Hey there” I whispered into the mouthpiece.
“Hey big head” she responded.

Her voice was flat. I was used to hearing a dove coo on the phone whenever we spoke, so I immediately knew something was wrong.

“You good babes?” I asked.
“Yes I am hon” she responded. You?”
“I’m fine. I kinda missed you, so I decided to call. Are you sure you’re fine?”
“Yes. I miss you too, but I’m fine, just a little tired.”
“Aww. Be easy mami. Life’s short you know, take things easy. How’s he?”

A few seconds ticked by before she responded to that one.

“Fine jare. He’s fine. And how’s she?” she asked.
“There’s no she yet.”

Her voice dropped lower.

“Yes” I answered. “Still.”

She sighed.

“I’m sorry Ini. Really, I am.”
“Babes, don’t be. You know I’m fine. In fact, I think I’ll be in Lagos by the end of the month. We can catch a movie or something.”

The transformation in her voice was instant and obvious.

“Really? Yay! I’ll start counting the days. Can we squeeze in a meal too, please? There’s this fantastic new Chinese restaurant on Ozumba that I’ve been saving for the right occasion. You have to let me take you.”

I was smiling as I accepted her proposition.

“No problems dearie. It’s your city. Who am I to stop you?”
“Yes it is, and I’ll gladly show you a few of the other new delights in town if you can spare the time. Buzz me when your arrival date is confirmed will you? I need to draw up a special list of places.”
“Roger that ma’am” I said laughing. “I have to go now though. From where I stand I can see the boss is swelling up and turning blue in the face. You don’t want him to explode while I’m here do you?”

She laughed, and it felt like a cool evening shower after a particularly hot and sticky day.

“No I don’t. Now go darling.”
“Aight babes. You’ll be good now yes?”
“You bet!” she answered before disconnecting.

Naomi was on my mind as I drove home later that evening.

Something was obviously wrong, and it had to do with her husband. I mentally went through my schedule for the month to create time for the Lagos trip. I wasn’t supposed to be in Lagos for another three months but the lifelessness in her voice had been too much to overlook. Her joyful reaction was enough proof that I’d made the right call.

Always and forever was what I’d promised her, and that’s how it will be for as long as I can breathe.