Chatt Ideye and Benjamin Adeife lodged in Rovans Resorts, a hotel that played host to the wealthy ones in the city of Ibadan. While today, Monday was the last day of their seven-day fun-filled honeymoon; it was the beginning of misfortune in the life of Chatt Ideye.
Chatt was the proverbial pap from a black pot. She witnessed times when her father would be at a pool house or a lotto kiosk from morning till noon, hunting for a jackpot; how he’d later go on to a palm wine joint in the evening and he’d drink to stupor. She wasn’t so heartbroken when she heard the news that her father was hit by a drunk driver. She felt he deserved it. Amaka, her elder sister too was to her as boil under an armpit is to a man. She persuaded her to stop skipping school, to face her education so that they would help their mother but she never listened until she dropped-out. Like their father, she knew every pool-house in the neighborhood and it was there she got impregnated by a gambler. The gambler rejected the pregnancy; Amaka bore twins two days after he was convicted and jailed for the rape of a five months old pregnant woman. The incident turned Chatt to an object of ridicule among her friends. She was always thankful for the fortitude that helped her overcome those periods. It was her mother who kept the family going on with the meager salary she received as a staff of the Nigeria Telecommunications; it was her who gave Chatt a little reason to grip on to life. But the distress came when after her mother quit her job to join the prayer warrior group of a Cherubim and Seraphim church claiming she’d been called by God to dish out fasting and prayer sessions to spiritually tormented Christians. Chatt saw nothing but pure laxity in her mother’s decision and she bemoaned the day she was born into such family.
Nevertheless, Chatt grew up with tenacity against these thorny backgrounds. She had an obsession for success. She desired a glistering world, strewn with fame and fortune. She could sit in a place for long imagining herself speaking on TV, and signing autographs at public functions. Her desire to live for something inspired every step she took right from the time she learnt to count her teeth with her tongue. Because she just couldn’t lead a life like her father’s, or settle for mediocrity as her mother, she did everything to achieve her dreams. Everything!
She voluntarily developed a habit of reading since she was a kid. She was nine years old when she wrote a synopsis on Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart that it featured on a radio station in Enugu. At sixteen, she won an NGO scholarship to study Mass Communication at the University of Ibadan; she was among the three students that graduated with first class honors. She further enrolled at Haws school of languages to study French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Nigeria’s three major languages. After her NYSC she was employed as a news correspondent for the Nigeria Television Authority. And within a year she aired her own TV show ‘chat-with-Chatt’ which was a huge success; likewise her gossip blog. And now at twenty-nine, she was famous. She seemed fulfilled and soon realised that everything she did turned magic; that even climbing the ladder of life was magic too. But she felt something amiss.
She met Benjamin three months ago when she was assigned to interview the five nominees of the paint-the-President project. She was granted a rare privilege of interviewing him in his well-furnished office.
Benjamin was immediately stunned by her dainty appearance. He esteemed the fact that she wasn’t vain in her dressing a sleeveless wine colour ankara with a lumber jacket and a stiletto as other journalists he’d met. Benjamin noticed her pony-tailed cornrow, her large rim-like earrings, and the absence of make-up on her face. Her appearance made an impression on him: simplicity. Her chocolate complexion radiated with an ambience of love. He figured her dimple was affixed on her oval face to grace her smiles. He appreciated her height, her long legs and her delicate hips. To Benjamin, she was the definition of beauty.
In the course of the interview, he told her he was thirty-one years old. Again she learnt he was the founder of Wiki Arts, the second largest art and sculpture exhibition centre in Nigeria. She also learnt he’d been consistently ranked third most successful African artist by Forbes Magazine in its last three editions and that his obsession was to be ranked first in the coming edition.
After the interview, Benjamin couldn’t resist the temptation of asking her for a dinner neither did it take Chatt eternity to agree. It was that simple and easy just as in the movies.
They conversed at the dinner like friends, as though they’d met for long. She was spellbound by his confidence and composure, by his dreams and ambition, and by his artistic view of everything. She was quick to conclude that he befitted her status, and that he was the missing piece. Somehow her dreams bore flesh and her journey to perfection became lucid. And after series of night-outs and get-to-knows, they got married seven days ago. What more could she ask for now that nothing seemed amiss. She was complete; likewise her world.
Chatt sat on the king-size mattress with her legs folded, watching her husband as he dressed for work.
“I can’t believe you’ll be so hasty in returning to work.” She said with her exquisite and rhythmic voice.
“It’s been a week, dearie. Fun is over, and it’s time for me to start thinking of how to put food on the table.” He tucked his shirt into his trousers.
“So how do we get our…” The doorbell interrupted her.
“Come in.” Ben snarled as he reached to tap a button that opened the electronic door.
A tall willowy man entered and regarded Chatt then Benjamin.
“Pack those stuffs into my car trunk,” pointing to two large travelling bags. “Have the keys.” He tossed the keys to him.
The service man picked the keys and carted away the luggage. The electronic door slid open as he approached it and shut behind him as he exited the room.
“How do I look, dearie?” Benjamin stretched out his arms.
She stared at him and remembered when they met three months ago, how she’d admired his ebony black complexion, his tall stature, and his hypertrophied body. She remembered how she adored his fairly large eyeballs, how she cherished his African-size nose, how she fancied his puffy lips gave him an artistic look, and how easy it was for her to assent that he was merely presentable rather than handsome. And she’d forever remember how the aura around him stroked her with pleasure and made her conclude he was the missing piece.
She thought her husband looked gay in his outfit: a pink T.M Lewin Shirt tucked in deep brown Chinos, and a brown moccasinto match it.
“Perfecto!” she said, raising her right thumb.
“I love you baby.” He leaned over and planted a kiss on her lips.
“I love you more.” She let those words slip out of her mouth like honey.
“You know what surprised me about our wedding?” he asked unexpectedly.
She shook her head as she fiddled with his maroon tie.
“That N3, 000,000 cheque.” he replied, almost like a whisper.
“It perplexed me too. I mean, how would someone give such a huge amount of money without any trace-back address?” She wondered.
There was a brief silence, as though to afford them some time to reflect on who could have gifted them such a huge amount…
“Did you notice anyone in the crowd you think might have done such a thing; maybe your friends or…”
“Everywhere was crowded. I could barely notice myself.” He said and added as an afterthought, “Perhaps it’s one of your fans; maybe a secret admirer.”
She wanted to tell him to stop being playful but she realised there could be an iota of truth in what he said. “I’m not sure I have any secret admirer. I can’t be certain, though. But if there is one, it still doesn’t warrant such an outrageous act. It’s a bad omen.”
“Just let it be for now and don’t get yourself worked-up” Ben wiggled her shoulder. “We’ll get to that later. So what do we do with the money?”
“Well that’s a conversation for another day.” She answered slyly, with half of her still focused on sketching a mental picture of who could fit into the role of a secret admirer her husband had mentioned. There was none, she thought. And I will let it be like my hubby had advised.
As Benjamin leaned over to lace his moccasin, a thought nudged him. “Hey, dearie I just keep forgetting.”
“What is it, darling?” She reached for her phone and switched it on.
“Where were you on the bachelor’s eve night?”
The question caught her unawares. It sent her heart throbbing. She swallowed a big lump of saliva before she rephrased the question as though to discern its clarity. “Where was I on the Bach eve night?”
“Yeah, I came to your apartment to tell you my best-man and I would sleep at the Doran Hotel. But you weren’t there. I’d always wanted to ask you but it kept eluding my thoughts.” He said purposely to help her recollect what happened that night.
Her absence that night really bothered him. He didn’t expect she’d go anywhere on the night of their traditional wedding. It almost made him sleepless. But it skipped his mind whenever he wanted to ask her. Perhaps it was because they’d never been a moment of monotony in their honeymoon spell – from swimming pool romance, to candle light dinner, to gaming, debate over the number of children they wanted, and more unnecessary arguments he couldn’t tell.