Richard lit a cigarette from the almost empty pack on the stool beside his bed; the rumpled white sheet was thrown flimsily to cover the lower part of his body. He pulled in the cigarette and exhaled immediately watching the smoke rings disappear into the air as Karen dressed back into her clothes.
“You haven’t said a word since morning.”
“It’s still morning” he glanced at the wall clock hanging on the wall opposite the bed as it was almost 11 a.m.
“Don’t play smart Richard, what’s on your mind?” Karen played out a lazy smile and looked at him, her lips were slightly swollen reminding him of what they had just shared but his mind stubbornly went back to the woman he had fallen in love with, he still didn’t understanding how it happened but he couldn’t rid her out of his mind.
“Let’s end this”, he replied, suddenly seeing the shock quickly masked on her face
“The sex, what we’re doing. Come on Karen, it’s high time we stopped this- after all , we’ve been on for months now.”
“You can’t just decide out of the blues .We had an agreement. No strings attached, just casual sex, plain and simple.” She stood by the post of the large bed “Besides, why would you suddenly come up with that?”
“Because I realized that this isn’t the life I want for myself, I want to meet a nice girl one day, fall in love and settle down with children, not some sex toy for the moment.”
“I’ve never called you that and we both agreed this was all there is to it. I do not understand this sudden change of heart.”
“I met someone.”
Karen’s mind flashed back to that night of the party and the surprise she had gotten, her ears perked up at the thought of it. “This woman, did you meet her at the party?”
He stared at her, wondering the reason for her sudden interest in Priscilla. “No” he replied, skeptical.
“Then I see this has been going on behind my back?” she pushed, exaggerating her shock
“No, it just sort of happened” Richard replied dreamily shifting to rest his back on the bed slab, he puffed out what was left of the cigarette. “It has been complicated”
Karen said nothing. Her mind was in the ninth cloud- in pleasure already! Loosing Richard was a small price to pay to gain Tunde; she would use it to her advantage. ‘So our precious ice princess, Priscilla was having an affair with Richard. Indeed, it really was a small world!’ she thought silently.
“Karen why are you quiet?”
“Nothing, I guess I don’t know what to say”, Karen replied looking at her bag as she picked it up. She needed time to think, plan and strategize. She needed time to celebrate; finally, she would reach the pinnacle of her success and be the happiest woman in Lagos! “I wish you the best anyway, you’ll need it.”
Richard eyed her under heavy scrutiny “You don’t sound so convincing”
“Do I need to? Everyone needs a bit of luck now and again”; she feigned a smile looking at him. “Sincerely, I wish you the best. Good bye Richard, we’ll be seeing.” She walked towards the door and opened it.
“Karen”, Richard called after her not being too convinced about leaving things that way. “Thank you for understanding”
She laughed walking out of the room full of joy. Richard sighed, thankful it was over and his thoughts turned back to Priscilla “Priscilla” he whispered to himself alone in the room. He could not understand what else he could think of when it came to her. His heart swelled in love for her. He wanted her happy, happy with whomever she was with but he would try to win her, he would woo her and give her all things she deserved that he could lay his hands on. The shrill ringing of his phone interrupted his thoughts and he reached for the object. It was the subject of his thought- Priscilla.
Priscilla climbed up the steep stairs of the apartment complex wondering why she had not been patient enough to wait for the elevator. She could still hear the loud blowing horns and the security guards chattering below the stairs. She looked at her phone and the number plate on the entrance of a flat on the third floor.
Yes, it was correct. She looked around her hurriedly pressing the bell with the growing guilt of being here. She knew it was a bad idea the moment she had parked in front of the building along Kofo Abayomi road in Victoria Island axis.
Was Richard in? She prayed he was not, she prayed, she…
The door opened and Richard came out, he broke into a brilliant smile as soon as he saw her standing on cold feet.
“I thought you’d never show up”
“Can I come in?” Priscilla asked looking around the empty hallway, he stepped aside letting her walk into the flat catching a whip of her light perfume.
As soon as Priscilla stepped into the apartment, she liked it. A part of it was painted white and decorated with various paintings of different sizes and colors, the raw beauty of the room made her think she stepped into a dream. For a moment, she forgot Richard stood behind her until he spoke.
“I had the sitting room tidied as soon as you said you were coming, it’s usually scattered”.
She turned to look at him well for the first time; he wore grey slacks and a black loose t-shirt. She could tell he just had his bath seeing crystals of water slide down the frame of his face. Priscilla smiled “Thank you”
They kept silent just standing there, she knew in her heart she should not have come, her mind kept going back to Tunde who she had left at home in some work spilled over from the office. He had asked her where she was off too and even now, she felt guilty lying to him.
“You look good”
She felt his gaze slowly slide over her “Thank you”, she replied, her voice sounding like a whisper of silk. “I came because I had to let you know once and for all…”
“That we can’t go on” Richard completed for her and she looked away contending at the view of the busy road from the large sliding door of the balcony. “I do not think that is why you are here,” he stepped closer without her realizing. “Because I’m going for that tour?”
Priscilla looked at him and nodded “After this, you can’t call me anymore; I can’t have relationship with you.”
Richard flinched inwardly at her words and looked away thrusting his hands in his pockets “Can I ask you a question?” Their eyes met and did not break away “I want an honest answer.”
“What is it?” she asked slowly clutching her purse more tightly.
“Do you love me?” he saw her shock at the question “Do you feel anything for me?”
Finally Priscilla broke the eye contact and walked towards the door “Please don’t ask me that Richard, please don’t.”
“I need you to answer, damn it!” he replied wretchedly raking his hands through his hair “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I just keep thinking of you Priscilla!” He walked to her then and she backed against the door trying to put some space between them.
Priscilla knew she was trapped and her body betrayed her, responding like a magnet to his closeness.
“Don’t try denying what’s between us Priscilla, your body says differently” He came closer and her breathing increased. Richard laughed softly placing a kiss on the base of her throat.
“Please…”her voice caught in her throat as he trailed kisses on her temple, her body jerked feverishly in response.
Richard stopped and looked into the brown depths of her eyes. Priscilla shivered feeling as though he could see into her soul; finally, he kissed her very gently on her slightly parted lips. It took a long time before either of them could speak.
…PRISCILLA put on the last of her clothing in tears, she felt covered in shame and bitterly guilty. Richard stood by the sliding door silently watching her. He tried again to talk but it was ignored “Priscilla”
She said nothing jerking her bag close to her she started towards the door with her eyes blurred “Priscilla please stop!” he said hurriedly walking towards her.
She twirled around to face him with her eyes full of grief and rage it wretched his heart “Stop and do what? What?” Priscilla replied in tears. “Stop and do what? Can’t you see that we being close will end up in a disaster?!”
“I am so sorry Priscilla”, he raked his hand through his hair in agitation. “Can’t you see what you do to me? I love you…what will it take you to see that? Why do you choose to remain with a man who makes you unhappy?”
“Is that your business? Why can’t you see that I’m not interested?”
“Fine then what is you doing here? Do you love me at all Priscilla?” his voice shook as he spoke “Do you love me?”
“This is madness”, she replied in frustration and wiped the tears from her eyes with back of her hand
Richard laughed full of scorn for himself “That’s the same thing I keep telling myself. I don’t understand why, why I fell for you.”
She thought of her husband at home and a tear escaped from the corner of her eye “Richard” Priscilla said softly “I’m sorry you feel this way, I really am.”
“No, no, no please don’t tell me that” Richard replied in a very helpless tone making her feel worse “Please don’t tell me that, I love you Priscilla, I really do.”
“I’m sorry Richard”, she replied more firmly though her voice shook. She didn’t want to stop seeing him; he made her laugh, he made her feel special and he gave her the attention she lacked; but now, it was clear to her this was the reason why she felt attracted to him but it was not enough to love him. She never did and maybe one day if things turned differently she would but not now.
“I’m sorry but this is where this ends for me. No more and I wish you the best in everything”. Priscilla opened the door and walked out shutting it behind her without looking back.
Another tear slid out of her eye as Priscilla went through the empty hallway, she decided to walk down the stairs and head home to the man she had grown to love.
Three days later, she sat hurdled in a corner of the bathtub filled with water and fragrance scented roses. Priscilla sat still in the water staring at the tap lost in thought, her mind battled with the feelings she had for Tunde and the guilt she could not shake off her conscience.
She knew the unending long hours soaking in the water could not wash of the smell or the taste of Richard, which seemed to plague her until she felt sick with unease. The door of the bathroom opened and Tunde barged in with the usual look of irritation plastered on his handsome face.
“I have been calling your phone. Didn’t you hear?”
Priscilla turned her head to look at him conscious of her naked body thinly covered by the translucent water. She drew her legs up to her knees; if he seemed to notice, he made no sign. “I have been here for a while now and my phone’s in the room”
“So you sit here all day soaking away the hours?” he asked in mockery and she got out of the water standing naked before him and reaching for the towel.
Tunde stared at her. What game was she playing? Did she just enjoy teasing his patience? He could not talk about the company here in this place. Tunde walked out of the warm bathroom knowing she followed behind. “I came because I have something I need to discuss with you.”
“What about?” she replied wearing her nightie. He made the mistake of turning to look at her as she slid under the blanket. She caught him staring and his gaze riveted away. For Pete’s sake, he was behaving like a teenager! He turned off the light in reflex and the pale moonlight flooded into the room. Tunde walked near the bedpost.
“It’s about the company.”
Priscilla stared at her husband puzzled, they never discussed the company, “Is everything okay?”
Tunde gritted his teeth; did she know how she sounded in the dark? The way her eyes shown like crystals. Her voice was smooth as she spoke but he found himself paying no attention to what she said. Instead, he wondered what she would say if he took her in his arms. Maybe he could enjoy what she was offering him, the soft seduction and the way she had obviously tried to improve on herself. And he was responding, several times during the day he caught himself thinking of her; wondering what she was doing, trying to understand the game she was playing and the last time he had held her in his arms.
Was all this for the marriage or for her fear of a divorce; what she would stand to lose? He chose the latter, his mouth twisting in irony.
“Tunde, Tunde are you listening at all?” Priscilla stared at him curiously in the dark
Tunde sat close as Priscilla thought her heart would collapse; she knew what he wanted, they fed on that current for weeks.
“Tunde” her voice sounded like a desperate little plea as his hand lightly touched her arm, she could tell he waited to see her reaction but she did nothing just stared at him in the dark.
“What game are you playing?”
She could feel his warm breath upon her lips, and she pulled a bit closer lost in the anticipation, thinking of how she loved this man who was her husband, her heart was heavy with guilt.
“No game at all” Priscilla replied softly.
She thought he would pull back when he stared in to her eyes for a minute; her insides were melting in heightened hunger for her husband. The guilt was quickly forgotten, she could feel her body throb in response.
“Tunde” she said again ever so softly and this time, he knew he was lost. He brought his lips down to hers in urgency. Priscilla responded with a matching need as he gave himself to her.