Oluyole Estate, Ibadan.
Tunde Emmanuels sat on the dining table as he gently tore off the seal on the letter in his hands. His wife never seized to amaze him. She had written him a letter on their anniversary. He wondered when that had become the mode of communication between them. Ten minutes later, he had read the letter twice, picking every word like a toddler who was just learning to read. He smiled after reading, folded the letter and placed it in his briefcase. Then he bade his wife goodbye and made towards the door with Iyanu, his eight-year old daughter running to catch up with him in her white and grey school uniform.
That evening, Tiwa’s blackberry phone notified her of an online message in her mail box. She opened it and what she saw was startling.
Of course, today’s our anniversary.
I’m really happy you’ve been here with me all this while. It means a lot to me.
Even though I’ve been worrying about you half the time, it’s still good that you have remained with me. For this, I commend you.
Have you forgotten so soon how many quarrels we had while you were at your work place. Just so you remember, we lost count. It was either you coming late and never having time for me, or you spotted somewhere with a colleague in a not-too-good scenario, or you forgetting to cook for the kids, or you leaving the house as an eye sore. I’ve had to put up with all of these just because you wanted to work.
I reckon that it’s in a woman’s place to remember birthdays, anniversaries and every other special day, but I’ve always been the one reminding you, even about the kid’s birthdays. You always had a ready excuse- you were busy. I never complained.
For the good of all of us; you, me and the children, I asked you to stop working. I started working extra hours just to earn more and make everyone happy; it was never enough for you. Even when the sack came, I tried hard to make everyone comfortable. And sure as hell, I did bounce back. You withdrew and sank into a pool of depression. I tried to reach out to you, but you pulled back into your own cocoon. Soon, you started gaining weight. I called your attention to it lovingly, but you took offense. Darling, what have I not done for you?
At this point, I think my hands are tied. I can’t help you in your self-inflicted predicament. And just so you know, I will only allow you work when you no longer stay in my house and remain my wife. If you still don’t agree, let me know, I’ll get the divorce papers ready.
I love you.
Tiwa dropped the note and collapsed.
Suleja, Niger State.
Obinna smelled of booze. The stench was so strong that she couldn’t help covering her nose with the back of her right palm.
‘Obinna, answer me! Why are you just coming home? Where are you coming from? Why do you smell like this?’
‘Woman, shut up and let me be!’ Obinna shouted drunkenly as he staggered towards the bed room. Nneka ran to him and pulled him back.
‘You have not answered my question. Where are you coming from at this time? Don’t you have any shame at all? Look at you…shameless man!’ By this time, she was shouting on top of her voice and clapping her hands in his face. Obinna was red with anger, but he didn’t utter a word.
‘Oh, so now you can’t talk, ehn? You can’t say anything?’ She held on to his shirt and began to squeeze his collar in a way that got him moving back and forth. ‘Obinna you must kill me today oh!’
Suddenly, Obinna jerked backward causing his wife to land on her knees on the hard terrazzo floor. She let out a shrill cry that reverberated through the building. Obinna looked down at her in disgust, and angrily flounced out of the living room, still struggling to gain his balance.
He was so tired of this, he told himself. They’d make up tomorrow, hopefully.
Outskirts of Katsina,
thirteen months later.
I went to Hajia Zainab’s stall today to get tuwo shinkafa for Umar, my son. Oh, I forgot to tell you he has been weaned. Yes, last month! My son now takes real food and he’s becoming a big fine boy. Thank goodness he doesn’t look so much like his father (who is not in the least good-looking).
The major reason why I was at Hajia’s place was to see Farida, Hajia’s daughter. Farida used to be my best friend back then in school. We were very much alike in many ways. Not too long after I married Mallam, her aunt came and took her to the city, where she presently works as a house help for one rich madam. Farida is now very different- she looks very modern and speaks some ‘big big ‘ grammar, like Osagie. She has continued her schooling in the city and she’s now in SS2. I envy Farida so much, but somewhere in my heart, there is still hope that one day, I’ll go to the city and live the kind of life I desire. With Osagie.
Farida brought some clothes and jewelry for me, alongside some news.
‘Fathia, guess who I saw in the city.’
‘Who? Ramseen Muah?’
Farida laughed out loud. We had fantasized about a certain movie star that bears that name when we were in school. Osagie told us he was a fine young actor.
‘Very funny, Fathia. It is Ramsey Noah, but he’s not the one I saw.’
I smiled. She has really changed.
‘I saw Teacher Osagie!’
I covered my mouth in bewilderment as soon as the words fell from her mouth. Farida continued.
‘He came to my madam’s supermarket to buy a ring for a lady he wants to marry. Fathia, the lady is very beautiful!…’
I couldn’t listen anymore. My eyes were glued to her and I could see her lips move, but I couldn’t hear any more words. I don’t know for how long I sat there, but after awhile, I felt someone shaking my right leg.
‘Are you listening?’
‘Okay. So he said he had to move on and that if I ever saw you again, I should tell you how sorry he is. He left soon afterwards, giving me a good tip. He works with a bank now.’
The rest of the conversation was rushed and uninteresting. I hurried back home with my baby on my back. Hajia Balikis, Mallam’s second wife, was already waiting in front of the house, ready to pick up a quarrel with me. I just ignored her and ran to my room. I’m still here in my room crying and mourning my loss. Why has he done this to me? Why? I thought he said he loved me. Why is this happening to me? I feel very sad and heart-broken, but I’ve made up my mind, I shall stay strong for my son and any other child that may come after him. And don’t they say dreams come true? I will hold on to my dreams, one day….I know they will come true.
Osagie…. Ah, Osagie….
3:54pm, at Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos,Nigeria.
Tonia ‘s plane landed in Nigeria from Delhi, India.
Oh my God, a lot has happened in three years. I’ve terribly missed this place. It feels great to finally be back.
After claiming her luggage, she walked out towards the entrance, looking around anxiously, hoping to find her husband and sons waving at her. She saw no one. She brought out her phone and dialed her husband’s number. It was switched off. Already getting agitated, she called her sister.
‘Hello?’ Grace answered.
‘Grace, it’s Tonia. I’m in Nigeria.’
Grace screamed excitedly.
‘Are you at home now?’
‘I should be asking you that. Where is everyone? I’ve been at the airport for some time now and no one is here to welcome me. I told you all that I was coming today now, didn’t I?’
‘What of Uncle? Have you tried his number? I’m in school now oh.’
‘Lanre’s number is switched off.’
‘Aunty, I’ll try calling his second phone. Give me a minute.’
Tonia was now already bothered. This wasn’t the kind of welcome she envisaged. Lanre sure had some explaining to do.
Thirty minutes later, she was already boiling. What in the world was going on? She dialed her sister’s number.
‘Grace, what the hell is happening to everyone? Why didn’t you call me back?’
‘Aunty I’m sorry. Uncle Lanre’s number is not going through…’
‘So why didn’t you just tell me?’
Tonia’s voice was raised. Passers-by turned to look in her direction.
‘You’re sorry? God, I can’t believe this.’
She ended the call.
These people had better be kidding.
Tonia carried her things towards the car park and finally found a cab she could board.
‘Ikoyi!’ she called out to the taxi driver.
‘E wole’ he replied, meaning she could come in.
Without bargaining, she dropped her luggage in the boot, and hopped into the cab. About ninety minutes later, she was dropped in front of her compound. It was getting dark. Still, no one was in sight!
She opened the gate and walked in, pulling her suitcases along. She tried the knob of the front door, it opened. No one was inside and the lights were off. She waddled in the dark till she could find a seat, and just as she was about to sit…
The lights suddenly came on, and before her stood about fifty people beaming and clapping.Her parents, Grace, her two sons and Lanre were all there laughing and clapping simultaneously.
Tonia just stood still, dazed. She didn’t know whether she was to laugh or get mad. But when the kids ran towards her, she knew she couldn’t stay mad any longer. She bent and scooped her boys into her arms, lovingly, tenderly. Dare, her 9-year-old, brought out a beautiful flower and stretched it towards his mum.
‘Welcome home, Mummy. We love you.’
Tears formed in her eyes and she hugged her boys again, not wanting to let go forever.
The party began right away. Friends and neighbours ate till they were filled. Cool music filled the nicely decorated living room and people chatted away excitedly. Tonia had already hugged almost everyone, though she was tempted to spank her sister before giving her one.
Later that evening, Lanre and his wife lay in each other’s arms staring at each other with love-filled eyes.
‘Baby, I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve missed you so badly’ Lanre said, whisperingly.
‘Me too, Love.’ She replied. ‘You all scared me this afternoon.’
‘It was your mum that came up with the idea. You know, left to me, I’d have come to India to welcome you.’
They both giggled.
‘I just hope you didn’t undergo so much stress? You know how Lagos can get.’
Before she could finish saying the words, his mouth covered hers in a heart-melting kiss.