Ijeoma avoided Benita throughout that day. She couldn’t stop her evil eye from following her, or her acidic tongue from making sounds that she could not define, though. George sensed the tension and wisely stayed silent. He liked Ijeoma but, could not defend her. She was old enough to take care of herself. Besides, he did not want to be labelled as one of the men who were enamoured with her.
At the close of work, she rushed to her car. It was a model of Honda that was about 6 years old. Chike was leaning on her door, grinning.
“Mr. Chike, I’ve had enough for one day. Just get out of my way”, she fumed as she fumbled in her bag for her keys.
“Ij, you’re killing me slowly. Gini di ihe a!(What is this!)”, he pleaded.
“Just leave me alone. I’m married”
“Does he appreciate you? Your eyes are sad. Let me pamper you”
“The way you pampered your ex-wife? What made her run away, then?”
“She was never the one for me. You are the bone of my bones”
“Ara gbachikwa gi nti! (May mental illness befall you!)”, she cursed.
“Me?”, he was incredulous.
“Excuse me”, she shoved him away and unlocked her car. Hissing angrily, she backed out of the lot, nearly hitting him in the process.
“All these men are the same”, she muttered to herself. “That was how Magnus chased me for months, begging, sending people to plead…..”
She sniffed, trying to stop the tears coursing down her cheeks. Magnus was the dream husband. They met when she was job hunting. He saw her sitting dejectedly on a chair by a shop, sipping a cold coke. He had stopped to buy a recharge card for his phone.
“Good afternoon”, he greeted.
She ignored him.
“Hope you’re okay?”, he enquired.
“I don’t mean to be rude but, I’m not in the mood for chit chat. You’ll excuse me”, she snapped.
He left her alone. They met again, 3 months later, at a wedding. The bride was her cousin, while the groom was his colleague. He introduced himself buttons, she pretended not to remember him. At the end of the day, they exchanged numbers and thus began a 2 year relationship that led to marriage. 4 years and 2 sons later, they had drifted apart.
Magnus was a lawyer, fighting to climb up the corporate ladder in the firm where he worked.They lived in a 2 bedroom flat. She left Jonah and Kevin in a day care before driving to work daily. Jonah was 4 and Kevin was 2 years old. By the time she picked them, got home, bathed them, fed them, and helped them with homework, it would be 8pm. Yet, Magnus would still be on the road. He got home between 8.30 and 9pm daily, expecting dinner, quiet kids, and a cheerful wife.
Unfortunately, the boys got excited by his presence and only wanted to play more. Ij would still be struggling to fix dinner, and would certainly not be cheerful, the house would be in disarray. For these reasons, Magnus did not think she was putting in her best. He didn’t say much but she sensed his disapproval in his glances and stony face. His reward was a cold shoulder when they finally went to bed. Neither party was willing to call a truce. So they had lived for almost 3 years.
It was eating Ijeoma up. She loved to chat animatedly, to tell him all about her day, and get his opinion on everything. That was impossible because, he turned to work once the boys went to bed. She would flick through the channels sullenly, hoping he would turn and notice her. Nothing was working. Prayer wasn’t, nagging wasn’t, malice wasn’t.
She had tried talking to him but, he blamed her for everything. If only she made dinner earlier; If only she put the children to bed earlier; If only she was more enthusiastic in bed. Excuses, excuses, excuses! Couldn’t he see he was the one pushing her away?
She inched the car forward slowly in the traffic. No matter how hard she wished, the traffic never let up. Already,she had spent 2 hours on the road, buying dinner items from the hawkers who ran about in traffic, displaying their wares. Would Magnus appreciate that? Did he care that her air conditioner had stopped working the previous year? Did he care that her radiator often caused her to pull over, buy water, and top up? Did he care that she had to augment housekeeping heavily from her meagre salary, leaving her unable to buy the kind of clothes, shoes and bags other ladies wore?
No, he wanted a tigress in bed! Well, he had another thing coming. If he would not make an effort, neither would she.
At the daycare, one of the caregivers, informed her that Jonah ran a temperature that afternoon. They had given him first aid but since she was due in a matter of hours, they didn’t bother calling her. Also, he was playing as though nothing was wrong.
“That’s great! So that those doctors will take what’s left of my salary!”, she complained as she strapped them into the car.
They sensed her mood and became sombre.
“Mom, are you okay? “, Jonah asked.
“I should be asking you. Didn’t I just treat you for Malaria last week? What is this one again?”, she snapped.
“I’m sorry, mummy. I won’t do it again”, Jonah pleaded, not knowing exactly what he did wrong.
Ijeoma hissed and drove off. “Do you people see your father helping out? He leaves everything to me. Why I married that man out of all those who came for me, I will never understand. He must have used jazz on me”, she complained.
“What’s jazz, mom?”, Jonah enquired.
“Onu ugba! Mechie gi onu! (Shut up, talkative!)”, she scolded.
Kevin began crying.
“If you don’t keep quiet, I will park and give you reason to cry”, she warned.
He wisely kept shut .
Ijeoma started calculating the cost of a visit to the hospital.
“N5000 consultation fee, N2000 for card renewal, N5000 or more for drugs. No way;We are going tothe pharmacy”, she was thinking aloud.
As she pulled into their parking lot, she observed the pharmacist unlocking his car door.
“Mr. Bayo”, she called. “Please give me 5 minutes”
“I really have to go”
“No, please. I just need a few minutes”
Reluctantly, he came over to her car and touched Jonah when she told him about his fever.
“Tell my assistant to give you an anti malarial”, he instructed.
“I gave him 1 about 2 weeks ago”
“Okay, let them give you an anti biotic”, he preceeded her into the shop and barked out a prescription while she bundled the children in. She waited for it to be filled.
“How much is it?”
“N1500” , the assistant replied.
“For how many drugs?”
“Remove the paracetamol. I have it at home”, she instructed.
After paying, she headed to the car when her phone rang. It was Magnus.
“Honey, where are you? It’s almost 8pm”
“What sort of question is that? Do you know what I went through today?”
“Don’t shout at me…..”
“Who is shouting? You managed to get home earlier than usual, so, the sun should stop rotating?”
“I don’t know why I even bothered”
“I know. It’s because you are hungry. Servant is not home to dish out your meal”, she ranted.
“Alright, just drive safe”
“Drive safe in this rickety car? O di egwu! (Not likely”, she ended the call angrily. “Silly rabbit! I’m not cooking this night. Jonah needs all my attention. He can cook dinner himself”, she spoke under her breath.
By the time she got home, Magnus had boiled a plate of noodles and was eating it at the table.
“Daddy! Daddy! “, the boys screamed. He picked them both and swung them around. They yelled in delight.
“How was school today?”, he asked.
“Fine. Do you know Motayo peed on herself today?”, Jonah quipped.
“O, that’s too bad”, he remarked.
“Everyone laughed at her”
“That’s unfair. You shouldn’t have”, he scolded lightly.
Ijeoma was busy bringing in her buys from the car. She expected him to offer to help but, he did not. Couldn’t he see she was tired? He didn’t even acknowledge her presence.
“What’s jazz, daddy?”, asked Jonah. Kevin was busy playing with his dad’s food.
“Jonah, come here”, Ijeoma called.
He ran to her. She gave him a small bag to carry into the kitchen.
“If that oaf I married will not help me, at least I have 2 sons”, she muttered.
“Anyone who marries an oaf, is an oaf as well”, Magnus replied, his back to her, feeding Kevin from his plate.
She hissed loudly and banged the kitchen door.
“What’s an oaf, Mummy?”, Jonah asked.
“Will you drop that bag and get lost! Ekwurekwu ! (talkative)”, he scampered out of the kitchen.
She kicked off her shoes and sat on the stool in her small kitchen. Shoulders slumped, she wished an angel would appear and cook dinner.
“Heavenly father, I need help. I’m losing it”, she prayed. “This man is not taking care of me. See my hair? It used to be long. See how short it is now. All because of stress”
She got up angrily and began to cook dinner. Her hunger would not be assuaged by noodles. Besides, she liked to warm the left overs for the children to take to school as lunch. Refusing to cook would mean that they would not leave home at 5 am. However, Magnus had no share in the meal. For all she cared, he could starve to death. Was she any better than a widow?
To be continued. The long post is to compensate for the long absence. Hope I’m forgiven. Do send in your comments. Cheers