Kehinde swaggered into my sitting room clutching a medium sized orange bag and said, “Ha! Tinuke I told you my tailor is superb.” Slowly she unzipped the bag and swiftly brought out the Indian lace which unfolded to my view. “This is the latest material I told you about, my tailor has performed wonders on it.”
I smiled and took the glittering cloth from her, turning to different directions and nodding in satisfaction like an agama lizard that just finished a meal. “This cloth is really beautiful, Kehinde, and I like the austere style.”
“Oh let me wear it so you will see the fitting.” She grabbed the cloth from my hands and began to strip till she was in her underwear. She quickly wore the clothes and turning in angle one hundred and eighty degrees, she asked, “So how do you see it?”
“You look heavenly,” I said.
“Thank God for my husband. Do you know he gave me two hundred thousand for this material?” She puffed up her nose and pouted slightly.
“Oh your husband is really spoiling you silly… You are indeed lucky to have such a man,” I said. I knew she would like it. She always loved to bask in the euphoria of compliments. Then her next word threw me off balance.
“Tell your husband to give you the money let me take you to where we can get you this beautiful lace.”
I masked the displeasure I had on my face with a smile. We had just paid our Ola’s school fees and we had other pending priorities to take care of. “Maybe when he is buoyant enough I will tell him,” I said.
“Hmmm.” She sneered. “That’s why I like my David, he always budgets my needs and excesses despite taking care of his responsibilities,” she concluded with a hint of pride and mockery.
After Kehinde left I sat on the couch beside me thinking how lucky she was to have such a husband who adored her. She had been my neighbor for the past one year and she didn’t hesitate to flaunt David’s generosity. One thing with her numerous visits to my flat was that she irked me with the feeling of being the underappreciated wife and infused a sadness in me. She would always flaunt the Birkin bag or Louboutin shoe David had bought for her. She had that pompous, larger-than-life attitude of the woman living the life others could only dream of. One day I was bemoaning my unfortunate self when my phone rang. It was my husband, Tunde. I let it ring for the second time before I picked.
“Hello, baby,” he said with excitement. “What are you making for dinner? Guess what? I just got a raise, can you prepare something delicious for us tonight?” He paused. “Are you there, baby?”
“Yes, I’m here,” I said less impressed and angry.
“But you sound unexcited and distant, what is the matter?”
“When was the last time you increased my monthly allowance, ehh? So does it mean you will increase my monthly allowance now that you have gotten a raise or appreciate me as a wife?”
“Baby, what is the problem?” he asked.
“Please, Tunde,” I said, already irritated. “I have a slight headache. I’ll see you when you come home,” and I ended the call almost crying, thinking of how Kehinde’s husband would have gotten her beautiful gifts to celebrate a raise. I was utterly frustrated at his seeming nonchalance about my happiness.
That night when he came back from work looking stressed and utterly disappointed in me I couldn’t have cared less. I had earlier on fed Ola to satisfaction and made sure I emptied every content of the pot.
“Baby, please serve me my dinner, I’m really hungry,” he said as he removed his clothes while I watched the whole time, seething.
“You will have to take tea and bread or cornflakes, I wasn’t able to make dinner because my head hurts so much.” I laid a hand on my head, sighing.
“It’s okay, I’ll fix something for myself,” he murmured. I knew he thought I was being mischievous but Tunde was such a nice man. He later entered the room and handed me something wrapped in a small box. I unwrapped it and opened the box. It was a gold necklace.
Then he said, “Baby, please, I will increase your allowance but let us finish our project.”
“So because we have a project then my needs will not be met?” I retorted, not minding he’d just gifted me a necklace that must have cost a fortune. He ignored me.
That night we didn’t speak much and I went to bed more frustrated than I had been.
I was in the market when my phone rang days later. It was Kehinde.
“Girl, guess what?” She sounded so excited.
I wiped off the sweat on my forehead with the back of my hand. The sun was already dealing with me. “What?”
“My David just got me a new Highlander, 2019 model, can you believe it?” she screamed.
“Oh congratulations, dear, it calls for a celebra—” Before I could finish my sentence she’d already hung up. I was happy for her but sad at my bland life. I continued with my purchase of soup ingredients. The sky was already pregnant when I was done and I rushed to my old 2009 Toyota Corolla and drove home. As I drove into the compound I saw Kehinde and some of her friends having a get-together close to her new car. I made to sneak into my flat but she saw me.
“Tinuke, come and have your champagne and pizza. My David said we should celebrate.”
l stopped in my tracks. “Okay, dear, I’m so happy for you but first let me go inside and drop my bag.”
“Alright, make it snappy,” she said.
I entered the house feeling drowsy. Kehinde’s husband had gotten her a 2018 Toyota Tacoma last year now he’d gifted her another car and I was still struggling with the old rickety car I’d been driving since ten years ago.
“Tinuke darling,” Kehinde called. “We’re waiting for you.”
“Coming,” I replied and quickly took the bags to the kitchen, dropped them on the counter and rushed out to celebrate with my friend. She let me open the car and admire the beautiful interior. We ate roasted chicken and pizza and drank champagne.
“My David has sworn to spoil me,” she said, “indeed he’s living up to his promise.”
That night when my husband came back from work I barely spoke to him; all he did to get my attention was futile. I drifted to an unhappy woman and my marriage became strained. Tunde tried talking to me but I returned his efforts with scorn. Soon we drifted apart as I cared less and less about him and his work. Each time I ran into Kehinde it was either David had planned a vacation for them or gotten her one gift or the other, reminding me how stale my life was.
Three weeks later on a Monday morning after my husband had gone to work, I heard a noise coming from Kehinde’s flat. People were arguing and quarrelling. From the rants I heard a woman shouting, “How can you owe me two hundred thousand for six months? Do you want to spoil my business, eh? You know you don’t have money yet you want to buy everything in my shop.”
Fifteen minutes later the angry woman stormed out of her house shouting and cursing with Kehinde tagging behind pleading, “Please, I will pay you.”
The woman took most of her valuables leaving her with a parting word of, “If I don’t get my money by tomorrow I will call the police.”
On seeing me Kehinde dashed into her house without a word. What is happening, I thought, Kehinde doesn’t look like one who would run into debt.
I dressed up and left for the salon. There I met Kehinde’s friend who was narrating how Kehinde’s husband had lost his job a year ago and how they were neck-deep in debt. It was there I understood that the cars were sent by his brother who was in America for sale. After I went home that day, I entered the kitchen and prepared rice with shredded chicken sauce, put it in a flask and drove to my husband’s office to surprise him with lunch. As I drove to my Tunde’s office I wondered how I hadn’t seen the blurred lines in Kehinde’s life. I pushed the thoughts from my mind and started taking mental notes on what to cook for my darling Tunde for dinner.