Sound from the television was decibels high.
Doorbell rang. The door would yawn open on the fifth ring.
“Hey, Honey,” he drawled, suppressing the yawn. His. She turned in the doorway to look towards the wall clock. “Work,” he excused, promptly.
“Does your call not end at 4 pm on days like this?”
“Had cause to stay longer than usual, Babe.”
“And you couldn’t call?”
“Phone ran out of juice.”
“And your power bank got stolen too?”
“No. Didn’t take it along in the morning. Forgot to.”
“I see. The landlines of the entire hospital are out of service too?”
“Honey, it didn’t occur to me until it was time to leave.”
“And whatever happened to lunch break?”
“See, I was super-occupied throughout work hours today that I had to skip my break.”
“No call center around on your way home either?”
“C’mon Dear, there was no need for that as I was on my way home already when…”
“–What time was that?”
“6:20 pm. Listen, there’s more–”
“6 pm till now?” she asked, tapping the imaginary watch on her empty wrist. “Since when did work and home belong on different time zones that you needed that many hours to arrive home?”
“Will you just listen?”
“What else is there to listen to, eh? If it took you over three hours for a 20-min drive then you must have been somewhere else on your way here.”
“Finally!” throwing up both hands in the air, “she catches a speck of sense from what I’ve been trying to say.”
“What sense is there? It’s a no-brainer. Unless you are hiding something.”
“Goodness! If you will neither hear me out nor quit cutting me off midsentence, at least you should acknowledge it’s been a long, tiring day for me, and I need some rest not some doorway interrogation at the threshold of my own house.”
He walked past the fuming woman.
“And what’s that…smudge on your collar?” she resumed. She muted the television.
“What smudge again?”
“Hold on a sec…Dapo, is that lipstick stain?”
He’s as surprised as she was.
“Trust me I never knew that was there.”
“And what if you freaking knew?” she yelled, clapping in his face. “You’d have covered your tracks better?”
“Tracks? C’mon, don’t play silly on me. It must have been on my way home–”
“Hell yeah, it must! Or you’ve graduated to doing it right in your office?”
“Would you stop that? Why would you even think, much less say, something like that…”
“One of your clients? Some nurse? Oh I see, it’s that shapely secretary of yours who–”
“Damn it, Rita! What has come over you?”
“It’s the best explanation that comes to mind, unless you have a better one.”
“How can you think correctly when you always talk and hardly listen?”
“That’s so not the explanation I seek at the moment,” she replied, waving a finger in his face.
“I was telling you that on my way home, an emergency came up…”
Her fixed gaze on his collar told him she was anything but convinced.
“and this…smudge must have been when I had to give mouth-to-mouth to the little girl…”
“Little girl? Ah, my God!”
“Oh, c’mon. Don’t tell me you are thinking—”
“Don’t you…” tearily, clutching a fistful of his shirt, “…or I swear,” touching the floor with index finger, then the tip of her tongue before tossing it skywards, “the whole neighborhood will pay us an impromptu visit tonight if you don’t shut that filthy mouth.”
“You are not making any effort to even process what I’m telling, are you?”
“You know,” a torrent cascading down her face now, “an affair is the worst of my nightmares…”
“Jeez. And have you ever caught me in such?”
“…but the last thing I imagined was to have a pedophile for a…”
“Oh, that’s it. I’m done here. I need some fresh air.” He headed upstairs to freshen up first. She yelled after him, calling him names. Yes, all the ones he didn’t bear.
She would return to the settee and cry herself silly.
* * *
Wall clock sang its tune, jolting her awake. How long has it been? Fifteen minutes, the clock told. The TV was still on. Still stretching, she saw something on its screen. She reached for the remote.
Breaking News at 10: In what could have been an avoidable loss of precious life, a good-natured consultant cardiologist, Dr. Dapo Philips deployed his professional expertise to revive seventeen-year-old Justina Ekeng. Upon regaining consciousness, she was taken to the nearest hospital. Dr. Philips who declined coverage left the scene soon enough. Nonetheless, the community commends and is grateful to him.
Still on Breaking News, a group of …
As Rita reduced the volume of the television, she noticed a shadow beside the couch. His. Eyes tearier and fists clutching a throw cushion this time, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry”, she blubbered from tremulous lips.
Dapo exhaled slowly, and made for the balcony.
He still needed the fresh air.
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