Click here to read Episode 4
Ranti picked me up in front of Circle Mall. When I entered his car, he gave me a warm hug and kissed me on my cheeks.
‘Are you ready for the surprise?’
I forced a smile. ‘Sure.’
He pulled away enough to look at my face.
‘Are you okay? You don’t look excited.’
‘I’m just a little tired.’
As Ranti drove out of the mall, he began to narrate how his trip had gone. The deals he struck. The millions he’d made. The new clients he met. I pretended to listen but all I could do was stare at the man I thought I loved. Only hatred was left in my heart for him. I was a wounded lion roaring in pain. My dream of a perfect marriage gone. My hopes shattered.
I will rise above this, I muttered. This was where I differ from other women. I do not stay down for a long time. The word ‘self-pity’ does not exist in my dictionary. I am a strong woman who will never give up under pressure.
All men are scum, I concluded. The very thought of marriage irritated me. It was time to focus on my career and build a great life for myself.
‘Did you hear what I just said?’ Ranti was staring at me.
‘Oh..sorry, I was distracted.’
‘Are you sure you are okay?’
I nodded and stared out the window. It took so much restraint not to hit him. I wanted to grab the steering from him and swerve the car off the road. I wanted to hit him until he bled and died.
We entered a beautiful estate in Lekki Phase I and stopped in front of a beautiful bungalow painted white.
‘Here we are.’ He said and climbed down.
I walked past a clean Mercedes Benz shaded by a blue umbrella into the two-bedroom apartment.
Beautiful décor. Posh sofas. Tiled floors.
Ranti reached for his pocket and brought out a bunch of keys. He held them out to me. ‘The key to the house and the car. I’ve paid the rent for two years.’
I stared at the keys. Wasn’t this what I wanted?
‘Thank you. I really appreciate this.’
Ranti held my hand and led me to the sofa. I resisted when he pulled me to sit beside him.
‘Tinuke, please sit down. There is something I want to tell you.’
I remained standing. ‘Say what you want to say. I’m fine this way.’
‘Tinuke, I lied to you and I am so ashamed of myself. I am married.’
My face went hot. So it was true. Hearing him confirm my fears broke my heart completely. When I had planned confronting Ranti, I’d thought he would laugh and say, ‘married keh? Who’s feeding you that nonsense.’
I thought he’d prove to me that there were two Ranti Fabunmi in the church and the married person was the other Ranti.
I lost it at that moment. I grabbed his suit and shook him. ‘You deceived me! You are a wicked and cruel man. I regret the day I ever met you.’
Ranti started crying. I mean heart-wrenching sobs. The tears poured down his face and for a moment, I stood there confused.
He reached for my chin with trembling hands. ‘I’m so sorry. Tinuke, please forgive me. I’d wanted to tell you from the moment we met, but I was scared you’d leave me. I didn’t know how I was going to survive without you.’
By this time, I was completely taken aback by Ranti’s reaction. In my life, I’d never seen a man cry. It was all strange to me.
I sat beside him and tried to calm him down.
He sighed. ‘I’m sorry you had to see me this way. I can be emotional when it comes to matters of the heart.’
He pulled me closer, running his hand over my tear-stained face. ‘I can’t live without you Tinuke. Please forgive me.’
‘I forgive you Ranti but I’m still shocked that you are married.’
Ranti clasped his hands and stared at the ground. ‘I am not in love with the woman I married. Our marriage is just one of convenience and every day I am tortured by the fact that I’d have to spend the rest of my life with her. Tinuke, I wished I’d met you earlier.’
He raised his head and gazed into my eyes. My wall of defence crumbled down like a pack of cards. The initial blow and agony turned to sympathy. I felt so sorry for him and wished I hadn’t been hard on him.
He licked his lips. ‘I’m going to file for a divorce. Right now I don’t care anymore. I want the woman I love with every breath of my being. I have found that in you Tinuke. You are everything I’ve prayed for in my eight years of marriage. I know you may not want me anymore and I understand that. But please don’t ever forget that I love you and it is you who have made my life meaningful.’
He brought out a piece of folded paper from the inner pocket of his suit and gave it to me. I opened it. It was an employment letter showing that I had been given a job as a corporate finance analyst with a pay of 200k.
I stared at the letter, stunned beyond words. When I raised my head, Ranti was walking out of the living room. I stood up.
‘Where are you going to?’ There was a doleful look on his face.
‘I’m not sure you still want to have anything to do with me.’
I wrapped my hands around his waist. There was no way I could leave him. He needed me
Ranti kissed my forehead. ‘Oh Tinuke, I don’t have a life without you. Thank you so much. I love you.’
We made out that Sunday afternoon. Later in the evening, I rolled off the bed while he was still asleep and sat on a high chair by the window. What have I gotten myself into? How will my mum feel when I tell her I’m getting married to a divorced man? Is it even right?
I tapped on the google search engine page and typed out some topics that came to my head.
Can I marry a divorcee?
Do marriages with divorcees work?
A single lady marrying a divorced man.
Stories of successful marriages with divorcees.
‘What are you doing?’ Ranti was standing in front of me. I quickly closed the page I had opened. He pulled me to my feet and kissed me.
‘What do you say we drive round town in your new car?’
I smiled. ‘I’ll say, Yes.’
I had driven mum’s rickety car back in Akure and sitting behind the wheels of a classy car like the one Ranti got for me felt like heaven.
I’d never driven automatic and this new experience made my heart swell. Ranti grinned as we left the compound. I felt so cool sitting behind the wheels of my car.
I have my car now, I almost screamed in excitement. We drove round town, making a few stops to get barbeque chicken and ice-cream. It was fun cruising the island on a sunny Sunday evening. Ranti gave me directions to my new place of work.
‘Wow!’ I exclaimed. The office was located on the second floor of a four storey building covered with glass windows. I felt a surge of adrenaline course through my body.
I hugged Ranti again and thanked him for getting the job for me. The question was, what do I tell Tola if she asks me about the car.
We returned to my new apartment where Ranti picked up his car and I drove to Tola’s apartment.
Wale and Patrick were in the living room when I entered. Seeing Patrick made me feel guilty. I can’t explain why that always happened. He smiled. Even though I knew it was a harmless smile. I felt he was mocking me. I greeted them curtly and entered the room.
‘Are you seeing Bro Ranti?’
I turned, shocked. Tola was standing at the entrance of the room.
‘One of the women in church said she saw you coming out of a hotel with him.’
I chuckled. ‘Hotel? How’s that possible. What will I be doing with a man in a hotel.’
Tola left the room without another word. I sat down, thinking about Tola’s words. I had to be careful. Now that I had my apartment, there would be no need to meet Ranti at the hotel.
That night, as we got ready to sleep, I broke the news to Tola.
‘I got a new job.’
‘Halleluyah!’ Tola jumped to her feet and hugged me. ‘You see why it’s important to be patient. God is faithful. I’m so happy for you. How much is the pay?’
‘200k for a start and with an official car and apartment.’
Tola’s eyes widened. ‘I can’t believe this. An apartment came with your new job. What kind of firm in Nigeria does that?’
I smiled. ‘Actually, the apartment belongs to the CEO and the person who lived there has been transferred to another branch. The M.D said I could move in there.’
‘This is wonderful. I’m so happy for you. We have to celebrate this.’
‘I’m moving out this weekend.’
Tola’s face changed. ‘So fast? But you need to furnish the place and get everything set.’
‘The apartment is already furnished. The only thing I have to take in there are my boxes.’
Tola hugged me again and rocked me from side to side. ‘I am so happy. But I’ll miss sleeping on this bed with you.’
I tickled Tola. ‘I’ll be coming around to see you over the weekends. You won’t feel it one bit.’
I dropped my resignation letter at the boutique the following morning. Alice, the HR officer was shocked when I handed the letter to her.
‘You are supposed to either pay the full salary or give us a month in lieu of notice. You can’t just leave like that. It’s not right.’
I opened my wallet and counted crispy one thousand naira notes. I gave her the 50,000 naira and walked out of her office in my heels and stunning short gown.
Chioma was arranging a section of the boutique when I walked up to her. Some of the girls were cleaning and getting the place ready for the day.
She spun around, ‘What did you say?’
‘I got another job. I’m resuming today.’
She looked at me with downcast eyes. ‘Congratulations. I wish you the best.’
I hugged her. ‘Chioma, once I get in there, I’ll find a way to pull you out of this place.’
She nodded. ‘Thank you.’
I walked out of the boutique, relieved that this phase of my life was over.
Fidson Corporate Solutions is a software company that develops financial markets trading software, provides integrated business solutions among many other functions. The permanent office located in Abuja was run by the CEO while his daughter managed the Lagos branch.
That morning I was led into the M.D’s office. On the glossy table was a slab with the name ‘Shade Owolabi.’ While the M.D talked on the phone, I stood by the table, waiting for her to end the call.
She motioned for me to sit. Her look said one word. Disgust.
I sat at the edge of the chair and kept my gaze on her. Obviously, she didn’t like me but that was not my business. The moment I stepped into the office complex, I knew this was where I wanted to build my career.
‘The Adelajas are one of our biggest clients. As you are aware, the billionare’s daughter married Ranti who recommended you. We’ll do what we can to keep their money rolling in here even if it means taking you in. By the way, what exactly is your relationship with Ranti?’
I was lost for words. I opened my mouth to say something but she raised her hand.
‘Never mind. It’s none of my business.’ She turned to her laptop and began to type furiously on the keyboard. ‘I’ve told Ranti, I’m not taking any more of his side chics. They are all dull and lazy. They disappeared when they couldn’t cope with the grueling work we do here. Let’s see how long you will last here.’
Since she wasn’t talking to me directly, I didn’t respond. Tears pricked my eyes. I reminded myself how intelligent and smart I was. When I returned from youth service, the pure water factory was running at a loss. But by the time I left, we had bought our own truck and moved to our permanent factory site. It was also during that time that we roofed and painted our house.
I will work so hard Shade will be reluctant to let me go. Ranti may have brought me this far but I possessed the grit to get me rooted in my career.
Without looking at me, she said, ‘The HR will show you your table.’
When I remained seated, she glared at me,
‘What are you still waiting for?’
I stood up and thanked her. At the door, she called me back.
‘I hope you don’t run to Ranti to tell him I was rude to you.’
I left the office quietly.
Francis, my immediate boss, treated me differently. He was much older, somewhere in his fifties. He was a very intelligent man who had worked with top multinationals.
His smile made me relaxed and much later, I’d discover that he’d been brought in from the headquarters to head the Finance department and that the M.D relied so much on his expertise. He was a great listener and encouraged us to think outside the box. But he drove us to work. There were days we stayed back late into the night, poring over proposals, sorting out investment opportunities and brainstorming on operation strategies. I enjoyed every bit of it.
Francis was always impressed with my presentations and that drove me to work more. Several nights, I stayed awake going over financial reports, monitoring metrics, tracking and researching on general corporate finance matters.
My new apartment was a lovely two bedroom flat. Each room had its own bath and the living room was a large terrace, with a kitchen and a dining room. There was an LG A.C in each of the rooms.
I converted one of the rooms to my work space. In that room was a polished table over a thick Russian carpet. Two white shelves with books stood on one side of the room and a leopard-skinned sofa on the other side.
Ranti came one night while I was working on an investment report for my boss. I wanted it ready for a client before the meeting due for 10a.m. I’d just finished collating the figures for the report when the door of my home office opened and Ranti stepped in. It was almost 9p.m. I was annoyed because he hadn’t informed me he was coming. How was he able to get in? Then I realized, he got the house for me and must have had a spare key.
He rubbed my shoulders. ‘I didn’t get this job to burden you with plenty of work. You have to relax. Is Shade giving you any problem?’
I was irritated. Couldn’t he just leave me alone?
He pulled my hand. ‘Let’s go into the bedroom.’
‘Ranti, not tonight. I’m busy. I have to get this work completed tonight.’
His hand tightened on my arm. I tried pulling away. A glance at his face left chills in my spine.
I stood up quietly and followed him to the bedroom. As he led me to the bed, I thought of how I was going to get rid of him. I had found a new love. My job. It was time to dump Ranti for good.
My phone rang just as Ranti began to undress me. Tola.
I pushed his hand away and picked up the call.
‘Tinuke, you won’t believe it. Wale’s mother called me this evening. She said so many nice things to me. I am so surprised.’
‘Wow! That’s good to hear.’
‘I’m so excited right now. I see God answering our prayers. She promised to convince Wale’s father to allow us have the wedding before the end of this year. Tinuke. I’ll call you back. Wale is on the other line.’
When she ended the call, I pretended I was still talking to her.
‘Are you coming right away. Why can’t you make it tomorrow?’ I paused. ‘You are already on your way?’
I stared at Ranti, bewildered. ‘Tola is on her way.’
Ranti jumped to his feet and pulled up his trousers. He grabbed his shoes and rushed out of the house. I laughed when I heard his car pull out of the compound. Relieved, I returned to my workspace.
I had spent six months at Fidson Corporate Solutions when one beautiful morning, the M.D walked into Francis office, surprised to see him sitting by at his table, sipping coffee. I was with him in his office, working on a report on his laptop.
Shade exhaled. ‘Francis, the meeting is at 10. We have to leave now.’
Francis reclined against the chair. ‘Tinuke will be handling the presentation.’
I raised my head, my mouth flew opened.
Shade’s face was hot. ‘What! That is impossible. Francis, we can’t lose this deal.’
‘Of course I know.’
Shade exhaled. ‘This is not happening. If you had mentioned Paul or Efosa, I might have considered any of them but not this- You know what. I have to call Dad. We can’t lose this deal.’
She stormed out of the office. I stared at Francis. He continued to sip his coffee.
‘Sir, please I can’t do this. I think you should go.’
‘Yes you can. I’ve watched you handle presentations with great skill. Besides, You wrote the proposal.’
Francis stared hard at me. I left his office and returned with the folder containing the proposal and other documents required for the agreement.
His phone rang. For some seconds, Francis listened to whatever the person was saying on the other line. I sensed it was the CEO. Shade’s father.
‘Sir, I trust her absolutely to handle this. She can do it.’ He paused and listened. ‘Yes sir. Thank you sir.’
When he ended the call, he smiled at me.
‘Go and show them the stuff you are made of.’
In the car, Shade was still seething with anger. Nervous, I studied the proposal and reports, going over the figures. My heart raced. What if I messed up? What if I made a mistake?
The meeting went better than I thought. We landed the deal.
When we got to the place where the driver packed the car, Shade asked that I joined her at the back seat. She looked at me and smiled.
‘You are smart after all.’
Her attitude towards me changed after that day.
Ranti was back the following weekend, this time with a small box. I was tired of the guy. I had brought work home but Ranti wouldn’t let me touch it. I was so upset. Sex didn’t appeal to me any longer. While I was in bed with him, I thought of financial assets, new clients to meet, deals to land.
Monday morning, as I dressed up for work, he sat on the bed watching me.
‘I regret getting this job for you. You have become cold towards me. I think you love your job more than you love me.’
I continued to brush my hair. I prayed silently that he would be so angry and call off the relationship. Maybe this was the right time to tell him how I really felt.
‘Ranti, have you finalized the divorce?’
‘Not yet. Is that the reason for the attitude you’ve been putting up lately?’
I glanced at him and returned my attention to the mirror. ‘I feel you can work things out with your wife. You know, marriage comes with its baggage. Love is a decision, don’t you think?’
He climbed down from the bed and stood behind me. ‘Are you tired of me already?’
I sighed. ‘I just feel-’
He reached for my chin. ‘Don’t mess with me. Now, get back on the bed.’
I stared at him from the mirror. ‘What?’
He smiled. ‘I want your clothes off.’
Even though I was scared of the strange man behind me, I maintained my courage.
‘You are joking right? I’m running late for work. This report must get to my boss’ table by 8a.m.’
I stood up to go but he blocked my path.
‘Ranti, you are in my way. Please let’s do this when I get back from work.’
He held my hand but I struggled to get free. A blow landed on the side of my face. Blood gushed out of my nose. I stared at Ranti.
He caressed my face with his fingers, kissing my forehead. ‘When I ask you to do something, you obey. You know I don’t like it when you are stubborn. I love you dear. Now get on the bed.’
I flared up. ‘How dare you hit me? Yes I am tired of you. Thank you for helping me start a new life. But can you just let me breathe? What even happened to you Ranti? No more trips? No business clients? Don’t you have work to do this morning? It’s Monday for goodness sake. I don’t have time for this nonsense.’
I grabbed my bag from the chair and was heading out when he pulled me back with his strong hands and hit me twice. I fell, my head hitting the floor. Another blow landed on my face. He dragged me to the bed and raped me. I screamed in pain. When he was done, he spat on my face and left the room.
My phone rang while I tended to the bruises on my face. I refused to pick it. I ran into the shower and stayed there for a long time.
When I finally got out, my phone was still ringing. I looked at the caller ID. My mum.
The tears trickled down my face again. She had called at the right time when I needed to hear some comforting words.
‘Hello mum.’ I said, quietly.
‘Tinuke, why are you doing this to yourself? A good man came to ask for your hand in marriage and you pushed him away. Where do you think you’ll get a man like Kunle? Ehn! Now the guy has paid the bride price for another woman. Omo yi! O ni pa mi o. Every power standing against your marital fulfilment will die. At your age, I had finished giving birth. I-’
I cut the call and sent a message to my boss that I was ill. If I had to get to work the following day without eyebrows being raised about my bruised face, I had to get to the hospital fast.
This was all my fault, I thought as I drove to the hospital. When he got me the apartment and wanted to leave, I should have allowed him go. It would have been a perfect time to discard the beast. I thought of moving back to Tola’s place but I decided it was not a good idea.
I’ll change the lock of the entrance, I concluded. That way he’ll not be able to get in. All I wanted to do was run very far away from Ranti. Little did I know that my worst days were yet to come.
Click here to read Episode 6
Would you mind sharing your thoughts in the Comments Section below