The violent incident with his wife robbed Jide of sleep.When he ventured into their shared bedroom a while after Patricia hit him, shewas lying stiffly on her side of the bed, feigning sleep. But Jide could feel the waves of antagonism flowing from her. The very air around her seemed to vibrate with bad energy and Jide instinctively shied away from it, discarding any intention of trying to talk about what had happened in her office. A few minutes later, after a quick bath and patchy first-aid for his sore nose and mouth, he slid into bed as well, but scooted to the very edge, careful to leave an appreciable distance between his body and that of his wife’s. The warm bath had calmed him down and subdued his headache, yet he could not fall asleep.
A feeling of foreboding had surrounded him and he jerked up from near-sleep a few times, eyes wide as he looked towards where his wife was laying.
Each time he would be greeted by the sight of her tousled hair on the pillow and the silhouette of her body turned away from him, shoulder and hip forming an undulating curve he could see in the dim light from the window.Patricia remained in the same position theentire night and Jide suspected she was not asleep as well. Instead of that fact to encourage him to reach out and try to dialogue with her, it unnerved him. He could imagine her lying there, face turned away from him, her eyes wide open as shethought of ways to hurt him. Her violent action earlier in the night had shaken Jide and he couldn’t help but wonder if she hadslipped a knife under her pillow and was just waiting for him to fall asleep. He had done wrong by her, but surely there were better ways to address it than by violence?That had always been their shared belief. So what had changed? Jide remembered the look in her eyes as she had charged at him and he shuddered. She had looked like a crazed stranger.As the sun rose weakly, staining the curtains with its light, Jide, miserable with lack of sleep, realized his problem as he stared at Patricia’s body, which had not even shifted an inch the entire night.He was afraid of the woman he had married.** **Florence Iheanacho also had something she was afraid of.For the first time in weeks, she woke up feeling reluctant to go to work.
The feeling was reminiscent of days in secondary school when she knew she had an undoneassignment to turn in or would be punished for not purchasing a textbook she had been warned to. She would drag her feet until she had no choice but to start the trek to school. Such days had always ended just like she expected; filled with punishments and occasionally an actual flogging.
The thought of going to work and facing Jide Babalola after their interrupted kiss filled her with the same bone-drilling apprehension. She had to force herself to crawl out of bed and perform her usual morning ablution. Cheerless and taciturn, she prepared her stewed meats for the day’s sales, freed her hair of the curlers she had slept with, picked out a simple brown dress and left her home with a subdued goodbye to Felicia, her roommate. Her short trek to the office wassilent and thoughtful, not the usual one filled with anticipation as she alternated between throwing greetings at familiar faces and fantasizing about what could happen with Jide, her crush.What could happen had already happened, and reality had been a lot more bitter than she expected.She arrived at work and for the first time since the other secretary fell ill, wished fervently that Nancy had resumed for work.
It would have been easier to avoid contact with Jide if his own secretary werearound. Without Nancy to act as a buffer, she would have to no choice but to communicate directly with him, and the thought increased her trepidation.
She stashed away her container of savoury meat, started up her system and tidied up her desk, then entered the office of her own boss with a stack of documents, filled his in-tray, tidied the table and flicked on the air-conditioning. When she emerged, she took a deep breath, grabbed another stack of documents meant for Jide’s perusal and headed towards his office, meaning to arrange it at a whirlwind speed.In and out,she thought.Just in and out, quick, before he arrives.She took another deep breath and opened the office door, juggling the pile of documents when they threatened to slip out of her arms. She was in that hunched over position, one leg wedging the door open, hands clutching at the folders, when she realized she was not alone.
Florence yelped in surprise and the stack of documents achieved their aim and deposited themselves on the floor as she jumped. “Woah, easy. Good morning, Florence.” Jide said, from where he was seated behind his desk. His eyes ran over her, gleaming in the light coming from the windows and Florence swallowed loudly, trying to calm her galloping heart. His gaze was still capable of making her pulserace. “I… I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t know you had arrived or I would have knocked.”
Florenc estuttard , and then cleared her throat, smoothening her dress over her hips. The attire suddenly felt too tight as she bent over to hurriedly pick up the files on the floor. “Good morning, sir.” Jide nodded, then stopped her as she propped the folders in his in-tray and began to turn away. “Wait, Florence. We have to talk.” Florence stood stock-still, her pulse racingeven faster. She was annoyed at herself because despite everything that had happened, she had felt an uncontrollable flash of hope at his words.Was there still hope for the spark between them to grow into something more?
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