MAGICAL MONDAYS WITH KREATE
Episode 6: Confronting the Demons
Dotun was yammering on about his wife having unrealistic needs and how he was exhausted with having to constantly deal with them. ‘I may have to consider getting a side chick, ease off the stress.’
‘You are an adult. That prerogative is yours.’
‘That’s all I get?’
Dotun was staring at her. Ashley felt slightly irritated. Not at Dotun. She was used to his peculiarity and she was almost certain he would never cheat on his wife. Whenever his wife was involved, he was all grunt and grumble but no stomach for action. Her mind kept on wondering to Tayo and it annoyed her that he had such a hold on her. Many years had passed and she should be able to leave the past where it was. And yet she was rational enough to understand that closure was a necessity, even though hurt and pride prevented her from doing the needful.
‘Ashley?’ Dotun called. She snapped out of her reverie. ‘Yes?’
‘You have been zoning out like some zombie, lately. Are you alright?’ Dotun’s face showed a little concern. ‘You know I listen too.’
‘I’ll be fine.’
Dotun’s phone rang, interrupting his response. An almost imperceptible frown lined his forehead as he saw the caller. He put the receiver against his ear. ‘Good morning, Mr. Aderanti. Good to hear from you again….oh yes’
His face lightened up. ‘You have made the right choice. I’ll be over right away to sort out paperwork. No?… That would be splendid.’ He put down the receiver, grinning like a man who had just won the lottery. He turned to Ashley. ‘Mr. Aderanti has just signified interest to invest in our expansion. He should be here in the next 30 minutes.’
She was glad that the company had found a new investor. All other things being equal it should result in promotion and a salary spike, perhaps the purchase of a car too. But the feeling of elation was stifled by the fear of a prey backed into a corner by a predator. If she wanted a future with her current employer, her demons had to be confronted. She made up her mind. Tonight.
Concentrating on the fashion blog piece she was working on for Tribe Fascia, one of her newest, biggest clients was hard. She missed his voice, his insatiable gaze, his warm body, his adventurous, passionate lovemaking. And she hated herself for it. It had been 3 weeks now. Why couldn’t Thomas just go with the flow. Be a regular guy who got a good fuck and desired nothing more? Now, every other thing was suffering for his action. Her beneficiaries were dishing out complaints about her sexual prowess dwindling in intensity. She didn’t care much for them; she’d get replacements if it came to it.
Now it was affecting her writing and it irked her. He couldn’t take control of her life. No one could. With newfound determination, she continued writing. During a second review of the completed literature, a mail notification popped up on her laptop screen. It was a reminder on an invite for Red Runway, a fashion show organized by the very client she was writing for. It was this scheduled for late afternoon and she was prepared for it.
Heads turned as she walked into the venue. She read desire in the eyes of some men and contempt in the eyes of some ladies. A status quo she had grown accustomed to. She directed her attention to the venue. The theme was blood red and polished brown. 5 feet, wide, red rug ran the entire length of the hall; it steadily grew brighter as it drew closer and closer to the runway for the models. Every other area of the floor was mahogany brown. Chinwe could count 5 crystal chandeliers gracing the ceiling, sparkling against the white gaze of the numerous V-shaped fluorescent tubes. Every 10 meters or so, a portrait of someone modeling a design hung on the wall. The hostesses were cladded in tailored white shirts over red skirts. It was glorious.
Someone tapped her shoulder. It was Adeniran Olunike, the PR officer of Tribe Fascia. She was a petite lady with a cropped hair, an adorable face, and a beaming personality.
‘Hello, Chinwe!’ She said, pulling her into an embrace. ‘I’m glad you found time to honor our event.’
‘I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The decorator did an amazing job.’
‘I know right! We have been working with him for years now. He is incredibly talented and handsome, too.’ She winked. ‘You know he has a white-collar job; he only does this part-time. I wonder why. But I hear he is an invaluable asset in his place of –’
‘Speak of the devil, Hello Matthew. Over here; I have someone to introduce you too!’
Chinwe followed Nike’s gaze. It was Thomas. Her heart skipped a beat. Their eyes locked and his reflected shock then anger then indifferent politeness.
He turned to Chinwe and raised a hand. ‘Matthew. And you are?’
Now he’d know her name. She frowned. ‘Chinwe.’
‘Pleased to meet you.’
And then he diverted his attention to Nike. ‘I hope your guests find the look satisfying?’ Nike giggled, ‘Absolutely. Every opinion I have sampled today had nothing but praise for the artist that pulled this off. I like your shirt; it sits nicely on your shoulder.’
Chinwe frowned slightly. Why did it bother her that Nike was flirting with him? That wasn’t a good sign.
‘You don’t look bad yourself.’ He smiled. ‘I hate to leave but I should go make some new contacts. ‘Excuse me, ladies.’ And with that, he sauntered off.
He looked confident and in control and it had the intended effect. Chinwe wanted him. The rest of the event simply felt mediocre for her.
Dotun kept pacing back and forth and it irritated Ashley. She was a little concerned too but she had a feeling that he wasn’t the sort of person that backed out from business without the professional courtesy to let you know.
‘I think you should give him a call,’ Ashley said. Tayo was 2 hours late.
He stopped pacing and leaned on his desk. ‘I think you are right.’ He picked up his phone and dialed. It rang a few times but there was no answer. He tried again and the outcome remained the same. He looked at Ashley for help.
‘You could try his secretary.’
‘Yes.’ He dialed the number. It rang twice and someone picked up. ‘Good evening. May I speak to Mr. Aderanti, please?’
As the receiver spoke, a frown spread across his face. ‘Oh My God,’ He said. ‘How is he? …………He’ll be fine…………. Thank you for the information.’
‘Is he alright?’ Ashley barely let him put the phone down before asking. It couldn’t be good news. Her heart was racing.
Dotun sighed. ‘He’s been in an accident.’ Ashley’s legs felt weak. But she had to seem controlled. Why was she feeling this way? After all, he had done. ‘How is he?’
‘Recuperating was all I got from her.’
An hour later Ashley was at The Kings General hospital, Jibowu. She was always a little nauseated at the bloody, antiseptic stink of every hospital she had been to and this one was no different. He was awake and lost in thought before he noticed someone was in the room. He smiled. It appeared there wasn’t any serious damage; only a bandage around his right arm and some stitches on his forehead. Relief washed over her. He looked frail, though. She walked over to his bedside. ‘How are you?’
‘I am fine. I wonder why they are still keeping me here.’
‘Monitoring, I suppose.’
‘Thank you for coming. How are you?’
‘Well.’ She wondered why his parents were not here. Perhaps they were still in England. ‘How are your parents?’
A wave of sympathy washed over Ashley. She knew how close mother and son were. She knew his father had been in a fatal accident when he was still in secondary school. He knew he was an only child. She understood why he was alone. ‘I’m sorry to hear that. Accept my condolence. When did she pass?’
‘About 7 years ago.’
About 7 years ago? Ashley’s mind did the maths without effort and the evaluation brought about a familiar painful sensation. That was around the time, he left for the UK. About the time a gang of rapists made her a woman. Her legs felt sapped of energy and without knowing it, she took the seat beside him, the only seat in the room. They’d talk about it, she resigned. But this was not the time.
Tayo sighed, his eyes appeared to be on the verge of tears. Ashley saw a familiar, vulnerable Tayo and her heart went out to him. Apart of her wanted to console him but she made no move. ‘It happened on her way to the airport. On her way to pick me up.’ A tear escaped the grasp of his right eye. ‘I was so angry at you for not reaching out to me. I knew you were mad at me for not telling you I was heading to the UK but was it enough reason to ostracize me at a period when I needed you the most? I called, Ashley. Did you hate me that much?’
It was like someone punched her hard in the belly. Guilt came first. She had indeed seen all his intermittent calls and had ignored every single one of them. They all came when the pain of rape was oven-fresh.
Anger came next. She was angry that her bitterness had had the better of her, compelling her to assume the worst of him all these years. Shame followed. Her anger towards him all this time had been unfounded. Since they met he had tried to talk about it and she had brushed his attempts away.
She had to make amends. Their eyes caught each other. ‘Yes, I hated you…’
She suddenly realized that tears had started flowing but she didn’t care. ‘It was easy to blame all that happened that night on you… It was easy to make you responsible.’ A vivid memory of what transpired played again like a movie reel in the hands of an overly enthusiastic projectionist.
Tayo’s right hand covered hers. ‘Ashley, what happened that night?’
His eyes were pure with concern, Ashley could tell. ‘I was raped –’. His finger jerked and clasped her hand firmly.
‘Oh my God.’ Was all that emanated from his mouth. ‘Oh my God.’
‘It happened on my way back to the hostel home after the play….’
As she spoke, it felt like a sieve had materialized in her core and only the anger and frustration seeped through it. At that moment, she was a feather on a calm stream. Like a teenager with only ordinary things to worry about.
By the end of the tale, they were both crying at their foolishness.
‘Were they found?’ Tayo asked, suddenly.
‘I couldn’t recognize their faces.’
‘And I never learned of this? But people love to talk.’
‘Not the ones that matter. Only mum, dad, and a police friend of his were aware. And we decided to keep it quiet. Saying it would only have done more harm than good. People feed off bad news and have a way of being creative with the details.’
‘I’m sorry about what happened. I wish I could have been there for you.’
‘I wish I was there for you too during the passing -’
The door swung open and Tayo’s hand left hers.
‘I bet you are going to love this -’ The stranger paused when she saw Ashley but quickly recovered. ‘Hello,’ she beamed.
She was gorgeous; tall and elegant like a princess modeling corporate attire. ‘Hi,’ Ashley responded with a smile too. She didn’t miss the subtle questioning look infused in the polite greeting.
Tayo swung into the exchange. ‘Hello, dove. That does smell yummy, whatever it is.’
The lady laughed as she walked over and planted a kiss on Tayo’s lips. ‘Special fried rice, plantains, and chicken wings.’ She noticed his eyes. ‘Have you been crying?’
Tayo looked a little embarrassed. ‘A little.’
‘That’s a first.’ She threw Ashley another questioning look.
‘Cy meet Ashley. Ashley meet Cynthia… my fiancée.’
Chinwe & Ashley
The generator hummed from a distance shielded by walls. Ashley was half-heartedly viewing a Mexican program that usually annoyed her on account of obvious lip-syncing. Tonight, she simply didn’t care. Her mind was with Tayo, today’s tenable explanation that soothed the sore that had festered between them all these years, and, surprisingly, the reality of his relationship with another.
The door to the bedroom to the right unlocked. It was Chinwe. ‘Good day today?’ Ashley asked as Chinwe sank into the sofa twin beside hers.
‘Not really,’ Chinwe responded. ‘You look like you had an interesting one.’
‘Certainly interesting…It’s Friday and I’ve got more of that wine. Interested?’ Chinwe beamed, ‘Best idea all day.’ Ashley stood up, disappeared to her room, and remerged with a bottle of Chardonnay. Chinwe had produced a corkscrew and 2 wine glasses. The process of uncorking the wine was swift and Ashley filled both glasses and handed Chinwe one.
Chinwe said before taking a large gulp. Ashley downed the entire glass in one go. The ladies exchanged looks and laughed. ‘So,’ Ashley began. ‘I met this guy that I used to know as a kid. We have been out of touch for a while; the parting wasn’t under favorable circumstances. My hatred for him had been nursed under fertile conditions. Today, I found out that he had been through a lot too. Now, I feel a combination of relief and anger at myself for not trying harder to be a good friend.’
Ashley’s words lacked specifics required for Chinwe to offer any advice. But she had a feeling Ashley chose her words carefully; the intent wasn’t to reveal more than she considered necessary. Chinwe took another gulp that emptied the glass. ‘I used to have a fling with some dude who, at some point, wanted more so I had to cut him loose. Apparently, I like him more than I let out. Saw him at a function today and he acted like he didn’t know me; polite and charming. That response ought to have been ideal… after all, I pushed him away. He looked so good, so yum,’ she chuckled, ‘…and I shouldn’t want to be with him right now, but I do. I do. And yet I can’t. I really can’t.’
Ashley smiled at the paradox of Chinwe’s words. She wanted but she couldn’t.
She refilled their glasses. ‘Are we fools?’ Chinenye raised her glass and blurted out, ‘Yes we are! Selfish Alcoholic fools’ and then turned to Ashley for support.
Ashley was quiet as if she was ponderingg on Chinwe’s summation, and then she suddenly broke into tipsy laughter. She raised her glass too. ‘Who cares? We have Chardonnay!’
Kreate is a budding Nigerian writer with a flair for fiction. Writing for him began sometime in secondary school where he dabbled in poetry and plays. He has authored two self-published short novels.
He is a banker and lives in Surulere. Read more interesting pieces at KREATEATALE