THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED- GRACE OCHIGBO
Edogbanya kept pacing back and forth under the mango tree in front of Baba’s house where he stood, or rather where they stood, Omachoko and Baba inclusive. He was already beginning to get impatient and that was understandable. There was a lot to do at Aloma today and if he must meet up with his customers before they all embark on their trips, he got to be there earlier than 6:30am. Yes. He sells beautifully designed local caps, the type Alhajis and typical Northerners always use. Edogbanya has been known with this job for almost the entirety of his adulthood and apart from the fact that he was doing well at his business, he possessed this gross arrogance that tag along side partial education. Reason being that, as the only one among his mates who successfully finished a primary education back in those days, even at fifty two he always has the tendency of feeling ‘belonged’ to this generation. To prove that point: the point of belonging to the jet age, he bought a Nokia 3310 from Aloma about some months ago, making him almost the first person in the whole village to own a phone.
“If she doesn’t pick this time, I’ll be off” Edogbanya said this to Baba in Igala, as the number Omachoko dialled was ringing out for the fourth time now. Omachoko gave Edogbanya a wicked stare. The former was beginning to get angry at the latter’s haste bearing in mind the fact that even Baba’s eyes has not tasted the luxury of sleep since yesterday morning.
Omachoko had remained fixed to the rugged floor of the sitting room after Baba asked him the heaviest ‘what are we going to do now?’ question. For the first time in a long while, he was unable to fix his brain around anything. They needed some proofs that would either confirm or reproof their suspicions and relieve them of the inaudible panic they were both into. It was Umali, one of Laibe’s friend who whispered into his ears about Edogbanya, her uncle. Omachoko knew Edogbanya very well; he could be very stingy and mean to a fault; especially when he realises that something would be at stake without his help. No one knew why he behaved that way but rumour had it that he heartlessly watched his first wife die, as a result of a very deep injury, by not releasing money for her to go get it dressed at the only clinic in the village. The poor woman lamented in anguish and agony to no avail before she finally gave up the ghost. Being an impatient young man, Omachoko does not know exactly how he would react to Edogbanya if he tried to pull any of his stingy stunts now that his dearest one’s life was on the line. After going back to Edogbanya’s house three times yesterday, one of his wives advised that he should check back very late in the night or early this morning if he will ever meet her husband at home.
‘Tell him the madaki would see him as early as possible tomorrow morning before anything else’, was the words Baba asked Omachoko to say to his wife when everyone saw that the possibility of seeing the trader that night was near zero. The Madaki serves as the chief judge of the entire village, so much so that most, if not all, cases regarding family, divorce, marriage, dispute of any form are settled before him. Baba being the oldest now after the death of Pa. Ekele assumed that position and he felt yesterday was one good time to use the influence of his position to get what he wants. That’s majorly because, everyone in the village know how arrogant Edogbanya can be and how highly placed he puts his job much more than anything else.
Omachoko tiredly dozed off on the rugged floor while still talking with Baba over Laibe’s issue late into the night. Baba sat on his armed chair as usual, everything else – except that the radio was switched off that night – was usual. Omachoko had noticed at every point he jerked up from sleep that Baba’s eyes were still wide awake. Aged people and their problems! No matter how Baba worries, he can’t get Edogbanya down here earlier than morning, Omachoko thought within him at some points before he decided to ignore Baba and catch some sleep. The rug used to be brown, beautifully designed brown rug that was laid by Baba’s daughter, but the colour has changed from obvious reasons. It now had dirty clay patches added to the already black tainted designs. Omachoko had no choice; he couldn’t go home and couldn’t also leave the old man all to himself right in that condition. Why he did something that he considered too demeaning for his person – sleeping on the floor. But anything, just anything, he had found himself able to do for Laibe.
Morning finally came and it was Edogbanya that woke them up, maybe just him. He doubt if Baba blinked. The noisy caterpillar sound that often come from Edogbanya’s old Jincheng motorcycle would wake even a dead man from a far distance. Baba got up before anyone else and headed towards the mango tree just in front of the house. Omachoko came out to join them with drowsy eyes when Baba was still explaining the situation to Edogbanya. Baba explained it in such a way that even the heartless of men would be forced to render any help to savage the situation. Omachoko kept moving his eyes from Baba to Edogbanya and back to Baba, he needed to see the true expression in their eyes. Those in Edogbanya’s was not welcoming at all. You know that type of face one makes when he is asked a favour from someone he can’t possibly refuse for whatever reasons? That was how his eyes looked like while he handed over the phone to Omachoko to dial the number they wanted to reach. The phone was on speaker. No. The lowest volume on his brand of phone is synonymous to placing a smart phone on the highest speaker volume.
They all listened with rapt attention as the phone was ringing for the fourth time now. Omachoko could literally feel Baba’s heartbeat from the distance he stood so much so that he started praying in his heart the call be picked this time. In addition to the fact that Edogbanya’s patience level has gone beneath zero limit.
Matthew tapped his wife lightly and she didn’t wake up. He was forced to hit her hard enough to consciousness when the loud ringing from her phone came up strongly again for the third time. He wondered why she didn’t put the phone off or on silent mode tonight, bearing in mind that they both slept on unpleasant terms.
“Why is she just deliberately provoking me right now?” He asked himself, trying to let go of the anger that was beginning to boil on his inside. Yes, he is used to his wife being called up at any time of the day, and it was more when she was still a junior nurse. He only started resting at least after she became a matron. If there was anything he hated so passionately was anything noisy jerking him up from sleep as her phone just did a while ago.
Udale cleaned her eyes with the back of her arm. She woke up because she felt her husband hit her shoulders, yet everywhere looked blurry. I thought I overhead the ending part of my ringing tone a while ago? Or was that hallucination? she questioned herself. She wasn’t supposed to be called at the hospital for no reason. In fact, she should be on leave at the moment but considering the fact that home was empty and boring, she decided to still be going to work so as to help out with one or two things. No patient needed critical care as at last time she checked yesterday before leaving, so who the heck is calling at this time?
She hissed while stretching her hand lazily to pick up the phone on the side drawers. The master bed is so large it could adequately fill up a twelve by ten room without leaving any empty space.
She said angrily into the speaker immediately she wiped at the screen of the Infinix hot note to pick up the call. She grudgingly placed it against her ear.
“Baba!” She exclaimed, sitting up almost at the same time. She watched her husband eyeball her before getting up and heading to the bathroom
“Olodùdú Baba” she greeted her father ‘good morning’ with the kind of voice that couldn’t hide apprehension. She listened quietly to the call and her heart started calming down – first, when she heard other people’s voices in the background. It was relieving that her father was not alone making a call at this ungodly hour and secondly it was about his concern regarding Laibe’s safety.
Udale smiled broadly when her father asked her if it was true that his granddaughter was missing. There is this special love that streams from the heart of the old man, this special affection towards his innocent granddaughter. Udale once testified that she didn’t enjoy this much attention while growing up and it sometimes made her feel jealous.
“Laibe chõlàfíà Baba” Udale replied, telling him that ‘Laibe was fine and in perfect condition’. She went ahead to clear the air about the kidnapping news that has been on air since yesterday, explaining that it was true some little girls were kidnapped on their way to school yesterday morning and the police are on serious investigation to have them brought back to their parents. She tried to convince Baba that those kidnappers in town are usually on specific missions and mostly to the end of demanding for ransom. She could hear and feel her father’s voice relax when she confirmed to him that Laibe was doing very well and sleeping very sound.
“Baba, I have heard you ooo!” Udale stressed when her father kept giving her manual on how to take care of her own little niece. She was tired of hearing continuously the fact that Baba always referred to Laibe as the ‘only one’ he had left. That statement sounds very insulting to her. Yes. Does the old man mean that she is not part of what he has? After all, she is spending all her earnings to keep him hale and hearty. There is this solace she finds though that old and aged senses are not any different from those of toddlers’. She waited patiently till her father said his last statement before dropping the call. The last statement a bit irritated her but she couldn’t talk back at him. Imagine him telling her that he wasn’t really in support of Laibe staying over at her place and that she shouldn’t hesitate to send his granddaughter back to him soon enough. That sounded like the last sentence she wanted to hear right now, not when her husband had been giving her some horrible looks since he came out of the bathroom to stand tall before her in his purple stripe pyjamas. She dropped the phone from her ear and held it firmly to her chest, quite firmly, like someone was threatening to snatch it away from her. She didn’t understand why Matthew was standing and watching her that way. His stature is usually intimidating – extremely tall and huge – even when she is standing beside him. One can imagine the angle of depression now that she is resting her back on the bed’s head rest.
“Sunshine, what is the problem again?” she asked after rehearsing how best to voice out her mind for a little over five minutes. Matthew didn’t respond to her instead he headed to the intercom, picked it up and dialled…
“Come right here!” he commanded whoever received the call on the other side.
“Matthew, what are you doing?” Udale questioned her husband as she tried to gather her robust body and get off the bed. She was beginning to marvel at her husband’s recent change in attitude. He was never like this – insisting on a particular matter for this long – he most times let her have her way.
The door flipped and presented Ocholi standing bare-chested, wearing only a short. He must have come here on jumping out of the bed with the kind of order he received over the phone.
“Get ready! You are taking Laibe back to Ofabo this morning” Matthew ordered harshly
“Sir!” Ocholi retorted as if to be sure his ears didn’t just give him the wrong command.
“Get out! And get dressed immediately!” The huge man sounded thunderously and the outcome was as though his voice lifted Ocholi to the door and off to his room iinstantly.
“Matthew, you can’t do this!” Udale screamed as well, coming to confront her husband directly. She knew she is petite compared to him, just round and closer to the soil than her husband who is tall and huge, yet she decided to stand with her hands akimbo, perhaps by that she could block his way.
“Get out of my way, woman! Before I get you out!” Matthew roared, used his right finger to push the fat woman unto the bed and headed towards the door.
Udale positioned her head while landing on the bed from the firm push, to avoid it from hitting the bed frame. Tears began steaming up in her eyes when she screamed,
“I leave if that girl leaves, Matthew”
Matthew only barely got to the door when she made this statement, he turned without delay and started walking back gently in her direction with a rueful smile tugged around his mouth that was supposed to make her relax. He walked as gentle as he would normally walk, rested his right hand on the bed and stretched his neck such that his face stayed directly in front of hers as he ran his eyes over her body before letting out a sarcastic laughter.
“You have no seed in this house, Udale. I have nothing to lose if you leave with her. And of course, you both are leaving right away! Watch me…” he said all these with gentle sarcasm. The more he spoke them out softly, the more the bitter fact he just reminded her of penetrated her bones, hurting her inner being. She was weak in her words. She wanted to say something, anything, anything that could justify that it wasn’t all her fault. She wanted to hold him back and say all the words yearning to gain expression on her inside but he yanked her off in a flash and stormed out of the bedroom and into Laibe’s room…
To be continued
The Wife I Never Married – Episode six
THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED- GRACE OCHIGBO