Stanley drove as fast as he could to his mother in law’s home. He wondered why Ngozi went there, and prayed all was well. He arrived at the house and hurried into the compound. He waited for a while, after knocking, the seconds feeling like hours.
‘Good evening Ma’ he greeted his mother in law
‘Good evening. How are you doing?’
‘I’m fine Ma. Is Ngozi here? She asked me to come over’ he explained.
‘I asked her to invite you over. I need to talk to both of you. She is in the guestroom’ Stanley walked to the guestroom, wondering if Ngozi had told her mother of his misbehavior. Though his mother in law didn’t look angry with him. Ngozi was lying on the bed and reading a book when he entered the room forgetting to knock. He didn’t know how much he had missed her until he saw her. She was still looking thin, but she looked far better.
‘Good evening’ she greeted him, sitting up.
‘Good evening. You look better. Mummy must be forcing you to eat.’ She gestured the affirmative by nodding. They fell into an awkward silence. Stanley battled with himself for a while, then decided to get it over with.
‘Ngozi, I am terribly ashamed of myself. I failed you and failed God, blaming you for our inability to have children. I stopped being the good husband I promised to be. And to think that the problem was with me! Please forgive me. You taught me a great lesson, by taking the blame. I don’t know how you could be so selfless, but I am thankful and grateful to God for you. But I want you to know that I had nothing to do with my mother bringing in another woman. I thought she came alone. I would never do that to you. I’m truly sorry.’ The expression on Ngozi’s face was unreadable. Stanley wondered whether to turn and go back to the sitting room.
‘Please sit down.’ Ngozi said, gesturing to the only chair in the room.
‘I’m sorry you found out about it in that manner.’ Ngozi started talking after Stanley was seated. ‘I never wanted you to find out. I prayed instead. I hoped for a miracle, but it was taking longer than I expected, and before I knew it, ten years was gone.’
‘You should have told me about it’ Stanley responded. ‘It would have hurt me, but we would have formed a church and prayed together. Where two or three are gathered… remember?’
‘Yes I do. But honestly, I was scared of you losing it. I wanted you to be the man you have become, I didn’t want you to go back to drinking for solace.’ Stanley laughed out.
‘Good thing it did me’ he remarked sarcastically.
‘What do you mean?’ Ngozi asked
‘Why did you ask me if I could drive before you invited me over?’
‘I thought you would be drunk.’ Ngozi said without missing a beat.
‘You were right. I…’
‘You drank and drove?! Stanley…’
‘Far from it Zizi’ He said calling her a nickname only him called her. ‘I got drunk yesterday after I learned the truth, but something happened.’ He told her about his dream, or was it a trance? He wasn’t sure. But he told her his experience, feeling goosebumps all over his body when he got to the part where the light covered him. ‘Zizi, you need to be there to understand what I am saying. I didn’t have to be warned to stay clear of alcohol.’
‘Wow!’ Ngozi exclaimed, she wondered, indeed hoped, that the healing extended to even his infertility.
‘But how did Mama react when you got home drunk?’
‘I asked her to leave then went out and bought the drinks. For some reason, I didn’t want anyone to see me drunk, so I brought it home.’
‘So you told her about…?’ She still couldn’t say it to him.
‘About my being infertile?’ Stanley said it without emotion, making Ngozi flinch. ‘Yes I did. I had to.’ Ngozi slowly processed the information. She wondered whether Mama’s hatred has increased or decreased. She hoped for the later. She wanted to be her mother in law’s friend again.
‘Ngozi, what are you talking about that you forgot to feed your husband?’ Her mother asked, without opening the door.
‘It’s getting late and you people should hurry so we can pray and sleep. Your counselling session starts tomorrow, and they are in the mornings, early in the mornings, so we need to go to bed early.’ At the sound of “counselling sessions”, Stanley turned to Ngozi who temporarily ignoring his questioning gaze, answered her mother.
‘Okay Ma.’ Hearing her mother’s receding footsteps, she answered Stanley’s unasked question
‘She says we need counselling. I had to cry to her for help when I knew you were going back to drinking. I didn’t want my home to crumble without any effort to hold it up.’ Stanley nodded
‘Who is doing the counselling?’
‘She is. Look, we can talk later, before we sleep. Let’s go eat before she comes back to warn me.’ Ngozi walked towards the door.
‘We are sleeping in the same room?’ Stanley asked hopefully. It has been long since he slept by her side.
‘Yes we are’ Ngozi turned back to look at him. ‘Is there a problem with that?’
‘Not at all, Dear. Not at all.’ Stanley smiled as he followed Ngozi who was headed to the kitchen. He looked forward to the counselling sessions, at least it was a repair tool for his marriage. ‘But I still want children’ he thought. One step at a time. He nodded, one step at a time.
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Olanma’s plan was in action. She was working hard, and she was trying to put smiles on her mother’s face, for that she was really grateful to God, but she noticed a new development. She was feeling lonely. He mother was sometimes cooped up in her world of grief, and though they mourned the same person, he had played different roles in their lives. Her mother mourned a husband, Olanma mourned a father. Olanma felt tired, wishing she could depend on someone. For the first time, she wished she had a husband. Someone who will be with her in her own world. She walked slowly, going home from the market, oblivious to the fact that she was looking and acting more matured than her nineteen years.
‘Ola baby!’ Someone called out to her. Without turning, she knew it was Ebuka. Ebuka was another new development. Since he opened his own shop in Onitsha, he believed every girl should be glad he approached her. He made Olanma want ro disappear.
‘Ola!’ He called again. Olanma hastened her footsteps, she couldn’t act nice today, she was really tired. She had learnt to respect everyone, no matter how annoying they may be, and Ebuka took the price for being annoying. She was happy he didn’t follow her, and was happier when she got home. It was the end of another day. She was taking each day at a time.
‘Where is the money?’ The masked man hollered
‘There’s no money here.’ Uchenna replied.
‘For the last time, where is the money for the house?’
‘I am saying the truth. There is no money here.’ How did they know about the money?
‘Then it must be in the bank. Where is your ATM card?’
‘If you give us another discouraging answer, I will blow off your wife’s head’ One of the masked assistants. She was a woman.
‘You are a woman like me and you want to…’ A resounding slap ended Rita’s annoying speech.
‘I didn’t come here to hear rubbish. Where is your card and pin or she is dead.’ She pointed the silenced gun to Rita’s head. Uchenna quickly brought out the ATM card from his empty wallet and gave it to them.
‘What’s the PIN?’ ‘9745’
‘I’m going to a machine, if it’s wrong, you know what to do.’ The obvious leader said to his partners, leaving with the card. Twenty minutes later, he called. They could leave the house, the PIN was correct. Immediately Uchenna received an SMS alert. He didn’t have to check it to know it was from the bank. As they turned to leave, Rita couldn’t imagine the grief that will settle in her family again. It was a weekend, and before they could block the card, it will be on Monday, and it will be too late. She lunged forward at the female thief
‘Kill me at once’ she cried. The thief turned back and shot at reflex.
‘No!’ Uchenna rushed to an unconscious Rita, blood was quickly gushing out of her stomach, soaking up and spreading on her yellow blouse. The thieves hurried away.
The story continues…