Kachi couldn’t believe what she was about to do as her fingers formed a fist and rapped softly at the door before her. She had prepared a speech with solid points and a winning ending but as she waited for the door to be opened, she felt her nerves give way. Travis who was beside her was hopping from one foot to the other and humming a tune she couldn’t quite make out. She knocked at the door again and pulled in a bolstering breath as she waited.
“Maybe he’s not at home,” Travis said and continued with his music, adding a rap Kachi thought sounded vaguely familiar.
“Yeah, maybe.” Kachi brought her bag to her face and was going for her own copy of the key when the door opened from within and Dike appeared before her with a sleepy face covered in stubble. She marveled at how fast he could grow a full beard. Her first instinct was to touch him and have her fingers feel the roughness of his face but she steeled herself and gave him a straight, “good morning.”
“Daddy!” Travis flew into Dike’s and he carried him and turned away from Kachi, walking back into the house. Kachi followed them in but stopped just by the door, taking in the state of chaos her once lovely home had now become.
She disabled her ‘clean by default’ button and stood awkwardly in a corner watching her husband bond with their son, ignoring her as though he hadn’t seen her.
“Daddy what happened to your face?”
“Nothing. I got attacked by an army of hairs.”
“Army of hairs?” Travis frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Dike laughed, turned on the television and the games console and threw Travis a control pad.
“We’re going to play? Yay! I will flog you today!” Travis promised, hopping excitedly on the three-sitter facing the television.
“Yes, you’ll flog me but first play alone while your mommy and I talk, okay?”
Travis didn’t like the arrangement but a look from Kachi silenced the grumbling that was already forming on his lips and he sat down quietly. Dike began towards the bedroom and Kachi followed him, clutching her bag in front of her. When he opened the door, she encountered another mess he had artistically created in her favorite space in the house. She bit her acerbic tongue and found a spot by the door to stand.
“Come on, Kachi, sit down nau. This is your house,” he said.
Kachi walked to the vanity table and perched on the stool before it, avoiding a pair of boxers Dike had left hanging there. Dike sat on the bed, both legs barely touching the floor.
“So, why are you here?” he asked, pulling his eyes away from the distraction of her breasts which she had deliberately gathered into a luscious, exposed cleavage. He wondered how many men had seen her along the way dressed like that.
“I have a proposition to make, Dike.” She sat up straight, aware of the effect her breasts were having on him. Ene was on point with the choice of blouse. At first she had kicked against it but Ene had sworn by the powers of what such blouses could do to men.
“A proposition?” Dike asked and moved into the bed. Kachi watched her favorite pillow being assaulted by his hairy legs as it lay squished between them. She knew Dike was being deliberate. Little acts like abusing her pillow would normally get a rise out of her but having gone through a lesson in patience from Ene and Felix for the past five days, she fought her nature and kept her eyes on her husband’s face.
“I want this marriage to work,” she said as Dike scratched his stubble.
“Really? I thought you were rushing into a divorce.”
Kachi pretended not to hear his comment. “We’ve known each other for a good number of years. Let’s not throw it away like that.”
“So you’re coming back to me after all the posing.”
Kachi felt annoyance rising from her pits and she cracked her knuckles to keep from showing it.
“I’m not coming back to you, Dike. I’m falling into a compromise.”
“Compromise? Ngwanu, let’s hear. Go on.”
“You know you don’t deserve another chance. If I want to pursue a divorce, I’ll get one, citing adultery as grounds…”
“Adultery? Do you have proof?”
“I have the text from your mistress. And with the pregnancy…”
“My mistress?” he sniggered. “Temi’s not pregnant. Maybe she was but she isn’t anymore and I doubt that she’ll corroborate your story of her being anyone’s mistress when news of it can easily get back to her aunt and parents.”
Kachi shifted her head restlessly, feeling nauseous at his frustrating behavior. She breathed in deeply and calmed the wave of anger that was already at the surface.
“Pregnancy or not, Dike, I want us to work this out.”
“And what does ‘work this out’ mean?”
“I’ll give you another chance on the following conditions.”
He smiled at her as he would a little, ignorant child.
“One,” she began, “you have to stop seeing Temi or any other woman.”
“Two, you have to win my trust and love back.”
Dike laughed, his lips barely opening. “Win your love back? Kachi, you’re loveless. How do I get from you what you don’t even have?”
“I love you, Dike,” Kachi said silently. Her anger was now being reduced to flaming tears.
“What else? Is that all?” he questioned further.
“We’ll see a marriage counselor.”
Dike threw himself into laughter again while Kachi dabbed at her eyes, her throat burning with suppressed emotions. She swallowed and sniffled.
“Are you done?” he asked. “Can I now make my own demands?”
“You’re not in the position to.”
“Isn’t it all about compromise?”
“I’m listening.” Kachi replied stiffly.
“Since there would be ‘wooing’ as you said, you would do some of your own as well.”
“I’ll woo you?”
“Kachi, you’re dull in bed. Sex with you is hell. You carry your emotions, especially your anger and put them in-between your legs and I can’t deal. I’m always punished when I’m in you and that is why I’m not crazy about making love to you. I don’t think sex when I look at you. I’m thinking trouble and torture.”
Kachi was nodding bravely but she was crumpling inside with every word he was saying. She remembered Ene’s advice to her: no matter what he says to hurt you, don’t let it get to you. Find the truth in his words and do away with the trash.
Kachi painfully sifted his words but realized that there was nothing to trash. He was a hundred and ten percent correct. She was too angry and too frigid in bed. She tried recalling when last she had enjoyed sex but she couldn’t remember. She had used her body as a revenge tool for years.
“Are you there?” she saw his hand waving at her, trying to get her attention back into the discussion. She looked at him and asked herself if she would have done any different had she been in his shoes.
“Is that all?” she asked him.
Dike looked at her with a smile. “Yeah, that would be all, Onyekachi. I’d like to add that you should give up your nasty tongue but that would be erasing the woman I fell in love with.”
“Are you still in love with me?” Kachi asked and Dike stumbled out of the bed.
“No, not anymore. Are we done? I need to go play a game with Travis, if you don’t mind.”
Kachi nodded and he walked out. When she heard the door close behind him, she got up from the stool and turned to look into the mirror. Angry tears spilled from her eyes as she got out her phone from her bag and called Ene.
“I told you that this was a silly idea, Ene but you insisted that you know Dike more than me! Everything I planned to tell him about how I feel and how he is hurting me, I couldn’t say! I just sat in front of him like a fool! A big fool! You should have seen him so smug and arrogant, feeling on top of the world like I was coming to beg him!”
“Calm down, Kachi,” Ene said.
“I don’t want to calm down! I can’t do this! I’m going on with the divorce!”
“Calm down and talk to me.”
Kachi pulled up her blouse and turned away from the mirror, backing the door and facing the bathroom.
“Did he listen to you?”
“Yes but does it make a difference? He’s still Dike.”
“Did he understand what you said?”
“Yes. But Ene you’re not getting me…”
“Did he accept your conditions?”
Kachi hesitated a little.
“Then what are you talking about, madam? Give it a try na, ehn, my dear. Try.”
“I can’t oh. I don’t know if I can trust him again.”
“Just try. If it doesn’t work this time around, then you can leave, okay? Do it for Travis, my dear.”
“It’s just for Travis oh. Because I’m dying inside here.” Kachi pulled up her blouse once more.
“Oya, go on and have your fun date with your man. Me I have work to do now.”
“Date keh. I’ll leave Travis here and come and meet you. See you.”
Kachi terminated the call and turned around, finding herself within a hair’s breadth from Dike. She pulled away immediately and moved to her left to avoid him but he blocked her path and moved to her right before she even considered turning there.
“I’m leaving,” she said.
“Do you really want this marriage to work, Kachi?” he asked, lifting her chin to have her face looking into his but she moved away and let loose her resentment.
“I want it to work but you don’t! You haven’t apologized for what you did with Temi! You are too proud to see you’re wrong, to see that you’re hurting me! You think it’s your right to have more than one woman just because other men in the world are doing it! But it is wrong, Dike! It is wrong! Only a boy plays with women like he plays with toys! And I am not your toy! So if you make one wrong move this time, it will be your last time and there will be no turning back for me!”
“I heard you, madam.”
Kachi swallowed what was left of her rehearsed speech and started marching to the door but Dike went after her and obstructed her path. She saw a familiar look in his eyes and she protested by pushing him away but he drew her close and placed his lips over hers without kissing her.
“Leave me alone,” she told him but he only pulled her closer. “Dike, this is not going to work.”
“We made a deal.”
“I am not in the mood.”
“Well, you better be because I am. And mind you, if you refuse, I’ll consider it a violation of what we agreed.”
He ran his tongue over her lower lip before he kissed her. She responded stiffly, refusing to accept the tremors that were slowly spreading over her skin.
“Dike, you don’t deserve this,” she said as she felt his lips on her neck.
“Your body is not yours alone, Kachi.”
“But it’s not supposed to be abused by you.” Her fight was beginning to lose its fire as his kisses traveled down the swell of her breasts.
“Have.I.ever.treated.your.body.unfairly?” he asked, stopping to kiss special spots on her cleavage after each word.
“When you hurt me emotionally, you hurt my body too.” She found herself pushing towards him when she noticed that he had stopped kissing her. She stared up at him and she saw a look in his eyes she couldn’t read.
“I’m sorry,” a finger scratched his temple after his hands let go of her.
“What are you sorry for?”
He put his hands into the front pockets of his combat shorts and shook it free to cover his bulge. “I can’t believe I want to do this.”
“Do what?” she asked, a bit of apprehension coming to her eyes.
“Sweetheart, you deserve better. Go to the Enenches’ or go out with your friends or go shopping. Just have fun. I need to sort out my feelings.”
“Feelings for Temi?”
“No, Kach, it’s not Temi, it’s not you and I don’t want to use the ‘it’s me’ line but unfortunately, it’s me. And I don’t deserve you right now. I need to be alone to work this out.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Kachi said.
“No,” Dike said irritably. “Just go, please.” He opened the door. “And take Travis with you.”
“You’ll break the poor boy’s heart. He misses you…”
“Biko, Kachi…just go. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
He shut the door after her and changed into decent clothes. From his window he watched as she pushed a sobbing Kachi into her car outside the gate. She got in behind the wheel and drove away. After she was gone, Dike picked his car key and left the house.
He thought of a long drive to nowhere and back. He needed to think about where his marriage was heading. Kissing Kachi reminded him of the power she had over his emotions. He still loved her. He still wanted her in his life but he was uncertain which way he wanted things to go. Her demands sounded reasonable and from what he saw she was fighting really hard to be a better woman. But was he ready for her? Was he willing to give up the games he constantly found himself playing at the expense of her emotions? Was he willing to give up his freedom to her? If he was, who would teach her not to control him once she had the power in her hands? Who would stop him from reverting back to his old ways the moment he felt emasculated in his own home?
He felt claustrophobic as he took the stairs down. He came out to the entrance of his building where cars were parked tightly. Since it was a Saturday, almost everyone was home. He was glad he parked his car outside the gate even though it had cost him two hundred bucks. But it would have cost him superfluous time to get his neighbors to move their cars just because he wanted to drive out.
As he turned towards the gate, he saw his old neighbor sitting outside his house and he gave the man a friendly wave. It wasn’t until after he almost made it out of the gate that he realized the man hadn’t replied his greeting. And he found that strange. Stranger was the fact that the man had looked dejected and was not seated with his wife as he usually did. Dike made a spin and walked back. He was not a nosy person but something about the man bugged him at that moment.
“Papa?” Dike called but the man left his eyes stuck on the floor before him. “Papa?” Dike moved closer and leaned on the railing separating him from the man’s verandah. “Papa!”
Papa raised his head up slowly and looked at Dike like he wasn’t there.
“Sir, what’s wrong?”
“What is wrong, Papa? You’re sitting like the whole world is on your shoulders. What’s the problem?”
Papa brought down his head again. “It is my Celestina. She’s going to leave me. She is going to die.”
Dike straightened up and looked at the man quizzically.
“Mama is sick?”
“Ehn…” Papa’s frail voice shook. “She’s in the hospital, unconscious. I was trying to carry her into bed yesterday just like the old times but I fell and she fell too and hit her head. Now she can’t wake up.”
Dike took the sad news in briefly and exhaled silently. “I’m sorry about that, sir. But I’m sure it’s just a bump in her head. It’s happened to me before. She’ll come back.”
“No,” Papa looked at Dike, “she will go today. The moment I step into that hospital, she will go. She has been waiting for me to come and say goodbye.”
“Come on, Papa, Mama is not going anywhere. I saw her yesterday. She is fine and healthy as an ox, if you don’t mind my expression. Come on, sir. Let me take you to go and see her and hear the doctor’s good news.”
Papa shook his head. “Our daughter is there. She can take care of her but the moment I get there, Celestina will die.”
At this point, Dike decided to employ his strong power of persuasion and in less than five minutes, Papa was following him into his car, even though he kept muttering, “she will die.”
Dike hated hospitals, plus he still needed his alone time but because Papa needed company, he waited with him. They sat outside Papa’s wife’s private room because Papa refused to go in to see her. His daughter was in the room with a couple of doctors who had just arrived for their rounds. As they waited, Dike got out his phone and concluded the final process of deleting totameavirgin.com He was no longer interested in Dami. Why anybody else, apart from her new boyfriend, would bother about her was lost to him. But that was Dami. Always getting attention to herself, whether good or bad. She constantly made the headlines of gossip media, Abuja’s own Brittney Spears; everyone wanted to know what was up with her. And he was sure the disabling of the site was going to cause another stir. Monies that were bet on the site were just numbers. He laughed at the hopefuls who were actually deceived into thinking there was raw cash involved. But the whole thing was getting out of hand, with the naked photos of Dami some fool posted on his user profile; plus two anonymous idiots had even gone as far as collecting real cash online from a few unsuspecting individuals who placed bets. Dike had been pushed to act fast before EFCC tracked him down.
“I think it’s okay for you to go now,” Papa tapped Dike lightly. “You look like you have somewhere to go.”
“No sir, it’s okay.”
“Your wife is here.”
Dike looked up and saw Kachi walking towards them. She looked sad and he wasn’t so sure if it was because of how he had just treated her or it was because of Papa’s wife whom she had a close relationship with.
“Papa, good morning,” she said with a slight curtsy. “Stella just called me now and told me about Mama. How is she?”
“She’s okay,” Dike replied her, guessing ‘Stella’ to be Papa’s daughter. He got off his chair and stood beside it. “The doctors are inside with her. Sit.” He offered his chair to Kachi and whispered something into her ear. When he raised himself, he asked to take his leave and with a gentle peck left on Kachi’s cheek, he left the hospital.
Dike sat in his car patiently. He had been left waiting in it for nearly thirty minutes. It was out of character for Temi to do this but he kept waiting, telling himself he could remain in that car all day and night if need be. It would take another ten minutes before she would emerge out of her gate and walk towards his car. Wearing her favorite pair of shorts and a tee shirt that exposed the lower half of her belly, Dike thought she looked lovely. He got out of the car and stood by his door with crossed arms.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi.” She put her hands on her waist. “What do you want?”
He saw a new phone in her hand and saw that she was wearing contacts that gave her eyes a lighter shade.
“Temi, I’m here to uhm…”
He let down his hands. One of them leaned on the car for support while the other rested in his pocket.
“I’m sorry, Temi, for lying to you about my wife. There’s no excuse for what I did to you and to her.”
“Did you love me?” Temi asked and Dike rested his back on the car.
“It was just sex?”
Dike hesitated. “Yes… and I’m also sorry for what happened to you on Monday. I don’t really know what happened but if you hadn’t been out that night to abort my baby…”
An angry slap met his face and after he recovered from the shock, he noticed that Temi was walking away from him, heading home.
“Temi!” he called but she ignored him. He watched her disappear and then got into his car and drove home, taking a longer route. He noticed a good number of cars on his street when he neared his building, but he thought nothing of it as he got into the compound and climbed the stairs up to his apartment. He inserted his key to unlock the door but found it unlocked already. He opened and walked in. He strolled to his bedroom and found Kachi waiting for him. She took quick steps to him and put her arms around him, kissing him fiercely. He responded, kicking the door behind him. She didn’t break the kiss but he managed to pull away after he noticed that she wanted more than just their lips locking.
“What’s this about?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Her lips arrested his again, taking it slower this time, kissing him the way he loved to be kissed. With every caress she surprised him and the way her hands found his favorite spots was a wonder to him. Wasn’t this the same woman who used to lie under him like a log? What had changed?
“Kachi?” he whispered, looking down as she went on her knees before him. He tried to ask her a question but her mouth had swallowed him whole and he lost his tongue and pushed out a moan. She continued to surprise him with her tongue and hands and ultimately her body for the next twenty or so minutes and in the end, she fell on his chest, trying to catch her breath as he stared up at the ceiling, wondering who on earth had just made love to him.
“Kachi, what just happened?” he asked and she drew herself up and looked into his eyes.
“Life is short, Dike. Let’s get pleasure while we can. It’s senseless looking for pain where there is none. What happens when the real pain comes? What do we do then?”
He saw her eyes cloud over as she got off the bed and went into the bathroom. She took a short shower and returned. He watched her dress into her clothes and felt a stirring for her again but she blew him a kiss, picked her handbag and walked out of the bedroom.
He neither understood her strange behavior, nor made sense of her short speech to him about life until he took a stroll downstairs later that evening and heard the wailing coming from Papa’s house and saw a sizeable crowd gathered. He would learn from the old man himself that his beloved wife of fifty years had passed.
Dike took a long walk around his neighborhood, saddened by the news of Mama’s death. He returned home and the sadness deepened, a form of melancholy taking over him. He struggled not to be weighed by it but he was unsuccessful. Lying on his bed, judged by his own thoughts and memories, he felt his resolve slipping away from his control as hours passed by. Darkness fell on him and he didn’t even notice. His hand reached for his phone and he called Kachi. She answered after the first ring. He heard her talking to Travis in the background and while he waited he heard for the first time the sweetness that was her voice.
“Yes?” she finally said to him.
“I’m sorry, baby,” his eyes watered. “I can’t do without you. Please come home.”