I wake up to tiny hands all over my face. Opening my eyes, I realize that I’d slept off with Gabby in my arms. My body is positioned awkwardly on his bed, with my back against the wall and the back of my head propped up against the window’s burglary proof.
Gabby’s quizzical gaze fills my vision as I open my eyes.
“Mummy?” he says in a whisper, as if to be certain I am the one holding him.
“My love,” I whisper back, kissing his forehead.
No more fever, I remark silently to myself, immensely relieved. I lift his shirt to check the swelling. It has gone down, just as Onyii predicted, but left a bright red splotch on his skin. I carefully touch the site and Gabby whimpers just a little, slapping my hand away.
“Barmy…” he whispers, indicating his wish to watch his favourite TV show, Barney And Friends.
Obviously, the pain has reduced, I note with a pleased smile at him.
My satisfaction however peters out as I attempt to sit up from the bed. The ache of being in such an uncomfortable position for a prolonged time bats at my body, and I groan. Gabby scurries out of my arm.
Carefully, I stretch out my legs, one after the other, massaging my benumbed joints, encouraging blood flow to reach my lower extremities. Gingerly, I get up, grimacing as my arm and leg muscles scream at me. I start out of the bedroom after my son, limping and wincing at the pins-and-needles sensation in my feet.
“Barmy is a &#!@%,” Gabby sings, clapping and walking ahead of me as we get into the sitting room.
I spy the blinking indicator lights on my phone immediately I step into the sitting room. I pick it up to check. The notifications are some BBM broadcasts, text messages from MTN (very annoying occurrence, by the way), and some missed calls from Ijeoma, an unknown number and my husband.
“It’s now that you know to call,” I mutter as I glare at my husband’s number in the Missed Calls List. I ignore it and navigate to check out the pings.
“Mummyyyy!” Gabby says impatiently, standing before the TV console and fiddling with the remote, which he has pointed in the general direction of the DVD player and television.
“Oh! Sorry, my darling,” I say, dropping the phone and walking towards him. My hand is stretched out to him, gesturing for him to hand me the remote.
He complies, and with few clicks, the television screen flickers to life and the Barney introductory song begins to sound out from the speakers. “Barney is a dinosaur from our imaginaaa –”
Both sound and picture dies an abrupt death as the power goes off just then.
“Oops!” I say, glancing at my son.
His smile disappears, to be replaced by a frown. Then he squeezes his features into a crinkle of outrage, and begins to bawl his annoyance at PHCN for cutting off his pleasure.
I struggle to hold in my mirth at the transformation that had just taken place on Gabby’s face. I barely succeed.
“Nna, ndo nu… They will soon bring it back,” I say, my lips twitching with amusement as I lift him up to my laps to console him, while trying to remember if there is still fuel in the generator.
He wriggles down and out of my hold, and starts to run around the room in a little circle, his distress obviously incapable of being held in one place. Then, he drops to the floor and sits there, wailing, intermittently kicking out his legs.
I vacillate between spanking him then and letting him have his fill of his tantrum. Before I can decide, my phone rings.
The unknown number is calling again.
“Hello?” I say, after clicking to answer and moving toward the dining area, away from Gabby’s racket.
“Hello… How is he?” comes my husband’s frantic voice.
“How is who?” I say, my voice taking an unfriendly turn at once.
“Gabby. How is he? Ihuoma said he isn’t feeling strong or something like that –”
“Oh!” I interrupt sharply. “So, if she did not call you, this is how you will abandon your family on the account of a stupid ashawo that you do not even know, okwa ya?” As I speak, I get angrier as I remember the number of times I called and sent him text messages since yesterday, which equals the number of times he has ignored me.
“Look, let us not address this matter now. How is my son?” he says, his voice taking on an exasperated tinge.
“I will address what I want to address!” I scream. “How dare you? How dare you convict me in your heart without hearing me out? How dare you ignore me since yesterday? Now you are calling only to ask after Gabby…” My voice breaks at this point, my eyes filling with tears. I pause, willing my voice to return to normal. “You are just trying to hurt me on purpose, and that is very mean of you!” I choke out. Then I end the call abruptly.
“I will not cry over this!” I say to myself severally, taking several deep, calming breaths. “God forbid that I’ll cry because of that stupid girl.”
Gabby, probably noting that I am free enough to listen to his cries, increases the tempo. And then, a startlingly loud sound rips through the room. I whirl around to see he’d thrown the remote control against the wall. The device lies shattered on the ground.
“Are you mad?!” I scream, before moving quickly towards him, my mind made up on how to deal with his temper tantrum.
“Maybe I should have answered him properly,” I say to Ijeoma. I am seated on the little couch in her nursery, looking down forlornly at my hands.
“But, why hasn’t he called back? What if Gabby was ill true-true?” Ijeoma fumes on my behalf, while breastfeeding her baby.
“If Gabby was ill true-true,” I reply, “he knows I wouldn’t have talked about any other thing but that. My ranting about him ignoring me somehow answered his fears about our son’s health.”
“One of the disadvantages of marrying someone that knows you so well,” Ijeoma says.
“Huh?” I look uncomprehendingly at her.
“Ehen now! He will now be taking you for granted!” she clarifies. “If na me ehn, my husband no go even know wetin dey my mind!” There’s a note of smugness in her voice.
I give out a long, loud Mtcheeeew, before saying, “Why can’t I be like NK some days, ehn?”
“NK… Oh you mean, Nkaiso?” Ijeoma enquires with distaste. “I no too like that your friend o.”
“Hmm? Why?” I ask, amused.
“She too dey do, biko! Little-Mrs-Perfect-I-don’t-use-to-poo-and-my-fart-smells-like-vanilla!” She rolls her eyes.
I burst out in laughter, readily giving in to my mirth as a refreshing relief from my earlier concerns. “Kai! Aijay! You’re just a clown! No be small my-fart-smells-like-vanilla!”
“Anyway,” she says, holding up her baby and rubbing her back to get her to burp. “I don’t like her.”
“Ijeoma, you don’t like anybody! Sometimes sef, I wonder if you like me,” I tease.
“Ah! I like you o!” she says defensively.
“Yeah, right!” I reply, feigning disbelief.
“No, seriously, ibu alobam,” she says, shining her teeth. Just then, the baby belches softly, and she sighs in appreciation, rising up with the child and cutting off any reply I might have been thinking of making. “This child is so peaceful,” she coos.
“Eiyaa,” I say, smiling at them, as I watch her stupidly smiling at her baby. I wonder if I looked like this with Gabby when he was born.
Ijeoma finally puts her daughter down to sleep and turns to me. “Why are you smiling like that?” she says.
“Nothing o! I’m just smiling at you and my daughter-in-law.”
“Shebi I have told you to bring goat,” she returns, sitting back down and wincing a little.
“Is your site still paining you?” I ask, concerned.
“Yeah, just a little,” she replies, rubbing at her abdomen.
“Ndo, it will soon stop,” I console. “Hope your omugwo is taking good care of you?” I am referring to her husband’s eldest sister, who visited for the customary omugwo.
“Smothering, more like,” Ijeoma says.
“It’s good like that!” I reply with a chuckle. “I diro anu ife.”
“I’m not even complaining sef. I’m tired, biko.”
“Better.” Then, rising to my feet, I say, “Let me be going, jaré! Let me go and make lunch before Gabby is due back from school.”
“Ngwanu, nnem,” she says, still seated. “Relax, inugo? Your husband will come around.”
“Thanks, dear. I just hope he does that soon. I need him on my side now.”
“You don’t need him or anybody!” Ijeoma admonishes in a heated tone. “How many times will I tell you this? Even if he sides his brother, you will survive all of them. You have to change your perception about marriage o! You can’t keep having this psyche about marriage.”
“Ijeoma, biko!” I protest, amused “I won’t try to understand what you mean right now. Later, ok? Take care of yourself o!” I call out to her on my way out the door.
I am in the light early afternoon traffic, now a short distance from my house, when my phone beeps, signifying the receipt of a text message. I glance at the screen for a moment. My husband has sent me a text message. Seeing that the road is a bit clear, I go ahead to read the message, dividing my attention between the road on which I am driving and my phone screen.
‘Baby, I am at home. Where are you?’
“Seems as though someone has calmed down,” I say to myself with a smile. “You will see me soon.”
Written by Adaku J