THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO
EPISODE THRITY THREE
EIGHT MONTHS LATER.
Omachoko didn’t understand why his mother practically came over to open the car’s door for him. Now, she didn’t do that literarily, so to speak, but his mother haven’t come out to welcome him back from trips with this kind of worried look all over her face before. It is even more bothersome as it’s not any of his long trips. He only left here two weeks ago for Christ sake.
“Olodudu ma!” He prostrated courteously.
The old woman only smiled at him without responding to his greeting, neither was she moving any inch away from the place she’s been standing, just a little distance from the parking lot. Omachoko pressed down the car lock immediately he saw his assistant was done packing everything he came with. Not as though he travelled with a lot of luggage. He likes to travel as light as possible, and the only constant part of his load would be his heavy ‘timberland’ shoes.
He watched as his mother’s eyes followed the nylon in his assistant’s hand until the young man disappeared from their sight. Everyone in this house can tell what’s in that nylon and who it’s for.
“I chane mewn!” came her voice.
Omachoko felt relieved that his mother finally spoke out, even though her words were not consoling enough, as it were. The old woman narrated to him how ‘his wife’ as she normally call her has been ‘misbehaving’ ever since he left. She doesn’t respond whenever anyone wants to engage her in discussions. At times she sits crying and lost, deep in thoughts. The worst part was that she wasn’t eating well enough. Most times, she would give the lame excuse of not having appetite for the particular food presented and even when another is brought to her, she turns it down absolutely. Omachoko’s mother understands how it is with pregnancy, and how some people suddenly develop frustrating habits towards the climax of their gestation period. She thought initially that Omachoko’s ‘wife’ was having one of those mood swings and nauseating feelings that accompanies pregnancy, but lately she has resulted to worrying.
Not eating. Not sleeping. Not having peace of mind.
It’s not safe for the young girl, it’s not safe for her unborn child either.
Omachoko tried to encourage his mother and make her see reasons with the poor girl. She has gone through a whole lot in her little life and his mother knows all of these. He commends the woman though, because, he didn’t know how he would have coped with Laibe when she insisted on coming back to the village. Laibe’s aunty couldn’t even say anything when Laibe’s decision was told her. Omachoko could see guilt in aunty Udale’s eyes – the type that makes one sign off any deal just so as to regain respect in the sight of the other party.
Laibe on her own part gave him a lot of problems when she came back to Ofabo. Her both friends were gone – Ebi is married and Umali is hustling somewhere nobody knows in Lagos. Her grandfather – who was her rock in the village – was dead, and to crown it up, Omachoko has become helplessly busy, so much so that he can’t afford to stay back in the village with her at the times she probably wanted him to. He remembered Laibe insisting on going back to live in her empty grandfather’s house.
‘Has something come loosed in her head?’ Omachoko thought within, when those words left Laibe’s mouth. However was she thinking of living alone with pregnancy in an empty and isolated house.
Omachoko employed two more house helps, in addition to the three his mother had before. All was for Laibe. So that the love of his life can stay comfortable in his family house and have everything done for her at her beck and call while he continues on his marketing, distribution and agricultural research works that are all lined up in front of him. Things even got overcrowded after the federal government hired his labour in addition to the tedious demands from the state government.
“Ugbo I de abajoi?” Omachoko asked his mother where Laibe would be at the moment. The woman pointed in the direction that lead to the back of the house and Omachoko literally ran off there.
True to his mother’s statement, Laibe was sitting on the wooden bench at the back of the house. This place has become her most favourite part of the house for obvious reasons. Omachoko had asked her, a month after he finally brought her back to Ofabo, if she could grant him one of his lifelong wishes. And when she asked him what that could be, he simply asked to lay his head on her laps. Omachoko could remember how she laughed unbelievably.
At times, Laibe wonders why Omachoko practically adores her.
They had a very long discussion that sunny morning with his dreadlocks resting on her tiny thighs as she crossed her legs on each other, so as to make the ‘bony pillow’ high enough for Omachoko. The young man is so hefty that the bench that bore Laibe comfortably could only bear his right leg, on which he placed his cowboy’s hat, while the left leg rested on the bare ground. They talked about a lot of things, even though he did the bulk of the talking – as talking has practically been deleted from Laibe’s to-do list. His eyes bore holes through Laibe’s face and he wished he could not just kiss her deeply, letting his tongue roll through the entire cavity of her beautiful mouth till they both got breathless, but also kiss all her pains away. That was the closest they’ve gotten ever. He could feel his own heartbeat as Laibe’s hands gentle stroked his dreads. She has always been his worst addiction.
Even with the so much exposure Omachoko has now, they are two things about him that didn’t change. First is, he wouldn’t stop wearing heavily intimidating timberland shoes – very expensive ones now though, alongside a cowboy’s hat. A passionate farmer to the core. Second, and most important, is that his affection for Laibe hasn’t wavered in the very least.
Ocholi also came over to see Laibe after about four months of settling in Ofabo. By that time, her once flat tummy was shooting out and she felt very disappointed in herself, facing her one time crush with heavy pregnancy for none other than his elder brother. The good thing though is that no one seem to be stigmatising her for it. Omachoko’s mother has taken her in as her own daughter ever since. Staying in Omachoko’s family house was the most reasonable thing to do, even though she gave him a lot of stress before yielding to his suggestion. She is heavily pregnant, and being her first time, going to live alone in Baba’s empty compound wasn’t ideal after all. She could get scared, feel haunted or even harm herself when alone.
Laibe enjoyed Ocholi’s visit. He stayed two nights and Omachoko was around at that time, so it was all fun and games for the three of them. Ocholi brought her new sets of drawing materials and even when she wasn’t interested, he insisted she redrew the last painting she did – the painting in the white paper. Laibe couldn’t believe Ocholi preserved the paper until that time, but he did. According to him, he knew that wasn’t just a painting but some way of expressing deep inexpressible thoughts, so he was hoping that one day, Laibe would come around and let him in on all of it; on all of those things that terrified her silently and made light scare her. All of those things that made her attempt such a deep painting. That’s, of course, till everything turned messy. Ocholi was already getting to the middle of his first year in the master’s program then but he knew he needed to come back home after all Aunty Udale explained to him over the phone… or so he said. Laibe was more important than the very demanding course work he left behind. To Laibe, Ocholi’s coming brought some sort of healing to her, at least he didn’t sound like he was utterly disappointed in her.
Omachoko startled her.
Laibe formed a little frown on her face. Omachoko would never stop doing same thing, especially after you let him know that thing is upsetting you. Typical of him. She had warned him not to call her ‘woman’ uncountable times but he wouldn’t bulge. She got used to it anyway; after these long months.
“You scared me!” Laibe got up and hit him hard on his chest till he screamed out in fake pain.
“Someone missed me too much she couldn’t eat her food, so I heard!” Omachoko said, touching her soft cheeks lovingly. Laibe has added a recognisable amount of weight, maybe due to the pregnancy and also due to too much enjoyment.
“Ahhh! Was that what Mama told you?”
Omachoko laughed, seeing the innocence Laibe was trying hard to portray. He drew closer to her, till the space between them would barely be enough for air to pass through, except that her protruded stomach gave a natural barrier. He could feel Laibe’s heart beating fast as he looked on at her.
“OK! Yes! I missed you.” Laibe said quickly, waving him off with her hand before turning her back. Omachoko laughed even harder. He knows Laibe has always been allergic to stares, especially when it’s deep and leering like the one some moments ago. He wrapped his hands around her waist as her back leaned against his chest.
“You still didn’t switch on your phone?” He said into her ears like a whisper.
Laibe shrugged. “Not again! You were at least contacting me through Mama, weren’t you?”
“I may not be the only one that want to call you, you know? Your friends may want to say Hi to you, Ocholi may want to talk to you too, it’s been over five months since he left here. Your aunty, your…”
“Enough!” she screamed, snapping herself off his hands.
Omachoko stepped back as he watched her flare up in anger. Laibe’s anger is interesting, because she would barely say anything before tears come pouring down. Her tears are golden, and Omachoko never want to see them.
“I bought you corn beef. The exact type you like.” He took another method to pacify her and like a baby, the almost crying Laibe started smiling through her tears.
Now, they were there.
“Why do you do all these for me, ‘Choko?” she drew nearer to the wooden bench and sat down. Due to her condition, she can barely stand for long before getting exhausted these days.
Omachoko came over to where she sat, and took his seat as well. He clamped his hand and this time avoided eye contact.
“I must have probably told you this enough times but there is no harm in repeating it, right? Especially when the big woman says to.”
Laibe eyeballed him coldly and he smiled.
“The day I told Baba that I was going to Ankpa, he asked me a question I would never forget in a hurry. He asked me to tell him whether that decision was made because of you or that I really wanted to go to Ankpa. Deep down, I knew my going to Ankpa was to combat with the distance created between you and I.”
“But I never saw you. Not even once.” Laibe cut in.
He nodded in the affirmative. “You don’t ask for the heart of an ambitious girl with an empty hand.”
Laibe scoffed. “So you take me to be money-seeking, is that?”
Omachoko could feel the provocation in her tone and knew he needed to thread with caution now.
“It’s not safe for my ego as a man! You are smart enough as it were and that’s intimidating enough. Coming to ask you out again without anything to show for it feels like abusing a goddess.”
Laibe blushed carelessly.
“All of those doesn’t explain why you are doing all these for me, ‘Choko.”
“Yeah. I know!” He took her hand and placed it on the left side of his chest. “You remember this?”
He has done this enough times for her to narrate a video of it.
“You are here in my heart, now, always and forever.” He said, pulling her up. She reluctantly followed him up till he drew her into his arms for a long hug. Omachoko then withdrew from the hug and sat down.
“Come and sit.” He pointed her to his laps.
Laibe’s shocked eyes begged him to stop ‘rough play’.
He stretched forth his hand and dragged her till she fell on his laps.
“Choko, what are you doing?” Her shaky voice came out loud.
Everyone wonders why everything scares Laibe, especially the slightest show of emotions.
“I wanna show you something.” She wanted to respond but he shush her quickly. “Just close your eyes.”
“No, I can’t. Just show me.” Laibe protested.
“You are the one keeping us now o. Don’t think you are weightless on my legs o. I’m carrying two persons.” Omachoko winked at her and she smiled.
He can be funny in a ridiculous way. She weighed her possible options and decided to try closing her eyes, even when, she felt like a gun was pointing her head while doing that.
“Yeah! It’s two minutes now, open your eyes…” Omachoko whispered in her ears.
Laibe could not believe her eyes. She has only seen sapphire twice, in a movie, and the day she decided to search it out on Google. Here she is seeing it life and direct. The rays from the early morning sun made it even glitter the more on her face, lighting everywhere up with colourful sparkles. Omachoko dug his hand into the box containing the ring. He had searched everywhere for this particular ring and when he got it during this trip, he knew it’s about time.
“Please, marry me Laibe.” He popped out the statement that came like a question. Like a question because his searching eyes demanded an answer as it looked on like a hungry puppy.
Laibe covered her mouth with her hands as tears rolled down freely now. It felt as though she was dreaming and wouldn’t want anyone to wake her up. She looked down at her stomach and saw it’s still protruded.
Did Omachoko just ask her to marry him?
Who engages a pregnant girl?
She couldn’t help the thoughts, and as though someone hit her lower back with a dagger, she screamed out.
She tried to steady herself but the pain came again, sharper than the initial one. Omachoko didn’t understand what was going on. First the scream came like an over joyous and excited one, but now, it’s coming like pain… severe pangs. He looked on helplessly at Laibe, as the girl seem to be having unbearable pain on her lower back.
What to do?
He looked down to see water-like liquid flowing down her legs.
What is happening?
He quickly dropped the box containing the ring, gently let Laibe down and raced into the house to get his mother.
The old woman ran out of the building and towards Laibe.
Laibe was screaming, wailing, and crying altogether.
“eeeeh! Ahhhh! Mama ooo! Ooooh!”
Omachoko saw his mother wasn’t as worried as he was and he admonished himself to calm down, bearing in mind the fact that he is the man of the house. The old woman smiled on seeing the water dripping down Laibe’s legs and held onto her, in a futile bid of stabilising her.
“Nya di Iye Ebi wa.” She ordered Omachoko to go call Ebi’s mother.
She sounded really urgent with the order, so much so that Omachoko started running out of the compound before he could stop himself. He wanted to ask his mother why Ebi’s mother should be summoned when Laibe is screaming out in pains. He wanted to suggest putting her in the car and racing her down to Aloma – where the nearest hospital is. Then he remembered that there is only one local midwife in the entire village and that’s who he was asked to go and bring.
“Of course. I know ‘I was held up in traffic’ would be your excuse.” He gave a disapproving look at the man who hastily walked over to his seat in the office. Dahunsi laughed, he had just a polo and midi-length trouser on.
“Now, that you know my usual say, what then would be my defence?”
The both of them laughed this time.
“Seriously mehn! I’m sorry, today’s game review was much and fans kept calling in. I couldn’t end the program abruptly.”
Ocholi shook his head as he stared back at his friend.
“When people like us are struggling to get a Master degree, just so as to gain relevance, children of the rich like you inherited the biggest Arts studio in Lagos on the platter of gold, yet you prefer to work as a radio Sports reporter cum host? Incredible!”
Dahunsi smiled. “How was your flight, man? It’s been over five months since we last saw you within the borders of our beloved country.”
“Course work has been tight. My flight went well. I came in the last flight and the car from Lagos here should have taken me closer to Lokoja by now if not that you didn’t show up on time at your work place.”
Dahunsi knew Ocholi so well. He can like to hold onto one point and beat it for as long as possible.
“I wonder who is a son of the rich among the both of us. You are taking a master degree in Fine Arts abroad. Abroad o. In this economic recession, you still enjoy the luxury of flying in and out of the country at will.”
“You know I wouldn’t travel if I had nothing important doing.” Ocholi was on the defensive.
“Ehennn! Same here! You know I won’t keep you waiting if I had nothing important doing on Radio.” Dahunsi winked at him and he scoffed.
“Even your sales manager wasn’t on seat. You are leaving this place for your secretary to run, right?”
“No. You see, it’s too early. Moreover, people don’t usually buy art works in this part of the world. They, more often than not, come on tours and excursions down here. Only few, like you that your life is tied to Fine Arts, come to buy.” Ocholi eyeballed him. “You haven’t told me who you always drop by to buy drawing sets for. Or don’t they sell it in your abroad school?” He sounded very sarcastic and Ocholi was ready to respond suit.
“They do. Ones with greater quality for that matter.” Ocholi waited till Dahunsi shot him an angry eye. He smiled victoriously before continuing, “…but then I prefer to buy it from you this block head. And don’t get it twisted, it’s for my younger sister!”
“Younger sister bawo? Are you not the last born of the Onoja’s anymore?”
Ocholi was just about to respond when the door creaked open. An elegant lady walked in. She was on little high heels, with hair flying down her shoulders. Ocholi stared at her absentmindedly. She was wearing a grey chiffon dress – it’s at knee level and fits her body perfectly in a way that displayed her endowed shape. Ocholi tried to distract his head from looking at her, but he couldn’t. Her cologne filled the entire room and just when her voice came through his ears, he felt his heart palpitating to the rhythm of it. Her teeth looked scattered, yet produced a very sweet smile anyone would like to have a taste of, if solid.
He jerked up on hearing Dahunsi’s husky voice. He hissed out loudly. He had gone into a fantasy world as the melodious voice of the lady that entered pierced his ear lobes. He opened his eyes to see she was gone.
“What was that?” Dahunsi demanded, putting a serious look on his face.
“What was what?” Ocholi feigned ignorance, sitting up on his seat.
“In love? Yes. I am in love! Love at all sights.” Ocholi cut in before his friend could finish.
“What? All sights or first sight? Kai! Ocholi, you are not serious!”
“You are asking me ‘why’? That’s my new sales manager for God’s sake.” Dahunsi felt Ocholi was sounding unbelievable.
“And so? At least, you are married to Beatrice with a son. Don’t you want me leaving the bachelor’s league anymore?” Ocholi rose his right eyebrow and lowered the other one.
“I do. Of course. I mean… why not.” Dahunsi was stammering. “The thing is, she is new here, man and I even barely know her yet. I don’t know how to help you run this kind of parole.”
Ocholi smiled, displaying his handsome self even more clearly.
“I didn’t ask you to help me run any parole yet Mr Dahunsi.”
Now the former looked even more confused. Thought Ocholi was sounding like he was swept off his feet by the lady that just left here? Why is he now acting indifferent all of a sudden?
“I don’t understand you anymore, Ocholi.”
“Just create a platform for us now and step back.” Ocholi said, winking knowingly at him.
Dahunsi took in a deep breath as he picked up the intercom.
“Yes. Mr Oluwadahunsi on the line. Please take everything you came to the office with and come back to my office immediately.”
Ocholi smiled as he dropped the call.
“Being a boss isn’t good for you at all. Don’t you think that was pretty too harsh?”
Dahunsi covered his lips with his first finger when he heard the light knock on the door.
“That was so fast.” He said as the lady walked in. This time holding her bag firmly in her hand.
“You are the boss, sir.”
“Dahunsi!” he corrected
“OK! You are the boss, sir Dahunsi.”
Everyone, including Ocholi, laughed at her little show of humour.
“Alright. Meet Ocholi, my classmate at the federal university, Lokoja. He is currently undertaking his master degree abroad.” He stressed the ‘abroad’ and Ocholi felt embarrassed about it. More so that Dahunsi has never taken to mind the name of Ocholi’s school as he prefers the ‘abroad’ thing.
“Don’t mind your boss. I am Ocholi.” Ocholi cut in before his friend would spoil everything for him, seeing his overexcitement. Ladies are ultimately turned off by any little show of pride, however minor it seems.
“Nice to meet you, Mr Ocholi.” The lady stretched out her hand courteously and Ocholi took it.
“You are really beautiful.” He added, while holding onto her hand.
Dahunsi, at this point, didn’t know if he was interested in watching another episode of ‘the wedding party’ right now. He looked as his sale’s manager blushed carelessly while his friend kept leering eyes on her. Ocholi should be described as ‘beautiful’ really, and it’s as if the weather ‘abroad’ is really doing some more magic on him.
Dahunsi cleared his throat and the both of them turned to face him.
“Ocholi here would like to discuss something with you.” He said and Ocholi felt shocked at first but maintained himself, leaving no clue whatsoever. “So you can take the day off and resume back tomorrow.”
Ocholi could see the confusion on her face but there was nothing he could do. It’s good to have a lady’s boss for a friend – on paving way for you. He smiled broadly as that mischievous thought popped in his head. He opened the car door for her and let her sit.
“Don’t worry, I am not really taking your whole day. I have to be in Ankpa today.” Ocholi said as he joined her in the car.
“Ankpa in Kogi state? That’s pretty far. You had better get going o, before it’s late.” She responded.
“How did you know Ankpa is in Kogi state?” Ocholi demanded with shocked eyes.
The lady smiled. Her smile is sensational.
“Because I am a Kogite. An Igala.”
“Now this is getting interesting. And don’t tell me you are my sister, because I need you for something much more than that.” Ocholi confessed.
“Something much more than that? Something like what?” she demanded, her bold eyeballs looking straight into his. She has this charisma of an opened-eyed city lady.
“OK. Alright? Can we start by equalising the game?” He thrust his car key into its hole and started it. He felt her questioning eyes staring unblinkingly back at him.
“May I please know the name of this beauty that my eyes has been longing to see?”
The lady smiled shyly. Ocholi is definitely getting her right buttons.
“You try at flattery by the way.”
Ocholi smiled. He didn’t know if that was supposed to be a compliment or an offence.
“My name is Umali.” She added.
Omachoko was pacing up and down the veranda in front of the house. Iye Ebi has been in there with his mother and Laibe for too long a time that he is beginning to get scared. He was at least wise enough when his mother gave birth to their last born who is now in secondary school. It didn’t take this long time. In fact, him and his father heard the cry of the baby few minutes after Iye Ebi went into the room. Whatever was delaying and prolonging this now was what he could not understand. The bad part is that no one was coming from the room to at least give progress report or anything of such. He has been hearing Laibe’s agonising screams and shouts from the room all along.
Just then, the scream seemed to die down and he moved closer to the door leading into the room where they were. He felt the impulse to push the door open, but that would be very wrong, as men are customarily never allowed to see a woman in labour. What was he supposed to do now?
The door opened and his heart beat increased greatly.
His mother stepped out and did not just close the door firmly behind her, she stood as though she could prevent anyone from entering. She looked as worried as she was when she came to meet him at the parking lot earlier this morning, just that she looked even more helpless. Omachoko wished he could pull out all the words off the old woman’s throat but it’s not possible.
After many minutes of deafening silence that felt like years to Omachoko, his mother finally spoke out.
“I nukpahiu ki a bi no.” she was almost in tears. She said Laibe doesn’t have the power to push. She said it was a bad sign and if care is not taken, they may lose her.
“God forbid!” Omachoko yelled before the last words were off his mother’s lips.
He can’t lose her.
She has to stay alive. She has to say Yes to his pending proposal. They have to get married and raise this baby alongside the others they would have together. He can’t bring himself to love another.
He can’t bear the thoughts of losing Laibe.
Not now. Not ever.
An idea came into his mind. Maybe he should drive Laibe down to the nearest hospital. He hadn’t liked the idea of giving birth in the house. It wasn’t even right to start with. What if complications arose? Where would be the next place to run to? That’s why mother and child mortality rate is on the increase in rural areas.
“Why didn’t I think this earlier? Why didn’t I take her when she was just starting the labour?” He blamed his head for not thinking smartly when needed.
Now it’s too late. It’s damn too risky too.
He turned to his mother, she had tears in her eyes.
Just when he was about to open his mouth, he heard a loud sharp scream from inside the room. The scream came very loud and sharp and died down almost immediately.
His mother returned his questioning gaze with a more confused one. Without wasting any more time, he pushed her away from the door and entered the room.
Damn all restrictions.
To be continued…
It’s been the most tedious, yet exciting time for me writing THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED. This year has been really busy but I made sure we enjoy our story weekly. I hope you not only enjoyed it but learnt a thing or two from it. Finally, this story is gradually grinding to the end. I hope it’s not tragedy again. Thank you all for joining me on this adventurous ride.
Final episode next week.
Next story would start soonest. Trust me, it would be super-duper.