The maid paced up and down the small room like a leopard looking for the perfect moment to pounce on a prey. Her boy friend sat on the edge of the bed wondering what was going on.
She stopped in front of him. Her hips mere inches away from his face.
“Kalu, do you love me?” She asked and moved forward. The young man swallowed hard but was silent.
“Answer me! Do you love me?”
“Is that why you asked me to come here this evening to ask me this stupid question? I have better things to do tonight.” He tried to get up from the bed but Yemi pushed him back.
“Kalu, I said, do you love me?”
He thought for a few seconds before he opened his mouth. “You know how I feel about you, baby.”
The maid sat down on his legs and caressed his face. Kalu smiled. Tonight was his lucky night. He put his hand on her thigh. The maid let him.
“If you really care about me, you will help me.”
“I will do anything for you baby,” he said with lust in his eyes. “Absolutely anything,” he licked his lips.
“I want you to make a phone call,” the maid said.
“That’s no problem,” Kalu said.
“Listen carefully.” The maid told him exactly what to say.
In the master bedroom of her best friend, Ngozi sat up in bed and sipped some champagne with satisfaction on her face. The sound of running water came from the bathroom where Gbenga took a shower. A few minutes ago she called Shade and told her that everything would be okay.
“I am praying for you,” she lied. “Things will be back to normal between you and your…you and Gbenga.” She just couldn’t bring herself to say that word.
“Thank you Ngozi. God bless you for being my friend,” Shade said in a teary voice.
“What are friends for?” Ngozi asked as she took off her shoes and lay on her friend’s bed. In a moment, her plan would be complete: Gbenga would hold her in his strong arms and make love to her. No other woman was going to have Gbenga even if that woman was her best friend.
While Shade pursued corporate success, Ngozi took over her husband and her home. Ngozi encouraged Shade to go for more and more certifications. Some of them were completely worthless but Shade wanted more power in the corporate world and Ngozi knew how to feed that lust in her. New York today, Sidney Australia tomorrow. Shade was always on the move. If the office work didn’t keep her away from her husband, her senseless corporate travels did.
While Shade was away in pursuit of success, Ngozi took the opportunity to get close to Gbenga. Ngozi found it difficult to maintain a relationship. Men misunderstood her strength and called her ‘pushy’, ‘bossy,’ and ‘aggressive.’ But Gbenga liked her. First as his wife’s friend, then as a friend. One day he said in passing that she was a strong woman, the kind of woman that would make ‘a good wife’ to some lucky guy. That was all the encouragement needed and she began to hatch a plan.
Ngozi’s late father was a crooked politician who enriched himself by stealing from public funds. He left a huge inheritance for his family and Ngozi spent her’s on who and whatever she liked. And she liked Gbenga Philips. It also helped her plan that Gbenga lived above his means and his advertising firm was running out of money.
Ngozi offered him help.
“I will loan you some money to help you out. You can pay me the money whenever you can, as long as you don’t tell Shade about it.”
“What do you mean by that?” Gbenga asked.
“This transaction will remain a secret between us. The day you tell your wife, you will pay me all my money, whether you have it or not.” Ngozi warned him.
“I am a married man. I can’t do this! My wife has to know what I am doing, especially if it is with her best friend.” He protested.
“Does she also need to know how you squandered the profits from your business on frivolities?” Ngozi asked and reached into her Gucci handbag.
When he saw the first cheque of $70,000, it silenced all his feeble protests.
“And there’s a lot more from where that came from,” Ngozi said.After that day he became more receptive to her. He never told Shade about it.
“Soon, I will be Mrs Philips,” she raised the glass to her lips. The door to the bathroom opened and Gbenga entered the room in his bathrobe. Ngozi set down the glass of champagne by the bedside table, got out of bed and allowed her robe to fall from her shoulders, revealing light skin, a priceless gift she inherited from her Swedish mother.
Her eyes raged with lust as she walked towards Gbenga. Deliberately. Slowly.
Gbenga stood transfixed to the spot, hypnotised, like a rabbit about to be devoured by a king cobra.
Shade knelt by the bedside of the luxury room she took at The Radisson Blu hotel and tried to pray. For the past year she could count the number of times on her right hand when she had said a prayer. She was always on the move, sorting out issues for her bank and attending power conferences abroad. She knew a lot of people but none of those people could help her now.
“O Lord,” she tried to pray but the words refused to form in her mouth. The truth was that she had forgotten how to pray. She had moved away from her spiritual centre and embraced the emptiness of corporate success.
“O Lord,” she tried again, but the words refused to come. She made a lot of money on her job but that money couldn’t help her now. If she lost her husband and family, she would have lost everything.
“O Lord, help me,” she cried.
Shade’s heart was heavy not only because of what Gbenga had done but also because of what happened seven weeks ago. Perhaps God was punishing her for her misdeeds. She was in Milan for a meeting. There she met Roberto Alvini, an Italian business man. She was swayed by his words and personality. The brief time they spent together had been magical. How could she have allowed that to happen?
Her phone rang and disconnected her mind from her tormenting thoughts. She ignored it but it kept ringing. She stood up and answered the call.
“Mrs Philips?” it was a male voice with a thick Igbo accent.
“Yes, who is this?”
“I am a friend. Do you want to save your marriage?”
“How did you get this number?
“Do you want to save your marriage?” the caller asked again.
“How do you know about my marriage?” Shade’s voice shook. “Who is this?”
“I want to help you,” the voice said.
“If you don’t get off this phone right now, I will call the police and…”
“Listen to me before it is too late!” the harsh voice commanded. ” Do you want to save your marriage?”
“What is there to save?” she said with resignation. “It was my husband who created this problem.”
“There’s a lot going on that you know nothing about. Mrs Philips, you have been deceived.”
“Deceived? How?” Shade asked.
“Your husband was never involved with the maid. He never touched her. You were made to believe a lie.”
“But, he did,” Shade said.
“You were set up. Things are not what they seem.”
Shade’s legs became weak and she sat down on the bed. “Set up by who?” She asked with trepidation not wanting to hear the answer to her question.
“Right now as we speak, the woman who set you up is with your husband.”
“Is this a joke?”she asked with trembling voice.
“And her game plan is to become Mrs Philips.”
“What?!” Shade shouted.
“I will be in touch.”
The phone went dead.
Shade’s hands trembled slightly as she looked at the silent phone with fear.
Her world was falling apart.
“Do you think she believed you?” The maid took the phone from her boyfriend.
“How am I supposed to know that?”
“I never knew you were such a good actor.”
Kalu pulled her into his embrace.
“I have told you to stop acting like a trader when you are with me. Don’t rush me.” She pulled away from him.
“Who is a trader?” He asked.
The maid ignored him. She scrolled on her phone until she found a number.
“Right now, there is a woman upstairs trying to steal my boss from his wife, but we are not going to let that happen, are we?”
“What’s in it for me?” Kalu frowned.
The maid rummaged in her bag and brought out some dollars. She threw the money on the bed. Kalu’s eyes lit up like a false prophet making spiritual consultations for a rich but barren woman, desperate to have a child.
“Where did you get this money from?” Kalu asked.
“That’s not important.” The maid put the bag on the floor. “And there’s more from where that came from.”
Kalu reached for the money.
He counted it, his fingers accustomed to counting large sums of money in his master’s electronic store in Alaba market. He folded the notes neatly and kept them in his pocket. Yemi stood before him as she did previously, trying to seduce him.
But it was unnecessary.
She already had his full attention.
He sat up straight. Gone was the lust in his eyes. It had been replaced by cold greed.
“What do you want me to do?” He asked the maid.
To be continued…