I wrote this story for Bellanaija.com (BN Prose Series). Its gone viral and I thought I might as well paste it on my blog for you all to enjoy.
“Biyi hasn’t worked for that long?” Dayo’s voice drips with resentment. “For real?”
“He’s been trying,” I say in feeble attempt to defend my husband. “You know how the economy is.”
My husband and I had vowed never to bring in a third party into our relationship but with a bank account screaming for revival, I need to share my burden with someone else. I grip the phone. Dayo is unusually quiet. “You still there?” I ask. “Hello?”
“I am here,” she says. “I just didn’t know things were this bad. And all this while, I thought Biyi was providing for the home.”
But he is, I argue silently. Well, maybe not financially for now, but in every way else, Biyi is a rock. “It’s not that bad.” My words sound frail.
Dayo clucks her tongue. “You might as well be a widow.”
The words hit me like a fist.
“Na you I blame,” she continues, oblivious to the damage her words have caused.
“Me? Why?” She is blaming me for this? Seriously?
“Why do you keep paying the bills?”
“Because there is no one else to do it,” I protest, upset.
“For real? He drives your car too?”
“He needs it,” I mutter. “To attend job interviews and stuff. He gets back late sometimes.”
“How late are you talking?
Dayo pauses for a second. “I hate to say this gurl, but your husband spending your money on another woman.”
Whoa! Hang on. Where did that come from? “Haba, Dayo. Biyi would never—”
“Look, I know men,” she slices in. “You are his moneybag and he will take you for a ride as long as it takes. Where is your dignity, gurl?”
Ride. Dignity. Moneybag. Ouch. “But he’s a good guy,” I manage. Can my husband be using me? It had never crossed my mind in the past, but I now wonder if Biyi is actually having an affair.
“I trust my wonderful Dennis…,” Dayo is saying. I barely listen. My eyes are on the clock. It’s almost midnight and Biyi isn’t home. I force myself to hear what Dayo is saying about Dennis Ono, her multimillionaire-oil- company-golden-husband. Gosh I envy her life, her perfect marriage.
“My marriage is wonderful,” Dayo says, as if in affirmation to my undeclared words. “But only because I show Dennis who the boss is. He cannot try nonsense with me. Abi, you think it’s easy to get ten thousand pounds a month as pocket money?”
She really gets ten grand a month? That’s like, my entire annual salary in my crappy job plus bonuses. Life is unfair. Honestly. “I am Biyi’s wife,” I say. “I cannot just desert him.” Or can I? At this rate…
“In that case,” there is an edge to her voice now, “give him an ultimatum. He gets a job in two weeks or you are out of that marriage.”
“Look, I know his type,” she says with conviction. “He conveniently won’t get a job as long as you keep dishing out your money.”
“Starve him,” she adds. “No sex. Make life hell. You are not an ATM machine.”
Keys jangle in the hallway. Biyi is home. “Talk later,” I say to Dayo. “He’s back.”
“Stand your ground,” Dayo whispers menacingly. “Ultimatum. Two weeks.”
I hang up with a sigh. My husband is leaning against the door frame. For a second my heart falters. He looks tired, drawn. But Dayo’s words punctuate my compassion. “Where have you been?”
Biyi gives me a side smile. “No hug?”
I jerk my head at the wall clock.” Its midnight.”
“I had a job interview in Birmingham,” he says. “I called you tell you I was stuck in traffic but I kept getting your voicemail. What’s wrong?”
I cock my head. Is that a whiff of female perfume? It is. Dayo is right. He has been with another woman. With my car. Spending my money. My head spins. “Biyi,” I glare at him, “Where are you coming from?”
He steps back, surprised. “I went to Birmingham—”
“Did you get it?” I screech. “The job?”
Biyi shakes his head. “I didn’t—”
This is the last straw. I wrench my hand out. “My car keys.”
He gives me a hard level stare. “What is wrong with you, Toni? Did I offend you?”
“Pass my keys!”
He thrusts the car keys to into my palm. I push past him, grab my duffel bag and stuff my overnight things into it. I know I am acting crazy but I have to show him that I would not be taken for a ride. That I am not a moneybag. That I have dignity. I zip the bag up and spin around. My husband is staring at me. “Is everything all right with you, sweetheart?”
“Get out of my way.”
“Where are you going with that bag?”
“I need to clear my head.” I am still yelling.
“Can we talk first?” Biyi suggests.
“I don’t want to talk. Get out of my way.”
He moves out of my path. I swipe a hand across my face, smearing my cheeks with `mascara. “Don’t look for me. I will be back when my head clears.”
I rush out of the house, jump into my car. My rage doubles as the feminine scent permeates the car. He has been with a woman in my car. I feel like an idiot.
* * *
I pull up in front of Dayo’s mansion. Her husband’s Porsche is in the driveway, and the porch lights illuminate my dreary form as I reach the door. I ball my fists to knock, but a scream freezes the motion.
“Kill me!” I hear Dayo scream. “Good for nothing idiot. Womaniser of the century!”
Whoa. Momentarily, I am unable to move. My hand hovers in the air.
Dull thuds, muffled screams. Dennis curses. “I warned you never to serve me stew that is not freshly cooked!”
“Am I your slave?” Dayo yells back. “If you want fresh stew, get your PA to cook it for you. Or you think I don’t know about her? You think…”
Dayo’s words are silenced by another thump. My hands fall to my side as a flurry of blows stifle her cries.
I want call the police, do something…anything. But I cannot move. And so I shut my eyes tight and listen as my friend is pummelled by her husband.
The beating stops. I should dash to my car, but something holds me back.
“I am sorry I got you upset darling,” Dayo finally says. Her voice is laced with pain. “It is my fault. I should have cooked for you. I…Toni wouldn’t let me get off the phone…its her fault.”
“Next time you talk to me like that, I will tattoo a punch on your forehead,” Dennis growls. “Get into the kitchen and make me fresh stew. And do something about that leech you call a friend.”
That is enough for me. I sprint back to my car and drive home.
* * *
A knock sounds on the window. Biyi. I wind down and he gives me a smile. “Head clear now?” he asks.
“Leave me alone,” I mutter. Dayo’s wonderful Denis beats her up? And she never mentioned?
“I will leave you alone in two seconds,” Biyi says. There is a twinkle in his eyes. “But first, get out of the car.”
I oblige, grudgingly. “What?”
He reaches under the car seat and pulls out a small basket. “I didn’t come home straight from the interview. I stopped over at the Perfume shop to get you this.”
He hands the basket over. Inside is a range of exotic feminine perfumes and a small card. I pull the card open, read the words:
“Thank you for your support during the hardest times of my life! I love you.”
“That’s why I was late,” he explains as he pulls me into a warm embrace. “You have been so good to me, Toni. I couldn’t have asked for a better wife.”
I can’t reply. My throat is lumpy.
“When you left the house to clear your head, I got message from the recruiter,” he says with a beam. “God answers prayers, babe. I got a job offer. It’s a package you won’t believe. Let’s go in. I’ll tuck you into bed and you can tell me what’s bothering you?”
* * *
I awaken to a text message from Dayo. “Denis is flying me to Seychelles this weekend. This is what you get when you stand your ground. You have to be a no nonsense gurl! Don’t you just love my life? Ciao sweetheart xxx.”
I type a quick response back: “Ciao!”
And then I promptly delete her number from my phone.
Written by Abimbola Dare. All rights reserved. 2012
*If you live outside the uk, you will need to go to amazon.com and search for "abimbola dare the small print" in the search box to purchase for jusy $3.00.
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on 5.11.11 © BiMbyLaDs**
I'll be touring as many blogs as possible from November as I prepare for the release of The Small Print. So, I am asking my wonderful bloggers to please let me know if you'd be so kind to allow me disturb your blog for one day! hehe. I promise to be smart and sensible.
My first stop is the amazing Myne Whitman's blog- thanks Myne :-) I'll also be stopping by at faithdames,Lara Daniels, Linda Ikeji and many more.
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on 21.10.11 © BiMbyLaDs**
The moment he stepped into room 415 and saw Jennifer Lennox sitting behind the polished mahogany table, Wale Ademola knew he was a dead man. He shut the glass panelled door behind him with a click and glared. It had to be an illusion. He checked again. Nope. This was for real. She was here. What on earth was his ex-wife doing in his office?
“Good morning Wale.” The woman sitting next to Jennifer spoke first. Her name was Coleen something from HR. She’d interviewed him only last year, at the start of his job as a temp administrator. She peered at him. “Is something wrong?
He started to come forward, stumbled and bumped into a stationery cupboard. “Sorry. I… I must have the wrong room. I am here for a promotion interview for the trainee project manager position.” It had to be the wrong room.
Coleen waved a piece of paper at him. “You didn’t get the confirmation email?”
He nodded. His mind swirled with questions and he tried his best to look relaxed. Had Jennifer traced him to London? Or was this a nightmare?
Coleen gave a reassuring smile. “It will be over before you know it.”
My life will be over before you know it. “Uh-huh.”
Jennifer gave nothing away with her expression, and when she glanced at him it was like she was looking right through him. As though he wasn’t even there. She shifted in her seat and the aqueous floral scent of her perfume smacked his nostrils. He coughed, spluttered. He’d given her the fragrance for her twenty- eighth birthday last year... a day before he – should he say left her? He dropped his gaze to the table.
“You look a tad bit uncomfortable,” Coleen said, concern brimming on the edge of her voice. “Take a seat.” She gestured at the only vacant chair in the room.
In front of Jennifer? God forbid bad thing. He sagged into the chair like an invalid. “Thank you.”
Beads of perspiration beneath his armpits prickled. Trouble had landed in his backyard. Jealous enemies from his village in Nigeria had chosen the best time to strike their juju, African black magic. Wale mentally sent a curse in return. Thunder fire them all. Including Jennifer Lennox.
Jennifer tossed a stray lock of curled blond hair away from her face and held out her hand. Obviously, his curse did not work. “Mister Ademola,” she said. “An absolute pleasure to meet you.”
Mister? Her performance deserved a standing ovation. He sat up straight with a tight grin, convinced his expression must look like one on a mug shot. “Same here.” His hands remained on the table, numb. If Jennifer noticed, she didn’t react. She turned to Coleen. “Ready when you are.”
“We almost cancelled the interview when Maryann called in sick.” Coleen gave Jennifer a grateful nod. “Thank your stars that Andrea came in on a short notice. She will lead the interview.”
Andrea? A chill spread across his body. Jennifer changed her name? He swallowed. “T-that’s fine.”
Jennifer pointed to the jug on the table. “Water?”
Her nails were perfectly manicured, as always, metallic blue with silver sparkles.
Rat poison would be perfect. “No. No thanks.”
She sipped water from her glass. “I will allow you a few minutes to get your self together.”
Wale squinted at the window. Determined rays from the sun streamed into the room even though it was barely ten. Somewhere down below, a car tire scrunched against the asphalt. The engine of a bus shuddered to a stop and the doors hissed open. Stall owners’ voices were faint in the distance as they paraded sun hats and ice-lollies. A perfect summer day. Why hadn’t he called in sick? Cancelled the interview?
“Did you bring your identification documents?” Coleen asked.
He snapped his head up. “Documents?”
“Yes. I included the list of acceptable documentation in the email.” She looked a bit irritated. “Your passport?”
Crap. He’d been hoping she’d forget. “Do you have to see it now?”
Coleen’s apologetic smile had a life span of about a nanosecond. “Immigration rules.”
“Uh, of course.” Wale shoved a reluctant hand into his breast pocket. He fished out a passport that had once been vibrantly green and shook it lightly. The frayed edges coughed out a small cloud of thick, black powder.
He forced a smile. “I dropped it in a pile of soot on my way here.” Yeah right. More like good luck charm from Nigeria to distract immigration officers at Heathrow from staring too hard at the passport. They were usually wary of visitors like him coming into the UK: Immigrants with no prospects of ever returning to their country of origin. The charm had worked. Despite the filth, they hadn’t asked a question when he’d presented it. He placed the document into Coleen’s open hand. “Here you go.”
“You are a Nigerian citizen?” Coleen asked. She blew away some more of the black powder and flipped to the middle page. She studied the page for a long moment. Wale kept his focus on the space behind her head. To the right was an old Xerox photocopier churning out documents with an industrious hum. He stared at the papers as they floated unto the receiving tray, counting in sync with slow eye movements.
“Your UK residence permit is a temporary one? Expires in eight months?” Coleen’s eyebrows rose in a probing arc. “This is a permanent position.”
Wale swallowed, wiped his palms on his thigh. “I will be entitled to a permanent residency real soon.”
Jennifer suddenly perked up, fluffed the ruffles of the stripped orange shirt underneath her suit. “You certainly will. Won’t you?” Her Irish accent was more pronounced than usual. As it often was when she wanted to be sarcastic.
He stared pointedly at Coleen. “Syms & Syms offers work permits to foreign workers right? I was thinking of-”
“We don’t.” Coleen cut in with a frown. “Not anymore. We exceeded our quota for work permits last week. Are you expecting to get a work permit from us?”
Last week? Talk about bad luck. “No I am not. I was just asking for information purposes. My, uh, wife is a British citizen.” Stupid answer.
“If you are sure...I guess we can proceed.” Coleen looked at him as though she did not entirely believe him.
“Hundred percent.” Wale nodded vigorously. “You have nothing to worry about.”
Jennifer’s cold, cerulean eyes pierced Coleen with a look. “The applicant is an illegal immigrant, and the interview will continue?” She gave half a chuckle. “Is that how Syms & Syms works?”
Her words stabbed his gut. Illegal Immigrant.
Coleen’s eyes flicked between them as if to question Jennifer’s sudden coldness. “Andrea, until Wale’s visa runs out, he cannot be considered an illegal immigrant and will be treated fairly. Trust me, when his visa expires, we will know. And we will deal with it then.” She slid the passport across the table. Wale failed to catch it and the document smacked against the ceramic floor and landed by his feet.
Coleen continued. “Let’s get on with the interview?”
Jennifer spread her arms out as if to say “whatever.”
The veins in Wale’s head throbbed. Why didn’t he hit the delete key when the cursed job advert landed in his inbox? Because he was an over ambitious idiot with a bank account the size of a dried pimple, that’s why.
Coleen looked at him, an expectant expression on her face. “Well?”
He sighed with weariness, feeling as though he was about to be strapped to an electric chair for a crime he did not commit. Finally he nodded. “I am ready.”
***“Africa!” Wale’s colleague called out as soon as he returned to the main office floor of Syms & Syms, the IT project management consulting firm that employed him. Wale groaned as Q stumbled through scurrying assistants and ringing phones towards the cubicle they shared. Q’s real name was Quaddam, but everyone called him Q. They had been working in the same department- Admin and Supplies- since Wale started at the company. Unlike Wale, Q loved the brain- deadening post office runs, monotonous stationary upkeep and general servitude to the entire company that had been their duties for a little over a year. The position gave Q an opportunity to be the first to hear office gossip while it was still sizzling. On the bright side, Q’s enthusiasm usually made Wale’s days slightly shorter and more bearable. But not today.
“Get lost Q,” Wale muttered. “And stop calling me Africa.”
Q gripped a bunch of manila files under his arm as though his life depended on it. “Not until I finish my investigation.” He wheeled a spare chair close and slammed his files on top of Wale’s desk, unsettling the dust around the pen holders.
“What is it?” Wale asked. He reached for a copy of the IT News magazine on his desk, and hoped that Q would take a hint and get lost.
“Andrea Lennox interviewed you,” Q said, hardly noticing his lack of enthusiasm.
“She left a massive IT firm in Manchester to help shape things up here for a few months.”
“Why travel all the way from Manchester to London? Syms & Syms has never been in the Times top hundred IT companies to work for.” Q let out a chuckle. “Or top five thousand.”
“Your point is?”
“My point is why?”
Wale returned to the magazine and fingered it; moving his hands across the images at a snail’s pace. ”I don’t know. Leave me alone.”
Q nodded but didn’t shift from his position. ”I see the interview didn’t go well?”
“It was a blast.” Wale replied in perfect monotone. “Go away.”
“Feisty.” Q wiggled his index finger. “Don’t worry, Wale. You’ll get the job you have always wanted. Then you will get promoted and leave me here all by myself.”
Wale placed his palm on his chest and feigned distress. “I’m heartbroken.”
“Okay.” Q sat bolt upright. “One more question and I am gone.”
“Are you and Andrea related in any way, shape or form?” Q’s beady eyes shone with curiosity.
Adrenaline propelled Wale out of his seat. “Me and Jen-Andrea related? Why would you think that?”
“Just answer me.”
“Why do you Africans answer questions with questions?”
“Are you going to talk or not?”
“See what I mean?”
Wale took a deep breath. “This is not the time to muck about.”
Q tapped his chin and stared at the ceiling as though his answer was engrained in the perforated tiles. Finally, he lowered his head and said, “I just ordered an ID card for the new project manager.”
“In her passport, her surname is hyphenated.”
Wale’s heart thumped. “What has that got to do with the price of fish?”
“Wait till I tell you,” Q said and then paused.
“I am waiting.”
“The first half of her name is the same as yours.”
“Her full name is Andrea Ademola- Lennox.”
The room whirled. Wale closed his eyes. “No. No way.”
“Yep,” Q said. “I saw it myself. Now what was that about the price of fish?”
***Thanks for reading.
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