By Akpan-Nya, Alexandra Emem
Susan found her life suddenly complicated, in just a week. Her home, which had always been her comfort zone, began to change subtly. For years she had been concerned with pleasing only her daughter and the few friends who ever visited her. But having her house being visited by a stranger three days in one week had caused her to notice a few things that needed to be shifted, or changed, or totally thrown away. She knew it was because of the particular stranger in question. But she could not help herself. His eyes seemed to see everything, and she could not help thinking his gaze was sometimes judgemental. Even though she tried not to let his presence affect her so much, she felt compelled to react.
“Michael Davies.” He had introduced himself the first afternoon they met at her daughter’s school. He towered over her as he walked over to the proprietress’ office table to shake her hand. She felt like falling into his smile. “I’ll be giving your daughter home lessons on mathematics. So, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the coming week.”
And they had. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just before five in the evening, his tall figure was darkening her doorstep as he waited to be let in for the hour-long lesson.
She would pretend to be occupied elsewhere as he and Cherish huddled over a table in the tiny living room and went over the basic mathematics textbooks he usually brought with him, but her house was small and she had to pass through the living room to reach any other room. Whenever their eyes met, he would only smile at her. They hardly ever exchanged anything but pleasantries, but she would obsess over him hours after he left, wondering what he thought of her and her house. Then she would change the position of something in the living room.
After his first visit, she and Cherish had even engaged in a brief tug-of-war over the girl’s favourite teddy bear. It was a large, plush toy- almost as large as the girl herself- and she had grown accustomed to using it as a makeshift body pillow, half-reclining on it as she watched her favourite cartoons and TV shows. When Susan decided the teddy, who Cherish had named Pooh, had to leave the living room, the little girl would have none of it.
She jumped on the toy as Susan tried to pick it up and pulled, her skinny arms taut. “No, mummy! Leave Pooh alone!”
Susan tugged at the toy. “Let go of this raggedy thing this instant, young lady. I bought you a proper beanbag and it’s time you began using it. Poop has to go.”
Cherish spread her body on the plush toy and yelled, throwing out her arms dramatically. “It’s Pooh, not Poop! Why, Mummy? What has he done to deserve this?”
Susan let go off the toy abruptly and watched in exasperation as her daughter wrapped her legs and arms around it. “I really need to stop you from watching those Disney shows. What kind of drama is this, Cherish?”
She left her daughter defiantly hugging the teddy bear, after wrangling out a promise that the teddy bear would go into the bedroom whenever Mr Davies came around. It became a signal of the man’s arrival. The moment the doorbell rang, Cherish would grab Pooh and flee to her room. She liked Mr Davies, but if she had to choose between him and the old teddy, her Pooh came first.
On the second week of the home lessons, Susan decided to take the bull by the horns. She could not deny that she found the man attractive; maybe it was time to get to know him better.
She applied a little more make-up than usual and waited for five. When he arrived, she was all smiles. Though the teacher was surprised at the sudden friendliness, he eventually seemed to warm up to her. cherish rolled her eyes as the adults chatted and laughed with each other over her head, then concentrated on her sums. So she missed the moment the pleasant atmosphere changed.
Susan had been half-giddy with pleasure as she spoke with the handsome Michael. Their conversation was interesting and witty, and she had not missed the subtle flirting going on between them. She knew she was rusty when it came to men, but she was glad to realize she could still hold her own confidently. At least she was doing so till she noticed his fingers.
She had gone to get him some orange juice and just as she leaned over to proffer him a filled glass of the sweet drink, she noticed his hand. She had checked for a wedding band before that day, and his fingers had always been bare. But when she leaned close, she noticed something that reminded her unpleasantly of her ex-husband.
Asuquo Udodiong had been an unrepentant cheat, which was only one of the reasons why she had left him. He had often come home late, smelling of alcohol and female perfume. And after he had passed out in bed, she would stay up staring at him, sometimes crying. He always wore his wedding ring, more as a status symbol than as a sign of love for her, and only took it off when he had some other woman to see. But sometimes he forgot to slide the slim gold band back on before he returned home to Susan, and there was always a tell-tale band of skin on the finger where the ring usually was before he took it off.
So when Susan saw the band of lighter skin on Michael Davies’ fourth finger, she immediately knew what it meant- He wore a ring regularly and had only just taken it off.
Her insides curdled and she recoiled as though a snake had bitten her. The glass of juice in her hand sloshed, spilling some drops on the table as she stared in shock at the face of the man seated opposite her.
She had been flirting with a married man the entire day.
To Be Continue Tomorrow