In the wake of Chinwe’s departure, I go into the room and lie down. Just as I’m about to drift off to sleep, my phone rings. I look at the screen to see who is calling; it is Ijeoma. I press the silent button, and lie there, contemplating whether to take the call or not. The phone rings out. I switch off my phone so that I can sleep without further disturbance. Ijeoma will have to call back when I am in a better disposition to take her call. After all, she rejected my own calls. This will not be like those times I say sorry, even when she is at fault.
I am awakened by voices in the sitting room. I feel very refreshed by the sleep. I turn on my phone and check the time. It is 3pm. Then I hear those voices again. They are laughing – a deep voice, obviously Anyi’s, and a husky voice, definitely female.
“Let me go and change him out of his school clothes. Show me where his room is,” I hear the husky female voice say.
I carefully let myself down from the bed, shake my head a little to be sure I am stronger. I am. I throw on a gown and storm out of the room to intercept them. I walk out of our room door just as Ifeanyi and Leticia, who is carrying Gabby, are about to enter my child’s room. They stop short on seeing me.
Ifeanyi finds his voice first. “Good evening, Ada, how are you feeling now?” he asks, uncertainly.
“Where are you going?” I direct my question to Leticia, ignoring Ifeanyi’s enquiry.
“She wanted to help me change Gabby out of his school clothes,” Ifeanyi answers for her, as Gabby wriggles down out of Leticia’s arm, to come and hug me.
I drop down on one knee to his level, and give him a hug and a peck on his cheek. “Is it now you are picking him up?” I ask again. This time, directed at Ifeanyi.
“No. We – I picked him by 1:30, and we went to Crunchies,” he answers, then adds hurriedly, “You weren’t feeling ok, so, I thought I should get him something to eat, so that you won’t have to bother making lunch for us.”
I can imagine him mentally congratulating himself. His argument is flawless. I couldn’t have managed to make lunch anyway.
“I will change him myself,” I say, rising from my kneeling position and glaring at Leticia.
She rolls her eyes, hisses and walks back to the sitting room.
Ifeanyi follows me into Gabby’s room. “You weren’t very welcoming,” he says, his voice cautiously reproving, as though he is trying not to let his disapproval spark off my annoyance.
“That girl is mannerless,” I bite out, disgust heavy on my voice. “She lacks basic home training! She does not know she will greet me, abi?”
“Yeah, I noticed she did not greet you. But couldn’t you have ignored it?” he argues.
“That was exactly what I did!” I retort. “I ignored it!”
At Anyi’s brooding silence, I say in a more conciliatory tone, “Look, I don’t have any problem with who you want to be friends with. You are an adult. I also do not care what you do with her” – I gesticulate in the direction of the sitting room – “I am only insisting that I will not be disrespected in my own home. And no one is welcome to cross that sitting room door to either the kitchen or the rooms without my permission. That is all. I am sure it isn’t too much to ask.” And then, I turn my back to him, and start undressing Gabby, who appears to have been listening to us with rapt attention.
Just then, my phone rings again. Ijeoma is calling back. Before I pick up, I hear Anyi let out a heavy breath and walk out from the room.
“Hey! What’s up, babe?” Ijeoma says a tad too cheerily. When I don’t answer, she moves right ahead, “I was calling you earlier. It seems you switched off your phone. Did I call at a bad time?”
“Yes. I was sleeping. I wasn’t feeling strong,” I reply tonelessly.
“Ok. How is Gabby? And your husband?”
“Look, babe,” I start, impatient at her beating around the bush. “Did you call me to ask after Gabby and my husband?”
“Aahn! Why are you talking like this nau! I can’t call my bestie to ask after her family again–”
“Ehn-eh!” I cut her short. “Chere! Just wait first! Are you not going to apologise? Seriously? How do you survive in this world without apologizing when you wrong somebody?”
“Apologise ke? Ada, did you just say apologise? I’m being the bigger person, calling you after you left me at Kumac and walked away. Were you not supposed to drop me off at home? Did you stop to think what became of me? What if I did not have money on me?”
Dang it! I forgot all about that o! I think to myself.
But she isn’t through with her tirade. “You wickedly left me there and self-righteously walked away because I told you a few simple truths. Ok, maybe I was a bit harsh, but that is me. That is the way I talk. You’ve always known me. Why was that day different?”
“That day was dif–”
“Anyway,” she barrels on, “like I said, I want be the bigger person, and extend the olive branch.”
“Are you done?” I ask stonily.
“Ok. So, I can end the call now, abi?” I ask with a calm that I do not feel.
“End the call?” Her confusion is evident in her voice. “End the call, how?”
“Because I have heard what you have to say. You obviously do not want to hear what I have to say.”
“Why are you like this?” She is really pissed. “Why are you being difficult? I am the one that called o! And I am extending an olive branch to you.” She pauses to take a deep breath, and then continues in a mellower tone, “Let us settle this quarrel nau! I’m tired of not being in talking terms with you.”
“Keep your olive branch. When you are ready to do the right thing, you call me back,” I return. But she ends the call even before I finish my sentence. “Can you imagine compounding annoyance?” I say to no one in particular. Gabby has slept off, half undressed. I remove his school shorts and leave him to sleep with his singlet and diaper.
I knock on Anyi’s room door. “Dinner is served,” I say a bit loudly. He does not answer. As I lift my hand to knock again, he opens the door, looking very sullen. “Are you ok?” I ask. “Abi you have been sleeping?”
“I am ok,” he mutters and sighs.
The headache is beginning to come back, and I don’t have the strength for this. So, I shrug and say, “Your food is on the dining table.”
“Ok,” he mutters again and withdraws into the room, closing the door.
I am almost done feeding Gabby, and I am eating as well at the dining table, when Anyi walks in, still looking sullen. He sits down on one of the chairs and sluggishly opens the covered plate, and starts eating. I ignore him.
“I quarreled with Leticia,” he suddenly says after a few minutes of silence, broken only by Gabby’s rambling monologue.
“Huh?” I look across the table at him, feigning bewilderment. “Are you talking to me?”
“No. I am talking to Gabby. Of course I am talking to you!” He smiles despondently as he says this.
“What happened?” I ask, relenting and letting my concern show.
“I confronted her about not greeting you this earlier on, and she got angry with me.”
“Oh!” I don’t know what else to say.
“I don’t know why she dislikes you so much,” Ifeanyi continues. “I have told her that she has to be nice to you if she wants the family to approve her. The head of our family now is your husband. In fact, sometimes, she can be quite stubborn and a handful. I think that is why I really love her.”
I consciously try not to roll my eyes. “You guys will settle later. But she has to know that she will not find it easy entering this family if she keeps disrespecting me. Not to be boastful, but you know how your brother feels when someone disrespects me.” In spite of my words, I can still feel my voice marinated with the smugness I feel.
He sighs and continues eating.
“Relax!” I say, laughing. “She will call you tomorrow.”
“No, she won’t,” he says sadly. “You didn’t see how angry she was.”
I laugh again. “Do you want to bet? If she doesn’t call or send you a text before noon tomorrow, I will give you 2k. But you have to make sure you don’t call her first o! Till 12 noon tomorrow.”
“2k is small now! Akpika! I know I will win this bet, so, let’s make it 5k,” he says, his mood lightening up more than a bit.
“I see someone has money to dash me. Ok now! 5k,” I say, standing up. I had finished feeding Gabby while we are talking, and he is sitting in the parlour, cuddling his teddy and saying something in babynese to it.
I walk out of the sitting room and come back almost immediately, clutching a piece of paper and pen. I sit and start scribbling on the paper, with Ifeanyi looking on in part confusion and part amusement.
I slide the paper and pen across to him when I am done, and he picks the paper and reads out loud, “I, Ifeanyi Ugwu hereby agree to give Adaku Ugwu nee Chukwudobe the sum of five thousand naira (N5, 000) if and when Leticia calls me before 12 noon tomorrow.
“I, Adaku Ugwu nee Chukwudobe hereby agree to give Ifeanyi Ugwu the sum of five thousand naira (N5, 000) if Leticia does not call him before 12 noon tomorrow.
And he laughs. “What is this?”
“Sign it,” I say with mock-sternness. “If you are serious, sign it.”
He looks at me thoughtfully. “Do you know something I don’t?”
“Before nko?” I almost scream, laughing. “Duh! I am a woman. That is a whooole lot that you don’t know! So, are you signing it or not? Let me start planning how to spend my 5k.”
He stares at the paper for about thirty seconds, and then picks up the pen to sign. Just as he places it on the paper, his phone rings.
“Oh my!” he chuckles after peering at the phone screen, before looking at me in awe.
“What?” I ask.
“Leticia,” he says, laughing out loud.
I laugh too. “Chai! I just lost free 5k!” I say in a mock lament.
Written by Adaku J.