He forced himself to respond at least just to give her a little joy to smile for. She smiled up at him one lighter kiss and left mixing back into the crowd. Nike stood rooted to the spot. She had seen them and Bunmi knew she was there all along, she fought back tears as her gaze locked with her husband’s who was approaching her making her turn to rush unsteadily out of the compound.
She felt the brandy rush up to her brain as she sat in the little domestic bar in the sitting room corner. Tears of disappointment scalded her cheeks as the scene in the club remained stubbornly imprinted in her brain. They kissed, a long, slow kiss, their kiss. He shared their kiss with Bunmi. A hot stab of jealousy, pain and fury ran through her. How could he?
Why did Madina have to die? She took all of her happiness and all of her dreams, her hopes. Nike did not hear the door of the house shut close as she was drowned in misery.
“I knew I would find you here,” she looked up sharply to find Segun standing and looking at her with anxiety.
“Look Nike, there’s a logical explanation for what happened in the club”
“Save it for the judge” she heard his deeply expelled breath.
“Are you going to listen or not?”
“I don’t think I want to know what I already know”
He came up towards her and stopped when he thought the better of it.
“Look, I swear, she was the one who was kissing me, not the other way around”
Anger flashed in her eyes as she looked at her husband “But you were the one whose arms were around her” her tone was flat.
“Okay, let me explain. Please”
“And I said no, don’t you understand? And to think I thought you loved me! Who would have thought you were like this, well, I guess your hide and seek has been exposed right?” She threw the glass of brandy on the tiled floor and it shattered into a million pieces like her heart.
Impetuous with rage, she walked to him shaking him violently “To think I stood by you! I stood by you even when our daughter died and you had the effrontery to kiss her! Did you sleep with her too, did you?!”
Saigon held his hysterical wife “No, ” he replied, his voice tight with emotions “I told her no, ” he kept saying repeatedly trying to calm her.
“You disgust me Segun, she shakily turning away from him. She walked away.
“Listen to me Nike, I love you. What you saw…”
“I don’t give a damn what I saw!” She roared “I’m talking about us, I’m tired Segun, I’m tired”
“Are you saying its over?” He asked in a small voice.
She lost her voice somewhat developing cold feet.
“Answer me!” He said wretchedly.
Gathering up courage again, she made her shaky tone rise to meet his in pain “Yes. I think it’s time one of us or both bowed out of this… this marriage, ” she paused, half of her wish for a plea for him, disappointed by the silence, she continued.
“After Madina’s death things are not the same anymore…”
“I’m not giving you a divorce Nike. I’m not letting you go”
Nike shivered, but still she was adamant. She knew deep down she had no clue on how she was going to live her life without him backing her. She let salty tears already scald her already wet cheeks.
It’s for the best Segun” she replied in a small shaky voice, “I can’t continue with this sham, it will kill me too.”
“But we love each other,” he almost wailed in protest, “we can make it work”.
“But the love isn’t strong enough, I’m sure you’ll cope without me,” she sniffed. “After all, there is always Bunmi Alakeko”.
His footstep made her turn round in wonder of what he was doing only to see him walking out of the door. She desperately to call him back, to tell him to stay back, but there was no one, no Segun. For the first time her home felt like an empty old house.
As Nike slid her back on the wall to land on the tiled floor, letting her emotions take full control of her entire being. The feeling of loss, mustered with guilt and slow hypnotizing doubt of what she had done stung her badly.
A little after a long time she fell asleep feeling drained and exhausted in the dark cold empty house.
She could feel James fuming and fretting beside her, his eye on the traffic lights. They turned orange and he pulsated with impatience. James had a mania for punctuality. A taxi swerved and made him wince. He was not a reckless driver and he made his way carefully through the heavy clog of Victoria Island traffic. He glared at the taxi driver, who glared back, daring him to say something. Backing down, James detached his eyes and glared at his wrist watch.
“I should have started earlier hope time won’t be against us”. Don’t worry about it, ” said Nike with amused exasperation.James enjoyed worrying, it was his life work. She looked out of the car window, feeling a little headache.” Are you okay Nike?” James sounded anxious.” Fine, ” she lied, trying to look it, finally she admitted starring at the free road “I think I have a little headache”,” it’s the heat I expect” James said optimistically. That’s right the heat, the noise, the pressure of V.I traffic, the grinding sense of Urgency in a great city.
She closed her eyes, imagining herself in a quiet place, her thoughts drifted to Madina who died 11 years ago. Quickly she opened her eyes, blocking the window of the past, she sighed.
“You need a long vacation” James told her as he halted by the order of a traffic Warder I’m all right.Just because I fell sick month ago and now I’m all right. A little work is the best I can do to keep myself back on track.
“Stress is like a serious illness, ” he poured out.
“I’m aware” she replied dryly.” I’ve studied illness at close quarters for the last six years.
“You’re sure you want to talk…”
Nike sighed “you’ve asked me that a zillion times already”.
“Nike” he said smiling “still haven’t lost your wits”. He was a big man, broad-shouldered, tall, his dark curly hair flecked with gray His features oddly youthful or 45 years, thought Nike half smiling, she herself still looked far less than 39 years, with her honey glazed skin, brown eyes like Inca brown topaz, long shaped legs, slender figure, high round busts, long; unusually long black hair to her armpits, long lashes forming bat eye, heart shaped face, perfect beauty, just like her daughter…. Her daughter, she pushed the thought away, letting out a ragged breath.
She had changed over the years, grown into a full independent woman who worked her way into being the head nurse until after her brief illness she decided to go into being a part-time nanny as a holiday job until she was fully recovered. She had given up two people whom she loved more than life itself, first it was Madina who died from leukemia and Segun, Segun who walked out of her life…. Walked out of her life? She frowned a little still feeling a bit of the pain.
Easing forward James shot a glance sideways and said “I’m glad you wore suit it makes you look practical”
“Thank you she said” she said “so brief me more on the job”
“It was an idea I had. One of my clients is looking for a level headed girl to take care of her daughter”.
“I’m not a children’s nurse, James”
An expression of distaste ran across his face “She isn’t a child, ” he added with a pause “far from it”.
Looking interested, Nike asked “How old is she?”
“Then what does she need a nurse for? The girl’s got a dad and…” she said in irony “her mum is travelling in a month’s time and the maid called a time out on the job and her father is a very busy man”
“Typical” murmured Nike trying not to remember her ex-husband, succeeding she asked “what’s the woman’s name?”
Peters. Segun’s surname or could it be him? She thought her racing with a little panic…no, coincidence, typical she thought again. It couldn’t be him, it couldn’t be him.
It was noon by the time they got there. The cool afternoon breeze caressed her as Nike got out of the car with James “This is it, ” he breathed, staring up at the detached modern house in the midst of other classy houses. The gate covered most of the house exterior hiding all its beauty.
James banged the gate and on his second trial a gateman opened it.
“Good afternoon, sir”
James nodded “Good afternoon is madam at home?”
“Yes, are you Mr Okon? She’s been expecting you, ” he said, moving away for them to enter.
Nike’s breath caught in the beauty of the house as she looked around appreciating.
“Please wait here, ” said the man as he hurried into the house, leaving her and James.
“So what do you think?”
“Magnificent” she murmured enough for him to hear “I don’t think I could manage all this” she said laughing.
“Luckily, it’s the girl you are after”
She nodded as the man came out.
“Please come with me, ” he said, turning again inside the house while they followed behind.
He took them through the kitchen which was elegant in an L- shaped fashion and as they entered the white painted sitting room Nike nearly gasped at its proud beauty. Its drapes were parted to let the afternoon sun flood into the big room and…
“Mr Okon, I was beginning to think you weren’t coming again”
Nike and her companion looked up to see a woman standing elegantly on one side of the staircase. She came down smiling pleasantly.
“Mrs Peters” said James approaching her “Good afternoon Madame”
“Good afternoon, you may leave now Yusuf” She said, turning to the security guard who left the room courteously.
“Mrs. Peter’s this is Miss Ayinde” They shook warmly.
“Nice to meet you Mrs. Peters”.
“Me too” She replied smiling. “Please sit down” They all sat.
“Would you like any drinks?” She asked.
James answered hastily for them, “No thanks ma” “Okay. So Miss Ayinde, I was told you had a liking for children”
“Do you have any kids of your own?” Mike’s mind riveted down to her dead daughter. “No” She said tightly, trying to sound casual.
“Are you sure you’re fit to do this job? Surely you must know it’s not an easy task.” Mike nodded his head in understanding, “It would be easy by God’s grace.”
“I like that!” She replied, not bothering with James. “Well, I think I should be on my way”, interrupted James, obviously feeling left out. “Thank you again, Mr Okon.”
He bowed courteously, “You’re welcome ma” He left them alone in each others company.
“So Miss. Ayinde, tell me about yourself” Mike smiled, looking at the woman. Her mind scanned through her past as she looked down at her clasped hands. “Well, I was brought up in a Christian home. My parents were both engineers.”
“So, what happened to them?” He asked the lady, looking interested.
“Well, my father is late, and my mum is retired.” “So apart from that, when are you starting Miss Arinde?”
“It all depends on you, madam and please, call me Nike.”
By the time Nike got home it was about eight. Clumsily she dropped her bag in her medium size sitting room, kicking off her shoes as she went into the kitchen. Putting her left over rice from the morning into the microwave she hurried over to the bathroom and washed up putting on an old pyjamas as she sat eating the food watching an old movie.
The shrill ringing of the phone made Nike pause the boring movie.
The voice was so cool and familiar on the other end of the phone, strangely, it gave Nike a familiar feeling of cherish.
“Is this Miss Arinde?” asked the caller. Nike sat up wondering who it was.
“Please who is this?”
“This is Mrs Peter’s husband”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were the one. Is there a problem sir?” she asked with a touch of formality in her voice.
“No. I didn’t expect you to know me; can you come to my office tomorrow? I love to have a review of the applicants before employing them” his tone was calm as he spoke.
Even as he spoke on the other end of the phone, Nike could feel her blood rushing through their veins, she dismissed it as just the interview fright. Quickly she responded mindful of the credit running.
“Em… I don’t have the address, sir”
The heavy sigh told her his patience was hurriedly slipping out “Do you have a pen and paper?”
“Yes, yes, ” she replied fumbling with the stationary she always kept by the side of the phone for messages.
“It’s the Madina cooperation, 16 Adenomas street VI after the cinemas”
Nike stared at the phone in shock. Madina cooperation? Was this Segun… “Madina?
“Yes, is there a problem?”
“No, no, ” she repeated again “not at all”
“I guess I’ll see you then”
“Yes, sir. What time is it, sir?”
“10 o’clock sharp. I hate late coming” with that he hung up.
Nike stared at the receiver before placing it in its cradle with a strange feeling. Mr Peters was not really an easy going person like his wife, she thought with a little annoyance. He hated late comers, she recalled. The statement made her mind drift towards her ex-husband. A feeling of loneliness engulfed her as Nike sighed as the movie played on. Unconsciously tears of abandonment and emptiness engulfed as she stared blindly at the television set.
It took a long while before Nike finally located the building; it was a very big tall complex. You could tell from its features that the labourers put in a lot of determination and hard work to achieve this structure.
She walked through the open black gates into the big compound towards what seemed to be the reception. The reception was very beautiful with fine arts carved in portraits it made her think of an art gallery as she walked to the plump friendly looking woman behind a big neat desk. Before Nike could speak the woman started out for her.
“Good afternoon ma, welcome to Peters Enterprise, how can I help you?”
“Good afternoon, ” she replied with a little smile, “I have an appointment with Mr Peters”
“What’s your name please and what time are you being expected?
“I’m Miss Arinde, I was expected at 10”
The lady checked a file and nodded “It’s 10; 20 now”
“I am sorry, ” said Nike hurriedly, “I had trouble getting to this place”
The receptionist smiled warmly “it’s okay; most people have the same problem. If you don’t mind, let me make a few inquiries”
5 minutes later the lady finished “Please could you wait there for a few minutes?”
“Sure” Nike sat on one of the purple settees smiling at how pleasant the employees were to the visitors. She picked up a magazine scanning through it patiently.
“Good morning, please are you Miss Arinde?” Nike looked up to see a cheerful young man standing in front of her.
“Yes, I am”
“Please follow me, the boss has been expecting you, ” he said, turning towards the flight of stairs before the hall. She stood up following the man until they walked on levelled paths. She looked through the offices noticing how very few were occupied.
“How come it’s only a very few in the whole building?” She asked curiously as they made their way to another flight of stairs.
The man laughed lightly, “This office is supposed to be opened at 10 but everyone is expected by late 11; 30 so that they can have their morning break until 4 o’clock again”
“Oh”, she remarked “your employer must be a good philanthropist Mr…”
“Mr Sola. I’m sorry, my manners. I am Mr Peter’s personal assistant” he said as finally they arrived at their destination, there were only two doors on opposite sides of the building on the topmost floor.
“This is my office,” he said as he pointed at the door opposite where they stood. “You can go in,” the door opened slightly.
“It’s been so nice meeting you Mr Sola,” Nike smiled a little at him
“Same here,” he replied as she entered shutting the door behind her.
The cool air of the air conditioner surrounded Nike as she stood at the end of the large office room away from the desk which a dark head was bent.
She walked to the middle of the room, “Good morning sir, I’m sorry I’m late. I had a hard time locating this place”
She was cut short by the same weary tone she heard over the phone “I’m glad you came Miss Arinde”
Suddenly he looked up at her, the face… shock and recognition shot through Nike as she stared and stared at Segun’s face. She couldn’t believe it, after all these years, all these years of loneliness and wondering where he was…if he was okay.
“You aren’t the owner of…” she stammered over the words.
“I am,” he completed for her, his face impassive “well, are we here to talk about me or you?”
She drew a shaky breath “Neither, in fact, I don’t think we have anything to talk about”
“And the job?” he asked, getting up to his full length.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea anymore. I don’t want it anymore”
Segun smiled and she briefly closed her eyes as a huge tide swept over her.
“We’ve already paid Mr Okon…”
“Mr Okon would return your money or find someone else”
He laughed briefly walking up to her with only a little space between them, he touched lightly on her chin making Nike’s skin tingle with response. She flinched.
“You still haven’t changed much, always calculating” he lowered his voice “well, there’s a little bit of flesh here and there and more extraordinary beauty,” he walked away smiling in his well-tailored dark suit when he saw the effect it had on her.
“You haven’t changed much either, “she replied scathingly “except that you could lose a few pounds!”
“So Are you taking the job or not?”
“I would have, if you unfortunately, weren’t the father of the girl”
“Is this about us or Yinka?”
“Yinka?” she didn’t hear the ‘us’ part.
Yinka. Madina Olayinka Peters. Did he name his daughter after theirs? She stared at the center glass table. She shrugged “Is that her name?”
“How old is she?”
“Six,” he replied calmly still looking intently at her. “Are you taking this job or not?”
“Just because of us… me?” he corrected himself. She nodded.
“Miss Arinde,” Nike corrected shakily as she felt the heat of intimacy in her name surround her.
“Okay” he smiled a little. The killer smile which ALWAYS made her feel like jelly “I would advise you to think of it very carefully”
“I think I’ve had enough time”
He shook his head sideways “If you are so indifferent to me as you so want me to believe, you shouldn’t have a problem with her”
“What makes you think so?” Nike asked matching his sharp tone, “It’s enough, she’s just around the same age as Madina when she died,” she said heavily and continued after a swift intake of breath “What’s worse is that you and I are going to live under the same roof”
To her unconscious disappointment he shrugged indifferently, “I’m a married man,” Segun answered flashing a gold wedding band on his finger at her. Nike gulped in something in fury at the sight of the band.
“Does your wife know?”
“She doesn’t have to,” he cut in sharply “and I need not tell you she mustn’t find out”
“Why?” asked Nike smiling cunningly “It doesn’t affect me if she gets to know. Why should I care if you were shot or whatever? It’s not my fault you got married”. She watched his lips thin with anger.
“If you had any respect for the 7 years we spent together, I believe you would understand”
Nike felt pink steal her fair cheeks as she looked away blinking back unnecessary tears.
“Besides”, Segun continued mercilessly “I love my wife very much, much more than you think”.
“I understand you never go into any marriage unless it’s the forever kind” replied Nike with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
“Think about the proposal very well. If you don’t call by next tomorrow I’ll take it as a no”
Nike got the gentle dismissal and she turned round not bothering to say goodbye, she walked hurriedly towards the door.
“Oh and Nike,” his voice interrupted her and she turned round helplessly.
“What?” she made her tone indifferent as a camouflage for her raging emotions.
“I always drop white roses for Madina every 5th of each month. You know her birthday was on the 5th of March,” His eyes had some form of emotions in them when she looked at him, dropping her gaze down at his shoes she replied, “Thanks”
“I can’t forget the both of you loved white roses loyally”
Nike nodded in response feeling a lump in her slender throat.
“Do you still love them?”
“No,” she replied, making her voice emotionless “just like you said, people change” with that, she walked out of the office feeling sickly.
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Written by: Oyinda Dosunmu
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