He stopped talking when he realized the person he was talking to wasn’t actually listening.
Quietly, he took her hand and gave it back to her.
He began to rise from the chair.
Remorse congealed inside Rita. She threw her face away immediately.
He was already at the door when she finally called out, ‘Phillip, please stop!’
She got up and walked up to him. ‘Please,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me.’
Phillip nodded, ever so faintly.
Gripping the door handle to open it, he heard again, ‘Wait.’
He turned back and waited.
Rita took one slow, careful step closer. ‘You are a good man, Phillip,’ she said, ‘but you cannot give what you don’t have. No one can.’
He nodded again, sniffled and wiped at his nose. He turned the bronze handle and drew the door open.
He didn’t turn to look again before he disappeared through.
Rita gulped down a big, cold breath and turned away.
She ran to the leather couch where her phone was.
She grabbed it and hurriedly drew the screen-unlocking pattern.
The next second she’d dialled off a number. A number saved as My Husband2.
As soon as the call was taken, she said her words swiftly, in a voice that was way deeper than how she normally talked.
‘I need a divorce, Samson. I won’t be here when you return.’
Without waiting for a response, she ended the call, threw away the phone and ran upstairs.
‘Of course,’ Samson muttered to himself where he was.
Inside her room, Rita halted just before the bed. She blew out a calming sigh and turned to the open Bible on her dressing table.
She reached and closed the Holy Book. Gently, she lifted it, and placed it inside the bottom drawer of the table.
She turned and began to gather her things together.
Samson scrolled down his Recent Call list and dialled the person he spoke with some minutes earlier.
‘Boss?’ a thick male voice came through to his ear.
‘What’s the situation now?’ Samson asked.
‘We have him with us already, Boss.’
‘Alright. Keep him well till I return.’
‘Sure thing, Boss.’
The call over, the man that had answered the phone turned and looked at the back seat of the vehicle.
‘Keep his head down, Scalar,’ he said, ‘and let’s go.’
His partner, Scalar, pushed an unconscious Phillip down the seat of the car and the driver started the engine.
A thought flickered in Amaka’s mind and she ran up from the bed even before her mind could fully process the image.
Outside the door, she looked up the sky.
No sign of the moon still, not even a quarter.
But the rain has dropped and the dark sky was littered by a thousand dim stars.
Seconds later, she stood in front of Sammy’s door and knocked.
‘He is not here,’ Sammy said.
‘I know,’ Amaka returned almost the same instant. ‘Please can I bring my son to you so I go looking for him?’
‘Sure, but why bother?’
‘We had a slight disagreement.’
‘So?’ Sammy was evidently indifferent. Or bemused.
‘Can I bring my son, please?’
‘Just go and lie down, you will hear when he knocks.’
‘Okay.’ Amaka walked quietly away.
But she didn’t enter her room.
She made her way towards the gate instead.
It wasn’t locked.
The way it even looked— skewed at the top—one would realize easily that it never gets locked.
It was cold and still drizzling outside.
The ground was wet and dirty.
The entire street looked dark and empty. Deserted. It probably was the rain.
She touched her short hair. It was damp already.
She left it and started down the road, glancing at the houses and closed shops that flanked her from time to time.
She finally saw a group of people clustered in a space. She stopped and walked closer.
They were all boys, surrounding an elderly woman who was selling whatever food they were there to buy.
The flame of an open lamp flickered nearby, still some of the customers pointed their torchlight as the woman scooped the food for them in black polyethylene bags.
She made to ask them if they’d seen her husband, but the idea tasted ridiculous in her mouth.
She turned and walked away, a part of her wondering how people still manage to eat after midnight.
Sammy got up as the crying lingered.
She came outside and approached Phillip’s door.
She knocked, but nothing came.
She pushed the door open and entered.
James was on the bed, wailing.
The noise jarred on Sammy’s head.
Reluctantly, she carried him.
He felt lighter than she’d imagined he would be.
‘Shhh—shhh,’ she said. ‘Kini, what is it?’
James stopped crying, but he didn’t say anything.
Sammy stared at the boy and then started to wonder what the fuss about having babies was.
Why girls bother to do it. Why someone would deliberately give up living for nine months just to produce another human.
A tiny helpless human that will be incapable of doing any housework for years, only crying and sucking breast.
Crying and sucking breast!
She couldn’t understand it.
James rested on her chest now and she lowered him down on the bed at once.
‘Nibo ni iya e? Where is your mother?’ she said.
James said nothing.
Sammy shook her head and reassured herself that having a baby is truly a sheer waste of time. And precious energy too.
Motherhood is a senseless burden women agree to go through only for stupid reasons.
Never was she going to partake in such madness.
All she needed in her life right now is get herself a well-paying job—as she’s been trying for months now to do—and then save up and move to America.
Ladies there live more freely, she was sure.
Of course why wouldn’t they? When they don’t have old grandmothers and nosy aunties that calculate one’s age at every meeting and constantly preach marriage and motherhood.
Or a stupid boyfriend that would without shame, bend to their ear and whisper something as ridiculous as, ‘Can you have a baby for me, please?’
Sammy nearly hissed to her thoughts. ‘Lie down and sleep,’ she said to the boy. ‘I’m going to bed. I have an interview tomorrow jor.’
James continued to stare at her.
She stared back for a while and then turned to leave.
At the door, she turned back. ‘Don’t ever bother to cry again, otherwise Iya Nike will hear you and she will throw you and your parents out! She doesn’t smile.’
James did nothing but keep his wide eyes at her.
‘The way you look, it’s creepy,’ Sammy said.
James was still looking.
‘Stop it. Mi o feran e.’
James didn’t turn away still.
‘Good night, creepy boy!’ Sammy banged the door.