Chika Bandele, barely composed, awoke with a blurry vision. She was startled by the loud cries of vultures rummaging outside of the mansion. She also noticed alarmingly that it wasn’t her dorm room. Where she laid her head belonged to her newlywed husband in bed snoring unperturbed beside her. And he was the founder of an okra distributing company in the port city of Lagos. Her eyes finally cleared up as she observed her large suitcase by a fancy dresser: freshly unpacked with things from her past. She also observed her white blouse and plaid skirt folded neatly on a bar stool; and they remained untouched since the moment she had given up her college education to get married. The walls were of a luscious and seductive red hue that projected a romantic setting, or a haven reserved for unbridled love making. Albeit, Chika felt the masculine hands and feet of a tycoon sleeping next to her; frank with his sexual desires as he stroked her reproductive area. “He sure knows how to act out pretentious sleeping” she thought as she pushed away from her hubby in discomfort.
Chika nearly struggled out of bed to get a closer observation of the new room she felt she’d be living in for the rest of her life. Nonetheless, she was only twenty one years of age, just one year shy of graduating from an honorable university. Outside of subsiding on campus, locking herself in her room studying Western and Eastern philosophers, and dodging anti-British protestors, she didn’t live much to understand the ways of the universe. What she did remember was falling helplessly in a sea of passion with her father’s army buddy- her own “godfather”. Moreover, it was a formidable relationship that precipitated unnerving resentment from her family, friends and community. It was an unholy, unspeakable and unthinkable union between a young lady of twenty one and a man forty seven years her senior. Gradually, Chika’s parents grew to accept the age difference as it was hard to steer a love struck girl like Chika on the straight and narrow. It was hard to pigeonhole her into reality. Her lover on the other hand, was cool, calm and collected throughout the whole debacle. He remained a mystery. Moreover, Chika had never met her husband’s family throughout the course of them dating. Regarding age distinction, her own father was only eleven years older than her husband.
All Chika remembered while she dated Dunjaiye was being a trophy woman. She was lavished with money, jewelry, fine dining, exotic trips outside of colonial Nigeria, room service in fancy hotels and all of the planets and stars. Now she felt eternally trapped like a rat trying to fit through a mouse hole. All the glorious days of sneaking around, lying, ignoring her health, skipping classes and meals, flunking college and burning her bridges to give her flesh and blood to a man she hardly knew other than being her “godfather”- left a bitter aftertaste. Unfortunately the fire and desire she felt for the man sleeping next to her had suddenly withered.
Chika took a momentary look at her body; still draped in a beautiful ceremonial caftan dress and gele she’d never taken off. Even though she grasped how stunning she looked in the mirror-stunning like the Hollywood actresses she learned in college- her new image was more of a sultry alter ego and less her true identity. She was a political girl against traditional African customs towards women. She embraced sexuality as a woman, but she was also equipped with a brain and a voice. Chika gently stripped off the violet colored dress showing nothing but see through lingerie exposing her frail brown skinned body and B-cup breasts. She then folded the purple gown, opened up her suitcase and quietly threw it in before her husband awoke. There was no time for her to even look in the suitcase to see if all of her valuables were intact. She was still in a state of confusion and recklessness. What had happened to her the night before? She had felt dizzy and quite shaken from all of the ceremony hoopla of being a bride, and most likely partying from dusk till dawn. But she quietly observed her surroundings out of amazement; out of wonder. Silk red drapes blocked the sunlight beaming through the windows. Up close, the red wall paper was embroidered with West African Kente designs. The beige carpet she stood upon with her bare feet was spotless. And the red walls were covered by procession masks, haunting statues of empire warriors and paintings of ancestors, monarchs and miscellaneous visitors who’ve once inhibited the room.
She slipped back into bed and then had another minor realization. The silk sheets in the bed must have cost millions which prompted images in her mind of her unemployed parents struggling to maintain the mortgage on their humble wooden house. Here Chika was: lying on sheets that cost more money than what her parents would make in their lifetime. And this was bothersome. She would have to forget her roots and never look back. She would have to get used to her new lifestyle married to a millionaire, being referred to as “new money”.
Dunjaiye’s loud snoring was killing the awkward dead silence in the room. Plus, there were questions Chika needed to get off chest to interrogate the man she would spend the rest of her life with. She needed to wake him up. She needed to break the ice; take the initiative. Slowly but surely, she reached her hands over to unbutton Dunjaiye’s pajama shirt. She intimately caressed the course black hair on his chest that felt like sharp bristles. She then sniffed his chest and his neck giving off a commanding stench of cologne, tobacco and exquisite liquor. Audaciously, Cheika moved her hands down even lower to rub his beer belly. Then she moved lower until she eventually touched his pubic hair and tickled his penis. Instantly, Dunjaiye skirmished. After being aroused, he then opened his bloodshot eyes, chuckled and hovered over to kiss Chika on her lips.
“What’s so funny?” Chika asked innocently. She knew what she had intended. But she was thoroughly entertained by Dunjaiye’s reactions. She just remained silent and played the part of a clueless, inexperienced wife.
Dunjaiye chuckled and gave Chika a look that meant she was either absurd or crazy. “What’s so funny? You are.” He then cleared his throat and let out a cough. “I never thought a girl of your caliber could have such a dark side.”
Dunjaiye continuously kissed Chika all over, laughing boisterously with his gruff booming voice. He then said: "You're a classy girl in the streets, my dear. But you are undeniably slutty in the bedroom...just a little bit." At once stifled by the contemptuous glare Chika directed towards him, Dunjaiye poked fun at her even more by winking and forming a sinister smile.
"Don't worry my dear. It's exceptional for pure blooded fellas like me. To resist foreplay from a beautiful woman, I'd be asexual or a cock sucker."
Taken aback and defenselessly insulted by Dunjaiye’s remark, Chika turned her head and shut her eyes to pretend sleeping. Even while Dunjaiye playfully sucked Chika’s breasts to get her attention, she remained unresponsive. Subjected to Chika's capricious behavior, Dunjaiye was in a catch-22 himself. Not only did he feel immoral falling in love with his best friend's daughter, but at one time he was also affectionately considered a godfather.
Dunjaiye and Oberike were two soldiers aiding the British military forces against the Germans over control of South African territories in World War 1. Instantaneously they became inseparable buddies brought together by the same Yoruba heritage, customs, and a love for cigars, promiscuous women and juju. When Dunjaiye nearly died on the battlefields from a leftover shell of an explosive making him fly off a mountain, the nerves and tissues in Dunjaiye’s legs were destroyed. As a med student, Oberike courageously and charismatically carried him back into the barracks. He then asked the British generals for their permission to operate traditional Yoruba procedures by draining blood out of both of Dunjaiye’s legs; this prevented his legs from being surgically amputated by Western doctors.
Dunjaiye also recalled being the “best man” when Oberike married his childhood sweetheart and the significant moment when he met his teenage daughters and attended their ceremonies and birthdays. Oberike selflessly treated him like family; like a little brother he’s never had. Oberike even introduced Dunjaiye to his clan and his village chief, who was like a father and mentor to Oberike as a child. It was a special honor that Oberike had done for those he truly put on a high pedestal other than his own family. Eventually, Dunjaiye was upheld to the level of a godfather and for years has treated Chika and her little sister Kehinda as if they were his own. He bought them expensive gifts, showed them his battle wounds and told them plenty stories of native black Nigerians recruited by the British to fight horrifying and deadly wars. Fast forward to nineteen forty-six, and he was in bed romanticizing one of Oberike’s daughters. Dunjaiye was aware of his damaged relationship with Oberike, but he’s been shamelessly in love with his oldest daughter ever since she developed breasts and flowing curves. And he fought hard and lost a psychological battle to restrain his perverse thoughts whenever he was around a young, pretty and educated girl. Out of all the women he’s been with throughout his life, he still couldn’t pinch himself of how lucky he was to throw a fishing rod in the sea and capture a diamond.
Suddenly Chika couldn’t take such perverseness lying down, and she glared at her husband reaching for a nearby box to pull out a cigar. "I wouldn't flatter myself if I were you.” Chika exclaimed. “There are still questions about our relationship that are left unanswered. Why would I give myself completely to a man I hardly even know- other than the fact that you were my father’s console, you own this huge mansion and you snore louder than a pack of wild hyenas?"
Dunjaiye licked his lips in an enticed way while lifting the aromatic cigar up to his nose. With a sly smirk, he then asked: “What do you want to know? You woke up in a mansion next to a successful real man with class and swagger who has it all. What else is there to know?”
Chika sighed, frustrated of being misunderstood. She asked: “What happened to me last night? I don’t remember anything!”
“After I went to your parents’ house to take you as my bride and say our final goodbyes” Dunjaiye explained, “We went to a beautiful seafood restaurant in the southeast called ‘The Atlantic Jewel’. It was your favorite restaurant. It was our honeymoon dinner. We both had lobster, you ended up getting intoxicated out of your mind, and I sent for my chauffeurs to drive you back here safely.” Suddenly Dunjaiye belt out an uncontrollable laugh. “Oh- how the gods were angry when your drunkenness led you to curse out a waitress and her ancestors because you thought she was flirting with me! Ha, ha, ha!”
Chika’s heart pounded in anger. “I’m unjustified to be upset when a favorite restaurant I’ve been going to for years is suddenly infested by whores working there?”
Dunjaiye suddenly frowned. “You’re the piece of dog poop, Chika. You sound so uncertain of yourself let alone ridiculous.” Immediately, Dunjaiye pulls out a lighter and ignites his cigar ignoring Chika waving smoke away from her face.
“I’m ridiculous because while we’re having a romantic candle light dinner some waitress asks to write down your name and residence?”
Dunjaiye rolled over to Chika’s side of the bed. He looked into Chika’s eyes; he blew smoke in her face. He replied: “Yes.”
“Why?” Chika interrogated.
“I requested delivery and catering service.”
Chika had never felt so small and so unwise than when Dunjaiye’s simple sentence ruined her chances of winning an argument. In agony of defeat, Chika pulled the blanket over her face to avoid Dunjaiye’s knowing expression. Her embarrassing moment reflected that of the overconfident rabbit outsmarted by the tortoise. Immediately, Chika changed the subject. “Why did you choose me for a wife, out of all the femmes in the universe you could sweet talk?”
Dunjaiye remained standoffish by lighting his cigar and blowing fumes into thin air. He said complacently: "What a ridiculous question. I’ve known you since you were fifteen! I wouldn't have courted you, walk through fire and brimstone to get your parents' permission to marry you, or even ordered my chauffeur to drive into your village and whisk you away as a dowry. Why do you think I went out of my way for all of that? Eh? You think I asked for your hand in marriage simply to get in your pants? I'm in love with you. And I hope you come to terms with your flippant insecurities. But what I'm concerned about is you. Do you love me or not Chika? Answer me now or else we'll call this whole thing off and I'll pack up your suitcase and take you back to your folks myself. Don't think for a second that I won't last without you."
"O-O! Is that so? This is only the second day of our marriage and yet you've managed to annoy me all morning. I may have wanted to get married. But don't get misconstrue d! I had my life going for myself!"
Dunjaiye cursed under his breath. Physically he wasn't imposing as a disfigured man losing rhythm in both of his legs from the war. But the way he cockily twirled his cigar and gave Chika an icy look in his dark brown eyes spoke volumes as a man who was undefeated and in control. “Well, if you are so inclined to take yourself out of the water you dived into, you can always swim your way back on land.” Instantly, Chika took her husband’s metaphor into meaning: ‘there’s the door, open it and take off". A nerve had struck her and she swiftly got out of bed to push aside the red drapes and look out of the window.
"O-O! Come on now, woman. Why can't you just relax and let me desire you? I don't have time for this Jekyll and Hyde shit! Pull yourself together, won't you?"
Chika bit her lips nervously while observing the morning sun illuminating the beautiful courtyard and surrounding green terraces and flowery peddles. She had to keep looking out of the window in order to resist getting back into bed with a man she suddenly fell out of love with. On one hand, she craved to be back in college pursuing her psychology degree to study men like Dunjaiye. But on the other hand, what crazy and ungrateful woman would want to give up a palace, a life of splendor and a man who's pathetically but rightfully obsessed over her?
Dunjaiye blew kisses and made petting sounds to get Chika's attention to no avail. If there was one thing that turned Chika off, it was cat calling. Dunjaiye inhaled another whiff of his cigar, rose out of bed with his writhed, deformed legs and painful groans as he grabbed a nearby custom made wheelchair. Dunjaiye immensely struggled sliding his body into the wheelchair, even while Chika coldly had her back turned. He was tempted to summon a housemaid for assistance. But with ease he wheeled himself to the room closet to put on a clean dashiki robe, brim hat, Western polished loafers and then groomed his pepper colored beard. The whole time Chika had observed Dunjaiye from the corner of her eye, she then cried out in shock: "where are you going all of a sudden?"
Dunjaiye rolled his eyes and simply stated: "Out".
"Where to?" Chika demanded. Impatience mixed with pessimism settled in. Dunjaiye straightened out his dapper brim hat that fit handsomely over his head. "I own a company you know. I've got to oversee functions. Ideally I'd take you along with me."
Sardonically, Chika placed her hands on her hips. "You don't say? And what am I supposed to do all damn day?" she snapped.
Dunjaiye rotated the wheels of his wheelchair, rolled over to his desk to grab his lit cigar and then stared intensively at Chika with his devious brown eyes. "I'm just going to pay a visit and I'll be back for breakfast. While I'm gone, I figured you ought to spend time reevaluating our marriage. If you're not here when I get back....I'll know how you really feel."
Chika stood in a trance, unable to grasp or believe what transpired before her. With her mouth agape and her struggle to dry tears welling in her eyes, she suddenly planted a pretentious smile and said: "Alright then. Well, I'll be here when you get back."
With a stony and confused expression, Chika turned back to the window she looked out of. She listened to every sound as her husband wheeled himself to the door and then slammed it behind him. He didn't even bother to kiss her goodbye as if he'll never see her again. Chika walked to the mirror as the perfect timing to take one good look at herself: puffy cheeks, exhausted eyes and all. Nonetheless her brown skin projected a healthy glow. In the back of Chika's mind she had come to an irrational deduction that her husband may have done anything he could to get away.