This is a guest post from a StoryCrafting Alumni, Rachael Onuigbo.
I run through the hospital. Everything is moving too slow and too fast at once. I run, the room numbers blurring. 201…202…203…204 and then finally, 205. Doctors are outside the room. A doctor moves out of the group when he sees me running towards them. He is saying something but I can’t hear him. I shrug out of his grip and push through to get in but I don’t have to.
Nurses roll out a stretcher. A body lies unmoving on it, completely covered. I refuse to believe till I see it. I struggle against the hands that hold me and pull the covering back then I see the evidence I need. The world becomes a roar. My husband is dead. The face that had smiled at me, the mouth that had kissed me goodbye this morning. Gone.
I start screaming and crying, begging the doctors to do something. To save the man that meant everything to me. My pleas and screams fall on deaf ears as someone pulls me away so the nurses can roll out the stretcher.
I feel like I’m in a haze, going through the motions but not really going through them. The accident is on the news and the phone rings non-stop but I don’t pick it. Pictures of both of us together are everywhere. Our wedding, our honeymoon in Paris, the impulsive vacation to Hawaii. Memories move as if in a slideshow and I know that I can’t survive without him. I can’t find the will to. Visitors come pouring in, offering their condolences and asking me if I’m okay. What can I tell them? I will never be okay. I am told that I have to eat. My husband will never eat again so why should I? Nobody understands how I feel and I doubt anyone ever will.
I stand in front of the mirror and cannot recognise the woman staring back. I have lost weight and my clothes hang off me in unflattering angles. My face is pale, my hair a messy bun. Before, I wouldn’t be caught dead with messy hair. Everything is now categorized as ‘before’ and ‘after’. Before my husband died. After my husband died. I can’t do this, I whisper to my reflection. I can’t do this. I give in and cry.
Today is the burial. I tune out what the priest is saying and look at the closed coffin at the altar. Everybody tells me that God knows best and He has a reason. To me, that means that God likes to see people suffer because why would he take away what was most important to me? The burial ends and we drive to the cemetery. I am quiet throughout. After the priest blesses the coffin, the pallbearers lower it to the ground. I feel like someone is cutting off my oxygen supply as I watch. Tears fill my eyes as I realise, yet again, how much I’ve lost. People come over and in a robotic voice, I thank them for coming. They offer words of encouragement that do nothing to help me and tell me I’ll be okay but I don’t believe them.
By now, I’m numb. I have locked my grief deep inside me because I’ve realised that sometimes, it is easier to bear your pain alone. People ask me if I’m okay. I nod and give a fake smile, knowing that they wouldn’t want to hear how I reach out on the bed for someone that isn’t there. Or how I wake up every morning thinking it is all a bad dream and break apart again when I realize that it isn’t. I cry myself to sleep every night, holding on to his things and inhaling his scent. I rage at God and ask questions that are never answered. My life is a big question mark and I wonder if the hole in my heart will ever fill.
I haven’t dreamt of him since he died and I am yet to decide if that is a good or bad thing. I push myself out of the bed and in front of the mirror and cringe at what I see. There are shadows in my eyes and hollows under them. I look like I have aged thirty years and I feel that way too. I put my hand on my chest. I can feel my heart’s steady beat. Even though my world has been torn apart and has lost its axis, I’m still alive. I decide to stay that way for him. I have to put all his things in a box and take them out. Oh God, I can’t do this. I want to crawl back into bed again but something in me refuses to keep drowning in the pain. I’ve been drowning for so long, maybe it’s time I learnt how to swim and for the first time in a long while, I have hope.
I’m at the cemetery, in front of my husband’s grave with a bouquet of white roses in my hand. I can’t believe a year has passed. I’m not the woman I was before or the woman I have become. I am something else entirely and I am trying to make that something good. My heart hurts in a million places as I drop the bouquet and kiss the headstone. I wonder if he is watching me, if he knows how much I miss him, if he knows that I will love him forever and will keep him safe in my heart so that death does not become what defines our time together. As I leave, I accept that maybe God had his reasons. It is time for me to live again. I cry a little in my car as I feel my heart go lighter and maybe I’m being paranoid but I feel someone-maybe God or my husband-smile at me from above.
Onuigbo Rachael is a writer, natural skin-care enthusiast and fitness coach. She won the 2015/2016 My Rainbow Books writing competition and is currently writing a book based on her life experiences. She is an ardent reader and loves romance, young adult fiction and thrillers and is usually found with her head in a book- or her phone- depending on where she’s reading from. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found at the gym, sweating it out and coaching other people wanting to loose weight too or making tutorial videos to show how you can use natural products to treat a lot of skin issues
She uses social media to share her works and you can connect with her on Instagram or on Twitter @_lilaurora or Facebook.
Toye cleaned his small black radio and fixed the batteries into it as Becky came into the room with a sack. He paid her no attention even as she emptied the contents of the sack on the floor. They were oranges, plantains and yams, and as she examined them, she hummed a tune. Toye could see that she was wearing one of the new wrappers that she had purchased a week before. He had had to borrow the money from Doyin, who had mocked him endlessly before parting with it.
Becky got up from the bed and waddled over to the corner in the room where they kept the bucket of drinking water, and got some into a small bowl.
“I want to cook yam porridge. Do you see the big yams I just got?”
Toye paid her no attention and continued to wipe his already clean radio. Becky shrugged and went out with some of the oranges. She returned, ate her oranges and took a tuber of yam outside, along with her cooking utensils. Toye glanced at the oranges, plantains and yams that she had left on the ground and shook his head. He began to put everything into the sack where she had brought them out from, when the smell of Mama Adio’s palm-oil fried akara hit his nostrils.
He got his radio, walked out towards the verandah and sat on Pa Jinadu’s long bench. Adio ran out shortly, wiping his oily hand on his chest.
“Good morning,” he greeted quite nervously.
“Adio, good morning. Did you steal your mother’s akara?”
The boy bowed his head and nodded subtly as Toye began to laugh.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell her. Is your father home?”
“Yes, he is sleeping.”
“Alright, go on.”
Toye turned on the radio and listened to the news anchor who was rounding up with the international news.
“In a shocking turn of events, Peter Gabriels has revealed to the English press that he would be leaving the band, Genesis. This news comes right after the recently concluded, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour…”
He changed the station and settled to enjoy the highlife music of Ebenezer Obey when Mama Adio came out of the house, her wrapper tied around her chest.
“Ah Inspector! Good morning o!” she flashed her yellow teeth at him and walked a little distance from the house. With her hands on her thick waist, she yelled at the woman who sold provisions in a little kiosk after the Aladura church.
“Basirat! Basirat! I’m sending Adio over to you, give him one wrap of sugar!”
“You have not paid for the one you bought last week!” the young woman shouted back.
“I know, just give it to him. I will pay you later this evening, you hear me?”
Toye couldn’t understand why Mama Adio could not simply go over to the kiosk and sort out the issue. He shut her out of his mind and focused on the music. But even the music could not stop the rumbling in his stomach caused by hunger and the smell of Mama Adio’s akara. She returned to the house, mumbling something about the young lady’s insolence.
“Inspector, hope there’s no problem?” she asked when she saw the glum look on his face.
“I’m alright,” he forced a smile.
“Should I send Adio to bring you some akara while you’re waiting for your wife to bring your breakfast?”
Adio knew that he should say no, but he said. “No problem, if it is not too much trouble for you.”
Forty-five minutes later when Becky returned into the room, she found him asleep, the plates of food by the bed. Furious, she dropped the tray she was carrying on the table and dashed out.
Babatunde scooped up the remains of the moin-moin from the leaf in his plate with his hands, and shoved it into his mouth. Sewa sat beside him giggling.
“Ah ah, Babatunde, are you that hungry?”
“I didn’t even know that I was this hungry!” he gulped down some water and leaned back as his wife laughed even louder.
“Honestly, sometimes, when you offend me and I think about what you will cook to compensate me, I forget my anger!”
“Is that so?” she asked amused.
Babatunde sat up. “Maybe you should start a catering business.”
“Catering business? What do I know about that?”
“You will learn as you go on. Are you going to disregard the idea because you don’t know about it?”
Sewa sighed. “Babatunde, that’s not what I want to do. My mother taught me how to buy and sell…”
“Then use that skill to sell food!”
“Do you know how stressful it will be for me to buy foodstuff and get up early to cook? Where will I sell this food? How will I carry it to the place? Or would I have to cook by the roadside? And if you were thinking about a shop, where do we get the money to rent one?”
Babatunde didn’t have answers to her questions. He sighed and rubbed his stomach. “I still think it’s something that you should do.”
She shrugged and packed up the plates. “Let’s concentrate on your carpentry business.”
Toye held his wife by her arm and dragged her into their room.
“What is your problem?” he yelled.
“You have no shame!” she countered.
“So do you! How can you go to our neighbour’s house and disgrace me like that!”
“And how could you, a married man, eat from another married woman while your wife is cooking?”
“What were you cooking, and at what time? Do you know how much my stomach was rumbling?”
“Was I playing? Did you not see me come into the house with a sack of yams? Was I not at the backyard cooking?”
“Are you talking about this yam porridge? Ehn?” he opened the plate and ate a piece of yam.
“I knew it! The yam is as hard as stone! And the food is salty! You just wasted all this fish in the food. The fish that you could have used to cook soup!”
“So now you prefer the neighbour’s food to mine hmm? Why don’t you marry her then? Why don’t you sleep in her bed or just bring her here?”
“You have gone mad!”
“And you are a wicked man! A wicked man that has no shame and no money!”
“No money, so why did your parents dump you here? Your father said that I should give him whatever I could afford, because he was desperate. They just wanted someone wealthy to take their daughter off their hands! And you come in here, you can’t cook, you can’t clean or give me any pleasure. You are utterly useless, and I would rather eat from all the women in this building than eat your horrible food!”
He stomped out of the room while she sat on the bed and cried.
Philomena slid her hands across the yellow wrapper that her husband had just bought for her.
“Thank you sir.”
“I want you to wear that when we attend Nnamdi’s wedding. Make something nice, I don’t want you looking like a maid beside me.”
The smile on her face waned. “Alright.”
“Is my food ready?”
“Yes, let me serve it.”
He was waiting in the sitting room, when she had dished the food. He sat slumped on the couch with his arm over his head, the darkness of his bushy armpit contrasting with the whiteness of his singlet.
“I want to go and see my friend, Sewa.”
He was silent for a while as he opened the food, examined it, took a morsel of pounded yam and rolled it in his hands.
“What for?” he asked as he dipped the morsel into the bowl of vegetable soup and put it into his mouth.
“I just want to check on her, I haven’t seen her in a while.”
He shrugged. “Don’t be long.”
Sewa was weaving Teju’s hair when Philomena came visiting.
“So what style do you want to make out of it?” The former asked.
“I’m not sure yet. All I know is that I must look good at Nnamdi’s wedding. All those people who looked down on us before, would be surprised to see us looking better than they do. Do you know that Uche bought all the drinks for the wedding?”
“He did? That’s generous of him.”
“I was so angry when he did it, I told him that Nnamdi and his mother didn’t deserve it. But he said that one ought not to repay evil with evil.”
“Then he’s a compassionate man.” Sewa concluded with a smile.
The door opened and Babatunde walked in with a black polythene bag. Teju left her mother and ran to hug him.
“My dear! Your hair is beautiful. Does it hurt?”
“No,” the girl gazed up at him with a wide smile.
“Take this in, they’re eggs in there so be careful with them.”
“Welcome my husband,” Sewa greeted as Babatunde walked over to her and squeezed her shoulder affectionately.
“Good evening sir.”
“Good evening madam.”
“Where did you get the eggs from?” Sewa asked curiously.
“You know I went to deliver the chairs to Mr Carlton…”
“His wife was so impressed with them, she suddenly remembered that she had more than enough eggs, milk, sardines and sugar!”
“She gave us all that?”
“Yes, she even said that she had some clothes for Teju.”
“I must go and thank her.”
“You should, she asked after you. Have you made lunch?”
Sewa shook her head. “We drank…”
“You drank garri? No problem, I will go and take some. I know dinner will be very delicious!”
He pinched her cheeks, she laughed and watched him walk away. Philomena smiled awkwardly, she couldn’t remember the last time that she and her husband had looked at each other with such adoration.
Toye gulped down his beer as Doyin took a bite from his peppered snail.
“It’s getting late, shouldn’t you go home?” the latter asked, noting that his friend was drinking more than he normally would.
“I have no home to go back to,” Toye said with a slur.
“You can’t sleep at my house, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I’m having a guest,” he said with a wink and inclined his head towards the ladies who were drinking two tables away. “The one with the pink dress, she’s been looking at me all night. Would you go with the one with the red dress?”
Toye waved his hand in dismissal. “No, I’ve got enough woman troubles.”
“This one will help to ease some of that trouble,” Doyin winked. “What do you have to lose?”
Becky walked out of the long building once again and met Pa Jinadu outside. The street was deserted.
“He’s not back yet,” the man said.
“Where could he have gone? Why would he make me worry so much like this?” she mumbled to no one in particular.
“Go in and sleep, he’s not a small boy. He can take care of himself.”
Becky sighed and walked in, blaming herself for her husband’s absence. She lay on their bed and tried to sleep, just as Toye lay the light-skinned lady with the red dress down on her own bed.
I trust that you’ve enjoyed the series so far. Well, this series is not a long one, so this is the last episode that I will be posting here. The concluding part, as well as the entire story is available right here, on Okadabooks and Amazon.
Please share your thoughts about the series. I’ll appreciate them! Please also remember to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates.
Don’t be a stranger here.
Ben waited outside Fatih’s office with a purple gift bag in his hand. He knew that she would soon close from work and he also knew that if he wanted to get her attention, it would be here. She didn’t like embarrassments, and would be anxious to listen to what he had to say so that he could leave. At a quarter to six, she came out of the yellow building where she worked as an administrator with a beige shopping bag in her hand and a black handbag on her shoulder. He observed her appearance, noting how well the burgundy, pencil gown sat on her slender, shapely frame.
She was scratching her scalp but stopped as soon as she saw him walking towards her.
“Ben, what are you doing here?”
“I came to see you…”
“What do you want?”
“Can we sit down and talk?”
She pursed her lips and shrugged reluctantly. He led her to the eatery two buildings away and they sat at a table that afforded them some privacy.
“Should I get you something to drink… or eat?”
“No, I’m fine. Say what you have to say.”
He put the gift bag on the table and slid it across to her. “I got you this.”
She looked at it as if it was a bomb. He had not gotten her anything in almost two years. “You bought something for me?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Where did you get the money from?”
“I did a painting. Won’t you even open it?”
She put her things aside, looked into the bag and brought out a box of perfume and another of chocolate. Amazed, she stared at them for a while and then said “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. Nervously, he reached for her hand but she withdrew. “I miss you.”
She smiled. “No, you miss my money and my help.”
“Okay, I miss that too but I miss you.”
“Yet, it took you a month to come and see me? Are you in trouble?”
“I didn’t want to come to you empty-handed. I was trying to work something out.”
She laughed, she had heard those words several times. “What do you want Ben?”
“Are you seeing that other guy?”
“What? You came here you ask me that…?”
“Are you seeing him?”
She looked away. “Not really.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I can’t wait for you forever…”
“Just give me one more chance.”
She laughed again. “You’ve said that for eight years Ben, I don’t have any more chances left.”
He held her hands and looked at her earnestly. “Please Faith, don’t give up on me now.”
“I can’t give you another chance Ben, prove yourself. Let me know that you have decided to be responsible and I will give you another chance, but not like this. I’m tired of enduring this relationship.”
She gathered her things and rose. “I really do love you, but love won’t put food on the table or put a roof over our heads. Thanks for the gift.”
Chidi was slumped on the couch in his house, he belched and stretched out his legs. Oby joined him holding a brown envelope. She sat and he placed his head on her laps.
“How was your day?” she asked.
“Long. A customer threw a major tantrum today in the banking hall, it took the manager’s intervention to calm her down. I’m tired Nkem.”
She sighed and stroked his hair. “I know… I know.”
“What about you, how was your day?”
“Fine, nothing out of the ordinary. My students asked me what I think the way out for Nigeria is, as their government teacher.”
“And what did you say?”
“I turned the question on them, I asked them to assess the situation themselves.”
He chuckled. “And what did they say?”
“Some of them thought that we should be colonized again, this time by America. Others thought that what we need is a military take-over…”
He chuckled again. “None of them were alive during the military era, I don’t blame them.”
“Let’s talk about something else. We got a letter from the girls’ school today.”
“What does it say?”
She handed him the brown envelope. He got up and read it.
“Are we owing them one-twenty thousand?”
“Yes, remember we didn’t pay Maria’s fees last term. They won’t let them write their exams if we don’t pay.”
“Do you think they will do that?”
“That’s what happened last term. That was why I had to borrow that money from Mrs Ajala to at least pay Elizabeth’s fees.”
He sighed. “We are already owing the cooperative fifty thousand. If we pay this from my salary, that leaves us with fifty four thousand…”
“And my fifty thousand…”
He shook his head. “Just keep it for your use. Don’t we need to start buying things for the babies?”
“Two of everything!” he slid down in the seat.
“Are you regretful?”
“How can you ask me that Oby? Do you want me to say that I regret these children?”
“But you’re acting like it.”
“I’m under pressure. We can barely take of the ones we have. How are we going to cope when they’re born? Where do we get the money for diapers and baby food hmmn?”
Oby folded her arms on her breasts and exhaled slowly. ”We can’t stop hoping for the best Chidi…”
“Hope won’t pay all our bills.”
“Neither will worry.”
“What do you want me to do? Dance around as if I don’t have a care in this world?”
“There’s nothing else can do. Do you want to steal? I’d rather die of starvation than steal. We are doing the best we can, you’re doing the best you can.”
Chidi forced a smile and stared blankly.
“We’ll be fine Nkem.”
Gbenga appeared to be reading but he was really gazing at his laptop, his mind on the conversation he’d had with Mrs Ade. So far, they had been able to get her a lawyer who had promised to try to do all that he could to save her from her in-laws. He was happy and so was she. His status had changed from doctor to friend.
And then he realized that her dressing had changed. Gone was the long gown and loose skirt, she still wore dark colors but her clothes fit better, her lips were no longer chapped, her fair skin now glowed. Gbenga admitted to himself reluctantly that he was falling for this woman. There was something about her that made him feel in control, she needed him and he liked it.
He heard the door to his study open and saw Nife walk in.
“Working again tonight?”
“Yeah,” he replied not looking at her. “I’m working on this paper I want to submit to an American journal.”
She nodded. “I’m ovulating.”
He heard her unspoken words. Come to bed. Let’s make love. We might get pregnant this time. But he refused to acknowledge her subtle invitation.
“Are you feeling off?”
She gave him a weird look. “No, I’m not.”
They looked at each other awkwardly.
“Well, are you coming to bed?” she asked plainly.
“Not yet, I’m on to something here.”
She smiled icily and nodded. “You’re too busy for us to try to be happy.”
“Nife, don’t be like this.”
She turned away and shut the door.
Chidi got a message from her early the next day as he walked into the banking hall.
I’m coming to your office today, I have some business to conduct with your bank. Hope you’ll be there.
He was suspicious, he wondered why she would come to his branch when there were numerous branches closer to her office. He wondered if it had anything to do with their childlessness. He replied.
Hi, not sure that I’ll be in today. But I’ll tell one of my colleagues to help you.
She replied quickly.
Don’t bother, I’ll just go to the branch close to my office. Have a nice day.
He smiled, his suspicion confirmed. She wanted to speak with him directly without telling him so. Chidi hissed in disappointment and shook his head. Gbenga had not told her yet.
When Ben got to his gallery, he met his fellow shop owners in front of the building huddled together and talking agitatedly. He joined them and poked Harrison.
“What is it?”
“The landlord wants to sell the building.”
“That’s we heard this morning. His agent came to give us an advance warning.”
“He wants to sell the building.”
“Yes, we’re trying to see if we can appeal to him. We will have to increase our rent. Some are saying, forty-five thousand, others are saying sixty thousand naira per month.”
“Forty-five thousand naira?!”
“But we were paying twenty-five thousand naira before. At forty-five thousand naira per month, we’ll be paying more than half a million every year!”
“Look, we all have to do something to persuade him not to sell.”
“What if he takes our money and still sells?”
“He won’t, he’s an old man, how much money does he need?”
Ben put his hands on his waist and sighed. He wasn’t even making up to twenty thousand naira a month. He wondered where he would get half a million naira a year to pay his rent. From the recesses of his mind, Bella’s words flooded his mind.
You’re suffering Ben, I want to give you a way out.
He could see her face, the sorrow and the sudden beauty that shone forth when she smiled. She had looked out of the window as he talked about the medication he was prescribing. She had looked so despondent, that he was certain that he had never seen anyone that way. He couldn’t stop thinking about her, wondering about her dead husband and the life they had had. Had they had children? Had he been a good man? Gbenga shook his head as if to rid his mind of the image of Mrs Ade, and looked at his wife. She was sitting beside him in their living room, reading something on her phone and smiling.
“Why are you smiling?”
She smiled even wider. “Just read this post about a man who got help from a Good Samaritan at the mall.”
“Please, those things are usually just made up.”
She looked at him reprimandingly. “Gbenga, there are good people in this world. Stop being so cynical.”
“Look I’m telling you, some random person will sit in his house and compose a touching story and say it’s real, so that people like you can smile, cry, and say aww…”
Her smile was gone. “What is your problem?”
“Nothing, I’m just telling you the bitter truth…”
“Did I ask you for the truth…?”
“So you’re being deliberately gullible?”
“You really have a problem, and I’m not going to sit here and allow you to ruin my evening.”
“Oh c’mon Nife! You’re too emotional. NIfe…!”
He shook his head, went to the kitchen to get a beer and dozed off on the couch with the can in his hand.
Faith sat in a brown plastic chair beside Ben’s bed, her hands in her laps. On the table beside him were the things she’d brought. A tin of glucose, milk, chocolate beverage, two bottles of water and a dark blue plastic food warmer. She sighed, looked away from him, then she faced him again.
“So you weren’t going to tell me? I had to hear from Chidi.”
“I didn’t have time to think, Faith,” he lied.
“Do you have to think about calling me? Shouldn’t I be the first person you should call?”
“Aren’t you at least grateful that I’m alive?”
She shook head and looked away once more. “Tell me again how it happened. You were crossing the road and someone grabbed your wallet. And then you ran into oncoming traffic to get it, right?”
He cleared his throat.
“How much was in the wallet?”
“I said how much was in the wallet?”
“I’m not very sure, I know I counted three thousand last night…”
“You wanted to kill yourself for three thousand naira?”
He sighed softly.
“Ben,” she exhaled sharply. “Ben, you have to think, you really have to think.”
He closed his eyes.
“You’re thirty-five, how long are you going to continue living like this?”
“Faith, can we talk about this later…?”
“This painting thing is not bad, but get a better job. One that can take care of your needs and then you can do your painting by the side…”
“I cannot put my creativity in second place!”
“What sort of creativity forces you to live so wretchedly? Wake up!”
“You and Gbenga should be married, since you both think about me the same way.”
“Thank God,” she muttered. “At least one friend is doing the right thing.”
Ben looked away from her and thought about Gbenga’s parting words to him earlier that day. “Enough of this whimsical artist thing you’re doing. Get a proper job and be a real man.”
Faith’s voice snapped him out of his memories. “I’ve been patient with you Ben. I can’t endure this anymore. Eight years and no proposal, no prospect of marriage. I love you but I’m tired of hoping that you will do the right thing.”
He looked into her eyes. “You used to believe in me, what changed?”
She looked down at her hands. “You know Mrs Mba, my mum’s friend. Well, her son came to visit us about eight months ago, and he wants to marry me. He’s just finished his PhD in the US. I like him, I feel comfortable sharing my dreams with him. He encourages me…”
He squirmed, limited by his pain. “So you want to leave me for a rich man?”
“He’s not even rich yet, but he’s going to be. I know because I can see how ambitious and hardworking he is…”
“You want to live in the US…?” he said sarcastically.
“I want security. What do you have to offer me? Just ask yourself that!”
He glared at her and said nothing, because he had nothing to say.
“Hello?” A feeble voice said.
“’Yes hello, my name is Chidi, I’m calling from Tower Bank.”
“You tried to open an account with us a few days ago…”
“Unfortunately, the name on your utility bill does not correspond with the name on your form. Can you please bring one that does…?”
“I don’t have another one.”
Chidi hesitated, put off by the man’s abrupt tone. “Then I’m sorry, you won’t be able to open an account with us…”
“What if I deposit my money into your account?”
“It’ll only be for two months, I’ll pay you one million naira.”
Chidi hung up and stared at the form in front of him. What had just happened?
Ben was eating lunch when the woman in the red dress walked in. This time, she was dressed in a yellow and green flowery chiffon blouse on a pair of dark blue jeans. She held a beige handbag and wore a matching wedge sandal.
“How are you feeling today?” she asked.
Ben was too surprised by her presence to respond. He’d thought that he would never see her again.
“Can you talk?”
“Yes,” he cleared his throat. “I’m better.”
“Thank God,” she sat in the chair beside him, placed her handbag on her laps, and watched as he ate.
Feeling self-conscious, he set down his cutlery and glanced at her.
“Why did you want to kill yourself?” she asked sitting forward, her hands clasped and her elbows on her handbag.
“I didn’t want to kill myself.”
“So why did you run into the road?”
“I was… I was trying to… they stole my wallet, some two guys on a bike.”
The woman thought it was foolhardy to chase two people who were on a motorbike by foot. Only desperation could make one act so thoughtlessly. She looked at him closely and noted, his full unkempt hair, dull complexion, the leanness of his body, and the frantic way he chewed, as if his very life depended on the morsel in his mouth.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“I’m an artist, I paint…”
“What do you paint?”
“Human beings, things, whatever catches my eye…”
“A painter. So you have a gallery?”
“Yes I do, it’s on Kalu Chuwkuma Road, not far from where…” he trailed off.
“Hmmn.” She looked at him again, and he looked away from her and stared at his unfinished meal. His half-eaten beef was drowning in the dark green ewedu soup and he wished that she would just go and leave him to finish it.
“I want you to paint me,” she said suddenly.
His eyes flew up to her. She had a distant look on her face and squinted one of her eyes. “Ma…?”
“Yes, you should paint me. I need a full portrait of myself… something regal, elegant, he needs to see…”
Suddenly she sat up, her eyes sharp. “Yes, you will paint me.” she opened her handbag and brought out a complimentary card.
“How much do you charge for your work?”
“Err…” he mumbled, taking the card from her. “I…”
“Will two hundred thousand naira do?”
Ben’s mouth was open. “Two hundred…”
“I don’t know when you’ll be discharged, but as soon as you are, call me.”
“Please call me Bella.”
“Yes ma… B…”
She huffed and walked out of the room. Ben stared after her and suddenly felt thirsty.
Gbenga smiled when she walked into his office again. She carried the same dark blue purse and wore an ankle length black cotton gown. Her hair was covered in a grey silk scarf. She sat calmly in front of him stared down at the table.
“Good afternoon Doctor.”
“Good afternoon madam. How are you today?”
“Have you been using your medication?”
“Sometimes…” she said uncertainly.
He could see from the look on her face that she had not told the truth. He stared at her and noticed her full pink lips for the first time, and even though they were still chapped he could see how beautiful they would look under better circumstances. He also noticed her clear fair skin and the black spots spread on one side of her neck, like a finishing. She heaved and his eyes travelled down to her chest and the slight swell of her breasts, so unlike his wife’s ample bosom that she struggled to cram into her big silk bras. Thinking of his wife, he cleared his throat and sat up.
“Madam, you need to use your medicines…”
“Okay,” she replied in her small voice.
“Do you have children?”
“No… we were trying to have children…”
He looked at her file. “You’re thirty-two, you’re still young. I think he would want you to move on…”
“You didn’t know him, you have no right to tell me that.”
He was taken aback by the sudden harshness of her tone, even though her face remained passive.
“I might not have known him, but If he really loved you…”
“He did!” she snapped and her face contorted in anguish. “He was the only man in this world who loved me!”
She began to sob loudly, her face in her small hands. Gbenga felt uncomfortable, he reached for the box of tissues by his right hand and held it with both hands, waiting for her to stop crying.
“Why did you leave me? Why? Why? We’d planned everything…”
Feeling that he ought to do more, he got up and walked over to her.
“It’s all right madam.”
“Madam…” he placed his hands gently on her shoulders. “It will be all right.”
It’s good to know that you are here again. I have a new series for you today, I’ve titled it The Brotherhood, as you can already imagine, it’s the story of three men and the personal struggles that predispose them to peculiar situations. Continue reading “The Brotherhood Part 1”
Dear reader, welcome to a new week. I do hope you had a restful weekend.
Like I said last week, the series will be available for sale this week. So, this is the last episode I’ll be sharing here. The concluding part and the entire story will be available for sale on Friday.
In the meantime however, a new series will start tomorrow, it is a FREE story. I hope I’ll see you here. Have a wonderful day and please don’t forget to share this link and leave a comment!
Bimbo is sitting by me, folding her hands pensively.
“So he just resigned?”
I want to tell her that it’s none of her business but I already made it so when I got into a shouting match with Dayo and walked into her feel. I feel so ashamed of myself, by now I’m sure that the entire compound knows we were fighting. How am I going to raise my head in this compound again? And what was I thinking coming into this house where Sola is? It’s almost eight, I’ll have to go back into my own house, after I’ve come here to tell my curious neighbours what is going on in my marriage. I feel so stupid and embarrassed, Bimbo is watching me and I know I must tell her something.
“Yes,” I reply in a small voice.
“Wow, but had you guys talked about it before?”
“Hmm, na wa o! So how are you going to cope? I mean I know you guys were barely getting by, how are you going to manage this?”
I’m more than embarrassed now, I’m stunned. How dare she?
“I don’t know.” I reply simply, there’s no use getting into another fight with her in her own house.
“These men are just something. How could he have resigned, just like that, and without telling you first?”
Is that a rhetorical question? I’m not sure it is but I stay quiet. Sola comes in, I’m not looking at him but I can smell him. He smells so good, he’s probably just had his bath.
“Is everything all right?” he asks in that mesmerizing voice of his.
“She and her husband had a fight,” Bimbo answers for me.
“Did he beat you?” he asks me directly with a veil of anger on his face.
“No,” I reply not looking at him.
“I mean it’s just sad. Can you imagine that he quit his job without telling her?”
“Wow!” I hear a slight amusement in his voice. “You guys should just be patient with each other.”
Why exactly did I come here? “I should go,” I say.
“Where?” Bimbo asks. “Why don’t you stay here for a little while longer? Let me get you something to eat.”
Before I can even protest, she’s gone. I stare at my hands, feeling Sola’s eyes on me.
“Let me make you happy,” he says.
“You’re going to say that to me here? While your wife is getting me something to eat? What kind of man are you?”
“Just the kind who is interested in seeing you happy.”
“’You want to make me happy while Bimbo is unhappy?”
“You’ve never even asked if I’m happy? Why should I continue to suffer in silence just because I want to look good?” he leans forward. “Look, you and I are one of a kind, we belong together.”
Before I can respond, we hear the kitchen door open, he readjusts and I pretend to watch TV.
“All right, I’m going to bed,” Sola says to Bimbo, I hear them kiss each other and then he says to me. “Good night madam, take it easy.”
“Thank you sir,” I reply as expressionlessly as possible.
Bimbo set a tray of chin chin and a jug of juice before me. “Don’t allow your husband to walk all over you Remi, I keep telling you that you must stand up for yourself. Don’t allow him to force you to be the breadwinner, do whatever you have to do. Whatever!” she moves closer to me and says conspiratorially, “Sola tried something similar, he wanted to make me some kind of submissive woman, but I let him know straight up, that I wouldn’t take it!”
“Really?” I say but she misses my sarcasm.
“Yes! Now he knows his boundaries. He respects me completely! You better stand your ground and don’t take on a role that is not yours. Don’t be weak!”
“Wow Bimbo, you’re stronger than me.”
“Na God o my sister.” She clasps her hands.
I feel so sorry for her but I eat my snacks and allow her to think that she’s indeed stronger than me.
When I return home the boys are asleep, I can see from the plates in the sink that they had dinner. Dayo is asleep in the room as well, he has a book laid out on his chest. He looks so tired and as I stare at him I realize that I still love this man in spite of everything. I sit on the bed and ask myself how we got to this point. When did he stop being enough for me?
I made an oath to be with him for better or worse… I made a commitment to him… I choose to love him… stay with Dayo… Take his small dream and make it bigger, you have the power to do that!
Am I really being unreasonable? What if I support this man and it doesn’t work out? Dayo is not exactly one who can delay gratification and sacrifice, how is this business plan going to work?
I made a commitment to him… I choose to love him… stay with Dayo…
I lie on the bed and debate whether I should give this man a chance or not.
The next night, as he changes into his night clothes I sit up and tell him my decision.
“I’m with you, I’ll support your business idea and help you as much as I can.”
He turns to look at me, he looks like he’s trying to determine how serious I am.
“Wow, I feel honored.” He eventually says.
I roll my eyes, he wants an apology.
“And I’m sorry about yesterday night.”
“What exactly are you sorry about? The way you insulted me in front of our boys, the way you yelled my qualifications to the hearing of our neighbours, or the fact that you meant every word you said?”
I exhale and consider my response. “I’m sorry about everything Dayo, I just was in a bad place.”
He snickers. “You were in a bad place! I’m not perfect Remi, I know this but I would never speak to you the way you spoke to me last night. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how you can still be in this marriage when you feel the way you do about me!”
“Dayo, this is not the way forward. It’s true, I’m not satisfied with the way things are, but arguing about what happened last night is not the way forward for us. I am truly sorry about the things I said last night, I truly truly am and it will probably be one of my greatest regrets because I did it in front of the children but I want a solution. I want to move forward, I want to make things work.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
This is not something I overthought I’d hear. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying maybe we should ask ourselves if this is worth it. It’s obvious how you feel about me and I don’t think I want to be married to someone who thinks so little of me and my plans.”
“Are you asking…?” I’m even afraid to say it.
“It’s really up to you Remi, I can’t continue to put up with your cranky attitude, I just can’t seem to do anything right and I won’t live like that anymore. I am who I am, I’m not going to change. So if it’s not good enough for you, you can leave, because I won’t have you disrespecting me in front of my children.”
I’m stunned. “You want me to leave? You want to throw away all the years we’ve been together because we had a fight?”
“Like I said, it’s up to you.” he replies, turning off the light and getting into bed.
The next week, I’m in Uju’s house again. This time, I’m alone and I can take in the recent work in the house. She’s so lucky that Kevin’s father gave them this nice house in Ikoyi. With her job at the reputable architectural firm and his as a general manager in an international bank, it’s understandable that she’s almost double her former size. She has a somber look on her round face as we sit opposite one another at her dining table.
“He told me what happened.” She says.
“I’m sure he did. But look, Dayo has said hurtful things to me too, but I would never tell him to take a walk if he wants to. I mean, how do I function in this marriage? This is more than I can bear Uju.”
She clasps her hands and rests her forehead on her fingertips. “This is something.”
I’m glad she now gets it. “This is really more than I can bear Uju.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I’m going to leave him.”
She sighs. “After all these years?”
“He is willing to throw it all away, why should I care?”
“What about Dotun and Tomiwa?”
“I’ll take them with me, I have a better job now and I can afford to give them a good life.”
“Is Dayo going to let you just take them?”
“I don’t care. They’re mine and I’m taking them with me.”
“So you’re ready for a lengthy divorce process and custody battle?”
I hesitate for the fraction of a second. “I’ll be ready.”
“How are you going to explain it to the boys?”
“I’ll tell them it didn’t work out between their Dad and I.”
“And you think they’ll believe you?”
“When they saw you humiliate their father?”
“I doubt that they will believe you. As it is, it’s going to take them a while to get over seeing you guys fight and forget all that you said. It’s not in your favor Remi.”
I stare at her with indignation. “So you expect me to stay?”
She hesitates as if she’s thinking about her answer. “I think you shouldn’t give up just yet.”
I laugh humorlessly. “What else do you expect me to do Uju? I’ve tried my best!”
“I know, but it’s been more difficult for you to try because of a certain someone.”
I exhale sharply and shake my head in disbelief. “This has nothing to do with Sola!”
“So now I know his name.”
“This has nothing to do with him!” I say again.
“I never even asked you about this man, the children distracted us the other day. How did you meet him?”
My anger dissipates immediately and I look away.
“Remi? Where did you meet him?”
“Let’s not talk about him. He’s not important.”
“Oh he is, and we both know it. Where’d you meet him?”
“Why can’t you just tell me?”
“Because you’ll just judge me! I know you.”
She stares at me for a while. “I’m sorry if I’ve come across as judgemental Remi, but I’m just being your friend.”
I’m now staring at my hands.
“Where did you meet him?”
I scratch the back of my ears. “It’s not as simple as it sounds…”
I can feel her confusion. “Do I know this person?”
“I don’t even know how it all started.”
“Remi…? Just say it now! Is it your husband’s brother?”
“What? No! God forbid!”
“Then who is it?”
In a small voice, I answer her. “My neighbour…”
From the corner of my eyes, I can see that she’s moved closer to me. “Remi, which neighbour?” She asks in a quavering voice.
“The ones who just moved in…”
“Wait, opposite… next to… your next door neighbour?”
She slaps her palms on the table and I jump startled. “Remi!” She whispers harshly. “Have you lost your mind?”
I rub my eyes, afraid to see the look in her eyes. I hear her stand up and pace the floor.
“Okay, I’m not going to judge, I’m not going to judge. No judgement, no judgement… Remi, what were you thinking? I mean your next door neighbour? What if Dayo finds out? What kind of foolish game are you playing?”
Her reaction is just as I expected so I sit still and listen to her rail on. Suddenly she sits and stares at me.
“Are you done?” I ask her.
“This is messed up Remi…”
“I know.” I stare back at her.
“Yelling at you won’t solve the problem…”
“Finally, we agree on something.”
“And you being cheeky is not the way either.” She points at me in reprimand and sighs. We sit in silence for a while.
“Answer this question in all honesty.”
“Would you be thinking about leaving Dayo if this man wasn’t in the picture?”
“I was already dissatisfied before him Uju…”
“Yes, but would you have thought of leaving him? Answer honestly.”
I don’t respond, because I know the answer is no. She knows it too.
“Don’t give up yet.” She says earnestly.
“What about him? He’s given up Uju, why should I hold on?”
“Maybe he’s given up because he thinks you already have. See a counsellor, I can refer you to someone?”
“He won’t go.”
“He’ll go, Kevin will make sure he does.”
“Okay Uju, I’ll give it a shot. But this is taking a lot from me.”
“I know Remi and I appreciate you, but you are stronger than you think!”
I wipe the tears that have pooled in my eyes and exhale slowly.