Sacrilege – Episode 3
© Adeola Nissi
The words echoed loud and clear, repeating itself over and over again in Laura’s head as her mother-in-law’s eyes rested disdainfully on her.
Laura’s throat contrasted painfully as she stared, not comprehending anything at all. “F… For who?” she choked, staring at everyone like they had all gone insane. They must all be mad, or she was mad but definitely, someone needed psychiatric attention here.
“Are you deaf as well as daft? Teju is carrying my grandchild” Mrs Aderigbe smiled cheerily. “Deolu’s child”
Laura gasped as the blow sent her staggering backwards. She covered her quivering mouth with her shaking fingers as her eyes involuntarily settled on Teju’s stomach. Dead silence descended heavily. Everyone had their eyes on Laura, who seemed to have expired on her two feet. Laura gasped continuously as the words replayed in her head over and over again. She couldn’t feel, she couldn’t think; she could only hear the words that pierced through her heart like an arrow.
Laura stared wide-eyed at Teju’s flat belly, like it was an object of rare fascination. Tears blurred her eyes, thoughts clouded her mind, pain stabbed at her heart till it became almost unbearable. She closed her mouth against the strangled sob trying to break through as tears flooded her eyes.
Deolu looked shattered, his pain visibly written on his face. He couldn’t move close to Laura. How could he touch her after the magnitude of what he’d done? His worst fear had just come to pass, and at such an auspicious day in their lives. The pain he saw in the eyes of the woman he had loved forever felt like acid to his intestines, eating at his conscience. How did he let this happen? How did he manage to hurt the one he had vowed to love so deeply?
Laura’s hand slipped away from her mouth, falling lifelessly at her sides. Tears rolled down her shocked face as she turned her head inch by inch in Deolu’s direction. Her flooded eyes settled on Deolu, looking straight at him as tears coerced down her cheeks like the tide of a mighty river.
“She is… pregnant?” her voice small and lifeless drifted to Deolu’s ears, causing his heart to squeeze painfully.
He swallowed, unable to meet her gaze as he took a small cautious step towards her. “Laura…”
“Is it true?” Laura yelled suddenly as her eyes went wild. “You had an affair with her? You slept…” her voice broke “… you slept with her? With… with Teju?” she murmured in shock as tears rolled down her cheek. “With your… best friend?” Deolu swallowed, unable to speak. Laura’s chest heaved as she stared from Teju’s stomach to Deolu’s guilt stricken face. “You knew… you knew she was…” her voice caught and broke “… pregnant?” she completed silently as the last of her strength threatened to slip out of her.
Deolu stared, unable to meet Laura’s eyes. “Yes”
Laura gasped. Her eyes were as large as doughnuts as she gaped incredulously at the man she had loved for nine years. The man whose name she had answered for six years. She had given up everything for him; given up her family, given up her freedom, given up everything she held dear. She had fought even against his mother’s fury and fawns for him. She had endured critiques, disgrace, pain and pressures; sent it all to hell, just for the love she shared with Deolu. And all for what? For this? To be made a fool of when all she had ever done was love Deolu so completely? To be made a laughing stock by the one she had risked it all for? To be betrayed by her own husband? “You claimed she is your best friend…” Laura mouthed miserably, “…but all along, you were making jest of my stupidity behind my back”
“No” Deolu choked. “Please Laura… please let me explain”
Laura turned her lifeless feet and stumbled slightly. Deolu jumped to help her and Laura’s fist swung speedily, connecting with his cheek in a resounding slap, shocking everyone, including she herself. Gasps went round followed by deafening silence as Laura glared at Deolu through her tears. “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare touch me” Tears of humiliation travelled down her face. She shook her head vigorously as her chest heaved from holding back her sobs, her knees were going weak under her. “I’ve never hit you before” she muttered in a low shallow voice, staring down at her hand. “I never thought I could” Tears slipped down her cheeks and dropped onto the top of her anniversary attire. “Just like I never thought you could cheat on me” she swallowed and raised her watery eyes to Deolu. “You can hit me back; it is not going to make me feel any worse than I already do”
Deolu swallowed hard, “I’d never do that”he choked out.
Laura smiled mirthlessly. “You already have…” she turned to look at Teju’s guilt stricken face. “…and the bruises you left… can’t be healed with time, because…” she cracked and covered her mouth against the sob that threatened to break free as her eyes landed on Teju’s stomach. “… because it grows in size with every passing second” she stared in lifeless wonder at Teju’s stomach.
Laura’s head ached, she wasn’t sure she could see beyond the sea of tears that hindered her vision, but she turned her eyes one last time to look at the face of the man she had left all for. The happy family she had once envisaged flashed before her eyes, leaving a blank space in its wake. Pain sliced through her as everything swam before her. One step after another, she made her way like a zombie into the house as everyone faded out of focus, leaving her stuck in misery. She pushed open the door to the guests’ room and entered, closing the door lifelessly behind her.
She stood at the middle of the room, staring into space as the incident of the last few minutes slammed into her with full force. Unable to hold back any longer, she crumbled to the ground, giving in to the sobs she held at bay as her tears came rushing down in full velocity.
Clicks of cutlery against plate rang out in the moderate sized dining room. Mr Johnson dug into his food with vigor, oblivious to the moody state of his wife.
Gloria moved her rice and stew around the plate, with no appetite at all. “Darling”
“Huh” Mr Johnson grumbled as he chewed on the food in his mouth.
Gloria took a deep breath. “Today is our daughter’s wedding anniversary. We should call to greet.” She said, staring at her food.
Frank Johnson paused fractionally. “Margaret?”
“You know who I’m talking about”
Frank’ mouth tightened slightly as he continued his meal. “I have no other married daughter”
Gloria dropped her spoon noisily. “How long would you keep up this fausse charade? Laura is your first daughter; you can’t continue to shy away from that fact.”
Mr Johnson raised his eyes, glaring at his wife. “I thought I told you I don’t want to hear that name mentioned in this house again” he ground out through clenched teeth.
“But nothing” he cut in sharply. “I have said it before and I would say it again; no one in my house is allowed to associate with that girl”
“She is my daughter Frank, she might not be my biological daughter but she is like a daughter to me, I am her step-mom. You can’t forbid me from seeing her, or at least, talking to her” she said fiercely, then lowered her voice in a pleading tone. “Darling… Today is her wedding anniversary. You should at least call if you can’t visit.”
“If she could get married without me, she can also celebrate the anniversary without me. She can get all her wishes from Mark”.
“For how long will your twin brother carry out your responsibilities?”
Mr Johnson continued eating his food, paying her no heed. “Frank” Mrs Johnson tried again. “Don’t make people give me names that are not mine. They would say I turned you against your children. At least call her, today is really special for her. We can’t just detach ourselves from her. You are a pastor” she said softly, “When would you forgive her?”
“I have forgiven her but I am also following the precepts of the Bible. If one daughter causes me to sin, I cut her off” he stood up, dropping his spoon noisily. “And if you decide to go against my wishes, get ready to be cut off as well” he dropped and walked away.
Gloria blinked back tears as she let out a frustrated sigh.
Chris let out a deep frustrated sigh as he listened to his father repeat the same sermon he always gave times without number as they sat at the dinning of his parents’ house. It had pretty been the only thing his father had been reciting for the past three years. The scent of hot edikaikong soup drifted from the kitchen, making the voice of his dad a bit more bearable. Chris stared hungrily at the wraps of pounded yam already seated on the dining table, just waiting to be swallowed. Living alone made him miss his mother’s cooking and he looked forward to eating his fill tonight. But, considering the awkward conversation he was having now, he really wished he wasn’t here at all. It wasn’t unlike his parents to give him a mandatory call, only to repeat what they had probably said a million times already.
“Are you even listening to me?”
Chris breathed deeply, welcoming his father’s glare. “I have told you countlessly, dad; when I meet the right woman, you’ll know. I can’t get married if I haven’t even met my potential wife yet”
“I have been hearing that for more than three years.” His father’s voice rose a notch. “You are not getting any younger, Chris, you need to put aside bachelorhood and start a family like a mature adult would” his voice boomed. “When I met your mother-”
“There we go again” Chris sighed heavily. This meeting couldn’t get any worse!
“Of course, I won’t have to repeat it over and over again if you took the story seriously. Like I was saying, I was only twenty three when I met your mother, and by twenty five, we were already married with you brewing in her tummy”
“Brewing” Chris muttered.
His father ignored him. “If you get married at the age if thirty five, you’ll be training children in school with grey hairs on your head.”
Chris frowned. “Why do you make me seem so old. I am just thirty, not thirty five”
“And if we leave you alone, we would be having this conversation when you are forty.” Chris’ mother cut in. “I need to see my grandchildren before I die, ehn? Chris nwa m” she stared dead at him as she emerged from the kitchen with the white China dish which obviously contained the edikaikong soup he had been so eager to eat. But now, he almost lost his appetite altogether.
Chris groaned in frustration. “Why do you always bring up talks about death?”
“Because death is an integral part of our existence”
“Then maybe I would get married when I am eighty, that way, you would live long” he raised his brow. “Since all you are living for is your unborn grandchildren”
“Well, we are not going to let that happen” Mrs Anayo grinned gently.
“There is not much you can do about it, is there?”
Mrs Anayo picked up the serving spoon and started dishing the soup onto the plates, assuming an innocent look. Mr Anayo wasted no time as he rinsed his hand and dug into his food with vigor. Something smelt fishy and it was not the soup, as Chris watched their dramatic display. “Is there?” he asked again, not understanding what was going on. The food in his plate was left untouched as his mouth lost all semblance of appetite. If only he didn’t know his parents so well…
Mr Anayo licked his fingers noisily after three swallows. “uhmmmm” he moaned as his hand dug into the hot pounded yam again. “Baby, your soup is the reason I have sweet dreams, this is so delicious”
Ada mooned over. “Thank you, Nnayi” she batted her eye with a proud smile on her face.
Chris rolled his eye so much, he was sure he saw his eye sockets. His stomach grumbled and he blamed it on the way his father dug into his food ferociously. Reluctantly, he washed his hand and took his first swallow. His father wasn’t exaggerating, as always, his mother had outdone herself. His tummy opened up as he ate away.
“Nnayi, when did your friend say Tricia would arrive Nigeria?” Mrs Anayo asked conversationally.
“Huh… Should be next week” Mr Anayo murmured as he chewed on a succulent stock fish.
“Do you hear that, Chris? Next week” Mrs Anayo quipped.
Chris’ hand hung, suspended above the pounded yam. “What has that got to do with me?”
“Everything. Everything, my son” Mrs Anayo smiled coyly at Chris. “Tricia is Mr Livinus’ daughter and we have been discussing your marriage with her. You see, Tricia is a veeery fine girl now. You won’t believe it is the same girl that runs about her father’s compound in pant”
“It’s true, son. You only need to see her picture, she is finer than Barbie” he grinned openly.
Chris stared at the grinning face of the older man in bewilderment, not understanding what could be funny. “You are joking, right?” sure he was!
“Do I look like Basketmouth to you? I am dead serious. We just cut your endless search for Miss perfect, Tricia is perfection, you’d thank me when you see her”
“Oh well, you just wasted your time because I am not getting married” Chris washed his hands furiously, the food has definitely lost its seasoning. “I don’t have time for this” he muttered, pushing to his feet.
“Sit down there, Chris” his father ordered.
“Dad. I am not a kid, you can’t source for a wife for me. I would get married to who I want, when I want and on my terms. I’m not about hiting menopause, so you have nothing to worry about”
“But you are about hitting womenopause, Chris.”
Chris sighed and turned. “Good night, dad… Mum”
“Calm down Cat, you’re making me stressed” Tito snapped angrily as she drove away from Laura’s house.
“Don’t tell me to calm down” Catherine returned as she tugged furiously at the seatbelt hindering her from gesticulating as much as she liked.
“Fine! Fly into a million pieces then” Tito growled as she gripped the wheels harder.
Catherine hissed. “I so wanted to slap Deolu, I wanted to slap that stupid whore that always posed as his best friend – God! The nerve! And Deolu’s mother? oh God… whoever I marry must definitely be an orphan”
Tito glared at the road ahead. “I wanted to slap Laura.”
“Laura is the victim in all of this” Catherine exclaimed, turning to glare at Tito but she paid her no heed.
“If she had listened to me, broken whatever friendship was between Teju and Deolu, all these wouldn’t have happened. Instead, she was there playing the doting wife. No man should have a female best friend; especially not a married man” she muttered. “You ask me why I am still single? There it is. All men are savages”
“All except my dad” Catherine muttered.
Tito gritted her teeth as her eyes turned dark with anger. “She’ll be sorry” she grumbled under her breath. “Teju would be sooo sorry she messed with my cousin”
Catherine turned her head and frowned at Tito. Catherine had been friends with Laura for as long as she had been friends with Tito. She originally knew Laura but no one could effectively be friends with one without the other, the two cousins were as inseparable as the number eleven. However, there was something about Tito that was unnerving. The knowledge that she could do and undo, even the most unthinkable of things, when it comes to those she cares about. She was as friendly as she was dangerous.“Calm down Tito”The situation was already dicey, she didn’t want Tito doing anything stupid.
Tito hissed, her eyes blazing. “I’ve never been calmer” she muttered and turned a sharp left.
Deolu opened the door slowly, his heart pounding louder than a drum. The room was dark with no single light on. His heart tightened painfully as he saw the form that lay motionlessly on the bed. He had no idea what he was going to say to her and for a moment, he contemplating leaving to give her more time to calm down. Call him a coward, well, maybe he was. He had already spent the last one hour pacing, stalling this confrontation. He was here now, he couldn’t turn back now; he might as well face his nemesis and be done with it.
He swallowed as he closed the door quietly behind him. Laura had her back to him but he could tell that she wasn’t sleeping. Laura could never sleep when she’s upset. He knew that much about her; heck, he knew everything about her. She didn’t make the slightest move as she lay still on the bed.
Deolu walked quietly until he was able to see her face clearly. Her eyes were open as she stared into space, seeming oblivious of his presence. Her bronze sun-kissed skin sparkled and shone even in the dark room as she lay uncovered, folded with her knees to her chest.
He moved to her and knelt by the bed, his heart in his mouth. “Laura” he called softly.
Laura made no move, staring at the wall like there was a boring movie being displayed on it; only her occasionally blinking eyes showed that she was actually conscious. “Please talk to me, my love, please…” Deolu pleaded. He didn’t know what he had expected. He had imagined her raving and screaming, crying and even punching him endlessly, but for the life of him, he hadn’t imagined her staring on like there was no life left in her body. He would have been able to bear her raving and screaming at him but this silence was tearing him to pieces. He couldn’t tell what was going on in her head and it scared the hell out of him. “I… I am sorry Laura… I am sooo sorry” he murmured as his voice shook. Tears sprang to his eyes. He stood up, unable to stay still under so much tension.
“I was so stupid. I… I didn’t know what I was thinking and I regret all that I did, Laura. I never wanted to hurt you, my love, I swear it. It was a mistake; it was all a big terrible mistake, Laura. I am sorry.” He said forcefully, staring down at Laura’s unmoving form.
Laura blinked, still staring into space. Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. “So, it is true what they say” she finally mouthed in a quiet, chapped and lifeless voice. “Men are polygamous in nature. It doesn’t matter how much love you shower on them, they would still go out to hunt fresh thighs”
Deolu swallowed heavily. He had never seen so much emptiness in the eyes of his wife before. He had sworn to keep her happy always, to never ever hurt her; time and time again, he had broken that promise. “Please don’t say that, Laura. It was a mistake” his voice shook. “A big stupid mistake, please believe me, honey” he pleaded desperately as he knelt down by the bed. “I love you… you know that”
“I don’t know anything anymore” Tears slipped out of her eyes, disappearing into the pillow as Laura’s eyes turned slowly, looking straight into Deolu’s eyes. Her face was completely expressionless as she stared continuously at him. She saw his devastation, saw the tears which had slipped down his cheeks. She couldn’t remember ever seeing Deolu in tears, and as much as her hands itched to wipe the tears off his face, her hands remained glued heavily to her sides. She blinked and looked down briefly. “Tell me one thing. Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy sleeping with your best friend instead of me?” her voice broke in her effort to keep tears at bay.
Deolu stared at her, shocked and stupefied. He had no idea as to how he would answer that. “Laura… please…”
Laura watched Deolu struggle to find words and blinked as tears slipped out of her eyes. She turned her back to him, hiding a wince as her head slammed with renewed vigor. She had cried so much but even now, her throat burned with fresh unshed tears. It would have been easy for her if Deolu had told her that sleeping with his best friend had been totally horrible. Maybe it would have made the pain a little less painful. Maybe it would have rubbed an ointment on her bruised ego, but here, she saw clearly that he couldn’t say it. He couldn’t bring himself to say it. She wondered what his reaction would have been if she asked if he loved Teju. She wondered if he’d also stutter and be at a loss for words.
Laura had been scared of the connection Deolu had with Teju. They were both from the same tribe; from the same village, in fact. Their mothers were good friends, they grew up together; they had a lot in common. A lot of times, they both communicated in their language while Laura was made to watch like a spectator. She didn’t want to seem like a jealous overprotective wife, so instead, she had made friends with Teju, drawing her in so that she would feel more comfortable with her when she was around. Tito had warned her countlessly… If only she had known… If only she had known that she had openly embraced the devil who would one day wreck her life, love and marriage…
Her lids closed on her heavy eyes as her head pounded wildly. She felt the weight of Deolu’s eyes on her back but she had no more words. “Please leave” she mouthed. “Please” Her brain was as vacant as her heart had suddenly become. Nothing made sense anymore. All she wanted was to sleep and never wake up, but she doubted she would be sleeping anytime soon.
Deolu finally moved when he had not even the slightest idea of what to do or say. He pulled the duvet carefully, his heart twisting painfully as he watched Laura jerk slightly when his hand brushed against her. He settled the duvet around her shoulders and straightened without her making the slightest sound. So much had changed within such short span of time and he had only himself to blame for it. He longed to kiss her and hold her in his arms; but he had welcomed a coldness, one which he had never experienced before. It was only fair that he danced to the tune of his own music. His house would never remain the same again. He had broken their vows and broken the marriage along with it.
With a long final look at the one who held his heart, he walked out of the room. His heart was broken, it was only terrible that he did the breaking. Time to face the other person he’d hurt so deeply – Teju.
Laura watched the door close as fresh tears ran down her eyes. She raised her aching head and pushed her hand under the pillow. She pulled back her hand and stared at the gleaming sharp edge of the knife in her hand with tears streaming down her face. The painful betrayal was just too much for her to bear. With a resonated sigh, she closed her eyes and brought the knife down.
To be continued