Andrew was standing between her and her front door. He had stopped walking towards her. But the look on his face wasn’t the friendly one that she’d come to expect from the Portuguese man.
Sade knew she needed to stay calm. But inside, her heart was doing somersaults. It didn’t help that the pain ravaging her back had started to spread to her inner thighs.
“I know you love Niyi,” she started, supporting her baby-bump with one hand. “He cares about you…”
“Liar,” Andrew screamed. “He used me.”
“He is your friend.”
“He knew I liked him. I didn’t tell him but he knew. I helped him in Lisbon, amado. I moved my business here for him…”
“Why didn’t you tell him you…like him?” Sade moved closer to the wall as a prickly twinge drove through her. She needed to sit or squat, whatever it would take to ease her aches but she knew it was better to get him out first.
“We would have bonded eventually if you hadn’t trapped him by getting pregnant. I was trying to get us closer. Why do you think I sent all those text messages?”
“You were the one sending those messages?”
“I wanted us to get closer,” he rapped his knuckles on the wall. “I know how his mind works. I knew if I got him stressed out, he would start drinking again. In his partying mood, anything is possible…”
“He doesn’t see you like that…”
“…because of you.”
“He loves me Andrew. I’m sorry to tell you this but he doesn’t like you, like you want him to. He and I are going to work things out.”
He grinned. His grin was wild but it failed to settle in his hazel eyes.
“He is only coming round because of his baby.” He said, grabbing her left wrist. “Deep down, you know the truth. Niyi will do anything to be close to his child because the relationship with his own father was rubbish.”
“Maybe, you are right. But I’m tired…I need to rest.” Sade said, raising her voice on purpose. She hoped her timing was right. The Irish woman at flat 4 would come home for her lunch break around midday. Her work as a librarian was a mere ten minutes walk from the building. Sade didn’t have a watch on her. The last time she checked the time was whilst on the phone to Niyi. The screen had read 11.37.
She tried to pull her wrist out of his clammy palm. “You know, there is no winner here. I’m pregnant and single.”
“He is always with you when he is around, amago” he held her wrist tighter, spraying spit as he spoke.”
Her phone started to vibrate against the glass of the centre table. He turned his head towards the sound.
“It is probably Niyi checking up on me. I have to text him Andrew or else he will start to worry.”
Andrew aimed his middle finger at her face. “Don’t you dare move!”
As soon as he stepped into the lounge, she reached for the door knob and turned it. The door didn’t budge. In her haste, she’d forgotten to pull down the lock’s snib.
She reached for it quickly, fighting the fear that weighed down her hands. His footsteps were closing in on her. They thumped louder with each step. Each one as loud as her heartbeat.
She screamed when his hands grabbed her. Her palm closed round her key ring as the door-key came out of the keyhole. She could feel him yanking at her hair.
Sade screamed. Her legs were giving up on her.
Andrew moved out of the way as her body lurched backwards.The shock of the fall sent her body into another contraction that tore another scream from her mouth. A wave of nausea hit her as her nails dug viciously into her palms.
“What is wrong with you?”
Sade couldn’t see exactly where he was. Her senses had stopped working to cope with the rush of discomfort that was attacking her core. She crouched towards the radiator and closed her right palm tighter around her key ring. Drawing blood from another part of her body would at least distract her from this almighty gush of torture.
She felt a warmness in her palm as the key ring shrilled alive. The sound coming from the key ring was as loud as her neighbour’s over-active smoke alarm. It startled them both.
“What the hell is that?” He asked as he scampered to her side.
It’s a rape alarm. Sade remembered now. Niyi had slotted her keys on the ring of the small black device two weeks ago when he drove down from London in the evening. She had been at work when he called her because the nurse on the late shift had taken ill. Niyi had driven round to pick her up from Park Lee Health Centre, preaching about the dangers of late night lone travelling.
She was asleep that evening when he woke her up to explain what her new key ring was.
“Why would any man try to attack a heavily pregnant woman like me?” She had asked. How could she have thought this day would come?
Andrew snatched the key ring device from her and smashed it to smithereens with his shoe.
If her neighbour had come home, she would have heard the rape alarm. But as Andrew helped her into the lounge and she saw it was only a few minutes past midday, her face fell.
What if her neighbour hadn’t arrived home yet? What if she’d decided to stay at work today?
It didn’t matter the positions she tried on the sofa, none felt comfortable.
“I’m in labour,” she said as soon as what felt like wetness trickled down her legs.
Her phone had vibrated and beeped again. Andrew was now pacing the room. He had taken off his jacket. He no longer bore any resemblance to the man Niyi introduced as a friend, many months back. She tried to breathe through her pain.
“You can go. All I need is my phone. I won’t say anything about you…I promise.” Tears she hadn’t felt leave her eyes ran down her face.
Something was wrong with the baby. She could feel it.
It took a while before he walked over to her. “You can have the baby here. I’m not letting you go yet. What if someone heard that fucking alarm?”
“I’m not full term. I have to go to the hospital…” She gripped the cushion hard as words she didn’t recognise left her mouth. It sounded half gibberish, half Yoruba. Pushed out by another contraction.
“Wake up. Don’t sleep.”
Sade opened her eyes to find Andrew peering down at her. Did she fall asleep or pass out?
The cushion was wet with sweat. It didn’t worry her as much as the dampness on the sofa.
Andrew seemed extremely agitated. Someone was at the door, knocking.
“My neighbour. Tell her I’m fine.”
Shortly after, she heard Andrew at the door. A strange man’s voice accompanied his. She stifled her sigh when she heard the strange voice say something about Seventh Day Adventist.
She had started to feel weak.
As sleep started to close in, she heard another voice at the door. “Police,” the voice said. What sounded like a scuffle followed. Sade tried to stay awake but her body couldn’t fight her tiredness.
Her rescue came too late.
Niyi could barely see as the nurse led him, his brother and Kay to the family room at the hospital. Why did he need to speak to a police man? Wasn’t it too late to be seeking protection?
He had lost her. The one good thing he ever had. The woman that gave him more than he ever deserved.
Would his son ever forgive him?
A plain clothed police man was waiting in the family room.
“I’m Detective Sergeant Mark Phillips. We spoke on the phone.” The man held out his hand.
Niyi didn’t shake the man’s hand. Femi took the hand.
“This is my brother and my friend, Kay.” Niyi looked away from the officer. “Kay was the one that found out that Andrew paid my patients to put a complaint through to the medical council about me.”
Femi did not let go of the detective’s hand. “I came down to London when Kay called me. I was already suspicious because two days ago, I found a stash of old phones and sim cards in Andrew’s kitchen…”
“I hate to be rude but I haven’t seen my girlfriend yet.” Niyi interrupted his brother, his eyes on the detective’s face.
“First room on the right,” the man said.
Niyi exhaled. Thank God.
“You can come down to the station later to give your statement.”
Niyi left his friend and brother in the room with the detective and walked towards the ward. He scanned the sea of Caucasian mothers on the ward before pushing the door of the private room on the right open.
The sight of her looking unwell, instead of overjoyed like the new mothers outside, increased his anger with himself by three folds. Although, her eyes were closed, nothing about the way her body was positioned told him the birth had been normal. Her eyelids were swollen as if she’d cried for hours.
The small baby cot on her right had a prefect sized baby in it. The tot was dressed in a white babygro. His mouth opened when Niyi moved closer to the cot.
The baby couldn’t possibly be his. He seemed too perfect – too healthy to be his. Still, Niyi picked him up, taking care to wrap his white shawl round him. The boy touched his chest with a mitten-clothed palm, bringing him to near tears.
How could something this beautiful belong to him after the many mistakes he’d made?
His jaw didn’t hit the floor when Kay and Femi told him Andrew was trying to finish him. His face had stayed blank. How could the brother and friend that carried out his manly duties whilst he was still alive, claim that the one friend that fought through storms with him, wanted to ruin him?
“I don’t have time for this,” he had said in London, walking away from the two until rage made him turn back. He’d faced Femi, ready to punch him. “If you had any suspicions at all, why didn’t you come to me? Why come to the man that slept with my fiancée?”
Kay moved in-between them. “Niyi, I saw Mr Worsley last week. Remember your patients…the Worsleys?”
Niyi had nodded. How could any doctor forget Mr Worsley and his eight large daughters? They were at his office, more than he was. Each dawn brought new ailments.
“Mr Worsley told me when I confronted him that a Portuguese man paid him ten grand to report you to the medical council.”
Niyi had gotten his phone out to ring Andrew. That was when he saw it. A text message from his friend.
Your dopey brother told me you came to town again last weekend. You didn’t come round. I guess you were with her. So, I’m drinking and wondering what she’s got that’s so special. I think Imma go ask her.
That was when it sank in. He had stepped into hell with his eyes wide open. He rang Sade immediately but her voice refused to come on the phone. He had slammed his fist into wintry air, worried beyond words.
Femi did the only wise thing he had ever done in his life and called the police. The drive from London to Lancashire had proven to be an exhausting one that sent him into sporadic prayers and unintelligible rants whilst Femi kept talking to the police.
Staring at his son now, he wondered if he hadn’t severed his relationship with the boy’s mother.
A voice, hoarse and almost unrecognisable dragged him back.
Sade had woken up. The whites of her eyes were mostly red. He walked towards her, mumbling his apologies.
When he got on the bed next to her, holding the baby in the crook of his right arm, she collapsed on his chest, crying tears that didn’t hum like happy ones.
Sade woke up in Niyi’s guest room for the second time that day. Her phone’s ring tone had woken her but instead of picking it up, she concentrated on waking completely. She knew it was Niyi, calling to tell her to be all dressed and ready for this evening. Mama had given her the message earlier after she fed Toyosi in the sitting room.
“He wants to take you somewhere, my daughter.” Mama had said with a wide smile that spread round her face. “Please, wear that dress that holds you in o.” Mama’s face bore new hope that Sade didn’t want to crush. It felt good to have Mama smiling her broad smile again.
It was different from when she arrived last week and she woke her in the middle of the night to ask her why she wanted to be a single mother when Niyi’s hands and legs worked perfectly fine.
“Abi, what is the problem?” Mama had asked in tears. “Is he saying you are too chubby for him? You know, some men don’t like when the chest and thighs are too big.”
Sade had felt the need to tell Mama, her son definitely had no issues with her breasts or thighs when they were dating. That talk was embarrassing. But the look on Niyi’s face when she got up early the following morning to cook him breakfast compensated for the awkward chat with his mother.
Sade and the baby had ended up in London the same day the hospital discharged her two weeks ago. Staying in her flat was torture. Andrew, although now locked up— awaiting his court appearance— appeared in every room she walked into. Although, the police had assured her that Andrew’s visa would be withdrawn as soon as he had served his term, this didn’t help. That same evening, Niyi packed some things for her and the boy they named, Toyosi and drove them south to his home in Grays.
Sade opened the text message from Peju. The latter had messaged her the same thing Femi called this morning to tell her. Clara had been arrested by Immigration officers. Femi had gone on to explain Clara’s colleague called him to inform him. She believed it was their boss that called the officers in. The same woman, whose husband Clara bedded for six weeks. The same woman who would have had access into her personal file.
Sade knew she looked fabulous in her short dress and pink stilettos. So, why did Niyi park the car in front of a semi-detached house instead of the cosy restaurant her mind told her to expect?
Niyi turned to her. He chose his words carefully. Each one as precise as her pointed heels.
“You agreed to move to London. This house is close enough to my office and…”
“I didn’t say a definite yes.”
Niyi took off his seat belt and reached for her hand. “Come see the house. See if you like it. Let us try to be co-parents in the same city. Sade?”
“I can’t pay for it on my salary alone, even if I manage to get a job here. I know you will say you will shoulder everything but…” She gazed out of the car, into the streets and at the trimmed gardens that met each other on the side like shared walls.
“What will happen when you find a new woman? I don’t want to be at your mercy.”
“My new woman wants me to do the right thing by my son.”
She looked out and surveyed the houses and the way the one that had the for-sale sign, in front of it, fitted amongst the rest.
Perfectly, she decided.
So, why couldn’t the three of them fit as one single family?
The new woman news did not shock her. Getting the news two weeks after staring death in the face to give him a child was what surprised her.
“How many rooms?” She turned to him, baring a smile as fake as the Gucci bag Clara bought her two years ago.
“Why three?” The smile disappeared as easily as it came. “Oh, you’ve arranged the spare room for yourself. No Akinniyi! You are not going to be sleeping over. I’m not some silly young baby mama. I don’t care how late it is running when you come to see your son, you have to leave…”
“I will sleep in the master bedroom, honey.”
“Just because you made me a mother doesn’t mean…”
He needed something to shut her up. The only thing that came to his mind was to move closer and kiss her. To his surprise, she didn’t pull away. He tasted her as if they had never kissed before, his hands pulling her closer.
The kiss would not have ended if a car hadn’t pulled up behind them. Niyi pulled away as the estate agent got out of her car and started walking towards the house. He smoothed his tie with his hand.
“You want us back together?”
“If you would be kind enough to give this fool another chance?”
“You will have to work extra hard, Baba Toyosi.”
That was what Mama had started to call him, his protests going in one ear and leaving through the other.
“Will you?” She had a naughty gleam in her brown eyes that thrilled him.
“Let us hurry up with this house viewing thing, lover. I’m sure Mama wouldn’t mind if I took you upstairs as soon as we get home. I have a lot of making up to do.”