THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO
Matthew rose his head involuntarily from the pillow as his eyes flew open. He had been contemplating within as to whether it was still too early to get up or not. He gets this luxury of time to sleep anytime he got off that strenuous demanding work of his. A week is good enough time. Well, that’s all he could afford for the meantime. Inasmuch as he needed something to force him up, it would definitely not be the forceful bang of the door as it hit the door frame. What went wrong again? He sat up, with the duvet still covering a better part of his tall form as Udale trudged into the room. She looked angry… or frustrated? No one can correctly tell whatever the expression on her face bore. She moved with the venom of a wounded tiger, muttering many inaudible things to herself with each step. Thankfully for Matthew, she decided to increase the volume of her voice on getting closer to the bed. He let out a loud sigh.
“For whatever reasons she doesn’t wanna go to school” she murmured almost inaudibly so much so that Matthew had to strain his ears to hear what she said as she collapsed onto the same side of the bed he is sitting. In fact, if Matthew hadn’t promptly removed his legs, they would both have had a case of multiple fractures to attend to at the hospital today with the way the fat woman landed on the bed.
“What’s the problem, Baby?” Matthew asked, his eyeballs like they would pop out of their cage in no time. This subtle approach should work at the moment, right? He’s gat to tread with caution if not with the way she woke him up abruptly, he would have given her a bit of his mind.
“I get up as early as possible just to make breakfast for that little fellow to take along. She does nothing for me in this house, more especially in the morning save to dress up and enjoy a luxurious drive down to school, only for her to be… to be…” she started stammering and her husband didn’t blink the curious gaze he cast on her all along.
“For her to be… to be what?” Matthew asked when the repetition was becoming sickening.
“She is still curled up in her bed at this time…” she turned to look at the large wall clock above her dressing mirror as she said this, turning Matthew’s attention there as well. “…as if that was not enough, she told me she can’t go to school because of what happened yesterday. Can you imagine that nonsense?” She asked, not expecting any response actually. Her face contorting in a fiery glaze of anger all over again as the scene she just witnessed few minutes ago tore at her mind as it replayed in her head.
Matthew heaved another audible sigh, this time, everyone could feel the relief literally written all over his face. He will never be able to completely understand women after all. All these charades and behaviours because of whatever Laibe said to her? Incredible. He could bet his life that the little girl couldn’t have been rude to her aunty after all. Perhaps they were more things frustrating his dear wife this beautiful morning.
Udale looked on expectantly at him after finishing her last line and that got him confused. Was he supposed to say something? Ok! Like, don’t worry Honey, we would deal with that little girl? or, I told you not to allow her stay here in the first place? What exactly is he supposed to say at the moment. He didn’t know what she wanted him to say or how he should best react. Finding an idea of what to do, he left a playful smile dancing on his face as he pulled the duvet off his legs, slipping into his bedside slippers, he managed to bring himself to his feet. Udale whose eyes have been following all his actions, from moving to the edge of the bed to standing up, like her eyes controlled him continued watching in astonishment, wondering whatever Matthew was up to right now.
Oh no! She didn’t just report Laibe to him, did she? Even though she had seen her husband loosen up a bit yesterday and his normally cold glare at the poor girl brightened up a little too, she shouldn’t have come to give this report. It’s too early to soil the good relationship that’s just about sprouting up. What was she thinking?
“I’ll be back”
Matthew’s soft voice now heightened her worries even more. She couldn’t have landed her niece in another trouble so early, could she? She held her head with both hands; her hair was neatly packed in a hair net so it was very easy to hold it as one piece. She figured out the wisdom in following after Matthew or not when she heard the door close behind him gently.
Laibe turned her face towards the direction of the door. She was backing the entrance before now; before the door creaked open actually. She faced the wall all along, since her aunty left the room, hoping she would see something soothing in those yellow painted walls and if possible penetrate to go hide in there with a little more stare. Her mind couldn’t get off the guilt she felt yesterday. The guilt that got her uncomfortable so much so that she had to sneak from school before closing time. Yea! It was a dangerous thing she did: running through bush paths just so the security men that manned the iron school gate or any of the senior prefects don’t get to see her. She had an idea what the punishment would be if she got caught trying to escape from school. She once saw a student that was asked to dig his height and another given a large portion of grass to level. The punishment. Yes! Indeed, the punishment. It would even be worse than the punishment she carried overwhelming guilt for right now.
Aunty Tee had ordered all her classmates out of the class when she didn’t want to point out any of the people that tormented her. The principal made them lay flat on the carpeted grasses in front of the class and as if that was not enough, she ordered that Uncle Jibrin gave then seven strokes of the cane each – boys on their buttocks and girls on their backs. Laibe’s feet went cold and she felt like urinating in her pants, from the point where she stood behind the principal watching regretfully, as her classmates wailed out in pain. She couldn’t bear it. She is used to being scolded, beaten and punished for other people’s misbehaviours and not the other way round. She covered her ears with both hands as well just maybe she could prevent the agonizing screams from the victims of the punishment from getting to her ears. Whenever Aunty Tee turned back to glance in her direction, she readjusted herself. Whenever a tear rolled down her little cheek, she quickly wiped at it with the back of her palm. She literally started feeling feverish on her feet. Everybody was ordered back to the class after the punishment but she couldn’t enter. She gave a flimsy excuse of wanting to use the toilet and since her seat was just beside the window, she squeezed out her bag through the frame immediately Aunty Tee and the other teachers turned their attention away from her, addressing her class. She ran off in the direction of the toilet. She was merely halfway the toilet when she luckily saw the school gate open because the toilet was almost perpendicular to the direction of the gate. Before anyone could say Jack Robinson, she had dashed into a bush path she usually sees some of her classmates taking after school while she enjoys the comfort of her aunt’s drive home.
Whether she had lost her way or not, she wasn’t certain at some points. She kept moving on the tiny deserted road, fast and furiously, as her heart beat hard against her chest. There was no way she could face the hateful look that would be left greeting her on the faces of her mates if she entered back into the classroom with them. She dreaded it; she dreaded rejection with everything in her and just when she thought sleeping over it would completely clear the guilt off her memory, it rather escalated by the time she got up this morning. Guess her aunty is particularly mad at her because the older woman encouraged her after she narrated the story to them yesterday. Aunty Udale told her that punishing stubborn kids is a normal part of the drilling process and that it was no fault of hers, but all those didn’t console her. She felt like she had put some innocent kids in pain and agony unjustly.
“Reconsidering your dreams of becoming great already?” Matthew’s voice spoke out after staring at her for nothing less than five minutes. He released his hand from the door knob and took giant steps fully into the room till he came near her bed. Laibe readjusted immediately while staring at him unable to bring her brain to making any sense out of the first words her uncle is ever saying to her.
Taking his seat beside her in a way that he was sited squarely before her, he continued, “In the pursuit of greatness, strive as much as possible not just to be well-known but to be worth-knowing…” He softly placed his large hands on her little shoulders with a smile firmly plastered on his face. “…you know a wise man by name Langstone Hughes once said ‘Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly’, and you my little girl cannot achieve any level of this greatness or great dreams as the case may be, by curling up yourself on the bed the morning you should be preparing to go to school” he added calmly.
Everything he said was now beginning to appeal to Laibe’s senses. She had things to say in response but she always had this strong limitation – how to express herself in English. She is still upcoming in that aspect and inasmuch as her aunty is giving her credit for rapid improvement, she didn’t want to ruin this swell time she had dreamt of, the one week her uncle deserted his own house. Maybe that was what she thought anyway. Not until he came to her school yesterday afternoon, she was beginning to feel like she was responsible for her uncle’s disappearance from the house for such a long time. She finally decided to respond. She wanted to say she was scared, she wanted to say perhaps her dreams of greatness was just a mirage and that she didn’t deserve such ambience of good dreams. She wanted to say she cannot tolerate rejection, not from him, not from her aunty let alone from her classmates, but all she wanted to say remained within her and the only thing she could come up with was a nod. And another nod, and still an additional nod.
“You will go to school now, Ok? You have less than fifteen mins to prepare. Your aunty is waiting.” Matthew said and got up, patting her back. He knew and could connect to exactly what Laibe was feeling at the moment. Even worse than such has he felt in recent times but first things first.
Laibe couldn’t believe that her uncle had talked her into going to school as much as she couldn’t believe her uncle had talked to her at all. She felt happy, and the whole emotional thrills threw her off the bed to her feet. She all of a sudden felt this strange boldness running down her spine and the only thing she could picture right now was walking down majestically to her seat in class.
Matthew paused at the door and turned hastily like he forgot something and yea he did. He didn’t know but he felt the propelling force to say it as it came up in his mind. While still considering if it was the right time to say this, he voiced out before he could stop himself.
“I’ll take you to Lokoja… where? Ehnmm…” he kept a finger on his lips thoughtfully, “Yes. Confluence Beach. I’ll take you to confluence beach during your next holidays, that’s only if you do well.” He flashed his set of beautifully arranged dentition at her and closed the door behind him gently.
Laibe stood glued to the floor all of a sudden like someone awaiting a death sentence. She tried pinching herself to consciousness. She needed to be sure it wasn’t a dream at the end of it all. Or, maybe it was a dream coming true? She heard the alarm clock her aunty set up on her reading table ring and her eyes instantly turned in that direction. 7:00am? She slipped into her slippers and hurried into the bathroom. If she does not cross the school gate in less than thirty minutes’ time, it would be better she didn’t go to school at all today.
Matthew got back to the bedroom with a rather pretentious smile dancing around his face. He had to smile at least, with the way his wife was eagerly sitting on the bed and waiting for him, he could guess as perfect as he would his name what was going through her mind.
“She would be ready in 10. Please help her not to go late” he said, squeezing her shoulder as he took his seat beside her. He felt Udale’s eyes widen, like some freshly baked ShopRite doughnuts and that didn’t surprise him at all. She must have not expected what he did again, as usual. He’s been all shades of dynamism lately.
Udale took a deep breath and got up, heading towards the bathroom door. She will never understand her husband, that’s certain. The man is so full of diversities, or… is it mischievousness? She can’t seem to wrap her mind around the particular name to give to what is popping up on her mind as she lazily dragged down the door knob.
“Again, if we must get used to having a child in this house…” Matthew started and she turned her head involuntarily, still holding firmly to the door knob “…if we must get used to having a child in Laibe, then we must get used to becoming parents and you especially must master the art of being a mother.” He said. That smile was still playing somewhere around his face as he spoke, though it’s a little milder now. Udale’s tongue felt tied, she couldn’t even say anything as that bunch of timely truth sank deep into her blood. She swallowed and entered the bathroom, closing the door gently behind her.
Matthew’s face contorted into a frown immediately his wife was out of sight. Like, the initial smile he’s been wearing was a mask that he just pulled off his face. He didn’t understand the meaning of this thing and the more he tried to justify himself, the more he keeps drowning more and more. He thought of a thousand things to do. For once… and most especially on this matter, his brain is failing him and he disliked that with all his might. He needed his head to think now more than ever before.
He stretched out and picked up his phone from the side stool. He looked on at it with all concentration for some minutes before deciding to do the only thing that came across as reasonable to his mind. He typed a short message, scrolled his contacts list till he got to the number he needed and tapped on the ‘send’ button. Dropping the phone like it burnt his palm, he quickly readjusted on the bed when he felt his wife was about coming out.
TO BE CONTINUED
The Wife I Never Married – Episode sixteen
THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO