Stanley was tired, but he knew Ngozi will be worried about his whereabouts. Mama was also around, and she and Ngozi didn’t always get along. He wished things could be as they used to be before the pressure of trying to have a child had begun to spoil things. Mama had loved Ngozi like she was priceless, but the love had turned into bitterness with each passing year without a child. He dialed Ngozi’s number, wondering why she was not picking. She usually couldn’t sleep until she was sure he was safe. He tried again, she still didn’t pick. He began to feel uneasy, something was wrong. He called his mother. She picked at the first ring
‘My son’ she said ‘why are you not home yet? I prepared your food and it has gone cold.’
‘Mama, I went on an impromptu journey. I am in Ghana for a business meeting. It may take a week for me to finish up here. Mama can you please give the phone to my wife, I need to speak with her’
‘Okay my son’ Stanley waited for the unleashed anger from Ngozi and was preparing his explanation, only to hear a strange voice
‘My husband good evening. When will you be coming back? I can’t wait to meet you?’
‘Who is this? Give the phone to Ngozi’ Stanley wondered what was going on in his house.
‘I’m Chinwe your new wife.’
‘My new what?! Stanley shouted, feeling a dread settle in his stomach
‘Give the phone to Mama’
‘My Son, what is the matter?’
‘Mama where is Ngozi? And who is that Chinwe in my house?’
‘I chased the witch away. She kept eating her children to get promotions and more money. Chinwe is a fresh girl, she will give you sons and daughters.’ Stanley felt so weak and powerless, he was about to reply and he heard a voice warn him. He knew he will regret whatever he said. He simply ended the call and went back to calling Ngozi through the night, who never picked up, neither did she reply any of his text messages.
Mama looked at her phone wondering why her son just ended the call without saying anything. She put up a smile and looked at Chinwe,
‘don’t worry my dear when he comes, you will take over. Go and sleep.’
‘Ok Ma’ Chinwe replied and went to bed, leaving Mama wondering if she had not made a mistake in thinking her son will accept whatever she said. She had expected a fight, but he hadn’t said a word. That was strange. She decided to plan for his return. Ngozi was tired of fighting the temptation to pick Stanley’s call, she finally switched off the phone. She knew that there was no way she was sleeping tonight. She decided to work. By the time she looked up again, it was few minutes to three a.m. She put away her laptop and laid down on the bed gazing at the ceiling. The words kept ring in her ears
“… witch! You have eaten your children for money!” She stood up again and started pacing, talking to herself.
‘I didn’t eat my children. It’s not my fault. God is the one that gives children, children are gifts from Him.’ She kept mumbling as she paced. Soon the tears started falling, she felt a deep pain in her heart, wishing she could detach her heart from her chest. She soon fell into a fitful sleep from exhaustion.
‘I don’t see why your parents can’t help us from their own house without the children going to stay with them’ Uchenna shouted, getting up from the bed.
‘I told you I got a job that is close to their house. You know it’s far from here, and I can’t spend too much money on transportation, so I want us to stay with them during the weekdays and come back home for weekends’ Rita explained, speaking softly. She didn’t want her husband to get more worried than he already was. Uchenna felt like crying, he never imagined things getting this bad. It was humiliating enough for his in-laws to be supporting his family, but the thought of his family going to live with them made him feel like a failure.
‘I don’t know what to say Rita. Is there no other way?’
‘Should I reject the job?’ Rita asked, already knowing the answer.
‘No. I’m happy you can take care of yourself and the children when the salary starts coming in. Keep the job, but is that the only option?’
‘Yes that’s the only option.’ Rita replied, ‘The children are still young and I don’t want to worry you with taking care of them. Thank God they are on school break. We can enroll them in a new school closer to my parent’s house it’s just to manage the little we have. I will cook for you each weekend and put it in the fridge. You will just have to boil rice or make eba ‘
‘Alright, but you will have to come home every weekend. I need you around.’ Uchenna said, deciding to go with his wife’s suggestion.
‘Thank you so much. We will come home every weekend. Don’t worry it’s only for a while. We will rise again.’ Rita encouraged her husband, hugging him.
‘I pray so my dear’ Uchenna murmured
‘I really pray so.’
‘You are my only son, you can’t expect me and your mother to allow you relax about such a serious matter. Since your mother went for omugwo for Nneoma your sister, I decided to come and see you. If you can’t find a wife, tell us! We will help you.’ Chidi felt like scratching his brain. This was a week since Papa came to stay with him. Every evening, he says the same story in a different way.
‘Papa, I believe it’s best I find my wife myself. I will be the one to live with her.’
‘But you obviously don’t know how to go about it. Let us help you.’
‘Papa please don’t. I had a hectic day at the office. I don’t have the patience for this wife talk. Have you eaten?’ His father sighed deeply and nodded
‘Yes I have eaten. I cooked yam and eggs.’ Chidi felt pained at his father’s sigh
‘Papa, I am waiting for God to bring her to me. I have always told you and Mama that I only go where God wants me to. Remember each time I stood my ground and waited for God, how He always makes a name for Himself. I will get married and you and Mama will carry my children. Please I want to eat the food you cooked, you know that’s why I am happy you are around.’
Papa was the best cook in the house, there was no controversy over that. It was a gift Chidi had inherited from his father, yet he came second in the house when it comes to cooking. Papa remained the champion. Papa was waiting for sleep to arrive while he thought about what Chidi had told him. Chidi had accepted God at a relatively early age, and had always followed what he felt was right. Papa laughed when he remembered how Chidi had reacted when he discovered that his parents had registered him for a special centre during his JAMB exams, hoping he would gain admission to the university, after five years. He had rejected it and stayed home during the exam, making them lose a sum of eighty thousand naira. That had been a rude awakening to them. Since then, they made sure he accepted whatever help they offered before going forward with the plan.
“Maybe me and mummy should only pray for him” Papa thought just before sleep arrived.
Olanma stared at the book on her lap while her mind wandered everywhere except to what she was reading.
“So in a month’s time Chidinma will be a married woman?” “What will now happen to me?” “What if this is my only season to get married?” “What if I fail again?” “And if by mistake I pass, how will I pay my fees?” “And who will stay with my parents if I pass and go to school?” “What if I am not meant to go to the university?” ‘No. I must go to the university.’ She spoke out loud, startling herself. She looked around, making sure no one was around. Seeing no one, her mind went back to its wandering state.