The Second Wife – Episode 6
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Dienye stood in the hallway. He was at loss as to what to do about Soki’s predicament. He really wanted to help her, not just for his sister, but also because he really liked her. He was her last bus stop. He had done a lot by promising to give her N2,000,000.00 which was not to be refunded. Well, he would give her N3, 000,000 but that was all. Some people would think him foolish for doing this for a woman he wasn’t in love with and who wasn’t in love with him, a woman he wasn’t even in any relationship with.
This wasn’t exactly a charity case per se. He usually had a budget every year set out for children and teenagers in need of surgery. This would be the first time he would be giving such an amount to someone who wasn’t directly involved in a problem. This was actually her father’s problem but Soki had taken it upon herself to raise the money. She had already missed school so close to the first semester examinations as a result. If he didn’t help her out, she would be compelled by her love and loyalty towards her father to accept her father’s boss’ indecent proposal. No one would blame him; after all he was giving her a whole lot of money, more money than any of her relatives had given her and asking for nothing in return.
He doubted if Priye, when sending her friend to him, had intended that she get the entire sum from him. Priye would be more than grateful for what he had done so far. What Soki did afterwards shouldn’t be his problem. However, could he allow her to leave, knowing that she would be sacrificing her happiness and her morals just so that her father could regain his freedom irrespective of how her father might feel about it? His three million naira would assist her but make no difference as Nze Maduabuchi would still have her in his bed for three years.
This really shouldn’t be my problem, he told himself. God knows I have tried. I care about that girl but I have tried my best. She has no collateral I can use for my investment and I have nothing to gain by losing the entire sum.
He rubbed at his temple. It was easier to sign cheques when it involved terminal illnesses faced by children or teenagers and as gifts to orphans and widows. However, this was a different case. What justification would he have for giving out N5,870,000 to save a man from being prosecuted especially given the fact that he was actually an accessory after the fact?
‘She intends to work until she can pay you completely,’ a voice inside his head reminded him. ‘You should think about that.’
‘And I cannot employ her for years without paying her,’ he countered. ‘So that is completely out of the question.’
‘What if her father comes up with a payment plan?’
‘Do you seriously see him having a job waiting for him once he is out of police custody?’
‘You call her your babe and your sweetheart but you know that N3,000,000 you intend to give to her isn’t going to change anything. She will still have no other choice but to give in to the man’s demands. You can afford to give her the entire sum but if you insist on a collateral for the extra N2, 870,000, then you might as well marry her and get it over with.’ the voice suggested.
‘I have no intention of-’ he paused before he could complete the sentence.
Marry her? Why should he? He wasn’t looking for a wife. He wasn’t in the market for a wife. So his family members didn’t hesitate anytime they had the opportunity to try to get him hitched with one of their friends or friend’s children, that didn’t mean he had to get hitched before he was ready. Even if he was ready, he and Soki didn’t know each other like that.
He was going to get married and have children but getting married to Soki was
not an option. She was too young. He had at least fourteen years on her. The perfect man for her should still be in his mid-twenties. Besides, wouldn’t proposing to her amount to taking advantage of her situation? She would most likely accept given the fact that the other proposal she had was indecent. No, he would prefer the harmless flirtations they enjoyed every now and then.
‘And then you get to live with her being forced into the arms of a man thrice her age when you were in a position to avoid it,’ that voice continued.
‘Yes, it would be all on you. That girl adores you and you know it. If given the chance, she could easily fall in love with you. Not giving her the entire sum is the same as not giving her anything. If anything, it would be tantamount to giving her three million naira as an incentive to bear the old man’s touch for three year: One million naira for every year. You became responsible for her wellbeing the moment you agreed to help her. You know she has exhausted all her options. You cannot go to bed tonight without resolving this.’
Curse his damned conscience and kind heart! The voice was right. He certainly couldn’t sleep well knowing that she would be a sacrificial lamb to a man like Avreson’s boss. Had she not been an innocent it would have been easy to just give her a million and satisfy his conscience. But she was an innocent and he didn’t want her innocence being lost to a man like that. It was better for her to be with her husband than a man old enough to be her grandfather.
‘Look on the bright side, you would be getting your relatives off your back the moment they know you are getting married. No need to avoid family programmes anymore.’
He recalled his grandmother’s statement about his ‘equipment’ becoming rusty and useless and told himself that perhaps ending his celibate days was long overdue.
‘Let’s hope I know what I am doing.’
* * * * *
Dienye returned to the sitting room a few minutes after he left. Soki watched as he sat on the chair he had vacated earlier. Had he reached a conclusion?
‘Are you in a relationship?’ he asked unexpectedly.
Where did that come from?
‘That’s a personal question.’ she told him.
‘No I’m not.’ she replied.
‘Touché.’ He smiled lightly.
‘You didn’t answer my question.’
A sad expression clouded his face but it disappeared almost immediately.
‘No, I’m not.’
Were the ladies in Port Harcourt so blind that they would let a man with his looks move around freely and unattached? She wondered.
‘I was married for seven years to a woman I loved, one I had known almost all my life,’ he told her. ‘She passed on four years ago in an accident.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that. I -’
He lifted a hand to silence her, letting her know that he hadn’t told her about it for her to empathise with him. He was certain Priye had told her before now that he was a widower.
‘Do you have any medical issue I need to know about?’
Where was that question coming from? She wondered for the second time. Where was
he headed with his questions?
‘That’s a personal question.’
‘Then why the question?’
He ignored her response. ‘I need you to be completely honest with me.’
‘I don’t have any medical issues. I am AS, rarely sick. I do not have HIV or any STDs. I have never had sex and so have never had an abortion. My womb is secure unless someone took it out in my sleep. I had surgery months before we met as a result of a growth in my skull. Don’t worry, I do not have any mental issues as a result and I never miss my medical check-ups.’
He smiled. Too much information, but necessary all the same.
‘I am AA and so you being AS doesn’t matter. And I also come with a clean bill of health.’
‘I still don’t understand where this is going.’
‘I have given your situation a long thought and I have a proposal I believe would be beneficial to you and still keep me in my little sister’s good books.’
‘And what is your proposal?’ she asked, feeling a tightening around her neck like she was choking.
Please don’t be like the others, she groaned silently. Do not break my heart!
‘I’ll transfer the entire balance to your account with you as the collateral.’
Her face fell.
‘I thought you weren’t going to ask me to be your mistress.’ She accused.
He was a good man but a man all the same. What was she expecting? That he would give her the full balance with a pat on the cheek for being such a good daughter? She figured better him than Nze. Like she had surmised, this present situation was going to change her life forever. Come to think of it, how would being his mistress put him in his sister’s good books? Surely he wasn’t proposing…
‘I don’t have any use for a mistress.’ He assured her. ‘I am proposing a permanent arrangement between you and I.’
Was he asking her to marry him! He was handsome. She had a crush on him and perhaps if she wasn’t worried about her father she would have long thrown caution in the wind and given in to that one secret urge she had from the first day she met him – to kiss him just to know how his lips felt and tasted. But-
‘You don’t mean-’
‘What other liaison between a man and a woman could be more permanent than marriage?’ he responded.
‘But w-e hard-ly know each other.’ she stuttered, although grateful that he hadn’t diminished her trust in him by being like Nze and some of my father’s other friends.
‘We’ll have enough time to do that.’ He assured her.
‘This is wrong,’ she protested, rising to her feet. ‘When I came to you, it wasn’t with the expectation of getting the entire sum. I would appreciate any amount you can give without sacrificing yourself or your happiness in the process.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘I appreciate your concern, babe, but remember that I am
an adult and although the decision is impromptu, I have thought about it.’
‘I won’t let you do this.’
‘I am doing it of my own free will, babe. Believe me I am not under any pressure, at least not from you.’ He assured her. ‘I lost my wife four years ago and I guess I’m long overdue to settle down once more.’
‘Surely you have dated other women since you lost your wife. There must be one of them who-’
‘I haven’t had the time,’ he confessed. ‘I buried myself in work and JCI activities to get over her death, leaving no room for dating.’
She figured she should be glad that she would be having him all to herself but could she settle down with a man she barely knew even when she had a crush on him? There was a huge difference between having a crush on someone and being in love with that person. One was just a phase and the other was permanent. The thought of being with him didn’t have the nauseating effect the thought of being with her father’s boss had. He was a younger man although over ten years older than she was, but he was offering her a decent relationship. She had imagined herself getting married a year or two after youth service, giving herself the opportunity to live life a little before settling down for the rest of her life.
He asked for her account details and she gave it to him.
‘I’ll have the sum of N3, 000,000.00 transferred into your account first thing tomorrow morning.’
A transfer was safer than moving around with a cheque for over a million naira. Wait a minute! Did he just say N3, 000,000? That must have been a slip. He had promised her N2, 000,000.
‘I’ll give you tonight to think about my proposal,’ he told her. ‘If you accept then call me by 10am tomorrow. If I don’t hear from you, you would still have the money I promised paid into your account.’
She rose to her feet just as he rose to his. Acting on impulse, she hugged him. He stiffened momentarily then returned the hug.
‘Thanks so much, Dienye,’ she told him, fighting back the tears of joy that threatened to escape.
‘For nothing.’ He responded, gently extricating himself from her embrace.
‘You can’t call this nothing. I am not in any way related to you and you are letting go of such an amount of money to help me out of my predicament without any strings attached.’
‘Don’t forget my proposal.’
‘Which is very decent unlike the proposals I have received in the last few days. Besides, you are still giving me a large sum of money which has nothing to do with the proposal you made and for that I am so grateful. You are a rare breed Dienye Daniel-Hart. I am blessed to have you as my friend.’
He didn’t say anything.
‘May God bless you beyond human comprehension and continue to prosper the works of your hands. And may you never lack anything good.’
‘Amen and amen. And now, babe, I need to get you home.’
‘You’ve done so much already for me,’ she told him in protest. ‘I will take a bike home.’
‘No way,’ he returned. ‘Let me get my car keys.’
‘Woji road is notorious for its traffic,’ she reminded him as he headed out of the sitting room. ‘I don’t want to put you through that especially not after you have been so good to me.’
‘I insist. And if there is a major traffic on that road, please feel free to say ‘I told you so’ and I promise not to take offence and drop you along the road.’
‘And there’s the angelic smile that keeps my dreams beautiful all night long,’ he teased.
He picked his car keys and she followed him to the front door. He turned off the lights on the way out. Outside, they headed for his Black BMW which was parked beside a Toyota Corolla.
There wasn’t much traffic and for that she was grateful. She would have had to deal with the guilt of putting him in the way of traffic in addition to disrupting his life. The moment he pulled up in front of the black gate of her family house, she thanked him for the ride back home and made to get out of the air conditioned car. His fingers wrapped around her wrist stopped her from doing so. She turned to face him in the semi-darkness of the car.
‘You are not under any obligation whatsoever to accept my proposal,’ he told her. ‘Do not feel pressured.’
‘I mean it, babe.’
She nodded, giving in to the impulse to hug him in appreciation.
‘Thanks D.D. Good night.’
To be continued