Sharon always got confused when she was clothing and accessories shopping. Mostly, to make things easier, she preferred to go in the company of her mother who was the eternal-female shopper. Or with her bestie, Munachi. But Munachi was out of town and would only be back next week Sunday and her mother was preoccupied with a church program that Saturday.
If Tim hadn’t insisted she needed a new dress for Valentine’s Day party at the hotel next weekend, and that she must get one today, she would have gladly waited for when her mother would be free.
The thought of Tim brought on a frown. His attitude had somewhat improved; he was no longer preoccupied with his phone when with her and he tried to be more attentive. But Sharon feared it was all a show for her. He probably still communicated with whomever has him distracted when alone and away from her.
After their fight at his office, she’d started to strongly consider the possibility of Tim having another woman. Though you never think such a thing would happen to you but you read of it happening to other relationships and marriages—your partner meets someone else and suddenly they begin to lose interest in you.
Maybe Tim had met another woman and he was having an affair with her. Munachi always owned that no man can stay celibate for too long. She called it an unnatural order. But she had never shared that school of thought. She had always believed that so long as a man was determined and God-focused, he will be equipped with the grace to stay away from sex until marriage.
But maybe Tim had lost that grace. Hadn’t he, a few weeks back, said something about wishing he could bring forward their wedding date? Then of course, she had only seen it as her man being endearingly impatient to begin life with her. But it was probably the helpless cry of a man feeling sexually deprived.
She now believed it was. Tim whom she had met celibate was now impatient to lose that celibacy cloak. And he probably had already done so.
“Uh-uh. That is not the dress for you.”
Sharon let go of the broad-strap red lace maxi dress she’d been absently fingering, and was considering buying, and spun around.
“What?” Then she recognised him. “It’s you… from the phone shop at Konwea Plaza. The Blackberry man.”
Benny looked at her closely and grinned. “And you were with the iPhone man. Imagine meeting again in a store.”
“Yeah, it’s funny.” Sharon smiled, relaxing now she knew it wasn’t a guy with some fancy line. “Is your fiancée somewhere around the store?”
“Nope, I’m shopping alone. V-day’s presents.” He winked. “And you. Are you alone?”
“Unfortunately.” Sharon pulled a face. “I am an unusual female, shopping scares me. I usually come with my bestie or my mum, but neither is available today. So, it’s take-the-bull-by-the-horn for me.” She pursed her lips and cast a quick glance at her erstwhile it-dress. “So, what have you got against that dress? Looks elegant enough.”
“And it is. You could pull it off too with your tall, slim build. But this one,” he pointed to a single-strap waist-flare coral-red maxi dress with a thigh-high slit, “was totally meant for a figure like yours. Wear it and that man of yours won’t be able to see clearly for months on end.”
Sharon laughed. “How about years on end?”
“Could work the magic too.” Benny grinned. “Especially if you pair it with lovely heeled sandals—not red thought. Too much colour.”
“Hmm. And what colour would you suggest as best match for a red dress?” Sharon asked, then let out a chuckle. “Since none of my fashion aides are on hand for advice, I might as well pick your brain. Don’t blame me… you nosed into my private shopping world.”
“And this is the punishment for my big nose.” Benny quipped humorously. “Best matching colour? Now, that would be metallic gold. Now silver will work just fine too, but for me, gold works it better.”
Sharon was roundly impressed. “Wow! What are you, a fashion designer or one of these fashion stylists?”
Benny grinned and shook his head. “Just a man with too many sisters and they are all fashionistas… and super great cooks. So it all rubbed off on me. Nora recommends I return as a woman in my next life.”
“It is worth considering, so long as you’re returning with these natural talents.” Sharon sent him a grateful smile. “Thanks for nosing into my private shopping. I am completely taking all of your advice and as a last pick of your stylist brain—hair up or down on V-day?”
“Definitely down. Long, wavy dark-brown hair. Nude makeup and simple jewellery.”
“Super. Great.” Sharon clasped her hands in delight. “Anytime you decide you are tired of whatever it is you are doing presently and want to go fulltime into fashion styling, post massive billboards all over Asaba and I will find you, I promise.”
“I will keep that thought in mind.” Benny smiled and stepped back. “I’ll leave you to finish with your shopping. My sincere greetings to iPhone man.”
“And mine to your lovely fiancée.” Sharon returned his wave before turning back to the rack to slid off the hanger the red dressed he’d picked.
“Chai, na this kain man I dey find, Jehovah.” One of the sales-rep sighed loudly. “Aunty, you need to see the Swarovski jewellery set wey im buy for im fiancée. Fiancée o, no be wife. Chi m o, bless me with man wey sabi love abeg.”
Sharon made no response, but silently she completely agreed with the mouthy sales-rep. A woman with such a man will never have anythng to worry about.
Benny was about to slid into his Nissan Pathfinder when he heard the hailed greeting.
He turned and saw Nnamdi walking towards him with a wide grin on his face. Nnamdi Okoli was a broadcaster with the state’s broadcasting network. A most suitable profession for him, Benny always thought given his garrulous nature. He was one of his best buddies— Benny always wondered if he had what people called a best friend. There were only a bunch of friends and best buddies in his life.
“Benito the Dr Bennett!” Nnamdi hailed again as he stopped by his side. “Man, how far now? Na wa o, person no dey see you again. What’s up now, na the work, abi na the babe?”
“A balanced combination of both.” Benny smiled good-naturedly, responding to his quick man-hug. “But you know what they say, if Mohammed does not go to the mountain—”
“Save that cliché, man. You’ve been scarce and you should own it.” Nnamdi brushed off the lame argument. “But no worry, after saying ‘I do’ your temperature go come down. You’re feeling like Tokyo whilst in Asaba now, but na after the race we dey count miles.”
“Some things get better with age, haven’t you heard?” Benny teased, never a believer that marriage needs change a man.
“I don hear.” Nnamdi scoffed. “Just keep colouring the town red with your love. Bloomsdale today, another big spot tomorrow.”
“Bloomsdale?” Benny arched his brows. “Recommending a new spot?”
“Recommend? Saw you guys there two weekends ago now.” Nnamdi gave him a slap on the back as he beamed a wicked grin. “Heard the place is known for its magnificent rooms and service.”
“Your eyes are failing you, Namdi, we weren’t at Bloomsdale two weekends ago. Matter-of-fact, we’ve never been at Bloomsdale.” Benny shook his head. “But na wetin carry you go there?”
“Honestly, work this time.” There was a frown on Nnamdi’s face. “You sure you guys weren’t there? I thought I saw Nora’s car at the parking lot.” He shook his head. “Must have not looked properly. Anyway, how is she? And how are the wedding preparations coming?”
That evening as they both prepared dinner in his kitchen, Benny recollected Nnamdi’s misconception. “You ever been to Bloomsdale?”
The knife she was using to slice the carrot almost went the wrong way but Nora managed to steady it… and herself. “Bloomsdale?” She prayed her voice sounded puzzled enough. “No. Why do you ask?”
“Ran into Nnamdi at… uh-hmm, I’m not telling you where I ran into him. That’s my secret for now.” He sent her a wink. “But Nnamdi thought he’d seen your car at the parking lot of the hotel and figured we were inside having fun.”
“At Bloomsdale?” She made a disparaging noise. “What happened to us having fun at home? Oga Nnamdi sef. And what was he doing there himself?”
“Work he said.” He pursed his lips thoughtfully as he turned the chicken on the fryer. “You know it’s not a bad idea us going to spend one of these weekends at a hotel. And from what Nnamdi said this Bloomsdale sounds like a great place. Hey, by the way, isn’t that the hotel of one your customers who left his fancy business card weeks back?”
“Hmm… I don’t know. A lot of people leave a bunch of weird stuff for us jaré. Na we be their advertising agency too.” She casually reached for another carrot. “In any case, forget that your hotel idea. Only way I’m going to a hotel with you is after you put a ring on it.”
“Babe, I hate to state the obvious, but I already put a ring on it.” Benny shot a snooty glance at her engagement ring. “And I am planning on putting another, so chill.”
“Then you chill until you put that other one, because my sweet Benny-Mac, that one is the koko.” She blew him a saucy kiss and chuckled when he scowled. “So, how is Oga Nnamd, that is apart from his possible eye defect?”
But as Benny chatted on about his friend, Nora froze under the gnawing teeth of her conscience. Dear God, someone had already seen her! Someone now knew—at some level—and sooner or later, Benny might hear of this again and this time he won’t be so easily dismissive. She has to stop this. She has to end it and pray to God to forgive her and save her from the consequences of her foolishness.