Rita succeeded in making Uchenna believe that she was given a sick leave for a week, though he obviously questioned the possibility. After taking the children back to her parents house, she returned to spend the week with her husband, except it didn’t turn out the way she expected it to. It turned out way better, showing her that God had taken control.
On getting back home, she found her husband studying the Bible, she was impressed, but since she was tired, she ate the food he had prepared, and went to sleep. She woke up to her husband praying.
‘Lord please show me a way. Give me something to direct me…’
She had never seen Uchenna praying this hard. She also knelt down and asked God to hear his prayers. When the prayer was over, Uchenna shocked her by his next statement
‘I want us to sell our uncompleted building, and start up something.’
‘What?! No way. You worked hard for that.’
‘I know, but I don’t think anyone is ready to give me a chance by giving me a job. I need to take a chance on myself by creating one. And since I need capital, I have to use what I have. I don’t want to take a loan.’
‘We have something we can sell that is presently not useful. It’s like a liability. We can always build a better house, but now, let’s build other things first.’
Rita saw the determination in Uchenna’s eyes and agreed. The building was put on the market.
The whole week was like a second honeymoon to Rita, only this time, she saw herself falling in love with a different man all together. A man who was determined, and listened to God. For the first time, Rita saw God’s wisdom in making the struggles come their way. It had made her husband a refined and changed man.
Stanley had never felt as discouraged as he presently did. It had been a whole week and Ngozi still acted like he didn’t exist. He was more worried about her, as she didn’t eat. He had called out to her many times after cooking, but she ignored him totally, and he had stopped as he got tired of wasting food. He had taken a leave from work, saying his wife needed him, and since his leave was long overdue, it was granted.
He suddenly got very angry. Why was she angry with him? What did he do wrong? He stood up from the sofa and walked to her room, banging on the door.
‘Ngozi come out of the room!’
‘If in a minute’s time you are still locked up there, I’m breaking the door in.’
He meant every word of his threat, and silently looked at the wall clock. At forty five seconds, Ngozi opened the door obviously angry.
‘What do you want from me Stanley? I have left your house as you and your mother planned. You have a wife, go and get her pregnant and let me see how possible that is.’
Stanley looked on as she ranted, she looked so lean and sick that he was afraid she might collapse from the energy she exerted shouting at him. At least now she was talking. The last thing she said stuck on his mind. What did she mean?
‘What do you mean by “let you see how possible it is”?’
He saw that it was a slip of the tongue on her part. He became more curious ‘Ngozi what do you mean by that?!’
Knowing she had slipped, Ngozi braced up herself and decided to face the consequences. She was tired. ‘Go and ask your doctor.’ She said turning to go back to her room and lock herself in again.
‘You don’t dare.’ Stanley warned her so calmly, she turned to look at him. She knew there was no escaping the confrontation.
‘You are going to say what you mean, right now.’ Stanley felt apprehensive. He knew his life was about to change forever, but he knew he had to face it.
Ngozi tried to avoid talking ‘Stanley, I truly suggest you go and talk to the doctor. He is…’
‘Ngozi, talk. Now.’
She silently nodded, and raised up a finger to excuse herself. She went to where she had hidden the test result for eight years, in the small pocket of her box. She brought out the envelope, already turning brown, and gave it to Stanley who collected it with the same feeling of apprehension, and the knowledge that he was in for a rude awakening.
Though he had guessed what she had meant, seeing it written out in black and white still had the effect of a blow on Stanley.
He was infertile.
The first thought he had after that was how he had always blamed Ngozi. He quietly walked out to his temporary room.
He packed up his things and left Ngozi alone. He had been the fool all along. He couldn’t stand the shame. She had known all this while and kept silent as he dug his own grave.
Without saying a word to Ngozi, he drove off. He was going back home. To his house.
Ngozi watched as Stanley drove away. She expected to feel liberated, instead she felt afraid. Things were falling apart.
She did the first thing that occurred to her. She ran in and picked up her phone. She was not going to watch things go bad without a fight.
Mama was surprised when she looked through the peephole when Stanley knocked on the door. She quickly opened the door. ‘Welcome my good son. Your wife is…’
‘Mama if you love me, take this money and pack up your things and leave with that girl. Immediately.’ Stanley interrupted, giving his mother an envelope.
‘I will not be alive and watch that witch control you. I am going no where. I will…’
She was shut up by Stanley’s strange laughter as he gave her an envelope. ‘Thank God you are a retired nurse. See for yourself who the witch is.’
‘God forbid! My enemies are at work. It’s a lie. I…’
‘Mama stop!’ Stanley commanded. ‘I am leaving now. Please when I come back, I want to be alone, he said and went out. He was going back to who he really is.
Immediately he left, mama packed up and left with Chinwe. She’d rather hear that people accused her of being unable to control her child, than that people called her the mother of an infertile son.
Olanma was happy to be done with the catering school. She had come out the best in the class, even her teacher had grudgingly said so. She had also employed her, saying she will be paying her twenty thousand naira. Olanma was ecstatic about that, knowing the huge difference the money will make in her household.
She had just gotten her first ever salary, and couldn’t wait to show it to her mother.
She knew something was wrong when she noticed the strange gazes. She convinced herself that she was mistaken when she recognized the gazes as that of pity. There was no reason for her to be pitied.
The crowd at her compound made it clear that something was definitely wrong. She moved towards the thickest part of the crowd and seeing women gathered and crying, her heart went into her stomach. She moved closer until she saw her mother who, on seeing her, tried woefully to look strong.
The women’s consoling words told Olanma all she needed to know.
Her father had fallen from a palm tree, and was dead.
She ran to the house, successfully dodging the arms of people trying to hold her back. She screamed and fell on her father’s remains, holding him till she was pulled away by stronger women.
She ran to her mother who held her tightly. They had only each other. Each of them tried to unsuccessfully console the other, as their tears poured down wetting their clothes
Olanma’s first salary was used to deposit her father’s body in the mortuary.
By Joy Nwankwo
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