We spend the evening drinking and trading tales in a living room that smelt of liquor and roast beef. I yell “Jackpot” before leaving the table. I am tired of the game, but I am especially tired of looking at Dele all evening and so I busy myself with pouring out more wine, carving out the chicken and dropping used dishes in the sink. I was always the good hostess but I want Dele to taste my chicken again. I dread looking at him as it inflates the lump already lodged in my chest.
I was his and yet I would never be his again. I smile wearily as husband-number-two puts his arms around me, draws me to him and plants a kiss on my lips, Dele’s lips, and I cringe inside. He speaks softly about ‘looking lovely and being unable to wait for tonight.’ I peck him and return to my dishes.
Cynthia taps me. “Need any help?”
“No. I’m good.”
But, in spite of my protest, she picks up the rinsed dishes and begins to arrange them in the cupboard. “It’s amazing that Dele showed up. I just can’t believe he did …How’re you taking this?”
Cynthia stares at me with her big, black eyes studying me and waiting for what, I wonder. I smile again, even though I’m wondering why Dele is wearing my favorite suit?! And why husband-number-two is kissing me again? What is up with the kissing? Can he not see we have guests? I want to strangle him but I want to strangle Dele even more. My diaphragm constricts at the thought. Yes! I want us to make hot, sweet love and strangle him while he moans my name, my name and only mine.
“What nerve?” Cynthia continues, interrupting me, “to come here and show his face after…”
“Cynthia please..” I say, unwilling to rip off bandages from old wounds.
The clinking of spoon against a wineglass and I am interrupted again. Husband number-two wants to make a toast. I return to the table retaining that dreadful smile to hear him express his gratitude to everyone for making it to our engagement party. At the sound of ‘engagement-party’ I glance at Dele, only to find that he is looking at me. The puny girl on his arm is chewing gum and frowning, in her short black dress. I hate that I am marveling at how young she is, her wrinkle-less skin and ass like melons that had more husbands’ eyes darting from side to side with the sway of her hips.
“Kelechi! Kelechi!” I hear my name. Husband-number-two is calling. “Do you have anything you want to add?”
My cheeks hurt, but I keep smiling. I have nothing to add.
Dele is still staring at me, willing himself into my head. Why did he always make me feel so miserable? As if no one else could love me the way he did. I remember the late nights and cold dinners, washing lip-stick stained shirts and days of denial before the papers came. What effrontery? And for the first time that night I finally agreed with Cynthia. What nerve?!
I walk towards Dele. I see the grin on his face or is it a smirk? What a pig! He makes ready to speak, but I cut him short, “please leave.”
“My little Kele.”
“I said you should leave.”
“I thought we could be civil about this.”
“My friend, pack your civility and leave this house!”
Silence. The guests are looking in our direction, husband-number-two is standing behind me, the doting gladiator waiting to defend my honor. “Tunde and I would like you to leave,” I say.
Dele takes his puny girl away with him.
It is over and I know he will never be mine.