The silence lingered. The park had a sparse human presence. It was Saturday morning, families and picnickers were yet to arrive.
“Hello ma’am, are you Mrs Johnson?”
“Please take a seat, Beatrice.”
“Have we met before?” She asked.
Banke’s lips curved into a smirk. She had prepared for this.
“I have seen you, I know what you look like. Take a seat.”
Beatrice wrapped her dress across her slim frame and sat on the edge of the park bench. She took in the dark-skinned woman who was now only a few inches away from her. She looked to be in her mid to late thirties. Her face was unfamiliar, this stranger regarding her.
“Thank you for coming,” Banke broke into her thoughts.
“What can I do for you?”
Her friend, Helen had suggested accompanying her, but she had assured her she would be fine. After all, they were meeting at the city park and not some enclosed space.
Beatrice forced a nervous smile.
“Pretty enough to have your own man, which leaves me wondering why you are after mine.” The stranger’s eyes bored into hers.
Beatrice tried to find the next words, but they wouldn’t come,”
“You want to deny it? Banke continued “You are Tega’s whore, aren’t you?”
Beatrice shot up from where she sat.
“Look, madam, it’s too early for this, I wouldn’t have wasted my time coming here if I knew it wasn’t something important.”
“Sit down!” Banke’s eyes had taken on a red hue.
“I had no idea you were such a coward. You are fucking a married man but are too chicken to face his wife? Frankly, I looked forward to meeting a more worthy adversary, but here you are tongue-tied, ready to scurry away like a rat. You must be…”
“Yes, I am seeing Tega Johnson, ma’am. Is there a problem?” Beatrice had had enough of the woman’s rambling.
The claps were an involuntary response, one that came on the back of slight shock.
Banke had not expected the side chick to talk back. She had assumed the meeting was almost over. That she would proceed to warn the lady to steer clear of her man or be dealt with. But Beatrice was proving to have multiple layers to her personality.
“Ah, she talks back. Interesting.”
“What? Were you expecting me to cower and shiver while you demean my person?”
“Hahahaha! Look who’s talking about respect. You are seeing another woman’s husband and you dare demand to be respected?”
“Mrs Johnson, please remind me, is there a rule that forbids a relationship with a married man in Nigeria?”
If this woman thought she was going to beg or cower before her, she was wrong.
“I can’t believe how shameless you are.”
“Oh, I am the shameless one and not your husband who’s aware of his status yet crawls into my arms any chance he gets?”
It was a slap. Banke couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Tega who had vowed to love and honour her, the man whom she bore three sons for, the one whom she had given her youth and sacrificed her career for had betrayed her in the worst possible way.
“I have read the messages between you two…they make me sick.”
“I am sorry.” Beatrice’s words were a whisper. With hunched shoulders, her long fingers traced imaginary lines on the wooden bench.
“You’re sorry? I think not.” Banke said, “the only way to prove you’re indeed sorry is to leave my husband alone.”
“That would be impossible.”
“I am in love with him.”
“You bitch! You have the guts to sit before me and tell me to my face that you’re in love with my husband? What nerve!” Banke twirled her chain around her little finger. She hadn’t imagined that things would play out this way. Her husband’s mistress was far more confident than she had thought.
She had chosen to not discuss it with Tega. She had a feeling confronting him would only steer their marriage further into the abyss of disconnect that had plagued it for the last two years.
But she had needed to meet the other woman. She had seen her picture on Tega’s phone, but she had wanted to see her in person. She needed to see what her husband saw in her. And now that they were having a one-on-one having a conversation, she could tell.
Her husband’s mistress was assured. She had refused to be intimidated in spite of her slight frame and even she had to admit that was impressive.
“I don’t intend to marry your husband,” Beatrice said, she was standing now “but we share something special and I don’t plan to rock the boat. Even if I did, I doubt it would make any difference.”
“I’ll take that.”
There was silence again.
“Yes, as long as you respect our privacy and he continues to do right by me and my children.”
“He will, he’s a good man.”
“I hope we never have this conversation again.”
The two women locked eyes.
Beatrice nodded and turned to leave.