Monday 28 January 2019

Flaming Home (Episode Two)

Anas’s Point of View
Second Wife?

“Najwa is a witch,” I mutter as I am driving to my office.

Yes, she is. How can she put up such an act perfectly if she isn’t? I cannot help smiling as I remember the way she kissed me back in the building.

Dry, unaffectionate kiss!

To others, it looks sweet but to us, we know that it is like brushing your lips on that of a monkey.

 Chai! My stomach again.” I grumble, touching my stomach that is rumbling like the second version of World War II is happening there. I’ve started to feel symptoms of ulcer for some weeks now and Mama Abigail’s akara corner is my rescue.

I know what would be for dinner…noodles! The same noodles that I detest with all of my life. Now, I cannot stand the smell of noodles and worse still, Najwa doesn’t know how to prepare it to my taste. Watery soaked noodles.

I pull to a halt in front of Mama Abigail’s shop and as usual, her salesgirl, Morenike, walks up to me with a warm welcome.

Fat, short, dark skin, big nose and an over-do of local make-up, Morenike is a no-no! The worse of it all is that she cannot speak English fluently. But please, what do I need a woman for when I’m still trying to manage the one at home?

“Welucomuu saa. Suul I sav the usual?” Morenike says in thick Yoruba accent. She  gives an ingratiating smile as she rushes to clean a chair for me.

“Yes, please. Add an extra N50 akara, and the koko should contain enough milk.” I say as she smiles in return and rushes to serve my meal.

I turn towards the men, who are sitting on a long bench, discussing. They are always there in the morning, sitting at their usual corner, biting from their akara, sipping from their cups of koko and talking about the same government that they have no influence over.

Baba Kola, the mechanic is always dressed in his stained yellow-coloured coverall. The first time I met him; I had mistaken him for a mentally deranged prisoner that escaped from kiri kiri. Baba Kola supports the government. He believes Nigeria has deteriorated and it would take years to for the nation to gain progress. But he believes that Nigeria will rise again.

Mr. Thomas is a retired lecturer (as he claims), who lost his family as a result of an ethnic crisis that occurred years ago in the north. He is thin and frail and the hollows in his neck… scary sight to see. When he talks, it looks like his bones will pop out of his neck and his Adam apple juggles when he swallows his food. He is frustrated…he keeps complaining of the Nigerian government…he has lost faith in Nigeria…he wants to leave the country and denounce his citizenship.

Mr. Ola is a businessman who owns a large unisex salon down the street. He wants more money and better trade. He wants to be a globally-known businessman.

“You this oga ehn. You go just come here dey look us every day. You never contribute for our matter before.” Baba Kola eyes me as I take a spoon of hot koko.

“No mind am. He dey form say he be big man. Big man wey dey park, buy akara for roadside.” Mr. Ola blurts out and they all roar in laughter.

I smile in return. Najwa has made me stoop so low to become a regular customer at a local akara joint but nothing will make me degrade myself to engage in unprofitable argument and lamentations when I should be thinking of what to draft when I get to the office. I can see the way they look at me with disdain but who cares?

“Harr you okay?” Morenike walks over to me, flashing her yellow-stained teeth.

“I am fine, thank you. I’ll call you if I need anything.” I roll my eyes as I watch her stare at my wedding band.

Wedding band! Prison! Worthless!

I gulp my remaining koko and cover the three balls of akara left in the newspaper. It will keep my mouth busy until I get to the office.

I pay the akara seller and enter my car, avoiding Morenike’s fixed gaze and the dirty looks from the men gossiping in the shop.

“I’m only concerned about winning this position…which I’m sure will be mine.” I remember Najwa’s statement this morning.

I imagine the look of mockery that Najwa will wear if she wins the position. The whole world would know that she is more successful than I am. Gosh! She must not win the position or else, I will live in misery.

Twenty minutes later, I pull into the parking lot and alight from the car, taking my bag along with me. I am chewing my last piece of akara as I greet my colleagues that are also entering the building. My hands are greasy with the oil from the akara but I do not mind…I’d clean them with a tissue when I get to my table.

Nigerian Circle Newspaper House is a rectangular-shaped building that is located along Toyin street in Ikeja. The workplace is simple yet classy. A large room is made up of cubicles and forty of us are stationed at our respective desks.   
Taking my seat, I hear Mahmud’s voice. “Bro! bro! bro!” Mahmud cheers as he walks towards me, holding his large food flask, his large belly dancing with the movement of his legs.

Mahmud occupies a desk beside me and he’s also a Financial Journalist. As we resumed work with Nigerian Circle Newspaper, we instantly became friends since we’re the only Muslim in our department.

“’Asalamu ‘Aalaykum oo,” he takes my greasy hand in his and pulls away immediately, cringing.

“Wa’alaykumu salam oo. How far na?”

“Ahh…I just finish to wobble down Iya Rahima’s rice and plantain. My belle don settle till 12:00 pm.” He chuckles and takes a seat beside me.

“Watch the way you eat. Look at the way your stomach is expanding.”

Mahmud raises his hands nonchalantly and his eyes crinkle in a smile. “Something must sha kill a man. I don’t mind if it is my wife’s food that will kill me. She’s just everything…”

Mahmud is saying as he continues to praise his wife like he does every time.

Short, dark, saggy lips, red eyes…if only appearance is everything, Mahmud should have been the one to end up with Najwa while I end up with his beautiful and caring wife, Sherifah.

Mahmud is very lucky to be married to Sherifah…she’s an ideal wife. Sherifah works from home so that she can raise her children appropriately and take good care of her husband. She makes breakfast and lunch for Mahmud in large flasks and sometimes, she would pay him a surprise visit and come along with snacks.

Sherifah is the perfect wife for a man! Mahmud is lucky. I’m not.

“You keep talking about this woman every now and then. It’s obvious you love her and we know that…but please, don’t make us feel jealous.” I laugh.

“I’m sorry…so what have you been up to? Have you had breakfast?”

I clear my throat and imagine the kind of food that I’ve been yearning to eat. “I ate jollof rice and fried beef this morning. Specially made by Najwa,” I smile proudly.

Mahmud rolls his eyes and reaches for my hands. “Akara is not something you will eat and lie, Anas. You smell akara all over. Najwa is still serving cereals every morning?” he says, belching and toying with a toothpick in his mouth.

I can perceive Titus fish from his breath and the drop of stew stain on his shirt makes me salivate. “Can’t you see cereal growing on my head?” I grumble, lowering my head and expecting him to spot them on it.

I won’t be surprised if cereals have started to grow on it.

Mahmud pushes my head. “Stop all these childish behaviour jhoor. Your wife is meant to cook for you and take care of the family. Is it the same food you’re feeding your daughter?”

“Yes. Najwa is a feminist and she’s earning more than me. I’m just fed up with that marriage!” I place my hands over my face in frustration.

“Get a second wife.”

“What?” I feel his neck to ensure that he is alright.

I’m just talking about my issue with women and Mahmud is talking about taking another wife! “You want my problem to multiply? Do you really like me?”

“Having another wife will keep her in check. She will become jealous and try to please you again. It’s just an advice oo.”

Ngwanu keep your advice abeg.” I say, turning towards my computer and pretending like he doesn’t exist.

When I entered XYZ’s building after the close from work, I knew that something wasn’t right. The security man didn’t hail my name like he usually does and none of the staffs came out to sneak a peek at the handsome man Najwa usually praise in her show.

It’s over five minutes and I’m sitting in the car, imagining the day I would lay a punch on Najwa’s face. The same horrible face she adores like nothing else. Striking a blow on her face will release my pent-up frustrations.

I still find it difficult to believe that I had once loved Najwa…that I couldn’t sleep or eat without seeing her face. Gosh! My mother thought that I was charmed. It took a long while to convince her that I was madly in love with Najwa and nothing else. How things change!

The first time I met her at my friend’s wedding, I knew that she was the one for me. I knew she would be my wife.

I walked up to her and Najwa welcomed me with a smile; the most breathtaking smile I’d ever seen. Thirty minutes later, we got talking and I got to know virtually everything about her.

Najwa spoke to me like I was a close friend. I knew about her family…the fact that her parents were late and she spent her childhood with her aunt’s family. Her dream of becoming a TV presenter and becoming very famous.

‘I want to become very famous and rich…I want to rule the world. I want to have a beautiful daughter that will be my everything!’ Najwa had said, chuckling as her eyes brightened in anticipation.

Believe me when I say that I didn’t believe a word she said. I thought it was just a wish that would never come true. I never knew she would work towards it. If only I knew…
“I want to marry you!” I had blurted out as Najwa was narrating her experience in school; the friends she made, the lecturers she loved and the lectures she dreaded to attend. She stopped halfway when I said the words and choked on her orange juice.

“You mean it?”

“Yes, I do,” I replied with all seriousness.

The biggest regret of my life. Getting married to her!

“Asalamu ‘Alaykum sir.” Someone walks towards the car.

It is a strange face. I haven’t seen her before. She is very fair in complexion, short and with a slender stature. She is dressed in a red blouse and palazzo pants. She is really beautiful.

“Wa’alaykumu Salam. I’m sorry but I don’t think I can recall this face.”

She reveals the braces fixed on her teeth as she smiles widely. “Yes, you can’t know me. I’m new here. My name is Mutmahinat.”

‘Mutmahinat. Beautiful name for a beautiful woman. Anas…lower your gaze. You have a wife!’ I am thinking.

I remember what Mahmud had said this morning. To get a second wife? No way! Women are just the way…but this Mutmahinat…

I stare at her hands and notice that her fingers are free of any ring.

“Are you okay, sir?” she gives me a shrewd look.

I laugh nervously. “Of course, I am.”

“Okay…I just wanted to say hi because I’ve heard so much about you. Have a nice day!” she smiles and walks away.

Heard so much about me? Trust Najwa to fill a new staff with things about her husband.

“I want to go home.” Najwa is muttering as she walks out of the building. Barakah is supporting her with a hand and patting her on the back. Najwa looks sorrowful and angry. Her eyes are red and puffy and her face is soaked with tears. I know at once that she didn’t win the contract.

My face spread into a smile and I clasp my hands in excitement. I can’t help it. I’m excited that the witch didn’t win the contract. I alight from the car to await them, trying hard not to give mockery laughter.

“Asalamu ‘Alaykum Anas.” Bakarah smiles at me as she supports Najwa towards the car.

I try to my best to hide my excitement. “Wa’Alaykumu Salam. What’s going on?”

Najwa hugs me tightly. “I need you, my love.” She pulls away and kisses me deeply.

“What happened?” I caress her face and kiss her on the forehead.

“I’ll tell you in the car.” She replies with tears in her eyes.

I place my hand around her waist as I assist her in sitting down. Barakah trails us suspiciously with her eyes.

“Should I come with you?” Barakah asks.

“Yes please,” Najwa replies in a low tone.

“Okay.” Barakah occupies the backseat and I start the engine, noticing the stares from every corner of the building.

As I drive out of the building, I know for sure that we’ll make good actors.

“How dare Mrs. Bola give that position to a new staff? A new staff! What the heck does she know about her?” Najwa is pacing back and forth in the living room. She has pulled off her high-heels, jewelry and colourful dress. Her hair is rough and she has a messy make-up-tear-ruined face.

I imagine taking a video of her and sharing it to social media handles. The world would be amazed! Well, I’m going to have my cold drink and enjoy this moment while it lasts.

“Don’t mind that yeye woman. She has never liked you from day one. I don’t know if it is a sin to be successful.” Barakah yells, helping Sahadat to change from her uniform.

Najwa clasps her head and raises her eyes. “You’re right. She hates me because I’m beautiful, I have a lovely family and I have lots of fans. She is just jealous of me. And look at Mutmahinat. That lady that thinks that she is the most beautiful. Who is she sef? If I use a razor to design that horrible face ehnn…” Najwa is yelling.

Muthaminat? The lady I met this afternoon?

“The lady is not even fine sef. She’s just yellow like paw paw.” Barakah continues.

“I need to take a shower. This day is just unbelievable. I still want to believe that everything that happened is a dream.” Najwa screams, walking out of the living room with her belongings.

Barakah’s sad look changes suddenly into a smile as Najwa walks away. “What would you like to eat Anas?” she smiles at me, flirtily.

I want to believe that I am over thinking because she was just lamenting with her friend a few seconds ago.

Erm? Anything?”

“How about amala and efo riro?”

My eyes widen in amazement. “Amala?”

When last did I take such meal in this house? Last five years?”

“Yes, amala. Do you care?”

“Yes…that’s perfect…” I prattle; wondering if she’s just putting up an act like her friend.

“Okay. I promise you, you’ll bite your tongue.” She winks at me and cat-walks towards the kitchen door.

I’m still over thinking right? Maybe because I’ve eaten only akara since morning and I’m famished. My eyes will possibly be deceiving me.

Barakah turns towards me before entering the kitchen. “But you guys can fake this so perfectly. Who would have thought that your actions back there were all an act?” she laughs and enters the kitchen without expecting a response.

Yes, I’m wrong again. Barakah is Najwa’s best friend and she will never think of doing any of that sort.
Tonight is one of the biggest nights of my life. I am ecstatic and over-joyed. My face is plastered with a smirk and I can hardly sleep because of the surge of excitement I feel.

Najwa is bawling beside me on the bed and for every sob I hear, my heart beats in glee.

When Barakah left in the evening, I shocked Najwa by singing 2:1! It was my night and I am going to enjoy every bit of it.

I ate amala and efo riro after a very long time and Najwa is terribly bitter about what happened at her workplace.

Najwa suddenly rises from the bed and stare at me with tear-soaked eyes. She wears a disdainful expression as she notices the smirk on my face. “I know you’re happy with all these. I know you’re glad that I didn’t win the contract. You’re an enemy, Anas.”

“Are you just realizing that I’m your enemy? Yes, I’m super excited that you didn’t win the contract. I will lie here and enjoy the sound of your tears…the wetness of the bed…the anger and disappointment you feel inside of you. I’ll enjoy every bit of it, Najwa.” I yell at her and turn away, covering myself with a blanket.

Yes, I am the winner. Najwa isn’t!

A/N: Hey readers! How have you been?I'm really sorry for the late update. These days, I'm so busy that I hardly find time for my blog. I just had to publish this unedited work before leaving work today.
But I'll try my best to update often...and we'll have two additional chapters this week in sha Allah.
Happy reading!!!💕💕

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