Niyi had dropped Femi off at Andrew’s house and arrived back at his brother’s house before he let the day’s event weigh him down. He was the one that took Koye’s little hands off his father as the poor child asked why his daddy had to leave.
Femi was distraught in the car, claiming he couldn’t live without his children. Niyi had fought his thoughts to stay silent. Restrained himself from blaming Femi.
Sade let him in before he had a chance to knock. Her face still wore that look that had etched slowly on her face when Peju narrated her side of the story. He had called her as soon as the three of them got back from Clara’s house, shortly after Peju asked Femi to leave. Sade had charted a taxi down from work immediately.
“How is Peju?” Niyi shut the door quietly after stepping in.
“She is asleep.” Sade smiled a reassuring smile, laden with unspoken words.
“Koye and his sister?”
“They are asleep too. You should go home and get some rest.”
“I am sorry babe.” He placed his palms on her shoulders. “I wanted to tell you but I…”
He pulled her towards him, resting his chin on her head. A combination of her soft floral fragrance and lemony Fairy Liquid hit him. A mixture of her familiar scent and of domesticity. Making him wonder, how lovely life would be if she took the rest of his journey with him.
“You need to rest too, Sade.”
“I can’t leave her like this. She drank that whole bottle of wine in the kitchen, you know.”
Niyi kissed her head. “We will stay here together then.”
Things had not returned to normal weeks later.
Apart from Peju coming out of her near zombie state to a more vocal shape, turning into a vengeful wife who decided to make a bonfire out of her husband’s shirts and trousers. She had watched as the fire took hold.
His white shorts and socks were coated in itching powder before they were bundled together. He had seemed pleased when he picked them, muttering ‘thanks.’
Deep satisfaction had washed over her, the same way it had, after she scratched his Mercedes with her house keys. And when he turned up to get the car she’d smirked when he asked if their son had played in the garage, all the while rubbing his legs together. She imagined him scratching his legs until they bled indoors.
She decided to visit Clara too, dragging Sade along. But her newly found confidence evaporated when they saw Femi’s car in front of Clara’s building.
“What is he doing there?” Peju had asked no one in particular as she drove them back home.
Sade decided something was wrong as she watched Niyi eat his last morsel of amala, ewedu and meaty stew. He had gone to London earlier in the day to attend a meeting with the General Medical Council. Although, he told her on the phone that the meeting went well, that the NHS did not sack him, she didn’t like the silence that hung between them whilst he ate. It worried her.
He took his time in the kitchen – when he took his tray in –making Sade conclude he was hiding something.
“This whole business with Peju and Femi is tiring.” Niyi spoke from the kitchen.
By the time he came back out, she had smoothed her face with a firm smile. Her worries firmly tied to the back of her mind.
“Peju called me like ten times to tell me the children were missing him. He called me too saying he was missing his children. But what happened last Saturday when we arranged for them to meet at the park…”
“They fought like animals.” Sade concluded.
“Peju wants her husband home so she can make him suffer.” Niyi picked up his phone and car keys from the table. “Femi is not man enough to take whatever punishment she has in store for him. And knowing Peju, I bet she wants to draw blood.”
“She told me she is going to get two big dogs.”
“She knows my brother is scared of dogs, abi?”
“That’s the point.”
Sade wanted to tell Niyi about seeing his brother’s car in front of Clara’s apartment but she knew he understood the situation only as much as Femi himself did. And she had decided, a long time ago, that Femi would go wherever the wind dragged him.
“Where are you going? It is late.” She hoped her tone showed concern. Determined not to be the nagging girlfriend, she smiled when he bent down to kiss her.
“I have to see Andy quickly. Work issues.” His face lingered next to hers. “Go to bed. I will wake you when I get back, if you want me to.”
“She smiled. “Okay darling. I am ready for bed.”
“I could tuck you in before I leave.”
She shook her head, stifling a giggle. His hand on her arm felt warm. He smelt good too.
“I will buy you something sweet from the supermarket on the way back then. We need to get your appetite back. You’ve lost enough weight.”
She caressed the smooth dark stubble on his face. “I don’t need chocolate anymore. You are my chocolate these days.”
He kissed her and then pulled away slowly. “I think I should stay here with you, babe.”
“No darling. Go.
“I love you.” He walked to the door, turning back to blow her a kiss before going through it.
After the door shut behind him, Sade fished out her phone from her bag. She tapped on Peju’s number, ready to continue the conversation they were having before Niyi got back.
Peju had said Clara had embarked on a mission to ostracize her friends. “Your secret is not safe with her anymore. Please find a way to tell your bobo about you and Femi before she ruins you.”
She had whittled on and on.
As Sade now waited for her friend patiently to pick up her phone on the other end, she realised that talking about things wouldn’t help. It was time to act.
She terminated the call and rang Mama instead.
“Akinniyi?” Mama’s voice didn’t ease the tension that had hunched her shoulders but it made her smile.
“Is that you my son?”
“Mama it is me.” Sade said fighting the urge to say something naughty. Not Rude. Mischievous.
It wasn’t unlike Mama to make such mistakes. She probably had their numbers mixed up or perhaps all saved under something like ‘my children’. Mama had given them ample reasons to laugh with her in the past. One of those moments was when she sang happy birthday to you to Niyi when it had in fact been Femi’s birthday. An incident made worse by the fact that the brothers were together and the phone, on loudspeaker.
For now, she revelled in the familiarity of Mama’s voice. And in its huskiness, when the older woman started to talk about her and Niyi.
“Tell him that this next year talk for the introduction does not sit well with you. This December will do my dear. You don’t want him to be eating all your stews and sharing your bed when he hasn’t done the proper thing. Abeni, I know you will make him wait anyway. Abi, omo mi?”
“Mama…” The matters on Sade’s mind prevented her from giggling. From reminding Mama she was no more a teenager.
“You are too late Maami.” They only called Mama, Maami when the situation called for it. “I am already pregnant.”
A piercing scream that threatened to perforate her eardrums rang through. She nearly put the phone down, until she realised Mama’s scream was a happy one. It helped her conclude that Niyi would be happy too.
Happy tears streamed down her cheeks as Mama started to sing. Happy tears that refused to be interrupted by Mama’s choice of song.
My enemy has failed. My enemy has suffered.
My enemy has burst. My enemy will die ooo.
By the time Mama’s song had finished, she decided not to burden her with her problem. What was she thinking anyway? Mama loved her like a mother should a daughter but the brothers would always come first. Mama wouldn’t take her side against Femi. She probably wouldn’t see her the way she had always seen her after finding out. She would tell Niyi herself. Even if he ended up hating her for sleeping with his brother, at least she would still have her family.
Clara was at a table by herself when Niyi walked into the pub. Ignoring her chirpy “hi” he asked her what she wanted to drink before going to the bar.
As the smell of her lager hit his nostrils, he inhaled, knowing he had never craved for a drink like this, ever. His mouth was dry, his mind thrashed. He needed a small drink to take the edge off but if he had one drink, he would want another and another until he would be too useless to stop. The mysterious text messages had started coming in every few hours since Monday but the one that came in that morning as he waited to hear the panel’s decision about his license startled him.
“It feels good watching your family fall apart. Time to confess your sins pal. Or you will soon lose your big management job in London.”
Analysing the message, after the GMC passed a judgement of nine months suspension of his medical license, it had occurred to him that whoever was behind those messages had to be closer to home.
Clara was gulping her drink like a man. The glint of the gold watch on her wrist caught his attention.
“That looks expensive.”
She licked her lips and smirked. “I work hard.” Taking her glass to her mouth again, she watched him with steel brown eyes ringed with black and gold.
“I know you didn’t earn that lying on your back.”
Clara raised perfectly shaped eyebrows and then put her bottle down. “Why did you ask me to meet you? If this is about Femi, you need to know your brother is not even on my radar…”
“It isn’t,” he snapped. “I asked you here because I want to know who paid you to mess with my family.”
Frown lines appeared on her face. “Say what?”
“Was it Akpan? Did he ask you to ruin Femi’s marriage to spite me? Let me guess. You met him at one of those London parties you go to and you couldn’t say no to the money.”
Clara picked up her bag from the table. Despite the immaculately done make-up, her face didn’t shield her feelings. “Are you back on the beer? Or is it drugs this time?”
She got up and started heading towards the door. He followed after a while, quickening his pace when his target disappeared through the door.
Outside, Andrew was sitting in his car. Clara headed towards hers parked opposite the road. Niyi blocked her path before she could cross the road.
“Leave me alone.” She tried to hit him with her bag. “I didn’t ruin Femi and Peju’s marriage.”
“So, you expected your affair with Femi would do what? Strengthen their marriage? Make Femi love her more?”
“They didn’t have a marriage from day one.”
Clara seemed to have regained all her confidence because Andrew had gotten out of his car and was now headed towards them.
“Your brother still loves his ex. Why do you think he got her to move down here as soon as he bought a house in the area?”
It was Niyi’s turn to look stupid.
She chuckled. “Your brother wants Sade back.”