I sit with Gloria at the hospital waiting room while Chinwe takes charge, running around and getting Nkaiso attended to and ensuring that the doctor’s report is accurate.
Left with nothing to do but sit and observe, I can’t help but notice how Gloria’s phone has been beeping incessantly, and how she’s been replying to whomever has been texting her; every once in a while, she steps out of the waiting room to answer a call.
Nkaiso’s last child, Mfon, has fallen asleep on my lap, and the boys are just sitting, staring into space, clearly lost in their own thoughts.
An hour and some fractions later, Chinwe comes to sit beside me to give me updates. Nkaiso is to be admitted for closer observation, and someone is needed to be with her. I suggest that we get the children over to my house so that they can refresh, after which Gloria will be brought back to stay in the hospital with her madam. Chinwe communicates this plan to Gloria and the boys.
“Ma, thank you, but, I think we should go back home,” Gloria declines.
“Why? Who will take care of the children and who will stay with your madam?” Chinwe asks, her brow furrowing.
“Erm, erm…” The girl flails for a response.
“We’ll go to your house, ma. I don’t want to stay in our house again,” Aniekan speaks up, to the nodding agreement of his older brother, Derrick.
“Don’t mind them, ma,” Gloria counters with surprising insistence. “We will go home, and then Derrick will take care of his siblings while I come back to stay with madam.”
As I silently contemplate her refusal, she adds, “You have tried so much for us, ma. I just don’t want to stress you.”
“What business of yours is it if we’re stressing ourselves for our friend?” Chinwe snaps then, causing the girl to flinch. There is a shadow of anger on Chinwe’s countenance.
“No, ma,” Gloria objects, “it’s not like that, ma –”
“Well, we weren’t really asking for your opinion,” Chinwe cuts across her protest. “We were telling you what you’re going to do, is that clear?”
“Yes, ma,” a very subdued Gloria responds.
“Let’s go,” Chinwe declares, as she rises and lifts Mfon from my lap.
We get to my house at 5pm, and surprisingly, neither my husband nor Gabby is at home. Samuel, the gateman says they haven’t come home either.
A call to my husband reveals that he took Gabby to his workplace, since I called in to tell him what was going on and he wasn’t certain I’d be home.
Chinwe comes into the kitchen while I’m preparing dinner for the children.
“Something is going on, and I’m not sure what it is,” she says.
“What do you know?” I ask.
“That girl, Gloria… She is acting weird.” She looks at me for a moment, and then her mouth tightens as she adds, “I think she’s communicating with Nkaiso’s husband.”
I nod. “You might be right,” I say, thinking back to Gloria’s shifty behavior at the hospital. I quickly recount my observation to Chinwe. “What do we do though? How do we find out for sure?”
“I don’t know,” she says.
“Hian! Let’s collect her phone and check it, biko! Are we afraid of her?” I say, slightly bristling.
“No, let’s not do that. I want to catch her at whatever it is she’s doing,” Chinwe says, fiddling with her phone. “Let me just send some messages,” she says ominously.
“I don’t even have the strength to figure out what you’re doing, but I trust you,” I say.
“Oh shit!” she mutters, staring at her phone screen. “I’m supposed to meet Ebuka this evening oh!”
“Oh my! You forgot?”
“Totally! Jeez! He’ll think that I’m still blowing him off, and that’s not my plan at all.”
“Go and meet him now! What else are you doing again today?”
“I need to keep close tabs on Nkaiso and this Gloria girl. I need to know what she and that fool of a husband are up to.”
“Okay, so are you going to spy on her or what? Are you going to be following her about?” I ask, unsure what machinations are working overtime in Chinwe’s mind.
“No, I’m sending someone to the hospital keep an eye out. I really want to get that man so badly, you don’t even know!” she says with the vehemence and anger that I totally understand.
“Why not let Ebuka know what is going on, so that if there’s any need, he’ll go with you wherever you have to go,” I suggest. “Plus, it’s getting late, so you need a partner,” I add as she thinks my suggestion through.
“Well, that’s not a bad idea… That is, if he’ll agree.”
“Oh, he’ll agree!” I declare with a laugh. I know that Ebuka will do almost anything to be around Chinwe. I mean, he resigned his job for her for heavenssakes!
“So, call him and explain,” I say, before proceeding to take out the plates of food to the dining room for Nkaiso’s children.
The kids have eaten, had their baths and settled in the guest room. Gloria was taken back to the hospital by Chinwe, with my car, after which, she went to pick up Ebuka.
My husband is back and after explaining the situation to him, he volunteers to keep the watch with Ebuka and Chinwe, and so, our living room has become the base.
As we wait, Chinwe explains to us what is going on. Upon the suspicion that Gloria had been communicating with Nkaiso’s husband, she set up her office litigation officer at the hospital to watch over Nkaiso. She also communicated with the officer the need to notify her at once if anyone shows up at the hospital, asking for Nkaiso. Then she had a police officer placed on standby, in case things get violent.
Chinwe’s plan is to gather irrefutable evidence against Nkaiso’s husband, as she intends to have him sued for assault, battery, attempted murder and infliction of grievous bodily harm.
Awed by her quick thinking and determination to leave no stone unturned, we agree that Nkaiso’s husband should be made to pay for his wickedness.
And so we wait for the call, while discussions swell around us with the topics ranging from the sudden apparency of domestic abuse in the country to the unfairness of the way the system is stacked against women when it comes to marital issues. I try not to look pointedly at my husband when the issue of the limited choices of women in bad marriages comes up. His uncle’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Aunty Esther, is uppermost on my mind at this point.
When the call eventually comes, it is 11:43 pm.
“So,” Chinwe begins after disconnecting from the call, “just as I feared, Nkaiso’s husband was just at the hospital, trying get her discharged. He is now in police custody.” She pauses as she looks at me for a beat. “I was starting to think I was overthinking this situation.”
“Your instincts have always been right, babe,” Ebuka says, reaching out to place a proprietary hand over her shoulder. He is beaming lovingly at her.
“So what now?” I ask.
“We’ll go to the police station to meet him,” Chinwe says. She gets to her feet. “Let’s go.”
Ebuka and my husband rise as well, and I see the three of them off to the door. Per our agreement, my involvement in the excitement has ended for the night at least. I feel super tired and sleepy. Bearing in mind that my siesta this afternoon was interrupted by all that’s happened, I am pleased by the thought of getting some sleep finally.
However, I decide to call Gloria before going to bed.
“Hello, aunty,” she says, upon picking my call.
“Gloria, where are you?” I ask.
“Aunty, I am at home.”
“You are at home?” I scream. “What are you doing at home? Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?”
“Aunty, it’s my oga that said I should come home, that he will come to the hospital to stay with madam.”
“Your oga said that, eh? When did you two discuss that one?” I am amazed at how right Chinwe was with her suspicion of the house help consorting with Nkaiso’s husband.
“Aunty, I am very sorry.” There is a thread of tears in the girl’s voice. “My madam is a good person. You sef, you are a good person. My oga is not a good person at all!”
I am slightly startled by her sudden declarations, and suspect that she wants to make a confession. I cast about, thinking of what to do. If she were with me, it would be easy to record this.
Then, it hit me. My phone has a call record button, which I discovered absolutely by chance. Now is the time to put it to good use.
“Gloria, what’s going on?” I prompt, after pressing the call record button.
“Aunty, my mind will not agree for me to do you bad thing,” the girl sniffs. “You are a good person.”
“What happened?” I ask.
“Oga came to the hospital but he did not enter inside. He called me out to the car park to ask me what is going on. Aunty, he was very angry when I told him the children were at your place. He was shouting about how you and the other aunty came to his house and kidnapped his children. Then he said tomorrow, he will carry police to your house to arrest you.”
My heart constricts at the sheer wicked nature of this man.
“So he said I should be going home, that he will bring madam back home,” Gloria is still speaking. “He said when he goes to the police, he will tell them that madam was sick and when he took her to the hospital, leaving me at home with the children, you and your friend came here and forced us to follow you. He said that if they ask me, I should say that I was able to escape from your house.”
“Ha!” I exclaim, amazement at the duplicity of Nkaiso’s husband filling my heart. How had the good woman that is my friend been able to stay married to such a wicked, manipulative man for so long? “And you went along with this plan, eh Gloria? Why?” I am outraged.
“Aunty, I am very sorry. I am afraid of my oga. I did not want him to beat me or send me back the village…” she says, choking on a sob.
“Don’t cry,” I say, my initial outrage ceasing in the face of the girl’s unfortunate predicament. “Just don’t tell anyone that you spoke with me, you hear?”
“Oya, go and sleep. I’ll come to the house tomorrow.”
“No, Aunty. Please don’t come. I’m sure my oga will be back tonight and will be around tomorrow.”
For a moment, I consider telling her that her boss is in police custody. The moment passes and I say instead, “Alright then. Let me go to bed. Good night, Gloria.”
“Good night, aunty. And thank you for everything you have done.”
I disconnect the call and gratefully give myself over to my slumber. However, I am roused when my husband comes to bed. I spare a quick moment to confirm that the time is 1:15 am on my phone screen, before turning to position myself for a cuddle.
“How did it go?” I murmur as he envelopes me in his arms.
“It went okay. Your friend, Chinwe, is fierce,” he says with a soft chuckle.
“What did she do?”
“Let’s talk in the morning. I’m really tired,” he says. “Good night, darling.”
Written by Adaku