It was about 8:00am when Teni finally returned home with Austin. He was fast asleep when she honked in front of the estate. The security guard opened the gate and she drove in. She carried Austin into her apartment and laid him on the bed in her guest room. The delivery was successful; a beautiful baby girl. Teni smiled at the memory. The sight of the baby had affected her so much, she had decided on the spot to have her own baby. She would probably find a sperm donor but she was certain she wanted to have a baby.
She went to shower still thinking of Austin’s mother in the hospital. The woman had been so grateful to see them once the baby was born. She thanked Teni profusely and Teni found it annoying. Teni asked her if she could call anyone and the woman said no. She found that strange but she did not say anything. Instead, she offered to go home and give Austin breakfast, then bring a few things and come back to the hospital.
When she was done and dressed, she quickly fried eggs and brought out a loaf of bread from the fridge. Austin walked into the kitchen as she sliced the bread. She smiled at him and offered him some but he shook his head.
“I haven’t brushed yet. Mummy says I must brush every morning before I eat.”
Teni was shocked. She did not remember being so responsible at his age.
“Okay dear. Umm, should I follow you to get your toothbrush?”
He nodded and Teni set the knife down.
She walked into their house and stood in the living room while he went to get his brush. She looked around. It was her first time inside the house. Unlike hers, theirs was a three bedroom apartment. The furniture was simple and understated. There were only a few pictures hanging in the room and they were single pictures of Austin and his mum, then some they had taken together. She wondered if the woman had been so traumatized by her husband’s death that she didn’t have any of his pictures up.
Austin returned and she remembered they were supposed to take a bag to the hospital.
“Austin, does your mummy have any small bag we can use to pack things for her?”
He thought for a few seconds and nodded.
“Yes. She has her hospital baby bag.”
Teni looked confused.
“Hospital baby bag?”
“Yes. She told me that I should make sure she carries the bag any day the baby is coming but I forgot it last night. Let me go and bring it.”
He dashed off again.
Teni had an unusual feeling in her chest and in her tummy. None of her sisters’ children had ever affected her this way. What was it about this kid that had her so drawn to him?
Her phone rang endlessly, a consistent rhythm with her throbbing head. She stared at the caller ID on the screen and simply refused to answer it. Bobby had become a chinch but while she was slightly irritated by his persistence, a part of her was somewhat grateful that he would not go away. She remembered the first time she met him and smiled a sad smile. She already had suspicions about her husband’s infidelity and that night, it stared her straight in the face.
Ese saw the young lady walk up to Gabe and peck him on the cheek. She bit her lower lip and forced her resentment to the innermost recesses of her being. She sipped her drink and let her eyes roam the crowd. It was a cocktail party organized by one of the several companies his office consulted for. There wasn’t a single familiar face in the room. She had quietly insisted on coming even though he tried to discourage her. Now she knew it was a bad idea to have come. She had tried to stay stuck to his arm since they arrived but he always managed to wriggle free.
She observed them from where she stood and watched as Gabe’s eyes shone. He laughed at something the lady said and wagged his forefinger in her face. Ese felt a sharp sting in her chest. They had been married six years and she could not remember the last time Gabe laughed at something she said; could not remember the last time his eyes lit up when she walked into a room or the last time his eyes shone from being around her. She sighed and turned away. She had learned to live with it. Her mum would say ‘at least he’s not bringing them to your home.’
She downed the remainder of her drink, dropped the empty glass in a tray and picked another. A young man walked up to her and smiled.
“Good evening ma’am.”
She smiled back with a questioning look on her face. She didn’t recognize him.
Her uncertainty rang out in her voice
“My name is Bobby. I’m your husband’s colleague.”
Ese smiled to hide her surprise. She always felt Gabe was bent on hiding her from his colleagues. She shook his hand and smiled.
“Nice to meet you.”
“He’s always talking about you. Now I see why we hear so much of you and see nothing of you.”
Ese smiled. She was deeply flattered.
They had a light banter and curiosity forced here to ask a question she knew she shouldn’t ask.
“The nice lady by my husband, I’ve forgotten her name, she’s a colleague ofyours too right?”
She thought she noticed a shift in his eyes but she wasn’t quite sure because he smiled and said
“Stella Okpokiti? Yes. One of the best actually. We call her the manipulator. She’s merciless when charging the clients.”
Ese smiled, taking notes in her head. Beautiful, intelligent, every inch a threat to her marriage.
“Oh that’s nice.”
Bobby smiled too and lowered his voice.
“Let me do aproko small. Her husband is a military man that also happens to have plenty oil money and he’s super protective of her so when he’s not around at functions like this, she manages to shine teeth with all of us.”
Ese laughed out loud and Bobby’s eyes gleamed. She was beginning to enjoy herself for the first time that evening.
“I didn’t realize she was married.”
“She is o. Plus she adores her husband. You should hear her talk about him you’d think he was the messiah.”
Ese found herself laughing some more. This Bobby was a case. His comments however allayed some of her fears. Maybe it was some other lady Gabe was having an affair with. She convinced herself that the peck was nothing more than polite greeting and there was really nothing out of the ordinary going on.
Bobby lay on his bed thinking about Ese. She was a wonderful lady and the thought that she was having to go through so much hurt left him feeling bad. He recalled the first time they met and as always, the memory broke his heart.
“My rent is due, salaries have been delayed and I’m totally clueless as to where I’ll get the money. Please sir, I really need your help.”
Bobby looked at his senior colleague who twirled a pen in his hands, staring at it as though he expected something spectacular to happen. He waited somewhat impatiently, all the while hoping that the man would oblige him his request. He was really in a fix. With all the loans he had given to people and all the financial support he’d given to his family, he had managed to go broke without realizing his rent was almost due. The landlord came knocking soon after his pocket emptied and the man was not smiling. He gave Bobby an ultimatum of 2 weeks to pay up or move out and give room for new tenants who were eager to move in. Bobby wasn’t even sure that was legal but he didn’t even have the will to contend with his crazy landlord. He needed to raise the money.
Gabe eventually looked up and asked him
“How much is the money again?”
“I need a loan of four hundred thousand sir. I already have some money. That’s all I need to make it up.”
Gabe shook his head.
“I’m sorry young man but I do not have four hundred thousand to loan you. I can however give the money with no expectations of a payback if you’d help me with a little assignment”
Bobby looked confused.
“What’s that sir?”
“The cocktail party we’re having tonight. My wife is going to be around and I need you to keep her away from me and convince her as subtly as possible that I’m not having an affair.”
“You heard me. My wife is clingy and obsessive. If you can keep her away from me all evening and convince her without being obvious that I’m not having an affair, I’ll give you four hundred thousand naira in cash tomorrow and we’ll forget that this ever happened.”
Bobby scratched his head. Gabe’s affair with Stella was not a secret, at least not in their office. The two didn’t try to be discreet about it. Now Gabe expected him to lie to his wife for a measly four hundred thousand naira? He thought about how badly he needed the money. There was no one else to turn to. Gabe had been a last resort. He shook his head and replied
“I’m sorry sir but I can’t do that.”
“I see you don’t need the money then. It’s alright. I’ll find a more willing candidate and I won’t even need to pay a dime.”
Gabe smiled, a smug look on his face and he turned to his laptop.
Bobby stood where he was. He knew he should walk away but he kept thinking of how paying off his rent would ease the financial pressure he currently faced. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and sighed.
“How am I sure you’ll give me the money?”
“Oh? You’re interested now? I’ll give you two hundred right away and the other two hundred tomorrow if you do a good job.”
“Alright then. It’s a deal.”
That was how he found himself in Ese’s company that night telling white lies and giving false impressions. He was surprised when he saw her. She looked so young and was rather fit for a married woman with two children. He placed her age around twenty eight and thirty. He enjoyed talking to her that night and figured that her husband hardly engaged her in conversations.
By the time the night was over, he was extremely disgusted with himself. As Gabe made his way towards them, she asked him a question that totally threw him off balance. It was utterly random and completely unexpected.
“My husband is having an affair, isn’t he?”
He faltered for a moment as he contemplated telling her the truth. He saw something in her eyes that he couldn’t read but he also remembered his house rent.
“Naah. He isn’t. At least not to my knowledge. The ladies love him but he’s got eyes for only you.”
His laughter was a little strained and Gabe showed up in that instant. He was grateful for a reason to leave.
What Bobby didn’t know was Ese had seen Gabe grab Stella’s bum and whisper something into her ears before headed towards them and that single act ruined the night for her. She noticed the shift in his eyes and his uneasy laughter and it told her that Bobby was aware her husband was having an affair. She chided herself for thinking he would have told her the truth. Men were all the same after all.