Meetings between them after that had been awkward. Their shared secret caused forced pleasantries. Forced as they were, these showed the nicer side of both persons and that made for more meetings. Gradually Uju became Mrs. Peterside – Mrs. Toju Peterside.
Marriage to Uju began to wane Toju’s nineteen or ninety stand. He loved her but he was going to need a lot of patience to understand her mood sometimes. They settled in Ilupeju which is a nice neighbourhood for a couple just starting out. Toju was fortunate to have a job with Aston and Thorn bull Oil Servicing; a British based oil servicing firm with major interests in oil rich Nigeria. His job took him out of Lagos a lot. He didn’t like it but the calculating part in him told him it was quite necessary. One morning he took the first flight home without calling Uju first. The business was urgent and he hadn’t been given any notice before hand. He came home and went round the back of the house to the kitchen, which was right under the room he and Uju shared. Toju had intended to rap lightly on the back door so as not to wake up the neighbours. Peering in the kitchen window to see if Uju was drawing herself a cup of tea he saw her sitting at the kitchen table sobbing quite vehemently. Coming home unannounced Toju had half expected to catch Uju cheating on him, not this. He damned the neighbours comfort and banged on his back door calling his wife.
Recognising it was Toju calling; Uju quickly put her hands to her eyes. She had intended to wipe away the tears from her eyes but her hands just stayed there and quivered. She fidgeted for a second ran for the door keys on the kitchen cabinet, fumbled with the lock finally opening it on the third try. What happened? He asked when he should have asked What’s wrong? Uju fidgeted with her hands again. Toju’s suspicion grew, so he proceeded to brush Uju aside to investigate the problem, someone had been here .As he took a step away from her she shuddered noticeably. Toju stepped back and held her close
“I was scared……I heard noises early this morning”. Noises never scared Uju before.
For a while after the wedding Uju had been really cheerful, making up jokes about what a great big head Toju had. Coping with Uju’s depression and work at the same time had become a little too much for Toju. He struggled to discern why Uju had become like this and when it had all began.
Tonight they were sitting at the kitchen table, Uju had just passed Toju his supper and he wouldn’t touch it. Uju would still moody. He had asked her what the matter was for the umpteenth thing and she had still said “nothing”. The kitchen table was a small one. Whenever they sat at the table, it brought them to close quarters. Across the table, Toju turned his chair at an angle to Uju’s. He couldn’t deal with her anymore tonight. Tonight Uju wanted to let Toju into what had been bothering her but required a little more coaxing. Toju was done coaxing for the day. He reluctantly picked up and munched on a piece of boiled yam. He held his fork close to his face. That piece of yam was going to block out Uju and all her eccentricities.
Toju was being the best husband he could be and Uju knew she loved him to bits. She had always had this odd thing with men she loved; never saying to them how she really felt. Men had always come to her easily and in their numbers. They wanted her, not really caring to know if she had wanted them back. Her not expressing her emotions had eaten away at her when her relationship with Peter ended. It had taken a while for her to realize Peter would not have changed no matter what anyone said to him. Uju had grown to love Toju more than he would ever know. She just had that problem expressing it.
Tonight she was going to try. She made a tiny muffled sound like a mouse. Words were being given form. The sound caught Toju’s attention, he didn’t turn his chair to face her; he just looked at her sidelong. Uju made another attempt. She sniffed, looked up and opened her mouth and a loud bang came out. The sound was so loud that it caused Toju to drop his fork. The piece of yam perch on top of the fork bounced off as it hit the ground. It skidded under a kitchen cabinet to hide. It would be needless to say that Toju was alarmed. Before he, Uju or the piece of yam could recover, there came another sound louder than the first. Uju’s was terrified. The sounds weren’t coming from her. The second bang had come with her mouth shut. The sounds had come from their bedroom upstairs. It had a tiny balcony that gave a terrible view of the neighbour’s backyard, so they always kept that door shut. Whatever made that noise was trying to break that door down. Rooted to their little kitchen table in shock Uju and Toju stared at eachother. Their eyes spoke volumes. It seemed their eyes were saying everything their mouths hadn’t ever since they got married, ever since that party where Uju was kissing some other guy. They realised as all married couples do at some time, that they were in this together and everything outside that marriage can be an intrusion. Those sounds coming from the door upstairs were definitely an intrusion, banging loudly on the walls of their marriage. Fear in Toju gave way to resolve. They must be facing burglars he reasoned. And he would have to get on top of the situation. Looking at Uju he liked she didn’t seem to fret. She stared at him waiting for his next action. A little smile played on his lips; she had gone back to the old Uju. The one he had met back in the University of Lagos. Uju smiled back. All she wanted to say was she loved him dearly. Toju reached out his hand. The last few seconds had been very therapeutic. Uju shot out hers, so badly wanting to reconnect. The intrusion outside wasn’t going to let that happen. The window meters behind Uju imploded. Uju hadn’t seen it but could guess how much force had been expended to smash that window because little splinters of glass had hit the back of her head all the way from the other side of the house. It was a small house but that wouldn’t take away the extent of the force required to send those splinters flying through to the kitchen.
Freeze frame and rewind, the little splinters turned to slices of glass which in turn came off as shards that had been part of two wide window panes that stood in their frame before something with a lot of hate had burst them out .
The splinters as seen could have gone out through another similar window behind Toju if they had not hit Uju in the back of the head.
The noise from the assualted window pane made Uju slap down hard on the table. Some seconds passed. Toju had not been able to make out how many assailants they had. The windows were fitted with burglary proof railings so he knew the burglars weren’t getting in from there.His thought was to pick up a weapon and scare them off.First he had to re assure his wife. He reached reassuringly for her right hand on the table with his and gave it a firm squeeze. Uju who had been face down looked up. She started to smile till she saw the shilouette of a man pressed against the window behind Toju. Uju acted quickly, as she saw the silhouette push away from window. She grabbed Toju’s hand and with every ounce of strength she had, pulled him over the kitchen table with both hands. The table toppled over them as a shield just as the window burst into the kitchen. Uju read Toju’s face ‘he can’t get in’. Their assailant wasn’t trying to get in, what he wanted, was to turn was a quiet evening into a night in hell.
Toju had had enough. With all heart and no brains he went for the front door. He pushed the table that had cocooned him and Uju, snatched the nearest thing he could clutch (which turned out to be a kitchen mop) and marched off to the front door. Uju went crazy. She screamed and clawed on to Toju. She pulled at him with more effort than she had used to pull him over the table to safety. Toju tried to shrug her off, this night wouldn’t end if someone didn’t put an end to it. Uju screamed into Toju’s ear ‘please, wait, don’t go out there’ but it was a reassuring ‘I love you’ that stopped him dead in his tracks. He had heard her say those words before but not with such meaning; such intensity. He had been waiting for this surety ever since the first girl he had been attracted to. Toju caught a spent Uju as she crumpled to the ground where they nestled for the rest night.
Uju’s screams had aroused the neighbours. It would be a matter of time before someone would dial for help or sound an alarm, so their assailant fled. He didn’t run far. He made way for his parked car – a yellow Porsche – but stopped for a brief moment to sit on the couples fence. He watched them for a few minutes. Robbers didn’t ride Porsches and Peter Peterside was no robber. Losing Uju did not go down well with him and to add to his irk, he lost her to Toju.
After graduation from the University of Lagos, Mr. Peterside sent his son to England for a Masters degree in business. Peter had returned back to Nigeria after studying in England for two years to hear of Uju’s marriage to his cousin. He gathered information on the couple’s home scoped it out early one morning and decided on this night to settle an old affair.
Tonight had been futile; from what he saw through the windows he had only succeeded in bringing the couple closer. His athletic build had served him well. All that rugby training during his years in England for his A levels and masters had made him fast. With a bloodied hand from all the broken glass he took one swing of his favourite brandy. Mr. Jack Daniels was really the only one that loved him and he would be in turn the only one the Peter would love.