“That’s what happened. I know I was wrong to hit her and I apologize but I lost my temper. I couldn’t control myself.” Wale concluded.

Chidi was a bundle of mixed reactions. He found the continuously unfolding story amazing and laughed at the fact that Wale had a right to lose his temper as a “stakeholder”. Still, Wale’s tale left him astounded. She was good; she had played the both of them to perfection.

Emeka made impatient movements as Wale told his tale. He kept tapping his feet on the floor and at other times, he would sigh and mutter “women”. He seemed to be greatly pained by the tale.

“In all the years we dated, I never lifted a finger on her; no matter how pissed she got me.” Chidi muttered to himself shaking his head.

Wale heard it and felt slighted immediately. He knew he had made a fool of himself the night before and should never have hit her but he didn’t need to be reminded.

“Maybe you never loved her as much as I do.” He said defensively.

“Maybe I have a better control over myself than you do.” Chidi said, smiling thinly.

They both regarded themselves over what each considered to be veiled insults to the other as the atmosphere grew heavier with tension.

“Ah, which kain talk be all this one? Biko, let’s forget all this one oh. We are not women. We will settle this as real men do…over bottles of beer.” Emeka said, wading in to diffuse the tension.

“I apologize for my comment.” Wale said quickly.

“So do I.” Chidi replied.

They were interrupted briefly by Yahaya who came to inform Chidi that he was ready to go and buy fuel for the generators in the compound. He had been watching from a distance and had wondered what the matter was. Oga Chidi was a good man and he was fiercely loyal to him.

Chidi excused himself for a few minutes and went back to his apartment and laughed as he changed for the first time since he came back from work.

“What a day!” He muttered to himself still wondering if today was one nightmare that was going to end soon. After sorting out things with Yahaya, he went back out to the two men who were patiently waiting.

“There’s a bar down the street. Let’s go there.” He said.

“I’ve told you to stop these your late night movements but you never listen. If I talk now, they’ll say I’m talking.” Mrs. Vivian Amadi or Mama Vee as she was fondly complained bitterly as the nurse applied the treatment to Veronica’s bruised face which seemed to have gotten worse overnight.

Veronica winced in pain but more from irritation at her mother’s constant tirade but then again, her mother  had every right to. She was shocked when she saw her face in the mirror when she finally roused herself from her fatigued slumber. The spot Wale had hit had grown tender, swollen and bright red. She had hoped it wouldn’t get any worse but alas, it did. She half expected it though; her skin had always been sensitive.

“Look at your face now. Some miscreant wants to kill my poor daughter.” Her mother continued to complain to no one in particular, both arms on her great breasts.

“What would I have I said? What would people have said? That I don’t take care of my only daughter? God forbid! Tufia!!” Her mock spit in disgust supported by the “tufia” made the nurse hold back a laugh that had been building up for some time.

Veronica gave her mom a stern look. She was tired of the ranting.

“Yes na.” Her mother continued in response to the nurse’s chuckle. “They’ll say because her father left that…”

Veronica had had enough.

“Mummy, you’re giving me a headache please. Enough with all the talk!” She grumbled with irritation.

“Keep quiet! If you had listened to me, none of this would have happened.” Her mother shouted with a venom that shocked and silenced her.

The air was still and heavy with tension and the silence deafening for a while. The only sound was the measured movements of Nurse Matilda as she attended to the tender spot around Veronica’s eye. It felt a bit awkward to experience this maternal scolding of this beautiful, young woman. Veronica winced in pain as the Matilda dabbed the tender spot with a cotton wool soaked in healing ointment.

When she was done, she directed them to the pharmacy to purchase the drugs the doctor had prescribed. Veronica practically stormed out with her mother following proudly behind. She considered them for a minute and shrugged and went about her business.

“What was all the shouting about?” Her colleague, Yemi asked as she came in carrying some files. Yemi was never one to miss out on a gist.

“Hmmm. She was angry at her daughter’s late night movements that obviously resulted in her getting rough handled.” Matilda said, filling the form behind the desk she now sat.

“She said she was robbed, abi? I think she’s lying.” Yemi stated as a matter of fact as she shelved the files she came in with.

“Really? How do you know?” Matilda asked as she looked up.

“I know her very well. My sister’s friend is her neighbor and she knows her well. Her ways no pure.” Yemi concluded.

Matilda considered this; she had her doubts about the lady’s story but it wasn’t her business.

“Na them know.” She shrugged and went back to work.

The night proved to be rather interesting…and boring. Interesting because alcohol always seemed to lighten up the mood even it didn’t do so much this time but there was no restraint for those who had no control over soaked lips; boring because Chidi was still hurting behind the facade of machismo and nonchalance. Across the table filled with a set of black and green bottles, Wale made no attempt to conceal his feelings as he made a lamentation of the evening. Chidi began to feel more sorry for him than himself.

The question on his mind now was what to do. No doubt, this occurrence would give his friends the I-told-you-so upper hand as he had been subtly warned about this woman he had put above everyone else that really mattered. He laughed at himself as the millions of questions began to crowd his head. A gulp of the sparking liquid in his glass cup dispersed them as quickly as they came. They would be back. They weren’t done just yet.

“She made me move out of the family house. She told me she wanted me all to herself.” Wale continued to lament.

Chidi felt sorry for him. There was no doubt in his mind that he probably was hurt the most because he never saw it coming. Her numerous escapades had given him warning signs so he wasn’t so surprised though he never really expected that it or the fact that her treachery had gone so far.

Emeka was pretty much out of it. He had focused more on the drinks than any other nonsense they had talked about. He hadn’t said much but saved his energy for the bottles and the barman kept it coming.

Chidi felt the phone in his pocket vibrate so he checked it out as Wale rambled on. Two missed calls from a number he was unfamiliar with. He was tempted to call the number back but decided against it. Whoever it was, if it was important they would call back. He was about to reach for his drink when the phone vibrated again.

“Hello.” He said.

“Baby, its me.” Her voice still sent chills up his spine. He was unsure of what to say so he remained silent.

“I’m sorry I’ve not called you since. I had to go the hospital to get treated.” She said with a voice that made him actually feel sorry.

“Are you ok?” He finally asked. He had to force the words out of his throat with difficulty.

“I’ll be fine. I’m coming to spend the night.”

“You’re sure you want to do that?” Chidi said, his heart racing.

“Don’t you want to see me?” She asked.

“I’m just considering all you’ve been through. You should be resting.” It only after he said this that he realized that Wale and Emeka’s attention were on him. They both had an idea of who he was talking to.

“I’ll rest at your place. I think I need a massage. I need you.” She said with such innocence and sincerity that weakened him.

“Ok. I’ll be expecting you.” He said and hung up.

Wale and Emeka resumed their drinking but seemed curiously expectant. Chidi made no attempt to satisfy them as he took a sip of his drink. His heart was pounding so hard and this annoyed him because he knew why.

“Was it Veronica?” Wale asked after he couldn’t hold himself back any longer.

“Yes.” Chidi responded, not feeling inclined to go any further.

“What are we going to do about her?” Wale asked. He had been dreading to ask this question for a while.

“What’s there to do? I’m done.” Chidi said flatly.

“What do you mean?” Wale asked wanting clarity.

“Its over between us. You can have her if you want.”

Wale kept silent. If this guy was leaving the picture, the possibilities were endless. He could…

His phone rang.

“Hello.” He picked immediately.

“I’m coming to pick up my phone. Where are you?” An abrasive voice said from the other side.

He excused himself and walked outside ear shot.

“Baby, I’m sorry for my behavior yesterday. I…” He was cut short.

“I have reported you to my friend in State CID. To avoid more trouble, tell me where you are and I’ll have someone pick up my phone.”

“Ah baby!” He was so shocked that he didn’t know when he reverted to Yoruba. ” Don’t do this now. How can you call Police for me? I was angry and I promise it won’t happen aga…”

“I need my phone!” She screamed at him.

“I’m at Q’s. You know where it is?” He said with resignation.

“Tope will meet you there.” She said, ignoring his question. With that, she hung up before he could respond any further. He sighed deeply before returning to the table.

“Was that Veronica?” Chidi asked before he could sit.

He hesitated before he answered. “No. Just some business I had to attend to.”

Chidi smiled. He knew it was Veronica but he didn’t pursue it.

“I want you to know that we had already made plans for me to visit her parents in October.” Wale said suddenly.

“Oh, really? That’s just two month’s away.” Chidi commented thoughtfully.

“I still want to marry her.” Wale said after an uncomfortable silence.

“Up till now? With all that’s happened?” Emeka asked incredulously. It seemed he awoke from alcohol-induced sleep. Wale ignored him and looked intently at Chidi expecting some kind of response.

“Well…” Wale asked.

“Well, what? You want me to give my blessing? I’m not her father.” Chidi said sarcastically. He stood up, a bit unsteadily.

“My night ends here. I will not stand in your way. I’m through with Veronica. You guys may do as you please.” He reached for his wallet.

“Don’t worry about it.” Wale said, stopping him. “The drinks are on me. Maybe next time?”

Chidi looked at him and smiled. “Next time, then.” They shook hands and he left the table.

He didn’t notice Tope who stopped cold in her tracks as she watched both of them shake hands from outside the gate of the compound. Tope backtracked and faced the other way as the gateman unlocked the gate and bid Chidi farewell as he walked home. She knew his house was around the corner. She had been there before…with Veronica.

She quickly brought out her phone from her bag and dialed.

“Vero, you’re in deep shit!” She said breathlessly.