Fiction

Husband of My Own: A Short Story by Emmanuel Onyedi Wingate

News Bits: Gossip Magazine

Miss Casey Benson probably needs no introduction. You would recall that she came into prominence with her debut movie: ‘The Most Beautiful Girl,’ where she acted the part of a beauty queen. Since then the delectable beauty has dominated the movie industry like a queen bee in a bee colony. Having won numerous awards and starred in countless successful movies, she has been conferred, though informally, with the title, ‘The Indisputable Goddess of the Screen.’ There also has been talk of her metamorphosing into Hollywood.

It is regrettable that though Miss Benson’s name has been linked with that of some notable men, she is yet to tie the nuptial knot at thirty-seven. A news reporter from the Amebo Magazine, yours faithfully, saw the dazzling beauty at a ball given by ace industrialist and CEO of Beauty Cosmetics Nigeria Ltd. to mark his fiftieth birthday smiling like she had won a raffle draw. You need to see what she wore. The thing fine sha, abeg, but the thing no cover her body at all. What would you say if your wife accompanied you to a party, dressed in a strapless bust-hugging dress that left little to the imagination? Kai! The full gist anyway is that she stole the show as usual, stunningly clad in a dinner dress almost non-existent at the back and the boobs. She dazzled in this dress which in no small way accentuated her sexy, curvy figure; she was the cynosure of all eyes.

Wait! You have not heard the real gist. All through the ball the dandified Chief Ajayi Tokunbo never left her bosom. They kept smiling at each other and chattering away, seemingly, like two adolescents who had just experimented and discovered the joy of sex. Yours faithfully was not close enough to hear what jokes the industrialist had cracked. The jokes must have been quite successful for the screen goddess continually threw her head back and laughed in that queenly manner which had aided her ride into prominence.

The way they carried on it was obvious that the celebrant was much enamoured by Miss Benson, who’s also won for herself the ‘Sugar-Daughter of the Century’ title. Casey, Abeg make you take am sofry. Abi you don forget say Chief Tokunbo already don get two wives? Abi you wan be the third wife?

***

Agatha Momah was a good actress. Hers was a story of hard work and perseverance. She had left secondary school a year ahead of graduation because there was no money to continue. Anyway, it had been her sheer will and fighting spirit that had made her last at secondary school for five years. Both her parents had died in a motor accident when she was in class two, leaving her and her then nine years old brother,  Richard, orphaned in the village.

Their relatives in the village were so poor. They could not afford to feed even themselves. Her father had been a primary school teacher in the village and her mother a housewife. They had therefore been looked upon as the rich couple of the village –a case of a one-eyed man being king in the land of the blind.

When her parents both died there had not been any forthcoming help for them. Those who could have helped were either too poor or plainly selfish. The Teachers Union had helped give her parents a befitting burial; the Church’s contribution was to conduct a proper burial service that would ensure their flying to heaven and that was the end. They had done their duty.

Agatha, in her early teens, was determined that Richard and she would survive. She, though a mere girl would climb their palm trees. After harvesting the palm fruits she would process it into palm oil and later the kernels she would shell. She would trek a long distance to the great Nkwo market in a neighbouring town to sell her proceeds to the merchants from the city. She and her brother would scratch on the dry patchy land grudgingly released to them by their relatives –though only a fraction of her father’s land –in the name of cultivating the land –and miraculously some crops would grow. That was how Richard and she managed to survive and she up to class five.

It was at class five that the big problem stirred its monstrous head. How was she to pay for the final exams and her school fees? Having tried all she could and yet made no headway, she had finally dropped out. Being an ambitious young girl she had dusted her testimonial and headed for Lagos. Richard was now twelve years old. She had bought enough food to last him for a long time, given him some money and an injunction to approach their aunt, Anna, their mother’s younger sister, whenever he was in difficulty. She promised him she would make it big in Lagos and come back for him.

In Lagos, Agatha knew no one. She only knew that the miserable life of the village was not for her. An intelligent girl, she knew a little about city life and how she could survive from her experiences in reading novels. She had little money with her, what with her having shared all her savings with Richard, and having to meet her transport expenses.

Clutching her small bag tightly she walked round the streets, exploring the city. She was terribly afraid, having read such horrible things about the city in novels. Finally, she settled for a small hotel that had caught her eyes. The hotel was very dirty from what she saw. She reasoned that it would be cheaper than the others.

“I want a room,” she said to the over-bleached and bejeweled receptionist after having greeted her.

“You know the price?” the receptionist asked, watching her speculatively. Perhaps she wondered why such a young girl should need a room in such a notorious hotel and how she would be able to pay, seeing that she was shabbily dressed and had her hair weaved in the village style.

Having been told the price for a room, Agatha instantly paid up. On getting to her room she bathed and dressed in her best dress: a pink dress that she had worn as a bridesmaid during her teacher’s wedding. She then hit the streets immediately, without having any rest, in search of a job.

She trudged on for hours but did not seem to have any luck. It was always: “Sorry, Miss Momah. I’d have loved to help you but there is no job opening at the moment,” after she had told her story at all the offices she visited.

When it was dark, she headed back to her shanty motel where the flies and the mosquitoes hummed continuously; where she shared her bed with vermin. Her spirit was broken. “Tomorrow is another day,” she thought. But fate had other plans for her.

She had fallen asleep immediately she returned to her room. The surroundings seemed to come to life around 10 p.m. In the daytime, everywhere had been quiet. The noise had woken her. She peered outside, through the window. Lots of cars were parked in the surroundings and half-naked ladies paraded themselves as if in pageantry, seeking the attention of the car owners.

Agatha was certainly not naive. She was not averse to sex, but from what she had read in novels, she knew that living the life of a prostitute was not for her. “Is there much difference?” she thought. Her mother had taught her that premarital sex was bad, and the pastor in her church had corroborated its sinfulness in his sermons. Nevertheless, she was not bothered. The few times she’d had sex was in view of earning some money. She remembered her first experience. It was with Mr. Okiro, the Math teacher, in his compact office. How she had yelled in pain with Mr. Okiro muffling her screams with his kisses. He had given her some money. She had used it to buy new sandals for Richard and herself. She was very intelligent. With her knowledge of Biology she knew she could not get pregnant, as she was not ovulating. She had never given the incident a thought again until one day when she had approached Mr.  Okiro for some money. He had given her, but on one condition… She wondered why he was not satisfied with his beautiful wife.

Tired of lying in bed she dressed and went out, seeing that the area was bubbling. “Maybe some generous man will take interest in me and help me get a job?” she thought, in doubt. She did not feel half as pretty or as well dressed as the prostitutes she’d seen. She passed through the hotel bar. It was literally swarming with people. She wondered why such large number of people should patronize such a decrepit hotel. To her disappointment no one took notice of her. She went outside and was nearly choked by what she saw. Some people were doing it right there, leaning against the body of a car. Dismayed, she made to go back to her room when she heard a man calling to her. She pretended not to notice. Experience had taught her that if he were truly interested he would come towards her. She won. In no time he was beside her.

“Hello, young lady. What’s your name?” he asked.

“My name is Agatha,” she replied her eyes down.

“How are you, Agatha?”

“Fine.”

“What does it take to have you, Agatha?”

“I don’t understand what you mean, Sir,” she said, feigning ignorance and looking down at her feet, while they conversed.

The man instantly surveyed her, taking cognizance of her unsophisticated appearance. She had weaved her hair like the village girl she was. She had worn no make up and was dressed in a plain cotton dress, her feet shod in simple rubber slippers. What was it that had attracted him to her in the first place? In the half-light he had caught sight of her sexy figure and had been carried away. Now, looking at her, he realized she was very beautiful. Then he realized another thing: he had struck bush meat. Yet something else cropped up in his mind. What was this bush meat doing here of all places? Most village girls were to be seen as housemaids and not in brothels. Yet another question cropped up. How come she spoke such good and brilliant English? She was indeed an enigma.

“Where are you staying?” he asked.

“Here, I have a room,” she replied.

“I’ve never seen you here before. When did you start staying here?”

“I came down today, from the village. I have no place to go.”

He seemed to think for sometime, and then made up his mind. Moving closer to her he whispered: “can I take you home for the night?” Her mind worked very fast. She stood a better and safer chance in her territory. She glanced up at him.

“But I hardly know you,” she coquettishly said.

“All right let’s go to my car for a while,” he said, expectantly.

“Why not my room? We could talk there.”

“Oh! That would be great,” he said, grinning.

He could not believe his luck.

Back in her room he could not control his curiosity. He needed to know more about this girl. He suppressed his lust and she told him her story. He had pity on her and she instinctively knew he was going to help her.

He took her in his arms, kissing her, sucking on her tongue as he would not have done for any prostitute. He sucked on her breasts and pleasingly bit her nipples. She let out low soft moans as her body responded as it had never done before. Then they were both naked and were rolling about on the bed, exploring each other’s body. He crossed over to take his wallet from his purse. Instantly, a thought came to her. “Oh!” she moaned, hurriedly jerking up from the bed and wrapping a wrapper round her body, struggling hard to control her passion.

“What is the matter?” he asked, distressed, his turgidity nodding like an agama lizard. He knew he could not afford any disappointment now. If necessary he was going to rape her.

“I am sorry. I am not free today. I could get pregnant,” she said, looking away, her breasts heaving. He laughed very hard.

“What do you think a condom is for?” he asked, bringing out one from his wallet and fixing it on. She relaxed. She had read about the condom though she had never seen one in her life. They continued from where they had stopped.

Sated, he lit a cigarette and smoked. “Can you act?” he asked.

“Yes, I very much can. I acted Lady Macbeth in school and my teacher said I was just perfect,” she replied.

That was how Agatha came to be an actress. He had taken her to a female friend of his who had taken her to a salon where she had been polished and then dressed in the right clothes. The transformation was shocking even to Mrs. Ladipo who was a costumier for the movie industry. Agatha was indeed very beautiful. Later on it was ascertained that she was talented. Added to the fact that she spoke perfect English, she was willing to learn. Other actresses who were suited for a part in the movie: The Hustlers refused to act nude. Seeing her chance Agatha accepted the lead part in the movie where she acted nude as a prostitute. The movie was a success. Soon, directors and producers were always at her doorstep begging her to star in their movies. Over night she became rich.

There are always two sides to life –just like a knife. The films she always was invited to star in always dealt with permissiveness. She soon earned a bad reputation in a society that was hypocritical. At thirty-eight she remained single. No man seemed to want to share her life, though they seemed not to mind sharing her bed.

Somehow Agatha had conquered this problem not too long ago. It was typical of her to rise against all odds. Three weeks ago she had wedded a young and successful banker, Mr. Kola Wole, in a simple civil wedding ceremony, with her longtime friend and confidante, Miss Casey Benson,  as Maid of Honour. Miss Casey Benson was the right choice for Maid of Honour. They had been through so much together and above all they had both been the subjects of ridicule in leading gossip magazines. Besides, she had no other friend who was single.

***

Casey had just finished her shopping at the popular Kingsway Stores. She clutched her shopping bag and walked towards her car –a sleek Toyota Camry—in queenly grace. She used to be excited at the stares she received whenever she came to public places. She now took the stares and admiration for granted. She did not as much as cast a glance when she heard them calling her name. Some men on the opposite side shouted her name, whistling to her. She adjusted her Gucci designer sunshade,  automatically stretching out a hand to straighten out her hair, and then she made to enter her car. Suddenly they were upon her.

Two matronly women had blocked her way. She certainly had never met them before. They had their scarves tied round their waists, and their faces were contorted. They looked like characters from a horror movie. She squared her shoulders. It would not do to show fear.

“Yes, what is it?” she asked them.

“So you are the harlot who will not leave our husband alone?” they both said in a murderous tone, daring her to deny.

“Who is your husband?”

“You ask who our husband is eh?” one of them said. “We would soon show you.” They took her by surprise. They pinned her hands to her back,  hitting her head severally on her car windscreen. They brought out a koboko and continued to lash out at her until she had no strength to scream out anymore, then she passed out.

“You must not be seen near Chief Ajayi Tokunbo again or else…” they said, climbing into a waiting car, and drove off. This was Lagos where everybody minded his or her own business. No one had come to her aid. She lay there, dying. Once in a while whimpering and crying out for help in a faint voice. Fortunately, an upcoming actor, Berekete, who had once been on location with her saw her and rushed her to the hospital. Three weeks later she was discharged from the hospital. She had instantly called her friend, Agatha, who immediately hastened to visit her at her Victoria Island residence.

“Marriage sure agrees with you, Agatha,” she had said as soon as she saw her, beaming a smile.

“Oh! My God! Who did this to you?” Agatha, now Mrs. Wole, had exclaimed when she saw Casey. Casey was swathed in bandages. Her fair
skin was now blotched red.

Casey told her all what had happened, adding that she was tired of being single. She wanted a husband of her own. She started sobbing. Agatha allowed her to cry, cuddling her in her arms and soothing her.

“Yes,” Casey said. “It’s high time I got a husband of my own.” I’m tired of all these insults. But Agatha, where could I get a husband? They all seem to be married,” she lamented. Agatha looked at her pityingly.

“I know someone who could help you,” she said.

“Really, you do? Is he a Babalawo, or something like that?” Casey asked, excited. She had counted on Agatha to help her. She seemed to know everything.

“Nothing of the sort. She is a psychologist and has also helped me?”

Casey’s face fell. “But I am not mad,” she said, frowning.

“Yes, you are not. But you need a counselor and remember I’ve also benefited from her advice.”

“All right. When do I see her?” Casey asked, ready to try anything.

***

They were at Dr. Mrs. Obi’s office two days later. She listened with rapt attention as Casey narrated her problems. All she wanted now was a husband. The psychologist smiled. “Miss Benson you have a peculiar problem. You seem to date the wrong men. Why? If I may ask?”

Casey remembered how it all began. Then it was sweet but now it had turned sour. She had gone to visit her friend, Binta. They were both fourteen years old. When she got to Binta’s house she met Binta’s father, Alhaji Bature. She respectfully greeted him and asked him of Binta. Binta had accompanied her mother to the market she was told.

The Alhaji offered her a seat. “Binta would soon come back,” he told her. He put on the TV. He had been watching a pornographic movie. Casey was stunned but fascinated. One thing led to another and soon the Alhaji seduced her and had her on his bed. She had enjoyed every moment of it.

He had given her a lot of money that she didn’t know what to use it for. Later on, they took to meeting at hotels. Her parents never knew what was happening. She usually went from school. She had discovered the joy of sex, and with a man old enough to father her. She never allowed any boy ogle her. To her boys were babies. She had suddenly become an adult and her men were already those known as sugar daddies. Unfortunately,  those men had no future for her.

The psychologist looked at her, piercing through her eyes to her heart. “You will from henceforth sever every amorous relationship you have with any married man. It would do you a lot of good if you stick to one man. Finally, you will no longer attend nightclubs, drunken parties, and orgies. Let me add that you need to pray for forgiveness to God. I strongly believe in retributive justice. Think of all the women you have caused heartache by gallivanting with their husbands. Don’t you forget,  treat your man courteously, showing him you’d make a nice wife.”

It now became clearer to Casey how the psychologist had helped Agatha. For a whole year Agatha seemed to have withdrawn into solitude. She shunned their usual nightclub outings, and seemed to drop all her men-friends including directors and producers who were very important to her career. Casey had thought Agatha mad when she refused the ten million – Naira contract to star in a movie from a producer, saying she wanted no immoral roles, when it was clear that the amorous part in Lady of Shame was a child’s play compared to other movies she had starred in. Finally, Agatha got married. It was a surprise to all her detractors in the movie industry.

Casey was now decided on what to do. Alhaji Ali Rahman came to her doorstep. “It’s over, go back to your wife, Alhaji,” she said, banging the door to his face. The others, including her beloved Senator did not care to call on her. The randy industrialist with an itchy crotch, Chief Ajayi Tokunbo, did not even proffer an apology for the violence his wives had meted out to her. With her face being out of shape, their lust seemed to have subsided. Casey was not bothered.

Casey took to praying more often. She no longer solicited for roles in movies, rather, a few directors who knew her worth brought scripts to her. She studied the scripts and accepted few. She worked so hard on set that without selling her body she carted away almost all the prizes for the year’s Best Actress. This was due to her solid and perfect performance. She realized that she could succeed on her own without selling off her flesh. For a long time the gossip columns seemed to have forgotten her name. Casey became contented and fulfilled in herself. Her self worth had been restored.

***

News Bits: Gossip Magazine

Not too long ago the wedding bells tolled for our darling award-winning actress, Casey Benson. Yours faithfully was at the church service that saw her wedded to handsome movie director, Biodun Olokun –a case of when love strikes. You will recall that Biodun has been known as the unrepentant bachelor of the movie industry at thirty-nine.

All the guests who graced the society wedding, which would be the talk of the town for years, agreed that indeed it was a perfect match. The groom kept whispering sweet no… something(s), I say, into the bride’s ears, and her smiles would brighten any home.

Anyway sha, Amebo magazine is happy that the Indisputable Screen Goddess has found love at last. Yours faithfully wishes her the best of
luck and a blissful and unending honeymoon. Ciao!

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