In the living room, she tried to force herself to relax. She was going to kill herself before her time if she continued to worry over this.
“Are you all right?” He asked as he came back to the room.
“Hmm?” She looked at him, noted his worried expression and managed a smile. “Yes, I am. Why do you ask?”
“You were absent-minded throughout dinner and still are even now.” He covered her hand with his. “Something wrong, babe?”
Did she dare tell him?
“Nothing. Nothing is wrong. I’m just tired, that’s all.” She would never tell him.
And hopefully, there would be no reason to tell him. He was Dinma’s father and would stay her father forever. Nothing, and no one, was permitted to change that. Not even her.
Her mother often said that a person was always unfortunate to make a mistake because it usually came back to haunt them. She said it was the reason for the proverb that nothing was ever hidden under the sun.
Isioma stood there, staring at Awele, and felt like her worst mistake ever had come back, not only to haunt her, but also to destroy her. To destroy her family.
“What are you doing here?”
“Came to see you. I know I probably shouldn’t have come to your office, but I tried your number and it wasn’t available. So, I figured I’d probably come over and see you here.”
He was smiling affably. He’d always had that warm and maybe too-carefree smile. “I changed my mobile number. There was no need to come.”
There hadn’t been need when he did so nearly seven years ago and that mistake had happened.
“Of course, there’s need to. We’re friends.”
“We are not friends, Awele. I am now married and you shouldn’t be here.”
“Why, your husband forbids you to have male friends?”
That he continued to smile and in that trouble-free way, irritated her. “I just told you, Awele, we are not friends. We never were, and whatever we were is in the past and should be left there.”
“But we couldn’t leave it there before, could we?” Before she could respond, he shook his head and offered an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. Maybe I shouldn’t have come, but you’ve been popping into my thoughts lately and when I came into the country, and here to Asaba, I thought I’d see you and… well, I just thought I’d see you; say hello.”
“You have seen me and you have said hello, now it’s time to go.” She stood up because she wanted him out of her office. “Please, do not come again, Awele. It’s over between us and I think we should leave it that way.”
“All right.” He got up, made as if to turn and then looked at her. “I didn’t come here so we could pick up where we left off, Isioma. I came because somehow, I’ve been having the feeling that there’s some kind of unfinished business between us. I don’t know why I keep having the feeling, but it troubles me and I needed to know that there was no trouble after… well, after that time.”
“There was no trouble. There is no trouble, so you shouldn’t worry.” She gestured to the door. “Look, it’s not that I’m being unfriendly, but you know the society we live in. Thank you for checking on me but…”
“But I should keep away. I get it. Take care of you, Isioma.”
He walked out of the office and she hoped, out of her life forever, but a tingle of anxiety spread through her. He’s been having feelings that there was something unfinished between them?
What did that mean?
“What is wrong with you, why have you been so distracted lately?”
“I have been distracted lately?”
The look he gave her said he wasn’t in the mood for playing games. “What is bothering you, Isioma? And don’t say nothing again because I can sense something is not right.”
What was she going to tell him? “I…ah…” The ringtone of his phone pealed out. “Your phone is ringing. You should pick it.”
“This conversation is not over.” He told her with a sigh of impatience before picking the call.
Now, her constantly worrying about this has put her in trouble. She needed a good story to tell him to set his mind at rest.
“So?” He said to her when he was done with his call.
“Who was on the phone?” She asked, prevaricating.
“Timothy from the office. Nothing important.” He waved a dismissing hand. “Stop avoiding the conversation, Isioma, and tell me what is going on with you.”
“It’s the office politics thing, Chiedu. I’m due for this promotion but I see the way the director keeps trying to block it off.”
“But I’ve told you before not to allow this thing trouble you. They can try to delay the promotion but they can’t stop it from happening.”
“He can stop it if he wants to, Chiedu, as this is not just a regular promotion. There’s a position to be filled in and I know the director wants Kester Adim to fill it. He can recommend him instead of me who is rightly due for that slot.”
“I still say he can try but it won’t work.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Are we not praying? You need to stop worrying about this and trust God to fight this battle for you, okay?”
She nodded. “Okay.”
“So, what else?”
“The delayed promotion can’t be the only thing worrying you so much, babe, there’s got to be something else.”
“I…ah, there’s really nothing else, Chiedu. Other than my promotion being delayed, there’s nothing else on my mind.”
“Are you sure, babe?”
She offered him a smile. “I’m positive. Stop worrying yourself.”
He studied her for a moment, then nodded. “Let’s go to sleep then.”
“Thank you for always being so caring.” She said as she settled beside him. “You’re the most loving man I know.”
He drew her close and pressed his lips to her forehead. “You and the children are the most important people in my life, you should know that.”
“I do, and I’m thankful you take such good care of us.”
And because she did know, she wasn’t going to let anything hurt him or break up their family.
“You know the one thing I hate most is lies, Isioma. I can forgive anything but a lie. You lied to me.” He shoved her so she stumbled backward and almost hit the floor. “You’ve been lying to me, passing off another man’s daughter as my own.”
“No, no, she’s yours, Chiedu. You’re her father; her daddy.”
“Liar!” He grabbed a crying Dinma and shoved her at Isioma. “Take her and go. Take her to her father.”
“But you are her father, Chiedu. You can’t turn your back on her when you’re her father. Please, don’t turn away from us. Don’t walk away from her.”
She tried to stop him by grabbing his leg, but he gave her a kick that threw her back.
“Get out of my life! Take your daughter and get out!”
She swept up to reach for him but a hand clasped around her shoulder and shook her.
“Isioma, wake up!”
She startled awake, blinked and focussed on Chiedu. He’d put on the bedroom light and was watching her with worried eyes.
“I… another nightmare. I mean I was having a nightmare.”
“Yes. You kept muttering ‘no’ over and over. What was it about?”
“The nightmare?” She couldn’t tell him. She could never tell him. “I can’t remember. It’s all hazy now.”
“You can’t remember? Okay. That’s all right.” He hugged her close, then pulled back and still holding her hand, said. “Let’s say a short prayer. Whatever it is, God is in control.”
Another nightmare, Isioma thought as he prayed, and cold fear settled over her.