Pleasure and Pain (Episode 4)

Five months later:

There was a knock on my door. I woke up with a start. Who could it be? I ran through the various options in my head. Anita was the most probable. Anita? Yes, Anita. It seems that I was destined to be happy. Why? Because I've been dating Anita for up to three months now. Pretty lucky ain't I? Well, she broke up with her ex (gosh! That sounds so good) few weeks after her birthday. He apparently saw her in an eatery with another guy and concluded she was cheating on him. She tried explaining but he wouldn't give her a listening ear. In the end, he told her it was over and took back his car. The day it happened, Anita ran to my lodge crying buckets over someone I saw as totally unworthy of her or her cries.

Then we became close. I'd wanted to ask her again to be my woman owing to the fact that she was single. But the memory of the previous encounter stopped me short. Moreover, she really struggled to get past him and I didn't want to dredge up buried feelings. But one Sunday she surprised me. She asked me if that my offer for her to be my girlfriend was still standing. I told her it was; she said she would want to be my girlfriend. That was how we started dating. In the end, I mused, it was my gain over her ex's loss.

“For goodness sake Ben, open this door,” Anita's voice brought me out of my reverie.
“I'm coming!” I hurriedly put on my boxer short as I scurried to open the door. I always slept naked.

I opened the door, she came in, bearing a bag of food stuffs. “What were you doing darling?” she said putting down her baggage and giving me a hug.

“Hi babe, I was deep asleep then. My my my! You're looking great 'Nita,” I said. She was wearing an above-the-knee tight gown with four-inch heels. It looked as if she went out. But I refrained from asking. Previous experience has thought me that asking her certain questions was the surest way to get her into a tirade.

She sorted the contents of the bag and started cooking. I would have helped her but she asked that I rested. “I have everything covered,” she said.

About thirty minutes later, she woke me up and the aroma that greeted me was heavenly.

“Baby, wake up. The food is ready.” She cooked my favourite. Bitter leaf soup with large chunks of meat sticking out like corals in an ocean.
“Wow! Thanks my angel. You're the best”, I said to her as I tasted the soup with my fingers. It was delicious. I wasted no more time in eating. As I ate, she was beside me, telling me about her day. I was half-listening. The girl certainly was an enchantress when it comes to cooking.

“Sweetheart, I have something to tell you. It's very important,” the way she said it, my gut clenched. Warning bells started ringing in my head.

“What is it love?,” I inquired, dreading what she had to say. She gave me a loving look and then dropped the bombshell.

“I think I'm pregnant for you, Ben,” she informed me.

I was positive the colour drained from my face as I felt my blood turn to frigid liquid. I'd been having sex with her for up to two months and the last two times we didn't use any protection. I had berated myself, cursing and practically punishing myself. I've prayed,  asking God not to allow my mistake catch up with me. Apparently my sins blocked my prayer. Trying to appear in control as best as I can, I said:

“OK. What do you want to do about it?”

“What else? You don't expect me to keep it, do you?,” she said, a tad petulantly.

“No, of course not,” I hurriedly assured her. I needed to hear my assurance myself too. “I just asked because I'm ready to stand by you no matter the decision you take.”

“That is more like it. I need a hundred thousand naira for the abortion. I know the amount is a little bit high but I want to do it in the hands of a specialist. I don't want any complications,” she announced.

Did she say a hundred thousand? I did a quick mental calculation. I had a hundred and thirty. That minus hundred will leave me in deep, dark waters. But the alternative of not using the money was unthinkable. But something kept nagging at me...
“Can I see the lab result?” I inquired.
“Sure, of course,” she replied. She fished the result out as if she was ready for the question.
I took it and looked...

Sure enough it was looking at me. The proof of my possible fatherhood. I needed no further confirmation. My food completely forgotten, I dressed up and we went to the ATM. When we reached, I withdrew the money and gave it to her. She took it and told me she would inform me when she does it.

She thanked me, telling me how caring I was. All the while something kept telling me I was missing something vital. Since I couldn't place my hands on it, I let it go.

********************************************
Two days later but I didn't get any call from her. I tried her number but it wasn't going through. I was confused. Have I been duped? Was she dead? I just couldn't stomach the thought of her being dead. Just as I was pondering all these, my phone rang. It was her! I hurriedly picked up the call.

“Hello dear, how are you?” I said feeling ecstatic. My previous worries forgotten.

“Hi, I'm feeling better. I had the abortion yesterday. I'm still bleeding,” she sounded like death. I almost felt guilty for allowing her to go through with the whole thing.

“I understand dear. Don't worry, I'll come tomorrow to see you,” I told her.

“No-no,” she stuttered, “I can't see you tomorrow. I'm still very weak. I called you today because I know you would be worried about me. Just give me a week. Then you can come. I don't want you to see me in such a mess." Not wanting to disturb her, I agreed. Then she ended the call. I had mixed feelings. On one side I was happy that she got rid of the pregnancy. On the other hand, she was in obvious pain and discomfort because of that and anything that brought pain to my goddess was abhorred by me totally.

The next day, I went to my place of Industrial Training. I barely concentrated on the work I was doing often making silly mistakes. I later took permission and left planning to go home and rest. But on the way I changed my mind, heading instead for Anita's house. I wanted to see her. Even if it was for five minutes then I would leave. It would be better than not seeing her at all.

Her hostel was structured in a way that can come to the rooms from two different sides. It had two staircases, and your choice was dependent on how close the room was after you ascended the stairs. I still can't explain what told me to take the other stairs. The one much farther away from her room. I have a characteristic light footstep that it was hard to know that someone was walking whenever I was walking. That day it worked to my advantage.

As I approached her room, I heard her moans and cries. Initially I thought she was in pains.

But I heard another voice...

More like a grunt...

Male grunts...

And groans...

Coming closer, I heard her say in-between moans:

“Oh! Please Daniel. Harder! Faster! Oh my God, please don't stop!”

All hell broke loose in my head! I lost control and let my rage-filled heart take control of me. Her door was wooden and snarling like a bull, I broke the door with my shoulder. Lo and behold, I saw a strange man on top of Anita. My Anita! Her legs were spread as wide apart as the Nile. I was shocked to my marrow. I couldn't believe my eyes. Was this not the same girl that told she was very weak? I just kept looking like a deer caught in the headlights of a car.

As if seeing her under another was not enough, the man –Daniel– asked her who I was. Then she said:
“I don't know him dear.”

Shock and rage pushed me towards her and I raised my hands to strike her. But he blocked me. Cutting me off with a well-placed uppercut. I landed on my butt. Dazed, furious and oddly feeling superhuman, I charged at him again. But I stopped short. Anita was shouting. And her words were the strangest I've heard not because of the words themselves but because of who she was referring to.

“Thief! Thief ohh! Help me ohh! Thief ohh!” I just stood there, moping at her. Seconds later people ran into her room and started raining blows on me. I was kicked and punched and thrown about. A kick to the groin finally made me see stars. And darkness...

********************************************
I woke up, groggy and disoriented. Where was I? What happened? As I tried to sit up, my eyes exploded in pain. The agony was too much. But I managed to sit up. I was in a hospital; that much was obvious. My head felt like lead. So did the rest of my body. I looked around. Typical hospital room. The door opened and my mom came in. My mom! What was she doing here? What happened to me?

Then it came back. All of it. Like a cascade of events, each memory triggered the next one and the next. Anita cheating on me, she saying she didn't know me, the near-fight with the man in her room, her calling me a thief and the beating that followed. Like an avalanche, it threatened to engulf me to suffocate me. I gave out a low groan.

My mum came to my side. “Nna,” she cooed softly, “How are you? Wait! Let me go and call the doctor.” She ran out and came back with the doctor about half a minute later.

“Hello, Mr. Ben. How do you do?” he inquired.
I tried speaking but it became an uphill task.

“I'm ff-iii-ne,” I replied, my voice sounding foreign to me. He then proceeded to check me; shining a blinding torch at my eyes. In the end, he said I was off danger. But I needed plenty rest. Then he left.

My mum then filled in the spaces. After I was kicked in the balls, someone smashed a side stool on my head. That accounted for my head wound and the bandage on my head. She went on to tell me that it was the intervention of the lodge's security agents that saved my life. She said that I was kept here under surveillance because I was a robbery suspect.

Gosh! Robbery suspect? What had I gotten myself into? Anita! She caused it all. If I had known I would have fled when I could. Now I'm in a police case. For something that didn't happen at all! God please help me. I started crying as I thought about it all.

“My son, stop crying. I didn't tell you everything. Someone came to check on you when you were unconscious. The person said that the she would take care of everything,” my mother said, smiling.

“What are you talking about Nne? I don't know anyone in the Nigerian Police Force or in the government. How can the case be swept away like that?” It sounded too good to be true. Without answering me, she left. Then someone came in, apparently the person she was talking about. I looked up. And froze.

It was Chidimma. Yeah, the same Chidimma. Anita's friend. I know I didn't say anything about her again. That was because after I started dating Anita, she became distant from her. I later heard she had changed lodge, and was no longer friends with the rest of Anita's friends. Personally, I felt for her but I couldn't do anything. I just loved Anita and there was no room for another.

She came to me, touched my arm and said, “Hello Ben. Long time no see. How are you feeling?"

How do you begin to answer someone you have always seen as nobody? Someone you threw her love away and made fun of? “I'm fine," I answered, feeling very ashamed and hopeless. She noticed my discomfort and tried putting me at ease.

“Don't worry about the past. It stays there. I've finally secured your release. So you're officially free to go once you are fit to go,” she said.
“H-how did you....?” I started asking but she cut me off.

“My father is the Chief Judge of the State. I just let him know of your innocence and the rest is history,” she announced with a wave of her hand.

Chief Judge! Wonders will never cease. So this girl that was after me had such an important father? Never judge a book by its cover, they said. I now believed it wholeheartedly. I thanked her profusely for her help. She said she would accept my thanks on one condition.

“That you treat me to a dinner once you recover,” she said laughing hard at my relieved look.

“Why not? If that would suffice for everything.”
“It sure would,” she murmured still laughing.

********************************************

Present Day:

It's been three weeks since my discharge from the hospital. And today I'm taking Chidimma out. Don't get me wrong. I don't have any designs on her. It is a perfectly innocent thank-you dinner. I button up my shirt, one final look in the mirror and I'm good to go. Oh! One last thing, the flower I got for her. And off I go!

You might be wondering what became of Anita right? Well I guess Karma does exist. She's dead! Nah, don't mind me. She is alive but far from well. I heard from Chidimma that she got the much dreaded HIV/AIDS. Pretty harsh right? But that's Karma for you. She's now a living corpse. A far cry from the girl I fell for. Anyway good riddance to bad rubbish, wouldn't you say?

As I enter the taxi that will take me to our rendezvous, I wonder: did Anita  love me? Did I ever mean anything to her? Could things have turned out differently? I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine.

          THE END.

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