The first thing Demi noticed was that he needed a shave, badly. The stubble on his chin could not be less than three days old.
He stood in line with the others in the banking hall, a rucksack slung over his shoulder. Like any other customer, he looked impatient, almost angry. The line was moving very slowly and intermittently, her eyes just went back to him. He was clean, and neat, and extremely handsome by her standards. Thirtyish, strong jaw covered with stubble, penetrating eyes and a rich cream complexion complimented what could not be less than a six-foot stature.
That was the first time.
Demi had worked in the banking system for more than eight years. She was fulfilled in her career; had a small apartment, and enough comfort for a single lady. She wasn’t a very social person but had a small circle of friends. Men and women alike had told her she was beautiful too. A dark and lovely, average height and well-endowed woman, with a beautiful smile further enhanced by white, even teeth and a set of dimples on a heart-shaped face.
The second time she saw him, he was at an eatery. Two days earlier, she’d seen him at the bank and noticed the rough face. She was picking up a birthday cake for her colleague when he walked in. He still had the rucksack, and now, probably five days stubble on his face. He ordered a plate of food and promptly went to a seat to gobble it down.
That was the second time.
The third time, Demi could not resist it. Or him. On her way from work, three days after the first time, he stood at the junction to her house. He hadn’t changed, and looked even worse.
She had never done it before but she found herself parking right in front of him. She couldn’t remember the conversation, but within a few minutes, he was in her small Nissan, and heading to her house.
She discovered he was new in town. In fact, the first day she saw him was his first day. He was a contractor who had come in to execute a job and had not yet been able to settle fully. His roaming around was basically to search for workers for his contract.
Demi liked him and they spoke at length. She gave him names and contacts of people who could be of help. He spoke like a knowledgeable person, though his greatest challenge in town was language. Even the Nigerian lingua franca, pidgin, eluded many in the remote town of Owena.
His name was Idem, from South-South. He was about one thousand kilometres away from home. Demi made him her friend.
And then her lover.
Their relationship didn’t jump out of a fairy tale book. It took time. Initially, she was just a friend. She helped him settle into the contract he’d come to execute; a storey building village house for a man who worked in the federal civil service back in Idem’s home state of Akwa Ibom. Gradually, she became his family in Owena.
Demi, a native of the land, a career-woman in her early thirties, ripe for marriage, found her match in Idem. He was in his late thirties, and never been married. She fell head-on in love with him. She was thrilled their names even sounded similar and Idem was just as excited about her.
They had been together for only three months when Idem popped the question. Demi accepted his proposal immediately.
Since his family was far away, only his junior brother was able to attend the wedding ceremony. They did a parlour traditional marriage and then had a registry wedding and a thanksgiving service in church. Hence, Idem moved in with his wife.
Their plan was to move back to Uyo together when the contract was over which was, according to the project lifespan, another three months away. Demi decided to apply for a transfer; luckily, her bank had a branch in Uyo.
Demi’s father had worked in the South-South region before and knew the people were warm and accepting. He was totally supportive. Her mother however was sceptical. With a mother’s natural intuition, she advised her daughter to visit the family before moving to a land she had never visited before.
Initially, Idem and Demi waved any problems off but with her mother’s persistence, they decided to travel home together, two months after their marriage. Though the project was almost completed and Demi’s application for transfer was being processed, and she was already pregnant with her first child, they took the long journey home, to Akwa Ibom state.
The journey was long, tiring but smooth. They entered Uyo late at night and Idem opted for them to spend the night in a hotel because the city was not safe at night. So they lodged in a hotel on the outskirts of town.
The following morning, when Demi woke up, she was alone. She called her husband’s number, and he told her he’d gone to bring his car to pick her up. But he didn’t show up till late in the afternoon.
Demi was very upset but he was apologetic. He looked genuinely sorry, and she had to forgive him.
The drive to his house was not unusually long as she’d expected. He lived on a small street off Oron road. The house was a bungalow inside a compound with other bungalows, like a mini estate. She knew he wasn’t a very rich man, and he’d told her of his financial estate, which was average, and she was acceptable of.
Three children ran out of his house to greet him. He scowled at them to get back in the house. Demi thought they were children of the neighbours. When she entered the house, a fair-skinned, plump woman sat in the parlour, as though, waiting for the new arrivals. She was young and beautiful, though in a motherly way. The three children, aged between eight and four, hung around her, in some kind of anticipation.
She sprang to her feet as they entered the house and faced them, arms akimbo.
Idem dropped her travelling bag on the floor and turned to her. “This is Offiong. She’s my first wife.”
Demi’s mouth dropped open. He did not wait to get her reply. He walked into the house, leaving her and the woman alone!