I heard the door bell, and immediately I sprang to my feet. The distance to the door was short, still, I walked in haste. I pulled the bolts with a smile. The surprised look he had, immediately he saw me, was unmistakable: Joshua our eldest son most times opened the door. I smiled again to welcome him in.
“Welcome, Lanre.” I greeted. Lanre’s response was short and low, and I barely heard a word. I helped him with the fancy nylon bag he held before I shut the door.
“Where are the kids?” he asked. Aside my presence at the door, Lanre likely had noticed the quiet and order in the house.
“I shipped them off to mama’s place for the weekend.” I said. ‘Shipped’, a word Lanre used most times when he spoke with his colleagues. Lanre looked intently at me for a little above two seconds, and I revelled in the moments. Though I was sure he had not recognised my beauty, nor the short blue dress I wore.
Lanre nodded before he started a walk to our room. My steps quickened towards the kitchen. I had prepared Lanre’s favourite meal and I was about to dish a generous portion of it. The nylon bag followed me to the kitchen. I had to preserve the ice-cream Lanre had bought for our kids.
I placed a bottle of wine on the dining table, just beside Lanre’s plate, before I walked to the room to call him to dinner. As I opened the door, I heard the splashy sound of water on a tile floor, and I realised that Lanre was in the bathroom.
I walked to the bathroom door, then I knocked. I would have turned the knob, but I knew it would be of no use. Though we have been married for exactly eleven years, Lanre still locked the door whenever he used the bathroom. “Dear, your food is ready.”
I did not wait for a response. I assumed one may not be coming.
I walked to the bed, picked up his clothes, then found a place for each of them in his wardrobe. Then I sat on our bed, waiting to escort Lanre to the dining table.
“How has your day been?” Lanre asked as he walked out of the bathroom.
“Fine.” I said. “And yours?”
“Its our eleventh year anniversary.”
Lanre’s response did not come as a surprise, still it dug a deeper hole in my heart. “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot.”
It surprised me when I raised my frame from the bed. “I’ll be in the kitchen,” I said. Truly, I had nothing to do there.
The tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat on a stool in the kitchen. Lanre, will I ever be loved by you? I thought.
I had given Lanre all a man could ever ask for, all to evoke his love for me: my heart; my innocence as a young girl; faithfulness as his wife; and I had been pregnant thrice, all boys. But Lanre had never come to love me. Even the moments of intimacy we had always seemed forced. Lanre would touch me like one with whom he could only have a moment of pleasure; like one he was not supposed to be with.
“Wow, this looks good.” I heard. “And a bottle of wine too?” Lanre’s words registered his location—at the dining table.
I sniffed quietly before I answered. “I’ll join you in a moment.”
Lanre had married me when he was twenty-eight. Then I was a nineteen year old girl, seeking admission to study nursing in the university. Prior to our traditional marriage, I had only met Lanre twice. Lanre and I had no choice, thanks to our parents who did all they could to make us a couple. The ordeal was worse on Lanre as his girlfriend had been rudely chased from his life by his mother. I was told her name was Anita. Anita was Igbo, and that was her only offense. To Lanre, I was simply the girl who was forced on him. He had created a space for me in his life, but not in his heart.
As I walked out of the kitchen to join my husband, I made a silent prayer that someday Lanre would come to love me. But it worried me that that day may only come when Lanre no longer mentions the name ‘Anita’ from his sleep.