Violet hurriedly rinsed the blender and returned it to its position on the shelf. Her heels clicking on the tiled floor, she rushed out of the kitchen, picking up her bag and a transparent water bottle filled with green liquid. It took her not more than five minutes to lock up the house. She sighed as she dropped her bag in the front passenger seat of the car, setting the bottle in the cup-holder of the car. With the same energy, she opened the gate and ran back to her car to drive out of the compound, coming out again to lock it. We should get a gateman at this stage, she thought as she resettled into the car and started towards the school. She looked at the time on her dashboard. 7:47 am. It was a Monday morning and she would be late, there was no denying it.

One of the few mornings she overslept. By the time she woke up that morning, she heard Oyim shuffling the children out so he could drive them to school. Why didn’t he wake her up? She frowned. Almost immediately, she remembered she had set three different alarms before she finally slept off as late as three that morning. 

The memory of the night brought a fond smile to her face. She rubbed her thighs self-consciously. They had returned quite late from the housewarming party of a friend. Oyim had been more than a little drunk, pouncing on her as soon as they entered the room. Maybe it was because the gown she had worn to the party had kept on teasing him all through the party. She thought about the maroon gown and couldn’t help feeling a little annoyed. Oyim had spoilt the zip while he was trying to take it off. She had just bought it, she moaned silently. But it was hard to remain angry when she remembered the things that happened after the unfortunate gown left the warmth of her body. She rubbed her thighs again as she made a turn. The night reminded her of the first night she had shared with Oyim after she got to her goal weight. She bit her lips. 

My husband, she mused. There were times when she questioned if fighting for her marriage was worth it. During those nights when he turned away from her when he came home smelling of Benny and alcohol; when she saw the messages of debit alerts sent to that particular GT bank account; when he stared at other girls when they were out together. But now, the way his eyes roved over her as she came down the stairs, the way his hands tightened around her when he felt other men’s eyes on her, the look of pride on his face when they walked into the church with their children around them. It was indeed worth it. She had made the right decision five years ago when she decided to wake up from her pity-party and rediscover herself.

That day, it had become no secret to her that Oyim had another woman outside. The depression she sank into, no amount of movies or food could pull her out. She’d sat on the couch all day, doing nothing but plotting different ways to deal with the young make-up artist/hairdresser her husband had been seeing. He bought her the shop, helped her stock it with different equipment, wigs, and hair attachments. As she heard more about her husband’s extramarital escapades, she fell deeper into the well of depression. She would stare at the television screen with tears running down her face yet not attempting to wipe her tears. It didn’t help that she had just given birth to the twins and had to deal with taking care of them and her postpartum weight that was double its size after she had given birth to Sochi.

It had been a rash decision—the decision to lose weight. One day, she’d gone to the supermarket. She saw a group of young girls, she guessed they were all students of the university. For a moment, she tried to look for what they had that she didn’t. Benny, her husband’s girlfriend was also a university student. She looked at them, their well-made up face and beautiful hair contrasted with her dried facial skin. She touched her hair. She mostly wore it in a simple all-back when she was at home, forgetting to lose it until it got so old and untidy. She looked down. Their waists seemed to be even tinier than her fat arms. Self-consciously, she shrunk into herself. But how could she make her mass any smaller than it was? She could swear that they used something to tie up their waist. It made the division between their upper and lower body even more evident. Two of the girls were slim and the other two—Violet studied them even further. They were far from slim, huge breasts and well-rounded globes adorned their full figure. They were not slim, yet she could feel exactly what pulled men like Oyim towards them. She had to lose weight, she had to go back to how she was before she got married to Oyim and gave birth to their first child. She had to go back to her NYSC body—her slim waist, her curvy behind, her medium-sized but perky breasts would be impossible to achieve, but it was something she had to deal with. 

That day, she bought a waist-trainer and three packets of green tea from the same supermarket. When she got home, she began browsing the internet for what she could do to lose weight fast.

Thinking about it now, she laughed loudly, her throaty laughter bouncing off the closed windows of the car. She honked twice at a man crossing the road while pushing a wheelbarrow. At first, she’d looked for easy routes—lemon water, apple cider vinegar, green tea—gulping glass after glass of each until she couldn’t distinguish between their different tastes. It didn’t work. How could it? She still ate as she did, still drank chilled bottles of Coke and Fanta. There was very little green tea could do. 

She took another turn then looked at the time again. 7:59 am. She mentally ran through the excuses she could give. As she had expected, the green gates of the school had been closed. They were usually left wide open from 7 am to 7:30 am as students and teachers trooped into the school. She honked twice, winding down her glass and giving the security man a wave when he looked out of his window to check who it was. She drove into the school. Fortunately, her first class on Monday wasn’t until 9 am. She looked at herself in the mirror, adding an extra layer of powder. With a smile, she came down from the car with her bag and her bottle. 

A look around the school made her widen her eyes. The decorations that had been used for the school’s sports competition were still hanging around, though haphazardly. The memory of the event brought another thought to mind. C-Jay. The event had given her a sprain that reduced to a low throbbing by the time she returned home. She looked around the school. The wide compound had been a flurry of activities on Saturday. Her hands tightened around the handle of her bag. It had been her first school sports competition since she started teaching in the school and she had been put in charge of overseeing a house march. Her house had come second, a feat that was received with both surprise and excitement. The high point of the event for her was after the teacher’s relay race. She had been escorted out of the track as soon as she handed the baton to C-Jay. 

The members of their team had been well-chosen—she, C-Jay, and two other teachers, Mr. Okey and Miss. Stephanie. While Stephanie was not much of a good runner, the other three were fit enough to handle the race. While Violet was handing the baton to C-Jay, she sprained her feet and fell. They won the race but she had to deal with the sprain in her feet. She was not a runner, she had to admit. If she didn’t jog often, there was no way she would be able to complete the hundred-meter race.

She was taken to the nurse’s office where she spent the rest of the day until the end of the sports competition after the winners got their medals and the cultural dance troupe made their presentation. C-Jay came to see her in the office. It was then that it happened. The kiss. The thought of it made her heart beat faster. As she entered the staffroom, glad that it was almost empty, she continued replaying the moments leading up to the kiss in her mind.

“Are you feeling much better?” C-Jay asked as he entered the office. He shut the door. He pulled a chair closer to where she lay on the bed. 

She sat up with a wane smile. “I’m alright. I just didn’t know it will hurt this much. It’s been ages since I ran at that speed.” 

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you.” He peered closer at her feet now wrapped in a white bandage. The smell of the ointment that the nurse had used on the spot was still strong in the air. “Did she give you some painkillers?”

Violet nodded and reached to touch the bandaged area, wincing when a movement sent more pain down the area. “It’s not as painful as it was before. I just don’t know how long it will take for the pain to disappear.”

“At least two days, I think.” He touched the bandage lightly. “I still feel a little guilty since I’m the person that-”

Violet laughed. “It’s alright. I enjoyed it. I never knew I could run like that again. It’s been what, more than ten years since I ran in a competition. I was never a runner, but still… it was really fun.” 

“Well, at least something good came out of it, right?” He chuckled. 

“You could say so. And yay! We won.” She smiled. “Did you get the prize?”

“You know how it is. They gave us a cup that will soon be returning behind the school’s showcase. But it came with a cash prize of five thousand naira. It’s not much, so I and the others decided that we use it for lunch next week. We will take pictures later with the cup.”

She nodded in agreement. “Not bad. What about my house and my students? Who took my place in the pictures?” 

“Mrs. Chinwe did. She said she will come by later. They’re still sharing snacks and drinks to the students. It will take a while.”

“Okay.” 

He stood from the chair and moved to sit beside her on the bed. It was so abrupt that she could only stare in surprise.

“What…?” She shifted to the edge of the bed, trying to separate herself from him.

He grabbed her hand. “Wait, it’s alright. I’m not going to do anything.”

She frowned at him. “So what is the meaning of this?” She gestured at his buttocks on the bed.

He sighed deeply. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this, but it seems you have been avoiding me these past few days.”

He was not wrong. Ever since he came to visit her when Chike was ill, she had made it a point to avoid him at all costs. She looked away. “You should know the reason why I am avoiding you.”

“I do and I don’t like it. It hurts me.” He took her hand in both of his.

She reeled back wincing slightly. She tried to pull her hand away from his, but his hold was tight. “I’m married,” she said, still pulling.

“I know. Of course, I know.” He caressed the finger where her gold band lay. “But I want to take care of you.”

“I can’t.” She shook her head in apology. “I really can’t. I love my husband.”

“But does he love you the same way you love him?”

“Of course, he does. My husband loves me.” There was no doubt about that. There were very few things in life that Violet was certain about and this was one of them.

“I don’t think so, Vi. If he did, why would he go out with other girls?” He looked at her in the eyes.

Violet gasped. “Who told you that?”

“Enita told me. If he loves you, why would he go out with other girls?” He repeated.

Violet struggled harder to pull her hand from his and finally succeeded. She folded her arms. “Even if he did, you don’t have any right to talk about him.”

“Baby.” He pulled closer to her. 

Violet turned her face away. “I love my husband, C-Jay. Even if he cheats on me, I cannot do the same to him. What you are saying…” She shook her head slowly.

C-Jay remained quiet for a long time. She looked up to know what was wrong. Suddenly, his face was directly in front of her.

“C-Jay-” He cut her off, roughly capturing her lips in his. She tried to scream but it was blocked by the soft skin of his lips. He caught her hand and pressed his lips even closer to hers. Helpless to free herself from his clutches, Violet kept her mouth tightly shut. His tongue sought permission to be let in, but she remained stiff. The struggle continued for what seemed to Violet for ages—actually around thirty seconds—before C-Jay finally let go of her. He moved away quickly probably to avoid her hand if she wanted to slap him. But slapping him was the last thing on Violet’s mind, she hurried to wipe any evidence of his mouth on hers from her lips. 

When she looked at him with eyes filled with hurt, tears, and anger, he had one of apology on his face. “I’m sor-”

“Just leave, C-Jay. Please.” Her voice broke at the end. 

“Vi-”

A knock came on the door. Violet gave him a sharp look. With a sigh, he turned to open the door for Mrs. Chinwedu. After exchanging some words with her, he left. She had not seen him again after then. She had not taken pictures with the cup that they had won. She had buried what happened in her mind and when she went home, she’d completely forgotten about it.

But right now, the memory was around her. Teasing her, mocking her. She kissed a man that was not her husband.