THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO
Joshua let out a rueful smile as a message popped up on his phone, especially that the customized message tone could only be one person . He left off the laptop on which he was typing and picked up his Nokia 8800 Gold edition. Opening the message, his smile started fading off slowly till it faded away. He had been in here right from the early hours of this morning, specifically, over four hours ago. Ever since the state decided to ‘diversify economy’ as a strategic way of completely eliminating poverty, his ministry has become close to the busiest amongst all other government parastatals in the state. A lot of pressing demand is laid on his shoulders at the moment, so much so that he had to, as a matter of urgency, equip the home office that had just been there useless during his first tenure – that’s his first four years of living in this apartment, one of the very many duplexes in the commissioners’ quarters. He needed to work late into the night and some other times as early as possible. Travelling the long distance from Ganaja to GRA and Adankolo area where the government house and ministry of Agriculture is respectively wouldn’t be convenient at all. His family – wife and two kids – also needed the attention and availability of their husband and father in that sense. He even got a bit relieved and with more time on his hands to work ever since his wife travelled to the UK. It’s been over a month now and he would prefer she stayed back a bit longer if given opportunity to suggest. But women? He had better not raise that suggestion in the first place, else it would arouse some awkward suspicions in her mind. The type of suspicion that would pull her into the flight heading to Nigeria the very next day. It had happened before, so he could tell. Moreover, the children are in a standard boarding school in Abuja, he has almost nothing to share his time at the moment save his job and of course, morning mass, strictly and only on Sunday mornings. The maids now almost serve him breakfast, lunch and dinner right on this table in the home office. Yes, he needn’t go to the real office all the time except maybe his attention is unavoidably needed or the governor has an emergency meeting with the commissioners, him especially. He couldn’t have prayed for a better timely assistance as this in Mat, as he fondly called Matthew his dear friend turned brother.
You know the mistake people make is in thinking that it is the most knowledgeable folks in a particular ministry that gets elected… or appointed, as the case may be, head over it. Well, everyone may have to wake up to the fact that politics is real and it’s a game for only the smart lads. Joshua knew he needed an intellectual support if he must meet up with the expectations of not just His excellency, the executive governor of the state as it were now, but the populace most importantly. He literally leaped for joy when he asked Matthew to come assist and the latter obliged without hesitation. Seriously? The Matthew he knew would never give up teaching for anything under the heavens. Someone, himself and other of their friends including Boyega almost prostrated to beg, so he would consider picking up the robust offer from Chevron that year. Matthew blatantly refused. They all began to think that Matthew’s case was becoming spiritual, or ‘ma to ubi kwunyi’ as the Igala people would refer to someone who is perceived to have been bewitched from his village. It was one irritating part of the only man he called his friend, even when Matthew finished with the most-sought-after 5.0 CGPA. How many persons graduate with that kind of distinction grade in our real world without sorting or cheating? Yet he decided to follow a long standing irreconcilable passion of his, teaching… “common teaching” as his friends teased him with. Matthew proved a point with it anyway, a big point that sealed the mouths of all of them put together, including Josh in the long run. He had made so much living and impact especially after he bagged his Ph.D and picked up a lecturing offer at the State’s College of Education.
Bearing all these in mind when he wanted to call for assistance, Josh didn’t know how it would sound to Matthew asking him to come take up a managerial role in one of the big departments of the ministry – the extremely exhaustive Service Department at that. Most tedious and energy draining. Joshua couldn’t believe his ears when his friend told him that he had resigned from lecturing months earlier.
“You are kidding me, aren’t you?” Josh responded unable to hide the shocked expression on his face.
When Matthew nodded in the affirmative and reiterated that it wasn’t a joke after all, Josh had to press further so as to find out whatever must have chased Matthew from the only fuel that drove his passion in life. He couldn’t help in the end but applaud Matthew’s bold choice as the best he could make to salvage this particular situation. Maybe if he were to be in Matthew’s shoes, he wouldn’t have been able to give up everything just like that. Not when he gave up all the mouth-watering and exciting offers in order to stick to his passion earlier. Well, for Joshua, everything was actually working for his good from all points of view and even when Matthew had doggedly refused to come and live in Lokoja – in a massive house attached to his portfolio – Josh didn’t mind. Getting the work done and in time was all that mattered anyway.
He dropped his phone on the table and as if after a second thought, picked it up again. Staring at his wallpaper – his family picture , like he was seeing that picture for the first time ever, he dropped the phone again. He was torn amidst decision making and just sitting aloof.
“Josh! It keeps getting messier by the day”
Josh swallowed as he read out loud from the phone he is picking up for the fourth time already. Abandoning his laptop, he relaxed into the swinging seat and let the wheel of the armed chair rock him from side to side gracefully. He couldn’t be less concerned at the moment. At least, if not for anybody, this is Matthew. Matthew has grown beyond being a friend to him, Matthew is blood. He hit hard on the table in front of him in frustration, careful not to spill his cup of coffee though. Nothing had ever come across so unable to be tackled between the both of them ever before. They’ve always been this immaculate duo; at least if Josh couldn’t proffer solution, Mat would and the situation is resolved before it even becomes a situation. This case is just so different and he hate to admit that Matthew is… rather, they both are truly in a deep mess after all.
Picking up his phone, he considered replying to the text, but he didn’t know how best to compose the words. Whether the words were too large to be confined in the seemingly small message box or that he had difficulty with expressing himself correctly on this matter via writing, he didn’t know which was which at the moment. He only know that he needed to respond to his friend and there was no way he would communicate exactly what was going on in his mind via that limited character allowance of a space called textbox. He thought to call,
“What if Udale is with him?”
“How do I talk?” he asked no one in particular as he discarded this second option as well. The air condition now feels like it’s releasing lighter coals of fire as his mind tore his head into shreds.
Laibe sank into her seat. It is a padded metallic seat and for the first time in the one week she had been in this school, the chair felt like a cushioned sofa underneath her buttocks. Her both hands crossed underneath the little sprouting outgrowths on her chest as she stared vacantly at the teacher taking… whatever the young man was taking. She was not listening to him in the very least, she couldn’t even see him at all. Her mind had been wavering like a ferry on a stormy sea from one thought to another, over and over again and even when she admonished herself to concentrate, she lost interest seeing that the teacher was narrating more of his personal life’s stories than the Business Studies he was paid to deliver. The school management won’t know this when commenting on general student’s performance at the end of the term. It would be a case of massive failure of students on one particular subject, not knowing that it is the teacher that spends the two hours allotted to him explaining the story of creation and politics. He, the teacher, is not part of Laibe’s issues right now. She hasn’t been able to erase the events of this morning off her brain, inasmuch as she needed to and tried.
Uncle Matthew promised taking her to Confluence beach, that’s probably one of the best things she had heard in the entirety of her life. The first and only time she heard anything about that beach was when a corp member posted to Ofabo some three years ago mentioned it. ‘Ajuwaya’ as the villagers fondly called the corp member was living in one of Baba’s free rooms at the back of the main building. As a worthy elder in the village, Baba bears the sole responsibility of catering for every visitor that came visiting or on an assignment, especially when related to academics. Laibe, even though out of primary school then and didn’t have money to proceed to secondary school, Corper Monica took her through some private lessons at home within the space of the one year she served her fatherland. Corper Monica taught the students in the senior class English Language at the only community owned Emodu Community Grammar school, Ofabo. Laibe would have the tutorials with her in the evenings on returning from her sales of garri at the market and ultimately fixing dinner up for her beloved grandfather. It was at one of those extra lessons that Corper Monica asked Laibe to mention three spot for tourist attractions in the Kogi state. Laibe looked on dumbly for many minutes and when she saw Laibe was clueless about it, she listed Confluence beach, Ajaokuta steel company, Mount Parti, Igala Unity square, Anyigba, amongst others. It has been on the young girl’s mind ever since then that she would surely be presented with an opportunity to visit some… if not all these attraction sites in her own state one of these days. That’s why it’s feeling like she won an award when her uncle told her he would take her there, Confluence Beach – where river Niger and river Benue met and are still meeting up until now. Little wonder, Kogi is called ‘The confluence state’. She feels thrilled. Shudders ran down her spine at the thoughts alone.
The condition attached though!
A lot of intelligent students abound in this class, in fact it appears as if Aleka Academy had selected all the best brains from the Primary schools around to form this her class most especially. The way children she knew and so certain she was far older than spoke English with fluency as though they had chewed and swallowed the language, marvelled her. However was she going to do well? What is even her uncle’s definition of doing well in the first place. Something within her has placed her in the last position even before she would write her first continuous assessment test that’ll be due in a week’s time.
Just as she thought about how she was going to intensify efforts and put in all her best to do well, she felt the eyes of the class piercing through her skin. She sighed deep initially to be sure everything was alright or perhaps it was her brain messing with her all over again. Hell no! She rolled her eyes sideways, like a thief does when trying to scout for a sneak hole, everybody’s eyes were on her again. When she looked up and saw the teacher staring in her direction also, her heart set out into an uncontrollable undulating rotation of a pendulum at high frequency.
Oh God! This is not happening again, she prayed silently in her heart. She meant every word of the prayer. She was grateful no student had scorned her when she got to school this morning even when she was almost late. Everyone looked up as she walked into the classroom and as though they were allowed limited viewing access to her as an aftermath of yesterday’s general punishment, they all returned their eyes and fixed it on the book before them. She gathered little boldness as she approached her seat walking like they were some pins littered on the cemented floor that she was stepping on. Thankfully, her seat was the first table to the right so it wasn’t hard getting there after all. It only became hard believing that Helen, one of the arch leaders of her dreaded mockery group had moved her bag to the same table.
“Laibe Godwin, we are waiting for you…”
Her teacher’s voice scared the living daylight out of her, worsening the condition of her already pressured heart.
“Uhmm?” she exclaimed involuntarily, giving him a questioning blank look.
She expected the students, her classmates that is, to go all up in thunderous rounds of mocking laughter, jesting and throwing hands in the air as at other times, but no one did. None could even do anything as mild as clearing of throat. This got Laibe even more horrified than usual. Maybe they should just start laughing, or dragging the table noisily over the floor. Maybe the biggest boy behind should slam the table and begin the crow for laughter. Maybe, something other than this silence should just happen. She would prefer it a thousand times over right now if the whole place got filled with what she was used to – ridicule. But everywhere remained quiet, dead silence. In her moment of confusion, she saw Helen put up her hand.
“Let me bail her out sir,” Helen said calmly when the teacher saw her hand and turned back in their direction.
Laibe’s eyes almost dropped out on the floor with the way she stared unbelievably at Helen who got up with so much grace and boldness to answer the question.
“Adam Smith defines capital as “That part of a man’s stock which he expects to afford him revenue”, so to a layman, Capital can be defined as the first amount of money used to start up a business that would yield profit.” Helen responded, with a smile plastered on her fair face.
“Clap hands for her” the teacher said, sounding very impressed. Laibe worried that his eyes were still on her.
As the children clapped, Laibe’s hands appear to be locked in each other with shock. She looked so stunned that moving her hands against each other was heavier that lifting log of woods. The members of the class were beginning to act strange; they were comfortable with her which was one of the things her uncle had predicted would happen, Helen is sticking out for her, no one is laughing at her anymore. The man must be right with everything all the time then.
“Laibe Godwin…” The teacher called her again and this time she jerked up to her feet with some daring boldness.
“You would follow me to the staff room after this class… is that clear?” The question came loudly like resounding gong in her ears. Of course, her opinion isn’t required. She must. As a matter of fact, it’s a command. Though the teacher’s voice sounded calmer than the initial time, she still had cause to worry about the urgent summon to the staff room.
To be continued