The knocking on the door was persistent; Kalu was not going to go away. Chinedu dragged himself off the armchair which had been his bed for the last three days and opened the door.
"My God! What is this stench? How long have you been holed up in here?"
Kalu looked around the hotel room in disgust, he opened the window and looked for a place to seat where his new Armani suit would not be soiled, he found a clean space at the edge of the bed. Everywhere else was cluttered with empty wine bottles.
"I don’t know why you are punishing yourself like this, Chinedu. You knew this would happen one day"
Chinedu ignored his friend and took a long swap from the vodka bottle on the floor beside him.
"When was the last time you saw Oby? Now you are sitting here...honestly, you are something else"
"I do not care. I do not care. That’s what I said...I do not care"
"What is the problem? I do not understand you. How long did you thing she would wait?"
"Fuck you! Fuck you..you have never wished me well...never". Chinedu had somehow slipped from the armchair to the floor.
"If you destroy my suit today, you will pay for it"
Kalu took off his suit and began cleaning the room. He gathered the empty bottles and put them in the bin and picked up the bits of food littered all over the floor. Next, he went to the bathroom and filled the bathtub with water.
"Do you know Anita is looking for you everywhere? Of course you don’t. Selfish bastard. Anita is a good girl, she does not deserve this"
"Anita...she is so lovely...lovely girl..."
"Yes, she is a lovely girl, you are lucky to have her and she does not deserve to be treated like this"
"Anita…is lovely...but she is not Oby"
Kalu looked at his friend. They had grown up together. Their parents had been neighbors and co-workers and the two boys had ended up in the same schools since nursery school. He could not remember a time when Chinedu was not in his life. Even now, with different careers and lifestyles, him a successful banker and Chinedu a writer, they still met each other on a weekly basis. The story of Oby and Chinedu. He had been there at the very beginning. He still remembered the day Oby came into their lives. His aunty had come from church with her. A friend’s daughter she had explained, staying over for the mid-term holidays because Owerri was too far to travel for only a two day break. The boys had sat fascinated for two hours starring at her long hair. They had never seen any girl with such long hair. She had caught them starring and to their surprise, she stuck her tongue out at them. He had thought her childish but Chinedu...Chinedu talked about her for two weeks straight, with his sharp memory, he had recounted every single detail of the young girl. That was when they were both 13. Now, they were 33.
For 15 years he had watched his friends make up and break up, and then, five years ago, on that faithful night, when he and Chindedu had been playing snooker, Chinedu had wanted to teach her a lesson. He had warned him, Oby was no longer a girl, she was now a woman demanding respect. Chinedu had laughed it off, she would wait only for ten minutes he had said, and then she would figure out that he was not coming. Oby had waited for five hours and the next day, she was out of their lives. They thought she would come back...she never did. Five years went by and they did not hear a word from her until last week, when his sister had brought the newspaper.
"Chinedu, come, take a bath, you will feel better. Let’s go to my place, we can play a game of pool, come now"
"What should I do? I have to do something...I have to"
"No, you do not have to do anything. If you wanted to, you would have done it years ago"
"Please, help me Kalu...help me"
"It’s too late, Chinedu. Just take a bath, I’ll order something to eat"
Rachel walked back in the room hurriedly, she did not think it wise waking Oby so early but Mama had insisted, she had said it was very important.
"Oby, Mama is here, she wants to talk", she shook Obiageli awake.
"Rachel, its five in the morning, what does she want?"
"Only God Knows"
Obiageli put on her dressing gown; she tied the band properly and washed her face with cold water. She peeped through the key hole of her room, and there, in the living room, she could see Mama Frank, already in her traditional wear. She opened the door and walked in the room.
"Good morning mama. I see you are already dressed"
"Yes my daughter, sit down"
Mama's looked at Obiageli's face as if searching for an answer.
"I lived my whole life with a man I did not love. For more than 30 years, I felt like a thief in his house. Every time he made love to me, I felt that way. I am tired now and too old for regrets...that is all I came to tell you. The feeling of being a thief in your own house...a horrible feeling"
Oby was surprised at Mama, the woman was speaking in parables and she did not like it. However, she had no other choice but to say that which was expected of her.
Mama shook her head. She stood up and walked out of the room, her tiny beaded sandals making little clicking sounds as she went. She was hardly out of the room before the door opposite flew open and Rachel and Ada burst in laughing.
"What was that all about? And you self, "yes mama", abeg, it was too funny!"
Obiageli did not respond to the teasing of her friends, she sat silent and in less than three seconds the room became tense.
"No, no, you cannot do this now", Rachel looked at her friend earnestly "Oby, did you hear me? Forget about the old bat, you cannot do this now"
"What is it? Let the girl reflect if she wants to, Oby, think all you want jare" replied Ada who was fed up with Rachel’s controlling attitude.
Rachel looked across the room at her friend of more than twenty five years. She knew Oby like she knew herself, and the last thing they needed today was a reminder of Chinedu.
"I don’t know anything anymore" said Oby, sitting heavily on the bed.
"We don’t have time for this, not now"
"Who is the "we"? Ada walked over to Obiageli. "Think all you want dear, you have time"
Rachel looked at Ada, she would tell her later what she really thought of her, but for now, her job was to take care of Oby. She understood Oby better than herself and she was sure Chinedu was no good for her. She had been there through it all; she had been the one that picked up the pieces every time Chinedu struck. This time, she was not going to let her friend fall again.
"Did anybody phone?" asked Oby, looking up expectantly at Rachel.
"Nobody. Go and have a shower dear, we might as well start getting ready since we are up"
Obiageli looked at her dress. It was beautiful. She could feel Rachel’s eyes on her; she smiled at her and hoped it was enough to convince her friend that she was happy. She still couldn’t believe it was not Chinedu she was getting married to.
Chinedu took the phone from his friend and said what he had to: "I am sorry sweetheart, you know how it is when I am in the zone, I need my space, I am so sorry, I promise I’ll make it up to you. How are the kids?"