Ndidi was talking to Ijeoma on phone. She usually got home early, as the school where she taught, was not far away. In the kitchen, while preparing dinner, she put the phone on speaker.
“I si gini? (What are you saying?)”, She washed her hands and picked the phone up.
“Magnus is cheating on me!”
“He now sneaks out of the house at odd hours. Imagine him telling me he went to see a client in the wee hours of the morning!”
“Even doctors don’t sneak out at night” Ijeoma hissed.
“Is that all he said? Who is this client? Male or female?”
“I have no idea. The guy is so secretive. You can’t get access to his phone. Now, he takes it into the bathroom with him, pretending he is listening to music”
“I never expected this from him. After you stood by him through the years. This is so unfair” Ndidi had abandoned her cooking to sit in the living room.
“I’m now looking to engage a very good lawyer. The marriage is over!”
“Just like that? No hope of reconciliation? ”
“Didn’t you read in the bible that we should not make our bodies one with harlots? Magnus is now a harlot!”, Ijeoma spat.
“God forbid! ”
“A child of God!. A member of Gateway! Imagine! ”
“There must be some way of sorting things out without getting a divorce. Have you thought of counselling? ”
“That’s utter rubbish. He doesn’t listen”
“Don’t say that”
“I made the worst mistake of my life marrying Magnus”
“That’s too bad. I expected you to fight for your marriage. Even if it’s just for Jonah and Kevin. They need a father”
“They are better off without a father who is too busy chatting on bbm to listen to them. When he is chatting, he reacts like a wounded lion, if you interrupt him”
“How did things get so bad?”
“It’s all his fault”
“Ij, I’m not happy about this news. For you to move out of your matrimonial home, all options must be exhausted. Please, promise me you’ll attempt to talk to him”
“I won’t. He broke the marriage covenant”
“No, my mind is made up”
“Because of Chike?”
“No. I have actually cut off from him. From the little I know, Magnus could use him to turn things in his favor”
“Thank God he never found out about him”
“What!” Ndidi exclaimed, rising to her feet.
“He found out on his own. Probably, he has been snooping around, checking my messages” Ijeoma bit her lip.
“Hei! That is not good, at all”
“It is good. I’m even happy. Let him read the way a real man lavishes attention on me. My esteem has suffered in this guy’s hands. I want him to know I’ve still got it”
“Terrible, this is just terrible. I would never have thought…..”, Ndidi burst into tears.
“Why are you crying? Be happy for me. God is liberating me to find my real soul mate. Even if I don’t get into a relationship with Chike, some other man will love me”
“Is it that easy? My friend, Ekene, was just telling me how difficult it is to get a good man in your thirties. You have 2 children…..”
“Who is Ekene?”
“A friend I met at Elyon fellowship. She owns Pink Crayon, that boutique on Adeola Odeku”
“You should come and see the co-ordinator at the fellowship. She has handled such cases before”
“I’m tired, Ndi: I can’t go on. Let me start afresh with someone else”
“I’ll speak to Magnus”
“Why? What are you going to tell him? ”
“I can’t let you leave him, without trying to hear him out. There must be something I can do”
“Suit yourself. Just make sure you tell him I didn’t send you”
“Let me get off the phone. Surely you have things to do”
“Ij mu O!”
“Don’t be concerned about me. I am happy”
“You can’t be”
“I really am. Bye, Ndi”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. Bye”
“If you say you are. We’ll talk later”
Ekene was attending to a customer at her boutique, when her phone rang. She excused herself to take the call. It was Fred’s aunt.
“Aunty Nwando, good morning”, She greeted.
“Ekene nwa m, good morning. I am on Adeola Odeku. Hope you don’t mind if I pop in and see you?”
“Please do. I’ll love to see you”
Ekene went outside and looked up and down the street. 5 minutes later, a blue SUV drove up and parked. The driver got down to open the car door for his passenger. Aunty Nwando was dressed in a pair of jeans and a colourful caftan. She smiled radiantly.
“Ada di nma!”, She reached for a hug.
Ekene hugged her, curtseying at the same time. “You look awesome, Aunty”
“Please, leave me. I am an old woman”, She waved off the compliment.
“Onye? You’ve still got it” Ekene teased.
Aunty Nwando laughed. “Show me around”, She requested.
Ekene led her in and showed her the different sections of the shop. She tried on some shoes and selected 4 pairs. Then she bought 2 blouses and some jewelry. By this time, Ekene was sweating,wondering how she was going to give away goods worth so much. Her ex’s sisters had almost rendered her bankrupt, by collecting stuff without paying.
“Nne, how much is it?” Aunty Nwando was in her office, sipping a cold drink she offered her.
“Not to worry, Aunty”
“Meaning? Please, give me my bill”, She turned and signalled the shop assisstant.
The girl came up and gave her a bill of N126,000. She brought out a debit card to pay.
“Please, pay N120,000, Aunty. You are family”
“Did I ask for a discount? I run a business as well. I know what it takes to make a profit”
She paid the full amount and rose.
“Have you had lunch? There’s this nice Chinese place down the road”
“No, I’m not taking no for an answer, unless you have a date with Fred”
“Let’s be on our way then”, She got up and slung her bag over her shoulder.
“Adiagha, come and carry Aunty’s things to the car” Ekene instructed, picking up her bag as well.
She and Aunty Nwando walked hand in hand to her car. The driver opened the door for them.
“Take us to that Chinese place I like”, Aunty Nwando instucted.
At the restaurant, they placed their orders. Ekene was sipping her soup when her phone rang. She picked it, gave excuses to the caller and ended the call. Thereafter, she put it on silent mode.
“When are you guys getting married? ” Aunty Nwando asked.
“Aunty!”, She blushed.
“He told me you’ve been together for almost 6 months. Is there any reason you are hesitating? “, Aunty Nwando looked up cheekily.
“We are still getting to know each other”
“Biko, it’s enough with the research. Fred is like my son. You look so much like my late sister, Amara, his mom. But, that is not what we love about you. You have been able to draw him out of his shell. He was burying himself in work, avoiding family gatherings as much as possible, morose all the time. Since he met you, he calls me every other day, asking for advice on how to win your heart”, Aunty Nwando went on.
“Aunty!” Ekene laughed.
“So you are his secret weapon? I wondered how come he is so knowledgeable”
“Onwe nke o ma? Men are not very savvy, my dear” Aunty Nwando stated blandly.
Ekene laughed again.
“So, the gifts he got me on valentine’s day?”
“I went with him to pick them out”
“And the picnic and boat ride?”
“Fred! And he took all the credit!” Ekene laughed till she began to choke.
Aunty Nwando rose and patted her back till she calmed. Then she gave her some water to drink.
“Nne, nwayo. Take it easy” She cautioned.
Ekene nodded, still rubbing her chest. They finished up their meal and sat to enjoy some dessert.
“Has he told you anything about Daramola?”
“They met in the university. They were classmates. She was a pretty, well mannered girl, from Ibadan. They delayed their wedding till after they had worked for a while” Aunty Nwando narrated.
Ekene leaned forward.
“They had begun their residency training. Daramola’s younger sister was getting married in Port Harcourt. Fred could not attend, because he had to work. She not only died in the crash, her body was barely recognizable. You can’t imagine what he went through. He blamed himself. Probably thought he should have died with her”
Tears had gathered in both women’s eyes. Aunty Nwando sniffed. Ekene choked back tears. They reached for each other’s hands at the same time.
“You must never doubt your place in his heart. I had been fasting once a week for 3 months, before he met you. My only prayer was for God to bring sunshine into his life. The boy has suffered so much”
“Aunty Nwando….” Ekene burst into tears.
“It’s okay, darling. The sadness is past. The sun of righteousness has risen over us with healing in his wings”
Ekene took the hanky Aunty Nwando offered her, pensively.
“I am not asking you to propose to him. All I ask is for you to accept him, flaws and all. He is so afraid of losing you, yet, he can’t open his mouth to ask for your hand”
Ekene heaved a sigh.
“I love you darling and I want you to know that this is the family that you belong to. Are your parents aware of him?” Aunty Nwando asked.
“I mentioned him but I have not introduced him to them”
“Where do they live?”
“Okay. Consider me an ally. If anyone gives a hint of dissent, call on me and I’ll handle it. Whether physically, or spiritually, I am ready to do battle”
“Yes, O! The kingdom of God suffereth violence and the violent take it by force”
Ekene laughed as they rose. Fred’s aunt had picked the tab despite her protests. She marvelled at her generosity.
TO BE CONTINUED.
*Chei! : Exclamation of shock
* Uwa agwula : The world has come to an end
* Ij mu O! : My Ij
*Ada di nma: Lovely daughter
* Onye? : Who?
* Onwe nke O ma? : What does he know?
* Nne, nwayo : Take it easy, dear