Namdi's determination to not look at his Father in law grew the more he listened. Why is he telling me this? Namdi racked his brain to no avail, meaning eluding him. The night grew darker, a cover of clouds denying the twinkle of the heavens. Namdi's hands gripped the balcony, railing steadying himself; the feel of the cold metal a reminder that this was not a dream.
"Was it love? I'm not sure. But what I cannot deny is she lit a roaring fire within me. I once believed with conviction I would never be that man. I had the war to blame."
Mr. Shagari took a deep drag from the cigar in his mouth, the smoke billowing from his nose like the discharge of a fired cannon.
"Our passion burnt fiercely. Alas, she wanted more than I could give her. She soon burnt out."
What does he mean by burnt out? Namdi thought, his tongue losing its function when he attempted to voice out the question.
"You must be wondering why I am telling you this. Wondering if my wife knows."
The cigar fell from Mr. Shagari's mouth, landing on the floor, the end still smoldering. Without bothering to look down, he flattened it beneath his sole.
"It is simple, you can do nothing to me. You are powerless, insignificant, a bug beneath my shoe. Crushing you can be achieved with a mere thought."
As he listened, Namdi found it more and more difficult to keep hold of the railing. Palms sweaty, knees weak, he cut a pitiful picture. All that kept him upright was the dread of the shame he would have to bear if he collapsed in front of his father-in-law. Mr. Shagari brought out another cigar, this time bringing out a cigar cutter made of bone. Namdi could not see this cigar cutter, but in the silence he could hear clearly every minute movement his father-in-law made.
"You must know by now how much I treasure these cigars. Between you and what I hold in my hands, which I hold in higher regard should be evident. I know you can't see what I'm about to do to this cigar but your imagination should fill in the blanks."
With the bone handle cigar cutter, Mr. Shagari snipped the head of the cigar. Namdi heard distinctly as the blade bit into the brown shaft of the cigar with a crisp clear snip. The older man did not stop there. Bit by bit he snipped, the pieces fluttering to the floor till only a gold band remained. It was neither hot nor warm where they stood; still beads of sweat popped out the forehead of Namdi. Each made its way down his cheeks to be absorbed by his collar. Namdi did not dare reach up to wipe it away, reduced to a rabbit a paw away from the jaws of a beast.
"Have you cheated on my daughter?"
The question slammed into the gut of an unprepared Namdi. His heartbeat a mile a minute, shivers running down his bent spine. His mind screamed at him; there was only one answer. There was only one path to life and all others would lead to his eradication. Truth be damned, his inner demons chanted as they all marched to the only option they could. NO! was the answer he thought, the only answer that mattered. A deep sense of hopelessness fell on him, bathing every inch of his person as his mouth opened to speak. He wasn't given a chance.
"You know what, don't answer. Your words don't matter. All that matters is that she and more importantly I don't find the answer to be yes."
The balcony light came on, flooding what was once dark with a rich white light. The roller coaster of emotions was too much for Namdi. On shaky legs, he made his way to the only chair on the balcony. He sat down heavily, the unapproachable broad back of his father-in-law filling his vision.
Continued on next page...
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