“Daddy, daddy! When are you coming back? Tomorrow is Valentine oh!”

Tobe laughed at the statement from his precocious 5 year old son.

“What do you need me back home for? You know daddy is away on business or have you got plans for someone special that you need my help with?” He played on.

“Yes.” He could imagine the facial expression, coupled with a furious nod as Young Ikenna replied.

“Ok. Talk to daddy. What are you planning and who is this person you want to plan for.”

There was a little silence as Ikenna seemed to be consulting someone.

Aha, I knew it! He thought to himself. Miriam was trying orchestrate his early return and she was using the boy to get at him. It was now a favorite ploy of hers for 5 years since she gave birth to their only child. She would send Young Ikenna like an emissary to him to make requests that she felt she couldn’t bring to him directly and because he adored the boy, he never refused.

“I want to go the amusement park.” Ikenna piped. “And I want lots of ice cream!” He added.

Tobe laughed and said: “You know that’s not a problem. Your mum can take you anywhere you want to go.”

“But I want us all to go together.” He said, the excitement in his tone dropping considerably.

“Well, daddy has to work but don’t worry. I’ll make it up to you. I’m bringing home a new car racing game for you.”

“Yay!!!” He screamed excitedly as his voice became distant from the phone which indicated he had gone into one of his favoured victory dances. Tobe heard Miriam’s laughter which proved he was right. She eventually came on line.

“So when are you coming back?” She asked quietly.

“Saturday, most likely.” He said.

They had been married for almost six years. Ikenna was the result of an unprotected indiscretion which solidly bonded their future together, albeit unwillingly. Tobe at the beginning had seen Young Ikenna as an obstruction to his high and lofty dreams and had tried to bully Miriam into getting an abortion but she would have none of that. While they were still in the process of negotiation, she got her parents involved and the whole thing blew up in the open. His parents were furious with him and insisted he got married to Miriam immediately. So at the age of 21, just about to enter his finals in the University and with Miriam just 19 in her second year, they had a small and quiet wedding ceremony.

He never quite forgave her for going to her parents without consulting him. He lost the complete confidence of his parents and had to work hard to placate them. Eventually, he warmed his way back into their hearts as he became a very responsible parent and managed to keep a good home but the marriage was hell to him. There was not a spark in it for him and had it not been for Ikenna, he would have nothing to look forward to going home. Miriam was beautiful, well-kept, homely, nice and everything the perfect wife should be but he couldn’t bring himself to love her. He never tried even though he had to admit that he was glad she had refused to abort the pregnancy that turned out to be his wonderful son. She had given him the greatest gift and in return, he provided for her, made her feel comfortable and was always civil with her. However, the resentment over the forced marriage drove him into the arms of Crystal – a girl he had a thing with back then in school. They had been together for almost three years and as business got good, he placed her in an apartment at Asokoro where he spent most of his time whenever he was in Abuja. He had plans to be with her tomorrow even though he ought to be have been back in Lagos two days before.

“Ann is back from the UK.” Miriam continued, jolting him back to the present.

“Oh, good. Hope her trip went well?” He asked.

“Yes, it did. She wants to take Ikenna for the weekend so I was thinking…” She hesitated.

“Thinking what?” He asked curiously.

“I miss you, my husband. You haven’t touched me in almost a year. For how long are you going to treat me like this?” She blurted out, crying suddenly.

He was shocked. She never complained. In five years, she had never complained.

“What are you talking about? Am I a bad husband?” He asked defensively.

“No.” She said, still sniffing.

“Don’t I take care of you?”

“Yes, you do. You are wonderful but I need you and I need you to need me. I’ve never complained because I was afraid of pushing you away but what’s the point of that when you’re never around. I’ve tried to please you but you don’t seem to still want me after all these years. Since we got married, you’ve never spent a Valentine’s day with me…”

“I can’t believe you chose today to bring this up?” He cut in.

“I am tired of hoping and praying things go back to the way they were before we were married. I have kept up with this charade for years. I lie to your mother whenever she asks me if I’m happy but I’m dying on the inside…I can’t take this anymore…please come back home…to me…” She sobbed.

Tobe was silent. He never knew she capable of such emotions. She had always adjusted almost stoically. She was a strong woman but for her to break down like this…

“Let’s talk about this when I get back.” He said, feeling the sting of guilt.

“Please come back tomorrow.”

“I can’t. I’ve still got a lot to attend to.”

“Ok.” She said with resignation in her voice.

When he hung up, the feeling of guilt was overpowering. He would have given her an out but he knew she wouldn’t have it and neither would he give it because of Young Ikenna. The only love they shared with equal fire was for their son.

………………….

“The man has money, abi?” The man with the gruff voice asked.

“Yes he does. Please, don’t hit me again. I will tell you where he will be when he comes.” The smaller voice replied, nodding furiously, quaking with fear.

“I won’t hit you again. I don’t want to ruin your face. I’ve got money riding on that pretty face of yours.”

She whimpered as tears streamed down her face. She watched in fear at the rough and hardened face that matched the gruff, evil voice. He was a bulky fellow with muscles rippling through his tight t-shirt. It was dark; just after 10’o clock when she drove inside the compound of her 3 bedroom flat where she lived alone when the four men, all dressed up in black sprung out from nowhere and overpowered Musa, the may guard. She had just come back after a very busy day hanging out with her friends, shopping for a dinner gown, and sexy lingerie in preparation for the Valentine’s day outing and the night afterwards with her man. El Coco’s two “associates” had covered the premises and were still in the process of brutalizing Musa. The other two ruffled through her hand bag and extracted the remaining sum of a N145,000 which was the left over from her shopping spree.

“Boss, look.” One of the men said. He handed El Coco the sum which he pocketed.

“So you don’t have money to pay me but you have money to go shopping, eh?

He also handed over two small, neatly tied nylons containing “angel dust”.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here!” He exclaimed as he untied the first of them and tasted it.

“Hmm. This is good stuff.” He said as he smacked his lips. He tied it back with care and dumped both nylons in his pocket.

“So, you have found another supplier when you still owe me, eh? You think I’m a fool?!” He said menacingly, as his face gradually became a mask of fury that betrayed his intentions. She barely had a second to tense her face, expecting another hot slap as a punch slammed into her stomach. She doubled over in pain from the grip of the last man who held her securely. Her consciousness wavered for an instant but she revived as the cough which seemed to come from nowhere escaped her lips. Tears poured from her eyes as she saw her own blood touch the interlocking tiles of the compound floor. She tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come out.

“You greatly disappoint me and you deserved to be punished.” He said gently as he towered over her and loosened his belt buckles.

She mumbled a weak protest as he lifted up her gown and ripped off her satin panties…

………………….

“So where are you guys heading to?” Tobe asked.

“Home of course!” Olamide replied at the incredulous question. “My wife sent the kids to my parents. We are having candle light dinner by the pool and having sex afterwards…hehehe…inside the pool!” He said, grinning mischievously.

Benjamin and Donald laughed hard.

“Be sure you drain the pool after that.” Benjamin said grinning evilly. “Wouldn’t want the kids wallowing in filth now, would we?”

“You love your wife sha!” Donald said.

“Before nko!” Olamide retorted.

“I’ve got one smallie waiting in my hotel room. She’s fresh meat. You remember that girl we met at that dinner party last month?” Benjamin said.

“The light complexioned one with huge boobs?!” Donald asked in surprise.

“That wore that skimpy black gown?” Olamide queried further.

“That’s the one! She’s loving up man. I’m getting her down tonight.” Benjamin grinned.

A volley of laughter followed. “I had eyes for that girl o. How did you beat me to it?” Donald asked incredulously.

“Don Juan strikes again!” Tobe hailed as they laughed.

“All these small small girls una dey follow go put una inside wahala one day. Just look at all of you…una nor know say una don old. Husbands and fathers!” He said contemptuously.

“Abeg, park go one side jor! Saint Olamide!” They all laughed.

“I bid you all farewell then. Home calls.” Olamide took one last sip of water from his glass and was off.

“You’re with Crystal tonight, right?” Benjamin asked after a while.

“Yeah. She’ll be here any minute.” Tobe answered.

“I really don’t know what you see in that girl. She’s old, not even as pretty as Miriam and she’s a junkie.” Donald said.

“Was! And she’s a star where it matters!” Tobe declared and they all laughed again.

“You must be blind to think she’s clean. She’s still using. I know it!” Donald insisted.

“One man’s meat, another’s poison.” Benjamin said.

“Abeg, tell am for me!” Tobe echoed.

“Instead of you to tell me to hook you up with some fresh babes…you remember Natasha? She’s got this beautiful friend. I would have given her to you but no need sef. I’ll save her for my self.”

“Donald, don’t be greedy. Share the fun!” Benjamin chided.

“Gerrout! The one when you get never reach you, abi?”

The door to the classy mini bar and restaurant opened and Crystal stepped in. She had on an above-the-knee red gown that traced her sharp figure. The design of her dress did a good job of exposing her fair and supple breasts, barely hiding her nipples. Donald was the first to sight her. He nudged Tobe who looked back and waved to her. Her mean cat walk attracted stares from all over. Donald whistled quietly. Tobe laughed.

“You were saying…?” He asked mockingly at Donald.

He stood up and gave her a peck on her check. Her smile was radiant but there was something in her eyes. They were glazed. Was it excitement?

After she said “hi” to them, Benjamin and Donald rose and left.

“You’re looking dashing tonight, as always.” Tobe said after she had settled down.

“And you’re looking dapper yourself.” She said smiling. He let his hands creep under her skirt but she shooed his hands away gently, smiling coyly.

“Let’s order.” He said as he opened the menu but she declined.

“I’m not hungry for food. I want something else.” She said seductively.

He looked up surprised.

“You want something else? Tell me.” He said closing the menu and putting it aside. She drew nearer and whispered in his ears as she massaged his thighs. Her words gave him an instant hard on.

“Really?” He asked looking her in the eyes.

“Yes.” She said coyly, extending her hand to the bulge in his trousers. No further words were needed. They went outside and she handed him the keys to the Toyota RAV4 he bought her last year. As he drove out of the parking lot, she unzipped his trouser and swallowed him.

“Whoa!” He exclaimed with pleasure. She knew how to throw up crazy surprises every now and then. It was going to be one hell of a night, he thought. He didn’t notice the Toyota Camry that followed as he left the compound.

They were along Sani Abacha Express way, a long stretch of road usually lonely by this time of the night when he could he felt the pressure mounting and could take it no more. He pulled over to the kerb and kept the engine running. He adjusted his seat and pulled her to him. He attacked her breasts with a hunger he had never known. She moaned with pleasure, totally lost. She mounted him on the driver seat and when he entered, he could feel her wetness dripping.

“Damn, girl!” He muttered as she rode him and sweet sensations coursed through his body, albeit uncomfortably but with an urgency – as if the world was coming to an end. Her breasts, now freed from the inconvenience of the tight gown that barely held them in place, jumped like overripe water melons that hung on a restless branch. Her moans turned to screams of pain, passion and pleasure and in that moment, nothing else mattered but the two of them and the limiting space of the car that restricted free movement.

The simultaneous sound of the crash of the windows on both the driver and passenger sides brought him back from cloud nine.

“What the hell?!” He exclaimed as he engage the gear on Drive and stepped on the gas with Crystal still on top of him! Crystal let out an ear-piercing scream that momentarily disoriented him. He couldn’t see where he was going but was aware of the screeching sound of a car behind that blasted its full headlights, momentarily blinding him but that was the least of his worries. As he speed off, he struggled to get Crystal off him and had just succeeded when the car, which had picked up speed rammed into his side making him swerve to avoid the pedestrian pavement but it was too late. The Toyota slammed into cement stand of the street light damaging the radiator instantly. His head jerked forward and slammed the windshield. He was dimly aware of the spider cracks that spread on the glass.

He was stunned, his head was bruised but he was largely unharmed. Crystal had managed to hold on to the dashboard on impact and was lucky as the impact flung her backwards against her seat.

“Are you ok?” He asked.

Before she could reply, strong hands gripped his shirt and pulled him out through the shattered passenger windows which tore through his shirt and skin. As he was dumped on the floor, he felt a hard boot crash into his rib cage and felt a snap as his ribs cracked.

“You want to run, eh?” El Coco screamed as he kicked again and again. Tobe curled himself into a fetus to protect his head and what was left of his ribs. He was dimly aware of two other men opening the back door of the car and taking out his brief case. El Coco searched his back pocket and retrieved his well-stuffed wallet. He removed the money which amounted to about N65,000 and an atm card dumped the wallet with disgust.

“Your girl owes me half a million.” He said grabbing a nearly unconscious Tobe by his shirt. “I’m going to get that money now or I’ll kill you!”

“Please, don’t kill him!” Crystal cried. “He has money. He’ll pay you.” She rushed to Tobe.

“Baby, please pay them so that they can leave us alone!” She said shaking them.

“Y…you? You know this people?!” He stammered weakly.

“I don’t, I swear – I’ll explain later just give them your pin and they’ll leave us alone.” She pleaded.

“Ahhh….” He moaned weakly, more out of the realisation that he had been set up than the pain that raged all through his body. The reflection of the street lights around him seemed to grow bigger in his eyes.

“What’s your atm pin?” El Coco raged as he aimed another kick at his ribs. He saw the kick coming and attempted to cover with his hands and move away from it when the boot collided with the side of his head. Blackout was instant.

……………………..

He awoke two days later on a hospital bed severely bandaged all over. The pain was unbearable and as his view cleared up, he saw Miriam on her knees weeping and praying. Her head was tousled and she seemed not to have had a bath in days but he had never seen anything so beautiful. He felt the tears run down his cheeks.

“Mimi.” He whispered. The pain he felt was unbelievable but he didn’t care. He was alive and she was here! As she heard his voice, she jumped up with tears in her eyes and touched his face gently.

“My love, you’ve come back to me!” She said, wiping her tears. The joy in her eyes gave him a glimpse into her soul.

“Yes darling. I’m back for good.” He said weakly. A nurse stepped into the room and when she saw them both talking, she spoke to someone in the hall.

“Get Dr. Hassan. The patient is awake!”

Happy Valentine y’all!

Malcolm O. Ifi.

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