Dominic awoke to a musky, opulent scent-a reminder of Linda and the events of last night. Sleepily, he started to reach for her but sprang widely alert when instead he tapped on bare sheets. She’d left, he thought, until seeing her carefully laid dress on the single plush brown armchair.
He settled again now on a delightful smile, rolling in the sheets where her scent was stronger. No doubt it would remain long after she was gone.
For the next moments, Dominic laid faced down, reminiscing the past hours with Linda. The sex was great, with every comeback yet more intense than the former, it made an excellent reward for his celibacy.
But as he thought of all that, he equally considered the situation-a huge mistake, an inevitable doom right from the start. For one thing certain and unchanged were his feelings for Linda. Truthfully, he cared for her. But that was as far as it went. If she was expecting more, she was only preparing for hurt. That and more was why even in cloud nine where thoughts were hazy and discernment muddled, Dominic had refrained from the unretractable three words despite her endless confession and push for it. This morning, he felt the pressing urge to knock into her head until it stuck, that the night had not changed a thing.
At that, Dominic pushed out of bed and stopped on seeing Kamsiyonna’s portrait, the one he had meant to keep from Kamsi. Those eyes coupled with the cold impact of the bare floors against his feet sent momentary chills into his bones, that he almost swore her distasteful scowl. Immediately, he warded the feeling of guilt off. He’d never put himself through such agony as when he had first brought a woman into his home, years after Kamsi’s death. When for days, he had operated on tiptoes for fear of bumping into an angered ghost. Two long years had passed until he’d come to terms with his absurd tag of betrayal to the dead woman. Though Kamsiyonna was gone, Dominic however still stayed mentally married to her.
With a light kiss on her portrait, Dominic disappeared into the shower, recollecting the previous year when Linda had started to ease in his home and had cleared out all Kamsi’s pictures to make room for hers. That day, she’d invoked his wrath, especially Kamsi’s, and all her liberty had instantly been revoked.
Soon, Dominic was out, clean, shaven and fresh, He’d thrown on a jersey and started down the stairs, when midway down, he was met by the sweet aroma of food. His heart leapt in response, and his stomach growled hungrily until hearing flitter of that unmistakable voice infusing with Linda’s. He halted at that rich deep tone he’d recognized since birth and gritted his teeth as Linda’s laughter rang out loud followed by that of his mother. Dominic’s appetite by now was dissipated.
Absorbing that he was no child fearing his mother’s scold, he willed his feet down the stairs, not as much concerned by his mother’s unannounced trip as her laughing with Linda. As he descended the stairs, both conversations grew even more detectable, and the most pertinent of his thoughts were answered as both women discussed Ada’s trip. But when he reached the bottom, his heart faltered again as the empty plates before Ada conveyed a much longer arrival.
Just glaring at the now silent women, Dominic felt a mixed combination of anger and joy at seeing his mother. Adaeze’s eyes as she rose held a knowing look. From the nervous dart of Dominic’s eyes, she could tell his annoyance at catching her with Linda. But she was unbothered by it. She owed him no explanation for her visit.
“My son!”Adaeze thrilled with a bright smile as she gathered him in her arms, not minding his aloofness as his arms limply wound around her, and with a customary kiss on her cheek, they parted. Ada’s eyes beamed overjoyed not only from seeing her son but for the beautiful woman she’d only just began to get acquainted with. Linda was Igbo and so far from her analysis, she rated pretty well. Ada’s fears, at last, were dissipated, for since Kamsi’s death, none other woman had been seen with him. In fact, all of her picks for him had been declined. The most recent was Chimobi, the fairest of women in the village, who had accompanied on her last trip. On Ada’s insistence and the woman’s free will, of course, she had shamelessly wooed him with her excellent preparation of Edikaikong and pounded yam-his favourite, along with her buxom assets. Both had been disappointed when all efforts had turned fruitless, mostly plans to get him to bed Chimobi, breed seed and wed her. At that point, Adaeze had begun to fear that Kamsiyonna had perhaps taken not just his heart to the grave with her, but his manhood too.
“Mama, why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” He asked, barely concealing irritation in his voice.
He loved seeing her but he hated her uninformed visit.
“I didn’t realize I had to inform my son before visiting him.” Ada returned sarcastically. She’d taken no offense to his words, especially as greater concerns laid before her.
Dominic knew not to push further. “How was your trip?” He deviated and crossed to a seat beside her, passing a murmured greeting to Linda. Ada sat too making little references to the stressful trip as her eyes darted all the while across the pair and more impressively at Linda. And then suddenly, she lunged for his cheeks and gently pinched on them. “You look, good son! I see Linda has been taking good care of you.”
Dominic was speechless and irritated at her words and lavish attention for Linda, and even more the subject’s sheepish beam.
“I am taking care of myself!” He cleared, cursing the women’s meeting for the umpteenth time, and wondering what possible lies Linda may have filled his mother’s head with, in his absence. And then to douse the air, he spoke but meant it. “Mama you look good too.” He even went steps further admiring her new floral dress and her matching scarf. As expected his words lit the woman’s world. In all his thirty-five years, Dominic had figured the feminine mind, and how the lot; young and old-none exclusive flourished on compliments, and at all chance, he made sure to give, as long as it was sincere.
Just then, Linda sprang to her feet drawing attention to his shirt stopping mid-thigh on her and flashing long fair legs. “Will you eat now?” she inquired.
Dominic nodded with a mental growl as she left with his mother’s used dishes, focused on her wiggling rear, doubtlessly bare beneath his shirt. He cursed the woman for taunting him in his mother’s presence.
“Linda eh?”Adaeze leaned into him, whispering as she followed his gaze. “Very fine girl and very cultured too.” She pointed.
He sighed inwardly at her artful glint.
“Mama, why didn’t you tell me you were coming? I would have made arrangements for you (you) know, and saved you some stress.”
“Hmmm. So I would have missed seeing this.”
He pressed ignoring her knowing remark. “You know I don’t like you traveling on your own. I would have made some arrangements.”
“Ndo, by arrangements, you want to put me inside the white man’s bird. “Don’t worry. I can handle the road trip.” She flexed her shoulders as if to prove her fitness.
He bit back laughter at his mother’s humorous description of an airplane. Being air-phobic, Ada would rather take the trip to Lagos by road.
The first and only time Ada had conceded to Dominic and agreed to travel by air had been such grand jester, not just her but the crew and passengers as well, that Dominic had never again thought such an arrangement.
Once high up in the air, Ada’s outburst had been uncontrollable. She’d thrown up multiple times and all through the one hour four minutes flight from Enugu to Lagos was reported to have clutched her rosary to her heart all the time. Thankfully Chimobi had been beside her, and though she too was air frightened, for Ada, she’d braced to keep her calm.
“How long have you been here mama?” Dominic tendered his most nagging inquiry, and innocently, Ada answered with a brief glance at her wristwatch. “Almost an hour now.”
Dominic cringed. The thought of having both women together for that amount of time was devastating, so he wouldn’t even allow it. “Let me help you get settled.”
“Don’t worry, Linda already helped with that.”
Not only did he hate her inflection, he also hated the twinkle in her perusing, yet patient eyes. The twinkle soon flitted in replacement with concern as she inquired of Kamsi whom she was yet to see. Dominic told her just where she was.
“Is anyone with her?”
“Yes, Anjola is.” Dominic supplied and watched Ada’s lips twist uninterestedly.
“So she is still babysitting?”
Dominic frowned at her tone and demeanor. Though Ada felt no particular despise for the girl, he knew she would prefer if the maid were Igbo. By her words, someone who knew the culture and would help guide Kamsi by it. But as it was, Adaeze feared Kamsi would lose touch with her roots, since the bulk of her time was spent with Anjola.
Once, Adaeze had suggested that Kamsi be brought to the east to live with her, but Dominic had disapproved. The next time, she’d taken matters to her hand and gone ahead to hire an Igbo maid whom she believed would serve Kamsi better. But as before, Dominic had turned her down again-vouching Anjola’s competence and loyalty. Kamsi was Igbo in every right and nothing could change that. But on matters regarding her keep, Dominic searched for capability. And since already, Anjola did a perfect job of it, there was no reason whatsoever for a new hiree.
Adaeze, as Dominic had always known, had always been somewhat of a tribalist. And after years of futile talk, he had finally come to terms with her stance on it; she could never change.
Though Ada had been nothing but a child during the Biafran war, her memories still served a few recollections of it, especially her father’s death which stung the most, and her left limp which forever served a constant reminder of the war. Dominic however, would love if she stopped referring to the war which was long gone and past. He’d like her forgiving, liberal, and nonjudgmental, especially of individuals who knew nothing of it.
The door opened and both reverted to Linda as she returned with a full tray of toast and coffee, placing it before him with a brief mention of awaiting him for breakfast. Dominic glowered surprisedly as she settled for her own meal. In all their relationship, not once had Linda ever done that. Suddenly, when it struck as all wiles to winning into his mother’s good books, Dominic snorted. Worse, by the look things, Linda was succeeding.
Breakfast passed annoyingly slow for Dominic as Linda and Adaeze chatted about the East and each’s love for it, disregarding facts that Linda was born and bred in Lagos, and that in all her adult years had barely paid her ‘beloved’ town a visit since the last Christmas visit with her family as a teenager. As discussions narrowed, Ada’s interest was notably set on the woman’s root which happened to be a town near Dominic’s; another plus for the lady with his mother.
From then on and through the rest of the discussion, Ada gleamed at Linda with unparalleled approval as before. And from the clear look of things, Dominic figured some one-on discussion with Ada.
Dominic had quickly grown bored of the pair and would like more than out of their midst, but he decided to better keep tabs on their every conversation. It was only smart he stayed.
Moments later, when Ada stated how tired and in dire need of rest she was, Dominic breathed with relieve. From first sight, he’d noted her weariness, and wondered why it had taken her long to surrender. But he knew.
Not until Ada was far and away from earshot, did he question Linda.“And what was that about?”
“What?” She dug into her last toast, faking ignorance.
Touché! “Stop acting like you don’t know what I mean?”
“Are you referring to my conversation with your mum, because we were only chatting.” She flashed innocently.
“I’d say you were trying to charm her.”Dominic snorted unimpressed.
“Oh really, did I succeed?”
He chewed on his last bit of toast and downed it with coffee unanswering, but yet staring at the canny woman with the rather too clear intent he would promptly address. Carefully Dominic lowered his mug with eyes fixated on Linda. “I’m not down for anything serious right now Linda, and I don’t know if or when I’ll ever be!” He stated levelly with a straight, sincere and matter of factly stare while she listened with a cold front, but then a moment after, she maliciously spat. “But you were down for some mind-blowing sex!”
Dominic shut his eyes against her out lash, just what he’d expected. Carefully, he started again, hoping this time, she’d understand. “Last night was great Linda, and I will not refute that. But nothing has changed. Things are still as they were six months back.” These were sloppy grounds, he should tread carefully. And after a somewhat long pause, he continued. “I’m sorry I can’t give you more.”
Linda’s stiff stare cut into him, as slowly her lips spread into a sardonic smile that conveyed his mistake. He’d seen the stop signs, he should have stopped when he could but had plunged head-on. But he didn’t regret it.
“I’m sorry.” He pleaded. But things were best sorted now!
“Just stop it!” Linda furiously spat thumping violently to her feet. Her eyes had turned confrontational, flashing fire. “So I was a one night stand?”
“No Linda you were not.”Dominic closed his eyes feeling the pain and hurt in her words. He took a deep drag of breath. He had not meant for the morning to turn this way, but he’d only needed to be truthful to her.
“So what was I, a plaything to satisfy your sexual urge?!”
“Oh stop being unreasonable Linda.” Dominic hissed in irritation.
“Unreasonable eh? But I wasn’t unreasonable when you slept with me!” She boomed, with arms firmly planted on her waist and rage radiating from every pore. “You know my age, Dominic? I’m thirty-two” She spat in syllables, emphasizing the gravity of things. “I need something serious, Dom! I don’t want a fling. I need more! I want more!”
Dominic slowly exhaled watching the fiery female before him and wondering how he’d gone two steps back into his past. Once, all of this had been sorted, but for his raging libido, they were again returned to square one. He should have known she was trouble, he should have turned away last night.
“Talk to me, Dominic! I’m waiting!” she screamed. Dominic quietly watched her, admitting his sexual attraction for her, but he felt nothing else. Dominic wondered if he could ever come to love her or at least feel something other than the obvious sexual attraction. The answer was too glaring, but he could never tell her. He could never say outrightly that he didn’t love her, or that there was some empty vacuum in him even she couldn’t seem to fill. If he ever stayed with her, it would be out of pity and that, he’d sworn never to do that to himself or anyone. The highest he could do now was relay the truth as subtly as he could without making her feel used.
“I’m sorry Linda.” Dominic quietly let out. “I wish I could give you more, but I just cannot.”
At that, he watched her arms drop dejectedly to her sides with tears pooling in her eyes. Dominic felt a pang just then.
“Fine.” She whispered hurt and broken and stormed away, only stopping a moment at the stairs, and turned on him with shockingly clear and unforgiving eyes.
“I curse ever knowing you. Fuck you, Dominic!” She cursed and marched up the stairs.