TWO MONTHS LATER…
Priscilla got back to the place she had grown to call home. She was tired and in need of a hot bath. She mused to herself, stepping into the fairly large compound. It always reminded her of Tunde’s flat in Lagos; she felt the familiar tightening of her chest remembering her enstranged husband. She made her way towards the flight of stairs behind the white story building heading for her half sister’s apartment and let out a heavy sigh remembering why she left Lagos to come here and find peace. Within her, she knew she found little but the little, she had she treasured.
Her heart went out to Tunde and she had come to terms with the end of their marriage a long while ago. It hurt, it always hurt knowing she would never be with him again; their marriage was doomed from the start before she even came to know of him. Priscilla finally climbed the last step on the first floor and knocked on the iron gate.
The gate opened almost immediately and Imabong stood moved aside for her to enter the flat. “You have a visitor” she said in a nervous tone. Before Priscilla could speak she intercepted hurriedly. “I didn’t know you would close early from work…” It sounded more like an apology than a statement.
She looked up at Imabong who smiled quizzically at her. “Yes”, Priscilla simply replied. “My boss let me go home early today”. Priscilla stepped fully into the parlor wondering who it was. Slowly, her heart grew its pace the moment she saw a man standing away from her. He stood at the door of the balcony staring distantly. She knew who it was, she knew who it was!
Tunde turned around then and stood staring at his wife. His heart beat crazily in his chest. He was surprised she couldn’t hear it. He was drawn and tired of waiting; sleepless nights and days that dragged on in agony waiting for her call. He had finally gotten up against the advice of his lawyer and flew all the way to Port Harcourt. In truth, he missed her and seeing Priscilla again doubled his chaotic emotions.
“Tunde…” she couldn’t hide the surprise on her face as she said his name breathlessly.
“Priscilla”, he nodded to her, his face unreadable.
Priscilla lifted her chin up, the old churning feelings were returning, feelings she had convinced herself were long gone and buried. A warm feeling oozed in her heart, she secretly hoped he had come for her. “Why are you here?”
Tunde paused before answering the question looking at his wife’s face; she had grown thinner but still attractive. He was convinced the look in her eyes was one of contempt and those same eyes had once looked at him in adoration, he cleared his throat. “I had some business in Port Harcourt” he lied, unblinking. “I decided to visit so we could discuss the documents my lawyer sent to you.”
Priscilla’s heart sank within her chest but she said nothing trying to show her disappointment. With an effort she replied him. “How did you get this place? I can’t remember ever discussing here with you.”
“Mrs Bridget gave it to me. I told her it was urgent”, he completed seeing the look of annoyance flash through her eyes. “I see you’ve made a life here”, Tunde said casually looking round the small parlour.
“Yes” Priscilla replied through thinned lips “Surprising since you concluded I was no good”, she added intending to take a jab at him.
Her husband’s eyes narrowed at her statement “You know that’s not true”, Tunde replied in a taut voice “I wanted you to be the best you could be for yourself and no one else.”
She knew what he said was true but she couldn’t control the hurt his presence brought back, she looked at him with all the contempt she could muster. “Well now that I’m out of your hair, you can jolly well save your enigmatic remarks for Karen.”
Tunde grimaced in response to her statement. “What has this got to do with Karen? What has anything here got to do with Karen?” His voice rose and with controlled effort he lowered it. “I came here to discuss our marriage Priscilla, not Karen or your mother or mine…” he let his voice trail away “Finally we should talk about us.”
Priscilla stared at him, finally he said what she had originally hoped to hear but she could not bring herself to be pleased, all the hurt she had painfully buried had somehow resurfaced and she felt vulnerable again. Priscilla rapidly blinked back tears not wanting Tunde to see the effect he had on her. Finally, she spoke in a low controlled voice “There is no us, there was not and there will never be…”
The parlour fell silent; she could almost feel the latent tension swarming around them. Tunde looked away from her and walked almost to the middle of the parlour, slowly, he stopped and returned his gaze to her this time naked with torment. “Priscilla what is this about? A few months ago I could swear your affair with… With that man”, he didn’t want to remember her lover’s name, “would be the reason for a divorce and somehow the tables turned.”
She had a strong urge to go to him and press her face against his hard chest, but she swallowed at the wretched thought. “It’s not about me or you anymore, Tunde” she replied heavily. “It’s about everything that has happened between us; your family, mine, Karen, the pregnancy, I can’t forgive you for that, placing me between you and my baby was unfair…”
“And I agree Priscilla, but I was hurting” Tunde replied soberly “Surely I had a right to hurt; I was the one who felt betrayed.”
“What about me?”, she threw back at him in sudden anger fuelled by her pain. “All the times you insulted me, left me alone and went to Karen? What about the insults your family hurled at me?! I was hurting too.”
“I never had anything to do with Karen and you know that!”, Tunde stated harshly. “Why do you want to use all that as a barrier for us to work things out? Everything changed when we learnt to love each other Priscilla; I can’t remember you putting up a fight when you told me you loved me…”
“That was then” she replied, defiantly.
“And now?” His tone was coquettish “Have your feelings changed now?”
Priscilla looked away, biting her lip; she knew the answer she fought so hard to ignore. “I think you ought to leave now. I’d send the divorce papers, signed to you.”
He threw her a defeated look, her husband struggled to maintain his composure. At last, he spoke in a husky voice. “I begged you, for months I patiently waited for you to heal and think about everything..”
“Tunde…” she started, not wishing him to continue least he weakened her defenses, but he raised a hand, cutting her short.
“Priscilla. I don’t want to finally come to terms with it that we are through. I thought I could, I told myself I could… but seeing you here again… I love you”, he said shakily. A tear escaped from the corner of her eye, but she sniffed, looking away.
“Tunde, I need to be on my own now.” Her voice was almost like a whisper in her ears. “I want to achieve things for me, live my life for me. Don’t you understand? This is bigger than me or you.”
“It’s about you”, Tunde replied almost shakily. “This is about you. I knew you needed time but now, I’m convinced you’re running from something.”
He put his hand in thy pocket of his grey trousers as if to quell his impatience. “I’m at the Hilton Hotel, your sister knows the place and I hope you still have my number.” His tone was sardonic.
“Tunde…” Priscilla began to protest again and this time she was held back by the lump in her throat. The swell of emotions in her chest seemed to weigh more heavily with each beat of her heart; she strongly had the urge to sink into a nearby sofa feeling terribly faint.
“I booked a return ticket to Lagos for seven in the evening next tomorrow”, Tunde kept quiet and grit his teeth, trying to hold his emotions in place. He was a man for heaven’s sake not a boy. He swung his gaze away trying to calm his tightened chest. “Please come, Priscilla.” He looked at her again and Priscilla looked away not wishing to weaken her resolve. With that, he walked past her out of the house.
It took her a long time to gather her composure; she had walked around the office like a zombie throughout the day filled with the hunting image of Tunde’s pleading gaze. Priscilla sat in the sanctuary of the little room next to her half sister’s, her back rested on the wall behind the bed and a deep frown settled on her face, her heart was heavy with grief.
Since yesterday, she had not been able to function properly. Her heart was in a dark place and her mind could not find the little peace she had so desperately clung to. A tear slipped down the smooth curve of her cheek, she had no specific reason to cry but she had been drawn back to the melancholy of the recent past. It wasn’t just thoughts of her husband, but the events that slowly formed her present situation.
She knew within her heart that she loved her husband but it felt so distant. It felt like there was something she shielded away from acknowledging, not because she was afraid of it but the hurt and heartache she had felt before threatened to rear its ugly head again whenever she thought of love. It was a war, a war within herself; she still did not know what she wanted for herself and at the same time, she was selfish enough to want Tunde with her. The thought of him alienated from her was more frightening than she originally thought.
What of his family? Karen? Lagos and its memories? Was she ready to go back to that? Priscilla closed her eyes letting another wave of emotion subside within her. A noise from outside the door made her open her eyes and her thoughts flew momentarily to her sister, Imabong. Imabong had not spoken since yesterday; she just stared at her with a bleak expression lurking in her eyes. Priscilla was grateful for the silence though, she needed to fight her battle alone without a controlling mother, a pleading husband or anyone.
This was her fight, her pain and she had to be selfish just this once. Priscilla drew her knees up and rested her face on them with a sad countenance. She had been torn between looking for the hotel where Tunde stayed and staying put where she was. All day, she had toyed with the idea of doing what her heart desperately cried out for and finally, she made her decision.
Tunde finally dragged himself away from the large paneled window and poured himself a shot of whiskey from the half empty bottle beside his bed. The pang of disappointment was so unbearable; he was almost convinced he would run mad. He sat on the edge of the four-poster bed, half in hope while the other part of his mind taunted him with the unbearable truth. At any moment, the receptionist would call and inform him of the taxi’s arrival to carry him to the airport.
Tunde slouched and closed his eyes for a few minutes, trying to find a silver lining in his hurt. He gulped down the shot of whiskey and smiled scornfully to himself; he was imbibing in alcohol a little too freely because of a woman, because of Priscilla. He entertained the thought that she did this purposely to punish him and yes, he deserved it probably ten times over but he had suffered enough walking around in a shadow of himself.
Even Karen with all her cooing and attentiveness could not bring him out of this lovesick dilemma and finally she had understood the silence and conceded her silent defeat. His mother had grown sober seeing her son in such a state, she too finally grudgingly accepted that he loved his wife and his whole family left him in peace. Everyone went back to normal as if many things had not happened: as if his father was not in prison but he – he could never go back to normal. It was either to start afresh or to die trying.
He sighed, getting up again to check for her through the window, Tunde could almost laugh at his pathetic self. She wasn’t coming, Priscilla was through this time, their marriage was over; he ought to be celebrating, had he not been dreaming of it before he fell so desperately in love with her?
The shrill ringing of the intercom stirred him out of his misery, briefly. He got up without attending to the machine and carried his hand luggage, this was the moment of truth- he would leave this place with Priscilla behind. Tunde walked to the door and opened it stepping out into the lonely corridor; with one last look into the room, he shut the door behind him.
‘You broke the ocean in half to be here,
only to meet nothing that wants you’.
She finally felt a little like herself again, she was convinced she had run mad after the whirlwind episode with Tunde a week ago. A day after he left, she began to doubt herself greatly but she was torn between two raging desires; to run from her hurt and resentment towards him or fight it heads on. The answer was glaring in her face, she was a coward but she was comfortable being so, Priscilla mused to herself, putting her hands in the pockets of her jumper.
She walked slowly up the sloped fairly busy road towards the gate leading to her street; she tried to thrust those painful thoughts behind her mind, trying to enjoy the stroll she had forced herself to take. Priscilla let out a heavy breath wishing it could just as easy to let out the band heavy on her heart.
Her eyes slowly gazed down at her finger where the wedding band glared dully at her from the rays of the evening sun; it was almost a joke that she still wore the ring, knowing what had become of her marriage. She refused to think it was her fault, Priscilla conceded kicking a stone from under her feet as she took steep steps up the road.
A clear, resonant sound, an all too familiar sound stopped her in her tracks; that song, that peaceful song. She looked around tracing the sound to a small church tucked away at the beginning of the side street on the other side of the road. Priscilla found herself drawn to it as if by a strange influence.
The church was a small building painted white and she stepped inside conscious of her outfit but the church half filled with people. Priscilla sat behind the congregation; it was a solemn one except with the resonant hymn coming from the robed choir. Her eyes closed of their own accord and the sweet, sweet gentle melody of the hymn seeped into her, her heart weakened in surrender and she felt so at peace.
“Lord, give us Christian homes…”
Somewhere from her far off subconscious, she wished she knew the lyrics, it felt so good sitting there, listening to the words they sang and it felt like a healing balm on her heart. A tear slid down her cheek and she left out a breath. She opened her eyes at the thought that she wished Tunde was here with holding her hand and wishing he felt this strange but familiar peace she was experiencing.
This was God’s house and He touched her. The words of that hymn always held so much power for her; always soothed her broken heart and this time, she had this overwhelming conviction that this song played there, right there was for her.
Priscilla sought for the hurt and pain that lurked behind the shadows of her heart ready to pounce on her when she thought of Tunde. It was gone, gone! A tide of emotion swept through her and she bucked in tears falling freely from her eyes, she sobbed to herself quietly and earnestly asked God continually for his mercy…anything. She was tired of fighting the war on her own, tired of going up and down.
She wanted this peace, the peace that was beyond her own understanding. Her husband, how she longed to see him again, she wanted to tell him how she felt and let him know this peace. Priscilla composed herself but her tears could not be helped, she sat back slowly in her seat realizing then that the choir had stopped their angelic ministration and the preacher was on the altar. Her mind was no longer there. It was basking in its new found freedom.
Priscilla smiled dully to herself; this was about her- her life and her finding happiness, sharing happiness. Her heart mellowed at the thought of her husband, Tunde and a gently longing went out to him. She knew what she had to do and this time she was certain it was the best choice, obviously.