Ever since the incidence at the mall, Lillian had always been thinking of the little beauty. And at times, it was the only thing that brought smiles to her face. She was always wishing the baby was hers but if wishes were horses, even beggars will ride.
Not until after his experience at the mall, was he able to figure out what some of his problem might be, he knew quite well that he was bothered but know he knew he was bothered because he needed someone to call him daddy and because he didn’t want to lose his wife. She had pestered him after two years of marriage to go and see their doctor; they went and were both tested. The doctor who had been a friend of Richard since secondary school days certified that nothing was wrong with Lillian’s womb and that she could have children. Now, they did not have any, he could not hold her to it.
Lillian noticed that he had actually changed from what he used to be, he didn’t beat her again, he barely touched her and he said fewer words to her, she didn’t want that because it was worst. It had been three weeks now since he brought her home from her mother’s house, he had done everything she wanted, he gave her whatever she asked but she noticed that he had been cautious of his actions. How mistaken she had been when she thought he had changed for good. She tried to flash back on everything she had done when she came back, she herself had been conscious not to step on his toes.
Richard knew he had grown distant lately but he felt it was the only thing he could do so as not to get offended to the point of beating her. The night they came back from the mall had been so different and brighter than the other nights they had shared either in solitude or wrangle, he wanted more nights as that but he just could not bring himself to continue and he didn’t know why.
Richard wanted to travel to California, he thought of taking his wife along so she could at least spend time with his mother, but he soon discarded the thought as soon as it came because he knew if he told her it was a business trip, she would prefer to stay back home.
He needed to go on a business trip and he would stay for over two weeks. His mother had told him that it would be better if he came to seal the deal himself.
He was going to miss her even though their relationship had been distant lately. He thought of taking her to Paris for a second honeymoon and probably renew his vows with her as soon as he returned from his intended trip. He would use the opportunity to clear his head from whatever that was bugging him and start all over with her again. But until then, the travel would be a surprise, he surmised.
Richard had made sure he kept everything in place; he didn’t want to ruin everything he had planned in his mind, he wanted to go and come back a changed man, better than what he was. The day he was supposed to leave, he called his secretary who was supposed to book a flight ticket for him.
“What nonsense are you talking?” he flared. He had thought of replacing her because she was fast losing her competence, as she was growing old.
“So you did not book the ticket because I did not jog your memory? Must I tell you a second time before you do it?” he saw Lillian come in and he knew she had come because she heard his voice. “You old fool” he muted. “It is time I replaced you.” He ended the call.
“Who was that?”
’It was my secretary; you won’t believe she didn’t get me a ticket”
“Richard!” she exclaimed, ignoring the fact that he wanted her backing on the issue.“Was that why you called her a fool? For God sake Richard, she is much older than you are, you really should mind the way you talk to her“ She expressed by a scowl.
“Shut up” he intercepted her. “You should mind the way you talk to me, why are you so concerned about her, are you related? I expect her to act whenever I say something once “Almost transferring the aggression to his wife.
Lillian sighed slowly, she didn’t mean to make him angrier than he was, but truth must be told. “It does not matter” she replied the question that was almost blown away with the ten seconds air.
“Oh shut up” he had not expected her to answer the question, now his anger had grown, and it was going to manifest on her. “Should you not be bothered with how am going to get a ticket rather you are showing pity on somebody who has already lost her job?
The news came as a shock to her; she looked at him in awe. His secretary had been her only female friend in the company and he knew it. “You are heartless, really” she emphasized. She didn’t know where the words or strength to say them came from. Before she knew the next thing that was going to happen, she had earned a slap on the left side of her face.
“How could you?” he couldn’t finish his words. He didn’t know why she would make him angrier instead of soothe him, now she had made him do what he has been avoiding.
Lillian didn’t want the tiff to turn into beatings, it was either she continues to argue and get beaten, or walk away. Quietly, she slipped away as she had come in.
He knew he had messed up again. Who would ever believe that some minutes ago, he had thought of making her happy? How he was supposed to apologize to her he didn’t know, he knew she would have locked herself up and started crying. He had done this a long time ago, as long as three weeks and he thought he had actually gotten over beating her.
He called his P.A and told him to get a ticket going to the USA. Now he was confused, he went to the room she ran to and met it locked, as he knew it would be.
“Lilly” he began to call knowing that he was not going to get any response. Just then, his phone rang. “Yes, okay thank you” his P.A had told him to meet him at the international airport in the next fifty minutes. He was lucky to get a flight that would be leaving soon. He had to leave at once if he wanted to get on board, he had not expected it to be so sudden, he had thought he would have at least few hours to prepare but now, he wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye.
“Lillian, I know you can hear me, I have to leave now, am sorry. I will call you when I get there”.
Lillian heard what he said, even his telephone conversation but she was confused, she didn’t know if he had told her he was sorry because he had hit her or because he was leaving in a rush. She waited for almost an hour in the room before she came out, she wanted to be so sure that he would have left, and by the time she came out, he had gone. Now she can at least have two weeks of peace, two weeks of rest and two weeks without beatings. She had sat down in the living room for over twenty minutes watching a movie she didn’t give concentration when one of her house helps came in.
“Aunty, I have been looking for you” she stated as if she needed and explanation of where Lillian had been.
“Say whatever you want to say and get away” she was angry with her husband and was taking it out on the house help.
“Sorry ma” she apologized, she read the look on Lillian’s face and she knew without her saying a word that she wanted to be left alone. But if she wanted quite why didn’t she go to her room? She mused. She noticed that Lillian was growing impatient; she knew she should tell her whatever she wanted to say before she got yelled on. She brought out a white folded paper.
From the look of it, Lillian knew it was a letter. “What is it?”
“Oga say I should give you” she saw the look on Lillian change before she collected the paper. She knew that Lillian did not like to be communicated to in pidgin so she tries so hard to speak perfect English however she can.
“Said” she corrected. She did not even open the letter before she tore it.
“Ah, aunty” she was stunned.
“Are you stupid or something, will you get the hell out of here before I spank you” the house help left in awe even before she finished her threat. “Brainless thing.” she complained. “She never comes at an appropriate time”. She hissed.
She had been sitting down there for over thirty minutes and it was getting late, she was angry and hungry but she would not let her anger stop her from eating. “ Tobi! Tobi!“She was screaming the name. “This silly girl, she will never be there when you need her. “Tobi!” she screamed again. She saw her run inside the living room with a wet napkin in her hand. “What is your problem?” she asked furious.
“Sorry Aunty, I was at the backyard” she announced without been asked where she was.
As if the stern look she gave her was a diagnosis, Lillian confirmed. “You have a problem”
“Sorry Aunty” Tobi was bending and rising as she pleaded.
“Is the food ready?”
Tobi was confused, she didn’t know if it was ready or not, she had not been in the kitchen and she knew she hated answers like ‘I don’t know’ ‘am not sure’ or I think so.“ Eh Aunty” she garbled. “When you leave the kitchen, I leave also and I go to the back of the house to...”
“Did I ask you for stories?”
“Aunty” Mary called from the dining which was adjacent the living room Lillian was.
“Yes” she was distracted by her call so could not deal with Tobi.
“Food is ready and served” Mary announced, saving Tobi.
“How come you don’t know? You have become so useless, the only thing you are good at is to gossip, I will surprise you one of these days.” She stood up from where she had been sitting for over forty minutes.
Just when she sat at the dining, her phone rang, for some seconds she didn’t know where the buzz was coming from not until the call came in a second time did she know that she had left it on the couch were she had been sitting. She wanted to know whom the caller was but was too tired and too hungry to leave the table, before she called her, Tobi had gone to bring the phone.
“Aunty, your phone” Happy that she had at least done one right thing even before she was asked to.
Lillian swept her with a patronizing look, as she stood with the phone in her outstretched hand. “It is only when you are fed with words that you get your head corrected.” the phone had stopped ringing. “Just get out of here. “ Tobi turned to leave immediately. “Are you going to leave with the phone again, idiot”
“Sorry Aunty” she was under apprehension and fast losing her mind; she dropped the phone on the table and left before she got more abuse. She was not angry with her, not the least; she knew she was not someone that rain abuses on people only when she was angry which rarely happens. She had known that she gossip about her but had not mention it until know, she must be incensed.
Lillian picked up the phone, and before she got the chance to view her missed calls, the caller called again, it was Richard, she hissed as she dropped the phone and concentrated on her meal. She had already had enough that evening, she won’t let him spoil it for her more than he already did. The phone buzzed and she picked it and switched it off. She remembered that she had never done that before, to ignore or unreach his call, she smiled at herself and it was probably one of the first steps she needed to take to liberate herself. She was getting free, so she hoped.
After her meal, Lillian went inside the room to take a shower, it had been two hours since Richard left the house, she had not picked his calls and she knew he would probably be restless wherever he was. She been wrong when she concluded that he had changed, he had not changed but faked it. She loved him, but she knew that if she continued to tolerate him, she probably would not get free from the assault. She had enjoyed her first and second year of marriage, but now it was nothing like it, she was enduring.
Her thought was interrupted by a knock on the door. At that moment, it could only be one person “come in” she announced.
Mary came in and closed the door behind her. She observed that her boss had just stepped out from shower, she was sopping even though she had herself swathed in a towel and her head as well.
Lillian noticed that she was pale, something must be bothering her, she remembered that she had seen her about a couple of times trying to raise an issue, but would stop suddenly and she herself had not tried to ask her what it was.
“Aunty, you have a call”
“My phone is.............. Oh on the landline” Mary nodded. “Who’s it?”
“Oga” Mary affirmed
She knew who it could be; she just needed a confirmation. “Let me put on my clothes I would be there.
“Okay aunty” Mary left the room and was soon joined by Lillian who had put on her night rob. “He would call back soon” Mary assured.
“ okay...” the sound ‘gram gram gram’ came again; Lillian dismissed Mary who was still there with a wave, she let her walk past hearing distance before she picked the call. “ yes” her response was so unambiguous that even Richard was shocked on the other end. “Okay” she paused to hear from him. “I said I have heard you, good-bye and safe journey” she ended the call without allowing him finish his words. He had told her the flight was shifted four hours and that he was just about to board.
She left the living room and went outside; she knew he would not call again, at least not that night. As she stepped outside the house, the chilly air blowing with ease kissed her and she sat on the couch on the veranda. For a while, she forgot her sorrows and enjoyed the blowing air, she did not fail to notice the sounds of the crickets coming from the flowers. She allowed herself to enjoy scenery for that while, at least, while his trip lasted, she was going to make the best use of his absence.
That night, Lillian had a very sound sleep, there was no interruption whatsoever except for that dream.