“What are you doing here!?” Iphey screamed.
“Please let me come in, I have to talk to you.” He pleaded.
“You!?” He looked the same as when she‟d seen him earlier in the cab but
now his face was softer, more like the brother-in-law she‟d known. He was
James, her sister‟s husband.
Not knowing how to process the information her eyes were feeding her, her
first impulse was to choke him by the collar and demand reparation for all the
pain he‟d caused her family. Since she couldn‟t do that, the next best thing was
to slam the door smack in his face. She did just that but James caught the door
with his foot.
“Iphey! Please wait!” He begged again.
“Are you James or not?”
“Yes…” He breathed with downcast eyes.
“I knew it! I knew it was you.” She opened the door wider. “How did you
“I knew where you lived…”
“Damn you, James! Damn you to hell!” Iphey cried hitting his chest
repeatedly with both hands till he caught them in his.
“Iphey, please calm down… listen to me!”
“Please, shut up! Shut the hell up! Why did you deny it when I called your
name in the cab?”
“Iphey…I‟m sorry but I had to…” He pushed her back into her apartment
and closed the door. “I was shocked as much as you were, Iphey. I needed time
to put myself together…”
James had managed to push her into one of the living room chairs at this time
but remained standing. A tense silence ensued.
“Where have you been all this while?” Iphey asked in a low voice. Her hands
hung between her knees.
“I‟ve been here in Lagos…”
“My God! James, you live here? Ngoo waited…she pined for you all this time
and you live here in Lagos?!”
Pictures of her nephew in his bed during the most recent stay in the hospital
flashed before her eyes…Her sister‟s depression…The fear in her mother‟s
eyes…Her own tears.
“Please Iphey, You need to relax…hear me out at least…”
She sprang to her feet. “How dare you come here after all these years and tell
me to relax?! Why are you even here? What am I hearing you out on? That you
abandoned my sister and her child, YOUR SON!?”
Iphey knew she was getting hysterical but couldn‟t stop it. “How am I going
to break this to Ngozi? How will I tell my sister that her long lost husband is
infact alive? That he has lived in this same state all the while she was crying
herself to sleep?” Several thoughts ran through her mind at once.
James came to stand before her. “See, I had to do what I did…I didn‟t want
to but it was the best thing I could‟ve done at the time.”
Iphey was confused. She hadn’t thought there was a happier couple than her
sister and James at the time. She‟d just gotten into university when they got
married seven years ago. A year later Obi had been born and everyone had been
overjoyed. He was three when to everyone‟s shock, James had gone missing.
James went on…”Almost four years ago, something happened.”
Iphey‟s shook her head vigorously. “What is it, James? What happened?” She
James breathed out and turned around. “I lost my job.”
“What?? What are you talking about?”
“You see Iphey; two years after we got married, I lost my precious oil
“What does that have to do with it?” A shiver went over Iphey. The talk of
job loss was a bit close to home with the recent spate of lay-offs in the banking
“I never told your sister. I kept going out to work for nearly six months
afterwards and never breathed a word of it to her. I looked for other jobs,
gambled, took to drinking, chased other women. Nothing helped.”
Iphey found the sofa. This is only a bad dream. If I shut my eyes, it will go
James continued. “The few people who knew advised me to tell her but I
couldn‟t face the disappointment on her face. When Obi‟s asthma came up while
she was still on maternity leave, we had agreed for her to remain at home. So
there was no other source of income…”
He looked at her face. “I know what you‟re thinking…I wouldn‟t be first or
last to lose my job but I was so proud! Your sister didn‟t know, her behavior
didn‟t change but I became paranoid. I blamed her for my woes and our sickly
son for my quickly dwindling savings. Then I blamed myself but still I did not tell
“Oh my God. Oh my God.” Iphey kept saying.
“I began to resent everyone. My family, you and your mother, you all boasted
so much about my status…”
She could see it was very painful for him but she wouldn‟t let that go. “Leave
us out of this.”
“OK.” He sat down. “The thing was, I was brought up to believe that a man
should provide for his family. In those six months, that belief made me mad!” He
was crying now, the tears trickled down his cheeks.
“Are you saying…?” Iphey started.
James cut in. “I‟m not saying I became actually mad but I eventually did
Iphey’s phone began to ring.
The phone rang through without any answer.
She was still not picking his calls.
“There could be a hundred different reasons. I know she wouldn’t just ignore
my calls,” he told himself.
Chinedu ignored the part of him that said maybe she was angry with him and
wanted nothing more to do with him. There must be something else. He had not
talked to Iphey since the party incident. He had tried to call her but never seemed
to be able to hit the green button each time. However, today at work after his
conversation with Aisha, he had managed to press it but the call didn‟t go
through; the network was busy or her phone was switched off.
One hour passed in which he kept staring at his phone on the table. He had
been trying since with no luck and now he sighed. That was all he did: call, no
reply, sigh, scratch his head, sigh, stand up, pace the length of the room, sigh, sit
down and do it all over. He battled the temptation to get into his car and drive
over there. Was she with someone else? According to Aisha, the man at the party
was her bank manager going overboard with unwelcome advances.
He called again. She didn’t pick as before but this time he managed to send off
a text message. He felt like someone was playing a game with him as the guy
who always got something wrong. He still couldn‟t explain to himself why he
had been so angry when she had kissed him. Maybe she’d done it to annoy her
manager but he had really enjoyed the kiss. He could still feel it even days after;
he even remembered the stray strand of hair that had brushed against his face
when they kissed. God he needed to talk to her. He knew though that this time
there was no beating about the bush. They both spoke their minds or forgot it. It
was all or nothing.
Thirty minutes later, he was still sighing and pacing. He picked up the phone
and decided to try again. As if on cue the slideshow he had put as his phone‟s
wallpaper changed to the only picture he had of her. Iphey sleeping, a smile on
her lips. He sighed once more and began to dial.
His doorbell rang.
He knew she was the one even before he got up from his chair.
“She has come, God she has come.” He banged into a stool in his zest to get
to the door in record time and cursed. He opened the door and there she stood
looking so beautiful, prim and proper in her suited banking attire. She looked like
she just got ready to go to work instead of after a hectic day at the office.
“Hi,” she said, “may I come in?”
Every cell in his body screamed for him to refuse, talk with her right there,
close the door and run back into the house. Instead he said, “sure, come on in.”
He wasn’t as happy as he thought he would be. That was because it wasn‟t
Iphey shrugging off her jacket right from the door, it was Bisi.
Straight away knew he would regret that decision; more and more he felt like
some unknown force was playing a game with him.