Sacrilege – Episode 10
© Adeola Nissi
Laura realized that the walk had served the purpose her uncle intended. At first, she was irritated. She didn’t know why her uncle was walking so briskly when they were supposed to be taking a walk together, not him walking ahead while she pretty much ran after him. But after several minutes of playing the chase, Laura felt her blood flowing again for the first time in days. She was alive again, though she wished she wasn’t. Her uncle slowed down his gait, his strides dropping to match hers.
They walked together in silence for few minutes, both dwelling in their thoughts until her uncle finally spoke. “Let me guess, you are happy you left your bed”
Laura glanced at her uncle briefly. “Happiness overstretches it.” Right now, happiness was pretty much an unfamiliar emotion. She did feel better though but she couldn’t bring herself to vocalize it. Nothing could bring her succor in this miserable state she found herself. “You shouldn’t have cut short your stay in Belgium for me”.
“But you are glad I did”
Laura glanced up to see her uncle’s smiling face and her face broke into a smile of its own for the first time in days. She would always be happy to see her uncle. He was the only fatherly figure he knew right now.
“How do you feel now, Laura?” Mark asked after a few seconds of silence.
Laura’s face released a dry smile. “You want a comprehensive list?”
“You are being too hard on yourself” Mark said shortly.
Laura turned her eyes on him sharply, nearly pulling her feet to a halt. “Too hard? Father, do you know just how I feel right now?”
“I know you have a list”
“I feel useless” she snapped, not worrying anymore that her tone might be disrespectful. “I feel worthless, I feel pathetic, I feel stupid, I feel… like a…” she turned her face away, sternly holding back the tears that hung desperately to her lids.”…like a barren woman” she finished.
Mark Johnson pulled to a halt, turning to face his niece with a stern look on his face. He already knew this was coming. “Don’t you ever think that, you hear me?”
“But it’s the truth”
“It is! It’s the only truth in the midst of all these lies. I’ve been with Deolu for six years! Six years and I’ve never been pregnant, not ever” Laura said heatedly, her eyes teary. “But Teju…” she turned away from her uncle, biting hard on her lips to stop the onslaught of tears.” Deolu slept with her and now… and now…” she groped around but could not bring herself to voice the obvious. “Gosh! I’m such an idiot”
“You’re being too hard on yourself, Laura” he repeated.
“Not hard enough, father. I’ve been such an idiot, such a blind conceited fool. Tito warned me about this!” she said angrily, laughing without mirth. “Apparently, everyone with eyes knew something was going on with my dearest husband and his famous best friend except me” she twisted her mouth bitterly. “While I was there playing the doting wife, my husband was busy… busy… arrrrhhh” she groaned in abject frustration.
Mark exhaled. “I don’t think it went on for a long time”
“Don’t tell me you are defending him now, father”
“I’m not” Mark was lost on how to handle this situation. “What I mean is, this must have been a mistake. We don’t know how it happened”
“I don’t care about how it happened” Laura snapped, throwing her hands in the air and leaving them to fall back to her side carelessly. “I’d much rather do without the details, honestly. How am I to stomach the fact that Deolu is about to have a child and it is not from me? Ehn? How can I?” Laura took a deep breath and shook her head. “I can’t bear this… I just can’t” tears clouded her eyes and spilled over. “I love Deolu so much, father, so much… I can’t believe he’d do this to me”
Mark was silent for some seconds. “He is not perfect, sweetie. I know you love him but you have to realize that he is also not above mistakes. Sometimes, the people we love the most are the people we hurt the most”
Laura shook her head, pushing her legs into motion, walking off the tension and forcing her uncle to keep up with her. “Mistakes are costly. I don’t know how we would get past this” she swallowed, toying unconsciously with the ring on her fourth finger. “I don’t think we can” Mark remained silent as Laura stared at her ring with watery eyes. “I… I asked for a divorce”
“You didn’t” he pulled to a halt, turning his niece to face him.
“What else would you have me do? Stay married to him and remain a laughing stock?”
“So you want to throw in the towel and let some other woman have your man? You won’t fight for your home?”
“The ‘other woman’ is having his baby, for Pete’s sake” Laura exclaimed. “What’s left to fight for?”
“Is that why you married Deolu? Just to bear his children?” Mark snapped. He seemed to be done with the sweet talks, he needed to put some sense into his niece. “If that’s the only reason why you got married to your husband, you might as well get an annulment instantly because another woman already beat you to it”
The words settled on Laura and she swallowed, looking away. “That’s harsh”
“Not harsh enough. I know you are hurt and all that, you should be; but you need to put aside your pain and fight for your home. Marriage is not all about having babies, Laura, and I know you know this. You and Deolu are a lot more than husband and wife, you are friends… companions”
Laura swallowed. “I am not so sure anymore”
Mark sighed, putting his arm around Laura. “I know this is really hard for you dear, anyone would be devastated in your shoes; but you made a promise on the altar to stand by your husband for better and for worse. This is the time to fight for your home, girl. Don’t give up what’s yours for another. Show me that fighting spirit I know you have in you. It is not going to be easy but you have to try”. Laura blinked back tears. Why did it all have to be so difficult?
Tricia stood outside Chris’ apartment, looking around in search as she held her phone to her ear. “I can’t find it” she said into the phone.
“It’s in the place where the carpet grass joins the cemented floor. The grass is a bit loose there, lift it” Mrs. Anayo explained over the phone.
Tricia surveyed the carpet grass with her hand, testing and lifting till she found her price. “Seen it” she exclaimed, smiling at the key as she stretched and walked to the door.
“Good” Mrs. Anayo’s voice held a smile. “Now, don’t forget what I told you. Show him that you are wife material”
Tricia pushed the key into the lock, squeezed and the door snapped open. “Okay, ma, I understand” she said and hung up. With a smile, she pushed into Chris’ apartment, closing the door behind her. It was good to be back in the country, but better knowing she had an intended. She had never been a fan of family setups, but this was definitely the one setup she couldn’t refuse. Who wouldn’t want to be married to Chris? He was everything a woman wanted and more. Tricia saw a small picture frame of Chris on the wall and walked towards it. Chris was the perfect man, with exceptional looks, body build and height. Of course, who could also overlook his financial stability? Chris, to Tricia was the real deal.
Dropping her purse on the chair, she took a quick inventory of the state of the mini flat. “Neat” this must be a first because she hadn’t really been with a man who kept his space so tidy. Everything was in place, without a speck of dust. Tricia grinned. She seemed to have hit the jackpot. She already had the love of her in-laws; all that was left was the heart of Chris. Motivated, she marched into the kitchen. If she wanted to work her way into Chris’ heart, she needed more than her outstanding beauty and shapely body, she had to match up to his level of perfection.
As she entered the kitchen, a small frown stained her pretty face. The kitchen was well set. He had everything, from microwave to freezer to oven and so on. The perfection was scary. “Ready made man” she muttered with a satisfied smile. She couldn’t believe her luck. Marching forward with extra gusto, she racked her brain for what to cook. She pushed open the freezer and frowned deeply. “You’re kidding” she muttered into the stocked freezer, opening lids to see boiled meat, rice sauce and several things she could not even identify. She closed the freezer and went to the pot seated on the gas cooker, removing the lid. The aroma of well-cooked fried rice rose to her nose and her mouth watered, looking at the well garnished fried rice in the pot. “Perfect! So he is a great cook”. What on earth was she expected to do here? Everything was in place.
Dialing the first number on the call log, she moved a bit of the rice onto a plate and took it to the microwave. Tricia held her phone to her ear with her shoulder, taking out a tempting carrot from the food before putting the plate inside the microwave. “Handsome, buoyant, neat and cooks… no wonder he is not married” she muttered to herself, wondering what else Chris had up his sleeves as the phone rang.
“How is it going?” Mrs. Anayo’s voice penetrated her ear through the phone.
“Bad. You did not tell me he cooks, ma” or was another woman taking care of his meals?
“Oh… yes, a little”
“Little?” Tricia exclaimed. “The person living here has got to be a little less than a chef. How do I convince Chris to marry me when he has everything I could possibly offer him?” the microwave beeped and she took out a steaming plate of fried rice.
“You are a woman, aren’t you?” Mrs. Anayo voiced over the phone. “I’m sure you can think of something. Now, stop talking to me and get creative” the phone went dead and Tricia held it, staring at it in vague surprise. She knew what her future mother-in-law was suggesting and felt a tiny thrill within her. Poking a spoonful of rice into her mouth, she walked out of the kitchen, her mind working on a very good plan.
Tito put her phone on hands free as she controlled the wheel with both hands. “I don’t need your battering now, Cat” And she really didn’t need it, she was doing enough self-battering already.
“You need it because I feel you are about to do something stupid. You always are” Cat said and for once, Tito couldn’t argue with that. “It is better you make amends now before you have the police on your ass for breaking and entering.”
Tito rolled her eyes. “I am more likely to be arrested by road safety officials now, since I am breaking traffic laws by talking to you”
Catherine’s sigh filled the car. “For once, use your head, or at least, listen to me. I don’t want to visit your pretty face behind bars. Return those things you took, Tito!”
“It would be ‘our’ pretty faces behind bars” Tito inserted. “And stop talking like you are just so worried about me, the truth is you are just so scared of being affected.”
“Shouldn’t I be? Both of us can’t be brain-dead, I have my career to protect”
“A good reason to join self-employed persons like myself, you would have more peace in your life” Tito maneuvered, turning into a street.
“The only thing I see you doing is messing up Laura’s already messy life. Really, Tito, you are only making things worse”
“To me, that’s better than doing nothing” Tito snapped. “Now, would you stop pestering me? Reduce the mess in your hospital by actually saving some lives” she advised and hung up.
Shaking her head, she took a deep breath, holding the steering tighter than was required. Catherine had been right about something… she was about to do something stupid. Stupidity was what got her behind the wheels this evening in the first place. What was more stupid was justifying her stupidity. Her eyes caught Chris’ suit jacket as it sat occupying the seat next to her. Somehow, the jacket had Chris’ defiance and arrogance clinging to it. She shook her head as her lips thinned. I would just return it and leave, she told herself again. She couldn’t stand the sight of that jacket anymore and that was her glorified excuse for leaving her apartment and driving to his house this late evening. It was already dark and she could sense the wind had turned cooler outside the car. The scent of Chris’ perfume rose from the jacket to her nose, making her frown. She turned off her air conditioner and rolled down her window. Fresh air penetrated the car, blowing the tresses of her relaxed hair into disarray.
She never should have talked to Chris the way she did. She felt bad about it but wouldn’t admit it to herself. She had over-reacted for nothing and she still couldn’t explain her outburst. Taking in a calming breath, she thought. ‘I’d just give him his jacket and be done with it.’
Chris parked his car in the compound after another day at work. He had been on the edge throughout the day and he knew it was solely because of his odd encounter with Tito. He still couldn’t tell what he had ever done to her to make her so defensive around him. Her words haunted him and he wondered if her perception of him was also what the people around him thought of him.
Mentally shaking off her words, he got out of the car and made for his apartment. His head ached. He could use a long bath and a deep sleep. He had been avoiding Deolu for days and a part of him felt guilty. Inserting the key into its hole, he unlocked the door and entered his apartment, heading straight for his bedroom.
Just as he entered the room, a shrill feminine voice broke out. “Hello honey”
Chris literarily jumped out of his skin, spinning around just as slim hands enveloped him in a sensual hug. He felt frozen for a few seconds as feminine perfume invaded his air space.
“Uhmm… It’s so good to see you again” the lady pulled back her head, grinning up at him like he was the king of the universe.
Chris put both of his hands on her shoulders, pulling her away from him with one gentle but steady push. He held her at arm’s length, staring at her face in confusion. “Who are you?” And how the hell did you get in here?
She grinned. “I knew you wouldn’t recognize me. It’s Tricia”
“Tricia” He repeated vaguely, and then all of a sudden, it all came to him. He felt sandwiched between anger and awe. The lady before him was nothing compared to the little girl he had always seen with his father’s friend while growing up. From the dimple in her right cheek when she as much as smiled to the fascinating way the sleeveless top and bum short clung to her shapely body, he mentally nodded. His father was right; she had drown to be a real beauty. But that was where his awe ended. He sorely hated invasion of privacy and that was exactly what this felt like.
“I see you remember me now” she said with a smile.
Chris stared coldly at her. “What I don’t remember is inviting you here. How did you get in?”
Tricia had the grace to look guilty. “Your… mother told me where to find your spare”
Great! Just when he had hoped his parents weren’t taking the marriage thing serious, they actually were. He heard a knock on the sitting room door and frowned. He just had too many surprises lined up for him today. “Stay here” he ordered, marching out of the bedroom. On getting there, he pulled open the door.
“Tito” he mouthed in surprise. If he had a thousand guesses, he surely would not have guessed Tito. He stared at Laura’s cousin with a faint frown on his face. Her hair was down, falling over her shoulders. He didn’t think he had ever seen her hair that way. “What are you doing here?”
Tito stared up at him. “I figured you might want this back” she gestured with the suit jacket in her hand. Chris frowned at the jacket in her hand.
“You came all the way here to return it?”
Tito blinked. “Of course not. I just… I was coming to get something around and decided to bring it with me” she lied.
Tito swallowed. She knew Chris saw through her lie and felt embarrassment creep up her spine. Way to go, Tito, you never should have brought the jacket back. Chris stared at Tito. For the life of him, she was one person he just could not figure out. “Thank you” Chris muttered as he took the jacket from Tito. Something was different. This had to be the first time they were holding a civil conversation without any tangible form of hostility. “Why don’t you come in?”
Tito shook her head. “I should be going”
His brow raised as his mouth eased into a slow smile. “Scared I’d break your heart too?”
Tito shifted. “About last night…” she started to apologize.
“Is there a problem here?” Tricia’s voice penetrated the air and Chris turned sharply. He had actually forgotten all about Tricia. Tito stared into the apartment as Tricia appeared. Anger welled up in her as she stared from the perfect beauty to Chris as Tricia came to stand beside Chris, staking her claim with a cool smile. She couldn’t believe she had actually been about to apologize.
“No… no problem.” She said, glaring at the Chris. “I was just leaving” she smiled at the two. “Enjoy your evening” she said and stalked away.
Laura paced Tito’s apartment, deep in thought. Tito wasn’t around to keep her mind occupied and right now, she could use the distraction. The words of her uncle drifted around her head and though it hurt, she knew he was right. She loved Deolu and knew it would hurt her more to leave him. How could she live life without the one person who could bring a smile to her face even in the worst situation? He was her happiness; it was only ironic that he was also her sadness. She swallowed. Could she forgive him? Forgo the pain and build her marriage again, knowing it would not be the same again? Could she trust him again after this?
Laura took a deep breath, massaging her aching shoulders. She needed a mental diversion. If only she had one of her novels with her now… looking around, she saw a book and walked lazily towards it. She picked it up, turning it around, giving it an absent look. Vaguely, she remembered seeing it with Tito that morning as she stepped out with her uncle.
She opened it in half, frowning when she saw that the content was handwritten. A diary? She checked the cover, no words. She then opened the first page and saw the words boldly written. “Dear Pain” Laura frowned deeply but her heart nearly stopped when she saw the inscribed name. “Teju Jumoni” For a few seconds, she stared at the name. What was Teju’s diary doing there?
She opened the diary with shaky fingers and a racing heart, skipping several pages until she got to a dated page which drew her attention. Warning bells went off in her head. Something told her she would find something very unpleasant but she couldn’t stop her eyes from scanning the pages of the diary. Her eyes rotated from corner to corner, becoming more frenzied as her breath came in gasps. “No…” she shook her head, dropping the diary in her hand like it had suddenly caught fire. “He didn’t rape her, no…” she exclaimed, staring at the diary in horror.
To be continued