I read this today and found myself sighing with relief and laughing. A good break on a dry day.
“Biyi hasn’t worked for that long?” Dayo’s voice drips with resentment. “For real?”
“He’s been trying,” I say in feeble attempt to defend my husband. “You know how the economy is.”
My husband and I had vowed never to bring in a third party into our relationship but with a bank account screaming for revival, I need to share my burden with someone else. I grip the phone. Dayo is unusually quiet. “You still there?” I ask. “Hello?”
“I am here,” she says. “I just didn’t know things were this bad. And all this while, I thought Biyi was providing for the home.”
But he is, I argue silently. Well, maybe not financially for now, but in every way else, Biyi is a rock. “It’s not that bad.” My words sound frail.
Dayo clucks her tongue. “You might as well be a widow.”
The words hit me like a fist.
“Na you I blame,” she continues, oblivious to the damage her words have caused.
“Me? Why?” She is blaming me for this? Seriously?
“Why do you keep paying the bills?”
“Because there is no one else to do it,” I protest, upset.
“For real? He drives your car too?”
“He needs it,” I mutter. “To attend job interviews and stuff. He gets back late sometimes.”
“How late are you talking?
Dayo pauses for a second. “I hate to say this gurl, but your husband spending your money on another woman.”
Whoa! Hang on. Where did that come from? “Haba, Dayo. Biyi would never—”
“Look, I know men,” she slices in. “You are his moneybag and he will take you for a ride as long as it takes. Where is your dignity, gurl?”
Ride. Dignity. Moneybag. Ouch. “But he’s a good guy,” I manage. Can my husband be using me? It had never crossed my mind in the past, but I now wonder if Biyi is actually having an affair.
“I trust my wonderful Dennis…,” Dayo is saying. I barely listen. My eyes are on the clock. It’s almost midnight and Biyi isn’t home. I force myself to hear what Dayo is saying about Dennis Ono, her multimillionaire-oil- company-golden-husband. Gosh I envy her life, her perfect marriage.
“My marriage is wonderful,” Dayo says, as if in affirmation to my undeclared words. “But only because I show Dennis who the boss is. He cannot try nonsense with me. Abi, you think it’s easy to get ten thousand pounds a month as pocket money?”
She really gets ten grand a month? That’s like, my entire annual salary in my crappy job plus bonuses. Life is unfair. Honestly. “I am Biyi’s wife,” I say. “I cannot just desert him.” Or can I? At this rate…
“In that case,” there is an edge to her voice now, “give him an ultimatum. He gets a job in two weeks or you are out of that marriage.”
“Look, I know his type,” she says with conviction. “He conveniently won’t get a job as long as you keep dishing out your money.”
“Starve him,” she adds. “No sex. Make life hell. You are not an ATM machine.”
Keys jangle in the hallway. Biyi is home. “Talk later,” I say to Dayo. “He’s back.”
“Stand your ground,” Dayo whispers menacingly. “Ultimatum. Two weeks.”
I hang up with a sigh. My husband is leaning against the door frame. For a second my heart falters. He looks tired, drawn. But Dayo’s words punctuate my compassion.
“Where have you been?”
Biyi gives me a side smile. “No hug?”
I jerk my head at the wall clock.” Its midnight.”
“I had a job interview in Birmingham,” he says. “I called you tell you I was stuck in traffic but I kept getting your voicemail. What’s wrong?”
I cock my head. Is that a whiff of female perfume? It is. Dayo is right. He has been with another woman. With my car. Spending my money. My head spins.
“Biyi,” I glare at him, “Where are you coming from?”
He steps back, surprised. “I went to Birmingham—”
“Did you get it?” I screech. “The job?”
Biyi shakes his head. “I didn’t—”
This is the last straw. I wrench my hand out. “My car keys.”
He gives me a hard level stare. “What is wrong with you, Toni? Did I offend you?”
“Pass my keys!”
He thrusts the car keys to into my palm. I push past him, grab my duffel bag and stuff my overnight things into it. I know I am acting crazy but I have to show him that I would not be taken for a ride. That I am not a moneybag. That I have dignity. I zip the bag up and spin around. My husband is staring at me.
“Is everything all right with you, sweetheart?”
“Get out of my way.”
“Where are you going with that bag?”
“I need to clear my head.” I am still yelling.
“Can we talk first?” Biyi suggests.
“I don’t want to talk. Get out of my way.”
He moves out of my path. I swipe a hand across my face, smearing my cheeks with mascara. “Don’t look for me. I will be back when my head clears.”
I rush out of the house, jump into my car. My rage doubles as the feminine scent permeates the car. He has been with a woman in my car. I feel like an idiot.
* * *
I pull up in front of Dayo’s mansion. Her husband’s Porsche is in the driveway, and the porch lights illuminate my dreary form as I reach the door. I ball my fists to knock, but a scream freezes the motion.
“Kill me!” I hear Dayo scream. “Good for nothing idiot. Womaniser of the century!”
Whoa. Momentarily, I am unable to move. My hand hovers in the air.
Dull thuds, muffled screams. Dennis curses. “I warned you never to serve me stew that is not freshly cooked!”
“Am I your slave?” Dayo yells back. “If you want fresh stew, get your PA to cook it for you. Or you think I don’t know about her? You think…”
Dayo’s words are silenced by another thump. My hands fall to my side as a flurry of blows stifle her cries. I want to call the police, do something…anything. But I cannot move. And so I shut my eyes tight and listen as my friend is pummelled by her husband. The beating stops. I should dash to my car, but something holds me back.
“I am sorry I got you upset darling,” Dayo finally says. Her voice is laced with pain. “It is my fault. I should have cooked for you. I…Toni wouldn’t let me get off the phone…its her fault.”
“Next time you talk to me like that, I will tattoo a punch on your forehead,” Dennis growls. “Get into the kitchen and make me fresh stew. And do something about that leech you call a friend.”
That is enough for me. I sprint back to my car and drive home.
* * *
A knock sounds on the window. Biyi. I wind down and he gives me a smile. “Head clear now?” he asks.
“Leave me alone,” I mutter. Dayo’s wonderful Dennis beats her up? And she never mentioned?
“I will leave you alone in two seconds,” Biyi says. There is a twinkle in his eyes. “But first, get out of the car.”
I oblige, grudgingly. “What?”
He reaches under the car seat and pulls out a small basket. “I didn’t come home straight from the interview. I stopped over at the Perfume shop to get you this.” He hands the basket over. Inside is a range of exotic feminine perfumes and a small card. I pull the card open, read the words:
“Thank you for your support during the hardest times of my life! I love you.”
“That’s why I was late,” he explains as he pulls me into a warm embrace. “You have been so good to me, Toni. I couldn’t have asked for a better wife.”
I can’t reply. My throat is lumpy.
“When you left the house to clear your head, I got a call back from the recruiter,” he says with a beam. “God answers prayers, babe. I got the job. It’s a package you won’t believe. Let’s go in. I’ll tuck you into bed and you can tell me what’s bothering you?”
* * *
I awaken to a text message from Dayo. “Dennis is flying me to Seychelles this weekend. This is what you get when you stand your ground. You have to be a no nonsense gurl! Don’t you just love my life? Ciao sweetheart xxx.”
I type a quick response back: “Ciao!” And then I promptly delete her number from my phone.