Stanley came back home with his old friends. His bottles of alcohol. He felt a twinge of shame which he quickly killed by taking his first gulp. He had stopped drinking for eleven years. It had been one of the vices which the arrival of Ngozi had changed. He had stopped, not because she asked him to, but because he had known she wouldn’t give him a second glance if he remained the same way. He had put his life together before approaching her.
He smiled wistfully as he remembered how he had made sure she was going to accept him. Only for him to bring her to shame, marrying her and keeping her childless, insulting her in the process. That last bit was the most painful. He had indirectly insulted her because of their barreness, and she had swallowed it all, knowing he was to blame. He gulped down a whole bottle and opened another. The joy he expected was still far from him. He tried to block his mind of the revelation.
He was infertile. Who would have thought? He drank until he lost consciousness.
He dreamt of where, while walking on a lonely road, he saw, like through a glass, another of himself acting like a madman. In fact, he saw that he was a mad man.
He cried for help, but the road was utterly deserted. With great fear in his heart, he cried out ‘God please save me. Please.’ Immediately, a great white light appeared, bathing him, and the madness reversed, making him better than he initially was. As the light dimmed away, he heard a deep voice say very close to his ear
With God nothing is impossible… nothing shall be impossible to him that believes.
He woke up slowly, thanking God it was a dream, yet knowing deep down in his heart that that it was not just a dream. His carpet was soaked with his tears where he laid. He had really been crying. He quickly stood up and for the first time in a really long time, he prayed to God in the morning before doing any other thing.
After his prayer, he quickly disposed the rest of the drinks in the sink, and cleaned up the house he had messed up. He needed to tell someone his dream, and only Ngozi will understand. She was his best friend. He quickly showered and drove off to her house.
Stanley was on the express when he remembered that he didn’t suffer the tiniest bit of a hangover. He felt goosebumps all over his body, remembering how the light changed his madness. He would never forget this day.
Ngozi had called her mother. Her mother was one she knew could pray down heaven. Growing up, she had felt at ease if she knew her mother was praying for her. She had avoided calling her because of the shame. Her mother had asked her to pray hard before saying yes to Stanley. She had accused her of being over religious.
If only she had known.
Ignoring her regrets, she dialed her mother’s number. Her mother picked at the first ring. Without greeting her, she launched into questions
‘Ngozi, what is the matter? My heart has been heavy, and seeing your call, it has to be you. Are you alright?’
‘Mummy good afternoon.’ Ngozi sniffed. How could she have forgotten to seek warmth from her mother? Things wouldn’t have gotten this bad.
‘You are crying. Tell me what the problem is.’
‘Mummy, my marriage is on the brink of collapse. I have been chased from my home, my husband has run to God knows where, we can’t have children. Mummy, I am tired!’
‘Hush my daughter. Thank God it’s not as bad as I feared. You are okay right?’
‘Yes Ma.’ Ngozi sniffed again. She already felt lighter.
‘We need to see. We need to pray too. Crying has never solved a problem, but faith in God solves all problems.’
‘Okay Ma. Can I come over?’ Her mother lived alone. He father had left a fund for his wife, saying he didn’t want her depending on the children. He had meant it as a joke, which turned out not to be a joke. He had suddenly died from an auto accident two years later.
Each child contributes to their mother’s upkeep through the account, though her mum had a superstore.
‘When did you ever need permission to come to your mother’s house? It’s always open to you. You know that.’ Ngozi felt ashamed, her mother was right. She had withdrawn herself.
‘I’m coming in today, I don’t know how long I will stay.’
‘You are always welcome. But what about work and the distance?’
‘I’m on a compulsory leave.’
Her mother wisely desist from asking another question.
The next morning, Ngozi packed some necessities and drove to her mother’s house. She needed a mother’s care.
Uchenna was on cloud nine. The building had been sold, and it was time to implement the plan drawn by him and Rita.
He smiled at the week they had spent together. She had been so understanding, so much that he knew it wasn’t ordinary. He would never forget the look in her eyes when she saw him praying, or studying the Bible.
He was going to spoil her this weekend. He was going to take his family home by himself for the weekend. It was time he faced his in-laws. At least he came with good news.
He was walking down the street to his in-laws house when a strange sight greeted him. He had to blink to be sure he saw right.
At the junction, almost completely hidden by people, was his wife, Rita, selling akara. He stood rooted to the spot, feeling ashamed and humbled all at once.
This was the new job she got? Selling akara? He looked on, wondering what to do. Should he turn away, and go back home? Should he walk on to her parents house? Or should he join her and share the pain with her?
Seeing the difficulty she faced, from frying and selling at the same time, he pitied her. But he felt betrayed. She should have told him.
She is not doing anything wrong. She is acting out as your helpmeet. His mind told him. Or was it God?
He chose the third option.
Rita was tired, the crowd was too much. She wish she had someone helping her but, against her mother’s wishes, she had refused her children joining her. Uchenna will not forgive her if she pulled them into this, and he found out. She turned to flip the akara on the fire, to the impatient annoyance of the customers.
‘Abeg no vex.’ She pleaded. ‘God please give me strength’ she prayed wordlessly.
She felt a need to look up, looking up she saw Uchenna watching and walking towards her.
She watched as he walked towards her, and giving her a quick fake smile, collected the fork from her hands and faced the customers.
With her mind in turmoil, Ngozi wiped her eyes which were blurred with tears and mechanically attended to the frying.
Olanma felt so hurt she wished she could mute out the pain. Her father was about to be buried. She had many questions, how will she go on? How will she and her mother cope? Chidinma had acted like a big sister, she and her husband paying for almost everything for the burial.
Olanma watched as her father’s body was laid into the grave. She suddenly felt a weight leave her shoulders. ‘Now I am alone with my mother. I will make it in this life. No matter what it takes.’
She decided that evening to forget about schooling for the time being. She had to survive first.
The story continues…
By Joy Nwankwo
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