Hi, I’m so sorry I’m posting late again. Connection ish. Thanks to those that checked in early and to those that waited. Please let me know what you think about the length. Is it too long?
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//Going Back To Move Forward//
“I’m sure this pregnancy isn’t my husband’s.” Anu looked away from Uche to stop the tears welling up in her friend’s eyes from triggering hers. “The unthinkable has happened. Now I have to deal with the consequence of my reckless action.”
Yesterday morning after learning what Bayo did to Kanyin, she followed Idriss to Emeka’s house. He was the one that spoke to them. Kanyin’s eyes were empty of emotions. They concentrated on the floor or on her finger nails. They refused to look at Anu when she hugged her.
She came back with them and did not start crying until they heard Idriss in a shouting match with Emeka from the living room. He was ranting, furious that Emeka wanted them to plan how to go after Bayo.
“What kind of a friend are you? How can you tell me to sit and plan, haba. You sit and wait here for Iku and whoever you have called. I’m going to go out, catch myself a monster and enjoy getting my hands dirty.”
That was how he left. Enraged. Emeka hurrying after him. She spent most of her morning holding Kanyin. Her afternoon wearing out the soles of her feet. Her husband called later that evening to let her know he wouldn’t be coming home.
“I need to clear my head.”
“What about him?” She asked, unable to use Bayo’s name.
“Emeka and I did our thing. He is in Spain. The bastard is on holiday. Don’t worry, I will be waiting when he gets back.”
With that he asked her to take the phone to his daughter and rang off after speaking to her.
“She doesn’t want to go to the police.” Anu went back to the conversation they chewed on earlier. It was easier than talking about Bradley’s baby. “She is scared. Her father agrees that we shouldn’t call the police either.”
“What do you think?” Uche snuggled into the wing of the sofa, resting her side on the cushion middle like someone who didn’t trust her body to hold her up.
“I think we should. Isn’t it better to let the judicial system deal with him than take the law into our hands?”
“You are worried the guys will do something silly and get caught.”
“I’m worried about Kanyinsola. She needs her father. She needs him here.” Part of her anxiety revolved around her own dilemma. The problem that left her drained during the day and wide awake at night. She couldn’t even trust herself at the moment. How could the girl rely on her?
Last night, she struggled to get Bashir to settle. He sensed her restlessness, spitting his dummy out every time she stuck it in his mouth. She had to put him next to her on the bed. There, he fell asleep, one hand closed around her thumb.
Anu picked up the baby monitor to check it was still working. “I should go and check on the kids.”
“Is Jade asleep too?”
“Yes. They are so tired today. Jadesola started to yawn as I was washing her hair. Her sister is asleep too.”
“When is Kate coming for her kids? Having them here is the last thing you need.”
“Her mother is really ill.”
“So? Your stepdaughter is going through hell.”
“I don’t mind having them here. Jadesola plays with them.”
“You mean they are a good distraction from all you have going on at the moment.” Uche shifted closer to her. “You have to figure out whose baby you are carrying. You said you are not sure if Bradley used something…”
“I was drunk. Hardly there.”
“You have also said he is not the type not to use protection.”
“I’m not sure of anything these days.”
“Then be the Aisha, Idriss fell for. Go and see Bradley and ask him. You need to know.”
“Idriss and I have not been careless once. I know already. All I need is to get it sorted.”
“You mean you want to take it out?” Uche sat up straight. “After all the losses you have suffered, let’s not forget the recent miscarriage, you want to take an innocent child’s life?”
She shrugged. Her family needed her. This one inside her did not exist yet.
“I took the easy way out two years ago.”
There was this tenderness, this patient listening Uche’s conversations with Jadesola displayed. Skills she thought only a mother or someone that wanted to be a mother would have. “I didn’t know. What happened?”
“Emeka said he wasn’t ready. He didn’t support my decision but he kept singing I’m not ready in my ears. I cried every night. I hoped it would go away. The day I went for the pill, I changed my mind every two seconds.”
“Did he go with you?”
“No. And …when I got home, he told me I shouldn’t have done it. I broke down. I was already a wreck, hating myself. The last thing I needed was him telling me what I already knew. Telling me I should have waited. I don’t think we ever recovered from what I did.”
“What he made you do, darling,” Anu corrected. “If he wanted you to keep his child, he would have stopped you.”
Uche told her she needed a drink. She left for the kitchen, returned with two cups of fruit juice and passed one over. Anu took the cup and yawned before taking a sip. It had turned a rich black outside. Another night without her husband. She was grateful to have her friend with her. She would never be ready to face him on her own.
“I wish I want this child.”
“Would you want it if it is your hubby’s?”
“We were desperate for another child. Of course, if it is his.”
“Even without him?”
“I would still be willing. I’m strong enough to go it alone.”
“So, you want this child?”
“I don’t want Bradley’s child.”
“Then you need to find out for sure if Bradley fathered this child. Go and see him at the hospital. I will make up an excuse if your hubby comes back”
“They won’t let me in at this time.”
“If you tell him you are on the way, we both know he will find a way to get the nurses to let you in. Don’t underestimate what a man can do for the woman he loves.”
Her friend was right. The nurses were expecting her, greeting her as if they knew she was important to their patient.
Bradley was sitting up in bed, with fewer tubes and machines around him than she expected. His mother had called her two days ago to let her know surgeons operated on him again following complications from his last surgery. The call, Anu concluded was the woman’s way of apologising for how she treated her the last time they saw each other.
It took a while for Anu to successfully phrase the question that brought her to him.
“No, I didn’t.” Bradley said. “We were both quite drunk, remember. I had way too much to drink that night.” He reached for one of her hands. “What is it, beautiful? You look so worried. You don’t think I gave you something, do you?”
“I’m fine. Just checking.” It was hard for her not to break down and cry. It was even harder to get words out of her throat and sound convincing. “I have something on my mind. That’s all.”
“You mean that jerk?”
“I don’t know anyone with the name jerk, do you?” Her attempt at humour landed between them like veiled hostility.
“Leave him, beautiful. You don’t even have to be with me. Be on your own. Anything is better than a man who treats you like he does.”
“Kanyin’s boyfriend assaulted her.” The words came out on their own. She hadn’t planned to reveal what happened to her stepdaughter to a man with no link to her. But afterwards, she realised how important the girl was to her. How her own problem felt secondary to hers. “Right now, she and her sister are my focus. I have let her down enough.”
Inside the lift, she decided to stick to her promise. Nothing else would matter. Not even their father and Aspire.
Her hand stroked her tummy in the taxi twice on the way back home. The decision she reached about it clogged her throat, choking air out of her until she nearly passed out.
Kanyin wasn’t asleep when her stepmother left the house. She was about to drift off to sleep when she heard gentle knocking on her bedroom door. For a moment, whilst her head remained on the pillow, cushioned into the middle, she thought she saw her father’s deep blue Valentino sneakers.
“Can I come in?” Emeka asked, holding the door wide open with one hand, the other holding a large cup of McDonalds’ milkshake. “Uche said I could come up. I bought you cheeseburger, chicken nuggets and fries too. She wants to plate it up for you.”
Kanyin waved him in and forced her mouth to say a cheerful, hi.
“Are you okay Kanyinsola?” He passed the drink and straw to her before going to stand by the door.
“You can sit on the bed.” She took a few sips of the milkshake whilst he settled himself on the edge of her bed. Her throat, already parched from lack of nutrients all day was glad for the drink. Her stomach shut its door tight yesterday, accepting just water. Her stepmother pleaded with her this afternoon. Sitting down, she ate half a pancake. Her stomach rejected it, sending her running to the first toilet her legs could reach.
Dressed in layers, covered to her chest with a thick blanket, she was burning up and needed the milkshake.
The bedside lamp was bright enough for her to be able to see Emeka’s face clearly. He was uncomfortable.
He had always been painfully shy around her. Avoided her at times. Making her conclude he disliked her.
“You didn’t have to come.”
“What?” He moved closer to her. “The least I can do is be here for you. You have been through a lot.”
“Thanks. For everything.”
I don’t want Uche to see me with you like this sha and jump to conclusions.”
“Why would she?”
He focused on her blanket. “No reason at all. Why would she.”
“Have you seen Daddy?”
“He asked me to bring him a suit, some shirts and jeans from his bedroom.”
“So, he is not coming home yet? See, why I didn’t want to tell him. Austin and Nkem are just as bad. Nkem doesn’t know what to say. She hasn’t called me back since our uncomfortable chat yesterday. I told her and she didn’t have anything to say.”
“I don’t know how he found out. Maybe he heard Daddy shouting. Anu said he left for Manchester this morning. He is staying with a friend. Like really? I thought I was his friend. Why can’t people understand that I feel dirty enough without them trying to avoid me? Why?”
He took the milkshake from her and put an arm around her. “It is hard for them. Don’t think it means they don’t care. Your father, for one, loves you.”
“Why is he not here?”
“He will be…”
“I want them all to look at me like normal.”
“They will.” He rubbed her back.
She felt his fingers glide down her back. She held his gaze and was wondering if it was wrong to find him attractive when he murmured something and got off the bed. He placed the drink on the rug but did not return to her bed.
“Your grandmother was attacked years ago,” he said. “I think this is why it is doubly hard for your father that he wasn’t able to protect you. You just need to understand that he loves you. Okay?”
She nodded. “Thanks for the takeaway.” Not wanting to embarrass him further she didn’t invite him to sit with her again. “You will find Daddy’s stuff in the first wardrobe.”
“Call me if you need me.”
“Even if you want to talk in the middle of the night, call me. Your father will probably kill me if he finds out.”
After he left, she ate. Feeling more at ease helped the few morsels go down.
Uche hated knowing that Idriss had been ringing Refiloe who was in their flat these days more than Uche and her flatmate, Efe were. She hated the gleam in Refiloe’s eyes when she accosted her. It confirmed Efe’s claims that Refiloe liked Idriss more than she was letting on.
“Calm down,” Refiloe was cooking in their kitchen, moving her hips suggestively even when she reached out to pick up ingredients that were sprawled on the worktop. A scarf had been wrapped round her head, whilst a tee and shorts failed woefully to cover her body. “He is the one constantly ringing me. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Stop talking to him then. We women have to have each other’s backs.”
“Hey missy, don’t give me that rubbish. What good did his wife do any other woman? Did she not take someone else’s husband?” She turned back to the ingredients on the worktop and continued with her cooking. “Stop hounding me. Go tell your friend to fix her marriage. I’m not doing him.”
Although Refiloe seemed honest, Uche knew the woman well. She was the type to plead poverty whilst squirreling away cash. The woman lived with them for months last year, eating Uche’s lasagne and sleeping on Efe’s bed, then announcing she had saved up money for a small house. Soon, Refiloe would not be able to resist all that Idriss could offer her.
That was why she wanted to warn her friend. To tell her about her husband’s new adventure. Seeing her this morning, sitting on the floor, one hand over her mouth as she endured waves of nausea, she had to spare her. She left her in the bedroom and made Jadesola toasted crumpets. Now she was tending to Abdul after feeding him. The baby was falling asleep, like his brother had a few minutes ago when Anu’s raised voice from upstairs woke him up.
“Watch TV, Jade.” Uche changed the television from the news channel to a cartoon one for Jadesola. “Don’t wake, your brother.”
Bashir was asleep in the Disney travel cot which Anu brought downstairs for the boys to double as a play pen. She checked the boys’ babygros. Tired of mistaking one for the other and Jadesola correcting her, she changed them out of their cream white babygros earlier on, dressing Abdul in blue and his brother in a beige one.
“I will be back in two minutes.”
Uche took Abdul upstairs with her. Anu was telling someone on the phone to go to hell. She ended the call after uttering swear words she had never heard her use before and threw the phone on the bed.
“Girl, what’s up?”
“Kate! That silly brat.” Anu picked up her phone as if to dial a number, then changed her mind. “She called me to thank me for giving her a glowing reference.”
She remembered Anu telling her Kate wanted a reference and joking that Anu should include how Kate slept with her husband. Laughing a little, her friend told her Kate leaving Aspire would be great for all involved.
“Then the brat got all soppy. She said she lied about how many times she slept with my husband. They did it once. He was so drunk he could barely get it up.”
“That’s not all. Guess what. Someone apparently told her to tell me they did it more than once. She thought I wouldn’t let Idriss see the twins, so she went along with it.”
“Who is she trying to drag into her lies now?”
“Say what! Ignore her, girl. Like you’re gonna trust anything that comes out of that ashawo’s mouth.”
“I don’t want to.” Anu took Abdul from her and placed him in the baby cot. She covered him up with the light blue shawl in the cot and caressed his cheek like she hadn’t been shouting moments earlier. The boy closed his eyes and Anu led Uche into the bathroom. Uche guessed this was to prevent Kanyin from hearing them when her friend started whispering.
“You know when I told you Bradley didn’t use anything last night?”
“What I didn’t tell you is Brad is not the sort of man who forgets to wrap up. His nickname at uni was wrapper upper. He spent most evenings at the pub telling his mates to wrap up.”
“Was he not drunk?”
“He doesn’t get drunk either. And I remember noticing how sober he was that evening.” She sat on the edge of the bath tub and winced. “I know him, anyway. He lied about something at the hospital. I know that much. I just don’t know how someone like me has ended up in this situation. Married to a cheat and carrying a liar’s baby. I deserve this. Karma got me real good. ”
“Girl, don’t do this.”
Uche saw her friend’s tears but that didn’t stop Anu from asking to be left alone. She claimed a long shower would help her think clearly.
Uche checked on Bashir and was about to get Jadesola another drink when the doorbell rang.
She opened the door after spotting Kam waiting through the door panel. He offered a cheery hello when he saw her.
“What are you doing here? I expected to see Anu.”
“I spent the night.” She invited him in, although the reverse would have suited her.
Clothed in a creased up, worn dress that smelt of Bashir’s baby sick, head covered with a hairnet, she cringed. The children had been demanding that morning and her cheeks were still plastered in the oily green substance that a colleague promised would cure acne.
He was smartly dressed as usual. Showing his pearly white teeth when he smiled. Uche showed him into the conservatory room and hurried upstairs to get Anu. Whilst her friend got dressed, Uche washed her face and applied mascara to her eyelashes. She would have heaped on foundation and sprayed on perfume if Anu had not started laughing at her.
“Easy girl, the man has already seen you looking like a masquerade.”
“He is not my type, abeg. I just want to look fly.”
“Keep fooling yourself.”
Kam adopted a serious expression when they joined him, declining the tea offered.
“Is this about Bradley?” Anu asked.
“Can we speak privately perhaps?” Kam gave Uche an apologetic smile.
“No, it’s fine. Uche is a good friend.”
“Okay. My cousin told me a man has been harassing your stepchild. Normally I wouldn’t get involved. This is not my district. The name is what got me worried. Brad said the guy in question is Bayo. Please tell me it’s not Bayo Shefiu.”
As her friend nodded slowly, her own fear showed in the way her voice trailed off when she tried to ask why.
“Tell her not to go anywhere near him,” Kam’s stern tone did not relax even after Anu said she would.
“You don’t understand. The man is not a criminal. He is a sociopath. I left my station to join the Drugs Agency believing he would never be caught. Came back to find that he has moved to the top of the chain and he is untouchable. He is that good, always one step ahead. Once he fixates on someone, that’s it. He will torture them and their family until he gets what he wants. People are too scared to talk because he knows people. Last time he went to prison, he had his rival murdered. From behind bars.”
“Kanyin doesn’t want to be a part of his world,” Anu said. “She wants to be left alone. She is already scared of him because she heard his brother is a police man.”
“You mean the brother that went missing after a public row with Bayo? He has been gone for around fifteen months. Probably murdered same day he vanished.”
“And why is Bayo not roasting in jail? He would never have gone after my girl if he was.”
“We call him smart beast because he keeps slipping away. Even his sister-in-law refused to talk to us when her husband vanished. We arrested him. Bayo’s then girlfriend gave him an alibi. She said they were together the night it happened.”
“Arrest the girl, then.”
“It isn’t that simple. The girl was clearly scared of him. That is how he operates. Getting girls and young people to work for him in all the dodgy crafts he has his fingers in… Dealing, racketeering, pimping. He never gets his hands dirty. No trail connecting these crimes to him. This is why he is still at university at his age. To find recruits.” He stared intently at Anu. “I will get this guy this time. I promise.”
“I don’t want Kanyin giving a statement against him. Not when you say he is this dangerous. I want her to be safe.”
After Kam had spoken to Kanyin in the kitchen with Anu standing beside her, he emerged looking more like the jolly Kam Uche knew.
“I finish early today,” he said as she walked him to the door. “Would you like to get a bite to eat or a drink?”
“No, I can’t.”
She regretted saying no when he flashed his teeth. He was the most gorgeous man she had ever seen, with the type of face that made her wonder if he had beauty regimes before leaving the house. She told herself his handsomeness did not faze her. That her refusal was more because of his cousin’s behaviour.
Deep down, she knew it had everything to do with Emeka’s chattiness when he came to see Kanyin yesterday. He brought two lots of McDonald’s takeaway, one for her and apologised again for his behaviour. The moment he gave her a hug at the door became the best part of her day. She found herself going through their pictures on her phone, thanking God for bringing him back.
“Let me know when you are over the boyfriend.” Kam reached for the door knob. “I’m guessing you haven’t accepted he dumped you yet.”
“What makes you think he is the one that dumped me?”
“The same way I saw it coming when we first met. You had eyes only for him whilst he spent most of his time talking to his friends and dancing with girls he didn’t even seem interested in. I see more heartbreak heading your way, babe. You are waiting for a man that’s already crossed the channel.”
“You don’t even know my situation.”
“Reading people is my thing. I have done my job for fifteen years.”
He pushed the front of his jacket to the side, revealing the police radio hanging round the belt on his waist. He reached down into his pocket, fished out a card and passed it to her, his fingers touching hers. “Work number. Call me if you change your mind. Or if Kanyin needs me.”
She woke up the following night in Kanyin’s bed. Her sad mood lifted shortly after her father arrived. Watching him playing with the twins and Jadesola, Uche felt stabbing guilt for telling Anu about Refiloe. That guilt turned to dismay, when she returned from the top floor, where Kanyin and Jadesola were.
The girls had taken custody of Austin’s room, having gone up there earlier to hide Anu’s birthday presents. They were asleep when she went to check on them, Kanyin’s hand holding her sister.
As the twins were asleep too, she decided to get ready for bed. She was about to turn the door knob of the master bedroom when she heard loud moaning from the room. “Aisha, I have missed this,” a voice she recognised as Idriss’ moaned.
Uche was horrified. She had left the two in the conservatory room moments earlier talking about the children. Angry, disappointed, she fell asleep after promising never to interfere in anyone’s relationship ever again.
“Give the papers to me, Aisha. Right now.” The voice was loud enough for her to get up and hurry to check on her friend.
Anu, clothed in her bra and pants had her phone to one ear beside the bed. Idriss was buttoning up his jeans whilst pointing at the documents held in Anu’s other hand.
“Kam, can you send your boys over.” Anu beamed in her husband’s direction. “My husband is threatening me.”
“Okay, I’m leaving.” Idriss picked up his shirt and shoes and darted off.
“What is that about?” Uche asked as Anu placed her phone on the table, sat on the bed and started going through the documents. “Girl, talk nau.”
“I didn’t call the police. Chill.” Anu spread the papers out in front of her. “What I did was get my husband to sign over his share of the business to the girls and twins. Apparently he is ready to start investing money in guzzling projects with those London big boys. He says he wants to make more money. The same type of building projects that has left many men bankrupt. Let’s not forget his new hobby… big bum-bum girls. I’m just securing the children’s future. He and I deserve to suffer for how we have behaved. Not them. And I can’t trust him to cough up in future for university fees now that he has a new girl. He is the type of guy who lets his heart control his wallet.”
“I’m still lost.”
“Half of Aspire now belongs to the children. Okay? Please get in bed. Help me go through this so I can plan how to deal with Bradley. I will hit that one so hard, he will jump in a ditch when he sees a Nigerian woman coming his way.”
“How did you manage to get Idriss to sign the business over?”
“That man will sign anything away, even his life just to get laid. Clearly, Refiloye abi is it Refiloba, is not giving it to him good. By the time I took off my undies, our guy was barking like an idiot, begging me to show him where to sign.”
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