Niyi lowered her on the sofa. He reached for her hand to calm her down and she recoiled, giving him a look he’d seen in her eyes before. A very long time ago.
“I grabbed you to stop you,” he rubbed his face. The alcohol in his body had started to take effect. But it was seeing her recoil in fright that thrashed his spirit.
“You know me Sade. I would never hurt you. Please, tell me you know that.”
“Okay.” Sade said, not daring to move from the corner of the sofa she had wedged herself in. She wanted to say she didn’t know him. Not after the way he lost it in the kitchen. But her lips stayed sealed.
Years ago, you beat your father so badly, he needed hospital treatment. Then you made your brother lose his father because Mama chose you over her husband.
Those were the things she wanted to tell him. But her mouth refused to voice them. Her words were tied by fear this time. Fear of his wrath.
What sort of a fool would she be if she roused his anger again after escaping unhurt the first time? Peju would blame her. In fact, the whole world would blame her.
Niyi had started pacing the room. Twisting his neck back at times to look at her as if she had changed skin colour.
“I thought you knew me Sade. I love you. But it looks like you are as bad as people like Peju who think I’m a violent thug…”
“You are the reason she has never met her father-in-law…”
“I thought you’d gotten over your issues. That’s why I agreed to give us a chance. After seeing you like that in the kitchen, I wonder if the Niyi here is not the same one that put his father in hospital.”
He moved to the sofa and put his hands in hers. Tears had welled up in her brown eyes again.
“I would rather die than lay my hands on you. What I did all those years ago, I did it for…”
“For your family,” she spat. “I remember what your father did to you and Femi. Mostly Femi.”
The scar on his chest – the one his father gave him for telling Mama he had a mistress – looked more visible today. She wanted to yell at him but a stronger emotion tugged at her heart. She wanted to hold him and protect him too.
“I did it for you,” he announced.
“The day I lost it, I was so angry. It was as if someone else took over my body. It was the day after I saw him in your room.”
He let go of Sade’s hands even though her eyes were glaring at him. She looked as if she was about to faint.
“I had gotten up to cram for exams. Everyone else was asleep. I saw him in your bedroom.”
Niyi folded his arms across his bare chest. “Adesuwa was asleep on the floor and you were asleep on the bed, so when he leant towards the bed, I knew you were in trouble. I dropped my books by accident. He turned round, saw me and headed back to their bedroom.”
“Why didn’t you tell Mama what you saw? Or me? I could have protected myself. I had no idea…”
“I couldn’t tell Mama because when I told her what he was doing to Adesuwa, she started to make the poor girl’s life a misery. She treated her worse than a slave. I couldn’t let her start hating you too.”
“And in the morning, what made him slap you?”
“He told me to mind my business around his house. I turned around and he slapped me. You know what happened next.”
Yes. A punch had landed on his father’s face, sending him flying across the room. Femi, Sade and Mama were eating at the table. But if Femi hadn’t screamed, they wouldn’t have believed it had happened.
But Niyi hadn’t stopped there. He’d gone after the man as he crawled on all fours away from his son.
“Femi hasn’t forgiven me. He lost his father because of me but I didn’t think he would go after you to punish me.”
Sade got off the sofa. Her explanation wouldn’t cut it. Not anytime soon.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“I need to get changed. Is that okay with you sir?”
“Pack your things. You are not staying here anymore.” Niyi pointed at the room as if it was filthy. “I live in London anyway and my work is there, so I suggest you move in with me.”
Her face lit up. Not with happiness but the sort of smile that warms the face when confronted with insane ideas.
“You have issues at work. The GMC might suspend your license and you expect me to leave my work and move to London with you. Have you lost your mind?”
“No baby.” he jumped to his feet. “I haven’t lost it yet. But I will, if I have to watch you and Femi living in this small town. This is why, I think it is better for you to move to London with me. We can get married and be happy. In time, maybe I will let you come and see Peju for a day or two. Obviously, I will come with you.”
Sade stared at him. Her eyes stayed wide as he rambled on and on. She kept standing when he disappeared into the bedroom. And she was still standing when he came back from the bedroom dressed in a new pair of jeans with a white tee-shirt, holding a weekend bag.
“I will come back for everything else. Go on Sade. Get dressed and get a few things together.”
“Why can’t you just trust me? Why…” Her voice faltered.
“Because you slept with my idiot brother. I can’t trust you with that dog around. Now, go inside the bedroom.” Niyi shouted.
He shut his eyes for a few seconds when she didn’t move. “I’m sorry, I’m just angry. I will calm down soon.”
“Your father used to say that,” Sade whispered. “And right now, you look so much like him.”
Niyi gawked at her. Then as if given a new lease of life, straightened his length and headed straight for the door.