Sorry, I’m posting late again. Let me not bore you with the details. Sorry again. Don’t tell Oga Daniel. Enjoy.
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“You slept with Bradley!”
Her father’s voice thundered loud enough for her to hear all the way from the conservatory room. She believed it was something her stepmother said to punish him until she heard her start to cry.
“You broke me, Idriss. You jumped in bed with our staff when I was grieving for my father and I wanted to stop the pain you caused me for a minute.”
“By sleeping with that man?” Her father barked.
“You already thought there was something going on, what does it matter?”
“I saw you kissing him. At the hotel. Your hands were all over him. I saw you but somehow I convinced myself that you would never go beyond kissing. Boy! Was I wrong! Clap for yourself, you have won with the shock factor. My wife the whore.”
“He kissed me because you were not there.” Her gut-wrenching scream silenced him. “You paid all that money for that hotel for all of us yet you didn’t want to be with me. I know I was a mess, crying for Dad … I was drunk and Bradley took advantage. And maybe it wouldn’t have happened if my husband hadn’t left me in a hotel room by myself.”
“Come on, you went from strong, hardworking woman to this sad chick I didn’t recognise. I needed a break from the mood swings. You found a replacement pretty quick, if you ask me.”
“Bradley knocked on the door. It was the evening Penny left him, okay. He said she left because of his… feelings for me. I felt sorry for him and served him some of the wine from my bottle. I didn’t see the kiss coming.”
Kanyin put her short sleeve pyjamas on. It was the one depicting the young princesses and Olaf in Frozen. Jadesola had been the one to ask their father to buy them the kid’s pyjamas and after having her second shower of the day, she clothed herself in her own pair and disappeared under her heap of covers. One of her headphones, Adele’s voice crooning from it, would come on next.
It hadn’t surprised her that Bradley wanted her father’s wife. It was obvious with the way he always seemed to turn up when her father had gone for his evening work appointments, the takeaway he brought along and the way his eyes followed Anu’s hips.
This revelation would floor her father. With time, they would probably be fine again. Love like theirs always triumphed.
Anu had been crying for a while before Idriss returned with the piece of kitchen towel he went into the kitchen to get. She snatched the kitchen towel from him and wiped her eyes. Frayed, no words came from her as explanation.
The pleasure she was supposed to feel after sleeping with Bradley did not come. She’d had quite a lot to drink last night at the bar he took her to and when he started kissing her in front of the fireplace at his cottage, she kissed him back, mostly because a reminder about why they couldn’t do anything popped in her head. And that reminder, her husband’s face had set things in motion.
Minutes after he stopped trashing about on top of her, she had dressed hurriedly and insisted he called her a cab rather than drive her home.
Idriss left the room again. When he came back, he had a bottle of Hennessey in one hand. Sat far back on the sofa, he started to drink from the bottle without a cup.
She had never seen him this upset. So why did he cheat if she meant this much to him?
She stood up from her spot on the ivory rug to his position on the sofa. She knelt beside him and rubbed one of his legs.
“I’m sorry. I was so angry with you. And I know I’m going to lose my husband except now my head is clearer, I don’t want to lose you.”
“You see, all I have needed these past few weeks is a good friend. Someone who I know I can truly confide in. Someone whose judgement is always well received because it comes from a place of love.”
“That’s why you went to him,” he narrowed his eyes at her. “I get it. He is your best friend.”
“Someone who has been my friend no matter how hard we rowed in the past. Someone who at times can be a complete jerk to everyone else but a kind soul to me.”
“I’m your best friend?”
“Yes, Idrisu Abdulkadiri Akinwale.” She hoped she said his names with the same inflection his mother would have used. She had listened to enough of his childhood stories to know his mother called him by all his names whenever the situation called for it.
He put his drink on the floor and helped her onto his laps. She sat there for a while, fiddling with one of the buttons of his shirt.
“I remember you saying those words to me on our wedding day, Aisha. Right before our wedding planner screamed no. She thought the wedding was over. The woman looked like she was about to faint.”
“She told me not to include those words in my vows.” She ran her hands through his beard, needing to see his eyes. They looked wet but she wasn’t sure.
“I knew what you meant. And I think you get the crazy type of love I feel for you. Why else would I be with you with your shakara? The way you try to wear the trousers in this marriage. If we were back home right now, you would probably be on your knees for days. With your family on the floor begging me.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Yes o. I would let you get up of course so you can cook me pounded yam and egusi with panla in the evenings. And of course to give me that thing I can’t sleep without.” He winked at her.
“This is the problem with you. Every conversation leads back to that thing between your legs.”
He caressed her with his eyes, mouth parted on purpose. By the time his gaze journeyed from her legs to the gaping part on her top, she felt completely nude.
His body, the part she spoke about, reacted before she had time to get off his legs. He took her hands in his and stopped her from getting away.
“I am crazy about you. The whole you. Even if sex suddenly went off the package, hopefully not for very long o… I would still be crazy about you.”
“So, why did you cheat then?”
“You know why.”
She yanked her hands from his and got off him. Standing at the farthest corner of the conservatory room from him.
He stood up and left the room. When he came back, he had an envelope in his hand. He emptied the envelope on the table before sitting back down and beckoning for her to come closer.
Anu did as asked. She picked up the pictures that came out of the envelope and studied them. They were pictures of her and Bradley: in his car, going inside his cottage and at a secluded area in a park. They seemed harmless to her. They weren’t to her husband.
“This pictures… they make it look like I met him all the time…like I hid the meetings from you. These were all taken when Dad passed. When you begged me to leave the house … I’m sure you knew where I was … except the one in front of his house.” She stopped as soon as she realised telling Idriss why she was at Bradley’s cottage that day wouldn’t help her.
“Go on, I’m listening.”
“He asked me to meet him after what happened at the hotel in Paris? I was mad at him so he asked me to come see him.”
“And you went?”
“Don’t jump to conclusions here.”
“I’m not jumping, haba. You are the one adding one plus one and arriving at two.” He sat up, balancing himself on the edge of the sofa. “Oya, tell me.”
“I went to see him to tell him nothing could ever happen between us.”
He replied with a grunt, smiling a sarcastic smile whilst his lower legs twiddled. “So, after you finished vexing, did he kiss you to apologise?”
“Now you are being ridiculous.”
“Help me then. Tell me what convinced you to go and see a man that stuck his tongue inside your mouth days before in his own crib? Are you sure you didn’t want him at all at the hotel? You took your time showing up at the restaurant. You hair was wet when you came down … I’m guessing you showered to get rid of the evidence.”
“I cleaned up so that you wouldn’t start telling me off for drinking again.”
He had picked up the bottle again.
“You have your weaknesses too. I’m sure the Imam wouldn’t approve if he knew his dear friend loves drinking and women or should I say girls.” She kept going to sate herself and to hurt him as if doing these would change him. “You cheated and fathered two kids, yet I’m the one answering questions here. You have countless female friends yet my friendship with Bradley is the thing you keep grilling me about. Let’s not forget your actions when we first met. The ones we don’t speak about.”
“Do you remember that day when all the guys were here with their babes and we were talking about this keeping your ex as friend issue and you were arguing like a lawyer saying you and Bradley would always be friends. That no man could dictate who your friends were. That you would rather leave the man.”
Uche had cornered her in the kitchen that night and told her there was a certain type of decorum expected of Nigerian women. ‘Go easy with the way you talk about your male friend in front of your husband’s friends. Your husband might love you so much, he tolerates your western ways and independence, biko don’t underestimate male pride.”
He placed his bottle on the floor and sat up straight. “The way you value this friendship you have with your ex is a deal breaker. Forget the pictures, the kiss and the fact you chose to hide it from me…”
“I had to…”
“No,” he interrupted. “This matter would not have gotten this far if you had bothered to tell me what that coward tried to do to you. Instead, you ended up exactly where he wanted you.” He stood up, took her hands in his and helped her up. “I can forgive you. Let’s put it behind us. Austin and I can bring your things from your dad’s house back home tonight.”
“You can forgive me?” She snorted in derision.
He had always acted as if he was better than anyone else. Like someone immune to patterns of conduct others followed, perhaps by virtue of his maleness.
“Last time I checked, you were the one that fathered two kids by another woman.”
He let go of her hands and sighed. “I have a meeting to get to at the council office. I need to shower. Can you book me a taxi at Corporate Cars for half an hour? We can talk later, if you don’t mind. Aleska will be back with Jadesola soon.”
She nodded and took a step back as his neck moved lower. He planted a kiss on her forehead instead, stroked her shoulders and strode out of the room.
Idriss did not get back until past nine. She was on the settee with the girls, having been stationed there for the best part of the evening. She hadn’t chosen to stay because Idriss asked her indirectly to stay or because Jadesola went to hide amongst the toys in her bedroom when she mentioned going home. Anu decided to stay after hearing Kanyin scream in her sleep.
Her stepdaughter insisted nothing was wrong with her. Two small tubes of vanilla ice cream, a bowl of sweet popcorn and reruns of Alvin and the Chipmunks film later, Kanyin looked more like the happy but cautious girl that joined her household two years ago.
She knew she had been right to worry when sounds of movement in the kitchen made Kanyin leap from the settee.
“Calm down, princess. It’s your dad.” Anu guessed Idriss had left his house keys. The backdoor had probably been left unlocked by him and Austin when they left the recyclables out that morning. She stroked Kanyin’s hand as she settled back on the settee. “What is it Kanyinsola? You are so jumpy these days.” She had noticed too that Kanyin was now a lot slimmer and for someone who had never retained fat, this was quite noticeable.
It took a while before she opened her mouth. And when she did, jumbled stuttering was all that came out. She stopped talking when Idriss walked into the room from the kitchen.
“How are my girls?”
“Wondering how your meeting lasted this long.” Anu answered and eyed him.
“It was easier to get the taxi back to Emeka’s.” He stopped by the sofa, smiling down at them.
“So, you made yourself at home with Emeka’s drinks? Hope the hangover that tortures you tomorrow does a good job.”
He pointed at the TV screen with the chipmunk faces frozen at the scene they paused the film at. “I didn’t miss much. Abi, I missed anything new with your rats Jadesola. You should be in bed not watching your rats again, little mummy.”
Jadesola dived under her pink blanket, levelling her body flat.
“Where is Jadesola?” Idriss played along, patting the cushion next to his daughter’s body before uncovering her. He hugged her as she jumped into his arms, squealing in delight and pretend surprise. “You want to stay here tonight, don’t you? I miss you too much when you’re not here. Say you will stay or I will start singing.”
Although his hands were tickling Jadesola, his eyes were on Anu as he spoke. Kanyin winked at her.
Neck bent in embarrassment, she ignored him. Soon, his voice filled the room as he started to sing Tuface Idibia’s African Queen.
“Now I know you are drunk.” She begged Kanyin who was now laughing not to encourage him with a sharp look. “Please, stop it.”
The door bell rang and she stood up, straightened her skirt and hurried to the door. At the door, Anu slid her shoes on. They were on the shoe rack in the hallway where she dumped them earlier. She hated attending to visitors with bare feet.
She unlocked the door quickly when the door bell rang out again. “Hold on…”
She didn’t get to finish her statement as right there at the door were her husband’s babies. Kate was holding one whilst the other was in a car seat.
“What is this?” Anu asked.
She needn’t have bothered as Kate grabbed the car seat with her other hand and barged past her into the house. From her corner, the taillights of a taxi leaving the street were visible. Like those taillights, the hope she nursed about her marriage ebbed away.
Could a marriage really be a marriage with three people involved?
She could do as Uche suggested the other day. ‘Yank the brat’s hair off her scalp so that next time her eyes spot your man, she will tell her legs to run.’ She could be tactful on the other hand, discreet with her warnings. But the worst had already happened. Her husband had two kids by Kate. What would be the point? Could anything worse happen?
What about the person sending pictures to her husband? She had assumed Auntie Yele was the culprit. Although Idriss gave Auntie Yele a lot of money when she left the UK for Abuja, she had wondered, the same way some of their friends had, if it was possible for Auntie Yele to ever forgive them for her daughter’s end.
Seeing Kate now however, Anu wondered if she knew something about their mysterious posts.
Inside the lounge, a verbal confrontation had ensued between her husband and his mistress. The girls had disappeared somewhere. Perhaps upstairs.
“I will come to your house to see them.” Idriss seemed to want rid of Kate and the anger in his tone deepened when he saw Anu. “I will see the boys then. Now is not the right time.”
“It hasn’t been the right time for weeks.” Kate yelled. “You haven’t seen them since your family… found out.”
“I need time.”
“Well, I’m tired. Your kids keep waking me up at night. They miss you or maybe it is the cold… because I keep rationing gas. I don’t have money and since you stopped coming round, I can’t ask you.” She passed the child in her arms to him. “Abdul is missing you. Let them stay here with you so I can sleep tonight. Bashir’s pampers needs changing.”
Anu let out a raw breath. It wasn’t the realisation that he had invested that much time with his new family, so that the twins had been named names that could have been given their own sons that hurt her. It was the look in his eyes as he focused on his son, the radiance of the smile that the baby returned.
She hurried past them, picked her bag from the side of the armchair and left the house. She didn’t stop until she arrived at her father’s house and catching Idriss crossing the street to get to her, she wished her shelter was miles away and not a mere three doors away.
“Hey Aisha,” he reached her and held her shoulders. “Tell me how to make all this better. I’m struggling here, eh. All I know is I can’t lose you.”
“Do you honestly think you can forget I slept with another man?” Tears left her eyes. Her hands didn’t go up to her face to wipe them as typical of her. “And if you managed to do that, I could never be a stepmum to those boys. Every time I see them, I will think of their conception. I will think of my own baby. The one that got robbed off me.”
“No, don’t. Just go. I can’t deal with the pain you bring me anymore. I’m not strong enough. I can’t be your wife anymore.”
She waited for his soothing hug to come. It didn’t.
He wiped her face with his thumb whilst the other held her shoulder. Kissing her forehead, he mumbled something that sounded like sorry. Then letting go of her, he went the same way he came, his steps slow and lacking determination this time.
Anu had just finished getting ready for bed when she heard sounds from downstairs. She climbed the stairs quietly, clutching her phone.
Idriss was in the main sitting room unpacking snacks and drinks from grocery bags.
“Aisha, hey.” He placed the tray of chocolate cake he held on the table and walked towards her. “I called Uche and asked her what girlfriends are supposed to do if their friend is going through a hard time. So, I did as she said. Got you all your favourites. The ice cream is chilling in the freezer.” He wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her closer. “I bought those ladies’ films you and Kanyinsola like to watch.”
“I should get dressed then.” Anu glanced at the short nightie on her body.
“You are perfect like this.” Idriss followed where her eyes went. “Really perfect.”
“Girlfriends don’t look at each other like that.”
“I hope not.” He laughed as he led her to the sofa.
She was leaning on him, her legs on the sofa when the film ended. She had gulped too much sugar, courtesy of the chocolate cake and ice cream. The atmosphere in the room reminded her of a scene from The Way We Were. Although she couldn’t imagine ringing any man for help after the same man hurt her.
The film they watched, Breakfast at Tiffany’s could have possibly converted her husband. He watched each scene with rapt attention. The comments that usually came when they watched chick flicks together were missing. Having him with her like this soothed her. His hand was on her thighs and although she would have preferred to have that hand travel around her body, their closeness soothed her mood.
“I should go,” he said. “I left the kids with Austin and Kanyin.” He stood up, helping her up.
They hugged at the door, a long hug that led to a kiss. The kiss deepened quickly. Neither of them wanted it to end. His hands descended on her body, moving swiftly under her nightie whilst leading her to the sofa at the same time.
“What are we doing? Anu pulled back slightly. “Is this how you say goodbye?”
“Sorry. I miss you…”
“Me too.” She planted a kiss on his chin. “Goodnight.”
Perhaps it was the twinkling of his eyes or the ways his dimples dipped to show his pleasure, somehow her lips moved to his mouth. He kissed them this time, eager and determined. His shirt came off. Then he took his time, pleasing and disrobing her until she stood nude in front of him. When he started to unbutton his jeans, she placed her hand above his to stop him.
“It’s okay. I have protection in my wallet. I’m always prepared.”
Anu turned away from him and picked up her nightie from the floor.
“Oh, baby. I didn’t mean it like that. I’m prepared for you … Not for anyone else.”
“You should go.” She covered her front with the nightie.
“Not until you say you believe me.” He held her shoulders. “If I was prepared, why did I get caught with Kate?”
“I failed you once. One moment of madness.”
“Kate told me it happened a few times.”
“She is lying, then.”
“Why would she?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she has an agenda.”
“Can I have your wallet?”
Idriss eyed her with suspicion before passing her the wallet. She looked in it and checked for the condoms that were there last time. Three in all. They were still there. She remembered taking one out for him the last occasion they were together. They made love the evening before her family fell apart. A quiet fumbling on the sofa as they didn’t want Jadesola waking up.
Careful had become his middle name since he found out he had HIV. Surely, he couldn’t have been careless so soon after landing himself two unwanted kids?
“You slept with her once?”
“Do you want me to get your father’s Quran?”
She shook her head and touched his chest. “I believe you.”
“Good. Can we go back to making out?” He nudged his head in the direction of the picture of her frowning father on the wall. “Preferably upstairs. I no won anger Alhaji.”
“Well, I want to talk.”
“We can do both.” He took her nightie from her hands and kissed her again. “We can talk for as long as you want in your bed.”
She woke up to his voice moments after they fell asleep. Voice weary. Eyes twinkling in the dark. He had gotten dressed, shirt buttoned halfway.
“I have to go, baby. Kanyin has just text me. She is going to give the kids up for adoption if I don’t get back soon.”
She couldn’t help smiling.
“Jadesola included,” he said.
“Go,” she slapped away the hand he had on her waist. “In case she isn’t joking.
He rose after kissing her lips and forehead, his eyes giving away his joy. “If this is the way you say goodnight, let’s continue this in the morning. I will come over as soon as Aleska arrives to look after the children.”
“Can’t wait,” Anu blew him a kiss as he walked away.
She would have said more if she wasn’t choked with happiness and her longing for him.
Yesterday morning, she had woken up to a cold, bitter weather and the realisation that her marriage was done with. Today, warm from what he did to her body and mind, their marriage vows came back to her. She would honour them from now on.
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