As suddenly as it had begun, Patricia Babalola’s strange behavior stopped.Jide woke up from sleep, showered and wandered to the kitchen to find his wife whistling cheerily as she puttered over the gas cooker, fixing breakfast.For a moment, he just stood and stared.
The marked difference was immediately obvious. Gone were the signs of a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown, if not already there. Her hair was glistening, pulled up and secured in a bun on top of her head. As she moved, the morning light coming in through the kitchen window danced off the oiled strands.
Jide took a deep breath, his nose filling with the smell of whatever hair cream she had used, mixed with the scent of her lemon-scentedbath soap and the subtle body spray that was her favourite.
His unbelieving eyes ran over the skin uncovered by the white sleeveless top and soft cotton shorts she had on.
The clothes hugged her curves, her brown skin set off beautifully by the contrast in colour.Patricia paused her stirring, seeming to sense her husband’s presence, then turned and smiled as she saw him standing at the doorway. Jide had to stop himself from taking a step back. He was almost bowled over by the smile. What was going on? “Good morning, Jide. Your food is ready. Spicy fried eggs and potatoes, with custard.” Patricia smiled, gesturing at a dish- filled tray on the table. “I’m just fixing some more, with less pepper, for myself. You know I’m not a fan.” Jide walked slowly to the table and stared down at the grand repast la!d out on the table.
The food looked appetising, with tendrils of fragrant steam rising from it, but he had no desire to eat. He was only capable of processing two emotions at that moment. Astonishment. And unease. “Patricia, are you okay?” he asked hesitantly.His wife turned with a bright smile. “Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?” Her second question solidified his unease to fear. She had many reasons to not be okay; how could she just shrug off all that had happened?Jide stared down at the food on the table, his stomach churning. Something had to be wrong.
“Is something wrong? Eat your food before it gets cold. Or you want somethingelse?” Patricia was asking, a pleasantly quizzical expression on her face. Jide readher concern over his feeding as somethingmore sinister.God forbid. I can’t eat this food. “Yeahhh, no nothing is wrong really. I’m just running a bit late, so I don’t think havetime to eat.” Jide lied, plastering a smile on his face as well. “That’s no problem. I’ll just pack up the potatoes and eggs for you.” Patricia offered and immediately proceeded to do so, as Jide watched her without making it obvious he was doing so.He had a scary moment when he thought she was going to kiss him as he was about to leave the house, but she merely hugged him lightly and waved, and he walked off to his car, legs stiff and heart thumping.When Jide Babalola reached his office premises, the first thing he did was pause at the gates and offer one of the security men the bag containing a plastic dish in which Patricia had packed his breakfast. “Dispose of this, please.”
The man peered into the bag, confused. “Em…oga, make I eat am?”“If you like.” Jide replied. As he drove on tothe parking lot, his voice drifted back to the security man on the unmoving morning breeze. “I wouldn’t advise you do that sha!”** ** Jide’s day did not get any less strange.The later part of the morning and early afternoon was relatively normal, except for a few glowering looks he saw Florence Iheanacho throwing his way; but that was understandable since he was yet to grant her request for help in transferring off thatoffice floor. He was torn between a feeling of annoyance and guilt over her request. Even though the deterioration of their newly-born office friendship was mostly his fault, his ego still saw her desire to avoid him as a blow to his personal charm. He didn’t think the issue had been that serious. And the fact she was treatinghim like a leper was galling. He had decided to ignore her request for a while, until he was feeling less emotional about it. So he ignored the glares from the secretary and even bought some of her stewed meat and snacks to satisfy the hunger he had caused by rejecting his breakfast.Florence had been stony-faced as she delivered the snacks, but he had ignored her churlishness.The strangeness of his day resumed as heleft the office building to go back home, hewas strolling towards his car, gnawing at his lower lip as he wondered if he would be able to bear Patricia’s new mood swing, when he saw Anita Bankole. She was not too far away from where his car was parked, and he actually stopped walking, his heart sinking as he realized she had seen him.Great, he thought ruefully.Just what I need.But to Jide’s surprise, Anita walked on andpassed him. There were only a few cars between them, so he knew she had seen him, so he couldn’t understand why she had not stopped to deliver her usual threats. He watched her go, her curvy hips swaying as her heels noisily punctuated her exit from the parking garage.Jide entered his car, bemused, wondering what that was all about.About twenty minutes of driving later, he approached an intersection and stepped on his brakes. The pedal went all the way to the floor, mushy. He frowned and pumped again, but his car did not slow down. Jide looked up, eyes widening as his car raced towards the busy intersection.Something was wrong with his brakes.
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