Samir wondered why Awazi was coming towards the car. He glanced around the car and did a quick scan to see if she had forgotten something, but didn’t see anything that looked like her own. It occurred to him that maybe she had been unable to rouse their mai-guard to come and open the gate for her. He smiled, pleased at that thought.
As she reached his side, he wound down and said with a cocky grin “having troubles getting in? It would seem you are stuck with me this night. I had said the time was too late…”
Her response caught him totally unawares “Why the hell did you pick my husband’s call, chose not to inform me that he had called and then turned off the network on my phone? What exactly were you planning on achieving by doing that?”
“Awazi what are you talking about? I don’t like all these accusations. Is it your husband that said he called you? You husband that didn’t care enough to stop you from…”
“Oh please. Samir, stop being coy! As smart as you were, you forgot to erase the call records. Someone took a call from my husband while I was at your house, and it was not me. And I’m certain that even if there are spirits living with you, they don’t take mobile phone calls.”
Samir banged his fists on the steering wheel in anger. Awazi took two steps back, startled
“So he called, so what?” In the reflection light of the dashboard, Samir’s face had transformed into a mask of anger. “He called and rather than being grateful that I was available to do what he was supposed to be doing, he began to cuss out at me. Dan iskanchi!” He got down from the car and tried to get close to Awazi. Again, she took a few steps back and put some distance between them
“Look Awazi darling,” his voice was considerably softer and his expression tender “all I was trying to do was to protect you from more emotional turmoil this night. And from the way he was sounding, that was all you were going to get by talking to him. It was like he was angry at something and wanted to take out that anger on you. I was having none of it, I would not let him hurt you,” he said.
“And that decision should have been mine to make Samir, not yours. If you were my husband, and we were having issues, and then tried to call me and another man picked the call at the time I was in your house, would you really be civil?”
“Awazi,” Samir said, sounding exasperated “I might have been wrong in picking your phone, I admit, but my intentions were pure, couldn’t you see that?”
“I don’t know what to think again Samir,” Awazi said. There was an awkward silence, all the more awkward as they were on the road, in the middle of the night. Thoughts of whether Samir had done what he did with the hopes that she would still spend the night, which she would not have if she had spoken with Derin, ran through her head. She caught herself just in time before she voiced those thoughts. Samir didn’t plan any of this, she reminded herself. She was the one that dragged him out of his house impromptu at night today with all her troubles. When she spoke next, her voice was considerably softer.
“Samir, please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for all you’ve done for me tonight, and for being honorable and all. It’s just that things are rather complicated in my life right now, and I don’t want them to get even more complicated.”
“The reason for those complications is that your husband! Awazi, he doesn’t deserve you. What have you gotten from him for the past twelve years? Grief from his mother, infidelity from him, no child, now he’s hell bent on pursuing a case with the woman he was unfaithful with as his lawyer, utterly disrespectful to you, not concerned about how that would affect you. Is that what you are holding on to? Is that what you are protecting? Twelve years of?”
“So, Samir, this is what you chose to do with what I’ve told you? Because I opened up to you as a dear friend and told you about my troubles, you decided to turn it into a knife and cruelly drive it into my wounds?” She began to sob, because, cruel as his words were, her brain told her he had summed things up well.
“Awazi, I’m sorry if I was rather blunt. But sometimes, it is necessary for clarity’s sake to speak like that. And I intend to make you see things as they really are.”
Awazi tried to speak but Samir hushed her up “please listen to what I have to say to the end as I might not have the courage to say it again. We are meant for each other, you and I. Our parents allowed archaic tribal sentiments drive us apart all those years ago and we have both tried all sorts – you, marriage, me, other women and travel to exotic places. But look at us now, we are back here. This is our opportunity to right the wrong of those years, to make their mistake and our helplessness of then of no effect. Leave him now, and come to me. He does not deserve you; he can have his lawyer lover for as long as he wants.”
“Stop, Samir, stop. How can you say this? That I should leave my husband. No!” Awazi shook her head to emphasize each word as she spoke.
“How are you sure that right now, he is not curled up in her arms as you’ve left them in Ibadan? En, Awazi?” he asked, a cruel light coming into his eyes.
Awazi looked up through eyes that were glistening with tears that had not yet begun to flow. “Goodnight Samir!”
“Awazi, I didn’t mean to…” he began to say, but she had already turned to go towards the gate. He raced to her side and tried to stop her “Awazi, please, I’m sorry I said that. Please listen,”
“Good night,” she repeated, her voice so cold it sent a chill down his spine even though he had been standing outside in the cold for minutes now. Dejected, he let her go and walked back to his car. That last statement had been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Ope got up at six the Saturday morning. She brushed, bathed, ate, made up and got dressed. All that took another two hours, and she had hoped that in those two hours Derin would have called to tell her it was time to go. She was still incensed at what had happened yesterday night. How could he? She had never felt so foolish in her life, as she huffed and puffed without any result. “Ope, you are more than this,” she had told herself in the room when she was alone, through quiet tears. She had decided on a few things yesterday night, as the scales fell from her eyes. This was a brand new Ope.
When he didn’t call, she walked up to his room and knocked impatiently.
“Who is it?” his voice came from inside, deep and gruff.
“Derin, its Ope,” she said simply. So he had been awake. She hissed.
“Come in, the door is open,” he said.
He was seated on the edge of the bed, looking disheveled. There were rings around his eyes and he didn’t look like he had slept at all. He looked ten years older than his age. In spite of her resolve, concern for him flooded over her
“Derin, what happened to you? You look terrible,” she said, squatting in front of him.
He responded in a monotonous voice like a bad newscaster “Doctor Ajanaku had a stroke and is unconscious. His son is dead. And I lost my job.”
Ope shook him. “What are you saying Derin? This is totally confusing. How and when did all these things happen between when we left them and today and how are they even related events? How do you even know any of this, I recall I left you lying naked in this room some minutes to midnight yesterday. Have you been drinking?”
He laughed, a mirthless, humorless sound. “I wish.”
“Derin, you are not making any sense. You need to tell me what has happened,”
By the time he had finished relating the events of the previous night, Ope’s mouth was wide open. “All that in one night!” she exclaimed. “But why didn’t you call me? Your boss has no right to sack you over a personal matter that isn’t an issue of professional competence or violation of your job contract. Do you have a copy of this contract?”
“Ope,” Derin said quietly “he warned me about leaving work for the case. I lied and he has proof I did. The case will fall apart. And which judge in Nigeria would give judgment in my favor in such a case? And what would the judgment be? That he should reemploy me? Or compensate me? And how long would that take?”
“So you are just going to take it lying low? Why are you sounding so defeated Derin, this is not the Derin I know!” Ope said loudly. There was a tinge of disgust in her voice, and she knew it was not totally because of this conversation. Last night’s episode between them had something to do with it.
“There’s nothing I can do Ope.” He said with finality.
“Oh yes, there’s much you can do! And I just outlined it for you. Men like that don’t want public scandals, and we will give him one until he stops this madness.” Ope said, exasperated. She badly wanted to shake some resolve into Derin.
“Rasheed is his brother. And he is ready for whatever scandal we want to whip up. Ope, Hakeem died. The doctor is paralyzed, I saw him with own eyes yesterday. Even my son’s case we came here to negotiate is dead. Abi, who do we want to take to court for the court to take away their license? The dead man or the paralyzed man?”
“Derin what are you saying? This is not about the men; it’s about getting justice for Isaac and serving as a deterrent to others. The two of them are not the main defendants in this case, it’s the hospital and the hospital is a separate legal entity from them. I can amend the statement of claim to remove the other defendants, while pursuing the license revocation and the compensation from the hospital. We need to set the legal precedence. We might save some future souls in doing this, think about that.”
“And in saving the future souls, we should lose ours? Is that what you are saying Ope? One man died already and another is dead for all practical purposes. And you expect us to keep fighting?”
“Have they stopped fighting? Didn’t they threaten you that your job loss was only the beginning? Man up Derin!” she said the last phrase stamping her feet indignantly.
“Ope, you always want to have your way! Why can’t you see reason with me and let us end this. Yes, they promised to fight, but if they see I’m not fighting again, won’t we all cut our losses and move on?”
“It’s this your simplistic, naïve outlook that caused us to breakup that first time. I totally forgot, thank you for reminding me so vividly. You always lose heart, fail to follow through with things you start and fear taking risks all the way. And when I forge ahead to grab things with both hands and urge you to do the same, you begin to complain that I don’t listen and that I’m too independent. You would always find someone to say it’s because of them that you are being considerate, but we both know the real reason; you are just not a risk taker. When it was about traveling, you hung your consideration on your mother. Now, you hang it on your wife or the dead and infirm. Pulease! Hell, if I had married you, I would probably not have been allowed to achieve what I have, in the name of not being independent. You would have limited me!”
“And you have succeeded in getting another man abi? Keep on doing exactly how you have been doing and become old and still being a Miss!” Derin shot back.
“You know what, Mr. Banwo, since you are not interested in pursuing any cases, you do not require a lawyer’s services. I will take my leave now. I can find my own way to Lagos, I won’t be needing you!” with that, she stormed out of the room.”
Derin sat on the bed for a few moments, immobile. Then he mechanically began to pack his things.
Awazi had been trying both Derin’s phones all morning, immediately she woke up. But both numbers he had were switched off. She went about cleaning the house, trying his number intermittently, hoping for a different response and sighing in disappointment each time she heard the female voice say “the number you have called is switched off…”
It was about ten and she was in the kitchen when she heard the rattling of the door that she knew was Derin coming in. A chill crept up her spine and she developed goose pimples.
She didn’t have to turn around; she could feel his eyes on her. She turned around and their eyes met. He was standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
“Hi,” was all she managed to say.
She noticed the bags around his eyes and how bloodshot his eyes were.
“Derin what happened to you? You don’t look okay,” she said, concern filling her voice.
“And how is that important?” he growled angrily. “Who the hell was that man that picked your phone yesterday night, at that time of the night?”
“I can explain Derin…” she began.
He interrupted her, cutting her off abruptly with a wave of hand “explain what? That you, a married woman, left your husband when he needed your support and ran straight into the arms of your Hausa lover?”
“Will you let me speak Derin? You are misunderstanding things here, and imagining untruths. When I left Ibadan, my car broke down at Berger. I tried your number, but didn’t get through. I tried Kamal and it rang out. I tried the mechanic and didn’t get through too. So I called my friend Samir…”
“Which Samir?” he growled.
“The same Samir,” she responded.
“So you were in Samir’s house yesterday night? Your former lover, Samir! You could not call any other person, it had to be him. And you had to follow him home.” Derin shouted.
“So I should have stayed out in that dangerous spot on the express rather than called Samir?” she asked, feeling the anger she was trying to rein in rising fast.
Derin turned away, without an answer.
“Answer me, Derin Banwo! Samir helped me, when you were nowhere to be found!”
“Oh, so you put those words in his mouth abi? No wonder he said them so confidently. What gives your ‘friend’ the audacity to pick your phone and talk to your husband anyhow if you didn’t give him permission?”
“Oh Derin, please! Stop being dramatic. You can call your Ope to be your lawyer, in spite of my protestations and expect me to understand. But I cannot call Samir in a potentially life threatening situation where I was stranded at ten in the night on an expressway? Stop being a bloody hypocrite Derin!” The floodgates of her anger were open now and Awazi let it all out.
“So that’s what this is about? You were trying to get back to me because of Ope?” Derin asked
“No, they are two different situations. In your case, you premeditated picking Ope, and planned to spend the night in Ibadan with her in the same town in my absence. In my case, an impromptu situation came up and I needed help desperately. I tried every option I had to get out of immediate danger”
“Then why didn’t you call back? I waited and waited for your call.” Derin shot back.
Awazi looked away, afraid that her eyes would give away a hint of what Samir had done.
Derin stepped into the kitchen “oh, so you don’t have an answer to that?”
“Derin, I was in the loo when you called, and didn’t know you called until I got home…”
“Oh, so innocent Samir chose not to tell you your husband called?”
“I cannot speak for Samir, but once I knew you called, I tried to call you, and I’ve been trying to call you since then. Your phones have been switched off.”
“I see,” was all Derin said.
“Derin, what are you seeing? I’ve told you what happened.” Awazi said. “You are turning all this on its head. A hint of what you’ve been doing with Ope is happening with Samir and I and you are trying to make me feel guilty like this. Yet when I spoke before, I was the unreasonable, unsupportive wife.”
“What! What have you been doing with Samir? Did you…” Derin allowed the question hang in the air
Awazi looked Derin straight in the eyes “if by doing, that is the first thing that came to your mind, then tell me, Mr. Banwo, is that what you have been doing with your lawyer?”
They squared up, locking eyes with each other, memories of times when trust was broken in the past passing silently between them. None of them spoke a word, but the silence spoke loud and clear.
The shrill sound of Awazi’s mobile phone ringing shattered the silence.
It was a welcome distraction and she quickly picked it up before the ringtone got to the second line of the song.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello, Mrs. Banwo. My name is Bintu,” the woman said.
Awazi’s brain searched for where she had heard the name before.
“I’m the one who stopped you from murdering Dr. Hakeem in Ibadan yesterday evening,” the woman said, and realization of who she was struck Awazi immediately.
“How may I help you,” she said curtly.
“I didn’t call to be nice so I’ll go straight to the point and tell you what I know. First, Dr. Hakeem committed suicide yesterday.”
Awazi gasped at the news and Derin raised his eyebrow, wondering what the person on phone was telling her.
The woman continued “Dr. Ajanaku had a stroke because of this and is totally incapacitated till further notice. All this has been brought on us because of your husband’s stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to reason from anyone, you included. All deals are off the table.” Bintu said.
Awazi was angry “what do you mean? If Hakeem had not…”
“You will let me finish, Mrs. Banwo,” Bintu said authoritatively and Awazi kept quiet. “Your husband is aware of all this, he came here to check for himself late in the night yesterday. Your husband has lost his job and we will make sure it is hard for him to get another one. Rasheed is working on that now. We run an account with your bank and your husband’s boss who is Rasheed’s brother does too. It will not be hard to make you lose your job too. That will be our next line of action.”
Awazi turned to Derin, the questions almost popping out of her eyes.
“And ask your husband what he was doing with that his lawyer in Room 221 of Tee Exclusive Hotel yesterday night. Adulterous man.”
The line went dead in Awazi’s ears.
“Derin, when were you going to tell me you’ve lost your job?” Awazi queried.
Derin reeled backwards. “How did you know?”
“So I’m not supposed to know?” Awazi shouted. “The same way I’m not supposed to know that Ope was in your room all through yesterday night and that was why you turned all your phones off till now?”