HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A WOMAN SCORNED BY IDOWU OLUWATOYIN
It wasn’t that he won, it was that Tessy grew tired of arguing. Kunle’s voice had graduated from loud to yelling and the neighbours were now sure to be listening. She hated entertaining the neighbours, especially the ones who lived in the apartment next door. They looked at her in a funny way whenever their paths crossed in the stairway, as if they knew the details of her private life. Which was why she slunk away, tail between her legs; and let him have the last word.
They’d been married for four years, and in that time, Kunle and Tessy have never had an argument as ugly as the one they just had. It left Tessy feeling drained and terribly unhappy. She felt a sense of betrayal that cut deep into her heart and lay bare her fragile emotions. Hiding in the kitchen was the only way she could compose erself without letting him know how much his words had hurt her.
Kunle did not know and did not particularly care. Manchester City, his favourite English Premier League club, were playing a crucial match with their closest rivals Manchester United. That match commanded all his attention, and apart from the occasional request to get him some water, or to quit making that noise in the kitchen; Tessy was all but ignored.
She fumed silently, bent over the kitchen counter. Nary a word passed her lips but her heart and mind were exploding with rage.
The day he asked me to quit my job, I quit my job. He told me to get pregnant and I got pregnant. When I didn’t lose all my pregnancy weight and he asked to hit the gym, I hit the gym. He won’t clean, won’t change diapers, won’t bath Freddy and can’t cook to save his life. I do his laundry, run his errands, take care of the house and raise the baby alone.
He doesn’t understand what I go through everyday, or how lonely I am when he goes on his trips. He doesn’t even know how neglected and unloved I feel when he says he’s too tired to make love to me.
She blinked back tears, knowing she was stuck with him whether she liked it or not. For better, for worse; till death do us part! That was the vow she made. Death! She mused. How I wish death would come, It would really solve all my problems.
“Goaaaaaaaaaal!” Kunle’s scream shattered the stillness, “Bloody fantastic, brilliant goal!”
Feeling very excited, he danced about the room. Man City was a goal up and it was the second half of play. So far so good! This goal was soothing balm to his already bruised ego. Finally, something is going right with this night. He thought.
“Psheeew!” Tessy hissed in the kitchen. I’m falling apart and he’s watching football, cheating bastard! Does he think I’m a fool?
Their one year old son Freddy, began to cry in the nursery. She prepared his food quickly and took it to him. He was her only reason for staying in what she considered to be a loveless marriage, this boy whose eyes were pools of unending love. She hugged him close to her breast as he fed. If not for this boy, I would have called Julian a long time ago. She thought mutinously.
Kunle switched off the flat screen TV as the game ended. Luckily, that lone goal was enough to secure a win for his team. It was a quarter to ten. No doubt Tessy would be in their bedroom, waiting for him to put in an appearance. After the almost nasty argument they had, he concluded that she was going to be very disappointed. He decided to sleep on the couch, just as he had done the past four nights. Stretching langurously, he relaxed and gave in to his thoughts.
Complaining and always nagging, that’s all she does. I want to work, I want to go back to my career. For what? Is she the only full time housewife in the world? Or am I not providing enough for the family, and meeting all her needs?
She should concentrate on being a good mother to her son, because I will never allow my wife to work in an office where all kinds of men will be making advances at her. If she likes, let her cry from today till tomorrow or even report me to her parents; she’s not working and that’s final!
He got a blanket from their bedroom to use as a covering and promptly fell sleep. Before long, it was midnight. Tessy tiptoed into the living room. She’d spent the last couple of hours tossing and turning, yet unable to sleep. Standing over the couch, she tugged at the thick covering and watched it slide to the floor.
Tunde jerked awake and caught the hands that were playing havoc with his senses. A little confused, he blinked several times and struggled to focus.
“Tessy?” he whispered drowsily. Her exploration became bolder. She lay on top of him and ran her hands all over his torso. She felt his body move involuntarily beneath her touch.
“Make love to me … please!” she pleaded, while leaning closer to plant kisses all over his face. His arms closed about her and for a moment it seemed like he was responding to her caresses.
” No!” he exclaimed suddenly and pushed her away. “not until you give up this silly idea of getting a job”
“What?” She gasped incredulously, “Is that why you won’t make love to me Kunle? Don’t you realize it’s been almost two months?”
The strap of the sexy lingerie slid from her shoulder, baring a very naked and alluring cleavage. Stubbornly, he reached out and snapped it back in place. ”I’m tired okay? Some other time perhaps, all I want to do tonight is sleep!”
He bent over to pick up the blanket and rearranged the couch pillows. Crushed, she watched as he covered his body and turned his back to her. Just like that, without any explanation for his actions; her advances were rejected once again. She was now certain of it, Kunle Cole was cheating on her.
Pacing about the apartment while he slept, errant thoughts brewed a storm in her mind.
This man thinks he can play games with me abi? I will deal with him. I will teach him a lesson he will never forget. Never in his life will he cheat on a woman again. As if on cue, he snored and adjusted his six foot frame for comfort. The sounds were like fuel to the fire of her fury, she was almost overwhelmed as she watched him.
Argggggggghhh!!! I hate him, I really do. He’s the reason for all my unhappiness.
The voice of caution knocked on her heart, but the demon in her head goaded her on. She vowed to pay him back in his own coin. I will never forgive him for this, never! Tomorrow, she would call Julian.
The evening passed and the morning came, the first day.
Kunle Cole was one of those men who believed that women no longer knew their place. Gone were the good old days when wives were content to cater for the well being of their families. He felt sure he knew what their problem was, the whole women’s liberation argument, he thought.
It has addled their brains, women now believed they had to compete with men, unaware of how unattractive that could be. Kunle wondered about the good old days when being a wife and mother were a woman’s pride and joy.
He pulled the car out of the company car park and backed into the street. He had just concluded a very important deal with a group of Lebanese businessmen, which meant he could now take the vacation he had earlier postponed.
Building a business was not easy, especially at the foundation stage. He didn’t regret resigning his appointment with a leading commercial bank to go into business for himself. In fact, in retrospect; it was the single most inspired decision he had ever made in his life.
Relying on the network of contacts he’d built in his twelve years of working with the bank, his IT solutions firm had quickly broken even and surpassed all his revenue projections. Particularly gratifying for him was the thought that this latest contract he’d signed with the Lebanese consortium, paved the way for him to join the class of Abuja’s multi millionaires.
The journey home shortened with every kilometer of road traveled but he felt no joy at the prospect of arriving at that destination. Tessy was fast becoming a difficult wife to please. Always complaining and nagging.
These days, she seemed to do everything grudgingly. Household chores, taking care of Freddy, she wanted his help with everything. What then was the role of a wife in the family? I’m sure if she was still breastfeeding, she would expect my help her with that too. He smirked. Twelve hours a day was what he spent on average in the office. He was working his ass off but did she care? No! All she knew to do was to whine about one thing or the other and complain about being a housewife.
The two storey apartment building housing their flat came into focus but he deliberately drove past it and headed for a nearby pepper soup joint. He wasn’t even in the mood to eat her boring food. Other wives surfed the internet to discover exciting new delicacies to spice up the evening meal but not his wife. White rice and stew, or garri and vegetable soup; the same old same old!
Let me go and eat better food jor, he said to himself. Quenching the small feeling of guilt he felt at exploring other options. She can eat her tasteless food by herself.
Tessy changed into her night wear and got into the bed. The time was eleven o’clock and Kunle was yet to come home. Her feelings were raw, and her mind was unable to sustain any charitable thought towards her erring husband.
He’s with his mistress, I know it. All this while pretending to travel out of town on business, keeping late nights and claiming to be working; he has always been with her! No wonder he’s no longer interested in sex, he’s getting it from somewhere else.
She was happy she hadn’t bothered to prepare any food for him. It would have been doubly annoying if she had gone to all that trouble and he’d still pulled this stunt. Eleven O’clock, what responsible married man kept such hours? I’m sure he has already planned the lies he’ll tell me tomorrow, she thought. I’m not even interested; I don’t want to know! Snuggling beneath the duvet, she soon fell asleep.
Kunle eventually returned sometime during the night. He was drunk as can be but Tessy was blissfully unaware of it. He stumbled to the couch and passed out without removing his clothes. It might have been the booze but he had a dream, a very interesting one.
The scene was an exotic palace in what could only be a place out of this world. A queen sat on a throne adorned with precious stones and rainbow coloured tapestry. Two guards stood on the right and left, looking about ferociously. He was chained to a post. The queen was a very beautiful woman and even though he was her captive, he couldn’t seem to look away from her alluring beauty. Hazel green eyes, akin to those of a cat hypnotized him. His senses were aflame with longing, he wanted this woman; desperately wanted her.
The plot changed and he was the one seated on the throne, the queen balanced drapishly on his lap. She laughed at his bewilderment and when she spoke, her voice was like the sound of a waterfall. “You belong to me. Do you hear? You belong to me.” He held her tightly and basked in the magic of her closeness. ”I belong to you.” He replied. “I BELONG TO YOU.”
Waking up a few hours later, he found his way to the toilet. The toilet seat was left open. Bowing over, he puked.
The evening passed and the morning came, the second day.
Shopping was one of the few pleasures Tessy still enjoyed. It gave her the opportunity to explore upscale boutiques in Abuja’s Central Area. She especially loved to spend on shoes and bags; so much so that Kunle once commented that the amount she spent on shoes in a month was enough to feed a small family for ten weeks. It was an exaggeration of course, but Tessy did love her shoes.
The Italian goods shop was one of her favourite destinations on a typical shopping day, the proprietor, Jerry; knew her and always gave her good discounts. He beamed when she walked through the door.
“Madam, so nice to see you again. Welcome,” he said, holding out a hand. She shook it and looked around. The pristinely arranged shelves were full of shoes and matching bags, all made in Italy.
“Thank you Jerry. Did you travel recently? I can see a lot of new things.”
“Yes I did,” he replied, offering her a seat and at the same time motioning to one of the sales’ girls. “Show Madam the new stock.”
The girl got busy, bringing down one beautiful shoe and bag set after another from the shelves. Several minutes passed and Tessy soon became engrossed in making selections. Her mind was free and clear; marital troubles pushed aside for the moment. She liked the multi-coloured pumps and the matching purse but the price tag was somewhere in the stratosphere. Since she always relied on her easy camaraderie with Jerry to negotiate a reduction, she waved him over.
“Jerry, I like this one o, but the price na die.”
“Madam, honestly, that’s the price. If you know how little the gain I make on these items are, you’ll feel sorry for me; but customers are not coming, so what will I do?” He collected the shoe from her and held it up as if to examine it. He shrugged resignedly and smiled.
“For you madam, five percent reduction; just because you and your husband are regular customers.”
“My husband?” she asked, looking surprised, ” has he been here before?”
He gave her a funny look and laughed. “Haba madam, he comes here all the time. Where do you think he bought the gold purse he gave you on Valentine’s day from? Or even that Versace sandal he gave you on your birthday? Infact, if not that I saw him the other day he came to pick you, I wouldn’t have known he is your husband.”
The beginnings of a headache began to form at the centre of her head. So Kunle had been frequenting this shop to buy gifts for his mistress? She managed a bogus smile and said, “Imagine o, that fine purse; so he bought it from you? How nice! It must have been very expensive; I asked him to tell me the price but he refused.” Switching to pidgin, she asked, ” How much you sell am sef?”
“Just $1000,” he said, smiling.
She quickly picked up her phone and converted the sum to naira. N158,000. Her jaw began to drop. Her senses were reeling.
When she was certain she could no longer maintain her composure without giving herself away, she hurriedly paid for the items she chose and left the shop.
So this is the way God has decided to expose this man, she thought on her way home. There was no longer any doubt in her mind, Kunle was cheating on her. After all she had sacrificed for him? Giving up her lucrative job with a top audit firm at his request, selling the house she inherited from her grandfather to raise capital for his business and sticking by him when her parents said he wasn’t good enough for her; so this was how he chose to repay her? I will deal with him. She vowed. Retrieving her phone from her purse, she dialled a number.
Julian Ade was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigerian army, hailing from one of society’s most influential and wealthy families. He was almost forty years old and was yet to be married. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to settle down, it was that he had difficulty finding the right woman. For a brief period several years ago, he’d thought he had finally found the one; only for her to be snatched from under his nose by a smooth talking banker. He had never forgotten that woman and he doubted if he would ever forgive the man who stole her from him. Therefore, he was pleasantly surprised when he saw the missed call on his phone. He wasted no time in returning the call.
“Hello Julian.” Her voice was like music to his ears.
“Tessy Tessy, longest time! So you remembered me today? How have you been?”
“I’m alright, though things could be better,” she replied flatly, instantly arousing his curiosity.
“What’s wrong? you sound a little worried.”
She ignored the question. ”Are you in town Julian? I’ll like to see you.”
“Hmm, I’m in Lagos at the moment but I’ll be coming to Abuja tomorrow morning, can you come to my house later in the evening?”
“Yes,” she sighed in relief. “I’ll be there. You’re still living in that area right?”
“Yes I am,” he affirmed. ” I’ll be expecting you. I’ve really missed you Tessy, you don’t know how much.”
She laughed. ”I know you have Julian. Your sister and I still keep in touch and she keeps me informed about your activities. She says you talk about me all the time.”
“But of course my dear, don’t you know that you’re the love of my life?” he chuckled. “You broke my heart Tessy but I’ve forgiven you. Make sure you come tomorrow though, because whatever problem you have is my problem too.”
She thanked him and severed the connection. The stage was set for her payback; Julian was anything but unreliable. If he gave his word on an issue, the deed was as good as done. Whistling, she went about her household chores in high spirits.
Later that evening, Kunle returned home to a well prepared dinner and a smiling wife. The menu was vegetable salad, fried potatoes and fresh fish, quite a departure from the regular rice and stew that awaited him most nights. He couldn’t even complain about her attitude, no questions, no complaints, no nagging. It was almost as though the woman he married four years ago had somehow found a way to make a comeback. Feeling very satisfied, he even slept in their bedroom that night.
The evening passed and the morning came, the third day.
Even though Tessy knew very little about artworks, she could tell that the paintings adorning the walls of Julian’s mansion were imported and expensive. They were also very sensual and ethnographic in presentation; with just enough nudity to cause even a married woman like herself to blush. However, the overall effect was not distasteful. Not like it’s porn or anything like that, she concluded.
Julian returned to the living room and handed her the glass of soda water she’d requested for. He smiled and motioned towards the settee in the room. “Please sit down Tessy. I noticed you were admiring my paintings. I bought them the last time I travelled to the States.”
“They are very nice,” she lied. The paintings actually made her uneasy. She deliberately chose the seat backing the wall so she wouldn’t have to look at them.Julian has changed o, he used to be so principled, she thought.
He sat very close to her. “You can have anyone of the paintings, anyone you like. Anything at all that you want my dear, as long as I have it, it’s yours.”
“Thank you very much but all I need from you is a small favour.” She paused, suddenly hit by her conscience and wondering if she should really be discussing her marital problems with her ex-fiancee. But if I don’t enlist his assistance, who else can I talk to? she mused. I don’t want my parents to know what’s happening in my marriage and none of my friends have connections like Julian. Hmm, I don’t have a choice; Kunle has left me with none.
She took a sip of her drink, and continued. “I’m very unhappy Julian. I think my husband is cheating on me but I’m not completely sure. I know you have a lot of friends in the security agencies, maybe they can help me find out who the other woman is.“
“I see,” he said, draping a hand casually over her shoulder. “That’s not a big deal Tessy, I have a family friend in the division here who can handle that. He owes me a favour, so I’m very sure he’ll be eager to do anything I ask him to do. He can even tell his boys to rough them up a bit if that’s what you want.”
“Rough them up? No, I don’t want that!” she denied quickly, looking into her drink. “I will deal with them myself. For now, I just want to know the identity of my husband’s mistress and everything about their affair.”
“Okay darling, your wish is my command. Do you now see why you should have married me? I would never cheat on you Tessy” He declared smugly.
The space between them had shrunk to mere millimeters. His hand slipped from her shoulder and began exploring her back. She knew what he wanted and under normal circumstances, she would have slapped his hand away and immediately taken her leave. This was not a normal circumstance. Not only had she been the one to reach out to him, she was also the one who needed a favour from him.
“Tessy?” his eyes asked the question. Wrapping her arms across her chest, she looked at him and shivered.
Kunle left the office at exactly six o’clock and drove straight home. Something was up with Tessy, he was sure of it. Afterall, when was the last time she woke up early in the morning to run his bath and make him a cup of tea? Those were things she used to do in the first year of their marriage; up until the time she became pregnant with Freddy.
Maybe she’s finally beginning to see the light, it’s about time. She has to realise that a woman’s place is in the home, catering to the welfare of her family. His thoughts ran as he placed the key in the lock.
“Tessy! I’m home!” He called out, as he stepped into the apartment. When there was no response, he peeped into the rooms. Where is she? he wondered. He was so used to meeting her at home that it honestly never occurred to him that she might have places to go. He threw his suitcase on the bed in the master bedroom and removed his tie.
While undressing, he recalled that she’d told him in the morning that she was taking Freddy to visit her parents and that he might eventually spend the night. Maybe she decided to stay as well, he mused and patted his stomach. I hope there’s food in the warmer sha because this man is hungry.
Tessy came in not long after, full of apologies and tending quickly to the business of making dinner. After eating, they sat together to watch a movie in the living room. This is the way it used to be, Kunle thought a while later as they prepared for bed. Hmm, thank God o! My Tessy is back. He reached for her when she slipped beneath the sheets.
“Kunle, I’m tired. It’s been a very long day.” She murmurred and turned to her side of the bed. He couldn’t believe his ears. Tired? Tessy? His wife was never too tired to have sex, especially when he hadn’t touched her in weeks. He frowned. Was this payback?
“Common sweetheart,” he cajoled. “hmmn, you smell so nice.” He turned her over and nuzzled her neck. The fingers of one hand traced a tantalizing path down an arm and rested on her hip. She squeezed her eyes tightly and blinked back the tears. Keeping her voice even, she said.
“Not today Kunle, I’m fagged out. My entire body aches and I’m feeling very weak.”
He paused and frowned in concern. “Are you feeling ill?”
“Yes” she replied quickly, feigning a yawn and latching on to the excuse. “It started this morning after you left for the office, I’ve already booked an appointment with the doctor tomorrow.”
He gathered her body in his arms and drew her close. “I’m sorry dear, I didn’t realise. Go to sleep, I’ll simply hold you”.
“Thanks” she replied and snuggled deeper into his arms. They remained that way for the rest of the night. Kunle slept quickly, but a very troubled Tessy remained awake for a very long time.
The evening passed and the morning came, the fourth day.
Princess Sylvester was easily the most influential woman Kunle had ever met. Apart from being fabulously wealthy, she was also a distant cousin of the President. Rumour had it that she was one of the few people who had Mr. President’s ear and who could guarantee anyone an audience with the man himself. Kunle had been nurturing a friendship with her for months.
The first time they met was at a party organised by one of his firm’s biggest clients. She was surrounded by a throng of admirers who competed vigorously for her attention. At six foot tall, with an ample bosom and a Tina Turner type dress sense, she completely eclipsed all the other women at the party. Initially, Kunle had barely spared her a glance. His attention was firmly focused on the Chinese businessman who was telling him about a new technological breakthrough in Asia.
However, a few pointed conversations he’d overheard later had caused him to turn around and listen closely. She’s highly connected, they said. She even has links to the presidency. All those men around her are contractors seeking her favour. He’d spent about half an hour observing her from a distance. Determined to utilize the opportunity of such an informal gathering to make an impression, he’d asked a waiter what she was drinking and sent a glass over with his compliments.
Princess had been intrigued. There he was, handsome and incredibly virile. Just the sort of man she liked to be seen around town with. Ignoring her bevy of admirers, she’d disengaged herself from their company and motioned to him to join her at the bar. Kunle mentally recited a sales pitch as he made his way to the bar. He barely got the chance to use it.
Her voice was deep and forthright. She didn’t mince her words when she said she liked the way he looked. If he didn’t mind, she was proposing a mutually beneficial relationship. The details of her offer had completely blown his mind. That was five months ago.
Today, several multi-million naira contracts later; he was dog to her lap. Whenever she said jump, he did exactly that.
The occasion was her sister’s wedding anniversary and he was her date for the evening. They strolled arm in arm into the palatial mansion at Asokoro, Abuja’s most expensive district. It was a quiet affair. A few friends and family.
Princess introduced him to her sister who met them at the door. They exchanged pleasantries. Kunle marvelled at the opulence of the furnishings, so this is how the other half live, he surmised. They strolled to the lounge where some of the other guests were already mingling. Princess gave him a smile and grabbed his arm as she led him forward.
“Come, let me introduce you to our friends.” He nodded, a little amused at her apparent enthusiasm.
She introduced him to her friends as her boyfriend. He didn’t object, he only smiled pleasantly each time along with his firm handshake. Her friends were all very friendly, especially the women. Obviously, he was the latest candy they could all fuss over. Kunle was quite appalled.
How utterly irresponsible and promiscuous these women are, giving me come hither looks while their husbands are in the room. He was grateful to be married to a woman like Tessy, he thought. Tessy would never betray him with another man.
“And this is Itohan,” Princess said as she drew him to the only guest he was yet to meet. The woman was a few inches shorter than Princess, but that took nothing away from her persona. She was just as imposing. Infact, everything about her was crafted to make an impression. A huge mass of hair and a massive bust. Hmmn, so this is the Itohan I have heard so much about, Kunle thought in awe.
She held out her right hand for a handshake after giving Princess a teasing look. ”Nice to meet you Kunle, I have heard a lot about you.” Her eyes danced as she spoke.
Tongue tied, Kunle shook her hand. All the while feeling very gauche under her appraisal. Itohan smiled and excused herself. Princess, who seemed to have noticed Kunle’s reaction whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry, she always has that effect on men,” as Itohan walked along, swinging a befitting backside.
He nodded and they moved along. There was music, dancing and heavy drinking in different parts of the spacious room. There was a buffet table for those who wanted something to eat. All kinds of dishes were on display; from Chinese to Italian and Continental dishes. Everything was in excess, with no expense spared.
Kunle was somewhat bloated by the time he prepared to take his leave a couple of hours later. He offered his felicitations with the happy couple and said his goodbyes. Princess walked him to the door.
“Hope you had a good time?” she asked as he buttoned his jacket on the patio.
“I did,” he replied truthfully and added, “Thanks for inviting me.” She gave him a peck and sent him on his way.
The time was eleven-thirty pm and Tessy was pacing the apartment, expecting a phone call. Julian had alerted her that he might have some information for her before midnight. She could barely wait.
Kunle was not yet back from work. He had called her earlier to say that he would be attending a business dinner. She hadn’t believed him. Immediately after his call, she’d placed a call through to Julian.
As she’d expected, Julian had risen to the occasion. He instantly called his friend at the Division to intimate him of the window of opportunity that had opened. He also promised to get back to Tessy as soon as possible. That feedback was what she was now eagerly awaiting.
The phone rang and she answered. “Hello Julian, I’ve been waiting.”
She heard his sigh and instantly knew the report was worse than she’d anticipated. “Tell me please, whatever it is; I want to know.” She pleaded. It was better for her to know the worst than to keep on living a lie.
He cleared his throat. “I think you need to sit down my dear, what I have to tell you is quite alarming.” She stamped her foot impatiently and demanded to know what it was. In very succinct words, he told her everything and a little more.
Kunle sauntered in through the front door. He was a different kind of sloshed. It was a miracle that he had driven himself home without an incident. The champagne he had consumed in considerable measure at the party was the sort that kicked in after a while. Frankly, he was wasted.
Tessy sat on the couch. She’d been waiting for him. He blinked several times as if to steady her image in his eye. He grinned sheepishly and drawled, “My princess…” Large arms opened as if to reach out for a hug.
Her usually pretty face became a mask of distaste, he even has the guts to call me by his mistress’ name?, she quizzed rhetorically. She got up from the couch and walked up to him, swung back a hand and gave him a resounding slap on his right cheek. The force of the slap snapped his head sideways. Stunned, he closed his eyes and stars began to beem into his bewildered consciousness. She was far from done. Letting go of the last tenuous bit of restraint she possessed, she dived at him, pounding his chest with her fists. She shouted hysterically as she did so.”You ungrateful bastard! You heartless swine! I hate you, do you hear me? I hate you!”
The assault registered somewhere in his bedazzled mind; What the hell? He tried to catch her hands but she had gone completely rampant. Slapping, punching and even scratching. Ouch! he felt the pain as her fingers tore into the flesh on his neck. Pushing her away roughly, he ran to the bedroom and shut the door quickly. She followed and continued to scream profanities at him as she hit her fists on the mahogany.
Kunle sank to the bed and struggled to clear his mind. Hell’s bells, his head ached. What has come over her? He was confused. What the hell is going on? Why is she behaving like a mad woman? He had absolutely no idea what she was so mad about, all he knew was that she was mad at him for something. For what, he didn’t know.
Tessy turned the lock and pounded the door a few more times in frustration, “Open up, you cheating bastard. Afterall, I’ve done for you; this is how you repay me?” When it was obvious he wasn’t going to answer, she stalked away into the kitchen. She would pick the lock, she decided. It was pretty easy, a skill she’d learnt in high school. She found a small pen knife in one of the kitchen drawers and walked determinedly to the bedroom. In a few minutes, the door was ajar.
Kunle jumped as she burst into the room, she turned on the light and rushed at him waving the knife wildly. He held out both hands and tried to calm her down. “Come on now baby, take it easy. Let’s talk about this.”
“Talk about what? Talk about how you’re cheating on me?” She shouted at him, hair unknotted and flying over her face. The eyes that shot daggers at him were puffy and bloodshot. She’d obviously been crying.
He stepped back and sideways as she took determined steps forward. They were circling each other like a pair of wary combatants. An overwhelming wave of emotion came over her when she spotted what looked like lipstick stain on his left cheek, a strange feeling she didn’t quite understand herself. All she knew was that she hated him at the moment. She hated him with a virulence that almost made her weak in the knees. He continued to plead with her, murmuring soothing words and endearments that were like salt to her wound.
Julian’s words began to resound over and over in her mind. She has been boasting about his prowess in bed. She even told her friends that he asked her to marry him. She’s a high society woman with very powerful connections; Tessy, I’m afraid you might have lost him.
“Nooooo …!” she shouted and flung herself at him.
It happened in a split second, the accident that would impact their lives for years to come. She’d forgotten all about the knife she was holding, until it sank into his chest. His eyes bulged as he looked incredulously downwards. The white of his shirt began to turn crimson beneath his gaze. His hands fell away from her arms.
“Tessy,” he whispered in disbelief. She became calm once she realised what she had done. The knife dropped to the floor. Kunle clutched his chest and staggered a few steps backwards. He struggled to maintain his balance but eventually slumped to the bed. She stood frozen on the spot. Unable to believe the horror that was happening before her eyes.
“Kunle?” she called but he didn’t reply. Her quivering legs moved slowly. She bent over his body and placed both hands on his shoulder. Shaking him gently, she called out again.
Oh my God! Oh my God, He’s not responding! Scrambling out of the room, she ran to call the neighbours.
The evening passed and the morning came, the fifth day.
Princess shared a smoke with her friend in the moonlit garden. They sat on two polished wooden chairs, built by one of the local carpenters. It was a serene atmosphere. The night wind blew the cigarette smoke off their faces, and although the weather was a little cold, both women were content seating next to each other, conversing under the blanket of stars.
They discussed some of the interesting rumours making the rounds on the Abuja social scene and the absurdity of some of the stories. Princess regaled Itohan with tale after tale of the escapades of Abuja’s rich and famous. She left out the stories about herself, and the young man caught in her web; at least not until all the other tittle-tattle subjects were fully exhausted.
Itohan couldn’t stop laughing. Princess was a very good story-teller. She knew how to weave a tale, lacing facts with humour and dramatic exaggerations. They had come a long way together, best of friends since high school. Indeed, Itohan couldn’t remember any time when Princess wasn’t funny. That was one thing they had in common, a robust sense of humour.
Princess spoke amidst her laughter. “You need to live in this town Itohan to appreciate how crazy the people here can be.”
“I can imagine,” Itohan averred, smiling and winking knowingly. Princess leaned back in the chair and took a long puff of her cigarette. She knew Itohan was itching to talk about Kunle, to ask those questions about their relationship that only an intimate friend could ask.
“You can ask you know.” She invited, spotting a twinkle in Itohan’s eyes. The look on her face was like that of a contented cat that had just eaten a very delicious mouse.
“He’s handsome.” Itohan said simply. “More than you described.”
Princess nodded, not bothering to ask who he was. Kunle had the height, broad shoulders and a square jaw that enhanced what she would have otherwise described as boyish good looks. He also carried himself admirably. A moderate talker who blended well at social gatherings.
“I was lucky to find him. He has done a lot to ease things for me around here.”
Itohan gave her a piercing look and said, “Is that emotion I detect in your voice? You haven’t fallen for a man, have you?”
“Of course not,” Princess replied. “Falling for a man is not on my to-do list as you very well know. It’s just that he’s such a deserving boy, I don’t regret taking him under my wings.”
She didn’t. Theirs was a mutually beneficial relationship. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, she thought idly. Itohan observed her friend silently. When she spoke, she couldn’t hide the jealousy in her voice.
“Maybe I ought to find a man of my own. The whole town is buzzing about your affair. It appears being a single girl is no longer in vogue.”
Princess waved off the assertion with one heavily jeweled hand. “That’s not why they’re talking and you know it. People here don’t mind their business. They love to gossip about things that don’t concern them.” She paused for a moment, as if searching for the words with which to put her relationship with Kunle into perspective. “Hanging out with him works for me. Some of my more conservative clients are willing to go the extra mile when they glimpse a man in the picture. Don’t forget, this is Africa. Tradition still plays a major role in the way things are done around here.”
Itohan frowned at that. “It’s a pain isn’t it?” She knew a lot about male chauvinists. They were the type she met every day in her Lagos based real-estate business. A woman was a mere image accessory to such men. All one had to do to unsettle them was to show a little skin, and they quickly mortgaged their wits to satisfy the member in their pants. Using her assets to further her purposes was a skill Itohan had learnt at a very young age; it made for easier negotiations these days.
“It is.” Princess agreed. “A real pain in the neck.”
For all their arrogance, men were predictable creatures. Princess had always been a realist, and as such spared no time for self-deceit. When she realized Kunle’s usefulness, especially in business and on the social scene, she took steps to ensure his continued loyalty. God forbid that she should allow a man use her and dump her – a very frequent occurrence she knew too well.
“From the moment I realized that having Kunle around on a permanent basis was to my advantage, I called Baba in the village. All it cost me was fifty thousand naira. Now he’s my puppet, I own him. Whatever I tell him to do is exactly what he does.”
Itohan nodded. “You have him exactly where you want him.” She pulled some hair away from her face and leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially. “You will need to deal with the wife too; otherwise, she might spoil things for you in the future.”
“Haba Itohan, don’t you trust me again?” Princess chuckled and also lowered her voice.” His wife is a small fry; she won’t be a problem at all. I have already investigated her, both physically and spiritually. She will be out of that house before she can say Jack Robinson.”
“Now you’re talking,” Itohan replied, raising one hand for a high-five. Princess clasped it in mid air. The two women giggled like teenagers. They have been around for some time and they knew just how the game was played. Birds of a feather, always found a way to flock together.
The car was moving very fast, way beyond Tessy’s pre-conceived speed limit but she didn’t mind. In fact, she wished it would move even faster. Kunle’s shirt was already blood soaked and he was yet to regain consciousness since slumping on the bed. From time to time she placed a shaky hand on his chest to be sure his heart was still beating. She also prayed silently.
Their neighbours, Tim and Melissa, sat in front. Tim was driving, moving as fast as he could. Thankfully, very few cars were on the road at that time of the night.
The journey ended at the entrance of Antesy Hospital, the private infirmary where Tessy had given birth to Freddy. Tim parked the car hurriedly and leapt out to open the rear door for Tessy. Melissa ran into the hospital to request for a stretcher while Tessy and Tim tried to lift Kunle out of the car.
Two male night duty nurses accompanied Melissa with a stretcher in tow. They took over and wheeled Kunle directly to the emergency room. Tessy waited in the lobby, fidgeting with wringing hands.
“He’ll be alright,” Melissa said, trying to calm her down. They both looked hastily dressed under the hospital’s bright lights, especially Tessy. Her hair was disheveled and she wore one foot from two different pairs of rubber slippers. She had only a winter jacket on her night wear.
Tim ignored the two women and sat in a corner all by himself. He was boiling over with anger but he refrained from sharing his thoughts to avoid aggravating the situation. How could Tessy stab her own husband? He wondered. She had better pray that Kunle makes it out alive, or else, what started as a domestic spat could end up becoming a murder case. He didn’t believe for a second that the stabbing was an accident as she had claimed.
Several minutes later, the doctor in charge approached them with some forms in his hand. He addressed Tessy and told her that Kunle was being prepared for surgery. In the mean time, she needed to fill the forms as his wife and next of kin. Tessy walked forward with shaky legs and asked the doctor if her husband was going to be alright.
The young doctor promised her that the medical team would do their best. She placed her hands over her face, broke down and began to weep. Melissa rushed over to offer some comfort. Looking away unnervingly, the doctor left the papers with Tim and quickly excused himself.
Julian could not sleep. His conscience kept him awake. He stared at the ceiling above his bed and kept watch till daybreak. His intention was to put a call through to Tessy as soon as it was morning. He wanted to caution her not to do anything stupid. Women are very temperamental, and their emotions often get the better of them, he thought musingly. He had known it would come to this, from the time he heard that Tessy quit her job, a very lucrative one at that.
That Kunle is a stupid man, Julian surmised. Doesn’t he know that an idle woman is the devil’s workshop? A busy wife won’t have time to be monitoring her husband up and down. She’ll be too tired from combining her career with her duties in the home to notice anything else.
He considered the other woman, Princess. She was one of those loose and promiscuous society women who befriended politicians and excessively rich men. Julian knew a lot about such women, there were a couple of them within his extended family too. He wondered what a woman of her calibre wanted with a man like Kunle. That boy wey no get anything, he thought unkindly. Granted, he was tall and handsome; but women like Princess didn’t survive on handsome. She must be interested in him for some other reason. The more he thought about it, the more he concluded that there was more going on between the two than met the eye. He started wishing he had investigated a little further before giving Tessy the news.
I just hope she hasn’t done anything foolish; he thought, as the elusive sleep took a hold of him.
The evening passed and the morning came, the sixth day.
Tessy knelt on the cold hard floor of the hospital chapel and muttered a desperate prayer for divine intervention.
The nurses had just wheeled Kunle into the theatre for the second time in less than twelve hours. The first operation, deemed successful by the attending surgeon, had caused her to heave a sigh of relief. While Kunle remained under observation in the recovery room, she had gone home for a quick bath and a change of clothing.
When she returned to the hospital, one of the nurses informed her that a post-op scan had shown some signs of internal bleeding and that Kunle was back in surgery.
Tessy was devastated.
She became extremely jittery that the wound inflicted by the knife may eventually turn out to be fatal. She was terrified, and not just for Kunle’s life. Something kept whispering into her ears that she could lose her freedom if he eventually died.
No one would care about the fight, or the fact that he had cheated on her. All that would matter to everyone, especially the Police and the Court, is that she killed her husband and she could eventually end up in jail.
The petite chapel stood just behind the main hospital building. There were a few people seated on the pews. Tessy had ignored them as she entered and walked straight to the altar. She had sunk to her knees helplessly, and had begun muttering a prayer to God. The mere thought of possibly becoming a widow seemed to summon all her long forgotten scriptural verses. With trembling lips, she bargained with God; pleading for forgiveness and mercy. She also promised never to respond in anger again if only God would spare her husband’s life.
Such was the intensity of her supplications that she hardly noticed as time passed. Tears streamed down her eyes and met with mucus from her nose, into her mouth. Never had she felt so terrified in her life. Oh God, please, please, please… she muttered repeatedly.
Julian stared dumbstruck at the woman in front of him. They were having lunch at an upscale restaurant in Abuja’s Central Business District. The woman was his distant cousin, as well as the mistress of a very influential minister in the Federal cabinet. He had tried to get a hold of Tessy in the morning to seek her consent to dig a little deeper into the details of her husband’s affair with Princess. He didn’t want her to take any drastic steps before he was able to shed more light on the issue. Curiously, Tessy was not picking her calls; so he’d decided to forge ahead with a little sleuthing on his own.
Pamela was vivacious; the type of woman who instantly became the life and soul of any party she was invited to. She was also an irreverent gossip, totally incapable of keeping a secret, even her own. She had the dirt on who is who on the Abuja social scene. If anyone would know the truth about Princess, it had to be Pamela.
And she did not disappoint. Pamela knew Princess, and knew her well. Julian could not believe the words she had just spoken into his hearing while she seemed amused by his incredulity. The mocking gleam in her eyes contrasted with the slight smile on her lips. Being very much aware of Julian’s fixation with Tessy, she knew the importance of the information she was giving him. She leaned back into her seat and took a sip of her glass of sherry.
“It’s not that uncommon Julian,” she said, returning the glass to the table top. “There’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors. If I tell you some of the other people I know that are involved, you’ll be amazed.”
Julian narrowed his eyes and observed her silently for a bit. When he spoke, his question was direct. “What about you Pamela, are you involved as well?”
She shrugged and gave him a smile that was lacking in shame. “Of course dear, how do you think I know for a fact? It’s not just a rumour, I’m dead sure.”
“Well, this was not what I expected to hear; but all the same, thanks a lot Pamela,” he said. “You have always been a very reliable source.”
She bobbed playfully to acknowledge the compliment and then steered the conversation to less delicate subjects. Julian said little, content to let her carry on with the chatter. His mind was distant; there was so much he needed to think about. He had to speak to Tessy.
Tim and Melissa dropped by later in the evening to see how Kunle was recuperating. Tessy told them exactly what the doctor had told her, that Kunle was in the recovery room and in no position to receive visitors. Tim was skeptical about the information but he wisely kept mute. He felt that there was no reason why a wife should be prevented from seeing her husband, if the operation had truly been successful.
Melissa encouraged Tessy with soothing words and scriptural quotes while Tim went in search of the Doctor. She complained about Tessy’s puffy eyes and warned the other woman against making herself sick with too much weeping. Tessy was grateful for Melissa’s support and understanding throughout the ordeal. She now knew the importance of being friendly towards her neighbors.
Melissa asked Tessy if they could pray. Tessy sat up and held out her hands almost instantly. Right there and then, the two women held hands in the visitors lobby and began to pray for Kunle’s speedy recovery. They also asked God to intervene in the couple’s marriage and bring the necessary healing. Tessy’s amen was very desperate; there was nothing she needed more than divine intervention.
Tim returned and took a seat on his favored bench at the corner. His brief meeting with the Doctor had yielded no different result – Kunle was recuperating after an important surgery. There was nothing left to do but wait.
Princess was not prepared for the sight that awaited her when she returned home the evening after her sister’s wedding anniversary party. Earlier in the day, she had driven Itohan to the airport to catch a flight back to Lagos.
She frowned strenuously as the security personnel who stayed at the gate of her house told her that the tree in her neighbour’s compound had inexplicably fallen over her fence while an erstwhile branch had also crashed into her bedroom window in the process. Princess was fuming as she entered the house to assess the damage.
It wasn’t much, she decided. The window glass was shattered and her favourite wall clock which she hung on a nail near the window had also fallen to the floor, leaving the transparent glass face broken. Princess was about to beckon to her house maid to come and clean up the mess when she remembered the effigy, Kunle’s dummy which she had collected from Baba in the village.
The figurine served as a form of remote control. It was what ensured that Kunle would always succumb to her will. Baba had warned that the rope tied to the neck must never be untied, otherwise; the charm would immediately become impotent. While thinking of a place to hide it, she had remembered the hole at the back of the wall clock.
It seemed a safe place where no one could ever stumble upon it. Even Enobong, her house help, would never think of moving the clock when cleaning. Princess moved further into the room and shut the door. She tip-toed towards the splatter of wood and glass and peered at the floor, trying to locate the object. There it was, flung aside from the rest of the clutter.
“No!” she gasped when she saw the state it was in. Not only had the rope removed, the small wooden sculpture had broken into two almost equal halves. Dazed, she sank to her knees and placed her hands on her head.
My God, the juju is destroyed!!!
Tim and Melissa had just taken their leave before one of the nurses informed Tessy that Kunle was awake and she could go in to see him. Tessy was extremely relieved. She walked tentatively into the room. Kunle was propped on the bed dressed in the white gown reserved for patients. Tessy paused at the foot of the bed and waited. They looked at each other silently for a while.
Kunle motioned for her to sit. He looked thin and gaunt. He still felt very weak and groggy. The puffiness of Tessy’s eyes told him that she’d been crying, he was filled with inexplicable sorrow. Swallowing hard, he tried to speak.
“Shush”, Tessy said quickly, moving to place two fingers across his lips. She sat down beside him and said, “Let me go first. You don’t talk if you don’t feel up to it.”
“I’m okay,” he replied hoarsely. “I can talk.” She nodded and looked down at her hands. The tears had formed in her eyes again and she struggled to blink them away.
Sniffing, she said, “I’m sorry Kunle. I didn’t mean to stab you … please believe me, I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Her eyes pleaded with his for forgiveness. He closed his eyes tightly and sighed. When he opened them again, they were devoid of malice. He lifted one weak hand and rested it on her shoulder. The battle was finally over.
“Whatever you did Tessy, you did out of hurt. I hurt you and I’m sorry.”
He blinked back a tear of his own and continued, “I was wrong. Every time you came to me and I pushed you away, I was wrong. I don’t even know why I did; I just wasn’t interested in making love to you anymore.”
“I know,” she sobbed, wiping her tears with the sleeve of one hand. “You stopped loving me.”
“Never!” he denied vehemently. “I have never stopped loving you Tessy. Don’t you know you’re my heartbeat?”
“Then why Kunle?” she wanted to know. “Why did you cheat on me? Why was I no longer good enough for you?”
He shook his head and looked deeply into her eyes while his begged for her understanding. “I have never cheated on you Tessy. It’s true that I’ve been tempted a few times but I have never followed through. It was everything. Your complaints … about the house work, about your career … it was becoming a little too much for me to handle.”
“And so you pushed me away?” her eyes accused, while her mind struggled to come to terms with his declaration that he had never cheated on her. What about the revelations from Julian?
“I can’t explain it. Do you remember the very first argument we had over two months ago? The first time I stormed out of the house and slept in a hotel?”
Tessy shuddered as she remembered. That day, she’d cried herself to sleep. She nodded, while he continued. “That was the night it started. My pride could not accept that you were not satisfied with everything I was able to provide. Instead of seating down to discuss the issue with you so we could iron things out, I decided to punish you by withholding sex from you. I figured I would do it for a few days and then you would learn never to argue with me again. I didn’t realise it would create such a wedge between us or that we would constantly be at each other’s throat.”
Tessy smiled. “My mum has always warned me never to allow a week to pass by without making love to my husband. She said it brings couples closer,” she said, with a shy smile.
“She’s right,” Kunle agreed. “But I wasn’t getting it from anywhere else as you thought. I just…” Sighing heavily, he said, “… I don’t know sweetheart, I’m just so sorry,” and then coughed slightly.
“I’m sorry too,” she answered, rubbing his chest and lifting his feeble hand to her lips. She wasn’t sure if she believed him because everything that Julian told her was still resounding at the back of her mind. However, he was still very weak and she didn’t want to distress him.
“Your eyes are already closing. Go back to sleep dear, we’ll talk when you wake up later.”
He squeezed her fingers gratefully, Tessy watched as he fell asleep. It was then she remembered that she had heard a beep from her phone earlier. Rummaging through her small purse, she brought out the device. Thirteen missed calls. Julian. She contemplated ignoring it. She seemed to be on the way to mending the breach in her marriage and she wasn’t sure maintaining contact with Julian was going to help the process along. While she was still deliberating, her phone vibrated again and then she picked the call.
“Hello,” she said and got to her feet. She stepped outside Kunle’s hospital room and shut the door. Julian had obviously been worried about her, he sounded frantic.
“For God’s sake Tessy, why haven’t you been picking your calls? I hope you’re okay?”
“Yes, I am. Thanks for caring.”
He continued talking. “Dearest, there’s something I need to tell you. Things are not as we thought.”
“Really?” she asked, widening her eyes. “How do you mean? Is it pertaining to Kunle?”
“Yes it is. I don’t think your husband and Princess are having an affair; I just heard from a reliable source…”
“Heard what?” Tessy interrupted. She was beginning to have the horrible feeling that she’d gotten it all wrong. In which case, everything she had done was still fresh on her mind…
“Tessy, Princess is a lesbian! That’s what my source told me. She has been using Kunle as a cover-up because of her links to the Presidency. Imagine the scandal if it became public knowledge that a member of the President’s family is an homosexual. I even learnt she has a steady lover, another woman named Itohan …”
Oh my God! Tessy felt weak in theknees. Hurriedly, she severed the connection; unable to listen anymore. Like a horrible dream she remembered the day she had visited Julian in his house. I almost cheated on my husband and it would have been all for nothing.
Shame suffused her being as she recalled that Julian had already begun touching her before she realised she could not go through with it. She had pleaded for his understanding and patience, which he had given reluctantly.
I almost cheated on Kunle and I almost killed him; I’m such a horrible person, she thought as she stepped back into the room. As if sensing the importance of the moment, Kunle opened his eyes and their gazes locked. Unable to bear the burden of her conscience, Tessy burst into a fresh wave of tears and made a long confession.
Kunle listened quietly and decided it was time to come clean as well. He wasn’t completely guiltless. Succinctly, he told her about Princess and the deal he had with her.
“She was never interested in me as a lover,” he explained. “All she wanted was a front for her affair with Itohan.”
“You see, people were already beginning to gossip about her, because some of her past workers who knew her secrets and who had an axe to grind with her were spreading the gist. She felt she needed to debunk the rumours by getting involved in an affair that would set tongues wagging in the direction she wanted.”
Going on he said, “I agreed to act in that capacity because she promised to open up doors for me in business, a promise she has delivered on. I am now a rich man, Tessy.”
“I see,” she said ruefully, brows furrowed in thought. Everything seemed so paltry in comparison to the trauma she had gone through within the last twenty-four hours. She recalled how she had almost killed her husband in anger and destroyed her marriage with her own hands. If Kunle was willing to forgive the past, then she was ready too.
He watched the play of emotions on her face and motioned for her to move closer. “Come here, lie with me.”
She kicked off her sandals and lay beside him on the bed. He traced the tip of her nose with one finger.
“You are my wife and I love you very much. I forgive you for everything you have done that hurt me and I ask you to forgive me too. Can you do that Tessy?”
She nodded tearfully. “I love you Kunle and I forgive you too. I just want us to be a family again. You, me and Freddy.”
“And so we are darling,” he said hoarsely, running a hand through her hair. “So we are.”
The evening passed and the morning came, the last day.
Follow me @tee_hidee on twitter.
Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.