I know you guys are shaking your head in disapproval, but be open minded when you read before you crucify them, lol! You know I love my characters!
Jamal Mujahid was having an affair. His marriage was on the rocks and had been for a long time. He was ashamed to admit it but he took the easy way out and found solace in the arms of another woman, his sister in law.
Nabila, his wife was more like an annoying roommate than a life partner now. Their arguments got more aggressive, the insults more hurtful. The days he would return from work exhausted at having chased around deals that never saw fruition or having his butt handed to him for trying to diversify his portfolio or investing in a contract that proved to be worthless. Those were the days he needed his wife. He needed her to soothe him, reassure him, make him laugh, let him cry. Allow him to be the vulnerable half of the couple. Instead he found Nabila sitting at home, grumbling about how bored she was, expecting him to transform into Casanova right away and make her moan. She folded her arms as if to say his role of husband began right away and that role meant it was her time and her time only.
She never showed interest in his work but expected him to be all ears when she opened her mouth to complain about Mama, servants, lack of rain, too much rain, or wives of friends they knew…
Jamal knew friends who were stuck in bad marriages and always it boiled down to the fact that the wife changed. Stopped taking care of her appearance or making an effort to look sexy, completely let her weight go or suddenly had more time for the kids than the husband.
To Nabila’s credit she never pretended to be anyone other than herself. Jamal knew when he married her that she was selfish, a little cold, undomesticated and very insecure. She didn’t like her height or her weight or her nose. She wore her wealth like a shield and made that her identity so she would not have to address her lack of social grace. He knew all this and yet he married her; swore before Allah to always protect and provide, defend and desire. For very simple reasons: he understood Nabila.
How he does Jamal is yet to discover but he met her and he could comprehend why she acted the way she did. He was not put off by her nonchalant attitude. She was very righteous and upright. He remains the only man Nabila ever slept with. Also, Nabila loved him very much. Jamal was certain he would never find someone so wholeheartedly his. With this, he informed his mother of his intention and while they graduated, marriage preparations back home were underway. There is only so long he could support Nabila before his shoulder began to fall. For once, he wanted her to walk with the confidence she admired in her sister. Just this one time let her initiate sex if she wanted it so bad. In this singular moment his wife should make him a cup of coffee in the morning instead of ringing a bell for the servant to do it. It would be nice if she was awake to kiss him goodbye before he left for work; make him look forward to coming home. He never thought carrying the burden and responsibilities of marriage alone would get too heavy. Jamal’s marriage was at fault because he changed; not his wife. She remained who she had always been.
Presently, Jamal Mujahid had a problem and the only person that could help him out was his wife’s best friend Amaka Nwafor. That is the reason why he was currently sat in her office, hat in his hand, trying not to fidget under her stare. Jamal was not frightened of her; Amaka was the farthest thing from scary. Her ready smile alone was an application for sainthood but the mere fact that he could still smell Rabi on him and quite frankly was having a very hard time keeping the smug satisfied look off his face made it very difficult for Jamal to focus on enticing Amaka away from her strict regulations
“It’s standard operating procedure” Amaka said
“I know. I know” Jamal tried to sound solemn
“You know I would help if it was within my reach”
“But that’s just it Maka. You are in complete control of admissions”
“I am not going to abuse my position Jay”
“All you have to do is move the Beckenbauer’s to the top of the list so that by next semester their daughter would be considered for a position at your primary school”
“I might as well hand over a school uniform at that point then” Amaka reasoned
“That would be helpful…” he smiled. Amaka did not respond in kind. Jamal tried a different tactic
“Are those the twins” he exclaimed lifting up a silver frame displaying Chibuzo and Chiamaka beside their bicycles. “They grow up so fast don’t they?” he sighed wistfully
“Now you’re just grasping at straws” Amaka lifted an eyebrow
“Okay I’m going to level with you.” Jamal took a deep breath “Kristof Beckenbauer is a leading ceramics and tile manufacturer in Munich. I mean he basically owns the stone and tile industry. He wants to expand in untouched markets. The Ministry of Works wants the contract.”
“Why not? We have the much needed man power required to run it, available natural resources plus ports in Lagos for easy shipments of imported raw materials. Anyway, we tried to liaise with his second in command but the dan iska has his eyes on Marrakech so we focused our attention on the Architect as he made the tour of shortlisted countries to inspect possible building sites. Attempted to win his nomination by flying him back here first class for a ‘second look’ and treating him to the finest things Abuja had to offer. Yes, including hookers. However it is possible he might be swayed elsewhere”
“I don’t understand where I come in” Amaka asked confused
“There is another way in” Jamal put the picture frame down and looked up sheepishly “Lenora”
“She is Beckenbauer’s 7 year old daughter”
“Oh no Jamal…”
“If we can paint a life here for him. Show that he will settle nicely, help smooth his transition” Amaka was shaking her head even as Jamal spoke
“Everything else is sorted. Housing, personal staff even very highly exclusive committees his wife Kamilla can be involved in. All but this loose end Maka, this is the most prestigious school in Abuja. The most prestigious school in Nigeria. Getting Lenora in here will clinch the deal”
“You don’t even know if he will move here” Amaka said incredulously
“All aspects of his life in Abuja spell out power and influence. No other school will do. Parents broker billion naira deals just outside school gates while waiting for the final bell to ring. Everyone knows Inter house sports and drama recitals are just another term for merger and acquisition meetings or political pledges”
“We try to squeeze in education as well”
“I know that Maka; it’s a wonderful school and that’s why Senators and Ministers place their children on the list from kindergarten” Jamal blinked his big brown eyes. Amaka shifted in her seat “You are the Head Administrator. If you could just put the name on the list and make it seem like they were in with a shot.”
Amaka started to think there would be no harm to it. Beckenbauer would obviously ace the financial screening and Lenora would raise their profile as an international school. They could add a German to the Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Lebanese, American and British families already enrolled.
“Let’s say it all goes according to plan. What then?” she asked
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it” Jamal said with a determined look
“This your life of high risk; high reward. I don’t know how Nabila puts up with it”
“She has wonderful friends like you” Jamal replied sweetly
“Biko go I’ve heard. You’re lucky your wife knows people in high places” Amaka smiled
“Love to the twins” Jamal said as he was heading out
Amaka waved him away smiling as she returned to the paperwork Jamal had interrupted. Shaking her head; understanding how her level-headed friend fell for this charmer.
Jamal raced to his car and dialled his office. His blood pumped harder when there was a deal in the making. This is what he lived for. Manipulation, bribery and on occasion blackmail were all part of his job. In the end it was all about the bottom line; the Federal Ministry had to gross a profit. It could be non-immediate but expenses certainly had to pay for themselves by the second quarter; or it was his neck on the chopping board. He was always interested in politics but not the type played out on TV for the entire world to witness and scrutinise. Jamal meant the real politics in the powerhouses, whispered allegiances and signed cheques within actual corridors of power. Not sweating under hot sun, shaking hands or kissing babies. Screaming speeches at a crowd and assuring market women that with their votes; their interest will be protected. With these criteria, there was ever really only one place for him. Ascension in the Federal Ministries was rapid; so many contracts overlapped it was easy to earn your stripes within three years if you were cunning about it. Jamal was. He never offended, scolded or betrayed. He was a smart, a charmer, and had a face that was difficult to forget, always quick to grease someone’s palm. Jamal knew from experience that people were more loyal if you gave them sugar than if you cracked the whip. So he was Mr. Friendly; always eager to dash a few thousand here or tip a couple hundred there. There was no one: colleague, client or cleaning staff that wouldn’t take a bullet for Jamal Mujahid. He knew that the longer the dough was left to rise, the better the pastry. With the rate of his success at procuring deals for the Government, vast amount of contacts in every continent, friends in various levels of influence and track record of loyalty, he would be summoned to a seat of power. By age 40 he intended to be the Minister of the FCT.
Jamal pulled into his reserved parking space at his office in Mabushi. Currently, he was Deputy Director of Engineering Services for the Ministry of Works and Housing. He ran up the stairs replying every greeting with a smile and enquiry of family wellbeing. At his desk he informed the Minister of Power and Steel on the progress of the Beckenbauer deal “Yes he has taken care of it. His contact at Elite Nursery and Primary School assured him it would not be a problem. No, no need to thank him just as long as he received what he was promised. It was imperative his friend was the line manger at the factory. Hahaha; I hear you. You too.” Just as Jamal hung up, his personal assistant Zainab walked in with coffee. “What would I do without you?” he said as she placed the tray on the table. She smiled in reply and made to speak “Zainab don’t worry about it. I promised you ko? As soon as we get
the go-ahead it is guaranteed that your brother will be the line manager. Tell Abu not to worry” “Allah blesses you” Zainab sighed gratefully before seeing herself out.
Jamal knew what he was doing. Zainab had been with him from the start and her brother was well over-qualified to run an industrial operation. He just hadn’t been able to get a break. By giving Abu this recommendation Jamal ensured he had an ally in what would soon become the most profitable venture in West Africa. His sipped from his mug and laid back on his executive armchair. Across from him was a picture of Nabila; Jamal didn’t remember the last time he stared at it; as though his mind had created a blind spot. He lifted the polished wood frame and tried to remember the emotions he felt on that day in Obudu Ranch when he told Nabila to pose for him. She started off shy at first then as he flattered and heaped praises, his wife’s stance became relaxed then flirty. And this was the end result; Nabila in shorter- than- short white denim cut offs and a green tank top. She had her hands on her hips and leaned forward into the lens exposing her cleavage and pouting. Her hair free from its usual bondage flew wild about her face. She looked deliriously happy and incredibly sexy. It was their second year wedding anniversary getaway. Examination completed, Jamal opened his drawer and placed the photo face down in it. He did not care anymore.
The next evening he drove his Benz to Maitama, pulling into the parking lot of The Hilton. Exhausted from work he laid his head on the steering wheel and knew the sight of a double bed with goose feather pillows would overcome him. He looked forward to napping in the air conditioned room and ordering room service. Jamal bypassed the front desk with a nod at the concierge; Adamu had grown accustomed to his presence over the past four weeks and merely bowed in greeting before resuming discussions with the customer he was attending to. Stepping out of the elevator on the 14th floor he walked towards the same room number as previous visits before. The door had been left slightly ajar and he leaned into it. Jamal surveyed the art deco style room and the windows that opened out into a beautiful view of the city. Rabi was standing in front of the original artwork on the wall; her brow knitted together as she deciphered the abstract blocks of paint on canvas. She wore dark blue straight jeans and a crisp white shirt. Her hair held back with an Alice band. Her feet were bare. The sound alerted her and she turned to smile at him. Rabi always smiled. She ran to him and threw her arms around his neck keeping them there not uttering a single word. Jamal was grateful, this allowed him time to decompress and get his bearings. Instead her palms rubbed his shoulders in circular motions for minutes. Finally she pulled away and cupped his face in her palms “Hi” she smiled. “Hey” Jamal responded. She cast her dark eyed stare directly at him
“Beckenbauer?” she asked knowingly
“Uhum” Jamal responded
“It will all work itself out because you are brilliant at what you do” she kissed his brow bone. Jamal sighed
“Screw the Architect” Rabi continued “I hope the prostitute gave him gonorrhoea”
“Prostitutes” Jamal corrected “there were five”
Rabi’s eyes widened “Maybe he isn’t so bad after all” Jamal tickled her and she giggled so infectiously, soon they both fell on the bed and not long after, their laughter gave way to lust.
When Jamal awoke, Rabi sat cross-legged on the bed with a huge edition of Gray’s Anatomy open in her lap. Her Mac computer was to her left along with jottings on scrap paper and research on the effects of estrogens contained in yam on twin births in Yoruba land. In her right hand was a light green marker which she used to highlight paragraphs and in her left was a cigarette. The whole thing was made even more absurd by Rabi’s stark nakedness. Jamal shuffled to her and laid his head on her lap using the textbook as a pillow. She looked down on him and a smile spread across her face. Jamal realised he was completely happy.
“That is not even lit” he pointed to her cigarette
“I just like to hold it” shaking her head at her own addiction. “It’s helping me to concentrate.” Jamal read the first line of her journal “Igbo-Ora, a sleepy farming community in southwest Nigeria, The town’s high incidence of twins have baffled fertility experts — underscoring a more regional twin trend…” he was bored already. Jamal yawned widely and Rabi shook her head laughing, she stopped when she noticed Jamal was looking up at her intently.
“I remember the first time I met you” Jamal explained. Rabi knew it was the lunch at Bella Italia where her sister introduced her new boyfriend but she listened anyway. Jamal reached up to play with her hair before he continued “You were wearing a red sweater and a jeans skirt with black boots. Your hair was in untamed curls and you laughed the entire meal. You blushed when you spoke about your white boyfriend. James?”
“Marc” Rabi corrected. Knowing that if Jamal could remember what she was wearing he definitely knew the right name
“Yes him.” Jamal shrugged his shoulders “Did you love him?”
“At the time. Yes” Rabi stroked his sideburns.
“And now? Do you still think about him?”
“Marc is a delicious part of my past” Jamal sulked “but my past is where he belongs”
“Good” Jamal mumbled as he raised his head to her breasts, nuzzling her bosom, his lips closed on her nipple.
Later that night Jamal returned home to find Nabila asleep on the blue couch in the living room. He didn’t even mind the argument she was ready to start. Nabila could throw anything his way and he would take it; he just wanted to go to sleep while he could still taste Rabi on his tongue. Sex had snaked its way through Jamal’s sinewy muscles like an opiate. He proceeded upstairs as Nabila awoke and greeted him. As always Jamal was struck by her courtesy until he remembered the ‘good wife’ path she had been treading for a while now. Not going up to bed till he returned no matter how late the hour, not starting fights. It was too late he wanted to tell her, but it seemed easier to handle her this way than return to the anarchy of before. Jamal replied and Nabila followed him to their bedroom turning the lights off behind her. To her surprise Jamal did not jump in the shower but lay on the bed dozing off. Wearing only his white pyjama bottoms his chest rose and fell steadily. He looked peaceful and relaxed; this was her chance
“Mu yi magana”
“Can’t this wait” Jamal said with his eyes closed; images of Rabi riding him
“It has already waited for too long” Nabila’s voice sounded close so Jamal opened his eyes. She was sitting by his side in a see through nightgown. She could barely meet his gaze; he did not like where this was headed
“We should have a baby” she said shyly
Jamal’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. All indulgent images of Rabi fled from his conscious and he stared at his wife as if she was mentally disturbed
“Yes” she repeated excited. Her hand reached to stroke his chest. Jamal stopped her palm. Nabila looked like she did not understand
“Because we are married and it is long overdue”
“Oh! Is that why you have been the doting wife these past few days” Jamal sat up
“No!” she shook her head
“So none of that was leading up to this” he pointed at her night gown
“We have been married for almost five years. I want a baby”
“Did you ask if I wanted one?”
“You are my husband. Don’t you want to start a family?”
“We are barely a family now Nabila. Do you really want to bring a baby into this mess?”
“What do you want from me Jamal? Allow me to be a mother if you won’t let me be a wife.”
“Let you? You need my permission to function in your role”
“When you do not speak to me. At all! And run out of the house the minute you return from work.” She took a deep breath. “It is difficult…knowing that you would rather be anywhere else than with me.” Nabila’s voice shook. “Do not think that because I do not cry in front of you; it does not hurt. If you will not love me, give me somebody to love. You owe me that much”
“I owe you nothing” Jamal looked down on her
“I WANT A CHILD” she grabbed on to his elastic waist band
“I am not a sperm donor” Jamal warned
“You don’t act like a husband either” Nabila spat
“You have the bed all to yourself” Jamal grabbed a blanket and stormed off to the guest room.
Three weeks later the final decision regarding the Beckenbauer deal was made. The company would build in Morocco. Jamal and his colleagues swallowed their loss and licked their wounds. Each sat in their office mourning missed opportunities. As Zainab placed some files on his desk Jamal remembered his promise long enough to put aside his ego and call in a favour. “I owe you big time” the HR manager agreed “The job is his Jamal if his CV is up to scratch”
“It is” Jamal reassured him “You know I don’t waste my time with unserious people”
“Just tell your boy to show up for an informal interview then. We have to appear to be going through proper channels you know”
“We are not savages after all” Jamal added with humour. With that he called Abu to inform him of his new role as a Civil Engineer in the Engineering and Technology Directorate of the NNPC.
On Saturday Jamal called Amaka to invite her to lunch “for being a good sport.” Just because the deal fell through did not mean Jamal had forgotten what Amaka was willing to do for him
“Oh perfect timing!” she chirped “because Nabsy just offered to babysit the twins for me”. Jamal figured that was probably where all this baby drama was coming from; spend enough time with someone else’s and soon you want some of your own.
They arranged to meet at the Lebanese restaurant after her hair appointment and Jamal made a mental note to complement the style even if he did not understand it. Amaka was late but within reason and they sat down to their meal. She told stories of her children and consoled
“Do you hear from Femi?”
“Femi.” Amaka smiled ruefully “You are the only one that acts like he even existed. I was beginning to think the father of my children was imaginary”
“Well that would be something” Jamal said. He was sorry that he let himself get carried away with nostalgia forgetting how painful reminiscing was to Amaka.
“Our time together is just ghosts of old memories” she whispered
“You have two beautiful children to show for it”
“Femi’s parents live 10minutes away from us and act like the kids and I don’t exist. He is not here to protect my dignity so they blank their grandkids”
Amaka sighed. She had gotten used to her life and was able to relay such things straight faced.
“C’est la vie right” she smiled at Jamal. Reaching across the table he patted her hand and deftly steered the conversation to University days. Reminiscing of late night library, student accommodation, fashion faux pas. Together they laughed at old habits and threatened ruin each other’s polished reputation by putting pictures on Facebook.
“You look happy” she said to him as he escorted her back to her car “I am glad you and Nabsy are working things out” Jamal raised an eyebrow “I was rooting for you two” she said hugging him and getting in the driver seat. She shut the door, and drove off waving.
Thinking to herself that sometimes couples needed to honeymoon to get back to the basics of affection and novelty of each other.
Amaka was glad then that she did not make it known to Jamal that she had seen him at The Hilton.