A rose by any other name, p.5
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       A Rose by Any Other Name, p.5

           Nia Eze
 
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  CHAPTER 11

  Keira touched the scar that ran along the left side of her face from temple to jaw on a ragged sob.

  “It’s not as obvious as all that Kei.” Bimpe soothed. Keira sobbed harder. She had missed her wedding because she had still been heavily bandaged as at the time. Bimpe shifted closer to her on the bed and pulled her gently into a hug. “And the doctor says it would fade a bit with time. Indeed IT IS already fading out.” She consoled. Keira could not respond for the intensity of her sobs.

  “Keira! It is okay!” Bimpe said repeatedly as she rocked her gently as if she were a baby. Finally, Keira’s sobbing subsided and she blew her nose noisily into the handkerchief she was holding.

  “Have you eaten at all?” Bimpe asked as she held Keira from her to study her demeanour critically. Keira shook her head in response.

  “I’m not hungry.” She responded dully.

  “Well you have to eat! You’ve already lost enough weight during your stay at the hospital. You cannot come and loose the remaining one now!” Bimpe bustled both of them up and into the kitchen. She rustled through the fridge and the cupboards trying to put together enough ingredients to make a meal for both of them.

  Keira sat lethargically on a stool watching Bimpe as she put together a meal. She could barely keep a conversation going with her. She marveled that there was enough food stuff in the house to make a meal. She had supposed that Jude had been eating out. It was not that she was not well enough to prepare him light meals, she was, now. She just hadn’t felt up to it. Now as she sat looking around her, she realized that the kitchen was actually well stocked and spick and span. She realized also that the living area they had passed through on their way to the kitchen had been very neatly arranged. Even the rugs had seemed recently cleaned.

  “Keira!” she realized that Bimpe had actually called her severally but that she had not responded. She turned her attention back to her a questioning look on her face.

  “You are worrying me!” Bimpe exclaimed as she put a lid on the pot she had on the gas burner.

  “Are you okay? I mean apart from the physical aspect.” She waited for a response. When none was forthcoming, she went on, “Clara…said some things to me that are a bit confusing. I decided not to bring it up before but…” she broke off on a sigh and took one of Keira’s hands in hers, holding it tightly.

  “Why hasn’t Clara been to see me?” Keira asked, her voice sounding a little lost.

  “She did come.” Bimpe refuted. “But you were so out of it most times then that I’m not certain it registered. You know she had to travel shortly afterwards for her delivery.”

  Keira nodded slowly. “She could call me though.” She said weakly.

  Bimpe sighed again. “Perhaps she’s worried that you wouldn’t pick her calls.”

  “Why would she think that?” Keira asked, genuinely confused.

  “She feels guilty. For some reason she thinks she was the cause of the accident, that you would hold her responsible.”

  Keira jerked up in surprise. “Oh no!” she gasped. “Why would she think that? It was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention.” Keira gasped on the clog of emotion in her throat. Bimpe rubbed her hand soothingly on her back.

  “Perhaps we can call her? I know she’ll be so glad to hear from you.” She suggested.

  “Yes. Yes, let’s call her.” Keira agreed. They lapsed into a long moment of silence and the only sounds heard were the humming of the refrigerator and the hissing of the pot on the cooker.

  “What was it that Clara meant by what she said?” Bimpe asked, her voice shocking Keira from her reverie.

  “What exactly did she say?” Keira asked tiredly.

  Bimpe huffed, “That you were having an affair, an emotional affair she called it. And she went on and on about a lot of things that I couldn’t make heads or tails of but the summary was that you were having inappropriate feelings for someone.”

  Keira sighed loudly feeling suddenly overwhelmed by a mix of emotions, grief, guilt, sadness, loneliness and surprisingly, a sense of abandonment.

  “He’s never called even.” She turned to look at Bimpe. “Majid, that’s his name, he’s never called in all of this.” She said despondently.

  Bimpe stared at her in shock. “Are you in love with him?” she asked, her voice almost a whisper.

  Keira tried to process through her feelings but could neither make heads or tails of it.

  “I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’m angry at him but at the same time I miss him. Jude… is barely even speaking to me. Oh, he’s not being negligent or anything like that. It’s just that…I feel that he’s not here! He’s here with me in body but absent…in his mind?” she finished like she was trying to make sense of her words even as she spoke them.

  “So do you think if this Majid called, it would make you feel better?” Bimpe asked her frown deepening as the conversation went on.

  Keira shook her head. “I don’t know!” they lapsed into another moment of silence. “Did I ever say thank you for holding things down for me at the shop?” she asked Bimpe.

  Bimpe shrugged off her gratitude. “It’s actually Funke you should thank. I just look in once in awhile. That girl has held everything down like a pro! You should see some of the ideas she has introduced. You really should think about promoting her or something.” Bimpe enthused.

  Keira smiled. “She’s already my head shop girl.” She said.

  “Perhaps you should make her a manager then.” At Keira’s raised eyebrow, Bimpe continued “Yes! You have to encourage the girl! She wowed me with the way she handled everything, has been handling everything! Even your mum can’t sing enough of her praises. And besides, the business IS expanding. I had not realized how much until all of this. You’ll need a manager, even if it weren’t because of your recuperation, you’d still need a manger.”

  Keira shook her head in amazement. “I guess I’ll have to look into that.” She conceded. There was another moment of silence. “God bless her.” she said quietly.

  “Amen.” Bimpe responded cheerily. She got up to check on the contents of the pot. When she lifted the lid, a stirring aroma drifted from the pot.

  “What are we eating?” Keira asked suddenly realizing that she was hungry.

  “Porridge yam. With smoked fish, ponmo and other mede-mede.” Bimpe said teasingly.

  Keira smiled. “Abeg when will it be ready so that we can eat?” she asked.

  “Soon.” Bimpe responded. “We can call Clara now though and do her longer-throat. I’m sure she’s fed up with awon burger ati fries and all those American things.” She remarked to which Keira responded by bursting into cheery laughter.

  Bimpe stared at her beautiful friend as she laughed. Scars and all, she reveled in the pleasure of the sound of her friend’s laughter. Jude had called her at his wits end the evening before.

  “She’s sinking into depression.” He had said his anguish very apparent in his voice.

  She smiled as she watched Keira wipe tears out of the corner of her eyes as she regained control of her mirth.

  “She’ll disappear from there and reappear here immediately!” she chuckled. “Clara and orisi risi food.”

  “Keira.” Bimpe called and when she got her attention, “We all love you. All of us, Jude, Clara, me, your parents, Jude’s parents even Dominic.” She said with a smile and heartfelt sincerity.

  It was the exactly right thing to say. Keira felt the tears sting her eyes once more as she smiled back at her friend. “I almost forgot.” She said quietly. “I’m trying to believe again.”

  Bimpe sighed. “Talk to Jude.” She turned again to check the contents of the pot. “He really does love you.”

  Keira held those words closely to her heart. They were just the seeds of hope she needed.

  CHAPTER 12

  Jude stood by the door jamb watching his wife as she delicately fingered the scar along the side of her face. The wound had healed and scabbed over and those
scabs were falling off in some places. But it would always have a scar. It wasn’t so much unsightly as it was surprising. Looking at her from the front, the scar was not visible. It was when she turned a little to the right that it became visible as a line running down the side of her face.

  She had not yet realized that he was home yet. At least she was not crying as she touched the scar. She breathed out noisily and then jolted slightly when she saw him at the door.

  “I didn’t realize you were home.” She exclaimed softly. “What time is it?” she asked as she hurriedly got up and gathered up the scarf she had left on the bed. As she made to wrap it around her head to cover her face, Jude stopped her.

  “It’s not as bad as you make it out to be.” He said softly. Keira stilled as her hand fell from her face. She kept her gaze on the ground, the gesture diffident and so unlike her.

  “Kei,” Jude called her name, keeping his voice low. “It’s not as bad as you think.” He repeated. Keira nodded and made to move past him but he blocked her exit with his body, the memory of the conversations he had had with Bimpe playing in his mind.

  “She needs you to reassure her Jude. She’s feeling guilty.”

  “If nothing happened like she said, why is she feeling guilty?” he had lashed out at Bimpe, his heart squeezing with the pain of the betrayal he had felt.

  He would put his head on a chopping board for Keira. He was working as hard as he was because he wanted her safe, comfortable, worry free. He had been unable to wrap his head around the fact that his frequent absences had made her feel abandoned. He had thought she would understand. That she had her business to occupy her. They had messed up a lot of things. He had imagined that they were on the same page. They had talked extensively about their hopes and dreams. They had had a large portion of their life time to talk about it, together. He had thought they had been all talked out but recent events had proven otherwise. They had somewhere stopped talking and they had both paid dearly for it. The near loss of their marriage, the close shave with death, the bitterness of betrayal and the loss of their peace of mind.

  Over the past few days, he had prayed. It was not as if he had ever stopped praying, he always had. But not like he had in the past few days. That had not happened in a long while. He cried all his tears before God. He had railed and then surrendered. He had acknowledged his hurt, his betrayal and his need for revenge. And while he was at it, he had acknowledged his love for his wife, his grief at what they were going through, his bafflement that she could have been lured into ANY kind of affair with another man and that his trust had been so badly broken.

  Keira peeked up at him and then turned her face to a spot behind him. Before his conversation with Bimpe that would have hurt with the pull of a sucker punch but now he recognized it for what it was, Guilt.

  “Kei.” He whispered softly. “I love you.” He said. Keira’s eyes jerked up to meet his in surprise.

  “I never thought you did not.” She replied. “I just wondered if…you loved me enough.”

  “Enough for what?” Jude questioned. “To die for you? To give up my life for you?” trying to understand what had happened to them.

  Keira shook her head against his chest. “I would never ask you to give me those things. I would never ask you to do those things for me. Of what use would it be if you died for me? What use?”

  “What happened? When did you stop believing that I loved you enough?” he asked. Keira remained motionless in the circle of his arms, thinking, trying to sort through her thoughts and memories.

  “It was never any one particular moment or thing.” She said thoughtfully. “I guess it was a gradual erosion of things. Little things, that ordinarily shouldn’t have mattered but they did.”

  “Like?”Jude prodded, a peace flowing softly into his heart as she opened up to him.

  “Good morning kisses. I really missed those. It wasn’t that I thought… you’d be in hurry, dashing out to keep an early morning appointment. I was happy that you were moving up the ladder and that things were looking up for you and that you were enjoying it but I felt left behind. Like you weren’t including me, like you had gone ahead of me and that I was less than you needed.”

  Jude stiffened in shock. “How could you ever think that Baby?” he gasped in surprise. Keira shrugged.

  “I had no reason not to think it. Somewhere we stopped saying ‘I love you’ and I guess at some point I began to wonder. Wonder whether I was a bother. Whether…you still loved me the way you use to.”

  “Is that why? Was that the angle Majid used?”

  It was Keira’s turn to gasp in shock. Jude shook his head and pulled her back into the fold of his embrace.

  “I believe you. I believe that nothing happened.” He soothed as he rubbed his hands up and down her now very tense back. Keira had nothing to say for herself. What could she possibly say?

  “How did you…?” she trailed off not wanting to admit the specter of her near-indiscretion into this conversation.

  “He came by the hospital the day after your accident.” Jude responded to her unasked question. “He was distraught. No, he didn’t say anything.” He responded to the hitch in Keira’s breath. “He was distraught.” Jude repeated like that should say everything. And it did to Keira.

  “He never called.” She whispered unable to help herself. Jude gently pushed her away so he could clearly see her face.

  “Do you…love him?” he choked over the question. “Would you rather be with him?” he asked, aghast.

  “No!” came Keira’s sharp response as she grabbed a hold of her husband’s shirt. She leaned her head again back on his now rigid chest. “I love you. I now realize that I always have. I was acting out my discontent like a child. Instead of telling you how I felt, I allowed my fear of…displeasing you, worrying you shut me up and see how it turned out!” Tears began to flow profusely down her face.

  Jude bent his head so that his chin rested on the top of her head. He shook his head at himself. “When did I begin to terrify you so much that you felt that you couldn’t talk to me?” he asked in bafflement.

  Keira shook her head. “I’m not terrified of you.” She refuted. “I was angry at you. And I acted out by sulking instead of talking to you. I felt you were distant from me and instead of drawing closer I put more space between the two of us till I couldn’t hear you anymore. And neither could you hear me.”

  “I love you Kei. I have never stopped and so help me God, I will never stop.” he swore solemnly. Keira hugged him closer to her, wrapped her arm more tightly around him.

  “I’m so sorry.” She said on a sob.

  “So am I Kei. So am I.”

  And they stood there in each other’s embrace for a long while.

  CHAPTER 13

  Keira looked over the envelope that had just been delivered to her by Adaobi, her newest shop girl. She sighed as she asked, "When did this come in?"

  "Last night after you had left." Adaobi replied standing diffidently before her.

  Keira gave a single nod. "You can go Nne." Adaobi gave a small curtsy and left. Keira smiled. She still found it amazing when she was accorded such traditional respect by her young shop girls. She found that she often forgot that she was indeed a few years older than they were.

  She tore open the envelope and brought out the invitation card she had known would be inside. She looked over the card worriedly. It could only have come from one person. Even though her business had really expanded in the past year since the last forum, she knew that it had in no way reached the echelons of the sort of businesses that usually got invited to that event. Besides, this invite was again in her name not the name of the business. 'What game was Majid playing at this time?' she wondered. She was tempted to pick up her phone and call him but at the last minute she hesitated. She was scared. She was confused as to how to proceed. Would it be right? What would Jude think if she did call? She shook her head and slipped the card into her desk drawer. She was torn between the
decision to attend or not.

  The door to her office swung open to reveal Funke.

  "Good morning Ma." She greeted cheerily. "How are you feeling today?" she continued.

  Keira eyed her suspiciously. "Good morning. You are cheerful this morning." she commented as she booted up her desktop computer.

  Funke made a playful twist of her body and said, "It is a good morning isn't it?" she smiled coyly at Keira.

  Keira raised her eyebrow. "It is indeed if it has you so...excited."

  "Did you get the letter?" Funke asked.

  "I have a letter?" Keira intoned even though she knew what Funke was referring to.

  It was Funke's turn to raise her eyebrow, slightly as she explained, "The invitation to this year's Forum."

  Keira looked up from her booting computer. "Oh! That!" she exclaimed mockingly.

  Funke smirked as she came around and sat on the chair usually reserved for customers and visitors to the office. "Yes Ma, that!" she said.

  Keira shook her head wryly. "I've seen it and I don't think I'm going to go." she answered.

  "Why?" Funke asked in surprised concern.

  Keira debated the wisdom of discussing her misgivings with her and shrugged. She was as good a head to sound out as any other of her friends. In fact, perhaps she was better because she was not as emotionally involved with the debacle as the others were.

  "I'm scared." she answered honestly.

  "Why?" Funke asked again.

  "I don't know if I can handle seeing him." she said simply.

  "Why do you think he was the one who sent it?" Funke queried.

  "Funke, we are bigger than we were, but we are not that big yet. It could only have been...Majid."

  Funke nodded her head. "Are you afraid he'll cause any trouble? You can...tell Oga Jude. I'm sure he'll do something about it."

  "That is the other problem. Is it wise for Oga Jude to become involved with this? Maybe it's just best if I don't go." she demurred.

  "Madam please don't be offended." Funke started. "Do you still like that oga?"

  Keira was quiet for a moment. "No, not like before." she replied hoping that she was being truthful.

  "Then there is no problem. I think you should attend. The business we can get from there will be very useful. Consider it his payment for all the wahala he caused you."

 
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