Tunde got out of the shower feeling refreshed as he wrapped the towel sarong wise on his hips. His body glistened with the humidity and he walked into the sun lit room. His gaze caught his wife, staring outside the window. She was beautiful, standing there with the light framing her pretty face. He smiled to himself still looking at her profile, whom was he kidding? He had fallen in love with this woman, a woman he may never grow to trust. The stabbing thought brought him back to reality, was this what he wanted? He was living with a woman whom he may never trust, with so many unspoken words between them. He could start with something, a three-letter word. He opened his mouth to speak but he found himself unable to say what he wanted to say most in his heart.
“What are you staring at?”
Priscilla turned around in shock, “I didn’t hear you come out of the shower.”
He walked to the wardrobe pulling out a drawer; he picked his black underwear and slipped it on cautious of her gaze boring into his back. “Your mind has been far away these days.”
“There’s a lot to think about”. She looked at him: Like their future. Priscilla walked to him wrapping her arms around his waist. She placed a soft kiss on his back; he stiffened with response and turned to her placing a kiss on her temple.
“What’s with the hug?”
“Nothing” she whispered uncertainly “I believe it’s nothing.”
Tunde sighed, “You keep staring out of the window, is it because of the get together on Saturday?”
Priscilla bit her bottom lip anxiously, her mother’s last words echoed in her ears. She fought back tears and eased herself from his embrace trying not to feel guilty; she turned her attention to arranging the rumpled bed.
“Come on Priscilla, I think I know you well after these past months. There’s something on your mind.”
“It’s nothing” she replied pulling the edge of the bed sheet.
Tunde took of the towel laying it on the dressing table stool; he reached for his slacks with his mouth twisting in growing irritation. “We’ve been good since”, he continued, watching as Priscilla smoothened the big bed; finally she stopped and straightened up expelling a ragged breath.
She closed her eyes; her mouth was heavy with uncertain words. She wanted so desperately to say she was pregnant with him as the father, but she also had to believe it to remove the endless nagging that kept drumming behind her ears reminding of her failures. Her eyelids fluttered open, the room smelled of his bath soap.
Slowly she spun around to look at her husband: at his worried expression and she forced herself to smile. “I think…. I think…”
Tunde took a step towards his wife. “You think what?” he asked in an encouraging tone.
“I think I’m pregnant.” Priscilla replied in a small voice and watched him turn still.
“You’re pregnant?” he asked as if he could not understand what she said.
“I took a test and I went to the hospital and sat a while then he…”
He laughed. He was shaking. Tunde was shaking; Priscilla stared into his eyes trying to make sense of everything, his emotions. Tears brimmed round her eyes and she laughed too, they both laughed happily.
“You were mumbling” he clasped her head in his hands and placed a lingering kiss on her lips. A tear slipped from the corner of her eye: no, she was not happy. She was hurt watching him fall for something that was a fraud. Maybe, just maybe it was for the best. This would bring them together no matter how controversial it was, what mattered was only she and her mother knew until death.
She snaked her arms around him again and placed her cheek on his bare chest listening to his heartbeat and he said it, stroking her back closing his eyes, he said what she desperately wanted to hear.
“I love you Priscilla”
She stiffened and wanted to pull back but his arms tightened around her. He was ready, ready to give up everything to follow this woman his wife…and their baby. His baby, he closed his eyes placing his chin on her head “God, I love you”
The wind howled outside but the family did not mind. It was going to rain again for the third time. Everyone sat in the sitting room chatting but she felt left out as always, only this time, it was different. It was different because Tunde sat next to her with his arms around her bare arms enclosing her with his warmth. The family members stared questioningly at the message her husband was passing across.
Priscilla bent her head a little embarrassed. Demilade walked to where they sat and she sat by the stool beside Priscilla making her look up at her.
“Tunde, won’t you come and join us?” Demilade smiled coyly at him. The insult was clear enough and Priscilla felt him stiffen beside her.
“Priscilla and I were having a conversation”, Tunde replied with a disapproving gaze
“An actual conversation?” This time she looked at her. Her gaze ran coldly over Priscilla’s body.
“Hello”, she hissed back batting her fixed eyelashes at her in irritation. “Can I speak to my brother alone for a second?”
Priscilla got up without saying a word and walked to the other end of the room wondering for the first time where her mother was.
Tunde stared after his wife as she walked in those heels; he made a mental note to throw them away the moment the pregnancy began to show. He expelled a breath; he was already behaving like a paranoid father before even knowing the sex of the baby.
Yes?” Tunde replied looking at his sister, “I don’t like the way you spoke to Priscilla.”
Her face registered shock “I honestly didn’t know she had gotten this far under your skin.”
“You can’t just treat her that way Demi, she’s also human you know? She’s my wife too.”
“Now she’s your wife?”, she snickered. “Do you understand exactly what you are saying that the opportunist whom we had a mutual dislike for is now ‘your wife’?”
“Things have changed quite a lot since we last spoke but I don’t have to give you an update on who I like and don’t like. I’m just saying you should respect her a bit more that’s all.”
“Someone who seems to have gotten under your skin?” , she sounded perturbed.
“It’s our business Demi.” Tunde touched her hand lightly and she flinched in anger “Demi, let’s just see how things go.”
“Go? Is it not clear she is using you? Very soon she’d get pregnant in a bid to save herself and her mother, not the marriage.”
A cord struck in his heart and he looked down at his feet letting the aftermath of her words subside. Tunde sighed; his sister had every right to be worried. “I believe you shouldn’t worry yourself about things like that, whatever happens between Priscilla and I is our business from now on.”
She gave him an unflattering look. “Is she pregnant already Tunde?”
He didn’t reply and merely sipped his drink from the champagne glass, this time Demilade shook him with growing anger. “Tunde, is she pregnant already?” Her tone was cold.
He nodded and watched her expression darken with unconcealed rage. Demilade drew in a ragged breath trying to calm her anger “How could you let that happen Tunde? Do you understand what your marriage is all about or you have allowed her get under your skin just because she changed her wardrobe?”
He gave her a murderous look “Don’t talk like that, I know fully well what the situation around our marriage is, but it doesn’t mean we won’t welcome a child between us”, his eyes followed his wife’s mother when she stepped into the room. Tunde’s lips twitched cynically.
“What about Karen? Have you thought of her at all?”
He bent his head remorsefully at the thought of the woman whom he had loved once and bit his bottom lip not trusting himself to speak.
“Does she know?” Demilade pressed on. “Do you know how much this would affect her? She has waited for you for so long Tunde, how can you just toss her aside this way? Your wife could just be doing all this to sink her claws further into your pockets.”
“No”, he replied getting up. He had heard enough. “We are done having this discussion, Demilade.” With that, he drank what was left of the drink and walked away as her words hung down on his shoulders.
…PRISCILLA watched her mother walk up to where she stood waiting for her husband. She stopped to discuss with the celebrant and his wife. She had watched Tunde and Demilade talk, she could bet he told his sister about her pregnancy and obviously, the news did not go down well with her. Who could blame her? Who would believe she had fallen in love with him?
Her mother stopped in front of her, clutching her latest purse to the collection of purses she rarely used; she wanted to go home. Her mind was clucking, screaming for peace, it felt as usual like everyone was against her, each staring daggers at her.
“Good afternoon, mum.” Her tone was clipped.
“Good afternoon dear”, Her mother looked around smiling gaily at her surroundings, her eyes settled on Priscilla’s still flat stomach. “How is the baby?”
Priscilla drew in a frustrated breath “I am going to the hospital tomorrow.”
“That’s good news then.” The house cleaner passed with a tray of drinks in her hand and her mother took a glass lifting it to her lips. “He doesn’t know anything, right?”
She let out a breath in exasperation “No mother, but I’m not doing it for any selfish reasons, it’s for Tunde and I.”
Sola gave her a look before she spoke with a daunting note. “Is that what you think? You think it’s for the both of you?” This time she laughed. “We both know you are scared of telling him, whether it’s for him or not. You are scared of the way he will react when he eventually hears about your little fling.”
Tears brimmed round Priscilla’s eyes but she managed to keep her head up as Sola spoke.
“I have lived too long on earth to be fooled by your martyr games. Your father did worse than you and I dealt with it Priscilla, so don’t play smart with me.” Sola placed a hand on her daughter’s pale skin “If you were so righteous then why you aren’t telling the truth, that you are not sure of who has the child growing inside you? You are a little coward, that’s what you are.”
Priscilla stared at her mother fighting back stubborn tears. “Mum”, her voice was forced and she shook her head at a loss for words. “Whatever I do now is for my marriage. I am tired of how you make everything into a game of power.”
Sola smiled at her in-laws who cared to throw a glance their way, they turned away without any remorse for being caught and she turned back to her companion with a faint smile plastered on her lips and a dangerous sparkle in her eyes. “Priscilla, everything is about power, it is power. Don’t you understand that all this is for you?” She had changed from a danger to sultry. “Think of what life you would have if I had not pushed you into this- which you are clearly benefitting from.”
“At least, Ima is happy where she is”, Priscilla bit back, satisfied with the darkened expression on her mother’s face. “She has no one calling over her shoulder telling her what to do.”
Her mother forced a sardonic smile and walked away towards the open patio. Priscilla’s eyes found her husband is inquiring gaze and she looked away not having the strength to smile.
“Time for dinner everyone!”
People walked towards the dining room at the sound of Mrs Ariyo’s cheerful tone, she followed suit and Tunde came up behind her hooking his arm into hers.
“What?” she looked at him feigning ignorance
“I noticed the conversation with your mother didn’t go down so well.” Tunde gently rubbed her back whispering into her ear. She shivered a bit with his soft warm breath next to her “Is something the matter?”
“No, nothing” They both knew she was terse but he pressed on no longer and she was grateful for his silent understanding. Everyone was seated around the long glass table when they arrived. She could feel their cold gaze on her; it always made her cringe under their scrutiny.
Four seats were empty, almost in the centre of the table, which was already filled with dishes of different delicacies and cutlery. Tunde pulled the chair out for her and she lowered herself into it slowly while he sat on the one next to her.
The remaining two seats remained vacant and Mrs Ariyo began to bless the meal while everyone closed their eyes except for her, Priscilla’s eyes burned open as her mind refused to stay calm. At last, they opened their eyes at the close of the short prayer. The food was served and chattering grew louder.
“So, when is Karen arriving?” Chief Ariyo asked as his wife poured spoons of rice into a plate for him, he poured red wine into his glass and sipped.
“She said she was almost here, thirty minutes ago.”
Priscilla looked down at her empty plate feeling tense, Tunde patted her knee under the table in understanding, and she looked up again at the two empty seats opposite her.
“I heard from Yinka a few days ago.”
Mrs Ariyo looked up at the mention of her youngest born “He called this morning wishing your father a happy birthday; he’s doing great in Amsterdam.”
Tunde nodded “It’s getting cold by this time of the year, I would have thought he would come back by now”, he served his wife absent mindedly feeling cool gazes settle on the both of them, her head was bent again, she was embarrassed. His mind went to the night before, the way she had hung close to him after throes of passion, he shook himself mentally.
Her head snapped up with all eyes pierced at her, her mother smiled at her with a malicious tinge in her eyes “Yes mum?” she choked in a small voice, her head reeled a little.
“I said you were looking pale today.”
She stared at her mother and then everyone in the room, she knew the game she played to form the concerned mother “Yes, I’m not feeling so well.”
“You didn’t say that at home”, Tunde remarked looking at her with concern.
“It’s nothing serious” Priscilla replied hastily “I haven’t eaten much today” she picked up a spoon and painfully swallowed a little of the jollof rice Tunde poured out for her, she heard Demi grunt irritated. Priscilla forced herself to swallow another spoon lost in her own world amidst the chattering round the table.
The chattering continued as dishes where passed along on the long table but she was lost in her own dilemma, each time she looked at him, the guilt seemed to swallow her up some more. She knew there would always be that little voice behind her telling her the child was not his.
Priscilla looked up at the sound of Chief Ariyo’s voice. The woman walked towards the table with a lazy smile plastered on her face. She wore a green bandage dress, knee length and a little too much make up for the occasion.
Everyone at the table greeted her as she walked up to Tunde’s father with a pocket-sized parcel in her pink tipped fingers.
“Thank you”, he replied cheerfully staring at the gift. He placed the gift on the table and Karen walked to an empty seat opposite Tunde, everyone studied them and it was clear. Priscilla swallowed a muffled sound, was that for her? Was it a sign from God that she had lost him from her mistake?
“Hello, Tunde” Karen smiled and him, a seductive little smile, “And your wife”
“Karen”, he replied, his tone was smooth. “I had no idea you would show up”
“Why?” her mother-in-law cut in, “Karen is as much a member of the family as you are.”
Priscilla’s eyes met her mother’s, who had a hooded expression on her face.
“Where is your escort by the way?”
She cut a piece of the steak “He had some calls to make outside” she replied staring at Tunde “He would soon be joining us.”
Priscilla almost fainted, feeling the tension between the three of them. It was clear the woman wanted him; she had made no effort to hide it at all.
“So this man”, Demilade said after a second of silence “Is he serious?”
Karen smiled and her eyes met Priscilla “I believe he has someone already.”
Priscilla felt a cold shiver down her spine for some odd reason; she cut a piece of her steak. Tunde had grown still beside her and she tried not to conclude on the obvious reason, he had said he loved her! The steak was hard to swallow; he had shown so much love to her. Were things falling apart because of her little secret?
Tunde cleared his throat “I’m glad to know you are good Karen, we haven’t spoken in ages.”
“Whose fault is it?” Karen asked, softly
All eyes turned to Priscilla, and her cheeks turned warm. “I’m not against Tunde maintaining his friendship with anyone”, the words rolled out of her lips before she could stop them. “Not that I have a right to”, she added, hastily.
“But that is the reason he has been so cold lately”, Karen replied with a coy smile. “Tunde and I have been close” she emphasized the word “for a very long time and I know him better than anyone would.”
Priscilla smiled “So why didn’t you marry since it’s obvious you would still like to be close?” she returned the other woman’s smile “I believe still trying to get close to a married man is just distasteful or don’t you agree?”
Karen’s lips thinned in response.
“I will not have you two taking jibes at each other on my dinner table”, Chief Ariyo cut in sharply.
“I believe Sola, that at least you would have taught your daughter to bridle her tongue.”
Her mother eyed her sharply and looked at her father-in-law with a smile plastered on her lips.
“Priscilla has had a little too much on her plate considering she has been under a lot of pressure lately”
“What pressure might that be?”, Demilade asked mockingly “I think its Tunde that has given her a lot of courage to speak in that manner. It’s unbecoming.”
“We shouldn’t judge her” , Karen replied sweetly “I may have overstepped my boundaries”
“By saying what?”, Demilade retorted and looked at Tunde “look at what your wife, she has become… Tunde and it’s your fault”
“I swear if I hear one more word coming from you again I’ll…”
The room went quiet and the whole family looked at the guest. Priscilla looked up and her face turned white in shock.
Karen got up and smiled looking at her, their eyes clashed and small tremors of fear and shock began to race in her heart.
“This is Richard, a close friend of mine.”
Their eyes clashed at the knowing glint in Karen’s eyes.