One Night And What You Wish – 2

Please click here, if you missed part 1.

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Toun Salami hissed, as she paced around the room in anger. The young man who handed her the tape and who she had earlier employed to bug the house, was trying in vain to calm her down.

“Take it easy, madam. Things like this happen. You just have to take it easy, okay?”

“Mtscheww! How could he? How could they?”

She hadn’t bargained for this at all. The other day when she had invited the technician to come bug the house, after everyone had gone out, her sole purpose was to spy on Idara and hopefully chance on her conversations with whoever was responsible for her pregnancy, seeing that she had refused to open up on his identity. But nothing prepared her for this betrayal.

For the first time in her life, she felt alone, lost and completely clueless about her life – her husband, who had stooped so low to tow the line of adultery, their only son, who had sunk so deep into crass brazenness, even blackmailing his father at the expense of his mother; and the housemaid she had literally picked up from the gutters, who thought of no other way to return the goodness than to magnanimously click the ‘share’ button of her lustful tendencies on her own husband’s wall!. Whatever happened to family? Whatever happened to love, devotion, gratitude and one good turn deserving another? She fell on her knees and broke down in tears.

“Haba Madam, take it easy now, ehn. You have to approach this matter with a calm mind. Here, take a sit.” The technician pulled a chair close for her and helped her up. She gratefully accepted his gesture. Just then, the doorbell rang. It was Idara, just coming back from the errand that had been concocted to keep her out of the house long enough to attend to this necessary business.

“I think I’ll take my leave now, madam.”

“Okay. Thank you for the job done. I’ll let you know if I need you again.”

“Yes madam. And don’t worry, I’ll help myself out.”

“Yes, thank you,” Toun accepted graciously, for she was sure that if she went to get the door herself, nothing would keep her from strangling Idara. “And please let the maid in,” she added.

When she left the study a few minutes later, she was  resolute. She would play this game the way they all wanted it. She would take it all with a smile, continue to be the good wife, the doting mother and benevolent lady of the house. The game had only just begun. “Let’s see for how long the bunch of you idiots can hold out,” she muttered.

 

 

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Missed Opportunities

Her eyes brushed through each delicate finger on her left hand and settled on the ring finger. It was clad in the most beautiful adornment she had ever seen. She smiled. How unbelievable can life get?

On this day last year, she was broke, jobless, deserted and distraught. She had missed her flight to a job interview, hence lost the chance of a lifetime. The love of her life had eloped with his cousin, three days to their wedding. And her mother had a stroke shortly thereafter.

The man who was now shaving in the bathroom of their hotel room had spotted her at the hospital, while she cared for her mother. He wouldn’t rest on his oars until she agreed to be his wife, immediately conferring her with the erstwhile vacant position of vice-chairman in his group of farms.

The bathroom door opened and she turned. “Good morning, chérie,” he beamed. She smiled again, walked towards him and wrapped him with the warmest embrace. “Bonjour chéri.”

She was happy. True, she didn’t know what the future would bring and yes, she had been to the abyss and back but she knew that between missed opportunities and better outcomes, there was hope and despair, calm and disquiet, soreness and wellness, tears and  laughter. There was penury, want, loneliness. There was harsh reality. And then, there was life!

One Night And What You Wish

He paced nervously back and forth in his private study.
”I need you to claim responsibility for Idara’s pregnancy,” he announced to his son.
“What!”
“You heard me.”
“Dad!”
“Name your price.”
“Dad, I can’t believe……”
“Name your price!”
Pause. 15 seconds.
“I….I….I’ll need to sleep over this dad.”
“You will not sleep over anything! I said, name your price!”
“I’m sorry dad but this will have to wait till tomorrow.”
Dotun could read his father’s desperation. Suddenly he felt like Duncan Mighty. He shook his head in disbelief at how quickly the table could turn when you “stumble” on “important” information. He blessed the day, no, the night – that opportune night – when he had caught Idara and his dad in “the act.”

“How dare you tell me to wait?” his father barked, breaking into his thoughts. “In this house, I call the shots…..”
“Well not anymore dad!”
Uneasy silence.
Now helpless, he said, “Alright son, please just say what you want and I’ll do it for you. Anything. Just name it.”
Dotun reeled out: “A university education in the US. Freedom to live my life without your busybody interference. And a well-funded bank account, so that nothing goes wrong.”
His father’s eyes narrowed a bit. “What could possibly go wrong? And how much are we looking at here?”
“I don’t know dad. You call the shots, remember?” The scorn on Dotun’s face was obvious.
His father thought long and hard, before acqueising. “Done. You start in September.”
Dotun smiled. He knew that if his mother ever learnt the truth about the housemaid’s pregnancy,  his father was toast.
There was something else about that smile. It was the realisation that he had just unlocked the door to an endless goldmine.

Absence makes the heart….

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The cold evening breeze slapped his face as he ventured into the alley. He hoped at least that his longer strides and faster pace would get him to the train station a few minutes earlier than usual. He worked nights in a dance club as a bouncer – a job that barely met his needs.

The colored lights that twinkled thru the windows of the buildings nearby were not enough distraction. December’s festivities were virtually nonexistent for him now. All he longed for was home.

His wife Nneka had called from Nigeria to say she wanted out of their 4-year old marriage. It was a sham, she thought and didn’t anymore want to be part of the charade. He had pleaded for patience. More time.  ”Till when?” she had yelled in frustration over the telephone before bursting into tears. He fell silent. The truth is, he didn’t have the answer. He still needed to get his ”papers” so that he could legalize his stay. A snort escaped through his nostrils. He didn’t even have enough to buy his plane ticket back home.

Life as an illegal immigrant was not as simple as that of others. His daily worries were not the same as those of the average citizen. He had to bother about getting and keeping a job. He had to deal with exploitation from dishonest emoloyers – immigrants themselves – who cashed in on his situation to cheat him on wages. He was concerned with how to avoid getting nabbed by the authorities and being repatriated. He could not hold an apartment in his name or register assets in his  own name! What was life without the  freedom to live?

As he entered the warm interior of the train station, a team of three policemen on patrol walked past him. He became more cautious then, heaving an audible sigh of relief when he was certain that he was not the object of their considerations.

Then the thought struck him. As the train halted, he was greeted by the rush hour flux of workers exiting the train and returning home. A mischievous smile spread briefly across his face. One of these people would soon pay him some heed! He deliberately walked into a fair-skinned man, who didn’t waste time to give him a piece of his mind.

“Mais putain! Are you blind or what? Do you need magnifying glasses or something, Monsieur?”

“Excusez-moi mon gars. My eyes are fine alright but you really were so tiny, even a clairvoyant couldn’t have seen you.”

Whack! came the slap across his face. Whack! he retorted.

Spectacle created. Cops appeared on the scene. Handcuffs snapped tightly around his wrists. Things had played out just the way he wanted. Not without a few bruises though. His belly was hurting so badly.

A few hours later, he was seated in the comfortable interior of a cell in the police station. His case had been decided. He would be put on the next day’s flight to Lagos. A wry smile spread across his face. He’d be home at last! Home to be with his wife and the 3-year old daughter he had never held in his arms.

In the days when he was ignorant, he’d have sworn that absence made the heart grow fonder.  Now he was certain: absence makes the heart grow number. This was definitely true for Nneka, in whose case, also, absence had probably made the heart wander. And if he was foolish enough not to know what and who mattered most, it was certain that absence had made his mind grow dumber.

‘Sweet’ Find

She stared, then blinked several times mouth agape, at the most embarrassing drama just unfolding before her eyes! Segun her husband stole a quick glance at their guests, who each looked away either out of  embarrassment for their utterly bewildered hosts or to hide the laughter that was just refusing to be stifled and would soon give them away.

Standing in all of her innocence before them was 3-year old Tonye, their hosts’ brilliant daughter, brandishing something  in abject i-told-you-mum defiance. A tongue-tied Preye bit her lip.

10 minutes earlier Tonye,  her daughter,  had nagged and nagged her for a wrap of Tom-tom sweet. Preye had refused, because it was bedtime already. Besides, she was totally against going to bed with a sweet in her mouth – a complete no-no in their family’s dental regimen.

Several more ‘harassments’ after and Preye ordered her daughter to bed with one mean look of gavel-like finality. Slam! The defeated young lady sulked her way upstairs to her room. Or so she thought.

Until she returned defiantly with her ‘sweet’ find. ”Mummy I won’t give you my sweet,” she taunted in her slightly musical voice. She then turned towards her daddy and implored him to help her open this ‘sweet.’ When mummy turned to look at her little girl’s spoil, there it was: a tired-looking, teeth-battered but still intact wrap of unused Durex! The ‘contingency plan’ that had never left the ‘shores’ of her handbag. Until now.

Revenge. Really?

His laughter pierced across the room, above the noise of the television, clinking glasses and loud chatter in the bar room. Some of the occupants simply threw a quick glance in his direction and immediately went back to their business. Others got quite curious at the lone stranger’s mien. This wasn’t a regular face in this bar.

The middle-aged man, whose vocal chords had just commanded attention, had a newspaper in his hands and was clearly unaware of the twenty something pairs of eyes that looked in his direction. He emptied his glass in one last big gulp that burned its way down his throat and into his stomach and slammed the glass back hard on the table.

The laughter suddenly disappeared and he became pensive. .

A few minutes passed and I walked up to him. It did not seem that he was aware of my presence so I tapped the table lightly, at the time saying, “hello buddy.”

From his startled response, it was obvious that I had snapped him out of some memory lane he had plunged deep into. The ruffled hair, undone tie hanging loosely around his neck, eyes that looked like they needed a year-long sleep…., my eyes took all of him in.

“Hello,” I said again, hoping he’d at least return my greeting. Silence. Something was obviously stuck in his throat I cynically decided and was about to make towards my chair, when my eyes caught something – a tear. He had been crying! Silently!

That drew me back. As I tried to reach out to him, he withdrew, at the same time standing up to his feet. I stood up too, to be in equal measure. Perhaps he saw the question in my eyes, for he inched closer to me, his forefinger poking my chest in rhythm to his parting words. He said, “Not when you love her buddy. NOT-WHEN-YOU-FREAKING-LOVE-HER!”

Was he drunk? I didn’t think so. Was he reciting a poem? That could hardly be explained by the tear sliding freely down his cheeks, nor by the reddened eyes.

He turned towards the door and walked out of it into the cold dark street. I decided to take a look at whatever it was that he had been reading, and there it was – the answer to my question.

Slightly above where his tear had fallen on the ‘Quotable Quotes’ column of the newspaper, I saw the marked out words that I was seeking.

It read, “When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.”

Now, you tell me, is it really the best revenge?

One Fine Thanksgiving Day

It was well past bedtime when the knock came on her door. She was seated in front of her desktop trying to do some work but was dosing off in the process, so she wasn’t sure if she’d heard a knock or it was something else that had jolted her back to consciousness. She tried to get back to work and then the knock came again. She was sure this time. She called out, “Tare, is that you?” wondering what on earth her daughter was doing up at this time.

 

“Yes mum,” came the hesitant reply.

 

“Come in,” she said, urging her daughter in.

 

Sotie was a hardworking migrant mother of two, a single mum who loved her 2 teenage daughters to bits but had a disagreeable way of showing it. She smothered them with so much “love” that they could hardly breathe. One couldn’t now dismiss the possibility of paranoia because she called her daughters practically every hour, wanting to know if they were fine. She also had a temper that would dwarf that of water at its boiling point. Her mother once told her “Sotie, you’ll send my granddaughters away from home, with your style of parenting.” Funny how it proved true, in time. Last summer, her older daughter Ladoh stormed out of the house after an argument they both had and has been living with her boyfriend ever since. But Sotie still loved and missed her daughter very much.

 

As Tare walked into her mother’s room, she couldn’t help but wonder if this was the right thing to do, judging by her mother’s reaction in Ladoh’s case. She decided that she was going to tread cautiously. “Mum,” she began, after she was beckoned close, “I uh…..” she started to stammer. Sotie sensed the hesitation and her eyes narrowed. She was always too quick to catch this kind of vibe, even ones that were yet to hit the air. Tare took a deep breath (she was going to spill it out anyhow, heaven could fall for all she cared!) and said, “Mum, there’s a boy at school, who really likes me. He wants us to be more than just friends.” This she blurted out and followed immediately with a heavy sigh of relief.

 

Now Sotie would, on an ordinary day, have gone off the handle immediately but a glance at the clock (it was past midnight) told her that hysteria couldn’t be more ill-timed. Too, she was fast realizing that that sort of reaction wasn’t working with her daughters. True, they were of Nigerian origin but having moved to the United States in their tender years, this was the only culture they knew. Now sitting before her daughter, the alarmist in her kept saying, “you stupid ungrateful girl. I sent you to school to study and you come here telling me that a boy is interested in you! What! Are you out of your senses?” In any case, on this night, while the struggle between Alarmist and Level-headed went on in her mind, Level-headed held sway. She smiled.

 

“Wow! Honey, that’s beautiful!

 

(“What!” exclaimed Alarmist).

 

Level-headed, pretending not to notice, continued, “You know, dating affords you the opportunity to get to know someone better, especially if you’re hoping he’ll be your Mr. Right. Now, tell me honey, what do you think about him?”

 

(Alarmist interjected again, “like seriously?! I think I’m having a heart attack!)

 

“Well, he seems to be a nice guy and I kinda like him,” she said, completely oblivious of the conflict going on in her mother’s head.

 

“Hmm, that’s not a bad thing, if you manage it well, was Level-headed’s gentle answer.

 

Tare poured out her heart and Sotie, for the first time, really listened to her daughter. She didn’t know what came over her that night but she was sure that they had struck a chord in each other’s heart. Tare, on her own part, knew that this was not the mother she had known all her life. This one was different and she preferred this one.

 

After that, they got closer and closer. Sotie would tease her occasionally while they did the dishes together, asking, “so how is Mr. Right today?” and she would say with her happy smile,” Last time I checked, he was still nuts over me.”

 

One Saturday afternoon, she chanced upon Tare’s phone. Actually, Tare had fallen asleep on the sofa while chatting and the phone had dropped off onto the fine rug lining the floor of their sitting room.  She bent to pick up the phone and something caught her eye: it was the last line of a chat that read, “My mum’s my best friend. I can tell her anything. She doesn’t judge me” Her heart melted. She was so beset by emotions she didn’t notice her eyes fill up, only realizing it when she blinked. She said a silent prayer then and thanked God. Something was finally working.

 

Stealthily easing out of the living room lest she wake the young lady, she prayed again, this time for her older girl, Ladoh. She missed her so much but Ladoh wouldn’t even pick her calls.

 

She still spoke to her kid sister Tare though – they had a special bond between them as many siblings do, that withstood all pressure from without. Unknown to Sotie, Tare and Ladoh were talking more often these days….

 

It was Thanksgiving Day and the twosome of mother and daughter sat at the table, hands held together, eyes closed in prayer, grateful for the love they now shared and wishing for the day when this duo would once again be a trio, as used to be….

 

Then the bell rang. It was a silent question as they looked up at each other, wondering if the other was expecting a visitor. Tare said, “I’ll get it.”

 

Ladoh was standing at the door, baggage and all, her face covered in a grin. “Hello baby sister.” Tare flew at her, screaming with all of the excitement that she felt. Sotie edged questioningly towards the front door wondering what the commotion was about.

 

When their eyes met, it was to say how much they had both missed each other and how they both were sorry for the events that tore them apart. Sotie hugged her daughters tightly. This was no ordinary Thanksgiving.  This time, their entreaties to God took on new meaning. This was a war where the three of them had all come off victors.