My hands are shaking.
I am petrified as I listen to the rushed words of Mummy Amanda, my neighbor back home, “— I am just telling you because you are my fellow woman,” she concludes, “If you want to catch them, hurry now, they are still inside,” and the line cuts off.
Curiosity merges with my shock. I jump from my desk and begin to gather my things into my purse.
I have to see this for myself.
My fingers are trembling. My heart is pounding heavily against my chest. I feel hot, hot from the inside out in spite of the working air conditioner in the office.
“Amara, where are you going to?” my colleague inquires as she walks through the door, “it’s barely even lunch break.”
I don’t respond. I sweep the last set of items into my bag.
“Amara, I am talking to you.”
“I have to run!” I fling my bag over my shoulder and dart for the door, barely looking at her.
I hurry through the corridor into the reception; I pay no attention to the casual greetings of my colleagues. I would have time to tender my apologies later, but right now, I need to get home and see mummy Amanda’s report for myself.
My fingers fumble into my purse for my key in the parking lot. I find it and try shakily to unlock the door, but the key falls to the ground.
I pick it up, take deep breaths to calm my raging nerves, then try again.
The key goes into the lock, I turn it clockwise, and the door clicks open.
I pull the door and jump into the vehicle.
The car is steaming hot from sitting in the sun, but I do not mind. If anything, the temperature matches what I am feeling inside.
I insert the key into the ignition, twist it, and the car comes to life.
I reverse noisily into the streets of Maitama, and my mind begins to reel. Could this be true, I ask myself, but why would mummy Amanda make such a call if it isn’t? I respond, still to myself.
I think of the hard work I have put into my marriage. For over a year since Ikenna lost his job, I have carried the responsibilities of the home solely on my shoulders, and I believe I have done very little to complain.
Like a good wife, I have supported, encouraged, and prayed with him. I have cared for our three-year-old twin girls without the help of a live-in maid. I have played the role of a good wife, even to the applause of his family, so why this?
Is this what I get for all my sacrifices and diligence?
I shake my head to shake away the doom sketching in my mind. I will reach home first, and I will confirm with my eyes.
God forbid bad thing!
I swerve into the bend that leads to my street, and the beating of my heart triples. I am sweating on my forehead, with hot tears pooling in the corners of my eyes.
Amara, why are you crying? This may not be as bad as you think, just wait first and get home.
I break my right hand from the steering to wipe abruptly under my snotty nose.
I wasn’t going to cry. I don’t know how those tears escaped.
More tears swim despite my determination, and I feel angry at myself for crying.
Angry yet scared over the possibility of the truth of mummy Amanda’s words.
I pull up to my gate and honk reluctantly, then impatiently.
Mummy Amanda had said to come on time. A glance down at my wristwatch tells me it took only 17 minutes to get here, she hasn’t called me back either, so maybe they are still inside.
I honk again, repeatedly this time and I am shocked to see mummy Amanda dragging the gate open; this is the work of the gateman. Where is he, and why is mummy Amanda opening the gate for me, an act she has never performed before?
As she widens the gate, I sight all four housewives hanging outside in the compound. Their eyes are watching the gate, watching me.
I live in a compound of five flats, and I am the only working-class wife amongst all five wives.
I pull myself together and thank God for the tint on my car.
Apparent that they are expecting a show, I wipe at my cheeks and remove my leg from the brake.
Mummy Amanda blindly waves at me as I drive past her into the compound – she can’t see me, but I can see her, and I do not miss that smirk of expectation gleaming in her eyes.
I pull up behind Ikenna’s car – he is indeed at home. I put off the ignition and scramble around for my shades; these women must not know I have been crying.
I find my glasses resting on my armrest.
I wear it over my eyes, grab my handbag and climb down from the car as composed as I can muster.
Mummy Amanda is now standing with the other wives.
“Welcome o,” chorused two of the wives.
“Mama ejima, welcome.”
I nod and don’t stop walking. My head is dropped, my hand clutches my purse, and my steps are as brisk as I can carry.
I will disappoint these women and take the back door away from their gathering in the front yard.
“Welcome oooo,” more voices yell after me as I hurry past.
At the back door, which should be open as is custom, I peel my glasses away from my face and drop them in my handbag. I heave heavily to calm my nerves as I do not want to lose control of my emotions no matter what awaits me at the other end of this door. I must not give these idle wives the show I am sure they are waiting for.
Feeling somewhat stable despite my somersaulting heart, I take hold of the doorknob and twist it…
I frown, confused. This door is not usually locked.
I try again, still locked.
Heaving (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done that since the drive home), I take a step back and knock.
Mummy Wale strolls casually behind me and begins to hang dry clothes on the clothesline while humming a song as if she did not come here for me.
Ignoring her, I return my gaze to the door before me, knocking again.
I hear footsteps approach, then shuffling.
Someone is opening the door…
I glance backward at a still humming mummy Wale, who is still ‘drying clothes.’
“Who’s there?” a female voice asks from within, and my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach.
Immediately, I feel fresh tears coming to the surface.
Hang in there, Amara… hang in there.
The door pulls open, and a girl who looks less than 21years old is standing in my towel, tying my scarf and frowning up and down at me, “Yes? Who are you looking for?”
Did this bitch not see my wedding photographs on the wall?
As I battle with controlling my fists that are threatening to leave my sides for this girl’s face, mummy Wale continues to hum, even louder this time.
Then I hear Mummy Amanda join her at the ropes, “You never dry finish?” she pretentiously inquires of her.
Turning my mind away from them and without saying a word to the skinny girl before me, I shove past her, and she staggers backward.
I march through the kitchen to the corridor and into my bedroom – the one I share with Ikenna, my husband.
“Baby who was that?” his ignorant voice resounds from inside the bathroom.
I want to burst the door open to choke him with that bucket of water, but instead, I turn back around and walk into the living room.
My insides are boiling!
God! My heart is pounding recklessly!
I plop down on the sofa.
My legs bounce on the tiled floor, I can hear my breathing loud through my nostrils.
I watch as the girl slips to the corridor and hurries into my bedroom, and I slither unsteadily.
Their voices reach my ears; they are arguing.
I jerk to my feet. I want to go in there. I want to kill somebody!!! With that pestle resting in the mortar by the wall in my kitchen.
Calm down, Amara, calm down. Handle this conversationally, act mature.
Adhering to my inner voice, I collapse back into the sofa, burning!
A house I paid for, a man I supported!!!
I should grab that girl by the neck, both of them, and fling them out.
But I remain on the sofa, shaking and waiting for Ikenna to come on his knees and tell me this was all a mistake, to feel ashamed of himself…
My heart is breaking, and the seconds seem like hours.
As I bury my head in my hands to try to suppress the aching in my head, shadows flash before me.
I jerk my head to catch Ikenna escaping into the kitchen, holding the girl’s wrist – they are fully clothed and running away.
Confusion freezes me on the sofa, eyes widened in bewilderment.
My husband is running away, with another woman, another girl, without saying a word to me.
Just running away, with ‘her.’
Out to the compound where those idle wives would see them, ‘together’ to wherever they are headed.
As they bang the kitchen door after themselves, I collapse to the floor and burst into frustrated tears!
I am broken… entirely and utterly embarrassed!
This is what I get for standing by a man I call my husband?
This is the thank-you he gives me after holding our home together in spite of his inability to support us as our head?
This is my reward???
The emotions are choking my throat, so I grab a cushion and yell into it;
Once, Twice, Thrice!
When I eventually fling the pillow to the wall, I roll on the floor and sob quietly, shedding silent tears with unanswered questions and pain tugging at the very depth of my soul.
In my anguish, I think of what to do to Ikenna… how to repay him for this brokenness he has caused me. For this embarrassment and insult!
How do I handle this situation, deal with him and come out on top without losing him to that girl? How do I go about it?
What do I do?