He smiled at her as she walked in but he did not get up, Karen sighed as she walked towards his oak table: it was littered with documents and notepads.
“You won’t even look at me?” she scoffed but he said nothing, at first. Karen sat on the chair in front of the table and smiled, this time it was a sad little smile.
“You look drawn”, he replied slowly eyeing her intently and she sighed again and rubbed her temple in a therapeutic manner.
“I feel it.” She hadn’t slept for days thinking and thinking of what to do next, what card to play, mending her broken heart since his mother in law had burst out that her daughter was pregnant.
The room fell silent; there was nothing either of them could say. Karen lit the last stick of cigarette from the pack and he got out the ashtray “How is she?”
“Your wife”, the words dripped with venom.
“She’s fine” he replied gently “She got discharged yesterday. Her mother has been beside her ever since.”
“Is she really pregnant?”
“Where you hoping it were a lie?”
Karen nodded; “I hoped you’d say it was a sick joke anything but the truth”, she sniffed.
“Karen”, he held her hand gently “I am sorry but please don’t be hard on yourself.”
She snickered and drew in the smoke from the cigarette “I feel betrayed Tunde, after all the years of waiting and the promises.”
“I made no promises, Karen. Yes, I cared for you then but I made no promises.”
“You cared? You said you loved me!”
Tunde said nothing.
“You made it look like a fairy tale, as though I was worth something!”
“You are”, he replied desperately “You would always be worth something but I’m sorry it came to this.”
She shook her head and got up, leaving the cigarette butt to burn off in the small tray. Karen walked to the high glass windows looking out at the busy road beneath them. It was time to play her last card.
“How is the work?”
Tunde let out a difficult breath “We’re hanging in there waiting for the auditors to look through the files.”
“Your father could be jailed if they found anything that puts him in jeopardy”, she replied in a small voice.
“I know.” He closed his eyes briefly and loosed the knot of the dark tie around his neck. The room fell silent, the tension was not hard to identify even though they wanted to ignore it.
“Tunde…” Her voice was so sad and wistful… it broke, she sighed, uncertain. “I still love you and I would always do.”
“Shhh” she turned to face him “I know what you want to say and I have accepted it that there’s nothing else I can do but…I’m still your friend right?”
She held his gaze and he nodded unable to pull out of it.
“I found out something a while ago but I wasn’t sure until recently. I had these few days to think deeply and I feel you should know if the woman you have pledged your life for is worth it, I’ll accept fate only after that.”
“What do you mean?” Tunde asked
“Exactly what I said!” her voice rose in her anxiety.
“What is it about?”
“It’s about your wife” She kept quiet but he did not respond, she continued “Tunde…”
“What about her? What is this about Karen?”
“Priscilla…” she paused “I’m sorry I didn’t say this earlier but I need you to know the kind of woman you love. I don’t want to see you hurt.”
“What did she do?” he fought for control.
“She cheated on you Tunde”
His expression darkened but he said nothing.
“She cheated”, Karen continued slowly. “I saw them together but I thought my eyes were deceiving me, Tunde.”
“Is this another one of your sick schemes? I know what you can do to get what you want.”
She looked hurt “I can’t believe you just said that”, Karen replied defensively.
“I can’t believe you just said that Karen!” His voice rose. “Don’t you think it’s too convenient to tell me now that she’s pregnant?”
“You can ask her if you think I’m evil enough to plot something like that!” she replied, with a wounded expression on her face.
Tunde got up and closed his eyes briefly trying to calm his temper “I think that is a wild accusation Karen”, he replied unsteadily.
“I found out the day we went for that dinner party, I saw them together Tunde and I confirmed it last week.”
“Then why didn’t you say something?”
“Would you have believed me?” she retorted softly.
“What’s to say I believe you now?” Tunde replied turning away from her gaze. “I think you should stay out of our business.”
“Fine”, Karen threw her hands up in the air with exasperation “Ask her who Richard is.”
“Richard?” Tunde echoed “Your Richard?”
“I found it hard to believe also”, she replied laughing in disbelief at the situation. Tears began to form again. “At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me until he confirmed it when we were going home.”
“It’s impossible” his tone was thick in growing anger “You don’t know for a fact that…”
Her shrill laugh sent a chill down his spine. “You don’t want to believe it, do you? The woman you love and who carries your child! What’s to say the child is even yours, Tunde?”
His heart began to pound “I think you should stay out of our affair Karen,” Tunde looked at her again and his mouth quirked an icy look. “Thank you for the care you took in telling me.”
Karen walked to him and stopped at his feet. “Don’t be a fool, Tunde! That bitch has you wrapped around her finger, for all you know it’s a bastard child growing inside her and she’s putting her sick premeditated plan on you!”
Tunde’s hand came up poised to strike Karen. With a great difficulty he moved away from her heated gaze.
“So Tunde”, she sighed and turned back to him with hatred in her eyes. “You were prepared to slap me because of that thing!”
“Get out of my office, Karen.”His tone was dead and controlled and Tunde looked back at her with the same fire in his eyes, she was shocked and she stared at him trying to read him as though he was not the same person who loved her years ago. “Get out!” He barked again.
A tear slid out of the corner of her eye and she shook her head in dismay. “I don’t know who you are anymore.” With that, Karen walked out of his office, slamming the door.
Tunde winced and slumped into his chair, his head was reeling, aching. He wiped his face with a sweaty palm trying to calm himself. He closed his eyes trying to keep her voice out of his head. His hands trembled, his body trembling and screaming in pain. He was panting trying to block out his wife’s taunting voice, her laughter mocking him, mocking him of his stupidity. Tunde slammed his fist hard on the table; a precious tear of shame scalded his cheek.
“She knows mummy, I swear she knows.”
“Put yourself together Priscilla,” her mother scolded at by the bedpost in the guest room. Her daughter sat on the edge of the bed fretting, sweating and looking disheveled.
“I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep without thinking about it: the knowing look on her face”, Priscilla replied almost hysterical. She had been on edge since the party; even the doctor had to calm her down but it did not help. Her mind was in bits and pieces and her body screamed for rest. “Priscilla you can’t keep panicking, it’s not good for your child. You need to be patient and wait”, Sola replied not even trusting her words. She was already drawing out other plans, other ways of keeping their marriage intact.
“You shouldn’t have announced my pregnancy mother. You shouldn’t.”
“Not when she was goading you and making passes at your husband”, she replied defensively. “The family needed to know that things have changed. She needed to know that.”
Finally, she looked up at her mother and held back her words seeing the worried look in her deep brown eyes as she choked back another sob.
“I don’t know what to do” she bit her already sore lips. “I don’t know what to do if he found out.”
“You will try to keep your marriage intact. It will be your word against hers Priscilla; no one needs to find out again.”
“I can’t look him in his face and lie again mum, I’m tired of that. The lies are growing and soon we won’t be able to know what we truly stand for.”
“Stand for?” She stamped her foot on the tiled floor in growing exasperation “Stand for, Priscilla? Christ! Do you intend to tell him the truth and let him get boiling mad?!”
She looked at her mother through red-rimmed eyes “We can’t keep this up.”
“Think of your child for heaven’s sake! How do you think you can cope as a single mother? ”
Her mother stooped down to her and placed a hand on her small shoulder. “Save everything while you still can or destroy your marriage and all that you have worked for because of your weak conscience”, her eyes were hard and cold.
Priscilla looked at her mother, too weak to argue. Her mind was not settled, thinking of the party. Her husband, her marriage, it would cost her his love!
“I can’t lose him mum”
“Then think of the only solution I have laid before you!” she cried emphatically “It’s your word against hers Priscilla and lucky you have managed to make your husband eat out of your palm.”
Sola got up and drew up her bag from the other end of the bed. “I’m leaving today Priscilla.” She folded the wrapper on the already laid bed and put it in the bag zipping it. She stilled “Priscilla, look at me.”
She turned to stare at her mother
“Don’t mess this up, not for your whims and idiosyncrasies” her tone was flat. Priscilla slowly nodded in response…
…SOLA opened the door of the lonely flat and carried the little travelling bag in; she removed the key from the door cylinder and shut the metal door behind her. With a sigh, she slumped on the nearest couch and closed her eyes in deep thought.
The house was silent, the way it ought to be. She let out a deep breath and the tension steaming of her in the cool caressing breeze. What had she done? She knew when it was too late. She had made a bad move not considering the other lady’s possible game plans but then how was anyone to know that the man seated beside her as an escort was her daughter’s mistake, possibly the father of her grandchild?
Sola sighed again, this time she felt like screaming but she could not give up now not when she could not even remember what it felt like to suffer. She would not be able to bear the shame, to look back and be the way her mother was: a sad failure. Her lips twitched in determination, she would rather die.
She shifted in her seat, brainstorming on what to do. Her mind was in turmoil until a bible verse crawled into her shadowed mind, and she knew what to do next.
Sola Imorugbe would be patient, she would wait but not upon God for He had shown her a way out and it made her smile in appreciation. Perhaps, it was soon time to ask another favor from Tayo. This time a devious chuckle escaped from her lips thinking of her former lover. With that, she knelt down and prayed.
Tunde turned the key to the house slowly in its hole, he watched with a clouded mind- how it slowly turned until the door opened. He felt that way, as though a rusty knife had twisted in his chest. His mouth was bitter and his head a little too light from the generous amount of alcohol consumed in his office.
He took a heavy step into the parlor and gently closed the door behind him with a click. Rage made him cold and as dead as the still night air around him. He felt cheated, betrayed and disgraced, playing the past months repeatedly in his sickened mind like a broken record.
The house was dark with only the moonlight flooding the parlor, the curtains were still drawn up and he caught the whip of water running. She was in the shower and his treacherous body raced with desire and fueled his anger. The brief case slid down the leather chair making a soft zee sound until it landed in his seat. He loosened his tie and walked towards the corridor and into the moonlit room like a zombie.
His mind screamed for control but his body protested until he yielded and removed his clothes dropping them on the rugged floor towards the bathroom he could hear Priscilla humming oblivious to him and he slid the door open.
“You’re back”, she smiled at him with a look that should have made him think she was pleasantly surprised but he doubted it, now. He could see fear and anguish lying somewhere in the dark contours of her eyes. He did not trust himself to speak but he walked to the tub where she stood, her body glistening under the soft yellow bulb and the scent of her engulfing the bathroom.
He did not hear her question again; he was driven by anger and blinded with desire. Tunde pulled his wife out of the shower with his hate growing and his desire monstrous, they made love.
….PRISCILLA panted beside her husband wondering what had gotten into him. He had never been this forceful before. He had never gotten up with a savage look on his face after what they shared. Unease began to set in but instead of speaking, she wrapped the white sheet around her chest, her hands trembled a bit and her body felt damp again with sweat.
After what seemed to be hours, the silence became a torment, she spoke in a small worried voice.
“Tunde what’s wrong?”
He turned his back to her tightening the string of his slacks around his waist. Beads of perspiration glistened on his smooth bare back leaving her to watch them trickle down his back as his muscles worked to achieve the task.
Priscilla slowly got up with the white sheet tied around her body and walked to her husband. Hesitantly, her hand touched him, his shoulder and the body beneath her hand stilled.
“What is the matter Tunde?”
He said nothing, he just stood there as though he was counting out his patience but her hand gripped a bit tighter at the flesh beneath it.
“What is the matter? You’ve been acting really strange for 2 days now Tunde and I need to know what’s going on.”
He walked away from her and switched on the bedroom light, the fluorescent responded immediately. Priscilla watched him with growing agitation, but he said nothing. Tunde sat on the edge of the dressing table stool and let out a deep breath rubbing this temple.
“Tunde I don’t like how you are behaving. You came in here two days ago acting strange and I have been concerned, if I did something wrong let me know. What’s the point in us being in a marriage when there is no communication at a time like this?”
For the first time he scoffed “Communication?” Tunde replied slowly in a low tone “What is your definition of that word?”
“Tunde…” She walked to him but stopped halfway in mounting fear “Tunde what brought that question?”
“I asked you, what is your definition of communication?” his voice rose. “Is that what you have been preaching about for a successful marriage?”
Priscilla shook her head in confusion “I don’t understand where all this is coming from”, her hand grabbed the silk robe on the chair and she threw it on shakily over the wrapper. “Please tell me what the matter is Tunde, this silence is killing me.”
He said nothing and she shivered when she met his gaze full of scorn, it was worse than the look he gave her when things where bad between them months ago. This was different. It was murderous. She knew then, and the realization registered on her face. He knew, God, he knew! Tunde read the look of confusion on her face, they knew what it was hanging between them over the bed for the past two days and he was up for suddenly the room felt too small but he could not stop there even though his heart pleaded not to speak, his anger was boiling over.
“Tunde”, Priscilla replied in a small voice catching the lump in her throat “What exactly is this about?”
“Who is Richard to you?”
Priscilla stepped back in fear she could have lost her balance, her heart began to race.
“You heard me!” Tunde’s voice thundered and he got up to tower over her.
Priscilla opened her mouth to speak but no words came, she stammered and stumbled on her words, he seemed suddenly like a giant sucking in the air around her.
“Talk!” he thundered again looking at her in scorn.
“He…he…I don’t understand why you would ask such a question”, she stammered with her eyes darting back and forth in fear “Tunde…”
“You cheated on me!” He thundered with a monstrous look that frightened her; he was breathing heavily, sweat forming on his brows.
“Don’t call my name”, Tunde shouted slamming his fist on the dressing table, it left a dent, Priscilla staggered back wincing in fright. The room fell silent with only the sound of his ragged breathing and her quiet sobbing.
“Did you or did you not cheat?”
The sobbing stopped and she looked at her husband’s face, the frustration in his eyes. Her mother’s words came to mind, it was her word against Karen’s. Weak tears of deceit fell from her eyes “Tunde please…”
He took out a shirt and took his car keys from the table, his hands shook pulling on the shirt “Shit!” Tunde cursed at the ceiling “Shit!” the keys jingled in his hands and he walked towards the door, Priscilla followed behind crying.
“Tunde…” she called out to him as he walked through the dark corridor to the moonlit sitting room with the full moon making silhouettes of the objects.”Tunde… Where are you going? Please let’s talk.”
“About what?” , he turned round to face her, his eyes full of hatred her body nearly bucked under it.
“You can’t leave at this time” she replied desperately “Its almost 11, please let’s talk I beg you.” Tears racked through her frame and Priscilla slowly knelt down. “Please Tunde, I love you.”
“Don’t ever say that again,” he replied in a cold tone “You have no right to use that word” his eyes burnt through her making her flinch clinging desperately to her sanity. She wailed in pain “Please Tunde, please. I was lonely and I was lost and I thought you were having an affair, I felt broken and…”
“Don’t give me that excuse, it’s too cheap! What lover? I’m not like you, I didn’t choose to defy my vows at any point so don’t bring Karen into this!”
“Pl…Please Tunde; I’m pregnant at least for the sake of the child.”
He shook his head “A child who may not be mine? Was this part of the plan to trick me into thinking that…thing inside you is mine?”
She flinched as though he hit her. “Tunde please” her voice was too heavy with emotions trying to say so much “I’m not like that…”
“Yet you kept your secret away from me?”
“Would you have reacted any different from now? Priscilla asked in tears.
He paused and shook his head in affirmation “It would have saved you from looking like a conspirator if I had heard it first from you”, his tone was soft and regretful. “I can’t tell what’s worse between a snake and the Irumogbe family!” Tunde snickered, “You all leech on people, destroy them as long as you are satisfied. I don’t blame you; I blame my father for pushing us all into this!” His tone was bitter
“What do you mean?” Priscilla asked with confusion.
“What do you think I mean? There is no need pretending not to know how you got your claws into my family! I’d rather have married the devil.”
“Tunde”, her voice was shaking in confusion and her mind in unruly, her head began to pound, and her chest throbbed.
“Ask your mother – she slept with my father!”
Priscilla’s knees gave way in shock. She sat on the floor, the silk robe slid off her shoulder to the cold tiled ground “Tunde what are you saying?” She tried making sense from what she just heard “Tunde….”
“I give you till 12noon tomorrow, I don’t want to see you when I get back.” With that, he walked out of the flat slamming the door behind him.
The sound echoed in her head but it did nothing to erase what he just said. Her mother and Chief Ariyo? She began to pant, tears streaming down her face. Her mind was crowded and the ache in her heart hurt so badly she wailed in her tears. It did not matter how long she laid on the cold tiled floor weeping and waiting, hopeful that he would come. He never showed up even when she cried herself to sleep.