“I don’t even know why I called you,” Ebuka says over the phone.
“Chinwe told me everything. How are you?” I ask.
“Just heartbroken. I really love your friend. And I know deep down, she cares about me too. But it seems something is stopping her from fully expressing the love.”
“Why not give her some time to get used to you? Maybe you went too fast for her comfort, don’t you think?”
“Did I?” Ebuka queries, his exasperation evident. “We have been dating for close to a year! How is that too fast?”
“Don’t forget that the most part of that year was spent apart,” I point out. “You can’t really calculate long distance relationship like that.”
“But, Ada, tell me, did anything happen?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did anyone hurt her so bad that she finds it hard to trust?”
“Why do you ask?” I say, trying to walk the fine line between discretion and truthfulness.
“I just have a feeling that her aloofness and distrust is deeper than she lets show,” he replies.
“Nna, the only thing I am going to tell you is to calm down and give her some time to trust you,” I say. “If there is any story to tell, she will tell you when she’s ready. I really like you, and I pray you both end up together. But if you cannot be patient, then, maybe you don’t deserve her.”
“No please, don’t talk like that, Ada,” Ebuka says, recoiling from the slight censure in my words. He pauses and I hear the harsh explosion of his sigh. When he speaks, his voice is resigned. “Okay. I will be patient. Just help me beg her to pick my calls.”
“I miss her.”
“I’m sure she misses you too,” I say, feeling my heart go out to him and wondering why my friend is letting the past get in the way of this happiness.
A knock on the door pulls me up from my midday nap. I have been feeling really sick lately. I wonder why morning sickness has decided to show up now that I am about to cross over to my second trimester. I’d earlier taken a dose of avomin tablets and slept off on the sitting room couch, only to be awakened now by the door bell and the accompanying raps on the door.
“Who is that?” I mumble, trying to remember if anyone had informed me of their intended visit. I come up blank
The door bell peals through the house again, and immediately after, a series of sharp knocks rattle the door.
“Onyee?!” I call out.
“Mepee uzo a!”a deep male voice barks from the other side of the door
Blood of Jesus! I think, feeling alarm surge through me at the unfamiliar voice. Where is Samuel? I wonder, thinking of the gateman and imagining several scenarios which could have made it possible for a stranger, probably a robber, get through the gate.
I immediately pick up my phone and dial my husband’s number. As I wait for him to answer, I inch toward the door and look through the peephole.
Uncle Donatus is standing on the porch with a heavy scowl on his face.
Relief surges through me like a river for a moment, and then, the current is circumvented into anger and resentment.
“I wonder what this nonsense man is doing here,” I grumble as I disconnect the call to my husband before opening the door.
“Welcome sir,” I say, faking a smile.
“What were you doing that you didn’t open the door on time?” he barks. “Do you know how long I have been knocking on this door?”
“I didn’t know you were coming, sir, so I wasn’t expecting anyone to knock,” I reply, barely holding on to my burgeoning annoyance.
He lifts his brows and favours me with a look that mixes astonishment and anger, as he bristles, “So I am supposed to inform you before coming to this house, okwaya?”
“Yes sir, that would have been better,” I reply curtly.
“Hian! Odikwaegwu oh!” he screams, his eyes bulging out of their sockets in his ire. “I should put you on notice before visiting my own son, ehkwa?! This is the problem we’re having with all these modern women! And I am talking, she is answering me! Not even a single fear in her eyes! Tufiakwa! I must have a chat about you with my son!” He turns and points at his briefcase and his overnight bag which are on the ground beside him. “Buru these bags and put them in the room for me biko! Before gi awagbuo onwegi n’anya!”
The nerve of the man, I bridle inwardly. Aloud, I say, “Sorry sir, I can’t carry any heavy objects. I hope you don’t mind carrying them yourself, and I will show you to your room.” I turn and gesture for him to follow me.
“Hei! So, this is what my son married? God forbid! We will pluck this one’s feathers before it learns to fly!” He picks up his bags and follows behind me, grumbling as we go.
After showing him to the guest room, I dress up to go out. I just know that I have to be out of the house until my husband comes back, to avoid mouthing off to his uncle.
“Do you need anything else?” I ask from the door, totally out of courtesy, and disrupting his murmuring and banging about the room. “I’m going out now to pick up Gabby.”
He stops to eye me for a few seconds and then turns away to continue with his murmuring.
“Ok then, bye, sir,” I say gaily, withholding a chuckle at his childishness.
My phone beeps just as I start my car, indicating the receipt of a BBM message. I click it open to read, since I still have some time to kill before Gabby’s school actually lets out.
Hey, babe. Aunty Esther’s case is tomorrow. Can you come? Chinwe’s message reads.
Oh! So that’s why this man is here in my house with his bad attitude, I type back. Of course, I am coming. What court?
Court 18. Once you enter the court complex, ask any of those guard men and women wearing uniforms, they’ll direct you.
Ok. I’ll definitely be there.
“Babe, come and meet me downstairs,” I say to Chinwe over the phone as I walk toward the entrance of the courthouse.
I’d waited until Uncle Donatus left the house this morning, before driving down to the court. After all the racket he raised last night, trying to ‘put me in trouble’ with my husband, I do not want to be questioned as to where my loyalties lay. So, I decided to come to court ‘Nicodemusly’ and leave after he has left.
“Hey you!”Chinwe says, rousing me from my preoccupation with my phone.
I look up as she saunters over and let my admiring stare run over the black flowing lawyer’s gown that is whipping slightly about her svelte figure in the morning breeze and her white neck piece that gives her such an officious look.
“Nne, keekwanu?” I beam at her.
“O di mma,” she answers breezily, hustling me towards the entrance of the complex. “The court is running a bit late, but una uncle is already seated. So, you just enter and sit at the back. Our case is number three on the list. So, after it, we will wait a bit until he leaves the court before we go.” She explains her ingress and egress plans to me, all part of the plan to avoid detection by Uncle Donatus.
“Ok.” I say with a chuckle, feeling slightly like I’m part of some clandestine movie scene. Then I add, “I have never seen you wearing your gown before oh! Where’s your wig now?”
“It’s in the courtroom,” she replies, chuckling. “When and where do you want to see me wearing the wig and gown nah? No one wears them outside the courtroom.”
“Really? What will happen if someone wears them outside the courtroom?”
“Shh…” She shushes me. “We’re here. Hold on, let me be sure that the coast is clear.” She indicates a spot behind the door where I should stand as she sticks her head inside the room.
“Ok,” she says, turning back to me, “go in and sit right there.” She points at an empty spot at the back of the room.
“Okay. Thanks. Good luck,” I say to her, before heading in. “Deal with Uncle Donatus very well oh,” I add, making her laugh.
“My weekend was fah-biu-lous!” Mercy gushes to Chinwe and I, her eyes sparkling as she tosses her head coyly. “Ifeanyi came to my house and we had a very swell time!” The emphasis she lays on the word ‘swell’ is deliberate.
“Hmmm,” I mutter.
“Why are you sounding like that? Don’t you like that we’re both getting together?” she challenges, the light hardening in her eyes as she turns to regard me.
“You’re getting together?” Chinwe interjects in disbelief.
“Ehn! Shouldn’t we?” Mercy rounds on her too.
“I think it’s too early for both of you oh,” I counsel. “You both are just –”
“Ehen!” Mercy cuts me off with a pinched expression on her face. “She has come with her preaching! I thought you had changed from being antagonistic towards me! How wrong I was!”
My brow furrows with the beginning of a frown at her barbed words. “I was never antagonistic towards you, Mercy,” I say patiently. “I’m just saying, if you want this thing between you two to last, take it a little bit easy, and allow yourself and him to heal from your former relationships. That’s all.”
“Who says we haven’t healed?” she retorts belligerently. “And who says it must last forever? See eh, I won’t tell you anything about us again, if this is how you’ll be preaching!”
“Sorry oh,” I backpedal.
“Hian! Mgbo, Chinwe, see this one oh! Shebi we sef no go marry?” She turns to Chinwe, seeking an alliance with the one who hasn’t expressed her opinion.
“My dear, I am the wrongest person to ask for any relationship advice, seeing as I have just truncated the one that I had,” Chinwe responds with a sigh.
“Babe, don’t talk like that,” I rejoin. “Just call him, and pick his calls when he calls you. I understand that you have trust issues, but Ebuka is willing to work through them with you –”
“What!” Chinwe screams, cutting me short. “Who told you all these things you’re saying? Did I not tell you not to call him?” She is visibly angry.
“Atokwam! Why am I getting everybody angry all of a sudden?” I say, trying to tamp down the growing tension with a smile.
“Because you are an annoying person!” Mercy snaps, pouncing on the opportunity to cut me down to size. “You like to put your mouth, nose and head in things that do not concern you! If she says ‘don’t call him’, then don’t call him! I’m so over you trying to control everybody!”
“Me, control everybody? How?” I am taken aback at the vile accusations coming out of Mercy’s mouth. Without waiting for her response, I turn to Chinwe. “Look, Chinwe, Ebuka called me. I did not call him. He is distraught that you broke up with him, and he is ready to stick by you until you start trusting him. These are the words he said to me! You are my friend and I love you. I want you to be happy, and I like Ebuka, because he’s a good man, who I feel will make you happy. Did I do wrong by taking his call?” I implore her with my eyes, silently asking for reason.
But she refuses to meet my gaze as she says, “The truth is that I am still not in the mood to talk about Ebuka. That is why I asked you to leave it alone. But of course, you didn’t. That’s the basis of my annoyance.”
“But he called me. Did I do wrong answering him?”
“What do you want her to say again?” Mercy butts in. “She is not happy with you, and you’re still claiming right! Tufia for this kain friendship sha!” She rises from her seat. “Biko, me, I’m leaving. I can’t be hanging out with someone that does not have my interest at heart.”
“Are we not supposed to go visit Mimi?” I say, feeling resentment and despair roil inside me.
“After what just happened, you still expect me to go anywhere with you?” Mercy stares at me with disbelief.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” I retort.
“I’m not in the mood to visit her,” Chinwe says curtly, rising too, clearly intending to leave with Mercy.
I remain seated and watch them leave my house, angry tears stinging my eyes and gathering quickly so that when I blink, beads of the tears drop down my cheeks.
How did this happen?
“Mummy, are you crying?”
I am roused from my emotions by the presence of Gabby beside me. He is attempting to climb onto my laps.
I involuntarily begin to push him back on his feet while snapping, “Gabby, leave me alone! Go and play!”
“Mummy, sorry!”he cries, sliding down to the floor by my legs and raises a hand to his face as he continues to wail.
I am instantly contrite. “It’s okay, my darling,” I say as I pull him up into my arms. “Don’t cry.” I hold him close, while my own tears continue to stream down my face.
“It’s just the hormones…” I mutter. “It’s just the hormones…” I keep saying the words to myself, as I rock Gabby to and fro.
Written by Adaku J.