by Kingsley Alumona.
Image source: zexy-zwcom, on Pexels.
Two hours before Bayo’s wedding, he received a call that unsettled him. He’d just been invited for an interview for a job that he applied for, ten months ago, the same month he met his about-to-be bride, Amaka. Sweating in the black suit he’d borrowed from his friend, Bayo informed Amaka about the phone call.
“Don’t tell me you’re going for the interview,” she frowned.
“Honey, this is what we’ve been praying for.”
“I don’t care. This is my wedding day, for God’s sake!”
Bayo wanted to tell Amaka it was his wedding day too, but rather, knelt down and begged her, before she, in tears, allowed him to leave.
While in his friend’s car, heading to the venue, Bayo prayed all the prayers he knew how to. Lagos traffic was frustrating him, and a migraine began pounding in his head. He opened the windows for air, but a nearby truck flung thick smoke at them which had him quickly shut them. He cursed the truck driver. His friend, Femi, told him to be patient. He cursed Femi too.
As he was struggling to relax, it dawned on Bayo that he was without his credentials. A few moments later, while he was still contemplating what to do about this, the car stopped in front of the interview venue.
There were six hundred and twenty people at the interview. On enquiry, Bayo learnt that only sixteen had so far been conducted. He cursed under his breath and asked for directions to the office where it would be held.
He loitered in the area, pretending to be doing something for the company, and then hurried in as soon as an interviewee exited. There were two people in the room. The female interviewer, beautiful and professionally dressed, removed her glasses and stared at him as if he were a clown in a hospital.
“Sir,” the male interviewer said. “Who are you?”
“I received your message this morning,” Bayo tried to explain, “as I was about to walk down the aisle”.
“You can’t be serious,” the man laughed.
Before Bayo could explain any further, the woman smiled and told him to sit down.
He sat down and wiped at the sweat on his forehead.
“Tell us about yourself,” the woman said.
“Today is my wedding,” he blurted.
A burst of laughter from the two interviewers interjected.
“No, I think you can go now,” the man said, wiping tears from his eyes.
As he rose to leave, the woman asked, “Is your bride beautiful?”
He gaped at her, and then managed to answer. “Yes, she is.”
“You love her?” she asked.
He nodded with a frown.
In the absence of any further questions, Bayo left the room with tears beginning to prick his eyes.
Twenty minutes later, when the pastor said that Bayo Kehinde could now kiss the bride, Amaka hesitated. He was sweating profusely. When she finally did kiss him, with wet eyes, the kiss did not feel right.
They spent the first day of their honeymoon calculating the debts they had incurred through the wedding. Amaka nagged about how they would not be able to eat properly, for months. Bayo worried about how he would get a job.
As an only child, Bayo had succumbed to his family’s pressure to marry, even without employment. His pharmacist wife had sacrificed her housemanship savings for him, to complete his MBA, with the hope of him getting a job and sponsoring her graduate school studies when they got married.
His phone rang.
When the call ended, he shouted, “I got the job!”
“Are you serious?” Amaka said, shocked.
“Yes! I’m starting today.”
She scowled at him. “On the first day of my honeymoon?”
“Our honeymoon, honey,” he corrected.
Ejiro, the female interviewer, and Bayo were on a plane heading to Abuja, for an auditing assignment at a university. This was their second business trip together, and Bayo’s first time in an airplane.
It was now two days before the end of his honeymoon. His wife had shouted at him over the phone the night before, that they were not having a honeymoon, it was her having a mini-moon by herself. He told her he was doing all this for her, and he would make the rest of their time together, memorable.
He’d called his wife ten times, and had texted her six times today, but she was not answering. He closed the file he was reviewing and looked out the window. Far below, the land slid past.
“She’s still mad at you?” Ejiro asked.
She chuckled. “I think you’re crazy.”
“Only a crazy man will abscond from his wedding because of a job interview. Interestingly, that’s what gave you the job though,” she chuckled again. “You’ve me to thank for that. I love crazy men.”
“I don’t understand.”
Ten years older than Bayo, Ejiro was a senior accountant and board member of the parent company of her auditing firm. The company had two other subsidiaries – one law and the other pharmaceutical. The eighteen years she’d spent in the company had given her wide connections with the family of the owners of the company; one of the sons of which she was now dating – a relationship she was bored of.
“Do you love this job?” she asked.
He looked at her as if she were insane. “It pays my bills.”
She smiled. “If it were my honeymoon, I wouldn’t be on this plane.”
His mind raced back to his wife. The plane was descending now. He hoped the two days left would be enough for him to make it up with his wife, when he eventually returned to her.
“Hope you’re preparing for our Ghana trip,” Ejiro said, interrupting his thoughts.
That trip was in two days. Bayo’s heart sank into his stomach.
Bayo and Ejiro had booked into Kempinski Hotel, Gold Coast City, and were rehashing their battle plans for the day. It was 10 P.M., and as they’d just finished up, he began discussing with her, the possibility of getting a job for his wife at the company’s pharmaceutical firm.
“I don’t discuss wives.”
“I’m talking about the job, not my wife.”
She looked at him and chuckled. “How does it feel being married?”
He snickered. “I’m just married for one week.”
“How does it feel being married for one week?”
He wanted to tell her to get married, or pretend to be married and experience it for herself, but realised that she was, after all, his boss.
“Nothing special,” he shrugged. “Just a man and a woman living under the same roof, for better or for worse.”
“Impressive,” she laughed. “What of the until death do us part angle?”
“That one too.”
“That’s interesting,” she said, and left the room.
The next morning, Ejiro walked right into Bayo’s hotel suite without knocking and told him that his wife had got the job. He jumped up from the sofa, still in his pyjamas, and then ran into the bedroom to call his wife.
Ejiro could faintly hear them over the phone, laughing and calling each other sweet names.
When Bayo ended the call and thanked her, she told him it was nothing, and that she would do anything to make sure he was happy.
She moved closer to him, looking him in the eyes. “Is she happy?”
“Yes. Thank you-”
Ejiro kissed him.
He pushed her away. “What are you doing?”
She looked him directly in the eyes and then walked away.
In the plane back from Ghana to Nigeria, and seated close to each other, they barely spoke. But as they approached Lagos airport, Ejiro told Bayo that he reminded her of her Nigerian-British ex-lover, when she was doing her MBA at the London Business School. She told him her ex-lover looked like him, and admitted she was beginning to have feelings for him.
He pretended as if he did not hear her.
“Did you hear me?”
“I said I love you.”
“Get a life. Get a man.” Boss or not, Bayo wasn’t going to take this.
She smiled sardonically. “I understand how you feel. Do you understand how I feel?”
He said nothing. The plane was now on the runway. He could not wait to get out and be somewhere, anywhere, as far away from her as possible.
It was dark when Bayo returned home. The silhouette of his wife, caused by the flickering light of the television, was fascinating to him from the window. When he entered the house, Amaka was on a call with her mother, as regards her new job. On the table, he saw, was a list of all the things she would do with her first salary.
When Amaka ended the call, she jumped on him. “How did you do it?”
“How did you secure the job for me?”
He told her his boss knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone in their company’s pharmaceutical firm. Amaka said she wasn’t even aware that his company had a pharmaceutical division, and that his boss could be such a nice person.
“Did Ejiro tell you why she got the job for me?”
He tittered. “I told her you’re a pharmacist and you needed a job.”
“You guys discuss me at work?”
“For God’s sake, this calls for a celebration,” Bayo deflected and held her in his arms.
“Of course,” she said, struggling to smile.
Amaka kissed and hugged him, returning his affection. But when he began prolonging his kisses, she disconnected from him, and cast a pensive gaze on the floor.
“Are you sure?”
He kissed her on her forehead and headed through to the bathroom for a shower.
Amaka had smelled perfume on him.
She took the list on the table and tore it into pieces.
Amaka’s first day at work was uneventful. She was posted to the sales department of one of their biggest pharmacy stores in Lagos Island. She had an office, more like a cubicle, but all to herself.
By the third day, she was getting used to the place; to the air-conditioned hall; the impatience of customers; waking up early for work and coming home late. She was also getting used to the fact that it was her husband’s boss that got her the job.
Her stomach knotted. She did not know whether it was what she’d eaten, or the smell of the sea of medicines that surrounded her, that was upsetting her stomach. She drank water and was contemplating taking medication when someone tapped on her cubicle door.
She looked up and saw a handsome, well-built, and well-dressed man staring at her.
“You must be new.”
“Yes,” she said. “I started three days ago.”
“Have you vomited yet? Each time I’m here, I feel like vomiting.”
She laughed. “Three times, actually.”
“Of course,” he laughed too. “The cold from the air conditioners makes it worse.”
The man then placed his orders. During their chitchat, he told her he made his living by helping people make, or solve, trouble and that he’d been doing it for almost a decade now. When she looked at him askance, he gave her his business card.
She scanned the card. “You’re a lawyer?”
“With specialty in family and divorce law,” he smiled. “Keep the card.”
“No,” she chuckled. “I don’t need it.”
“This is Lagos,” he shrugged. “They need me. They know where to find me.”
A few seconds after the man left, she ran to the bathroom and got sick.
During her lunch break, Amaka again visited the doctor attached to the pharmacy. The laboratory test confirmed it – she was pregnant.
She called her mother and they talked at length about antenatal and babies. They argued too. Her mother wanted a boy. She wanted a girl. Her mother wanted a tribal name for the child. She wanted an English name. Her mother wanted to visit her right away to help with the pregnancy, but Amaka told her it was far too early for that.
She called Bayo, but he did not answer.
After the lunch break, and as she was peering into the computer, her mind raced back to the list she had torn up. In her mind, she now upgraded that list. She added baby clothes, cosmetics and . . . it could even be twins. Bayo’s father was a twin. She needed two children. Bayo wanted four. Amaka was nervous.
She called Bayo again.
“Hello,” a woman answered.
She ended the call and held her phone tightly, almost crushing it in her hands.
Amaka returned home from work and met Bayo resting on the bed with his suit still on. He was watching football on television. Since starting his job, this was the first time he’d returned home early. When he spread his arms for her to hug him, she ignored the gesture and sat down on the edge of their bed. He sat up, concerned, studying her face.
When Amaka stood up and increased the volume on the television, Bayo knew that he was in for a fight.
She started pacing. He went up to her and tried to take her hands in his. She recoiled from him. He patted her hair. She pushed him away.
“I called you, and she answered the call.”
“Who?” he sputtered. “When?”
“This afternoon. When did Ejiro start answering your calls for you?”
He removed his jacket and flung it on the bed. “I didn’t receive any call from you this afternoon.”
He brought out his phone and checked his ‘Received Call’ log. When he confirmed that she had in fact called, he sat down on the bed, scratching his head.
Amaka could see a lipstick stain on his shirt, close to the breast pocket. “Is that her lipstick on your shirt?!” she shouted, pointing to the mark.
He looked at his shirt and froze.
“Damn you!” She hit him on the chest. “Damn her!”
He held her tight, despite her struggling. “It’s not what you think.”
“Son of a bitch! You’ve been kissing her all this while.”
“I can never do such a thing.”
“Liar.” She bit him hard on the shoulder. He freed her. “God! She’s your boss!”
“Stop this, honey.”
“You’ve been kissing and screwing her, you-”
“She kissed me, okay!” Bayo threw up his hands. “But I rebuked her. That’s the truth. She’s just my boss.”
“She’s a bitch!” Amaka yelled. “Call her a bitch.”
“Call her a bitch. That’s what she is.”
He left the room and walked into the budding night.
The next morning, Bayo tried talking to Amaka, but she was not in the mood and ignored him outright. When he left for work, she started ransacking the house for more proof of his infidelity. She checked his clothes for lipstick stains and perfume smells.
Amaka found nothing.
She started pacing, furious. She pulled out the drawers and started examining his office files. In one of the envelopes, in one of the drawers, were receipts containing their bills, including those incurred through their wedding. She sat down and carefully studied the receipts. The total amount on them was much higher than what her husband was earning.
She felt a knot tighten in her stomach, ran to the bathroom, and got sick. Her heart and stomach hurt to the extent that she was finding it difficult to breath. Amaka removed her clothes and turned on the shower, feeling dizzy as she scrubbed her body, deep in thought.
As Amaka was about to reach for her towel, she slipped, landed hard on her stomach and screamed in pain.
On Bayo’s way to work, he received a call from Ejiro, informing him sternly, that he was to meet her in her apartment. She was sick, she said, and had pressing work deadlines. He had not visited Ejiro in her apartment before and was hesitant about this, but since he was the only person who was conversant with the projects they were working on, he had no choice.
When he knocked and entered, he met her lying on the sitting room floor, coiled up in a blanket, with paperwork surrounding her.
“You should see a doctor and take the day off,” he said.
“People don’t pay bills from hospitals,” she answered sarcastically. “But I’ll keep that in mind.”
Struggling to sit up, she tossed a file at his feet. “Start with this.”
After some time scanning the contents, he broke the silence. “You should have told me my wife called yesterday.”
“I don’t talk about wives.”
“That’s your problem, not mine.”
“Really?” She stood up. “You want to know what my problem is?”
“No. I’ve so many in my head right now.”
“My problem is you,” she blurted. “You can’t even kiss a woman.”
“Damn it! I’ve a wife.”
“Oh, we’re playing the wife game again,” she said, and began pacing.
He slapped the file on the coffee table. “I’m done here.”
As he bent down to pick up his bag, she walked up to him, and kissed him hard. He pulled away from her. She grabbed him and kissed him again, even harder. He pushed her away.
Ejiro stumbled back, caught her balance and spat: “Does she kiss you like that? Is she this sweet?” She removed her oversized polo shirt, revealing lingerie underneath, and laughed. “You’re married. Who cares?”
“You’re really sick.”
“To hell what you think,” she yelled at him, putting her polo shirt back on. “You’re fired!”
“You can’t be serious!”
She ran into one of the bathrooms and banged the door shut behind her with such force that she slipped and fell, letting out a deafening cry.
Immediately, a knock came from the front door of the apartment. Bayo, mind reeling, ignored it and ran to Ejiro, who he carried out of the bathroom and into the sitting room. There, a dangerous look in his eyes, he met Ejiro’s boyfriend for the first time; a big man with rippling muscles, who was now glowering at him.
“Who the hell are you?!” Dogara demanded.
“It was an accident,” Bayo answered, stepping away from Ejiro who was now lying on the sofa, cradling her head. “She must have fallen. And you are?”
Bayo held out a hand to Dogara, who stepped forward with lightning speed and punched him in the face.
Bayo hit the floor stunned. His phone started ringing, and holding up a defensive hand to the angry but confused Dogara, answered the call. It was his neighbour, informing him that his wife was in the hospital. He grabbed his bag, sidestepped Dogara around the sofa, and ran out of the apartment.
Dogara knelt down to check if Ejiro was okay. She mumbled and continued to cradle her head. Dogara’s phone, the most important thing in his life, beeped. It was a text message. After reading the message, he insisted on driving his girlfriend to the hospital.
The hospital was the one recommended for all staff of the company. After being directed to the ward where his wife had been admitted, Bayo rushed in and found Amaka in tears. He sat beside her and watched, rattled and almost in tears himself, as a nurse attended to her. When the nurse left, he tried to hold her, but Amaka recoiled from him.
She noticed his swollen left eye. But did not care. Whatever had happened must be causing him pain and she wanted him to feel the pain she was feeling.
“What happened, honey?” Bayo asked, concerned for his wife.
Bayo reluctantly went away to find the nurse that had attended to her. When he returned, Bayo was a broken man and in tears. He walked to the bed and sat down lightly. Seconds later, he stood up and began pacing the room, and then sat down again, close to her, and cried.
“You were pregnant?”
“I bet she’s pregnant too. I wish she miscarriages too,” Amaka said angry, but also sad.
“What are talking about?” Bayo looked at her with tears streaming down his face. “Is this a joke?”
“You think I’m joking?” she yelled at him. “I want a divorce.”
“God! You were pregnant. You didn’t tell me!” Bayo yelled back at her. “Now, you need a divorce. Are you crazy? What’s happening?!”
“When I found out I was pregnant, I called you, but she answered,” Amaka sobbed. “Then, there was her lipstick on your shirt. She kissed you. You’re fucking her.”
“Please, Amaka. She was the one who kissed me. I hated it. I hate her. And I’m not fucking her.”
He resumed his pacing. After a few moments, he stopped and leaned down on the gurney before her.
“Please, don’t leave me,” he sobbed into the blanket.
Amaka started crying.
Dogara was in the hospital. He watched with rage as the best doctors attended to his girlfriend, who had, they told him, mild concussion. She would be okay, they said, but it would be best to keep her overnight, just to be sure. No, she did not seem to have any other injuries.
He’d found out that Bayo was an employee with the company, and he had notified the police about the incident in his girlfriend’s apartment – he wanted to lay charges.
He remembered the text message he’d received and called the phone number, knowing the person was in the same hospital as well.
As soon as he walked into the ward to meet his new client, he recognised both their faces: the woman he’d met at the company’s pharmacy a few days previously, and with shock, the very man he’d punched in his girlfriend’s apartment earlier that day. As Dogara and Bayo’s eyes met, Dogara folded his fingers into fists.
“Amaka Kehinde.” Dogara said.
“You know this man?!” Bayo said in shock.
She said nothing and wasn’t sure what was happening.
“I’m Dogara Audu, Esquire,” he said, trying to remain calm. “May I know who this man is, madam?”
“He is my husband.”
“Your husband?! This man is a rapist. He tried to rape my girlfriend in her apartment this morning. I gave him that blue eye, protecting an innocent woman.”
“What?!” Amaka exploded.
“You liar!” Bayo threw a punch at Dogara but missed. The two men began tussling and someone would have got hurt if Amaka didn’t scream for help, with two nurses and a security guard intervening.
“You people are crazy!” Bayo yelled at Dogara. “You and your girlfriend are both insane!”
“I’ll make sure you rot in jail,” Dogara snapped back at him.
Amaka was trying to stand up but felt a sudden sharp pain in her stomach that made her scream.
The men, the nurses, and the security guard stopped. Both nurses rushed towards Amaka and began to attend to her.
“I’m sorry, honey.”
“Go away!” she barked at Bayo.
“I’m here, madam,” Dogara cut in. “What do you need?”
“I want a divorce,” she answered.
Dogara turned to Bayo. “You need to leave, so that I can be alone with my client.”
After hours of pleading with security, Bayo was still not allowed into the hospital to see his wife. It was only when Amaka told them she would see him, that he was allowed back inside. He met her in deep thought. He did not know whether to sit or to stand or to pace. He started crying.
“What have you done to us?” Amaka asked, crying too.
He sank to his knees. “I didn’t try to rape Ejiro, Amaka.”
He explained how everything had happened, in detail. What Ejiro had done in her apartment, and how she’d tried seducing him in the office and during their business trips together. He told her it had started from the moment that he, and she, had been hired by Ejiro.
When Amaka raised the issue of the receipts, Bayo told her that he’d taken a loan from his bank, to offset their debts. He’d wanted to make their lives comfortable and to be a good husband to her.
The day he took the loan, he explained, was the day he returned from the Ghana business trip.
“Swear you didn’t sleep with her,” Amaka said, when Bayo had finished telling her everything.
“I swear,” he sobbed, still on his knees.
She picked up her phone and called Dogara, informing him that she was no longer interested in a divorce.
“How’s your eye?” she asked after putting the phone down.
“It hurts like hell.”
She tittered and opened her arms. He rushed into them and hugged her tight.
Two nurses were peeping from the door.
“I’ve not seen this kind of madness in this place before.”
“Me too,” the other nurse concurred. “But I wouldn’t mind a man who loves me this much.”