"Are you coming tonight?" Norman asks as he gets dressed. As the owner and CEO of NORTECH, the leading tech company in Nigeria, He has to show for these work dinners and events and connect with prospective investors. I on the other hand am merely his social media manager and can conveniently miss out of the drag. He always said he envies me and my hermit ways but I suspect he doesn't hate it as much as he claims. He is sitted on the white chesterfield in my living room. The one he got for my 25th birthday. Along with every other item in the room and the rented apartment itself. He bends over and laces his dress shoes while I fume silently leaning on the mahogany doorway to the bedroom we just exited.
He ignores my silence and diligently works on getting his laces nice and tight. I sigh in exasperation. It has always been like this. My senses only starting to realign and work properly after being jostled good and hard like my throbbing parts.
"You know she's going to be there." I wanted to sound firm and accusing but it came out all wrong. I sounded like a wimp. I sounded like a side chick. Embarrassment floods me and my dark skin skin rescues me from the heat that rises up my neck to my cheeks.
"Yes she will Ada, she's my wife. Won't it be suspicious if she doesn't show and I have to make excuses for her. Besides, you know how perceptive those investors can be." He says finally looking up at me with that inscrutable stare. "Is that what you're worried about?" He asks jokingly. "You know Stella won't have time for me. She'll be busy cossying up to whomever is richer than me and faking deep understanding of philosophies"
We both laugh at this. If Stella has one weakness, it's her yearning to be seen as a smart and intelligent women, especially by rich handsome bachelors. Not everyone can see past her facade though but the blank stares when topics of importance arise and her penchant for the dramatic usually gives it away.
"We can't continue this way buba" I call him by my pet name for him soothingly while trying to steer back into serious conversation but he is two steps ahead of me like he always is. He is right before me in a flash and pulls me into a hug.
"We've talked about this Adamma. Let the baby come and everything else will go back according to plan"
We had planned to get married next month. Right after his divorce was finalized and we were in the clear. The happiest moments of my life were those i spent fantasizing of the grand wedding we were going to have. But then the pandemic happened, then the lockdown. Unfortunately, in Lagos, Nigeria no court was willing to work remotely so everything was shutdown. I waited impatiently for it to be over and by January this year, rules were eased and we could go about our daily activities. Mostly. But then Stella got pregnant. How. Why. When. I never knew. Wasn't it the same woman he said was basically asexual and recoiled at his very touch? Wasn't it her he claimed to detest with everything in him. Stella the psychopath who married him for his money in an arrangement that left him none the better now ladden with an unloving and unlovable wife.
I screamed when he told me. Tossing my new ceramic mug at his head in a fit. It missed. But he was sorry. I saw it in his eyes. In the way his voice broke as he stood outside at the door i had banged in his face begging me to let him in. The way he unashamedly screamed my name under the pouring rain as he stalked and tailed me all through my Saturday. I caved. We made passionate love that night. The kind that causes shivers and tremors in a dark cold night. Over the loud crackling of thunder and rain i heard his whispers through the night and I understood. He was after all a man. Stuck in a house for months with a woman. A very manipulative woman. We would wait. Until after the baby was born. Then we would marry. I understood.
His hands around me get tighter and I break away from my rêverie.
"Yes, I will be there. I am afterall the brains behind our latest and best app so of course I'll come to claim my glory and shine in the spotlight"
We both start cackling. I hate the spotlight.
6pm and I'm heading into the event hall in heels, a thigh high slit dinner dress and smoky makeup look. I find the least draining people to talk to and watch from afar how he glides through the crowd and effortlessly makes everyone around him laugh. She clings to him like a plague but I refuse to see her. I stare right past her head and ignore his arm clutched tightly in her long manicured fingers. I break when they walk up the stage for his speech. The loving looks they throw at each other. The smile on his face that looks so genuine.
I hurry to the bathroom not caring about the suspicious looks trailing me. It was too much. How could he stand her! I rush into the closest stall and find that I do have to pee afterall. I try to imagine what he will say. How he always says the right things. "I know how much you overthink Adamma. But when you create all these stories in your head where I'm the bad guy, can you at least try to defend me. I'm not going to be there to defend myself. Can I trust you to do in for me?" I had promised I will. That sunny morning in my brightly lit kitchen, I had promised.
I am too cut up in my own misery that I almost miss the nasally shrill voice right outside the stall. "Of course it's just a fling, he's assured me of that. I have no problem with his side chicks as long as they stay on the side" There's a hicuppy laugh and snort as she walks on past to the very last stall. Her voice sounds farther away and smaller now "I love my husband but more than that, I love my baby with everything in me. And even if it means living with the ungrateful cheat so that my baby can have a balanced life with both parents around, then yes I..." Her voice breaks at the end and becomes too low to hear.
I haven't moved a muscle and realize in small surprise that I was in fact still breathing and not completely frozen. I slink away from the bathroom as quietly as I can leaving the sobbing woman in her own world. Halfway back to the dinner hall and I regret not wiping clean as small drops soak my panties. I make a half-witted excuse to Debby the account manager and scurry as if being chased from the party.
It's Sunday and I wake to Norman making pancakes in the kitchen. He must have let himself in with the spare key I gave him. It smells of vanilla and he knows I love nothing more than vanilla pancakes with extra syrup.
"I'm sorry I didn't get to spend enough time with you yesterday. Debby told me you had to leave early" He says when he turns and find me watching.
So he thinks that's why I left, I realize. I did throw tantrums whenever I didn't get enough attention so it seemed a reasonable conclusion. I wonder if to tell him what really happened but stop when he starts playing Sheba by Adekunle Gold, my almost favorite Nigerian musician. I raise my eyebrows and smirk pretending to be unimpressed. That's when he starts twerking. I burst out laughing and he keeps at it even harder, tweaking like a worm in absolute disregard for the music and it's beat. I decide to join in with my best robot dance and we spend the morning burning pancakes and running around the kitchen in a dance off frenzy.
I decide then that I wasn't going to tell him how I heard the mother of his unborn child breakdown in a public restroom. Or even think about how the divorce will tear her little shred of hope apart. I wanted this man and I would have to let a woman break to get him, then I will.