When your man’s attitude becomes a source of worry, you go on your knees and pray.
That was a lesson on marriage from her mother and Sharon had always believed that she’d do it when she had her husband, or a man. But it was easier said—or thought—than done, she realised it as Tim’s latest preoccupation with his phone began to worry her.
She hadn’t at first considered it anything out of the ordinary when throughout Tuesday his phones were switched off and his excuse on the morning of Wednesday when she’d finally gotten through to him had been that he’d just wanted needed some time alone with his thoughts and his God. That was how he’d put it and she hadn’t doubted his word or overthought it— not then. But when during their lunch date same day, his hand kept sliding over his phone’s on-screen keypad over and over again and he couldn’t spend a full quarter of an hour without reaching for same phone, her watch-your-man alert became piqued.
Tim had always been the kind of business man whose phones never stayed silent and he never could spend a full half-hour without being on either of them. But he’d never been the chat-text-messages type, not even with her. He preferred voice calls and his messages, when he managed to send any, were usually brief and to the point. Yet he couldn’t seem to stop tapping on his iPhone’s keypad even while they were at their marriage counselling class earlier on. It was what had really stirred her suspicion and doubled her worrying because she’d felt the tug of suspicion.
Her first thought, after her quick irritation, when she noted that he was on the BBM Messenger and obviously chatting with someone while they’d been in the class was to find a way to snoop the messages when he dropped her off. That thought had lingered and she had started even started to think up sneaky things she would do to make him leave her alone with his phone. But now as she thought again about snooping, she decided against it. She wasn’t the snooping type, she didn’t believe in intruding in another’s privacy. And above all, she had always promised herself to trust the man she was marrying and to be always open and upfront with him.
Remembering that personal policy, Sharon adjusted in the passenger seat and fixing a smile on her lips, turned to him. “You seemed very preoccupied in class. Ah, the way you were even touching your phone over and over, I told myself it might be PMB at the receiving end of your messages o. Shuo!” She let out a laugh to lighten her words.
Tim gave a quick glance before returning his eyes on the road. “PMB call common man like me? If I hear.” He kept his tone light too, though he knew she was only pretending her own light-heartedness. “The day I hear from PMB, na straight to Aso Rock be that now.”
“I say amen to that prayer o.” Sharon’s heart bumped nervously against her ribs but she refused to back down. “So if it wasn’t PMB chatting and distracting you in church, who were you chatting with then?”
“No one you know. Just a business colleague.” Tim said easily, giving her a quick smile.
Sharon didn’t believe him. And she wasn’t sure why. She dropped her gaze to his phones which lay silent on the console. “It must be a very important business colleague if you had to keep chatting with him even whilst we were in church.”
“Business is always important to me, you know that, babe.” Tim struggled to keep the nervousness from his voice. “I guess I should have told him we will chat later when we got to the church, I just didn’t think of it.”
“I guess you should have.” She still kept her tone neutral and quiet. “You know, I am surprised that you are conducting business via BBM chat, I’ve never seen you do that before.”
Tim let out a loud laugh. He hoped it didn’t sound as false as it felt. “Come on, babe, just because you haven’t seen me chatting all that much on BBM doesn’t mean I don’t do it. We are in the instant messaging, social media era, you know.” He pulled off the road into her street and almost sighed with relief as her parents’ house came in view. “Look babe, I know it must have annoyed you to see me chatting while in the class but I couldn’t help it, it was that important. But I promise it won’t happen again. Okay?”
Sharon wanted to point out that he hadn’t only been chatting at the class but even during their lunch the day before but she stopped herself. What was the point in setting off trouble when it could be avoided? She only suspected he was lying to her, she wasn’t sure of her fears. In any case, why was she beginning to doubt his word?
“Okay, all’s forgiven and forgotten.” She beamed at him as he pulled up beside the stone fence of her parents’ building, but the smile dimmed a little when he didn’t turn of the engine. “Hey, aren’t you coming inside to greet dad and mum?”
Tim shook his head. “Not this evening. I am fagged out and I really have some work before I hit the sack. Please tell them that I’ll be over during the weekend to see them, okay?”
Sharon was disappointed, but she nodded. “Okay, I’ll do that. Don’t overwork yourself, okay?” She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Call me when you get home.”
“I will.” Tim promised.
Sharon nodded and got down from the car, returned his wave and waited until he reserved at the open yard next to their house before waving again as he zoomed past. Her hand felt heavy as she dropped it back to her side and so did her legs as she walked through the pedestrian gate.
Something did not just feel right. He wasn’t chatting type yet he was conducting business via a messaging application? And he’d come up with a flimsy excuse to not come in and greet her parents, it was the first time that was happening. Had she had a good reason to be worried about his distraction a few days ago and was the reason for that distraction same reason he was now excessively preoccupied with his phone?
Sharon couldn’t answer the questions that plagued her mind but she knew that she needed to pray as her mother had recommended for man’s attitude that brought on worry. There was no miracle that could not be wrought by prayers, she believed that.
Nora stared at the message that had just come from Tim.
—Hope you are home now? I am too and I sorely wish you are here with me—
He had been sending messages like this one in the last two days. They had started out easy and not intimate, then had become a little ardent, with confessions of his feelings for her. Now, no message came where did not speak of his desire for her.
—You shouldn’t wish for things that can never be, Tim—
Nora sent the message and wished the rebuff had carried more intensity, especially inside her. She only started replying his messages yesterday after he had sent a long-length message extoling her and pouring out his regret at having let her go. She shouldn’t have, she’d known that even as she’d typed her message, but his words had stirred something in her and she could resist no longer.
Her phone beeped and she tapped open the message.
—I cannot help the wishes that plague my heart. You were the very best and I stupidly let you go. Gosh! I was a fool!!! Now, I am a fool without the woman that sets me on fire even from afar—
Nora felt the beat of her heart accelerate at the words. She reread them and tried to crush the hope that flared beneath excitement. Words are cheap, she reminded herself. He’d had the chance to prove these words and he hadn’t.
—You had your chance, Tim, but you blew it—
You blew it and you broke my heart in the cruelest way, she added to herself, blinking back the tears that prickled. Oh God, how she had loved him! How she had loved him with everything that she had and how callously he had treated her.
—I wish I can be given another chance—
Nora’s eyes widened with amazement and anger at the audacity of his wish. He wanted another chance? After what he’d put her through? After his cavalier treatment of her?
—How dare you make that wish? How dare you talk to me about having another chance? Do you know what your breaking up with me without a cogent reason did to me? Do you know how much I suffered? I couldn’t get over you for months on end. I cried myself to sleep many nights and most days, I didn’t even know what I was doing. And you dare ask for another chance? —
—I have no right to, this I know. That is why it is only a wish—
—Stop wishing it, it can never be! We are over! All this is pointless—
—Not to me, it is not. I still crave you, Nora. If only know how much I need you, want you, desire you. Nora, I am only half-alive without you—
—Need, want, desire… those are only what you speak of. You say nothing about love, just like you never really did when we were together—
—And what is love but to need something like you’ve never needed anything else, to want it desperately, to desire it like it was the breath very in you and to know that without that very thing your life will be a misery to live? —
Nora read the last message thrice and told herself they were only characters on the screen on the screen of a mobile device and should mean nothing. But her heart cleaved to every word and exhilarated on them.
—Nora, if it is that word you need before you believe, then—I LOVE YOU—
Her mouth dropped open the vibration of shock pushed Nora to her feet. She pressed a hand underneath her left breast, inhaling deeply as she willed it to become steady. Oh God, what was happening to her? Why was this happening to her? What did this mean?
Her phone rang out and she sputtered out an involuntary yelp. She exhaled and bent to pick the ringing phone. Her conscience instantly pricked when she saw it was Benny. She breathed again before answering the call.
“Hey, love of my life.” She said overdone gaiety.
“You only call me that when you have been up to no good.” Benny said, his tone laughing. “What have you been up to? Confess your crimes to your Benny-Mac.”
Nora’s heart skipped several beats. That was so true. She only addressed him thus when she wanted to wheedle him. “So this is what I get for loving you so much.” She retorted, a touch of sulkiness to her voice. “So, a good wife-to-be cannot tell her man how much he means to her now without being accused of imagined crimes, eh?”
“Ha-ha, push the guilt-button, I know the drill.” Benny was laughing now. “I know what your crime is, you don’t have to confess it and you don’t have to admit that that is why you are trying to charm me with big big endearments. Shebi you promised to call me once you got home and have forgotten, hmm?”
Oh God, how could she have forgotten her promise to her man just because she was chatting with another woman’s man? “Has the night ended and I did not call you?” She returned in mocking sullen voice. “And is that why you are now suspecting my love? In fact, nothing for you this weekend. I will just stay in my house tomorrow and not bother to come over since you don’t trust my love again.”
“No try that rough play o. No try am at all. I am dying for you here. In fact eh, the way I am feeling lately, I think I will drag you to court for a registry marriage and then have you move in here permanently. I can’t do with this weekend-loving any longer.”
Her mouth curved into a smile. This was her man. This was the one who loved her and who deserved to be loved back. “Na only drag to registry. We will go registry but only a week before the main D-day. Better appreciate the weekend-loving o, because I am only generously giving you the food for elders who had paid the price. If you are going to be complaining, I will just close up the powerhouse and save it for the D-day.”
“Chai, see why I love you like no other? Only you know how to humble me and bring me to my knees. I love you with my body, with heart, with my soul. You know that, don’t you, my sweet, gorgeous Nora?”
Her heart swelled, tears welled at the doubts that had momentarily tempted her. “I love you too, my Benny-Mac. I love you with all of my heart and tomorrow when I come over I will show, in multiple ways, what these words mean.”
“Oh my, I can’t wait. If only I had the power to make tomorrow come faster.” He groaned and then laughed. “All right, let me leave you to watch your telenovela. I know it’s starting now and you will soon become distracted and won’t have my time anymore. Love plenty, sweet Nora. Sleep tight and dream wild dreams of me.”
“Sleep tight, my Benny-Mac.”
Nora lowered her hand, blinked back her tears and then tapped open the three new messages that had buzzed in while she was on the call.
—I know my saying it now looks like a cheap trick, Nora. But its is not—
—I love you, Nora. I really do—
—Please give me one more chance. Just one—
She hardened her heart and forced it to feel nothing as she exited the chat page, pressed her index finger hard over it and when the ‘end chat’ signal appeared, she clicked and their chat history vanished.
She was done with Timothy Kalio, her heart and her life now belonged to Benny Kachi-Williams. That was all she needed to remember. She sat down, picked up the remote and turned up the television volume too begin watching the Spanish soap she’d forgotten she was supposed to watch.