Number Two - Never Lie to Each Other
Obinna grabbed his cup of coffee with one hand, juggled his briefcase in the other and kissed his wife and son as he left for work. Just like he had yesterday. And the day before. The soft feel of Chiaka’s kiss stayed with him as he went downstairs from their third floor apartment. It stayed with him as he walked past the cars neatly lined up in their parking spots, waiting for their owners to beep them open and jump in, ready for another day. Just like Obinna was doing. Ignoring the questions pounding through his brain, he pulled out of their apartment complex on Richmond Avenue and headed South on TX 6 freeway. Again, just like he had yesterday and the day before. However, instead of heading toward his office at the Galleria, he stayed on TX 6 and made a U-turn when he got to Interstate 10, stopping at every red light, feeling the frustration that came with rush hour traffic.
“Should I tell her?” he wondered again. He had asked himself the same question over and over for the past two days. What would she think of him? How would she react? He had never hidden anything of consequence from his wife, and the secret was killing him. It had been two weeks already and he was somewhat surprised that he had managed to skirt the issue for so long. Absurdly pleased with himself, he smiled briefly, then stopped. Nothing about this is funny, he reminded himself. Lord, what should I do? How can I tell her the truth without losing her trust?
Seeing the familiar green icon, he pulled into the parking lot and got out, reaching into the back seat to grab his briefcase. The sight of the cardboard boxes stopped him cold. He pulled one close and looked inside. Pictures of his wife and son. Happy pictures. Smiling pictures. He had proudly displayed them on his desk at work, excited to show off his beautiful family. Look how God has blessed me, he wanted to shout to everyone. Do you see? As he ordered his Starbucks coffee and settled in for the day, he wondered how to tell his wife that he had lost his job two weeks ago.
A few days later
Chiaka hurriedly finished her makeup, and dashed out of the apartment. She fanned herself with her hand as she walked quickly towards the car. Sweat beaded her forehead and her silk blouse developed an affinity for her back. The short walk felt like a full workout session and she sighed blissfully when she got into the car where Obinna was waiting.
“Phew! Some weather we’re having!”
Her husband nodded absently. “Yeah, Houston summers are brutal.”
She pulled down the visor and fussed with her hair, tucking a few errant strands back in place. “Have you spoken with Uncle Fred?”
“Yes. He said KT is doing great, and having loads of fun with his cousins. Not missing us even a little bit.”
Chiaka smiled. It was nice to have some time alone with Obinna after dropping KT off at Uncle Fred’s house. Uncle Fred’s son, Greg was visiting with his wife and two small children and it was nice for KT to play with the other children. Sometimes, she thought he must get lonely and bored being stuck with her all day. Maybe it’s time for Number 2…she had mentioned it to Obinna sort of jokingly a couple of days earlier, and he had snapped at her that it was too soon. He’d walked away muttering about budgets and timing, and Chiaka tried to ignore his attitude. He was probably stressed at work, or just having a bad day. She glanced at him and reached out a hand to smooth his furrowed brow.
“Why so serious baby? Is everything okay?”
Obinna jerked as though she had slapped him. “Why do you ask that?”
Surprised at his somewhat extreme reaction to her innocent question, Chiaka paused before answering. “It’s just that you’ve seemed a bit…unlike yourself recently. It’s like you’re upset about something.”
A flicker of emotion swept across Obinna’s face so quickly that she would have missed it if she wasn’t watching so closely. It was there and then it was gone.
He waved a hand dismissively. “No. No, I’m fine. There’s nothing going on.”
Unconvinced, Chiaka pressed. “Are you sure?”
“Just drop it, baby. If something was going on, I’d tell you!” he snapped.
Hurt by his tone, Chiaka nodded slightly and glanced outside as other cars zipped by. They had been invited to their friend Dave’s birthday party and she had been looking forward to having some fun with her husband, but not if he was going to be like this. She looked at him again and sighed at the look on his face. It’s going to be a long evening.
Her phone beeped and she pulled it out of her purse, grateful to have something to distract her. It was a text message from her friend Julia. “Hey, are you guys coming or what? Party is in full swing!”
She smiled and quickly tapped out a reply: “We’re on our way, you party animal J”. Trust Julia to already be there having fun. With the frosty atmosphere in the car, she suddenly couldn’t wait to get there herself.
As they approached the neighborhood, Chiaka pulled down the visor for one more look at her hair and makeup. The neatly lined houses sat behind large, neatly-manicured lawns with wrap-around porches. Spring flowers provided bursts of color and several children were out riding their bikes or playing basketball. As they approached Dave’s house, she could hear the faint strains of Nigerian pop music. Cars were lined up on both sides of the street outside Dave’s house, so they drove around to find a free spot, careful not to block anyone’s driveway.
Not wanting to spend an uncomfortable evening with her suddenly-silent husband, Chiaka reached for his hand as they walked towards the house.
“I’m sorry if I upset you, baby” Even though I can’t figure out what I did. Still, for the sake of peace… she quirked an eyebrow in his direction. “Forgive me?”
Obinna sighed. What was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he just tell his wife the truth and be done with it? They would work through it as a couple and figure out what needed to be done. He just kept hoping he could get another job quickly and then he would tell her what had happened. They were still okay financially, because he still had a couple of checks due from the office and they had some savings. He knew he should tell his wife, but something kept him back. Maybe it was pride. He had always taken pride in being a good money manager, even when he was single. He had a decent job right out of college and had worked his way up gradually. Being laid off had been humiliating…devastating. He hadn’t even finished processing it and how was he supposed to tell his wife? Dredge up the feeling he had as he sat across from his boss, watching his job slip away?
He looked at his wife’s earnest face and felt a twinge of guilt. She had done nothing but trust him and love him. I’ll tell her when we get home tonight. She loves me. I know she’ll understand. Suddenly gripped by an overwhelming love, he grasped her hand and squeezed tightly. He pulled her to a stop just outside Dave’s house.
“No, baby. I’m the one who’s sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that. Forgive me?”
She smiled and leaned in for a quick kiss.
The door opened behind them and a female voice said “Eww. You guys, please get a room.”
They laughed and broke apart to greet Julia. Obinna said a quick hello and walked over to a group of friends. Chiaka lingered. “Hey, Jules”
Chiaka laughed. “I’m fine, thank you for asking.”
“Hmm, who has time for you?” Julia scoffed. “Please, tell me what you’ve done with my boy.”
Chiaka smiled gratefully at her friend for lightening her mood. Jules had a knack for doing that.
“He’s at Uncle Fred’s house haniging out with his cousins.”
“Ok, cool. Give him a kiss for him and tell him Aunty Jules misses him.” Julia turned towards the kitchen and dragged Chiaka behind her. “Come and get some food.”
“Hey, Chiaka!” a voice called out.
Glimpsing their host, she quickly let go of Julia’s hand and gave him a hug. “Hey, birthday boy. Happy birthday. Where’s madam?”
“Oh, she’s upstairs doing something. Grab some food, there’s lots to eat.” With that he waved and moved on to greet other guests. The room was pulsing with music and energy as people milled around, eating, and having loud conversations.
There was a veritable feast set up in the kitchen; trays of jollof rice, golden brown fried plantains, stewed beef and chicken garnished with chopped peppers, meatpies, and buns – a deep-fried doughy snack made with flour, eggs and sugar. Spoiled for choice, Chiaka made a plate with a little bit of everything for Obinna and grabbed two pieces of chicken and some plantain for herself.
She picked her way carefully through the crowd and spotted
Julia across the room waving her over. Thankful to see an unoccupied seat in the crowded room, she
sank down next to her friend.
“Wow, there are so many people here.”
“Yeah, you know Dave. Mr. Popularity. He should have just rented a hall and saved himself the trouble.”
Chiaka nodded in agreement. “Abi?”
Chiaka made quick work of her food. “Save my seat for me, Jules. Let me trash my plate. I’ll be right back.”
Jules stretched out her right hand “How much will you pay me?”
“You’ll have my undying gratitude” Chiaka said with a chuckle as she walked towards the kitchen, shaking her head at her friend’s antics.
The kitchen trash was overflowing, plastic plates and half-eaten food spilling out onto the marble floors. Chiaka gingerly stuck her plate in the corner of the trash can and stood for a second to make sure it didn’t fall out. As she turned to leave, a male voice said quietly “Long time, no see.”
Suddenly, it felt like all the air in the room had been sucked out. The sound of that voice sent shivers down her spine and the hair on the back of her neck bristled. She knew who it was even without turning. How could she forget that voice? How could she forget the way he had called her ‘baby’, and the things he had done to her. No, correction. The things she had allowed him do to her. She had tried to put that part of her life in the past. Tried to forget it and move on. She constantly reassured herself that being in Christ made her a new creation. Old things have passed away and everything about me is new. She had said it to herself everyday and had started to believe it when she met Obinna. Obinna had been stunningly different from the man she was sure now stood behind her. He had treated her with respect. He had treated her body with respect and she had loved him for it. Her past was firmly in the rearview mirror…or so she thought. But, no. Here it was, forcing her to confront it once again.
She turned slowly, somehow wishing she could have just ignored him and kept going. His strong jaw line came into view first, with that tantalizing shallow cleft in his chin. Her eyes traced his face, from his firm lips and his aquiline nose to his dark eyes. Those eyes. As dark and mysterious as always.
She steeled herself and prayed her voice wouldn’t betray the conflict in her soul. “Hello, Drew.”
To be continued.
Haven't read Part 1? No problem...just click on 'Older Posts' and catch up with the story so far. Thank you very much for reading! Knowing you're there keeps me writing. Stay inspired...