Charles glared at his wife from the mirror as he knotted his tie. She was sprawled on the bed fast asleep, her lips slightly parted and her snore reverberating like an old electric saw. She opened her eyes drowsily, shut them and rolled to the other side of the bed.
What Charles wanted to do was grab a bottle of cold water and pour it down her face. It was almost 8am. Did she think she was still a single living in her father’s house?
The first three months of their marriage, Charles had been impressed by Funmi’s home management skills. Before 7a.m, she’d have cleaned the rooms, washed the dishes and prepared breakfast. It was true she needed basic lessons in cooking but the vibe she exuded those months covered for her mistakes. He’d never for once complained of the bland taste of her tomato sauce or the pepper in her eguisi soup that made him sweat profusely and forced him to take several trips to the water dispenser.
Those days, he loved to come home to a clean apartment, a woman dressed to kill and a warm ambience. That was in the past. All Funmi did now was press her phone and watch movies all night.
This cannot continue, Charles muttered as he straightened the collar of his shirt. He walked back to the bed and tapped Funmi slightly on her shoulder.
Funmi stirred but didn’t open her eyes. She yawned and stretched out her hands. Charles tapped her again.
She opened one of her eyes. ‘What?’
Charles exploded. ‘Funmi, really? do you know what the time is?’
Funmi touched her forehead. ‘Baby, my head hurts. Can you just allow me sleep in peace?’
Charles took off the white duvet covering her. ‘What about my breakfast? Stand up now, get into the kitchen and prepare breakfast for me.’
Funmi tried to take the duvet back. Charles held it far from her reach.
Funmi grumbled. ‘Why are you acting so insensitive this morning. Haba! I said I’m not feeling fine. It won’t hurt if you go into the kitchen and prepare breakfast for yourself. My body needs rest.’
She snatched the duvet from his hand and pulled it over her head.
Charles was burning with fury. He stood over her, trying hard to stay calm.
Funmi pulled down the duvet to her chin. ‘Honey I’m cold. Please turn down the air-conditioner.’
Charles’ eyes caught her laptop sitting on the bedside drawer. Her phone lay carelessly on the bed. An idea crossed his mind. He reached for her phone before picking up the laptop. Funmi stared at him, alarmed.
‘What are you doing with my laptop and my phone?’
Charles gave her a cynical smile. ‘You need rest darling. These things are distractions. I’ll take them with me to the office.’
Funmi pushed the duvet aside and jumped out of bed. ‘You will do no such thing.’
When Charles hurried out of the room, Funmi ran after him.
‘Charles, give them to me!’
Charles didn’t answer. He kept walking towards the main door. Funmi ran past him and blocked his path, planting her slender body in front of him. She wrestled for the laptop but Charles held tightly to it. When she bit his arm and pinched his side, the laptop slipped from his underarm. He reached for it before it hit the floor.
‘If this laptop falls, I won’t repair it and I won’t get another one for you.’
‘For goodness sake, Charles, stop acting like a child and give me my laptop!’ She touched his pocket. ‘Where is my phone?’
Charles pushed her slightly away and strode back into the living room. He placed the laptop on the center table and dug into his pocket for her phone. He glanced at her disgustedly.
‘Just look at you. Few minutes ago, I said, prepare breakfast for me, you gave me all kinds of excuses. Now I took your life away and you come running after me. You spend all your day scrolling through instagram, updating senseless posts on your status and watching movies. I slave all day just to make your life comfortable and what do I get in return? You are nothing but an imprudent slugabed.’
Funmi hissed and clutched her belongings against her chest. ‘I’m not going to allow anybody ruin my day. Rant as much as you want, that’s your cup of tea. I’m going back to the room.’
She walked past him to the bedroom, her eyes blazing with anger. Charles called her an impudent slugabed. What had she done to deserve such insult. Her hands were trembling and tears had gathered in her eyes. She paced the bedroom, her thoughts racing in different directions.
She flopped down on the bed and pulled a pillow to her laps. ‘Why were men like this? Charles is saying I am a bad wife because I didn’t make him breakfast this morning? This home is for us. We are supposed to do the chores together. Abeg, I can’t deal with all these african men mentality. I don’t have time at all. What nonsense!’
Funmi swiped to the music gallery on her phone and played ‘Duduke’ by Simi before sliding under the duvet.
‘Nobody will kill me in this life.’ Funmi muttered to herself. She closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
Charles sat in his blue Camry wondering if he had married the wrong woman. He had lost his parents and two brothers when he was ten but he remembered waking up several times before dawn to find his mother already cleaning the house and preparing meals for the family. She was the operations head of a food processing company and yet saw to the welfare of her home.
On saturdays, his mother would stay up late preparing different soups for the week which were turned into plastic containers and stacked in the freezer.
He salivated as he remembered the varieties of meals she prepared unlike his wife who had only three meals on her time table: rice, bread and eba. He’d grown up to adventurous meals and this continued when he moved to Aunt Toyosi’s house after the tragic death of his family. There was yam frista, coconut rice, plantain porridge, vegetable soups of different kinds.
Was he asking for too much by instructing his wife to prepare breakfast for him? This was her duty. Did he have to remind her? How many times had he returned from work to find Funmi sitting with her phone, posting selfies on her Whatsapp status or watching a comedy skit. Gone were the days she’d throw her arms around him when he returned from work. Now, all he got was a miserly, distracted, ‘welcome.’
He sighed deeply and started the car. ‘Why is Funmi treating me like this? Does she care about me at all?’
His phone rang. Reluctantly, he glanced at the number as he drove slowly out of the house. The number was not a familiar one.
He stared at the number before answering the call.
A lady was on the other line. Immediately, he heard the voice, he knew who it was.
‘What do you want?’ Charles said, annoyed. He turned into another street and took a bend that led to the express.
The voice on the other end chuckled. ‘I have missed you darling. It’s been seven months without your touch. God! I’m dying to have you in my arms right now.’
‘I’m going to block this line.’
‘And I will get another one. How long are you going to do this? Charles you blocked six of my lines!’
‘Why won’t I? Ireti, for goodness sake, I am married! Leave me alone.’
Ireti laughed hard. ‘Well, I just want to tell you that I’m in Ibadan. Can we see?’
Charles moved slowly into traffic. He glanced at his wristwatch and relaxed. He still had two hours before the staff general meeting. There was enough time to pull himself together.
‘Are you even listening to me?’
Charles wanted to get Ireti off his back.‘Will you just stop calling my line please. I’m begging you in the name of God, stop calling me.’
Ireti giggled. ‘2nd Avenue, Adelakun street, Ashi Bodija.’
‘You moved to Ibadan?’
‘Yes. Trust me, it’s a cozy apartment. The bed is very inviting. The room smells Emerald. Should I expect you this evening?’
A familiar desire rose in his stomach at the mention of Ireti’s perfume, Emerald. The fragrance welcomed him wildly every time he paid Ireti a visit. Why did she have to mess with his mind like this? Heat surged his body, bringing flashes of images he wanted badly to forget.
He ended the call and threw his head back on the headrest.
Women. They were a pain in the ass. For one minute he envied his best friend. Shola had refused to marry. He said women were complicated and a truck load of stress. Charles believed him.
The sound of the door bell jarred Funmi out of sleep. She struggled to sit up, but the pain in her head was intense. She reached for her phone and checked the time. 12 noon. Her eyes widened. How did time run so quickly.
She yawned and dragged herself out of bed. The doorbell rang again. She reached into her scattered wardrobe and pulled out a black minigown. She wore it over her head and hurried to answer the door.
A short man with a facecap held up a white nylon that had ‘Feban Kitchen’ written boldly on it.
‘Good afternoon ma’am. Your orders, please.’.
Funmi smiled and took it from him. ‘Thank you.’
She’d been ordering lunch from Febian Kitchen for the past four months without her husband’s knowledge.
‘I want my meals delivered by noon.’ She had told them. They kept to their word.
Funmi looked around the dusty living room. She’d clean up later. She had to think up dinner for Charles first. The last thing she wanted to happen was have her husband nag at her again. When she got into the kitchen and saw the pile of dirty dishes scattered around the sink, her mood dampened. Under the sink, there were two pots of water with black substances floating on the surface.
‘I hate washing plates!’ Funmi said, gritting her teeth.
She had no choice. The dishes had to be done. She poured soapy water into a big bowl and slowly sponged the plates in the lather.
Charles has changed, she muttered quietly.
She remembered the days he’d bring breakfast to her in bed and tell her how much he loved her. She remembered the dinner nights. Days they stayed back in bed talking and laughing about everything. Charles couldn’t get his hand off her body. The way he stared at her, whispering sweet words that made her body explode with desire. She never wanted those days to end, at least not so quickly.
‘All he knows how to do is nag.’ Funmi hissed as she dried the last plate and set it on the plastic stand with the other plates.
Funmi stood in the middle of the kitchen, confused. ‘What do I cook? Rice, spaghetti?’
Charles hated spaghetti. Recently, He’d been talking about coming home to a hot meal of amala and gbegiri.
‘I don’t have strength to turn amala abeg. I’ll now be walking around the market in the hot sun. God forbid.’
Charles would have to make do with rice and stew today, she concluded.
Funmi brought out a pot of stew from the freezer. Her phone beeped. She placed the pot on the kitchen table and reached for her phone. It was a notification on her instagram page.
Richard Desmond shared five photos.
‘I’ll just check what he uploaded. Just five minutes.’ She said to herself.
Funmi opened her instagram page. Richard had uploaded a picture of himself and a tall beautiful lady wearing a top that revealed too much cleavage. Richard called her his fiancee . Their wedding was set for next month.
Funmi’s eyes lit up. Richard was getting married? She wanted to know who the lady was. She searched the post for any link to the lady’s page. Her handle was right there at the bottom of the post. Funmi clicked on it. Another instagram page opened.
Funmi laughed and pulled a small kitchen stool from the store. She sat down. She couldn’t miss the gist for anything in the world.
‘Richard’s girl is so beautiful.’ Funmi said, laughing. She scrolled down for more pictures.
Another notification popped up. Comedy skit by Akin Bobo. Excited, she rushed there. When she finished watching the skit, she noticed there were others she had missed. She went to them quickly, laughing so hard she almost fell off the stool.
A car horned.
Funmi froze. Charles was back? Her eyes dashed to the pot of stew on the kitchen table. She checked the time on her phone. 5.30pm.
Her hand flew to her mouth. Was it not few minutes ago that that her order was delivered? How did 12 noon suddenly became 5.30pm?
She jumped to her feet and placed the pot of stew on the gas cooker. She filled another pot with water.
Where was the chicken laps she brought out of the freezer? She looked around the kitchen. When she didn’t see it, she opened the freezer and saw the pieces of chicken in a ziploc bag.
‘Shit! What am I going to do?’
She dumped the frozen chicken inside the pot and place it under the sink. She poured the hot water on the chicken.
The door opened. Funmi held her breath and released it slowly.
‘Honey, welcome.’ She said aloud. There was no response. She slapped her forehead. This was her fault. Her husband was still mad at her.
Sweat trickled down Funmi’s face to her neck. As she moved towards the kitchen store to get some onions, she saw the food she had ordered for lunch.
She smiled as an idea clicked in her head. The meal from Fabian’s kitchen was a great alternative. She’d warm the food and serve with fried chicken.
Food set, Funmi wiped her hand on a kitchen napkin and went into the bedroom. Charles was just coming out of the bathroom, a towel hung around his neck.
Funmi frowned. ‘Really? All you have to say to me is ‘hey’? No hug, no kiss?’
Charles ignored her and changed into a t-shirt and blue jeans. As he combed his hair, Funmi hugged him from behind.
‘Sweetheart, I’m sorry about what happened this morning. I was really tired and my head was aching badly, that’s why I couldn’t prepare breakfast for you.’
‘How won’t your head ache when you spent the night watching movies. I woke up at 3am and told you to shut down the laptop and get some sleep but you refused.’
‘I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.’
‘That’s what you always say. Sometimes I wonder if it’s your phone or your laptop you married.’
Funmi pulled away, irritated. ‘What is it sef? Why are you always pointing at the beam in my eye when there is a log in yours! I’m trying my best here. I suffered to prepare a very delicious meal for dinner and you are here complaining.’
Charles looked around the room. ‘Look at our room. You can’t even make your bed. Look at how the table is littered with your make-up. Of course the room has not been swept. Your clothes are scattered all over the wardrobe. Somebody needs to tell you the truth. You are very lazy and dirty. The sitting room-’
‘Charles, will you just stop! I’m tired of you always nagging me when all I’m trying to do is please you! What is it gan!’ Funmi said and stormed out of the room.
She went to the kitchen and sat on the kitchen stool, fuming. When the bedroom opened, she knew Charles had softened and would come to the kitchen to apologize. She smiled knowing what would happen afterwards. They’d return to bed and laugh and play and then go out for dinner date. Charles knew how to make her anger melt.
The front door opened and closed.
Surprised and hurt, Funmi ran to the living room and drew the curtain backwards. Charles opened his car and slid in. She wanted to run to him, to plead with him to come back into the house. Instead, she sat on the arm of the sofa and watched her husband drive away.
Tears poured down her face. This was all her fault. She was a bad wife to Charles.
Funmi typed on her whatsapp status.
I’ll be away from this space for a while. I have to spend some time with my bobo. Another vacation loading soon. Marriage is sweet I swear. Singles, go and find your bobo o.
Let them believe that lie. There was no vacation. Marriage was bland and annoying at the moment. Things were going to change. She would prove to her husband that she was a Proverbs 31 woman. Was that not the desire of every godly man?
Funmi had her plans laid out. She’d clean the rooms, mop the floor. Scrub the bathroom, arrange the wardrobe and do Charles’ laundry. She imagined the surprise on her husband’s face when he returned to see the house in a different shape.
She worked quickly. She smiled as she removed the bed sheet from the bed. ‘This is indeed a new day.’
Ireti called again. Charles ignored the call and kept driving to the bar where Shola had planned to meet him. The temptation to succor to Ireti’s demands was strong.
Ireti was in Ibadan. The girl was a devil. No, he wasn’t going to give in again, not this time.
Images of Ireti on the bed rushed into his mind, leaving him with an intense sensation that coursed through his body. He had swore to stay away from her after marriage and he would stick to his word. If he gave in again, he’d never be able to break free. She’d ruin his family and his life.
‘I said No! This will not happen! I love my wife and a strange woman will not destroy my life!’
His phone rang again. Angry, he answered it.
‘Ireti, leave me alone! I’m going to get a court order if you keep pushing me. I’m not interested. Let me be for goodness sake.’
‘Someone very important wants to speak with you.’
Another person came on the line. ‘My son, how are you?’
Charles hit the steering, muttering a foul word. It was Aunt Toyosi. The woman who had raised him after his parents died in a ghastly motor accident. A woman he hated but couldn’t get away from.
What was she doing in Ibadan?
Of course he knew. She had come to Ibadan to destroy him. He knew she had merely pretended to support his marriage to Funmi because her siblings stood solidly behind him.
This was the woman who had brought mess into his life. She’d introduce Ireti to him few days after he graduated from the University of Calabar. Ireti had stayed in his Aunt’s house for three months before his NYSC call up letter was post. They had sex countless times and his aunt had pretended she knew nothing about it. How had he turned from a firebrand prayer co-ordinator of a vibrant campus fellowship to a sex addict.
He didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. Why won’t they just leave him alone.
‘I’m fine ma. I didn’t know you were in Ibadan.’
‘Now that you know, I’m waiting for you. Ireti will send directions to her house now. I want you here as soon as possible. Mummy can’t wait to see her boy.’
When she ended the call, Charles pulled the car off the road and sat there for what seemed like eternity.
Charles leaned on the wall, looking at the two women sitting with their legs crossed in a cozy well-furnished living room.
‘Mummy, what exactly are you doing in Ibadan?’
His aunt was dressed in a long flowing purple gown. Her braided hair was packed neatly in a bun. He noticed her edges were rescinding and gray hair had covered a great part of her hair. In front of her was a saucer of chopped red apples.
‘Your wife got an apartment here and so I decided to visit.’ She threw a piece into her mouth.
‘Ireti is not my wife. Funmi is!’
She laughed. ‘We settled the issue of your spouse long before you turned ten and you stand here to tell us what we know is the truth?’
‘When I brought Funmi home, you didn’t say anything. She talks about how caring and loving you are. Why would you treat her this way? This is not fair!’
Aunt Toyosi gave a sarcastic laugh. ‘How do you educated people say this?’ She paused and tried to remember. ‘You don’t judge a book by the cover. I was only pretending to like her. Ireti is your real wife. That bitch you are harbouring in your home is really foolish, you know.’
Ireti laughed. ‘We have plans for her. We are coming for her.’
Charles aunt grinned. ‘Oh yes we are. We won’t destroy her just yet. it’s going to be a gradual process and when we get her out of the picture, Ireti will step in.’
Tears stung Charles’ eyes. He looked from one woman to another. What kind of wicked people were this? Was he ever going to get away from their hands?
Ireti moved graceful towards him and touched her chin. The effect her touch had on him shook him from his inside. The images were back. The more he fought them, the weaker he became. She was wearing that perfume again. He closed his eyes.
‘It’s been a long time, my darling. My bed has missed you and my body aches for you.’ Ireti whispered into his ears, her hand sliding down his back. When she planted a kiss on his lips, he lost it.
Ireti laughed and pulled him towards the bedroom. He followed her like a goat led to the slaughter. Aunt Toyosi chuckled and reached for another piece of apple.
‘Funmi.’ She whispered. ‘When we are done with you, you’d wish you were never born. You stepped into the wrong territory.’