Abike saw them as soon as she walked into her house; the hefty, black travel bag and the holdall that often held her husband’s cameras and PlayStation. Yes, his eyes had finally opened, he was leaving her.
They had only been married nine months. They were happy. Apart from the recent nights, he had chosen to stay on the sofa. “You need the whole bed so you can stretch”, he would say in the morning.
It was obvious with the untidiness of the lounge. Her cushions and winter blankets were on the floor. Their white wedding album sat on top of the table with used teacups. Marvin had promised to tidy up as they walked to her car this morning. His kiss lingered and Abike had to ask him twice before he passed her, the lunch bag, he’d packed her sandwiches and homemade juice drinks in.
It was shortly after assigning tills at work that nausea gripped her like a stubborn ailment and held on until the queasiness started to unsettle her stomach. Greg, the store’s manager had advised her to take the day as paid leave. Driving home after the rush hour meant it took half the time to get back home.
Marvin walked out of their bedroom holding what Abike recognised immediately as his passport. She couldn’t open her mouth because something seemed to have taken hold of it. He noticed her straight away. It was his turn to have no words to say. His mouth simply hung wide open.
“Are you leaving me?” Abike took short, gentle steps towards her husband.
“What?” Marvin put the passport in his jeans pocket. “Why are you back home this early honey?”
“Greg sent me home.”
“You look peaky. Are you ill?”
“Not as ill as you are going to be if you keep ignoring my question.”
“Oh, that…” He pointed at the bags where they were sitting on the rug; bunched together like young siblings. “I put things that we don’t need anymore in there for the new charity shop on Bond Street. Why the hell would you think I’m leaving you?” His irritation was clearly expressed in his tone.
“Your passport is in your pocket…”
“I need to pick up my cameras from the pawnbrokers.” He put a sweaty hand in hers. “Chill, I’m not running away.”
His speech was hurried and his eyes shifty. She knew him too well. Something was wrong.
Their eyes locked for a long tense moment. He seemed determined not to be the first one to back down.
Why would he leave her? Perhaps, because fighting for the attention of a woman who already had two teenage children became too much. Perhaps, because he deserved better: someone with that youthful spring to their step, which Abike just couldn’t get back after two children. There were good days when her dark skin glowed with radiance. There were days when her thirteen year old daughter’s tallness made her feel old and short.
She had retained her looks for a while, at least whilst Saheed, her first husband, was still alive. It wasn’t until months after his death that she looked in the mirror and noticed he’d taken her youthfulness with him.
“I love you.” Marvin put his hands on either side of her shoulders. “You know… I love Folu and Leke like they are mine. Please stop finding faults where there is none.”
She wanted to smile. To offer some sort of apology. Her words stayed in her mouth with the heaviness that tied them down.
His hazel-brown eyes held hers with familiar warmth but she couldn’t ignore the sweat that had coloured the neck of his tee-shirt dark grey. She spotted him glancing at the wall clock as he bent to plant a kiss on her forehead.
“I felt queasy. Greg asked me to take the day off.”
“You have belly ache. Yeah, you need to rest.” Marvin said, without looking at her. He had taken out his iPhone and his eyes were glued to the screen.
Abike couldn’t see the screen because he held the phone at an angle close to his face. Having not experienced betrayal with her first husband, she wondered if this was how her friends said it all started: the secret messaging, sleeping on the sofa, the shifty looks and practising bag packing.
What the hell did he have in the bags?
“Let me run you a bath.” He said, pocketing his phone. “It will make your sore belly better.” He grinned and walked away.
She sighed. Mosun had causally hinted in the past that she’d bagged herself trouble with a capital T. When prompted, Mosun said it was all in his good looks. In that oval face of his that could rival that of most women, in the beautiful hazel-brown eyes and the unruly curly hair. “But, I have not been looking at him like that, Abike temi nikan.” Mosun would quip and then explain that her friend’s competition were really the young girls out there with their barely-there shorts and Brazilian hair.
Abike sank to her knees and put her own bag down before pulling the black travel bag closer and unzipping it.
The only items in the bag were his: clothes, a pair of trainers, DVDs, books and the iPad his mother gave him last Christmas. A lone photo of the four of them huddled together like one big happy family was wrapped in a jumper.
She was still sifting through his things when he walked back into the room.
Without bothering to put zip up the bag, she rose.
“I have to go honey.” His voice was soft. It didn’t rise from the deepest part of his throat as it usually did. “You didn’t do anything wrong but I’m leaving…”
“I didn’t do anything wrong?”
“I have to leave London for a while.”
“What do you mean you have to leave London for a while? Darling, we are married.”
“And you will be fine, honey.”
“I’m five months’ pregnant with your child.”
She had to scream her words at him because his eyes had settled on the bags again. It was as if whoever he wanted to leave her for was more important than the life they decided they were going to build together on their 12th date.
“I really have to go. I will call you. I promise.” His eyes were on the clock now. Sweat latched onto almost every pore of his face. His right hand fiddled with his phone impatiently.
“Mosun warned me. She said the age difference would always be a problem…”
He picked up the black travel bag after zipping it up. She spotted irritation darken his eyes.
“Abike, honey, you are 13 months older than me but I swear it is a non-issue. I love you…”
His palm moved close. Abike slapped the palm away before it could get any closer.
“Abi, were ni man yi ke.” Did he really think he could do this to her and still profess love?
“Sorry, he muttered as he started marching towards the door.
“Is it because we hardly have any extra money?” Abike yelled, because she didn’t know what else to ask. Their finances had caused issues from the beginning. He had a part time job when they met, one that went with the several clearouts in the banking world after the recession.
With only her wage coming in every month, cutting and saving still didn’t make it stretch as far. This cutting and saving affected them. It caused the only row they had ever had.
Marvin did not turn round.
“You can’t leave because we are struggling.” She walked over to him and wrapped her arms round him from the back. “You can leave if you don’t want to be with me anymore.”
He exhaled loudly and planted his palms over hers on his stomach. “I love you.”
“Don’t go, then. Please stay. You know I can’t explain this to Foluke and Leke. It will break them.”
He turned round slowly until his face was a mere inches away from hers. “I have messed up.”
A sound escaped his throat. It worried her.
“Why don’t we sit down and then we can talk about it. I’m sure we can…”
He scratched his head and then rubbed his face with his free palm. He was silent. His body language wasn’t.
“We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, darling.” Abike caressed the exposed part of his arm, masking her anxiousness which had now peaked past the level safe for a pregnant woman.
A knock on the door interrupted them.
Abike had decided to ignore the knocks until she noticed the colour on her husband’s face.
“Don’t open the door.” Marvin yelled.
She undid the latch at a speed she was unaccustomed to. Her heart was beating at a rate that it too was not used to. She knew she was about to come face to face with the woman that had clearly taken over her man.
When the door finally opened, instead of the younger woman she’d anticipated, there was a team of uniformed police men. Abike knew the plain clothed older man with them was with the team. He waved his badge in her face.
“We are here for Marvin Hayes.”
Abike turned round to find her husband running towards the kitchen. Two of the police men rushed in and grabbed him. The plain clothed police man moved in and produced handcuffs which he clamped around Marvin’s wrists.
“Mr Hayes, we are arresting you on suspicion of grooming and the sexual assault of a child. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law…”
Thanks for reading. Your comments are appreciated. Kindly follow on Twitter @olajumokeomiso1. Let me know what you think of the new series. Thank you.