TO WHERE THE WIND BLEW
He traveled the following day as he had planned and did not return until six weeks later. Ronke could not bring herself to tell Teju or anyone else about their meeting over the weekend, and so she just kept quiet about it.
She was busy at work one day in the sixth week of his absence, when the mail man came in with a parcel for her. She knew no one in particular who could have sent it. While she signed reception, Teju walked in, and joined in the excitement of opening the parcel.
“Who sent it?” she said.
“I don’t know.”
As soon as they tore the silky wrapping, a small slip dropped. On it was type-written, ‘From Ghana with Love.’ There was no signature or name, but Ronke knew perhaps KE was back.
“Who’s this?” Teju picked up the slip, and read the wordings. The parcel contained a beautiful set of Ghanaian traditional beads, and ‘kente’ beach wear, something similar to what KE had worn on the night of the dress rehearsal.
Ronke exclaimed. “My God, it’s so beautiful.”
“And you don’t even know who—” Ronke thought of what to say. She couldn’t tell Teju her suspicions. Yet she knew she had to say something.
“Oh, I now remember, it’s one Ghanaian guy I met last week.” She giggled. “Huh, that guy is really desperate. He said he will contact me but goodness, I least expected this.”
“And what a way to contact a person. You don get person be dat o! You better stick to him.” Teju laughed.
“Teju, how can I go for a Ghanaian? Even if he has the whole world in his hands! I haven’t even given him a positive answer. Me o, I’m sending his parcel back to him,” Ronke said.
“Kai!” Teju screamed. “If you don’t want it, I beg give me. Send wetin back? Na you send am to give you? I beg Ronke, no kill me dis afternoon. I have always told you that your shy shy will kill you one day, kai.” Teju hissed.
That evening, KE was at her door.
“I hope you like the kente,” he said as he was let in.
Ronke curtseyed. “Yes sir, thank you so much. It’s so beautiful, I least expected it.”
He took a seat. “That’s okay. Where’s Modele?”
Ronke marveled at his simple manner. “She’s in the house, down with a little fever.”
He frowned. “I hope it isn’t serious?”
“No, she’s responding well.”
“What drugs did you use for her?”
“I prayed over her and rinsed her body with tepid water,” Ronke said, and took the seat opposite him.
He smiled. “Are you an S.U.?” The near-derogatory term for believers, which stands for the great gospel fellowship group, Scripture Union.
“I believe in God’s healing power, and Modele is responding well, thank God.”
He glared at her. “Come and sit down beside me.”
She gasped. “Sir?”
“Here.” He patted the space next to him, on the rickety cane chair.
“Sir, could I ask some questions?”
He smiled. “About my wife? Go on!”
He could read her mind. If he was married, then why was he here with her? He had been away for six weeks, and for once, she hadn’t thought about him. All she came to realize was the great contrast between the man Teju knew, and the man she was coming to know. Despite her feelings toward him, she knew she still couldn’t bring herself to tell anyone anything happened between them.
“Is she—I–sir, where is she?”
He held her gaze. “I lost her six years ago.”
She cleared her throat. “Ooh, I’m so sorry.”
“That’s okay. Will you come and sit beside me now?” He smiled. “I promise I won’t touch you.”
Ronke felt reluctant now she knew he was available but complied all the same. She didn’t want to be emotionally attached.
“I want you to have a mobile phone—”
“I can’t afford it, sir.”
“Don’t worry about the cost. I’ll get one for you. I want to be able to keep track of you, know where you are, what you are doing…”
“I am a very possessive man, but don’t mind me, I won’t stress you…”
“Sir.” She got up. “I don’t understand. Why would you want to keep track of me every minute of the day? And anyway, how do I explain to my colleagues how I got a mobile…”
He leaned forward. “Which is the problem exactly? Why I want to keep track, or how you’ll explain?”
“Alright, I want to keep track of you because I don’t want to lose my mistress to anyone else, and you can just explain this to your colleagues, or just tell them to mind their bloody business,” he said coolly, his eyes trained her.
Goose bumps rose on her arms. “Mistress? I’m sorry sir, but no, I don’t want to be your mistress. I don’t want to go into any relationship with anyone.”
“You want me to make you?”
Her gaze met his cool ones. “Make me?! No one can make me do what I don’t want to do, sir.” Thoughts of how she was raped flashed across her mind, and she looked away.
“Alright, alright that was just a joke. I ordered the phone anyway, I’ll make sure my driver delivers it to you tomorrow.”
“Sir, I don’t…”
He sighed. “Oh Ronke, that’s settled. Just come and sit down here, and let’s talk.”
KE’s driver did deliver the phone, and she got a call from him the same day.
“Sir, this is very embarrassing,” she said.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” was his plain reply.
But it left Ronke confused about what she was to him. He was ‘making’ her get into a relationship with him already, since she couldn’t stick to her refusal. She couldn’t confide in anyone, so she simply lied to Teju she had agreed to go out with her Ghanaian friend, and he gotten her the phone.
“He really must be rich o. This is 090 and a very expensive handset too,” Teju said.
“He’s with the High Commission, one of the top officers there,” Ronke stammered.
Teju sneered. “You’re very lucky. If I can get a man like that, even if he is from China, I’ll stop work in this God-forsaken place and throw it back in KE’s face.”
“You must hate this KE so much,” Ronke mumbled, wondering why.
Over dinner with KE that night, Ronke decided to clarify issues once and for all. She just couldn’t’t continue living a double, deceitful life.
He cut in. “Ma, don’t call me, sir.”
“What do I call you?” she said. “Sir, I—”
“Hey Ronke, relax. I am not forcing you to do anything, don’t get angry with me.”
Ronke did get irritated, and for the rest of the dinner, remained quiet. Why was she succumbing to him all the time? When he called for the dinner, she said, ‘No sir” but he came to pick her up, and she followed him. Why couldn’t she maintain her word? Truly, he was the big boss, and she had her job and her daughter to protect, yet, did it mean she would also lose her freedom, self-respect, and integrity?
On the way home, KE’s hand slid to her knees, and massaged it gently.
“Ronke darling, please call me Kola, okay?” She didn’t respond. “Ronke, Ronke I’m talking to you.”
“I’ve heard you,” she murmured.
“Don’t be upset with me, hmm, please?” he whispered. She glanced at him. “I need you, you may not know how much now, but I need you badly,” he said, hoarsely.
She couldn’t control her frustration. “You don’t need me, and I don’t need you. You just want to take advantage of me,” she said.
“Who told you that?” She sensed a trace of anger in his voice.
“No one has to tell me. I know. Teju said…”
“Teju Craig? What did she tell you about me?”
“You know her, sir?” Ronke stirred. Had she gone too far?
He spat. “Listen to me, if you go about with that girl, I’ll deal with you, and you’ll hate me for it.”
Had she missed something? What was Teju to him? The rest of the journey home was in silence. What didn’t she know? She had to be careful for the safety of herself, her daughter, and her job.