Happy Wednesday! I hope your week has been awesome so far. I ought to have posted this on Tuesday, but it didn’t happen. So, here it is on Wednesday instead. 🙂 Today, I’ll be sharing the third story in the August Fiction Series. This one is titled “An Understanding Woman.” All I can tell you in advance is that it involves a woman and a man (how descriptive, I know!) The rest … you’ll have to read for yourself. 😀
In case you didn’t read the first two stories, they are here. Help yourself.
Have a fantastic week!
An Understanding Woman
Jude was late again. And Precious was fed up.
“He promised me this wouldn’t happen again, ehn … Look at the time,” she hissed, stamping her foot angrily.
The clock did not lie. Yet, Jude was not back from work.
In other households where people lived on Lagos Mainland and worked on the island, enduring countless hours in traffic on their daily commute, coming home late was expected.
But not in this home.
Jude, a young, enterprising man with unfulfilled ambition eating away at him every day, owned and operated a business center less than twenty minutes from his home. His business center closed at 8:00pm, and he wasn’t the night crawling type.
Until about six months ago, when a new business center had opened next to his own.
At first, Jude had complained bitterly that the new business would mean serious competition for him, and he didn’t know how he would re-strategize to lay a firm hold of his own market share. That continued for two weeks.
However, when Jude finally met the owner of the new business center, he changed his tune.
“Precious, do you know it’s a woman who owns FAMEX Ventures?” he told her one evening as she laid a steaming bowl of okra soup in front of him.
“Which one is FAMEX Ventures again? All these names sef–” Precious said, as she set aside the basin of water Jude used to rinse his hands.
He chuckled. “Oh-oh, Precious. It’s the new shop near my own.” Then, he took a quick sip of water before attacking the large mound of eba with wet fingers.
“Oh yes,” said Precious, making the connection. “What about it?” she asked, taking a seat beside him on the longer side of the dining table. She watched in satisfaction, as he ate his food, grunting with approval every now and then, as tasty morsels went down into his belly.
Knowing he was enjoying the meal she had labored over for two hours, gave her immense satisfaction.
“Won’t you eat?” he asked her, as he chewed the last bits of one of four sizeable pieces of meat lying at the bottom of the soup.
“You know I’ve eaten. I’ll just sit here and keep you company,” said Precious. “You won’t finish your meat?”
“Sweetheart, my belle don full! You can have it,” he said with a grin, and without hesitation, Jude lifted one piece of meat and plopped it into the open mouth of his wife. They both giggled as Precious struggled to chew the beef, but when she was almost done, he held up his half-empty glass of water to his wife’s lips, and watched the contents travel down her throat.
Precious smiled at Jude, who gently nudged her under the table, saying, “Why didn’t you refuse ehn?”
“Since when do I say No to meat?” she chuckled.
Then, picking up from where he stopped, Jude continued the update he was giving his wife about his new neighbor.
“Her name is Adun Bereola, and FAMEX is just one of five business centers she owns,” said Jude, before releasing a loud belch. “Excuse me, dear.”
“Ehn ehn! Is that so? This woman, is she married?” asked Precious, not really knowing why she asked that question. It seemed like the next logical thing to do.
“No. Emmm … Not right now,” said Jude, correcting himself.
Precious was bewildered.
“What do you mean ‘not right now’? She’s either married or she’s not. There’s no in-between.”
“Well, she’s separated from her husband,” said Jude.
“Then she’s still married. Simple. That doesn’t mean she’s single and ready to mingle.”
“Ah, I don’t know if I agree with you,” said Jude. “There are enough people who will take the opposing view. Adun seems very single to me. At least, she believes she is.”
“Okay, so what did Mrs. I-don’t-know-if-I’m-still-married have to say?” she asked.
“She’s quite the business woman, dear. She was most generous with tips and pointers to help me grow my business. I mean, if I take just the little advice she gave me, we could be opening a new branch before the end of the year.”
“Really?” was Precious’ low key answer with more than a little dose of cynicism.
Jude had, of course, expected a more enthusiastic response, and pointed it out.
“Haba Precious! Are you not happy for me? We could finally move out of this flat, and into a real house. A duplex. Isn’t that what you want?” he asked.
“I do, Jude. I really do. But I–” Precious began. Then, taking a deep sigh and deciding to frame her answer slightly differently, she continued. “–I know you’ll call me jealous and I don’t care. But, I don’t trust that woman.”
“Why? You don’t even know her,” said Jude with a look of surprise.
“A woman who can’t clearly define her marital status doesn’t inspire me with confidence. Yes, single and separated both start with “S,” but they’re not the same thing,” said Precious in a concerned tone.
“Okay. Okay. Let’s leave her personal life alone. She has valuable experience that can really help my business … really help us. I mean, the ideas and suggestions we discussed today … Whoa!” said Jude sighing loudly. “That woman knows her onions.”
Precious groaned. She knew Jude well enough. Once he started singing the virtues of someone he admired, but who she viewed as sketchy, Precious knew that person would remain on Jude’s friends’ list for a while.
“So, in short sha, you want to keep her close by as a resource? Am I right?” said Precious, rolling her eyes.
“Something like that,” said Jude.
And that was how the conversation on Adun Bereola ended that night.
That was many months ago.
However, that was just the beginning of the steady decline in Jude’s character over the coming months.
There was hardly any day when Adun’s name was not mentioned in their home. At first, Precious took Jude at his word: this was a purely business relationship. She didn’t want to go sniffing for trouble where none existed. She wanted to be, in her mother’s words, “an understanding wife,” not the suspicious, nag who couldn’t trust the man she had vowed to spend the rest of her life with.
But as Precious discovered over the next few weeks after that initial conversation, and when Jude started keeping late nights outside their home, adding gin and whiskey to his list of preferred beverages, there’s a difference between making a decision in your heart, and actually putting your resolve into action.
It seemed like the more understanding Precious tried to be, the more determined Jude became in his stubborn attempts to make a fool of her.
Lipstick stains in every shade of red on his shirt were explained away as female customers mistakenly bumping into him near the over-sized Xerox photocopying machines.
Was it the same customer who was a repeat offender or just a bunch of poor eyesight plagued, red-lipped women who targeted Jude’s business center for the sole purpose of bumping into the boss?
Precious had no answer. Not from Jude anyway.
The strong musky smell female perfume that seemed to cling forever to Jude’s clothes, even after washing them, was a result of female customers giving him well-deserved hugs in appreciation of the quality of service he provided.
Did women not give handshakes too or “thank yous” or were these customers the hug-by-force type?
Still no answer from Jude.
One night, while Jude was taking a shower after returning home minutes before midnight, Precious grabbed his cellphones, all three of them. She was going to break the “don’t snoop around his phone” rule.
“Jude has brought this on himself,” she reasoned, and began to investigate.
What she saw cleared any doubts she had toyed with before.
In text message after text message, as well as on Facebook and WhatsApp, were the missing pieces that solved the mystery behind Jude’s undesirable behavior in the past weeks.
He was having an affair with Adun.
It wasn’t just the discovery itself that hurt her. It was the fact that Jude considered her stupid and gullible enough to keep throwing cheap lies her way, manufactured-on-the-go, all in a bid to cover his tracks and hide his illicit affair with this woman.
When she confronted him, he wore the guilty look of a man caught red-handed.
Predictably, he poured out a profusion of apologies, promising to cut off all ties with Adun and re-dedicate himself to their marriage.
And he did.
For two months.
Until Precious noticed that he would excuse himself and insist on stepping outside the house to make and receive calls whenever she was at home. She knew then, even before the scent of female perfume returned to his clothes, that Jude’s repentance was just temporary.
He was back to his old tricks.
Even then, Precious resolved to wait it out, to continue to love this man who didn’t value their marriage, to cherish and respect this man, who didn’t value her.
That is, until she bumped into Kingsley at a local supermarket one afternoon.
Tall, attractive and possessing an easy-going personality, Kingsley or “KC” as he was known, was the man Precious had enjoyed a four-year relationship with before she met Jude. That relationship had ended after Kingsley went abroad for his Masters.
Already in her mid-20s at the time, she had waited two years for KC to come back home, and take their relationship to the next level: marriage.
But, when Kingsley had announced he would be staying back for a second Masters’ degree, Precious’ parents had called their daughter aside and advised her to cut Kingsley loose.
Time was not on her side.
So, Precious took her parents’ advice to find someone who was not busy chasing academic dreams indefinitely. That person turned out to be Jude, who had completed his education and was ready to settle down with a wife. Precious gave Jude a chance, and the rest, like they say, is history.
Now, Kingsley was back in town, conveniently single and to top it all, still cared about her. He made that last bit very clear while he stood facing her, his back turned to the row of cornflakes and breakfast items.
“I’m sorry things ended that way, Precious. I really am. You know you were always special to me. Let me make it up to you … Dinner, at least,” he insisted.
“No, KC. I’m married.” That was the answer she had every intention of giving him, but when her lips parted, she heard herself say, “Yes, I’d like that.”
They met up for dinner that same evening.
The entire time, Precious wondered why she had let Kingsley go. The memory of his putting her life on pause seemed so trivial, so unimportant just then. She even began to chide herself.
Couldn’t I have waited another two years? Wouldn’t this guy have been worth the wait instead of double-dealing Jude?
How much more caring, more understanding, more cultured, more sensitive, more of a gentleman Kingsley seemed compared to her two-timing husband.
So, when Kingsley asked her to go and watch a movie with him the following weekend “for old times’ sakes,” Precious said “Yes,” without giving it a second thought.
This time, he showed up with a box of chocolates from a shop in Paris. He had picked it up on his last trip to Europe two weeks earlier.
They barely watched the movie, spending the majority of the time giggling and gisting like school children.
When was the last time she had laughed like this with anyone? With Jude?
Precious couldn’t remember. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to remember. But she was certain of this: she thoroughly enjoyed Kingsley’s company.
And why shouldn’t she? After all, she too was entitled to happiness.
However, for his third date with Precious, Kingsley was very mindful of the venue. He chose a private, extra special place: his duplex in Lekki.
“I know you’ll say ‘Let me think about it.’ Please do, and let me have your answer by Friday,” Kingsley said just before they parted ways at the movie theatre. He told her he wanted to host her at his house, and cook her dinner.
“Dinner for two. Just me and you, hanging out like old times.”
Alone with Kingsley? That scared Precious.
This whole time she was re-connecting with Kingsley, they had been together in public. But if she accepted his invitation, it would be the first time since she got married that she would be alone with him in private.
From the tantalizing way Kingsley looked at her while he proposed dinner at his place, Precious knew that this man had more than food and conversation on his mind. His eyes swept over her with naked hunger, the kind that neither food nor drink could quench.
Indeed, Precious understood that if she said ‘Yes’ to Kingsley, she would leave his house with more than food in her belly. She would be crossing a line that women who cherished faithfulness, and wanted long lasting marriages, never crossed.
But like Precious reasoned, it was the same line that her husband had crossed over and over again for months, as if he had made empty vows to the wind on their wedding day.
As Precious understood marriage, when a man broke his wedding vows and cheated, the marriage wasn’t over. It was when the woman followed in the footsteps of her cheating spouse that the marriage was irretrievably broken. Because afterall, women forgave men’s infidelity all the time. If they didn’t, there would be many more broken homes than the world recorded.
But, how many men would forgive an unfaithful wife?
Such was the conflicted mindset of Precious and it was that thought that kept her from accepting Kingsley’s invitation on the spot.
Later that week, on Friday night to be precise, Jude came in late reeking of alcohol as usual. But he was still lucid, not drunk. He didn’t bother lying to her about where he had been.
“Adun’s place. She has a water bed,” he chuckled ignoring the mortified look on his wife’s face. “I tell you, that woman is loaded,” said Jude as he placed his cell phones on the bed, and began to unbutton his shirt.
“I bet she is,” said Precious bitterly. She sat up in bed, her long legs crossed, heart burning with anger.
The audacity of this man!
“What did you say?” Jude shouted, anger distorting his features. Before Precious could respond, a hot slap had landed on her face. Dazed and still recovering from the physical onslaught, another one landed on the same cheek.
The second slap was accompanied by Jude’s sharp rebuke.
“Don’t you ever talk about Adun in that tone. Nonsense!”
And as if the insult wasn’t enough, the screen of one of Jude’s phones lit up and began to ring.
“Sweet Baby,” was the name of the caller ID. Precious was heartbroken, livid. She wanted to smash the phone against the wall, but the fear of what Jude would do, kept her in check.
As Jude picked up the phone and disappeared into the sitting room, Precious buried her face in her pillow and cried.
But, it was then she realized what her answer would be.
While Jude was taking a hot bath, Precious picked up her phone and searched for the contact who bore the name, “Auntie K.” She sent a one-line text message to this person.
I’ll be there.
The following day, Precious showed up at a stately house in Lekki with neatly trimmed hedges and a massive front door. She pressed the bell just once. The door opened and Kingsley stood before her, a naughty smile on his lips.
“Glad you could make it,” he said with a wide grin, rubbing his hands together. “I hope you’re hungry.”
Flashing a less-than-innocent smile back at him, she replied.
“You bet I am.”
And they disappeared into the house.
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