The Second Wife – Episode 4
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Wednesday 17th July 2002
‘It’s almost 6pm,’ Priye informed Soki.
They were in their room – Room 42 on the last floor. The room was quite big with two double bunks for the four occupants in a room. The furniture comprised large double closets, reading tables, a ceiling fan and two standing fans, a refrigerator in the centre of the room with Priye’s photograph on it. Four lockers were pressed against the wall, all on a carpet with blue background. The room was arranged in such a way that it was spacious.
‘Thanks Priye,’ Soki stretched out on the bed and smiled. ‘You wouldn’t have called me if I hadn’t informed you that your big brother would be training at the Jaycee meeting today.’ she teased Priye who was an intending member, courtesy of her eldest brother who was an active JCI member with the Port Harcourt Metro Junior Chamber (PHMJC).
‘Dienye’s training?’ Anwuli Maduka enquired, adding accusingly at Soki’s nod, ‘and no one deemed it fit to tell me. Not even you Priye. Na wa o. And you are supposed to be my best friend.’
Anwuli had been Soki’s roommate in her second year and she had met Priye through her. Both girls were studying Business Administration. Anwuli was dating Belema, Priye’s elder brother and was like a member of the Daniel-Hart family as a result of their relationship.
‘I was going to tell you,’ Priye argued with a self-depreciating smile.
‘I only heard about it during the board meeting yesterday.’ Soki told Anwuli.
Soki was the Director of Socials I of the UST Collegiate Jaycees, an affiliate of the Nigeria Junior Chamber (NJC) and she had been trying to get the girls to join the organisation. Dienye had made her job easy by catching his sister, so Soki had only Anwuli to worry about. She was currently organising the annual picnic with this year’s venue fixed for Eket, Akwa Ibom State. Tickets were already been sold both to Jaycees and non-Jaycees. The tickets sold for N500 and covered transportation.
‘There’s still time to get dressed.’ Soki told Anwuli.
‘I would need to find something formal to put on,’ Anwuili complained.
‘There’s no need. Today is strictly for training and so you can come in your jean.’
The JCI dress code for business meeting (fellowship) was formal complete with shoes and handbags for the ladies. Traditional wears were also permitted so long as they came with hats, caps or head gears. However, training sessions had the dress
code: smart casual.
Soki jumped from the top bed which was actually Priye’s space and walked up to the closet, pulled it open and took out a pair of black jeans and a white t-shirt. She took off her shorts and top. However, as she reached for the white t-shirt, Anwuli quickly snatched it.
‘Must you always look like a law student?’ she asked.
Soki had unconsciously selected the t-shirt. Only then did it occur to her that she was about to put on a white upon black attire. She quickly replaced the white t-shirt with a sky blue one.
The training venue was the viewing centre situated behind the school’s restaurant B-Boss and close to the shopping complex. It was a stone throw from hostel D. Soki registered herself, Anwuli and Priye on the attendance book, pointing the girls in the direction of the white chairs arranged to form a thick u-shape.
Students were talking about the trainer who was to take them on the topic ‘Starting Young.’ Those who had been in his training before now were in awe of him as an excellent trainer. Although he had been to their hostel twice, Soki had never met him. From the family pictures Soki had seen through Priye, he looked like an older version of Belema. Soki looked forward to meeting the second Daniel-Hart brother, wondering if he looked better in reality.
Unseen, Dienye stepped into the viewing centre and sat beside the Director of Finance, Julius Kpakol who was taking attendance beside the door. He engaged the Mass Communication student in a conversation until he was called up at exactly 6:05pm for the training.
‘My LOM President, fellow board members, fellow Jaycees, friends and observers, it gives me great pleasure to introduce our trainer for the day,’ NJC Cllr Jide Adeosun was saying. ‘This trainer needs no introduction if you have been attending NJC functions. He is a one-time collegiate chairman, national executive vice president in charge of Area B, 2003 National President and currently the International Vice President in charge of the Africa and the Middle East, an serial entrepreneur, a great mentor. I could go on and on and still not do him justice. Please join me with a standing ovation as we welcome our trainer for today, JCI Senator Dienye Hart.’
‘Oh my God,’ Soki whispered loudly to her friends. ‘When did he come in?’
‘I won’t be surprised if he’s been here since we arrived,’ his sister responded. ‘Big bro is a stickler for punctuality.’
He was younger than most people expected. In his 30s, he was tall, light complexioned and strikingly handsome. The fact that he was bespectacled did nothing to tune down his good looks. Soki would later discover that he also had the golden brown eyes common with the Daniel-Harts.
For the next hour he took them on a wonderful training experience. He had a good sense of humour and made the training a contributory one. By the time he was done, those of them who had never had the privilege of being in his training were in awe. He had chosen from school to be an entrepreneur. He had, as a student, designed the UST Jaycees T-Shirts and ultimately most of the t-shirts worn for faculties and associations in the school. He had continued with this even after school, creating the ‘RINZ’ Collection for T-shirts. He had taken JCI University courses early enough and started a training institute with a few older friends in which he engaged the best trainers in his JCI circle.
He had made his first million before he was 24 and had recently opened a hotel ‘The Exquisite’ with amazing facilities, including halls of different sizes and conference rooms which were constantly utilised as well as a bar with a life band. He was also the founder of an orphanage – heart of a child. He had developed interest in running an orphanage after he and his brother had discovered a baby disposed of in the dumpster close to Federal Government College Port Harcourt.
Priye, Anwuli and Soki waited after the training to see him. Students gathered around him, asking questions resulting from the training and taking his contact details. It wasn’t until he was done with the director of training and the LOM President that he approached the girls. He embraced his sister and her best friend.
‘How is my favourite little sis?’ he asked Priye.
‘Favourite ke? You say that to all your sisters.’ Priye laughed.
‘I am the eldest and so I cannot afford to be seen as partial.’ Dienye laughed, revealing cute dimples.
His bespectacled gaze shifted to Soki and he stretched out his right hand, saying: ‘Hi. I’m Dienye.’
‘The roommate I never get to see,’ he smiled.
‘Same.’ Soki responded, finding his easy smile infectious.
‘It’s good to finally meet you.’ He told her and then to the three girls, ‘I am glad you saved me the trouble of having to climb those miserable steps in your hostel. You know I am not getting any younger.’
‘I hear.’ Anwuli laughed.
‘If every older man had your looks and build the hearts of we younger ones would be in grave danger.’ Soki said without thinking and before she could stop herself.
What has come over me? Soki wondered.
Dienye looked at her with surprise. So did Priye and Anwuli. Had Soki been fair skinned, she would have turned beet red. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t met a handsome man before! So why did she react to him like she had never reacted to anyone in her nineteen years on earth? Although he had a wedding ring on, Soki recalled Priye telling her that Dienye had been widowed for two years now. So Soki didn’t have to feel guilty about having a huge crush on a married man.
‘Thanks for the vote of confidence, babe.’ Dienye finally told her with a smile, after he had recovered from her statement. ‘I knew there was a reason why I just had to meet the fourth roommate. Perhaps you’re destined to be my sweetheart.’
Soki was certain he was teasing her, but that didn’t stop a flush from coming to her cheeks.
‘Where’s Juliet?’ he asked.
Juliet was their other roommate and a final year Agric/Economics student.
‘She had a late lecture.’ Anwuli responded.
Soki stood aside watching Priye’s brother. She believed she was experiencing her first real crush. As a child, she had a crush on Christopher Reeve’s Superman character. Dienye’s photographs didn’t do him justice at all. He was clearly not photogenic. She loved the way his lips quirked in an easy smile, tempting her to lift her arms, wrap them around his neck and lower his head for a long, hot kiss. She could imagine all the things she would do to him if she had him for just 24 hours.
Now where did that thought come from? God help her. She had obviously been watching too many romance movies!
‘Okay. It’s just 7:37pm,’ he said, adding with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘which means I have enough time to treat you lovely ladies to dinner and have you back before lights out.’
Priye playfully punched his arm.
‘Does this look like a secondary school to you?’
Soki started to decline, not trusting herself to behave in his presence with the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. Besides, she could trust Priye and Anwuli to set her up by leaving the front passenger seat of his car for her and also the seat closest to Dienye’s at wherever it was they would be going for dinner.
‘I insist,’ Dienye told her. ‘Besides, it would give me the opportunity to get to know you better.’ He added with a wink, stretching out a hand. Soki hesitated slightly before placing her hand in his. He smiled at her and she returned his smile, her hand still in his.
Priye and Anwuli noisily cleared their throats.
‘Don’t mind them,’ he told Soki in a conspiratorial tone. ‘They are just jealous.’
As predicted, the moment they got to his car, Anwuli and Priye quickly got into the back seat leaving Soki to take the front passenger seat.
* * * * *
Present day, 6:05pm
The game ended about 5 minutes after she arrived and Dienye headed in her direction with a natural grace she found sexy: all muscular leanness and not an ounce of fat. She had such a huge crush on him that she found everything about him sexy. If he were to fart in her presence, she probably would find it the sexiest thing ever done.
She hadn’t realised how much she needed a hug until Dienye’s strong arms went around her. She unconsciously leaned fully into his embrace, absorbing his warmth and feeling like half of her problems were solved. Amazing what a hug could do!
‘It’s good to see you again, babe. It’s been too long.’
‘Love of my life! It’s always so good to see you,’ she responded, shyly. This was the first time she was meeting him outside the company of Priye and Anwuli.
‘Am I still the love of your life? Abi you wan use my brain do pepper soup?’
‘I fit?’ she returned, a little smile playing around her lips.
‘But you have abandoned me because of those small boys in your school. Haba! Our love is supposed to be stronger than that o, especially with Valentine’s Day by the corner!’
‘I -’ Soki stuttered.
‘Who is that young man who is not afraid to try to steal you from me?’ he demanded. ‘If I catch him, eh…’
‘Nobody would dare. You are the keeper of my heart and have no rival whatsoever.’ Soki responded.
‘That’s more like it,’ Dienye laughed.
B.B cleared his throat noisily and in a very ungentlemanly fashion reminding Soki that she was still basking in the masculine hug. In that minute or so, she had forgotten about all her problems. The man’s throat clearing had brought her back to her senses, reminding her of her reason for being here in the first place. She reluctantly extricated herself from Dienye’s embrace, immediately missing his warmth and that masculine scent that was all his. She had totally forgotten about his friend. Did everyone with a crush react the way she did or was it just her?
‘And who is this lovely young woman you have been hiding from me?’ his friend demanded feigning annoyance.
‘Back off B.B.’ Dienye warned his friend. ‘Soki, meet my annoying best friend B.B Briggs. B. B, meet Soki Achebe.’
‘How do you do, darling?’ B.B lifted her fingers to his lips, asking shamelessly and in a conspiratorial tone, ‘Are you his girlfriend?’
‘Actually, I –’ Soki stuttered.
‘She is a friend.’ Dienye came to her rescue.
‘Great. Will you be my girlfriend?’ B.B asked, ignoring his best friend.
‘I barely know you.’ Soki stuttered again.
‘Back off B.B. She is here to see me.’ Dienye warned him.
‘That can be remedied.’ B.B. laughed, adding to Soki, ‘What do you say? Let’s ditch the old guy and head for a candle light dinner.’
‘He won’t like it at all,’ she responded.
‘Okay, break it up,’ Dienye cut in. ‘Don’t you have somewhere else to be, B. B?’
‘None that I know of.’ B.B responded with a shrug.
‘You can think of one on your way out.’ Dienye told him. ‘And don’t forget tomorrow’s meeting.’
‘Why do I get the feeling that I am being dismissed?’ B.B asked petulantly. And if Soki wasn’t worried, she would have laughed at his behaviour.
‘That is because you are.’
B.B. looked from his friend to Soki and back at his friend and then an impish look came over his handsome face.
‘Oh my God! You have the hots for her.’ B. B teased and she found herself blushing. I wish!
‘Don’t be an idiot.’ Dienye bit out.
‘I completely understand.’ B. B. laughed. ‘I was wondering why you would kick me out without at least letting me bathe and change out of these sweaty clothes. Now I know.’
As he left, he muttered something about being the best man in case there was a wedding in the near future and needing advance notice in order to make the necessary preparations.
‘Ignore him,’ Dienye told Soki as he led the way into the house through the back door.
She hesitated a bit, reminding herself of how her father’s boss had tried taking advantage of the fact that they were alone in his office. And then she reminded herself that this was Dienye. Priye wouldn’t send her to her brother’s home if she thought for a moment that her eldest brother wasn’t principled.
They crossed through the large kitchen and a hallway, down a little staircase and into a sitting room. The room was large with white walls, black marble floor, dark grey leather sofas and armchairs with flowery pillows. The curtains blended with the cushions. On the right was a bar with shelves of assorted wine and wine glasses. What caught and held her attention was the large life size portrait of a beautiful woman she suspected was his late wife. Considering his age, he must have married really early. He still wore his wedding ring despite being widowed for four years now.
He turned on the large plasma television and gave Soki the remote control.
‘Please feel at home,’ he said. ‘I just need a few minutes to change out of my sweaty clothes and probably have a quick bath. And then we’ll talk.’
Once he left the room, she dropped the remote control on the side table and picked up the remote control on the glass table at the centre of the room to control the Akira split unit air conditioner. She didn’t bother choosing a channel. Once the DSTV was done scanning, CNN came on. She reduced the volume and waited nervously for Dienye to return. How did she go about asking him to give her a loan for an amount she might never be able to pay back?
* * * * *
Dienye walked into his bedroom, dragging the sweaty T-Shirt from his lean body as he did. Usually, after a game of lawn tennis, B. B would have a bath there and enjoy a drink and conversation with his best friend but Dienye had been quick to get rid of him. He knew B.B would not let him hear the last of it and that he would have a hard time convincing his best friend that all he shared with Nwasoka Achebe was a platonic friendship.
She was the first woman he had been attracted to since the death of his wife but he didn’t intend to do anything about it, for two reasons: First of all, she was too young for him, and secondly he wasn’t ready to date anyone. He hadn’t dated anyone since his wife passed on. Yes, he wanted his own family and a wife to take care of and who would also provide him the needed company but having once experienced the pain of losing a loved one, he wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with it again.
His parents and siblings were trying to get him settled down once more but he wasn’t prepared to do so. He was glad his mother wasn’t like some of the women portrayed in the Nigerian movies or he would have been faced with having a wife married for him and brought home to him! That would be really horrible and the girl would be most embarrassed because unlike the sons portrayed in those movies, he would package the girl back to wherever it was that she came from. However, this didn’t mean that he wasn’t being pressured into remarrying. His parents had ten grandchildren already but they wanted him settled down once more. They believed he was lonely, and, living all alone in that big house of his, he could fall victim to the wicked antics of some Port Harcourt ladies desperate to get themselves a wealthy husband.
‘Those girls will take undue advantage of your kind heart and create scenarios that would leave you with no other choice but to marry them in a bid to save your good name,’ his mother had told him.
She had been subtle in her approach. However, his maternal grandmother hadn’t been nice at all despite Dienye being her favourite grandchild. Professor Margaret Ezimdinma Ezindu (Mama Nawfia) had told him the last time he had visited that he needed to remarry as soon as possible because: ‘any equipment not put to use for a long time could most likely malfunction due to rust and become absolutely useless when you need it most. Constant greasing will go a long way before it’s too late.’ Dienye had quickly assured her that his equipment was functioning properly. Imagine referring to that part of his anatomy as ‘equipment’! Rust and malfunction indeed!
He returned his mind to the matter at hand. What was so pressing that Priye would send Soki to him? Was she in some kind of trouble? He wondered. It was so unlike his sister to send anyone to him, which was why he readily agreed.
Well, it felt good to see Nwasoka again. He had missed making her blush despite her dark skin. He might not have a love life presently, occupying his time with work, his workouts and JCI activities but he could afford to indulge in innocent, harmless flirting episodes with her whenever they met. And she seemed not to mind.
He smiled as he walked into the adjoining bathroom.
* * * * *
Dienye returned ten minutes later, apologising for the delay as he sprawled on the sofa. He had bathed and changed into a black t-shirt and black combat shorts.
‘So how are you, babe?’ he asked her.
‘I’ve been better.’ she replied truthfully.
‘Not to ditch your looks, but you look a lot slimmer than I remember. Are you on a diet?’
She shook her head.
‘Good, because I like you just the way you are,’ he told her and she wasn’t sure if it was part of his usual teasing until he added, ‘I don’t want you losing assets that are very important to me.’
‘I don’t intend to. I have only been under a lot of stress,’ she responded.
He watched her through his glasses even as a woman in her early thirties came into the sitting room with tray of Don Simon, a tall glass, and a plate with 3 peppered chicken laps. Soki declined but Dienye asked the woman, whom he introduced to her as Felicia, to drop the tray on the side table beside her chair. The woman asked if he needed anything before she had to leave. He shook his head and bade her good night. Soki would later find out that the woman came in thrice a week to clean up and fix a meal when required.
‘You need to take something.’ Dienye told Soki.
‘I don’t have much of an appetite.’ she confessed.
‘When was the last meal you had?’
‘Last night, but I’m not hungry.’
‘My maternal grandmother would always say that not eating does not in any way make your problems go away,’ he told her. ‘If anything, it makes it worse because you would have to deal with the effect of hunger in addition to your immediate problem. So eat, babe, and we’ll talk about whatever is bothering you.’
She figured he was right. She was plump but had lost a bit of weight in the last five days. She took a bite from one of the well spiced chicken, aware that he was watching her. She offered him one and he reached for it, saying nothing.
He waited until she was done and relaxed before asking, ‘So, what’s the problem? Priye would never have called me about a friend unless it was absolutely important.’
To be continued