‘‘What do you mean it’s just work?’’ Tom asked Titi in his usual angry voice. ‘‘It’s just work? Every time? As I know it the company is rich enough to get a room for each of you.’’
‘‘He’s my boss. I’ve no choice,’’ Titi replied. This time, there’s no gentleness in her voice. She’s not going to remain vulnerable to Tom’s distrust. Her voice was louder than Tom’s voice. Her eyes seemed bulged though they were merely wide-opened, resisting blinking. He’d prayed to God several times that Titi should lose her job. And now he wondered why God didn’t answer that prayer. ‘‘God,’’ he called, ‘‘My God!’’
He would leave Titi’s place that night with a vow to separate from God. Why would he waste his time worshipping a deity, an Almighty one, who owns the hearts of men and would still get nothing from that God? He’d then ask himself if he’s not foolish to expect God to influence Titi’s boss to sack her. ‘‘After all, the boss loves her. Oh, trust Esu laalu ogiri oko, aba ni wa oran ba o ri oran da.’’ He wished he belonged to the family of Esu. The way he loved Titi he’d have begged Esu to cause a fight between Titi and her boss. ‘‘Esu is good at that. But God… may be he’s too good to protect my love. He’s the God of all. So, he doesn’t interfere in rivalry or battle for love.’’ Tom would cry that night. He would blame God for making him poor. He’d think of murder. But the best he’d do for days is lament.
Now he looked at Titi who was not making any effort to beg or explain herself further, he made up his mind.
‘‘Of course you don’t. You don’t have any choice. There are always meetings to attend? Your boss always gets just one room for the two of you? And both of you will stay there for days or weeks?’’
‘‘Tom, what do you suggest I do? What? Resign? No! I’m not going to do that just because you don’t trust me. And you’ve not got a job for yourself. You keep … you’re just jealous I’m employed?’’
Tom looked at her. He tried not to respond to the last statement but Titi repeated her words. ‘‘If you have a good job or any job at all you’ll know that there are professional ethics…’’
‘‘Professional ethics be damned! Many rules are codified but never practiced. Am I to allow my wife to stay with a Pastor all night in a room just because a pastor, a man like me always handles the Bible? Bull shit!’’
This was the third time Tom would argue with Titi over her job. And he knew she’s different. Titi used to beg Tom. And He’s expecting her to do just that. She wanted him to trust her and she’d always swear in the name of her mother that she loved him. The last time she swore like that Tom didn't trust her.
‘‘You don’t need to love someone before you do it with him. Do you?’’ He asked. And she said nothing. Her face expressed a grim readiness to fight him not a will to submit. Tom knew that but he did not believe that her fierce face could last in her heart. She simply softly told him that as the first child of her family she had many responsibilities and had become the bread winner.
‘‘Oh I’m jobless! How could I forget that? I’m silly.’’ Tom laughed. He put his hands in his pockets and moved closer to Titi. ‘‘Let’s end it here. Okay?’’ Titi unusually, did not resist him as he put his hands around her waist now and said, ‘‘I just I like to kiss you …’’
‘‘That’s not the case now, Titi interrupted. But he still needed to complete his statement. “Shhh! Please, just let me kiss you for the first and last time.’’
‘‘What do you mean?’’ Titi asked. She had submitted her head to him. She closed her eyes when his lips moved closer to hers. But he stopped.
‘‘I mean it’s just work. And you’ve got to keep that. A man is a potential predator of the duct. You know that. How can I be calm when the guardian of my meat is a fox? But you said it. It’s work! Work must come first! You can’t keep both work and love in this circumstance. I’m sorry.’’
With her eyes now opened, she pulled away from him and walked backward, with her head raised and her eyes tracing the walls to the two angles facing her. Tom didn’t expect her to beg but that’s what she did after a moment of silence.
‘‘Tom, please, don’t do that,’’ she said just once. In her mind she thought there’s no need to force someone to reciprocate love or trust. Since Tom was serious she had to let him go. ‘‘You don’t need to be sorry,’’ she added. ‘‘May be we’re just not meant to be together except as friends. I’ll always love you Tom. But work. It’s work this time. I’m sorry. My family… it’s family; first, this time. And this work is important, for family. I’m sorry too.’’ She really was sorry because she loved him and she believed as a man who loved her he’s not too wrong to be jealous in that circumstance. She would cry after Tom had left. ‘‘I’m very sorry Tom, my love. I really love you. I’m sorry Tom, my love, I really love you. I swear it’s just work.’’ She would cry and swear till she’d fall asleep. And Tom would always remember that night he walked away from his first love without the courage to go back.