It’s the end of another long day at the office and as usual, Labake was really grateful to see it. She’d been staring so hard at the hands of the clock for over an hour as if by some sheer force of will, staring would make the clock go faster. She slowly shut down her p.c and gave a long sigh of relief as she closed it. Friday! What a relief! She thought.
As she sets her table in order and puts away the document she was working on, she noticed the small picture on her table. She stopped short, picked it up and stared at it. The smiling faces of two children, a boy and a girl, six and nine years looked back at her. Labake smiled sadly as she looked at her two children. This picture was a reminder of the very same reasons why she had to forge ahead and stretch herself to the limits, even when she didn’t feel like doing so, even when all she wanted to do was to get up and walk away without looking back or having second thoughts. She didn’t even realise that she was crying until she saw a tear drop on the frame of the picture leaving a blur on the little boy’s face and distorting his close-to-perfect smile. Quickly, she swiped off the stray tear drop with utmost care, as if she was wiping the real face of the little boy. Putting the framed picture back in its place, she picked up her handbag and stowed away the laptop. On getting to the door, she stopped, turned back to give her office a last once-over to make sure that everything was in its place. That was Labake, always meticulous with everything in her life. Her policy was that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Satisfied with the ‘perfect’ state of the office, she switched off the light and walked towards the parking lot and into her car.
Labake worked in QuickTrix Management Consulting firm as the Information Technology Consultant. Her job was hectic enough giving the fact that she lived in Lagos and two hours away from her workplace – without the traffic of course. She had to get up as early as 3:30am everyday and on the road latest 4:30 am to beat the traffic. She seldom saw her kids except for weekends and on public holidays. When she got the job, she’d been full of enthusiasm and excitement because that was the only thing she’d ever wanted to do in her life. She’d felt like, at long last, she was contributing something in the society. Now, she wasn’t so sure. Instead of enthusiastic, she felt lethargic and all burned out. This whole feeling had started four years when she found out the ugly truth about the whole life she’d fought so hard to build. She shook her head vigorously as if to get rid of the trend her errant memory was about to undertake.
It was 10:00pm when she walked into the sitting room to meet the room bathed in the dim light from the red candles creating a soft, romantic ambiance. A whiff of vanilla fragrance hit her nose as she made her way across the room towards the small package wrapped in silky, red gift paper. As she was about to open the package, she felt his arms encircle her waist from behind as he nuzzled her neck.
“Welcome home dearie”, Kunle whispered softly into her left ear
Labake smiled and leaned back into his warm embrace
“Did I forget my birthday again?” She asked still smiling
“No dearie, I just want to spoil you a little. You work too hard too know.”
“ I know dear…But I…..”, she started to explain as she turned around to face him
“Shhh….don’t say a word” Kunle said kissing her softly. “Now, just go upstairs and take a bath. Let me get dinner warm. You need your strength for the night.”
Labake laughed softly and kissed him back gently. She leaned forward even more to deepen the kiss when she felt the hard nudge of the obstacle between them. The gift.
“Darling, what’s in the box?” She asked him breaking off the kiss
“You’ll see soon enough. Go ahead and take your bath”
Labake got up slowly albeit with reluctance, and walked upstairs towards the bathroom. She stopped on her way at her children’s room. They’d been tucked in bed two hours ago. My little angels, she thought sadly as she gazed at them full of love. I just have to keep you both safe from the ugly truth even if it means suffering in silence. The tears came on again as she remembered.
She had thought she was married to the perfect man who cared for her and her kids more than anything in the world. He’d always told her on so many occasions that she was his centre of existence and that without her, he would die. He showered her with gifts, made her feel whole and special once in a while. Even now, as she looked at Jumoke, her first child, who resembled Kunle in every way, she wondered what she had done wrong. Maybe she hadn’t loved him enough. Maybe, she’d let her work overcome her and maybe she had failed to be the perfect mother to his kids. She tried to make herself take the blame but she knew she was just making excuses for him. That’s what she always did. She sighed as she walked out of the room into her bedroom to get ready for a shower.
She found out about Kunle’s infidelity four years ago. No. Confirmed his infidelity would be a better way of putting it because she’d always sensed it. Call it a woman’s instinct or whatever, but she’d always known somehow that all was not what it seemed even before they got married over ten years ago. She’d noticed the subtle signs, the quick change of topic while talking on the phone the moment she walked in, the need to impress her all the time by always being around and saying nice things, going out of his way to do things for her, as if he had to be extra nice to make up for something he’d done wrong, the shifting of eyes away from her face when she stared at him silently questioning him for arriving late for a date.
Labake knew everything he did behind her back. His numerous girlfriends even his favourite love nest. She’d been smart enough to hire a private investigator who gave a complete update about her husband’s clandestine affairs. Today, she knew exactly where he’d been and whom he’d been with. A young girl of twenty-one. Bola Olaomo was her name. A third-year student of accountancy in the University of Lagos. The affair had been going on for two months now and that was the explanation for the gifts and attention. The candles and the kisses.
Labake wondered yet again, how long she could keep up with this charade. She’d sworn that she would bear it, without confronting him till her children become old enough to understand why she left because, leave him, she would. She’d already made plans for the future, but she had to wait patiently for the right time. She’d sworn never to get pregnant for him again and had gone on the pills without his knowledge. Yes! He’d hurt her real bad but she’ll hurt him the more by leaving him when he’d need her the most. When he becomes old and fragile.
Labake finished her bath, put on her nightie and walked down to the dining room. Towards the lying cheating bastard of a husband. Towards the lie she called home deep down in her heart. Towards the one person she hated with every fibre of her being. And she walked with an award-winning smile to execute, yet another Oscar deserving act of the century.