“What do you want here?” I roared, almost banging the door in her face.” How did you know this place? who let you in through that gate?”
“Uche, please. Let me in, I am drenched. “Cecilia said, shaking droplets of water off her hair.
I opened the door and she walked in, bringing in with her a gust of wind.She took off her wet jacket and handed it to me.
“Why are you here Cecilia? ” I asked.
“I want us to talk.” She said.
” What is so important that you had to come in the rain? start talking.”
“I can no longer have a baby” She said, shivering.
” What?” I said, staring at her in disbelief.” Why are you telling me this?”
“You caused it Uche, you caused it.”She said,” Can I have a towel? my hair is sopping water.”
I went to the guest bathroom, dumped her wet jacket in the baththub and took a towel. I threw it at her and she caught it midair. I folded my arms across my chest, studying her.
“Cecilia what’s your game?” I asked.
“I am playing no games with you. There was some complications when I had our baby, the doctor said I won’t be able to conceive again. That was why I left, I didn’t want to complicate your life more than it was. I still love you Uche,”
” You are in love with what I am now. You should have told me about the complications then. What do you want from me now?”
” I……I want to see if I can conceive again despite what the doctors said. Please help me,” She begged.
” I am not a breeding horse. If it’s money you want to conduct fertility tests I will give it to you but don’t expect anything else from me.”
She started sobbing. My phone rang out and I walked away from her.
” Hi, Annie.”
” Listen Uche, there’s something I want to tell you” She said, ” What’s that noise? is someone crying?”
” Never mind about that. What’s up?” I said.
“On a second thought it no longer matter.” She said and disconnected.
” Meet me at groove park_ hurry” Tade.
I read the message over and over until it dawned on me that I wasn’t imagining it. Tade was actually waiting for me at groove park, he wanted to see me. I almost jumped up with happiness.He had become distant since Mabel came back and he seemed to be avoiding me. Even when we were in the same room he avoided my gaze. I was certain he did not want to arouse Mabel’s suspicion. My heart lept up that he wanted to see me. He must be missing me just like I had been missing him. I ached to hold him in my arms and listen to his heart beat. I ached to re_ live that night with him again.
” Mabel, please I want to see an old friend I met at the mall. She’s traveling back to Nigeria tomorrow and I’d like to send somethings to my mother.” I said, walking back into the kitchen.
” Alright.” She replied, ” Please can you pick up some toiletries for me? The list is on my drawer in my bedroom.” She opened her purse and handed me some money.
I went upstairs and opened her door. Tade’s masculine scent hung heavily in the air. I reached out and touched the side of the bed I was sure was his. I carressed the soft white coverlet gently. Tade. He belongs to me and not to the ingrate downstairs, I thought. I took the list off her drawer and walked out of the room.
I took a taxi and stopped at Groove park. It was a beautiful park where families can go to anytime of the day to have fun. I felt a bounce in my steps as I saw his car parked at the car lot.
” Hey,” He said as soon as I got into the car.
” Hi,” I replied, suddenly shy.
” We need to talk Funmi,” He said, a tense look on his face.
I nodded my head. I knew what he wanted us to talk about_ how to get rid of Mabel.
“Why did you busy Mabel’s calls that night?” He asked.
I stared at him in confusion.”When was that?”
” The night we…..the night before she came back. You put my phone on flight mode and you deliberately left the phone in my car. We could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble if you hadn’t done that. See I will be frank with you, this is all my fault. I shouldn’t have kissed you that day to know your sexuality.”
” Tade, what are you saying? why are you saying all these?”
” D–n! Funmi, how do I make this up to you?” He asked, staring into my eyes.” That night was a terrible mistake which shouldn’t have happened.”
I was confused. He wasn’t saying what I needed to hear and the words he said confused me still.
“Are you……regretting what we did?” I asked, hoping he would smile, pull me into his arms and tell me he was joking.
” I am a married man, I love my family and they come first. I shouldn’t have made love to you when I had no plans for you.It was a mistake and I’m sorry.”
” No.” I cried, sobbing.
” Take,” He extended a cheque.” This should be enough to help you start over in Nigeria. Please Funmi, take it. Take it and go back to Nigeria”
” You are a ba.stard! How could you! You used me! You made me fall in love with you! You stole my virginity! now you want to send me away like a leper?” I sobbed.
” Funmi please. Please try to understand….”
” Understand what? You are evil! evil! Tade please” I cried out the plea, touching his arm.Mabel won’t find out, I promise not give us away.”
He sighed deeply.” There is no ‘ US!. We only had a night stand. Just one night! Funmi you will have to go back to Nigeria. Don’t you feel any remorse at all? Mabel has been so good to you, don’t you feel bad that you slept with her husband?”
” She doesn’t deserve you Tade! She has never loved you! She’s not a good wife to you! She’s..”
” Stop it! Stop bad mouthing my wife! What we did was a mistake! a costly mistake I won’t repeat again. You know what Funmi? You are very self_ centered and your heart is made of steel. I thought you were perfect when I first saw you but right now I’m no longer sure of that.”
” I will make you pay! You think you can use me and throw me away like a piece of rag? I swear I will make you pay! If you insist that I go back to Nigeria, I will rip your family apart and laugh about it all the way to Nigeria.” I snatched the cheque from his hand and I ripped it in two.” I love you and You will love me back whether you like it or not! You and Serwa are mine! Nobody, nobody can take the both of you from me.” I got down from the car and banged the door.
He drove off leaving behind a cloud of smoke. I dragged myself to a bench nearby and sat down. How could he do that to me? How could he make me love him, how could he take my pride and try to cast me away? I hated him at that moment with the same passion/love I felt for him. I swore to myself right there and then that I would have the last laugh and Tade would love me back. Mabel was the interloper, she will be the one to leave.
“Want to know where I bunk down?” Sly asked, one evening after he mysteriously showed up in front of my shop.
” Sure,” I heard myself say. He opened the door to his car for me before seating himself down.
” Alright lady, want a hot cup?”
I laughed.” No thank you. No hot cup for me today”
” Okay. I want a jewel for my mother. Something simple but unique, can I pick it up tomorrow evening?”
” Yea sure. How’s she?”
” She’s fine.” He said, looking away.
” You have siblings? ”
A sudden dark look flickered briefly on his handsome face before it disappeared. No wonder he’s such a good lawyer, I thought. I could have sworn I imagined that.
” A sister. She’s late.” He replied, his strong arms gripping the steering.
” I’m sorry for your loss,” I said, touching his arm.
” Thank you,” He replied.
” How about your father?. Is he late too? You never talk about him.”
He applied brake suddenly and swerved swiftly to avoid hitting the car in front of us. I knew I had touched a nerve with my question and I suddenly felt uneasy.
” Yea. He’s also late.” He replied, his features tense and his jaw was clamped shut.
My mind wondered back to what Funmi advised me over the phone. I thought she was joking when she said I should poison Uche’s mother and I still think so. I gave myself a mental shake, why was I traveling down such memory lanes again.? Here’s Sly, who has lost his dear ones and from his reactions it shows he has a deep love for them but he’s still forging ahead with life. Dupe, borrow a leaf from him.
” Why are you so quiet? ” he asked.” Feeling sorry for me?”
” No. I’m telling myself to borrow a leaf from you. You are……you are so different Sly.”
” Good difference or bad?” He asked.
” Being different does not always mean bad.” I replied.
He drove in silence for a while before stopping in front of a huge black gate. The gate was opened by his security guards and he drove into the compound, heading straight for the car park.
” Grand house,” I said, unbuckling my seat belt.
” You haven’t seen inside.” He replied.
The inside of the house was even better and I wondered how a young guy in his twenties came to have such wealth. Hard work and determination, I replied myself.
“What’s this?” I asked, accepting the glass he extended to me. I peered at it’s content, wondering what it was.
He gave me a smile.” It’s Chardonnay. Good stuff,”
” O_ kay.” I said, lifting up the glass to take a sip.” Hmmn, very good. You have a beautiful home,”
” Thank you, want to see the rest of the house and also meet my family?” He asked.
My eyes widened in surprise. The house seemed so quiet, maybe his family were in their rooms.
” Yes, thank you.” I dropped my glass on the table, ” lead the way.”
He showed me the rooms, his study which he said was his second favorite part of the house while his well stocked library was his first favorite. He showed me his well equipped gym house and he urged me to try lifting something. I laughed at his obvious joke, there was not a single thing I could lift in that gym. He took hold of my hand and led me down the corridor to the left wing of the house. There was a portrait of a dark skinned woman with a gap tooth and that of a young child not more than four or five. The young girl was beside a river staring at the sunset with a glowing smile on her face and a doll in her hand. Her reflection was crystal clear in the water but her smile did not reflect in it. There was something dark and gloomy about her portrait although it showed that the young child was in a happy mood.
“I painted it.” He said.
” Wow, Sly this is……good. You are multi_talented.”
” Thank you, drawing keeps me sane. I could do one of you if you’d let me. I will be honoured” He said, giving me a boyish grin I couldn’t resist.
” How do you have time for this with your busy schedule? ” I asked.
” We make time for what is important in life otherwise there is never enough time. Is that a yes?” He said.
” Yes,” I replied, my heart was pounding like I just agreed to an illegal deal.
” Is this weekend okay by you?” He asked.
” Do me a favour please. Unbraid your hair and no make up please.”
” Alright boss, anything else?”
” Wear a gown. You could wear the one you wore to dinner that night.”
” Alright. What’s her name? she’s a pretty child.” I said, pointing to the potrait of the little girl child.
” Abosede. Come,” He said, taking my hand in his.” Time to meet my family,”
He led me out of the house and we headed towards the back of the house. I wondered why we were heading in that direction but I kept my thoughts to myself. A dog house came into view, their loud barking noise reached our ears as we approached it. A warm smile settled on his face, he let go of my hand and opened the kennel. Two big cute dogs ambled out, Sly squatted and one licked his nose eliciting laughter from him. It was the first time I heard him laugh, a deep rich laughter that suddenly sent my heart racing to the hills.
He tickled one of the dogs on it’s stomach and it lay down, spittle dribbling down his jaw. He was obviously enjoying his master’s tickles. One of the dogs raised up it’s massive head and gave a loud bark when our eyes met. The other one also growled, echoing his brother or sister’s concern.
” Hey boys, calm down.” Sly said and the barking ceased.” They mean no harm Dupe, come closer.”
I tentatively drew closer to them. The dogs sniffed my legs briefly before sauntering back to their boss.
” Meet Spark and Ceaser. Guys this is Dupe, offer them a hand.”
I raised up a hand, they drew back briefly before lowering their heads and I patted them gently. Ceaser licked my hand with his slimy long tongue and I felt laughter escape my lips. Spark was still a bit wary of me and he was defensively putting himself between Sly and I. Ceaser was already won over and his long tail was wrapped around my leg.
” These guys love you.” I said.
” Yea.” He agreed, ” they are also protective of me but sometimes we fight especially when it’s time to see the vet. But they understand that I love them.”
I laughed.” I see you have a special bond with them.”
” Yea” He agreed.
“They are your family Sly?” I asked.
“Yes, besides my mother. You are the first friend I have introduced to them.”
“Wow, no wonder they seem so wary of me. I feel honoured. Thank you”
” You are welcome, ” He said, standing up from his squatting position.” I make a mean bugger, want to have some?”
” Yes. Another surprise, Shark.”
He threw back his head and laughed again.”Don’t thank me yet.Alright guys you can play around but don’t try to sneak into the main house. I have a guest, alright.?” He said to the dogs.
I could have sworn they both nodded their heads before bouncing off to play. Something tugged at my heart and I wondered if he feels lonely sometimes.
” Yea,” He replied, his gaze was focused on my face.
” What’s your story Sly,” I asked.
He drew in breath sharply and exhaled. ” I will tell you when you come on Saturday for your portrait painting.”
I nodded my head. His hand found mine and we walked back into the house…
To be continued .