“Me? Is it me you call a witch?”, tearfully, she pointed to herself.
“Anuofia! You are a witch! Since I married you,things have been getting worse. Yet, you have the temerity to call me names. Get out of my sight!”, he barked.
Ijeoma started crying. He stepped over her and stalked to their bedroom.
“You won’t get away with this! God must punish you”, she shouted at his back.
“Mummy”, she heard Jonah call from the door. She turned to him.
“Go back to bed, baby. It’s alright”, she rose to pacify him.
He had his thumb in his mouth. She refrained from scolding him. He had quit the habit at the age of 2. Why he suddenly picked it again 3 months ago, baffled her. Despite her threats and spankings, he sought every opportunity to suck his thumb.
“Is it it that he is always hungry? “, she wondered. “Or has he inherited his father’s tedency to exasperate me” She picked him up and carried him to bed.
“Mum, why will God punish daddy? Was he a naughty boy? “, he asked as she tucked him in Ijeoma sighed.
“God will not punish him, okay”
“But you said…”
“Don’t worry about what I said. Now close your eyes and sleep”
“Mummy, will God punish me?” he asked.
“No, he won’t punish you”
“I don’t want God to punish me”
“He won’t punish you , okay?”
“I’ll be a good boy, so that God will not punish me”
“Ekwutos! Sleep please! Ah ah!” she hissed and stood to her feet.
“Goodnight , Mummy”
“Goodnight, baby” She kissed his cheek and headed for the door.
“Please, don’t shout again, Mummy” , he pleaded.
“I won’t shout. Sleep now”, she closed the door behind her.When she got to their bedroom, she observed that Magnus was sleeping or pretending to be asleep. She sighed at the memory of the days when he waited up for her.
“How did we get here? ” she wondered. “A man who loved God so much, he refused to touch me till our wedding night, though he knew I was not a virgin. Now, he goes to bars to avoid his responsibilities and pushes me down when I complain. I think his parents have to hear of this”
She lay beside him, as far fom him as possible, planning how to get back at him.
Chike was waiting in the parking lot for Ijeoma to drive in. She often ignored him indoors so, he decided to take his pursuit outside. Letting go never crossed his mind. If he had been a quitter, he would not have risen to his position so fast. Adjusting his native cotton shirt, he put a smile onhis face as he saw her driving in. He doubted she knew how beautiful she was. Agatha in Accounts was no match for her but, she was sleeping with the Commissioner for Education. He was glad the old goat had not noticed Ijeoma. This was because, her job did not provide opportunities for interaction with him. He would surely have got her into his bed.
Ijeoma saw him standing in her favourite parking spot and wished she could use the car to squash him like a fly. That did not stop another part of her from checking her image subtly in the mirror before alighting. No matter how much she detested his bold attention, she looked forward to seeing him daily. Any day he kept away, she found that she was moody and irritable. Ijeoma could not explain the paradox. He held the door open for her when she unlocked it.
“Good morning Princess, Asampete nwanyi!”, he greeted.
“Good morning, Mr. Chike”, she banged the door and slung her bag over her shoulder.
“You will kill somebody O!” he was following her, watching as she walked away. “This your waist!”
“Chike, is it not too early?”
“Too early to worship at your temple? Never! Nne, what are you doing tomorrow? Let’s have lunch”
“Gi na onye? (You and who?)”, she turned, hand at her waist.
“Olu gbajie boys! (She who makes necks turn! ). Me and you. 2pm, name the place”, he rubbed his hands together.
“Did I tell you that I am hungry?”
“You deserve to be pampered. Don’t you need some time to yourself? How can you keep taking care of others, day in, day out? Let me help you relax”, he pleaded.
“Onye oma emeka!( Full of good intentions!). Thanks, but, no thanks”, she suddenly changed direction, heading to an office she knew he could not follow her to.
“Baby, where are you going?”
“Who is your baby?”, she threw over her shoulder as she walked away.
He laughed and shook his head, leaving to continue his onslaught on another day.
Magnus was late to work. Surly and irritable, he barely acknowledged the greetings of the paralegal staff. He could see the pity in their glances and wished he could reverse the events of the previous day. Nothing had given him an inkling that he would perform as abysmally as he did. It rankled him to think that his junior would be promoted over him. All his plans to buy Ijeoma a new car, pay their debts, and help her start a business so she wouldn’t have to drive so far to work, had crashed.
He flung his bag on his table and sat down crossly.To continue sharing the office with 2 other lawyers, while Pius moved upstairs, to his own office, grated at him. He loosened his tie, feeling breathless, despite the cool air. If he could have avoided being at work, he would have. As it stood, he knew any mistake was an excuse to get rid of him and he intended to hold on to his job.
“Magnus, good morning”, Jones, his colleague greeted.
“Shame about yesterday, huh?”
“Morning”, he grunted.
“Echejile wants to see you. I just had a meeting with him”
Magnus got up without a word and headed to his principal’s office. At his secretary’s office, he waited while she announced his presence. He was ushered in minutes later. Barr. Echejile was a short, portly man in his 50s. He always seemed to be trying to compensate for his height by raising his voice louder than heneeded to, especially in the presence of taller men.
Some gossipped that he was tenacious about winning cases because he needed to prove that his stature was not a reflection of his brain size. Whatever the motivation, he had never lost a case. Magnus greeted him, standing before him nervously.
“Barrister, what happened yesterday? “, he asked.
“Sir, I apologise. Something went wrong with the equipment and I just lost my cool”
“This was a client we were trying to poach from another firm. Do you know he is an Oba’s grandson? You were not on your A game!”, he scolded.
“It won’t happen again”
“O, it had better not! Pius has been given the position I promised you. Frankly, the only reason you have not been sacked, is the memory of your late father, who was a good friend of mine. Tread carefully, Magnus. You are on thin ice”, he wagged his short stubby finger at him.
Magnus forgot to reply. He was staring at the finger, fascinated. It looked like the play dough Jonah brought home from school the precious week.
“Are you deaf?” Magnus returned to the present.
“Yes, you are deaf or Yes, you have heard me?”
“I heard you sir. I beg your pardon”
“Prepare to accompany me to court. We leave in 20 minutes”
“Yes, sir” Magnus turned and made his escape.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Anuofia : Curse (literally means wild animal)
Ekwutos : slang for talkative
Asampete nwanyi : Stunning woman