Ngozi’s scent wafted into the room, menacing, an abominable stench defiling the sanctity of their bedroom.
Sweat trickled down the side of Gbenga’s guilt ridden face. He didn’t want to be in the middle of this. He glanced at Ngozi who stood at the door like a sentinel, afraid for what she might do, because she could be so unpredictable.
“Answer me!” Shade shouted at her husband who took two steps back and realised that he had nowhere to go. “Why is she in my home? Do you realise that this woman wanted to kill me today?” Shade said, pointing at Ngozi.
“Leave him alone,” Ngozi said calmly. “Look at how you shout at your husband like an uncouth market woman. And if I wanted you dead, you won’t be standing there shouting like a mad dog.”
“What?” Shade turned to Ngozi.
Ngozi entered the room. ” I don’t know how you got this man, but you don’t deserve him, you really don’t. When you are home you nag and hound him relentlessly. The only time he has any peace is when you go on your frivolous trips.”
“I nag him? Is that the lie he told you to get into your pants?” Shade asked.
“He didn’t lie to get into my pants. He didn’t have to. It was a pleasure to give myself to him and rescue him from your wicked hands.”
“My wicked hands?”
“Shade, you don’t deserve Gbenga. He is too good for you. Only God knows the unfortunate wind that blew him into your hands.”
Shade shook her head. “No, no, no! I can’t believe I am hearing this from a woman who is supposed to be my best friend. You were supposed to be on my side.”
Ngozi stood beside Gbenga. “I was on your side, defending you, giving excuses for your life until he broke down one day and poured out his heart to me. That was when I realised that he didn’t belong to you. And like I told you before, I reached out and comforted him,” she smiled.
Gbenga tried to hold her back. “Please, don’t make this worse than it already is.”
She shook off his hand. “You frustrated Gbenga and he became despondent. Look at what has become of your husband. He is a shadow of his former self,” she accused Shade.
Shade looked at her husband and his mistress. “This cannot be happening in my home!”
“You call this your home? This has been our home for almost a year. You never wanted to make it your home. It was like one of your five star hotel accommodation at your travel destinations. You came and went as you pleased.” Ngozi moved closer to her. “Did you even notice the changes in this house? Did you notice that the kitchen was changed to suit my taste?”
“I thought Gbenga did it to surprise me. I thanked him for it.” Shade said in a shaky voice.
“You are so pathetic. And did you notice the changes in the bathroom?”
Shade’s face fell. “Gbenga said…he did it for me.”
“Well, he didn’t! I did that for me. Should I continue?”
Shade lost all the fight in her. Tears started running down her face. A movie played in her head and she saw all the changes that had taken place in her home. She remembered the red sofa she found in the sitting room when she returned from Germany. It was odd in the sitting room but she overlooked it. When she saw the African paintings on the walls, she should have suspected that something was wrong. Gbenga couldn’t appreciate art even if his life depended on it. She had been such a fool.
“So you see,” Ngozi continued. “This ceased to be your home a long time ago.”
“Gbenga, you betrayed me.” Shade wept. “You betrayed our marriage because of this slut!”
“I am sorry…” Gbenga started.
“No he didn’t betray your marriage, you did.” Ngozi pointed at Shade. “Where were you when he needed to pour out his heart to his wife, to spend time with you as he ought to? Where were you when his business was dying and he asked for your help? I heard you told him some New Age nonsense. Where were you Shade? You are the one who betrayed this marriage, not Gbenga.”
Ngozi looked at Gbenga. “Should I tell her or will you do it?”
Shade turned to Gbenga. “Tell me what?”
Gbenga was silent.
Ngozi smiled. “We are getting married. All arrangements have been made. The traditional wedding takes place in eight weeks. Just in time for valentine,” She smiled.
Shade was beside herself. “You are planning to get married to my husband and you had tea with me yesterday morning as if you are the best friend in the world? Ngozi, you are nothing but a dangerous snake!”
“You can call me whatever you like. Being a snake is not really as bad as it sounds. I get what I want and you can keep your lousy job.”
“I have been so blind. Why didn’t I see that you were jealous of me and my success? You were jealous of my happiness with Gbenga.”
“We weren’t really happy,” Gbenga corrected her.
“Will you shut up!” Shade snapped at him. Gbenga retracted like a snail into its shell.
“You see the reason why you can’t be his wife? You have no manners.” Ngozi shook her head in disgust. “You disrespect your husband at every opportunity you get. You should be ashamed of yourself. You don’t even know how to talk to him with respect. How on earth did you plan to keep him as your husband, by buying him expensive clothes and shoes from your journeys? He doesn’t need those material things. He needs a wife and I will be that wife.”
Shade bowed her head like a boxer who had just lost a title fight and conceded defeat. This was the end of her marriage. “Lord, I am sorry for all my mistakes. Please help me, help me,” she muttered a weak prayer.
“Gbenga, has she told you about her boyfriend, an Italian named Roberto?” Ngozi looked at Shade’s face clouded with guilt. “She hasn’t? That means she hasn’t told you that she’s carrying a bastard in her womb!”
“What?!” Gbenga shouted. “You are pregnant for another man? Shade, how dare you!”
Shade lifted her head. “At least now I know that I can have children.”
Ngozi grabbed Gbenga’s hand. “Let’s get out of here or we will be late for the party. And Shade, make sure you and your bastard are out of this house by the time we return.” They turned and headed for the door.
Shade rushed to her side of the wardrobe, brought out a green bag and took out a small metallic object. Her hands shook as she raised it up.
“You are not going anywhere!” Shade shouted.
Ngozi and Gbenga turned around slowly.
Shade stood trembling with rage. In her hand was a gun which she pointed at her husband and his mistress.
Gbenga’s eyes bulged with fear as he looked at the gun in his wife’s hand. “Where…where did you get that from?” he asked. “Shade, answer me! You brought a weapon into our home? What is going on? What kind of woman have you become?”
Ngozi dropped Gbenga’s hand. “Shade, I can see you have learned a lot from your criminal boyfriend in Italy. Now you carry a gun in your bag? No wonder your husband wants to leave you. You are such a violent woman. Is that thing loaded?” Ngozi smirked. “What do you plan to do with that, shoot me?” she asked.
“Ngozi, I won’t allow you to ruin my life.” Shade waved the gun at Ngozi. “You want to steal my husband and ruin my life. I won’t let you do that to me. I won’t!”
Gbenga held his hands open and walked slowly towards her. “Shade, please put that gun down before you do something you will regret.” As he spoke, he saw Ngozi inch closer to Shade.
“I will do no such thing. I had rather die than allow this woman destroy my home.”
Ngozi moved closer to Shade, her eyes on the gun. “Shade, you ruined your life without my help. You chose to abandon your marriage for high class travel or is it high class prostitution?”
“You are the prostitute!” Shade shouted at her.
“I never told you I was a saint,” Ngozi smiled. “But you on the other hand pretended to be better than the rest of us. From the look of things, you seem to be just like us, even worse.
“Honey, please put the gun down so we can talk this over without violence,” Gbenga pleaded with fear in his eyes.
Shade pointed the gun at Ngozi. “You will leave my home and never return. Tonight is the last time you will step into my home”
“And you think threatening me with a gun will make me give up Gbenga?” Ngozi asked. “Our love cannot be threatened by a gun.”
“Ngozi, you call this love? You are a home wrecker but you won’t destroy my marriage.”
“But it is too late for you, can’t you see? Gbenga doesn’t want you. He doesn’t love you anymore,” she said with spite.
Her words stung Shade to her soul. She turned away from Ngozi and waved the gun at Gbenga, “You and your whore want to ruin my life and I should sit back and watch you do it? I am going to end this now.”
Ngozi took her chance, dropped her bag and jumped for the gun, but Shade had a strong grip and refused to let go of the instrument of death.
Gbenga stood petrified and watched as the women struggled for the gun like two hyenas fighting for a bone from the decaying carcass of a dead buffalo. They threw themselves against the wardrobe, bounced of the wall but they still held on tightly to the gun. In the struggle Ngozi’s shoes came off. They struggled out of the room moving precariously close to the stairs.
Gbenga rushed out after them.
Suddenly, the gun went off. It sounded like the popping of a champagne bottle. The sound bounced around the house for a couple of seconds.
Then, there was silence.
Yemi packed her clothes in an old bag. She forced as many as she could into the bag. When there was no more room, she brought out another bag from the wardrobe and continued packing. Suddenly she stopped packing and sat down on the bed. She sighed deeply.
“I can’t handle this thing on my own,” she said to herself.
When Ngozi asked her to get involved in her plan to marry Gbenga Phillips, all she was interested in was the money she promised her, and it was a lot of money. It was the kind of money she had never seen in her life, that was why she agreed to be part of the plan. Half way through the plan, she changed her mind and wanted to help her madam save her marriage, but she couldn’t. Her instinct for self preservation kicked in and she decided to use her pregnancy to manipulate Gbenga to become the new Mrs Philips. But after the conversation she just had with mama, she became scared for her life. Things were getting completely out of control.
She got out of her room and headed for Sadique’s room.
She stood before the door and hesitated, then knocked the door thrice.
Sadique opened the door a crack. When he saw it was Yemi, he opened it wider and stepped out.
The old lovers looked at each other in silence.
Yemi went on her knees outside the door of the ex-military officer. “Sadique, I’m so sorry for what I did to you. Please forgive me,” she sobbed. “I can’t live like this any more. I want things to be just the way they were between us.” Yemi continued. “I love you Sadique and I can’t live without you. I miss you so much,” she cried.
Sadique said nothing. His eyes were dreamy, looking beyond the sobbing maid into a distant place.
“Say something,” Yemi pleaded with him.
Sadique pulled her up. “Please stand up.”
“Say that you forgive me and you will take me back,” she sobbed.
Sadique held her with his right hand and was silent. Her betrayal made him sad. He didn’t know what to say. He tried to shut out the painful images flashing in his mind like a very bad movie but he couldn’t. They scurried around the screen of his mind like army ants attacking a lizard.
Yemi kept on talking. “I love you Sadique, I have always loved you. I tried to run away, but I can’t live without you. I feel all alone without you. My life has become an empty shell, full of sadness.”
“That’s enough,” Sadique finally whispered.
Yemi stopped crying, lifted her head and looked into his face.
“Yemi, you have been on my mind in spite of what you did to me, how you betrayed our…relationship. I felt something for you but…” his voice trailed off.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Yemi pleaded. “I was deceived by my emotions. I’m so sorry,” she said.
Sadique was silent.
“Please say something,” Yemi pleaded again.
“I forgive you,” Sadique said.
The maid buried her head in his chest and embraced him. She missed his scent, his words, his strength. “Thank you. You’ve made me so happy.”
She lifted her face to meet his lips and kissed him.
She opened her eyes and looked at his face, his eyes shut in pleasure. A thought played around in her mind like the manoeuvre of a footballer decimating the defence of an inferior team before scoring a goal. The thought that played in her mind could never be shared with anyone, especially not with the man kissing her lips so hungrily. Although she wanted Sadique back in her life, he must never know the man responsible for the baby she carried in her womb.
The End of Part One.