Richard trod the hallway, managing a gesture to the staffs that greeted good morning. He advanced into Jide’s office and met him hunched at the keyboard. Jide stopped punching and asked for his painting samples. He whined a little on hearing Richard wasn’t with it.
“I need the spare keys. I forgot my key at home,” Richard said.
Jide opened a file cabinet and fumbled for the keys. The bunch of keys rattled as he brought them out and dropped them on the desk. “When did you become this forgetful?”
Richard attempted standing but remained on his friend’s words.
“How’s the girl?” Jide gave him a glance.
That wasn’t the best question for the morning. He covered face with palms and breathed into them, wishing the words he was about to utter were untrue. “She’s not good. Her urge is creeping in again.”
Jide leaned to his backrest and placed a thumb on his chin. “I thought the doctor took care of that.”
“It’s not a stable issue. Sometimes stress and lack of comfort may sprout the urges.”
“Why is she stressed or uncomfortable?”
“Maybe the house. It might not be the best place for her.”
Jide supported his chin with a palm and stared at the printer. “What about her painting? I thought that relieved her.”
“It’s complicated. Last we spoke, she insisted on leaving.”
“Leaving? She can’t leave now that she’s unstable.”
“She’s insisting. What can I do.” He hoped for helping words from his friend. Good words always formed from his lips.
Jide suggested a talk with the therapist might help; the doctor might be able to talk some sense into her. That would have been good, but she was stiff to not returning to the hospital. She didn’t want to see the therapist, nurses nor the building.
“I don’t want to go above limits,” Richard said, “that might worsen her case. There’s a gallery around Tin-can Island for sale. I’ll buy her that. I pray she accepts. Something like that could control the urges. That’s the best I can do. I’ve done all I could.”
Jide sighed. “Richard, don’t you think that is too much.”
Richard looked down to his fingernails, stared at them and raised his head back to Jide. “Yes, it is. Think of it, everything I’ve done for this woman is a little too much. I want this woman to be cured. I want to have that feeling that you know, I helped someone who stole from me. Very few persons can do that. I want to be among that few. I’m a Christian, and most times I don’t just feel like one. Helping this woman is the only thing that still makes me able to call myself that.”
“Explain her issue to the therapist.”
She didn’t want the therapist. He rose and adjusted his tie. “You know any good boutique around except Feji’s? I need a new suit for the wedding.”
Saturdays were never good. Richard sipped in icy Malta Guinness and surrendered his tongue to the ice. The blank television showed an image of him, an image that looked like he just got slapped at both cheeks. Footsteps approached from the corridor into the sitting room. Ezinne stalked in with a handbag slung over her shoulder. She was on her way to the caterer’s. She advanced to the door and walked out of the sitting room.
He dwelt in the silence, but not so silent. Ivie’s ransacking from within altered the silence. It was barely ten, too early for her to leave. The ransacking lessened and he listened for footsteps. His ears didn’t get that very soon, but it happened. The sound emerged; the steps emerged. They shot bullets to his ears.
She appeared in the sitting room, not with a heavy bag but one as light as that she came with, if not lighter. None of the painting tools he bought her was in sight. She greeted good morning. What good did the morning offer? Was it the killing of oneself or the submission to an evil controlling force? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Her hair formed long, thick, perfect cornrows that weren’t tucked into a net today. They obediently followed the cream that shone at her scalp, making her scalp gleam in perfect lines.
“Where are your painting tools?”
“I left them in the room.”
“You’d need them.”
“I have a lot at home. I don’t want my house crowded with them.”
“You won’t be putting them in your house.”
A groove lined at her forehead and her cheeks curled up to her eyes.
“I bought you a gallery.”
He never expected any smile, brightened eyes, or anything that would better his day. She gave him low lids, fixed to his legs.
“Thank you, but for what reason?”
There must always be a “but.” The word never ceased from her lips. “You need it since painting to an extent relieves you of your urges.”
“I don’t do large scale painting and don’t intend to.”
“It doesn’t matter if you do that or not. What matters is it controls your urge.”
She dropped gaze at the floor tiles. If he had the power, he’d choose not to hear the words about coming out. “Richard, if you so much care about my disorder, then don’t worry about it. I can perfectly handle it.
The doctor did a good job.”
“Why won’t I worry? We started this together. I can’t just stop here.”
“You don’t decide when to stop. I do. Rick, please don’t make me feel ungrateful. I really am grateful.” Her voice lowered as though she muttered to the air, “but you’re doing too much. It’s too much for me to take.”
He eased to her and stood at her front. She raised her head to him, giving his hands the perfect shoulders to cup. “Please Ivie, let me finish this.”
“It’s too much,” she muttered. “When did I know you? And I’m already in your house. That’s enough. You’ve done the best anyone could do, Rick. You’ve succeeded. My disorder is not as severe as before. The urge is now controllable and would very soon disappear. It’s time for me to go. My own life is there for me to live.”
He was close to her, managing the tiny space with her and breathing the same air she did. She wasn’t the first woman he had this with, but why did it feel like such? Gels were never his pick, but now, he was sniffing to get a scent of the one stuck to her hair. Not only did she have to go, she had to go far away from his house, far away from him. He slid hands off her shoulders and tried catching her gaze. “Accept this before you leave,” he said. “This last thing, accept the gallery and go.” She neither said nothing nor did anything. “Will you accept it?”
The clock’s ticks turned into thuds. Time counted. At her spot, she stood and stared at his middle. They were close, so close that their colognes combined into a perfect fragrance. He wanted to move but felt as though a Gatling gun rested on his feet, a thick one that would break his bones on any slight movement. His bone broke. He allowed them break. He moved, not more than a step, but he moved.
“Why are you doing this, Richard?”
For the first time, he purposefully asked himself that. Was it because he had the money? Or was it to justify his Christianity? Or was it the default answer? “To kill your urges,” he gave the default answer. Or was it something else?
She directed a half-look at him, and looked away as though he carried the burning sun on his face. He brought out the keys from his pocket, reached for her palm and placed the keys in it. “I’ll call the gateman to pack the painting tools into the car.” He folded her hand into a fist and cupped it tightly. “He will take you to the gallery.” Richard turned and strode away from the sitting room. It was good she was leaving.