The following day was hectic; Priscilla busied herself in the market, slowly buying so many things just to see time fly. Folake seemed to know about the fight but she said nothing, only staring at her so full of pity. It made Priscilla feel so small and unwanted as she sat in the car parked in front of the house. It seemed like hell looking at it from outside, she had never felt more dreadful about a place than this one.
The shrill ringing of the phone interrupted her troubled thoughts. It was Tunde, one could not tell which was more- the surprise or the feeling of dread that her husband called. Nevertheless, she slowly answered the call.
“I’m coming home early tonight” his voice was cold.
He could not even apologize over the nasty things he said to her. Her heart steeled at the memory of the fight they had, he did not come home until two in the morning. She said nothing; it was wiser to pretend to be asleep even though she cried herself to sleep once again.
“Get ready by six; we are going for a friend’s party”
Her already steeled heart sank slowly; it felt like a stone in her chest. Priscilla coughed.
“It’s a club event so please look good” he hung up and she held the phone in her hand a little while longer. That sounded like an insult. Tunde hated her to the bones but she just sat there and smiled, a slow sad smile with her eyes filled with tears again.
…AFTER staring at herself for almost thirty minutes, she was not satisfied with her image. At the back of her mind, she wondered if Tunde would agree to her look even without any make up on. Hearing the car horn from outside below, she began quickly putting her things into a small clutch bag. She went out of the room, bumping into Folake.
“I was just about to call you,” she said hurriedly
“Aren’t you going?”
She wore her slacks and a loose top “No” Folake replied breezing past her, “It’s a couple’s night out”.
In a few minutes, she sat next to her cold husband in the car. The car was silent as Tunde drove out of the area to the main road. Her heart was in her mouth, and she was not looking forward to this party and knew next to nothing about it.
It took a few minutes to reach the club, a popular nightclub. People streamed in and out of the building and the music blasted as though the speakers were actually out on the road. Tunde steered the car, searching for a parking spot amongst the multitude of cars in the area. The car finally stopped and Tunde turned off the engine. She opened the door on the passenger’s seat already half way out of the car when suddenly he gripped her arm. She was roughly pulled back into the car to stare at her husband’s cold hard stare.
“Just to give you the heads up, this is a colleague of mine in the office and a close friend too.”
Priscilla continued to stare at him silently.
“..And Karen will be there…”
Her heart did a flip but Tunde continued “…so at least pretend to be happy to be here. Feel free to leave whenever you like, I’m staying overnight and I’m sure you know your way home” he released her already throbbing arm as she got out of the car determined not to let his words affect her in anyway.
They made their way into the building not even holding hands. The moment they entered the Building, the dim disco lights filtered the most parts of the room. There was traffic of people. So many loud chatters amongst people and the smell of booze was strong all over the place. Tunde pushed passed the people and she meekly followed behind until they got to the far end of the room.
A large group of people sat on long curved chairs with drinks everywhere and everyone seemed to be talking at the same time. A man walked up to Tunde smiling widely
“My man!” The man shouted above the music and chattering, you could hardly make out his voice.
They clapped laughing.
“Who’s this?” he looked at Priscilla with a lack of interest but he tried to be courteous. “She’s my wife” Tunde replied not even looking at her. She sensed the man’s surprise, he obviously was never told but then, Tunde seldom wore the ring.
They walked into the circle of people. Tunde was swallowed up by greetings and she was left alone feeling invisible, not sure whether to laugh or cry. People kept shoving past her, some would make rude comments, others would not even cast a second glance. She walked to the bar through the crowd and sat on the stool and did not order a drink even when the waiter asked. She just wanted to be alone and sit there imagining she was invisible.
“Hi” a voice shouted from behind her. There was got a light tap on her shoulder.
”Can I get you a drink?”
“Do I look thirsty?” her voice was laced with irritation and she turned to look at the man. He was cute.
“You tell me, you come to a club alone and you sit by the bar.” He gave a slow seductive smile. It was so tempting not to smile back. Instead, she looked away from him pretending to busy herself, poking at her clutch bag.
“Come on!” he was persistent
“What will it take for you to leave me alone uhn?”
“Your name and some time with you?”
“You’re a very persistent man,” she said and he laughed a full rich laughter.
“Thanks” he brought out a hand “I’m Richard by the way. Richard Okoro”
He had already taken a sit “…and you are?”
“Priscilla” she did not shake his hand so he smiled and let it drop.
“So what brings you here?”
“It’s like you’re having a lot of fun” he smiled at the sarcastic statement. Another killer smile. She could feel her inside melt like butter.
“Yup” she replied dryly but he kept staring at her, it made her aware of her appearance. It was uncomfortable “Why are you staring at me like that?” she asked puzzled
“I don’t know its fun to look at you. You’re beautiful.”
The hiss was justified “Seriously? Is that to get me in your bed tonight?”
“No, just an observation although I wouldn’t mind at all”
“Why don’t we go outside, take a walk or something?”
Priscilla’s guard came back up. A snicker from her came in response as she eyed him suspiciously. “How do I know you’re not a serial killer or something?”
“In a club you meet different people. It’s all about taking a step of faith”
“Like the one you’ve taken?” her tone was staccato
Richard shook his head. “Exactly”, he replied smiling still studying her intently
“Stop staring”, she shouted over the music
“It’s a skilled fault”, he saluted. “I’m an artist. I admire beauty when I see it my dear.”
No wonder he had a way with words, she thought, gingering to herself. A look towards where Tunde was clearly stated that her absence was not missed, and her gaze lingered undecided for a moment unsure of what to do. What harm would it do stay with this stranger? After all, they would only know each other for the night and then part ways forever. Priscilla got up from her seat and her new companion took the cue. They walked out of the club and she inhaled the first breath of fresh air outside.
“So”, her companion looked at her smiling “What do we do from here?”
“Take a walk like you suggested”
They turned into the silent street. It was a little past 10 in the night “Tell me about yourself”, she said to him feeling an awkward silence between them.
“There’s not much to know though”
She shrugged, “Anything”
“I’m an artist; I own a gallery at Surulere. You?”
She paused for a moment, “I have a degree in business administration”
“A small firm” she felt guilty lying to him “Any wife? Kids?”
She ignored the question and sensed his hesitation “I won’t call it that” she blurted out.
“Every marriage has its problems” Richard replied. Coming from him, the words sounded strangely comforting. “Kids?”
“No” it felt easy discussing it with him “You?”
They turned into a bend along the street.
“You seemed unhappy when I watched you in the club.”
Priscilla shrugged carelessly idly playing with an overgrown tree branch.
“You want to discuss it?”
“Come on. How does that saying go? A problem shared is a problem something solved”
She laughed cheerily for the first time that night, it was the first she had in a long time.
“You know people prefer telling a stranger their problems”
Throwing him a glance, she replied “I’m not most people”
“I’ve noticed” he smiled “And I like that”
“You hardly know me”, Priscilla replied skeptically then let out a sigh “Yet you have your way with words.”
Richard laughed, making her smile from inside her; perhaps she was a bit thankful to Tunde for making her come while he frolicked with his lover.
“But still you must tell me what’s wrong”
“You’re very persistent”
“Thank you and you are very beautiful”
“I think you said that once before”
“You think I’m lying?”
“Do I need to tell you that?” they stopped at the middle of the dark alley and she turned to face him “You must think I’m one of those very cheap desperate women, sitting alone at the bar in a club without a drink and staring morose.” The description almost made her feel disgusted with herself.
“You’d have been cheap if you had accepted my drink instead,” he said softly; she felt him gaze at her in the dark as though she was stripped.
“If that’s your definition of cheap then I question your taste in women,” she replied throatily.
He wrapped his hand around her slim wrist and she felt a little tingle there. Priscilla almost pulled her hand away, warning bells rang in her head. His hand was cold on her skin and the gentle breeze blew about her naked legs. “You seem to have a little opinion of yourself.”
She looked away defensively “You don’t know much about me.”
“Well I can tell you are a sensual woman, you’ve carried a lot of hurt and pain inside you for so long.” He moved closed and laid a gentle hand upon her cheek turning her face to his. He smelled masculine and his scent filled her nostrils. One could get drunk with this; she wondered \sheepishly, staring at his shadowed face “I wonder who would hurt a flower like you, Priscilla”
She knew then it was best to leave. A little voice inside her head told her so; this attractive stranger was dangerous, so much that his words could make a woman falter and the way he looked at her: like she was the only woman in the world. With a strong will, she dragged herself from his gaze and turned around back to the club.
She could almost run, her name sounded so lovely from him it made her want to stay but she knew better. She had a duty to her husband no matter what Tunde did or felt towards her. Richard ran to her grabbing her clutch bag and she turned around angrily. Honestly, she did not understand why she got angry but he welled up feelings in her that she could not fathom even in the short time they met. She knew the answer deep down in her; it was because she had so long been denied the intimacy of a marriage.
“Can I have that back?” Priscilla replied through her gritted teeth. There was electricity in the area; lights from some of the houses around were on. She glanced at her watch and grimaced, it was already a few minutes to 12, she did not realize so much time had passed between them but this had gone on long enough
“Stay with me a bit more”
“No, I’ve spent enough time. No respectable woman should be out by this time”. The words lacked firmness in her ears. She cleared her throat and Richard held her hand again. The tingly sensation began again as he dragged her half against her faltering will behind a nearby car.
Priscilla didn’t pull away. Instead, she stood there caged between him and the cold car but she felt no discomfort, it made her feel so ashamed that she hung her head down torn between duty and desire welling up in her.
When he gently lifted her head back up, and she stared into his brown eyes she knew he had won. She could get lost in their depth… suddenly he laughed. A short, husky laughter. “I don’t understand these any more than you do” He shifted closer to her, closing the little form of distance between them. She wanted him to kiss her shamelessly and that was what frightened her in the dead of the night alone with a total stranger. Yes, he brought his face closer to hers and placed a light teasing kiss on her unconsciously parted lips.
“I think I’m already attracted to you”
“Men don’t react to what they hear before what they see” She replied huskily her heart beating faster than its normal rhythm after the kiss. She could feel her desire heightening but this was wrong, her conscience gnawed but she stubbornly refused. ‘At least’ she thought wretchedly within her, ‘I deserve to enjoy myself this one night’.
They both sat on the nearby pavement helplessly like two teenagers; the cool night’s breeze caressed her arms making her shiver a little. Richard surprised her pulling her body closer to him in an embrace. A part of Priscilla wanted to pull free with the gesture for she had never experienced such affection, but she chose to sit there as he stroked her short silky hair slowly.
“I don’t want this,” She said to him as though trying to convince herself. “I’m married”
“I don’t make a habit of being this way with married women” he replied with a short shaky laugh “This is awkward as it is for me,” he lifted her chin up and looked into her troubled eyes “But I’m not sorry I’m doing this.”
He opened the door of the car, which apparently was his as she found herself drawn inside to the back seat of the car. She knew she should go, but her body denied all common sense. Richard kissed her again and she parted her lips readily for him. It took a while for them to stop but they did not stop at just kissing. She broke her sacred duty and became his lover without remorse as they lay tangled in each other’s arms in the back seat of the car like randy teenagers. Priscilla felt as dirty as a one-night stand but she did not care. She did not care for anything else in the world until Tunde called her phone.