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For Better, For Worse by PrettySpicey(f): 7:08am On Nov 25, 2015
1
♠ ♠ ♠



When the electronic sound of the alarm clock went off at the strike of five-forty, Perez rolled around to his side, reached out his hand over the bedside table and turned off the rising noise. Then he drew in a lassitude-clearing breath, expelled it and pushed back the linen coverlet.

He got up, did a few quick stretches and made the sign of the cross. Mumbling familiar words of prayer, he strode to the light switch and turned it on. The room was instantly illuminated by the antique crystal chandelier.

It was a large room and exotically furnished. Patchwork, cow-hide white rug and faux zebra rug covered the majority of the polished-wood tiled floor. Cream-and-gold chiffon and silk drapes floated down the double windows and the French door that led out to a small balcony. The warm brown hue of the walls was contrasted by the dramatic purple of the divider wall that led into the mini parlour.

It was a large room; too large for one person. But then it hadn’t been meant for one person—hadn’t been meant for only the one person still sleeping in it.

Perez took off his lavender striped pyjamas top, then the bottom, hung the pair on a clip attached to the side of the white oak four-door wardrobe and with only his boxer shorts on, walked into the bathroom. Less than ten minutes later, he was back in the bedroom, boxer shorts discarded and a towel around his waist.

He dressed with the same careful precision as he’d undressed, putting on one garment after the other with the sombre precision of a monk. Minutes later, he was standing before the mirrored wardrobe door, studying his image.

Today was the sixteenth day of May, twenty-fourteen. It was his birthday and his wedding anniversary. Thirty-six and six.
Did he look it—thirty-six?

His eyes narrowed critically as they examined the image of the lean-built man in navy blue Brooks Brothers wool suit, a white shirt and a black pin-striped tie. The executive suave look was finished with a pair of polished-gleaming black shoes.

He wasn’t sure. He was sometimes tempted to believe that he was aging pretty well, that he did not look his age at all. But there’s been a few grey hairs sprouting up lately. They were scanty yet, not really apparent given his almost skin, low-cut hairstyle. But they were there and he saw them.

He wondered if she saw them. She’d never commented on them. But then she never commented on anything concerning him these days. Feeling the familiar twinge that came with the depressive thoughts he was plagued by these days, he exhaled and stepped away from the mirror.

Today was not a day for depressing thoughts. It was their wedding anniversary. Six years they’ve been together as man and wife. It ought to count for something. Ought to be celebrated, not forgotten or mourned. Many marriages nowadays barely made it through their first year, they’ve survived six. So, it was a special day. He should make it a special day—try to, at least.

He lifted the pink paper wrapped box, studied the nice little bow that went around it. She would have found the pink bow enchanting. She would have cooed and wowed and giggled over its pretty, girly simplicity. She would have carefully un-knotted it and even more carefully, opened the box. That’s what she would have done—in the old days.

Now, he wasn’t even sure if she’d like the gift. Or if she’d treat it like the pack of square-neck, silk scarves he’d given her at Easter, which she’d never worn.

Will she even remember their anniversary? His birthday?

Because the question ignited more unsettling feelings, he hastily slipped the box into the pocket of his pants and picked his nut-brown leather briefcase from the glass top mahogany desk. He strode to the door, turned out the chandelier light and stepped out.

He stopped at the door just after his own, opened and entered their son’s bedroom.

It was a whole lot smaller than their own—his own. Simple and serene in its child-oriented furnishings. She’d decorated it and it was perfect.
He nudged in the slightly ajar door of the bathroom.

“Daddy!” Jesse shrieked in his baby voice. “How are you?”

Perez laughed. A sound of pleasure and pride. He always asked that. It was his way of saying hello or good whatever-time-of-day it was. This was the best part of his day, to look into the face of the one thing that remained perfect and unspoiled between them.

“I’m great. And hope you are too. Did you sleep well?” He squatted and kissed his wet forehead, touching his small oval face tenderly. It was uncanny how much he looked like her.

Jesse giggled and nodded. “Mmm-hmm.”

It was another habit of his—using sounds to replace words. He didn’t talk much, yet.

“Good morning, Uncle.” Nneoma greeted, heaving up to quickly curtsy before returning to her squatting position.

“Morning, Nneoma.” He smiled at the teenage nanny. They’d brought her over when Jesse was just one and her youth made it easier for them to get along. “Do hurry up with that, you know how long it takes him to get through breakfast and be ready for the bus.”

“Yes, Uncle.” Nneoma nodded, sponging Jesse’s arms.

He stepped back as Nneoma picked the hand shower and started to spray water over a wriggling Jesse. “Okay Jess, see you later for cereal time, right?”

“Mmm-hmm.” Jesse bobbed his head, flashing his baby white teeth.

Smiling, he turned and walked out. The melancholy returned as he went down the short flight of stairs. He told himself to relax as he walked through the semi-lit living room and past the just-for-special-occasions dining room, then drew in a long relaxing breath as he pushed open the kitchen door.

As he’d expected, she was there, at the sink, rinsing out a mug. It meant she’d already had her every-morning cocoa. She was wearing a chestnut brown knee-length linen dress that was accessorized with a black-and-white neck scarf. The scarf matched the black pumps on her feet and the clip that held back her hair at the nape. But it wasn’t one from the pack he’d given her.

He felt the twinge, ignored it and focused on the fact that she looked great, as usual. It was a good place to start. “Morning, Lara.” He greeted, smiled.

She cast a glance over her shoulder. “Morning.”

He waited, breath held. She said nothing more, just started drying the mug. He leaned against the round kitchen table and stilled himself against the stab of disappointment.

She hadn’t remembered—not his birthday. Not their anniversary.

But what had he hoped? That she’d greet him with open arms, brandishing gift packages like she used to?

Perez sighed and watched longingly as she moved briskly around the roomy kitchen readying Jesse’s lunch box.

This had once been her private world, her personal space. She had painstakingly equipped it with state of the art kitchen appliances and fixtures. And once-upon-a-time, she had created culinary marvels that had made his mouth water in here. But like the gift packages, they didn’t happen anymore. Not in the last five, six months. She cooked but not with the same pride and passion as she used to.

He deliberately shook off the glum and walked to her side. “Happy anniversary.”

She looked up with a puzzled frown. Then it cleared. “Oh… yes. It’s today, right?” She let out a mild laugh. “Sorry, I didn’t remember.” She reached for the box. “Thank you. And, err, happy birthday.” She smiled.

He allowed the small smile to encourage him. “Thank you.” He murmured, leaning forward. But she shifted her head so quickly that his kiss landed on the edge of her chin. Still, he caught her perfume—subtle, feminine. He was tempted to linger, to caress but her stiff-board stance warned him off, so he stepped back.

“Would you like me to fix you something?” She dropped the box on the marble counter and swept past him towards the refrigerator.

“No, thank you. I’ll just have a cup of tea and maybe a slice of bread.” He strode to the mugs-and-teacups cabinet. “I hope you’ll like the gift. I cracked my head for weeks over this one. You know how helpless I can be when it comes to gifts.” He let out a laugh.

“I guess I will.” She offered a vague smile as she returned with a plastic container of chopped fruits. “Em, there is a staff meeting at eight-fifteen and I want to be there way before time, would you mind helping Jesse with his breakfast and making sure Nneoma gets him to the bus on time?”

“No problem. Will take care of it.” He smiled and sipped his tea.

“Thank you. I’ll go grab my handbag and stuff then” She turned and started towards the door.

“Lara?”

The faintest hesitation, then she stopped and turned. “Hmm?”

He nodded at the counter. “Your gift, you forgot it.”

“Oh yes. How absentminded of me.” She bustled back, picked the box and flashed a faint smile. “Thanks again.”

“I’d like us to do something special this evening—a dinner date, maybe?” He stopped her before she sprinted off again.

A series of emotions swept over her face, then she lifted her shoulders. “Well, I don’t know. Today is going to be hectic at the office, can’t say if I’ll be home on time.”

He’d expected that answer but he was determined. “Okay. But if we can manage it, I’d really like us to do something.”

She gave a faint smile. “If we can manage it.” Then turned and swept through the door.

Perez stared into his teacup. The creamy brown liquid wasn’t so appealing anymore.

She hadn’t gotten him anything. The thought hurt.

It wasn’t as if he’d really expected anything or had particularly wanted something. It was just that there was a time when she’d have woken him up with a sloppy kiss, flashing gift packs before his still drowsy eyes and badgering him to open them at once.
Once upon a time, her eyes would have rounded in delight at a new gift and she’d have shrieked with same delight. And time was when she never asked if she should fix something for him, but had his breakfast, hot and ready, by the time he came out and sat with him while he ate.

Or would nag him sorely if he dared suggest he was in too much hurry for breakfast.
Where did those times go? What happened to take them away?

His appetite totally gone, Perez got up, picked his teacup and the plate of untouched bread-slices and walked to the sink. He poured the tea into the sink and bent to dump the bread into the bin underneath it.

“I’m off.” She called out, the front door sliding open and then shut at her exit.

“Have a great day.” Perez murmured into the silence.

Shuffling footsteps told him Jesse and Nneoma were coming. So, he shook off whatever glumness lingered, opened the Provisions cabinet and drew out the packs of cereal and milk.

They came in. Both in their uniforms, their school bags in hand.

“Over here, Jess.” He pulled out a chair for him, lifted him onto it and slipped a napkin around his neck. “Now you start emptying that bowl while I butter your bread. How many do you want—six?” He winked.

Jesse gurgled and shook his head. “Three.” He raised three chubby fingers.

Three has been his favourite number since he turned that age.

“Three it is then.” Perez chuckled, placing the plate of buttered bread beside him and taking the seat next to his.

He sorted through some emails while he waited for them to finish with their breakfast. Nneoma finished first and they both waited for Jesse. Finally, he was done.

“Thank you, daddy.” Jesse beamed.

“Thank God.” He leaned over and wiped his mouth with the napkin.

Nneoma took their used dishes to the sink to wash up and was just finishing up when the school bus honked. Perez quickly set Jesse down from the chair and strapped his school bag onto his back.

“Nneoma, grab his lunch box and let’s go.” He instructed, picking his own briefcase and taking Jesse’s hand as they headed for the door.

“Be a good boy in school, okay?” He bent to give him a hug.

“Mmm-hmm.” Jesse bounced his head, his face a wreath of smiles.

Quelling the usual worries that assailed him whenever he was the one to see him off to school, he straightened up and allowed the bus conductor to lift him up into the bus. He never would understand the modern society that snatched babies right from their mothers’ bosoms and forced them into school. He’d been five when he’d started school for heaven’s sake! Yet, his son had to begin at two because both his parents worked long hours from dawn to dusk.

Managing a cheerful wave, he backtracked into the compound and found Nneoma waiting beside the titanium silver BMW X6. “Get in, let’s go.” He said, unlocking the car.
Either one of them dropped her off at the bus stop before going to work.

He backed into the street as Nosa, security-guard, held open the gate with one hand and waved enthusiastically with the other. With the traffic from Lekki to Gbagada not so bad, he arrived his office at three minutes shy of seven-forty.



**EBOOK AVAILABLE ON OKADABOOKS & LS EBOOKSTORE

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Re: For Better, For Worse by labaski(f): 7:36am On Nov 25, 2015
first to comment... are u bringing it here for real?? it's been a while ma'am..
Re: For Better, For Worse by vonn(f): 9:52am On Nov 25, 2015
I think I can conveniently complete this story here. Thanks dear
Re: For Better, For Worse by stuff46(m): 4:44pm On Nov 25, 2015
Booked
Re: For Better, For Worse by Lawconfessor(f): 7:25pm On Nov 25, 2015
For real ma? Brb
Re: For Better, For Worse by Hardethaewoh(m): 11:01pm On Nov 25, 2015
OMG! panting heavily as I spread my mat you have no idea how many forests, deserts and oceans I had to navigate to get here! ... Quality content like this is so so so hard to find!
...This is gonna be a great piece!
Re: For Better, For Worse by heeqhmart(f): 11:43pm On Nov 25, 2015
Nice.... following
Re: For Better, For Worse by PrettySpicey(f): 8:51am On Nov 26, 2015
♠ ♠ ♠


“Good morning, Mr Osasogie.” The receptionist greeted as he marched into the pleasantly furnished lobby.

“Morning, Sarah.” He returned her smile, sweeping past to take the stairs.

He answered more greetings, flashed smiles and gave quick nods as he walked down the hallway that led to the executive offices of Metos Constructions Limited. As always, his Personal Assistant was already at her desk. In the four years she’d worked for him, she’d never been late, not even once. He appreciated that about her.

“Good morning, sir.” Mary greeted with a welcome smile.

“Morning, Mary.” He stopped at her desk. “What’s our schedule like today?”

“Not so busy.” Mary replied, passing him a Filofax. “You have a ten o’clock meeting with Mr Daramola over the cost estimate for the new Penguin contract. A site inspection with him afterwards, together with Mr Metchie and then another meeting by one pm with the Movak Project team.”

He inclined his head. “That all?”

“For now.” Mary smiled. “Oh, and Mr Metchie is waiting for you inside.”

“He is?” He was surprised. Stan was not known for his punctuality. “All right. Thanks, Mary.” He crossed the small office and opened his own door.

Stanley Metchie, his partner and best friend, was sitting cross-legged on a leather sofa, flickering through a newspaper.

“Perry, here at last.” Stan dumped the paper on a small stool and heaved up. “You took your precious time coming in this morning, didn’t you?” He slapped a hand across his back and then tugged the lapel of his suit. “It’s Friday, you know that?”

“We have a meeting with Movak today, remember?” Perez flexed his back muscle. Stan’s back slaps were often too hearty. “Meanwhile, how come you are here this early?”

Stan brayed out a laugh. “Now, you sound like I’m never at the office on time.”

“You never are.” He returned dryly, pushed back his leather swivel chair and sank into it.

He watched as Stan dragged his sturdy T-shirt and jeans clad frame to the chair opposite and slouched into it. He was practically beaming.
“What’s got you all toothy-smiling?” He asked, half amused. “You finally won that jackpot you’ve been gunning for since forever?”

“Starlight friggin Hotel’s twelve storey construction deal, man, that is the jackpot!” Stan let out a whoop, bounced to his feet and did a dramatic jump. “We got the deal, Perry. We freaking got the deal.”

Perez was momentarily stunned. They’ve been pursuing the Hotel construction contract for more than fifteen months now— “We got the deal? They finally decided to award the contract?”

“They have awarded the contract—to us.” Stan grinned as he sank back into his chair. “Not on paper yet, but it’s a done deal. Roscoe, the Project Manager I’ve been soft-soaping?”

Perez gave a quick nod.

“Well, he called me up yesterday, right after you went home to play hubby and daddy.” Stan flashed a wink. “The Hotel’s Management finally came to an agreement that morning and he wanted me to know they were going with Metos since our design and budget estimation worked best for them.” He laughed. “We ended up, Roscoe and I, having drinks at The Place and letting ours hairs down… metaphorically speaking.”

“Has to be, you’ve got no hair.” Perez murmured, still astounded by the news though. It would be their biggest contract so far this year. “Wow! This is so amazing. At least it will be once we put pen to paper and…”

“Pen and paper are coming together on Monday.” Stan interjected cheerfully. “We’ve got a ten am meeting at their VI Admin office.”

“Great.” Perez enthused. “Absolutely great. This is great news.”

“Looks like you are trying too hard to sound enthusiastic.” Stan’s eyes have turned contemplative as they studied him.

He was right. Perez was elated by the news but he just wasn’t feeling it yet. No doubt because of the cobwebs of worries drooping over him.
“I am happy. You know I am. We’ve been waiting so long for this to happen.” He gestured with a hand. “I was already giving up on them but you didn’t and now we are here— the ones with the contract. Of course I’m happy, and proud. ” He flashed a smile.

Stan only pursed his lips. “I’m hearing the words, but I’m just not getting the feeling.” He leaned forward. “What gives?”

“Nothing.” Perez replied quickly. “I guess it just hasn’t all sunk in yet.”

Stan’s eagle eyes assessed his face. “Something’s wrong.” He insisted. “You’ve got worry on your face. I can see it. Come on, no more prevarications, what’s wrong?”

Perez stared at his best friend of seventeen years and sighed. He wanted to keep denying it. He’d been avoiding having to talk about this. Had struggled not to allow it take its toll on him or on his work. He’d held it all in, locked away from prying eyes. But obviously today’s negligence had dredged it all up to the surface.

“It’s our anniversary today and she didn’t even remember.” He admitted finally.

Stan arched his brows.

Perez hissed. “Our wedding anniversary.”

“Oh. Yes, so it is. I didn’t remember that one.” He shrugged and sat back. “I guess I don’t think of such things anymore—I mean marriage and all that till-death-do-us-part poo.” He grimaced. “I just don’t get why people are forever clamouring after that torturous institution. And who even invented it in the first place?”

“God.” Perez answered his rhetoric question in a dry tone.

“Huh?”

He chuckled at the confused expression. “Marriage—God invented it. He created Adam and Eve and bid them to share their lives together, procreate and fill the earth.”

“Uh-uh, I disagree.” Stan shook his head.

“You don’t agree that God created marriage?”

Stan nodded. “No, he didn’t. He created Adam and Eve all right but he didn’t create marriage. What he did was to leave them butt-Unclad in the Garden of Eden with instructions to multiply and replenish the earth and keep off the forbidden fruit. Nothing was said about marriage and there was no record of any such ceremony.”

Perez shook his head. “You are unbelievable, you know that? Anyway, I hate to argue pointlessly…”

“Then let’s don’t.” Stan broke in. “Forget the murky waters of who invented marriage and let’s talk about why your marriage is making you miserable and you’re refusing to let it go.”

Perez grimaced. This new cynical attitude towards marriage was why he hadn’t wanted to share these issues with him. “I can’t just let it go, Stan.”

“And why the heck not?”

“Because it is marriage and not some shopping trip to buy a pair of shoes you can return if it doesn’t fit.” He retorted impatiently.

“Perry, it is a shopping trip.” Stan clucked his tongue at his glare. “Didn’t you have to pay her parents and people some money and other non-monetary items before you were allowed to take her home as your wife?” His brows arched meaningfully. “And as you just admitted, she doesn’t fit, so why keep wearing her—or more aptly—why let her wear you out?”

“I never said anything about her not fitting.” Perez refuted sharply. “Besides, divorce isn’t the only answer to problems in marriage.”

“Yeah, death is another solution but it’s called murder if you have to kill your spouse to get it. And I’m not sure we can do it without getting caught.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Listen P, divorce was good enough for me. Restored my sanity and saved me sexless nights and ceaseless nagging.”

He got up and came around the desk. “Perry, when a woman starts forgetting dates and anniversaries that tells you something. They are dates-and-anniversary passionate creatures. It’s how they’re wired.”

That wasn’t what he wanted to hear. He didn’t need cynicism and he didn’t need pragmatism either. “They’ve been busy at the office lately. She probably has too much on her mind.” Stan snorted and his irritation spiked. “In any case, marriage isn’t about giving up and walking away when things get tough. It’s about staying and making it work.”

Instantly realising how critical and self-righteous he’d sounded, he apologised. “I’m sorry, that didn’t come out right. I just meant that I want—I need to work things out with Lara.”

“I get it. No offence taken.” Stan gave him a back-pat. “Besides, I know how you hate to fail at something. So you will struggle with this until you can make it work.” He smiled faintly. “Thing is, sometimes we just can’t make things work, no matter how hard we try.”

Perez heard the silent regret in his voice. He knew Stan wasn’t entirely nonchalant about his divorce as he liked to act. And he didn’t want to be where he was. “Maybe. But we can try. And I mean to try, Stan.”

“I know. And I hope it gets better.” Stan got up and started towards the door. He stopped midway and turned. “Hey, happy birthday and many more happy returns.” He reached into his pocket and slipped something out. “Catch.” He tossed it in his direction.

Reflexively, Perez reached out his hand and caught the rectangular-shaped gift-wrapped box. “Thanks.” He said, surprised and touched.

Stanley offered a salute. “No sweat. And remember, we are celebrating tomorrow— the Starlight deal and your birthday.” He shot a quick grin and marched out of the room.

Perez stared down at the blue-and-white wrapped box. He’d remembered. His best friend hadn’t forgotten and had gotten him a gift, as always. But his wife, the love of his life, hadn’t.

He squeezed his eyes shut to block out the twisting pain, willing it away. He wouldn’t think about the pain and anxiety, not today. Today, he would focus on the good.

He exhaled deeply and opened his eyes. Carefully, he unwrapped the box. It was a pair of cufflinks with the letter P engraved on them.
His mouth curved and his heart felt suddenly lighter.



**EBOOK AVAILABLE ON OKADABOOKS & LS EBOOKSTORE

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Re: For Better, For Worse by tmamuda(m): 8:59am On Nov 26, 2015
Another one from Prettyspicey
Glue to it
Re: For Better, For Worse by heemah(f): 9:04am On Nov 26, 2015
Following.
Dandypearl, demmy66, dobkross1, Sageez, something is cooking here...
Re: For Better, For Worse by costlybabe10: 11:15am On Nov 26, 2015
keep it coming oooo
Re: For Better, For Worse by Sageez(m): 11:23am On Nov 26, 2015
heemah:
Following.
Dandypearl, demmy66, dobkross1, Sageez, something is cooking here...
heemah why are you in all lit threads? Are you working for MTN?
Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 12:25pm On Nov 26, 2015
If you're following thinking it's free you're on a loooooooong thing...... me don rush buy my own grin grin

Its not expensive just 600naira...trust me......it's worth every penny!!!!!!!!! grin
Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 12:26pm On Nov 26, 2015
vonn:
I think I can conveniently complete this story here. Thanks dear

Go and buy the book biko grin....top quality like this CANNOT be free....!
Re: For Better, For Worse by labaski(f): 12:30pm On Nov 26, 2015
JeffreyJamez:


Go and buy the book biko grin....top quality like this CANNOT be free....!
would v argued u were still on nl.. Na mama prettyspicey bring u outta ur shell like ds?? Chai.. anyways its bn a while. howdy?
Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 2:35pm On Nov 26, 2015
labaski:
would v argued u were still on nl.. Na mama prettyspicey bring u outta ur shell like ds?? Chai.. anyways its bn a while. howdy?

Oh I'm still very much on NL.. only mama P brings me to this section grin...I'm good... you?
Re: For Better, For Worse by DandyPearl(f): 3:08pm On Nov 26, 2015
Sageez:
heemah why are you in all lit threads? Are you working for MTN?
leave mai boo boo alone tongue wah happenundecided. You nko No be everywhere you dey go EmptyHen(MTN) Officialangry
Re: For Better, For Worse by labaski(f): 5:10pm On Nov 26, 2015
JeffreyJamez:


Oh I'm still very much on NL.. only mama P brings me to this section grin...I'm good... you?
I figured that too..anyways I'm good as always. thanks.
Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 5:13pm On Nov 26, 2015
labaski:
I figured that too..anyways I'm good as always. thanks.

Oya go and buy the book o.
Re: For Better, For Worse by tommynico(m): 9:09pm On Nov 26, 2015
Unbelieveable!! Mama p! Are u for real or am i dreaming??
Re: For Better, For Worse by PrettySpicey(f): 7:16am On Nov 30, 2015
2
♠ ♠ ♠



He’d returned home early—to play hubby and daddy as Stan had so impishly put it. He hadn’t expected to find her home of course and it suited his plan.

He and Jesse spent three-quarters of an hour doing his alphabet recognition homework. Then he helped Nneoma with a Maths problem. After that, he sent them off for a short evening playtime while he prepared their dinner. Nneoma could have handled the dinner preparations but he needed to keep busy so as not to succumb to the nervousness that was brimming just underneath the surface.

Dinner done, he allowed Nneoma take care of the dishes while he bundled Jesse up for his evening bath.

“How are you, daddy?”

Something about his tone of voice made him pause his swabbing movement and stare at his Unclad son. His chubby, baby face looked earnest. Had he noticed something? Could a three year old sense a melancholy hidden deep within the heart?

Get a grip, he chided himself, of course he hasn’t noticed anything. He was too young to do that. Besides, he wasn’t even feeling glum right now. He probably just observed he was distracted and not chatting with him much as usual.

“I’m fine, Jess. Don’t I look fine to you?” He winked and tickled him.

Jesse giggled with delight, wriggling. “Yes, daddy. You look fine.”

Perez continued with his swabbing, relieved to see his features relaxed and happy. “And how are you too?”

Jesse gave a toothy smile. “I am fine too.”

Perez grinned at the ‘I am’ that sounded like there was a y between them. “Good. We are absolutely fine and we will always be.” The note of grave promise in his voice was lost on his son because he gurgled and proceeded to play with his bath water.

Perez looked down at the happy, innocent face and knew that he would do anything to keep that innocence and happiness there. He would do anything to provide a safe, blissful haven for him. Anything.

With bath-time over, he tucked him into bed and read his favourite bedtime story to him. It was a practice Lara had started and which had become a lovely ritual. He returned to the living room to bid a movie-watching Nneoma an early goodnight. It was just eight pm and time for the hubby part of the night’s events.

Keeping his mind blank and free of futile worrying, he started setting the scene for the dinner-for-two he had planned. He moved aside the centre table and moved over the round kitchen table. He covered it with a white tablecloth, brightened it with plastic flowers he’d bought and accessorised with her ivory candle sticks.

Then he started to set out the Chinese he’d picked up on his way home. Chinese cuisine was a big favourite for her. She could never resist it. He was hoping it will work its magic this night. Whatever was going on between then, however and whenever it started, it was time they began to work on making it right. It was time to begin mending this bridge that was becoming wider every waking moment.

Finished, he slid into one of the velvet cushioned dining chairs he’d brought over. As he surveyed the romantic scene, it struck him that she’d done something similar two years ago for his birthday and their fourth anniversary.

He’d come home really late that night and had found her sitting on one of the stools she’d placed around the centre table, wearing a red halter-neck mini dress she’d bought just for the occasion and looking all sexy and yet, solemn.

He’d apologised immediately, totally remorseful. She had nodded, said fine, then got up and walked inside, leaving him alone with the scrumptious dinner she’d prepared. He had sat down and eaten, not just his own portion but a good chunk of hers too. He’d eaten, not only because he’d been downright famished, but more so, because he’d hoped it would placate her when she saw the next day how much he’d appreciated her efforts.

And it did. In the morning, when he’d apologised again, she had laughingly forgiven him.

The next anniversary, which was last year’s, he’d remembered early enough to take her out to dinner at the Southern Sun. Though, she’d just started working, she’d made the time to come home early for their dinner date. They both had.

Now he had the same set up and was the one waiting for her return. And he wasn’t even sure what her reaction would be. She’d sounded reluctant in the morning. And since she’d moved out of their bedroom, they hadn’t really shared any intimate dinners or any other kind of intimate time together.

She needed space to figure some things out. That had been her reason for moving to the guest room, initially. Soon she didn’t bother with excuses, just distanced herself from him and took up an uncommunicative attitude that not only confounded him but troubled him even more. She seemed to have erected a wall around herself he just couldn’t penetrate. But like he’d told Stan, he meant to try. He had to.

A loud honk and the screeching sound of the gate announced her return. Unconsciously, his eyes went to the wall clock—eight twenty-five.
His heartbeat picked up, thumping not beating. He felt like an accused in the dock awaiting the verdict of the judge. The comparison seemed so ridiculous, he found himself smiling despite his nervousness.

When the key twitched in the lock, he quickly lit the candles, rose to his feet, kept the smile firmly in place and his damp palms clasped behind him.

Her surprise was apparent. She came through the foyer, halted and stared at the setup with wide incredulous eyes.

The shock gave him courage. It was better than the indifference he’d feared. “Welcome back, Lace.” He used his pet name for her. “Hope the traffic wasn’t too hectic?”

“Ah, no it wasn’t.” She shifted puzzled eyes to him. “Where are Nneoma and Jesse?”

“In bed where they belong.”

“Oh, okay.” Another glance at the table, then at him. “What’s this?”

He flashed a charming smile. “Our dinner date brought home.”

She gaped.

“Why don’t you go freshen up while I pop the champagne?” He suggested.

She hesitated. Seemed to war with herself, then lifted her shoulders. “Okay, just give me five minutes.”

She came back in twelve. But who was counting? So long as she’d accepted to dine with him, he almost felt triumphant. She’d changed into a pair of jeans cut-offs and a tank top and her hair was now pinned up in a ponytail. It wasn’t a sexy, dinner-date look but she still looked lovely. And he didn’t really care if she’d returned in a ball gown or Unclad—well, Unclad would have been nice.

No raunchy thoughts, he chided himself, as he held her chair for her to sit. She gave him a vague smile as she slid into it. He handed her a champagne flute.

“To six years of being with the love of my life, the mother of my son and my partner forever.” He toasted.

“Cheers.” She said simply, clicked her glass to his and took a sip. “Hmm, this is nice.” She set down her flute and reached for a chicken spring roll.

“The choice of appetizer was no-brainer. Spring rolls are your favourite, so it was an easy choice.” He picked her plate and started to dish the shrimp fried rice and shredded chicken.

“Hmm, not too much for me.” She touched his hand to stop him.

Perez froze, briefly. She hasn’t willingly touched him since Valentine’s Day. That was the last time they’d had sex. The absence of that part of their relationship had hurt more because she was the touchy-feely kind of person, a trait he dearly loved. But since having to force any physical contact between them hurt him as much as it seemed to irritate her, he’d learned to restrain himself.

“Oh sorry, I got carried away.” He gave an apologetic smile, set down her plate.

She only nodded and dug into her food.

He filled his own plate and started to eat too, searching his head for a safe topic. “So, how was your day?” He went for the mundane.

“Quite hectic, actually.” Her eyes stayed glued to her food. “We had a new contract—from MTN actually—a huge one.” The side of her mouth lifted. “Mr Akin-Thomas was so excited, he personally gave every staff of the Creative department a twenty thousand naira bonus.” She chuckled as she lifted a forkful of rice and shrimp to her mouth.

He found himself grinning at the low, soft sound. He’d missed her easy, fluid way of telling a story, of recounting the events of her day. He’d missed how they’d just sit and share such mundane, everyday stuff.

“We hit a big contract too.” He confided. “Remember the Starlight Hotel Construction deal that has been hanging?” She nodded. “Well, they finally made up their minds to begin building and we got the contract.”

“Wow! That is big.” Her face brightened with a genuine smile. “Congratulations. Stan must have been over the moon.”

He chuckled, pleased. “He was. Was so exhilarated by the news, he was waiting for me in my office when I got in this morning.”

“Really? Stan was at the office before you?”

He laughed at her astonished tone. “That was how excited he was about the contract falling through. It’s been fifteen long months.” He looked into her eyes. “So, this is really a triple celebration… well, quadruple, with your own huge contract.” He grinned, lifted his glass. “To us celebrating even greater things the rest of the year.”

Her smile sort of dimmed but she lifted her flute and clicked it to his before taking a sip.

And because her polite, aloof mask was back on, he bent over his own food and tried not to think too much of the twinge he felt in his heart.

“Thank you for doing this.” She spoke, breaking the silence.

He raised his head. “My pleasure.” He smiled.

“It’s been a long time I had Chinese.” She went on, forking through her food. “I think the last time must have been right after New Year’s Day when Vera, her cousin, Kate and I had belatedly celebrated her birthday at the China Town restaurant. I didn’t know I had missed it so until now. And this tasty array is a nice way to break the spell.” She offered a bright smile.

“I aim to please.” He said softly, smiling into her eyes.

She dropped her gaze. Focused on what was left on her plate.

“Want some more? There’s still plenty left. How about some more shredded chicken?” He lifted the foil covered dish.

She shook her head. “I think I’m full. I might even have overeaten.” She laid down her fork, lifted her flute and drained it. Then she pushed back her chair. “I should turn in, I’m really beat.” She caught a yawn with the back of her hand. “Sorry, I’m bushed.”

He knew the yawn was feigned. She wanted to escape, to retreat behind her wall. He stood up himself. “Okay, I’ll see you in the morning then.”

When she started to lift her plate and glass, he placed a hand over hers. “Don’t bother with those. I’ll take care of them.”
“Are you sure?” She slipped her hand from under his.

“Positive.” He took her hand again, held on despite her stiffening. “Happy anniversary, Lace.” He said softly. “You are and will always be the most beautiful thing that happened to me. I love you.”
She stared at him, unblinking, eyes wary.

He leaned forward hesitantly. When she didn’t protest or back away, he curved his head and gently laid his lips over hers. She didn’t respond to the kiss. Didn’t open her mouth or make a sound. He wanted to prod the soft mounds open. He wanted to delve into the warm enclosure of her mouth and just feel.

But she stepped back. “Thank you for the surprise dinner.” She said with a polite smile. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.” He murmured, watching as she retreated with hurried steps.

He exhaled and resumed his seat.

No, it shouldn’t hurt that they both didn’t empty everything in the dishes together. That he didn’t have to stay with her in the kitchen while she washed up and then race her to their bedroom where they’d spend the night in love.
It wouldn’t hurt if he didn’t keep thinking of how it used to be.

And because he didn’t want to do just that, he piled up whatever was left into one dish and carrying it over to the sofa, picked the remote control and turned on the television.

Choosing a movie channel, he refused to dwell on the ache within his heart. Or the fear that lodged close to it.



**EBOOK AVAILABLE ON OKADABOOKS & LS EBOOKSTORE

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Re: For Better, For Worse by Oolayeancah(f): 8:01am On Nov 30, 2015
Lovely story Prettyspicey.. I'm tempted to say guys like this do not exist anymore ;DD at least not in Nigeria
Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 8:54am On Nov 30, 2015
Oolayeancah:
Lovely story Prettyspicey.. I'm tempted to say guys like this do not exist anymore ;DD at least not in Nigeria

They do.......you haven't met me grin
Re: For Better, For Worse by charijee(f): 10:03am On Nov 30, 2015
JeffreyJamez:


They do.......you haven't met me grin
Would love to meet you tongue
Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 10:37am On Nov 30, 2015
charijee:
Would love to meet you tongue

You know where to find me tongue
Re: For Better, For Worse by chii8(f): 1:08pm On Nov 30, 2015
Nice write op dear,missed ur writings...

I want to know what stopped the connection between this couple...maybe it will help me personally
Re: For Better, For Worse by Essyprity(f): 4:21pm On Nov 30, 2015
Dear Pretty Spicey, I am one of those ur readers who wouldn't make comments on the wonderful stories on ur new blog 'life and spices' because I tried and tried to but couldn't even after doing all am required to do. Am glad to find u here and I want to really say u are such an inspiring writer. Carefully building up a story that would never be forgotten. I follow ur stories all the time but lack d means of reaching out. Just know am ur fan,one of ur greatest fans. And u are exceptional. Congrats on the blog too.

1 Like

Re: For Better, For Worse by JeffreyJamez(m): 5:50pm On Nov 30, 2015
chii8:
Nice write op dear,missed ur writings...

I want to know what stopped the connection between this couple...maybe it will help me personally

Go and buy the book then grin
Re: For Better, For Worse by PrettySpicey(f): 8:53pm On Nov 30, 2015
Essyprity:
Dear Pretty Spicey, I am one of those ur readers who wouldn't make comments on the wonderful stories on ur new blog 'life and spices' because I tried and tried to but couldn't even after doing all am required to do. Am glad to find u here and I want to really say u are such an inspiring writer. Carefully building up a story that would never be forgotten. I follow ur stories all the time but lack d means of reaching out. Just know am ur fan,one of ur greatest fans. And u are exceptional. Congrats on the blog too.

Thanks, Essyprity. Where you with us at Alifediary before we moved?

In actual fact though, this is just a Preview post of this story/Ebook. It is on sale on the blog and on Okadabooks. So, purchasing would be the only way to totally enjoy and be blessed by the story.
Re: For Better, For Worse by PrettySpicey(f): 8:59pm On Nov 30, 2015
chii8:
Nice write op dear,missed ur writings...

I want to know what stopped the connection between this couple...maybe it will help me personally

Well, I never stopped writing. I just moved to my own base. If you click on my signature, it will take your straight there and you can join others in reading another interesting piece.

This one though is an Ebook for sale. I am only showing glimpse chapters. A preview for readers to get a feel of what is therein. So, to find out what brought on the distance between Lara and Perez, you'll have to purchase the Ebook either via my blog for a PDF version or via Okadabooks for the Epub version.

Do hope you do wink
Re: For Better, For Worse by ifyjohnson(f): 10:26pm On Nov 30, 2015
So how can one get the pdf version
Re: For Better, For Worse by lanicky(f): 10:31pm On Nov 30, 2015
.

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