Iphey picked up her car keys from Musa at the gate and drove out of the compound on her way to her sister Ngozi's place in Surulere.
Ngozi was puttering about her home getting ready to turn in for the night. She felt exhausted and drained after the events of the last few days and especially after the rousing party her mother held this past weekend. Although it was a great distraction, she felt overwhelmed by the loud music and gaggle of people with their mundane conversations. The emotional roller coaster she endured while her son Obi was in the hospital left her feeling hollow and somewhat vulnerable.
As she dried the last few dishes and placed them into the cupboard, Ngozi breathed a deep sigh as she realized she missed her mother already. She had been a great help to her during Obi’s illness and despite her nosiness, it had been nice to have another adult in the house to talk to. She shook her head ruefully as she recalled her mother’s scheming to bring Chinedu and Iphey together at the party.
She walked around her home switching off the lights. It was quiet and Obi was fast asleep in his bed. She stood for a moment by the windows in the dark, and stared into the moonlit sky. The stars were twinkling and the sky was midnight blue. A thought entered her mind and a wave of loneliness washed over her, nearly knocking the breath from her lungs.
“Where are you?” she choked out between clenched teeth as grief overcame her. “I miss you, James, I need my husband back.” She wondered if he was staring at the same stars, or if he laid in the ground cold somewhere. It was the not knowing that killed her, an answer that never seemed to come.
At that moment there was a knock on her door. Who could that be? She wondered. It was late and she certainly wasn’t expecting anyone. She opened the door to find Iphey looking distressed.
“Ngozi! I must talk to you but you need to sit down,” Iphey told her as she rushed into her living room.
“Ah! Iphey, Na wetin? Why are you coming here so late?”
Iphey took her hands into her own and led her to the couch. “Tie your sokoto. There is news I must share with you. Ngozi… James is alive! I saw him!”
Ngozi’s hand flew to her mouth as she held back a cry. She didn’t want to wake Obi.
“How? Where? Where has he been? Where is he?” She stuttered, her words tumbling over themselves.
She looked at her sister and began to feel faint and the edges of her sight began to darken. Her sister‘s mouth was moving as if she was talking but Ngozi heard nothing. She was back to the day before the Monday her husband went off to work and disappeared.
That Sunday, she and James had lingered in bed late into the afternoon. Obi had gone to church with her mother and after that they were to visit and sleep over at a friend’s so there was no fear of interruption. Obi was growing fast and strong and she very happy at how proud James was of his son. Her wish was that a sibling would be made that day.
She turned to James, wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face into his broad shoulder. “Let’s make a baby,” she whispered quietly. Just saying the words made her glow with hope.
James drew away quickly then kissed her gently. As he drew his face away from hers, he stroked her curly hair and stared at her brown eyes wistfully; it seemed a thousand thoughts had passed through his mind. She wondered what he was thinking. He looked like he was struggling to say something but couldn’t get it out.
“I love you Ngozi,” he said instead in his gravelly voice, as he nuzzled her neck and caressed her body. He deeply inhaled and a deep growl rolled from his throat. For once she was grateful for her mother’s meddling ways, because if not for her, they never would have met. Although they had been married only a few years, in that short time she had never felt happier and more content with her life.
“Ngozi… I want you to remember this-“
“Shhhh, I will. I love you too,” she said. No more talk. She only wanted to focus on the feelings he stirred in her.
She looked at his face colored like dark chocolate. She had memorized every fold, every crease and every expression on it. He then kissed her forcefully until their breaths became ragged. She would never get tired of this. Hunger quickly overcame them both and the afternoon flew by colored by passion, love and togetherness.
When he disappeared the next day she often questioned the meaning behind that afternoon. What was it he struggled to say and didn’t? Were there secrets he hid from her? Was the love she thought they shared really true? These questions had plagued her incessantly for the years she failed to hear from him again. Maybe he became victim to the ravages of an unsafe city. Or let’s face it, sometimes you can live with someone and not really know them.
“Ngoo, Ngozi! Are you listening to me?” Iphey exclaimed worriedly. She rubbed her sister’s cold hands and brought her a drink.
Ngozi snapped back to the present, “I’m fine! Bodi just weak me small.”
“Are you sure?”
“Wetin dey do you sef! Tell me everything!” She took a deep drink and waited for her sister to explain James’ sudden reappearance.