The Second Wife – Episode 30
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Thursday 23rd December 2004
Soki reclined on the zebra print lounge, her legs crossed at the ankle as she made notes on the open jotter on her full laps revealed by her tiny grey shorts. She adjusted the sunglasses balanced on her hair and smiled slightly as she went through the list of activities appearing on the page as well as her budget.
An all-girls’ sleepover was just what she needed to take her mind off things. With most of her friends leaving Port Harcourt by Friday, this had to be done by tonight. And so the moment the idea came to her, she had begun to prepare the list. She had placed an early call to her friends, including Ese and Oroma. She had confirmed the availability of six persons which was more than enough. However, she had informed them to expect her call before the end of the day to confirm that the sleep-over would still take place.
She would be good to go as soon as she got Dienye’s go-ahead of course. After all, they would need him to stay away for the night. She chuckled as she imagined the look on his face and how uncomfortable he would be in the master bedroom having to listen to the giggling of adult females. Her husband would just run out of the house and with the full knowledge that he would be subject of 50% of the discussion.
She gasped and almost fell off the lounge chair in shock as water suddenly splashed on her. She looked ahead to find Dienye laughing at her. He was done with his swim and stood in the shallow part of the pool, his muscular arms resting on the slab. As their eyes met, he winked at her. She returned his smile and approached the pool with a towel.
She waited for him to step out before presenting the towel to him and lifting herself on tiptoes to kiss him on the lips. She smiled and he looked at her.
‘Okay, what is it?’ he asked as he wiped himself dry with the towel.
Soki was in great spirits. Dienye had been waiting for her to say something about the trip he called off to Bonny but she hadn’t raised the issue since then and she wasn’t even acting upset! That got him worried. He knew how much she had been looking forward to spending her first Christmas in Bonny especially since she had never been there. And she hadn’t said anything when they were with his parents’ home that morning and she had helped them pack ahead of their Bonny trip.
Soki smiled at him. He had made various attempts at raising the issue of not visiting Bonny even while they visited his parents. Had she acted all upset, he would have easily broached the topic but he clearly didn’t expect her to be this way. And why should she? She had finally gone to Bonny, beautiful place and one she would have loved to spend her holidays in, and she had satisfied her curiosity. She wasn’t interested in going there unless there was a family occasion and she could get away with spending sleeping over in Nana’s place or Dienye’s parents home.
‘Can’t a woman kiss her mega handsome husband again?’ she asked him.
‘Yes she can but I can tell there’s something on your mind. What is it?’
She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
‘I know the notice is coming a bit late, D,’ she started, ‘but I’m thinking of having an all girls’ sleepover tonight.’
‘Sleepover?’ he repeated.
‘Yes. I and a few friends before they travel on Friday.’
‘And since when have you been planning this?’
‘The thought just occurred to me early this morning. It would be so nice to have my friends over before the year is over. And I believe today is the last day I’ll get to see them since everyone is travelling. Well, except me of course.’
‘Babe,’ he started.
‘Don’t worry,’ she quickly interrupted and then immediately assured him: ‘I’m not complaining about us not travelling to Bonny for the Christmas. Bonny – Port Harcourt. It doesn’t matter. We’ll still be spending our first Christmas together as a couple.’
She drew circles around his muscular torso. ‘At least this should give me time to be with my friends before they leave, darling.’
He looked at her for some time.
‘I take it you already called your friends.’
She hesitated for a moment and then with a small smile responded in the positive, adding, ‘but it wasn’t an invitation per se. It was more like finding out what their programme would be like this evening. I told them I would confirm the sleepover once I’ve discussed it with you. You know I wouldn’t get you out of your house like that.’
‘Of course you wouldn’t,’ he responded, wrapping the towel around his lean hips over his swimming trunks and heading for the house.
Soki hurried after him trying to meet his long strides.
‘So, what do you say? It’s just one night and then we have the rest of the year to do whatever we want to do together.’
‘Sure. I take it Ese’s on your list of invitees?’
‘Yes, she is.’
‘Then I’ll have to call B.B to plan a hangout for us.’
Soki paused for a moment then hurried after him once more.
‘What kind of hangout are you planning?’
‘Something that involves just men,’ was Dienye’s response.
‘Like what?’ Soki enquired. She was certain that the thought of sleep-overs never occurred to men.
‘I can think of a million and one things we can do while you ladies giggle your way all through the night. Ewww!’
The notice was short and he had been looking forward to spending the evening alone with her. But he was happy she wanted to spend the night with a few friends. One night away wouldn’t hurt him. Besides, graciously conceding the use of his home to his wife’s friends was a good way of appeasing her.
A lot of women showed their annoyance by depriving their husbands of sex but that was not his Soki. She took the saying that a woman should never use sex as a punishment very seriously. And so sometimes it wasn’t easy to know when she was upset unless she actually said so and wore a heavy frown which was very rare.
She had to still be upset about not visiting Bonny! So why wasn’t she saying anything about it? Even B.B was leaving tomorrow afternoon for Buguma with Biobele. This would be his first Christmas in Port Harcourt and he had already started receiving the calls he had been expecting from Bonny asking when he would show up especially for the boat regalia and other activities that would be taking place there.
He didn’t have to be there. His cousins could easily hold the fort.
In their bedroom, Soki waited as he quickly showered and then dressed up in a t-shirt and shorts.
‘Do you need me to finance anything?’ Dienye asked her.
‘Nope. I’m working on a light budget,’ she replied. ‘Just a meal for seven with a few drinks and a few other items that might come in handy. I’m sure I can sort out the bill.’
Friday 24th December 2004
‘So what did you ladies do last night besides giggle and talk about me?’ Dienye asked Soki in the kitchen as he helped her rinse the plates she washed.
She had called him around 8am to say her friends had left the house and she was going to visit her parents and younger sister who were leaving for Onitsha that morning. Her younger sister, Nkoli would be spending a week with her elder sister when they got back in January. Dienye smiled as he thought of the little girl. Correction, ‘big girl’ in Nkoli’s words. At ten she insisted on being treated like an adult. He particularly enjoyed the few weekends her parents let her visit with Soki. He had grown so fond of her that she was like his youngest sister and a competition for Priye.
Soki was presently humming a tune from the 70s, her full hips swaying gently to the beat in the tiny jean shorts she had on. She was excited and he figured it was beyond Nkoli’s one week visit.
‘We discussed generally about men and particularly about the men in our lives,’ Soki responded, handing him a soapy plate. ‘And then we played truth or dare.’
‘Truth or dare. Isn’t that a dangerous game?’
‘Depends on the options. And don’t worry, we didn’t do anything you boys wouldn’t do.’
‘You don’t say.’
She returned to her humming and dancing.
‘Babe,’ he called softly.
She put the last of the plates he had just rinsed off in the plate rack and looked at him, her smile saccharine sweet.
Soki smiled inwardly. It was back to ‘why aren’t you fighting me over not travelling to Bonny?’ she thought.
‘Before I forget, darling,’ she started. ‘The girls send their warmest wishes and appreciation for last night’s sleep over.’
‘Warmest wishes and appreciation received.’
He was curious about what Soki and her friends had done when they had the house all to themselves. Soki had picked up a couple of movies from a video club along Old Aba Road and some drinks and then she had made small chops with the assistance of Oroma and with Priye swearing that if she wasn’t invited for the next sleepover which she hoped would happen early in the new year, she would disown somebody.
He didn’t like her silence or seemingly unaffected attitude over the issue of her trip. He was really tempted to change his mind and take the trip but it would do more harm than good.
His phone rang and he took the call.
Dienye stretched out on the couch as he put a call across to Tamunosa. He ran a palm over his face and yawned.
‘Big bros,’ Tamunosa hailed.
‘How you dey? This one wey you remember me today.’
‘I dey kampe,’ Tamunosa responded. ‘Uncle Biedima says you won’t be coming into Bonny this Christmas.’
‘No I won’t,’ Dienye concurred. ‘I have so much to do this period, business related. I’m sure I won’t be missed much this one time.’
‘I hear. People are already asking after you. And most especially because some of them haven’t had the opportunity of meeting your beautiful and very nice wife.’
Dienye snickered. Tamunosa sounded as though he had met Soki and yet they both knew the only place he could have seen Soki was through their wedding picture.
‘You’ve never met her,’ Dienye reminded his cousin.
‘We met a few days ago. We got to gist for hours.’
‘You see how people report themselves?’ Dienye asked. ‘So you still know the way to my house?’
‘You dey fall hand o. You no even fit wait to say hello to your cousin or even sleep over.’
‘You know I cannot come to the house and leave without seeing you. I haven’t been to the house for almost a year. You know how school stress is na. Soki and I happened to be on the same boat when I was returning to Bonny. And she came bearing gifts.’
Dienye wasn’t sure if he heard correct. He looked at Soki who was still humming and wriggling her hips. She gave him a sign that she was stepping out of the kitchen and promptly did so.
‘So…oooki was in Bonny?’ Dienye stuttered.
‘She didn’t tell you? I hope there’s no problem.’
‘None at all. I’m just surprised.’
‘Nana and everyone else was happy to see her. We stopped by the house so she could drop some of the few things she had travelled with.’
No wonder Soki had been so quiet that day. She had to have seen Nengi’s pictures all over the place and none of hers despite her being the current wife. Soki owned his Port Harcourt home and he couldn’t desecrate Nengi’s memories by putting up another woman’s photographs in the house she had loved. Nengi had been a constant visitor in Bonny you would think she had been born and raised in Bonny! It was only fair that her memories be retained there.
‘I had no idea she was visiting Bonny but I shouldn’t be surprised. She’s been looking forward to visiting and was disappointed when I told her we wouldn’t be travelling this year. But I’m glad she was able to stop by. I hope she got to see St Stephen’s Cathedral.’
‘She did. She specifically asked to see it and we took photographs of her there.’
‘Thanks for taking care of her during her visit. I’ll make out time to travel with her so she can spend at least a weekend there.’
‘Nana will be most pleased.’
He spoke with his cousin for some time before ending the call. No wonder the chin-chin Soki had served him on Wednesday night had tasted really familiar. Only Mrs Cookey made chin-chin like that. He had taken it for granted that his wife with the excellent culinary skills had been responsible for the chin-chin.
And she hadn’t nagged him after all she had seen in his Bonny home! Point of correction, their Bonny home. She had nagged him for less, especially when she felt she was entitled to an apology. So why not this time? He refused to believe that she would just easily accept that Nengi’s things had to stay in their home. And her grave site? There was no way she would have missed that if she took a tour of their home as he was certain she must have done.
He left the kitchen in search of Soki. He found her in the smaller sitting room flicking through the television channel. She looked up when he walked into the room, gave him a slight smile and returned her attention to the television.
He sat next to her thinking of how best to raise the subject without ending up starting a fight between them.
‘I know how much you love visiting new places and not being able to go to Bonny must make you feel terrible,’ he started.
‘No,’ she replied easily. ‘It’s no longer on my places to visit especially since I’ve got to see the first cathedral in Nigeria.’
‘You’ve visited the St Stephen’s Cathedral?’
‘Oh Oh,’ Soki gasped, her eyes widening and a palm immediately covering her mouth as soon as she realized what she’d said.
‘When was your visit to Bonny? As at Monday you were packing for our trip and felt heartbroken when I told you we would have to wait until 2005 to make the trip.’
Soki sighed deeply. She figured that since she had already spilled the beans, there was no use covering herself up. It wasn’t like she could retract her statement.
‘I visited Bonny on Wednesday after you left for work,’ she admitted. ‘Don’t worry, Priye had no knowledge of it or she would have come with me. I didn’t want to get her into trouble with her brother. I went there out of curiosity. I figured that since you weren’t willing to take me to Bonny this year, I should do the needful and take myself there, so that I don’t end the year with never having been to my husband’s villa.’
‘You should have told me.’
‘No. If I had to do it ten times again I still wouldn’t tell you darling because we both know what your reaction would have been,’ she told him without apologies. ‘You warned me and I also discovered for myself why you didn’t want me in Bonny. In the past, I thought our home was a shrine dedicated to Nengi but I didn’t see the Bonny house coming. That was like a living scrapbook! I could almost feel her moving around all the rooms I walked into, daring me to change anything! Well, I…’
‘Please tell me you didn’t try changing anything…’ he interrupted, giving an exasperated sigh.
She had already made changes to the kitchen and bedroom in this house because she felt they didn’t have her touch and he wouldn’t put it past her to try to do the same to the house in Bonny. Well, since she had only been there for a few hours, there wasn’t enough time for her to have done damage and his relatives would have called him if she had approached any of them to help her with that agenda.
‘Don’t worry I didn’t take down her things or change anything even though I travelled with a few curtains and bed covers.’ Soki assured him. ‘They’re all neatly folded in the wardrobe of one of the bedrooms. I also saw Nengi’s well-taken-care-of gravesite. It was beautiful, and no, I didn’t desecrate it or ask B.B or Belema to cajole you into exhuming her body and taking it elsewhere! She’s obviously the madam of that house and God forbid that I should do something stupid enough to earn me a spiritual slap or knock on the head. I hear slaps from spirits can permanently swell up your face and I’m not ready to test that myth.’
‘E no dey hungry me to go Bonny again. And if you ever hear me complaining about wanting to be taken there please feel free to completely ignore me. I have no intention of going to that house again let alone spending the night there. If I have any reason whatsoever to be in Bonny, I’ll gladly sleep in the family house or at Nana’s place. I no get energy to fight with spirit wey dey my backyard.’
Having said that, Soki finally settled for the music channel and Dienye watched her for some time not knowing how to respond to her words. Where would he even start from?
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