Nkaiso’s husband, Donatus, is still in custody. He has been transferred to the prison, and I hear that a case is being built against him. He was denied bail at the police station, and he’s looking forward to asking the court for bail on the day of his arraignment.
Nkaiso, on the other hand, is still recovering from her wounds. She has been sent home from the hospital with a cast on her feet. She’d shattered her ankle joint one way or another during the time her husband hit her. It seems she is still in shock. She hasn’t told me or any of our mutual friends the reason why her husband hit her; she only spoke to the policemen who came to get her statement at the hospital, and for some reasons, Chinwe cannot access the statement.
According to her, she tried to get a fiat through her office, so that she can handle the case by herself, but it was not released to her. She feels that some police prosecutor is very personally interested in the case.
Meanwhile, I am watching helplessly as my erstwhile warm, elegantly-composed friend, Nkaiso becomes a shadow of herself. She goes through the motions of existence and only does things that need to be done, like eating and bathing. Her help, Gloria, has been the backbone of her family, making sure the children are fed and sent off to school and that Nkaiso eats something at least once a day. We all try to visit her every now and then, but she hasn’t been responsive to us. She just sits and stares her devastation into space. The sight of this vacant person breaks my heart whenever I go to see her.
I have looked forward to today for the longest time. It is a public holiday, but that’s only a part of the reason for my anticipation. I get to sleep in; no need waking up early to get Gabby ready for school, and Chinwe planned a picnic/lunch to celebrate Ebuka’s birthday, which was two days ago. I also hope that she’ll tell me what is going on with Aunty Esther’s divorce case. She once said something about Uncle Donatus trying some legal shenanigans that are stalling the judgment that will set Aunty Esther free and grant her custody of her children. I need Chinwe to explain it all to me. I also want to know what will become of Nkaiso’s husband, Donatus. Men, it seems as though that the name is cursed to forever bequeath the men who answer to it with reprehensible character.
I am running late for the birthday lunch, and upon entering the food court at the mall, I look around in a bid to locate the group which should be made up of four persons – Chinwe, Ebuka, Mercy and Ifeanyi. More people than usual are lounging about in the food court as a result of the holiday, but I don’t have to look for long, as Mercy’s ringing voice serves as the beacon to where they are located. Holding Gabby by the hand, I weave my way around the tables and chairs toward them.
“You guys should totally come for the wedding,” I hear Mercy say as I get close enough.
“Who is wedding?” I query, announcing my arrival.
“Agadi of life!” Ebuka hails as he stands to offer me his seat. He beams at me, his incredibly handsome face wreathed with an expression of welcome.
“Happy Birthday, birthday man,” I hail back. “Thank you jaré!” I say as I move toward the seat.
He is reaching for another chair attached to an empty table nearby as Chinwe and Mercy stand to give me light hugs.
“Good morning, sir!” Gabby pipes up, and all attention is instantly drawn to him.
I sit down, feeling slightly out of breath and arranging my dress around me, before digging into my bag for my phone.
“So, who is wedding?” I ask again, as soon as Gabby has been seated and the attention on him has waned.
“The wedding I told you about the other day,” Ifeanyi replies.
“Oh! Your friend from the US?” I ask.
“Yes. I’m going to be his best man,” he says.
“And I’m going to be the Maid of Honor,” Mercy intones, raising her hand as if she were in class and was answering a question, howbeit an unasked one.
“How are you the Maid of Honor?” I ask, a tad confused. “Do you know the bride?”
“No,” Ifeanyi answers. “My guy says that his babe does not have any friends who can leave what they’re doing to come for the wedding. So he asked me to find a date that would double as the Chief Bridesmaid.”
“It’s called Maid of Honor these days, you know?” Mercy says. “I’m not the bridesmaid, biko!”
This elicits laughter from everyone around the table.
“You think the ‘maid’ in the word means house help?” Chinwe asks through her laughter.
“Ehen!” Mercy replies. “Yes, I know that’s not what it means, but my mind doesn’t want to follow that logic. So, that will be Maid of Honor for me, thank you!”
“You do know that there’s still ‘maid’ in that one, right?” Ebuka asks to another round of laughter.
“At least, that one is honourable. Maid of Honor, see?” Mercy rejoins.
“Kai! You guys should not make me pee my pants, biko!” I say, gasping through my laughter.
“You’re totally allowed to do that, courtesy of your pregnancy,” Chinwe says.
“Abi oh,” I agree.
“How is she allowed to do that?” Mercy asks.
“Bladder incontinence is one of the symptoms of the late second and third trimester of pregnancy. When my brother’s wife was pregnant and I was living with them, she’d use panty liners, and by the time she was getting due, full on sanitary pads,” Chinwe explains.
“Ooh!” Mercy and Ifeanyi both echo.
“Yeah! Not fun at all,” I say.
A clattering sound makes us turn towards Gabby. The toy he’d been keeping himself busy with has fallen to the floor. Ebuka reaches down to retrieve it for him.
“Not to sound like the community glutton, but when are we ordering our food?” Ifeanyi pipes up.
“”Abi ke?” Mercy concurs. “I thought we were only waiting for Ada to come.”
“Let’s order now,” Chinwe says. “We’ll go in turns.”
“We’ll go first!” Mercy declares as she jumps to her feet.
“Pregnant women and children first!” Ebuka counters to a response of laughter from the table.
After the lunch, I ask Ifeanyi to follow me home and keep me company, since my husband has traveled. Little do I know that this would turn out to be the best decision I’d make today.
It is nighttime and Ifeanyi and I are seated at the dining table, conversing as he eats the snack that he took away from the eatery earlier in the day, when a knock sounds on the door. He goes to the door and lets Uncle Donatus in. The man bustles into the living room past Ifeanyi, who I notice is staring at his uncle with something akin to naked dislike stamped on his face.
A thought is mushrooming in my mind, but I am distracted by courtesy to dwell on it, as I greet Uncle Donatus. “Uncle, welcome, sir. You did not inform us that you’re coming around.”
“Is that the welcome that you will say to me, ehn, nwanyi a?” he snaps at me, his patented ugly scowl already eclipsing his jowly features.
“But I just said welcome just now,” I protest, lifting my brows at him in slight exasperation.
“I didn’t hear it!” he says dismissively, and then gestures at the overnight bag he has just dropped on the floor next to him. “Come and carry this bag to the guest room. Then put bathing water for me. Hope there’s food in this house.”
He pulls off his suit jacket, throws it on one of the sofas, and then proceeds to loosen his tie. When he doesn’t notice any movement in obeisance to his instructions, he pauses and stabs a pointed glare at me, as I steadfastly sit on the chair where I was upon his entrance.
“Is it not a human being that I was talking to?” he says testily. “Get up from there and do what you’re told!”
“Uncle, actually, I’m very tired. I didn’t know you’d be coming around tonight, so I didn’t make any food, and I’m honestly too tired to make any now. Please, you know the way to the room you usually sleep in when you visit. I’ll attend to you in the morning,” I say, putting extraordinary effort into making my voice sound calm.
“What!” he stares at me, his eyes bugging out of their sockets with his ire. “This woman is growing wings and tails –”
“Eh-eh, Uncle, ozugo!” Ifeanyi cuts into what was no doubt going to be a tirade. “It’s enough! I don’t know why you feel like you must show yourself every time you come here. But it’s enough!”
I turn to Ifeanyi at the same time his uncle whirls around on him.
“Who are you taking to, you this little boy?” Donatus explodes afresh. “Do you have any other father other than me?”
Ifeanyi ignores him and turns to me. “Ada, go and sleep jaré! It’s getting late. Rapu ndi ara!”
It is in that moment that the thought that was earlier developing in my mind completed its evolution. I suddenly realize that this is the first time Ifeanyi and Uncle Donatus are encountering each other since the debacle of Ifeanyi’s near-wedding to Leticia – you know, the woman the nephew was going to marry but whom had slept with the uncle.
The import of this moment is not lost on me as I pick up the plate Ifeanyi had been eating from and proceed into the kitchen to drop it before turning in. However the exchange that immediately erupts when I exit the living room keeps me rooted to a spot in the kitchen, as I listen to uncle and nephew battle out their grievances.
“How dare you talk to your father like that, mgbo, Ifeanyi? You don’t have fear in your eyes anymore, okwa ya?”
“Ndi father, mgbo!” Ifeanyi sneers. “Father that will have an affair with his son’s fiancée, is that one father? Abeg shift!”
I draw close to the partition that separates the living room from the kitchen in time to see Donatus spring to his feet from the sofa where he’d apparently settled down in.
“Ifeanyi, don’t disrespect me!” Donatus roars, raising a hand – and finger – trembling with rage to Ifeanyi’s face. “Don’t you dare disrespect me, inanu?”
“This is not a matter of disrespect, Uncle. You kept quiet and allowed me to almost marry someone who you had been sleeping with, with whom you may or may not have had kids! Am I supposed to pretend that I’m not offended and disappointed in you?” Ifeanyi bellows angrily at his uncle.
“I said, don’t talk to me that way! Was it me who helped you toast the girl?” Donatus shouts back.
“It doesn’t matter whether you helped me or not! When you realized who I was dating and was about to marry, you owed me a duty to tell me the kind of person she was!”
“I owe you no such duty! You expect everyone to pander to you and spoonfeed you all the time. Grow up, Ifeanyichukwu! No one owes you jack!”
“So because you believe that you do not owe me anything, you kept quiet and watched me fall into a ditch, eh?” Ifeanyi is glaring at Donatus with the same incredulity that I am feeling over his uncle’s callousness. “You are a very wicked man!”
“Ifeanyichukwu, don’t insult me oh! I will flog you silly this evening oh! You are not too old to be flogged oh!”
Ifeanyi’s bark of laughter is as mirthless as it is derisive. “You will do no such thing, old man! In this house that you have no claim to? Try it and see if I won’t physically carry you out of this house! Just try it, ma isi na ujo adiro atu gi! Ewu Gambia! Do you think that you scare me?” As if to underscore his advantage of youth and superior strength over Donatus, he advances a step toward the other man and wags an irate finger at him as he continues, “Let me tell you something, if you don’t already know. God will punish you very well, you hear me? Thunder will fire you and only you for all the pain you’ve caused me. Stupid old man! You kept quiet and allowed someone who you call your son to almost marry a tramp that you have finished infecting with your stupidity, okwa ya? Otoro ga-agbagbu gi! Nchiche ga-atabipu gi imi! Anu ofia!”
Donatus rears back, clearly now appreciating the strength of his nephew’s rage. Even his voice has lost some of its bluster when he retorts, “Hmmm! Hmmm! Ifeanyichukwu, I will call elders in council meeting for you oh! Is it me that you’re insulting like this?”
“Which fucking elders in council?” Ifeanyi spits at him. “Elders in council that is made up of you and probably people like you? Gettaway from here, onye iberibe dika gi!”
And with that, Ifeanyi storms out into the guest room and slams the door shut.
I wait endlessly for Donatus to leave the sitting room, so that I will be able to go in without alerting him to the fact that I’d overheard everything they said to each other. But he remained there, obviously ruminating over what has just happened. When I got tired of waiting, with all the stealth I can muster, which isn’t much for a heavily pregnant woman, I sneak out of the kitchen and tiptoe my way toward the master bedroom. But it is not my portion to get away with not getting noticed, as my leg kicks Gabby’s toy which he had dropped in the corridor.
“Who is there?” Donatus bellows.
“I’m the one,” I call back in a level voice. I pick up the toy and walk to the sitting room. “Do you need anything?”
“What were you doing there?” he snaps, his eyes darting searchingly over my face as though he was trying to discern just how much I was aware of what had happened a few minutes ago.
“Excuse me?” I say in response, dousing my tone with incredulity. The nerve of this man!
“I said, what were you doing there? Didn’t you say that you were going to sleep?”
“I didn’t know that I had to take permission from you before I leave my room in my own house to go to any other part of my house, Uncle,” I retort, chuckling to reduce the severity of my sass.
“Were you eavesdropping?” he queries.
“Uncle, good night,” I respond, before turning to walk away before he has a chance of souring my night any further.
Not like that will be possible, I think to myself as I relish the thought that Ifeanyi has openly declared his enmity for his uncle, the same man he used to torment me with. Now, if my husband will just get on the same page, all will be well with the world.
Ozugo – That’s enough
Rapu ndi ara – Leave mad people
Okwa ya? – Is that right?
Ndi father mgbo – Father indeed!
Ma isi na ujo adiro atu gi – If you claim to be brave
Ewu Gambia – Gambian goat
Otoro ga-agbagbu gi – Dysentery will kill you
Nchiche ga-atabipu gi imi – Small pox will eat your nose
Anu ofia – Wild animal
Onye iberibe dika gi – Stupid person like you
Written by Adaku