Her body was as tense as a coiled spring. Her heart beat so distantly in her chest. Priscilla bit her lip seated at the backseat of the airport taxi heading for home. She shivered a little, thinking of her husband; imagining his shock, desperately hoping they would have the most pleasant reunion.
The car swerved from a pothole along the road turning to head out to the express. Priscilla closed her eyes … the memories of the past years she had put out of her mind were creeping in again, but this time they did not hurt so much. Tears brimmed in her eyes, wondering and hoping that she had not come too late.
Thunder rolled from a distance most unexpectedly and she opened her eyes watching the pregnant dark clouds gather with rain.
“The rain has started again” the taxi man remarked disdainfully. He was a short and stout man in his simple traditional attire, who looked like he lost hope in work that day.
“… Does it rain much?” Priscilla peered at the thickened cloud from behind the window.
“Yes. This raining season has been very wet. It’s just five and the weather looks like it seven already.”
Priscilla bit her lip with a worried frown on her face, she didn’t like the rain; it dampened her mood but she settled more comfortably in her seat and resumed her brooding. She had grown weary of Lagos after staying for a while in Portharcourt, it held too many painful memories of her marriage. A sigh escaped her slightly trembling lips, thinking of the memories that loomed over her threatening to shake her courage.
It took a while sifting through her scattered thoughts and resurrected memories trying to draw hope from those that still held meaning to her. It was time to make new ones, time to face her reality.
…A light tap on her arm and Priscilla’s eyes fluttered open; it took her a minute to absorb her surroundings outside the warmth of the car. She recognized the road now, it was the road leading inside the serene street, the gates had been locked except for the pedestrian gate and it still rained heavily, very heavily.
“A woman said the gate has been locked for a while now” the driver said as if feeling he needed to give an explanation “It’s the gate on the other side that is open”
Priscilla bit her lip and frowned tired of spending so long in the car. “I’ll walk” she finally resolved, ignoring the disapproving look in the elderly man’s gaze but he said nothing. “The house is not so far off from this gate”, she stated more to herself than him. She brought out his fee and gave it to him. He thanked her, breaking into a big smile.
Her mind was set on leaving the car. Suddenly, she began feeling claustrophobic. She carried her little hand luggage and bag and stepped out, walking towards the gate of the street. The rain seemed so fierce outside than from the car. As it fell like tiny needles on her body, she went through the gate not caring how soaked she looked. Her heart was pounding crazily in her chest thinking of seeing Tunde again. The rain drummed on with lightening flashing arrogantly across the sky; she knew she ought to wait but her heart was in so much turmoil that Priscilla moved like a robot heading hurriedly towards the cream painted house.
Thunder roared in anger almost frightening her, the road was empty and dark with nightfall coupled with the dark clouds and she stepped in a puddle and she groaned inwardly. She began to wonder how long it would take to get to the house; it never seemed that long whenever she took those strolls.
Finally the house was in sight, Priscilla kept her pace and hurried into the gate; she shivered from the cold seemed to get beneath her skin; her heart beat crazily in her chest as she entered the compound to the building. The place was so dark she could only hope she wouldn’t run into any object.
She finally climbed up the flight of stairs her heart beating more painfully in her chest with each step she took. A slight tremor went through her body in apprehension to the spasms of cold. Priscilla sneezed, feeling uncontrollably cold and knocked on the entrance door to the familiar flat. She knocked again with agitation but there was no answer and with a sigh of resignation her body fell to lean on the wall beside her, the rain still poured heavily with frequent roars of thunder and flashes of lightening her hand went round her waist as a weak tear of disappointment threatened to fall but with growing effort she made on last, weak knock on the door.
Priscilla sank her teeth softly into her bottom lip and closed her eyes. The rain outside prevented her from leaving because within her she had succumbed to her greatest fear: what if Tunde turned his back on her? She would have herself to blame for a long time if not her whole life.
The door opened miraculously and Priscilla’s eyes flew open to stare at her husband. Surprise flickered briefly on his face and if he was delighted to see her he made no show of it. She straightened from her position, breathless. She stood in front of Tunde now and all the words she had practiced could not be put to use.
“Priscilla”, his tone was clipped. “Come in.” Tunde stepped aside and she walked in dropping her luggage beside the entrance door as he locked it. She moved a little from him trying to grasp her already ruffled composure. The house was dark with only a beam of light coming from one of the streetlights below; Priscilla cleared her throat wishing he could say something to ease her way. He did, her body relaxed a little from its coiled spring; Priscilla shivered from the cold and sneezed.
“You have a cold?” Tunde was beside her, too close for her comfort.
“I had to walk a little from the gate” Priscilla replied trying to be casual, a weak smile tugged the corners of her full lips.
“From the gate?!” Tunde exclaimed. She shivered again from the cold wishing she could see his face to match his disapproving voice.
“It’s alright”, she responded wishing she had enough sense to have waited under a shed or in the taxi. To her disdain, Priscilla sneezed again, sniffing.
“Please go in a room and change. You need to get out of these wet clothes.”
She nodded too ashamed to argue and carried her luggage. “Which room am I to use?”
Tunde exclaimed under his breath “For Pete’s sake Priscilla this is…or was your home too. You know this apartment!”
She nodded weakly. I’d change in the guest room.” Her voice shook a little in her ears and she could tell he shrugged. “Thank you.”
Tunde said nothing just standing in the shadows and she turned into the corridor to the guestroom feeling the heat of his gaze burn her back. Priscilla walked into the guestroom and flicked on the light. It took her a minute to take in her surroundings. Nothing had changed in the room except for the bed sheet. Priscilla strode slowly towards the bed and stood by the edge staring down at it. ‘Did Karen sleep here in this room?’ she swallowed at the thought.
Priscilla shivered again and a pang of emotion swept through her chest as she combed through her luggage for clean clothes to wear. Her hands finally settled on her green cardigan and a pleated skirt, she removed her clothes jerkily as the thought gnawed at her. ‘..Or did Karen sleep with Tunde at least once?’ He was broken and alone, Karen could have been busy his side and shown Tunde what she had denied him. Priscilla wore her clothes with her heart beating painfully at the nagging thoughts, her defense weakened with each likely conclusion.
She couldn’t stay here, Priscilla concluded dully to herself ‘I can’t, I thought I could but I can’t. Her body sank to the edge of the bed and tears of defeat escaped her eyes, she let them fall freely too weak to try and stop them. Priscilla sobbed softly to herself, she couldn’t do this; she had stepped out of the airport feeling like she was pumped up for this moment but nothing, nothing had prepared her for this weakness. She buried her face in her hands and wept some more feeling so lost, a chill settled on her dull skin making her shiver again.
Priscilla couldn’t tell how long she sat that way crying but the rapt knock of the door drew her out of her gloom.
“Is everything alright in there?” Tunde asked in an almost muffled sound behind the door.
“Yes”, she replied with all the composure she could muster. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
Finally, gathering troubling thoughts, she walked out of the room carrying the luggage in one hand, with heavy steps. Priscilla made her way to the sitting room hearing the loud pattering of the rain on the window panes.
Tunde stood by the window with a drink in one hand staring distantly into the darkness; she cleared her throat making him look her way.
“I should be leaving now”, her voice trembled as she spoke. She could not bring herself to look at him feeling the familiar painful tug in her heart.
Priscilla finally looked at Tunde but she couldn’t hold her gaze for long “I… I can’t stay here”, she replied hesitantly, she found her way to the door but it was so difficult to open it. She wanted him to tell her to stay; she wanted to hear it so badly; some form of reassurance.
“Don’t be stupid Priscilla”, Tunde replied bitingly. “It’s raining outside. Besides, you didn’t come all the way from Port Harcourt to change your clothes here…”
She swallowed painfully at his words, she knew he was right and she stood weakly as Tunde took a step towards her.
“You are right”, Priscilla responded calmly even though her insides were quivering. “I wanted us to talk but I’m not sure that was a great idea”
Tunde ignored the uncertainty in his wife’s voice and took another step towards her. They were within a breath’s distance now and they knew the under current flowing between them.
“Why?”, he asked in a silky voice.
Priscilla felt her pulse quicken. She knew Tunde saw the tell tale signs of her body responding to his nearness, her palms itched to touch him. Instead, she stepped aside, creating a little distance between them. “Tunde”, her voice had grown husky, she cleared her throat struggling for composure. “Tunde, it’s about us.”
Her husband watched her with keen interest flickered in his eyes. “You being here has given me the answer I want.”
With great effort Priscilla walked away from him ignoring his wounded expression. She needed the space, needed to talk to him; set things straight. “I came because I had this rush to do so.” She felt his gaze on her not trusting herself to look at him. “For so long I’ve been angry with you, blaming you for everything that happened Tunde but I can’t bring myself to give you a divorce and I can’t trust you either…”
After a moment of thought Tunde responded still staring at her “Why?” he asked simply.” I understand why you’ve been angry with the baby and all but…”
“It’s not about the baby”, Priscilla interrupted tearfully. It still hurt to talk about her miscarriage. “It’s about us not our parents or Karen or Richard…”
Tunde let out a deep breath. “Then Priscilla, what is it about us you can’t trust? Tell me, do you even know what is left of this marriage? Nothing Priscilla, nothing. This is about you not us and I got tired of fighting an already lost battle a week ago!”
She fought to control her tears but her heart was vulnerable. “Tunde I needed time to myself, I needed time to think. You have no idea what I’ve been through…”
“And you have no idea what I have been through!” Tunde responded, raising his voice “This is about you Priscilla. Everything from the marriage to date has been about you and your family.”
Her tears fell weakly on her cheeks, she knew what Tunde said was true and she had no defense for it.
“Look, Priscilla”, he continued with a controlled effort to lower his voice “I know you’ve been through a lot but you have to give yourself a chance. Give us a chance before we even begin anything. Let’s start from scratch; I’d send flowers and take you out to dinner and all that, just give this marriage a fresh start. But these won’t happen if you keep letting the past come between us.”
She nodded silently “I don’t want to be hurt anymore Tunde”, Priscilla replied in a shaky voice wiping her tears with the back of her hand.
“I can’t promise to protect you from everything that has happened or that we won’t meet more challenges but I know and I promise that I won’t leave you alone ever again…”
Priscilla sank into the settee beside her and buried her face in her hands in tears; Tunde sat beside her and touched her hands.
“Look at me, Priscilla.” The gentleness in his voice stopped her tears and she looked at him, seeing the naked torture in his eyes. “I also did a lot of growing up these past months and I realized I never told you how much I loved you.” Tunde took her small hands in his. “I love you Priscilla. It’s not about the sex, which is great”, his smile was infectious, bringing a warm glow in her. “I know my mum and siblings are not your greatest fans but I realized I’m done living my life for the family. This is about you and I, us”
“And your dad?”
“He’s in jail”, Tunde responded gravely “We won’t have as much to live by as before because we had to dissolve the company but I got an offer…”
“Tunde I love you”, Priscilla said staring longingly at him. “The company doesn’t matter as long as I’m with you, it was never about money for me Tunde, you must believe that…”
“And you must believe that we can make this work Priscilla” he sighed “No more Karen or …”
She shook her head in agreement “I’m so sorry about my mother and Richard”, Priscilla stated full of regret “God, I wish I could take it back Tunde, I wish I hadn’t… I can’t understand how you can forgive me Tunde. I’m so sorry.” Tears escaped her eyes as she looked down at their clasped hands.
“Honestly, it wasn’t easy to look past it. It took all of me, Priscilla I don’t know what would happen to me if it occurred again. I was broken and I loved you so much even then.”
“I’m sorry, Tunde.” Fresh tears fell weakly from her eyes. “I keep wishing I wasn’t so weak then, I keep wishing I was much stronger…”
“You were lonely Priscilla and I forgive you for it. I wasn’t strong myself and you were under a lot more pressure than I was. You need to forgive yourself first if you want us to work, Priscilla.”
“It’s not easy”, Priscilla replied in a small voice.
“I’m here with you. We’ll work on us together and we’d start from scratch.”
Tunde gathered her in his arms and she smiled a deep contented smile. Her tears soaked his shirt but they didn’t care. They were happy staying like that in each other’s arms.
“I will take you back to Mrs Bridget’s place dear”, Tunde replied at length with great self control and she pulled back from his arms, startled.
“Why, don’t you want me?” Priscilla asked dismayed.
“I do”, Tunde replied looking at his wife with all the love in him. “We’d start from scratch Priscilla, go slowly. We never got the chance to do things right and now, I don’t want to make the same mistake again.”
“But I’m here with you. Isn’t that all that matters?”
Tunde let out a deep troubled breath “Yes, but is not all that matters. You deserve much better than things happening too fast. You’d get to know me better and I, you and you’d heal too. I’m doing this for us Priscilla, we need this.”
She nodded at length and smiled at Tunde with a warm glow in her heart. “You’re right. Let’s take things slow and steady Tunde, but I love you and I won’t give you any cause to doubt that again.”
“I love you too Priscilla”, Tunde replied feeling happier than ever.
The sudden roll of thunder brought her back from her euphoria; she clung to her husband again. “You’ll let me stay won’t you?” She looked at the base of his firm throat.
“Yes, but only till the rain stops.” He smiled at her disappointment and gathered Priscilla in his arms again. “This is enough for me”, Tunde whispered lovingly in her ear “for now.”
Priscilla smiled, knowing he smiled too. She was happy; finally, she was free and the familiar gentle tune played somewhere in her heart. There and then, Priscilla knew she had found her safe haven.
THE END ???
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