James was in ecstasy. His first major deal had gone through. As he stepped out of the bar, best foot forward, he let the cool night air hit his face blissfully. He clutched the cheque in his hand tightly afraid it might fly away, or that the tycoon who had just handed it to him might come dashing after him with a changed mind. This was a huge contract! Something he’d been praying for, for ages. This was big time. He was soon going to join the big boys’ league.
He searched for his car where he’d left it and when he found it he darted towards it hurriedly, glancing back to make sure the tycoon didn’t see him enter it. The car was old and beat. One fact that made him proud but which he never told anyone was that the car had been in use since the colonial period. Publicly, He was ashamed of it. Because of this car he had been denied a lot of projects, in a society that was disbelievingly superficial. Deep down he loved the car, it was a dear friend that had gotten him through a lot of difficulties. It was like a friend that had been with him through thick and thin. Still, it had to go. It was time to upgrade.
He reversed slowly and exited the parking, his mind somewhere else already. He thought of his wife and smiled hard, how happy she would be! She‘d been sad a lot lately. Not because of their financial problems or anything and it bothered him immensely. Because she thought he was cheating on her. He had been going for the big time lately, and those ones were never made in offices. Why would women not understand this? No man ever struck a deal while in the office. Major projects were discussed in bars and locals after working hours. What happened in offices was only putting the agreements into paper. He shook his head as he realized sadly that Monica would never realize this. To her, he was neglecting her. Of course to her, there was no way he could be working at that particular moment. He was in a hurry now, accelerating and overtaking the small number of cars he came across. It was almost midnight and he was so anxious to be home and see the two women he loved most in the world.
# # # #
Monica had other ideas. She stared at the wall clock for the umpteenth time, her rage knowing no bounds. The son of a bitch! She had tried calling him twice but he hadn’t picked up. And she had sent him numerous texts to which up until now, he hadn’t replied. That’s it. She was totally done. Wait till the bastard got home, she thought bitterly. Out with his whores as usual in bars, wasting his money. No wonder he didn’t have a penny left every end of the month. They were living from hand to mouth now, yet all he talked about were his damned deals. He had been talking about them for years now! She sat up straight as she heard him drive into the compound.
She heard him open the door lock with his keys and she got up immediately, ready for war.
“Hi honey,” James said pleasantly and Monica couldn’t help noticing the satisfied look on his face.
“Don’t honey me!” she spat disgustedly, as if the word honey tasted like shit in her mouth.
James stared at her for a while, not knowing what to do. When he spoke, it was with the reason of voice.
“Okay I can see you are worked up over something. Maybe you could let me eat first and then we could talk about it afterwards? I’m starving.”
“Of course you are starving. How could you not, after all the alcohol and sex with your whores.”
“Honey, you know I wasn’t with my whores,” he said quietly, trying to be calm.
“Ohh really? Then whose whores were you with?” her voice was rising.
“Well can’t I at least explain myself?”
“Explain what? The fact that your breath smells like a brewery? Or that it’s almost morning? Explain that as usual you are back in the house when half of the night is already gone?”
“For heaven’s sake Monica, I was out working!”
“Which is what you were doing last night, last weekend, last month? Heck it’s what you have been doing for years now!”
“But it’s the truth,” he said tiredly. He still had his briefcase in his hands and the suit he had worn in the morning. He felt cheap standing there in front of her, being interrogated like this. He felt like his manhood was on the line here.
“Do you work on the weekends?” she asked bitterly.
He said nothing.
“Answer me James!” she thundered angrily and he flinched as if in pain.
“And other times?”
“I catch up with the boys,”
“And when do you catch up with your wife and daughter?” she was worked up now and the look in her eyes frightened him. This was not the Monica he so loved.
“But I am always here with you,” he blurted and realized even before he was finished that it was the wrong thing to say.
“Ohh are you now James?” she asked sarcastically. “Are you always here with us? When was the last time you took us out? Huh? What is my work in this house? Clean and cook and take the baby to school? Is that it? Am I your maid?”
Why did she always do this to him? Turn tables on him and make him look like a horrible person? Was he that bad really? Was he as bad as she made him look? The funny thing was he had not slept with another woman other than her for five years! Five long years! Apart of course from that small incident of Sheila, the woman he had an affair with for two months. He’d been caught and apologized and vowed never to repeat it again. It was a stupid mistake which even he regretted.
“So what’s her name?” she asked suddenly, cutting him from his thoughts.
“Who?” he asked in obvious anguish, knowing exactly what she meant. They’d been down this road before.
“Who else? Your filthy whore.”
“For the hundredth time Monica, I’m not seeing any woman outside of this marriage.”
“That’s the exact same line you used.”
“When you cheated on me with Sheila,”
“You talk as if it was yesterday Monica. That was five years ago!” he was trying so hard to stay calm but he could feel the emotion rising in him.”
“Ohh, so you remember even the time ehh? You can’t really forget about her can you?”
James paused for a second and stared at her with a pained expression. The irony of her statement didn’t escape him but he decided to let it pass.
“What exactly am I being hanged for? What is the issue here? Is it Sheila, or the fact that I am working too hard? Or something else you are not saying?”
“You don’t love me anymore,” she said suddenly, all the anger gone. She stood there looking at him and he saw the hint of fear in her eyes. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. He was next to her in a flash.
“Honey you know that’s not true. I love you very much. You are the only woman I ever have. The only woman I ever will.” He moved her closer to his arms and she let him hold her. She must have been showering before he came in. she smelled so fresh.
“What of the day you’ll get that big time deal you are always chasing? You will abandon us completely. If right now you are never here for us, what of that time? We will have lost you forever.”
So that was it, he thought. She was scared of change.
“Monica, the only reason I work so hard is because I want you to be comfortable. To live a happy life. That’s why I have to meet strangers in bars at night. That’s why sometimes I’m rarely home. But from now henceforth I promise I will change.”
“You will?” she asked in a child’s voice and his heart flew out to her.
“Of course. We will start with a holiday of two weeks in a destination of your choice. Just pretty, you and I. just the three of us.”
“Oh James!” she begun happily then stopped midway, her face creasing in worry. “But Where will you get the money?”
He motioned her to sit down next To him and as he tried to get the cheque from his pocket.
He searched for a few minutes. It wasn’t there. He stood up and searched in every hole in his pocket. It wasn’t there.
“I must have left it in the car,” he said in panic.
“Left what in the car?” she asked suspiciously?
“The cheque. The fifty million cheque,” he ran out of the house with her hot on his heels.
He was in the car now, searching frantically. He searched everywhere, even in the ignition hole. It wasn’t there. Gone. He must have dropped it in the parking lot. He hung his head in surrender.
“You son of a bitch.” She said through clenched teeth, that scary look back in her eyes.
“I swear I am telling you the truth,” He said looking away, avoiding her eyes as much as possible.
“Get out of this compound, now.”
“What?” he asked in disbelieve. The guts in this woman! He raised his hand in anger, wanting to give her a slap that would bring her back to her senses. From a small distance the watchman was watching them. He thought the better of it and dropped his hand.
“So now you want to slap me!” she shouted. “Go ahead, slap your wife. Slap me now!”
He really, really couldn’t believe this was happening. He knew if he continued standing there and letting her disrespect him like this he would do something really stupid. So he turned his back on her and walked towards the gate.
“I know that’s what you wanted,” she shouted at the top of her lungs. “You can go back to your whores now! Go and fuck the shit out of them. Go ahead; after all they are more important to you than your own family.”
He ignored her and ordered the watchman to lock the door tightly behind him. The watchman nodded sympathetically, totally understanding the man’s anguish. His own wife was worse than this. She was a beast and a devil.
As he walked into the dark night, he began wondering where he could go at this moment. At the back of his head, he knew he was not ready for big time.
His father had been right. The only time a man rested was when he was safely in his coffin, six feet under.
What wise counsel!
Suddenly his phone rang. It was the watchman at the club where he’d been doing business with the tycoon. He had just picked the lost cheque. He told the guy to hold on for a few seconds, he’d be there to pick it up. Relief washed over him immensely. At least he dint have to ask the tycoon for another cheque. The embarrassment!!
And to think Monica had always complained about his habits of befriending watchmen. You never knew when they’d come in handy, he’d always said. Like today.