He gave me the proposal I wanted. The one I spoke to him about those nights we spent in his single room apartment on a bed that was as hard as the cold floor. A candle-lit dinner in a restaurant with the dark-blue sky as the ceiling and sweet-smelling grass as the carpet. The night cooled by nature’s breeze and the scent of the surrounding flowers overshadowed the stink of fear that had become one with me since we returned from Switzerland.
It was a beautiful ring. I could tell it worth more than every other thing I had put together. It sat heavily on my hand, weighing me down to the ground. The transparent diamond gleamed under the moonlight but took a reddish hue the longer I looked at it.
“You like it?” he asked when he got back to his seat. He sipped wine slowly from the glass in his hand. He was happy, probably thinking of how lavish our wedding would be. I wanted to think the same, to think of my asoebi and the colors I would choose for the wedding, but I could no longer pretend. I could no longer pretend to be blind to his doings.
“I love it,” I lied. In reality, I could only think of how many people he’d lied to be able to buy the ring. Four, five … I would never know.
The calm strains of Adekunle Gold’s ‘Something Different’ was playing in the background. It sounded dreary, ominous even.
Four years with him, the signs were all there. How did I miss them? Or did I? He complimented the plate of fried rice in front of him. I gave him a shaky smile. My hands wavered as they transported spoon after spoon of plastic rice into my mouth. Some grains fell on my white gown. I stared down at the grains. The longer I stared, they blurred into each other. The gown was bought in Paris. How much was it again? I couldn’t remember. Did I even know? It was always what I wanted that mattered and not how much it cost, or rather how many people’s sweat had been used to buy it.
He kept on talking. A business trip to Dubai to meet with clients. Business? My hands tightened around the stainless spoon. The signs were all there, how did I miss them?
“I want to get a private jet. What do you think?” My body shivered at the question. I stared at him. He had more than enough, why was he still looking for more?
“It’s a great idea.” I reached for a serviette and wiped my mouth. I brushed away the grains of rice on my cloth and stood up. They should be on their way by now. “I want to use the toilet.”
He looked up, tearing at a chicken drumstick and nodded.
I stood still for a moment, reluctant to leave. He was a good person, supposed to be a good person. He was still the man I met, those five years ago; the man that I sat with under the mango tree drinking zobo and eating fifty naira bread that did little to satisfy us; the man that carried me on his back all the way to the hospital when my appendix burst. He didn’t abandon me when the money started flowing in. Was I really going to leave him at this time?
“Ossy…” I started, but his phone started ringing.
Some things were better left unsaid. I walked away from the table. The red candles on the white-clothed table; the pink and white flowers scattered on the grass, the balloons swinging in the air; and most of all, the man in the white senator seated on the table, talking loudly on the phone as he cracked chicken bones.
I’m sorry, Osita.
Ten minutes later, I stood behind one of the decorated trees with colorful lights, watching as he was escorted out of the premises. The table had been upturned. The bottle of wine lay on the ground, its contents dripping slowly unto the ground. He was screaming my name as they dragged him out of the garden. The men were ruthless, using their batons to hit him every time he resisted. Each time I heard my name, my body shook. I did this to him. I made him become this way. I turned him from the hardworking and honest man to this greedy fellow, stealing from people, ripping them off their hard-earned money. The outrageous requests for expensive gifts, nagging about valentine nights spent in his room with mosquitoes keeping us company instead of on fancy dates in classy restaurants had caused. He loved me. He wanted to give me the life he felt I deserved. Trips abroad, designer clothes and bags, the latest gadgets; he worked hard to provide them for me. But at what cost?
I should be taken with him. I should suffer with him. The garden was now empty and quiet. I walked out of my hiding place. A cleaner came in. She looked at me strangely and then went about picking up the plates on the ground. I pulled out the ring on my finger and let it fall to the ground. A light breeze ruffled my gown. A tear slipped down my cheek. I picked up my purse and walked out of the garden. I didn’t know where to go next, but I walked. I walked until the pinch in my heels became unbearable. I walked until my calves ached. I walked until the designer shoes on my feet turned to needles. And when I stopped and looked up, I was back where it all started—the single room apartment where demands were made and the evil seed of greed was sown.