THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO
They had to stop, to watch, as the gateman opened the huge black gate so as to enable Matthew’s Ford Endeavour drive into the compound. As usual, Udale felt her heart skip a beat again, instead of being elated that her husband had arrived after a long week of silence. He hadn’t told her prior to this time and the recent surprise stunts he had been pulling lately didn’t sit too well with her at all. Udale glanced over her shoulders and noticed Jane’s broad smiles as her husband approached them. Whether it is his huge stature, which became even more obvious in the brown suit he is wearing today or the intimidating walking steps he gently took towards them that necessitated such breadth of smiles, it beats Udale’s imaginations. She kept calm, praying silently that the young nurse wouldn’t try anything funny after all. They both had very good company since she’s been here and if not that she needed to go, Udale would have asked she stayed back or possibly spend the night. Jane was young; she acted and thought so innocently like a child without worries. That’s Udale’s life’s dream – the day she would wake up and they would be absolutely nothing else to worry about any longer, not even her childless state.
“Matron, I know this is patron” Jane said, giggling excitedly. If she had lowered her voice with just an inch, Matthew who already was quite close to them wouldn’t have heard a thing. Udale quickly nodded in the affirmative as Jane almost threw caution to the winds. Frankly, the older woman knows nothing about what was so much exciting to Jane that she is at the moment behaving like the typical ‘daddy’s little princess’ who leap for joy after finally seeing the daddy she had been expecting for a very long time.
“Good afternoon Patron” Jane greeted as soon as Matthew was at where they stood.
Matthew looked down at her from his height and was tempted to let out a resounding laughter at the ‘patron’ part of the greeting; he only allowed a dry smile dance around his face instead as he responded,
“Good afternoon, my dear girl” in a rather welcoming fatherly tone.
This was unexpected to his wife and she almost didn’t remember to greet before Jane’s over curious reactions got her back.
“Matron, aren’t you going to introduce Patron to me?”
Udale quickly cleared her throat and smiled faintly. “You are welcome Sunshine.” she said, giving him a light side hug before continuing. She hoped he wasn’t going to shun her when her brain asked her to attempt hugging him. They have collected harsh words to say to each other in the past fading months. In fact, the events last week, especially about the pregnant Angela, cumulated it all. He didn’t pick up her calls neither did he respond to her text messages since he left here, and the most hurting part of the silence was on the text bearing the information about Laibe’s enrolment into the prestigious Aleka Academy. Thankfully, he is matured enough not to create a scene before the young girl he should decipher was her junior colleague because of the uniform she is having on, even though it’s his first time of meeting her.
“Meet Ms Jane, former Patron Odaudu’s daughter” Udale said, watching Jane squeeze her palms in each other with head bowed as though she suddenly became a shy baby.
“Yes! So much resemblance” Matthew affirmed and stretched out a hand to her.
Jane took it courteously as the initial displays of shyness seem to have vanished all of a sudden, “Most times I’m afraid because my father appears to know everyone.”
Matthew and Udale burst into laughter at that response.
“Of course, Philip Odaudu is a good man and one of the best chief nursing officers that hospital had ever had.” Matthew replied as soon as he was able to stop himself from laughing.
“Well, Mummy, your darling wife here is fast at his heels and would beat his records in no time from now. Isn’t that so Mummy?” Jane turned to face the smiling Udale. The question didn’t appear like a question with the way her lips turned at the sides to form an inverted U as she said ‘that so’.
“You are such a smart girl; I’m so pleased to meet you.” Matthew confessed quite frankly and that made Udale look up at him to be sure she heard correctly. Her husband had become so closed up recently to everyone, like he was enclosed in a metallic box of some sort. Having and hearing him commend someone, especially that she is a young girl came strange through Udale’s ears.
“Thank you sir but Mummy would only be pleased with me if I excused her and her husband soon enough…” the couple started another resounding round of laughter but Jane’s face was still expressionless. Udale wonders how the young lady does it sometimes – create and make everyone laugh while still wearing a straight face. Jane continued, without waiting for the laughter to die down, “…that said, I’ll be leaving now sir and ma. I’ll pop in some other time. Mummy, thank you for hosting me and for the boiled yam and mashed eggs.”
“C’mon baby! You are welcome anytime. I truly appreciate your coming” Udale expressed her sincere appreciations and Jane cowered lightly before stepping backwards.
“How are you going, my dear? Is that your car I saw outside beside the gate?” Matthew asked and Jane nodded her head up and down like monitor lizard.
Udale looked surprised as she saw the sincere concern on her husband’s face for the first time in a long while and as Jane walked briskly towards the gate, she arranged the order and format with which her discourse with Matthew would ensue.
“Baba called on my way…” Matthew interrupted her thinking while pressing down the knob of the entrance door.
“Hope all is well?” Udale asked, looking dazed.
Matthew shrugged as he walked into their large sitting room. “The old man should know the wellbeing of his only granddaughter right? I guess that was why he called. He kept saying your line wasn’t reachable or something…”
Udale tried to stop her head from looking for trouble where there is none. Having Matthew respond that receptively to Jane was one big testimony for her so that even when it looked like her ears heard him stress the part of ‘his ONLY granddaughter’, she admonished herself to let it slide. He has been the topmost on her list of prayer points lately, it’s as if God is beginning to answer her prayers and soften his heart gradually.
“And if we are going to adopt Laibe as our daughter, then you should wake up to your responsibilities as her mother. She is being mocked and traumatised by her classmates.” Matthew said carelessly, dropping the bag in his hand on one of the couches and heading towards the kitchen.
Udale who had lazily sunk into the chair as soon as she entered the sitting room dragged herself up and followed Matthew into the kitchen. She didn’t understand his last statement. Laibe and her haven’t seen nor spoken to him for a week now, how come he knew about whichever classmate was mocking the girl. She poured her questioning eyes over him.
“I saw your text on Monday so decided to drop by at the school on my way from Lokoja this morning. Thankfully, it was their break time and I was able to get the teacher on duty to lead me to her class after the security man at their gate had worried my soul out with loads of questions. I was embarrassed on getting to the entrance of her class to find her almost running off because some group of students were singing scornful songs for the innocent girl…” He bit his lips angrily, “I was so enraged. It took the persistent calming voice of their principal to quench the flaming fire in me. So annoying!” he let out a dry hiss.
Udale forgot her mouth wide open as her husband narrated the whole story while pouring cold water he picked up from the fridge into a tumbler.
“What!” Udale exclaimed involuntarily just when he sipped out of the water in his hand. Many things constituted that lone exclamation. One being that she didn’t imagine bullies still existed. The last time she heard of such was her own days in primary school. More so that Aleka Academy is a private school and not one of those public schools around where everyone takes law into his or her hands. Well, it’s quite understandable; those children making up the Js1 class came from different background – some from public primary schools and others from private ones alike – and those with vices would need to be dealt with over time so as to get rid of it. Secondly, it could only mean one thing if Matthew actually dropped by to check on Laibe. Thirdly and finally, he sounds like he is agreeing to adopting Laibe as his own, was that not why he used the word ‘our’? All these lifted her legs with the speed with which they quickly flashed through her mind till she was in her husband’s arms. She leaned her head against his chest tiredly wrapping her hands around his waist.
Matthew held her with his right hand as the other one was still holding the tumbler.
“You scared me Sunshine!” Udale said. Her voice becoming sultry all of a sudden.
Matthew dropped the cup on top of the fridge and held her face up till his nose was touching hers. “I am so sorry Baby!” He responded. He calls her ‘Baby’ only at times like this when he is calm and in a good mood, otherwise, he bluntly calls her by her first name ‘Udale’ any other day.
Udale blinked shyly. “You acted so friendly and normally with Jane, even though you are meeting her for the first time today but you flared out on seeing Laibe. You haven’t even said a word to her up till now. To think that Laibe is just some months shy of thirteen, she is only a girl nau.”
Matthew withdrew from her and walked back into the sitting room saying “You will not understand” all the way through.
She stood for some minutes trying to imagine what was that unexplainable before going after him. Because the chairs in this sitting room are made of quality woods and other materials, it didn’t matter how weighty she is as she sat on the handle of the chair on which Matthew sat. She can be rest assured it could carry her.
“Honey, you told me you wanted to take another wife…”
“And your craze started when you saw pregnant Angela, huh?” Matthew cut in on her, smiling teasingly as he used his hand to draw out her soft cheeks.
Udale smiled, “Well, what would you rather a helpless woman do? My position was threatened as it were because I have not given you any child and you gave me attitudes to back it up.” She wrapped her hands round his neck and jokingly threatened to suffocate him. Matthew just kept grinning from ear to ear as he watched his wife play like the baby he used to know again. He had watched the young, soft and innocent lady he married many years ago harden by every passing day. At some points he feared she would become inhumane with the way she’s going and her only source of worry has been this childlessness issue. He is not particularly disturbed about it. Of course, there are so many things calling for his worrying self at the moment and his wife never seem to understand that worry won’t form the agile sperm that would fertilize her. If only she knew what he knows?
“You may even be the architectural designer for the commencement of that second marital relationship” he added quietly.
Alarm tried to sound on her head as she had few minutes to ponder on that ambiguous statement; she rather chose to rebuke it,
“There may have to be a cold day in hell that day, Honey. I’ll rather die than arrange another wife for you Matthew. I love you that personally.” She said, bringing his head to come rest on her bosom. She meant what she just said even when it appears Matthew was only teasing her with his last statement. She is not one to bring another woman for her husband to impregnate because of her inability to conceive. God forbid! Moreover, the doctors haven’t categorically pinpointed who is responsible for this infertility. On her own side, she can claim to be hale unless proven otherwise. She hadn’t done anything harmful all her life, no abortions, no indiscriminate consumption of illicit drugs, in fact Matthew met her as a virgin, so this issue couldn’t have been coming from her. Inasmuch as she also trusted her husband a great deal all the while, his recent repeated ‘you don’t understand’ language is making her to suspect him. She kept repeating ‘God forbid’ in her head as she moved his head on her bosom. She was nearly successful with that when the entrance door creaked and presented Laibe before them. They quickly sat up as she approached them. She was sweating profusely and her eyeballs look extremely worn out. Udale looked up at the wall clock. 2:45pm. Was it just her eyes? Laibe’s school uniform appears oversized on her this evening. Maybe, it’s been that way all along and she wasn’t keen enough to take note. On becoming a mother activated, she told herself.
“Aunty, Uncle, go- good e-vi-ning” she stammered her greetings that way.
“Why are you home so early? I should come pick you up by 5!” Udale broke out in curiosity neglecting the young girl’s greetings and taking a glimpse at the wall clock for the second time. She knew the training Laibe will get in that school would be tremendous, it’s commendable enough she is greeting them in good English in barely a week, she should gain good mastery of English in no time in addition to the fact that she has a teachable spirit.
Laibe’s tension reduced when he saw her uncle smile in response to her greetings. A step forward. Maybe, he would find her worthy to be spoken to very soon. Her shivering palms were firmly interlocked in one another as she squeezed them. Perhaps, it was what happened that was so inexpressible for her or she had issues with how best to present it again. No one could understand exactly what went through her mind as she stood before them with confusion wrinkling her face.
To be continued.
The Wife I Never Married – Episode Fifteen
THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO