He held my hand in a tight grip. He was looking down, as if he was trying to pick the right words to say, and then he said,
‘Let’s do it.’ His voice was seductive, sensual. This was one of the reasons I had fallen for him in the first place. He looked up, into my eyes. I could see he was bringing on the charm, as his thumb rubbed the veins on my wrist softly. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, trying to steel myself against it.
I said nothing because I was reluctant. It is easy for him to ask me to do this and make me promise but I could not bring myself to give in. What if it doesn’t work?
His brown eyes were earnest, a sure sign that he expected an answer right now. I tried to stall.
‘What about Jeremy? We haven’t made plans for him’ I said.
He shook his head as if he was trying to forget all about Jeremy. I looked into his eyes again, they were now filled with tears.
‘This has nothing to do with Jeremy, this is just about us.’
My hands started to shake, but he held it tighter still. We were sitting at the dining table talking quietly. There was power failure as usual, the only light in the room was on the table, the lantern I had lit thirty minutes ago.
‘It has to be the same day Dayo, all you have to do is agree and my brother will do the rest.’ He was trying to state his case convincingly.
Then, with the glow from the lantern bathing his face in an ethereal glow, he said the words I hoped he would never say.
‘I am doing this for us, imagine the shame we will bring upon our family if anyone finds out, worse still it is your fault; you brought this upon us, upon our happy home’
A lonely tear made its way to my chin slowly as I fought the urge to cry, his words were true, albeit painful, a sign that he hadn’t forgiven me.
‘If we do it what would happen to Jeremy? We should tell someone, my father will know what to do.’
‘Your father?! He will never understand, and I will not hesitate to tell him it is your fault. Do you think he will welcome you with open arms? You know what he is like; you really think he will be that understanding?’
‘Jeremy what Dayo? Isn’t this happening because of Jeremy?’
I couldn’t answer his questions; He was right, I could not be absolutely sure my father was going to take this lightly. Don’t get me wrong, I know my father loves me, but he has always been hard to predict and this was too big to leave to chance, I was not absolutely sure he would support us.
‘Ok then, I promise’ my voice quavered when I said it, and he squeezed my hand again smiling,
‘Trust me, we are doing the right thing, imagine the expenses, the shame, it’s for the best,’ he said reassuringly.
That was the moment a heavy dread settled in my heart, I couldn’t shake it. Things became different between us after that day, he was more loving, more attentive, and I started to distance myself from the whole thing. It was as if I was on the outside looking in, a stranger in my life.
Then one day I collapsed at work, it was no surprise, I had been pushing myself hard of late, it was a protective mechanism, whenever I was worried about something i took up a project, this time my work was my project and it helped to distract me from the pact which weighed heavily on my conscience.
The whole family came to the hospital; he stood beside me, protectively, lovingly as any good husband should.
‘What is wrong with my baby?’ Father asked. He was looking even frailer than the last time I saw him; I could see the fresh lines of worry my collapse had caused. He leaned heavily on his walking stick while he waited for an answer. Mother was quiet, counting her rosary as she looked at me worriedly, she gave a shaky smile when I looked at her.
‘Well? What is wrong with her?’ he sounded impatient now.
‘We don’t know yet, they are running some tests, it should be out soon’ Dada answered, I said nothing.
‘How are you feeling Dayo, are you in pain?’ My father turned to me.
‘No Father, I just feel tired.’ That was the reply we had rehearsed before visitors were allowed in. Mother , father, everyone fussed over me, vowing to pray and fast for me. I felt a seed of hope growing; maybe, just maybe there was a way out of this, other than the way he proposed.
I stayed in the hospital for six months and a week. The story remained there was nothing wrong as far as the tests were concerned. I was in constant pain; I didn’t have any appetite either. It was weird watching everyone fuss over me whilst I wasted away without any apparent cause. Dada was loving and attentive as usual, he made sure I was never alone and worked from my hospital room. I could not have asked for a better husband.
Twice I came close to an inch of telling my father, the first time I had woken up with a start to find my father’s head bowed in prayer at the foot of my bed. We were alone in the room, for the first time Dada was not by my side. I heard some of the words,
‘Lord…help her…heal her…remove the spirit of sickness from her body…’ His voice sounded shaky, far different from the baritone voice I always associated with him. He sounded humbled, sad, almost broken; I could swear I heard a sniffle but I could not be sure. My decision to keep my secret dithered. I was still trying to find my voice when he started saying the Lord’s Prayer. I shut my eyes before he looked up and pretended to be asleep. I knew he would have seen the struggle in my eyes if he had looked into them. Dada walked in some minutes later. I forced myself to sleep while their voices droned out the enveloping feeling of guilt I felt.
The second time, we were talking. Dada was in the room of course, typing away at his computer. Father entered, I saw his face and the pain my suffering was causing him before he hid it with a gutsy smile he reserved just for me. I opened my mouth to say something, blurt out the truth maybe, but I choked on my voice. Dada saw the look on my face and must have guessed what I was about to do. He stood up in one quick motion and told my father that the doctor was asking to see him. The moment of weakness passed and I was left feeling another form of guilt, for almost betraying my husband. Dada did not mention my almost betrayal, he left my conscience to deal with me, yet he was still loving and attentive as usual.