He was in the sitting room when she walked in the next morning and still in his night wear. He didn’t look like he’d slept much. His face was strained and he looked exhausted.
“Are you not going to work this morning?” Naomi asked him.
“I don’t know. Maybe later.” He came over to her side. “It’s today, Naomi. If you don’t meet him this evening, it’s over for me.”
Naomi took a step away from him. Something about him asking her to do this now repulsed her. “I’ve thought about it and I think we should tell him we are going to pay the money.”
He gave his head a shake. “We don’t have one hundred and forty-three million naira, Naomi.”
“Not yet. But we can sell the house, the cars, the plots of land… anything worth selling.”
“All of that isn’t going to get us one forty-three million naira, Naomi. We’d be lucky if we get sixty million at the end.”
“Then we beg him to give us time to raise the rest.”
“Naomi…” he muttered something, exhaled and reached for her hand. “Look, that’s not going to work. I stole from him and he wants to make me pay for that crime.”
“So, you don’t want to fight this?” She snatched back her hand. “You want me to walk out of here and go have sex over and over with your boss? Is that what you want, Samson?”
“I keep telling you it’s not what I want. It’s what he wants, Naomi.”
“Yeah, what he wants. He wants to defile me because my husband is a petty thief.”
His warning tone didn’t move her. “I’m not going to do it, Samson. I can’t do it.”
“And why can’t you do it?”
“Because I am your wife! Because I am a woman of honour and this is totally dishonourable.”
“A woman of honour? You would prefer to see me go to prison because you want to hold on to your honour?” He grabbed her and shook her. “Do something for me for once. You can’t give me a child, can you at least get me out of this?”
“Don’t bring our struggle with infertility into this because one has nothing to do with the other! Even though the doctor said nothing is wrong with either of us and counselled that we be patient, I agreed when you suggested IVF and it’s not my fault it didn’t work out.” She had always known he blamed her for their childlessness. But she wasn’t going to let him blackmail her into doing something do unspeakable. “And as for this, I can’t sleep with another man to stop you from going to jail.”
“So you would rather see me rot in jail than give up your so-called honour, is that what you are saying?”
“I am your wife, Samson. How can you want another man to touch me?”
“I don’t want it. But I have no choice.”
She winced at his bellow but didn’t cower. She was done letting him bully her. “You keep saying that, Samson, but the truth is that we always have a choice. You have a choice here. You can face the consequences of your crime like a man.”
He raised his hand, but she shoved him before he could bring it down on her.
“You want to hit me, Samson?” Gosh, he made her feel sick! “You want to beat me into surrendering my body to your boss?”
He swore, turned and started pacing. “You know very well that I could never hurt you, Naomi. At least, not physically.”
“I’m glad you said ‘at least’ because you are hurting me right now in ways you’ve never before hurt me.” She blinked, stopped the tears and exhaled. “I’m not going to have sex with your boss, Samson. What I can do is go with you to beg him.”
“No.” She flung up her hand to cut off whatever protest he wanted to make. “That is what we are going to do, see him this evening and beg him. For now, I’m going to work.”
“Naomi, he’s not going to listen.”
She ignored him and went through the door. Oh good God, what a mess! What a disastrous mess her life has become.
Naomi didn’t know how she managed to teach her lessons but she did, and even helped a colleague teach her after-school extra lesson.
When she got home by five-fifteen p.m., he was there. It was obvious he hadn’t gone to work.
“I’m feeling sticky, so I need a bath, then I’ll dress and we get going.” She said with only a casual glance at him before heading for their bedroom.
She took her time with her bath because she needed the cool water to help her relax. Afterwards, she chose a simple knee-length dress and flat-soled shoes. Their mission didn’t require dressing up.
She was expecting him to criticise her choice of clothing though, but he didn’t.
“He’s expecting you alone, not the both of us.” He only said when she returned to the sitting room.
“I’m not interested in what Benjamin Akintunde is expecting, Sam. What he wants no longer matters. We will do what we can and I’m sure he won’t kill us.”
“Naomi… no, no, don’t interrupt me. Just listen, please.” He gave her a pleading look. “I know that this is not something a husband should ask his wife to do. I know that I’ve not been good to you in the last few months. I know that you deserve better than this and you’d hate to do this. But I’m in trouble; big trouble. I messed up, I know. I stole money I shouldn’t have and spent it recklessly. But I need you to help me. I need you to save me. Only you can. Please don’t let me go to jail when I don’t have to. Please.”
Her heart didn’t twist with compassion and it surprised Naomi that it didn’t. She was known for her compassionate nature but she couldn’t even work up pity for him. Right there and then, she realised that she had had enough of Samson. She had had enough of their marriage.
“Let’s go, Samson. I won’t leave this house without you. If you want me to go meet Benjamin Akintunde, then you have to come with me.”
He stared at her. It was like he was considering his choices. Then he nodded, walked to the wall-mounted key holder, took his car key and led the way to the door.
“Let’s go then.”
The drive to Marigold Hotel was quiet. Neither of them said anything to the other. Samson called Benjamin Akintunde and told him they were on their way.
Naomi didn’t know exactly what she planned on saying to the man. He’d always disgusted her and that disgust deepened with the knowledge that he hoped to blackmail her into having his way with her.
“I don’t think we should meet with him in his hotel room, if he has one.” She said as they marched into the hotel.
“Don’t worry, he asked us to meet him in the hotel’s restaurant.” Samson said.
Naomi wanted to tell him that he should be the one worrying but saved her breath. There was no need making pointless remarks.
Benjamin Akintunde welcomed them with a friendly smile as if they were about to have an amicable dinner together.
A pervert and a phony, Naomi thought, despising him.
“I wasn’t expecting both of you.” He said after their greetings.
“Naomi wasn’t comfortable coming alone, so I had to come along with her, sir.” Samson explained.
“You have no reason to be uncomfortable, Naomi.” He looked at her and in that intense way that she hated. “I mean you no harm.”
“You can hardly mean me good by what you are asking, sir.” Naomi responded, her voice surprisingly calm.
“Believe me when I say I only mean you good.” He gave her a smile and then turned to Samson. “This is now between Naomi and I, so your presence is superfluous.”
“This is not between you and I, sir.” Naomi started to say, then stopped when Samson rose. “What are you doing?” She asked him.
“It’s all right, Naomi. You will be fine. This has to be how he wants it.” He touched her hand and then turned and started towards the exit.
“Samson.” She wanted to scream out his name but it only came out as a gasp. A shocked gasp.
Naomi couldn’t believe that he was leaving her alone with his boss and the shock of it seemed to glue her to her seat.
“I know your instinct is telling you to get up and run after him. But I think you should stay to hear the whole truth.”
Naomi spun her gaze to stare Benjamin Akintunde. “The whole truth?”
“Yes. I have this feeling that Samson didn’t tell you all.”
Baffled, Naomi demanded. “What is this game you two are playing?”
“I’m not playing a game, Naomi, and I don’t tell lies either. He offered, you know. Samson offered you to me.”
“What…” Her teeth chattered as icy cold swept over her. “What do you mean he offered me to you?”
“I am going to be absolutely honest with you, Naomi. There’s no need to lie. From the moment I met you, I wanted you. You’re such a beautiful and graceful woman and so unpretentious and I couldn’t help my feelings even though I knew they were inappropriate.” He shifted and directly held her gaze. “But I didn’t ask for you in lieu of payment. He offered. He knew I wanted you and he said that I can have you if I forget about the money and about having him arrested.”
“No. No, that cannot be. Sam wouldn’t… he wouldn’t trade me for…”
“For his freedom? But he did. He brought you into the equation, not I. I accepted because I always wanted you and he doesn’t deserve you anyway.”
“You are lying!”
“No, I’m not. He’s been lying to you. Living a luxurious lifestyle, multiple women at his beck and call, abusing prescription drugs…”
“He abuses drugs?”
“Your husband stopped being the man you married the moment I gave him that promotion, Naomi. He’s a thief, a liar and a cheat.”
Naomi stared at him. Her head was pounding and she felt nauseous. “And you, aren’t you a liar and a cheat too? You’re here, prepared to sleep with another man’s wife while your own wife is at home.”
“My wife and I have an understanding. She knows I’m with some woman right now. It doesn’t matter to her because I take good care of her and our children. And I never steal, neither do I tell lies. Samson doesn’t care about you. He said the only thing you are good for is sex because you have not given him a child.”
“Stop it! Stop whatever it is you are trying to do. You want to destroy my marriage, is that it?”
“Your marriage is a sham, Naomi. Samson wants out of it. No man would offer the woman he cares for to another man. He doesn’t want you anymore. Surely you must see that?”
“What I see is that you are two of a kind.” She breathed, struggled to steady herself. “I came here only to beg you to not have him arrested. I’m sure we can somehow get your money and pay it all back. Just give us some time.”
“You still say us. You’re such an admirable woman. You deserve better than that idiot. I hope you will find that out for yourself. But I will not let him go without making him pay for stealing from me.”
“But you told him you would if I slept with you.”
“I agreed to his terms because I knew you wouldn’t. It’s always been clear to me the kind of woman that you are. But I want you to know that I can take care of you. I have feelings for you and I want to take care of you.”
“Take care of me as what? Your concubine?”
“My woman. I will take care of you as my woman, if you give me the chance to do so.”
“No, thank you. I am not and will never be your woman.” She snatched up her purse. “About your money, you do whatever your conscience judges best. Goodnight.”
She looked at him.
“I am sorry we both treated you like a worthless commodity because you are definitely not that. I should not have agreed to his offer. I should not have been making passes at you. That was wrong. But believe me when I say I care about you.”
She stood and marched out of the restaurant.
Her mind in turmoil, she drove straight to her parents-in-laws’. It was time they knew what was going on.
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