The Regents Centre,
Kalu hurried down the corridor. He found her in the waiting area. She placed her head on top of the chair in front of her and was asleep. He shook her gently on the shoulder and woke her up. She lifted her head, blinked a few times and recognition dawned on her.
“Good morning,” he said and sat next to her.
She looked at him in disbelief. “You came.” She ran her hands through her dishevelled hair trying to give it a semblance of sanity.
He reached out and held her hand. “Yemi, what is going on? What are you doing in this hospital?” He looked around as nurses and other hospital staff went about their duties.
Yemi was silent.
“You know I really care about you and I want us to be together. Tell me what is going on. Let me help you.”
Yemi turned her face to the floor. “Kalu, you can’t help me, nobody can help me.”
“What do you mean?”
“After the way I treated you yesterday, you still came back for me?” She turned to look at him. “Kalu, what is happening here is beyond you. I don’t want to get you involved in my issues. I put myself in this situation and I will get myself out of it.”
“What situation are you talking about?”
She exhaled slowly. “A lot has happened in the past two days, too much for me to narrate right now. All I can say is that I don’t want you involved in this.”
Kalu clasped his hands together. “I don’t know what you were up to with Segun yesterday but I have already forgiven you.” He held her hands and looked into her eyes. “I love you Yemi. In spite of what has happened and what you have done, I still want you in my life. I don’t know what I will do without you in my life.” He took a moment and continued with some urgency. “You are the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want you to be the mother of our children. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Yemi removed her hands from his hold. “Kalu, you really don’t know me well enough to make such a decision. I…I have done some really horrible things in my life. If you knew half of them you would run away from me.”
“That doesn’t matter to me,” the Ibo trader said. “I love you the way you are and I want you in my life.”
Yemi shook her head with some sadness. “You have no idea what you are saying. You are merely talking out of your emotions. I don’t think you understand the gravity of what you are saying. Kalu listen to me. I am bad for you. Go and look for a woman who will reciprocate your love. I don’t think I have what it takes to truly love you and build a relationship.”
Kalu looked confused. “Yemi, you are not making any sense.”
Yemi continued. “The love you feel for me is misplaced. You have no idea who I am and what I am capable of doing.”
“But I love you!” Kalu said.
Yemi held his hand. “Don’t you understand? If you stay with me I will destroy you. I am…poison, deadly poison. Please stay away from me.” The maid turned away from him.
Kalu stood up, walked to the window and looked at the busy street for a few seconds. He returned and sat beside the maid.
“Yemi, I don’t care about who or what you think you are. I don’t care about all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. No one is perfect. We all have made some mistakes in our lives. Our lives shouldn’t be defined by our past or our mistakes but by our purpose.” He paused trying to find the right words to express the thoughts running through his mind. “I thought about this all night. My mind is made up. It is you I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
“Kalu, you are not ready to marry me. You haven’t got the money to take care of me…of us…”
Kalu cut her off. “I am ready. Things have changed,” he said with some bravado.
“What has changed in the past two days?” the maid asked the trader.
Kalu smiled. “Yesterday, my boss called me and gave me my own store. As of this moment I run my own business and make my own money.” He paused and looked into her eyes. “Yemi, now I can take care of all your needs. You don’t have to worry about money ever again,” Kalu promised the maid.
There was confusion on Yemi’s face. “Kalu, I am so happy for you. But we can’t get married now. There are so many things going on in my life right now. I don’t want you involved.”
“Like what?” Kalu inquired.
“It is complicated,” the maid bowed down her head. “There are things which would be very difficult for me to share with you. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“It doesn’t matter. I still want you,” Kalu said.
“Kalu, I don’t know even know how to explain this to you. We cannot be together. If you know what is good for you, leave me alone and stay away from me,” she warned.
Kalu looked up for a moment, then went down on one knee.
“What are you doing?” Yemi asked and looked around.
He reached into his pocket and brought out a tiny box.
“Kalu, please get up from the floor,” the maid pleaded with the love struck trader. “Someone may see you.”
Two nurses stood in a corner observing what was going on.
Kalu opened the box and brought out a ring. “Yemi, will you marry me?” He proposed to the maid.
Yemi’s hands flew to her mouth in wonder, then she knelt down with him.
“Kalu, you are proposing to me in a hospital at 5:00am in the morning? This must the craziest thing to happen to me. I don’t know what to say,” Yemi gushed.
Kalu looked into her eyes. “Just say yes.”
The maid looked at Kalu, looked at the beautiful ring in his hand. She looked to the ceiling wondering what to do. No man had ever presented her with an engagement ring and she had to admit the ring looked beautiful. She wondered how he could afford such a ring on his salary. So many thoughts ran through her head. Should she tell him about the baby she carried in her womb for chief Babalore? Should she tell him how she panned to become Gbenga Philip’s wife through deception? Should she tell him about the money mama promised her if she got married to her son? These questions hung in Yemi’s mind like bats in a dark cave, but she had no answers.
The two nurses argued with intensity like gamblers placing bets on a horse race.
“She’s too good for him,” the tall one said making hand gestures. “Look at how beautiful she is, she’s got class. They are no match at all.”
The short one disagreed, shaking her head. “Clara, love works in mysterious ways. It is not always about looks but about the connection of two souls that care for each other.”
The tall nurse regarded her colleague, wondering where such deep words came from. “Tonia, when did you become a relationship expert? I never knew you had it in you.” She turned back to the couple kneeling on the floor. “My advice to this guy would be for him to return to his village and find a wife.”
“Shio,” The other nurse hissed in disgust. “How can you suggest that such a fine looking man should go back to the village to marry an illiterate? I think these two will make a good couple.”
The tall nurse disagreed with her. “You keep dreaming. She will reject him.”
“If she rejects him,” the short nurse said with a lecherous smile on her face, “I won’t mind having him for myself.”
Both nurses waited with bated breath for Yemi’s response.
The maid took her time. She looked at the ring, looked at Kalu’s face, then looked at the two nurses standing in the corner as if seeking their advice. The tall nurse folded her arms on her chest watching while the short nurse nodded excitedly at Yemi and lipped the words, “Say yes!”
Yemi exhaled. “Kalu,” she began.
Kalu saw the confusion on her face and feared for the worst.
“Will you give me time to think about this?” she asked. “It is so very sudden.”
There was disappointment on Kalu’s face but Yemi continued. “And this is very bad timing.” “Tell me now. I want to know now,” the Ibo trader insisted.
Yemi bent down her head and looked at the floor, her brow squeezed in thought. She really wanted to settle down, to have her own home, to take care of her husband and children. She was tired of being used and using people. She looked up at his expectant face and took a deep breath. “Yes, Kalu. I will marry you.”
Kalu smiled and placed the ring on her finger. She raised up her hand and the stone on the ring threw off rays of light. The couple reached for each other and embraced.
The short nurse wiped a tear from her eye with the back of her right hand while the tall one stood there staring in disbelief.
“Yemi, why are you kneeling on the floor?” a female voice asked.
Kalu and Yemi broke their embrace and hurriedly stood up to see who had intruded on them. Standing with one hand on her hips and the other carrying an expensive looking designer bag was mama, the matriarch of the Philips family. The expression on her face was vicious enough to stop a charging rhino in its tracks. The two nurses hurried away.
The maid was struck by a foreboding sense of doom. The smile on her face was stripped by the fear which replaced it.
Mama regarded Kalu. “Who are you?” she asked with contempt, looking at him with derision from head to toe.
Kalu was silent.
Mama turned to Yemi. “Where is my son?”
Yemi’s mouth went dry like pumpkin leaves during the harmattan.
Shade’s face looked like she had been involved in a boxing match. One eye was swollen shut and there were bruises on her face. Her dress lay in tatters on the bed like pieces of incriminating documents against a corrupt politician which had been hurriedly thrust into a shredder. There was a continuous bang of pain in her head like Japanese ritual drums playing in a Shinto temple. Her body felt like it belonged to a labourer who had worked all night lifting bags of cement. Sadique had abused her body in the most vicious and humiliating way possible. Shade wiped the tears of shame rolling down her face and sighed.
She had brought this on herself. She had promised the security guard that he could have her if he killed her husband. She thought he would take the money and leave but he had demanded that she keep her promise. This was all her fault. Her sobs became heavier.
If she hadn’t met Roberto in Italy, if she had rejected his advances, if she had told him that she was married and couldn’t have anything to do with him, if she had not gone out on a dinner date with him that led back to his apartment, if she had said no to his romantic advances, if she had not allowed herself to be drawn in by his charm, if she had called for a taxi to take her back to her hotel room, if she hadn’t been too weak to resist him, this would never have happened.
But another part of her mind fought against that line of thinking. This wasn’t her fault at all. It was all Gbenga’s fault she reasoned. If Gbenga had been man enough to meet her financial needs, she wouldn’t have had to continue working in the bank, she wouldn’t have travelled to Italy, she wouldn’t have met Roberto and she wouldn’t have fallen for him. It was Gbenga’s fault and she wished that wherever he was he suffered a thousand times the pain she was presently experiencing.
She looked over at Sadique who lay beside her breathing heavily like a man who had just ran a race. His naked chest heaved up and down in a rhythmic sequence.
Sadique turned to Shade. “I have taken from you what you promised me. I am going to take a shower and when I am done, we shall discuss the conclusion of our agreement.” He stood up and entered the bathroom. Shade waited for him to shut the door of the bathroom then she got up from the bed painfully and wrapped the house coat around her body. She searched the drawers on the dressing table until she found what she was looking for. The light from the bedside lamp reflected on the steel she held in her hand. She caressed the cold steel and it gave her some assurance, some comfort knowing that she would avenge herself of this shame and kill the animal who did this to her. She went back to the bed and hid the scissors under the pillow. She lay down quietly and waited for Sadique to return from the bathroom. She would exact her revenge on the security guard and take back her honour. She looked in the direction of the bathroom with burning hatred in her heart for the man behind the door. “Before the sun rises, you will be dead,” Shade swore to herself.
Supo climbed the stairs slowly. He had heard voices coming from the master bedroom. A lady was pleading with someone. He didn’t hear everything she was saying but caught just bits of her words. She seemed to be in pain. He moved closer to the door and was about to open it and burst into the room when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He stepped back and looked at who was calling. It was Raymond.
“The boss wants you right now at headquarters,” Raymond said.
“Listen, I am about to arrest a suspect. When I am done, I will report to the boss.”
“Supo, you will do no such thing. Leave that man alone. Other detectives have been assigned to this case. We have bigger fish to catch.”
“We do?” Supo asked.
“Yes, we do. When you get here I will fill you in.”
Supo ended the call. He looked at the phone with disappointment for a few seconds before returning it to his pocket. He looked up at the door of the master bedroom and took a step towards the door, then stood there just thinking. Moments later he went down the stairs, got into the unmarked police car and drove away from the Philip’s residence.
Ngozi stood before the mirror in her bathroom. Tired eyes and a pale face stared back at her. She couldn’t believe how all her plans had gone terribly wrong in the past two days. She thought she had everything figured out but she had been wrong. Her plan was simple, make Shade believe the maid was sleeping with her husband, make her believe the maid was pregnant and wanted to steal her husband. That would have made the simple minded Shade angry enough to destroy her marriage and Gbenga would have fallen into her hands like a ripe mango fruit.
But Shade had come out of nowhere, double crossed her and scattered her well laid out plans. Shade wanted to leave Gbenga for Roberto and that was where everything started going wrong. Shade had snapped and tried to destroy Gbenga. Even now she wasn’t sure whether Gbenga was alive or dead.
Ngozi raised an angry fist. “Shade, you will not steal my happiness. You won’t take Gbenga away from me.” She said out loud to the empty bedroom. “Gbenga should be with me right now. He is mine!” she shouted and hit the dressing table, scattering some jars of cream and bottles of perfume to the floor and cutting her finger in the process. Blood dripped from her finger but she was too angry to notice. She sat on the bed thinking about a way to get Gbenga back and get married to him.
But at that very moment, the man Ngozi wanted most in the world was in the arms of another woman. Sitting on the hospital bed, Gbenga Philips and Omolara Bello were locked in an intimate embrace with tears falling down their faces unashamedly, tears of forgiveness, tears of reconciliation, tears of rekindled love.
To be continued.