For previous episodes – click here
** *** ***
“The one with the big butt has taken over his mind,” Anu addressed Emeka, her hands drawing an exaggerated big shape in the air. She ignored her husband’s sneering and Uche’s swollen cheeks. Her friend looked like the laughter she was trying to suppress would be forceful enough to hurl them all out of their seats. “This is why I did what I did. I’m not going to apologise for putting our children first. He is rich enough.”
“She knows how much I’m worth. Apparently,” Idriss smirked.
“I know you didn’t buy your Aspire share for the profit. You bought it to ruin my father.”
“I didn’t mean to bring up the past. All I’m saying is you have the money, plus plenty more to invest in our children. You and I can still continue to run Aspire. You have all your other assets … new projects multiple ISAs, properties and business investments in London.”
She would have hopped on the back of her original argument. Anything to show Uche her marriage, in her heart, was over. After explaining how she got him to sign over his share of the estate agency to their children, Uche was quick to point out that she didn’t have to sleep with him.
“Girl, you didn’t have to actually do it.” Uche pausing to open the lid of the green, face cream-mask she applied on her face every night, said.
“I had to.” Her voice was louder than normal and if her friend knew her well, she would have known her defensive tone mainly came on to silence her inner voice. The one telling her that she enjoyed what he did to her. What they did.
“You said he signed the documents before you let him do his business. So, you better admit to yourself the only thing that you don’t have control over is how you feel for him.” Uche had leapt off the bed and left the room, ending their conversation.
“I know we are over, Idriss.” Anu glanced at Uche now. “The children don’t have to suffer, do they?” The soft voice she adopted was because they were in Uche’s flat. And the thought of her husband’s new mistress, listening in from one of the rooms made her squirm.
“What if I deposit large amounts in the accounts you opened for them?” He was typing on his phone. “I could do it right now. And more later on.”
“That would be fine.”
Yesterday, after much persuasion she convinced Kanyin to come with her and Kate to the bank. She had booked an appointment to set up Trust Fund accounts for the twins and girls. One they would be able to access on their twenty fifth birthdays.
Kanyin and Kate were quiet until the middle aged woman attending to them rushed out to get them some leaflets. Anu who had noticed Kate shifting closer to her bag, the phone in her hand set on camera asked what she was doing.
“She is taking a picture with your expensive bag to put on Instagram.” Kanyin blurted out before adding, her eyes on her former friend. “I do that all the time. Taking pictures with her handbags and accessories and uploading them. She doesn’t know how much they cost anyway or what they are. I’m very sure Daddy bought this bag…”
“I know what my bag is,” Anu interrupted. She tried to remember what her husband said when he brought the bag home. It hadn’t been a special day. Not her birthday or their wedding anniversary. She remembered forcing herself to sound grateful and the glee in his tone as he told her how long he waited for the bag for. He wanted to get her something else. A rare design. Its scarcity resulted in everyone wanting it. So, he wanted her to have something other than that. Something different.
“No.” Kanyin had rolled her eyes. “It is a Saint Laurent.”
Anu was telling them both how she would never understand the value placed on designer labels when they spotted Idriss in the bank’s hall. She had to invite him in and introduce him to the bank advisor. The woman didn’t flash him the polite smile they received and it took a while for her to realise it was because she had introduced Kanyin as her daughter and Kate as her stepsons’ mother. She did this to simplify the introductions. And judging by the way the woman squeezed the area around her lips every time Idriss spoke, she was probably thinking what an ogre he was for impregnating Anu as a teenager and doing a similar thing to Kate.
“Why are you smiling?” Idriss’ question forced her back to the present. To her current problem of trying to convince the men she did the right thing. Emeka who was now staring at his phone’s screen did not seem as interested.
“You don’t intend to give me back Aspire, abi? You want me to deposit money into the kid’s accounts and then you will pull the rug from under me?”
“Don’t darling me. I’m not investing another penny into your crazy ideas. I’m not coming to see the children when you are there either.”
“Who knows what kind of stunt you will pull next time. Before you know it, she will be naked again and trying to get me to sign away all my money.” He rose, snapping his fingers. “Let’s go Emeka. You are just sitting there letting me walk into her trap.”
“Omo oba, you figured it out, nau.” Emeka grinned. “Anyway, stay away from naked bodies and pens.”
“Dude, leave am. Are you coming?”
“I need to talk to, Uche. I will meet you downstairs.”
Anu took the lift downstairs with her husband.
He grunted his goodbye. She told him to come with her to say hi to his daughter. She didn’t doubt that he would have. From their view, through the glass panels of the foyer, they could see the car parked across the street. Kanyin leaning on its body, glued to her phone. Austin slouched on the driver’s seat.
He grinned and shook his head to tell her he knew what her intentions were. “You like to think I’m a terrible husband, don’t you? Yet, you came here in my Jag, driven by my PA who has been completely taken over by you. Same way you have taken over my business, my house, my children…”
“Austin and I were running errands for the business.”
“You better pray we don’t kiss and make up.”
“Like I will let you come anywhere near me again?”
“You will.” He moved towards her, trapping her between the wall behind her and his body. His face displaying a neon smile. Eyes twinkling. Mouth parted in his signature style.
Yes, he looked as good as always. Perhaps better. The neat beard had gone.
Her tiredness often got in the way of her desire these days. Sleep called early, too. Claiming her body and forcing her to curl up in the living room. Thoughts of work lingering.
“If I take you back, Aisha, I will insist we move back home. Back home where each man is the head of his household. Before long you wouldn’t want to leave the house without my say so.”
“I wouldn’t want to show my hair or body in public, would I?”
He was joking. His eyes told her as much but she wanted him to be the one to walk away.
“I’m sure Refiloye would fit right in at home. I hear her skirts are always four sizes too small.”
He stopped smiling. “See you tomorrow.”
“You were supposed to look after the children this evening. You promised.”
“I will do it, tomorrow. I’m busy tonight.”
“The boys are back with Kate, tomorrow. You know I need a break. They have been with me for days.”
“I agree. You need a short holiday. You can go to the house in London. Austin can drive you down there. I hear France is good at this time of the year.”
“Yes. You and the children will have fun.”
He got out of the way before she could strike him. He was laughing as they made their way out. A cheap-looking Ford car had arrived on the street. Anu recognised the driver, Efe, Uche’s flat mate. The way her husband started to rush through their goodbyes, saying he would try to come over tonight confirmed the identity of the fair-skinned, chubby cheeked woman sat in the car with Efe.
“I’m not going to miss this.” Anu said.
“Hurry up you two.” Kanyin shouted from across the street and jumped in the car.
“You should get going.” He didn’t look comfortable.
“Hi boss lady.” Efe who alighted first from the car greeted her. The younger woman hugged Anu when they got to them. Her friend, a woman with quite a figure, a big hourglass form and the sort of tallness unexpected in women carried herself like a model would. Anu felt a slight intimidation that she wasn’t accustomed to. The woman was beautiful. Her skin alone made her look as if she spent each day indoors been catered to rather than working at a hospital like her uniform suggested.
“Are you going to introduce us? The woman asked Idriss whilst her stare- the ugliest one Anu had ever received – cut through her.
“You will be waiting for ever.” Anu spoke with the sort of English accent she reserved for annoying clients. “I’m Anu, his wife. You must be Refiloye.”
“It is actually Refiloe.”
It doesn’t matter. I don’t think I would be using it much.” She tapped her husband’s hand, choosing to touch the lower half where his short-sleeve shirt did not cover. “You have to excuse us. Our daughter is waiting. Lovely to see you again, Efe.” She walked to the car with her husband feeling a sense of triumph. She did not let it waver, even when she saw the smug grin on his face.
Uche watched as Emeka replaced the kitchen light bulb with a new one. After helping him and his friend get Anu in the same room as them, she had decided not to let this evening go by without undoing some of the boundaries between her and him. She encouraged him to stay and served him some of the chicken pie and chips she made for her and the girls. Efe did not approve, taking her friend and their plates to her room.
“We are friends, are we not?”
“Yes. We are.” Emeka wrapped up the old bulb with a piece of kitchen paper and placed it in the bin.
The cold air from the opened front door had saturated the flat and rendered the radiators useless but she didn’t want to close the door. Efe had taken the bin out to empty moments ago. Refiloe who was leaving for home at the same time left with her. And now Uche wondered if the two were standing on the street pavement, gossiping the way they often did – as if they had not seen each for weeks.
“So, you and Kam are getting it on?” Emeka served himself cranberry juice from the opened carton in the fridge.
“What do you mean?”
“I saw him here on Saturday night when I brought your things back.”
Kam called her twice to apologise. “I’m sorry for butting in where I ain’t needed.” Feeling that she should do something to reassure him after the second apology – encouraged by Efe whose hands and lips kept moving during the call – she invited him round. If she had known he would suggest coming round the following day, perhaps she wouldn’t have invited him.
“If only I didn’t listen to you,” she screamed at Efe. But she did. And Kam was the best guest ever according to Efe and Refiloe. He came with bags of Chinese takeaways, two bottles of wine, a bunch of flowers and his soothing smile for Uche. The girls were in Efe’s bedroom when he asked what she thought of kissing on the first date. This was when Emeka’s knocks interrupted them. Noticing how uncomfortable having both of them there made her feel, Kam thanked her for the night and left.
“There is nothing going on between me and Kam.” Uche said and waited for Efe to come in and say otherwise. She had heard the lift door opening a moment ago. “He is nice. Not sure he is my type, sha.”
“Dude is not a brother.” Emeka poured the rest of his drink in the sink and placed the cup in it.
A rare thing these days seeing the sink empty. Refiloe never stopped cooking, washing up and refilling the sink whenever she stayed with them. Uche wondered why Refiloe chose to leave for her place despite having the following day off and why she barely touched her chicken pie. She didn’t have to wonder too long as Idriss’ whistling when he arrived earlier came back to her.
“I know you are not Anu, Uche. What are you going to do with a man you can’t even take home? A man that’s not Nigerian.”
“He is not my type. I just told you.”
“Thank God. Me, I was going to remind you of how your mother fainted when your brother brought a Yoruba girl home.”
“As long as you remember how your mother cried and cried until your brother had to abandon the girl.”
“Shall we talk about something else?”
The lift door opened again.
“I’m sure I heard the lift come up just now.” Uche did not wait for Emeka to reply. The flat opposite theirs lost its tenant two months ago. Whoever took the lift up intended to come to their flat. She hurried outside. Efe was walking towards her with a Cadbury tin of chocolates and a bouquet of roses that looked like the florist worked on it all night.
“Who is the man spoiling you?”
“Kam,” Efe handed her the tin and bouquet. I saw him coming out of the lift downstairs.”
“What? I didn’t see him.”
“He looked pissed. Maybe he saw you and your ex boo together and thought you and him are back on.”
Uche winced. “He heard us talking about him. Emeka was saying he is not Nigerian …and I said he is not my type.”
Efe snatched the tin back from her. “You don’t deserve this. You better go ring him and quit falling my hand.”
Hailstones peppered the ground, forming a white coat. Kanyin would have agreed the street looked beautiful if she was watching it from the warmness of her bedroom. And although she imagined they looked like snow from above, the hailstones did not feel like snow from underneath her feet. She wished she had listened to her stepmother who told her this morning that her ballerina pumps were not suitable for this weather. She wished also that she could have had the courage needed to ask Austin to take her to Emeka’s house.
Emeka was waiting at the door when she got there. He helped her take her coat off and shook melting ice off the length of her coat and its hood.
“I could have picked you up.” He hung her coat on the coat hanger, led her inside and lit the fire.
Although she was freezing, Kanyin unbuttoned the blue, denim gilet over her vest top. She surveyed the extra work she did on her face and body earlier on, in the mirror on his wall. Thanks to Nkem, she had worn her extra padded bra. It made her breasts seem bigger. Her hood had saved her hair. She let the tresses go down around her shoulders.
“Are you still angry with me?”
She held his gaze but refused to turn to him.
It was Nkem that suggested she pretended to be angry with him. “That way he will invite you to his place and you can batter your lashes. Or im no go talk. You will end up crushing on him for years, only for him to give you his wedding invitation one day.”
Emeka who was messaging her about the benefits of education at that time soon bore the brunt of Nkem’s expertise.
“Is that a dig at me?” Nkem took over her phone, typing the sort of statements expected between bickering lovers. “You know I’m not at the university at the moment. You know why. So you are hurting me on purpose by saying all this.”
Ignoring his apologetic texts and numerous calls would not have been possible if Nkem didn’t have her phone. When he asked if he could see her to explain, Nkem replied, “at your house this evening. Take it or leave it.”
“Please, talk to me.” Emeka turned her around gently. His hands held her waist firmly. “You misunderstood me. I was not having a go at you. I want you to succeed but I also know why you are not in school.”
Although his fair skin reminded her of Bayo and he was the same height as her, she wondered why her eyes did not stray to him all those days he came to the house to see her father.
“Okay, tell me why you are really angry with me. What can I do to make it better?”
Stop treating me like a baby. Stop treating me like I’m gonna break.”
“My father’s late wife was my age when he married her. I’m an adult, Emeka.”
“Sweetheart, I’m sorry.” He let go of her waist and zipped up his brown, leather jacket. “I just got back from work. Let me take you home before I start to feel lazy.”
“I’m so deleting your number.”
“What do you want me to do?” He snapped. “Your father is my best friend. How can I do it to him?”
She reached out calmly, unzipped his jacket and caressed his chest through the soft, cotton fabric of his shirt. She felt his heartbeat quicken. Encouraged, she stepped closer to him, moving her face near his. He met her halfway and planted his lips on hers hungrily.
“Thanks.” Anu thanked Kaz when they arrived at the bottom of Bradley’s street. Struggling to find a way to punish Bradley, she had decided to end their friendship. As he was yet to return to work and did not seem physically well the last time they spoke, she had decided to wait. It would hurt him even more then. Her marriage would have been dissolved by that time. So too would Bradley’s hopes for her and him.
“We need to talk, chick.” Kaz started prepping her this morning, doling her treats as if she was a child. She picked her up from home for her shift at the Manchester branch. She bought her decaf coffee, paid for her lunch, folding her serviettes into intricate designs she had not seen before.
“If you want a stake in the estate agency, you can have a small percent for a discounted price. I will have to discuss it with the other stakeholders first.”
“Really?” Kaz took off her seat belt. “That would be fantastic.” She sighed and ran her fingers through her long, blonde hair. “It is about Idriss that I need to speak to you about, chick. Are things good between you two?”
Anu did not like discussing her private life with her staff. Kaz knew that. “All good. Why?”
“I saw him yesterday evening at this restaurant close to the shopping mall. The girl is black, looks mixed race.”
“Thanks Kaz. We need time, that’s all.”
“I know he fathered Kate’s boys. Well, we all know. It must be hard for you. I realise that… but if you intend to forgive him, do it now. Take him back and put it all behind you. Take him back before that woman takes him from you.”
She wished it was as simple taking him back.
Well, it would be, if Bradley’s baby didn’t exist. Even if they ended up divorced, she couldn’t see herself bringing up this child. Last night, strengthened by a glass of white wine, she searched for a private clinic that would put an end to her misery.
“He was holding her hand,” Kaz raised her voice. “He took her out in broad daylight. I think it is more than sex, Anu. He is falling for her. End it while you can.”
“Excuse me.” Her phone had bleeped earlier. She unlocked it. A text message from Idriss appeared on her screen.
Hi, baby. I’m running late. I’m on my way to Emeka’s. Tell Aleska, I won’t be long if she calls you or you get home before me. I know it is my turn to look after the kids, don’t stress. See yah.
“Everything okay?” Kaz asked.
“Yeah.” She looked up to give Kaz a smile and caught a familiar BMW speeding past them. The driver of the car stopped the car in front of Bradley’s house and Bayo alighted from it. She heard Kaz calling out her name but she couldn’t utter anything intelligent until Bradley had opened the door and let Bayo into his house.
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER
OUR OFFICIAL TWITTER PAGE
“PLAYING THE LOVE GAME by Olajumoke Omisore“
CONTINUES ON THURSDAY
Connect via pings on 333FA5E1
Image Credits: Gazelle Studios, 234forum.com
If you will like to get updates please do take out just 25 seconds of your very important schedule to fill out the form below, CLICK on the follow button to follow the blog and receive instant updates.