"Look, Ayiba, maybe you should tell Umi. If Kema's blackmail is telling Umi, then isn't it better if you just told her?" Rolake said.
"I don't know how to. And I don't have anyone else to talk to about this." His voice was croaky.
He thought about Umi. It was three days now, and she had stopped calling or texting. He knew he had ignored her and had walked out on her. And it tore him to shreds that he had done that. His wife was pregnant. He hadn't been there for her. She was also very vulnerable and he began to realise her jealous and possessive instincts were right after all. She had been skeptical about him hanging with Kema always. And about Rolake. And it turned out both man and woman wanted a piece of him. Now he blamed himself.
Maybe she didn't care anymore. She had a right not to care. He had treated her unfairly.
The problem he had now, was telling Umi about his past. It wasn't just any kind of past. It was a homosexual past...
Umi looked at her phone, and she decided she couldn't take it anymore. It was her birthday, and her husband had not even dropped a call or a birthday message, even if it was copied and pasted from somewhere. No gifts, no cash, no flowers, and no coming back home.
At first, she had concluded she wasn't going to keep calling. She was already feeling really humiliated. Maybe if she kept her distance for some time, he would be bothered about her and then call her. Or even if it was just to say Happy Birthday.
But he didn't.
Her heart felt so heavy. Hajia had told her to pray. She had attempted that, but she wasn't doing too well in that department. She didn't have the words to say. Would she ask God to take Rolake far away, back to the U.S? Or would she pray for G.D to suddenly hate Rolake? All sorts ran through her mind. They were talking about the missing Malaysian flight on TV. Maybe she could pray for God to take Rolake on a trip to some country, and then, the plane would be declared missing. Wild thoughts just kept coming.
Proverbs 31, right? She heard it all the time. About being a virtuous woman. About how she was supposed to build her home and not tear it down with her own hands. But wasn't a home supposed to be built by a husband; the Head, and a wife; his Help?
Why did she have to be the one at the back office, bearing the brunt of his mistakes with outsiders? Why couldn't he fix things? Afterall it was their marriage, not her marriage.
She was clueless why it was okay for a man to cheat, and then the African society was so quick to tell the woman to accept it just because 'that's the way men are.' Hajia had practically said the same thing when she had told her story about Alhaji marrying Fatima. She said she stood by him and bla bla.
Being married didn't mean being stupid. Submission didn't mean inferiority. It just wasn't.
In her anger, she put her phone on silent mode abd turned it over so that the screen was facing the cushions.
G.D nodded, as Rolake asked him to call Umi. He brought out his phone and dialed her number. It rang.
Umi didn't answer her call.
"She's probably done with me. I've given her enough to deal with, and you want me to add homosexuality to the list?" G.D said.
Rolake's phone beeped. It was a debit alert from her bank. She hissed.
"It always takes them a micro second to send an alert for my debit entries. Three hundred thousand naira. But when I'm credited, it takes forever!" She hissed again, tossing the phone aside.
"Hmmm. What did you buy for that amount?" G.D asked.
"It's a standing order. The rent for my store. Every 16th of the month. I pay monthly instalments."
16th? It was the 16th of the month?
"Oh my it's Umi's birthday today! Maybe that's why she's not picking up. She's mad at me." He exclaimed.
"Please just go home and be with your wife." Rolake said. "Call me later, to tell me how things went."
G.D looked at her. He wondered how she was feeling, being in love with him, yet encouraging him to go home to Umi.
"What?" Rolake said, seeing he wasn't taking his eyes off her.
"I'm sorry things didn't work out between us, beyond being friends. I really am. You'll always hold a special place in my heart." He said, holding her shoulders.
Rolake blushed, then nodded, trying not to cry.
"For what it's worth, I love you." She said.
"I...I can't say it back, Rolake." He said.
"Come on, yeye boy. I am not expecting you to say it back. Just telling you."
He pulled her closer and then hugged her.
"And take a bath, for the love of God!" Rolake said, as she got out of the car.
He laughed, driving off. He was going home to his wife.
Kema saw her climb out of G.D's car. He was upset. Not necessarily at Rolake, but because he realized he was getting obsessed with G.D.
He had started following Rolake around when he noticed G.D had started spending more time with her, and less with him. He had tried to make advances at Rolake so she would think he was interested and so she could stay away from G.D. But she didn't like him, reciprocally. He had wanted to get close to her friend, Jessy, so that he could make her influence Rolake to stay away, but then Jessy was all about getting her contracts. And he couldn't bring himself to sleep with her. G.D was the only one he wanted to be with.
And so, he had arranged for Rolake to get beaten up. But it seemed she wasn't learning her lesson.
He felt so shaken, seeing G.D hug her a few minutes ago. G.D had said he couldn't cheat on his wife. But there he was with Rolake!
Perhaps he would call Umi to tell her that he was still seeing Rolake. The worst she would do was to leave him, and that would leave G.D heart broken. And then G.D would finally be his.
But he didn't want to do that. The blackmail was his best bet. He could use the information about G.D's past, to get him in his bed.
Umi opened the door. She had heard him park his car outside and she knew he was coming in.
"Hi." She said, looking at him. "What do you want?" Even if she was so happy seeing him again. She forgot all about her anger and wanted to hug him tight.
He looked very tired...and bothered.
"Umi. I'm so sorry, baby." He came closer and hugged her. He was holding a gift bag.
"Happy birthday darling! I love you so much. I am so sorry for how everything happened. I know you didn't mean to send those thugs at Rolake but I know it's all my fault..."
"Hold it Ayiba. What do you mean I sent thugs? You really think that low of me?" Umi moved away.
"You...you didn't?" He asked. "Kema...he said you talked to him. And Rolake said they warned her to stay away from me. And she said Ayiba... "
"And it's just us your wives; Umi and Rolake, who call you Ayiba." Umi hissed.
It all started to make sense now. It was Kema. It had to be Kema. He was always stepping out of the office for reasons he never disclosed to anyone. And what more? The man was in love with him! He had torn Rolake's note in the past. He could do anything to kick her out of the picture. But how come he hadn't attacked Umi? Umi was the wife. Anyway, he had said he didn't mind that he was married. All he wanted was an affair...a relationship.
His phone beeped. It was a text from Kema.
"I gave you three days to make up your mind. I'm counting. Else, I'm spilling the beans to Umi. I miss you."
His felt his heart thud.
"Umi I need to talk to you about..." He started, looking at her. She was expressionless, but hopeful. He looked at the gift bag in his hands, then handed it to her.
"I need to talk about how we are celebrating your birthday."
She smiled. And he could give anything in the world for that smile never to leave her face.
He was in the shower when he heard the door bell ring. He smiled. He knew it was the courier guys. They had delivered Umi's cake and roses. He had ordered the exact cake they'd had at their wedding.
And the art work that had been at Rolake's house.
He swore he could almost hear the voice of her smile!