…continued from Unforgiven IV
Charles wasn’t going to stop hounding her. He was the kind of man that got what he wanted and right now he wanted her. The thought of that managed to thrill her and scare her at the same time.
Although it was difficult, she decided to ignore his text and return to class. Odd, that even while she spoke to her students, her mind wandered to Charles.
She’d broken her ultimate rule with the wrong man.
And yet, as much as she regretted what had happened with Charles, she found she still cherished what they’d had. It had been love, even if the worst kind. Even if it had been one-sided.
Which is why she knew she wasn’t ready to tell Amaka about Charles. Not just yet.
As soon as school was over, Ethel didn’t bother waiting around for Amaka because she knew there was no way Amaka would let her go without finishing her story. Yes, she was persistent like that.
And when her cell rang later that day as she made lunch, she knew without a doubt that it was Amaka.
She was wrong. The caller ID showed a strange number.
“Have dinner with me tonight please.”
She didn’t have to think twice to know who was speaking. Charles.
“How did you get my number?” she asked.
“Oh come on Thelia, you know me. That’s not what’s important here. Please have dinner with me.”
His voice disarmed her whenever he begged, even if for a little bit. He spoke with that low drawl that quickened her pulse whenever she listened to him. It was one of the things that had endeared her to him.
“Why?” she asked. Every second spent on the phone with him weakened her defences in a way that scared her. She didn’t want to fall back into that phase of her life where all she’d thought about was him.
“Because I miss you.”
And I miss you too. In a stupid way. She snorted, “No, Charles. I told you nothing is going to happen between us.”
“Then why are you afraid of having dinner with me? C’mon, it’s just dinner.”
Dining with the devil eh? A voice taunted her.
“We didn’t have a chance to say our formal goodbyes, remember? Let’s just treat this as…a way of getting…closure,” he continued.
You can’t actually be considering this, Ethel.
“If we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye Charles, that was the choice you made,” she said, slowly.
Maybe this would be good. Think of it as closure, Ethel. Get this man out of your heart and head once and for all.
“Give me a chance to make up for it. Let me treat you like the queen you are. Let me make it up to you.”
It wasn’t the sweetness of his words that made her say yes to a date later that night; it was the fact that she’d dreamed of this moment almost every day for the past three years.
She’d often wondered what she’d do if she saw him again; if he came to ask for her forgiveness. And now that time had come. What exactly did she want? A harmless dinner with her former lover?
Bad idea, Ethel. The voice reprimanded. Do not be unequally yoked, Ethel.
No one is doing any yoking here. It’s just dinner.
With the man who sent you to hell and back.
Oh Lord, what now? She deliberated; maybe she should call Amaka and ask advice.
After playing hooky today? I don’t think so.
She glanced at her clock. Two minutes past four. Charles said he’d pick her up by seven pm so she had barely three hours to make up her mind and get ready.
Now what would she wear? Charles liked short and skimpy and before he’d ended their relationship, her wardrobe – which he had picked out – was made up of short skirts or gowns.
Short and skimpy was definitely out of it now. She’d long since stopped dressing to please Charles; now, she’d dress to please her Creator.
Maybe you should have thought about that before you agreed to this date in the first place.
Three hours later, she was still unsure what to wear when the doorbell rang.
Dammit. She’d forgotten the man was a stickler to time.
Thankfully, she’d left the door unlocked.
“Come in! It’s open!” she struggled into a shimmering blue gown. “I’ll be right there, Charles.”
She half expected him to walk into her bedroom. Charles was well known for such grand intrusive gestures. It shamed her to think that the thought of him walking in on her sent tiny unexpected shivers down her spine.
This has to stop. He is a married man! And he’s wrong for you! And he’s Charles!
Ten minutes later, she checked herself in the mirror and smiled.
This was good. Nothing extravagant. Just the right amount of make-up. Nothing to make him think she was going overboard for him. Her knee-length ball gown gave away no curves, the right thing for the occasion. Nothing to give Charles ideas.
Yes. I’m ready.
She slid into her black stilettos and stepped out into the living room, a little nervous.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting, Charles,” she said, emerging fully into the parlor.
“You didn’t at all.”
Ethel froze. That wasn’t Charles. It was some woman.
“Hello Ethel,” the woman rose to her feet.
“Who are you?”
“Won’t you say hello to me at least?”
Ethel froze in her tracks; the woman looked disturbingly familiar but Ethel couldn’t place where she’d seen her before. She looked to be in her fifties, everything about her was well-coiffed and in-place.
“Who are you?” she asked again.
“Mrs Felicia Umoh.”
“Who?” Something about her name made Ethel pause.
“Wow. I’m nothing more than a statistic to you, right? Now that hurts. Well, let me enlighten you…my husband would be a little late for your date tonight. I made sure of it,” her eyes turned to steel.
And then it clicked. She was Charles’ wife.
Oh my God.
to be continued next week…
by Mimi Adebayo