safe haven

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Tunde sat beside his mother. Two days ago, she had woken up and the doctor had informed them her recovery was steady. Today, she was smiling softly with convalescence plastered on her elderly features but his mind was not with her, it was with his wife.

“Tunde”, his mother asked slowly searching his eyes. “How are you holding up?”

“Okay”, Tunde responded even though they both knew he lied.

“How is your father?” she asked with anxiety framing her fragile features.

Tunde let out a breath, “I don’t know, it has been a while since we spoke.”

“Did you have another fight?”

“Just a minor disagreement”, he gave his mother a reassuring smile. “It is nothing to worry yourself about.”

She sighed and looked away towards the window “I know how your father can be”, Mrs Ariyo replied in a shaky voice. “I can imagine.”

“It’s nothing to worry your head about. Besides, you shouldn’t work yourself over this.”

“My husband is in jail Tunde, your father. There’s no way I wouldn’t worry about that”, she touched his hand tenderly. “My son is hurting to.o”

“I’ll be fine mum” Tunde replied tempted to pull his hand away.

“Have you spoken to Priscilla?”

He hesitated a bit, reluctant to talk. “No” Tunde replied in a tight voice.

“Are you thinking of divorcing her?”

Their eyes locked at her question and Tunde could not find words to respond. His eyes fell away and there was silence for a few minutes, he looked up at his mother as she lay with a thoughtful look on her face.

“I think you should”, Mrs Ariyo said looking expectantly at her son; “We need to end this saga and focus on moving our family forward.”

“She’s part of the family too”, he replied almost defensively. She stared at him with a puzzled look on her face. “She’s my wife.”

“Yes, but she has caused you so much pain Tunde, she doesn’t love you in any way.” She turned a bit towards him staring intently at him with hollowed eyes “Cheating, what kind of woman cheats on her husband?”

His heart twitched a bit at her words, the pain was still painfully etched in his heart that he could not even look past it to decide what to do next. Tunde let out a deep sigh.

“Tunde, now is your chance to free yourself from this loveless marriage.” Her voice shook as she spoke from the depth of her heart. “I hated watching you so unhappy even though I never understood what drove you to marry her”, His mother shook her head sadly.

“We loved each other, I think she loved me” his tone was doubtful.

“She never did, she would say anything to continue living that way. Your marriage was on the verge of collapse, remember?”

Tunde nodded, knowing there was some truth in what his mother had said. The nagging feeling grew in his chest, trying to decide whether Priscilla had loved him or not. Why she would even cheat on him, break their vows…

“Tunde”, Mrs Ariyo continued quietly” Break out of it and start your life afresh, can you live with her again knowing she was dishonest to you or your marriage? I really can’t understand why people cheat in the first place”, she coughed.

Tunde patted her hand and held back a grunt in response to his mother’s statement remembering his father. “She’s pregnant mum, it makes everything complicated. If I decide to divorce her and the child is mine there’s no stake in the company for the child which is what she would probably want.”

Mrs Ariyo nodded in agreement and looked away briefly returned her gaze to her son.”There’s more of a possibility the child may not be yours Tunde”

He kept his tongue in cheek, the truth twisted in his chest deeper and deeper as hot as a knife. He looked down at their clasped hands closing his eyes for a brief moment and shook his head remembering the bleak night when they fought.

He was ashamed he missed his wife; he was more ashamed that he could not stop thinking about her. Always, watching his phone and silently hoping she would walk in through the door. He was ashamed he grew jealous thinking of her and him together, her soft moans and the way her fingers touched his skin. Tunde looked away trying to run from his chaotic thoughts.

They sat for a long time both of them buried in their thoughts until the sound of the door intruded the quiet. They both looked towards the door and Karen came in. She broke into a smile as her eyes rested on Tunde; she carried nylon with a juice box in it and walked to the bed.

“Karen”, Mrs Ariyo greeted her beaming.

“Good afternoon Mrs Ariyo” she replied smiling at his mother. “Tunde”

“How are you?” Tunde asked in a cool tone. He got up suddenly feeling the need to be away from the room.

“Where are you heading to?”, his mother threw him an accusing look and Karen stared beguiling at him.

“I want to get a meal at the cafeteria” he walked to the door and opened it. “I won’t be long.”

Tunde walked out before they could respond.

 

…IN a few minutes, he was seated at the cafeteria with a cold bottle of a soft drink placed between his hands. The saucer of sandwiches lay untouched, he found he had no appetite but was contented staring into space.  Karen pulled the chair out and sat opposite him on the small table for two.

“You left my mum alone?” he asked with a disapproving look on his face.

“No, she’s asleep” Karen replied hastily “You look… bad.”

“I feel worse”, Tunde replied drily reluctant to speak.

“How are you holding up?”, she asked with concern “I’m worried about you, Tunde.”

He said nothing and Karen continued “Your mother told me a bit about what you discussed.”

Tunde scowled at her “You had no business knowing that.”

“Relax”, Karen replied throwing him a wounded expression. “We are all worried about you. What are you planning to do now?”

He hesitated not sure he wanted to answer that; instead he took a sip of his drink. “Aren’t you thinking of a divorce? Karen asked steadily, she peered cautiously at him.

Tunde groaned inwardly “Why is everyone preaching divorce?” he responded staring at her in annoyance. “Whatever I choose to do should be what is right for me.”

“What about your family? Are you going to leave them hanging and elope with her?” she asked sarcastically.

Tunde almost hissed, “My family will respect my decision.” It was his turn to peer at her seeing her hooded expression.

“I just want you to be happy and obviously make the best decision because she shouldn’t even appear in front of you again, she…”

“…and you are the best decision?!” he cut Karen short abruptly. He could do little to hide his irritation.

“Don’t put words into my mouth Tunde” Karen replied scathing.

He laughed at her response full of sarcasm and finally quelled his rising anger. “This is all a game to you, Karen” Tunde stated simply. “An acquisition to take your prize.” His tone was intent to bite.

“You’re not a prize, Tunde. You are a man I love”, Karen replied in a cautious tone.

He shook his head. “No, you have no idea what it means to love. It’s not one of these mind games you play, it is more infinite than that” , Tunde paused letting his words sink in “This is just a game to you, Karen.”

Karen was visibly shaken; her perfect make up did little to hide the torment lurking behind her cool facade. “Tunde I love you and I always have, it is unfair to say I haven’t.  You got married, fell in ‘love’ with your cheating wife and I am still here!” she fought to speak in a hushed tone.

Her words calmed his displaced anger, his annoyance quickly turned to pity. “Karen I know the huge sacrifice you made waiting for me and I know that it is unfair for you to watch me become a mess because of my wife but I can’t help who I fell for in the end.”

Her eyes glistened with tears as she desperately fought to keep them back. “Then we can always grow that love back, Tunde. The love you had for only me”, she replied with her tone full of hurt.

He shook his head and stretched his hand across the table to clasp hers. “Karen I can’t watch you also cling to something we are both uncertain of. I’m hurt and vulnerable but I will not be stupid enough to make promises I can’t keep after all you’ve been through”, he removed his hand.

Karen shook her head and gave a short painful laugh. “I miss you Tunde and I have been patient with you but my patience also has its limits.”

“Right now, Karen I’m a mess. I need to figure out a lot of things and Priscilla is one of them.” Tunde gently said, “I still love my wife”.

***

Priscilla walked through the hallway from the elevator, each step she took grew heavier than the last but she knew she could not back down and she had to do this. She had to confront Tunde. The walls of the company felt so unwelcoming and cold, she desperately wanted to cringe and go into hiding, scared of what would happen on the other end of the wall.

She arrived at the secretary’s desk who got up to greet her. “Good afternoon ma”, the woman greeted her with a well-practiced polite smile plastered on her face.

“Good afternoon Rose. Is my husband in?”

“Yes, yes” the younger woman replied “Let me call in to confirm.”

Priscilla nodded and sat down smoothing her custard colored dress. She paid no attention when the secretary spoke almost hearing her heart beat loudly against her chest.

“You can go in,ma”

“Okay, thank you”. Priscilla got up with rubbery legs and walked to the other door along the corridor; she paused and inhaled a deep breath before opening the door. The moment she walked in the familiar scenery flooded into her senses, for a second she had almost forgotten to look at the man she came to see.

She turned and found him staring at her, seated. A rush of emotions filled her heart and she had to stop herself from crying. Priscilla walked almost steadily to the large oak desk separating them and sank into the chair opposite him.

He kept staring; his eyes never leaving her face and her heart tingled. She had to look down at her fingers clasped on her laps beneath the desk, her head began a dull ache and she felt a little cramp in her stomach.

“Why are you here?” His voice was cold and but it did nothing to stop the little tremor that ran through her body.

For the first time, Priscilla looked at Tunde, God, she had missed him terribly. He had grown leaner and his eyes bulged a little as though he had not slept in a while but he still managed to look as handsome as always.

“We haven’t spoken in a while”, her voice wavered in her ears.

Tunde shrugged in response trying to fight off the rush of emotions, he looked down at the desk gritting his teeth as if to quell his raging heart.

“I wanted to give you time to…” she paused trying to find the right word “I felt you needed your space.”

Tunde looked at her and her heart almost stopped he gave her that familiar stubborn look he had sometimes. Priscilla swallowed back tears. “Tunde, can’t we work this out? It is killing me that we are this way. We can’t continue like this,” she almost wailed.

“You brought us to this point Priscilla”, he shook his head ” I can’t see myself looking past it no matter how much I’ve tried to”, he stated in a faraway tone.

Her heart sank further in her chest “Tunde…”

“Why did you do it?” his voice carried his weight of frustration “Why did you sleep with him,  Priscilla?”

She could not help a tear escape from the corner of her eye; she got up feeling restless and walked slowly to the window knowing his eyes followed her. After a minute she sighed and replied, “I felt lonely Tunde” she turned around to face him “and I was very unhappy.”

He said nothing at her response but got up to his full height, Priscilla’s eyes scanned the length of him in hunger but she looked away mentally beating herself for it. She bit her bottom lip watching him walk to her.

Tunde stood so close to her that he could catch a whip of her perfume; he longed to brush her up against him and hold her fragile looking body in his arms. He did not know why he stood there or what he wanted out of it but there was this need to be close to her, to be one with her.

Priscilla’s heart fluttered in her chest, reality felt so far out of reach that all she saw was he, Tunde standing within a breath from her. Her chest heaved so slowly in her chest each rise and fall was almost painful.

“Where did you go?”

Priscilla raised her big brown eyes at him that was his undoing. They knew desire slowly crept in between them but neither attempted to move away.

“Mrs Bridget’s house”, Priscilla replied in almost a whisper “I missed you.” The words fell out of her mouth without her thinking. That was his undoing.

Tunde gathered her into his arms and planted his lips on hers; it knocked her out of breath the suddenness and urgency of it. They clung to each other in a kiss that spoke more of painful longing than passion. She kissed her husband back with reckless abandon, revealing at the way his body bucked simply at her touch.

All their time of making love in the home never matched up to this. This was different, a new understanding. Hazily she found herself on the couch with her husband on top of her fumbling with her dress; she tore at his clothes too. Passion for passion, fire for fire.

 

…SHE felt as though she had fallen into another world far better than earth just being in his arms, she felt joy bubbling within her and… As quickly as it begun, Tunde cursed and pulled away from her.

He got up with a scowl on his face leaving her in shock. Tunde adjusted his shirt and she took her cue to do the same sitting up on the couch, he had turned his back on her just the way he stood on the fateful day.

“Tunde what’s wrong?” Priscilla asked perturbed.

“I keep thinking of you with that man” his tone was savage. Tunde turned to face her “I think you need to leave now.”

“After what we just shared?” Priscilla’s heart sank slowly “We almost made love Tunde.” It was almost as though she was talking to herself confused.

“That was a mistake which would never happen again”

What was left of her little spurt of joy was reduced to ashes as humiliation took over. She got up in a robotic manner. “Tunde…”

“What did you come here for Priscilla?” he barked at her moving away from the couch “Did you want this, is that why you came?”

Hot tears of humiliation trickled down her face slowly replaced by anger “Don’t you dare say I came here for sex Tunde! We both know that is not true.”

“How can I be so sure?!” he responded with anger “How can I ever trust you again?”

“…because I suffered too!” Priscilla shouted at him in frustration “I suffered too! Lonely and unhappy while your family insulted me and you had your little fling with that woman!”

Tunde groaned, “I never, never cheated on you with Karen and we both know that!” he replied matching her tones. “You broke our vows, you broke my trust Priscilla!”

“For Christ’s sake it was before things changed between us,” she wailed at him in frustration “I stopped him before us Tunde. Why is it so hard to get that? I’m sorry it happened and I can’t understand how you feel but I love you and I’m not ready to let you go Tunde Ariyo” she stopped as her body racked with fresh sobs.

He kept quiet as if thrown off what to say, “How will I trust you again Priscilla? My family is in support of a divorce but…”

“A divorce?!” She walked up to him but stopped half way, her anger gave way to grief “A divorce” Priscilla repeated weakly “You are considering a divorce?” Fresh tears began to flow.

“I can’t live with woman I don’t trust or a child born from her affair while we were married!” Tunde rasped on “My family would never accept you back because you and your mother have caused us nothing but pain!”, he spat the words at her without remorse.

“This is not about my mother and I, Tunde and you know that. This is just your excuse to be with Karen.”

“Karen?” Tunde pursed his lips in disgust “I wish it was that!”

“Then what is this about? Because I love you and you love me. If its trust, we could build it back together,” Priscilla replied pleadingly, her eyes glistened from the tears.

“I’m not sure I do anymore”, Tunde looked at her. His heart twisted as he saw her flinch at his statement but he did not attempt to apologize for his speech. “Even if I took you back, what would you represent in my life with a child that is not mine?” he walked to his desk and stood beside it.

“How are you sure the child isn’t yours?” she replied quietly too weak to numb the painful wound in her heart.

“I don’t want child from my wife’s affair with another man, neither do I want a child that would remind me of my wife’s infidelity.”

“It is my child, Tunde,” she cried at him. “An innocent child! If the child was yours, would you hate him or her for my mistakes?”

He shrugged feigning indifference. “I can forgive you for the cheating Priscilla, you were depressed then and I fully can relate to that but a child…” Tunde spoke with such venom. “A child is a different matter, Priscilla”

She shook her head. “Are you suggesting I abort the child?” Priscilla looked at him perturbed.

“I’m suggesting if you want this marriage as bad as I think I do, then do what is right.”

She wiped her eyes letting her pride take over her broken heart. “You are suggesting I kill my baby for you Tunde” she scoffed “Isn’t that too much?”

He shook his head sideways “I want you Priscilla but…”

“No words of love?” Priscilla replied suddenly feeling numb. “I can’t kill my baby please understand. I can’t kill my baby”, she placed a hand on her stomach “I love my baby no matter who the father is and I’m sure it’s you.”

“I’m sorry, Priscilla but that’s the only way out of it aside from a divorce. If you choose to keep it, then I’m afraid I’ll have to leave.”

“You are blackmailing me with a divorce”, she stared at him hurt and disbelieving.  “Tunde please don’t do this…”

“If you really love me you’d do it, because it’s my heart that needs mending. If it ends up in a divorce, you would be adequately compensated more so if the child is mine. I can’t turn my back on my child.”

“You already did Tunde”, she replied shaking her head in despair. After a minute of gathering what was left of her pride she turned and walked to the entrance door, her hand held the door knob for a while. “I don’t want your money Tunde, you can keep it.” With that, she walked out of his office, leaving him with his raging feelings.

Safe Haven: Episode 24 CONTINUES HERE
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Little Things, Big Lessons by ToluKumuyi

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