He took her to his secluded house in Chevron estate. It was a cream colored duplex in the middle of a broad scythed lawn, surrounded by a white picket fence. An enthralling array of potted flowers; purple hibiscus, ferns, marigolds, jasmine were beside the canopy where two saloon cars were parked, opposite the side doors of the house. The row of houses beside it, were distanced by coconut trees and this accounted for the serene atmosphere. Before now she had only been to his three bedroom bungalow in GRA. He often spoke about this place on few occasions he said he comes here when he wants some peace and quiet. She had been here for a few days now and had taken a quick liking to it. Her mother had visited, her father had phoned and she had received ‘get well soon’ cards and text messages from friends. Tunde had begun preparations for her operation and her flight was scheduled for the following week. He had packed in a few things from his abode in GRA. She did not feel sick or tired but he continued to treat her like she was on a death bed. He went to the office everyday and phoned every two hours. She switched off the television that she’d been watching all day. Now that the house was empty she wanted to explore, look around, find a novel or be inspired to sing or invent something. She went from room to room, looking for magazines or novels, opening drawers, cupboards. She entered a room opened the wardrobe and saw dresses in dusty coat hangers. She thought that they were either dry cleaned or new. He did not tell her his sisters ever came around. She touched them the silky dresses, and wondered how long they had been there because of the so much dust. She sneezed, looked underneath the dresses and saw a small gift bag. A bible was wrapped in a loose floral paper inside it. She removed the wrapper and blew out the dust and cobwebs on it. She turned to the front page and read out the message written in bold letters, “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” She smiled and turned to the next page. “Happy Anniversary dude. Enclosed is a picture of our wedding and first date. I did the photo mix myself in my new studio. Love, Catherine.” She tore the envelope with trembling hands and saw Tunde and a lady in wedding and casual outfits. Could this be true? She remembered Bisi’s remark. She gently sat on the chair and told herself she was not going to panic. She was not going to talk or think, so she wouldn’t pass out. She would just walk quietly out of the room. But she couldn’t raise her legs. She looked at the first message in the bible, ‘what God has joined together let no man put asunder.’ And she whispered “God please save me, I did not know he was married, give me the strength to walk back to my room, pack my bags and leave.” She kept muttering. She heard her phone ring but she still could not stand up. Was he punishing her for a sin she did not know she was committing? She sat there looking at the ceiling till she drifted to sleep. She saw herself been carried by strong arms- strong arms familiar to her, but she did not know if she was in heaven or earth. She felt strong. She woke up on the bed, the bed she had slept in before her tour and she saw Tunde sitting on the chair beside her. He sprang to his feet when he saw her wide awake and kissed her forehead. She looked at his face to see any sign of guilt but there was none. She sat up and he propped her head with a pillow. She felt strong. She pushed aside the window curtain, the day was still bright. He was not usually home till about six o’clock in the evening and now she assumed that it was about two o’clock in the afternoon.
“How come you are back this early?”
“You brought me back. I called ten times, my secretary called five times and there was no response, so I drove here as fast as I could.”
“Okay, where did you find me?’
He covered his face. He knew what was on her mind. He raised his head, his eyes were glistening. How would he begin? He did not expect her to find out this way. He loved her.
“Ada, I am sorry. I should have told you…” He held her hands.
“Why dint you?” Her voice was soft and low.
“I did not want to lose you before getting a chance to know you. The divorce proceeding was taking like forever. I wanted it to be over before letting you know. I really do love you.”
“Oh.” She nodded slowly.
He was surprised she was calm. She was surprised at herself too. She did not have the strength to run about breaking things. There had been too much drama in the past week. He told her he and Catherine had drifted apart for a long time. They were having problems and she did not want to live in Nigeria after her first visit. She was black American. He said it was a small wedding in America which his parents never consented to.
“That is no excuse, you should have still told me.” She was pained, deeply hurt. She believed him when he said he loved her. But she remembered the gift- the bible and thought that Catherine might not be that bad. ‘What God has joined together …….’ It kept ringing in her head and she turned fierce and an overwhelming anger came upon her. She became irritable. She refused to think that he cared about her. If he cared he would not have lied. Love doesn’t lie, it doesn’t keep secrets. And her ignorance is no excuse to continue seeing him. She must stop seeing him. Her eyes flashed in panic like she had gone berserk.
“Take me back to my house!”
“I said I am sorry.”
She looked away, her face expressionless.
“Please take me home, this is another woman’s home. You deceived me.” She said slowly
He placed her hand on his chest. “I did not. Can’t you feel it? Does it not sound real to you?”
“It is only a mirage. This cannot work. Please take me home. I read the first message on that bible and I see myself as the one putting asunder.”
“No, you are not.”
“If you don’t take me home I will go myself.” She climbed down from the bed.
“Okay, what about the surgery? It is in a few days, you can’t just walk out of it, walk out of my life.”
“Remember our first lunch? You said, what is life or death? – Simply a journey to a destination that we all must embark on. Old age before death is merely a delay- just buying time. One of your philosophies and I believe it.”
“That does not apply here. I love you and I want you to be alive, I want us to have a family together. Please.”
“If you love me, you will return back to me. And if it is not in this life, it will be in another. When you settle the divorce with your wife you can come back to me. I solemnly promise that I will wait. And if we are meant to be, if I am the partner that the gods gave you before sending you down to earth, I will not die, I will wait till you are free to have me.”
He pleaded and they argued but when he saw that she was unyielding he took her home.
Her father did not welcome her. He did not see any sense in what she did. She had no moral justification, he felt that in fact she spat on her creator’s face who gave her another chance to live. But she did not care and for the first time she did not care what he thought. Tunde called her several times but she told him she would only see him if he had proof that the divorce was finalized. Her father told her that since she was not going to rely on Tunde for the treatment then she should start looking elsewhere.
“Find yourself another rich man and a single one for that matter, since that is the one you want, that will pay millions for your operation!” He said.
“Daddy, you are wiser than me in matters like this, you can find anyone for me.”
She did not shake. She did not flinch. She told him to do whatever he wanted to do. He was shocked at her blandness. He did not want to believe she was loosing her good manners. Two days after that he told her he found somebody, but he was not single, he said he was a chief and did not mind marrying a third wife. He had told the chief about her operation and he did not mind, he had seen her picture and liked her already. He gave her the chief’s address and instructed her to see the man the next day because he was travelling abroad for a medical check up the day after that and no one knows when he will be back. Ada nodded. The following morning her father ordered her to leave the house to meet chief. She sat down, crossed her leg and said she would go. He got angry and shouted at her.
“You sit down there telling me that you will go. Do you think I want to continue doing kabukabu all my life? Who will train your brothers, Obinna is studying medicine, Nonso is studying optometry. How many years are those courses? Seven years in the calendar but when you calculate possible strikes and spills won’t it reach eight or nine years and what level are they in now? Two or is it three? Who will pay for their books and their school fees? I thought that you had used your head when you found that rich boy that loves you, at least with him money is not a problem. I have pushed you to the finish line, now you are at my back pulling me behind. If you know what is good for you, you better go and meet chief!”
“Daddy, if you like shout for heaven to fall, I am not going anywhere. If you want to kill me go ahead!” She started pulling out strands of her hair.
He looked at her, touched his belt and shook his head. He was surprised that she could defy him. He hissed and left the room.
Ada did not see the chief that day or any other day. She began to write in her note book the same thing she wrote the previous day till her fingers weakened- “The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite.” And one morning when she sat in her father’s favorite spot counting the stars that no one saw except her, her heart stopped counting.