Lola had caught me and now I could lie no more.
So looking desperately at my not-so-facially-pretty but tall, curvaceous wife I said in a pleading voice. “It’s not what you think, Lola. It wasn’t like that at all, I was just being neighbourly.”
I had been honest when I told the Detective that women didn’t like their husbands relating with other women… every wise married man knew that. And Lola eyeing me suspiciously now was proof to that theory.
“I saw you talking to her yesterday and you just lied about it to a Police Officer and yet you say, you were just being neighbourly?” She looked at me like I was Satan, the father of all lies.
Needing to make sure we don’t raise our voices and attract unnecessary attention, I walked to where she was standing and taking her arm, dragged her to the sofa. We both sat down.
“Stop looking at me like that.” I growled in a low voice.
“Why won’t I look at you like that?” Lola demanded her voice low too. “When you are obviously hiding something.”
“I’m not hiding anything.” I snapped. “I only lied to the Detective because you know how they get when they consider you a suspect.”
“So are you a suspect?”
Somehow I knew that question had more to do with the supposed missing Christabel.
“Fine. You want to know what went on between Christabel and I yesterday,” I glowered flinging my hands up in exasperation, “I’ll tell you.”
I was strolling into the yard – bone-tired, not so much from office work load – there wasn’t much of that when you are working in a government ministry. My tiredness was due to the usual Lagos traffic merged with the headache-giving danfo-drivers vs. conductors wahala.
So I was making way slowly towards our apartment, twisting my neck in a bid to release some of the tension when a low husky voice stopped me.
“Hey… Mr. Elvis?”
I turned around and my eyes widened as they fell on Christabel, looking breathtakingly lovely like a runway model in her way-above-the-knee beige shorts and peach tank top.
She was smiling charmingly at me. “Good evening Mr. Elvis, are you just getting back from work?”
All my earlier tiredness vanished, chased away by the sight of the fair, glowing beauty in front of me. “Yes o.” I beamed. “You know Lagos traffic now.”
“It is terrible. Which is why I decided to take a break from work today and just relax.” She said ‘relax’ like it was a seductive term.
The sound of it tickled my ears and did other unspeakable things to my body.
“Lucky you.” I smiled though not quite sure what she did for a living. “Well, I have to get inside and begin my own relaxation.” I said trying to remember that I was a married man.
“Oh please can you spare me a few minutes of your time, Mr. Elvis?” Christabel stretched out her hand to stop me.
The light touch on the sleeve of my lavender-coloured shirt felt like she’d just touched my bare skin. Those unspeakable things were now crawling their way down my spine.
“Ah… yes of course.” I stammered out. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s just my table-top gas cooker, one side of the burner pulled off and I can’t get it fixed. Nuts and screws really confuse me.” She fluttered her lashes at me.
I was lost. “Ah, no problem. I can help you fix it.” Nodding my head like a self-satisfied agama lizard.
Christabel smiled so brightly it was like the sun was coming up in the sky at almost six-thirty p.m. “Thank you… Elvis.” She beamed.
The Mister has gone out of my name and her voice had gone huskier, but I didn’t care. I just followed her as we made our way towards her apartment like a poppet pulled by a string.
Whatever the job Christabel was doing, she must be doing very well. Her sitting room was better furnished than my own with light-brown leather seats and a TV set twice the size of my own, hanging on the wall.
Her kitchen was better equipped too.
I manfully turned over the gas cooker and expertly got to work.
It barely took five minutes and I was done. I turned on the gas to prove to the glowing Christabel that all was now well.
She clapped her hands in delight. “Oh Elvis that was so brilliant.” She beamed at me.
I grinned like a proud engineer. “Oh it was really nothing.” I said.
She flashed me a beguiling smile. “It was everything… to me.”
She drew closer to me. “Elvis…” her voice was a low, tantalizing whisper.
The warning bells every married man had screwed into his head the moment he says – ‘I do’, went off but I ignored it. I just stood there by the slab gazing at her with dazed eyes.
“What would I have done without you?” Christabel continued leaning towards me.
I made a movement with my mouth but no sound came out.
She smiled winsomely like I’d just whispered sweet nothing into her ears. She edged even closer, her eyes holding mine. I felt my heart begin to thud as I bent backwards. My mouth parted slightly as I waited for what I knew was coming.
The next second she sprang up like she’d just been doused with a bucket of cold water.
“Err… thank you for your help, Mr. Elvis.” Her smile was less sunny and not any more beguiling.
Lola was watching closely me as I ended my story, her eyes held a vague… something, I couldn’t really fathom. Of course I hadn’t told her about the unspeakable things I’d felt or the move Christabel made on me – I was a married man and still wanted to stay married.
“Okay, I guess I understand why you had to lie to the Detective.” She was saying now. “Let’s just hope that he doesn’t ever come back.”
She gave me one last hard-to-define look and got to her feet. “Would you like another beer?” She asked bending to pick up the beer bottle on the stool.
“Em… a glass of juice would be better I think.” I answered watching with somewhat worried eyes as she nodded and walked off.
Had she sensed I’d hidden some facts from her? Women were said to possess a kind of special intuition, did that also help them see when their husbands were lying to them?
I was puzzling over this when a sharp knock came at the door. My heart skipped. The knock sounded familiar and so was the clutching grip at the pit of my stomach. I slowly got to my feet, slowly walked to the door and very slowly pulled it open.
“Good day to you again, Mr. Tariah.” Detective Davies said promptly. “If you don’t mind I’d like to ask your wife a few questions about my missing Christabel.”
The sound of glass crashing against the tiled floor had both me and Detective Davies swinging our heads in the direction of the shattering, chilling sound.
Lola was standing just a few steps from the kitchen door, broken pieces of glass at her slippers-covered feet amid a yellowish-orange liquid, staring at us with eyes almost popping out of their sockets.