After touring the three biggest bridal shops in the city of Ibadan, Jacqueline eventually got her perfect gown. Femi, in his unusual demeanour, patiently accompanied her to the shops.

“Excuse me,” Jacqueline said as she reached for her vibrating phone.

“Jacq,” the deep voice from the other end called.

She moved further when she recognized the owner of the voice. Mensah!

“You think you can leave me for another man and be free? You left me brokenhearted and you think I’d let you go? You must be kidding.”

She walked out of the shop. “Mensah, are you out of your senses? Is it by force? I left you because i couldn’t cope with your terrible attitude anymore. And why are you starting this all of a sudden? After six months, and at this time? Get off my….”

“If you dare hang up on me, you’d regret it,” Mensah threatened.

Jacqueline froze in fear.

“We are both Ghanaians, Jacq. We were good together. You left me because you met the son of a commissioner…”

“No!” she protested, “I left you because you didn’t respect me. You shout at me in public, and even threaten to raise your hand…”

“But I never hit you, Jacq. I never did. The last six months have been tortuous for me. I can’t do without you, babe. I’ll never let you go.”

“There’s nothing I can do about that. My wedding is in eight weeks.” She looked back to see Femi standing at the door with a questioning look. “I have to go,” she said.

“Don’t dare me, Jacq. You know what I can do.”

She knew. She knew what Mensah was capable of doing.

“What do you want from me?” she asked quickly.

“Meet me at home at 10am tomorrow. If you want your nude pictures scattered all over the internet, then don’t come.”

He hung up.

Jacqueline’s heart skipped many beats. Her legs became weak. She managed a smile as she walked back to the shop.

“Who was that?” Femi asked.

“Jamie. She asked if I’ve gotten my gown.” She struggled to keep her voice from quivering.

Jacqueline swallowed hard as she stared at Mensah’s muscular body clad in a pair of boxers. That was one of his tricks. She knew it. If it was about looks, he had it all. He was into modelling before his bad attitude caused a strain in his relationship with his agent.

“So, I’m here. What is it?” she asked with a straight face, while struggling with the shivers that his familiar body caused within her.

He smirked and stood beside her. “See.” He showed her the five nude pictures she had once sent to him. “I also have them on my laptop, and even in my email. So, I mean business.”

Jacqueline felt a lump of fear rolled into her heart. Hot tears welled up in her eyes.

“Why are you doing this to me, Mensah, why? I had yours too, but I deleted them. I thought you said you loved me.”

He grinned. “I do, and that’s why I’m doing this. I can’t let you go, Jacq.” He lowered his mouth to kiss her, but she pulled away.

“I’m getting married in two months! What’s wrong with you?” Fury possessed her eyes.

“But I need you, Jacq.” He pulled her close to him.

She snapped and stepped farther. “Stop this! What’s your problem? I have to go, since you have nothing meaningful to say.”

“If you take any step further, you’re finished,” he threatened.

Jacqueline remained glued to her feet.

“Since you can’t give me what I want, then I don’t mind a bank transfer of half a million naira.”

“And where will I get such a ridiculous amount of money from?”

He laughed hysterically. “You’re getting married to the son of a commissioner. Five hundred thousand naira is nothing to him.”

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Jacqueline fell to her knees. “Mensah please. I beg you in God’s name. Remember the love we shared….”

“Jacq, if I were you, I’d be on my way out to get the money. This is even more important than your wedding, because it’ll determine if the wedding would hold or not.”

“Mensah please….” Tears streamed down her face.

‘’Let me delete them myself,” Jacqueline said to Mensah two days later in his house. She had transferred the money into his account the previous day.

Mensah handed over his phone and laptop to her. She cringed at the sight of her nude pictures and deleted them immediately. She blamed herself for being caught up in the silly craze.

“I emptied my account for you, Mensah. I don’t ever want to have anything to do with you. Don’t call me, for anything, don’t!” She walked out of his house without waiting for his reply.

He smiled mischievously.

Everything went on well until a week before the wedding when Mensah called again. Jacqueline and Femi just stepped out of the priest’s church office.

“Jacq.”

She froze. If she had known he was the one, she wouldn’t have answered the call.

“I’ll call you back, Jamie,” she said and terminated the call.

When she got home, she called him.

“Mensah, don’t dare me. I warn you,” she feigned confidence.

Mensah replied with a loud mocking laughter.

“Quit the drama, Jacq. Now, straight to business. I’m sorry I had to call you again. I need your help this time. I need a million naira to facilitate my traveling to Germany. Now that my friend there, Kwame, is ready to help me come over, I don’t want to miss the opportunity. You know this has been my dream. I promise I’ll never call you again after this.”

She hissed. “You’re crazy.”

“We’ll see who is crazy when your nude pictures flood the internet. I still have them on my flash drive.”

“This is not fair, Mensah,” her voice shook.

“Life hasn’t been fair to me, Jacq. Now it’s time to make it fair to me. This is why I need you.”

“I don’t have such money. I emptied my account for you. I can’t get it from anywhere. Be reasonable, Mensah.” A mix of anger and fright consumed her.

“Okay. I’ll be reasonable. I’ll wait till after your wedding. I know you would have a lot of money by then. Your father-in-law’s friends are wealthy, they’ll surely shower you with lots of money. So, I’ll wait till three days after your wedding. Don’t make me call you, Jacq. You know me. Happy married life in advance.”

The line went off. Jacq stared at her phone. Grateful that she was the only one in the house, she screamed.

“Jacqueline, what’s wrong with you? I can’t see the newlywed glow in you. You look distracted. I noticed it at the reception two days ago, but I thought it was the stress of the ceremony. Am I right?” Femi asked, peering into her eyes as they waited for their dinner in the restaurant. They had lodged in a luxurious hotel for their honeymoon.

Her eyelids fluttered. “You’re right. It’s the stress. I’ll get over it.” She felt guilty for lying to him, but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t have the nerve to dare Mensah. If he released her nude pictures, so many things would fall apart. She would lose Femi, his father’s political image would be tainted, and she would lose her dignity.

Mensah was more handsome than Femi. Femi was average height, not particularly handsome, but well groomed and elegant, that his near handsomeness could barely be noticed.

To Jacqueline, it wasn’t just about looks. Femi was goodhearted and unassuming. They had hit it off immediately when they met at a friend’s wedding. She didn’t even know he was the son of the state commissioner for culture and tourism until their third date. Femi and his family proved to her that wealth and humility was not an impossible combination. She couldn’t afford to drag the lovely family’s name in the mud.

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She had a few hours left to meet up to Mensah’s demand. The thought of where she would fish out a million naira from constantly distracted her and robbed her of her newlywed glow. She had less than a hundred thousand naira in her bank account. All the gifts they received at the reception, including cash gift, were taken home by Femi’s younger brother, while the couple was driven to the hotel for their honeymoon. It would be ridiculous to ask her husband for such an amount. And to what need exactly?

 

She feigned happiness until 11pm when she decided to put a call through to Mensah. Knowing that Femi was sound asleep, she freed herself gently from his embrace, and stealthily tiptoed to the bathroom.

Fortunately for her, he picked it at the fourth ring. She knew Mensah to be a late sleeper.

“Mensah, please. There’s no way I can meet up to your demand. Have mercy on me. My husband is already suspecting me because I’ve not been happy. Please Mensah.” Hot tears welled up in her eyes.

There was silence on the other end.

“Hello?”

“Jacq, I understand you, but you need to help me too. I need you to help me make my life meaningful just this once.” He wasn’t threatening this time around; he was pleading.

She was tempted to feel for him. He had always loved to travel out of the country. He often lamented about being fed up of the country, because he couldn’t get a yet job five years after graduation. This made him to consider modelling, just to keep body and soul together, and he lost that when he had issues with his agent.

 

“Mensah, I can’t …”

“Who are you talking to?”

Jacqueline stopped and turned when she heard Femi’s voice behind her.

She froze for some seconds after which she found her voice. “I…I..” she stammered. “Mensah,” she confessed. The game was up. There was no point lying. She spent the next fifteen minutes telling Femi all he needed to know.

He didn’t say anything when she finished talking. He went back to bed and turned his back against her.

Their communication became strained afterwards, and Jacqueline couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes. After a quiet breakfast in a tensed atmosphere the following morning, Femi said, “Get dressed and take me to his house.”

She stared at him in disbelief but didn’t say anything.

Many thoughts bombarded her mind as they headed to Mensah’s place. What did Femi plan to do? Would he fight him? Would he plead with him? His words to her had been laconic, so she couldn’t guess what his intention was. She prayed that all would be well.

After forty minutes of driving in an uneasy silence, they got to Mensah’s one room self contain apartment and after some seconds of knocking, Mensah appeared before them, looking shocked to the marrow.

“Will you allow us in, young man?” Femi asked flatly but with a trace of politeness.

He opened the door wider to let them in, struggling with emotions of shock, confusion, and fear. Sweat seethed through his naked body, clad in a pair of boxers that left nothing to the imagination.

Femi sized him up. Nice body, he thought. He felt jealous to think that Jacqueline has had a feel of his muscular body before. Mensah also sized Femi up. He was intimidated by his poise and elegance. The trio stood, trading glances until Femi spoke.

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“She told me everything. It beats me why a gentleman like you would pull such stunts on a woman he once loved. You have a nice body, using it in jail wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Jacqueline saw a flicker of fear in Mensah’s eyes. What happened to all his threats? He was obviously intimidated by Femi.

“I’m sorry. I’m just a frustrated guy who needs help. I spent the money she gave me on my traveling pursuit. I don’t have her nude pictures anymore. She already deleted them. I only lied to her that I had them on my flash drive, because I needed more money to finish up what I started. I wouldn’t do such a thing to Jacqueline. I love her, but she has made her choice,” Mensah said in the most unexpected manner.

Jacqueline swiped at a tear drop. Femi indeed saw a frustrated guy who needed help.

“Always use the right approach whenever you need help. Nothing good comes from using the wrong approach. Excuse me,” Femi replied, and pulled his wife along. He wouldn’t dare to leave both of them in the room.

“Stay in the car,” he instructed her after filling a cheque.

He went back into the house and extended the cheque to Mensah who was now wearing a T-shirt. “This is a cheque of five hundred thousand naira. Stay away from us.”

Mensah collected it. “Thank you. And I’m sincerely sorry.” Tears gathered in his eyes.

“I don’t know why I did this, but be a good man. You might not have been this lucky.”

He nodded. “Yeah. I know. Thanks.”

Femi returned to the car, and they headed back to the hotel in silence which sickened Jacqueline. She would have preferred an outburst to the silent treatment he’s been giving her.

“Start packing, we are going home,” he said when they got to their hotel room.

“Why?” she asked before realizing how dumb her question was.

“Did you just ask me why, Jacq? Why would you do such a thing without telling me? Why? You kept all of that away from me! You could even have continued to sleep with him behind me! I never dreamt of having a ruined honeymoon!” He tried unsuccessfully to keep his voice down.

Jacqueline felt hurt by his words, but she deserved whatever word he chose to use on her.

She fell on her knees, and wrapped her hands around his legs. “I’m sorry, Femi. I didn’t want to hurt you. I thought I could handle it myself. Forgive me…please… Deal with me…. Punish me… Do whatever you want with me…” she wailed in tears.

“As if I could. I wish I could.” He pulled her up. “The guy is a helpless guy. He could have landed in jail. I don’t know what came over me today. May be I felt for him. Poor me. Come here.” He pulled her to his embrace. She wet his shirt with tears and snot.

He lifted her suddenly and threw her on the large bed. He pulled off his shirt. “Didn’t you say I should do whatever I wanted with you?”

Laughter claimed the room.

The following morning, Jacqueline wrote on her Facebook timeline, “Watch the crazy things you do when you’re in love. You might not be lucky.”

 

Olubunmi Mabel