Ugochi drove into her compound at exactly 10:30pm. She parked the car at the slot in front of her apartment, got out and locked the car.
She tried her door, found it locked and unlocked it with her keys. Ikem is probably asleep, she thought. He would have locked the door when he was going to bed; she didn’t think it was likely though. He rarely slept before she got home.
She went in, and saw him seated in front of the TV. He didn’t turn around, or acknowledge her entrance in any way. Ugochi skirted the small dining table with just two chairs, and narrowly avoided stumbling over a pair of shoes as she walked up to him.
“Hi dearie. You’ve been waiting for long?” she asked as she sat beside him. She saw he was playing with the DSTV remote in his hands.
He dropped the remote as he turned to her, and she was momentarily taken aback by the cold look in his eyes. “Where the heck have you been?” he demanded coldly.
She drew back, alarmed by the anger she felt emanating from him. “I told you I was going to have dinner with the girls now. Today is Dawn’s birthday.”
“I told you I was going to have dinner with the girls now.” He mimicked. “You were having dinner with the girls till this time? And you expect me to believe that?”
‘Why not? It is the truth.”
He stood up suddenly and leaned above her. “Don’t give me that bullshit. Who were you with tonight? You think I’m a fool? You think I don’t see what is going on here?”
Ugochi stood up too, alarmed. “What is wrong with you, Ikem? Please don’t start your crap with me tonight.” She made as if to move away.
“Crap? Did you say crap? Are you talking to me like that?” he grabbed her arm, swung her back, and before she could adjust her stance, gave her a resounding slap. The force of the slap knocked her back on her seat.
She sat there staring at him with a palm pressed to her stinging cheeks, too stunned to do anything other than stare, tears streaming down her face. He stood over her, still vibrating with anger.
“Ikem, did you just slap me?” Ugochi asked incredulously
“Yes, I did. And if you provoke me further, I’ll serve you the second round.”
She stood up, her palm still pressed to her cheek, staring at him, dumbfounded. “What has come over you? Where is all this coming from, Ikem?”
“Don’t ask me stupid questions. I am the one with the questions here. Which guy did you go out with this evening?”
“I don’t have to stand here and take this from you. Excuse me.” she sniffled as she walked past him.
He wanted to grab her again, but he refrained from doing so, and watched her go while a myriad of feelings passed over his face. The final one that settled in was guilt. He didn’t know what just came over him. He usually does not react with such anger, but this time around, he just couldn’t stop himself from hitting her.
The anger had started to build in him when his friend, Donald, called him this evening to tell him he spotted Ugochi in a small café with a man. Donald said they had looked very cozy together, and he just wanted to inform her as the good friend he was. Ikem didn’t believe that for a moment, he knew why Donald called, it was to rub it in his face, to throw his absolute faith in Ugochi back in his face. He had constantly bragged about how faithful Ugochi was, now for her to throw this in his face? It was intolerable.
He took a minute to think of the many years they’ve been together and how in all those years he had never had a reason to doubt her. He thought of the look of hurt on her face as she walked out on him, and how much he loved her. Could he be wrong here? Is it possible what Donald saw was entirely innocent, or could Donald have been lying? What reason would he have for lying? All these thoughts streaked across his mind as he paced around the living room. Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?
Ugochi lay on the bed as silent tears trickled down her face. What just happened here? It was as if I was talking to another man entirely. What could have prompted this sort of behavior from Ikem? I can’t believe he actually struck me. She thought miserably.
In the two years they’ve been together, Ugochi had never had a reason to complain about Ikem. Sure, they had their differences like every couple but it had been nothing that couldn’t be resolved quickly and easily. Their relationship had been good, and as comfortable as an old pair of pajamas.
Six months ago, when Ikem asked her to move in with him, she hadn’t hesitated. She had been happy he suggested it as it had been on her mind for a while, but she hadn’t brought it up. She had not had any reason to doubt or question his feelings for her, until now. Now, she couldn’t believe he could raise his hand to strike her. It feels like a dream she would wake up from very soon. This couldn’t be happening, could it?
But it had happened. It is a fact and the action can never be reversed. She will forever have it in mind that Ikem hit her, she could never forget it in a million years; and the love between them is forever tainted as a result of tonight’s happenings.
She couldn’t fathom the reason behind his aberrant behavior tonight. He had never raised his hands to her before. Sometimes, when he was angry enough to hit her, he had walked away rather than go ahead with it. Recently though, he had been exhibiting some rather strange behavior, she had been baffled by the subtle change in him.
She fluffed her pillow as fresh tears fell down her face. Her heart was breaking into a million pieces. She couldn’t believe that Ikem, her prince in shining armor, her tall, dark, and handsome lover would raise his hands to her. It still is unbelievable.
She stiffened as she heard the turn of the doorknob. Ikem came in quietly and stood by the door for a few moments observing her. There was a look of chagrin on his face.
“Ugochi…” he whispered reverently.
Ugochi turned to face the wall. She did not want to hear any excuse or see that tortured look on his face. She needed him to suffer a little bit more.
“Ugochi,” he said again, this time a little more firm
Ugochi refused to answer. She wished he’ll just go away and leave her to grief the loss of her trust in peace. It’s not every day her boyfriend slaps her after all.
Ikem was not having that though. He shuffled closer to the bed, walked to the other side so he could see her face, and he sat on the bed beside her. Ugochi stiffened some more. Tension radiated from her body like sun rays.
“I’m so sorry baby,” Ikem began. “I don’t know what came over me. I promise it will never happen again.”
Ugochi stared at his face coldly. “You don’t know what came over you?” she asked angrily. “That is the lamest excuse in the book,” she spat.
“I know, I know,” he raised his palm up in surrender. “I know it sounds cliché but that is the truth.”
“It does not sound cliché, it is cliché.” She refused to look at him, she laid on her back, staring at the ceiling.
“I’m sorry Ugo. What else do you want me to say?””
“I want you to tell me why you thought it was necessary to treat me that way tonight. And I don’t want to hear anything like ‘I don’t know what came over me’, because we both know that’s not true.”
Ikem refused to reply. He just kept staring at her. How could he tell her he reacted that way because of the information given to him by a man he does not even trust? He can never tell her what Donald told him. What if he was wrong? He needed to be absolutely sure first.
“But that was happened baby. Maybe I was angry because you stayed out so late, or maybe I was just feeling some residual stress. Either way, I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“I told you I would be out late, didn’t I? I distinctly remember telling you today was Dawn’s birthday, and that we were going for dinner at a plush restaurant on the island. Didn’t I?”
“Yeah, I think you did. Where were you this evening?”
“At work. Where else?”
“You didn’t go anywhere other than to work?”
“I went for Dawn’s birthday,” she threw up her hands in frustration. “Do I need to keep repeating myself?”
“Are you sure? No little lunch date with anyone?”
Ugochi narrowed her eyes at him speculatively. “No,” she replied. “Why the twenty questions?”
“I just want to be absolutely sure.”
Ugochi paused and looked at his face critically. She could see the confusion, and the faint anger, but there was something else lurking behind his eyes she couldn’t quite make out. There was something there that looks a lot like distrust.
“What is going on, Ikem?” she asked, baffled.
“Nothing. I’m sorry for hurting you, okay?” he caressed her abused cheeks. “Forgive me?” he stared into her eyes.
Ugochi wanted to ask more questions but she refrained. She decided to take the olive branch he was offering. Better keep the tentative peace.
“I forgive you darling. It was so out of character, it is easy to forgive. But please, control yourself better next time we have an argument.”
“I will. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Few minutes later, they both lay in bed. They were not touching nor speaking with each other. Each was occupied with his own thoughts.
Ikem’s thoughts were whirling around his mind. So, who is lying? He thought. She claimed to be at work all day and Donald claimed he saw her having a drink with another man. Who is lying? I better get to the bottom of this, and fast.
Ugochi stared at the ceiling as the thoughts chased each other in her head. What did he mean by all those questions? Did he know something? Could he have spotted me with Fredrick this evening? Is that the reason for his aggressive and strange behavior? I better get to the bottom of this, and fast.
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