Author’s note: I took a 15-minute break from work to write this today. It had been tinkering in my head for so long I had to let it out. I tried to censor it because you know I’m trying to be good. (I feel like I’m betraying art itself when I censor or restrain myself. Does any other writer feel that way?). I am working on the conclusion for Trust, trust me *wink* I love conversing. So please feel free to leave a comment.
When I was in the university, I was voted most likely to become a career woman.
They said it like it was a bad thing while I jubilated at the thought of becoming the person I admired the most. A powerful woman.
I wanted to be like Oprah. Single but not alone. In a committed partnership. With money to burn. I however also wanted children without the hassle of a marriage.
I was well on my way to achieving my dreams of power and grandeur. I was cutthroat at my job. I received accolades like people received emails. Frequent pithy commendations that made me seem like someone who had parted seas.
I loved it. Not the accolades exactly. The work. I loved working late. My head angled to the side as I squinted at my dimly-lit laptop. My nose scrunched up as I tried to figure out a particularly difficult number. I was a perfectionist. Every number in the financials had to tie out.
The security men at work knew me. I was always the first one in and the last one out.
In addition to the award for ‘Best trainee associate’. I had also won the award for ‘work-life balance’ in my first year as an associate. I worked hard and played harder.
It often surprised people that I had a life outside of work.
I was a mass of restless energy and I often needed an outlet. I played squash on Saturdays. Cycled on the Lekki-Epe expressway on Sundays. All of this after a Friday night hangout with colleagues.
It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen my university classmates or other friends in aeons. My colleagues had become my friends.
I met my husband, Deolu at one of our Friday karaoke sessions. My business unit had reserved the entire first floor and from there I had a very good view of the dance floor just below.
Deolu was the best dancer within miles and from the way he was grinding the babe with him, I thought she’d need three showers and a hot tub- soak to get his perfume off her skin.
I remember going downstairs to answer a call because the entire lounge was noisy and on my way back in I’d been pulled into this crazy dance by none other than Deolu.
He had called me intense and I’d called him a joker. The rest was history.
Fast forward two years later and I was married to the handsome joker with a one year old daughter to boot.
I’d worked throughout my maternity leave up until Deolu broke my laptop. I’d called to the Business technology unit the next morning while he was at work to request a new one. Everyone had been surprised to see me at the office. I looked like an overfed elephant. I was already dreaming up exercise routines to whip my body back into shape before Remi was even delivered safely.
The doctors said I had a high blood pressure when Remi was born and advised me to take work and mothering easy. I’ve never been one to take things easy or listen to advise. I delved into motherhood the way I attacked everything else – with gusto.
I made sure I expressed enough bottles of milk to last her an entire day. I wasn’t going to stop working just because I had a baby. One time I had a ridiculous pain in my breasts. I couldn’t touch them for two days.
When I tried to express, the milk was curdled. The doctors said I had plugged
ducts resulting in the tenderness around my alveoli. All this because I had missed some breastfeeding sessions causing my breasts to become very full and swollen.
I started expressing more often after the incident and even weaned Remi early. She had to learn to be tough. My own mother only nursed me for three months. I was eating Amala dipped in plain ewedu (no pepper for me yet) at four months.
I could see the dissatisfaction etched on Deolu’s face each day as I fell more in love with my job.
I was only twenty-seven and already a manager and if I kept on performing above expectation I would be a senior manager in record time.
Our marriage wasn’t tranquil but we made it work. We were more partners than anything else.
We took turns doing everything and I convinced myself that he understood how much I loved auditing.
You see Deolu worked in one of the leading IOCs in the country.
Closing hours for him was at 4 pm.
I’ve never closed at 4 pm, even when I was a trainee associate still making my way up the ladder.
One time I took a vacation and Deolu flung my phone under the bed because my numerous alarms kept us awake from 3:30 to 5:30 am.
Now let me tell you about Chu. Chuma was one of those men that could not enter an elevator or walk past without heads turning.
Even men admired him.
We called him The Body to his face and behind his back.
At 38, he looked like a Crunchies bar in his suit – hard and edible – and we often teased him for it.
He’d grown up in the UK and dressed like it for the most part. Even at 36 degrees celsius, Chu was dressed in a three-piece suit. He could often be found whipping his Bentley into a tight parking spot like it was nothing.
It was hard to believe he was married. He had gotten married young he often said and warned anyone who would listen to stay single for as long as they could.
When I’d told him I was getting married he had stared at me with something akin to disappointment.
Chu’s kids were 16 and 12 and lived with his wife in the UK. Although not legally separated they might have as well been. She had been adamant about returning to Nigeria.
Chu had been the Director on at least two of my engagements so I was comfortable working with him. He inspired confidence. Some nights when we were alone in the office having sent the associates home, I’d find myself sharing the weirdest bits of myself with him.
Like how I wished I could eat bread everyday like Oprah and lose 20 pounds. Or how I imagined running my own company.
“If anyone can do it it’d be you Yemi” he’d say with such sincerity in his voice. “You’re a regular Margaret Thatcher… And I don’t mean that in a bad way” he’d add hastily.
Chu was cool. He’d buy us drinks at the lounge down the road from our office. Not just me, the entire unit. And sometimes we’d psych him into buying us lunch. And he wasn’t a small boy. Lunch for Chu was Radisson or at the very least Yellow Chilli.
He was sure to make Partner. With his athletic body that looked good in suits and his natural charisma.
One night in March, we were working late together as usual. Remi had clocked 18 months just a few days past and my twenty-eighth birthday loomed like a hangman’s noose.
I’d been irritable at work the entire day, barely acknowledging the “Good night” the audit team lead had mumbled to me as he retired for the night.
The rains started without warning and soon the power went out. We waited in silence for the generator to come on and it seemed to take ages. Our breathing seemed unusually loud in the office. I felt a hand
I felt a hand on my shoulder and jerked.
“Relax. It’s just me” Chu said as he sank into the chair beside mine. “Jeez! You’re tense” he mumbled.
I could smell the cigarette he’d had only minutes before. It clung to his expensive Italian suits like sweat on the skin. You see Chuma loved his cigarettes. Oh how he loved them.
I smiled in the dark, remembering how Deolu had called me tense the first time we met.
I felt a hand on my thigh.
“Chu, what are you doing?” I asked in a small voice, afraid to breathe.
“You need to stop wearing these short skirts. It’s hard enough to concentrate with these smallies and their inappropriate office wear” he said through gritted teeth.
“I like the short skirts. I like feeling sexy” I said cheekily. Look at Chuma o. He’d known me for 6 years and he knew I’d always worn short skirt suits.
“You’re sexy anyhow. Your tits are amazing and your tummy is flatter than an ironing board. You’d pass for a twenty two year old” he said in the matter of fact tone that was characteristically Chuma.
“Umm thank you” I mumbled, touching my boobs gently in the dark.
Why was the gen taking so long to come on? I wondered.
“You’re touching your boobs aren’t you?” He said and I could hear the smile in his voice.
Trust me. My unit was famous for our inappropriate humour. We were like a raucous, dysfunctional larger-than-life Simpson family. We flirted and told sexual jokes and then went back to work.
But this thing with Chuma felt like something else. It felt like desire tightly wrapped in humour. It felt like a spark nestled in the heart of a flower bud waiting for the right stimuli before an explosion.
“Let me” Chuma said before my boobs were in his hands.
It felt so good. So good.
Soon we were kissing. I have never been kissed like that in my life.
My conscience had retreated into itself, probably to resurface when I was alone. But for now, I wanted. I just wanted.
Without thinking I pulled Chu towards the female restrooms. There were no cameras there and the generator was starting up. He pushed me into a stall and locked the door with a small click.
“I have wanted this for so long” he breathed as he trailed kisses down my neck.
I couldn’t even think. I didn’t want him to talk. Just do.
I hiked my skirt all the way up to my waist and faced the wall, propping my hands against it.
He got the message and silently leaned against me, his hands trailing my body.
“How can you be this hot?” He mumbled in my ears and my heart soared with pride.
Why didn’t Deolu say these things to me anymore? I knew I was hot. I worked hard for this body but why wouldn’t my damn husband tell me.
The sex with Chu was hot and slick and raw. Sex would be too tame to describe the carnality of what our bodies did to each other. He was as uninhibited as I was in bed and it was somewhat liberating.
There were no judgments, just pleasing and teasing. I didn’t even care what angle my mouth was at when I came. Or if I was making the most godawful unladylike noises. I existed in the moment.
It didn’t stop that night. If anything, it only began. Our nights spent working late were spent exploring each other’s bodies. It was forbidden and seductive all at once.
I was home even later than usual in the days that followed and Deolu had started drinking.
The affair (oh how sordid!) had been ongoing for two months when Chu finally suggested we spend a weekend together in an actual hotel with a bed and everything. I sound like a giddy school girl.
I was in lust with Chu. When we weren’t fucking I was fantasizing about his body . It was hard especially when we had to work together but we were skilled actors.
Several people before us had had affairs in the business unit which had only been discovered when they distributed wedding invitations. Secrecy was the norm in the office.
I thought I’d been hiding it well until one day when a Partner called me into his office.
Azubuike Kigwe aka AZK (pronounced Ay-zee-kay) as he was fondly called was one of the cool partners. He was barely older than Chu and they often golfed together. He held the record for the fastest rising partner in the firm having made Partner in 8 years.
“What’s up Yemi?” he asked as soon as I sat.
“Nothing much” I began and then proceeded to brief him on the job, I was working on, with him.
“That’s good to hear, Yemi but I was asking about you” he said.
“I’m fine” I said cheerily. I was counting down till sex with Chu again. He was like a drug I couldn’t get enough of.
“Hmmm. ” AZK said. “Chu isn’t working you too hard, I hope?” He asked.
The way he said it made me pause. Did he know? I suddenly wondered. We were hiding it so well.
“Nah. He knows I’m a horse. I can handle anything” I said laughingly.
“Hmmm” AZK mumbled again.
I decided to be brave. “Any issues? You look like there’s something on your mind”
He looked up from staring at the carpet and into my eyes.
“I like you Yemi. You’re a rare one” he began.
Oh No! He knows! He knows!! I had started hyperventilating. My palms felt clammy as I saw my job flash before my eyes.
“I’ve always thought you’d go very far in this firm” he continued.
“I-I-I still can” I stuttered. I was grasping at straws at this point.
“Chu is relocating to the UK. I’m not sure he’s broken it to the BU yet but I wanted you to know since you two worked so ….closely together”
He definitely knows! I told myself. I wanted to burrow into the floor and never rise again.
Wait! Chu was leaving?
“Wow! Since when? We just finished the XYZ audit and turned in their signed financials last week” I said, half-mumbling to myself.
“It’s for the best” AZK said in a way that broached no argument. I knew there was more to it especially when he just looked at me and said I could leave.
I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the day. I just packed my things and went home. My maid was very surprised to see me home so early. As were my husband and daughter.
I crawled into bed feigning illness. Later at midnight I snuck into the bathroom to call Chu.
“Why are you calling me?” he asked in a cold voice.
“I wanted to know why you’re leaving” I cried. Tears were running down my eyes and I didn’t know if it was the sex I would miss more or Chu my friend.
“I had to. Someone knew” he said.
I knew it. I wanted to yell but what good would that do.
“They were going to fire you. We’re two technically married people. I had to bargain with them. Tell them how invaluable you are to the firm.” He said in a rasping voice so I knew he’d been smoking, probably a lot from the sound, of it. “I’m going to try to work it out with Rosemary. I’ll miss you”
Rosemary was his wife.
“I’ll miss you more” I said as my heart broke. I ended the call without a proper goodbye.
I couldn’t bring myself to end it. Chu had somehow become the best part of going to work.
How was I supposed to drum up the enthusiasm for work with him gone now?
As I crawled back into bed, Deolu turned beside me.
“Who was that?” He asked.
“Don’t they even let you sleep? ” he grumbled before hugging the pillow once again.
I was suddenly overcome by sleeplessness. Instead I watched Deolu as he slept.
This man was someone still with me despite my overinvolvement with my job and blind ambition. And I had nearly ruined this beautiful partnership with my involvement with Chu.
I sighed in the darkness. Something was clearly wrong with either me or our marriage. The dilemma was in pinpointing the issue.