The Second Wife – Episode 8
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Friday, 13th February
Soki buttoned up her fitted blouse (one of the blouses she had initially grown out of) which she wore over blue jeans and a pair of sneakers. Just as she was spraying her perfume, she heard a beeping sound from her phone announcing that she had a message. She picked up the phone and screamed as she saw the bank alert for N3, 000,000 from Dienye.
Her mother ran into her bedroom and Soki quickly showed her the text message.
‘I told you he was a good man.’ She told her mother proudly. ‘He is not what you think he is. With this I do not have to go to see him.’
Her mother looked amazed. She had been certain that Dienye had promised her daughter N3, 000,000 just to get her to accept his proposal. However, this made her respect the man, whoever he was. With the money, her daughter had no business going to him, just to call him and thank him.
‘Where are you going?’ she asked Soki as she picked up her hand bag.
‘To see Dienye. I am accepting his proposal.’
‘You do not need to do so. He has kept his promise to you and you assured me that this money was meant to be non-refundable.’
‘Then why on earth are you accepting his proposal?’
‘Because I want to. I have no way of raising the balance.’
‘And he knows it.’
‘He knows nothing. For all he knows I might accept Nze’s temporary offer which I figure would become less once he gets this N3,000,000.’
‘Don’t even make that a thought.’ Ezinne warned her.
Soki laughed. ‘Ala a na agba m (am I mad)? I am accepting Dienye.’
‘Well, you have to wait for me to dress up so we can go see him together. I need to thank him before I head out to see your father.’
‘No, mum. I need to do this myself.’
‘Why would you -?’
‘I don’t want you getting involved. I am marrying the man and I don’t want you coming there and complicating things.’
Her mother parted her lips to protest but Soki escaped from the bedroom, racing down the staircase and out of the house.
* * * * *
Soki nervously approached the front door of Dienye’s house. She needed to talk to Dienye and alone. Her eyes scanned the vast premises. This would be her home once they were married. They weren’t characters in a Mills and Boon romance novel where the protagonist proposed a short term marriage with the intention of not having it consummated. Once married, she and Dienye would be intimate within every meaning of the word. Her heart skipped a beat. Was she ready for this? She had always imagined her first time being with a man she loved, a man who loved her back.
Having read so many romance novels, she had an almost vivid imagination of what her wedding night would be like: how her husband would pamper her and try everything romantic within his power to make the moment an unforgettable one for her. Had Dienye’s late wife been a virgin? Had he been the one she lost her virginity to? How had it been? She was literally frightened of what she thought to be her future, not because she felt she would be a victim of domestic abuse, but because she wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into.
‘You don’t have a choice,’ a voice inside her head told her.
Everyone had a choice, she countered silently. She had chosen this one because it was decent. But that didn’t make her relaxed. She had read once that you would know you were making the right decision once you felt peace within yourself. Well, what she felt was turmoil. Her head was filled with negative thoughts. What if Dienye fell in love with someone else in the course of their marriage? What if she wasn’t enough for him? What if he ended up hating her? Would he expect her to move in with him before marriage? Would he expect her to have pre-marital sex with him? Would she have to come to his home to cook his meals and do his laundry like a lot of girls did with their boyfriends and fiancés? Was he even over the death of his late wife, after all, he still wore his wedding ring? Would she have to constantly deal with her ghost in the house?
She figured she would be justified in blaming her dad for her present predicament, or even hating him. But she didn’t feel that way. He had made the mistake of trusting a friend and then trying to cover it up. Anyone could have found himself in that situation. What was important was that a way had been provided out of it and her father would be back home before the end of today.
Talking about her father, he would rather face the consequences of his action than have her sacrifice herself, her life and her happiness to get him out. He had no idea what she was doing and she wanted it to stay that way until she had made her promise to Dienye. She was someone who firmly believed that promises should never be made in a hurry as once made, they are to be kept. And so once she gave Dienye her word to marry him, she would be completely under the obligation to do so irrespective of anyone else’s views or opinions.
Her dad would definitely not be pleased with the decision. She knew for a fact that he would approach Dienye with an alternative deal before it was too late. His job wouldn’t be waiting for him – that was tied to her accepting his boss’ terms. Having accepted an alternative offer, her dad would be back in the market as a job seeker. And at his age, who was going to employ him? Perhaps, if she had considered this particular consequence, she would have accepted Nze’s offer despite her moral upbringing.
‘No, you wouldn’t have.’ The voice inside her head told her with all certainty.
And it was right. Being a mistress would mean that her dad would get back his job, but it also meant that he would resign from it because there was no way Joshua Achebe would stay back on a job knowing that his daughter was paying for every naira on her back and beneath his boss.
She sighed deeply and hurried to the front door.
* * * * *
Dienye stood just in front of the door waiting for Soki. He had been expecting a phone call and not her physical presence but he was relieved that she was there. He’d had a restless night, unable to sleep. No matter how many times he told himself it was not his problem, he still found himself worried about the choice she might make. He had promised to transfer the money to her account once he didn’t hear from her by 10am and yet the moment the bank was open he had effected the transfer.
The moment he got her call that morning, he had known that his proposal was accepted. And that filled him with a mixed reaction of relief and apprehension: relief because she wouldn’t be satisfying Nze Maduabuchi’s sexual needs; and apprehension because he wasn’t sure he was in the emotional frame to get married again. He still felt that pain that came with the knowledge that Nengi was gone for good.
He had been told that it would get better with time but it hadn’t. He couldn’t bring himself to spend the night in the master bedroom they had both shared. The room had an adjoining door which led to the bedroom she used as her studio. The room was exactly the way she had left it the morning she passed on in an accident. He had it cobwebbed every now and then but it felt painful to do so. He spent every anniversary of her death locked up in that room, reminiscing on the life they had shared.
She had been an architect and a good one at that. She had just ventured into illustrations for children’s books when her life was cut short. There wasn’t a day that passed that he didn’t miss her. She had been his life, his everything. She had been his best friend, his lover, his confidante. Theirs hadn’t been the perfect marriage, no marriage was perfect. He had loved her with everything in him and was so used to having her take care of him and his needs that her that the reality of her absence only dawned on him when her body was lowered into the ground. They had made so many plans, even down to how they would celebrate their golden jubilee anniversary. He quickly brought his thoughts back to the present for it hurt to think of her.
He watched as Soki approached the front door. She looked brighter than she had been when she arrived the previous day, which was a good sign. He stepped aside and let her into the house. She walked into the hallway while he shut the door behind her. He looked completely masculine in his white and red stripped shirt and black trousers and Soki almost gave in to the strongest temptation to throw herself into his arms and lose herself in his embrace. She couldn’t believe that this man was going to be hers for the rest of their lives. Before now, she had imagined what she would do to and with him if she had him for 24 hours. She had a crush on him and had several fantasies with her playing the role of his wife, but not once did it occur to her that it would be real.
He was good for her fantasies but being an older man, she hadn’t really considered him husband material. She had imagined the man she married wouldn’t be more than four years older than she was but she guessed fate had something else in store for her. At least he was in his mid-thirties and therefore not so ancient. He was still a youth, which was her only consolation. It could have been worse.
‘I accept your proposal,’ she told him without preamble and then remembering her manners, added, ‘Good morning, sugar.’
‘Good morning, babe,’ he responded, and then added, ‘have you had breakfast?’
She shook her head. Breakfast, ke? In this kind of situation? She had expected him to get straight down to business but he said nothing about the proposal or the fact that she had accepted it. He looked nothing like a man whose proposal of marriage had just been accepted. He led the way past the sitting room door and to the dining room.
‘Don’t worry about breakfast,’ she told him as she tried to match his long strides. ‘I’m not hungry.’
‘You will have quite a busy day today and you need something in your stomach.’ He told her as they entered the dining room. ‘I only have coffee for breakfast but there is a loaf of bread in the refrigerator, and jam, sardine, eggs in case you are interested in having an omelette. My girlfriend for the weekend is coming over this evening and she was specific about what she wanted made available.’
He smiled and she found jealousy rearing its ugly head. Girlfriend for the weekend! Having accepted his proposal that automatically made her his fiancée and no other woman was staying with her man especially not for the Valentine’s Day! Her displeasure must have shown on her face because Dienye laughed and said: ‘There’s no reason for you to be jealous. I was referring to Priye.’
‘I wasn’t jealous.’ she denied hotly, relieved that she didn’t have a competition.
She was already thinking of him as her man, talk about being possessive. He had assured her yesterday that he wasn’t in a relationship but that didn’t mean that he didn’t indulge in sexual activities every now and then and with willing companions who understood his need not to be in a relationship. After all, what man would stay celibate for four years?
‘Yes, you were,’ he countered. ‘You should have seen the expression on your face when you thought you had competition. You looked ready to gouge out her eyes.’
His laughter wasn’t helping matters. Soki punched him playfully on the arm, the first time she had been forward towards him.
‘Don’t worry, babe. I am all yours to do with as you please.’ He assured her, laughter in his eyes.
Soki blushed. She had completely forgotten that Priye was spending the weekend with her eldest brother. Come to think of it, she had said something about being his girlfriend for the weekend and getting back to school with a fat bank account.
‘Well, feel at home, babe. After all this would be your home once we are married.’
Soki loved having three square meals and could barely fast for more than a few hours. Once he gave her the cheque, she would head down to Avresons. School was out of the question for today. Everything happened for a reason. A few months ago, her school had been on strike and they had been unhappy about it. From the time table, her degree examinations would most likely have fallen this week. However, courtesy of the strike, the school’s time table had been adjusted which gave her about three months to her degree examination. It really would have been disastrous to miss school on the week of her final examinations. As it stood, she would be joining the August batch for law school.
Dienye showed her where to find everything and before long she was seated adjacent to him with a plate of sandwich, scrambled eggs and hot cup of tea. She didn’t feel comfortable having him watch her while she ate but she was hungry. The last meal she had taken was the peppered chicken and she didn’t realise how hungry she was until she had fixed the sandwich. He had scrambled the eggs while she made the sandwich and she wondered if he was doing it because she was a guest or if it was just him being himself.
She loved a guy who knew his way around the kitchen. Soki was a great cook, loved to sample new delicacies but she loved it when a guy could do more than just boil water. He was a widower – a bachelor and she was certain that if he left his doors open, he would have countless of females, fighting to feed him with all sorts of meals and constantly keeping his bed warm.
‘I guess you wouldn’t consider me unromantic if I don’t serve you breakfast in bed,’ she told him, ‘since you don’t have breakfast save for coffee.’
‘I am sure you and a cup of coffee would work perfectly well with my diet,’ he teased with a wink.
She had walked right into that one!
‘I noticed you transferred N3, 000,000 into my account instead of N2, 000,000 as promised,’ she said, changing the topic, before her brain started conjuring all kinds of 18+ scenes. Fantasizing about him in private was one thing, doing it with him watching her was a different ball game. He was perceptive enough to find her out.
‘Yes, I did,’ he replied. ‘And, no, it wasn’t in error.’
‘I am really grateful, D.D,’ she told him.
‘For nothing. There was no way I was going to let you fall into Nze Maduabuchi’s clutches and still sleep well at night. I’ll put a call across to Nze Maduabuchi this morning and have the balance transferred to him before noon.’
‘I don’t know how to begin to thank you.’
‘I’m getting something in return, you,’ he reminded her.
‘And at the cost of your independence. That amount is too much to pay as a bride price even if I was the daughter of the president.’
He shook his head.
‘I called my lawyer last night after I dropped you off. He is working on a pre-nuptial agreement for us.’
Seriously, Soki thought. Did they do that in Nigeria?
‘You knew I would say yes.’
‘I figured you would. You are too decent to give in to your father’s boss’ advance when you have an alternative and decent offer.’
‘You’re right. But a pre-nup?’
‘It wouldn’t be anything cold-blooded,’ he assured her.
To her, pre-nuptial agreements were only necessary when you were afraid your spouse was more interested in your money than in you. And she really had no interest in his money or he would have been her first point of call. She liked him a lot, was attracted to him and it had nothing to do with his financial status.
‘I have no interest in your money,’ she told him.
‘I’m sure you don’t, but I still need the pre-nup-’
‘To protect your investment,’ she finished up. ‘Why exactly are you marrying me? If it were just about the loan, you would have come up with a different arrangement.’
‘Smart girl,’ he responded, leaning into his chair. ‘This arrangement suits me just fine as it would bring an end to the regular torment I have to endure of having my sisters, cousins, aunts trying to match-make me with their friends or friend’s daughters. Besides, at my age, I need a family.’
‘You have been married before.’
‘For seven years, yes. And there was absolutely nothing medically wrong with either of us, I can assure you.’
‘I wasn’t questioning the functionality of your manhood,’ she said with a blush.
Geez, she couldn’t believe she had said that. Dienye chuckled good naturedly at her choice of words, making her relax. Whatever his reasons for wanting to marry a woman he didn’t love, a woman who didn’t love him, he was giving up a lot of money to have her. Her dad was in for the shock of his life. He would be having a riverine son-in-law. Her dad was a proper Igbo man who wanted all his children settling down with Ibo husbands. There would be no August meeting for her. Well, Dienye should be the least of his problems. At least he would be free, that is all that mattered.
She was going into this marriage without knowing much about marriages. She had never dated anyone and so wasn’t experienced enough for someone with Dienye’s obvious experience. Did happiness go hand in hand with love in marriages or could both exist independently? Well, one was solely responsible for one’s happiness. There were so many questions in her head begging for answers. Weren’t couples supposed to be best friends? Free with each other enough to confide their deepest secrets and desires? Well that was for normal marriages. Theirs wouldn’t be one. The moment she married this man she would be giving him possession of her body. She flushed, thinking of being made love to by this man. No, sex was the right word. There was no love between them. He would be her first and only. She would be his and the mother of his children.
She watched him silently. What was his late wife like? That was the wife of his youth, the one he had married because he loved her. She was the one he had given his heart to. Would she be able to fit into her shoes? Would she be able to get him to love her in the long run?
‘What’s going on in your mind?’ Dienye asked her.
Soki had forgotten he was watching her.
‘Nothing important,’ she replied.
‘Talk to me, babe. Something’s bothering you and I need to know what it is.’
Soki took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
‘What’s bothering you?’
‘I’m scared.’ she confessed. ‘We are getting married for the wrong reasons. And I am afraid it might not work.’
He smiled and reached across the table to take her hands in his.
‘Every marriage has its issues and so I can’t promise you a perfect marriage. However we’ll make our marriage work,’ he assured her.
‘We barely know each other. We aren’t even in love.’ she complained. ‘What if we are not compatible? What then?’
‘We have been able to establish that we are attracted to each other. I have no doubt that we will be compatible, babe. I was madly in love with my wife and losing her almost damaged me. I don’t know if I have it in me to love you, at least the way you want, but I would never deliberately go out of my way to hurt you.’
At least he was honest with her.
Dienye called Nze Maduabuchi and informed him that he would be making a transfer of N5, 870,000 on behalf of his fiancée. Soki raised a cheque for the N3, 000,000 Dienye had paid into her account in his name. Her dad was released that evening and it wasn’t until the next day that the drama began.
To be continued