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Fine Maple

Fine Maple

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Fine Maple

3.5/5 (3 ratings)
175 pages
2 hours
Jul 28, 2020


Agnes is 37, never been married, has two kids for a man who left her to marry a woman who wouldn't add weight after childbirth, and owns a small pastry business she runs from her apartment. She is the description of what society calls an 'old cargo', a woman with kids whom no sane man would marry. She is okay with this reality and only lives to take care of her kids and grow her business.
Until Bass shows up at her door. He’s everything that’s wrong—he’s younger by seven years, he’s kind of an online celebrity, he’s her neighbour and her only friend’s cousin. It was a disaster waiting to happen but Bass thinks otherwise. Can Agnes dare believe his convincing words?

Jul 28, 2020

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Fine Maple - Emem Bassey

First Published in Great Britain in 2020 by


103 Reaver House, 12 East Street, Epsom KT17 1HX


Text copyright © Emem Bassey, 2020

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

The right of Emem Bassey to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

ISBN: 9780463338230

Also available as paperback


To Peter Bassey,

The best wingman any girl could ask for. Your skills are legendary.


Ha! Kiru, you come first on this one. Thank you for demanding the best from me and never ceasing to praise. You're an amazing woman, I can't say this enough.

To my immediate-direct boss at my nine to five, Itoro Noah, thank you for understanding and granting me leeway when I sorely needed it. You have no idea how great a help that had been. 

I cannot forget my family, mom, Tonia, Blaze and favorite niece, Nitta, you don't know, but some of your weird conversations trickle into my writing and I'm grateful there's a cache of them lurking somewhere in my memory, waiting to rescue me on a rainy day. Then there were the long video calls that helped relieved my stress after staring at my laptop for hours. Thanks for the laughs.

My readers and, especially, the reviewers, y'all are the reason we writers are heard...sorry, read. 

I'm most grateful to Biyai Garricks of @rovingbookworm, those posts on your blog and the interview, simply warmed my heart.

Jite of @now_booking, your reviews are smashing! Like I mentioned before, you'll make a great writer, yourself.

Mo of @bookreviewbymo, your excitement and blatant enjoyment of my stories, always, has me wishing I could reel out books as fast as I breathe. Who knows, it could happen if I met a fairy godmother willing to adopt me.

Love Africa Press, you are amazing. Thank you. Keep shinning the love on African stories.


Agnes is 37, never been married, has two kids for a man who left her to marry a woman who wouldn't add weight after childbirth, and owns a small pastry business she runs from her apartment. She is the description of what society calls an 'old cargo', a woman with kids whom no sane man would marry. She is okay with this reality and only lives to take care of her kids and grow her business.

Until Bass shows up at her door. He’s everything that’s wrong—he’s younger by seven years, he’s kind of an online celebrity, he’s her neighbour and her only friend’s cousin. It was a disaster waiting to happen but Bass thinks otherwise. Can Agnes dare believe his convincing words?


Agnes wanted to try Mandy’s number again. But it became her turn to go through the slow security process at the entrance of De Choice shopping mall. It was bad enough everyone and their cousin in Uyo wanted to shop at this mall today.

Harried, her hands shook as she tried to stuff her big purse into one of the tiny lockers provided for the purpose. It was embarrassing that she’d dropped the bag twice in her attempt to fit it into the cube-like compartment.

However, she was grateful that the woman behind her had acted calm and understanding as opposed to the mean impatience she’d come to expect from people.

This was the first time she had left her babies for more than twenty minutes. Before the birth of her two-year-old daughter, Ruth, she’d taken four-year-old Benny everywhere. His father never bothered to babysit for an hour while she went to the market, came home and cooked a complicated meal he’d requested to impress his friends.

The result of a futile relationship with the emperor of douchebag arseholes of the universe.

Ukpono would hold this position even in death. It was an award for all eternity. Nobody else could come close to his brand of filth.

Huffing, she brisk-walked through the aisles, shelves stacked with every tin, bottled and packed product imaginable. From detergents to beverages to spices, Agnes just couldn’t find what she was looking for as it was her first time in the mall.

Excuse me. She stopped an attendant with a branded t-shirt bearing the supermarket’s logo. Please, where can I find baking supplies?

Oh, this way. The young lad pointed at a sign dangling from the ceiling, four rows down.

Thank you. She gave him a half-smile and hurried away.

A few paces later, she slipped and gripped the edge of a shelf to avoid landing on her buttocks. Jeezuz!

Her flat sandals were overused. The soles were as smooth as a rolling pin. She’d been in a hurry to deliver meat pies for an event and had shoved her feet into the first thing by the front door, forgetting the problem of the frictionless shoes.

She’d had no prior plan for a trip to the mall as she bought supplies in bulk from wholesalers. However, a new client placed an urgent order for pastry requiring maple syrup, and this was the best place locally to find different brands of the product. The same client had delayed Agnes, by nit-picking about the recipe she’d initially said was perfect.

The agreement had been for Mandy to watch the kids for thirty minutes and she’d left home over an hour ago. Hence the need to hurry.

Hand-on-chest, heart-thumping hard, Agnes caught her breath, relieved to escape the embarrassing encounter with the floor tiles.

With her five-foot-eight height and full figure, it would have been a spectacle to behold. At least, her jeans trouser would have protected her modesty. There was no telling how her loose, V-neck top would’ve faired though. Perhaps pictures would have been taken by some overzealous, social media fiend. Much like the one Ukpono had married. One that had given birth without getting fat. A picture-perfect woman.

Why had she thought about the father of her children twice in a few minutes?

Shaking her head, she scoffed and continued her search. As soon as she stepped into the baking supplies row, any idea of being careful with the sandals vanished.

This was her happy place—Heaven on Earth. If she had millions in her bank account, she would buy everything and try new recipes. With the array of products on display, perhaps, she would reduce the number of items she ordered from Lagos and Port Harcourt.

God, everything was so beautiful. Lost in a daydream as she stared at the different goodies, she jerked in shock when another shopper mentioned the time to a companion—4.20 pm.

Crap! She’d been away from home for two hours, and she still hadn’t called Mandy to explain.

She grabbed a jar of syrup and power-walked towards the payment counter.

Of course, the universe had to send a reminder to be more careful.

Her feet slid in different directions along the smooth floor. Her breath froze, arms flailing.

She was about to execute a graceless split, and she wasn’t a gymnast. The jar would break, covering her in a sticky mess, and worse, cutting her skin. Lots of people would be entertained or scandalised in real life and on social media.

Funny how the mind worked when faced with calamity.

Got you, a deep, male voice said.

The same moment muscular arms grabbed her hips from behind and steadied her.

Panting heavily, trying to suck air into her tightened chest, it took a few seconds to fully register her saviour’s presence.

His breath ruffled the hairs at her nape, his scent delicious.

Her mouth watered. A shiver tingled down her spine and butterflies fluttered in her stomach.

Was she reacting to the baking goods or to this guy? A guy she still hadn’t looked at and had no intentions of doing so.

Shame. Perhaps, the near-fall experience had recalibrated her body.

A small audience stared in their direction, increasing her anxiety.

Err... she mumbled, words failing to get through her parched throat.

Are you okay? His hands shifted to her arms, his touch gentle.

Her skin tingled with awareness of him, his body only inches away. Did excitement come with a knee-melting capacity?

I’m fine, thank you so much. She managed to work her mouth and form coherent words.

Squinting, she smiled in his general direction and walked towards the desk. The narrowed eyes were on purpose, to hide her painful shyness. Like an ostrich, she buried her head in the sand. Not seeing the epitome of maleness behind her reduced her embarrassment.

My pleasure, he called out, his deep voice filled with humour.

An urge to turn and look gripped her. Maybe he was as handsome as his mouth-watering scent indicated and she would have a little sensual bedtime material.

But the audience hadn’t dispersed, and anxiety superseded arousal.

Despite the danger of falling again, she didn’t slow or glance back. Luckily, the counter wasn’t crowded. She paid for the syrup and left the shop before more dirty thoughts developed.


I’m so sorry for taking so much time.

Twelve, Mandy said with her head down, scarfing down the bread sandwich she’d required as payment for babysitting the kids. She’d been muttering random numbers since Agnes’s return. Had Benny infected her with his counting everything?

Why are you mentioning random numbers? Agnes smiled, rinsing off plates at the sink of the small kitchen.

They are not random, just the number of times you’ve apologised since you got home. Your average is six but today takes the bacon at twelve.


Thirteen! Wow, you don’t seem to be done.

Agnes sighed, biting her tongue to curb the need to apologise again. A difficult-to-stop habit she had developed in response to her usually quick-to-spank father. Showing remorse and apologising had worked wonders in helping her escape his wrath.

However, apologising hadn’t helped when she’d gotten pregnant out of wedlock and had brought shame to the family. It had not worked when Ukpono had chosen to marry the other woman over her.

I’m just really appreciative of your help, Mandy. I don’t know what I’m going to do when you leave next week. Her voice broke, and she stared down at her hands, unable to hide the sadness as she remembered how they’d met.


Mandy, short for Mmandu had walked into her life five months ago at their landlord’s front door, upstairs. They had come to check out the vacant, two-bedroom apartments in the two-storey building. She’d used an estate agent while Agnes had asked around locally until she had been directed to the premises.

At twenty-eight, Mandy was an outspoken ball of energy and had required some effort for Agnes to get used to her. She’d played with Benny in the landlord’s beautiful sitting room. Then Mr Joe Akang, their elegant, older-gentleman landlord, had announced the rent.

Agnes’s face had fallen. Her budget had been way lower.

Mandy had offered to cover the balance before any of them could say anything. She’d paid the balance of the rent, twenty thousand naira.

Agnes had been in shock at the time. She’d been at a low point.

She had dated Ukpono for eleven years and had no idea when he’d gone and married someone else.

He’d left home one day, supposedly travelling for business. Not farfetched since he was a car dealer. Then she’d seen the wedding pictures on Facebook.

Seven years of her life and two kids and he’d done that.

His betrayal had cut deep, nearly destroyed her. She’d wanted to kill herself. Only the thought of abandoning her kids had kept her alive.

The shame had stayed, though, had infested her mind, making her feel unworthy. Especially since she was the first daughter with two younger sisters and had been reminded of the terrible example, she’d set for them. Her parents still hadn’t forgiven her. Not to mention the toxic neighbours in the area she’d lived.

Unable to reach Ukpono and with a month left on the rental agreement, she had sold off items from the old house and started searching for a new place.

Determined to make a fresh start and protect her two angels, her plan had been to rent a cheaper property. Then use the extra cash

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