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Pariah

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Sidikat, eyes misted, folded Moyo into her embrace. “I’m not leading you astray. All I want is your happiness.”

Silence settled between them.

“How do I get another man to agree to this?” Moyo asked in a low tone as if there were cameras in the room. “How would I persuade him to keep quiet?” What she was ashamed to say was, How could I get a strange man to sleep with me?

“We can use the mechanic boy.”

Moyo pulled away from her, glaring at her. “Taju? The dirty mechanic? Never!” She picked up her bag and stomped toward the door.

Sidikat followed her and said evenly. “He is the only person I can think of. He should be easy to persuade.”

Moyo slammed the door in her face. ***

Moyo knocked on the door numbered ‘64’. When it opened, Sidikat’s expectant face met hers. Moyo shuffled past her, then plopped down on the queen-size bed, rubbing her brow as if to ward off a headache.

“How did it go?” Sidikat closed the door and then went to stand in front of Moyo. She crossed her arms and looked down at her friend. “Are you okay? What about Taju?”

Moyo gagged as if she wanted to vomit.

Sidikat unfolded her arms. “So quickly? That’s a sure sign of pregnancy.”

“Stop it!” Moyo huffed. “Had someone told me three months ago that I’d undress for him, I’d have called her a bitch.”

It had taken four weeks for Moyo to accept sleeping with another man; now she wished it hadn’t happened. She loathed Sidikat for prevailing over her to accept that Taju would have to be the one—the only one Sidikat said they could easily buy over.

“I’m not a bitch, am I?” Sidikat asked in earnest.

“He stinks,” Moyo scoffed.

Sidikat wrinkled her nose. “You should have told him to shower first.”

Moyo forced saliva down her throat.

When Taju had come into Room 19 of the Meridian Hotel some minutes ago, Moyo had told him to go into the bathroom. The hotel was some twenty-five minutes’ drive from Moyo’s house, almost on the outskirts of the north of Ibadan, and they chose it to forestall the possibility of meeting people who knew them.

“I bathe for home, dear,” Taju said, moving toward her with his arms outstretched.

She held up a hand. “Who is your ‘dear’? Go in there and bathe!” she jeered.

As Taju lay with her, Moyo closed her eyes and tilted her head to the side. The moment he released into her, she pushed him away, then scampered to the bathroom as though the feel of his touch and the smell of his sex were a contamination she must quickly wash from her body.

Now Moyo breathed against a pillow. “It was terrible!”

“That doesn’t matter. You didn’t have him for pleasure; you had him for procreation,” Sidikat said, then picked up her bag. “It’s nine-thirty.” She crossed to the window. A gibbous moon hung in the sky like a lonely loquat on a tree. She saw Taju shamble to the bus stop. Turning from the window, she said, “Let’s go.”

Moyo sat there, letting guilt sink its talons deeper into her heart. Her husband, somewhere chairing Etomo’s nightclub cabinet, wouldn’t return home until midnight.

***

Moyo opened the passenger door of the Cherokee. She got in next to Sidikat, who was slouched behind the wheel eating roasted corn in the parking lot of the University College Hospital.

“It’s positive. I’m five weeks pregnant,” she announced.

Sidikat slid upright and took the test result from her. “This is great news! My choice of Taju has been justified.”

“But how do I tell Oloye?”

Sidikat turned over the ignition. “I don’t live with him; you do. You should know how to speak to your own husband.”

To be continued next week

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