illustration by S. Bell


Hannah Onoguwe

This piece, by Nigerian writer Hanna Onoguwe, does a lovely job of addressing the difficulties of marriage and the temptations monogamous couples face, and deftly uses magic to avoid placing blame in the process. I also really enjoyed Onoguwe’s voice in this piece; one of my goals with Persistent Visions is to provide a place for non-Western voices, and I found the setting and point of view here captivating. I hope you enjoy “Tony(e)” as much as I do.

I was scrubbing the pot for the second time to get all the palm oil out when Tonye’s arms came around me. I jumped, orange-streaked suds spraying everywhere. I hadn’t heard him coming.

He chuckled, nuzzling my nape, inching down the left shoulder of my nightshirt. “Relax.”

It was still dark outside, my heart was threatening a revolution and he was telling me to relax. “Aren’t you supposed to still be asleep?”


His lips slipped along my skin, the soft warmth of his breath making nonsense of my attempts to continue with the pot. For as long as I could remember he always got up at 6am, sometimes later. Quick bath, quicker breakfast, then work. So trying to get some was usually a night time process. I tried to shrug him off, but his palms moved up to cup my breasts. The friction of his thumbs against the thin fabric caused my nipples to nod. What was he doing?

“Look, don’t start anything you can’t finish. There’s work.”

He’d unleashed his tongue now and it was hitting a spot along my pulse point in a certain . . . intriguing way. “We’ll be fast.”


“Okay, we’ll try to be fast.”

I dunked my hands in clean water and, shaking the droplets off, twisted around to look at him. He drew back, his hooded eyes frisking my body like I was a plate of amala and gbegiri soup in a food-eating contest. When was the last time he had looked at me like that? It was flattering. And puzzling. Even when we had sex, it was mostly like, hey, we’re in bed, your body is touching my body, and it has been almost a week, eight days, actually, bodi no be firewood o, a touch here, a brush there, a capitulation somewhere, a warming of the body like a reluctant engine, a . . .aa . . . aaaahhhhh, sorted, cross it off the list of Things to Do. Besides when sex has cheated me by its failure to fuse together spermatozoa and ovum, then I think it’s overrated. You’re likely tsking in disapproval, but in real life when there are loads to do, some things suffer. I’m sure you can relate, for all your eye-rolling. Anyway, we’d been getting by somewhat . . . until now.

Seeing the expression on my face, Tonye’s lips lengthened in a smile. Was that a dimple? Admittedly not a deep one, but really? I’d been married to this man for a little over four years and I’d never noticed? Strange.

“Come on, Favour.” Voice husky, he pushed me against the sink, and I felt him. He was battering ram ready to go. “You no dey feel am?”

Oh yes, I was feeling him. I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, we had heated things up in the kitchen of all places. It was exciting. And a little out of character for the proper, button up, handkerchief wielding man I married. Who had he been talking to? An uncomfortable thought crossed my mind: had he been introduced into it practically? Was it that chick with long braids in his office, the one who wore eye makeup like a celebrity, who—

Tonye cocked his head. “You’re thinking too hard, darling. It’s just me and you, no one else.” Wait, how could he—but he was pulling me gently along, back to the bedroom, and like a lamb I followed, eagerly, answering the urgency between my thighs, promising to rethink things later.

The room smelled of sun-warmed sheets and fresh air and wild flowers, odd considering it had been locked up all night. But Tonye was raising the hem of my nightshirt, peeling if off my hips, my breasts, freeing my arms one by one from their confinement. And then he pushed me lightly so that my back hit the tousled sheets, my thighs falling apart to cradle him. In a minute I wasn’t even sure where I was. He licked me from neck to toe, covering all the dips and slopes, and all the warm, slippery places in between, so that I was panting like a beast for water, writhing like a sea animal as I begged him to enter me. I moaned, on and on, like I was coming down with malaria, until I came violently, grinding against him to prolong the sensation, broken words falling from my lips, words in Ijaw. It only occurred to me later that I never spoke my language. I could understand what people said, yes, but I was never comfortable speaking it as I had been laughed at too many times. Tonye held me in place, his eyes boring into mine, a willing witness to his pleasure, his fingers almost bruising in his passion. But I wound my legs around him, wanting him to experience everything, wanting to experience them with him, each tingle, nerve shock and judder. When he collapsed against me, he felt heavier than usual, smelled earthier. He was naked. When had he discarded his clothes? Did it matter? I closed my eyes, catching my breath. I could just turn into vapour, I felt so light.

“I never imagined it would be like that,” Tonye said, breath disjointed. It made me want him again. My eyes snapped open and I focused on the ceiling fan, noting absently that the blades needed dusting. This wasn’t me. I wasn’t the woman who had multiple orgasms, nor the one who sought them. I thought about the girl at the office again. The one whose perfume lingered in a room five minutes after she was gone. Who called me “ma” effusively, when I could swear that she wasn’t three years younger than me. Yes, I can see you’ve come across that kind of woman, the one who hides behind the guise of respect to make you feel like Methuselah’s wife. But no. I wouldn’t think like this. I didn’t have to like her, but I couldn’t jump to the conclusion that she or anyone else had anything to do with this.

I poked him in the side, playfully. “So, what did you imagine?”

He chuckled, rolling onto his back. Through the windows, the first fingers of dawn pushed against the curtains, lightening their multi-coloured geometric patterns. I decided to go with the moment. Smiling, I rolled onto him and tapped his chest. “I guess your imagination should come with an X ra . . .” I trailed off, staring at Tonye’s chest. It was bare. I know, you’re rolling your eyes and saying you got the message when I told you he was naked. No, what I mean is, it was bare. Of hair. Not a shrub to be found anywhere, not even a bristle.

You have to understand that was the major feature I had noticed when I met Tonye at the swimming pool of the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt over a decade ago. When one of my friends had said, “Kai. See that fine guy. Too bad a hairy chest puts me off”, like puppets we had all looked. The drops of water on Tonye’s chest had gleamed like gems amongst the hair as he hauled himself out of the pool, and that was when I had considered, seriously for the first time, if I found chest hair off putting. After a moment’s thought, I decided no. I’d had three boyfriends by then, with chest hair ranging from nada to just a smattering. Looking at Tonye that afternoon at the pool, and wanting him to know I was looking at him, I figured if he gave me a chance to trail my lips down that chest to other regions, I wouldn’t mind one bit.

“What . . .?” Now I wondered what happened. Had he shaved it? Why? I’d never complained. It was strange seeing the faint outline of his ribs and washboard stomach without their hairy covering. I raised my eyes to his. And instantly forgot the question. His eyes were a light, almost transparent grey. I think my mouth must have been hanging open.

“What happened to your eyes?” As I spoke, my heart left its languid position and began to kick about like it was warming up for a marathon.

Tonye let out a breath, those eyes stayed on me. He seemed to steel himself before saying evenly, “What do you think happened?”

And that was when I knew that this man, with whom I had just had torrential sex, the type your mother shouldn’t hear about, was not Tonye. For one loaded moment I stared at him, my heart setting off in a sprint instead as my chest began to heave. Then with a spryness that surprised even me, I scrambled off the bed, grabbing something to cover myself with, and ran for the door. I hadn’t even got a firm grip on the handle before he grabbed my arm.

“Favour . . .”

I faced him brazenly. “Get your hands off me!”

He raised his palms in surrender. Stepped back a pace. “Fine, but you’ll have to pay attention.”

“Attention to what?” I pushed aside the notion that he might be dangerous and strode to the wardrobe to throw it open. “What did you do with my husband?” Where was Tonye? We had gone to bed with no issues last night after a dinner of unripe plantain pottage, banal conversation, the NTA network news, a couple of mosquito bites. He had been sprawled in deep slumber this morning while I rose to clean up the kitchen and cooker and start breakfast. How hadn’t I noticed anything? Had this imposter stashed him somewhere, killed him? There had been no noise, no break in, nothing. How had he done it? What was going on? I was staring at suits, both mine and Tonye’s, dresses and trousers, shirts so well starched they could stand unaided, my mind racing over possibilities. And I had ridiculously turned my back on this man. Stupidly, even. But funny enough . . .

I whirled around, but he just sat perched on the edge of the bed in glorious nudity, waiting for me, watching with those eyes. “You can’t be afraid of me,” he said, with certainty, a statement on par with the fact of gravity.

And why was that? Not because he’d been on kissing terms only recently with my vajayjay. “Who are you?”

He seemed a little disappointed with me. “You have to ask?”

“You look just like . . .”

“Your husband? Well, yes. Except for one or two things that even translocation can’t solve.”


“You married a man as close to me in features that you could manage.”

I shook my head sharply. “Who are you?”

“You know.”

I felt like screaming, clobbering him, sinking to the floor and wailing. Meanwhile, unmindful of my present drama, outside our walls the neighbourhood stirred to life: water sloshed into jerry cans from the landlord’s borehole, the mai ruwas fetching them conversing in rapid-fire Hausa, calls of “Morning o”, a mother telling her child “Come on, do fast and go and baff”, the smell of akara bubbling in oil somewhere transported to my nostrils, the oniony peppery beans aroma flipping me for one second back to my childhood. I hated akara.

Yes, this man seemed familiar. I didn’t want to consider the possibility. But what other explanation was there? “I . . .”

“You’ve touched me in your dreams, loved me, opened up to me so completely that—”

“Stop.” Childishly I clapped my hands over my ears.

Those grey eyes gazed at me coolly until I dropped my arms. “Why? You don’t want to hear the truth? We’re soul mates, Favour. You and I. Our bond goes beyond what you see here.” He got up and covered the distance between us. I am ashamed to say that I couldn’t stop my gaze from dipping, briefly, to the impressive package below his waist. I know, I know. But my body was still aware of what his had done to it. And grateful.

From the near cynical twist of his lips he hadn’t missed my regard. He said, “Don’t fool yourself, Favour. What you and Tonye have is child’s play compared—”

Oh no, he would not tell me that the seven years with Tonye, three years dating, four of marriage, were nothing. Nor the countless references to faulty uteruses I’d endured from his mother, or the more subtle but no less hurtful hedging from his baby factory sister, the bending and bowing to keep them sweet, the near Siamese relationship I’d fostered with my menstrual cycle, the paranoia that he might have fathered a child around the corner somewhere as backup.

“Where is he?” I bit out.

“Oh, he’s fine,” thrown impatiently over his shoulder as he strode back to the bed. “He’s taking in the sights, having pleasant diversions.”

“What kind of pleasant diversions?”

He flicked me an inscrutable look. “Some girl with braids, I think. Apparently, he was convinced he’d met her twin somewhere. I saw an opportunity and took it.” He pulled on his shorts, Tonye’s shorts, and then looked back at me, stretching out a hand with a raised brow. Belatedly I realized the garment I was clutching over my breasts was his T-shirt. Ha. Tonye’s, really. I flung it at him, turned and slipped a peach coloured linen dress off a hanger and over my head, grabbed my all seasons black bag and made for the door.

“Let’s talk, Favour.” He sounded frustrated.

Well, so was I. “Talk about what? You can’t just . . . show up out of my dreams after doing God-knows-what to my husband and think I’ll thank you for it. It doesn’t make sense!”

And off I went in my post-coitus aura, teeth furry. I half expected him to be hot on my heels, but I drove out without incident. With a sense of unreality I waved at the hairdresser at the junction where I used to have my hair washed and set before I went natural. What did he want? Or had I dreamed it all? What was going to happen next? Something like panic was knocking against the sides of my head, bambambam, until I feared I would run out of the car and into the street, tearing my dress off hysterically. As I waited for the traffic lights to turn green, I took long deep breaths. Yemi would know what to do.

After calling in to the office (civil service, Ministry of Land and Survey, no biggie) and informing HR that I had a family emergency, father critically ill, I landed at my best friend’s house. Yemi stared at my feet through a face layered with apricot scrub and marvelled that I had left the house in bathroom slippers. I dropped my bag onto her tiled floor with a thwack and took the nearest seat. She was looking me over in amusement until I started my story.

By the time I was done, she was staring at me as if I had floated into her house with Daddy Showkey strapped to my back. I was exhausted, from the tale, my brain work. I leaned back against the throw pillows and focused on the Brazilian actors on her TV screen, the smell of curry permeating the house. Yemi was partial to stew made with bleached palm oil.

“Spirit husband?” She was leaning so far out of her seat that I was surprised she didn’t just slide off and land her butt on the floor.

I straightened. “Don’t call him that.”

Incubus, really, might be the more proper word. I had done enough research after being plagued with lust-filled dreams for as long as I could remember, vivid dreams of tangled limbs and bouts of sex that left me weakened when I awoke. Tradition interpreted them as proof that I was tied spiritually to a being who, angry at my real-life marriage, did all he could to impede the success of the marriage, and more importantly, conception. Now, somehow, he had channelled my husband’s body to get into my world, the real one.

“Isn’t that what he is? I thought you had undergone deliverance for this some time ago?”

Complete with prayer, dry fasting, the works. “I had.”

I didn’t want to voice what was on both our minds, that it evidently hadn’t worked. Or maybe it had worked for some other person. Which was a scary thought, that there could be two of them. But generally, that wasn’t how the gig operated.

“And you say you recognized him? I thought in most cases, they were faceless?”

“I don’t know, Yemi. But we’re not talking about most cases, we’re talking about me!”

“Of course, of course.”

“What do I do?”

“You take yourself off for deliverance, that’s what you do. Back to sender. This evil must go back to where it came from.”

I almost envied Yemi’s fervour. The very same Yemi who spent three nights a week attending weekly services at her church and the other nights of the week hanging out with her boyfriend. The very married one.

She was detaching chunks of Scripture, declaring them like assets and snapping her fingers repeatedly, “ . . . says evil shall not come near our dwelling place,” when she caught my gaze. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because it’s not a solution, Yemi. The situation don get bele now. Do I take this . . . person along for the deliverance? Will he come willingly? And if he does, will he vanish during the prayers? Will Tonye magically reappear?”

My friend’s face crumpled like she smelled something foul. “What is wrong with you, Favour? Is it for you to know how God does his things? Just believe the Word. Or don’t you want Tonye back?”

“Of course I do, but this is flesh and blood we’re talking about, something, someone concrete.”

She brushed my concerns off like a politician his campaign promises. “Nothing is impossible with—” The knock on the door cut her short. “That must be one of the girls coming to collect the key to open the shop. I’m coming.” Yemi heaved herself out of the seat and, flip flops flapping, made a detour to the dining table where she scooped up a ring of keys and made for the front door. She opened it and then stopped short. “Oh, it’s you. Good morning.” She had taken a couple of steps when something registered and she stopped in her tracks and spun back around. At that exact moment Tonye’s lookalike entered the room, a bemused look on his face.

I jumped up, my thoughts fragmenting on the floor. “That’s not Tonye,” I said at the same time Yemi screeched, “You!”

“Yes,” he said, holding out a hand. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m—”

“No! Don’t move.” Yemi held up an imperious palm, almost vibrating. “How did you get here?”

“I drove. Tonye’s car,” he added with an apologetic look at me.

Looking at him now, it was as if I was seeing him for the first time, as I noted things I had missed previously. The slightly shimmery quality of his skin, giving that look that most women would kill for. In this light and from this angle, his distinctive grey eyes looked almost colourless, like water, almost as fluid, making me shiver. Oddly, in a good way.

“But how did you find me?” I was unnerved to see him there, occupying space outside my house and thus, verifiable.

He smiled, that dimple showing up. “We’re connected here,” he tapped his temple. “I would find you anywhere. After all, if you had to spend the night, say, here, for instance, I could still meet you in your—”

“Why are you talking with him, Favour?” Yemi interrupted, eyes wild. She was evidently close to the edge. “I mean, why are you conversing with this demon?”

His eyes kindled as he turned back to her. “I am not a demon.”

His measured words had no effect whatsoever as Yemi bulldozed on, “The Bible SAYS. God has given us auTHORity. To trample on snakes and SCORpions. And nothing shall by any means . . .” Abruptly, she turned and ran inside, her backside quivering like fresh agidi.

“Your friend is rather intense, isn’t she,” he said, his mouth turned down in a scowl as he looked after her. “And apparently suffers from acne.”

I turned on him. “Why didn’t you just stay in the house?” How did I act with him around, in my space, with people thinking he was Tonye? How long would this go on for?

He spread his hands wide. “You gave me no choice. I tried calling your cell phone only to find you’d left it charging in the room. You didn’t say when you’d be back, and I didn’t want you to do anything stupid.” He took a few steps towards me and I stiffened. “Look, let’s go home and talk this over—”

Home?” I spat out the word. Where was that?

The thudding of Yemi’s steps heralded her return. She appeared, panting, opening a bottle in her hand. Coming right up to Tonye’s lookalike, she splashed something on him. It caught him on the chin and neck, dribbling down the white shirt he must have taken from the wardrobe.

“What the—” He stumbled back a few steps.

Anointing oil, I realized as Yemi shouted, “Blood of Jesus!”

“Blood of who?” He swiped at his face, hands coming away glistening.

I held my breath. Would this work? I didn’t know what to think. I was hoping, not hoping . . .

He looked back at Yemi, calm now, anger banked in his eyes. When she splashed the rest of the contents on him, repeating in a less horrific tone, “Blood of Jesus”, he didn’t even twitch. A tremble of fear threaded her words. I couldn’t blame her. What did you do when faced with something you didn’t understand?

He spoke slowly, as if to an infant. “No. That’s not his blood. Just some cheap stuff that isn’t even quite olive oil. You should invest in the real thing.”

With an inarticulate sound, Yemi took off inside again and he looked at me with a clear expression of, Can you believe this woman?

He was attempting to clean his face with some tissues from my bag when Yemi came back. With an omorogun. A massive one. She lunged at him with it as I stared in disbelief. Luckily he leapt out of her reach just in time, rounding the sofa to put space between them as he said, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Go back to where you came from! Evil.” She was prancing from side to side like an out-of-shape Mayweather, breasts unfettered, patches of sweat at her armpits in spite of the ceiling fans on high.

“If I am evil, what’s stopping me from squeezing the juice out of your hydroquinoned neck?” he snarled.

Jolted from my immobility I dashed over as Yemi started swinging the utensil again. Although from that distance it was unlikely to connect, I grabbed the neck of her nightgown and yanked her back. Off balance, she fought to regain her footing, arms flailing, still managing to hang onto the omorogun which nearly clobbered my chest. I jumped out of the way but the tip still glanced off my elbow, jarring my funny bone and setting my teeth on edge.

The pain nudged me over the edge. “What is wrong with you? Are you trying to wound somebody?”

“Ehn?” Yemi stared at me, nonplussed. “Me? Yes, Favour, I want to wound somebody. In fact, I want to kill him. Instead of you to join me, you’re there talking. Move, jo!”

“Are you out of your mind? And then what will happen to Tonye’s body? Oh, you haven’t thought of that, have you? Are you thinking at all?”

Yemi looked at us, from one to the other, an amazement dawning on her face. “So that’s how it is now, ehn? He has initiated you, to the extent that you’re insulting me. Abeg, abeg, abeg, take your sex demon lover out of here and solve your matter.”

“Yemi, it’s not like that. I need you to calm—”

“Ehn-ehn o. Just take yourself and this . . . thing out of my house. I get plenty other things wey dey worry me sef.”

We left, he tailing me in Tonye’s car all the way home. When we arrived, I boiled water for some tea, sliced thick slices of bread, chopped onions, sausages and peppers for eggs. He refused tea in favour of a can of Heineken and we ate in silence until he said, “You stood up for me.” Something like awe in his voice so that I almost felt like crying.

I met his gaze unflinchingly. “No, Tonye’s body, remember? I don’t want anything to happen to it.”

“Oh. Right.”

Feeling a twinge of guilt, angry with myself for the feeling, I set my mug down with a thump. “Okay, you keep saying we should talk. Let’s talk.”

He wasted no time. “You and I can have something better than what you think you have with Tonye. We’re meant to be together. We can have children.”

I narrowed my eyes. “So you’re the reason Tonye and I can’t have kids? You’ve locked up my womb?”

He looked startled. “No. How could I do that? Don’t believe everything you hear, Favour.”

“So how come we’ve been trying to conceive since we got married and nothing? We’ve been checked out and there’s nothing physically wrong with us.”

“Look, some people just aren’t meant to have children. And some couples . . . well, their vibes are all wrong for conception . . . together. But with other partners . . .”

Oh, that sounded like bullcrap on ice. After all the copulations? Backwards, forwards, legs dangling and all the other Kama Sutra type convolutions? I laughed. Slapped the top of the table, laughed some more. He began to look worried so with some effort I managed to curb it.

“Vibes,” I parroted. “Doesn’t sound scientific. In fact what you just said doesn’t even sound logical.”

He shrugged, tracing his finger around the rim of his glass. “Not everything is.”

I wanted to spear his know-all attitude against the wall. “And you’re from . . .”


I couldn’t help it, off I went again until he interjected with some heat, “What’s so funny?”

I sobered in degrees, peering at him. “You’re serious?” When he didn’t reply, just kept looking at me, jaw tight, I raised my eyebrows. “You’re something from dreams. You can’t expect me to take you seriously.”

“Why not? Dreams are real.”

“Yeah, while one is dreaming.”

“The fact that you aren’t experiencing something at the moment doesn’t mean it has ceased to exist. Dreams are as real as what we’re doing now,” he gestured to the table with the plates dotted with bits of leftover eggs and toast.

I rubbed my face with a weary hand, an oily face free of makeup. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been sans war paint at ten in the morning. “So, what do you want from me?”

“I just told you, Favour. I’m tired of this dream relationship, I want something a little more permanent. Why do you keep going over and over—?”

“Because it doesn’t make sense! What’s going to happen? Do I just fade out of my normal existence into . . . what did you call it . . . Slumberia? Leave job, family, friends, and just cease to exist?”

“Of course not. Nothing exists in a vacuum. I mean, you can’t just leave your body forever. That’s death. Something can be worked out.”

With Tonye’s body, was the unspoken understanding. “And my husband? You’ve conveniently not mentioned him.”

His mouth tightened. “He will be compensated.”

“Compensated?” I snorted. “How arrogant of you to think you have all the answers.”

“I don’t. But did you stop to think why I showed up now?”

“You said you saw an opportunity and took it.”

“Well, yes, things were coming to a head. Your marriage is becoming more sterile by the day and you don’t even see it.”

I stood. “Don’t assume you know everything about my marriage. And it’s mine, thank you very much. We aren’t married, are we? In the spirit or anywhere else?” I jerked a finger in the air between his chest and mine.

“No.” As if under duress. “What we have goes beyond a piece of paper. It’s a—”

“Yeah, yeah. You told me. We’re soul mates.”

He pushed back his chair with a scraping sound and faced me nose to nose. “Why are you so stubborn?”

“Because I want things in my life back to normal, my normal.”

He was silent for a moment, before letting out a sigh. “You’re afraid of change.”

“I’m afraid . . .” of you, I wanted to say, but couldn’t. I was more afraid of this connection that seemed to be proving itself by the minute. I nodded. “Yes, of change. I don’t want it.”

“What do you want?” He held up a hand as I was about to rattle off a response. “Think about it. Because that is what you will get.”

I thought for all of five seconds. “I want my husband back.” I didn’t need an upheaval in my life.

He closed his eyes. I refused to regret the words that had fallen from my lips. Where did he come off, waltzing into Yenagoa, my life, telling me about this so-called connection? Belatedly I saw his eyes were open and fixed on me. “So be it.” I swallowed. Favour, Favour, quite contrary. Somehow I had hoped he would attempt to sway me.

So back to where it all began. We lay on the unmade bed, side by side, not touching. I was literally keeping my arms loose by sheer will power. Somehow I could sense he was having the same problem. Memories of our copulation this morning were redolent in the room like a live stream. I swear I could hear the brush of flesh on flesh, the slick of sweat on sweat, the slap of—

He turned towards me, the desire in his gaze a fiery thing I could grab by the tail and pull


“Favour, can I . . . I mean, can we . . .?”

I didn’t wait for him to finish. I know you must be shaking your head, calling me a badt girl. But really, what would you have done in my position? I launched myself at him, the meeting of our lips a fevered compulsion. I wanted to make it last, but it seemed with us there was none of that. Or I guess I would never know. When we were through, I flung an arm over his hairless chest as our breaths slowed in tandem. As I began to drift off to sleep, I suddenly remembered, “You never did tell me your name.”

“Tony.” I kept my eyes on his for a moment, feeling a pinprick of something I didn’t want to admit was regret. I shut them, willing myself to sleep, get this over with.

“Goodbye, Tony.”

When I awoke, the sun was high in the sky and although the windows were open I was drenched in sweat. NEPA had done its thing. Annoyed, I rolled over to find the space beside me empty. The clothes that should have been strewn about the room were nowhere in sight. Probably in the hamper. A good sign. Sitting up, I padded to the drawers and selected a sleeveless cotton top and shorts and combed fingers through my mussed hair as I made my way to the living room with some trepidation. It was empty but the front door was wide open, the early afternoon sunlight dappling the tiles. Tonye was leaning his elbows against the railing, staring out at what passed for a front yard. In jeans and singlet, a can of Heineken in one hand, he looked like a kid whose bike had been stolen.


He started, glanced back. Yep, it was him. The darkest brown eyes, hair peeking over the top of his singlet. This was what I had chosen.

“Hi,” he said. He smelled of Irish Spring and Sure deodorant.

I glanced at the beer. “Isn’t it a little early for that?” Just to be sure.

He gave me a sidelong look. “I’ve been known to have them earlier.” His answer didn’t quite set my heart at ease, but I joined him, mirroring his pose as he added, accusingly, “Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I tried, but . . .” I shrugged. “At a point I thought you were ill.”

Tonye shook his head. “I’ve never slept like that before. I mean, missed work? Crazy.”

“Must have been the sweetest of dreams,” I said, watching him carefully. He avoided my gaze, the broad red petals of the hibiscus flowers some feet away suddenly captivating. Interesting. He mumbled something I didn’t catch, but I didn’t pursue it. I suspected that, yes indeed, my dear husband had been pleasantly diverted for the duration. Considering what I’d been up to, how could I mind? Clearing his throat he asked how come I was home from work too.

“Family emergency.”

He straightened. “What?”

I laughed. “Nah, relax. I played hooky.”

“Interesting.” Tonye looked hard at me, and it was my turn to avoid his gaze. Was he remembering that the clothes he must have picked up and put away shouldn’t have been there at all?

“You must be hungry,” I said quickly.

“A little.”

“There’s yam. Do you want it boiled or fried?” There was some ogbono soup left, though. “Or gari?”

“Give me gari, abeg.” As I turned to go inside, Tonye said, “Oh, I almost forgot. Your office people sent someone to meet you, but your number wasn’t going through, so he came here. I didn’t quite get what he was going on about.”

Yikes. Had I mentioned a stroke somewhere? “I might have gone overboard with the whole family emergency thing. I didn’t know they cared that much.” Thank my ancestors I’d been nowhere in sight.

“Yeah, it was a guy called Tony. He said he was transferred from the headquarters in Abuja a few days ago or something.”

Ehn? My feet stuck to the floor and refused to progress. The casualness I feigned constricted my chest with the effort.

“Oh . . . yeah. He wears glasses?” Say yes say yes say yes—

“No glasses. Kind of short, stocky.”

My breath began its free, albeit, cautious flow again.

“Oh, okay. Guess I haven’t met him yet.”

• • •