My mother and I were in the main living-roomwatching aprogramme on TV. Mira had travelled out of the country for what she termed, 'to rest a bit and do some shopping.' I wondered what she was resting from: excessive partying and drinking perhaps, I thought grimly to myself.
I however, listened to my mum's advice and decided to be more tolerant about my wife's behaviour. I had no choice as we were already married and there was nothing I could do about it.
Besides, things were going very well for me in my business. Within a few years, it had grown so big that we had to move to a bigger space and employ more staff. I had grown very rich in such a short time.
And what gave me even more satisfaction was that I had achieved most of it by my own efforts, with some support from my wife and her family. I lived an opulent lifestyle, drove expensive cars and wore the best clothes.
Despite all that, though, I was not truly happy. It was like something was missing in my life, a void that money or luxuries could not fill.
Truth was that I was not happy in my marriage. By this time, Mira and I were quarreling most of the time. As her behavior grew more outrageous, so did my anger with her.
There were times, we would not speak to each other for weeks though we lived in the same house. That is, whenever she took a break from partying and hanging out with her friends and made the effort to stay home and see Our daughter.
I tried to reason with her but it was no use.
"You need to break away from these friends of yours. A married woman shouldn't be keeping so many single friends and jumping from one party, one club to another, drinking, smoking and getting into all kinds of wild behaviour," I said one day.
It was our fourth wedding anniversary and she had been drinking and smoking all day and was not fully sober. I was beginning to suspect her of drug taking too.
"You are beginning to get on my nerves with all this nagging. This was how I was when you met me. You have to accept me the way I am or you can get out," she responded, blowing cigarrette smoke in my face, a sneer on her face.
I sighed and taking Cyndi's hand, we left the living room as I didn't want my child inhaling those poisonous fumes.
It was at this stage that Nadia, my former girlfriend came back into my life. I had not seen her since we broke up. From friends, I had been getting news about her life though. I learnt she had gone back to school, got a Masters degree and was working in a top firm.
But she had remained single and I could not understand why because of her many good qualities which attracted many men to her.
We ran into each other at the wedding of a mutual friend. She hadn't changed much. She was dressed in a pale blue dress with a smart hat perched on her head.
She looked very pretty in the outfit and my eyes were continually drawn to her. Initially, she was very cold towards me and refused to return my greeting or even acknowledge my presence. But my friend, Dickson, who was also at the event, spoke to her and we later got talking. I apologized profusely for what I had done to her.
"Fifi," I said, using the nickname I had given her and always called her with, "I know no words are strong enough to express how sorry I am about the way I treated you. But if you can find it in your heart to forgive me..." I said in a beseeching tone.
She smiled a little at me then said:
"I forgave you long ago so you don't have to worry about that." Then she added:
"But that doesn't mean I've forgotten. You hurt me too badly for me to forget that easily."
We were sitting in my car at the car park of the venue of the wedding reception. She turned towards me in the small confines of the car and said:
"At least something good came out of it all. Just look at you! You've done really well for yourself and have become such a successful businessman. You must be very happy," she stated.
I smiled wryly at her.
"Don't be deceived by outward appearances. One can look happy on the surface, but really miserable inside," I replied, thinking of my situation at home with Mira. We were supposed to have attended the wedding together but she had been unable to make it as she was sleeping off the effect of a party she had gone to the previous day. We had had another row before I had left the house that morning for my friend's wedding.
"With all your wealth and high status, why would you be sad?" she wondered, a questioning look in her eyes.
"There are certain things that money can't buy in this world," I stated enigmatically.
"Like...?" she asked curiously.
Peace of mind. Contentment. Happiness. Marital bliss... But I didn't voice my thoughts but simply looked searchingly into her eyes. She must have read something in my expression for she sighed and looked away.
That was the thing with Nadia- she sometimes had the ability to read what was on my mind, fathom my innermost thoughts without my speaking.
She reached for the door.
"I need to get back to the party. I came with a friend and he must be looking for me by now."
"Is he a boyfriend?" I asked, suddenly feeling jealous even though I knew I had no right to.
She shook her head.
"Just a friend."
As she made to step down from the car, I held her hand.
"I'll like to see you again, Nadia. I hope you don't mind."
"I don't think it's wise. You are married now and..."
"I know," I quickly cut in. "Please. At least for old times sake. It will mean a lot to me," I pleaded.
"Alright," she said.
The following week, we met up for lunch at a restaurant not too far from my office. She was on leave so she had not gone to work. Like she had stated, it wasn't very wise for us to be seeing each other again but I just couldn't help myself.
Meeting her again at that wedding had brought back memories of the past, of the time we had been together. It made me realize what I had lost when we broke up; the genuine love, affection and deep friendship Nadia and I shared. I never felt that way about Mira.
In my own way, I loved my wife especially at the beginning of our relationship though for some time now, it was becoming more difficult to feel anything for her but anger and resentment.
That day, Nadia and I spent a long time at the restaurant, chatting and reminiscing about old times. It was like, we had never parted, never separated...
As I drove back to the office after we parted, I felt happy for the first time in ages. It was like a heavy weight had been lifted off my chest, leaving me with a euphoric feeling.
After that day, we saw again a couple of times. The old attraction was still there between us and with time, we were back to our old relationship, becoming lovers again.
I never planned to be unfaithful to my wife but in a way, she caused it due to the situation at home which had worsened. Apart from her excessive partying and clubbing, Mira had also started taking lovers outside. I had heard rumors which I dismissed as idle talks. But that changed when she even had the guts to bring one of her boyfriends home.
I had returned from work one evening to see her sitting cosily with a man in the main living room. I had never seen him before and when I questioned her about him, she replied that he was a business partner. They later went out together and she did not return home till the following evening.
That day, we had a big fight as I was so mad at her that she was not just cheating on me but was flaunting her affairs in my face.
Later, I reported her to her family so they could intervene in the matter. While her brother, Tadi, tried to talk some sense into her, her mum only ended up fanning the flames of discord in our home.
"What do you mean she should stop going clubbing?" her mum queried when I complained about her daughter's incessant partying as well as her affairs. "So, because she's now married, she should start living like the Pope, is it? You should leave my daughter alone to enjoy herself, ok! You are doing nothing but stressing her with all these your complaints!"
In this type of volatile atmosphere at home, you could imagine why I turned to Mira for some comfort. I always felt happy and relaxed when I was with her.
She was everything Meera was not: loving, caring and homely as well.
She was always concerned about my welfare and to top all that, she cooked the most delicious meals!
One evening, I was at her apartment and as she bustled around preparing dinner, I could not help comparing the atmosphere there with the one at my home.
There was a homely feel, an air of domesticity that was lacking at home. Here was a woman who knew how to take care of a home and her man unlike my wife to whom the kitchen was an alien territory never to be ventured into.
I sighed and changed the channel on the TV.
"What's with the long face?" Mira asked, as she sat beside me on the couch.
I smiled at her and drew her to me.
"I was just thinking about the past. How good we were together..." I stated, a hint of regret in my voice.
"You are right. Perhaps, that's why I couldn't get over you no matter how hard I tried," she said, looking at me in a way that made me ache with longing for her.
Cradling her face gently in my arms, I said:
"Thanks for opening your heart to me again. I promise you that things will be different this time. I will never, ever let you go again, no matter what happens. Please trust me on this."
She gazed at me for a while before speaking.
"I believe you, Tunji. Besides, I don't really have any choice as my life is meaningless without you. I tried dating other guys just to get you out of my mind but it wasn't possible. As long as you are by my side, I'm happy," she stated, smiling sweetly at me.
I kissed her on the forehead and held her tightly to me.
* * *
On getting home that night, Mira was already there. I was surprised to see her because she got home most days very late at night.
“And where are you coming from at this time of the night? Don’t tell me it’s the office because I know you left there long ago!”
I glanced behind me to see if she was talking to somewhere else. Then I looked at her in surprise.
“Are you talking to me?” I asked her.
“Who else could I be talking to? There are only two of us in this room!”
“And what business is it of yours where I’m coming from?” I queried as I walked towards the staircase to go to my room.
She stood in front of me, blocking me off.
“I’m your wife, remember? So, it’s my business to know what happens to you,” she responded.
I burst into laughter at her words, which made her step back a little.
“Wife? What wife? When was the last time you played your role as a wife in this house?” I enquired.
“Is that why you’ve been running all over town with that tramp?” she asked belligently.
“What are you talking about? What tramp?”
“Stop acting dumb! You know who I mean? Your ex-girlfriend, Nadia. Or you think I won’t know? That you’ve going everywhere with her? Spending time with her?” she demanded angrily.
I was surprised by her words but it didn’t show on my face as I said:
“I see you are drunk again. If you don’t have anything better to say, just shut up. I’m tired and I need to rest,” I stated, pushing her out of the way.
As I climbed up to my room, I could hear her screaming.
“I don’t blame you! Now that you’ve made money and are rich, you think you are a star! Let me remind you in case you’ve forgotten- I made you whatever you are today! And with a snap of my fingers, I can unmake you!
I know you are cheating on me and it must stop because nobody cheats on me. You are my husband and as long as we are still together, I can’t share you with another woman, least of all that bitch!”
I laughed out loud as I opened my bedroom door. 'Imagine her calling someone a cheat. What is she then, with all her boyfriends and lovers?' I thought to myself.
I continued to see Mira despite my wife's threats. It was necessary for me to retain some form of sanity because of the situation at home which was becoming impossible. Mira and I were quarreling nearly every day, a situation which made me reluctant to go home after work. Most days, it was Nadia's place that I went to from the office. It was like a haven of peace in a very stormy situation.
"I don't know how long I can go on like this," I grumbled to Dickson one day. I had gone to visit him at home and we had been talking about my problems at home.
"You have to take it easy," he stated.
"For how long? Life with Mira has become impossible. She's just driving me crazy. I can't bear it any longer," I said, taking a sip of my drink.
"So, what do you intend to do?" asked Dickson.
"I really don't know. I'm really confused right now," I stated sadly, my head in my hands. "The sensible thing is to just walk away. But I don't believe in divorce. I don't want my daughter to come from a broken home. But I can no longer stay with Mira because of her behaviour. Do you know she keeps bringing her lovers home and flaunting them in my face?
How long can I continue to tolerate such horrible behaviour from my wife? As an African man, I can't take that! I don't want to commit murder but anything can happen one of these days if she dares bring one of her men to the house again..."
We were silent for a while then Dickson said:
"I know it's not the time to say this, but I think you should have stayed with Nadia. She's the right woman for you..."
"You think I don't know that?" I stated vehemently. "I regret leaving her every day. I'm just so grateful that she forgave me and accepted me back. Now, no matter what happens, I will never leave her again. I want her by my side always as she makes me happy, helps me forget my sorrows."
A few months later, Mira unexpectedly travelled abroad. She did not inform me about the trip. I got home one night to meet a note she had dropped for me in which she stated that she was taking a break from me and all the trouble I was causing her.
"I'll be away for about a year. I've left Cyndi behind as I believe she will be better off with you as you always accuse me of being a bad mother and a bad wife. You accuse me of kinds of things but you seem to forget that I, Mira made you what you are today.
I picked you up, cleaned and polished you, made you somebody of substance. Instead of showing gratitude, all you do is give me stress. I've had enough of this so goodbye for now..."
To be frank, I felt nothing but relief at her going away. I would now have some peace in my life but it was going to be temporary as she would still be returning.
Right now, I'm thinking of filing for divorce on the grounds of desertion so I can be with Nadia always. She's the one I want to be with and I want nothing more to do with Mira. Do you think I've made the right decision?
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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