Two women are hauled together by their husbands’ partnership, but that’s not all they have in common.
Athena has been barren for five years. Her concern is further exasperated by an obnoxious mother-in-law who brings in another woman to help the process. To top it off, her husband is cheating on her. She must decide - follow her mother’s path or create hers.
Temitope, on the other hand, has been married to Olamide for ten years. Although she has two daughters, she desperately needs a male child to inherit her husband’s empire and secure her marriage. She is worried that a mistake she made in the past has cost her this chance and will do anything to ensure no other woman takes her place.
A pregnant mistress is about to change everything for these women.
Athena couldn’t quite disguise her eagerness to see Desmond, her high school crush. With smoky eyes like Kate Moss’, she spiralled down the stairs to meet him.
Desmond appraised her; she wore a cobalt-blue polo shirt by Abercrombie, ruffle mini-skirt paired with bright pink skate shoes. His expression moved from surprise to disgust to concern in less than a minute, but she was too excited to notice. “Wow, you’re all dressed up though!”
“I know right?” Athena grinned sheepishly.
He looked at her blankly.
“Well...I’m ready where are we going? You never said –”
“Sorry, I’m a bit lost here. Were we going somewhere?”
Athena was now the one wearing a blank stare, which gradually turned into a look of confusion.
“Well, if you dressed up for me, then you’ve wasted your time. I wasn’t asking for a date.”
“It was a dare, all right? A dare! I can’t go on a date with you!” He hissed.
“I couldn’t risk tossing £5000 to any of my friends, nor would you in my position?” he asked matter-of-factly.
Athena’s world started spinning; she staggered back and forth trying to regain her balance.
“Excuse me.” He pressed the buzzer to let himself out.
She sat on one of the stairs and watched him walk away. She shut her eyes, trying to block, or possibly erase what had just happened. Her inhaler was out of reach, so she decided to control her breathing. A few minutes later, a call came through her Nokia 6600. She ignored it.
She only checked her phone when the ringtone she had set for messages from Nadine came on.
She scanned it quickly, and her heart hit the floor; she was going to be the new buzz on campus. Brenda Swanson, the president of Communication Society, advised her to stay off the university grounds for a few weeks, or until there was another sensational news for the university magazine – the girl was paying a debt she owed Athena for helping her prepare for an exam.
As the reality of the event began to sink in, she started to tug her hair, oblivious to the pain from the hairpins piercing her skin. The brisk spring wind sweeping through the window did nothing to dissipate her anger. She didn’t realise she had been crying until she tasted salt. She ignored everyone who asked her if she was all right while they were climbing the stairs. Others gave mixed looks from pity and sympathy to irritation and anger. She clasped her hand over her mouth and sobbed aloud.
Exhausted, she wiped her eyes, looked down and saw a rubber band. Yawning, she picked it up, and used it to pull her hair into a ponytail then stretched again. She rested her chin on the ball of her palm, then glanced at the door and sighed; the murkiness of the night sky outside was how she felt inside. A student came in, and put a wedge to prop the door - he probably lost his keys. She felt a sudden pang when she heard laughter nearby and curled up into a ball. Gradually she calmed down when she realised it was coming from some drunken student party.
She must have been there a long time because it became hushed. Irritated at her irregular breathing, she tried to steady her breath. She opened her palms and saw they were red. Frowning; she smelled her hands. They’d been bleeding. Expressionless, she stared at it for a while, then wiped her hand on her skirt as she made a personal declaration: get a first class, be the best student, frustrate Desmond Stones emotionally and possibly ruin his chances of graduating - he was pilfering the question papers.
She got up slowly and started climbing the stairs when she heard Nadine’s voice.
“Ol’girl o! Guess who I saw at that restaurant em... Venezia Italian this morning?”
Andrew, of course.
Athena gave a nonchalant look and shrugged.
“Desmond,” Nadine said, drooling.
“Okay,” Athena retorted, suddenly overcome with weariness.
“What’s up? I thought you’d be glad.”
Athena gave her a wry smile.
“Hey! Wetin hapun? Sorry, what happened? You’re dressed up and gloomy. So that stupid girl didn’t make your hair again. Come, let’s go and collect the money back. I knew we should have gone to the salon. I’m so sorry. Come nawh!” Nadine knew something was wrong when she tried to grab Athena’s hand, and Athena had shrunk back. “Wetin hapun? What is it?” she asked with concern.
“Nothing? You expect me to swallow that abi?” Nadine chortled.
“Nothing,” Athena confirmed in irritation. Before Nadine could respond, she added, “Please don’t ask, and leave it at that.”
“Hhm,” Nadine sighed thoughtfully, and they climbed the stairs to their floor in silence.
Athena never told Nadine what happened that night, and with time Nadine’s eagerness to know waned.
Temitope loved the winter season only when she was stuck in the house. She grumbled nonstop, trudging through the snow, from the makeshift car park to the reception to find out the venue for the PTA meeting. She was late again. The other women’s eyes were stuck on her like bees chasing an intruder, and it didn’t help that her shoes squeaked. She had gotten thick skinned after their constant badgering the headteacher received for accepting two more black children against the granted quota for non-white British intakes.
Unlike Temitope, who sometimes came off as rude for her brute bluntness, they cowered behind each other. They couldn’t outwardly condemn the head teacher because it would imply that they were racist. The Headteacher of the all-girls’ school was no different; she just needed money to keep the school up and running.
Temitope’s mind drifted back to a few years ago when her daughters first started. It was unusual to admit more than one coloured child per unit of ten pupils. She saw the opportunity when she discovered that the school was impecunious. After much beguiling Olamide succumbed to the wishes of his wife. The Headteacher, Mrs. Olsen, the all prim and proper American, didn’t take kindly to it, but she didn’t have a choice. One day, Temitope stumbled upon an advert, at a groceries store and saw the opportunity as an escape from boredom. She became the nanny to an autistic child, named David, who happened to be the Head Teacher’s child.
It was a cold, rainy spring day and everyone remained inside despite the fact the PTA meeting had ended thirty minutes earlier.
The Head Teacher’s ‘associates’ - better known by other parents as the ‘gossip committee’ – were huddled in a corner, arguing in hushed tones. The ‘associates’ were pioneer members of the school’s board, which included Portia. Portia was the daughter of a former Mayor of Birmingham, whose curiosity knew no bounds, and whose tongue was as elite and ferocious as a boomslang.
Temitope wore a mischievous smile, gleefully rubbed her palms together and walked to the group. Then she ‘accidentally’ dropped a picture in their midst, making it a curious part of their discussion. Mrs. Olsen, the mockingly rich, ugly and holier than thou dame, had a child out of wedlock? A child, not even her husband was aware of. Mrs. Olsen turned as red as a strawberry, when it got to be her turn to hold the picture. Temitope had to admit the little boy was rather handsome and more than genius for his age.
Temitope noticed Mrs. Olsen retreating and went to stand behind her, causing Mrs Olsen to bump into her. The woman gave her a wry smile, but Temitope never missed an opportunity, so she cashed in on it; her children would be staying on.
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