This was how it all started.
On a windy night, we were having a dinner in my home when Dubem dropped his fork with a loud clang on his plate. Startled, I looked at him to find him staring at me.
“Are you cheating on me?” he asked. Shocked, I stared at him with an open mouth.
“N-n-n-nooo, w-why wo-would you think that?” I stuttered in a whisper. He stared at me some more before shrugging his shoulders.
The truth is, I had never considered “cheat” as a word or an act. Men hit on me often and asked me out, but it never occurred to me to be unfaithful. His question really hurt me but I had to let it go as we were just reconciling from a nasty quarrel that had to do with my mother.
In the following months, it became a regular question especially after any quarrel. Tired and hurt but still trying to reassure him, I would reply, “No. I’m not.”
Then one day, after an exhausting day at work and a rigorous lovemaking session that same evening, he dropped the question again. Perhaps, it was brain, body and soul fatigue that made me respond with, “Not yet.”
I had felt the hands caressing my hair become still and I didn’t care about pandering to him anymore. I know it was in that moment that I decided that I was going to cheat. I had no idea who it was going to be with, but I was going to justify his question.
I had my first affair with the younger brother of my boss who was married. He was a charming and good-looking man in his early forties. I was attracted to his wits, he was attracted to my “quiet beauty” as he called it. Neither of us wanted anything more except sex and companionship without the baggage that comes with being a significant other.
At first, guilt ate me up and I spent half of my time worrying that we would get caught. Over time, I got over the guilt and enjoyed the discreet nature of our rendezvous. We lasted seven months before I called it off, but I went on to have seven more lovers as time went on.
I have no idea if my boyfriend ever suspected or found out, but I tell you this, Dubem stopped asking the stupid question and we had a quarrel-free two years and three months relationship before he died.
Now, imagine my shock when I opened my door to a thirty-something old looking woman who claimed to be Dubem’s widow. It turned out that his bi-annual trip to Ecuador wasn’t all business as he had led me to believe. Dubem’s widow came to inform me in a scathing voice that my pregnant self will not be welcomed at her husband’s burial. His body…or what remained of it after the plane crash in Ecuador, had been flown into the country and deposited at the mortuary in his hometown which was about twelve miles away. I had gone there with him once.
Well, that wasn’t the only thing she came to tell me, so while she threatened my baby and I with fire and brimstone, I tuned out by recalling incidents with Dubem that should have alerted me to his marital status.
I also wondered how his widow knew about me and my address but I wasn’t curious enough to ask.
”Does he…did he have children?” I muttered. I had grieved for him these past weeks, not as the father of my child but as a friend and lover. Yes, we had our bad moments but he was a good man who didn’t deserve to be cut down in his prime.
One would expect me to be angry, but I chose not to. Dubem was dead and berating his wife seemed pointless. She was grieving as much as I was.
But as she huffed and puffed, I came to a conclusion that they had been childless. I found that narrative soothing and well-deserved.
I guess Dubem’s family were worried that I would come to the funeral and make a fuss with my pregnant belly. But before I could reassure her that I had no intention of doing that, she walked away.
You see, my baby was never Dubem’s child…but he didn’t know that. He was ecstatic at the news of a baby even though he knew I was never going to marry him. He never proposed and I believed at that time it was because he was aware of how I felt about marriage. I liked to subtly mention how marriage isn’t for me.
But to be honest, I have always wanted marriage but not with him, even though he was a good man. I couldn’t marry a man whom my mother detested. My mother is all I have, no father, brother or sister. Of course, she knew I was never going to marry him; yet, she saw the relationship as a waste of my time.
Now, I’m sitting here staring at my husband as he paces the room while avoiding eye contact with me. Our baby is in the next room with my mother,I can hear her coo and ahh.
After Dubem’s death, my husband and i stopped sneaking around and he proposed. I had to wait till I delivered our baby because no apostolic priest was willing to wed a pregnant spinster. We could have gone to another church, but my mother insisted we must have an apostolic wedding.
Well, here we are on our wedding night. My dark handsome husband looking all nervous as he had been when he was reading his vows.
He stops right in front of me and lifts my chin up with his right index finger and whispers, “Considering how we started, can I trust you to be faithful?”
His eyes plead with me as they bear into mine. Wide-eyed and tongue- tied, I stare at my husband because I know I have no answer. I can reassure him but…will I be speaking the truth? I know I love him and wont deliberately hurt him.
But like they say, nothing is ever cut and dry.
Written by Onwudiwe Ada