Ese kicked the foot of her bed in frustration. She was suffering another bout of depression. She had these brief spells where she would be angry and upset at no one in particular for no reason whatsoever. She would be angry, then sad, then angry again in a bid to deal with the sadness. Her phone rang and she simply stared at it without picking up. It was Bobby. He was probably one reason for her frustration. She had hoped he would hang around and fuss some more upon their return to Abuja but since they got back, he hadn’t been to her house. He had called a few times but he had not stopped over to talk. She had gotten used to him hanging around and now he had stopped. The phone rang out and began ringing again. Ese ignored it and walked to her living room.
She filled a glass with water from the dispenser and forced herself to lose the mood. It wasn’t easy. Knots formed in her tummy. She saw all the framed pictures hanging on the wall; pictures from their wedding, some from vacations and others they had taken at home with the girls. Rage filled her soul. She flung the glass she held in her hand and it shattered into several pieces as it hit the wall. She felt the first wave of tears roll into her eyes and this time she didn’t stop them. She reached for the picture closest to her, dragged it down and sent it crashing to the floor. She climbed a couch and took off a picture of Gabe smiling down at her while she had the most loving look on her face. She sent it crashing to the ground as well. The frames did not have any glass on them so they did not break. But one after the other, she took off pictures of Gabe hanging on the wall and she flung them down.
The tears came down in torrents and she did nothing to stop them. She had kept in the hurt for so long. She picked the frames again and flung them hard on the wall one after the other while she cried with heart-wrenching sobs. She was home alone. Her mother had taken her daughters out to some eatery and she hadn’t been in the mood to go out.
Bobby heard the sound of items crashing to the floor as he approached Ese’s doorstep and he hurried his steps. He knocked on the door but got no response. More items were being thrown around in the house and he became worried. He rapped endlessly and yelled Ese’s name until the door suddenly opened. He almost fell through it. He saw Ese’s face and his heart went out to her. He shut the door behind him and pulled her into a hug. He was a head taller than she was but they were about the same size. He held her and rubbed her back while she continued wailing. He wasn’t sure how to handle her. He had hoped that she would face her grief at some point and tackle it head on but nothing prepared him for this.
He led her to a couch and they sat down, his arms still wrapped around her. She wept profusely in his arms and Bobby just held her tightly. He had no words to say. After almost an hour, she was finally quiet. She relaxed in his arms and he asked if he could get her water. When she nodded, he got up and walked to the dispenser. He noticed the pieces of glass that littered the floor and he carefully avoided them. He returned with a glass of water, gave it to her and asked where he could find a broom.
“It’s in the kitchen.”
Her voice was subdued. Bobby went to the kitchen, found a broom and cleaned up the mess. Then he picked the pieces of the frames one after the other and stacked them in a corner. She had succeeded in breaking most of them. When he was done, he took his place beside her and held her hand.
“Do you want to talk?”
She replied his question with another.
“Do you know how I heard of his death?”
Bobby shook his head. She was ready to speak and he was ready to listen.
“I was sitting there-” she pointed to a couch in the opposite direction
“-just there that day when my phone rang. It was Sunday morning. We were supposed to go to church but I could not bring myself to get ready. I sat there staring outside the window and wondering where I went wrong. Why wasn’t I enough?
He’d been keeping late nights and sometimes sleeping outside like he did that Saturday. I had prayed for him to change. I had been a good wife, done everything right to the best of my knowledge but somehow that wasn’t enough.
So my phone rings and it’s him. I don’t want to pick at first because I’m upset and wondering why he’s calling so early. It’s 6am. Anyways, I answer and he’s not the one at the other end of the line. It’s some young man that tells me to come to Asokoro General hospital. I ask what’s wrong and where my husband is. He says he is at the hospital and I should hurry. That’s how I get into a car and rush there o.
Two men hold me and take me to the mortuary. By the time I realize where we are, I become frightened and my heart is beating rapidly. They take me to his body and tell me to confirm if I know the person. I check and it is Gabe. Five bullet wounds. Two in the head and three in the chest. I just faint.
By the time I come around, I’m really numb and I can’t think straight or feel anything. It’s one of the guys that tells me that a soldier caught my husband in bed with his wife and the soldier shot him. He tells me not to try and make a case because nothing will come out of it…”
Bobby watched her even as her voice broke and the tears came again but she did not stop speaking.
“I didn’t know what to do or who to call. I was just there with my husband’s corpse and all I could think of was what I had done to deserve this. Every other thing after that time is a blur. I just know that somehow I managed to get home and alert my neighbours. I was too numb to cry.
When people started asking how he died, I did not know how to tell them so I just said I did not know. All I knew was that he was shot. I did not know where or by whom.
They said call police, do investigation. How could I do that when I had already been warned not to? He wasn’t going to get any justice! He didn’t even deserve to get justice. And then that’s how people started saying I killed my husband. That is insane! I wish he didn’t die! God did not try for me. I wish they had beaten him up and broken his legs or something so he would live with the pain instead of all the shame he’s brought on me.”
Bobby did not know what to say. He just held her close and patted her gently on the back. Soon, he found his voice.
“I’m really sorry. You’ve been through a lot.”
The front door opened without warning and Ese’s mother walked in with the two little girls. The elderly woman’s sharp eyes assessed the situation and she held the girls firmly. Anne the extroverted one stared pointedly at Ese and Bobby then asked
“Why is uncle holding mummy like that?”
Ese pulled back. Her eyes were red and her head hurt. She noticed Anne writhe and wriggle as she tried to ease out of her grandmother’s firm grip and she smiled.
“Mum, please leave her. Come here sweetie.”
Anne rushed over to her but Anita held on to her grandmother and did not move.
“Mummy, what happened to you? Yaa crying.” Anne ran her tiny fingers over Ese’s face and Ese pulled her hand away, lifted her and placed the little girl on her laps.
“I’m just tired darling.”
Anne had a disapproving look on her face
“Is that why uncle was holding you like that?”
Ese smiled and patted her on the back.
“Yes darling, uncle was being a good friend. How was your outing with grandma? Did you enjoy yourself?”
Anne ignored her mother’s attempt at distracting her. She was only getting started with her interrogation.
“But daddy used to hold you like that sometimes. And he’s not daddy.”
Ese’s jaw dropped. She looked to her mother for help and her mother quickly signaled to the little one.
“Come here Anne. Mummy is having a bad day. Let’s go inside.”
Anne ignored her and set her cute little eyes on Bobby instead.
“Will you be our new daddy? Because daddy went to-”
Ese put her hand over Anne’s mouth and hushed her up. Bobby was amused and he didn’t hide it. He opened his arms and beckoned to Anne.
“Come here sweetie.”
Anne looked at him suspiciously then looked back at her mother who had a stern look on her face. She shook her head.
“Mummy will beat me. She said I talk too much.”
Ese didn’t know when she burst into laughter. Her four year old daughter was a handful. Her mother had taken a seat and was watching the drama that was playing out. She sighed and urged Anne to go to Bobby.
The little girl moved over a little uncertain. She wasn’t convinced that her mother was alright with her talking so much to a stranger. She sensed an ear-twisting session would follow the nice uncle’s departure but she didn’t think too much of it. She walked the short steps and stood in front of him. He smiled and took her small hands in his.
“Your mummy is my friend. And she is sad so I’m here to help her. Good friends help each other when they are sad. That’s what I am doing okay?”
Anne nodded. She had more questions but she knew better than to ask. Except she had a request that she just had to make.
“Okay. But will you tell mummy not to wagga wagga my ears when you go?”
She placed her hand on her ears and made twisting motions
Bobby looked at Ese and released a snort. Ese looked somewhat embarrassed and smiled to cover it.
“Mummy won’t wagga wagga your ears dear, I promise. Just be a good girl and make sure she’s always happy. Can you do that?”
Anne nodded and walked back to her mother. She put her tiny hands on her face again and said
“Don’t cry again ye hear? Me and Annie are here.”
Ese felt the tears come into her eyes again and she hugged her daughter tight. It was okay to hurt. She knew in time, she would heal and find herself again. Her mother released Anita’s hand and urged her to go join in the hug. Ese felt her heart would burst. Ultimately, her girls were all she had left.
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Benjamin sat down and looked at Teni who still had a smile on her face.
“So he’s the reason you stood me up?”
She shook her head.
“Not exactly. I got into trouble at work and had to work extra hours. I’d forgotten your phone at home and didn’t have your number saved so that’s why I couldn’t call. And then of course, your cousin was in an accident.”
Kayode looked at both of them and smiled.
“Ah. This is interesting.”
“Well, I’m sorry I misjudged you.” Benjamin said. “I just thought you were playing me a second time. But we can fix the issue of the phone number. Let me just get your number now.” He stretched out his phone to her
Teni took it and typed in her number as she spoke
“It’s fine. Unfortunately, I don’t have your phone here otherwise I’d have returned it.”
“His phone? Why do you have his phone?” Kayode asked
Teni smiled and Benjamin had an unreadable expression on his face.
“Oh he bumped into me at Ceddi plaza, found me attractive and decided to forget his phone in my bag so we could see again.”
Kayode burst into a hearty laugh. He held his sides and continued laughing. Teni just looked on in amusement.
“Ah! B.J toh smooth! You never change!”
Benjamin scowled at him but he didn’t stop talking.
“You lucky say Teni na better person. Your phone for enter voicemail like that NNPC money.”
Benjamin pushed his chair back and got up.
“I actually came here to see a movie. I’ve got to go. I’ll see you guys around.”
Teni smiled at his obvious discomfort. No doubt, he was a player and she seemed to have beaten him to his own game. Men. They were indeed all the same. She looked at Kayode who seemed carefree and chatty. This one could not be quiet to save his life. She disliked people that talked too much and Kayode seemed to suffer diarrhea of the mouth. And just like that, she did not feel like hanging out anymore.
She stared at the bottle of malt the waiter had placed in front of her while Benjamin was with them and decided to just be polite. She would finish the drink and go home.
“So what do you do?”
She turned her eyes to Kayode
“I’m an Accountant.”
“Okay? Where do you work?”
“It’s a private firm that does consultancy basically. My office is in Wuse 2.”
“Really?! That’s lovely! My office is in Wuse 2 as well. Oh well, you have my complementary card so you already know what I do. But basically, I work at an NGO and I’m the IT guy. Need anything tech, just call me…”
Teni listened to him go on and on about himself. His work, his family, his friends, his achievements… It was only a little while before she zoned out. She was tired and she wanted to go home. She finished her malt quickly and finally he stopped talking.
“Lovely. You’re err, pretty interesting.”
He smiled and said thanks. Teni smiled back. If only he knew she wasn’t complimenting him.
“I need to get home now.”
“But it’s just about 8. Why would you want to be home so early on a Friday night?”
Teni smiled, irritation already creeping in.
“Because I’m tired.”
Her phone rang in that instance and she was grateful for the distraction. She looked at the caller ID and a look of pleasant surprised swept over her face.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll be in touch. You take care.”
She picked her bag and slid her thumb across her phone screen.
“It’s snowing in Abuja tonight o. Kachi called me.”
She heard the sound of his laughter and it warmed her heart. Kachi was her ex-boyfriend and best friend of eleven years that was constantly globetrotting.
“Bebe! I’m back to Naija o.”
“Sure you are. This is one of your several Naija numbers. Kachi I tire for you o. See as you abandon your babe.”
“Nne, bebe, no be so, I dey chase money o.”
Teni laughed. Kachi was hilarious. He would never change.
“Shey you’ve not lost this your yeye Igbo accent even with all the travelling you’ve been doing.”
She loved teasing him. Of course his Igbo accent was fake but he always put it on to look for her trouble
“Nne, maka why nu? Dontu you know datu this is the way forwardu?
Teni laughed so hard, her head ached.
“Kachi, really, stop, I’m begging you. You know how that thing makes me cringe.”
Kachi laughed and then his voice changed.
“Alright, I’ll stop. But I’ve missed you o. I haven’t seen you in a year. We haven’t skyped in forever. I’m coming to Abuja in two weeks. We should see.”
“You dey mad! Of course we should see. Whose fault is it that we haven’t skyped in forever? You keep changing time zones like a woman changes clothes.”
“Hehe. Oya sorry. I’m coming to Abuja for business and I’ll be there for a while. Plus I’ve got something big I want to tell you. Something I want us to discuss actually but make we see sha. I’ve missed you so much! I just landed Lagos and you’re the first person I thought to call.”
“Make I begin blush abi? Yeye boy! Better hurry and show your face in this Abuja o. Na me miss you pass.”
“Alright dear. Gotta run now. I’ll be in touch. Take care of you!”
She told him to do same and smiled after she hung up. She turned her key in the ignition and the car came to life. Her phone beeped with a text message and she picked it up.
I think I’m genuinely attracted to your person and I really want to get to know you. Can we pick a time and place to make it work? Ben
Teni smiled and typed a reply.
Sure. Sunday afternoon. You’ll cook lunch perhaps? Have a great night.
She hit the send button and smiled to herself. It was suddenly raining men. Either Deola was praying hard or her mother was. Or both of them.
To be continued