My phone began buzzing again. It was the fifteenth time today, and I pulled a face. Sharon was never patient, I thought to myself, and there were many other things she wasn’t. I swiped the phone to the right, and turned on the loudspeaker, keeping my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road. Her voice came over the line, and I could hear it in her voice: that straining patience which was now only a fibre away from snapping, and I knew better than anyone else how her tongue became a whip which left a deadly sting on her so-called loved ones whenever she got angry.
“Tunde,” she called in a cool voice that reminded me of the low hiss of a cobra.
“Baby,” I began to say, forcing that much convincing note of pretence into my voice, but she cut me off with a shrill scream.
“Don’t baby me!” She bawled. “Don’t even get me started. Over two hours, you have been coming as if you were out of town.” I clenched my teeth and thought I had heard them grinding one another, my grip became iron-hard and I was almost certain that the steering wheel would come off at this rate. She continued, in a much softer, less threatening tone, “Tunde, today is my birthday for crying out loud, and the best you can do as my boyfriend is just to take me out. What happens to cancelling all of your appointments just for today? It is just once a year that I get a day like this. Can’t you postpone business until after today for me? Sometimes, I wonder what you put first. When we get married–“
And that was it! I had heard enough, so I tapped the red button, ultimately ending the call. I couldn’t bear to listen to a yam like that from her. I knew what I had just done would shock her to the very framework of her bones, but at this point, I couldn’t care less. I had never before hung up on her, not ever. It could sprout questions and suspicions in her mind, and if she put two and two together, she could come up with a brilliant idea that would save her from the surprise I had prepared for her. I knew she was that smart to know there was something unusual about my sudden intolerance for her age-long excesses. It was her brains that attracted me in the first place after all, but I couldn’t be bothered. I had already derived enough joy from letting her swallow those words about us getting married.
Within half an hour of manoeuvering the terrible bumper-to-bumper traffic, I reached Western Avenue, and swung the car to the kerb. I climbed out of the car with the wrapped surprise in my hand. I pulled in as much of the Surulere air as I could. I might not be coming here ever again. I began the walk to 20B, a compound on which stood two, adjacent four-floor high flats. In one of those flats, on the third floor, lived my girlfriend, Sharon, the woman I had seen so many times in my dreams, and in those dreams, she would walk down the aisle in her immaculate white gown to meet me with a smile so big that I was confident that was the smile I wanted my children to come home to every afternoon after school, and afterwards, we would exchange vows to love, honour, and be faithful to each other until death would do us part. I used to be so sure that those dreams had come from heaven, but not anymore.
I began the ascent to her apartment, taking the stairs three at a time while holding firmly my little present for her. No matter what it was that I now thought of the dreams I used to have of me and her getting married, it was her birthday after all, and she would get her gift. Before I could knock on the door, she pulled it open, and ran into my arms, hugging me tight.
“Tunde, I am sorry. I know I talk a lot,” she began to tell me, hugging me still. “You scared the life out of me. I thought you wouldn’t show up again. I will never talk to you like that again, please.”
I pushed her away as gently as I could, forced my lips into a smile, and said, “I forgive you.” Before I could get another word out, she pressed her lips against mine and began to linger. Again, I pushed her away, making sure that there was no force in it.
“We will have enough time for that, baby,” I said, flashing her a smile. “Here is your gift.” She took it from me, looking it over with bemused eyes, and with impatient movements, she began to tear the wrapper. She uncovered the box, and took out the flash drive. We met eyes, and she had that questioning look in hers.
“Get your laptop, sweetheart,” I told her. She stood, undecided, so I encouraged her with one of my boyish smiles. She went over to her room, and came out with her laptop, placing it carefully on the centre table, and settling on a sofa. I joined her, and sat on the arm of the sofa.
“Do you remember when I travelled to Port Harcourt to supervise a construction?” I asked, and I thought she stiffened a bit.
“Yes, that was five months ago. Why?” She asked, without looking at me. She inserted the flash drive.
“Well, you remember I left you in my apartment.”
“Yes, Tunde, I remember. But what are you getting at?” She demanded to know, still avoiding my eyes, but there was that irritating tone of impatience in her voice.
“And do you also remember that I began to look for my phone that day?”
This time, she turned to look at me. “You later found your phone in your house, you told me so. What exactly are you talking about?”
“Well, I came home, and I found something rather interesting on my phone, and I would like you to listen,” I told her, meeting her gaze with cold, hard eyes. At this point, I could see her shaking hands, so I proceeded to browse the flash drive on her laptop and opened the audio file I had wanted her to listen to. Two voices came through the audio: the baritone of a man’s voice, and Sharon’s unmistakable voice.
In the audio note, Sharon’s voice was high-pitched and had an amused giggle in it. She was saying, “Tunde is an idiot. All he ever knows is to work and work, and make money, but ask him to make love, and you will see how much of a failure he is.”
The man’s voice came over with a question, “What about me?”
“You drive me crazy!” Sharon’s voice came again, amused and playful. “You hear that? You drive me crazy!” And afterwards, it was the voices of the two of them melding together as one, their ecstatic moans evidencing their shared lust.
I reached over and cut the audio off. Sharon was literally shaking beside me, tears gathering in her eyes. “Happy birthday, baby.” She let out a mad sob, and I continued, “That is right. This is exactly what I wanted you to do, because that’s how I have spent every night these past five months. Look at how big these bags under my eyes have grown. I have cried myself to sleep most nights after listening to that. Now, you have only heard it once. Wait till you hear it the number of times I have heard it. I just wish to let you know that this broken heart of mine will find fixing someday.” I stood on my feet. She jumped to hers, and began pulling at my sleeves, and before I could stop myself, my hand cut across her face in a sharp smack. She rubbed her cheek.
“I am sorry, Tunde. Hit me all you want, but don’t leave me.” I continued to the door, but she ran after me, shouting her pleas.
I turned and growled at her. “If you touch me again, I will kill you!” She flinched, but came back again.
“Tunde, if you could wait five months to say this, you must have forgiven me. Tunde!”
Immediately, unable to contain myself, I gripped her by the throat, biting my lower lip until it bled. While she tried to break free of my grip, I gave her a push, and she fell off the balustrade, headlong, a thud following. My heart gave a lurch as I looked over and saw her neighbors gathering around her lifeless body like a wake of vultures. In my head came the voice of torment: “Murderer!”
Johnson Onyedikachi is a teenage Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He wrote in via email@example.com