HEATHER AND HER HUSBAND (SHORT STORY) #3
Towards the end of the last episode, Heather’s sister, Andrea, conversed with her husband’s cousin, JohnPaul, on the matter of Pago’s infidelity and Heather’s determination to do something drastic about it.
How can they help? Is it not too late to fix Heather’s marriage and avert calamity?
#3 “WHERE IS JP?”
Pago was in an exceptionally good mood that evening. He sang and danced to some Ne-Yo songs which he had on his iPhone as he made dinner for his wife, Heather, who was probably working in her office on the second floor.
After preparing the fish with peas and lettuce, he took it up to her but found her office empty.
“Strange!” he muttered. Then he called the pool house to find out where Heather had gone. JohnPaul obviously wasn’t there too. The phone rang and rang without any response.
He came down to the dining room and started eating the meal he had prepared. Half-way through, he called the dealership where he had paid for a Lexus to inform the owner he would be coming to pick the car himself within an hour because his cousin, whom he had asked to do so, was unavoidably absent. The car dealer seemed to be confused about who he was and the make of the car he’d paid for. But after some arguments and rifling through papers on his end, the man assured Pago that JohnPaul had picked up the car.
“Good, good. Thank you!” So everything was still on track. For a moment there he had been flustered, but everything was alright.
He continued singing as he freshened up for his special date at SilverPoint. He wore a blue Senator outfit with red trimmings on the breast pockets and sleeves. He put on a red cap made from the same red African print material as the trimmings and black leather mocassins.
He dropped notes for his wife on her computer, the fridge and her pillow that he was meeting some politicians and investors from Africa to talk some serious business. He told her not to wait up for him.
Prisca Jack was a Nigerian socialite in Houston. She was beautiful and sought after. Although she had no visible business, she lived in a condo in a predominantly White gated community (which meant higher home prices) and drove a Lincoln Continental. The rumour among Nigerians in Houston was that Pago planned to marry her as soon as he could extricate himself from his White wife. But nothing was settled yet. There were other contenders for Prisca’s hand and it seemed that buying her a luxury car on her birthday was Pago’s way of staking his claim publicly.
This news moved fast through the grapevine in Houston, but Pago himself had never discussed marriage with Prisca.
Pago arrived the SilverPoint at 6:00 p.m. He went to the barman on the third floor and asked if everything was ready for his bash. He had hired an Afrojuju band based in Texas, Miliki, to add verve to the event. There was a meeting room decorated on the third floor for Prisca’s 26th birthday party, an age many suspected was at least 10 years less than her actual age. He met the event planner, Jose Tivas, at the doors and he warned him that except he went to fetch Prisca immediately, they might be late for their 7:00 p.m. party and the guests would not be pleased.
“Blast the guests,” he said, but took his advice anyway.
As he was leaving, he got a call from Prisca. Someone had reported to the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) of her gated community that she was engaged in prostitution. They said the beauty salon she claimed she owned did not exist and they had supplied a website for escort services which they hinted supplied call girls to visiting dignitaries from Africa. According to the grapevine, they had also tipped off the police that the event at SilverPoint was one such occasion where the girls plied their trade.
Prisca implied she was being framed but rather than vehemently protesting her innocence, she was pleading with the HOA and laying low.
The story had circulated in social media chat groups for Nigerians in the Houston area. As a result, many whose immigration status was shaky had bailed on the event. Even those with valid residence papers had decided to steer clear to avoid having any problem with the law that will dent their records and further endanger their residence status subsequently.
Pago smelt a rat. Why were all these things happening in quick succession? Someone was orchestrating this fiasco to undermine his relationship with Prisca. But he would not relent.
In a bid to salvage the most important thing he had planned for her birthday, Pago told her he would be coming to her condo instead. He said he had a surprise for her.
“Where the f&#k is JP?” he cursed in his heart.
“Okay,” she agreed. “But low-key. I don’t want the HOA to have grounds to chuck me. You know these White people, they don’t like noise at all.”
“Okay. Love you, doll! I’ll see you in a jiffy.”
The truth was that Pago knew all about Prisca’s business and it was because of that business he was dating her. While other guys thought he was dating Prisca because she was beautiful and sexually experienced, Pago was playing a long game this time. Beautiful and sexually experienced women were a dime a dozen and he could date any of them anytime but Prisca had something he was angling for to set himself up for good: connections with political heavyweights from Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Pago wanted to have his pick of them to do business with. Having failed to succeed legitimately, he had begun to set up some front enterprises to launder money for these politicians with. He had no intention of leaving his wife, yet he had every intention of being the most important man in Prisca’s life. The car was a worthwhile sacrifice to have Prisca eating out of his hands and delivering the goods.
It wasn’t that there weren’t others he could meet for introductions to politicians but their terms could be steep; they could get greedy and dangerous too. But with a pliable and love-struck woman, he would call the shots and ditch her when he was done.
He thought he had it all figured out. However, Pago didn’t realise that his neglect of his wife had grown as his relationship with Prisca flourished. The only problem he noticed was that people were telling “foolish” stories about them and JohnPaul was totally against both the relationship and his new business idea.
“Who the f&#k does he think he is?” Pago bristled. The likes of him will spend a decade in the US and still be cleaning floors due to misplaced moral scruples. He didn’t get where he was by playing goody two shoes.
“And where the f&#k is the idiot?” he exclaimed.
He called JohnPaul’s cell and surprisingly he picked up cheerfully.
“I will kill you this night if you don’t show up with that car now.”
“Show up where? I dey here nah!”
“You dey where?”
“For SilverPoint, abi you don change the venue?”
“Idiot, why you switch off your phone?”
“I dey run things for you nah. Dey come up o, everybody don dey wait for you.”
“Who be everybody? You no hear say some guys don dabaru the bash?”
“For where? Everybody dey here- Prisca, Jamma, Pirro, the whole gang.”
“Which kain practical joke be this one? You think say I still be small boy like you?”
JohnPaul was chuckling as Pago cut the call and went to take the elevator.
When Pago got to the doors of the room, JohnPaul was there to receive him with a hug.
“Listen, just follow my lead. Don’t say a word,” he whispered as he ushered Pago into the room.
The party was already in full swing but it was not the party he had planned. A Black blues singer, Nolte Harris, was on the piano, playing a soft instrumental medley. The guests were a mixture of White folks and Africans. Neither Prisca nor any of the gang was there. These were all responsible people with legitimate jobs and their spouses, the kind of people JohnPaul associated with. Pago’s parents-in-law were even there, plus Junior and Andrea.
“What the f&#k is this?” Pago asked as JohnPaul simultaneously poked him in the ribs and marched on his foot.
“May I have your attention, please!” JohnPaul loudly requested.
“Not you,” he told Pago, grabbing his sleeve to ripples of laughter from the guests. “This is going to be a brief event,” he continued. “Before we go on to refreshments, I now invite the one for whom we have gathered here.”
As applause tore through the room, he ordered Pago through clenched teeth, “Smile,” with his own smile in place. Out of the small lounge attached to the other end of the meeting room came Heather, looking ravishing in a red figure-hugging Julie Vino number with a lacy bodice and flowing skirt. Her blonde hair was arranged in two top knot buns and her matching crystal beaded earrings and necklace alternated the colour of her eyes and dress in the stones. Her makeup was light as always- a little moisturiser, cheekbone highlighter, mascara and ruby gloss for her lips.
“Ladies and gentleman, meet the girl who stole my brother’s heart!” JohnPaul announced.
Andrea frowned, her mum dropped a tear as her husband squeezed her hand while the other guests clapped and whistled. Pago, the smart devil, was beginning to grasp the script and get into character. JohnPaul cannot take the credit for this, he thought.
“Isn’t she lovely?” he sang the first few bars of the Stevie Wonder special.
“So, today, he wants to make a special presentation of a 2021 Lexus RX 350 SUV to tell her how much she means to him,” JohnPaul continued.
As a dumb-struck Pago hesitated, JohnPaul pushed him and teased, “Don’t be shy, man! You put the keys in your pants pocket, left side.” The guests tittered.
Pago brought out the keys which JohnPaul must have placed there when he hugged him at the doors and approached his wife who by then was teary-eyed.
He had no words as he clasped her hands and pressed the key into them. Then he pulled her close for a kiss, to a round of applause. He requested Nolte to play, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” by Michael Bolton. It was their song- his and Heather’s.
“When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else
He’d trade the world
For the good thing he’s found”
Pago all but crushed Heather as they danced. Andrea fumed. “Incredible! The b&#tard is making a spectacle,” she murmured.
By the third stanza, other guests joined the dance and JohnPaul, without asking, maneuvered her into their midst.
“When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
And trying to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comforts”
Andrea breathed in his Musk cologne and stopped squirming. “It’s just a dance, nothing more!”
“When a man loves a woman
When a man loves a woman
When a man loves a woman
When a man, when a man
When a man loves a woman”
When the number ended, Heather confessed in low tones, “I’d packed my Glock, but JP said I was the woman, that he said his woman, not Aunty Woman.” Pago was lost. Then, Heather continued and clarity came, “Thank God for JP. I was going to kill you and the Aunty Woman and suffer the consequences.”
Pago shuddered as he listened to his wife.
“How could you ever doubt my love for you?”
“Stupid me! Andrea says I lack the temperament to own a gun, and I agree with her. She says anyone who can think of using a gun for anything other than self-defence shouldn’t own one. What do you think?”
“Well, I couldn’t’ have put it better myself. Andrea is right as always.” God, how I hate that conniving b%#ch! She must have talked JP into this.
Pago turned on the charm and Heather ate it all up. JohnPaul looked his way and he glared at him. JohnPaul’s eyes twinkled in a smile.
Meanwhile, Andrea was circulating and shaking hands. The musician picked up a bass guitar and began to play a slow version of Teddy Pendergrass’, “When Somebody Loves You Back,” and the guests paired up again to dance real close.
“It’s so good lovin’ somebody
When somebody loves you back,” he crooned.
Andrea had had enough mushiness for one day. She pecked Junior on the cheek as he dug out his drawing from his backpack and ran to meet his mum, who was wrapped in Pago’s arms. He wiggled himself between them.
“So you’re Aunty Woman,” he accused Heather. ”And you pretended you didn’t know what I meant. That is not cool, Mum.” She lifted him up while Pago escaped to make a call.
Andrea waved to Heather, kissed her parents and hurried out to her Ford truck. Someone was standing by it and she reached for her pepper spray.
“Don’t shoot! It’s only me,” JohnPaul joked, lifting his hands in mock surrender.
Something tugged at Andrea’s heart but she stifled it. One African in the family is quite enough, thank you very much!
“I just came to say goodbye and thank you for saving my brother’s life,” JohnPaul began.
“And my sister’s too!” Andrea replied. “Going to jail for life or being on death row isn’t my dream for her. I really don’t give a hoot about your brother, you know. Anyway, the plan was all yours. And your friends are quite resourceful. But what amazed me most was how you got everyone on board at such short notice, including the event planner and all these distinguished guests. You’re a dangerous one, JohnPaul. I’d hate to be in your sights.”
JohnPaul chuckled at the obvious compliment in her last statement, though sarcastically stated.
“Still, I couldn’t have pulled it off without you. Thank you for getting your parents and some other family friends to come. Their presence helped convince Heather this wasn’t just a ploy to get Pago off the hook. This isn’t the perfect solution, deceiving Heather like this, but it’s the best we could do under the circumstances to buy us time. I just hope Pago gets his act together.”
Andrea nodded, although she didn’t think Pago had learnt anything from what transpired.
JohnPaul reached for her hand and she trembled. Silly me! He’s just a kid really! But he wasn’t. He was Heather’s age, two years younger than her 31.
“I’ll be starting work as a procurement manager at the public library on Bay Street next week. I understand you run an art store over there.”
“Yes, I do. Seems like you’re moving up in the world,” she teased, referring to the fact that his last job was serving as a janitor at City Hall.
JohnPaul laughed. “Maybe I can check out your shop soon.”
“We’re open for business,” Andrea replied nonchalantly, wondering what gave him the right to look so attractive. He was about 5’’11” and lean but it was his crooked smile, very much like Junior’s, that unsettled her the most.
“And maybe I can buy you lunch sometime.”
“Maybe. We’ll see,” she replied, climbing into her truck and avoiding his gaze.
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2021
Hello! Hope you enjoyed this episode and the entire series.
Do you think Hesther and her husband are now fully reconciled?
What do you think of the role JohnPaul played in the recent turn of events?
If you were an immigrant in the US, would you live like Pago or like JohnPaul?
If you were JohnPaul, would you pursue a relationship with Andrea?
What is your overall impression of the series?