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As soon as she felt the top of her dress getting loose, Bunmi clutched the neckline of her dress with both hands, preventing it from slipping down. When she felt his breath on her back, she gasped, as sudden warmth coursed through her and said slowly, “I need to get out of this.”
He moved even closer and kissed her left shoulder. “Yeah.”
She closed her eyes and leaned into him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and she turned her head slightly. He pressed his lips against the side of her neck and breathed in deeply, before his hands left her waist and moved upwards. Still leaning into him, she squirmed a little. “Kunle… we shouldn’t…”
His hands stilled and he closed his eyes, before exhaling. “Why?”
“Because I… We…” she took a step away from him, before turning. She couldn’t meet his eyes, as she continued in a hurry, “It’s been a long day and I’m exhausted.”
Still holding on to her dress with her left, she rubbed her eyes with her right, before looking at him. “I really need to get out of my dress.”
He gave a lopsided smile and nodded. “That’s alright.”
Quickly she turned around and hurried into the bathroom, one hand on the top of her dress and the other raising the hem. As soon as she shut the door, she rested her back on it and blew out a breath.
We really need to slow down.
With a large towel wrapped securely around her body, she walked into the bedroom about twenty minutes later. Looking around, she noticed that he was no longer in the room. Their luggage, which had been delivered to the room earlier, was in front of the wardrobe and she quickly walked over, to open her box.
When she walked into the sitting room, he was on a two-seater ornate chair. A movie was playing on a flat screen television mounted on the wall. Beneath it was an ornate mantle, on which there were two wide cylindrical jars on either side. Inside each were lots of red roses, still on their stems.
He held a champagne flute in his right hand, casually swirling the bubbly liquid inside, as he watched her come closer. Her hair was no longer up. Soft curls tumbled down, framing her face.
Will I ever stop getting a kick from seeing her?
She smiled slightly. “I see you’ve started the party without me.”
He shrugged and smiled back. “You were exhausted.” He turned down the volume of the television and patted the space beside him. “Come join me.”
She shook her head gently. “I only came to say good night.”
His smile grew wider and he patted the chair again. “It’s barely eight o’clock. Come.”
Slowly, she sat beside him, turning slightly so she could face him. She kept her knees together, careful not to let their legs brush against each other. When she tugged at the bottom of her short red silk nightgown, he smiled and silently offered her his flute.
Slowly, she took a sip. “I think I should call the kids.”
His brow knitted in a frown. “The kids? I bet they’re fine with your mum.”
She sighed. “I know… It’s just that I’ve never spent any night away from them.”
“Even when you had to go on dates?”
She slowly took another sip and smiled. “Not even then.”
He was silent for a while, as he stared at her. Suddenly he asked, “You went on dates, right?”
She laughed. “Of course, I did. Didn’t you?”
“Yeah… Sort of.”
“Sort of?” She rolled her eyes.
“After you went away, I felt used.” He frowned. “Bunmi, I was really hurt. So, I tried to get over you quickly. There were parties… and girls.”
She was silent for a while. “I called you once.”
He frowned. “You did?”
She fingered one strap of her nightgown and nodded. “I was so lonely because my grandma had just gone back home. I missed you so much too… I just wanted to hear your voice, I guess. I think I was just sixteen weeks pregnant then, but my lower back hurt a lot that night. All of a sudden, I had this crazy need for you to massage it. So, I summoned up the courage to call you.”
She looked away from him and stared at the television. “It was about two a.m. for you, but I guess you were still at one of those parties. You couldn’t hear me over the noise, but I heard, “I’m lonely, Hotshot.” It was a girl and she must have been standing really close to you.”
He closed his eyes. Only one person calls me that.
“I guess I started hating you when I heard the distinct sound of a kiss and “I miss you too, babe. I’ll be with you soon, okay.” I hung up immediately. Seeing as it was a call from the States, I thought you’d guess it was me and call back.”
She turned back to him. “I cried myself to sleep.”
He closed his eyes and she shook her head. “You moved on too quickly and the way you spoke to her…”
He exhaled through his mouth. “I’m so sorry. I had no clue…”
Quietly, she said, “Don’t ever call me babe again.”
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, till he asked, “Do you still want to call Jake and Joanna?”
She shook her head, passed the empty champagne flute to him and stood, “I’m sure they’re fine. I’ll see them tomorrow at the thanksgiving service, anyway. Good night, Kunle.”
A few minutes later, her hands on her waist, she rolled her eyes at the bed. What do I do with all these roses?
In the sitting room, Kunle tilted the flute and poured some more champagne into it. Hotshot…Oh, boy.
Extending his arms to Sade, Niyi pleaded, “Please, move back to our room, dear. It feels so empty without you. It was such a beautiful wedding too.” He smiled gently. “Let’s celebrate some more.”
Lying on the bed, she shook her head slowly. “Niyi, you’re asking for too much.”
He sat beside her and placed his right hand over the hands on her belly. “Sade, I’m asking that you forgive me. I should have told you the truth.”
She closed her eyes. “Why didn’t you?”
“You weren’t in a good place emotionally, so I didn’t want to hurt you. The hysterectomy…”
She pulled her hands from beneath his and covered her eyes with them. “Please, don’t remind me that I am less than a woman.”
He shook his head. “The knowledge that I had another child by someone else would have made you feel terrible, but I never thought of you as less than a woman. All I remember from that time is that I almost lost you.”
He gently removed her hands so she could look at him. “The ectopic pregnancy wasn’t your fault and neither was the resultant post-operative infection.”
“All those don’t matter, Niyi!”
She started crying. “What matters is that I couldn’t give you another child, no matter how badly I wanted to. Our plan was to fill our home with children, remember?”
He got into the bed and wrapped his arms around her and spoke gently, “I remember, my dear. But, there was nothing either of us could do.” He sighed softly. “Life happened.”
When she stopped sobbing, she lifted her face from his chest and pushed back to look at him. He raised a hand to her face to wipe the tears away and she smiled, before moving closer, to kiss an exposed part of his neck.
“Please, leave the door open.”
“You know Joanna will cry if she wakes and can’t come into our room.”
Leaving the door slightly open, he walked closer to her. “Bunmi, this has gone on for way too long!”
“Please, don’t yell at me,” she snapped from the bed.
He glared at her, but lowered his voice, “When they wake up, they come into our room, only because you insist on leaving the door open every night. We’ve been married for three weeks…”
He sat beside her and raised three fingers. “Three weeks, Bunmi! Yet, you’ve avoided any form of intimacy with me.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Is this what this is about?”
He shook his head. “That wasn’t part of the plan. We agreed to give us a chance.”
“No, we didn’t. We agreed to see where this leads.”
“Same thing, from where I’m standing. You’re attracted to me…”
When she rolled her eyes, he retorted, “Yes, you are. That’s why I don’t understand this drama. None of the vows we took was for celibacy, so what exactly is going on?
She hedged. “The truth or…”
“The truth, please.”
She exhaled from her mouth and looked at him earnestly. “I’m scared of getting pregnant. It’ll complicate things.”
His brows knotted. “If that’s such a worry for you, we can take precautions…”
She nodded. “Like we did before, right?”
He shrugged, still frowning. “We were careless a few times before. Moreover, there are a lot of birth control options available now.”
She raised an eyebrow. “I see you’re now an expert on the subject.”
He frowned some more. “Bunmi, can you cut that out? I’m a thirty-one year old man…”
“Thirty,” she cut in.
He waved a hand dismissively. “Whatever. The point is that I’m neither a saint nor have I ever pretended to be one.” He took a deep breath to calm himself and his voice gentled. “Can you just cut to the chase and tell me what the problem really is?”
She was silent for a while, then sighed and sat up. “The thing is, five years ago, we jumped from an almost-sibling relationship to… an intimate one.” She shrugged lightly. “We need more time to know each other better.”
He frowned in confusion. “You’re like my sister… No, forget I said that.” He spread his hands. “You’ve known me longer than any other person. I don’t know…”
She placed her right index finger on his lips. “I want words. I want flowers.” He rolled his eyes and she laughed and removed her finger. “I love flowers. You see? You didn’t know that.”
She winked. “I love hugs, too… lots of them… all the time and sometimes, for no reason.”
She stayed silent for a few seconds, before saying, “I want to hold hands with you and take long walks. I want us to go on dates. We never did that before.”
She smiled and knelt on the bed. Reaching for his hands, she linked their fingers together and continued, “Then, I want to play with you again, like we did when we were children. I want to share the kids with you. I’m not looking for perfect, mind you… Perfect is boring.”
He chuckled lightly and she shrugged, her smile growing wider. “I won’t mind something close to it, though.”
They stared at each other for a while and then he whispered, “You’re giving a man hope, you know. These plans of yours will get me sucked in deeper. You know that, right?”
She leaned closer and kissed him lightly on the lips. They stared at each other for a few seconds, before she spoke, “Let’s see how it goes.”
She broke eye contact and turned away from him. Slowly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and went to shut the door.
Bunmi was one of the first people to get off the plane. She had finally decided to rent out her apartment in New York, so she had been there for three weeks, packing up her valuables and sending them back to Nigeria.
They had talked everyday on phone and had lengthy video chats on Skype, but she couldn’t wait to see her husband of two months and their children.
I bet they’ve bonded even more, in my absence.
She hadn’t checked in any luggage, so it was easy to wheel her carry-on bag away from Immigration.
As soon as she stepped outside, she noticed him immediately, even though there was a crowd. He had his back to her and was talking to a woman. As she walked closer, they hugged for a few seconds and broke apart. He said something that made the woman laugh and run a hand on his chest, in a move that reeked of familiarity.
When she got to him, she cleared her throat noisily and he turned. Something appeared in his eyes, but was gone immediately.
Was that guilt?
He smiled widely and wrapped her up in a hug. “I missed you, sweetheart,” he whispered.
When they broke apart, he turned to the woman. “Moyo, meet my wife.”
Looking at Bunmi, he smiled, “Bunmi, she’s a friend.”
Moyo seemed to size her up, as they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Soon she smiled and said, “When I heard he was married, I was shocked because the last time I saw him, there had been no mention of that.”
Bunmi glanced at Kunle quickly, before turning back to Moyo. He suddenly looks uncomfortable.
“I never thought he was the marrying type, so I wondered about the woman that finally lassoed him.” She waved her hand and laughed breezily. “When I heard that you had kids together, I realized that you were the one that got away… the one who ruined him for the rest of us.”
She smiled at Bunmi, “Now, I see why. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
Taking a step closer, she patted Kunle’s cheek and smiled. “See you around, Hotshot.”
Without waiting for a response from either of them, she spun around, swinging her hips as she walked away.
Slowly, Bunmi turned to him, eyes narrowed, “Hotshot?”
She held up a hand. “Later.”
On the drive home, she suddenly broke the silence. “Have you been seeing her all this time?”
He quickly glanced at her and shook his head. “No.” He turned his eyes back to the road.
When she stayed silent again, he sighed and explained, “I met her some weeks after you moved back to New York and we had an on-again, off-again relationship for some years. However, we broke up a few weeks before you came back. Today was the first time we saw each other since then. She came to pick someone up too.”
She frowned. “You dated other girls, but you always went back to her.” She shook her head. “You moved on to me, really quickly. Nothing’s changed, I see. How long will it be before you’re on-again with her, seeing as she’s been in your life longer than anyone else?”
He glanced at her again. “Oh, come on, Bunmi.”
She folded her arms on her chest. “You were hugging each other and she was playing touchy-feely with you.”
He glanced at her quickly, but before he turned away, she saw the smile on his face and frowned. “What’s funny?”
She rolled her eyes “It’s not about that.”
“You are,” he countered, not looking at her. “But, you shouldn’t be. It was just a hug between friends.”
When she said nothing, he asked, “Didn’t you hear what she said? You ruined me for other women.”
“In plain terms, please.”
He laughed. “I love you.”
She smiled and dropped her arms to her laps. When she leaned back on her seat, without a word, he said, “Yeah, I know. You love me right back.”
Standing, she looked up at a picture of her family on the wall. Joanna’s smile was wide and happy. Her sleeveless ankle-length ivory dress had an empire waist and rosettes all over the bodice. She clutched a wooden basket of yellow roses in both hand.
Bunmi smiled. My cute little bride.
Beside her was Jake, staring at the camera with a lopsided grin on his face.
Just like his father’s.
She remembered now, how excited he had been to be the ring bearer at his parents’ wedding.
Looking at her own face, Bunmi realized that the wide smile she wore, on her wedding day, had masked her inner turmoil. Finally, she turned her attention to Kunle.
Thank you, grandma.
Smiling, her eyes went round her living room. It was their one year anniversary and the entire family was there.
Her parents sat beside each other, their legs touching. Niyi’s right hand was on his wife’s left knee, while her left hand was on top of his hand. They were holding a conversation that had Niyi laughing boisterously, at intervals.
Agnes, quietly bouncing a sleepy Joanna on her laps, caught Sade’s eye and both women smiled to each other, before looking away.
It had taken months of entreaties from her, before Sade had forgiven her, but she still found it weird that her former housekeeper was her daughter’s mother-in-law.
At family events like this, Agnes found it difficult to sit with Niyi and Sade. She had been in their employ for so long, that she still thought of herself as their servant. She still found it weird, anytime Bunmi called her ‘Mummy’.
Jake was on the floor, playing with the set of electric trains Niyi got them and hooting when the engines did.
Walking over to Kunle, Bunmi joined him on the two-seater couch. He looked up from the book he was reading and smiled at her. While they stared at each other, she took his right hand, casually placed it on her lower belly and held it there.
I can’t wait to tell him.
His eyes widened and he smiled, raising an eyebrow.
She smiled back and nodded. He knows.
“I love you,” she mouthed.
He smiled. “I know.”
She rolled her eyes and he laughed.