“Do this for you, Samson? You are asking me, your wife, to sleep with another man?”
“No one will know, Naomi. It will be between the three of us. He promised.”
“He promised.” She extricated her hands from his. “He promised you, did he? It sounds like you too had a nice conversation about this. He invites you into his office to tell you he’s caught you in your crime, you beg and he offers you a nice exit–let me sleep with your wife. And you happily agreed.”
“Not happily, Naomi. This hurts me. Insults me.”
“Insults you?” Naomi slapped away the hand he was reaching towards her. “I don’t believe you. You are not insulted. Or hurt. Or surprised. Or anything. You knew this day was coming. I told you he was acting improper towards me. After the Christmas party, I complained, but you called me a prude. Last week, I complained and you again called me a prude. You knew what he wanted all along. You…”
“I already told you I knew he wanted you and it made me feel good knowing he wanted something I had. But it doesn’t mean I wanted, or even want him to touch you. You are my wife, Naomi. Your body should only belong to me.”
“Oh yeah? But you are willing to sell it off for one hundred and forty-three million naira, aren’t you?”
“I am not selling it.” He snarled. “I have no choice.”
“Well, if you don’t I do. And I am not sleeping with that pervert.”
She spun around and stormed out of the sitting room.
In their bedroom, she grabbed her nightgown and exited to the guestroom. She needed privacy, to think, to cry… to let the shock of what was happening sip out of her.
He knocked on the door minutes later. “We have to talk about this, Naomi.”
“We have talked about this, Samson. Now I need to be alone. Please, leave me alone. I need to think.”
“Just leave me alone, please!”
She heard his footsteps withdraw and sank into the bed. Overwhelmed and confused, she started crying.
It didn’t surprise her that she woke up with a nasty headache. It was bound to happen when all she did all night was toss and turn.
She came out of the guestroom, went into their bedroom and was relieved that he wasn’t there. She found him thirty minutes later in the sitting room. He too was dressed for work.
“Good morning.” She said, sparing him only a glance before walking into the kitchen to get herself a cup of tea. “If you want breakfast, there’s bread in the fridge.” She wasn’t in the mood to act the good wife.
“I’m okay.” He came up behind her. “Are you all right?”
Naomi shifted away from his touch. “No, I’m not. I barely slept last night and now I have a headache.”
She didn’t respond, just drank her tea.
“Have you made up your mind?”
“About sleeping with your boss? Yes, I have. I’m not doing it.” She went to the sink to wash the tea cup. “I can’t do something so abominable. I’m your wife, Samson. Your wife. What he’s asking for is wrong.”
“I know. But we don’t have a choice, you see. He’s going to have me arrested on Monday if we don’t do this.”
“So you said. But I still can’t do it.” She grabbed her handbag from the kitchen table. “I have to get to work. See you later.”
“Naomi, I know this is difficult…”
“I’m sorry but we’ll have to talk later, Sam.” She shrugged off his hand and strode out of the kitchen.
She didn’t want to listen to him. She couldn’t bear to, not at the moment. She needed to talk to someone. But the thing was that if she went to her parents, they would flip, especially her father. She would wait to see if she could somehow resolve this without much people hearing about the atrocious thing Samson asking her to do.
She called her Head Teacher to get his permission to be absent from school on the excuse of a family emergency and then drove straight to her friend’s house.
Belema was an African fabrics trader who had a store close to her house, so she knew she would still be home. And naturally she was surprised to see her that early and on a week day.
“Naomi, why are you here at this time? Aren’t you going to work?”
“No, I’m not. I’ve taken permission to be absent.” She followed her into the sitting room, sat with her on the rich velvet sofa. “There’s trouble, Belema.”
“Why am I not surprised? Trouble seems to be everywhere these days.”
Her cynical tone made Naomi look at her closely. “What do you mean?Is something wrong, Belema?”
“Let’s not worry ourselves about that now.” Belema said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “What happened to bring you here this morning? What’s this trouble you’re talking about?”
It took her a minute to pull her thoughts back to herself. “What’s the trouble?” Naomi gave her head a shake. “I don’t even know how to begin; how to say it.” Her eyes stung with tears. “Belema, Sam has been stealing company’s funds. One hundred and forty-three million naira.”
“Jesus!” Belema clamped a hand over her mouth, her eyes popping with shock.
“His boss found out after doing an audit of the company’s accounts and he invited him to his office yesterday and gave him an ultimatum.”
“This is not a bad joke, is it, Naomi?”
Naomi shook her head. “No, it’s not.”
“Hey God, what kind of wahala is this? Samson stealing money? What could have pushed him into doing something like that, eh?” Belema took her hand and have it a sympathetic squeeze. “So, how long did he give him to pay back the money?”
“That wasn’t the ultimatum, Belema. It wasn’t a deadline to pay back the money.” Naomi blinked, felt the warm tear on her cheek. “The ultimatum is either I spend this weekend with him or he will have Samson arrested on Monday.”
Naomi snorted a dry laugh at Belema’s bewildered stare. “Yes, Belema, Benjamin Akintunde wants to forget one hundred and forty-three million naira by sleeping with me. This weekend. Actually, I’m supposed to join him wherever tomorrow night.”
“Eh? Naomi, what is this you’re saying?”
“Samson’s boss wants to sleep with me and my husband thinks I should do it.”
“Jesus Christ of Nazareth!” Belema’s eyes popped. “Naomi, are you being serious here or is this some early in the year April Fool joke?”
“I’ve been asking myself if this is some kind of a joke since last night, Belema. All night, I’ve been wondering if it’s some crazy joke Sam is playing on me.” She wiped off her tears. “My husband stole one hundred and forty-three million naira, his boss wants my body as payment and my husband wants me to give it to him. Belema, this bewildering, shocking tale is my reality now.”
“He asked to spend this weekend with you in lieu of the money and Samson agreed?”
“He’s begging me to do it, Belema.”
“Is he mad?”
Naomi shrugged. “He might well be.”
“No, wait. This has got to be some kind of a joke. Or maybe it’s a test. God knows that husband of yours is weird.” Belema’s forehead knotted in concentration as she obviously tried to break the puzzle. “He must be testing you. He and his boss must be up to something. You said he made a pass at you during the Christmas party, didn’t you?”
“He did. I told Samson about it and he called me a prude.”
“Hmm.” Belema tapped her fingers on her laps in the way she did when she was thinking hard. “Maybe that is when the setup started, from that Christmas party. You didn’t fall for their trick, so they decided to add pressure.”
“A setup? For what purpose?” Naomi shook her head. “I don’t think it’s a setup, Belema. I looked carefully at Samson, he was… is serious.”
“He’s serious that another man should sleep with his wife? No, that is crazy.”
“He’s scared. I saw fear in his eyes. The kind of fear you can’t pretend. He’s afraid he’s going to be jailed. I think that fear is blinding him to the consequences of what he’s asking me to do.”
“What kind of blinding him to the consequences is that?” Belema demanded with a hiss. “Was he also blind when he was stealing one hundred and forty-three million naira, eh? Was he scared then? And by the way, what did he do with all that money?”
“I don’t know. He’s said it’s all gone.”
“All gone? To where? And why is he not thinking of paying back money for money? Instead of using you as payment.”
“He can’t raise one hundred and forty-three million naira. Worse, he has no savings.”
“I see. Well, I’m not surprised. A man who loiters about town with all kinds of women will never have savings.” As if realising how inappropriate her comment was, Belema gave her hand another squeeze. “I’m sorry I said that, Naomi. I shouldn’t have.”
“But it’s the truth.” Naomi murmured. It’s the truth she’s known for sometime now. “I suppose that’s where most of the money went to, other women. But that is not important thing now. Right now, what I want to know is what I’m supposed to do.”
“Tell your husband to face the music he chose to play.” Belema said. “You’re not a whore that trades her body for money.”
“No, I’m not. But I don’t want him to go to jail either, Belema.”
He came back home as early as five-forty p.m. Naomi couldn’t remember the last time she saw him at home at that hour on a weekday. Or even most weekends.
“Didn’t work late today?” She asked him.
“I see. I’m making dinner only for myself. You asked me to stop preparing any for you.”
“I know.” He sat on a chair. “He wanted to know if you will be joining him tomorrow.”
“Joining him where?”
“You’re telling me you expect me to drive out of here and join another man in a hotel tomorrow night?” Naomi turned off the fire under the yam she was cooking. “Is this some kind of a joke, Samson? Is this a test? Are you testing to see if I will be unfaithful to you? Is that what you two are doing?”
“Of course not, Naomi. This is not a test. It’s not a joke. This is real. On Monday I’m getting arrested if you’re not with him this weekend.”
Naomi stared at him. That fear was in his eyes again. And with it this time was a plea. He was really begging her to do it.
For some reason, that silent plea infuriated Naomi. “You know I asked what you did with all that money last night and you told me that wasn’t the important thing now. But I want to know, Sam. Where did all the money go to, huh? To your girlfriends outside? To your multiple lovers? Or you think I don’t know you have lovers and have been spending all those ‘working-late’ hours with them?”
“Yes, I have lovers and I knew you knew about them. But they meant nothing to me and I expect you to know that too.”
“They meant nothing, yet you spent millions on them? Samson, what kind of a fool do you take me for?” Her voice rose with her rage. “You have been frolicking with other women, spent money on them and didn’t care a dime how that made me feel, yet you want me to debase myself to save you from going to prison?”
“Naomi, this is not the time to dredge up these issues, please. I’m in trouble here and we’ve been granted a way out of that trouble.”
“Your wife sleeping with another man is a way out of trouble, Samson?”
“You think I want another man touching you? You think I want you to do this?” He snapped. “I don’t want this, but we’ve got no choice.”
“You might have no choice, Samson, but I do.” She turned to stalk out.
But he grabbed her arm. “Don’t walk away. Please don’t. I need you. I can’t handle this alone, Naomi. I can’t go to prison. I don’t want to, please.”
The fear and pleading were now intense in his eyes. “What are we going to do then?”
“What he asked.” He drew her into his arms. “I know it’s unthinkable, but we have no choice. We don’t.”
“You want me to have sex with your boss, Samson?”
“No, I don’t. But what I want or what you want don’t matter here. He holds all the cards, Naomi. He’s calling the shots.”
“So, you would rather I sleep with him than pay for your misdeeds?” Was this the kind of man she was married to, a man who would use her as barter?
“Don’t put it like that, Naomi. I swear I don’t want this but we…”
“…have no choice.” She finished for him. Hurt beyond word and confused, she disengaged from him. “I don’t know if I can do this, Sam. It’s a violation of my body. A breaking of my vows to you.”
“I won’t hold it against you. I promise.”
“Really? But God will. It’s adultery.” Her head was starting to ache again. “I need to think. I need to decide what I can do.”
“There’s nothing to think about, Naomi. I can be put away for up to ten years. Ten years in a maximum security prison in Nigeria, Naomi.”
“I still need to think.” She said and walked away before he could stop her.
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