He was on his way to the airport, where he would take a flight home, and Stanley couldn’t wait to get to Nigeria. Ngozi had refused to pick his call since the day his mother came to his house. He didn’t want to think about mama. If he guessed right, Ngozi should be in her apartment given to her by the company, he just wanted to be sure she was alright. Ngozi had been by his side through thick and thin, they built their lives together. The pressure of not having a child had made their friendship go sour. He just wanted a child, someone to call him daddy, someone to enjoy all the wealth they amassed, someone they can share their love with, someone they could teach what they have learnt about life. But he didn’t want it with anyone but Ngozi. She was the one his daughter looked like each time he dreamt about having a daughter. Mama should take that girl she brought back to the village. No matter how painful it may be, if he can’t have a child with Ngozi, he would stay without one, or they would look into other options. Uchenna opened his arms as his family arrived for the weekend. He held them tightly, released them, and hugged them tighter until the children squirmed, trying to get out of his grip. He let them go, watching them run to the house. He held Rita, and noticed she had lost some weight. ‘Why are you looking, thin, darker and tired?’ He asked her. Without waiting to hear her response, he continued ‘this was why I didn’t want you to work. You were supposed to be pampered. I am sorry that things got so bad.’ ‘Uche, I am not made of glass you know.’ Rita told him, ‘I am a strong woman, you are the only man that conquered me. Why else do you think I married you?’ She joked, hoping to get his mind off her looks, and to avoid him regretting his past mistakes again. It worked. ‘I had to up my game, when I noticed you were about to get away. I’m glad you are home. I missed you so much. Also, I’ve been learning a lot and… O my! You just came home and I am already boring you with my talk. You really look tired. Come let me feed you.’ He suddenly lifted her up and carried her up the stairs, ignoring her command to be but down immediately. Uchenna looked at his sleeping wife. She had dark circles round her eyes, and she had lost a lot of weight. He didn’t like it but there was little he could do. Immediately after eating, she had taken her bath and slept off immediately her head touched the pillow. He had bathed the kids and put them to bed. It felt strange, she working and coming home tired, while he took care of the children and did the dishes, but he was glad he could be a helper to her too. She has been firm beside him, not even for a day did she refer to his past, obvious mistakes, no matter how much they quarrel, she never blamed him for anything. She only looked forward… and it was draining her. He decided to pray about it. He had learnt that one way to be a man in the house is to surrender everything to God, everything. He took his Bible and tip toed to the parlour to pray. He didn’t want to disturb his wife. She needed her beauty sleep. * Rita woke up with a splitting headache and an urge to pee. The headache was a sign that she needed to take it slow. She had been ignoring the symptoms of malaria and it was taking its toll on her. She gently stood up, turning and expecting to see her husband by her side, seeing his side of the bed empty, she stood up and hurriedly did her business in the bathroom and went in search of her husband. She found him in the parlour, bent over a book that looked like a Bible or a dictionary. Her curiosity was piqued, her husband didn’t read the Bible, not to talk of studying it as he was obviously taking down notes. And there was no reason why he would be learning new vocabulary from the dictionary. She wondered what was going on, and decided that there was just one way to find out. ‘What are you doing awake by three a.m.?’ She asked as she walked over to his side. “It’s a Bible!” She thought. She sat on the arm of his chair. ‘I was just rounding up. Did you miss me?’ He asked with a wink. ‘Who are you? And what have you done with my husband?’ Rita asked surprised. ‘How do you mean?’ ‘You are happy, and that is a good thing, but it has been long I saw you this playful. And you haven’t answered my question, what are doing awake?’ ‘Studying the Bible and praying, and that is why I am happy. Join me let’s say the grace together, so I can go and sleep, and you can stop missing me.’ Rita knelt by her husband as they said the prayer, but her mind was saying another prayer. “Thank you Lord for giving him your peace, but please show us a way out of this trial. Amen” As she laid in bed, now in her husband’s arms, Rita decided to take the week off, she needed to rest and treat herself, and yes she missed her husband. She just have to find a way to convince him that her “work place” gave her a sick leave for a week. Her mind went into action. Chidi arrived with Obinna at the marriage venue, feeling tired, though he suspected that the tiredness was more of discouragement. He hadn’t heard anything from God. He spent his nights praying, yet nothing. Maybe God was leaving it up to him to choose his wife, just that he felt disappointed that God will keep silent for so long, despite his day and night prayers. …men always ought to pray, and not faint. ‘Yeah right, maybe such texts should come with a timeframe.’ He muttered, feeling bitter. He stopped talking to himself as the bride and her entourage appeared, ready to dance in and greet the guests. He watched the ladies, maybe, just maybe, he may see someone. He looked at the bride and wished that smile was for him and not for Obinna. She obviously loved him. Her smile was genuine and full, unlike the rest of the ladies on her entourage. Their smile looked plastic or plastered, one of those. Maybe they envied the bride, all of them were apparently there for a show off. All of them except one. She obviously didn’t care about the crowd, she just watched the bride. Her smile was as wide as that of the bride, with a hint of tears in her eyes , “maybe she’s a sister to the bride” he thought as he looked through the ladies again, to notice that one of the ladies with a fake smile was giving him a genuine smile, only that the smile was a smile of invitation. He started to smile back when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He quickly reached for his phone, hoping it was not from work. He relaxed when he saw it was a text from 33398. He opened the text …there is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is destruction… To get more inspirational quotes from the Bible, text yes to 33398. #20/ week. He angrily deleted the message. “Inspiration my foot!”, he thought “that sounded like a warning.” He looked up as he put his phone away, only to see that the bride has gone in to dance, carrying in both ladies who caught his eye. Olanma was excited. Chidinma looked so beautiful as a bride. And she herself looked good, even if she said so herself. She watched Chidinma to be sure everything went as she wanted. But tears came to her eyes when she remembered that Chidinma will have less time for her after she gets married. She blinked away the tears. She and Chidinma had talked about it. They will try to keep in touch, at least once a week. She smile again and joined her best friend as she danced in to greet her guests. Ngozi was awake but kept quiet waiting for the nurse to leave, so she could get some work done. Immediately the nurse left, she hurried to her computer and started, only for her boss to come in. ‘Ngozi, you should be on your way home. I don’t want you to come back here until at least thirty days.’ ‘I was just putting things in order for… thirty days?! I thought the nurse said a day?’ ‘You are over due for a leave. Go home Ngozi and repair what is broken. I see it in your eyes, but I have no right to ask. You fainted not just because you lacked glucose, but your mind lacked peace. Go home for three months, but if you can’t stand three months, take one month off. Mandatory. I’m not leaving this office without you. So pack up, you are leaving now’ Ngozi was too weak to argue, she simply packed her things. At the door, she turned to her boss ‘what about two weeks?’ ‘If you beg again, I will increase your leave to two months. Others are asking for a day off, and you are here refusing to take a leave. Ngozi, we need you here, but we need you complete not broken. Go and heal. I don’t know what the problem is, but it’s obvious that something is wrong.’ Ngozi nodded, tears coming to her eyes. She went to her car, where her driver was already waiting. He quickly put her things in the booth and opened the car for her. ‘Thank God you feel better Ma.’ ‘Thank you. Please take me home.’ Ngozi got to her bungalow and saw Stanley at her gate. She wished she could go somewhere, anywhere to avoid him, but she knew, judging by the look on his face, that she was in for a confrontation with her demons. She ignored him as she walked into her house telling her driver to drop her things, and take off. ‘I will call you if I need you’ she told him. He looked at her, with worry in his eyes, she nodded at him. He left closing the door behind him. She turned to Stanley slowly ‘I am very weak, I don’t want to talk. You can stay here for as long as you want, but please leave me alone. I was given a compulsory leave. I just want silence for as long as it lasts.’ She walked into her room, before Stanley could reply, and locked it, the sound of it making further impact on Stanley’s mind. His marriage was almost over.