The sun looked beautiful when it rose from the night; it was her favorite time of the day watching it rise. Karen stood by the windowsill of her apartment with a glass of wine in her hand; she twirled it around and sipped delicately from the glass as the morning breeze flowed into the room. From below, cars were already spilling out, as the road got busy in line with her mind. Her mind was busy.
She sipped more of the wine and with one hand wrapped the silk robe tighter around her waist. God, lunch with Tunde the previous day kept playing in her mind. It was a week now and all she heard was Priscilla and their long ‘walk to freedom’ she nearly choked full of hate. This was a woman who meant nothing to him a month ago and now even a blind man could see that Tunde was clearly falling for his wife! It was irritating and painful to watch.
Karen rolled her eyes as her heart rebelled at the thought. Fear slowly crowded her thoughts, was she soon to be forgotten? What about the promises they had made and after this ordeal they would get married? The future did not seem so convincing anymore. She drained the rest of the drink in the glass, what was happening? After waiting for 4 years, would he toss her aside? They were reaching the end of her game and his wife had been smart enough to act like a model spouse knowing what to turn him away from her.
She let out a deep breath: something had to be done, there had to be another option she had not explored. Her mind drifted to Richard, she refused to move though the cold wind bit through her flimsy robe. A twisted smile formed on Karen’s face. Her answer was lying in front of her all this while.
…RICHARD crushed the last of his cigarette in his office, he really tried to stop smoking cutting down to just one stick a day. He released a ragged breath; he was tired and drained mentally and physically, he swore softly to himself in the sun lit office. His mind was on her, it was always on Priscilla and he thought he would go mad. He closed his eyes for a minute remembering the last time they met, the feel of her skin under his touch, the way she quivered and moaned, feeding into his passion.
Richard smiled, a personal joke reminding him of how messed up his love life was, falling in love with a married woman, a woman who he knew next to nothing about. How was she? He found himself wondering. Did she miss him the way he missed her that he could not wake up without her name first thing on his mind? Was she happy without him? Was she quivering and moaning under another man’s touch? His moth twisted wryly in irony at the thought.
The door of the office loudly creaked open making him open his eyes. Karen walked in with one of her million dollar smiles. She wore a green knee length gown and red lipstick with her hair tied up as a chignon on her head, accentuating her facial features.
“Hi, Richard”, she sat on the visitor’s chair in front of his desk “Your secretary directed me here.”
He let a smile spread on his lips; he was not in a mood to smile “Nice to see you around, Karen.”
She laughed full of richness “Come on I know when I’m not wanted!”
This time his smile was genuine “I wasn’t in the mood at first but here we are.”
“Here we are,” she agreed smiling “I was in the area and I thought to stop by. Though we may have concluded on our arrangement”, Karen gave him a knowing look, “We are still business partners” she paused for effect “And friends I believe.”
“Of course” he replied still looking at her casually “You got my mail on the new items we added to the gallery?”
“I haven’t seen it yet. I have been chasing other pressing issues; I trust you can handle it on your own.”
He shrugged “I just thought to bring out a conversation. What would you like?” Richard got up walking toward the cabinet in a corner of the room.”
“Nothing”, she smiled at him reassuringly. “So how have you been? Are you still chasing after the mystery woman?”
He chuckled and stood by the low sliding window “You make it sound like it’s a ghost.”
Karen faked a careless shrug “You’ve refused to let me in on it.”
“There’s no secret to it Karen, don’t act like it’s a big deal. How about you though?”
“Same old, same old” she replied tongue in cheek “Don’t be surprised if I say I have been too busy to worry about matters of the heart.” She held up her hands, dramatizing her words.
“You are always too busy for matters of the heart.” He swung a look outside and then back to her. He sighed inwardly with his mind on Priscilla.
“So tell me, what’s the deal with this woman?” Karen pinned him under her gaze, she smiled letting her eyes sparkle for effect “She must be special for you to leave me for her.”
“Yeah” his voice was dreamy as he stared distantly into the air “She’s one hell of a woman.”
“Then why haven’t we met this goddess?”
“It’s not time for that”, he looked at her with his voice sounding wistful in his “She’s not yet ready”
“Maybe she’ll never be” Karen kept her gaze levelled on him: reading him, feeding his desire for the other woman. She felt like scowling, hearing the way he idolized Priscilla, the way he spoke of her as though he knew her so intimately but then with the way he touched her that night at the party it was clear there was more than he was letting on.
Richard scoffed hearing the confidence in her voice “It seems like you know her hearing you say that” he looked into her eyes, Karen shivered a bit. “You sound so sure” he said slowly.
This time she looked away breaking the unspoken accusation. “It’s obvious that is what it is.” Karen got up walking slowly to him in her high heels and she stopped very close that he could smell her seductive perfume and she placed her hand gently on his right cheek returning his stare this time with more confidence. “Love is like a contract, when it doesn’t meet my terms I won’t put my stamp on it.”
“You never put your stamp on anyone, Karen”, Richard replied skeptically
“I’m close enough and that’s fine for me.” She moved then, walking towards the door “Let me help you out. He raised an eyebrow cynically and Karen smiled at him in confidence. “I’ll take you as my escort for a party; it will help get you back to shape.”
Richard laughed hearing her and walked back to his seat “No, you know I’m not the party type.”
She gave him a sly smile with excitement slowly uncurling in her “Oh, trust me you’d enjoy this party. You would.”
She smiled benignly at him as he gave her an uncertain look and nodded. Karen smiled again in victory, this time she had the upper hand and she looked at him one last time with a twinge of guilt. “I’ll text you with the details later. See you around.” He did not respond, still being indecisive and she walked out gently, shutting the door behind her.
It took ten minutes to know the truth, ten minutes to determine whether her life would change or remain the same. Priscilla sat down in her robe on the toilet seat staring at the test tube, her hands shook a bit and she chewed her bottom lip softly in anxiety. Her eyes lingered on the still red indicator on the other side of the delicate tube and she placed it carefully on the wash hand basin beside her as though it was an egg.
Priscilla got up and sighed; she walked to the blue tiled wall and leaned on it closing her eyes. What if she was? She was actually pregnant, what changes would that mean between her and Tunde? She frowned a bit, recalling the last time she was pregnant and when she lost it. That day for the first time, she saw a light go out of her husband as he heard the heartbreaking news. He had nodded solemnly and stared at her then looked away, he was disappointed but she was broken.
Her only flicker of light was doused in front of her very eyes. Slowly, Priscilla touched her chest resting her hand gently between her breasts as a small smile tugged at her lips. Yes, the child would bring light into their dim lives: they would be a family, her family and everyone would win- even her mother’s ambitious desires would be laid to rest: though she realized along the line she was with him not because of her mother but more for herself. What about them? She and Tunde?
Would he finally tell her what she longed to hear the most? What she had been starved of?
Mrs Bridget had told her to be patient but she was greedy, she was restless because she loved him and it hurt that she could not say it because he refused to show her what he felt except for grudging respect he had grown to have for her.
Priscilla glanced at the watched strapped around her slender wrist. Five minutes left. This time she closed her eyes breathing out a little of her anxiety, her hand dropped to her flat stomach. Tunde would soon be home and she wanted to break the news to him if it turned out to be what she wanted.
The creeping bitter thought crept up behind her, the thought etched at the back of her mind. What about Richard? What if the child was his? Her eyes flickered open at the disturbing thought but she knew it was a possibly, a strong possibility considering thrice, they had sex without protection.
She shivered, no, she did not want that but it was a possibility. Her heart skipped a bit at the thought as she thought of the chaos it would cause. The things she would lose out of: the shares, love. Love, her mind echoed again. She would lose Tunde. Fear tugged at her and the growing feeling of uncertainty was now stronger than before. What if it was Tunde’s? The fact was that there was a higher possibility it could be Richard’s!
Weakness washed over her at the thought and Priscilla sat down again on the toilet seat and looked at the watch, ten minutes was up; this was the moment to truth. She closed her eyes and reached for the test tube, her heart was pounding crazily in her chest as though it would explode; her breathing became labored as she gripped the delicate instrument.
Priscilla’s eyes fluttered open with all the courage she could muster. Her eyes glued to the indicator, which had turned blue, she was pregnant. A cold feeling washed over her.
The house was deathly silent with tension electrifying in the house and only the sound of the furious grinding of the fan turned to its highest point but it was not what made her shiver, it was fear. Priscilla sat on the edge of the settee with her arms folded neatly across her laps staring down at her feet.
Her mother paced back and forth in front of the television set, her hands on her hips calculating, scheming, and periodically hissing. Finally, she stopped “How could you be so stupid? Ehn have we not been through a lot for you to spoil things at this point?”
This made her look up at her mother in self-defense “It isn’t certain, I…”
“Shut up!” Sola interrupted looking at her in disgust. “Just shut up. I was hoping you would be smarter than this. You are just like your father: weak and you need to be pushed to do what’s righ.t”
She looked away from her mother wincing at her words “We don’t need to bring him into this”, she replied shakily “I told you this because the possibility that Tunde may not be the father of this child has been eating me up.”
“Has it?” Sola asked in mockery, she shook her head and sat down finally on the sofa opposite Priscilla. The little centre table stood between them giving them the distance Priscilla desperately wanted, she gulped back a little disappointment.
“Have you told Tunde anything yet?”, she eyed her daughter in scrutiny. “Have you?”
Priscilla looked at her mother through blurry eyes. “No” she choked, her eyes closed for a moment to fight back tears, what had she expected? Words of encouragement? Words of comfort? The woman she called her mother was not the kind to care, may be not the kind to love and Priscilla wanted to be loved. She wanted to be left alone to do what her heart wanted the most, to be free.
“It’s good you haven’t said anything”, Sola replied. “It’s good you came to me without doing anything.”
“What could I have done?”, she looked at her hopelessly “I’m just scared and I’m sure that’s it.”
They fell silent for what seemed like a while, both lost in her own thoughts before her mother finally spoke again clearly trying to calm her anger.
“Well, let’s go on believing the child is Tunde’s. After all he has a legal and moral righst to be the father.”
“Are you suggesting I lie to him?”, she asked her mother breathlessly.
Sola gave her a chilling look. “So what else do you plan on doing?”, she asked crossly “Hey” her mother mimicked “I’m pregnant but I’m not sure it’s yours?”
Priscilla looked away and bit her lip feeling the long forgotten hopelessness flood back into her. “I don’t want to lie if things don’t turn out the way it should be, I’ll tell my husband the truth regardless of the consequence. Don’t you feel we are going too far now?”
“He is now your husband ehn?” her mother eyed her with irritation.
“I love Tunde”, Priscilla spoke in a controlled voice. “I can’t do this knowing that.”
“Oh so you love him and yet you are prepared to lose him over something you are not even sure of. Are you even thinking at all? This is not a romance story: there are no white roses or princes who will forgive you. The sooner you realize that and think like a human being, the better it is for all of us”
She got up slowly as her mother’s words sunk deeply into her “How can we be so callous mummy? This has gone too far enough.”
Her mother walked round the table to meet her and placed a hand on her shoulder. Priscilla looked at it and looked at the older woman questioning. She dropped her hand after a sigh.
“Just have this child. Just give birth to his child,” she stressed the word “and leave behind this stupid notion that it is not his. You can’t afford to throw away your future for a few moments of passion with someone who won’t take a second look at you.”
Priscilla’s gaze dropped and she stepped back as her mother’s voice sliced through her. She let out a deep breath listening as her mother continued to speak; each word pierced and reduced her faith in herself.
“I don’t care whose child it is as long as you call it an Ariyo, whoever the father is between yourself and God. If any of them find out, they will use this to tear you down, destroy what we’ve built.”
“Like you are doing?” she asked in a small voice but her mother chose to ignore.
“After you give birth, you can get a divorce and pursue those dreams of yours or you can keep opening your thighs for your lover. Just don’t mess this up if not…”
Their eyes met and her mother spoke in a cold low voice.
“…forgiveness doesn’t come easy these days”