Rita counted the money she had saved in the past two years. She knew she had to do something fast. Her husband Uchenna was many things but he was not a violent man. For him to have gotten into a fight, he must be frustrated, very frustrated. She counted fifty-seven thousand naira, she had drawn a plan already and only hoped it will work out as she had planned. She took the money and left the house to execute her plan, hoping her husband doesn’t find out. On getting to her parents’ house, she told her mother of her plan. Her mother disapproved of the idea immediately
‘What are you telling me? God forbid, not my daughter! Rita, your father and I can take care of you and the kids.’
‘Mummy I know, but you know Uchenna can barely tolerate the knowledge that I get an allowance from you. He is so ashamed, imagine how he will feel if you start taking total care of us. I just want to do my part.’
‘Your husband will not approve of this, I…’
‘That’s why he will not find out. I have it all planned out.’ Rita assured her mother.
‘If you say so, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.’
Olanma hid herself in the kitchen. She had woken up earlier than usual to fetch water. It was the Easter break and most of her mates that schooled within the state were home for the short holiday, some of them even doing her traditional marriage. She didn’t want to run into them, as they always talked about only what happened at school, making Olanma feel left out, backward and stagnant, being the only one, among her mates’left in the village who is not married. She felt very lonely and alone. Her best friend, Chidinma, who has an uncle in Lagos usually go there for her breaks from school. She missed her and wished she was around. Chidinma had a way of making Olanma feel better about her not being able to get admission in the University.
‘So this is where you are hiding? Come out and greet me Osiso!’ Olanma was not sure she heard correctly. She turned to look at the direction of the voice and couldn’t believe what she saw. ‘Chidinma!’ she screamed, running to hug her friend.
‘I’m so happy to see you. I was just thinking about you. When did you come back? I’ve missed you.’ Chidinma smiled, enjoying the attention of her friend
‘I came back a little late last night. I could only bath and sleep. How have you been Olanma? And why are you hiding again? We have talked about this, hiding doesn’t solve anything. Instead, it helps you accept your situation, and you don’t see reasons to try harder.’
‘I have been fine, but for suitors disturbing me every week. I want to go to school before I think of any man. About the hiding, I don’t want to feel worse than I already do. Why is your countenance fallen?’ At the mention of the word “suitors”, Chidinma’s happiness on seeing her friend had disappeared. She wondered how she will take the news she was about to tell her.
‘I have something to tell you and I hope you won’t feel worse.’
‘Why should I feel worse about anything? I am so happy to see you, and nothing can kill my joy.’ Olanma replied, feeling a bit apprehensive. Chidinma was usually an outspoken person, saying what she has to say except it will hurt someone. For her to hesitate before speaking, it must be an emotional matter. ‘Chidinma, what is it?’
‘A suitor is coming for my hand tomorrow. Actually, we have been kind of together for a while, so he is coming to see my parents.’ Olanma felt the strength leaving her legs and she sat down on the stool, trying to make sense of what she was hearing.
‘You are getting married?’ she asked
‘Yes, but not immediately. He has not even brought the wine’ Chidinma said, trying to bring in some humour, but failed.
‘It won’t change anything between us.’ Olanma laughed dryly
‘You know that’s not true. The pressure will be more on me to accept someone as my husband, I will miss you.’ She burst into tears at the full realization of what Chidinma’s marriage will do to her. Chidinma knelt down holding her best friend, tears coming to her eyes too.
‘Ola, I am not leaving with him tomorrow. We still have some time together. I need you to be by my side as my best friend, I am also scared. I don’t know what marriage holds. I will keep in touch.’ On hearing Chidinma acknowledge her fear, Olanma dried her eyes. She put up a shaky smile,
‘I’m happy for you, you know that right? I’m just being selfish because I will miss you and my hiding will be intensified.’
‘I know, but you won’t need to hide again. You will get into school after the next JAMB, I will teach you some studying skills I learnt. But first, we need to prepare for Obinna’s coming.’ Chidinma said pulling Olanma off the stool and heading towards the house with her.
‘Obinna. Is that his name? How come I didn’t hear about him all this time you were “kind of together”?’
‘I don’t know. I was just watching him I guess. I didn’t see him as anything intimate until he came and saw my uncle.’
‘Hmmm, do you like him?’ Olanma asked looking at her friend’s face for anything she might not be saying. But she was satisfied with the shy smile on Chidinma’s face.
‘Yes I do. He is a good man, godly and respectful. His mum also loves me so…’
‘Good’ Olanma said and hugged her friend. They had promised themselves some years back that when they are getting married, the man’s mother must love them just like her own daughter.
After informing her mother of the latest development, Olanma followed her best friend to her house to prepare for their future in-laws.
Ngozi gazed into nothingness, with tears falling down from her eyes. It has been ten years, and God has not answered her prayers for a child, even if it’s just one child. She got promoted easily, and the money kept coming in, but what she really wanted was a child. She took no notice of her mascara streaking her face. Stanley was not helping matters, if only he could join her in praying instead of putting blames on her. Blames she was not supposed to be carrying.
“No I won’t dwell on that. It only ends up in me blaming God” she said to herself as she stood up to pack up and go home. She didn’t feel well, she hardly ever felt well, with her constant heavy heart. She was distracted on the ride home, tears still flowing from her eyes. Her driver kept looking at her through the rear mirror, but she kept her eyes fixed on the moving view through the car window. She got home and collecting her car keys from the driver, headed to the house. On entering the house she smelt a perfume, a strange one. She moved towards the kitchen where she heard voices. The first person she noticed was her mother in law
‘Mama, good afternoon Ma. I didn’t know you were coming I would have prepared…’
‘What is good about the afternoon? And when did I start to ask for your permission to come to my son’s house?’ Mama asked venomously.
‘That’s not what I meant Mama. I just…’
‘Keep your explanations to yourself. Just go upstairs, pack your things, and leave my son’s house. I have brought a productive wife for him.’ That was when Ngozi noticed the woman at the corner smiling triumphantly. She couldn’t believe it; it had to be a joke.
‘Mama, I am sorry I didn’t prepare for your arrival. Let me go and drop my bag then I will come and prepare a sumptuous meal for you, I will be…’
‘Didn’t you hear what I said you witch, eating your children for money! I have told Stanley I am around, so pack your things and get out.’ Though mama’s words were like a dagger in Ngozi’s heart, it hurt more that Stanley was aware of this. She knew her marriage was over as she walked upstairs to pack up her things. Her eyes were dry, as the worse had happened. She called her driver back to the house.
Chidi had just one plan, to get home, take his bath, and get some sleep. His plan was crashed when he dragged himself to his flat. He saw a silhouette as he approached his door, he wondered who could be sitting by his door, and on the floor too. On getting closer, he recognized his father. All his tiredness evaporated, replaced by worry and a slight annoyance. It was going to be a long night.