DILEMMA - Episode 7

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - call, phone, Chief, business call, sniffed into her wrapper, she tendered her resignation, put someone in a coma, husband, the maid he impregnated, the notorious blackmailer.

Uju lay supine on the bed now, tapping feverishly at her phone. She was playing Candy Crush and the polyphonic tone of breaking glass and things being crushed was turned on high. She liked to hear those tones when she played because they made the game more realistic for her.

Chief hadn't gone to work yet. His stomach was lax and he'd already used the toilet four times that morning. He sat on the only couch in the bedroom, reading from a newspaper. He peered over the rim of his glasses as he read and it made the glasses seem unnecessary. From time to time, he cast a quick glance in Uju's direction because the music from her game distracted him. But every time he looked, he never said a word. He simply looked back at the newspaper and tried to focus harder. And then his phone rang. He checked the screen and took the call.

"Yes... What is it?... Are you sure..." He stood up now and set the newspaper down on the couch. Then he began to move away until he was in the balcony. He slid the glass door shut behind him and Uju paused her game to watch him talk. She tried to read his lips through the glass but it was futile. And then he turned away and she couldn't see his face again. Something was beginning to well up in her; it was anger. Why was chief so secretive with some of his calls; the ones he claimed were business calls. Was she going to take his money and run or what? She was fed up.

Chief slid the door open again and walked in. Uju lay her phone gently on the white pillow and stood up. Her mind was overflowing with annoyance and she needed an explanation; a really good one.

"Why did you go outside to take that call?" she asked.

Chief laughed his self-indulgent laugh: "It was a business call. I already explained that to you before." He moved closer and pinched her cheek playfully. But Uju wasn't having any of it.

"No you did not. You merely told me the same thing you've just told me, that it was a business call. You didn't say why you have to take your business calls away from me. Do you consider me a thief, chief? Is that what it is?"

"Of course not," chief looked shocked. "It's just... It's just how I've always been. Even before I met you, I..."

"I'm not buying that," she snapped. "I'm your wife for God's sake. How can you constantly make me feel like an outsider?"

Chief's countenance softened. He looked sorry, and he said so now. But Uju was adamant.

"Chief, something tells me you're not being straight with me? Let me take a look at that phone."

Uju watched him closely and she could have sworn that she saw something that seemed like terror flash across his face for a brief moment. This made her even more insistent.

"Let me see the phone, chief."

"There's nothing there."

"I know you have nothing in it, chief, but let me just see it."

Chief threw his hands up in resignation now.

"Ok! I'll tell you. It was Ademola. You've met him. My new secretary. He said news just reached them at the office that a former employee is in a coma."

It didn't escape Uju's notice that chief's eyelids batted when he said 'former employee'. It was easy to tell that he was being evasive. There was definitely something he wasn't telling her. She still wanted that phone.

"What do you mean former employee?" she asked, and even before chief responded, her mind gave the answer to her question. It was Chinwe. She felt weak. What part of 'no complications' or 'no casualties' did Ijeoma not understand. Or perhaps the guy she had contracted had simply not listened. She felt like filth, like she was sinking into an abyss. She felt like a stranger, even to herself. She wasn't this person that could put another person in a coma. She found her way to the bed and dropped lazily on it, utterly disillusioned and dazed.

Chief stared at her. "We don't have anything together again," he explained, rather unnecessarily. He thought Uju's reaction to the news was because she assumed he was still involved with Chinwe. "I've not even set my eyes on her since she tendered her resignation letter."

Chiefs words floated around her head in a cacophony of echoing voices and none registered its meaning in her consciousness. She was lost in thought, and regret, and was completely oblivious to all else that happened around her.

Eventually, she stood up like one in a trance, found her bag and headed downstairs. She was going to see Ijeoma.

The first words Ijeoma said to her when she slid open the door to let her in were: "It has happened!"

"Yes! That's exactly why I'm here," Uju said.

Ijeoma was clad in a blue top and had a rumpled wrapper tied loosely about her waist.
"It has happened o!" she said again and sniffed into her wrapper, and this time, Uju sensed that it wasn't about Chinwe. She had been crying. The Ijeoma she knew wouldn't cry because she put someone in a coma; not even if the person eventually died. The Ijeoma she knew was stoic; the one she and Thelma drew strength from in desperate times. Only something much worse, something that affected her directly, could push her to tears.

"What has happened?" she asked eventually.

Ijeoma did not answer. She turned and walked slowly, with her head bowed, back to the living room and Uju followed.

"What is it?" she asked again when Ijeoma had settled on a sofa.

Ijeoma stared at her for a long moment before she opened her mouth to speak. But at that very moment, a call came in her phone and she checked the screen to see who it was. She took the call and responded to the caller in between sobs.

"I'm not fine... I can't talk now... I'm home... Ok... Uju is here... Ok."

"Was that Thelma?"

"Yes. She's in the neighborhood. She wanted to make sure I was home." She sniffed again and when Uju noticed her red eyes and the viscous fluid that threatened to trickle down her nose, she knew something really bad had happened.

"What is it, Ijeoma? What happened?"
"Uju, it's Esther."

A tide of controversial thoughts gushed through Uju's mind. Was Esther dead? Did she get hit by a bus?

"What about Esther?"

"Uju, Esther is pregnant for my husband."

"Jeeeeezos!!!" Uju's exclamation was reflex. The snapping of her fingers too was reflex. "How is that possible, Ijeoma?"

"Uju, my husband slept with my maid o," she said and heaved her shoulders and vibrated her legs dolefully.

Uju was confused. She couldn't find the right words to say and a brief moment of silence followed before she spoke.

"But how is that even possible?"

"Uju, my husband flew in from Abuja unannounced and made love to Esther."

"Ehhhh?! Tufiakwa! Where were you at the time?"

"Uju, I can't remember o. Maybe it was one of those times when I slept out."

Uju sighed heavily. She wanted to blame Ijeoma, to say that it was her fault for even sleeping out in the first place. What was she doing with other men - or more appropriately, boys - when she had a husband. She wanted to point her forefinger at her friend, in accusation, but she remembered that three of the remaining fingers would point back at her accusingly and call her a hypocrite because she was no different; because she was sleeping with Chima. How was that different from what Ijeoma was doing. She kept mute.

A knock came on the door now and Uju stood up to go open it on behalf of the distraught Ijeoma. It was Thelma. She let her in and they returned to the sitting room to join Ijeoma. Uju sat beside Ijeoma now and put an arm around her. Thelma sat across from them and set her gold-backed iPhone 6 on the center table beside Ijeoma's equally gold-backed iPhone 6 before she began to speak.

"What's the problem?" she asked. Uju took a deep breath before she narrated all that Ijeoma had told her.

"And where is the useless girl?" Thelma asked when Uju was done. "Did I not say that there was something fishy about her?"

"They went out together," Ijeoma said.

"Ehhnn?! You mean your oga is in town?"

Ijeoma nodded.

"And he took the maid he impregnated out and left you here by yourself?"

"He went to secure an apartment for her."

Uju and Thelma glanced at themselves and then Thelma spoke again.

"Chai!! God saved that girl. I would have given her the beating of her life this morning."
Ijeoma was visibly shaky with convulsive sobs now.

"Did I not tell you that something was different about her?" Thelma continued. "Did I not say that something must have changed because I never noticed her before?"

Ijeoma remained quiet and mournful and Thelma stood up now to come sit beside her and join Uju in consoling her.

"Ndo. Has he apologized? Has he given any reasonable explanations?"

It was Uju who responded. "What explanation? Do men ever have any reasonable explanations for the stupid things they do? There is nothing he can say. He has wronged her. Finish!!!"

Thelma nodded and Ijeoma raised her head slowly. "I don't think he is sorry."

A knock came on the door now and Uju rushed over to answer it hoping to give Ijeoma's husband a piece of her mind if it turned out to be him. But it wasn't him. It was someone else; someone she had come to know too well in the past months. Even before she slid open the glass door, she recognized that smirk. She recognized the bald head, the dark shades and the black lips. Those features were unmistakable. It was the notorious blackmailer.


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Written By:
Kadiri Alex

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: DILEMMA - Episode 7
DILEMMA - Episode 7
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - call, phone, Chief, business call, sniffed into her wrapper, she tendered her resignation, put someone in a coma, husband, the maid he impregnated, the notorious blackmailer.
Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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