Obieze recovered faster than the doctors had anticipated and the healthier he got, the hungrier he became. All he ever did was eat, sleep and bulldoze Kara to call work for him. He could not wait to go back. He had left his conference in Abuja due to an emergency that came up on the morning of the accident and he was going to call her as soon as he arrived to his work place. Unfortunately, he never made it. Kara never complained or asked further questions. It could have been much worse. She could have been a widow and her mother-in-law would have returned to her life. The thought of the woman made her angry. She was nowhere near the replacement she had dreamed of after her mother had died.
Every morning, she managed to help Obieze to the bathroom and she gave him the best bath she could manage. He was heavier than he looked and she always found it difficult to get him anywhere. His right leg was hurt in the accident, but still he always insisted on walking on it. He claimed the exercise was good. As she watched him sleep that night, she made a mental note to report him to Ike. He would listen to his doctor. Although she could tell that he did not like Dr. Ike very much, she knew he would take his advice seriously.
She picked the novel she had been struggling to read ever since she arrived at the hospital and she walked out of the ward. She needed some air urgently as she was tired of the four walls. She found a lone bench in front of the banister and sat on it. Her book was boring to her, but her phone was dead at that moment and she had no choice.
She knew before he spoke that he was behind her. Ever since she saw him on the morning of the accident, his aura had been engraved on her memory again. It was almost like he had never left. She pretended like she could not sense his presence and she flipped a page in her book.
“What is the name of the book?” he asked. She inhaled slowly and tried to buy some time as she turned to the cover of the book. She had totally forgotten the name. She raised it and let him read it by himself. She did not trust her voice.
“White Cast,” he read. “What is it about?”
“Honestly,” she replied. I have no idea. I am just trying to pass time here.
“The husband?” he asked. It sounded slightly offensive to Kara, but she overlooked it.
“He slept off an hour ago. I cannot sleep in this your hospital,” she told him. He felt sorry for her. He had no idea how people were forced to sleep in chairs because of their loved ones. He could not even imagine what mosquitoes were doing to them.
“Have you eaten?” he asked her.
“I have. Besides it is too late to buy food anywhere.” It was almost 11pm. Ike smiled and gave her a familiar look.
“It is never late for suya,” he told her. He was right. They had always been huge fans of midnight suya and while they were together, they had a knack for going out at odd hours just to buy it, no matter how strange the meat looked or how tired they were. Kara looked a bit skeptical.
“Is it really a good idea?” she asked Ike.
“Why? Because it is late or because you are married?”
“Relax. It is harmless. Besides, it has never stopped you,” he teased. “You like your suya.” Kara had not had suya in a while and she was so tempted to cave.
“You promised we would catch up,” he said. She looked up at him guilty.
“Fine. Safe topics only,” he assured her as he raised his right palm. “I swear.”
They walked to the hospital gate where various vendors sold suya and Ike had a certain vendor who he swore by.
“Taste this suya, Chikara, and you will confess your sins,” he assured her. It was a silly line he used when he wanted to vouch for someone. Smiling as a few memories returned to her, Chikara found a seat at the suya spot and sat there. Unfortunately, it was the only seat left.
“You used to let me carry you,” Ike told her lightly and she rolled her eyes. Even while they were friends, they were always sharing seats. They would not dare to do so now. They were no longer the young, free spirits that they used to be. It would mean too much. While their suya was barbecued, they talked about their lives after things had gone wrong between them. It was safer not to dwell on their good times together. Ike talked fondly about Ije while Kara told him how she had met Obieze. They had attended the same wedding and their parents thought they would make a decent couple. They did much better. They slowly but surely fell in love with each other and in six months, Kara was ready to marry him. It took another year for that to happen but she was fine with it. She loved him anyway and although she had not mentioned it to Ike, she was afraid of let Obieze go. She had lost her first love after all.
When their suya was ready, they decided it would be better to sit by the vendor and eat their pseudo meal. They had learned a few Hausa words in the past while they shared their obsession for suya and it was fun for them to relive those moments and try to recall the little aspect of the language that they previously knew.
When they were done, they borrowed some newspaper pages from the suya vendor after bribing him with a bottle of coke and improvised as serviettes. It was not very effective, but as soon as they were mildly satisfied with the state of their hands, they disposed of the scrap papers and walked to the hospital. It felt much longer than it was when they were leaving and they had run out of safe topics.
“Truth?” asked Ike.
“Truth,” Kara replied reluctantly after a beat. They used to say the word before asking an emotional question and she was not sure she would like what she was about to hear.
“Do you think we would have still been together if I had not left?” Ike asked suddenly and Kara stopped walking.
“Why would you ask me that?” she asked defensively. It was a very dicey question to answer.
“Chikara, you said truth. I did not force you,” he said. She took a deep breath and remained silent.
“Fine. Do not answer.” Kara look at his face as the streetlight reflected on his facea and she remembered the first time she had said she loved him. She had said it first, on a night like the one that once again brought them together. He was laughing at one of her lame jokes when she spat it out. He had made her repeat it three times and he had still said nothing in return. It was torture. Eventually, he had texted her a reply that night.
I could not say it to your face because I was so afraid of proposing to you. I know you won’t believe but it is true. I love you Chikarammuo. You give me a reason to wake up every morning.
She could never forget the message. Her marriage had not expunged that memory. She feared that nothing could.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing,” she said too quickly.
“I owe you an apology,” he told her. They had stopped walking, but none of them even realised that.
“I should not have left like that,” he started.
No, you should not have done that.
“I hurt you,” he said.
You broke me.
“It took a lot to do that to you,” he continued.
You took everything from me.
“Say something Kara,” he pleaded. She remained silent.
She looked at him. It was difficult to remain angry while watching him under that silly streetlamp. It brought out his best side. It made him look so harmless and vulnerable.
“I don’t need this,” she started. “I am-“
“Married. I know. I can’t say that I am excited about that.”
“You don’t have to be, Ikechukwu. I am happy,” she told him angrily.
He had left her in a very dreadful state yeats ago. After applying for a job a a thousand miles away from where they had lived, he told her without warning that he would be leaving in a week and he was not interested in a long term relationship. They had been best friends and lovers and it felt like she had lost two people during that week. Her pride would not let her beg and although she was proud of him for landing his dream job, she never showed it. She hated that he thought their relationship would not survive the strain of distance. Maybe he had been right, but she never got a chance or a say. It was heart wrenching.
“I am sorry Kara. Seeing you these last few days has been hell for me and it has put a huge strain in my relationship,” Ike confessed.
“That is none of my business,” Kara said and began to walk fast. Ike had to run to catch up with her. He held her arm and pulled her back in one motion.
“Chikara, please. Ok, we should just clear the air already,” he said quickly. “I still love you. I thought that getting you out of my sight would make you leave my head, but…let’s just say thsee that my heart will still beat for you when I am dead.”
“Dead hearts don’t beat, Doc,” she said randomly.
“How is this even an argument?” Kara asked in annoyance. She welcomed the feeling as she could not bear to hear her heart split any longer.
Ike laughed. “I still love arguing with you,” he announced and Kara began to howl noisily. Like old times, Ike wrapped his long arms around her and allowed her to cry on his shoulder. It was all he knew how to do.
One moment, Kara was crying and in the next, she was letting Ike swallow her upper lip. It had been too long since they even made any contact and they wanted to eat each other up. Ike’s hands were everywhere at once and he could barely catch his breath. They both knew that the moment the kiss ended, it would never happen again. It had to last as long as possible. They both longed for this memory. It was all they could have. There could never be anything between them. Their time had already passed.
Kara was still trying to catch her breath, bur Ike knew the hands on his chest were no longer holding on like a life line. They were pushing him away. Her lips were mumbling words of regret and she had reached for the buttons of her shirt that had come undone.
“What did we just do?” Kara asked in a whisper. Her lips were still throbbing and although Ike’s hands were now by his side, she could still feel them.
“We…we…” Ike had nothing to say either. He needed some time to recover as well.
“We should get back,” Kara told him. “We need to return to reality.”
“We should,” Ike said, but he was clearly unsure.
“Obieze is sleeping. He will never know anyway,” she whispered.
“I hate that name,” Ike said aloud. “Wait…what?”
“But I will know,” she continued. Her voice was louder. Ike said nothing. He had nothing to say
“I will definitely know,” she said again and pulled him to her lips. Ike followed like a rag doll. He had no complaints at all. He could be her rag doll. He could be anything she wanted for that moment.
This time she set the pace. She let his hands move as freely as they wanted, but she ruled his mouth. She opened his mouth and let his tongue slide into it. She sucked at his lips untils he was satisfied, before she traced his jaw and his neck and returned to his lios before she approached his ear. He had always loved what she did to his ears and she could tell from the sounds he was making that he had missed it. He had missed her. Although she had blocked him on all social media platforms for her sanity, she had missed him too. Who wouldn’t?
Someone was clapping behind them, and it took a few seconds to detach themselves feom each other and glance at the people they giving a good show.
There were two men, both short and mean looking who had been staring at them. One was rubbing against a metal object behind his jacket that clearly had the outline of a gun. The other was licking a short dagger. Instinctively, Ike pushed Kara behind him. He feared what the men would do.
“Relax, man. We don’t want any trouble,” the darker one said. His face was not very visible in the dark. “Just do what we ask.”
Kara could not speak. She was trembling like drenched cat and breathing quickly and heavily. Ike could feel his shirt get wet, but he could bot tell if it was her sweat or tears. He was so afraid for her.
They surrendered everything they had, from phones to debit cards to wristwatches. The men wanted everything they could scraped out of the pair.
“Should we take the girl?” the fairer one asked.
“Please,” Ike found himself begging and a slap landed on his cheek. His bleeding mouth was proof that the man had not come to play.
“Do not speak when we are speaking, alright?”
They both nodded simultaneously. Kara was whimpering.
“The girl is fine,” one said. “She is clearly a good kisser too.”
“This one will stress us. I don’t have any strength,” said the other.
“I like the girl o.”
“Go home and call that your ashawo.”
They argued for some time; all the while, traunmatizing Kara and Ike. Eventually the men left with their newly acquired properties, and the pair ran to the hospital. They were panting when they arrived at the entrance.
The case was reported at the front desk immediately and policemen were sent out to look for the thieves. The documentation and statements took a while, but as soon as they were done, they were allowed to go. Ike walked with Kara to the ward before leaving her and returning to the call room.
When he slept that night, he neither dreamt about the men that had robbed them nor their conversations at the suya spot. His entire night was dominated by that second kiss.
Kara on the other hand did not sleep a wink. She wondered if Obieze would notice that she had kissed another man with more vigour than their entire marriage could ever generate.