Ex From Hell 1

I came back from work to meet my wife sitting on the verandah with her ex. Not just any ex, but Nathan. The one she couldn’t forget and always compared me to. The one that was taller, sexier and better hung; my nightmare.

They didn’t look up as I walked past.

The kids ran to me and I scooped them up and planted kisses on their cheeks. As I walk-hopped to the kitchen, they told me how their day went: Akan had an extra star for excellence in maths, Akem learnt a new stroke in swimming.

I microwaved yam porridge and chicken and ate it in bitter silence. I wanted to go to them and disrupt their little chit-chat. I wanted to call the police. But Nathan was taller than I was and probably stronger, the police would only laugh at me, extort me and add me to their stories- that- touch- the- heart files. Nah.

I put the children to bed and walked into my bedroom to find Nathan and my wife there.
“Hi Victor”
“Hi, get out of my house!”
“Easy,” Nathan said holding up his hands in mock surrender and in that moment I hated him more than I knew was possible. I wanted to make him scream and squirm in pain, I wanted to wipe his memory from the face of the earth in the cruelest, slowest possible way. I took deep breaths and gripped a chair to steady myself.

“Let’s take this outside, Nikki is asleep, she needs some rest.”

I scowled at him but left the room to the sitting room and slumped into a chair. Nathan walked up to the fridge and got himself a can of beer and tossed me one. I caught it and dropped it on the side stool in front of me, “I don’t drink.”

“Then why do you have them in the house?”

I ignored him.

He opened his, drank it all in one everlasting gulp and dumped the can on the floor. “So, Victor, I have come to take back Nikki.”

“What? Why?”

“Well, for starters, she is mine. Yes I loaned her to you for a while but I want her back. I need her back. She was the only woman I have ever loved and I have spent the last eight years looking for her in everyone, everywhere. When she was right here. I want her back and I am here to take her.”

“Get out of my house!”

“Please. You have said that already and it didn’t work. I am not leaving until I get what I came for, with your blessing of course. I ll give you some time to get used to the idea and say your goodbyes. Tidy up your accounts. Have some farewell sex. Whatever. But in three days I am leaving and taking Nikki with me.”

With that he got up and walked into my guest room and locked the door.

I ran upstairs and tiptoed in to the bedroom, Nikki was fast asleep. I got into the bed beside her and stared at the ceiling long into the night.
*

The next morning I woke up late. Nikki was gone and in her place was a brief note on rose coloured paper:

Good morning Love,
I am off to work. I have taken the kids to Mama. Food is in the warmer in the table.
Love you,
N

I jumped out of the bed and bounded down the steps two at a time, I was hungry and curious, was Nathan gone too?

Nathan was in the dining room, polishing off my breakfast. He belched noisily when he saw me. A volcanic rage began to bubble inside me.

“Morning Vic, I figured you could do with some intermittent fasting.” He laughed at his lame joke.

“What are you …”

“Oh this? Thanks man. Who would have known we were the same size in T-shirts. It is more of a singlet on me but whatever.”

“You will not wear my clothes and you will not eat my food!”

“Duh. Already done. But there is cornflakes if you care.”

I grabbed the cereal bowl and made a plate.

“I have been thinking, we need to find a gentleman’s solution to this problem. A mutually amicable way to let all parties leave the scene with some decorum.
Do you play chess?”

“No”

“Can you shoot?”

“Never held a gun in my life.”

“Table tennis?”

I stood up and banged the table sending a table mat flying. “Look, Nat or Rat or whatever you call yourself, I am a busy man with things to do and people to see. I don’t have time for this. Don’t have time for you. And if you don’t mind I would really appreciate you leaving my house, my life and my wife.

Nathan doubled over with laughter. He held his sides and panted for a while with tear streaming down his eyes.

“Listen, you aren’t going anywhere. I called your office to tell them you won’t be coming because you have monkey pox. I am not interested in your house or your life. But Nikki is mine, she promised me she would love me forever and I did the same. So, if you don’t mind, waddle back upstairs and get dressed. We have a long day ahead of us.”

A small chill ran down my back. My hands began to itch and as I scratched small pustules appeared.

“Oh, don’t worry about the rash, it is benign, just a a little reminder of who is boss here. Hurry up.”

I rushed a bath and watched in horror as the rash spread over my chest and back. My joints ached too and the anger I felt was now a stream running through my veins like lava. I hobbled downstairs where Nathan was waiting beside the TV.

 

“Good. Sit down. I want to tell you a story.”

I found a chair as far away from him as possible and wrapped myself under a blanket like a mummy.

“Once upon a time, there was a young man whose parents died before he was ten. He passed from uncle to uncle until he became fifteen and ran away from home. He found a job as a house boy for an old man who paid for his education. Then he met the sweetest, most beautiful lady ever…”

“Let me guess, Nikki.”

“Exactly, and they would have lived happily ever after if the boy didn’t bungle some things and have to disappear for a while but that is history.

Now the boy has a chance to live happily ever after with his princess and the only impediment to that blissful future is you. So what do we do about you?

At first, I thought of killing you, a nice clean shot on your way home and then slicing off your ears and balls to make it look like rituals. But I thought nah, this man is a gentleman, a reasonable man, he ain’t never done Nikki dirty. He has been good.

Then I considered a kidnap. Nice and quick. One day you are quarreling over how salty food is and the next day Poof! She is gone. But where is the beauty in that? Eh? Where is the class?

So now I come to you as a man. Let Nikki go and I will walk away and you will never see me again. What do you say?”

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Loving Farouk

“Dee, what do you think? Isn’t she beautiful?”

I looked up from my book and took Farouk’s phone with a slight smile. I already knew what I was going to see: some slender size 2 beauty with large luminous eyes,  and reflective fair skin. Farouk had a type. A slim, light-skinned, large eyed, type; that somehow never liked him as much as he liked her or somehow couldn’t keep his interest as longer than a month.

That I understood.  That I was glad about. As long as Farouk didn’t find anyone that kept his attention, as long as it was just a shallow physical attraction I had a chance.

A slim, stunted, gnarled chance but a chance still.

As I looked at the phone I realised that my chance was about to vapourise. I was about to lose Farouk for good unless I did something.
The problem was: I had no idea what to do.

“She is gorgeous.” I heard myself say. And it was true. The lady in the selfie couldn’t be more than 22. She was a dark shade of chocolate, curvy and her small eyes twinkled behind her cute glasses.

On cue my inner alarm rang. This wasn’t gorgeous. This was gorgeous trouble. Farouk was breaking from the mold–that meant he had found something. Something special.

With a wider smile I handed the phone back. “So what’s her name?”

“Her name is Zukaida,” he replied, “I hope to goodness that she is the one.”

The drive back from class was a quiet one. Farouk hummed along to some Yanni playing in the car while I stared into the darkness and tried to imagine life without him.

We had been classmates for just a year but it felt like we had known ourselves for a lifetime. We had so much in common: a love for cats, an interest in chunky novels,an aversion for onions, an addiction to chocolate cake.

Being around him was like being hooked to a giant cylinder of joy but now my tubes were about to be pulled.

I knew he didn’t feel the same way but that didn’t stop me from hoping or at worst enjoying what I had while it lasted.
Now all that was coming to an end.

He drove to my doorstep and waited for me to alight.  I stayed in the cat staring into the night then I turned, closed my eyes and kissed him on the lips.

He froze.
I opened my eyes and I knew I had made a mistake. His eyes were open and in them I saw shock, pain, disbelief and something uglier–pity.

I pulled away and dashed out of the car and into my house. Shame swallowed me whole. I was still sobbing when sleep came.

The next five days passed in a whirl. I avoided Farouk and braced myself for whatever was coming next. An engagement party. A wedding announcement.  A baby shower.

A week later I was making my way to the taxi park when someone grabbed my arm.
“Dee, we need to talk.”
My belly flipped and cold sweat trickled down my back.  Could it be? Was he going to say he felt the same way? Were the feelings mutual? Was love going to have a chance?

Of course not.
He wanted me to know that he understood how I felt and while he couldn’t consider us being more than friends he still respected me as a friend. Still wanted our friendship to continue. He recounted the great times we’d had together. He was till talking when I walked away.

I couldn’t bear to hear anymore.  I was a drift on a sea of needles and all of them pricked at once. I needed to get away, as far
away from him as possible.

I must have walked past the car park and on to the main road but I can’t remember that.

All I remember is the screeching  of tyres as the bus driver tried in vain to dodge me and the blissful darkness that followed.

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The Unravelling

They sat in silence. They’d dreaded this moment. She more than he.

“Do you really have to do this? Isn’t there anything I can say to stop you?”

“Honey, please, let’s not go over that again. The arrangements have been made. The bus will be here in an hour.”

“But why Dan? Have I been such a bad wife to you? Is there anything I haven’t given you? How can you just throw your life away like this? Like rotten fish?”

Her words slapped him, and something in him shifted.

“Like rotten fish ehn? Thank you for the compliment. I better walk up the road. Take care of Ade and Wana. Bye Shade.”

He left with the sound of her sobs drumming on his ears. Wana and Ade were asleep. He hated to imagine how it would have looked if they weren’t.

He loved Shade. She was the only other woman he had ever cared about enough to change. To sacrifice. For her he had stopped smoking. He had learnt cooking. He had even started going to church twice a month. No other woman had been able to keep his attention for this long. Six years and she still stirred him as much as she had on their first date.

Except at moments like this…

The sky was aglow with the colours of the setting sun. A gentle breeze played with the dry leaves, scattering them on the street like confetti. The evening was so beautiful, he was so miserable.

He remembered something he heard the pastor say last month.

“Anger lies in the bosom of fools.”

It was true. He wasn’t being reasonable right now. Any woman would be worried under the circumstances. Shade was just worried. Worried and scared. Why wouldn’t she be? People were giving their souls to run away from Liberia and here he was leaving for the same place as a volunteer. She probably thought he was mad.

The worse thing was that he hadn’t found words to tell her everything. He couldn’t express how excited he felt when he was offered the opportunity. He couldn’t tell her how the moment he read the email, life suddenly seemed ten times nicer, livelier.

The past two weeks had been like reliving his childhood. He was the toughest police chief on the playground, eliminating the thieves. He was him.

Now he had a chance to do it again. In real life, with a real thief called Ebola. He had a chance to do work that really mattered. Not the dead brain routines of Malaria, Typhoid and Diabetes. A real time Emerging Disease Epidemic Response, a real war. He couldn’t stay away for the world.

But.

He could go gently. He could hold Shade and rock her till the bus came. He could remind her of how much he loved her and the kids. He could go over the instructions for his memorial( there would be no burial, just ash in an urn). He could kiss her brows one more time.

So he went home and did so.

It would be 8 months before he returned, not in a stainless steel urn, but in the flesh.

Shade wouldn’t be at the airport to welcome him, neither would the kids.

He would spend the next two years looking for them and failing to find them.

He would discover that she had sold the house and the cars and the land he bought at Lekki.

He would fall into a bottomless depression. And pick up smoking again. And try weed, and like it. And over do it.

He would want to die and pray to do so before morning.

One day, he would get a call from Wana. She was fine, her mother had placed her in a Catholic boarding school in Kenya, she even spent holidays there. Ade was with mother somewhere in Europe. She missed him. She had tried to reach him but mom said she shouldn’t dare. Was he OK?

“Yes, I am fine.” Dan said. And for the first time in three years, he almost believed it.

He travelled to Kenya to see her. As he stood beneath the pine trees waiting, he remembered another place, another evening. Then she was running into his arms, quick as a bullet, and he felt the broken things inside him melding.

It would be a long fight. A long wait. But six years later Wana would be back home in Makurdi with him. He would not marry again. Stop smoking again. Start jogging again.

He would travel the world lecturing on Emerging Disease Response. He would receive more honours than the four walls of his study could hold.

He would forgive Shade (but they would never be friends again).

He would live to eighty-nine. And from time to time he would think over things. He would imagine how things would have been if he stayed. Then he would laugh and mutter to himself.

“There’s no way I was going to let that Bastard get away.”

* * * * *

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Paradise Dreamt

I held her in my arms today,

Pressed her wet warmth to my cold dryness,

Her innocent heart beat against my burning skin,

Felt her bounteous curves imprint my frame,

Inhaled the rose, mint, myrrh of her skin,

Closed my eyes with her head on my chest,

My dreams came true,

She loved me as madly as I have always loved her,

We married and eloped to Zanzibar,

She had twins and I was a stay-at-home dad,

We watched stars from our rooftop,

Sipped nectar from green coconuts,

I held her today,

Felt her fragile fear, saw her naked need,

Had her in my arms, possessed her in my world,

It might have been a dream,

Her, ever being with me,

But I held her in my arms today,

Until he came to take her away.

***

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Paradise Dreamt

I held her in my arms today,
Pressed her wet warmth to my cold dry skin,
Felt her bounteous curves imprint my frame,
Inhaled the rose, mint, myrrh of her skin,
Closed my eyes with her head on my chest and,
My dreams came true,
She loved me as madly as I have always loved her,
We married and eloped to Zanzibar,
She had twins and I was a stay-at-home dad,
We watched stars from our rooftop,
Sipped nectar from green coconut cups
I held her today,
Felt her fragile fear, saw her naked need,
Had her in my arms, possessed her in my world,
It might have been a dream,
Her, ever being with me,
But I held her in my arms today,
Until he came and took her away.

Have I told You I Love You?

Have I told you?
How much you mean to me?
Your presence is the tonic for my well being,
Your smile is the sun that chases my clouds away,
Your voice is the balm that turns my night to day,
You, rhythm in my pulse,
You, spring in my step,
You, smile that dances on my lips at night,
You, the safe place my dreams are kept.

We Shave Our Memories

We shave our memories off,
lock by lock,
they fall to the cold floor,
we rise,
stronger than before,
Snip goes our trip to Dakar,
Snip, our quarrel over babies
Snip, the surgery for a wrist swelling,
Snip, the ways we failed to keep our promises,
We shave our memories off,
Lock by lock,
We leave our essence in
And continue,
Our love walk.