She also smiled, there was goodness in this man, well she wasn’t exactly a good judge of character, but from what she saw of him she knew he was a good person. He obviously had no reason to try to impress her yet he did. Her eyes followed the hairline that ran down from his clean shave and made a sharp turn through his cheek-bone until it finally settled on his chin. His chocolate dark skin accentuated his features and that perfume…. Ezinne wanted to hug him so tight, to keep the scent of his perfume in her mind for a long time. Thankfully his strong perfume permeated the air between them over-shadowing the wardrobe and heat smell that stayed on her cloth.
“A taxi is coming to pick me up, do you want to join me?” he asked politely.
Her eyebrows rose in a funny way and he burst into laugher.
“Why are you laughing?” she asked all the more confused. Did he not see that she had a child and a wedding band? How did he expect her to jump into a cab with him to his house? He must really think she was one of those ladies who slept with any man they came in contact with.
“Ezinne you are too uptight! Jeez! I didn’t mean you should come with me to my house. I was going to ask the driver to drop you off at your family house first before going to my village”
She seemed to relax then, he didn’t know much about her but one thing he knew was that she was a great listener. She had allowed him pour out his soul to her without even asking and had known just the right words to say to soothe him. Even with the child in her hand he was ready to be her man once he got the green light from her. Although she hadn’t told him about her husband or marriage he sensed that all was not well in that area. There was a fresh bruise on her hand and she was the woman he had seen with blood on her face when she had come to the park. So even though she didn’t tell him, he knew she was making a run for it, away from the man that was hurting her. He sighed unconsciously, he had never been married, and he was in the search for a good woman. Many of those he had come across were after his money; some of them were in search of men who would relieve them of their financial burdens. So despite that he was doing well for himself in his business, he didn’t fancy being an ATM machine to any woman.
“Thank you, you are so kind but I don’t think it is necessary.” She replied good-naturedly. How was she going to explain to him that she was going home without notice and that no one was expecting her? How would it look like if they got to home and he decided to come in to greet her father? No way, not with all the baggage in her life right now. Despite knowing her father’s love she couldn’t predict his reaction and the last thing she needed was stigmatization. She laid out her plan over in her heard. She would only tell people she was taking some break to rest from all the hustle in Lagos and after a month she would be out and back to Lagos or some other town to search for what to do with herself, in the meantime she would try to renew all her contacts maybe help would come from one of them.
Chuka insisted that it wasn’t ok to leave her child out in the cold sleeping on the cushion which he was sure would be infested with sun flies or sand flies or any other insect or bacteria she couldn’t fathom. She laughed at his gimmick, and reminded him that she was an African and that insects didn’t kill Black men and especially not her or her daughter as their blood did not carry any nutrients to be feasted on by the insects.
He couldn’t help but laugh, she was a tough one he agreed and he loved her the more, notwithstanding all her excuses he knew there was something else behind the refusal, it wasn’t just that she was being polite, there was something she wasn’t saying, it was that fact that held her back, not the excuses she was making up.
“So you don’t want to go with me?” he asked and made a face like he was offended, it was her turn to laugh. He looked so childish with the face he was making. She looked at her time again, 12:35am, how was she going to enter the house at this time? His offer was tempting as it would save her some money and a whole lot of stress but there was so much at stake. Her other mind argued that she should go with him after all he was just going to drop her and no one would see him. Besides she could always sleep outside within the compound without necessarily waking her father up.
“Ok fine, you win”
“Yes!” he exclaimed and folded his fingers into a fist then swung both of them backwards in a winning fashion. She burst into laughter.
The cab, a midsized blood red Toyota Camry, drove in within 10 minutes of her decision to go with him. She guessed that the driver must have been within Awka at the time they arrived else how would he have gotten to them that fast? The road couldn’t be that good that he would have raced.
Once they boarded and were out of the park, Ezinne began to doubt her judgment, the entire road was empty, dark, and quiet. Unlike Lagos, there was no nightlife in Anambra State; she could hear loudly, the croaking of frogs, the chirping of birds and the buzzing of insects. Gone were the days those sounds were normal to her hearing, now they seemed to be encroaching her peace. She embraced her daughter to herself and could feel the little girl’s heart, or was that her own heart racing? She could hear, as it thumped up and down inside her, no it definitely was hers. Silently she prayed, and asked God for guidance. She was already imagining so many things that it was only the prayers that could silence the fear in her heart.
“How long have you been out of the village?” Chuka asked suddenly which startled Ezinne. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you”
She let out a little chuckle and scolded herself for being such a child and even conceiving the thought that Chuka could harm her. “5 years” she replied and wanted to add, 5 miserable years but she allowed it remain in her mind.
Once he engaged her in a conversation, the fear she felt dissipated, their conversation once again moved from the past to the present and then plans for the future. Ezinne who hadn’t had a plan before then began to conceive what she could do with her life. In their discussions she saw in him a man with a vision, a man with a life that didn’t depend on others, a challenge to live up to. A part of her wished she could marry him but the other part told her it was wrong. The first voice in her head assured her that Chukwuma would grant her a divorce and soon she would be free to remarry, and that if she didn’t want to remarry, she could date Chuka just to get back at Chukwuma.