Worked hard to get this episode out. Have a great day everyone.
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//THE ONE TO HEAL THE PAIN//
After his final grunt, he withdrew from her. She shut her eyes as he clattered about the room. Moments after hearing the bathroom door shut, she pulled herself up, using her hands because of the extreme lethargy weighing down her legs.
Ignoring the stinging in her groin was easy; she was too scared to dwell on it.
Groping in the dark, she found her jeans and pulled it up her waist and gave up looking for her knickers.
She felt for her phone in her pocket and retrieved it. Holding it in her hands, Kanyin realised she didn’t know who to call or what to say to that person.
She didn’t even know what to call what had just happened to her. She didn’t have time to decide as the sound of the toilet flushing from the bathroom made her bolt from the sofa.
Kanyin had reached the lobby on the ground floor before realising her hood jacket and purse were on Bayo’s wall coat hook. At the same time she heard a door opening upstairs and his voice shouting for her.
“Shortee, where are you at? Nah girl, we ain’t done yet. Come on girl.”
She opened the main door quietly. The street took her down an alleyway which she took instead of the main road in case he came after her. The alleyway led her to Campus lane. There, at the bottom of the road was Acems, a private student accommodation. She knocked on the grey door of Acems and hoped that Nkem hadn’t gone out to her boyfriend’s.
A girl with messy hair and glassy eyes answered the door.
“Hi,” Kanyin tried to smile even though all she wanted to do was crawl into an empty room and cry until there were no tears left to be shed. “Is Nkem here? I’m her friend.”
“No,” the girl made to shut the door.
The girl halted, glaring at her with impatient eyes.
“She told me to come. I lost my purse on the way and I can’t get home tonight.”
She opened the door wider for her to come in and waved before she could thank her. Whilst the girl joined her friends on the sofa with their cans of beer and cigarettes, Kanyin went in Nkem’s bedroom. The room was tidy except for the folded laundry on the bed and in two other piles in the room. She guessed her friend had left her room in a hurry.
She found a pair of pyjama shorts on top of the pile on the bed which she put on after washing herself and her jeans in the bathroom.
Sleep did not come that night. She shut her eyes and yawned a few times when Nkem came back smelling of a man’s spray in the morning. She nodded to Nkem’s ‘did you and Bayo fall out’ and got a taxi home with the money Nkem gave her whilst she and the other occupants of Acems were still sleeping.
Her father was waiting for her when she arrived. He was at the door by the time she alighted from the taxi.
“Where is my daughter Kanyinsola?” His tone became louder when she stared at him instead of speaking. “Where is she?”
“Calm down, dude.”
Kanyin did not notice Emeka standing behind him until he spoke. They were close. It made sense that Emeka would be with him with his life disintegrating like burnt up paper.
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” Her father snapped at him. “My daughter could be in Kwara right now. What was she thinking, handing my child over to a woman that is probably wishing me all manners of badluck enh?”
Emeka came towards her. “Is your sister with Anu?”
She nodded quickly because his hand appeared to be advancing towards her. For some reason, she didn’t want him touching her.
“Do you know where they are? Did Anu say anything to you?”
“No.” Her gaze shifted from Emeka’s patient eyes and fair face to her legs. Her jeans looked dry but the insides of its length felt damp and clung to her skin like rain soaked clothing. She couldn’t wait to get to her room and rip the jeans off her skin. The jeans and her top would go in the bin, along with her memory of last night.
“So they are not at Bradleys…” Emeka held out his other hand as if both hands would help him think better whilst his eyes were fixed on her frowning father. “Bradley wasn’t at home either when you got to his house. That means they are all together wherever they are.”
“They could be anywhere by now.”
Emeka shook his head. “They are somewhere associated with Bradley. And I remember you telling me the bobo’s mother moved to Antigua and her house is empty. Which means that’s where we will find them.”
“Yes … yes. Dude, you are a life saver with this your brain.” Her father clicked his fingers in her direction. “You can tell me where you were last night when I get back.”
Kanyin didn’t start crying until they left and she locked the door. The tears kept coming in the shower and moments later when she started typing an email to her personal tutor to inform her she wouldn’t be at the university for a while, she wondered if they would ever stop.
“Little mummy,” Idriss whispered as his daughter flung herself in his arms.
Dressed in her Peppa Pig pyjamas, hair smelling of baby shampoo, it took him a while to shift the lump in his throat. It took him even a while longer to put her down and wrap her pink comfort blanket around her and pass her over to Emeka who took her outside to the car.
Idriss sat on the grand sofa in the room and waited for his wife. He could hear her talking to someone from the other side of the bungalow. He turned his lower lip down at the sound of his rival’s voice. Imagining them together nauseated him.
They couldn’t have heard them come in. Having visited Bradley’s mother, when she wanted her house priced before she emigrated, he knew enough about the house. Neither the triple colour wallpapers, nor the arrangement of champagne bottles and glass cups in the display cabinet had changed. The position of the ugly plant at the door, underneath which his mother kept her spare house keys, was still the same too.
He looked behind him to find his wife standing there in her dressing gown. A white towel had been wrapped round her head but two of her plaits had escaped, dripping water on the front of her dressing gown.
For a moment, he let himself be taking in by her. By her pretend vulnerability, her beauty. And rather too quickly, he found himself questioning what he saw. What he knew. Even if the evidence he got sent were all made up by someone out there that didn’t want to see them together, what about what he saw Bradley and his wife doing on that hotel bed.
Seeing them together like that nearly killed him. She was kissing Bradley, the way she kissed him anytime she wanted more than just a cuddle at night. Their hands were all over each other. They were lost to the world and even if he had caught on fire and exploded right there in front of them they would never have been aware. He had shut the door quietly and retreated. He couldn’t have confronted them then. Not when his eyes wouldn’t stop spouting tears. Instead he carried on as if he hadn’t seen anything, making love to her that night because her gloomy mood had lifted.
“You can’t take my daughter.” She was staring out through the window.
He got off the sofa and followed the direction of her gaze to his car where Emeka and Jadesola were. His daughter looked happy, blowing butterfly kisses at a puppy with a woman by the roadside.
“You have taken everything else. You can’t take her from me.”
“You expect me to let you leave the country with her?” He couldn’t believe she was still blaming him.
“Your passports are gone. Do you think I’m stupid? I may not have a Masters like you or be able to add numbers without a calculator … that doesn’t mean I will be smiling and waving like a mumu whilst you take my daughter to the airport. Or what do you need the passports for? Shopping?”
He spotted Bradley hiding behind the blinds dividing the living room and dining room. “I’m not asking you to stay with me. You can go anywhere you want with that coward. As long as you don’t think you will take my daughter with you. If you try it, I will fight you with every penny I have for full custody. Don’t forget how detached you were with her when your father died. Now, I’m glad I made you see your doctor. He can provide the evidence I need about how depressed you were… ”
“You can’t take Jadesola away from me,” tears ran down her cheeks. She dabbed at her face with the back of her hand. “You have other children. She is the only one I have.”
Bradley rushed towards her. Although his hands were around Anu, it was on Idriss that his glaring eyes were.
“Say something, Brad. Give me an excuse to flatten you, coward.”
He left the house after his threat. Bradley was the one doing the flattening, holding Anu as if she belonged to him.
Anu had been waiting in front of Emeka’s house for a while before Uche’s car arrived. She was about to ring the taxi firm for a cab, having given up on banging on the door a while back. The house was a lot smaller than theirs. In the middle of a terrace building, on a cul-de-sac. A couple of nosey women who were old enough to know better had already come out of a house three doors away. This was when she banged on the door with both fists, yelling philandering bastard.
“Hiya babe,” Uche alighted from the car in her nurses’ tunic and pants uniform and strode to her side.
“What took you so long?” Anu did not let Uche hug her fully, presenting her side to her. “I saw his car at the bottom of this road and Kanyin said the three of them did not come back to the house when I went there…”
Uche squeezed the hand she was still holding on to. “You are cold babe. You have lost weight too. I came to the hospital, straight after my shift. I was told you were sleeping…”
“I need to find my daughter,” she interrupted, her voice slightly raised. Telling her she told the nurses she didn’t want to see anyone would have hurt her friend. The woman was already fidgeting unnecessarily beside her.
“Calm down, Anu. She is fine with her dad.”
“He wants to take her away from me.”
“What?” Uche studied her. “This is how Emeka said you were planning to leave the country.”
“Yet, I’m here. Listen… he is angry that I left him. This is why I asked Bradley not to come with me so that he doesn’t go ape again. I can’t lose my daughter. Please Uche, I’m not feeling so strong anymore. He will get custody if we go to court. All he has to tell them is how our daughter prefers him. How I fell apart when my father died and he will be right because I’m falling apart right now.”
Uche hugged her, holding on to her for longer than normal. She held both of her hands after letting go of her shoulders. “You are a strong woman. You can do this.”
“I just don’t understand why he is this angry with me. I mean … why does he think something is going on between me and Bradley?”
“He keeps dropping all this comments about me… that I’m not innocent, as if he knows about what happened when we were in Paris?”
Uche squeaked. “You think I betrayed you?”
“Sorry. Just asking.”
“Shows we are really good friends.”
“Bradley kissed me on a hotel bed against my will. You blame me for not wanting my already suspicious husband knowing it happened?”
“You didn’t let something slip whilst you and Emeka were in the throes of passion or something, did you?”
“Me and Emeka?” Uche rolled her eyes.
“What does that mean?” Idriss and Anu had suspected their friends were having some kind of relationship trouble. Whilst Emeka had hinted that Uche and him might not be progressing with their plans to get married, her friend had never been the type to talk about her relationship. Directing their conversation to something less intrusive every time she questioned her. “Talk to me darling. Is it this whole marriage thing? Give it time. I’m sure he will be ready soon.”
Emeka’s BMW appeared at the end of the bottom of the street. Idriss who was driving, parked the car behind Uche’s car.
Uche tapped her hand and whispered her name. “Try to stay calm. You have your daughter and business to consider here.”
Emeka and Jadesola came out of the car. Whilst he opened the door, Anu squatted to her daughter’s level and gave her a long hug.
“I wan stay with dada,” Jadesola said.
“Okay, Jade. It’s okay, little mummy.” She kissed her head and wiped the Ketch-up at the corner of her lips. She smiled as her daughter waved and went inside the house with Uche. Idriss had come out of the car by now, waiting beside it. She strolled over to him.
“I’m sorry about this morning.” He said without looking at her. “I should never have said what I said. You were grieving, baby. I shouldn’t have brought your grief into all of these.”
“Nothing is going on between me and Bradley.”
“I won’t leave the country. You don’t need a lawyer. We don’t have to air our business in court.”
Perhaps he had sought legal advice already. She noticed he had changed into one of his Massimo shirts. A burgundy shirt with black pants and black shoes from the same Italian designer. This morning he had been dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt.
“I don’t intend to fight you over our daughter. You don’t deserve that after how I messed up.” He held her gaze, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. “I know I hurt you. I did. But I think it is too soon for you to be moving in with Bradley or moving into his mum’s.”
“Frankly, it’s none of your business.” She paused to let the wave of anger pressing air out of her lungs pass. With it went the need to remind him why she and her daughter had to find a new home in the first place. “I was going to move to Dad’s but the repair men have not finished yet.”
“I will tell the guys to make the house their priority. They can drop the other properties for now. In the mean time, you can go back to our house with little mummy. She needs stability. I will stay with Emeka or in one of our furnished flats.”
On the day, Anu moved her belongings to her father’s house down the street, Austin was the only who helped her. Kanyin who now grunted whenever Anu said hi to her stayed out of her way. Idriss stayed away, citing his excuse for everything these days, ‘work.’ This wasn’t true as Anu had resumed back at the main Aspire agency as branch manager, taking over from him so he could have more time for his CEO responsibilities. He consented to her coming back as manager because the Manchester agency under Kaz had thrived, exceeding his expectations and making him cast his eyes towards the south of the border. Although, his thoughts of an outstanding estate agency in the capital were what he called wandering-out-aloud, she knew the idea of a London estate agency had already started to take shape in his head.
Although, she learnt to be civil with her husband, the relationship between him and Bradley got worse overnight. They engaged in verbal battles every time they saw each other, fuelled by Idriss’ jealousy. Bradley enjoyed letting him think they had gotten back together. Anu didn’t help either, asking Bradley to come round almost every evening. She didn’t need him around, although his patient listening helped. What she wanted was Idriss to see she could flourish without him.
The verbal disagreements between the men nearly culminated in a physical fight three weeks after she took over the Ribble Greaves agency. Idriss had taken a few days off work and chosen to look after Jadesola himself that day. He let himself in using the spare keys her father had given him when he was alive. Bradley had arrived earlier claiming he had a free hour to spare and he wanted to take her to work.
“Why is he letting himself in?” Bradley barked when she got to the main sitting room where the men were. Both of them were trying to stand as tall as possible. Faces pulled in deep, angry glowers. “He is nothing but a toe rag.”
Idriss looked like he was ready to punch Bradley. Anu blocked his path and warned him with her eyes.
“He called me a toad. Who does he think he is?”
“He didn’t call you a toad.” She picked up her bag and suit jacket from the sofa where they were dumped earlier. She would get Bradley to take her to work now to diffuse the situation. “Your daughter is upstairs. She has missed you.”
“Don’t try to change the subject, Aisha. He called me a toad. He might have said it in that silly Northern accent of his but I’m not stupid.”
“Idriss, please calm down.”
“Why put me through this?” He switched to Yoruba. “Shebi, a wife is supposed to defend her husband and protect him from this kind of insults.”
“What is he saying?” Bradley asked, flushed. “Is he calling me names in Nigerian?”
“It is Yoruba,” Idriss raised his voice. “Get it right, ode buruku.”
“I know what that buku word means. It means the devil. He is calling me a devil.”
“If the cap fits”
“What does buku mean Anu?”
“It is even worse. He is calling me a toad’s rag. See what I am going through at the hands of your boyfriend.”
Anu picked up her bag and jacket from the sofa. “That’s it. I’m off to work. You two stay here and fight. Austin will give me a lift. I will call Aleska to come look after Jadesola.”
She was out of the door in a second. She hoped if they fought, Bradley’s new obsessive hobby, weights at the gym would come in handy. She hoped her husband would end up with a body that would hurt for days. The way hers did for a while.
Yet, she was glad when Bradley came out of the house and ran after her. She told herself she didn’t want them fighting in a house where her daughter was.
Work was gruesome that day. By midday after calming down a client’s wife, following their discovery of him on top of his mistress at a new house the agency were leasing for him, Anu regretted coming back to work full time. She missed Jadesola too.
When she got home, she met a soothing atmosphere – lit candles in the sitting room, lights dimmed, savoury and sweet snacks on the table, Idriss in an apron and the smell of curried goat from the kitchen. This would have ordinarily calmed her nerves.
She bounded up the stairs to her room after telling him to take Jadesola home, that she had an appointment.
She was unzipping her skirt in the bedroom, having locked the door from the inside when the door knob turned. He muttered something in Yoruba and then proceeded to knock lightly on the door.
“Aisha, I cooked your favourite meal. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. I had to ask Austin for help after that moody Kanyinsola refused to pick my call. I even burnt a finger. Please come downstairs. Let’s eat. Jadesola is in bed. We need to talk. Please baby.”
Pausing her hand on the button of her skirt, she took in the anxiety she heard in his voice. A rare thing for him. He had never been the type to show anxiety in any situation. Acting like he had the answer to every problem. His voice and mannerisms echoed his confidence.
“I have an evening appointment.” She took off the skirt and searched for a dress in the wardrobe whilst her head ran through their client list at work. “It’s with Mr. Scholes. The retired army man from Guernsey. We are going to view the Folk Close property to see if it big enough for him.”
“Wait. The property in Manchester?”
“At this time? It is late, baby. Why don’t you let one of our male agents go with him? James is free tonight. Or I can come with you, so you know you are safe, sha.”
“Why don’t you just let me run the agency as I see fit.” She heaved a sigh as she heard footsteps moving away from the door.
She chose a double layer black dress. It didn’t look overtly elegant. Nor too formal. She would put her ruby gold earrings and bracelet in her bag to accessorise with once out of the house. Perhaps the Sekonda watch too that Bradley gave her for her birthday last year in Paris. He had given her the watch whilst his girlfriend and her husband were at the bar and she had thanked him before spotting the Swarovski crystals on it. Seeing the watch, Idriss bought her a Gucci yellow-gold band with rare gemstones that cost thousands. The letters A and I were inscribed on the inside of the band.
After a long soak in the bathtub, moisturising with dollops of her expensive lotion and body oil, she got dressed. She covered the tiny reminders of the accident on her face and hand with light brown powder. Idriss had left with their daughter. Candles blown. Snacks and food packed away.
As she walked down the street and past their house, her mother’s words about men came back to her. ‘Tell a man you will sacrifice all for him and you become the sacrifice.’
This afternoon after the florists delivered bouquets of pink and white roses to her at work and he sent her the love poem he read to her at their wedding, she entertained thoughts of forgiving him one day.
Then Kate had turned up and asked if she would have a job to return to. Marching her into her office, she had been ready to tell Kate what she thought of her until she burst into tears.
“Please, I can’t lose my job. It only happened three times and I regretted it each time.”
Those were the words that shocked her to her core. Idriss swore he cheated once. And she believed him, letting hope and love push out her anger.
Bradley’s red sports car was waiting as arranged when she got to the bottom of the street. She got in and strapped the seat belt on.
“You are beautiful, I swear.” He murmured without his eyes straying from her body. “Can I kiss you before I take you to mine?”
Leaning over, he kissed her cheek. She took in the intoxicating scent of his fragrance. It was enticing enough for her to turn her face fully to him and let him take her lips in between his.
He would help her forget.
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