DILEMMA - Episode 1

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - money, cash, your marriage, luxurious boutique, beautifully ornamented dresses, call, chief, married, phone.

"Where is the money?" he half-bellowed with a voice suppressed so as not to draw unwanted attention to them in the restaurant. His cigarette-blackened lips barely moved as he spoke and his teeth were clenched so that the sides of his head bulged slightly. He was glaring at her through his dark shades that she had come to know so well in the past three months. It was their fourth meeting. They sat opposite each other at a table that held only the beer he'd pre-ordered.

"Why are you doing this?" Her tone was measured. It was a subtle plea.

"I asked you a question. Don't waste my time. I got other places to be."

She sighed heavily and started to say something but stopped herself. Then she raised her purse from her laps and set it on the table, her hands still clutching it.

"I have the money here. I just want to know why. What do you really want? Who's behind all this?"

"Don't bother your little head with matters that don't concern you, OK. Just give me the cash."

"And how do I know this will be the last time?"

He gave a wicked grin. "You do not know that. Now, the money, before I change my mind."

She drew the menu closer, unzipped her purse, checked to make sure no one was watching and then she covertly laid a wad of cash on it. She closed the menu now, smiled and pushed it over. He left it there and continued to speak with his mouth curved into a crooked smile.

"How much is it?"

"It's just as you requested."


"I am."

"All right. But if it falls even one naira short of five hundred gees, consider your marriage over." He took the menu to his thighs where the table would easily block out any curious pair of eyes. He stared with exaggerated interest at it for a while, then he opened it and slid the money into his trouser pocket. "You should smile. You're saving your marriage by doing this. That's a good thing."

Her frown stayed plastered to her face because she couldn't help the disgust she felt. She wanted to spit at him for extorting her. The economy was hard and here she was, coughing up her husband's cash to a smug, cold-hearted miscreant. And for some reason, she knew he wasn't doing it all by himself. Someone had done a background check on her to determine her husband's worth and was now milking him through her. But she just couldn't lay a finger on who this person was.

"Chao! Till our next meeting." He stood up now to leave and she watched him swagger out for the fourth time, knowing she couldn't involve the police or any other special forces. Each time she watched him leave, she always thought to hire someone to end his life but in the end she knew she wouldn't. She couldn't, even if she knew any assassins. His blood would be on her hands and she couldn't stomach that. A lot of other crazy ideas had danced around in her head too, like destroying her SIM card and getting a new line with another network provider, but she feared he would spill the bean and her marriage would be over in a blink.

She sat back now in her chair, exhaled loudly and muttered an inaudible curse. Chima had done this to her. He had walked into her life after several years of stiff silence between them, after several years of knowing zilch about each other's wellbeing and whereabouts. They had consciously chosen to douse the flaming relationship they had several years back but that day, they had unconsciously struck a match to rekindle the fire. Their flirtations had been ostentatious and although it wasn't vocalized, they'd both heard the words of longing and yearning each of their hearts spoke. She'd gone shopping at a luxurious boutique with fancy jewelries and beautifully ornamented dresses on display somewhere in CMS. Chief had handed her a huge wad of cash that morning that she later found to be three hundred thousand naira.

"Buy the best, ok? Only the best," he said.

She feigned astonishment and left her mouth hanging open for a while before she spoke.

"Darling, all this for me? You're spoiling me o."

Chief guffawed and rubbed his large stomach with complacency.

"Oya, give it back if it's too much. I can split it and give one half to Musa."

"Musa ke? Musa will just abandon his duty post and set up his own business if you try it. Unless you're ready to begin the hunt for a new gate-man."

"Is it your headache or mine? Just give it back, biko."

She cackled and ran off to her room with Chief on her trail, shouting at her to return the money since she thought it was too much. This was what their marriage was - fun. They played like a young couple although chief was well past his fifties. But later at the boutique, when she saw Chima, she realized fun wasn't all she wanted from her marriage. And although she couldn't name it, she knew she wanted something more. Perhaps it was the way her heart fluttered when she was with him, or maybe it was the way being around him made her think of roses and gardens and petals of brightly colored beautiful things she couldn't name. She'd just exited the changing room where she'd slid on a red sequined cotton dress that flattered her figure and was just looking in the full-length mirror that stood fixed against the wall when she heard his voice.

"That dress looks like it was made just for you. It fits perfectly."

She turned around to see who it was and when she saw him she became awfully self-conscious and stunned. She'd last seen him seven years back in his final year. And then he'd graduated and left while she still had one more year to round off her studies.

"My God!" She screamed eventually, holding her hands to her mouth in pleasant surprise. "Chima! I can't believe this." He held his arms wide open and she walked into his embrace and stayed locked in its warmth for a few seconds. "Wow! I just can't believe this. It's been ages."

"Yeah. Ages." He smiled. "And still it feels like it was just yesterday."

She laughed. "Look at you, all grown and tushed up. Look at your suit."

"You mean this?" he gave himself a once-over. "Well, what can I say?"

"It looks good on you. I never saw you in one you know."

"Oh! Yeah! Some jobs make you wear one. You just have to look professional."

"It's a bank right."

Actually, no. I'm a management consultant at an education firm."

"Hmmm. I'm not even going to act like I know what that is. But it sure sounds big."

He made a face that seemed to say not necessarily and she made a comment about his being too modest. And then, they prattled away for many long minutes, catching up on old times, and with each new sentence, she felt herself ease even more into the moment. She was enjoying every bit of their conversation, of his presence, and she didn't want it to end. She wanted that moment right there to go on and on like the length of the Nile. And at the end of it all, when he thrust his phone into her palm and said: "Punch in your digits," she could tell that something inside of her was doing a victory dance. He called her phone and said: "That's my number. Save it."

She did, and they hugged once again, briefly this time, before he met with a subservient shop attendant at the front desk and got two black bow ties. She watched his brisk straight-backed walk. It was stiff, as though he'd just been molded from fine clay and would crack if he moved too freely. Those features gave him a proud look, but perhaps all that sturdiness was just the effect of the many workout routines she imagined he must be putting himself through. He'd always been self-conscious, narcissistic even. And it was what she liked about him. He liked to look good. And so, she could tell that beneath all those layers of professional-looking fabric, his body was still a work of art. And she would have loved to trace her fingers along the contours that outlined the six packs on his hard belly. But she was married.

She bit her lower lip and checked her wristwatch. It was 3:00pm. They had been standing for nearly an hour and her legs hadn't faltered from fatigue. She'd been totally lost in revelry as she spoke to him so that she hadn't even noticed the minutes go by. And she wasn't one to stand for more than a few minutes at a time. In church, when Pastor Albert made the entire congregation stand for endless minutes, she would sit down and leave chief standing by himself in fervent meditation. But just now, she had pulled it with such ease.

He waved at her now as he exited the glass door and she waved back, a little too hastily. And then she cursed herself and wished she had more tact and had handled the situation with more self-restraint. Well, she could still redeem herself. She wouldn't call him. She would push the thought to the back of her mind until he made the first call. She thought about chief now and chided herself. She hadn't even mentioned that she was married. What would chief do if he knew that she just spent nearly an hour talking to an ex? He would be furious. He would boil over and stammer as he spoke angrily and asked her not to see him anymore. But he wouldn't know. No one would tell him. Her driver hadn't even seen them hug. He was out in the car. And even if he had, she could tell he was too smart to snitch. His gaze was always averted each time she spoke to him and every time they were alone in the car, the silence was stiff. Once, after she had caught him staring at her through the rear view mirror, he had spent the rest of the day being clumsy with discomfort. And even when she had let slip a little fart on a day when her stomach had been rambunctious from the beans she'd eaten earlier, he had pretended not to hear the tiny sound escape her butt. And even when she'd slid down the glasses of the two rear windows so as not to suffocate him, he'd pretended not to notice. He was simply loyal.

A call came in her phone now and her mind returned to the present. It was Ijeoma. She was supposed to relax at the beach with her two closest friends today and she was already running behind schedule. She knew this was why Ijeoma was calling. She took the call.

"Jay, I'm coming biko. Total gridlock in Lekki this afternoon. I've been held up in traffic since." Ijeoma said something and she pleaded with her to be patient. "Ndo (sorry)," she said again before the call ended.

The restaurant was becoming packed up. It was probably lunch break at some bank close by. She grabbed her purse and strutted out, her heels making a click-clack sound as they hit the white tiles.


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Kadiri Alex

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: DILEMMA - Episode 1
DILEMMA - Episode 1
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - money, cash, your marriage, luxurious boutique, beautifully ornamented dresses, call, chief, married, phone.
Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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