-Air-Personality. “Thank you, have we met before?”

“No, I’m the new help; your mum employed me about two months ago,” Sandra replied.

“Oh, don’t you speak too good to be a house help?” Tunmise asked bluntly. Sandra only smiled, revealing a dimpled cheek.

“Sorry, that was probably out of line,” she said when Sandra didn’t answer. “Were you going somewhere?”

“Yeah, getting airtime for your mum. Why don’t you go in? You must be tired.”

“That’s right, thank you.” Tunmise moved out of the way so Sandra could pass and she in turn went in, realizing her silliness at that moment, standing by the door engaging the poor lady in unnecessary conversation.

She stood a few seconds longer in the hallway, taking in the smell of home. She hadn’t been home in three, four months, she wasn’t so sure.

Now she was here, she realized she missed it.

She had been really busy this past few months and she guessed it had been an escape too, from her mother’s subtle hints at marriage and children.

Tunmise smiled, knowing she was bound to receive doses of it this weekend; she probably shouldn’t have listened to Pamilerin when he suggested coming home this weekend.

But who was she kidding; she couldn’t exactly stay away from her family.

She decided as she turned to the dining room on the left of the hallway that she would just have to punish her mother for her nosiness by not telling her about the new guy she met.

Pamilerin sighted her just as she turned into the dining room and before she could get a word out, she was swooped into a bear hug. She laughed as he started swirling her around.

“Put me down, you knucklehead,” she shouted but there was no heat in it.

“I missed you,” he said simply but he put her down and then eyed her. “You look good,” he complimented, without inflection.

“Thanks.” She walked over to her mother who had already spread out her hands for a hug. “Good afternoon, mum.”

“How are you, my darling?” Esther hugged her daughter then put her at arm’s length and looked her over. “There is something about you, like a glow. You look happy.”

“Jeez! I am happy! Tunmise replied, exasperated. “I’m home, aren’t I?”

“You are happy cause you’re home?” Pamilerin threw in from where he was still standing.

 “Yeah!” she exclaimed in reply.

“Could have fooled me,” she heard her mum mutter from beside her.

“Mum, please don’t start. Let me go freshen up and come eat before you start on my case. I’m famished and I’m barely home.”

“Jeez!” she said again and at that, she strode away from the room, more to escape than anything.

She pretended not to hear their mumbling as she left. She was home, she realized, and this was one of the signs, pestering from every corner.

As she passed the hallway towards the front door to go upstairs to her room via the parlour on the right side of the hall, she saw Sandra come in.

They exchanged a smile as they passed each other, as if sharing a joke. Tunmise was still thinking about why Sandra’s smile looked familiar when she got to her room to freshen up.

To be continued next week friday