I woke up the following morning, morose.
Kike, what is wrong with you? I said repeatedly to myself.
Why would I let down my guard…just like that. I cannot be weak now.
I am going to take charge of my life and my future.
At this time, I was pacing up and down my bedroom. I rummaged through my bag for my pen and journal, and sat on the bed, pulling the pillow to my laps.
Goals for the year.
Build my career in HR consulting. Become the best HR executive. Register for CIPM. Run my PH.D program in South Africa. Take up a fashion designing training course every weekend.
I scanned through my list and smiled. Silently, I vowed never to give in to my emotions again. I was certain that my flabby emotional predicament could be traced to my idleness. If I don’t give my mind time for non-essentials, the devil will have no space to erect his workshop.
In my journal, I included that I would be closing from work by 7p.m so that by the time I returned home, I would be too tired to think about my failed marriage. Maybe Peter would stop leaving gifts at my doorstep and life would be normal again.
I also thought that it was time to leave my place of work for a more challenging one, somewhere in a multinational. True, my boss was understanding and nice but I wanted more. I made a note to work on my CV and send out job applications.
Excitement surged through my heart at my laid out plans. I stood up and pulled out my wedding ring from my finger and placed it in my jewelry box.
I should go on a self-date, I thought.
I hurried for a shower and got dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. I wanted to look as simple as possible.
When I had arranged my braids and fixed my pendant, I stood in front of the mirror.
‘I’m going to have a wonderful me time.’
I wish Peter was here to see my stunning look. I imagined how he would react, how my ears would receive some gentle bites while he whispered sweet words to me. I waved the thought aside and stepped out of the house.
When I opened the door, there was a gift basket placed at the front of the small gate that secured the corridor of the BQ. My gaze shifted from the basket to the small gate and back to the basket.
I was too curious enough to ignore it so I knelt beside the gift basket and carefully removed the wrapping paper that covered it. The first thing my eyes caught was a Bible, our family Bible.
I sighed. The days of morning devotions, times when we stayed up late on friday nights studying chapters and memorizing verses.
There was a brown envelope attached to the side of the basket. It was sealed. I didn’t have time to reach for a knife so I tore the edge with my hands.
I peeked in first, before pouring out the content on the floor. There were little cards designed in various shapes. I stared at them for some seconds, speechless. The memory was fresh. I picked a card and read the words inscribed on it.
My heart is racing right now and It wouldn’t stay calm. Doctor, can you test my heartbeat? Calm my nerves.
I picked another card.
Yesterday, I woke up at night and I couldn’t help but watch you sleep. Do you know you are beautiful when you are asleep? You are perfect. I love you now and always.
My heart surged with emotions as I opened the third. I could hardly control myself.
I had written this.
Can you please lend me your eyes? I need to take them with me to the office. I love you.
I remember I had placed that in his breast pocket the morning he was to travel for a conference in Abuja. That night, I hugged my pillow and my heart ached for him.
We did this alot in the first year of our marriage. Almost everyday, I looked forward to notes under my pillow, inside my bag, in my underwear basket, on the refrigerator, in my wallet. I remember clearly, how I had found a note tucked in my hand while I was asleep. The note read,
Sweetheart, check under the crate of eggs.
I jumped out of bed and rushed to the kitchen. Under the crate of eggs was another note.
Can you remember where your toothbrush is?
I ran to the bathroom, grabbed the cup containing my paste and tooth brush and searched for the note. Because I had turned out the content into the sink, the note was slightly wet, no thanks to the tap that lets out tiny drops of water.
Honeypie, there is something in your blue handbag, the one Grandma gave-
I rushed into the room. My husband was leaning on the wall, watching me. I rummaged the bag and found another note.
Ife mi, do you know how much I love you? Please open your red box.
I sighed. I cast a quick glance at my husband. He was grinning. When I opened the box, I saw a black nylon bag and I could feel something soft as I touched it. I slid my hand inside the bag, wondering what it might be.
A silky dress and golden sandals. It was the most beautiful dress i’d ever seen. As I pulled the dress to my body, a note fell.
To the one who makes my heart beat,
I love you now and always. Can I take you out tonight?
We never went on that date. It was that evening, Mama and her two children arrived.
The tears were running down my eyes as I pushed the brown envelope away from me. I was about to stand up when I noticed a book at the bottom of the basket. Again, my memory was disturbed. Peter had painted it while I had attached the carved out letters, SCRAPBOOK to the center of the front cover.
I remember how Peter had held my hands as I cut out the words from a carboard paper. I had felt protected and secured. At the back of the cover, we had needled, KIKE AND PETER. LOVE SO STRONG’
I flipped to the first page. There were pictures of our wedding. In the first one, I was dancing while Peter pretended to watch me in astonishment. The second, he had whisked me off my feet when I wasn’t expecting it and I had screamed with excitement.
The next page was a picture of our hands on our family bible and a selfie of us with my face smeared in oil from grilled chicken. My mouth was still bulging with food.
I remember clearly the day we decided to take the selfie with the Bible at the center of the bed with our hands on it. It was after one of our devotions. We had wanted that to serve as a reminder of the foundation upon which our marriage was built.
Can I forget the indoor dinner that Peter organised? That evening I had returned from work to find scented candles lit on the dinning table. There was soft music playing from the stereo and when I entered the bedroom, I found my dear husband standing in front of the mirror, dressed in a black suit. On the bed was a dress I had worn the day he proposed.
‘What’s happening here?’ I mouthed.
My husband didn’t respond. He didn’t even smile. He just went on to undress me. I allowed him take charge without question and after he had dressed me in the gown, he led me to the dinning table. We danced, ate,talked, laughed.
I closed the scrapbook and cried.
Why was Peter torturing me with this?
A hand touched my shoulders. I didn’t know how long Kemi had been sitting beside me. We held hands and for several minutes remained silent.
The gifts kept coming. Bars of my favourite chocolates. Pizza. Wristwatches. T-shirts. Sneakers.
This has to stop, I thought.
So one morning, before dawn, I hid behind the house and waited. I was going to confront him, to tell him that I would never be weakened by his strategies, that he could never break me. I waited, listening for his footsteps. Then I heard the sound of approaching feet.
My phone rang, shattering the silence.
It was my Grandmother.
‘I’ll call you back’ I whispered.
I didn’t hear any sound again. I stepped out of hiding and saw Peter standing afar off, holding a small box.
‘I’m..I’m sorry…I didn’t know-‘
‘Can you come in for a minute. We need to talk.’