Desola stirred awake. His hand was on her shoulder, reminding her of the bliss the same hand had led her to, all through the night. Sunbeams had filtered in through the window’s magnolia blinds.
“Desola, wake up darling. You need to get dressed and go home. I need to get ready for church. My children are meeting me there.”
The frostiness in his voice snapped her eyes wide open. Sleep left her completely. She turned round to face him slowly, holding on to the sheet covering her body with both hands. She noticed, he had his pyjamas on.
He was sat on the edge of the bed- infront of the bedside table, which had on it, a gold framed picture of him and Eniola. He glanced at his wristwatch twice before Desola managed to force something out of her mouth.
“Do you want me to make you something to eat……Rotimi?” She asked tentatively and immediately, wished she hadn’t. The look he gave her was worse than a slap on the face.
“Don’t call me Rotimi,” he snapped.
She wanted to scream at him. Last night and through the early hours of the morning, as his roving hands touched her, he encouraged her to be intimate with him. To let them belong together. When she called him by his name in the throes of passion, he didn’t seem to mind then.
He turned to face her, his face raw with agony. “Sorry, my wife used to call me Rotimi. That’s all. I will wait downstairs while you get ready.”
He rose from the bed and started to walk towards the door. She planted a smile on her face to stop herself from revealing how wretched his words and actions were making her feel.
“You are walking away as if you regret what happened last night.”
He turned around to face her. “Regret is an understatement.” He continued when he noticed her wounded eyes on him. “Come on Desola, what do you expect me to say? We both know last night meant……something. But still, it should never have happened. I am still grieving for my wife and am definitely not ready to start anything with anyone yet. I doubt I will ever be ready. All I can focus on right now are my children. Besides, you know….. I don’t subscribe to sex outside of marriage. I am sorry….sweetheart, Please don’t hate me.”
Richard’s last statement, he knew, was not because he could remember what her body felt like. The reason he had been unable to stop himself from plunging into her. The reason, when he discovered he was her first- and he realised she loved him more than he wanted- it was simply too late to stop. He couldn’t have anyway. Despite her shyness and inexperience, her hands remained on his body, each touch stirring him until he exploded between her legs. Afterwards, he had apologised for taking her selfishly and expected her to go all cold on him. But to his surprise, her hands started to work on him, rousing him again, so that; they spent the best part of the night awake. Eventually, falling asleep together around three, with their limbs entwined.
He had awoken at daybreak, a contented man. Then, he saw the photo he and his wife took- cosying up to each other- at the church’s fifth anniversary on the bedside table. He could have sworn he saw a hint of sadness in her eyes. The regrets had poured in then. How could he have moved on quickly? Had he not promised never to put himself in a position to fall in love again? Love would complicate things. Marriage on the other hand, he was sure one day he would consider. After all, the girls would need a woman round the house to teach them feminine things. Things he didn’t understand. Hair and girls’ clothe were too complicated for his liking. He would need a partner to help him with the church and the restaurant. It would be almost impossible to keep his reputation as a decent Pastor in the church if he didn’t remarry. Lanre had told him that the church committee were bound to vote for him to be Our Angels’ Pastor if he found a respectable woman in the church and brought the lady to the committee as his intended. Lanre’s comment then he considered ridiculous. It was certainly too early to think of anyone replacing his late wife.
One thing he was certain of- as he focused on her beautiful young face- she had become a constant feature in his children’s life. She had formed a secure attachment with his daughters. He hoped putting his needs before his children’s would not affect their special bond with her.
He walked towards the bed.“We need you. The twins need you. Please don’t hate me.”
Desola begged her eyes not to let her down as she met his gaze. Her throat felt choked but she forced it to voice something.
“How can I hate you? Even the resident mouse at the church loves you.”
“I don’t deserve you.” Richard told her before leaving the room to let her get dressed.
And in the coming months, he found himself repeating that to himself, because she still treated his children with the same amiable hands. She still spent Sunday afternoons plaiting their long curls and Friday afternoons doing the food shopping with the twins after picking them up from school. He watched Desola laugh with his daughters as if nothing had happened between them.
She said yes even when he asked her to start looking after the twins in his house. When he got the full votes of the church committee and got told he was to become the Senior Pastor, she was the first to congratulate him.
His mother started working at the restaurant so that his father’s role was covered. He had hoped that when his mother came back into the country, she would opt to be with her grandchildren instead of taking his father’s old job. He wanted her to move in with them. Her refusal was vehement. When he told his children, it was time they returned to their registered childminder, their refusal too was similar to what he got from his mother.
“No daddy, we don’t want to go back to Carol. We like Aunty Desola.” Kenny moaned.
“But Carol drives and she can pick you up from the school in her car. Don’t tell me you prefer walking with Desola especially with our unpredictable British weather.” Richard tried to play clever.
“She buys us ice cream from the van and sometimes she takes us to McDonalds.” Kenny said.
“If we tell her we are tired, she carries us one at a time…one at a time till we get home.” Taye said flapping her hands like a duckling.
“She is spoiling you.” Richard muttered under his breath. Wondering what was worse, his daughters’ hero worshiping of Desola or his son’s crush on her. He had caught his son’s eyes on Desola’s backside so many times, that he didn’t feel like exploding anymore he came back from work to catch Junior ogling her backside with his eyes instead of studying.
Desola noticed when Richard pulled away from her. It was the morning after she let him take her to his bed. The passing months were doing nothing to thaw her anger with herself. She knew she should have let him chase her a bit, but her heart simply offered her no option. He made her feel worse when he forced two hundred pounds into her palm one evening, as she got ready to leave.
“I am not comfortable that you are looking after my children for free. Here is a token. I will work something out for next month.” Her refusal met with cold stiffness, so that in the end she put the money in her purse and thanked him.
She noticed that he remained standing, in his work clothe every evening- when he returned from work or the restaurant – as if waiting for her to leave. Soon, she started gathering her things as soon as she had given the girls their night time bathe, so that when he returned she could disappear into the night. She also noticed the many evenings, he came home late.
She received a phone call on a cold Monday morning in December. It was a distraught Fausat, her half-sister on the phone. On Sunday night, she had given birth to a stillborn baby.To cap the awful week, on Friday morning, Desola received a fail for one of her essays. It was an essay that she found herself unable to concentrate on when Taye was ill. Twice that week, when she was researching resources for the essay and formatting her argument, she had received a call from the school reception to pick up Taye early from school. And then the day of submission, she arrived after the deadline, because she had needed to drop the children off at school, before heading to the university. The submitted papers had already being collected.
On Friday evening, she left Richard’s house, physically and mentally drained after handing over the twins to a somewhat different Richard.
“Come to the restaurant tomorrow if you can Desola. I need to speak with you. Oro wa.” He told her as she headed out.
She was left wondering on her way home why he hadn’t said whatever it was. Junior was at the bowling alley with his friends. The twins were asleep on the sofa. She found herself looking forward to Saturday, hoping for more than just words. It was to be their first time on their own, without the children, since that awful morning.
At home, Agnes was with Grace in the flat. Desola went into the kitchen to get some water. That was when she heard Agnes’ childlike voice.
“Please Sister Grace, let me tell her myself. I have told him I can’t keep this to myself.”
Desola turned round, wondering what gossip Agnes had scrambled upon by accident again.
“You look tired my dear. Why don’t you go to bed?” Grace voiced, her face void of her trademark smile.
Agnes leapt up, carrying her scrawny body, quicker than a frog would. A smile stretched the thin skin of her gaudily dark face.
“Sister Desola, you have to thank God for me. Pastor Richard has told me I am God’s choice for him. I am going to be his wife.”