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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The New Wife (2)


She  first  began  to  notice  the  changes  in  him  after  he  told  her  to  prepare  for  JAMB.  ‘You’re  going  to  BUK,’  he  said.  ‘You  need  to  be  a  graduate.  You  need  to  upgrade.’  

There  was  a  patronizing  quality  to  his  voice,  a  quality  she  had  heard  before,  but  had  always  ignored.  She  said  yes,  that  she  would  prepare  for  JAMB.  

She  did  not  tell  him  that  she  could  not  start  reading  again  after  so  many  years.  She  did  not  tell  him  that  their  marriage  was  almost  a  year  old,  and  that  they  should  be  thinking  about  children  that  would  come,  and  not  about  university.  

She  did  not  even  tell  him  about  not  seeing  her  blood,  about  the  warmth  that  had  filled  her  as  she  stripped  in  the  bedroom  and  pressed  her  breasts  to  see  if  they  were  heavy.  Instead  she  smiled,  batted  he  eyelids  and  went  to  the  kitchen  to  cry.

                                                 *** 
He  continued  to  behave  strangely,  returning  late  at  night,  complaining  of  fatigue,  going  outside  to  pick  his  calls.  At  first  she  was  afraid,  then  she  became  frightened,  then  it  became  outright  terror.  

She  started  to  scroll  through  his  phone  whenever  he  was  in  the  bathroom.  She  would  read  his  text  messages  and  check  his  call  history.  No  female  caller.

Somehow  the  neatness  frightened  her,  the  fact  that  there  was  no  female  caller,  the  possibility  that  he  was  being  too  careful,  that  he  was  hiding  something  from  her.

One  night  she  woke  up  to  the  sound  of  his  muffled  voice.  It  was  a  cold  night,  in  the  very  heart  of  December.  Cold  breeze  blew  into  the  room  through  the  mosquito  netting.  

She  had  forgotten  to  shut  the  windows.  She  snuggled  under  some  blankets.  She  stared  at  the  tinge  of  yellow  light  gleaming  in  the  toilet.  Obinze  was  there,  in  the  toilet,  and  he  talked  in  low  tones.  

When  he  emerged  from  the  toilet,  she  saw  surprise  on  his  face,  and  shock.  He  stood  staring  at  her.  Then  he  smiled.  ‘Obim,’  he  said.  ‘You’re  awake.’  

He  climbed  into  bed  and  held  her,  and  later  she  wondered  if  it  was  relief  or  yearning  that  swept  all  the  suspicions  away,  that  made  her  yield  to  his  stirring  touch.

The  next  morning,  the  harmattan  haze  filled  the  sky.  She  stood  on  the  veranda  and  stared  at  the  far,  far  horizon,  at  the  grey  film  that  blurred  it.  

She  thought  of  her  life  in  relation  to  that  horizon,  in  relation  to  the  mist  that  had  suddenly  blurred  it.  When  later  that  day,  she  saw  the  blood  trickling  down  her  thighs,  she  was  not  surprised. 

She  did  not  call  Obinze  before  going  to  the  hospital.  She  did  not  call  him  after  the  doctor  examined  her  and  said  that  the  baby  was  gone.

  She  did  not  call  him  after  she  left  the  hospital  and  went  to  UK’s  house.  She  seemed  to  be  walking  in  a  daze,  seeing  in  parts,  nodding  her  head  as  UK  talked  about her leaving  Obinze.  

She  did  not  notice  that  UK  had  another  shade  of  lipstick  on  today,  a  deep  purple  colour.  Of  course  UK  knew  that  she  could  not  leave  Obinze.  He  was  her  lifeguard.  There  was  nothing  she  could  do  without  him.  Nothing.

UK  reluctantly  dropped  her  off  later  that  night.  He  was  waiting  for  her  outside.  ‘Where  have  you  been?’  he  asked.  She  did  not  reply.  She  simply  walked  into  the  living  room  and  sat  in  a  sofa.  He  came  in  too  and  started  pacing  up  and  down.  ‘I  said, Where  have  you  been?’

‘I  lost  the  baby,’  she  said.  She  was  surprised  at  the  casualness  with  which  those  words  came  out,  in  clear,  unwavering  Igbo.

He  stared  accusingly  at  her.  ‘The  doctor  said  it  was  okay  to  do  it.’  There  was  suspicion  there,  in  the  slight  inflection  of  his  voice.  His  eyes  never  left  her.  ‘What  happened?  What  did  you  do?’

She  glanced  at  him,  casually,  and  looked  away.  Of  course  the  doctor  said  it  was  okay  for  them  to  make  love.  It  was  not  the  lovemaking  that  had  killed  her  baby. 

 It  was  that  other  woman,  that  witch  that  he  was  sleeping  with  behind  her  back.  She  wanted  to  scream  those  words  at  him,  but  her  throat  felt  dry,  far  too  parched  to  make  any  sound. 

 His  phone  rang  first.  He  stared  at  it.  It  rang  for  a  while  and  stopped.  Then  hers  began  ringing.  She  did  not  pick  it.  They  both  stared  at  the  phones  on  the  table.  Afterwards  he  asked,  ‘Who  was  that?’  When  she  did  not  answer,  he  started  pacing  the  living  room  again,  crossing  and  uncrossing  his  hands,  biting  his  lips. 

 Then  he  held  her  and  shook  her  hard.  ‘Who  was  that?’  he  said,  between  clenched  teeth.  ‘What  did  he  do  to  my  baby?  What  has  he  been  doing  to  you?’

She  was  shocked  at  how  quickly  he  had  concluded  that  she  was  sleeping  with  someone  else.  She  tried  to  wriggle  out of  his  hold,  but  it  was  too  firm. 

 Then  her  tongue  unfurled  and  all  the  words  came  tumbling  out,  in  a  speed  that  shocked  even  her.  How  dare  he  accuse  her,  when  his  witch  girlfriend  was  responsible?  She  asked. 

 Who  was  he  to  accuse  her?  She  remembered  the  many  times  he  had  teased  her  about  being  a  village  girl,  about  the  many  times  he  had  asked  her  to  upgrade,  about  the  many  times  he  had  made  her  wear  trousers  that  were  so  tight,  she  felt  naked  in  them.  

She  told  him  about  those  many  times,  and  more,  like  the  nights  when  he  left  her  hanging,  like  his  insensitive  snoring  while  she  fought  with  desire.

He  stopped  holding  her.  It  seemed  like  she  had  thrown  him  a  staggering  blow.  His  mouth  moved,  as  if  to  say  ‘What?’  But  he  made  no  sound.  Instead  he  sank  into  a  sofa,  far  away  from  her,  and  buried  his  face  in  his  hands.

As  she  stared  at  him,  she  thought  of  how  their  relationship  had  always  been  a  peculiar  one,  of  how  it  would  always  be  a  peculiar  one.  Now,  however,  it  was  taking  on  a  new  peculiarity.  This  new  peculiarity  made  her  feel  born  again,  so  full  of  hope,  so  full  of  faith,  like  a  new  wife.

  The End

 (Courtesy naijastories. com)


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