Tito adjusted her robe, fastening the belts around her waist. The banging knock on the door came again and her mouth pressed to a thin line. Honestly, whoever was behind that door would get it hot from her. She’d been through too much the previous night to be jerked off from a well deserved sleep.
Tito stormed to the door, yanking it open instantly. Her angry face grew instantly furious as she glowered at the men at the door. The last thing she needed was having Deolu and Chris hovering over her like she was shorter than she actually was.
“Really? How dare you both impose your sights on me this morning?” She snapped as she blocked the entryway with her small frame, holding the door like a vice.
“I need to see Laura” Deolu said instantly. He looked pensive as he looked past Tito into the apartment.
Tito glared at Deolu with disgust written all over her. She shook her head. “Gosh, the nerve” she muttered under her breath. She closed her eyes briefly, breathing in and out before opening them. “Leave my house”
“Please, Tito…” Chris spoke up. “I know you are really upset but we need to see Laura, I’m… We’re worried something bad might have happened to her”
“Well of course, something bad has happened to her… if finding out her husband has impregnated his best friend isn’t bad, I don’t know what’s worse”
Deolu swallowed. “I’m sorry, okay… I know it’s lame and stupid and you hate me so much now but I just want to see Laura… I want to be sure she’s okay, please… please” he looked into the apartment. “Laura” he yelled.
Tito fell silent for a brief moment. “And why would she be here? What else did you do to her? Last time I saw her, she was being disgraced at her own anniversary party” she snapped bitterly. “What did you do to my cousin?”
Deolu scratched his head nervously, something he usually does when he was on the edge. Chris seemed to be done with the chitchat. “I know she is here… Why not let us come in”.
Tito glared at Chris for a brief moment before opening the door wide. Deolu literarily jumped in, followed closely by Chris. It was a self-contained apartment, stylishly decorated in all feminine glory. Deolu looked everywhere, even peeped through into the kitchen which was left ajar. Tito had never been more pleased about the state of her kitchen – it’s good to clean up after you, you never can tell who’d storm your house at the stroke of dawn searching for his missing rib. Deolu’s eyes roamed Tito’s apartment in obvious frustration, making Tito roll her eyes. “You want to check my kitchen cabinets? Or my bathroom… Who knows, I could have hidden her in the wardrobe.” she raised her brow.
“Don’t be cynical” Chris raked his fingers through his nonexistent hair in frustration. “Just tell us where she is”
“And I would know that because…”
Deolu exhaled audibly. “Because you would be pulling down heaven if you truly thought she was missing” he answered. “Please, Tito… I just need to see her, I… I think I might go crazy if I don’t”
“You can’t go crazier than you did when you broke your wedding vows.” Tito snapped. “Why not go to her parents house, uhn? Show her father that he was right about you all along”. Deolu swallowed heavily.
Chris stomped his foot impatiently. “Would you just tell us where she is?”
“I can’t! And don’t you dare make demands in my house, you arrogant oaf.” she glared at Chris. To be honest, she didn’t know who made her angrier, Deolu who broke Laura’s trust or Chris who was busy making demands like she owed him answers. “In fact…” Tito stormed to the door, opening it wide. “Leave, you two. You’ve interrupted my day enough. Laura needs space, it would take time to wrap her brain around this whole mess. If you want what’s best for her, you leave her alone. Now, leave”
Deolu and Chris stormed out of her apartment and she slammed the door in annoyance. She shook her head, taking a moment to catch her breath before moving away from the door. She took a few steps to the bathroom and pushed open the door. “They are gone”
Mrs Johnson stared at her husband in complete bewilderment. “She is your daughter, Frank”
Mr Johnson switched the pages of the newspaper he was reading, ignoring her. She walked up to him, yanking the newspaper from his arms aggressively. “I am talking to you, Frank. How can you be so unconcerned about your own daughter? How can you be so heartless?”
“Watch it, woman, you are wearing out my patience”
“I don’t care. How about that?” she returned. “Whatever happened between you and Laura should be in the past now. Your daughter needs you now, Frank”
“She doesn’t need me. If I remember correctly, I told her not to marry that man in the first place. If she didn’t need my blessings when she was getting married, why would she need my help now that it’s crumbling to the ground? My only focus is Margaret and her sister. Laura stopped being my daughter the day she chose that excuse of a man over me; she is dead to me”
Mrs Johnson shook her head. “I can’t believe you. I just can’t”
“You don’t have to” he snatched the papers. “Margaret listened and is doing fine in her marriage. That’s all that matters to me”
Mrs Johnson shook her head. “You know nothing, Frank”
Laura wiped a tear from her eye as she stood from the toilet seat, stumbling slightly. Tito rushed to stable her and together, they walked out of the toilet. Tito knew that Laura must have heard everything she said to Deolu and Chris but she said nothing, she had barely said anything since she arrived at Tito’s door, a little before midnight the previous day. Tito had never seen a more frightening sight. Laura’s face had been so pale, almost like a living ghost. The cloth Laura wrapped around her left arm was soaked in blood. No sooner had she opened the door than Laura collapsed in her arms. “Jesus! What happened to you?” Tito had screamed as she pulled her semiconscious cousin into her apartment and onto her bed. Thankfully, she had a first-aid kit at home which came to her rescue. She hated the site of blood. As she opened up the cloth Laura had wrapped around her wrist, the site alone sent her panicking. The wound ran deep, and the blood wouldn’t stop oozing out. Laura had tried to withdraw her hand, knowing how much blood and wounds affected her cousin but Tito held her firmly. She wouldn’t lose her cousin because of a stupid phobia. Fighting her fears, she took care of her cousin, cleaned up the wound as much as she could and applied a bandage. The stench of blood followed her into her dreams, it really was a long night.
Even now, as she led her cousin back to the bed, she could see that bandage needed changing. The wound would definitely need stitching. “Catherine would be here soon” she told Laura as well as herself. Catherine, asides being their close friend, was also a doctor. She wondered how Laura had ended up with a wound so deep but Laura had been mum since she arrived and Tito did think she had the strength to talk, so she did all the talking, calling Deolu all sort of names. She couldn’t begin to comprehend just how hurt Laura was but she could only hope insulting Deolu made her feel a little better. “What’s keeping this girl?” she finally snapped when she ran out of things to say. Laura looked very weak, she had lost so much blood. It would be so much easier if she allowed Tito take her to the hospital.
A knock came on the door and she literarily jumped at it, yanking it open. Catherine breezed in, carrying a box and a stetoscope. “Where have you been?”
“Traffic” she muttered as she reached Laura in no time. “Good God, Laura…” she gasped, as she examined Laura with her stethoscope.
“Get a bowl of water” she said, opening her box.
Tito rushed to the kitchen, and returned in a flash, dropping the bowl. Catherine opened the bandage and pulled it off. “I’d have to stitch this” she announced.
Tito cringed. She couldn’t stand any more blood. Turning, she swallowed. “I’d just be outside.” she announced. She needed a bit of fresh air.
“I can’t believe it. I just can’t!” Chris muttered as he paced the entire floor of his large sitting room, covering the entire space wall to wall albeit calmly. His hands were fisted by his sides as his eyes blazed over. Wale watched him, saying nothing. “He had such an amazing woman, how could he do something so terrible? How could he be so stupid” he bellowed into the room.
Wale sighed. “I think you are laying it too thick, man. Why are you so offended by this?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? I can’t believe a friend of mine would do something so… so…”
Wale’s brow shut up in amusement. “So what?” he inquired incredulously. “Oh, come off it man, like you aren’t both birds of a feather.”
“We are not. It might seem like it but I’m not what you people think I am. I am definitely not married, and I sure as hell haven’t impregnated anyone, much less someone I profess to be my best friend”
“Yet” Wale added, rewarded by a stern glare from Chris. He stood casually from the chair, going over to pour himself a drink. “Besides, I thought you’d be pleased with the turn of events”
Chris stilled. “What does that mean?”
Wale shrugged, “The coast is clear”
Chris stared at him. “I’m still lost”
“Oh, cut the crap, man, stop playing the novice card. You are definitely in love with Laura, here is the opportunity to get her for yourself.”
Chris paled, turning to the legendary pillar of salt. “I am surely not-”
“Oh, shut up, don’t play me for a fool, I am not one. Any fool could see that you are head over heels in love with Laura, it is as clear as the dawn of a new day. I can’t believe Deolu never read the writings on the wall that was obviously written in plain English”
“You don’t know what you’re saying” Chris turned away, running his ten fingers over his hair in total frustration.
“You know I do. Now, if you were half as smart as I think you are, you’d see to how you can get Laura into your arms.”
Chris whirled on him. “She is Deolu’s wife!” he exclaimed.
“But not for much longer, can’t you see?”
“You want me to betray Deolu? Betray our friendship? I would never do that” he couldn’t even believe that Wale was presenting such a vile possibility. And yes, Wale couldn’t have been more right. Chris had fallen in love with Laura the instant he set his eyes on her. She was the most exquisite creature he had ever come across, but it was not the beauty that held that much appeal, it was the personality in general. He could hardly think of anything else but Laura. But she had been Deolu’s friend. Deolu had confided in him that he wanted to ask her out before he even introduced them. How could he then come forward, professing feelings that was eating him up on the inside? He couldn’t do that, so as always, he put the feelings of others above his. Encouraged Deolu in his relationship, deriving a bit of consolation in the knowledge that Laura was very happy. He went out with as many women as possible but his feelings for Laura was unabashed. He was a player, never gave his heart out to anyone but the one who captured his heart was one he couldn’t have.
“Where has your devotion to friendship gotten you? All I see here is Deolu getting everything while you hold on to nonexistent friendship vows. You languish in pain while another man is happy with a woman that could be happier with you. Have you wonderwd why they never had children till now? Maybe that’s a sign. She probably would have three kids now if she married you instead and -”
“Shut up” Chris boomed, turning to glare at Wale. “Stop putting filthy ideas in my head, you fool. I can’t believe I’ve been friends with you for so long, my God!”
“You can’t be serious” Dupe glowered at Teju like she had gone insane.
“Well, I’m serious” Teju answered her friend. She had taken a much needed break from the toxic four walls of Deolu’s house and decided to visit her friend. It’s been two days since Laura vanished from the house and Teju was already tired of it all. “I prefer to raise my child alone than live with this guilt all my life” she stated bluntly.
“You are not stupid, are you?” Dupe snapped. “You want to be a single parent; do you know what that means?”
“Don’t patronize me, of course I do, and trust me, it is not as bad as being labelled a husband snatcher”
“Leave that thing” Dupe said sarcastically. “See let me tell you, whether you like it or not, whether you decide to go off and raise the child solo or not, you’ve already been labelled a husband snatcher and there’s nothing you can do about it”
Teju didn’t like the sound of this. Why couldn’t Dupe sugarcoat some things sometimes?
“You have to live with it whether you like it or not”
“I can’t” Teju jumped to her feet. “You have no idea what I’m facing, do you? Laura literarily maimed herself and vanished after this gory secret was revealed, Deolu hasn’t slept in that house ever since, everyone around that house hate me, whispering behind my back, worse even, Deolu’s mother acts like I’m carrying baby Jesus in my tummy; I destroyed a happy home, Dupe”
“Happy! There ain’t no happy home without a child, girl. And stop rehearsing what you’ve done like it’s something new, it is not a new thing. You should be happy that you’ve finally gotten a resting place, look at you. Your mother-in-law even likes you already and you are not happy” Dupe hissed. “Listen girl, you would have to leave sentiments and think about yourself for a change. Stop being Miss-nice-girl, where has that gotten you?”
“It got me peace”
“And no ring” Dupe added. “You are closer to the ring, now than ever. You’ve known the guy forever, meaning you know him better than anyone. He slept with you, meaning there’s attractive. It’s only a matter of time before he falls head over heels in love with you, babe. It is time to work your magic babe. Don’t be a 21st century idiot, use your head”
Teju stared at Dupe for a prolonged moment. “You’re such a bad influence”. She didn’t know why she even came to Dupe, but then, maybe she knew… Maybe she came to Dupe because she knew she would get this type of counsel. She took a deep breath.
Dupe nodded. “And you are welcome”
Deolu dialed Laura’s number for the thousandth time, it was switched off. Laura was obviously tired of his calls that she had turned off her phone. He had stalked Tito’s house over and over but she just wouldn’t tell him where Laura was. He gripped his phone tighter, surging to his feet. His heart felt so heavy on his chest. He felt bitter tears simmer within the confines of his eye socket and freely let them spill over. His mucho masculine will power couldn’t stop the tears of regret that burned in his eyes. Tears of regret and fear. He feared his happiness had come to a shameful end. He couldn’t let Laura go. She was everything that sweetened his life. He’d never known love and true happiness like the one he felt with Laura, he feared he’d never know such happiness again.
He couldn’t give up Laura, but then… He was expecting a child. A pure and innocent baby. What was he supposed to do about that? About Teju? Gosh, his life was so messed up. More messed up than a PSP truck load of garbage.
Deolu swallowed as he took out two shirts from the wardrobe. He hadn’t spent more than fifteen minutes in his house since he discovered his wife had left. He had been spending all his days and nights in the office, achieving nothing asides barking at his staff. All he’d done was come home to pick some clothes, he couldn’t stay in the same place as Teju, not to mention, his mother. How on earth did he find himself in a mess so thick?
The bedroom door opened and Teju walked in. Her face was almost lifeless, she looked completely different from the bubbling lady he had grown up with. The room cracked with tension as silence reigned. “I… I served your food” Teju finally said.
Deolu stared at her for prolonged moment. “You are not my wife”
Teju swallowed and nodded as her eyes watered. “I know… And I can leave, you don’t have to abandon your home because of me” Teju finally blurted out. Deolu looked into her eyes. “Believe me, I… I don’t want to be here any more than you want me here. I have an apartment as you know, but Laura is not around and I thought… I thought mend our relationship”
Deolu blinked. He was completely at a loss. He would give anything to see Teju out of the house, would give anything to have things return to the way they were, but that was hardly fair. It wouldn’t be fair.
Deolu took a deep breath. “If you are here, it is because you want to” his smile didn’t reach his eyes. “I know you; no one can make you do what you don’t want to, not even my mother”
He watched Teju struggle, trying to deny it but he knew it for a fact. Teju was a strong-willed woman, totally capable of making her own decisions. If she had gone ahead with his mother’s plan, it was definitely because she wanted to. Deolu tried hard not to feel pain… He tried hard not to be judgemental because he was the only person to blame in this mess. He had gone to her house that night, he couldn’t blame her for wanting what rightfully belongs to her. She had suffered enough as it is.
“I’m sorry, Deolu” Teju’s voice shook as she teared up. “I… I never wanted to break your family. I just don’t want my child to grow up without a father, like I did. Please believe me.” She wiped at her tears hurriedly. “I want us to go back to the way we were… Nothing has to change…” she hopped nervously. “I…” she swallowed heavily, blinking back tears. “I miss my best friend”
Deolu stared, perplexed. He had a terrible headache and needed some much to get out, get some air. Something to drive away the numbing pain he was feeling. “It’s just… I don’t think that’s possible” he finally said, frowning. “Everything we have is gone… Everything I have is gone, and as much as you say it’s you fault, I know it’s all my fault… All my fault”
Deolu grabbed his clothes, stuffed them into a small travelling briefcase Laura had got him, some years back and exited the room as fast as he could, leaving Teju, staring into the cold room.