They sat cuddled up in a sofa in the sitting room after eating rice for Sunday lunch. Tola kissed him and smiled into his eyes.
“Uncle told me the construction has reached the first floor now”
Segun nodded, “I’m very grateful to your uncle and he said he spoke to your dad sometime ago”
“Really?” She sat up to look at him a little and laid her head down to his chest again “I spoke to dad and mum isn’t feeling strong at the moment. I promised to call them today, I’ve been trying to reach them for a while now since morning, you know these international calls are quite hard to make these days”
“Greet them for me, okay,” he smoothed her hair.
“How come you never say hi to them yourself,” she whined “honey, my parents don’t bite”
Segun laughed “Don’t worry, I have all the time in the world to talk to them my dear”
They kept quiet for a second and Tola spoke “Baby, I have something to tell you,” she sat up and stared at him smiling, “guess”
“You know I’m not a good guesser,” Segun replied playfully and she made a face. “Okay; you got a new contract?” Tola shook her head sideways, “you got a gift?”
She made a face and laughed, “No silly,”
“Okay, so tell me”
“Well,” she bent her eyes down twisting her fingers nervously and then she expelled a deep breath “This isn’t going to be easy to say” she paused and looked at him then looked back at him blushing like a school girl. “I’m pregnant!”
There was an incredible silence as Segun just stared at her shocked, unpleasantly shocked. Tola looked at him, expecting him to say something. ”How did you get pregnant?” She looked at him pregnant and he quickly shook his head “I mean when did this happen?”
“We have been lovers for over a year Segun so what do you expect?” she stared at him as if disgusted.
“I’m not saying I’m not the father. I just want to know when this happened.” He rasped.
“Aren’t you happy?” Tola sat up with tears in her eyes.
“Of course, of course I’m happy” Segun shook himself mentally and forced a smile she was still not convinced, he pulled her closer trying to be enthusiastic.
“For a second I thought you weren’t happy” Tola remarked after a while in his embrace “I love you, you know?”
He nodded as she rested her head under his chin, his heart beat loudly in his chest, he was sure she noticed. This was the last thing he wanted; a baby… his mind was still on Nike even after a year “How long?” his voice was clipped.
“Three months old,” she replied, smiling.
“What of the contraceptives?”
“I don’t know what happened. You still love me don’t you?” she looked up at him. “You’ve never said that to me before”.
“Really?” he still couldn’t say it, not to her. “I care about you a lot Tola, what’s important now is the baby”.
She giggled “I guess we’d have to get married”
Segun thought his heart paused for a split second “Marry?”
“I wouldn’t give birth to a child out-of-wedlock Segun” she stared at him. “You should be matured enough to know that.
He took in a deep breath. This was not what he wanted, a baby and now marriage, how much worse could it get? Why did he make such a mistake? He didn’t want her as a wife; he didn’t want anyone as a wife… except Nike.
“Well, I have to accept my responsibilities,” he thought out loud.
“Yes” Tola replied “You are a good man Segun, I hate to lose you”
“You won’t,” he smiled sadly at her “It’s too late for that now”
Segun smiled at the tombstone wind the gentle wind blew around him. He placed the white rose on her grave site and smiled again, he loved coming here; the silence, the peace away from trouble… He could almost hear her voice. He sighed just staring in the air.
“Maybe, things would have been different if you were alive,” he said out loud. Madina was here or so he would love to believe. The wind howled a little, he could smell the earth beneath his feet, it was going to rain.
Whenever he had problems he brought them here and somehow he always felt better just being here like now. ”I have to marry her Madina,” he murmured, half thinking he was mad, you have a younger one now, what you always wanted, that doesn’t mean I would forget you”
“I won’t forget to bring you flowers every month, I’ll always love you my dear and I miss you”
He sat on the rubble in front of her tombstone touching it. He missed her and missed her mother, they used to come here together cleaning and dropping fresh white roses at her grave site. She loved white roses. She had always been attracted to white flowers. They always came here together, but for a while now he came here on his own. He had told Madina the first time he came alone, he told her everything, she was the only one he trusted who would always listen and never criticise, and she was always there for him no matter what, when he let her down, telling her the things he did. She was the next best thing after God and he loved her to death.
“I’m so sorry Madina, I love you,” he sighed with tears in his eyes, he was a bitter man, perhaps he would always be. After standing there for a while, he sniffed back what seemed to be tears and smiled sadly to himself “I guess I’d go ahead with the marriage. See you next month Madina” he paused “I love you”.
He got home that night and he went into Tola’s waiting arms. He could try to love her, maybe she was more precious than Nike, maybe so. He smiled in her embrace as a little voice said “try and be happy”.
THE PRESENT DAY…
Tola jerked out of her thoughts as she heard the car horn from the gates. She peered through the curtains and she quickly went to the door, hoping to see it was her husband. She took a deep sigh of relief knowing it was Segun and went outside the house with a sober expression on her face.
“Segun you are back,” she smiled at him “Can I help you with that?”
He moved his luggage to his other hand “No thanks” Segun replied with an angry look, giving her a signal to leave him alone. He walked past her as if no one was there and slammed the door behind him pushing Tola backwards.
Tola jerked the door open angry and embarrassed that the family driver had witnessed all this. She followed him back inside the house into the bedroom.
“What is your problem Segun?” Tola asked, frustrated, “what have I done to deserve all this?”
Segun did not reply, he changed his clothes, ignoring her pleading eyes “Segun please answer, we can talk this out, we keep getting angry at each other over silly things Segun, and I want to know what I’ve done wrong”
He finally looked at her “Tola,” his voice was full of exasperation “can I have peace for once? For Pete’s sake, I just got back home and I’m tired, I really don’t feel like talking to anyone right now”
She looked at him with tears in her eyes “Are you having an affair?”
He turned his back against her, a little scared that she may have found out the truth. Tola waited and anger began to rise inside her “Are you having an affair Segun?” her voice was louder this time. ”I knew it!” Tola shouted crying “I knew it! What have I not done for you Segun? I have given you everything you’ve ever wanted and I have a child for you, so is this what I get for all this?”
Segun turned and stared at her angry with a little twinge of guilt in his heart, he looked at her silently
“Can’t you at least answer me?”
“And say what?” he replied in a roar “and say what? If I tell you I am, would it make you feel any better?”
“Are you?” her voice rose too, “every servant in this house has heard everything about the way we fight, spare me this embarrassment Segun and tell me the truth”
“You concluded yourself Tola, if it pleases you, you can think that way for all I care!”
“Segun what happened to us?” Tola lowered her voice in tears “we used to be such good people are we pulling apart from each other?”
“Tola can you please stop all this ranting and leave me alone. I have things to do,” he moved out of her way, tying his silk robe around his body.
“I don’t know when you became this selfish” she remarked in a small voice loud enough for him to hear.
He stared at her and made a little crooked smile, with that he walked out of the room leaving her to cry alone.
In the office, Segun was thinking of what was happening to him. He looked at the time; it was 20 minutes to 4. He sighed heavily thinking about everything. He never like this, when he left school he had gotten a good job met Nike and fell on top of the world…in love, they had gotten married and had a beautiful daughter until she died due to leukaemia… that had been the genesis of his problems . Nike changed drastically after that and when things were just beginning to look better she caught him ‘kissing’ his best friend. Not that he could blame her entirely for their break up, it was also his fault, but then things between them was just not right
Then there was Tola, Tola who nurtured him, she had come into his life with a promise of a brighter future, given him hope to live. He felt the only way he could repay her was to marry her… it seemed best since she had been carrying their daughter. He felt indebted to her and he cared for her, but he never loved her, she was so kind and understanding he couldn’t tell her about his affair, he didn’t intend for her to ever find out, it would kill her because she loved him dearly but he didn’t feel the same way about her.
They were living happily as husband and wife until Nike barged into his life, bringing memories and the buried feelings he had back to the surface again. And now it seemed like they had always been tied to each other, he couldn’t think straight and now his poor wife was suffering for it. He was having a relationship with Nike and though he knew it was wrong, he just couldn’t bear the thought of losing her again, he thought about his little girl and the only thing he felt was pity. He was such… there was a knock on the door.
“Excuse me, sir, you have a visitor, should I transfer it to you?” His secretary asked, her husky voice interrupting his thoughts.
“Yes, please do,” that must be Nike she promised to come. He smiled to himself. He picked up his jacket. They were going out on a date.
“At last we are alone,” he sighed beside Nike on the king-sized bed. They were lodged in a hotel in the outskirts of Lagos and they switched off their phones intending to have the best weekend together.
“I love you” Nike said, looking into his brown eyes, she gave him a light peck.
“Forever” Segun stood up, his face darkened in remembrance of Tola “I wish I hadn’t married Tola,” he said with regret.
Nike looked away, her heart twitched at the mention of his wife’s name. How would the poor woman feel knowing he was having an affair with their child’s nanny, the woman would break down in misery, even Nike knew Tola loved her betraying husband, the man who loved someone else. She looked down at her clasped hands “We promised not to bring up that issue” Nike said in a small voice.
He shook his head sideways “We can’t run from it forever. One day she’ll find us out, the question is, will you still be there till the end?”
Nike stood up and walked round the bed to him putting arms around his neck. She kissed him on the lips “That question is for another day,” she replied unbuttoning his shirt “is for another day, let’s take what we have now”…
“He’s not picking his calls,” she looked at Uncle Lai. Who stared into space in deep thought “In fact, it’s switched off,” Tola got up, tear streaked pouring wine into a glass and gulped it down. She welcomed the soothing calmness it gave her and sighed painfully.
“And you say he’s been acting very strange for the past how many months?”
“Four months,” she gulped down her drink again “Oh Uncle! I don’t know why this is happening to me. Segun was never like this, he must be seeing another woman” Tola slumped into a chair with tears spilling out of her bulgy eyes, “I can’t believe this is happening, why?”
“I warned you Tola” her uncle remarked smirking his lips, “I knew that boy was not trustworthy. Look at you now, see what he has turned you into”
Tola knelt before her uncle and rested her head on his laps in tears “Please uncle help me talk to him, please. The situation has gotten out of hand, it’s so bad that he was gone since Friday and this Sunday,” she said with sobs racking through her “I’m very worried, my parents mustn’t hear this” she got up and sat beside her plump uncle.
Ahmadu entered the sitting room and prostrated dropping Segun’s briefcase on the chair
“Has Oga come back?”
“Yes ma,” he left.
Tola looked at her uncle worried “Don’t worry,” he soothed “I’ll take care of this”
Tola readjusted her booboo attire hurriedly wiping tears from her cheeks. She sat up lifting her chin with a shaky pride; she drank the remaining wine and dropped the glass on the stool beside her.
Segun entered and stopped short when he saw Uncle Lai “Good afternoon, sir” he could guess what this was about, he turned towards the staircase loosening his tie.
“Segun!” came a booming voice from his in-law; he turned round to face him “Sir” he answered wearily.
Uncle Lai made a brief disbelieving grunt and stood up “So it is true what I’m hearing”
“About what?” Segun feigned ignorance.
“About you and your wife” he snapped back “You leave home without telling anyone and come back at any convenient time… or rather day!”
He threw a glance at his gleeful wife and returned his gaze to Uncle Lai “Is that what she has been telling you?”
This time Tola answered angrily, “Is that not the truth or do you want to deny it?”
“No, I don’t,” he replied as if bored.
“Tola leave us alone”
She hesitated, not trusting the outcome of a private conversation. Her Uncle’s voice grew louder this time with more force “Tola leave us alone!”
Tola let out a defeated sigh and climbed the rugged staircase upstairs not bothering to glance at Segun. When they were alone, uncle Lai began with a troubled sigh.
Segun looked away “I prefer to stand”
“Very well then,” he replied, sitting down “if you’d rather be a prisoner no problem,” he cleared his throat “Let’s talk. Man to man and I want nothing but the truth Segun. When my niece first met you, you were still a budding businessman and now that you’ve stabilized what has come into you?”
“Then why this sudden change? Don’t let your success come into your head,” he continued with a controlled anger “I’m very disappointed in you Segun and I mean it,” he stopped and Segun said nothing still looking down at the floor “don’t you have anything to say?”
“I would like to believe I do, but no one wants to hear me out”
His companion looked at him steadily “what is it?”
“Tola, she has become overbearing, always asking for my whereabouts who I’m with and always complaining about my job”
“Is she not your wife? Please, don’t look for excuses to cover up your mistakes. You have lost respect for what you once were Segun, I hope you’re not having an affair outside this marriage, if not,” she gave a choked laughter “only God will deliver you” a pause, and then he continued “I’m a family man and you know I don’t joke with my loved ones. If Tola has any cause complain about you to me again, the outcome would be drastic to your job. I’m a man of my words”
It was a month now and still no call from Segun. Nike bit her lower lip softly at the thought and rested her hand on the gentle swell in her stomach. A great tide of emotion swept through her, she was carrying Segun’s baby and she was six months pregnant as the test result had confirmed. In the next three months she was going to have his baby alone.
Alone? For heaven’s sake, he was married, with an angel of a daughter. It wouldn’t be the way it was when she delivered Madina by his side, it would be different, there would be no husband, no family, no friends, only the doctors, strangers.
She had refused to see her mother after their last encounter at the hospital. Breaking the news to her was like throwing a pebble in the air because her mother rejected her unborn grandchild. Everywhere she went, it felt people were gossiping about her condition. No one wanted to leave her alone, no husband, but pregnant, a taboo.
A tear spilled out of Nike’s eye as the future seemed bleak, the present messy and the past untidy. The familiar ache in her heart resumed for Segun as she gripped the mug of cold Bournvita tighter in her hand. Sacred scenario of him and his wife, Tola happy together replayed for the hundredth time in her head. He had abandoned her leaving her cold and hungry for him when he heard of her condition. There was no way she would sit back and do nothing, if he didn’t reply the text she sent him, she would go to his office. Even if it meant stooping as low as a bereaved mistress.
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Written by: Oyinda Dosunmu
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