The events of the past weeks fade from my mind when I see my boys. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed them, they don’t look like they’ve lost any weight. They cling to me, trying to tell me all that has happened while I was gone. I gather that they’ve been walking on eggshells around their father. He’s been carrying out his anger towards me on them.
“So Daddy cooks for you?” I ask.
“No, Aunty Tayo comes to cook for us.”
I frown in confusion, Tayo is Dayo’s younger sister. She doesn’t usually go out of her way to do anything for anyone. I wonder what changed her mind, did Dayo tell her about our problems? Most likely, and if he’s told her then she’s told her mother. I sigh, my mother-in-aw is going to summon me soon. That’s for sure.
“Mummy you’re not travelling again, right?” Tomiwa asks.
I hesitate. “Not now.” I reply cautiously.
“I’m glad you’re home Mummy.” Dotun says, resting his head on my chest.
Dayo comes home at night when the boys are fast asleep.
“Hi.” I say to him when I open the door.
He’s lost some weight and he looks really tired. His face is sweaty, is something wrong with the AC in the truck? He smirks and walks in.
I follow him into our room and sit on the bed while he gets out of his work clothes.
“Dayo…” I try again, he goes into the toilet to ease himself.
When he returns, he sits on the bed and begins to take off his shoes.
“Are you really not going to say anything to me?”
He doesn’t respond, he leaves his shoes by the bed and goes out of the room. I hear him opening the pots, he’s dishing his food. After one month, this is the welcome I get!
“You’re unhappy Remi… I want to make you happy.”
I hear Mr Martins’ voice loud and clear as if he is seated right next to me and I remember his touch, gentle, reassuring. I lean forward and clasp my head. How can I shut this man out of my head when my own husband is unwelcoming and unloving? I don’t want to be one of those women who cheat on their husbands, I’ve always believed that no good woman can dishonor her husband in such a manner. Dayo and I have been faithful to one another all these years, how can I just throw away our history because of a smooth talking married man who also happens to be my neighbor? I wish I could talk to someone about this but Uju and I are not in a good place, besides, she’ll only just tell me what I already know.
Dayo comes into the room and gets into bed, ready to sleep. Are we just going to continue this madness, and go to bed without reconciling? What can I do? I get up and go to his side.
“Dayo,” I kneel beside him. “Olowo ori mi, sweetheart, please don’t be angry. I know I hurt your feelings but please forgive me. You know I only did it for our home, for our children, I just wanted to help.”
“By disrespecting me?” he asks angrily.
“I didn’t mean to disrespect you Dayo, I just… I just wanted to help, that’s all.”
I’m sad as I say these words, sad and angry. Angry that I have to justify wanting a better life and career, sad that this is what I’ve come to. A woman who has to plead with her husband for the right to accomplish. But my home is important, isn’t it? This is what I was raised to believe, this is what I believe.
“What can I do? What do you want me to do?” I ask, holding his arm and stroking his head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disrespect you, it was never my intention.”
He sighs, his body feels less tense. I’ve massaged his ego, I’ve made him feel in control again.
“What can I do?” I ask again, still on my knees.
“Please get up.” he says, sitting up and helping me up.
We sit side by side, saying nothing for a while.
“I missed you.” I tell him.
“I missed you too… I really did.”
He takes my hand in his.
“How have you been? Did you manage well with the boys?”
“They are a handful, I don’t know how you manage them.”
I smile, this isn’t a surprise. “How’s work?”
“Nothing new, same routine.” He rubs his eyes. “I’m really getting very tired of my job Remi.”
I sigh, “I know.” I want to say more but I don’t think this is the right time. I rub his back instead.
He turns to kiss me then, slowly at first and then strongly, fiercely in fact. In one fluid movement, he pulls me into his arms and begins to kiss me clumsily as if he is unsure of where to kiss me. He seems to have something on his mind, several things in fact, because our lovemaking has no rhythm, no flow, it goes in whatever direction my husband’s mind has gone. I want to tell him to stop several times but it occurs to me that this action is an outlet for him, so many emotions are raging in his mind.
Afterwards, we lie by each other. He’s spent, I’m depressed. I’ve had no outlet, no reassurance, I’ve given just as I always have.
“I saw a bottle of wine in the fridge.” He says suddenly.
It’s the bottle I brought to celebrate my homecoming and the fact that I might be getting a new job soon. But I’m sure that it’s the last thing Dayo wants to hear.
“I brought it for you.” I say.
“Aww… so sweet. Oya go and bring it, let’s drink it!”
My husband is happy again, the storm is over.
Bimbo is thrilled to see me. It’s the weekend so we have time to gist and catch up on all that’s been happening. She’s offered me a slice of a very delicious banana cake.
“Mrs Adeniyi’s mother died o!” Bimbo says.
“Wow, no wonder she couldn’t look after the boys.”
“She’s so depressed. I feel so sorry for her.”
I do too.
“Thank you for looking after my boys when I was gone.” I say.
“You’re welcome jo! How many times are you going to thank me?”
I smile. “How have you been, how’s business?”
“Business is fine. Have I told you that I’m going on a vacation?”
“You mentioned it.” I reply with forced enthusiasm.
“I’m still trying to make up my mind where to go. I have so many options, Sola told me last night that he’ll just decide for me if I don’t make up my mind.” She laughs.
“So will it also be a business trip?” I ask teasingly, trying to steer the conversation away from her husband.
“Well, Sola said no business but I’m definitely buying goods o. I know he’ll be angry but we can kiss and make up later.”
I force a laugh and sniff, something smells delicious. “I smell chicken.”
“You’re right. I’m roasting a stuffed chicken. Sola is coming home…”
“And he loves chicken. I’m also making…”
Her words fade away as I think of what she’s just said. I immediately start to feel cold, how am I going to be around this man? Is he going to let me be or would he still chase me? Would Dayo notice it? The kids? What will I do? Should I just tell Dayo what’s going on?
“….And of course you know I’m also looking forward to tonight. Let me show you what I just bought!”
Before i can respond, she bounces off the chair towards her room and returns shortly with a grey carrier bag. She pulls out a black lacy lingerie and fills my ears with what she’s going to do to her husband later that night while I pretend to be amused. By the time I return to my house I realize that I’m aroused.
Later that night, I wake up on the couch and see that Dayo has also fallen asleep. It’s past eleven and the generator is still on. I shuffle into my slippers and hurry downstairs to turn it off. It is when I’m going back upstairs that I realize that I didn’t take a torch. I have no choice but to walk slowly, and hold the railing. I’m almost at the top of the staircase when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I jump up startled and I’m about to scream when I hear a voice.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” It’s Mr Martins.
“Please get out of my way!” I respond irritably.
“Let me make you happy.” He says, touching the tip of my elbow gently. I dash into my house before I lose my senses.
Sitting on the couch beside Dayo who is snoring I pray inwardly for strength.
“God, help me! Please help me. I don’t want to but I really like this man.”
Uju calls me the next day.
“Hi.” I respond coolly to her greeting.
“When did you get back?”
“Okay. How are things between you and Dayo?”
“Remi… I’m not calling you to fight with you, why are you being cold?”
I’m being cold because I have something to tell her but I know what her reaction would be and I resent her for it. I resent her for her perfect life and choices. I also resent her for being a voice of reason, I need someone who can identify with my struggles or at least empathize with me. She cannot do this for me.
“I’m just not in the mood to talk.”
I can hear her helplessness when she sighs. “Okay. I’m here if you want to talk. Bye.”
I feel bad about how I’ve treated her but my troubles with Mr Martins are greater.
Later that night, Dayo lowers the volume of the TV.
“Tomorrow is Monday. The boys are resuming.”
“I have their school fees but if I pay it, we’ll be four hundred thousand naira short for the rent.”
That’s my cue.
“I can give you the extra you need.”
“Thank you.” he replies, bowing his head.
“I’m happy to help you Dayo, I hope you know this.”
He manages to smile.
“I know Remi, I just wish that I could provide all we need. I’m not happy to collect your money.”
“It’s our money, isn’t it? And if I can help you, why should you feel bad about it? All you need is another job.”
“What I really need is to start my own business. I don’t see myself getting a better job at my age, not after spending all these years doing the same thing. And I can’t afford to go to school or get all these certifications. The school fees, house rent and other things won’t wait. I need to make money.”
“Okay, what kind of business do you want to do?”
“I already told you.”
I sigh, not this ludicrous idea again. “Dayo, please find another business. How are we going to tell our friends that you’re selling milk and sugar…?”
“Stop seeing it that way Remi, people are making millions of money selling milk and sugar….”
“Women are doing this business…”
“And so, if a woman can do a man’s job, why can’t a man do a woman’s job?”
“Dayo, this is different…”
“What is different about it?”
“Can we talk about something else? I don’t want to talk about you doing… I can’t imagine you doing this business, that’s not the picture I have of you.”
“What is more important Remi? What your friends think of us or the fact that we can live a better life?”
I shake my head, he’s serious about this plan of his.
“At least think about it.”
“Okay.” I reply, having no intention of doing so.
Two nights later, while he and the boys are asleep and I am in the sitting room reading a romance novel, I get a message request. Someone I don’t know wants to send me a message, I wonder who it is and click on the notification. It’s Mr Martins.
It’s Sola Martins
I can see that he’s online, I know I should ignore him and make it look like I didn’t get his message but I’m flattered by his attention and curious to hear what he has to say. I type.
What do you want? Are you stalking me on social media now?
I just wanted to let you know that someone is thinking about you.
How does it feel to be back home?
I refuse to reply.
Hey Remi, are you there?
Your wife needs you. Talk to her.
He sends me a smiley then types.
Looks like you’re in a bad mood. Good night
P.S Your skin is so smooth
I wish I could run my hands on it
Take away that tension that makes you so unfriendly
I turn off my data connection.