I wake up from a weird meaningless dream to switch off my phone alarm which has been ringing incessantly. It is 6 am already. One hour later than I usually wake up. I deliberately set my alarm for 6am this morning, because my husband traveled to Calabar to submit a business proposal. So, I do not have to ‘prepare’ him for work in addition to Gabby.
I can feel this heaviness in my head. As if my head is stuffed with cotton wool. I stretch my hand across the bed to pull the light switch. Bright light floods the room, making my head ache terribly. I pull the switch immediately, enveloping the room in darkness again.
I lie there for a little while, wishing I had a house-help or a robot that can get Gabby ready for school, feed him and take him to school. I just feel like lying in darkness for the rest of the day. Once I am done listing my wishes, I get up. I don’t have a choice.
“I will rest when I get back from taking Gabby to school,” I tell myself.
I grope my way out of our room, a pounding ache accompanying my every step, towards Gabby’s room, stretching out my hand to guide me. I feel the wall and then the door jamb of Gabby’s room. Then, I proceed to enter. I jam my face on the slightly closed door, doubling the ache in my head.
“Chinekeee!” I yelp, tripling the ache and suddenly having a wave of nausea. I groan silently, remembering when I closed the door last night, in a bid to get Gabby to sleep. I had totally forgotten that I closed the door.
I push the door all the way open, and guided by the illumination the faint rechargeable lamp light that I always leave on in Gabby’s room, I stumble towards the sofa in the room and lower myself down gently, pulling my legs up to the sofa. I cradle my head in both arms, supporting both elbows, one on the back rest of the sofa and the other on my knee. Painful tears fill my eyes. I am feeling very rotten this morning.
I take a very deep, settling breath. I am going to stay like this till this nauseous feeling passes. “I have to be strong. I have to be strong…” I keep muttering to myself.
“Ada, are you ok?” A voice comes through the doorway. “I heard you shout…”
I lift my head gently, to see Ifeanyi’s silhouette framing the door way, haloed by the pool of the corridor light.
“My head is aching,” I sniffled.
He walks into the room, filled with concern. He reaches for the light switch.
“No, please!” I protest, stopping him short. “Please, light makes it worse.” I try to get up. “I have to get Gabby ready for school…”
“No!” It is Anyi’s turn to protest. “Not when you don’t feel good. Must he go to school today?”
“You are right,” I concur. “He can skip school today.” I am already on my feet. “Let me just go and lie down,” I say, grimacing and making to move towards the exit.
“Or…” He stops me short. “I can get him ready and take him to school for you. Just tell me what to do.” At the hesitation on my face, he adds, “And don’t even say no. I want to help.”
“Ok. Do you know how to put a baby in diaper?” I ask.
“Yes. Don’t ask me where I learnt it.” He chuckles. “I don’t want to lie this early morning.”
“I don’t even care,” I rejoin. “The heater must have kicked in. His clothes are already laid out in the crib.” I point at Gabby’s baby crib that I haven’t yet packed away, at a corner of the room. “Oh! He’s already awake,” I point out, looking at my son’s kneeling form on his bed.
I walk out of the room, and head straight to the kitchen. There is no way I can ask Anyi to pack Gabby’s school bag as well, which includes boiling water for his flask, putting a certain amount of cerelac and milk in his food box, warming the jollof rice I made last night and putting a certain amount in another food box, filling his drinking bottle with water from the dispenser and ensuring that his spoon and cup are clean and in his bag. I figure that doing it myself will increase my headache arithmetically, while talking about it will increase it geometrically. Besides, I can see no way of listing these chores without sounding bossy.
By the time he is done bathing and dressing Gabby, his bag was set. So is his breakfast of golden morn. I leave Anyi to feed him, giving him permission use my car and take him to school.
The ache in my head has reduced a little bit, but it is still there. I am okay enough to hold a meaningful conversation with Chinwe. She spent a fun week with her sister in Akwa-Ibom, and I’m getting a vicarious thrill from her stories.
Soon enough, our gist switch to her man, Okechukwu.
“So, did you skype him like you said the last time?” I ask.
“My sister, I did o!” she says with a heavy sigh, then a laugh, one that is too enthusiastic to be sincere.
“What did he say?” I ask, more concerned.
“OK. I will start this story from the beginning,” she says, taking a deep breath. At my nod, she starts, “I skyped him that evening, like I said. He picked up and was answering like he was being forced. He kept insisting that everything is ok. I now asked him when he is coming back, and what our wedding plans are. He got really angry, saying that I am feeling smarter than everybody. That why won’t I allow his family to come to my house and do the marriage requirements. Hmm, me sef, I got angry o! Before I could show my own anger, he ended the call o! I thought about what he said, and thought, maybe I’m being too uptight and stuff. That was how I repented, had a change of heart and remorsefully called him back like three hours later. Guess what? A white lady picked up, all cheerful and smiley. She believes I am Okechukwu’s cousin, she is his wife. They just had their second baby. It took every effort for me not to burst out. I just played along and ended the call quickly. I then sent him a Facebook message, telling him to go to blazes. Ada, can you imagine? Okechukwu wanted to ruin my life! Me like this?! Chai! I have suffered!”
She has tears in her eyes by this time. And so do I. My tears are tears of gratitude. The heart of man is desperately wicked indeed. I move closer to Chinwe and hug her. She lets the flood gates loose on my shoulders, shaking against my embrace as she sobs. I let her cry until she is sated.
“This is the first time I am crying over this,” she says, chuckling self-consciously and wiping her eyes and nose with tissue from the box I offered her. “And I feel so relieved.” She laughs this time, genuinely.
“My dear,” I begin. “Next time you kneel down to pray, just keep thanking God for revealing to you who Okechukwu really is on time. Thank Him for making you smart enough not to be crazy about ‘jando marriage’ like most girls are these days. You would have been stuck, trying to get a divorce. God really loves you, and you don’t need any extra proof of that.”
“You are right o! These are the exact words I have been saying to myself since I made this discovery,” she agrees, laughing again,
I laugh along with her, then I remember the plan I hatched that day on my way back from her house. I’ll find a way to get her to meet Ifeanyi, and if possible, kick Leticia out for good. I laugh some more and look at the clock hanging on the wall.
It is 12 noon, and Anyi isn’t back from taking Gabby to school. Not that I am worried anyway; he probably went from there to visit some friends. I call and ask him to help me bring Gabby back at 1.30pm.
Chinwe has stayed for more than three hours. I have to make her lunch. Who knows, she could stay till Anyi comes home. I stand to go look in the kitchen for something I can whip up fast, and a wave of dizziness hit me. I fall back on the sofa, my headache picking up with gusto.
“Ah! What was that?” Chinwe exclaims.
“I don’t know o!” I groan, holding my head and trying to squelch the wave of nausea that just attacked. “My head has been aching since morning.”
“Do you feel like vomiting?”
“Yes! How do you know?” I ask, perplexed.
“It happens to me sometimes when my period wants to come. I just take ibuprofen, and in thirty minutes, I’m good to go.”
“This has never happened to me.”
“I don’t know again then, unless you are pregnant. Is this how Gabby’s pregnancy did you?” she queries, trying to be helpful.
“No. I did not even know I was pregnant. One annoying tatafo woman in our church told everyone I was pregnant even before I missed my period,” I say.
Chinwe laughs at that. “Such jobless old wives! Well, I hear pregnancy experiences differ from one pregnancy to another…”
“Wait a moment!” I cut her short. “I am six days late! It might be that I am pregnant o!” A smile hovers over my face.
“Are you not on family planning?” Chinwe asks.
“I am, but I missed my pills twice last month. I won’t be surprised if I am pregnant.”
“You have to take paracetamol, since we are not sure if you are pregnant,” she says. “Have you eaten?”
“No,” I answer. “No appetite.”
“You might not be pregnant. This is exactly how it happens to me,” she asserts. “Well, you have to eat something and take paracetamol, you will be fine till you are able to go and see a doctor.”
I drag myself to the room to get paracetamol, while Chinwe warms the rice for us to eat. She leaves thirty minutes later, instructing me to rest my head. Sadly, Anyi did not return while she was around. But not to worry… Time still boku.
Written by Adaku J.