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Gbade knew he was done for; he’d been caught the second time in one night and he had no excuses. The face that stared back at him was terrifying, Juliet would not be placated easily. Rather than cringe like he did before, he decided to turn the tables against her.
“Well, yes! You heard all I said” he said as he slowly rose from the bed, avoiding the piercing look of anger on her face. “I have a professional image to protect in case you didn’t know and I’m making a much-needed attempt to clean up the mess you created with my client today.” He walked towards the bed post, which had a mini-bar, and quickly poured himself a shot of gin. “I won’t let your jealousy ruin my business… and, and the earlier you stop listening to the rumour mongers you call ‘friends’, the better for this family” he concluded stuttering slightly.
He tried to sound ‘matter-of-fact’ and brave his way back to bed. But by the time he turned around to see if his feigned seriousness had gotten through to his wife, she was already naked, with tears flowing from her eyes.
“Gbadebo Johnson… look at me. After two kids, have I suddenly lost my appeal to you? What do you see in those girls that I do not have?” She moved closer to him. “Have I ever complained of too much sex? Or do I look like an old woman to you now?”
She was already touching Gbade, and her actions caught him completely off guard. He felt remorse deep within, but he couldn’t afford to show it, he needed her to believe his bravado; he didn’t want to appear weak before his wife so he discarded every feeling of remorse and continued his act.
“Look here woman, you have done nothing wrong. And I do not understand what you are talking about. Just do yourself a favour, stop listening to rumours! I need to sleep now, and you too should get some sleep when you’re done crying… goodnight!” He left her standing and laid himself on the bed, turning off the lamp by the bedside.
He was out of the house before Dominic and his younger sister Jessica left for school the next day, Juliet tried as much as possible to make sure the children didn’t know about their fight. When they asked about daddy, she lied to them that their dad was still in bed and did not want to be disturbed but the absence of Gbade’s favorite car in the parking lot was all Dominic needed to confirm that his mother had lied… again!
“Mummy, did Daddy leave home early today because of what happened in the night?” Dominic asked after a few minutes drive away from the house.
Juliet’s heart sank. She thought she had done enough to make him forget what happened, but she also knew her son; she knew she would have to come up with an explanation sooner or later.
“Dominic” she began trying to sound cheerful; “what you saw yesterday night had nothing to do with daddy leaving home early today. The truth is that daddy had an important meeting with some people at the office this morning and you know daddy doesn’t like getting to meetings late.” She smiled sweetly at her son, hoping she had succeeded in convincing him. But the stubborn Dominic kept a straight face; he demanded more. Juliet went on: “mind you, we only had a little misunderstanding yesterday night and it was promptly resolved after I tucked you in bed. There’s nothing to be worried about; you trust mommy don’t you?”
Dominic managed a weak smile and kept quiet afterwards but Juliet couldn’t stop stealing periodic glances at him every ten seconds trying to figure out what he had on his mind. She was grateful to God that Jessica was just seven, and couldn’t understand much of what was being said. The little Dominic subsequently got busy with his palm till the car pulled up in front of school, the children alighted and were immediately led to their classes by one of the school attendants.
Juliet decided not to go back home. She opted to go to her shop instead hoping work would serve as a welcome distraction from the drama she was dealing with at home.
At about 10:34am, her friend Patience arrived the boutique as she had promised. Juliet was grateful for her company; she had finally found someone to talk to.
“You did all that, and he still did not flinch?” Patience inquired genuinely concerned after Juliet narrated her ordeal.
“He kept on hammering on the ‘rumour mongers’ making it sound like we’re all wrong about him. I’m very confused, Patience.”
“And your son…how were you able to manage him?”
“That boy?” She sighed deeply and continued. “I told him it was just a misunderstanding and that everything had been settled… I just hope he believes me.” Juliet’s face was filled with agony. “I am scared,” she had started sobbing quietly; “I’m losing Gbade gradually and I don’t have an idea of what’s going on in the mind of my son. If I’m going to save my family, I need to act fast Patience; help me…” Her tears were flowing freely now.
Patience stared blankly and kept silent for a moment. After thinking for a few seconds, she picked up a pen and a piece of paper from the table, scribbled something and passed it on to her friend.
Juliet looked into the paper and the look of agony on her face was suddenly replaced with shock. “Oh my God! Patience! You think this will work?” She said.
“No Juliet. I do not think this would work, I know it will work!” Patience answered with infectious confidence.
“Papa, please take one more spoon” Ada placated, as she tried to force one more spoon of ‘akamu’ down her father’s throat.
Chinedu Maduakor had been battling with high blood pressure since his business crumbled. His wife sold vegetables in a nearby market and brought some change home to support the family. Things had been far from easy until Amaka their second daughter became the breadwinner of the family when she gained admission into University. Ada their first daughter who was already a graduate was still jobless and heavily dependent on the little she got from her mother, as well as her fiancé.
“I have had enough” Chinedu said after taking one more spoon. “Let me rest a bit.” He laid his back against the couch weakly; he’d been in and out of the hospital several times in the past months.
Ada packed the plates and made for the kitchen. She bumped into her mother at the entrance of the kitchen and had the whole ground smeared with the remaining pap her Papa could not finish.
“Is this how you are going to keep wasting food?” Mama shot out as she moved towards Papa. “You have to eat in order to have strength. There’s no money to waste on hospital bills anymore. Market has been dull for the past two weeks, and you know we have no other source of income in this house. You have to be strong, and go out there to fend for this family too, remember you still have a daughter in the university, and we have a wedding to prepare for.”
Ada, who had been busy cleaning up the mess in the kitchen was already seething with anger at the way Mama was addressing Papa and she suddenly shot out, “whose wedding?”
“Who else? Yours of course!” Mama responded immediately. “You are getting too old for this house. You should be in your husband’s house already. Girls who are not as old as you are married.”
“Ben and I will get married when the time is right for God. You are not to determine when that time will be mama.” Ada was beginning to raise her voice.
“Look at your father. Look at the situation of this house. Are you expecting me to feed and take care of your father, work myself to death to settle your sister’s school fees, and still fend for you at this age? Never!” Mama was pacing back and forth, making the discourse look like one of those fights she regularly had at the market. “Several rich men have been here, all begging for your hand in marriage but you have chosen to perpetually keep us in poverty because of that stupid thing you call love. Now tell me, where has love taken you to? What did you bring from your last visit to Ben’s place in Lagos? You have only returned to add to our numerous burdens”
“Stop this mama!” Ada screamed.
“Your Ben is still struggling in Lagos where his mates have already built mansions”
“I said stop it mama!”
“Your loving Ben can’t even boast of a car and he wants to marry a wife”
“Mama please stop talking!” Ada was going crazy.
“Ngozi that’s enough!” Papa yelled with every ounce of strength in his weak body. He knew his wife wouldn’t stop if he didn’t try to salvage the situation between mother and daughter. “I have said this over and over again, let this girl be… She has the right to choose…” He choked on the words and started coughing.
“Sorry Papa” Ada rushed to him. But the cough increased and he seemed to be under an attack. Within a few seconds, he passed out.
“Chimoooo!” Mama screamed as they both struggled to lift him off the couch and get him to a nearby hospital.
It was just a few more minutes to 10 o’clock. Tunji had to find an excuse to leave Jumoke in the reading room, and he hurried up the stairs to Amaka’s room, hoping to find her there.
Since professor Awofisibe seized his phone, reaching her had been tough. He had been trying to stalk her but she was extremely difficult to track. She hardly attended classes, and when she did, she always found a way to completely disappear before Tunji could find her.
He longed to see her, to ask her why she had been avoiding him. He knew it was beyond the money she owed him for doing her assignment and making sure it was submitted, he just had a strange urge of wanting to see her again. He was lucky to meet one of her roommates who told him that she was in the room preparing to attend a party. She advised him to hurry if he wanted to meet her before she left for the party.
By the time Tunji arrived at Room B302 in Moremi Hall, he was already covered in sweat and panting like a thirsty dog.
“Who’s there?” A voice answered from inside after he had knocked twice.
“Please, is Amaka around?” He managed to speak.
There was silence for a few seconds, and then two female voices answered almost simultaneously “No!”
He knew immediately what was wrong.
“Okay, please tell her Tunji was here, and that I have a very important message for her. She should try to see me as soon as possible.”
As he turned to leave, his legs began to ache. The effect of the desperate race from Ajose Lecture Theatre where he had been reading down to Moremi Hall was telling on him; more weary was his heart. He wanted to return to meet Jumoke, but he was too weak for that so he headed for his hostel wondering why his life was seeming to fall apart.
He had expected his room to be empty or at least half empty. He hoped his roommates would have also gone out to read as the exams were drawing near, but to his amazement, the room was full and as noisy as a marketplace. He quickly moved into the room with much curiosity only to find his roomies playing PS!
He dragged himself out of the room when he couldn’t calm the noise in the room. He descended the stairs and was heading towards the next block when he heard Jumoke’s voice.
“I thought you said you would be back in a jiffy?” She inquired as she approached him with his books in her hands.
“Yea, I developed a nasty headache and decided to come to my room to sleep, but there’s too much noise there. I was just going to Kelvin’s room to sleep…”
“Cut the crap dearie” she said “I just saw the reason for your headache outside Moremi with other girls, they seem to be going for a party… have your books” she handed his books over. “Goodnight”
As she walked away, he wondered how she knew about his dealings with Amaka, and why she reacted that way. His headache was much more of a worry, so he took his books back to his room and slept amidst the noise.
The next day was a thursday, and Tunji was free until 10am but he was fully dressed and on his way to the department before 8am. Luckily, he saw Amaka in the company of a few of her classmates, all rushing towards class. He doubled his pace and tapped her by the shoulder from behind to get her attention when he finally caught up with her.
“Good morning.” He said, trying to force a smile.
“Yea, good morning Tunji…sorry I have a class and I need to…” Amaka wasn’t willing to let her friends walk too far ahead of her, but Tunji wouldn’t let her leave.
“Why are you avoiding me?” He inquired.
“Err… First things first, I’m not avoiding you. Secondly, I need to rush.” She took a step to walk away but Tunji’s grip on her wrist was firm.
“Amaka, if it’s about your assignment I’m sorry.”
“Oh that? Come on, its nothing. I know I should have paid you, but I have actually been busy…” She was losing her patience, and gradually slipping her wrist from his grip.
“It’s not the assignment Amaka, it’s about me…” Tunji looked serious.
“You… what about you?” She asked with a mixture of concern and surprise.
“Amaka I don’t know how to even say this; I’ve been…”
“Tunji” she interrupted him, “do you realize you’re keeping me from my class? If you have something to say please just…”
“I have fallen in love with you” Tunji blurted out…
To Be Continued Next Week…..
Edited by: Olarinde Samuel
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