Debbie hurried up the stairs to her bedroom. She wouldn’t want to have to explain where she had been again if she got caught. Gosh! The rain had almost ruined her efforts, especially with all the heavy traffic that followed. How would she had explained it? What lie would she had given to cover up where she had been? She queried herself. Anyway, thank God she got back an hour early. Probably luck was on her side this time but she could only hope that this new found luck wouldn’t run out on her. Quickly, she changed her clothes and headed to the kitchen. Composing herself, she thought on what to make for dinner. The thought that she couldn’t think of the right meal got her shivering with fear. She had to think of something, anything right if she didn’t want to get puddle today again. A meal of Ogbono soup and pounded yam came to mind and she set to work. Just as she was about to set the pot of water for the yam, the gas cylinder ran out. Debbie cried out in frustration. Damn! Her husband would be home at any minute and if the meal wasn’t ready by the time he got back, she was finished. She paced up and down the kitchen thinking of what to do. Then a quick thought crossed her mind, her neighbors…yea her neighbors. Without hesitation, she raced up her neighbor’s house, Mrs Osabor.
“Please ma, I’m sorry for bothering you, can I borrow your gas cylinder, please? I’ll return it as soon as I’m through”, Debbie stammered after catching up to the woman in the compound.
“Oh! Why? What happened to yours?” Mrs Osabor asked genuinely surprised at the request. She had known the Ogbemudias for a while now and they were the kind of neighbors that kept only to themselves. Recently, the regular quarrels and constant yelling from their house mostly at night had given her nothing but sleepless nights. They got her ears tingling each time in irritation. “What was it with this people? She had often wondered.
“Ehem. Ehem…my own just got finished and my husband will be back any minute, so…I” Debbie stammered on, her eyes dropping to the floor in deep contemplation on what next to do. “If this creeping old woman doesn’t help me out, who will?” She was a dead meat if she didn’t figure it out…soon.
“Oh! Ok…well, no problem. I will get you the cylinder. You are lucky I just finished cooking myself” Mrs Osabor replied as she walked into the house with eyes rolling. Debbie heaved a sigh of relief only to hear her husband’s car pull up the drive way. She froze. She felt herself break out in perspiration as her heart began to race fast. “This is bad, this is bad” she muttered in panic as she tried effortlessly to still herself. She called out to Mrs Osabor to hurry. As soon as Mrs Osabor returned with the small cylinder, Debbie snatched it off her hands and muttered a quick thank you from shaking lips and then dashed off to her house, disappearing through the back door.
Ernest dropped his suitcase on the cushion and walked round the house like a social service worker on inspection. Something was amiss but he was too exhausted and hungry to figure out what it was, probably also because the aroma escaping from his wife’s kitchen was tormenting the rattling muscles of his belly. He called out to Debbie. No response. He walked into the kitchen in annoyance only to find her walking in with heavy strides towards him from the back door.
“Where were you? He demanded eyes red like fire.
“Honey, welcome back” Debbie answered shifting towards the sink in an effort to evade the rage she could feel radiating from him.
“Come, I asked you a question.” He implored moving towards her.
“I… I went to the neighbors to get a cylinder. Ours got finished” Debbie stammered in anguish trying to avoid his stares that were shooting at her in contempt.
“Wait, you mean you went to the neighbors to borrow a cylinder to cook for me?” He asked in disbelief, totally bewildered by the thought.
“Honey, I didn’t know what else to do. You were going to be home at any minute and I knew how hungry you were going to be when you get back so I…” Debbie explained blubberingly only to be promptly interrupted by a hot slap on her face.
“Are you mad?” Ernest yelled “What do you mean by you didn’t know what else to do? didn’t I leave you in this house all morning? What the hell were you doing all that time that you couldn’t fill the gas cylinder before dinner time?”
Debbie said nothing as she held her face, desperately trying to hold back the tears that were about to escape from their bags.
“Didn’t I just ask you a question? So all you do in this house is eat my food and swell up like a toad abi?” Ernest lashed out “look, if you know what is good for you, go and return whatever rubbish you borrowed from our neighbors and find a way to fill that cylinder. If by thirty minutes my food isn’t ready, you will know the kind of person I am…Nonsense!” Ernest stomped out of the kitchen and raced up the stairs in fury. He was bubbling in anger and couldn’t quite understand why Debbie had become so lazy. Every day, he had to come home only to find her lazying about like a balloon lost somewhere in the sky. The sight of her irritated him and he didn’t know why. Probably it was because she had become so fat and shapeless. “No, that’s not it” Ernest thought as he removed his clothes and sat on the bed. “Then what was it?”Is it the sex?
The frame that held the picture of both of them on their wedding day grinning from ear to ear caught his attention. He picked it up and stared hard at it, considering how strange and unfamiliar the people in the picture were to him. Although some memories he thought were dead came breezing back like the unexpected rain that day, he tried to fight them back. He had loved Debbie the first time he had met her and maybe he still did, then why does he hit her at any slight provocation? Why does the sight of her irritate him? Ernest scoffed as he searched within himself for an explanation but all he found was nothing, nothing that held no comfort to him. He cupped his face in despair as the tears began to roll off his cheeks….
…to be continued
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