It’s Another Novocaine Saturday #18
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If someone is passing by either of the windows of my bedroom on any given Saturday morning, just for the sake of passing by either of my windows, they’d get an earful of my wife responding to my ministrations. And when I say ministrations, I don’t mean anything spiritual. Everyone knows that our Saturday mornings are sexually sacred to us. If you drop by between the hours of 5am to 10am, you might have to wait until we are done. Ndidi is tired of us already, and would usually turn on loud music while she spends time with Jiney as we get busy.
This Saturday, however, things are different. Last night we drove to Abeokuta on a whim, picked some hotel without asking directions, and proceeded to have an awesome getaway. We returned early this morning, much to Honey’s annoyance. Left to her, we would spend another night. As I drop her at home, I leave her with kisses and promise her that we’ll do it another time. On my way to the hospital, I receive a message from her. It’s a picture of a gift box and a bouquet of roses on our bed. I don’t respond to the message because I’m driving. Next thing, she calls. I ignore that as well. When I arrive at the hospital, I send a reply and tell her to wear what’s in the box and send a picture to me. A few minutes pass and the anticipated picture comes.
I smile. I’m a sucker for women in white lingerie. Miss me on all that black and red cliché thing.
“Come back home,” Honey says to me over the phone.
“I’m sorry, sugams. But I’ll be occupied soon.”
She feigns a sob.
“Kiss Fumi for me. I have to run.”
We exchange ‘I love yous’ and hang up. I leave my office, high on the coffee I took at the hotel in Abeokuta earlier. I can’t feel the headache knocking on my head or my sore eyes that beg to be shut. My heavy shoulders feel like a pair of feathers. In fact, I think there’s music playing somewhere in the background.
“DOM, good morning!”
I nod at the fresh-faced doctor who has just greeted me. She walks by. I glance back by default. Some habits never die.
“Going back to our old ways?”
I almost bump into Hauwa who is standing right in my path. I know she wasn’t here a few seconds before. Did she materialize from nowhere or is it the coffee making me imagine things?
“Morning, boss. Why were you checking that out when you have the most beautiful wife at home?”
I disregard her insinuation. “How was your trip? Didn’t know you were back.”
“I am.” She muffles a squeal. “And I had the bestest time.”
“Have you had breakfast? Let’s go and eat, let me gist you how it all went.”
I stare at my watch. I have an hour before my antenatal class begins.
“You’re paying?” I ask Hauwa.
“Dude, I just returned from Singapore after staying three days at the Ritz Carlton and you’re asking me if I’m paying?” She smacks my tummy and winks. “I got this, babe.”
“Oya nau, let’s be going.”
I begin towards the hospital restaurant but Hauwa steers me in the direction of the exit. “Let’s eat out.”
‘Out’ is a café near the hospital. It is so far removed from the medical environment we are used to that it always feels like a piece of heaven anytime I come here to chill. Today isn’t different. Hauwa and I take a seat by a window. I order plantain and eggs while she goes for toast and cereal.
“So,” she begins, “I had fun with Seyi. Maaad fun.”
“He took me to exotic places. Oh my God! There’s this place called the Gardens by the Bay. It has these weird-looking but beautiful trees…”
“That’s not what I’m asking. I know you visited places. What I want to know is how things progressed between you guys.”
“Oh.” She looks out the window, then looks at me with a dreamy smile. “He’s…retro.”
“And what does that mean?”
“Old school, gentlemanly…and yet, he keeps up with what’s happening now. You should see his Instagram page and the kinds of selfies he takes. His fashion sense too…”
I snap my fingers in her face. “You’re evading the question. How did things go between two of you?”
Her shoulders drop.
“I could have as well been on a three-day trip with you. It was so platonic.”
“He didn’t make any move to kiss me or act emotionally connected to me. Yes, he was romantic. Yes, he told me I have a cute nose.” She taps on her nose with a finger. “Is my nose cute?”
“Let me see.”
She leans forward. I pinch it hard.
“And yes, he told me that he’s not had fun like this with anyone. But he wouldn’t kiss me. The most he did was hold my hand. And he didn’t let it last long enough to be romantic. I don’t know what I did wrong.”
“Well, in your words, he’s old school. So, I think the kiss will come eventually. Maybe he didn’t want to be too forward.”
“Or maybe he doesn’t know how to kiss?”
I laugh. “Are you that hungry for a kiss, Hauwei?”
“For the millionth time, that is not my name. It doesn’t even sound like my name. Stop calling me that, Jideofor.”
“Hmmm. The kiss thing is really upsetting you.”
“No.” She shakes her head. “Okay, yes. Not even at the airport. I was expecting something that would make my seventeen-hour flight back to Lagos worth my time but dude just hugged me.”
“How was the hug? Was it a waist-wrap?”
“Well…you know he’s a bit taller than me, so when he hugged me, I kind of went on tiptoe because it was quite close… Yes, it was a waist-wrap. He pulled me towards him.”
“Pelvis to pelvis?”
“Um…I guess. And then his face was on my shoulder.”
I show her a naughty smile. “How long did it last for?”
“I wasn’t counting the seconds. I don’t know. But long enough for me to hear him say ‘mmm…’”
“So what are you complaining about? That was an intimate hug. The need to pull you to him so that your pelvises touch simply means he’s into you.”
“Intimate hug? Into me? Have you seen you and Honey hugging? You lay your head on hers and kiss her forehead and her neck and lift her off her feet…”
“Honey and I have come a long way, Hauwa. It takes some time to get there but you have to start with the basics, and I think that’s what Seyi is doing. And whenever a guy takes his time like this, it means he’s in for the long haul. You think kissing would’ve been hard for him to do?”
“Okay. I didn’t see it that way.”
“Well, now you do. You’re welcome.”
“But he hasn’t called me since I got back.”
“Relax. He’ll call. You’re so rusty with this dating thing, Hauwa. Where did all your spunk go?”
“Life.” She pulls close the salt shaker on the table and peers at it in seriousness. “I gave up on men entirely. I hope this works out.”
“It will. Be positive.” I look up and see my order coming. My tummy growls. Hauwa frowns at me.
“I’m hungry,” I confess.
Her meal comes a short while later and we sit like the old friends we are and talk about work-related stuff. Sometimes we drift back to the topic of Seyi and Singapore. Even when breakfast ends, we stay back, talking. A call from Emeka brings distraction and I excuse myself to the restroom to attend to it while I empty my bladder.
“What’s up, man?”
“Jide, this is probably the last I’ll ever disturb you on this issue with Yaz and Tola.”
I brace myself for a long talk. When he told me a couple of days ago that the private investigator he hired found Yazmin, I could tell from his voice that he was exhausted from the entire saga.
“Tola gives me peace,” he said to me. “I should have listened to you.”
He didn’t say much after that, except that he was taking a flight to Kaduna to see Yazmin.
“Kaduna? What on earth is she doing there?”
“Apparently, she was, according to her, doing what she always wanted to do with me but I never had time for.”
“And what’s that?”
“Travel round Nigeria.”
“Okay, that’s totally strange. But please don’t tell me she was doing it to find herself or something. Because that’s always the excuse.”
“Well, we’ll see.”
I didn’t hear from him since then until now.
“Remember what Honey did when you guys were still dating?”
“What did Honey do?”
“Please, don’t tell me Yazmin took out the baby.”
I exhale. This is not good news.
“But that’s not all. She…”
He goes silent. I assume the line has gone bad. He comes back on.
“She says she’s done.”
“Done, as in…?”
“She’s annulling the marriage, JD. Yazmin is leaving me.”
I know my brother too well to detect when he has a heartbreak – even over the phone. I am speechless. This is what I always wanted for him but now that it’s here, it doesn’t feel right.
“How are you taking it?”
“How do you think I’m taking it? I know it makes no sense to your straitlaced idea of love and marriage but I love Yazmin and I don’t want to lose her.”
I flush the toilet and leave the stall to a washbasin in the restroom. I put Emeka on speakerphone as I wash my hands.
“But that’s not even what’s worse.”
“She wants to remain in Nigeria and keep the house. She says her reasons are because of Tobe and that secondly, she’s too ashamed to go back to Mexico. She also fears that her dad might marry her off to someone else just to get at me.”
“Wow. Mex, I’m sorry, man. But I think we should talk about this after the match this evening, over drinks, at Shady’s house.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
“You haven’t been on the team for a while sef,” I mention, accusing him of abandoning the local football team my friends and I are a part of.
“I know. Work has been hectic. But I’d like to join, abeg. I haven’t been out in months. And maybe I need to hear the guys’ perspective on this.”
“I’m not sure of anything. I just know I’m broken, mehn. I haven’t even seen Tola since I returned with Yaz. I don’t want her to see me like this.”
“Sorry about what you’re going through.”
“Drinks with the guys will make sense, abeg.”
Emeka is not as social as I am, which is quite ironic, because he is in the entertainment industry and spends most of his office hours socializing. But the thing about friendship in his line of work is the shallowness it comes with. Hence, his friends have somehow become my friends. I pray they give him better counsel that I have done. I think I’m too connected to the drama to be objective.
The line disconnects. I pick my phone and head out to find Hauwa waiting. We stroll back to the hospital.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
“Darasimi, come back here!”
I get a smile, a giggle and Dara scurries off in my stilettos.
She’s playing dress-up this morning and I am not in the mood for it. No doubt, my bedroom is a mess right now. I am this close to running after her and smacking her restless bum.
But I come up with a better plan. I switch the cable channel I’m watching to Disney Junior and raise the volume. After a commercial, Sofia the First comes up. I increase the volume even more.
I was a girl in a village doing alright
Till I became a princess overnight
Now I have to figure out how to do it right
So much to learn and see
Up in the castle with my new family…
Dara runs back to me, my stilettos nowhere in sight.
“Sofia!” she screams. I lower the volume of the TV but it doesn’t stop her from squealing like an excited rat, dancing to the theme song of her favorite cartoon. I’m wondering how much of her noise I’ll have to take before I lose it. I don’t say a word, though. This is better than her messing up my room. I just lie on one of the comfy couches and fix my eyes on her until everything becomes hazy. I feel sick and hungry at the same time. I want to eat but if I do, I’ll feel worse. I also want to take a walk just to get some air. The estate we live in has some distractions. There’s a small park where kids play that has benches and huge trees that give shade. There’s also a football pitch. This evening, Shady and the guys have a match there. All the wives are coming over. Normally, I’d be excited, and by now, I’d be fixing them snacks. But I don’t have the strength. I pray that the match gets canceled and nobody shows up at my door.
But God doesn’t answer my prayers. I hear two soft raps on my front door. I remain on the couch. The sounds come again.
“Mommy!” Dara shouts and points. “Knocking the door!”
It is with laziness I drag myself to the door. When I open it, Peace and Mary walk in. They have come with a little bit of sunshine with their spunky attires. I don’t know if they planned it but they are both in shorts and t-shirts. While Mary sports a pair of white trainers, Peace has gladiator sandals on.
“Hi, babe!” Mary says to me. I want to replicate her bubbliness with a smile but it doesn’t come out.
“How are you?” Peace touches my cheek.
“Fine keh. We had to rush down after getting Shady’s call.”
“I was in her shop when his call came in,” Mary narrated. “He said you’re all sorts of sad and need company.”
I shut the door. I don’t need company.
“You look terrible,” Mary states before hugging me. Peace is distracted by Dara who has run to her.
“How is Naomi?” Mary enquires. I shrug. I don’t want to talk about Nay.
Someone knocks on the door again. Mary opens it. Kate walks in with her son.
“Good morning,” she greets. She is not as shy as she used to be but she maintains her silent nature. It’s also interesting to see how maturity has claimed her features. She still looks like the twenty-five year-old virgin that married Bobby but she now carries around a settled mien.
“Shady called me,” she speaks, looking at me. “He told me you needed company. Are you okay?”
I smile. “I am.”
“She’s not,” Mary says.
“Okay,” Kate replies. “Well, I’m here. If you want to talk…”
I feel bad that we never really talk to her. We talk over her head. She just sits and listens, adding a comment or two here and there. She has her own clique of friends. I imagine her being vocal with them, making us the topic of her discussions with them. But it doesn’t bother me. I like her.
Mary shuts the door and we all walk in. I want to serve them drinks but the doorbell rings. I know it’s Honey. She is the only one who uses the doorbell because she’s the only one who knows it’s there, asides Shady and I. To non-discerning eyes, we have no doorbell.
“I’ll get it,” Mary says, going towards the door. When she opens it, Honey hurries in, announcing that she wants to pee. She disappears into the guest bathroom. Peace serves everyone drinks and soon Honey joins us.
“What’s wrong, Cee?” She touches my face, taking my hand and linking our fingers together. Of all my friends, she’s the most expressive. When I first met her, I used to think she was deliberately trying to rub her relationship with Jide in our faces but many months down the line, I see that she is just who she is.
“Talk to us. When Shady called me and was like ‘abeg, just come and be with Celia’, I was like, this must be serious. I dropped Jiney with Nne and just rushed down here.”
She’s rubbing my thumb as she speaks.
“Talk to us. Is it Naomi? Is she okay? Did something happen to her?”
I can’t believe I haven’t told them that Charles is now dead and Naomi has to be tried for his murder. I have been too shaken at the turn of events to speak to anyone.
“She killed her husband,” I let out. There is expected silence and also the predictable “what did you just say?”
“Naomi stabbed her husband in his neck multiple times with a butter knife…”
“Oh my God!” Peace gasps.
“And then she left him to bleed to death.”
Everyone is stunned.
“When did this happen?” Honey asks. “Yesterday?”
“You remember that day we were all at Mary’s? When I left, I had actually gone to Nay’s house to see her. We were chilling in her living room and then her husband came home. She now panicked and told me to leave before he got in. I told her I wouldn’t. I’m not some coward that would run and hide from a man. The guy sha entered and things went crazy from there. He was hitting her in my presence…”
“I had to step in to stop him. He now rough-handled me and threw me out.”
Honey hissed. “I’m not sorry that he’s dead.”
“Anyways, when I left, he hit her again and threatened that if he ever saw me in the house, he’ll kill her. They both went to bed. Next morning, she was having breakfast in the kitchen, he came with his wahala again. Burnt her international passport and started threatening to divorce and leave her with nothing since she has refused to have kids with him. Nay was not having the harassment. She was fed up. She shouted back, reminding him that half of his wealth was her own. Dude grabbed her by the neck and demanded that she apologize for what she said or he’ll choke her to death. That was when she now took the butter knife that was on the kitchen table and started stabbing him. She said he was too shocked to fight back and she just couldn’t stop, even when he fell down. She was scared that he’d stand up and kill her, so she continued stabbing him anywhere the knife hit his face. And you know butter knives aren’t naturally sharp like that but she said she was using all her strength until he stopped moving. He just lay there, begging her to take him to the hospital. But she said she couldn’t think straight. She watched him die. It wasn’t until after she called his name and he didn’t respond before it hit her that she had actually killed him. That was when she called me. I called Bobby and we went there with a policeman.”
“Na wa!” Mary exclaims.
“This is shocking,” Peace murmurs.
“So what’s going to happen to her?” Honey asks. “Did they arrest her?”
“Yes, but she was granted bail.”
“Bobby’s taking her case?”
“No,” Kate answers. “His former boss is.”
“The one they call agbero?”
“Ah. Then the case is as good as over,” Mary says. “Agbero never loses.”
“I guess they’re going with self-defense?” Honey asks.
“There’s no need to worry then, Cee. She’ll be fine.”
“She is not fine, Hon. She’s been admitted into a psychiatric hospital. Naomi now suffers from panic attacks and hallucinations. You could be talking to her and next thing, she’s screaming ‘don’t let him touch me! Don’t let him come near me!’ and you look around and there’s nobody there. She thinks his ghost is haunting her.”
“Awww, that’s so sad,” Peace remarks. “After all she’s been through, she ends up like this?”
My eyes feel the burn of tears. Honey strokes my back.
“She’ll be fine, Cee. Once the court case is over and the dust settles, she’ll be fine. Thank God she’s going through therapy.”
“Charles’ family is on their own end, making things worse. They want to take her to court for Charles’ company and money. They say she killed him to get his wealth. They want to take everything from her.”
“It won’t work,” Honey states.
“Abi o,” Mary adds.
“Maybe we should pay her a visit,” Peace suggests. I nod. Everyone else agrees and we pick a date for next week.
“Well, despite all of this, there’s good news,” I tell them, feeling some weight lifted off my shoulders.
“What?” Mary leans forward.
“I’m pregnant,” I announce. The news is met with happy response. They all congratulate me. Mary instantly picks her phone and tops my bank account with some money, telling me that she is tapping into the blessing.
“You didn’t have to,” I reply when I get the alert. “It’s not like anything is wrong with you.”
“I know. I’m just sowing a seed into your life.”
I allow her hug and pray for me. When she is done, Kate clears her throat loudly to get our attention.
“I don’t want to dampen the mood,” she mutters, “but have any of you heard from Noka?”
We all shake our head. I feel guilty that I haven’t reached out to her. I see the same guilt on everyone’s face. I am just realizing that we all don’t like her as much as we project.
“Well, Noka is not doing well. I wanted to tell you guys since but you were talking about other stuff.”
“What do you mean ‘she’s not doing well’?” Peace questions.
“You know I sell designer handbags. So, about a month ago, Noka picked two and told me she would pay me on a later date. So today, just before I got here, I called her to ask about the money but her phone wasn’t going through. In short, I’ve been trying her line for days.”
“Same here,” Peace mentions.
“I decided to drive to her place. When I went there, the gateman stopped me from entering and said she was no longer living there. I asked if she had moved, he said that she hadn’t. He told me to check the other wife’s house.”
“That’s Eno,” Mary says. “Why would Noka move to Eno’s place?”
“Same thing I was asking myself until I got there. You won’t believe that I found Noka sitting outside the gate.”
“Doing what there?” I ask.
“She didn’t look like she had showered in days. She was smelling. She didn’t look like Noka at all.”
“Ha-ahn!” Mary utters. We give each other stares.
“I got down from the car and tried to talk with her but she won’t answer me. When I pestered her, she shouted at me and told me to leave her alone, that she’s fine. That was how I got into my car and left.”
“That’s strange,” Mary states. “And scary. What will make Noka behave like that?”
I say nothing. I don’t know what to make of the story but I suspect that Ibro has finally found out what she’s been up to and has kicked her out.
“Kate, you’re sure of what you told us?” Peace asks.
“Then we shouldn’t sit here. We should go and see her.”
Everyone agrees to the plan. It doesn’t take long for us to huddle into Kate’s SUV. She conveys us to Eno’s place. And from the moment we get to the street on which she lives, we spot Noka sitting outside, on a broken plastic chair, looking every bit like a woman on her way to insanity.
When Kate’s SUV stops in front of her, she gives it a look and goes back to staring into the air. We all file out and stroll to her.
“I am not mad,” she says, not looking at us. “I’m fine.”
“Then why are you sitting out here looking like a mad woman?” Mary probes.
“None of your business. The way you people carried yourself and entered that jeep and came here, apply that same process and leave.”
“You’re unnecessarily and stupidly rude,” Honey attacks her. “You think we don’t have better things to do with ourselves that we have to come here and get talked to like that?”
“Whatever, Ms. Perfect. You have your man who loves you, who treats you like gold, who doesn’t have a second wife that plans to take your place, including your kids! That is why you’re talking! And me, I’m not interested in hearing anything! You girls should just leave, abeg!”
Honey is ready with another retort but Peace stops her and steps towards Noka.
“Noka, we’re your friends, and we’re really worried about you…”
“How does that help my situation?!” she shouts. “How does your worry change what I’m going through right now?! See, you people should just be going! Just go!”
“Noka, why are you like this nau?” Mary asks. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Leave me alone!” she shouts. “Go away! Ah! It’s not by force to do friendship! Go!”
Peace reaches forward, and shocking all of us, she gives Noka a slap. Noka places her hand over her cheek and looks up at her with wide eyes. We watch as tears fill them. We also watch as she bursts into a cry. We know she is not reacting to the slap but to something deeper. It’s heart-wrenching to see someone you care for cry that way.
Peace bends over her and lends a shoulder. She clutches Peace as if clutching for life.
“Ibrahim threw me out!” she wails. “He threw me out of my house and didn’t let me take my kids. He says our marriage is over. He should just kuku kill me! I’ll die if I lose him!”
“It’s okay, Noks. You’re not going to die.” Peace rubs her back. “Stop crying.”
Peace only seems to have added fuel to the flame. Noka wails louder but is compliant when we suggest that she gets up from the chair and follow us to my place. Just as Peace leads her to Kate’s vehicle, a sleek, tinted BMW drives up to the gate. The driver’s window lets down and Eno pokes out her head to give Noka a demeaning stare.
“Hi ladies,” she says to us, “thank you for coming. Your friend has been an eyesore outside my gate for more than a week. I’d have called the police but I don’t want to be labeled as evil. You people should please take her away and make sure she never returns here. Ibrahim is done with her.”
“And what about her children?” Honey asks. I can see disdain on her face. She is the type of person that feels she alone has the right to insult a friend. Anyone one else who does so will get a taste of her venom.
“Ibro’s sons, you mean?” Eno laughs. “Good luck with trying to pry them out of his hands. Naturally, I don’t care for them but I’m down for anything that will see this greedy, cheating bitch burn in hell.”
She lets up her window and drives into the compound. Noka breaks free from Peace’s hands and goes after the car, calling out her sons’ names. She also calls out to Ibro.
“I can see you, Ibrahim! Let me take my children!” she cries. “You can’t do this to me! Ibro!”
I suspect she has been this way for days. We stand and sadly watch as the gate closes and the gateman pushes her away like she is a scamp.
“Don’t touch her like that!” Honey yells at him. If this situation isn’t sad, I’d be laughing at Honey’s behavior. But this is depressing. Somehow, I knew this day would come but I never thought it’d be this bad. Noka has now fallen to the ground, crying. It’s a dramatic scene that gets on my nerves.
“You’re sure Ibro is in that house,” I ask her.
“He is. He’s not left it in two days.”
I walk to the gateman who has decided to stand like an imbecile and watch the scene. “Your oga dey?”
He looks like he’s about to lie but I give him a piercing stare.
Honey shakes her head at me. “Don’t do it, Cee.”
“I just want to talk to him.”
“He is your husband’s boss. Don’t fuck things up. The men will talk to him later.”
She picks Noka off the ground and steers her back to Kate’s vehicle. We all mile in. I itch so badly to march into that compound and give Ibro a piece of my mind. But thank God for friends like Honey who always put me in check. Thank God also for friends like all of us. In a sane world, Noka does not deserve a second chance. In this little world of ours, we will ensure that she gets one; not because she merits it but because trash like Eno cannot come and reap where they haven’t sown.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
“I think this is so thoughtful, Ms. Genesis,” Wura mutters. Mushiness fills her as she stares at the apology gift that just came in for Genesis from Dominic.
“We’ve not been speaking for a while,” Genesis explains. “I know it’s stupid but I’ve been so mad at him.”
“Well, you can’t stay mad forever. This is really sweet. You should pick his calls.”
“Like, right now.” Wura laughs, pointing at Genesis’ ringing phone on the desk before them. Wura sees a dimple appear on her boss’ cheek as she goes for the phone. She leaves her office to give her some privacy. As she walks into hers, the mushiness she’s presently feeling spreads deeper. She has avoided Mahmud since the night they made love. They haven’t spoken much since then. Having gone through a soul-cleansing retreat, she had avoided his calls and given excuses not to be in his presence. The decision to keep herself chaste again until her wedding doesn’t come as easy as it did in the past. She finds herself fighting with stronger feelings that are born from their indiscretion that night. But if there is anything that is certain now, it is their marriage. A change of dates, a little patience and she would soon be Wuraola Adegbite Suleiman. She just doesn’t know if Mahmud would take any more of her explanations.
She picks her handbag and leaves the office.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
Wura finds Mahmud sleeping outside his house on a lounger. She can tell that he just drifted off as the fresh smell of smoked cigarette still hangs in the air around him, kicking off warm feelings in her. Genesis had once asked her what she loved about Mahmud and she had surprised herself by adding his smoking habit to the list of things she loved. She desires for him to quit and would most times bug him about it but somehow it is that part of him that comes with the package she can live with. Weirdly, she can’t tolerate anyone else smoking.
Wura quietly sits on the top of the double stairs that lead into the house. She has no intention of waking him. To sit silently and watch him sleep would be no bother.
“When did you get in?” He opens an eye. A smile fills her face.
“I just came.”
He hikes his weight up but remains seated on the lounger. A yawn follows. “Had a long night and a rough couple of days. How are you, Woo?”
“Hectic. Many parties and weddings lined up. It’s the season.”
He reaches for his cigarette pack beside the lounger and lights a stick.
“Is that why you wouldn’t pick my calls or call back?”
She spots annoyance dancing somewhere in his eyes as the smoke from his first inhalation clears.
“I’m sorry, Mymood…”
“Even the times I came to see Billy, you were not there. Sometimes I suspected you were hiding in your room and making your cousin lie to me. There was this day that I sat in your parlor for four hours, waiting for you. You were in, weren’t you?”
Wura stares away, guiltily.
“Ah. There we have it. I didn’t imagine it, after all.”
“Mymood…” Wura toys with the strap of her handbag. “I was dealing with a lot. I just couldn’t see you at that time.”
“Wuraola, you are not in this relationship all by yourself o. It’s two of us. Shey you know.”
“But it doesn’t seem like you do.”
“I’m sorry. You know how I lost it after what happened.”
“Yes, blame it on the sex. And you know what? I now seriously regret touching you that day. I do. I should have seen all of this coming.”
He stands to his feet and Wura watches him, unsure of how to justify her behavior.
“I’m sorry, Tokunboh. I just had to take some time out to cleanse myself…”
“Cleanse?” He laughs. “So I’m now a demon that you have to sanctify yourself after making love to me?”
“No. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Why don’t you just dump me? Just end it and go and marry Pastor Ralph or whatever his fucking name is. With him you don’t need cleansing. How does the bible put it again? You won’t be unequally yoked.”
“Am I lying? Isn’t that what you told me one time like that?”
“I understand. I’m an unbeliever and being with you will be you going against what you believe.”
“Mahmud, stop it!”
“It’s not by shouting, Wuraola. This is just what it is! We have fought it for too long but clearly, on your side, it just isn’t going to work.”
“Why are you talking like this?”
He stands in front of her. “You and I planned a quiet Christmas wedding. Just friends and family. At first, I wanted it big because I felt you deserved all the glam and noise after everything you’ve been through. I wanted you to have your fairytale but you said you preferred it small and quiet, to avoid people talking. It had hurt to hear you say that but I was fine with it. Anything to make the mother of my son happy. But right now, I want to ask you. Are we even getting married during Christmas? Is it happening at all?”
Wura swallows. “I…”
“Is it happening, Wuraola?”
“No.” Her voice is small. She scratches her brow. “Not this Christmas.”
“I fucking knew it.” Mahmud turns away. He walks a few paces away from her, leans on a wall that has a creeping plant etched on it and puffs away angrily.
Wura follows him.
“Part of the reasons why I haven’t had time for us is because of the contract I just signed with Fo Yo Soul Records. It’s also the reason why we have to cancel plans for the wedding. I’ll be traveling to Dallas with Pastor Ralph and our manager to spend Christmas there and wrap up details of our contract. And possibly, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to work on a song in which Kirk Franklin would feature. It’s not just us. The other African artistes are going to be there.”
“And I’m just knowing this?” Mahmud laughs.
“Are we getting married at all, Wuraola?”
“We are, Mymood. I don’t want to be with anyone else.”
“Then when is it happening?”
“I don’t know. Maybe middle of next year. Pastor Ralph and I will start working on our album first thing in January. And then we have a charity tour coming up in March. After that…”
Mahmud angles his head and takes her eyes. Something about the look he gives her makes her stop speaking.
“Wura, sweetie… I don’t want to continue this anymore. Whatever it is we’re doing, I’m done with it.”
Wura’s heart begins to race. She feels some sort of paralysis taking over her body, starting from her head.
“I love you. God! I love you, Wuraola. I can’t even start explaining how much. But this isn’t just about love. This is about two people who should be committed to each other, no matter what. Unfortunately, it’s not the case here. It’s just me on one side, loving you, doing everything to see us together, fighting my family, fighting your past, fighting religion and fighting your unbelief in us. And now, you want me to fight your dreams? No, mami. I can’t do that because I know I’ll fail, like I’ve been failing. The thing is… I’ve lost faith in you being there for us and in you being strong enough to be the wife I want. On the other hand, I always come up short in your eyes no matter what I do. I’m afraid I’ll never be the man you think God wants you to marry. And seriously, I can’t go into marriage on that foundation. So, let me make things easy for both of us and just end this now.”
His eyes on her have gone tender and for a moment, she thinks he’ll burst out in laughter and tell her that all he has just said is a joke. But he doesn’t laugh and he doesn’t break the sad silence. When it hits her that he is serious, she gulps in air a couple of times and opens her mouth to respond but her quivering lips only give way to a sob. Mahmud’s tenderness remains in his eyes but he does nothing to express it.
“Please, don’t do this, Mahmud,” she manages to say.
He turns around and takes back his position on the lounger. “Maybe this is for the best, Woo. I lost my wife because I was doing everything within my power to keep her. I don’t want to make the same mistake with you. And maybe this marriage thing is not for me at all. I already have a son. What else do I need?”
His words fall on Wura like rocks. She snaps from composure and slumps down on the slab, weeping.
“Mahmud, don’t do this,” she bawls. “I’ll give up everything to be with you…”
“Please, don’t. Your hard work and perseverance have finally gotten you to the place of your dreams. You earned this, and I’m so proud of you. I don’t want you to give it up for anything. Do it for yourself. Do it for Bilal. I’ll be fine, cheering you from wherever I am. We can always be friends.”
There is little emotion in his tone. His voice seems like it’s coming from someone else. Wura is just realizing that from the moment he began speaking to her since she arrived, there has not been an outward expression of warmth in his manner. She wondered if he had come to the decision to break things off with her now or at an earlier date.
“You should go home and rest,” he tells her and then covers his eyes with an arm and says nothing more. She weeps dejectedly but he remains on the lounger, unmoved. When she is unable to bear any more of the pain, she stands up.
“Maybe we’ll fix a date and talk more?” she asks.
Fresh tears fill her eyes.
“I was going to invite you to the Ditorusin’s for lunch. Kasi is proposing to Lexus today…”
“Yeah, he invited me, but I already declined. I have to be in surgery in a couple of hours. Send my love to them.” He still doesn’t look at her.
“Please, go. You’re making this hard.”
“Okay.” She sniffles, trying to be strong. Weighty legs lead her out of the compound. She reaches for her sunglasses in her handbag and wears them, wondering why she had chosen not to use her car today. A cab zooms by and she waves it down but it doesn’t stop. This adds to her misery.
She begins a long walk down a dusty street.