For those who asked for a bonus…
Jide says he has a gift for me. He has just passed me this black box that has the brand name ‘Self Pleasures’ written on it.
“Open it,” he says, hiding a smile.
I take the lid off the box and pull out a string of heavy Ben Wa balls.
“Really?” I look at him. He winks.
“Recommended for pelvic exercises,” he explains, adjusting Jiney’s cap that has shifted off her forehead.
“So I’m supposed to shove this in where?”
He points at my crotch. “You were complaining of feeling loose…”
“Jideofor, my normal pelvic exercises and the hot water Nne has been making me sit in are working, thank you. I don’t need these funny looking things to tighten my walls which by the way, are still tight.”
“Stop. You’re turning me on.”
I smack him.
“I’ll teach you how to use them,” he offers.
“I know how to, thank you.”
I put the Ben Wa balls away. I don’t tell him that I have used all sorts of them in the past, from the ones without strings to the vibrating ones. It’s good to maintain the mystery. Genesis has taught me to hide certain aspects of my femininity from him.
“Men like to be oblivious, so keep him wondering.”
For me, I’m all too happy that I’ve married a bad boy and he’s beginning to show me his naughty side…and I like it. He is doing this countdown to the day we have sex. He wakes up every morning and goes, ‘Day so and so.’ But this doesn’t stop him from being naughty. There’s a lot of kissing and petting. I never knew one could feel pleasure on certain odd places in the body. Jide showed me all my erogenous zones. Now I am left with the challenge of finding his. I plan to ask Genesis for pointers.
Speaking of which, I have to pay her a visit this morning, on my way to pick a few things from the mall. Nne is not going to be happy about me leaving the house. Jide is cool with it. He even thinks I need a bit of the outside air.
“Don’t just starve my daughter.”
He is particular about Jiney being exclusively breastfed until she is six months. I don’t even have a say in the matter. It’s his baby and his breasts.
I rise up from bed and go for a shower. A short while later I’m out. Jide and Jiney are not in the room. I can hear his voice coming from the kitchen. He is with Nne. I take my time, dressing into a pair of jeans and a tee. When I step out, Nne straightaway asks me where I’m headed.
“She’s going out,” my husband answers. Nne is about to say something but he stops her. I smile at both of them and walk to the room where Ndidi is lodged.
I knock. She opens the door. A bright smile hits her face and she hugs me.
“Hi Didi. How are you?”
She lets go. “Wow! You don’t look like you just had a baby.”
“How did you lose all the fat?”
“I didn’t have much of it, to begin with.”
She pouts cutely. “I wish I was like you. I’m here struggling with my weight. I’m so fat.”
“No, you’re not. You’re chubby.”
She shrugs. She doesn’t believe me.
“So, I want to hit the town for a little shopping. Care to join me?”
She throws her fists up into the air.
“You may want to change into something decent, though.”
She runs back in and the door bangs in my face. I turn. I’m not sure I can handle her energy. I wait for her in the living room while trying to keep up with the latest events online. Actually, I’m more interested in what’s happening on Jide’s instagram. A photo of me breastfeeding Jiney, which he shared, attracted some trolls who felt they had a say over my body. Some blog even took the photo and did a piece about mothers sharing their breastfeeding pictures online. It was a terrible article aimed at body-shaming mothers. But neither Jide nor I bother about these things. We just live our lives.
“I’m ready.” Didi steps out in a short dress and pair of flats. She looks charming. She has no idea she is about to meet Genesis. I can’t wait to see how she will freak out.
Minutes later, we’re on the road. I quickly take control of the conversation. Didi is talkative. I learned about this the hard way over the course of last week when she and I literally spoke every day on the phone, she doing most of the calling.
“So, Didi, are you ready for the Lagos life?”
“You’re sure? It can be quite draining.”
“I am ready. I’m sooo excited.”
“Okay. Wish you the best with your hustle. So, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have time for boys.”
“I had a boyfriend before coming here. I broke things off with him because I can’t do the long distance relationship thing.”
“I don’t trust him. He’s so particular about sex and I’m very sure he was cheating on me while we were dating.”
“You never caught him?”
“No. I didn’t bother, really. We weren’t having sex so I expected him to cheat.”
She is silent for a few seconds and even I have run out of what to ask her but she comes back on again.
“You didn’t ask me why we were not having sex.”
“No, I didn’t. Why?”
“I’m a virgin.”
Okay, I didn’t need to know that but seriously? I look at her. Outwardly, she’s wild, but I’ve come to know that appearances can be deceiving and that also, some virgins have this manner of overdoing things.
“So what type of virgin are you?”
“I don’t understand.”
“There are virgins who have never done anything sexual before. They are called pure virgins. And then there are those that virginity for them is just about the hymen. So they would do every other things except penetrative sex. So which are you?”
She laughs. “I’m In-between.”
“Well, whichever it is, I’m proud of you that you kept it this long. Are you going to keep it until you get married?”
“No. I’m just looking for the right guy. I’m so scared to give it to an asshole.”
“Then you better be wary of the boys in this town. I must warn. Your average Onitsha guy has his life planned. It’s basically make money, find wife and get married. But here, it’s different. It’s more like make money, find girls to spend it on, sleep with them, break their hearts and repeat the vicious cycle again.”
“And don’t be carried away by the one who tells you he is willing to wait until marriage either. He may just be one of those ones who wants a good girl whose cherry he can pop so that he can control her while he sleeps around outside. Choose your men wisely. Your friends as well. Don’t party or club every weekend. Make yourself scarce. Avoid alcohol and drugs at all cost. Stay away from boys’ houses as much as you can. Focus on your career. Work hard. Make daddy and your late mother proud.”
“Thank you, Aunty Honey.”
“Just call me Honey.”
I realize she is subdued by the counsel I have just given her. I hope I haven’t scared her.
“Can I buy coconut chips, please?”
We’re in traffic and hawkers are busy with their wares, running in-between cars and flashing them at windows.
I let Didi’s window down. She calls some guy selling coconut chips and picks two. “You want?” she asks me.
“No, thank you.”
“It’s sweet o.”
I know it’s sweet. In fact, I used to like it but I’m not feeling it right now. Didi pays for the chips and begins to munch on them. She talks as she eats, telling me about Onitsha and her second cousins whom she is not friendly with. She talks all the way to the Ditorusin home, finishing the entire two packs of coconut chips. Now she’s complaining about not having bought water.
“You’ll drink some when we get in,” I say to her as we wait for security at the gate to confirm our access in.
“Whose house is this?”
“They seem rich.”
“But you haven’t seen the house yet.”
“From the outside I can tell.”
I hear a beep and the gate slides open.
“Wooooow!” Didi exclaims, eyes popping out. I smile as I drive in. “Is this house for real?”
I laugh. I totally feel her. The house is grand and sturdy with architecture that is different from most. But it is not the structure that arrests attention. It’s the greenery. It takes you from modern day Lagos to a dream of colorful flowers, hanging bougainvillea, awning Jacaranda trees with purple leaves and a stone path that leads to the front door.
We are standing at the door now, waiting to be invited in.
“This house is really fine,” Didi says for the third time since we drove in.
The door opens and we’re blessed with Genesis’ smiling face.
We hug and when we break apart, she gazes at Didi.
Didi is struck. She can’t move. Her eyes are fixed on Genesis in utter disbelief. I laugh.
“She’s a fan.”
“And she’s the one I told you about.”
“Oh. Your sister-in-law, Ndidiamaka, right?”
“Yeah. Didi, stop staring and say hi.”
Didi tries to speak but a stammer comes out. Genesis and I laugh.
“Come in, ladies.”
She invites us in, leading us to the main living room. By the time we make ourselves comfortable, Didi has returned to her old self. She now falls into this long speech about how she is so crazy about Genesis and how she follows her online like fly to shit.
Yes, she actually uses those exact words.
She is excited to meet her and can’t wait to start working for her.
“Great then.” Genesis chuckles. “We’ll have fun. But hope you aren’t lazy?”
“Good. Work begins on Monday.”
Did claps her hands silently.
“So what can I get for you guys?”
“Nothing. We’ve had breakfast.”
I see a protest in Didi’s eyes. I’m beginning to think she likes food too much.
“I’d like some water, please,” she requests.
“Follow me, then. If you’re going to be working for Novo Knights, you must know your way around this house.”
Didi excitedly hops on her feet and tails Genesis. I take out my phone and go back online. I am in the middle of reading about a holiday bonanza Qatar Airways is offering when someone walks into the room. I look up and see that it is DJ Kasbi. He and I met only once, a couple of days before my wedding. It was a brief meeting in which Mary and I told him the type of songs we would love him to play at our reception.
I look at him now. I don’t think he remembers me.
“Mrs. Onuora?” he calls, unsure.
“Yeah. You remember.”
“I can never forget.”
His words are with meaning. I can pick out the discreet way in which his eyes take in my features.
“How are you?” I ask.
I notice that he is taller than I remember. He seems quiet too. His sense of style fits his age. Hanging on his neck is a pair of headphones. I have a feeling it’s his signature look.
He doesn’t sit, he moseys around a little. I suspect he is familiar with the house, maybe even more than I am.
Genesis walks in and coming right behind her is Didi.
“Kasiobi, you’re here,” Genesis utters.
“Morning, ma,” he greets. Didi looks at him, he looks at her, and their eyes lock for some seconds.
“Hi,” he says to her.
“Hi,” she responds and walks over to where she was seated before. DJ Kasbi throws a quick glance at her backside.
“Boss Lady,” he calls Genesis, “I’ll be waiting in the other parlor.”
Didi’s eyes follow him as he leaves.
“You know DJ Kasbi?” Genesis asks. Didi shakes her head. “He’s a celeb in Lagos alone, I guess.”
“So, Gen…” I face her. “About the souvenirs…”
“Yes. They are ready. Unfortunately, I don’t have them here. They’re all in the gift shop. Do you want them delivered as we planned or you want to pick them yourself?”
“Please, let them be delivered. I want to go to the mall to buy some things.”
“Fine. I’ll call them and tell them to take it to yours immediately. So, is there any other thing I can do for you today?”
“No,” I reply, getting up. “Just show up with your beautiful self and your equally beautiful family tomorrow.”
She puts her arm around my waist as we leave. DJ Kasbi is standing outside the door to a smaller sitting room. He nods a farewell in our direction. Didi pretends not to see him.
We step outside.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
It has begun to drizzle a little. There are no dark clouds to show that the weather will get worse. But one can’t predict the elements these days. They seem to have a mind of their own.
Genesis hurries into her house, away from the drizzle, and shuts the front door. Kasiobi is still waiting outside the sitting room. She ushers him in and closes the door.
“I know I’m in trouble, Ms. Genesis,” he states as he takes a seat.
“Oh, you so are.”
She sits beside him and places her elbow on the back rest as she faces him fully.
“Start talking, young man.”
Kasiobi gives a quiet chuckle.
“Is it a laughing matter?”
“Kasi, Chichi being in your house is a bad idea. You know that, don’t you?”
“She has changed, ma. She really has.”
“Don’t be so naïve, Kasi. She is digging her fangs deep into you and by the time you realize it, it may be too late.”
Kasiobi scratches his head. “There’s nothing I can do about it. If I ask her to leave, I’ll have to rent a house for her and start paying child support. But this present arrangement is cheaper for me.”
“Cheaper but not better. Chichi will enjoy milking you dry. And let’s not forget that you’re going to be constantly seeing her – all of her – and you’ll fall into old habits again. Are you sure it’s what you want for yourself?”
“I won’t sleep with her, if that’s what you mean. I’m still seeing Shakira.”
Genesis sighs. “Even worse. But what did she say about the whole Chichi thing?”
“She doesn’t know. She’s out of town, presently.”
“Well, good luck with your impending drama. You caused it for yourself.”
Kasiobi smiles. “You’re really mad at me.”
“I am, Kas. You have Lexus who will do anything for you and you go and choose two useless girls who are only after their own selfish gains.”
“Lexus dumped me.”
“She had her reasons, Kasiobi.”
“She always has reasons to be selfish. Always.” His voice comes with a rough tone. “We were doing well as a couple and then from nowhere, she leaves. Then she comes back a year later, after I have moved on, to say she wants me back? No, I’m not playing such silly games with her. I’m too old for that.”
“Kasi, calm down. Please, listen to me. Do me a favor and talk to Tonbra. Ask her why she really left you.”
“She already told me.”
“Not everything. Ask her to be honest with you. Talk to her. And please, just please, give her another chance.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. And with all due respect, Ms. Genesis, you’re coddling her and it’s bad. Lexus needs to hear the truth from you that she’s full of shit. She needs to get up and become something for herself. I think when she works hard at something for a while, she will understand and appreciate human relationships. For now, she’s just a fourteen-year-old trapped in a woman’s body. She needs to grow up.”
He is angry. Genesis understands. Lexus is quite the expert at pushing people to the wall. But Genesis also recognizes that Kasiobi’s anger is from a place of passion. His feelings for Lexus are so strong that he is mad at himself that she has that much power over him.
“Just try, you hear? Try and talk to her.”
“Can I see the twins?”
“Sure. They’re upstairs. How is fatherhood coming on?”
Kasiobi grins. Light brightens his eyes. “The best thing ever.”
He continues to smile. “When Chichi came with her to the house today and I went towards her, she smiled at me. It was classic. Chichi says she hardly smiles, but she smiled at me today. I think it’s a good sign.”
Genesis shakes her head with a laugh, telling him he would soon learn that babies are not always so adorable.
“But you understand that I’m doing this strictly for Trinity, right? Not for Chichi. Not even for my mom.”
“I’m sorry you’re disappointed.”
“I’ll get over it. All I want is for you to do what’s right.”
“I will,” he promises as they both head out. “Erm…about that girl that left here just now…”
Genesis frowns at him. “You don’t have enough woman trouble already?”
Kasiobi pushes his hands into his pocket and forces away laughter.
“Behave yourself, boy. You have three girls on your case already.”
“I didn’t say anything nau, Boss Lady. I just dey ask ni. Babe is cute. Chubby cute. I haven’t seen her type in a while, that’s why I asked. And the nose ring…”
“You and girls with piercings and tattoos.”
“They are freaks. I love freaks.”
“Then go back to the number one freak in your life.”
Kasiobi’s hearty expression vanishes. Genesis withdraws from the topic entirely. She walks him to the door and bids him a lovely day.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
Tomorrow is Jiney’s christening and baptism. My baby will be two weeks old but I feel I have known her my whole life. I can’t count how many times I stare fixedly at her in the course of a day, even though she doesn’t notice. All she does is sleep. And then she feeds. A lot. Everyone marvels at how much she can take in during a feeding session. She’s so chubby and so big that people say she looks two months old. I’m at the stage where my nipples hurt like hell. Nne has this ointment she gave me to rub on them to ease the soreness but it still doesn’t help. No one warned me of this part, of the pain that comes with it. Or of my feet getting bigger and my tummy looking like a tired old lady, or of leaking breasts and skin discolorations.
But it is not all complaints. The pains can’t dumb away the joy. I live for little, simple moments as these, when I can be alone with my baby even when I’m surrounded by a crowd. It’s priceless.
Right now I am with my friends who have come to help with the catering aspect of Jiney’s christening party. As always, we are discussing a myriad of things, but I particularly notice that Celia is quiet. She seems worn out as well, like she hasn’t slept well in a while. And the brown top she’s wearing over black jeans does not flatter her one bit. Neither does her frazzled hair.
“Cee?” I call. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
She replies that she is, and the reply itself is an indication that all is not well. The normal Celia would have given a sarcastic answer to my question.
“No, you’re not alright, Cee,” Mary comments.
I’m glad someone else notices.
“I’m fine,” Mary mimics. “That’s not how you talk. Something is wrong with you. Oya, start telling.”
“I said I’m fine nau. Please, leave me.”
“No, I’m not leaving you. Talk.”
“I don’t want to talk!” she snaps. “Leave me alone!”
She throws back the plastic chair she’s sitting on as she makes for the door. Mary goes after her and stops her. She spins her around to face us. We see that she is crying.
“This is the person that is saying she’s fine. Abeg, Kate, bring that chair.”
Quiet Kate, madam of Bobby’s life (as he calls her), mother of his son, drags Celia’s chair to her and Mary pushes her into it.
“Oya, aunty, talk.”
“Please, get me my bag.”
Noka passes over Celia’s handbag to me and I fling it towards Mary. She catches it. Celia drops the bag on her laps and pulls out a white envelope from it.
“What I’m about to tell you girls must not leave this kitchen. Please don’t tell your husbands because I don’t want Shady to hear about it.”
We all promise her that we’ll keep her secret.
“What would you do if you’re dead broke – dead, dead broke – that you don’t even have money for your next salon appointment, and then someone comes into your life and offers you three thousand dollars just like that?”
All of us are silent. We don’t know what she means. And so, she starts to speak, taking us smack into the middle of this distressing tale of financial crisis, a marriage facing hard times and a temptation too sweet to turn away from.
She has just laid bare the envelope in her hands and we see three thousand dollars of crisp notes. The sight makes Noka’s greedy eyes bulge out.
“Wonders shall never end!” Peace exclaims.
“I don’t get it,” Mary says, abandoning the carrots she is grating. “You mean a fellow woman gave this to you? To sleep with her?”
“Yes,” Celia answers.
“Na wa o! This world is going to burn for all its evil.”
“Oh, please,” Noka murmurs.
“Let me understand this well. She promised to give you more money just so that you and her can be sleeping with each other?”
“Why are you making her repeat herself?” I step in. “Can’t you see how uncomfortable she is? Do you know what it took for her to let this out?”
“I can’t do it.” A rush of tears fills Celia’s eyes. “I can’t but I desperately need this money.”
“Well, me I see no big deal in it,” Noka states. We all fix our eyes on her. “They’re both women…”
“So it makes it alright?” I ask. Noka shrugs. “It’s called cheating, Noka.”
“And lesbianism,” Peace adds. I look at Noka who is ready to fire back. I predict a spicy argument coming on.
“And being a lesbian is so wrong?”
“It’s a sin. A very disgusting one. How can you put your mouth on another woman’s whatever?”
“And putting it on a dick is less disgusting?”
“It is the way God wants us to do it.”
Noka laughs. “Please what chapter and verse?”
“Don’t misquote me.”
“I’m not misquoting you. You said putting your mouth on a dick is the way God wants us to do it. That means, according to you, God encourages oral sex. So, madam, book, chapter and verse.”
I raise my hand. “Let’s not get distracted, please. Celia needs our help. What do you advise?”
“Abeg, give her back her money,” Peace answers.
“Sharply,” Mary adds.
“Keep the money, Cee,” Noka advises as we expect she would. “She has already told you that it is for your family, so go ahead and use it jare. The fact that you kept it with you for almost two weeks shows that you don’t have any plans to return it.”
“Yes, I just told you I’m tempted, Noks,” Celia replies. “I desperately need it.”
“The person that is pissing me off here is Shady,” I say, “let me just be honest. You don’t have to be in this position, Cee. Shady is doing this to you.”
The other ladies concur with nods.
“I still feel sad that you allowed him convince you to hide what is going on from us. Where did you think it was going to end?”
Celia rubs her eyes.
“Now look at the predicament you’re in.”
Celia begins to sob. Peace deserts her bowl of green beans and walks to her to put her arms around her. I watch in sadness. Celia has lost a lot of weight and her skin holds signs of stress. How were we so consumed with ourselves that we missed the part where our friend needed us?
I pass Jiney to Kate and hold Celia as well. With soothing words, Peace and I both placate her until she stops crying.
“Everything will be fine, Cee,” I assure her. “And that’s because we’re going to help. This money has to be returned.”
Celia nods, dabbing her eyes with her apron.
“Ladies, I suggest that we all contribute to have Celia’s rent covered and also put some extra money in her pocket.”
“And this one just goes like that?” Noka points at the dollars.
“Ah! O ga oo!”
I ignore her. “Any objections?” I question. None of them oppose my proposal, except Noka, of course.
“First of all,” she chips in “donating to help her is not going to change the fact that her lazy husband is sitting about doing nothing.”
“Don’t call my husband lazy.”
“But he is lazy. His show was cancelled and he couldn’t get up and do something for himself? Even if it’s bricklayer job?”
Celia breaks down again.
“You see what your sharp mouth has caused?!” I yell at Noka. “What is wrong with you?!”
“Noka, take it easy nau,” Kate pleads.
“I’m sorry you’re hurting, Cee. Forgive my brutal honesty. But let me be even more honest here. I don’t have money to spare,” she discloses. The response she gets is four different types of nasty stares. “I am investing my monthly upkeep in something important that I can’t talk about. So, the best I’ll do is to speak to Ibro on your behalf, Cece, and he’ll give you guys a brand new car. This ultimately means I’ll be breaking my promise to you not to tell my husband. But in the end, it’s for your own good.”
I am pissed. I face her. “Noka, first of all, we know Ibro gives you nothing less than five hundred thousand monthly. Are you saying you can’t spare something out of it or even the whole thing for your friend?”
“I didn’t say that. I said my money is tied up somewhere.”
“Celia needs your help, Ojonoka.”
“I know and that is why I said I’ll speak to Ibro. Then they can sell their present car and get some cash from it. That is the most I can do, please.”
I’m about to give a biting response but Mary shakes her head to stop me.
“We’ll do without you, Noks,” she tells her.
I am so angry I want to ask Noka to leave my house. I don’t think I can stand her anymore. The chick is insufferable.
“Thank you.” Celia passes a grateful stare around that almost looks like a smile. I notice a worry line forming at the side of her nose. It drives me further into sadness. For a while none of us speaks. We are all occupied by our individual chores until evening comes. Celia, Noka and Kate leave, and it’s just Peace and Mary left. Both of them are sleeping over. We discuss on how much each person is to contribute to help Celia. Peace suggests that anyone can give any sum they wish to but it shouldn’t be less than a certain stipulated number.
“We just have to make sure it covers the rent and changes her wardrobe,” I emphasize. They agree with me. We are still in the middle of discussion when Ekene walks in from the backdoor. Just like Mary, he is no stranger to our home. He can come in and leave at any time, having developed this chummy relationship with Jide. It had taken quite some time for him to bond with the other guys, owing to his pride and reclusive nature but he eventually came to. Sometimes the bond he has with Jide worries me. Two men who have both had the privilege of knowing me intimately. It rings somehow. I now understand why keeping one’s body until marriage is not such a bad thing. Your ex and your husband might just become close friends. I know they don’t swap stories about me but sometimes I wonder if they do.
“Mama Jiney,” he greets. “And the only Peaceful Peace. How una dey?”
We respond to him. He turns to his wife. She smiles – in a shy kind of way like they are just meeting for the first time.
“I brought your overnight things. Mind escorting me to the car?”
I give them the eye. He is probably going to kiss her silly until she begs him to stop. That is Ekene’s life. He can kiss from sunup to sundown. But wetin concern me? Tomiwa is not complaining.
The backdoor bangs shut when they leave and Peace comes close.
“I think she’s pregnant.”
“She’s not. They’re waiting two whole years.”
“Two? What for?”
“Honeymoon sturvs,” I answer.
“Ekene is a strange Igbo man.”
“You can say that again.”
Sammy, Peace’s little boy appears at the door. He has just woken up from a long nap. He rubs his eyes, yawning at the same time.
The boy looks nothing like Peace. She says he takes after his father, a man who gives all of us reason to worry. He moved into town after his family relocated abroad. Just the other day, he asked to see Sammy but Peace turned down his request. Her refusal had nothing to do with him breaking the confidentiality agreement they signed but with the fact that she still has feelings for him. Because of this, she has started considering seeing Reno again. Reno, by the way, has cleaned up his act, even though he is yet to be welcomed back into the circle of friends.
“Oriaku!” Nne calls. That’s the name she has given me. It roughly means the one who eats her husband’s wealth. I like the name. But Jide prefers to call me Odoziaku which means the one who takes care of the wealth. I’m fine with both because I literally have the lock and key to Jide’s bank accounts.
“Oriaku o! Come and give my baby breast!”
Wtf! Didn’t that girl just suck? My nipples go sore at the thought and I consider begging Jide to let me start giving her formula.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
Drained and upset at Noka, I arrive home at about a quarter past eight. Dara has had dinner and is already asleep. I slip on a diaper for her and place her in her bed. Noka’s behavior towards me has left me shaken and given me perspective on who is important in life. You think you know people until they betray you. I alone, alongside Bimpe, know Noka’s terrible secret. If Ibro ever finds out, she will be done for. But I have said nothing to no one. I have protected whom I thought was a friend and the reward I get is cold-heartedness.
As we say, God dey.
Tomorrow, first thing, I’ll call Naomi and ask her to send her driver over. When he comes, I’ll give the envelope to him and end my short chapter with her.
I hear a sound and I turn. Shady is standing behind me – really close. His chin rests on my shoulder and he kisses my neck.
“I can’t imagine losing you, Cee. I just can’t.”
An arm wraps around my waist and he turns me to face him.
“I’ve been an ass these past months. Can you forgive me?”
I nod. He encloses me in a hug, my head resting on his heart, listening to the strong, steady rhythm. I’m thinking about how we take for granted simple things like a beating heart, ignoring that we have no power to keep it going when it stops.
I’m thinking of Noka’s betrayal and everything else. And then the tears come. Shady places his hand on my head and holds it steady as I cry. I hold tightly to his waist, arms clasped around him. I don’t want to let go. I have missed being in this position. The holding, it used to mean so much to me. Just losing myself in his clutch. I hope this lasts longer than today.
“Let’s go to the room,” he tells me as he lets go. We enter our bedroom and in the dark, with just moonlight streaming in from the windows, Shady continues to hold me. But his lips are between mine now. In a flash, things heat up. The hunger is real. This has not been us for months.
We kiss like we’re doing something abominable and would soon be caught. The wildness of the kiss soon spreads through us like a contagion and we’re knocking things about as we move from the door to the bed. We make love savagely with our clothes on, throwing ourselves into gloomy pleasure with abandon. All the emotion and stress are converted into raw energy and we spend it on each other until Shady climaxes.
I want more but for now this fills that deep hole he has left in me. For now, I’m fine. He holds me still, not wanting to let go but I tell him I have to pee. I wriggle away and turn on the lights on my way to the bathroom. After I pee, I take extra time cleaning myself and washing makeup off my face. When I return to the bedroom, I find Shady seated, and in his hands, the stack of dollars.
“What’s this?” he demands.
“You went through my bag?”
He doesn’t answer. I spot my handbag on the floor. The flap has been thrown open and a few items are sticking out. It is clear that the handbag was one of the things we knocked down during our amazon session.
“Celia, where did you get this type of money from?”
I can’t speak. How do I begin to tell my story? Will he even believe that a woman gave this to me?
“Somebody gave me.”
“Somebody gave you three thousand dollars. For what?”
“Shadrach, calm down.”
“Answer my question.”
“Calm down first.”
“There is no calming down! A man gave you three thousand dollars for what?! What did you give him in return?!”
“Stop shouting, Shady. Just stop and listen to me.”
“So this is what you’re doing in the name of work?!”
“Shady, don’t go there. Please calm–”
He flings the notes at me. “I’m down on my luck for a short time, Celia, a short time, and you start sleeping around?!”
He charges up.
“You’re disgusting! Oh my God! I can’t even look at you! Take your dirty money and leave my house!”
He aims for the door but I rush towards it and block his path. I am mad and he is about to have a taste of the bull crap I have had to put up with.
“I’m not going anywhere, Shadrach! Nowhere! That money was given to me by someone who wants my body. And you know what? I was considering the offer because you have abandoned your duties as a man! I have been the one feeding your lazy ass, stroking that stupid ego you carry around, lying to everyone about our condition and working my ass off to the bone! So what is so wrong if someone out there wants to take the load off my shoulders and give me a better life?! With that money I can pay the rent and take care of myself and feel like a woman again! Because, Shady, you have stripped away my womanhood! You have robbed me of happiness! Look at me well! See how I’m aging! Just because of you! And don’t deceive yourself that one night of jungle sex can whip me back to shape! I’m still the one who will get up on Monday morning and go to work while you sit your lazy ass here and do NOTHING!”
The slap that meets my face hits me so hard that I fall to the floor.
Silence drops but my ear rings from the assault of my husband’s hand. I literally see stars that blind me for a moment. But it’s neither the stars nor my ringing ear that keeps me on the floor. It’s the shock. The absolute stupefaction. I don’t want to believe this is me. I have probably been switched along the way home to inhabit the body of a lesser version of me. I am not the woman whose husband hits her. Not the woman who is silenced by domestic violence. It is not Celia. It is not even my nightmare.
But I touch my face and it becomes real. I feel the sting my touch brings.
“Shady, you slapped me,” is all I can say but I don’t even say it because the only thing my mouth wants to do is weep.
I clasp my palm over it to stop it from acting foolishly but it wants to let out and so I let it.