DILEMMA - Episode 5

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - pictures, Chief, brilliant mind, unscrambling puzzles, whitening lotions, marriage, living room sparkled, sliding doors, whiskey bottle, kissed.

Her heart skipped a beat as she stood in the doorway. Chief was staring at her, his expression blank. And then he held it up for her to see.

"I found your envelope behind the closet."

Uju stood, staring at him. She couldn't speak. Her breathing had intensified and all she could think of was the abrupt end of her three-year-old marriage to him; the disgrace that would come with it too. She pressed her thumb and forefinger against her pounding forehead.
"Are you alright?" chief asked, throwing the envelope on the king-sized bed and hurrying over to examine her.

Uju was shocked. Chief still loved her even after he found out? Something wasn't right. It could only mean that chief hadn't opened the envelop. And if he had, then he hadn't been able to make any sense of the shredded bits. This was quite possible because she had made sure to tear them into really tiny bits. But that didn't mean chief couldn't tell they hadn't contained the designs she'd told him they had. It didn't take a brilliant mind with excellent skills at unscrambling puzzles to figure out that those pictures were of people and not of dresses. Perhaps he even knew it was her in them.

"I'm fine," she said at last. "You called. Was it about the envelope?"

"Yes. It looked like pictures of you and another person to me. Why did you tear them up."
Chief led her to the bed now and helped her sit down. He patted her back.
"Why did you rip them up? Were they really that bad?"

Uju raised her head slowly to look at chief. He thought she had ripped them up because they were pictures of her that she thought were ugly. Her heart rate slowed. She was thankful. She sighed and decided to play along. She pondered whether to say it was one of her really old pictures, just in case chief had noticed the impropriety of her posture with Chima. If chief thought that the pictures had been taken before their marriage, then he surely wouldn't have any issues with them; or would he? She was at a loss. Besides, if she went with that, how would she explain the light tone of her skin in the pictures. The melanin on her skin had only started to wear off after her marriage to chief because of the steady air conditioning and healthy diet and expensive lotions. Before chief, she had used a fan, had eaten mostly carbohydrates with rice and eba recurring very frequently, and she had used Pears baby lotion because, although she had worked as a secretary, she couldn't have borne the expenses of her parents and two siblings and still had enough left to buy expensive skin whitening lotions like the type she used now.

She thought again. Perhaps she could say that she had bumped into an old friend. That was partly true. But that wouldn't explain the kiss - if chief had noticed it. There were just too many shredded bits and she couldn't be certain about anything. She made her decision.

"Chief, don't mind one yeye (stupid) photographer that made us take pictures when we attended that event Ijeoma took us to in her hometown." She spoke softly in order to elicit sympathy from chief and in turn get him too distracted to become suspicious.

"You mean the wine-carrying ceremony of her cousin?"

"Yes. The very one you refused to attend because of work that would have waited for you even if you had gone and come back."

Chief guffawed: "Women and their wahala sef. You're complaining as if it is not the same work I do to provide us with all these things we have. Besides Ijeoma understands. I explained to her. She knows I'm a very busy man."

"It doesn't mean she has forgiven you o. Is she not my friend? I understand her better than you."

"Ok. I've heard you. So what did the photographer do?" Chief was watching her closely now and she knew she had to play it safe. And that meant coming up with a believable lie that would explain Chima's proximity to her in the photos.

"Well, trust me now." She winked at chief. "Trust your asa (pretty lady). Men and women were lining up to take pictures with me."

As soon as she said that, she wanted to take it back. Chief would ask why the pictures hadn't been many, or what was left of them anyway. She started to speak again, but then chief's phone rang. He reached into his pocket, stared at the screen, excused himself and walked out to the balcony to take the call. He slid the glass door shut behind him. He always did that when he took his business calls.

Uju didn't waste any time. She grabbed the envelope and stopped at the kitchen to get a matchbox. Then she hurried out to her black Benz and threw the envelope in the back and got in front. She would drive out to the huge dump she always saw by the side of the road each time she turned into the gravel-covered road that led down to her house. There she would set fire to that brown envelope whose contents were like a scissors waiting to snip the ribbon that held her marriage in place.

*             *              *

It was two weeks after that close shave with chief. Chief hadn't brought up the topic again and so apparently he hadn't suspected any foul play. Uju and Thelma were at Ijeoma's house now. The entire living room sparkled. The cabinets in the bar shimmered. The glasses on the sliding doors and the glossy tiles on the cool floor glimmered with the efforts of Esther, Ijeoma's nineteen-year-old house girl whom her mother had sent to her shortly after her marriage to her politician husband. As Ijeoma's mother constantly emphasized, the wife of a rich man wasn't supposed to work and so she'd left Esther with a stern warning that she made sure her daughter didn't have to lift a finger.

Uju observed ijeoma as she fetched a large bottle of whiskey from a small cabinet attached to the wall of the bar. There was a new laziness to her gait. She walked with an arm akimbo and knotted her mouth and grimaced every few seconds. She was saying something random to her and Thelma but Uju was no longer paying attention. She wondered if Thelma had noticed too.

"Wait o," she began. "Oga don score goal?"

Thelma moped from her to Ijeoma. Then she stood up to go examine Ijeoma closely. Ijeoma laughed.

"What's wrong with you girls na?" she said. "Which one is all this interrogation sef? So I cannot stay in my house and get fat again?"

"Biko, wait first!" It was Uju. "I'm not even talking about fatness. Na today you begin fat? You've always been lazy na. I'm talking about you screwing your mouth and holding your waist every few minutes."

Ijeoma sat down beside Uju now and set down the whiskey bottle on the glass centre table so that it clinked lightly. Thelma had gone to sit opposite them and was watching intently from the other side of the table.

"Oh! That! I've just been feeling slightly nauseous, that's all."

"Ah! Nauseous?" Thelma exclaimed. "That one na belle o."

Ijeoma hissed loudly. "Which stupid belle? I wish. When oga will not sit down in one place. Always jumping from one state to another. It's either a campaign or a rally, or else it's a business meeting. Where will I even see the chance to carry the belle?"

Her friends laughed. "Na so the thing dey pain you?" Thelma asked.

"Why not? Or do you think with all this time away from each other, oga will stay loyal to me? See, I don't need anybody to tell me, oga has plenty small small girls that satisfy him wherever he goes." She leaned forward now and lowered her voice to a whisper. "That is why I am enjoying my own life too o. Let him do his own there. Me I will do my own here too."

"Action lady," Uju and Thelma hailed, but Uju could see through the veil of stoicism that Ijeoma was really not happy with her marriage. Her husband's many long absences had made her like this. She had told them these stories many times in the past and it was the frequency with which she told them that exposed the hurt she felt. She was deeply pained and this pain had contributed to her impetuous promiscuity.

Esther walked by now and slid open the main door. Then she paused briefly to announce to Ijeoma: "Aunty, I'm coming. I want to go and buy something."

"Ok. Don't be long o," Ijeoma said.

Uju waited until Esther had slid the door shut before she spoke.

"Babes," she began. Then she cleared her throat. "There is something I need to tell you."
She could see Ijeoma and Thelma's ears prick with attentiveness. She wondered how to go about it without getting them offended.

"Oya shoot na," Thelma pestered.

"Well, there's this thing that happened a while back that I should have told you about before now."

"What?" Ijeoma asked.

"For some time now, my affair with Chima has been causing me serious worries. I've not been able to sleep properly."

"Your affair with Chima?" Thelma asked, her expression confused.

"Let her finish na," Ijeoma said impatiently.

"Yes. My affair with Chima. Well, as it turns out, someone took pictures of us kissing and..."
"Wait! I'm not really getting this story," Thelma cut in. "You guys kissed in public or someone followed you into his bedroom and took the pictures?"

"That's exactly what I was going to ask," Ijeoma chipped in.

"No! Not that," Uju continued. "It was outside his house. He kissed me just before I drove off."

"Oh!" they exclaimed, realization dawning on them.

"Yes. Now, the thing is, this person has been bleeding me dry. I've paid five hundred thousand naira to him on four different occasions now, and I don't think he intends to stop asking. Another thing is my mind keeps telling me there's someone behind it; I mean someone who knows me personally."

"That's true," Ijeoma affirmed. "Someone who knows your worth. Who do you have in mind?"

"I'm not particularly sure o, but I have a feeling Chinwe is behind this. She has the strongest motive to want to strike back at me."

"Are you talking about that girl we beat up outside that hotel?" Thelma asked.

"Yes. My husband's former Secretary."


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Written By:
Kadiri Alex

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: DILEMMA - Episode 5
DILEMMA - Episode 5
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - pictures, Chief, brilliant mind, unscrambling puzzles, whitening lotions, marriage, living room sparkled, sliding doors, whiskey bottle, kissed.
Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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