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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

'I married into money yet I'm so miserable' (5)

Some six months after Nick and I had been communicating by phone, he came to Nigeria for a visit. Though he had family in town, he decided to put up in a hotel for security and some privacy as he explained to me when we met. I did not visit him at the hotel to avoid suspicions from my husband. You see, though he was hardly around, my husband kept tabs on me and monitored my movements. I found out some years back when one of his staff, whom I had done a favour for confessed to me. 
 It seemed Chief did not trust anyone including me, his wife. And this was the same man who went all over the place with his secretary Matilda who doubled as his mistress. I had heard about the affair and a few others he had had since our marriage but for the sake of peace and my mother's counsel, I had ignored them.
 "As long as he provides well for you and the family, what do you care what he does outside?" said my mother when I had complained about my husband's infidelities as well as lack of attention. "And you complain he's never home. What do you want him to do? Sit at home and hold your hand all day long? Will that bring in money to enable you live in the type of affluence you do now? 

 My dear, that is marriage-full of ups and down and you have to learn to endure certain things in order to survive in your marital home. It's not rosy all the time. Have you forgotten so soon what your father did to us, to the family? Lots of women go through the same thing and they learn to cope! My dear, if other married women tell you about their experiences, you will be shocked. At least your husband spoils you with money. So, sit back and enjoy it and stop all this grumbling!" she had admonished.

  It was easy for her to say but what did she know about my needs and desires, I had grumbled to myself at the time. She must know what it felt like to have an absentee husband as my father had been one before his death two years before from an alcohol-related ailment. He was never home or there for the family as he preferred to be with his concubine. My husband was doing the same to me and I'm supposed to just sit back and endure it? For how long was I supposed to do that while I watched my youthful years slip away?

 Anyway, to avoid arousing my husband's suspicions, Nick and I met up at Brenda's place. We had not seen for over ten years and he had changed a lot during that time. He had put on some weight on his tall frame and he looked good. 
 We chatted for hours, reminiscing about the old days. It was fun meeting up with Nick again and I was reluctant to leave when it was time to return home. For the six weeks he was in the country, Nick and I saw regularly. He was nice company and I enjoyed spending time with him. He made me laugh and forget my troubles at home. At first, I simply saw him as an old friend whose company I enjoyed but with time, my feelings towards him changed.

 He did not hide the fact that he was still crazy about me despite my being married.
 "I will always have you in my heart," he told me a week before his departure to his base abroad. I felt bad that he would soon be leaving but there was nothing I could do about it. I was bound to Chief, had made my choice and I had to live the life I had chosen. 
 Then, on the last day we saw, he told me something that surprised me.
 "Alice, I can see that despite your bright looks that you are not happy. What's the problem, dear? Is it your husband? Is he maltreating you? You can talk to me! Are we not friends?" he said.

  For a moment, I was tempted to confide in him about my unhappiness at home. About my feelings of loneliness due to my husband's long absences, or that in the past three months, I had seen him just once when he returned from one of his long trips. He had stayed for just two days and had travelled again. But I kept all these to myself, simply smiled at him and said:
 "I'm fine Nick. Everything's fine. Perhaps, it's the thought that you will soon leave that's making me feel bad."
 He looked sceptical for a moment as if he did not believe my words.
 "If you say so. But you know I'm always there for you if you need a shoulder to lean on," he said, taking and squeezing my hand.

  New wife, fresh troubles
After Nick left, life went back to normal- it was the same old dull routine. The only bright spot in my life was Nick who called regularly to check on me. I missed him terribly and at a point, I nursed the idea of travelling to see him but I changed my mind because of the risk involved. My husband would definitely find out and that could affect my marriage. Despite the situation, I was not ready to lose Chief and the perks that came with being his wife. Afterall, he had done so much for me and my family, I reasoned. All my siblings were doing well because of Chief's generosity. How could I jeopardise that because of Nick even though I had fallen in love with him and I wanted to be with him more than anything in the world?

 One day, some months later, my husband returned from one of his trips with lots of gifts for me. But my joy at seeing him was cut short by his secretary Matilda. She arrived the following day with her bags and other belongings. Chief explained that she was having accommodation problems and needed a place to stay for a few weeks. My first instinct was to object, knowing the relationship between them. But I kept my cool and instructed one of the maids to prepare one of the guest rooms for her.

 "As soon as she gets another apartment, she will leave. Thanks for being so understanding, dear. That's one of the things I love about you. You are so cool-headed!" my husband said later that night in our bedroom. 
 From a couple of weeks, Matilda's stay extended to months. She had been with us for nearly six months when I pointed out to my husband that she had stayed for more than the time frame he had told me she would be with us.

  "I think it's time for her to leave. This is my home and I can't continue to share it with your secretary!" I said.
 He assured me he would look into it. When the situation remained the same, I called Matilda one Saturday morning when my husband had gone to the club to play tennis. I told her she had overstayed her welcome and she should get a place to move to.

  "Move where?" she countered. "I'm going nowhere. This is my husband's house and I have a right to be here as well!"
 I looked at her as if she had gone crazy.
 "Matilda, are you sure you are alright? What are you talking about?" I demanded angrily.
 "This!" she said, placing her hand on her stomach. Then, to my shock, she announced: "I'm pregnant for Chief! It's two months! This is not the first time. For your info, I've had three abortions for Chief. But this one is staying. I'm keeping this baby!"

  For a while, I was too shocked to speak. Then I said:
 "What baby? Look, I don't know what kind of games you are playing but it won't work with me. So, you just take that bastard in your womb and get out of my house. Shameless thing! Husband-snatcher! Ole! (thief)."
 "Look at pot calling kettle black! Was Chief a bachelor when you met him? He was already married with two wives and numerous children when you married him because of his wealth. Greedy thing! See where 'long throat' for money has landed you!" she fired back.
 We were still arguing when Chief returned home.

  To my surprise, Chief supported Matilda on the issue. He not only agreed for her to stay but to keep the pregnancy as well. The same man who said he did not want more children, who insisted on my using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, was allowing his mistress to keep her baby! I felt really angry and betrayed. The only concession he made to me was that she had to move to an apartment in one of the buildings in the sprawling compound. It was a small victory for me; at least both of us would not be staying under the same roof and I would not have to endure her taunts and rude remarks.

 As soon as Matilda moved in fully, the situation at home grew worse. I saw my husband even less. If he was not on one trip or the other, he would be with Matilda in her apartment whenever he came home.
 "I'm getting really fed up with the situation," I grumbled to Brenda when she came to see me.
 "Poor you. You look stressed. Perhaps, you need a holiday. Get away for some time, you know. Why don't you go to London? You can stay with my Mum. Her house is big enough," she suggested.

 It sounded like a good idea. The thought of my husband with that little gold-digger, Matilda was driving me crazy. I needed to leave home for a while and clear my head. I could even take Junior who was on holiday from school. 
 I made all the travel arrangements before telling Chief that I would be travelling for a short break. He did not seem to mind. He only insisted when I told him I would be staying with Brenda's mother that we should stay in one of his houses in the city which he kept vacant for use as a holiday home for the family. I had stayed there numerous times in the past whenever I was in London for shopping trips or holidays.

 As soon as I arrived in London, Nick and I reconnected. Now, he spends nearly all his free time with me and we have become even closer than before. I have been in the city for nearly two months now. I'm having so much fun with Nick that I don't feel like returning to Nigeria. What is there to go home to? To be seeing Matilda and her big belly moving around my home as if she owned the place? Chief has been calling nearly every day, asking when I was coming home.

 'He will wait till eternity,' I mumbled to myself as I stood in front of the mirror dressing up. Nick was taking me to the cinema that evening and from there to a new club that a Jamaican friend of his just opened in Brixton and I wanted to look really good.
 For the first time in years, I feel alive and happy like I used to be before my marriage. I'm like a bird that has been caged for years and has suddenly been freed. I've decided to remain in the U.K so Nick and I could be together. As for Chief, I'm no longer interested in that marriage. I want to be with a man who loves me and wants to be with me and not one that just throws money at me and expects me to be happy with just material possessions.
 By next week, I will move in with Nick and leave Chief's house. And I'm never going back. Once I get my divorce from Chief, Nick and I plan to get married. I know my mother will not be in support of my actions but it's my life. I've sacrificed myself for the family enough. It's time I lived for myself a little- afterall, we only have one life to live. Why should I spend it in pain and misery for the rest of my days. Or what do you think?

Did Alice do the right thing by leaving Chief for Nick? We will like to hear your views on this!

The End! 

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.

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