Ijeoma was doing the laundry. Magnus was watching a football match while trying to mind the kids. It was a Saturday.
“Honey”, Ij called. “Could you pass me the laundry basket in Jonah’s room, please?”
“O, no, Ij! This is not the right time. 15 minutes more and I’m all yours” he moaned distractedly.
“It is never the right time. Since this premiership started, you have forgotten I exist”, she snapped.
He ignored her. Jonah was trying to act grown up, watching with him. Kevin was drawing on the wall. Ijeoma came out of the bathroom where she was washing, and into the living room.
“What!” she exclaimed. “Kevin! Look what you’ve done”
He had drawn pictures all over the wall. Impressed with his work, he smiled at his mom.
“Magnus, didn’t you see him?” she asked, arms akimbo.
“Mummy, can I have juice?” Jonah asked
“Nkita ta kwa gi ebe ahu!”, she cursed.
He burst into tears and Kevin went over to him to put his arms around him
“Magnus!”, she called again .
“Ijeoma, leave me alone. Just leave me alone”he replied without turning.
“Okay, absentee father. The snake will not fail to deliver a long offspring. You are following your father’s example who abandoned your mother with 3 kids and ran off with another woman” she accused.
“Jonah, please shut it. Daddy is watching a match, okay?”, Magnus spoke to his son with his eyes still on the screen.
Ij made a hissing noise and turned to exit the living room, when there was a power outage. A groan resounded throughout the neighbourhood. Obviously, everyone was watching the match.Magnus sprang up.
“If you are thinking of putting on the generator, there is no fuel in it” she mocked.
“What does that mean? I gave you money to buy some” he asked.
“Yes, but, kevin needed diapers, wipes, and cereal”
He picked his keys from the table and pulled a shirt that had been lying over a dining chair, over his head.
“Where are you going?”
“To watch it elsewhere”he replied
He left without a word, banging the door behind him. Ijeoma crumpled to the floor, bursting into tears. Kevin and Jonah came to hug her.
“Why are you crying, mummy? ” Jonah asked. “Is Daddy being naughty?”
“Naughty!, naughty!” echoed Kevin.
“Hush. Come to the kitchen and take juice”, she got up and wiped her tears.They whooped for joy and followed her. While they were busy with their drinks, she sat on the couch and sulked.
“Stingy man! I asked for N30000. He made sure he gave me only N10000 and still asked me to fuel the generator from there”, she made a hissing noise as she complained.
Power was restored suddenly, and the children shouted excitedly “Nepa!”
“Do you want to watch cartoons?” she asked
She turned on the set and changed the channel to a kiddie station.
“Come and watch football”, she muttered under her breath. “Onye ara!”
Chike was standing by Ijeoma’s desk at work. She came in and he smiled.
“Good morning, nwanyi di nma”, he greeted
“Good morning, Sir”, she put her bag on the desk and pulled out her chair.
“I came to invite you to a party this weekend”, he extended a card.
She took it, opening it before speaking “Whose birthday is it? I don’t know this person”
“My best friend’s wife. I want you to be my plus 1”
“What! Are you listening to yourself?”
“Onwe ihe di ya? (Anything wrong with that?”, he asked innocently.
“I doubt you are serious. Or are you inviting Magnus and I?”
“That fool doesn’t deserve you. Why would I invite him?”, he dismissed.
“Just leave. I had a rough weekend. Don’t let me take it out on you”
“Take it out on me, please. If that will make you feel better. Ij, I don’t like the way you look these days. You are losing weight. That man is not worthy of you and you know it”
Benita walked in and slapped some files onIjeoma’s desk .
“Good morning, Mr. Chike”, she sneered.
“Hi, Benita. How are you?” he smiled
“Fine. Mrs. Ijeoma, good morning”, her voice dripped with sarcasm.
Chike waited for her to return to her seat.
“Please think about my request. I really want you to go out, let down your hair, have a good time”
“I’ll think about it. Just go”, she muttered under her breath.
Chike took the hint and left.
“What’s the harm?” Ijeoma thought. “Can’t I go out for once with a man who finds me attractive? I can leave the children with Ndidi. But what do I tell Magnus?”
Ekene and Miriam were in Miriam’s car. Her driver was going to drop Ekene off as her car was undergoing repairs. They were coming from the Wednesday service at Gateway Church of Christ. Both Miriam and Regina were ushers while Ekene was in the decoration team.
“I met a guy on facebook”, Ekene began
“Really? Me, I’m not into the whole social media dating thing”
“It’s funny, he looks like Okenta. You remember Okenta who was in Chemistry department? The one who used to play the keyboard in school? That is why I accepted him as a friend”
“What’s his name? ”
“And how does Frederick sound like Okenta?”
“I thought it was his English name or something”
Miriam made a hissing noise and turned away
“What? ” asked Ekene
“These small boys on facebook, looking for who to con. He’ll soon start asking you for money”
“Skeptic! Won’t you even ask what he does for a living? ”
“Probably lies. How do you verify his details?”
“I’ll keep the gist for Regina, since you are not interested”
“Keep it for her. You should be asking me about my Lebanese bobo”
“And why would I?”
“He says he wants to marry me”
“I thought he has a wife and 3 children back home?”
“Eh….He’s going to divorce her”
“For your sake?”
“No, O! They were already having problems. Why do you think he fell for me? If their marriage was intact, would he be in my arms every night?”
“Miriam, you need to repent. How did you get to this point? You who used to be so…..”
“I mean….”, Ekene gestured with her hands worriedly
“Say that thing you want to say. Say it!”
“Sorry for yourself! Because I am open. Regina wey carry belle, nobody know till she comot am, nko?”
“That girl is coded sha!” Ekene shrugged.
“Aha!” Miriam threw up her hands.
“That does not change God’s word. We all will give account individually, of our actions”
“Eh, God understands. I make sure I confess my sins every night, in case rapture occurs. I don’t want to be left behind”
“What if Jesus returns while you are in bed with that man?”
“God forbid! It’s not my portion!”
“I am a giver and my seed will speak for me”
“Yeah, your seed will tell Jesus to return at your convenience” Ekene snorted.
“Don’t underestimate the power of giving”
“I am also a giver. That doesn’t mean I can live in disobedience. Even obedience is a seed”
“Holy sister! It is easy for you to say” Miriam mocked
“Why, exactly? ”
“Can we just change the topic already? Regina should have taken you home. I don’t know why I put up with you”
“Probably because we have been friends for too long for me to be afraid of you”
Miriam brought out her smart phone to signal her unwillingness to continue the conversation. Ekene shook her head and leaned back. Silently, she sent up a prayer for her friends that they would find the peace she had found in being single and faithful. Ekene was plump and dark. Her pretty round face gave her an endearing appearance. She was of average height and soft spoken but not in any way timid.
Though 1 year younger than Regina and Miriam, they had all been roommates for years in the university and attended the same fellowship. A friendship was forged that lasted after they graduated, though Regina and Miriam were closer to each other than to her. Ekene had lost several opportunities to be married because she would not compromise. One time, the man involved mocked her that she was no virgin and had no right to be unbending. She replied that she was a new creature and that Christ considered her a virgin.
Of the 3 friends, she was the one who was so unyielding. Miriam did whatever she had to do to get what she wanted. Regina would compromise if the right man came along but so far, he hadn’t. Sometimes, she felt like an outsider because, she took things so seriously.
“And why, Lord, have you not blessed me? They would take my counsel if you had given me my own man. Don’t you think I have waited long enough? ” she thought in the frigid silence as Miriam’s driver navigated the quiet streets that led to her house.
TO BE CONTINUED
Nkita takwa gi ebe ahu : Curse; May you be bitten by a dog.
Nepa : Public power supply company
Onye ara: mad man
Nwanyi di nma: Fine woman
Regina wey carry belle, nobody know till she comot am : How about Regina who hid her pregnancy from us till she aborted it
Coded : secretive.