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BITCH  by Becky Peleowo

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Maya his girlfriend accepted his marriage proposal the day Zane brought Bitch home.

“Babes, what’s this?” Maya was asking him when he walked in with the stinky tawny thing.

“Meet Bitch!” Excited Zane was smiling from cheek to cheek like the comedy character Mr Bean.

“Sorry, Sweetheart. Bitch stays!” His head bent, and a silly smile resting on his handsome face, Maya was convinced that she was indeed in love with a dashing imbecile.

She always finds him weird. At 40, he could not sustain a relationship. His previous girlfriends left him for reasons as flimsy as his shedding tears when watching a movie. He has a bizarre taste in undesirable things. He would take his Lipton tea without milk or sugar and wear a Kente over his turtle neck to work. He never hugged her nor dreamt of sharing a kiss. Even his laptop had more friction with him than she does. He was not the regular Nigerian guy.

Despite his striking features, he would wear his square-shaped glasses and look above them like scientists would look for microbes. He is a graphic designer and a lover of novels. He decorated his two-bedroom apartment with impeccable taste and one would expect him to be very romantic but he is determined to be the opposite. Perhaps, the women in his life had fallen in love with his apartment rather than himself. He is the only Nigerian guy that would talk about dogs on Valentine’s dates. Maya was willing to overlook all of this but bringing home a stray bitch was way too demeaning for her taste.

Zane looked around at the decorations Maya had made for them to make up their last fight. The iridescent lights were shimmering around the living room of his two-bedroom apartment. He turned on the illuminating bulbs and the semi-darkened ambience of a romantic valentine dispelled into the night. He preferred it this way. Maya was a sweet girl and she had tried to live up to his ways but he wouldn’t date himself if he was Maya. It wasn’t his fault anyway. He had post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), a condition that left him emotionally drained of love except for animals.

The smell of lavender from the air freshener made him feel so at home. “Thanks, Sweetheart”, he flashed a set of beautiful teeth in braces at his girlfriend. Maya responded with a stiff smile and led Zane’s latest guest into the living room. The last time it was a lab rat he had brought home. Once, he slept off while he was fondling the glorified rodent. He had not washed his index finger after sticking it in a jar of peanut butter. He woke up a few hours later to find that his albino pet had bitten some part of his finger. The smart thing was able to escape without a prison break.

Opening the carton of Sweets and co. Cakes, Zane could not resist the urge of poking his finger into the fluffy frosty pastry before him. Maya must have spent a fortune to buy this one. She might as well as, have had a proposal in mind, he thought as he fondled a bottle of Escudo Rojo she had placed in an ice bucket. He walked up to Maya, looked her straight in the eye and while the pretty psychologist thought she was going to get her first kiss, he turned his head to his Canine friend and said sweetly, “Come Bitch, Let Maya bath you!”

Was he deliberately trying to be rid of her? Maya fumed as she thought of how to frustrate his plans. How did she get to fall in love with this enigma? It must have been a result of the story that led to his trauma. The story he put forth was like a typical Zeeworld serial.

Bitch was a stray Labrador female dog and just like the rebellious rat, Zane was willing to nurture it back to health. As a child, a dog saved Zane’s life. His mother died before he turned 12 but he never forgave her for sending the faithful Max to an early grave. Max was a true dog. Zane’s mother and father had taken care of it as a puppy till it became full-grown. That morning when he was just 4 years, he woke from sleep and was heading towards the stairs that led to the sitting room downstairs. Zane was still dazed from sleep and Max knew this. There was water on the floor at the head of the stairs and Max tried to save Zane from falling off.

Immediately Zane slipped, Max grabbed his left leg while his body dangled at the top of the flight of stairs. It had barked before Zane fell but Zane’s mother could not hear the dog because she was in passionate entanglement with Okon the errand boy when daddy was not home. Max did not let go even when Zane cried in pain. The Labrador’s sharp teeth dug deep into his flesh. It wanted to save its little master. It held on, prancing with his hind leg so his noise could reach the entangled couple downstairs but their inordinate moans subdued his stomps.

Weeks later Zane’s leg was healing fast but not the wound in his mind. He became distant and hardly spoke to anyone. The doctor said it was trauma from the bite but the trauma from seeing Okon, the errand boy make pepper soup out of Max, was too much for poor Zane to bear. His father never found out the truth about his mother’s sexual escapades. The crazy Okon was thanked profusely for dealing with the dog.

Maya’s gaze finally settled on poor Bitch who had been standing by the door, sceptical to take any step further. Fear was written all over its face. The poor thing was suffering from malnutrition. Zane found Bitch tied to a huge tyre by the roadside on his way from work one evening. Who left a dog to die by the roadside anyway? If dog pepper soup lovers had found it first, this would have been a different story. Gently Maya carried Bitch to the bathroom and the lanky creature had a warm soapy bath from the most gentle hand in the world.

Zane looked at how clean Bitch looked and he popped the long-awaited question, “Will you marry me?” At first, Maya could not help thinking he was asking the dog and had to confirm before she got the wrong idea.

“You mean me or the bitch?” She asked with trepidation unsure of what his response would be.

“Of course you!” Zane said, his face emotionless. Was she to say yes? Just like that?

“Yes! I’ll marry you, Zane but first…”

“Ok then, let’s take care of this new baby of ours.” He joyfully ran off like a playful child to get dog food from the vet. Tufiakwa! Maya rejected the thought of calling a dog her baby. She was a true Igbo girl after all. Did Zane truly love her? Behind his indifference, she often sees that glitter in his eyes that made her pulse race.

Days passed, and Zane and Bitch became inseparable. They took walks on the lane close to his home and smelt the morning flowers that had been kissed by the dew. It was on this lane Maya met Zane. She was jogging ahead of them when she heard him call out.

“Hey, Sexy!”

She turned to see who it was that flirted with her.

“No, not you. I meant this Sexy.” He waved his finger and pointed to one annoying dog that looked like the bristles of an expired toothbrush. Maya later learnt the dog died of a strange disease. How could it not? It always had its mouth in the wrong places. In retaliation to how embarrassed she felt, Maya gave Zane a piece of her mind. She exhausted all the mighty vocabulary she had in her head.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” Zane’s response to her rain of hurtful words was what first attracted her to him. That feeling of being drenched with a bucket of chilled water enveloped her as she stood there transfixed. The scent of his mild perfume, his towering height, his soft creamy skin and the pure smile on his thin lips left her in an ecstatic state of paralysis. Their eyes locked and cupid shot an arrow. She stared unabashedly in mesmeric admiration until his voice melted her like caramel chocolate on the tongue.

“I’m Zane!” He said, flashing her a white set of teeth in braces. The braces jolted her back to reality. They got acquainted and soon she got an invite to dine with him. Zane opened up to her just a few minutes into dinner. He barely knew who she was but she knew why he trusted her. As a psychologist, she had handled numerous cases of PSTD and it sometimes amazes her how people who suffer from this condition easily open up to her a few hours after meeting them. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder often find it hard to live normally, especially in the event of the loss of a loved one or pet.

Months passed and Bitch grew up into a Canine princess. Her tawny fur glittered and she blossomed, ready to find a Romeo. Zane’s masculinity has taken a turn too. About twice, Maya has caught him staring long at her for no reason at all.

“Do you think I farted?” Maya asked him while they watched the movie, “Why did I get married?” She did not know what to make of his look and had to ask the most likely question.

“No, I think you need to make your hair.” Zane looked away nonchalantly. If Zane had said your hair caught fire, Maya would have believed her ears more than the response he gave.

The relationship between her and Zane was not exactly romantic but she was beginning to sense a change in his person. He had given away the Kente to Umaru, the gateman and visited the gym frequently. Or was he seeing a new girl? Maya longed to ask him this question.

Bitch was behaving flirtatiously lately. They had all gone for a walk and Bitch could not get a grip of her urges as she kept showing off her figure in front of one Ekuke, a local Igbo dog that belonged to Mr Nwosu. Maya suggested to Zane to allow Bitch to mate but he swore in Igbo at the thought of her mating partner being poor Ekuke. They arranged with a particular dog breeder and Bitch’s mating appointment was fixed.

Choosing the right Sire for Bitch was a Herculean task. It was like Zane was marrying off a daughter instead of a Labrador dog. Finally, they settled for a golden brown Labrador and soon Bitch was an expectant mother. Zane fed Bitch well during her parturition and Maya was there to assist. Soon, they will be welcoming cute puppies from their canine princess.

It was another Valentine’s day and Zane invited Maya over to see Bitch’s puppies. She had her first litter of puppies at midnight and they were locally cute. Poor Bitch had birthed a combination of cute Ekukes and Labradors.

“That sharpshooter local dog has scored a good goal before any other player.” Zane joked.

“They still look adorable.” I laughed as I cuddled the puppies.

“Can I score a good goal on you too before our next valentine?” Maya thought she heard him wrong but Zane was right behind her, his soft lips seductively fondling her ear lobes, his body melting into hers. She has never heard him joke like this or act in this manner.

“Will you give me cute puppies too ’cause I’m in love with you, Maya?” He twirled her to face him and the look in his eyes was only of love.

“Babies!” Maya responded quickly. “I’ll give you babies…” and the rest of her words were silenced with a warm, soft kiss that assured her that all is well that ends well.

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