SMEARED: Sanctioned (Episode 5)

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Soft music filled the sitting room, easing the atmosphere and Mfon’s thumping heart of rhythmic tension. Ever since Aniebiet caught her with Johnson, guilt followed her around, like a stench waiting to choke her. A noose tightened around her neck, as she wallowed in memories. She thought Aniebiet didn’t make it easy for her. She wished he could contact her again, and she’d explain things to him. She wished he sent the money she demanded for. For the first time in a long time, confusion blurred her mind besides her glassy eyes.

When Johnson showed her his back, and shut the door in a hurry, she felt relieved. He wouldn’t return until evening or at night, if he hung out with Donatus, Bassey and Okon at a joint in town. By then, she would have pondered on her next move. Her relationship with Johnson had strained since the incident. When Aniebiet had slammed the door in a fury, she jerked Johnson off her, but being stronger, he had her in his grip three times, until she’d hurt. She wondered why he did that. This wasn’t part of the bargain. She had told him to make her comfortable, while she would attend to his other needs. Johnson was a money monger. Was he hurting her out of jealousy? Why should he be jealous? She wasn’t his main chick. All she wanted was someone to keep body together. He knew how she loved it. Aniebiet kept her soul. Her account never ran dry.

When Johnson had his fill of her and his orgasms, he got off her, and moved himself to the bathroom. Mfon found her feet and went after him, hoping to talk to him in the shower. He called her foul names in an irritating voice. “Wasn’t it sex you said you wanted? Day and night, you complained about your boyfriend starving you of it. Why bother me, woman? I don’t need my peace disturbed”.

Mfon stared at him with narrow eyes laced with deep seated anger. Johnson was a coward, a coward she had failed to stop loving.

He was her ex-boyfriend. A year ago, he said he wasn’t interested in dating her when she started to snoop around his phone, and laptop. As the words poured out of his mouth, the hairs on her arms and neck stood up. After that, she visited his residence without invitation, hoping to talk things over only to see another lady lounging on the sofa with legs crossed, and a glass of red wine pressed against her lips. Johnson introduced her as his colleague. Mfon understood the code. Her hot and classy look could catch any man’s eye. With a forced smile, she shut the door, and headed home. Drowning her grief over two bottles of alcohol, she fell asleep. Johnson would always be a jerk.

Mfon tried to kick Johnson out of her thoughts, but like a stubborn stain etched on her soul, he stuck on forever. Perhaps, it was because he was the only one who could ride her to satisfaction. She kept him for sex. And she accepted to date Aniebiet for financial benefits.

The creaking gate brought Mfon into the present, again. She watched Johnson close the gate behind him and walked away. As his feet launched forward, he flung her into another round of hurting memories. The previous day seemed perfect to return to her home, but a strange presence held her back. She didn’t go to church. She flipped her phone to call Gladys who was away in Kano for a three week intensive course, but changed her mind. Should she talk to God? No, leave God out of this this. I’ve gone too far.

Hot tears burned her eyes. She felt lost, and in dire need of help from this dark web of addiction to sex and alcohol. Johnson had gone to purchase drinks which he stuffed in the towering fridge standing in the kitchen. Shutting the door, he told her in a stern voice not to take any. When she asked why, he pinned her to the wall, brushed his body against hers, before staring into her eyeballs with dark angry eyes. She had seen that look before. It reminded her of how much he cared only for what was between her legs. Johnson had his way of making ladies want him, often and even after a break up. And she had fallen for his brown skin and handsome face. Again, she regretted why she snatched him from her close friend, Enobong.

The man she loved had gone. Fear and pain laced through her veins as he held her shoulders with strong arms. Had he not told her it was over? That Monday night, she slept in the other bedroom, leaving the door slightly open. At past midnight, a sound and a presence startled her. Fear gave way for knowledge. Johnson was in the room. Maybe, he came to apologise. Did he ever? He always found a way of blaming her for every incident or misunderstanding, after which they made up in bed.

His arms caressed her straight legs, her buttocks, her back, her neck and settled for her hair. “Ima-ima”. His tone was soft.

She didn’t budge at his touch. Tonight, she would play hard to get. If he robbed her of drinks, she would rob him of sex for as long as possible. When he put his lips to her neck, she perceived a hint of liquor in his breath. She concluded Johnson wasn’t there to apologise.

“I’m deeply sorry.”

Mfon didn’t turn her face to him. She let him roll her body over. When he dropped his weight on her, her legs parted, and moaned at his electrifying touch. The pain returned at every jerk.

Finding her voice, she told Johnson she was exhausted and wanted a drink. Johnson agreed to get it. Within seconds, he disappeared and reappeared with two bottles in both hands. Mfon grabbed one and swallowed the contents as though her life depended on it. Well, hadn’t it?

Liquor had become her present help in trouble. Thomas, the man she dated before she met Johnson had shown her this way of running away from her pain for a brief moment. Satisfied, they chatted for a short while and fell asleep beside each other.

Johnson awoke on Tuesday morning with a clumsy face. Mfon stared at him with longing for kiss on her forehead. It never came. Johnson complained of an issue with a customer at the office which needed sorting. “Babe, prepare dinner before I return.”

The instruction was expected. Johnson gave orders without finding a means to fix them. Obviously, he had forgotten she was just a side chick. Side chicks don’t cook. Grieving in silence, she could still hear him say he wanted the fish well fried. She placed her hand on her head as though to ease the throbbing headache into her palm. “As you wish”.

“Don’t keep that face. I’ll refund whatever you spend when I return,” he said as he got out of the bed.

Mfon had known the facts. Lies. Unfulfilled promises. She had some money. Fixing breakfast, lunch and dinner was no big deal. If only Aniebiet had sent the money she demanded for, that would have been a better refund.

Returning from memory lane, she picked a broom leaning against the wall in the kitchen, and began to take down the cobwebs. Exhausted, she sunk into a chair and massaged her temple. When her stomach growled, she downed a cup of tea with five slices of bread. A couple of hours later, the house shone, and the windows sparkled.

***

Mfon decided to go to the market. She slid her feet into a black, rubber sandals, embroidered with gold flowery toppings, and a blue flare gown over her body. Edikan met her at the gate. Boarding a taxi to Garki market, Edikan asked why Mfon didn’t report at the office.

“I told my boss I wasn’t in good shape.”

“Will he understand?”

“He has to. I need to be alive for the smooth operation of the organisation. I should report tomorrow. Body no be firewood.”

They laughed. Another passenger sitting beside the driver said he had commenced his two week leave.

Edikan promised to see Mfon, when Asuquo and Emeti were observing siesta. Mfon was fond of the children. Aged five and three, they looked older. She often wondered what it would be like having a child to call her own. Once, she had missed her period. When she told Johnson about it, he instructed she abort the pregnancy. He said he wasn’t ready to be called a father. Reluctantly, she terminated the pregnancy at eight weeks in a private hospital.

That night she battled with grief and guilt as she held her abdomen tenderly. Johnson offered her bottles of her favourite drink until she drank to stupor. But deep down, she ached for her child. She envied Edikan for having a man who let her keep her pregnancies even when she said they were unplanned.

Her boyfriend was a rich fellow who treated his children kindly. His love was expressed when he returned forthnightly with gifts in the booth of his Sienna.

Once he had winked at her when she stepped out to buy a loaf of bread. She scanned his bulky, but brief body as his eyes hooked hers. She avoided meeting him because his wedding ring was clearly displayed on his finger. Edikan was just his mistress.

Alighting from the cab, they found their way into one of the stalls.

***

Johnson was not prepared for whatever laid ahead of him in the office. Today, he would face his boss, and resolve the issue. He peeked into Donatus’ office. The chair was empty except for a soft music warming the atmosphere. He wondered where he’d gone. Throughout the previous day, he tried his number but it wasn’t reachable. When he went to his house, the doors were locked. The gate man told him Donatus went out with his wife, and had not returned.

Disappointed, he turned his back against the house, hanging his head down as he walked the tarred road.

Johnson slumped into his seat with a thud as he linked his fingers, and pressed them under his nose. He wondered if Donatus had erased every detail of the file. He wondered what would happen if his sin was found out. His heart beat rapidly at every possible consequence. He shrugged his shoulders without regrets. Ninety thousand naira was too small a sum to be sacked for. By the way, was there proof? No one had a case against him. He was certain Donatus would clear his tracks. Switching off his phone, he pulled out one of the drawers and dropped it in.

His system booted, and the keyboard clicked.

Aniebiet’s voice was heard from a distance greeting Dennis, Thelma and Shade. Donatus walked right past them. The door to his office opened quickly, and Johnson’s heart leaped in fright bringing him back to the present. He overheard Aniebiet telling him to get the CCTV camera for a second review of the previous day’s activities.

Johnson’s chair began to burn, making him stand on his feet. He raised his hand to head, his fingers giving a light scratch. Pacing, he reached the end of the walls. His mind began to emit questions? What if Donatus had not cleared the records? What if Aniebiet took revenge on him for grinding his babe?

Mfon! This was his fault. If Aniebiet hadn’t soaked himself in the dew of spirituality, he wouldn’t have had her in bed after he broke up with her. His thoughts went in leaps and bounds of what could happen if he was sanctioned. Would he apologise? He needed the job. Rich girls are difficult to come by, these days.

The air of the office seemed to snuff life out of him. Turning around, he switched on the fan before sinking into his chair. If he had known, he would have called Uwem to apologise and come to an agreement as to when he would make a refund. His heart leaped as he received a mail from the Human Resource Department.

A query graced his eyes. Reading through, his fears were confirmed. He had been seen receiving money from Uwem. Having denied it, he was asked to state the purpose of the money which he collected. When he read the line which stated he had brought disrepute to the bank, and appropriate sanction would be taken against him, his heart broke.

He tapped at the keyboard hoping to find the right words to answer the query, but his troubled mind went blank. His teeth clenched to his lower lip. His breath was ragged. If this was home, he would have calmed his nerves with a drink or casual sex from Mfon.

Episode 6 comes up next Wednesday.

CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 4

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