As the sea breeze blew gently against her face, she licked her dry lips and tasted the salt that had crystallised on it. Her feet sank in the sand as she walked along the shore, watching revellers and swimmers dare the waves of the great Atlantic Ocean. The thoughts on her mind seemed to make her sink deeper into the sand with each step she took.
Shade tried to make sense of all that had happened since the previous day. Her maid Yemi, was pregnant for her husband and probably wanted to use that pregnancy to blackmail him for some huge amount of money or tie him down. Her friend Ngozi was determined to get married to Gbenga her husband by all means. She was ready to do anything to make it happen, and that included hurting her. But how could her best friend do this to her? She trusted Ngozi with her family and she turned around to betray her. Ngozi said Gbenga no longer felt anything for her. Was she telling the truth or was she trying to push her away from Gbenga? Had Ngozi really slept with her husband or was this a plan to get her to abandon her marriage and her home?
She walked past a group of ladies and young men dancing to loud music. She hastened her steps to distance herself from them. Looking at them reminded her of how she had wasted her life at different clubs and parties in order to be connected to the right people in the right business circles, but it had brought her nothing but pain.
A woman broke out of the group, took off her shades and looked at Shade.
“Shade, is that you?”
She kept walking, pretending not to hear the person who called her. She didn’t want to talk to anyone
“Shade, it is me Chioma. Are you okay?”
Shade stopped and turned around. She recognised Ngozi’s sister. “I didn’t realise it was you.”
Chioma took one look at Shade’s face and knew she wasn’t okay. She held her hand and stirred her in the direction of an empty beach hut. Michael materialised from nowhere and stood outside keeping watch over them like a sentinel.
“I saw Ngozi this morning with some legal papers. I think she’s back to her old ways.”
Shade held her head in her hands and started weeping. Chioma sat in silence.
“Chioma, I have failed my husband. Ngozi wants Gbenga. She can have him. I have no more strength in me to fight. I can’t do this anymore.”
“No, she won’t have him! Gbenga is your husband. You should return to him and apologise for whatever you did. Beg for his forgiveness. He still loves you. He will find it in his heart to forgive you.”
“Hmmm,” Shade exhaled. “You don’t understand what I have done. Right now I am pregnant for a man I never want to see again in my life. I made a terrible mistake and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
The sounds of the waves filtered into the hut.
“I abandoned my marriage because of the pursuit of money, but now money cannot restore this broken marriage.”
“But God can restore it,” Chioma said.
“He can?” Shade took the handkerchief Chioma offered and wiped her tears.
“Yes, He can. You should go back to your husband and fight for your marriage. You shouldn’t give up because you made some mistakes.”
“I have made a lot of them. I think trusting Ngozi with my husband was the biggest one.”
“No, it wasn’t.” Chioma said. “No woman can steal your husband from you if you are united in agreement with him.”
“You mean it’s not too late and I can get him back?” Shade asked.
“I think you can. You should go back to your home and talk with your husband. That is the place to be right now.”
Shade lowered her head in shame. “Chioma, I feel so terrible in my heart.”
Chioma put a hand on Shade’s shoulder.”I understand how you feel.”
Shade lifted up her head. “Do you really understand? I had Tola out of wedlock. I thought my life was over but God gave me a second chance with Gbenga and look at what I did with it.” She stood up. “God has been trying to get my attention but I was too stubborn to listen. Yesterday morning, I discovered that my maid was pregnant for my husband.”
“Your maid is pregnant? Did you take her for some tests to make sure she wasn’t faking it?” Chioma asked.
Shade shook her head. “I didn’t. Rather I carried my bag and left my home in anger. I was so arrogant. My foolish pride got the better of me and I thought I was better than my husband. But I am not. God was trying to tell me something deeper than that. He was telling me that Gbenga was lost and needed my help, but all I was interested in was myself. I never thought for once that I had driven my husband into the the hands of a strange woman.”
“Your husband is at home waiting for you. He is not with a strange woman,” Chioma said.
“Even after I discovered I was pregnant for another man, I still wasn’t listening. I wanted to punish my husband for sleeping with the maid. But the maid was the least of my problems. My husband was in a relationship with my best friend but I couldn’t see it. And it was right in front of my eyes for over a year!” Shade said.
“I will tell Gbenga to go ahead and marry Ngozi if that will make him happy.”
Chioma stood up with her. “Shade, this is madness! You are not thinking straight. Please don’t talk like that. You are not in a good place emotionally to make such a decision,” she cautioned.
Shade continued talking like a woman having an out of body spiritual experience. “I will confess my misdeeds to Gbenga and tell him that I am not fit to be his wife. He should do whatever he wants with Ngozi and the maid. I will accept it as my lot in life.”
Chioma grabbed her by the shoulders and looked in her glazed eyes. “You will do no such thing! You are going to remain calm until we figure out what to do.”
Shade looked at Chioma like a teacher trying to explain the laws of atomic physics to a ten year old. “Chioma, this is not your battle, it is mine. I created this and I will fix it. I am done running away from my responsibilities.”
“Don’t give up. There is still hope for your marriage.” Chioma said.
“There is no hope for me. I will accept the punishment for my sins. Ngozi is merely a tool in the hands of God to serve me judgment.” Shade stepped out of the hut into the light of the setting sun. It had been over twenty four hours since she left her home yesterday afternoon. Now she was returning to Gbenga to ask him to do whatever he pleased.
Her fate was in God’s hands.
Yemi entered the house and hurried to her apartment tucked in the back of the house. She slipped out of her clothes and entered under the shower. The afternoon would have been ruined by Kalu’s unexpected at the hotel. He was drunk and demanded that Yemi should return home with him. When Segun saw what was going on, he immediately called for security who escorted Kalu out of the premises.
“She’s mine! You can never have her!” The spare parts dealer from Alaba market shouted as he struggled with four security men who had been warned by Segun not to rough handle him, no matter the provocation.
“I am so sorry for Kalu’s behaviour,” Yemi apologised.
“I don’t blame him. A man who will not stand up for you is not fit to be your husband.” Segun said.
She liked Kalu but she he wasn’t ready for a serious relationship that would lead to marriage.
She changed her clothes and headed for the main house to do some work in the kitchen, and if her madam wasn’t back, to prepare dinner for Gbenga. She opened the back door and stopped when she saw the person in the kitchen.
“Come in. I have been waiting for you,” Gbenga said.
“Good evening sir,” the maid genuflected. She entered the kitchen with trepidation like a wild animal at the mercy of an angry hunter with a dane gun.
He moved closer, and Yemi took a step back, not knowing what he wanted to do to her this time. The morning incidence was still very fresh in her mind.
“I am sorry for what happened this morning.” Gbenga started, his voice reconciliatory.
Yemi wondered where he was headed with this conversation. Was he now ready to accept the pregnancy as his own?
“I should never have touched you, no matter the provocation.”
Yemi looked down at the kitchen floor and was silent. She allowed him to say what was on his mind. This morning she almost ruined her opportunity to marry him by talking out of line. She won’t repeat that mistake.
Gbenga moved closer to her and held her in his arms. “I promise you Yemi, I will take good care of you and your baby…our baby.”
Yemi leaned into him and reciprocated the hug. Her dream was becoming a reality. Soon she will be Mrs Philips. All she had to do was get rid of Ngozi and she would have Gbenga all to herself.
The kitchen door opened and mama entered. When they saw her, they separated from their embrace and Yemi genuflected. “Good evening ma,” she greeted the matriarch of the Philips family.
Mama ignored her greeting. Her eyes were cold and set on the maid. “Gbenga, please leave us.”
Gbenga hesitated. He looked at mama’s face and knew that something bad was about to happen.
“Leave us now!” mama ordered.
Gbenga knew better than to argue with his mother. He left the kitchen.
Mama pulled a chair from the corner and sat down. She regarded Yemi in silence for a few seconds. “I know women like you, calculating and desperate. I can tell that you are ambitious and would do almost anything to become a member of this family. I don’t know what you are up to and I really don’t care. Gbenga is my only son and he is very important to me. I will do all I can to protect him from women who seek to take advantage of him. I am going to ask you one question and your answer will determine what happens to you in this family,” she paused, her eyes never leaving the maid who leaned against a kitchen table. Mama continued, “Yemi, who is the owner of that baby in your womb?” The matriarch of the Philips family asked, regarding the maid with suspicion.
For the second time that day the maid felt real fear. She knew the old woman would throw her out of the house if she discovered the truth about the child she carried in her womb. This pregnancy was her passport to riches and she was going to use it to manipulate and take advantage of this family. Yemi vowed that no matter the pressure she faced from mama, she would never reveal the truth about the pregnancy.
To be continued.