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The Small Print An Inspirational Christian Fiction novel by

Abimbola Dare


Š 2011 by Abimbola Dare All rights reserved. Sample preview chapters.


Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. ~ Proverbs 3: 5-6 NKJV~

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1 CHAPTER ONE The moment he stepped into room 415 and saw Jennifer Lennox sitting behind the polished mahogany table, Wale Ademola knew he was a dead man. He shut the glass panelled door behind him with a click and glared. It had to be an illusion. He checked again. Nope. This was for real. She was here. What on earth was his ex wife doing in his office? “Good morning Wale.” The woman sitting next to Jennifer spoke first. Her name was Coleen something from HR. She’d interviewed him only last year, at the start of his job as a temp administrator. She peered at him. “Is something wrong? He started to come forward, stumbled and bumped into a stationery cupboard. “Sorry. I… I must have the wrong room. I am here for a promotion interview for the trainee project manager position.” It had to be the wrong room. Coleen waved a piece of paper at him. “You didn’t get the confirmation email?” He nodded. His mind swirled with questions and he 1


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tried his best to look relaxed. Had Jennifer traced him to London? Or was this a nightmare? Coleen gave a reassuring smile. “It will be over before you know it.” My life will be over before you know it. “Uh-huh.” Jennifer gave nothing away with her expression, and when she glanced at him it was like she was looking right through him. As though he wasn’t even there. She shifted in her seat and the aqueous floral scent of her perfume smacked his nostrils. He coughed, spluttered. He’d given her the fragrance for her twenty- eighth birthday last year... a day before he – should he say left her? He dropped his gaze to the table. “You look a tad bit uncomfortable.” Coleen said, concern brimming on the edge of her voice. “Take a seat.” She gestured at the only vacant chair in the room. In front of Jennifer? God forbid bad thing. He sagged into the chair like an invalid. “Thank you.” Beads of perspiration beneath his armpits prickled. Trouble had landed in his backyard. Jealous enemies from his village in Nigeria had chosen the best time to strike their juju, African black magic. Wale mentally sent a curse in return. Thunder fire them all. Including Jennifer Lennox. Jennifer tossed a stray lock of curled blond hair away from her face and held out her hand. Obviously, his curse did not work. “Mister Ademola,” she said, “An absolute pleasure to meet you.” Mister? Her performance deserved a standing ovation. He sat up straight with a tight grin, convinced his expression must look like one on a mug shot. “Same here.” His hands remained on the table, numb. If Jennifer noticed, she didn’t react. She turned to Coleen. “Ready when you are.” 2


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“We almost cancelled the interview when Maryann called in sick.” Coleen gave Jennifer a grateful nod. “Thank your stars that Andrea came in on a short notice. She will lead the interview.” Andrea? A chill spread across his body. Jennifer changed her name? He swallowed. “T-that’s fine.” Jennifer pointed to the jug on the table. “Water?” Her nails were perfectly manicured, as always, metallic blue with silver sparkles. Rat poison would be perfect. “No. No thanks.” She sipped water from her glass. “I will allow you a few minutes to get your self together.” Wale squinted at the window. Determined rays from the sun streamed into the room even though it was barely ten. Somewhere down below, a car tire scrunched against the asphalt. The engine of a bus shuddered to a stop and the doors hissed open. Stall owners’ voices were faint in the distance as they paraded sun hats and ice-lollies. A perfect summer day. Why hadn’t he called in sick? Cancelled the interview? “Did you bring your identification documents?” Coleen asked. He snapped his head up. “Documents?” “Yes. I included the list of acceptable documentation in the email.” She looked a bit irritated. “Your passport?” Crap. He’d been hoping she’d forget. “Do you have to see it now?” Coleen’s apologetic smile had a life span of about a nanosecond. “Immigration rules.” “Uh, of course.” Wale shoved a reluctant hand into his breast pocket. He fished out a passport that had once been vibrantly green and shook it lightly. The frayed edges coughed out a small cloud of thick, black powder. He forced a smile. “I dropped it in a pile of soot on my 3


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way here.” Yeah right. More like good luck charm from Nigeria to distract immigration officers at Heathrow from staring too hard at the passport. They were usually wary of visitors like him coming into the UK: Immigrants with no prospects of ever returning to their country of origin. The charm had worked. Despite the filth, they hadn’t asked a question when he’d presented it. He placed the document into Coleen’s open hand. “Here you go.” “You are a Nigerian citizen?” Coleen asked. She blew away some more of the black powder and flipped to the middle page. She studied the page for a long moment. Wale kept his focus on the space behind her head. To the right was an old Xerox photocopier churning out documents with an industrious hum. He stared at the papers as they floated unto the receiving tray, counting in sync with slow eye movements. “Your UK residence permit is a temporary one? Expires in eight months?” Coleen’s eyebrows rose in a probing arc. “This is a permanent position.” Wale swallowed, wiped his palms on his thigh. “I will be entitled to a permanent residency real soon.” Jennifer suddenly perked up, fluffed the ruffles of the stripped orange shirt underneath her suit. “You certainly will. Won’t you?” Her Irish accent was more pronounced than usual. As it often was when she wanted to be sarcastic. He stared pointedly at Coleen. “Syms & Syms offers work permits to foreign workers right? I was thinking of-” “We don’t.” Coleen cut in with a frown. “Not anymore. We exceeded our quota for work permits last week. Are you expecting to get a work permit from us?” Last week? Talk about bad luck. “No I am not. I was just asking for information purposes. My, uh, wife is a British citizen.” Stupid answer. 4


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“If you are sure...I guess we can proceed.” Coleen looked at him as though she did not entirely believe him. “Hundred percent.” Wale nodded vigorously. “You have nothing to worry about.” Jennifer’s cold, cerulean eyes pierced Coleen with a look. “The applicant is an illegal immigrant, and the interview will continue?” She gave half a chuckle. “Is that how Syms & Syms works?” Her words stabbed his gut. Illegal Immigrant. Coleen’s eyes flicked between them as if to question Jennifer’s sudden coldness. “Andrea, until Wale’s visa runs out, he cannot be considered an illegal immigrant and will be treated fairly. Trust me, when his visa expires, we will know. And we will deal with it then.” She slid the passport across the table. Wale failed to catch it and the document smacked against the ceramic floor and landed by his feet. Coleen continued. “Let’s get on with the interview?” Jennifer spread her arms out as if to say: “whatever.” The veins in Wale’s head throbbed. Why didn’t he hit the delete key when the cursed job advert landed in his inbox? Because he was an over ambitious idiot with a bank account the size of a dried pimple, that’s why. Coleen looked at him, an expectant expression on her face. “Well?” He sighed with weariness, feeling as though he was about to be strapped to an electric chair for a crime he did not commit. Finally he nodded. “I am ready.” *** “Africa!” Wale’s colleague called out as soon as he returned to the main office floor of Syms & Syms, the IT project management consulting firm that employed him. 5


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Wale groaned as Q stumbled through scurrying assistants and ringing phones towards the cubicle they shared. Q’s real name was Quaddam, but everyone called him Q. They had been working in the same department- Admin and supplies- since Wale started at the company. Unlike Wale, Q loved the brain- deadening post office runs, monotonous stationary upkeep and general servitude to the entire company that had been their duties for a little over a year. The position gave Q an opportunity to be the first to hear office gossip while it was still sizzling. On the bright side, Q’s enthusiasm usually made Wale’s days slightly shorter and more bearable. But not today. “Get lost Q,” Wale muttered. “And stop calling me Africa.” Q gripped a bunch of manila files under his arm as though his life depended on it. “Not until I finish my investigation.” He wheeled a spare chair close and slammed his files on top of Wale’s desk, unsettling the dust around the pen holders. “What is it?” Wale asked. He reached for a copy of the IT News magazine on his desk, and hoped that Q would take a hint and get lost. “Andrea Lennox interviewed you,” Q said, hardly noticing his lack of enthusiasm. “Yeah?” “She left a massive IT firm in Manchester to help shape things up here for a few months.” “And?” “Why travel all the way from Manchester to London? Syms & Syms has never been in the Times top hundred IT companies to work for.” Q let out a chuckle. “Or top five thousand.” “Your point is?” “My point is why?” 6


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Wale returned to the magazine and fingered it; moving his hands across the images at a snail’s pace. ”I don’t know. Leave me alone.” Q nodded but didn’t shift from his position. ”I see the interview didn’t go well?” “It was a blast.” Wale replied in perfect monotone. “Go away.” “Feisty.” Q wiggled his index finger. “Don’t worry, Wale. You’ll get the job you have always wanted. Then you will get promoted and leave me here all by myself.” Wale placed his palm on his chest and feigned distress. “I’m heartbroken.” “Okay.” Q sat bolt upright. “One more question and I am gone.” “Five seconds.” “Are you and Andrea related in any way, shape or form?” Q’s beady eyes shone with curiosity. Adrenaline propelled Wale out of his seat. “Me and Jen-Andrea related? Why would you think that?” “Just answer me.” “Why?” “Why do you Africans answer questions with questions?” “Are you going to talk or not?” “See what I mean?” Wale took a deep breath. “This is not the time to muck about.” Q tapped his chin and stared at the ceiling as though his answer was engrained in the perforated tiles. Finally, he lowered his head and said, “I just ordered an ID card for the new project manager.” “So?” “In her passport, her surname is hyphenated.” Wale’s heart thumped. “What has that got to do with 7


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the price of fish?” “Wait till I tell you,” Q said and then paused. “I am waiting.” “The first half of her name is the same as yours.” “Meaning?” “Her full name is Andrea Ademola- Lennox.” The room whirled. Wale closed his eyes. “No. No way.” “Yep,” Q said. “I saw it myself. Now what was that about the price of fish?”

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2 CHAPTER TWO “You did not know that you were still married to the woman?” The question came again, this time with more concern. “You are certain?" Wale stared into his cup of coffee and studied the specks of powdered milk that floated on the brown surface. “It’s complicated.” He glanced at the immigration lawyer, offered a hint of a smile and looked around the office. The sign on the door was supposed to read Sultan Solicitors. Two O’s were missing from the word Solicitor. A dozen cartons stacked with files that Wale assumed were pending immigration applications and appeals littered the small space. Folded magazine cut outs and posters detailing the latest immigration moves from all over the world smeared the cream wall-papered walls. Wale sat on a chair with a cushion as thin as a leaf, at a table with scuffed edges. Sultan, a mug of coffee on the 9


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table in front of him, sat on the only other chair in the room. The room was so warm it felt like being in a burning tin and a musty odour attested to the accumulation of dust. The solicitor spoke in his thick Nigerian accent. “What do you mean by complicated? How is that possible?” Wale shrugged and said, “We didn’t divorce. I left. So technically, we are still married. It’s crazy that she’d want to take up my name. She doesn’t even like the name.” The Solicitor rubbed his balding head, his hand going back and forth in a slow rhythm. His sweat stained shirt threatened to burst at the seams where he wedged his tummy against the edge of the table. “Tell me the whole story. Leave nothing out.” He picked up a piece of paper from the file, held it under his nose. “When did you two meet?” “Two years ago.” Wale said. He hesitated, then added, “I came into the UK on a six-month tourist visa. The day it expired, immigration officials came knocking at my door at five in the morning. I jumped out the window to avoid getting caught and deported. Had to hide at my friend’s house for a couple of months.” He winced at the thought. There was still a twinge at the base of his foot from the boulder he’d crashed into when trying to escape. “Jennifer and Stanley my friend, were neighbours.” The solicitor looked as though he’d heard all this before. “In order to avoid being deported, you had to marry Jennifer, a British citizen?” Wale shrugged again. “I hardly knew her but she offered to help. It was a contract. I pay her two grand; she marries me and gets me the passport. No strings attached.” He paused, breathed to ease the contraction in his chest. “Of course we had to live together to fool the immigration officials. But we had separate rooms.” 10


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“No hanky-panky happened between you two?” The solicitor asked with an exaggerated wink. Wale let his gaze wander to a recent USA visa lottery advert on the wall. “A few times. She’s a very attractive woman. I am not made of wood.” Wale ignored the smirk on the solicitor’s face. “I got a temporary residency permit a few months after we got married. Then the trouble started. Jennifer made crazy demands. She wanted us to be a real married couple with babies and all. No way mate, that wasn’t part of the contract.” Wale pointed his finger to his head to drive his point home. “That woman is a psycho.” The solicitor picked up his mug and took a loud slurp. “I see.” “She threatened to frame me for rape and report me to immigration if I didn’t continue to have sex with her.” “But you’d done it before. Why did you stop?” The solicitor bent his neck to a painful-looking angle and winked again. “Or was it not good?” “Jennifer was desperate for a baby. She was taking hormone pills. I don’t know why.” Wale shook his head as though he couldn’t believe it himself. “I mean why would she want a stranger to father her kids?” “So you ran?” “Had to.” He tasted the coffee, made a face and placed it back into the saucer. “Again, no choice.” “But this morning Mrs James Bond turns up at office. At your promotion interview?” “She did.” “You are sure it was her?” Wale raised an eyebrow. “Am I sure?” Even if someone yanked his brain out and deep fried it, how could he forget her striking features? The raised mole on her chin? Or cheek bones so high up her face that she 11


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looked eternally proud? Or the flawless white skin, now in summer touched with a bit of a tan? Or the light blue eyes that constantly twitched, especially the left one. “Hundred percent certain.” Wale said. “It was her.” “Do you know how she got a job in your company?” “I don’t know. That’s the thing. I don’t know if it is because I work there. I did everything I could to stay hidden from her. But she could have spoken to my friend. He knows where I work.” He paused, mulled over the idea. “Jennifer is one of the best project managers in Manchester. Her resume is amazing. Microsoft would hire her in a beat. Syms & Syms wouldn’t even think twice if she expressed interest in working for them.” “Did you pay her the two thousand pounds?” “I could only afford one hundred.” “One hundred what?” “One hundred thousand pounds.” Wale sighed. “Of course one hundred pounds.” The solicitor made a show of scribbling in his legal notepad. “You paid one hundred pounds out of one thousand, and you wonder why she searched for you?” Wale closed his eyes, rubbed his temples. “I’ll pay her the dough. But I don’t think Jennifer came because of that. Money has never been an issue with her.” And that’s exactly what worries me. “This is not good at all.” The leg of the solicitor’s chair creaked as he leaned his bulky frame back. “But nothing is impossible with Sultan. I can help you.” Wale offered a bleak smile. “Eniola, my flatmate recommended you. You helped her out a while back with her student visa?” The solicitor clasped his hands in an all important fashion. “I have never lost a case.” 12


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“How can you help me?” “Let me think.” The solicitor had a frown on his face that etched deep into his fleshy forehead. Wale tapped his foot. If he got the job, the company would need to see a permanent residence permit in a few months. And if he didn’t get the job, he’d still need to have a way to renew the current visa or else he’d be deported back to Nigeria. It wasn’t looking good either way. He shuddered. I’d rather die than go back to that mosquito infested shack. “Say what?” The solicitor sent him a questioning glance. Wale hadn’t realised he’d spoken out loud. “Nothing.” “When does your current visa expire?” “Middle of next year. Can I apply for something else?” Wale hoped, but he knew it would be impossible to simply switch visas. “You cannot re-apply for jack.” The solicitor picked each word as though Wale was either slow or hard of hearing. “Authorities in the United Kingdom allowed you to stay in their country because you are married to one of their own. The moment that marriage ceases to exist, you cease to exist in this country. In other words, your life is in her hands.” “What are my options?” “Why didn’t you dance to her lullaby?” He broke into a cackle. “But if you did that, we wouldn’t have clients like you, now would we?” Wale simply glared at him. Was this guy dense or what? “Do you know how the immigration system works in the UK?” The Solicitor sucked in air, thrust out his chest. And, without waiting for a response, continued with an animated expression on his muffin face. “Of course you 13


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don’t. This is my territory. Now, the UK Border Agency makes it very difficult for immigrants to get British Passports. They do everything in their power to remind us that we are merely surviving on the borderline between freedom and captivity. And to break free from their clutches, you need people like me.” He jabbed his chest and sparks seemed to flash in his eyes. “And that is why I studied the Law. To fight for the justice of my people. I am the Nelson Mandela of immigration—” Wale sighed again. “Mr Sultan?” “I apologise. I am very passionate about my cause. Where was I?” “About the immigration system?” “Ah yes. When you get married to a British citizen, a two-year temporary residence permit is initially granted to test your relationship.” The solicitor paused for dramatic effect. “If,” he continued, holding up his chubby index finger in the air, “and only if your marriage survives two years, will your permanent residence be approved. And in this case, your marriage clearly failed to reach the twoyear mark.” As if he needed to be reminded. “That’s exactly why I am here.” Sultan suddenly sat up straight. “Master Wale, your problem is easily solved.” “I really want to believe you,” Wale said. Pity I can’t afford a sane solicitor. “You have three options,” the solicitor said. “One. Make amends with her so she does not file for divorce. Frankly, this is your best choice. You stay with her until you get your British passport.” “How long are we talking?” The solicitor shrugged. “For a British passport? Three years at least.” 14


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Wale groaned. “Three years with a stranger and a house full of children I was forced to father? Is there another option?” The solicitor pressed his palm on the table to lean forward, his large nose closer to Wale than was comfortable. Living organisms seemed to peek out from each nostril. “Forget Jennifer, apply for a student visa. You will have to attend a full time institution and can only work twenty hours a week on the minimum wage, which is five quid an hour. And keep in mind that fees for international students top ten thousand pounds per year.” Wale shook his head. “Third option?” “Simple. A free one way ticket to Nigeria.” Wale pushed an ashtray aside, reached for a box of tissues on the clustered table and dabbed his forehead. “Listen to me. I came to the UK to make enough money to send to my family in Nigeria. We were so poor, the poor called us poor. Even this,” he held up the moist tissue paper in his hand. “This was a luxury.” The solicitor averted his gaze. Perhaps to hide some discomfort. Wale’s eyes begged the solicitor to understand his plight, feel his pain. He let out a barely audible sigh. “Take a wild guess on what my father left for me in his will?” Sultan faced him. “Err...a car?” “A radio. And two Energizer batteries.” Wale’s voice stretched tight with despair, the reminder of the past fuelling him with a raging desire for justice. “Do you know what it feels like to eat, sleep, and live in a crumbling piece of crap wedged so close to the next house you can actually stretch your hands and grab a cup from your neighbour’s kitchen?” He paused, swallowed. “My mother is sick. My sister is still in university. I pay her fees. I cough out mama’s medical bills. And how much do 15


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I earn? Eight hundred pounds a month. Split that in threethat’s how much I get to spend on myself. How can I do all that and remain married to Jennifer or father her children? For goodness sake, she’s a stranger!” He swept his hand over his head and clicked his fingers. “God forbid. That was not the plan. My plan. Do you understand me Mr Sultan? I need to stay in the UK to work.” Wale took another deep breath. “Don’t get me wrong, Jennifer is beautiful- on the outside. I didn’t have enough time to get to know her personality in detail, but her possessive nature scares the life out of me.” The solicitor held his tummy and let out cackles that made him sound like a witch. “Then go back to Nigeria.” He suddenly assumed a serious look. “I tell you the truth. Your best chances lie with that woman. If you really want to live in the UK, beg her to take you back.” “I already told you. That is not an option.” Wale badly wanted to hurl obscenities into the solicitor’s face. “What if she accuses me of something and calls the police? You know the law- any immigrant with a police record spoils his chances of living in the UK forever. Even if I protest my innocence, who will believe an immigrant?” The solicitor waved his hand as though he was swatting a fly. “ Then find another job.” “I can’t.” Wale said. “At least not now. What if I don’t get another job? Apart from the recession, my visa is expiring.” “Your options are plenty. Make up your mind.” The solicitor allowed a small pause. “Can I tell you about a client of mine?” “Go on.” Wale replied with the enthusiasm of a dead cat. “Like you, my client delayed his application. I warned him, but no one takes Sultan serious until it’s too late. One 16


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day he goes to buy chicken and chips from Chicken-Lickin and, as he’s about to pay, guess who decides to pay a visit?” Wale continued to stare. “Immigration officials! They deported him.” He snapped two fingers in the air. “Just like that. Faster than you could say visa.” “Right,” Wale said, wondering what that had to do with his own situation. “Don’t “right” me. It’s been five years. My client is still in Nigeria, selling puff-puff under Eko bridge to raise enough money for a new visa in order to haul his behind back to the UK.” The headache increased. Wale rubbed his temples again. “Can I think about it?” “You want to think? No problem. They always think, but when they are flung back to their sad life, they complain that they never had good legal counsel.” The solicitor reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a business card. He flipped it between his fingers like he was preparing to do a magic trick and then handed the card to Wale. He narrowed his eyes. “Do it soon, or else they will get you.” Wale collected the card and pushed the chair out of the way. If he wasn’t such a proud man, he’d have cried. “I will be back in a few days.” The solicitor stood, held out his thick, hairy hand. Wale pumped it with reluctance. As Wale stepped out of the office he heard the solicitor mutter, “Hell hath no fury like a woman used to get a British passport.”

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3 CHAPTER THREE The black, customised Mercedes Maybach cruised to a halt in front of a seven bedroom suburban mansion tucked in the landscaped gardens of a private estate in a picturesque village in Brentwood, Essex. Sade Williams uttered a short prayer of gratitude to God for having survived yet another day and raced out of the car into the marbled foyer of their house. She stopped under the curved entrance archway and scanned the area. Rows of burgundy carpeted stairs leading to the top of the house showed no sign of life. Even though the gold plated banisters glinted with recently applied furniture polish, and an elegant bouquet of fresh white daisies and yellow carnations sat in the black ceramic vase that flanked the stair way pillars, she was certain she could slither in unnoticed. Sade padded across to the carpeted reception room, dumped her bag full of text books on the chaise lounge in the corner and sank into it. She squeezed her eyes shut. Oh God, this is hard. She had made it through the 18


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first week, but could she carry this on for three months? What if someone saw her sneaking out of class? What if—? “Tired?” Sade’s eyes sprang open at the sound of the voice. “Did not mean to scare you.” Ma, Sade’s cook, leaned on the doorjamb between the hall and the reception room, dabbing at the sweat on her forehead with a napkin. As usual her iron pressed, bleached white uniform stood on her plump body like proud soldiers awaiting medals of honour. Tufts of silvery grey hair jutted out from under her white scarf. “Gosh Ma!” Sade sighed with relief. “How long have you been standing there?” The cook’s grin creased the wrinkles around her mouth. She limped a few steps and leaned against the high back of the chair that faced the couch where Sade was sitting. “I was just getting dinner ready when Mister Williams called. He is expecting some guests.” Ma paused with a frown. “Did you know?” “Guests?” Sade hesitated. “No. I had no idea. But I won’t be joining anyone. I will eat in my room.” “I am sure he’d have informed you if he could reach you.” Ma’s tone softened. “Bode wants to change. I know he will. He loves you too much to lose you.” “I know.” I hope. I pray. The waft of blended spices and broiling beef filtered from the kitchen and her mouth watered, then her eyes. “ The house is sparkling… the food is sorted, and I am grateful.” “Don’t be silly. I am paid to do this.” Ma gave a dismissive wave with her napkin. “Of course I know I should be well on my way into retirement, but I cannot bear to leave you just yet.” “I know that.” Sade nodded her agreement. “But your 19


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knees...” “Nothing Glucosamine cannot handle.” Sade smiled. “So what did you learn today?” Ma asked with sudden delight. “Have you been taught the avoir and etre verbs?” “You ask me every day,” Sade said with a nervous laugh. She rubbed her arms up and down and mentally searched for something else to focus on. “That is because I love French. I have always had a flair for—” Sade leapt to her feet. “I need… to use the bathroom.” “I thought—” She did not wait for Ma to finish. She grabbed her bags and bounded up the curved stairs with her heart pounding. She slammed the door to her bedroom and the scent of fresh roses from the corridor dissipated like steam rising in warm air. She leaned against the door, trembling. She couldn’t continue like this. The lies, the deception, the guilt. It had only been one week, and it was already killing her. She tossed her bag on the bed, unbuttoned her silk blouse and stepped out of her jeans. Then she unzipped the bag, pulled out a rumpled tailored skirt and studied it. For how long would she do this? Wearing jeans out of the house in order to fool her husband and Ma, and then changing into an office suit barely an hour later so she could go to work? It made no sense. No married woman—no— no married Christian woman should have to do this. She couldn’t keep stealing out of the French school at eight forty five to run half a mile to the office. It had to end. Today. She threw the skirt on the floor, took a glass from a side table and filled it with water from a mini refrigerator beside her bed. She would tell her husband first, and then Ma. Of course he would be upset, reasonably so. She 20


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shouldn’t have deceived him into paying two grand for a short course she had no intention of attending. But what choice did she have at the time? He would never let her work. He’d said so himself. She’d had no choice but to lie. But what about now? Should she beg him? Not a bad idea actually. She’d beg him, maybe even make love to him... that hadn’t happened in such a while. Maybe she could make him see that it wouldn’t harm her in anyway to be working. If it would make him feel better, she would even agree to have their driver, Mickey, take her to work and pick her up. She wouldn’t make any friends if he didn’t want her to. Maybe he would agree. It was just a three-month contract. Why wouldn’t he? She cut across the room, absently fingering the flowing beige sheer curtains that swished across the sliding doors leading to a Juliet-style balcony. Beneath the balcony, the water in a moderate-sized swimming pool rippled in the soft breeze. She stared at the pool. Everything will be all right. When he gets home in a few hours. A knock sounded on her bedroom door. She grabbed a bathrobe, strode to the door and opened it. Shocked, Sade stared at her husband, dry mouthed. “Bode. You are home early.” Way too early. “Hello to you, too.” He didn’t smile. “We need to talk.” She stood by the door, unable to move. Where was her work ID? She couldn’t remember if she had taken if off the strap of her hand bag. Should she try to grab it before he sees it? Or just wait? Maybe he wouldn’t notice. But Bode notices everything. As though he knew what she was thinking, Bode pushed past her and marched to the study that housed her books with military precision. He pushed the oak panel veneer to one side, pulled out one of the text books and held it up. “French in Action: A Beginning Course in 21


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Language.” The words rolled of his mouth with a slight sneer. “How is the course going?” Her heart jiggled against her ribcage and the motion surged her forward before her feet even moved. “It is going well.” Sweat trickled down her spine. Now, Sade thought. Now is the time. She stopped a few feet short so he wouldn’t look into her eyes. ”There’s something I must tell you about the course—” “She’s coming today.” Sade clutched her bathrobe as though the gesture would remind her of what he was talking about. “Who is coming today? What are you talking about?” He didn’t answer right away, and she glanced at her handbag. The work ID was not in sight. She sighed inwardly. Finally he spoke, “The helper.” His eyes had gone cold. How handsome he is. His skin, highlighted with the afternoon sun, was the colour of caramel latte- her favourite beverage. His face held fine features that made him look like the Fulani’s- a tribe from Northern Nigeria celebrated for their flawless looks. He was blessed with thick luscious eye lashes, a petite and slightly pointed nose, and a generous mouth with even, white teeth. His looks, charisma, and aura often caused people to stare at him in admiration. At six foot three, he stood a head taller than most men and walked with giant strides that underscored his commanding voice. Today, he wore a navy blue Armani suit and sported a newly groomed haircut and a clean sharp shave. Sade sighed. “What helper?” “I said I was going to get a helper.” Sade remembered the conversation they’d had about this a month ago, and she also remembered her objections. “But we have Ma.” 22


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“Ingrid can barely walk.” His tone was one that would be used to scold a child. ”You want the poor woman to keep working until she drops dead?” “Ma is not complaining.” Sade crossed over to perch on the edge of her bed. Her eyes glistened, but she kept her voice low and fussed with the tip of the bed sheet. “We don’t have kids… yet. And you are never home. I don’t see the need for more help, or the urgency.” His gaze searched her face as though it bore words written in a foreign language. “We are getting someone to help Ingrid. What’s not to like?” “Sweet heart,” she said in a choked voice. “If we need a maid, I’ll find one.” “C’mon Saddles,” he said, switching to her pet name. “You won’t have the time to find one. Not with your French course.” He gave a prim smile. “Maybe you should stop if they are teaching you how to be independent, too.” Inwardly, Sade fumed. Why was he so scared of her being self-sufficient? After all, she was educated to degree level and had held jobs in Nigeria before they met. Why couldn’t he just see things the way other men did? Let her soar as she badly wanted to? She toyed with the idea of arguing her point, but then dismissed the idea. “The course is not keeping me that busy. Let me get on to the employment agencies, find a respectable maid to work with us?” “I already hired one. Let’s see how this goes first.” It suddenly occurred to her. What if God had allowed this situation so she could tell him about her secret life? She cleared her throat. “With two helpers in the house, what will be left for me to do?” He shrugged. “Whatever you want.” “How about a job?” She said. “I don’t need the money, but it will be something productive to do.” 23


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He shot her a glance. “Productive? You are already attending a full-time course.” “What if I stopped? We can get a refund for days not attended.” She rambled, wanted to get as much words in as she could. “I mean, I enjoy the course, but why learn all that French for nothing. I can easily—” “That’s it. I am cancelling the course.” “What? Why?” “Because I give you a foot, and you take a mile. I agreed to let you take the classes to make you happy. Now you want to stop that and get a job?” He looked like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You want to abandon your wifely duties for a productive life?” What wifely duties? All she did was mope around all day doing nothing. Besides, who said anything about abandoning her wifely duties? Why wasn’t he listening? She wanted to scream, but instead forced her eyes to plead with him. “Please,” Sade finally responded. “ Let me do the French course. I’ll forget about the job.” Bode seemed to ponder this for a moment. She held her breath. Please don’t say no. Working is only way I can stay sane. He suddenly pulled her close, stroked her hair away from her forehead. “Tell you what, baby. Finish the course. Then we will talk about work much later. Okay?” It wasn’t what she wanted, but she knew better than to pester him for more. She placed her palm on his chest to gently shift him out of the way. “Ma said you wanted a special dinner for guests.” “Yes.” “Who are we expecting?” He waved his arms dismissively. “No one important.” “And Ma knew about it before me?” “There was no way for me to reach you first.” 24


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“You could have called me.” “I said I had no way of reaching you.” “You could if I had a mobile phone.” “Sweetheart, you know how I feel about mobile phones,” he said. “ They are gadgets of unnecessary independence.” Independence. That was what her husband loathed. But why? She had never given him any reason to question her fidelity. And he hadn’t always been this… insecure. What happened to him? To them? “Bode, I used to own a phone before you took it away.” “You moved out of our matrimonial bedroom,” he said in a tone so low, she almost couldn’t hear him. “ That made me question my trust in you.” She staggered to the wall and leaned on it, overwhelmed by a sense of defeat. Was he so blind to her attempts at trying to save their marriage? Couldn’t he sense that she had moved out of the room because she wanted him to realise that he was pushing her away? “I wasn’t getting through to you.” Sade tried to keep her tone neutral to match his. “You need the space to think about what you want from me. Sleeping in the same room with you is not the solution to our problems, Bode. Physical intimacy will only dig a deeper gulf between us- at least until we start talking and acting like a normal couple should. Can’t you see that we are not how we used to be? When we left Nigeria, we were so in love—” “Saddles don’t start that now. Please, just wear something nice for me?” She clenched her teeth, nodded. “Sure.” He started towards the door and then pivoted. “I think the helper should stay in the guest room on this floor.” Sade turned away, her back rigid. She heard him shut the door with a silent click. He did not slam it as expected, 25


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and for some reason, the effortless action raged through every sinew in her body. Blood pumped hard in her heart and resounded in her ears with loud booms. Why is he not listening to me? Why doesn’t my opinion matter to anyone? She marched to the walk-in closet, yanked a white cotton dress and a red sarong from the hanger. She stared at the garments in her hands as though they had somehow materialised from a strange territory, and then hurled them against the closet door. She jerked a pair of jeans off its hook and in one swift movement brushed a bundle of carefully folded blouses from the cupboard unto the floor. What on earth was she expected to wear for a dinner she knew nothing about? Her vision blurred with tears. For how long would she continue to play dress up in a home that was choking her life? God are you punishing me for a sin I know nothing about? I need you to repair my marriage. I need your help. Where are You when I need You the most? Back slumped against the wall, Sade slid down until she was sitting on the floor in a puddle of discarded clothes. She bit hard on her bottom lip as she silently sobbed. Where was God? She was desperate for something, anything to prove that her Heavenly father was listening, that He was seeing her husband treat her like a prisoner. But there was nothing. The only sound that Sade Williams heard was the ragged heaving of her breath as she tried to sob away the tightness in her chest. *** It took Sade half an hour to find something to wear. Picking what would please her husband was always a challenge, and after what just happened, she didn’t want to aggravate him any further. Sade stepped into a black 26


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linen skirt, pulled a turquoise silk top over her head and wrapped a black Hermes scarf around her neck. There was a time when Bode used to complete her sentences for her. He’d treated her like a queen, attending to her every request. Those days-in reality only a couple of years back- seemed so distant. What had happened? Had she changed in some way to deserve such ill treatment? She walked to the mirror and stared at her reflection through eyes still glassy with tears. She was aware that she possessed a rare kind of beauty that was usually bestowed on one special person in every three or four generations and Bode was proud to display her beauty for the world to admire. In truth, she felt like an exotic fish in a public aquarium. She piled her hair on her head and held it back with a pin. Of what use is beauty without fruits? Even the fig tree in the Bible story was cursed by Jesus for not bearing fruits. She placed a shaky finger on her flat stomach; ignoring the brilliant sparkle of her diamond cluster engagement ring in the mirror. Even as she stood there, the familiar cramping- a profound reminder of her feminity- twisted her abdominal walls. A fresh wave of sadness washed over her. It wasn’t going to happen this month. Or the next. More tears trickled. If only she could have just one child. The intercom buzzed, and Ma announced that the guests had arrived. Sade popped a pair of pain-relieving tablets into her mouth and braced herself to join her husband. *** What Sade saw in the sitting room when she stepped in would be forever etched in her memory. A woman, about the same age as Sade, stood in the middle of the room. She 27


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was very tall and skin the colour of charcoal shimmered in contrast to the white flowing dress she wore. She appeared to be East African and reminded Sade of a character in a documentary celebrating the exquisiteness of African women. Her hair, bound in thick, fat plaits, could be mistaken for dreadlocks. Other than a pair of pear-shaped emerald earrings that were laced with tiny diamonds, she wore no jewellery. The lady had her eyes downcast and Sade noted that the woman’s feet were tattooed with red henna. She looked quite like a ladybird that had been painted the wrong way. Bode stood next to her, the expression on his face blank. Sade waited a moment, and when Bode offered no introduction, asked, “Who are you?” The lady snapped her head up and smiled. Her eyes, dark and mysterious, sized Sade up from head to toe. When she spoke, her accent was bizarre. She said, “Sangeya. Zimbabwe.”

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4 CHAPTER FOUR “Who are you?” Sade asked again. She scanned the sitting room and gasped when she saw two suitcases standing ostentatiously like prized artifacts near the doorway. She turned to Bode for an answer. Instead of responding, he walked towards the stereo. With the touch of a finger, a fusion of smooth jazz and afro beat music filled the air. Fela Kuti’s music had always been one of Bode’s favourites. His gospel collection had remained untouched since they got married. “Sangeya is here to help.” Bode broke the silence. His words seemed suspended above their heads by an invincible hoist. Sade stood numb, noting that Ma stepped into the doorway, watched for a moment, then scurried away. “She is from Zimbabwe they work very hard in their country,” Bode added, refusing to look in her eyes.

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“The maid?” Her voice sounded strange in her ears. Maybe because there was something not quite right about his manner or the situation that nagged at her. “The helper. We talked about this, Sade.” Sangeya took a step so close that Sade wondered if she wanted to sink into her skin. The smell of cheap perfume was suffocating. “Pleased to be meeting you.” The woman said in slight broken English. “Very glad to work for your husband. Sade’s blood chilled. Work for her husband? There was more to this, Sade was sure. Her husband had never cared to replace Ma, despite her knees, until recently. He’d hardly been home to notice what was needed in the house. So why the urgency? She wasn’t prepared to have another person- helper or not- live under her roof without proper explanation, or introduction. Her husband owed her that, at the very least. She glared at the woman, and then at him. “Bode?” “Sade.” Her husband finally met her gaze. “We will talk after dinner, please.” “No. I want to talk about it now.” Sade’s eyes were back on the strange woman. Bode turned to the woman. “Sangeya. You will go with Ingrid.” The woman shrugged, looking bored by the heavy show of raging and unspoken emotions around her. “Ingrid.” Bode yelled. “Come help Sangeya to the guest room. Make it very comfortable.”

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Ma reappeared and beckoned. Sangeya walked toward her, pausing just long enough to give Sade a penetrating side look. Sade started to say something, but the doorbell shrilled. Bode looked immensely relieved. “That must be our other guest.” Bode pulled her close, kissed her neck. “I am sorry, baby. I should have warned you that Sangeya was coming but it happened suddenly.” “I don’t like her.” Sade tore herself away from his hold, refusing to give in to his physicality. “She is too young.” “You are hardly a day older than her.” Sade was about further protest when someone else floated into the room. She turned, saw who it was and groaned. Her mother-in-law stood in the door way and curled her lips at the expression on Sade’s face. “At least pretend you are happy to see me,” Mrs. Desola Williams said in her usual eloquently sarcastic manner. She spread her arms as though they were brand new wings and glided in Sade’s direction. “Mother,” Sade let the word slip through gritted teeth. She managed a smile and forced her body to move into her mother-in-law’s arms; who let the embrace linger for a beat before breaking away to airkiss her. “I have missed you,” Sade said. Desola Williams snorted. “Rubbish. If you missed me, you would have picked up your phone and dialled any of my five numbers.” She turned to Bode: “You told your beautiful wife I was coming, didn’t you, son?” 31


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Bode cast a quick glance at his watch. “Let’s get dinner going.” Sade forced a smile as her husband dashed out of sight. He may put on armour of steel when dealing with her, but his mother knew how to get past that in a hurry. Desola eyed Sade’s abdomen. “I see nothing has changed. Your stomach is still flatter than my plasma television,” she wrinkled her nose as if she perceived a foul odour. “God will deliver my son from your claws.” Sade bit on her tongue to hold back from retorting. Her mother-in-law constantly sought ways to run her down, and for once, Sade was not going to satisfy her with an answer. Not when there were more pressing issues to deal with. Desola’s shiny black hair was piled on top of her head in a tight chignon, held in place by Swarovski crystal hair pins. She wore enough colours on her face to spark envy from the rainbow. She roamed her greenlined eyes around their sitting room and wrapped the edges of her rich, burgundy lace bou-bou around her legs and then inched the material up to allow her to walk gracefully. The gold studs in the material sparkled and crinkled with each step she took. “Are you staying?” Sade asked, trailing behind her. Her mother in law stopped and fixed Sade with a look that suggested that the question she’d just asked was terribly pointless. “I always have a suite at The Savoy. You know that. I leave for Dubai first thing tomorrow morning. I only came here because my son called me. I have come to see with my two eyes.”

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“What are you talking about? What did you come here to see? “Oh.” Desola worked up a faux-amused smile. “Bode hasn’t—” Bode reappeared. “C’mon mum.” He hurried across the hall, grabbed his startled mother by the elbow and hauled her across the living room. “You need to eat.” Sade followed, puzzled. What was going on? “Precious me.” She heard her mother in law exclaim from the dining room. “Did your wife prepare this?” “Why?” Sade said, and then she saw why. Glistening candle holders and gold plated cutlery were laid around a dazzling display mouth watering food. Balls of white pounded yams sat in cobalt coloured china bowls, their fluffy heads like clouds in a blue sky. Another serving dish, filled with vegetable stew, claimed a spot next to five huge tilapia fish, all sliced in the middle and garnished with sautéed onions and red and green peppers. The fried plantain and cubed chicken gizzard crowned the exhibit, a perfect Nigerian three-course meal. Her mother-in-law was looking at her, waiting for an answer. “No I didn’t do the cooking,” Sade said through clenched teeth. “Why am I not surprised?” Desola pulled out the dining chair. “Too beautiful to flutter a finger.” Sade disregarded the remark and planted herself next to her husband, back rigid. A sour taste filled her mouth. Bode waved his hand. “Dinner is served.” Just then Sangeya strolled into the dining room. 33


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And everything went still. Sade’s gaze travelled from the lady’s head down. She still wore the earrings, but the flowing dress was gone, and in its place was a tight blouse above a pair of achingly skinny jeans. Sade’s gaze locked in on the lady’s abdomen, and a small sigh escaped from her lips. Sangeya’s tummy was jutting out like a small, hardened football. No one moved for a long, long moment. Sade finally tore her gaze away from Sangeya. Bode shifted his chair forward, kept his eyes glued to the table with a frown, as though he and the tilapia fish were in the middle of a heated debate. Her mother in law had a smirk plastered on her colourful face. Sade broke the silence. “Will someone explain what is going on?” “Is that her?” Desola held out morsel of pounded yam mid air and eyed Sangeya with interest. “Not a bad choice.” Bode’s eyes flicked a warning to his mother. Sangeya lowered her head, pulled out a chair, and sank into it. Then she picked up a bowl, threw a glance at Bode and spooned two pieces of fish tail into her plate. Sade dropped her fork with a clang. “I can’t do this.” She managed to rise with poised effort. She kept her gaze above their heads. Her bottom lip quivered but her eyes blazed with anger. “I cannot entertain a woman I do not know.” Sade narrowed her eyes, and zeroed in on her husband’s bent head. “Especially if my husband will not explain where he got her from.” With a curt nod at her mother-in-law, Sade strolled out of the dining room. It was only when she shut the door that it hit her. The earrings. Hadn’t she 34


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seen them before? Two summers ago, on the display window at Tiffany & Co in New York when she had been on holiday with Bode? He had wanted to buy them for her, but she’d refused, saying there was more to love and marriage than a lavish lifestyle. But how could she ever forget the way the diamonds curled around the emeralds like two lovers? Those earrings were the exact pair in Sangeya’s thin ears. Oh God, please no. The room swayed as the chilling reality paralysed her where she stood: Sangeya was more than a maid. And Sade dreaded knowing just how much more.

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5 CHAPTER FIVE Monday morning. Wale stumbled into the office, dropped into the chair and booted up his PC. He’d spent the entire weekend reviewing his options. Would he get the promotion? Especially after the crapped out responses he gave at the interview? Probably not. Which meant he’d either be fired, or remain as an admin staff, which wasn’t so bad, except that he’d have to serve Jennifer Lennox for as long as her contract lasted. God forbid. He wouldn’t give Jennifer Lennox the liberty of knowing that she could control his life. Lai lai, never. He might have no money but he had pride. And if saving his pride meant kissing a golden opportunity at Syms & Syms good-bye, then fine. He clicked open Microsoft Word and stared at the blinking cursor. But if he resigned, what would happen to his mother? The bills? Eniola, his flat-mate, mentioned a raise in the rent this morning. The second in six months. Wale exhaled. What the heck? He could just walk out and hope for the best. Maybe another company would hire 36


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him. Yeah right. Syms & Syms was doing him a favour because they liked the “cute African guy with an intelligent and quick mind”. Not because he deserved a promotion. Fine, he’d studied like crazy to pass the PRINCE2 project management certification examination, but anyone else could have done the same. He wasn’t that special. He started to type. He would find another job. Someway, somehow. He swore, typed faster. Why wouldn’t the UK do a “Who wants to be a British citizen contest?” Answer fifty questions, get the red passport? He laughed bitterly. As if. A low drawn-out whistle uttered from behind Wale’s head slowed his moving fingers on the keyboard. Wale shot a warning glance in Q’s direction. “Don’t start.” “Don’t blame me mate.” Q whispered. “Check out the hot mocha to your left.” Wale’s eyes followed Q’s gaze and faltered; his troubles momentarily forgotten. The woman’s jet black hair shimmered where the sun rays highlighted the surface. His gaze glided over her waxy smooth, light brown skin to her supple lips and his skin prickled with goose bumps. “You look like you are about to faint.” Q bit his pen and studied it for a few seconds before gnawing at it again. “She’s new. Started last week.” Wale continued to check her out. Her pale pink shirt fit smugly above a tailored black skirt held in place by endless legs. Her high heeled shoes clattered on the tiled floor as she approached his cubicle. He straightened his back, offered an awkward grin. “Hi.” She said as her heels clicked to a stop by his table. The dimples in her cheeks carved never-ending holes in her face. “Wale Ademola. Fellow Nigerian.” “Another Nigerian?” Q muttered. “ Goodness. You guys multiply like bacteria.” 37


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Wale grinned like an idiot. “How do you know that?" he asked the woman. “Are you Nigerian?” “Duh!” Q said. She nodded, and then looked like she might say something but changed her mind. She clutched her leather hand bag, as if unsure what to do with it and offered another small smile. “Forgive me, but I am still getting used to how things work here.” Her eyes flicked between him and Q. “I need to place an order for stationery.” Wale shifted from his desk. “Q and I manage the stationery department.” He cocked his head to an angle, noticing that her smile was not reflected in her striking, hazel eyes. He’d never seen hazel eyes on a Nigerian woman. Or was she wearing contact lenses? He forced himself to focus on her request.“ Err-what do you need?” She eyed his table. “Just basic stuff. Letterheads, pens, staplers and pins. Maybe an extension line set up on my desk?” “Where did you get those eyes from?” Wale blurted. Crap. Why was he being so forward? “Uh, I mean are you mixed race or something?” Q grunted. “Gimme a break.” She laughed. Sounded like tiny golden bells ringing on a field of fresh daisies. “I am not mixed race. My eyes are a gift from God.” Wale swallowed and wrestled his gaze from her face. “I have paper here, but I’ll bring the rest over.” I need to see you again. “Thank you.” He passed a bundle of paper to her, and his fingers gently brushed against hers. His skin tingled where they touched. No one said anything for a few seconds. Q coughed. She backed away. “I guess we will see each other 38


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around.” Wale called out. “Hey! Wait.” “Yes?” “Your name?” She shifted the weight from one foot to the other. “It’s Sade.” She hesitated and then, “Just Sade.” And she walked away. Q coughed again. “Was she for real?” Wale whispered. The tangy scent of her perfume lingered. “Or did I imagine her?” Q traced an imaginary number eight with his fingers on his typically empty desk. “Her figure is a perfect eight. That’s how I like my women.” “She’s not your type.” Wale snapped before he could restrain himself. She’s mine. “I wouldn’t go there if I were you.” Q rubbed his chin. “She is as married as she is stunning.” Married. The word ripped his heart out. “How do you know that?” “Duh. She was wearing a wedding band.” Q threw him an irritated glance. “What’s with your mood?” Wale shrugged. Why should I care? I am leaving anyway. His mobile phone shrilled. ID withheld. Wale hesitated, snapped up the phone. “Who’s this?” “Brother, it’s me Lola. Did I disturb you?” “No. No.” Wale scanned the office area and ambled to the nearest free space between cubicles. “How is mama? Is she okay? Getting better?” “The doctor at the general hospital is saying she will get better. But I don’t know oh.” His sister stifled a sob. “I didn’t call because of that.” Wale closed his eyes. At least his mother was still alive. “Why did you call?” “It is money, brother.” 39


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“Again?” He ran his hand over his head, exasperated. “What happened to the one fifty I sent last week?” “Medicine. For mama.” “Why do you need extra money?” “Landlord is increasing rent.” “Can’t you manage?” His sister started to cry. Her sniffles shattered his heart. “How much?” “Any amount.” Her voice lifted with gratitude. “The Landlord is asking for ten thousand naira extra.” “That’s about fifty pounds. I’ll try to send you seventy by Western Union.” “Ah brother. Ko ni tan n’be, your money supply will be endless.” He sighed. “Yeah. Take care of mama. I’ll call you tonight.” When he returned to his desk, the e-mail icon on his computer blinked. He clicked it open with trembling fingers. His boss, Allison Syms, was requesting a meeting to discuss “the feedback from his interview.” Wale plopped into his chair and sighed again. Then he pulled the keyboard close and resumed typing the resignation letter. *** At four fifty-five, Wale trudged to an air conditioned meeting room. An overpowering smell of magnolia burst out of a plastic air freshener on the wall. In the centre of the room was a round, solid wood table that held an ornate tea service. Five brown leather chairs surrounded the table, and Wale sat in one of them. A framed picture of the most recent senior staff hung on the wall. He studied their contented faces. He’d been almost certain he’d get to join them. Until Jennifer resurfaced. And he still had no idea why she was here. Or why she changed her name? Or 40


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why she was pretending not to know him? Unless— The door opened. Wale leapt. A petite woman with pale green eyes magnified by horn-rimmed glasses strolled in. Her auburn hair was held back in bun so tight he would be surprised if she didn’t have a permanent migraine. “I am Allison Syms.” She gave a flattering smile. “It’s good to finally meet the wonder kid.” Wonder kid, yeah right. “Thanks.” “Sit. Would you care for some tea?” “No thanks.” Wale sat and watched as she made her way across him to sit down. Allison poured tea into a delicate-looking china cup. “I asked Andrea to interview you for the position of trainee project manager. As we announced last month, Syms & Syms won a bid to manage a critical database migration project for one of our most important clients, Goodman International. This deal is worth millions. I need a strong project manager with extensive database migration experience to ensure the success of this project. I have scanned the market and found Andrea to be one of the best out there.” Allison paused to nudge the ridge of her glasses up her slender nose. Wale nodded. The best at destroying lives. The words floated around his tongue, but he dared not say them. “She has come in on an initial six month contract to manage the entire programme. She will hire and fire at liberty, keep an eye on all the developers and testers as we as a company lean on her expertise to be able to hit the tight deadlines we have been given by the client.” Allison smiled. “I daresay I was amazed when she agreed to leave the position she had in Manchester to join us. I hope she stays till the end of her contract. Touch wood.” She tapped her index finger on the wooden table twice and then bent 41


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her head to study some documents. Without looking up she continued. “We have been around for too long, with little progress. Now, we have been presented with this opportunity to prove to the competitive IT consultancy world that we can be market leaders.” Wale picked at his finger nails; a bad habit that surfaced whenever he was under pressure. “I am sure Jen- Andrea will make a valuable contribution,” he said. “And I am glad for the company. However—” He cleared his throat, reached into his pocket. The desk phone rang. Allison shoved the handset between her shoulder and ear, listened for a moment and hung up. “Apologies for that,” she said. “Quarterly review meeting at five.” Wale nodded although he had no clue of what she was talking about. She returned to her papers. Wale cleared his throat again. “I know its normal company policy to give four weeks—” Allison looked up and held up her hand, effectively cutting his speech short. He fell silent and stared. “I understand you share a surname,” she said. “She tells me that she is married to a Nigerian man.” His heart started to thump. “Uh… Yeah?” Allison narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. The tips of her breasts touched the edge of the table. “Are you her husband?” Wale sat stock-still for a few seconds. Allison’s grin widened. His head throbbed even more. What was the right answer here? Admit it and get it all out in the open? Deny it to see where Allison is going with this? “I am not her h-husband. Ademola is a common Nigerian name.” Allison laughed. She leaned back in the chair and playfully swivelled. “It would have been exciting to have a married couple on the team. Don’t you think?” 42


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“Mind-blowing,” he muttered. “But of course, you aren’t married?” Wale shook his head forcefully. Shut up Allison. Allison unzipped her laptop bag, fished out a folder. “I am pleased with your performance. Especially over the last year. Your hard work did not go unnoticed.” She took another sip of tea and set the cup back into the saucer with a ping. “When you applied for this position I wasn’t surprised. You have a good university degree and you have passed the project management practitioner exams. You should not be in Admin.” He squeezed the resignation letter till the edges stabbed his palm. His sisters voice pierced his imagination, rang in his ears. Wale gripped the letter harder and stared, not daring to breathe. Allison was still speaking. “We have made our decision.” She paused for a moment and then with a wide smile said, “You got the job.” He swayed. It was all he could do. Allison said, “Lacking relevant experience, you took the chance to apply for a position you had only studied for and it paid off. If you accept, you begin as a trainee project manager in a few weeks. If you do well, you will see yourself rising quickly to the top.” She seemed proud that her words had impacted him. “I need to rid this company of old blood. I need people with zeal. People like you.” She balled her fists and punched the air with vigour. “It is unprecedented for us to allow a novice to work on such a critical project, but I am keen to keep the knowledge in house. With the training you gain as a trainee project manager, I trust that you will grow to become a veteran in the field.” I got the job? I got the job? I got the job! Allison reined in her enthusiasm. “I keep interrupting 43


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you. You did want to say something?” His chest hitched and his mouth went dry. “No. Nothing. Nothing at all.” “Good. Now, HR briefed me about the little issue regarding your residence permit. I understand it is expiring in few months?” Wale swallowed. “Yes.” He waited. Maybe his luck had finally turned. Maybe Allison Syms would bend the rules, offer a work permit and save his life. Allison grinned. “Good thing you told Coleen early. She says you have a way out.” His heart sank. “Coleen’s right. I’ll get my visa sorted. I mean through my wife.” “I thought you weren’t married?” Allison looked amused. Wale’s skin burned with embarrassment. “We are having problems.” And then quickly added with a sheepish grin. “It won’t affect my residence permit though.” “Marriage and its problems.” Allison said with a knowing smile. “I’ll let HR know to draft your offer letter. We’ll do you a favour here. Hire you on a fixed term contract for seven months and the moment you sort out your visa issue, we transfer your contract to the permanent route.” He gulped. “Okay.” She held out her hand. “Welcome aboard.” Wale took her hand in his sweaty palms and pumped it. He wondered if Allison could hear his heart thumping. Why didn’t he just resign as planned? Why was he letting the desire for success push him into the devils playground? Which was best? Leave a promising career- a chance at real success that would provide the means to save his mother’s life, change his own entire existence for 44


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good-or run from Jennifer and whatever she has planned? As if on cue, Jennifer waltzed into the room with a determined stride that almost flipped his joy over. She didn’t look at him. Still, he pulled himself straighter, hoping a strong stance would serve him well, should she acknowledge his presence. Jennifer spoke to Allison. “I got your email.” Allison held out both arms. “Wale accepted the offer. I know he won’t be working directly with you, but it will help if you could transfer some of your excellent project management techniques to him while you are here.” “Sure.” “Oh, did you know that you and Wale share a surname?” Allison asked, amusement dancing in her eyes. “It’s never happened before in this company.” Jennifer gave him a look that snuffed air out of his lungs. “That’s interesting.” “Uh, great.” Wale said to no one in particular. Allison rubbed her hands together. “I have a good feeling about this.” Jennifer stepped forward, held out her hand. Wale took it. They clutched each other hard. He feared she would cut off his blood supply if she held on any tighter. Allison waggled her head from side to side at both of them as though they were two naughty kids caught in an improper act. “Aren’t we going to lead Syms & Syms forward?” They nodded in perfect unison, as though they had been practising for hours. “Then let’s get things moving,” Allison said as she strode out of the room. Jennifer followed suit without a backward glance. He waited a few moments before he sank into the chair. He remained in the same position until the short-fused Filipino cleaner popped her head through 45


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the door, rattled a dusting broom and yelled at him to get out of her cleaning space.

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6 CHAPTER SIX The Library smelled like home, and Eniola Rhodes loved it. The older books had the musty smell of her father’s backyard in Lagos, like the scent of early morning dew settling on the red dusty earth after a long period of drought. She held her bottle of Pepsi Max close and glided through each carefully arranged shelf, sniffing with delight while she searched for the Commercial Law textbook. Just then, her mobile phone shrilled. A few patrons sent her irritated glares. Smiling an apology, she snapped up the phone and dashed out of the library. “Sade, I’ve missed you,” Eniola shrieked into the mobile phone the moment she heard Sade’s voice. “You aren’t returning my calls. That’s so not how to treat your best friend.” “I haven’t got much time; I’m calling from a pay phone.” “What’s up?” “Bode seized my phone. I can’t get a new one.” Sade’s 47


THE SMALL PRINT voice shook. “I can’t go into details now.” Eniola made a face. “Typical. Can I see you?” “Not at home. Listen, I have just started a new…” her friend hesitated. “What?” “School. French course. Can you meet me there sometime?” Eniola pinned the phone between her ear and her shoulder and searched her bag for a pen. “Seriously? Bode let you out of the cage? Wasn’t he scared the French speaking lecturer would swallow his beautiful wife?” Sade didn’t laugh. “We’ll talk when we get together. Get a pen.” “Okay. Shoot.” “On the corner of West Ferry—” Sade started, and then the phone line went dead. Eniola tried to dial the payphone back. It went unanswered. Eniola hissed, tried again. After two more failed attempts, she sat on the pavement by the booth. A cloud in the sky moved, exposing the sizzling rays of the summer sun directly into her eyes. She squinted, raised her hand to shield her eyes. Why was Sade’s husband so difficult? When the guy… Okay, she’d admit it, the very handsome guy had married Sade in a ridiculously lavish ceremony in Nigeria, she had been a little bit envious. Who wouldn’t be? Not only was Bode the most gorgeous guy Eniola had ever seen, his parents practically owned the whole of Lagos state. But her envy was short-lived. Thank God. Bode married Sade, returned to the UK with his wife, and then started acting seriously weird. He wouldn’t let Sade out of the house or allow anyone else to come over. Eniola picked up a pebble from the ground and threw it into a stagnant puddle. She glanced at her mobile phone again, willing it to ring. At least, Bode was letting his wife 48


THE SMALL PRINT attend a course. That was like a major miracle. Praise Jesus. Maybe he’d slowly change. She stood and dusted dried leaves from her pink floral skirt. Sade would probably call her back. In the meantime, she would continue to pray for her friend. She picked up her books and bottle of Pepsi Max and started back to the library. And then she stopped. An odd unease washed over her. She had the strangest feeling that someone was watching her. She glanced back but saw no one. How weird is that?

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7 CHAPTER SEVEN That Saturday, the atmosphere in the Williams house was like a court room where a defendant waited for the verdict on a murder trial. Sade had remained in her room, refusing to step out even for breakfast or lunch, until her mother called. Sade sat at table in the living room, clutching the phone receiver. She didn’t want to be talking to her mother. In fact, she didn’t want to talk to anyone, so she made a mental note to let Ma know to divert further calls. A quick glance around the house had confirmed that her mother in-law had returned to where ever she materialised from. Although saddened by how things had ended at dinner last night, Sade felt relieved that her mother in-law had gone. It was a speck of victory in an ocean of frustration. “Why are you making those noises?” Sade’s mother sniffed into her end of the line. “You ears are not with me.” Her mother said. “Your mind is somewhere else. What is troubling you?” 50


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“Nothing mum.” She wanted to hang up the phone, crawl under a rock and emerge only when she became pregnant. “You worry me.” “I am fine.” Sade pulled a loose thread on her skirt. “God is in control.” Her mother grunted. “I hope your husband’s family are not oppressing you because you cannot have children. Sarah in the Bible had her children at ninety years old. How old are you now sef?” Sade closed her eyes. “Twenty-nine. You gave birth to me remember? And no one is harassing me. I am fine.” “Humph.” “Very fine.” Sade assured her mother. “How is Ade?” “Your brother is well.” Her mother said. “That’s good to hear.” “Did you call him?” “Who?” “Pastor Malachi.” “Pastor who?” “Pastor Malachi. Of Signs &Wonders Pentecostal Double Fire church?” Her mother sounded cross. “You promised to call him.” “I am not calling anyone,” Sade said. “I can pray for myself.” “Don’t look down on this fire-vomiting prophet. He prayed for Aunty Carol’s daughter and she had twins exactly nine months later. One boy, one girl. Double miracle.” “God deserves the praise.” Sade mumbled. “Amen. Is your husband treating you well?” “I can’t complain.” “I see. Was your wedding anniversary not three days ago?” 51


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She hadn’t even remembered. Neither had Bode. He’d chosen to use the time to get another woman… she couldn’t bring herself to think the thoughts. Tears came from no where. Sade blinked them back and studied the keypads on the metallic silver handset. She couldn’t tell her mother the extent of her suffering. No point in dragging a woman who was over six thousand miles away into the mess her life had now become. Besides, Sade and her mother were not that close. Her mother’s weekly phone calls were just out of formality to ensure she didn’t miss out when her only daughter finally became pregnant. Sade worked up the best lie her exhausted mind could think of in that moment. “Bode flew me to Malta,” she said weakly. “We had a fabulous time.” Her mother sighed with relief. At least her daughter’s husband still cared enough to spare some money to take her on holiday. It was enough assurance that her daughter’s marriage was intact. “We will continue to pray for you my dear.” Her mother said in a wavering voice. “Your condition will get better. Your husband will soon take you and your children to Malta.” “How is my father?” Sade asked, desperately wanting to change the focus of their conversation. “There is nothing wrong with your father.” There was an awkward pause. Her mother spoke again. “Pastor Malachi has a special baby-making miracle handkerchief. I can post you one oh! Just lay the handkerchief on your pillow at night and sleep upside down.” “Mum.” “Is my trouble is too much eh?” Her mother coughed to evoke pity. “Am I becoming a nuisance to you? Is it too much for a mother to worry about her only daughter’s childless state?” Sade winced. “No. I appreciate your concern. It’s just 52


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that I don’t need you calling me every week to worry me. I will have children in God’s time.” “Amen.” A pause. “I sent you a message you know,” her mother said with a sudden laugh. “From internet goggles.” “Internet goggles?” “Yes. You can find everything on it. I found you.” “You mean Google? The search engine?” Sade laughed, despite herself. “I call it what I like. Make sure you reply to my message.” “I will.” “If you don’t want Pastor Malachi, why don’t you try VVF?” Sade sighed. “IVF mother. In virto fertilisation.” She could give her mother an entire lecture on the process, thanks to countless hours spent on the internet researching the possibilities of getting pregnant with assistance. Sadly, it wasn’t something Bode felt comfortable discussing, let alone consider. “Be correcting my English,” her mother retorted. “As if that will pour babies on your lap. I know someone who bought three IVF. Now they have triplets. Ah! I will be so happy if God—” Sade had heard enough. “I have to go now. Something’s burning.” Sade slammed the receiver in its cradle, wincing again as the decorative ornaments on top of the table rattled. “Trouble?” She jumped and then glared at her husband. Bode leaned on the white marble pillar that decorated the entrance to the living room. He held a full glass of orange juice. “You look well.” “I look well?” She repeated, stunned that he wanted to 53


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act like nothing happened. He drowned half his orange juice, set the glass cup aside. “I didn’t like the way you walked out on my mother last night, but I forgive you.” “Forgive me?” She double-blinked. Was his juice drugged? “You owe me an explanation.” Bode cocked his head an angle with a side grin. “What for?” “What for?” “Right. Sangeya is still upsetting you.” He shook his wrist. The diamonds on his Tag Heur wristwatch glittered. “She won’t be a problem.” A part of her wanted to yell accusations at him, but she held back. She focused her gaze on the set of golf clubs that were neatly arranged in a bag on the wall. “I don’t understand why you would bring a pregnant woman to help Ma. It doesn’t make sense.” “She really needed a job, Sade.” He pulled out a high back chair. The leg of the chair scrapped the floor. The sound made her flinch. He continued. “I did her a favour. Nothing more. When she gets too heavy to work, you can find another person to replace her.” Sade straightened herself. “Why did she join us for dinner? If she is a maid, why didn’t she eat in her room like Ma does?” Bode shrugged. “It was her first day here, cut her some slack.” Did he think she was stupid? She stood silent, waiting to see how long he’d continue to deny the obvious. Her husband was still talking, oblivious to her piercing gaze. “I am flying you to Switzerland next week. Take you on a week end spa break to an exotic resort to celebrate our anniversary. Remember the one we had our honeymoon in? What’s it called again?” 54


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Her eyes burned with fresh tears. It killed her to know that her once loving marriage was hitting the rocks. And at this rate, only God could save them. She gripped the leather surface of the sofa to steady the jolt of nerves winding through her. “I know about New York.” He yawned and stretched. His bleached white polo shirt inched up. “If you want to go to New York, that’s fine by me. It’s just such a long plane ride.” He started toward the door, bent to pick his golf bag. “The earrings, Bode.” She was trembling so much, she dug holes into the sofa with her nails to keep still. “The ones in Sangeya’s ears. They are from New York.” His back stiffened. He turned around slowly. “What earrings?” “Why didn’t you just tell me you had gotten someone pregnant?” She waited for him to deny. She wanted him to deny. She waited for him to be filled with horror that she’d accuse him of something so dreadful. Her husband stared at her for a moment and then he smiled. An invisible hand seemed to grab her heart and squeeze it hard. He wasn’t denying. “Don’t be silly,” he chided, shifting the weight of the golf bag from one shoulder to the other. “Sangeya is what she is.” “Why do you avoid calling her a maid?” Her voice cracked. “Because she isn’t a maid is she? She is carrying your child. The only person she is helping is you.” She keeled over, as a deep ache pummelled her stomach. “How could you do this? You know how hard I- we had been trying for baby. I thought you loved me.” Her teeth were chattering now. The ache was burning in a fury of anger. “I gave up my ambitions because you asked me to. I 55


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am not allowed to do things here in this house and I don’t complain. Your parents disregard me as a wife, insult my family and I take it in. I will take anything from you, but not this. Not adultery.” His eyes flickered, stark and raw, and then the expression was gone. “If you want to fill your pretty head with foolish notions like that there is nothing I can do to stop you.” Her vision blurred with tears as she rose. “I want her out of my house.” He walked over to her and stood so close that his nose almost grazed hers. The smell of orange juice and mint wafted over her. “That woman stays here. In this house.” A surge of bile shot up from her stomach. She felt sick and almost gagged as the words flew out of her mouth. “Why am I not surprised? It is in your blood. Your father did exactly the same thing to your mother.” “Don’t Sade. Don’t compare me to my father.” “I will do whatever I want,” She spat the words at him, willing her words to be razor-sharp knives. “Your father is an adulterer and so are—” “Stop it Sade.” Bode roared. “The truth is, you are not your father. He is—” She stopped when he raised his hand. A muscle in his cheek jerked. No he wouldn’t. He would never— the hand crashed into her face. A torrent of pain exploded in her brain and spread throughout her body. Stunned, she gripped her tingling face and staggered away from him. He caught her by the sleeve of her sweater. “What have I done? I am sorry sweetheart. I am so sorry.” She sniffed, wiped her face with the back of her hand. Her engagement ring scrapped across the welt on her cheek. “Bode Coker Williams. Let go of me now.” 56


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Bode raked a hand over his head in frustration. He swore, and then gripped her shoulders. His face had changed. The cool hardness was replaced with a look of pure horror. “What is wrong with me?” His said hoarsely, “I am sorry Sade, I am terribly sorry.” “You hit me.” She spoke softly, touching her face. She was too hurt and frail to fight him anymore. “You have never done that before.” “I lost it. I am sorry.” Her hands remained on her face as she watched him. Against her resolve, a wave of compassion overwhelmed over her. What was going on in his mind? What had caused Bode to build a wall around them, and fall into adultery in the process? She shouldn’t have compared him to his father, knowing how much he hated that, especially as she’d witnessed his many struggles to measure up to the older man. She bit her lip, trying to rationalise. Bode had enjoyed his fair share of women in the past - but not since they got married. He’d been faithful to her for most of their marriage. Something had pushed him to do this, she was sure. But what? “I am terribly sorry Sade. I will never hit you again. Ever.” He was still evidently traumatized by what he’d done. “Talk to me.” She was amazed at how mellow she sounded. It infuriated her, but that seemed to be the only way to get her husband to open up. “Why did you bring her to this house to humiliate me? You could have kept her away. Why did I have to know?” “Mr Audu called.” He was barely audible. “Mr Audu?” “He’s the personal assistant to my father’s lawyer. From Nigeria.” He drew a shaky breath to steel himself. “My father has made alterations to his will Sade.” 57


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A surge of fury dissolved her sympathy. A will? What did she care about a will? “And that led you to Sangeya’s arms?” “My father is giving out a large chunk of his property to his children based on the amount of kids each one has.” He paced around the room. “It sounds silly doesn’t it? My father, a Harvard graduate, decides to give his children a portion of their inheritance based on something only God can control. But that’s what it is, and I cannot change it. I can only decide not loose out. Sangeya is only a way out.” He paused, checked her reaction. “I am the only son of my mother. That bi...other woman has three sons.” Her husband still had not accepted his step mother, even after twenty seven years. That was very evident, so why then was he doing this? He knew how his mother felt when his father had brought in another woman. He’d shared his mother’s pain. Why wasn’t he seeing, feeling the same pain in her? Was this some kind of punishment? She found her voice. “So you decided to get Sangeya pregnant? To inherit some money?” She would have laughed, but how to laugh seemed to have been snatched from her memory bank by a cold, cruel hand. “And your mother knew this? Was this her idea? Was that why she came?” “My mother only came to verify that it was true. That I could get a woman pregnant.” He sighed. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Sangeya insisted on moving in or else she would terminate the pregnancy. I can’t let her kill my child. Baby, don’t you see? This might be my only chance at fatherhood.” “And your gateway to a massive inheritance.” She spoke as though her words stung her tongue. “This is ridiculous! Your father isn’t even dead. What if he doesn’t die for the next thirty years?” 58


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“He’s giving a portion of his will out in a few months.” “Aren’t you wealthy enough? Why do you need your father’s money? I thought you didn’t want to touch his money?” He lowered his gaze, shrugged. “You can never understand.” “No Bode,” Sade whispered. “I will never understand. For as long as that woman is in this house, I can never understand.” “Let me explain—” Sade shook her head, silencing him. She mustered enough strength to walk away from him. He didn’t go after her. At the top of the stairs, Sangeya leaned against the banister. The woman had been listening to their conversation. A sly smile played around her black, thin lips, her pregnant tummy leering. Sade raced up the stairs, shoved Sangeya out of her way and fled to her bedroom. On her bed lay the letter she’d been trying to write to Bode, begging him to give their marriage a chance. She scrunched the paper in her fist and crawled into a foetal position. She started to weep again. Her cries came in loud sobs and she didn’t care if anyone could hear. A voice cut through her mind and landed into the deepest part of her soul: Beloved, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Fear not, for when you pass through the waters, they shall not overflow you. “Then where are you in this mighty flood that is threatening to kill me?” She screamed, more tears streaming. “Why will you not give me a child? Why should someone else do it for my husband?” Trust Me beloved. “Lord I want to trust you, but I just don’t know how.” Sade sobbed into the cold air of the room. “My life is a mess right now. I need a child.” 59


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It may tarry, but it will surely come. “When will it come? When? It’s been four agonizing years. I endured shame and insult and yet nothing? Tell me when.” She flung her pillows against the wall and buried her head into the mattress. She didn’t have to wait for the answer. God would give her a child, but only in His own time. The only problem with that was...she wasn’t a very patient person.

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8 CHAPTER EIGHT The moon lay nestled in a thick layer of dark storm clouds and the air outside was still. The periodic slapping of a person’s feet against the pavement rippled the silence outside her open bedroom window. Eniola sat up on her bed, holding the phone in one hand, the other kept her place in the Book of John she had been reading in the Bible before her mother called. She sighed. “No mummy, I am not going to die a spinster,” Eniola sighed again. Her mother was shouting and her father could be heard egging her on, resonating encouragement to his wife. She could hear Wale in the kitchen, probably rummaging through the fridge for something to eat. She smiled at the thought. Wale never cooked his own food. Her mother hissed. “Pschew, no one will marry an old woman oh?” Eniola rolled her eyes. “I am here to study. At least let me get my law degree before you bombard me with marriage requests. And I am not an old woman.” 61


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“Kai, something has captured my daughter.” Her mother said. “I hear the water over there deceives you into thinking you are youthful.” There was a thoughtful silence on the other end of the line. Eniola waited. Finally her mother spoke. “Titi got married last week. It was a grand event. You remember Titi that walks like a penguin? If she can find a husband, then what is stopping you?” “Eniola,” Her mother continued. “We sent you to England to study but please come back home with a husband on your right, and your certificate in your left hand. Or at least find a boyfriend.” Another pause. “Or are you not interested?” her mother asked, before fervently adding: “God forbid.” The statement forced another smile out of Eniola. If she told her mum that she wasn’t interested in men, her mother would simply disintegrate. “I’ll find a good man. I am praying.” “Prayer sha. Will you marry your prayers? You have a good man right there under your roof but you will be shaking your small buttocks as if you have plenty men chasing after you. What is his name again?” “Who?” “The man you share a house with.” “Wale?” “Why can’t you marry him eh? Is he single? Can I speak to him? Maybe his head has small space to collect common sense.” “Mummy, Wale has a fiancée.” She hated herself for lying, but her mother was relentless. “And he is not a Christian. I am asking God for my own husband.” “That fine boy is not a Christian? Why haven’t you preached to him yet?” Her mother said. “He has been your flatmate for very long.” 62


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“I am praying for him.” Wale did not think he needed salvation. He believed in being good. That living a good life was enough for him to get to Heaven, but she couldn’t tell her mum that. Her mother grunted. “Pray for him quick. So he can throw out his fiancée and marry you because I have vowed that I will no longer attend any other person’s wedding until I get your own invite.” Her mother paused. “If you don’t want to send me to an early grave, find a man and bring him home.” “I hear you.” “You better hear me. Your friend has been married for many years.” Eniola slapped her forehead with exasperation. “Don’t compare me with Sade. She is three years older and we have different destinies.” “Don’t you want to be like Sade? Her life is perfect. She married a rich man, and by the way, I hear she is expecting a baby?” The excitement in her mother’s voice mounted. “Is it true? Because we have all been wondering for the poor, poor child.” Eniola knew better than to answer that question. Her mother was only looking for a way to pry into Sade’s life. “Mummy, when Sade has a baby, you will be the first to hear.” “Really?” “Promise. I have to go.” “Okay oh.” Her mother sighed. “Eniola? Eniola playfully rolled her eyes. “Yes mummy?” “Please find a husband quick.” Eniola grinned. “Will do mummy. God willing. Bye.” Afterwards, she thought about her friend, briefly wondered at the lack of communication from Sade’s end. She dismissed the thought, and looked around her room63


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at the organized table top, neatly folded clothes in a spotless wardrobe, shining wooden floor-and sighed. It needed a bit of tidying. There was some dust in a small corner by the window and a spot she missed on the floor needed buffing. She giggled. Only she would notice one spot on the floor. It was hardly surprising that everyone called her a neat freak. A neat single freak. But she was happy, focused and looking forward to meeting a nice man- someday. She rose from her bed, grabbed a small mirror from its stand and made a face at her reflection. She had dark cocoa skin, huge eyes like a burnt carnelian stone, and a proud, broad nose on a well rounded, not fat face. And even though she wasn’t exactly skinny, Momma needn’t worry, God had it all figured out. Swinging her hips to an unsung tune, Eniola dusted the window sill. A shiver passed through her and she stopped. She had a distinct feeling that someone was watching her again. She peered out at the shadowy road. What was out there? Nothing. Absolute stillness. Yet, she couldn’t shake off the unease; the sense that there was someone or something sinister out there. She shivered again and pulled her window closed. She drew the blinds and prayed. Only then did she feel better, grateful for the sense of security a simple positive action could provide.

The story continues... 64


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If you enjoyed this story, please spread the word. ďƒ˜ Click here to tweet about it ďƒ˜ Click here to tell your friends about it on facebook.

Create a buzz and God will bless you. For more information and release dates: FollowAbimbola Dare on: Twitter: @bimbylads Facebook: Abimbola Dare My website: www.abimboladare.com

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Thank you for reading The Small Print.

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The Small Print ( a novel)  

Twisted in a web of infidelity, deceit and lies, three individuals must battle insurmountable challenges- on a journey across two continents...

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