The next morning, Mina felt her husband nudging her awake and groggily, she rolled over from her stomach to her back. “We need to talk,” Baridi said, as he got up from the bed. Walking to the light switch beside the bedroom door, he flipped it and the room became bright.
“Can’t it wait?” Mina responded with the beginnings of a frown on her face. Looking at the wall clock in their room, she continued, “I need to sleep for two more hours before I have to get ready for work.”
Coming over to her side of the bed, Baridi sat and looking at his wife, said, “I’m sorry that I’m waking you now but I think that this is the best time for us to talk. I’m sure the week would be very busy for both of us as we have to go to work. I don’t think it’s in our best interests to start the week fighting with each other when we might not have the time to make up till the weekend.”
Sighing deeply, Mina said, “Baridi, we could have talked about this last night but you blew me off, remember?”
“I’m sorry about that, okay. I just hate it when I can’t explain how feel about anything without you jumping at me.”
Mina sat up and replied, “I wasn’t jumping at you. I was angry because I had seen you stare at me like you didn’t like what you were looking at and I wanted to be sure that I had only misunderstood you. Yet, you completely denied ever looking at me in such a manner and insisted that I had been imagining things. The only thing that would make me agree to stay awake for any discussion is if you were to be honest about what that was all about.”
Baridi was silent for a while. He sighed deeply and said, ‘I’ve been awake for about thirty minutes thinking about the events of last night and I finally admitted to myself that you may have seen such a look on my face.” At the raised eyebrow Mina directed his way, he held up his right hand and said, “Please wait a minute, let me finish. Whatever look there had been on my face then, it hadn’t been intentional. That was probably why I didn’t know what you were on about last night.”
“And what was it about?”
“Babe, this is hard to talk about because you get so defensive anytime I try to discuss it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night, when you walked in front of me, you looked familiar but you didn’t look like my Mina.”
At Mina’s look of confusion, Baridi said, “Babe, since you had Sotonye, you’ve changed so much. You look completely different from the lady I met, fell in love with and married.”
Trying to inject some humour into a discussion he already knew would get tense, Baridi smiled and added, “You’re the lawyer so you have a better understanding about contracts than I do but this feels like a breach of contract to me.”
Not in the least bit amused, Mina asked quietly, “How exactly do you mean?”
“You lost all the baby fat less than three months after having Soprinye and you looked amazing. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for you to even try to do that now, especially as there’s a lot more to you than ever before.”
“Quit beating about the bush, abeg. You’re saying that I’m fat now, right?”
Rubbing both hands down his face, Baridi said, “This is exactly the reason I don’t talk about this with you. You get all defensive about it. I’m trying to have a reasonable conversation with you and…”
“What’s so reasonable about a conversation aimed at putting me down, Baridi?” Mina said, cutting him off. “Have you looked at yourself lately in a mirror? That little pouch on your belly certainly wasn’t there when I met you, fell in love with you and agreed to marry you, was it? I may have pregnancy as an excuse for how I look now. What’s your excuse?”
“Now, you’re being ridiculous, Mina,” Baridi said dismissively, self-consciously rubbing his belly. “Who’s talking about me, anyway?”
“I’m talking about you, Baridi. You’ve dished out these overt and subtle insults about my body for too long for me not to take a good look at yours. You had the semblance of a flat tummy way back in day. Where is it now? When I shopped for you after Sotonye’s birth, I noticed that you’ve gone up a size. Why is that? You talk to me about a breach of contract. Didn’t you have a full head of hair on the day we got married? What’s with the receding hairline that you now camouflage by going clean-shaven? Why exactly do you think you can get away with any changes in your appearance and I can’t?”
“You certainly have been taking note of all the changes in me but you’ve never said anything. That’s really interesting because you didn’t sound, just now, like you liked any of them.”
“You miss my point, entirely!” Mina exclaimed, exasperatedly. “They are not changes in you but changes in your body. There is a world of difference between the two. And the reason I have never said a word about them to you before today is because they are only minor changes and have absolutely nothing to do with who you are. You’re still the man I fell in love with, agreed to marry and the father of my children. That, to me, is more important than how you look now. I’ve noticed the extra inches on your waist and the body that is no longer as toned as it used to be when you were younger and very interested in sports. However, I neither dwell on them nor make them something to fixate over. In my mind, you’re still the most handsome man ever so why do my extra inches make me less beautiful in yours?”
After staying silent for a while, Baridi responded, “I don’t have the gift of gab like you do so I might not be able to explain this perfectly. Mina, I think you’re still very beautiful as you are but I think you’d be even more so if you got back to your pre-pregnancy weight. You’re not so much bigger than you were before so I know it won’t be a big deal for you to lose the extra. Can you do it for me, please?”
“You’re right, Baridi. I’m not too far away from how I looked before. That’s why I don’t understand why you’re exerting so much pressure on me about my weight. Honestly, I don’t get it!”
“Babe, let me give you a simple example. You’ve always loved wearing shorts at home. I don’t remember seeing you in a pair lately. I’ve missed seeing the confidence you’ve always exuded, knowing that your body was near-perfect,” Baridi said gently, reaching out to hold Mina’s hands in his.
“Mina,” he continued, “I work in an industry in which there are a lot of females of all ages, sizes and shapes and the knowledge that my wife is a hottie, always made me it easy for me to resist any form of temptation or attraction to any one of them. It’s not been as easy lately, though.”
Mina pulled her hands away and shifted away from her husband and quietly asked, “What exactly are you saying? That I’m not good enough for you anymore? Are you attracted to someone else?”
“No, I honestly am not, Mina. But, it’s hard not to be because all around me, I see women that remind me of how you used to look. For the sake of my sanity, I want that Mina back. That’s all I’m saying.”
Reeling with hurt, Mina shook her head, at a loss for words. She turned away from Baridi and lay down with her back to him. She reached down to pull the duvet up to her chest.
“Don’t be like that, Mina,” Baridi pleaded. “I’m not sure if I explained accurately, what I meant. I was only trying to tell you, as honestly as I could, how I felt. Would you have preferred it if I pretended I didn’t want to see some changes?”
“Please, leave me alone,” Mina murmured. “I really can’t deal with this, right now.”
Adaora went to the door on the sound of the doorbell. She was expecting her friends for lunch so she guessed that it was one of them. When she looked through the peephole to be sure, she saw that it was Mina. Opening the door, she exclaimed, “Wow!” before drawing her friend close for a quick hug.
Mina was wearing a cobalt-coloured jumpsuit. It was strapless with some ruching at the top and had a mid-calf length. She was wearing a pair of strappy, high-heeled pink sandals and had a beaded purse in the same colour. The long, curly weave she had on was swept to one side of her head and held in place by a pink flower hair clip.
“You look absolutely stunning, Mina!” Adaora exclaimed, looking her friend over.
“Thank you, darling,” Mina said, beaming.
As they walked into the living room, Adaora asked, “Has it been that long since we saw each other? You seem to have lost a tremendous amount of weight or are my eyes deceiving me?”
“No, you’re right, jare. I’m on my way to becoming a hottie again, according to my husband” Mina said, laughing, as she sat on one of the sofas. “I have not only gone back to my pre-pregnancy weight, I have lost a little bit more too.”
“Hmmm…” Adaora said, sitting down beside her friend and twisting her body so she could face Mina.
“What’s does that mean?” Mina asked with a frown.
“You looked just fine before you got pregnant and now, you actually seem a bit skinny.”
“Na wa for you, madam. The first thing you said to me was that I looked great. In the space of a few minutes, I now look a bit skinny. Make up your mind, abeg.”
“You do look a bit skinny, really,” Adaora maintained. “You’re tall and have always been able to carry off more flesh on your bones, very beautifully.” Shaking her head from side to side, she continued, “This look… mba. It doesn’t suit you at all.”
“First, I was orobo and now that I’ve done something about it, you still think it’s not good enough. Abeg, make I dey go house.”
“Make I hear word, jor, drama queen. You just got here anyway,” Adaora said, impatiently. Lowering her voice she asked, “I’m concerned, that’s all.”
“What exactly are you concerned about?” Mina asked and when Adaora only stared at her, she said, “I’m wiser now, Ada.”
“Really? So, tell me how you lost so much weight. Zuky and I had lunch with you barely three weeks ago and you certainly didn’t look this way.
“Where’s Zuky, by the way?”
“She has an appointment with her doctor. That’s not what I asked you, though?”
“I hope she’s alright.”
“Yes, she is. She couldn’t go for her routine antenatal visit during the week so she decided to pop in today to see her doctor before coming over. Quit changing the subject, Mina. How did you lose so much weight in such a short period?”
“I started working out, like you suggested.”
“I don’t think that just working out would have given you these results so quickly. What else are you doing?”
“Do I have to be doing anything else?” Mina asked, looking away from Adaora’s intense gaze.
“Mina, what’s going on?” Adaora asked quietly.
Almost rebelliously, Mina looked at Adaora and said, “I’m not nursing Sotonye anymore.”
“Really? I thought… Never mind that. How does stopping breastfeeding relate to an extra-skinny Mina?”
“Yeah, I know I said that I would nurse her till she’s at least nine months. She’s thriving on infant formula and I’ve started her on a few solids too but I feel so guilty for stopping earlier than I had planned to. But…”
“But, what?” Adaora said when Mina kept silent.
“Ada, you have to understand, I needed to do something drastic, to save my marriage. Baridi was already talking about the possibility of getting attracted to someone else and I didn’t want that happening.”
“What’s going on, Mina and what have you done?”
After the argument Mina had with Baridi, five weeks earlier, about her changed looks, the next few days had been tense in their household as Mina had avoided Baridi as much as she could. They had still slept on the same bed but could have been in separate rooms for all the attention she had paid him. Any night he had reached out to her, she had coldly rebuffed him. In those days, whenever Mina got back from work, she made sure to quickly get Baridi’s dinner ready. As soon as he returned from work, Mina quickly served his meal and to avoid talking with her husband, quickly went upstairs to their room.
One day at work, she had gone for lunch with a colleague of hers, who had just come back from maternity leave.
“Tayo, you look amazing! No one would believe that you have three children and they would certainly not believe that one of them is a three-month old,” Mina had said as soon as they sat down on a table. “Biko, share the secret. I’m still struggling to lose weight six months after having Sotonye and I was even slimmer than you before.”
“My sister, I no wan make Lagos babes snatch my husband, abeg,” Tayo had replied, rolling her eyes. “A lot of these girls don’t care if a man is married so as a woman, you have to protect your turf well, make your man no stray.”
“Tayo, I think about that all the time now o! But, wetin I go do, naa? My body seems to be having a love affair with any fat that enters into it, so much that they cling to each other. I’ve drastically cut down on my food portions, yet, all I achieve with that is this constant feeling of faintness. I’m still breastfeeding too so that doesn’t help matters because the craving for food is so much a lot of the time.”
“Na wa for you o!” Tayo had said. “Na you dey cause problems for yourself, naa. Jide is barely three months and I haven’t nursed him for almost a month o!” At the open-mouthed look Mina had given her, Tayo said defensively, “My sister, a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I gain weight while breastfeeding so I usually stop early so that I can safely start a diet without worrying about the effect it’ll have on my babies. When I’m away at work, they take formula so completely stopping nursing at two months is not such a big deal. I just replace with infant formula.”
“Hmmm. So, what kind of diet have you been on?” Mina had curiously asked.
“A friend of mine is a distributor for a company that sells herbal weight loss products. I could hook you up with her.”
“You take diet pills? Those are not safe.”
“They’re herbal supplements, my sister and are completely natural. So, there’s nothing unsafe about them. I don’t need to work out while taking them so I have something that is absolutely perfect for me as I hate all manner of exercises. They really work so…”
That conversation had stayed on Mina’s mind the entire day. Tayo had given her the name of the company and while researching their products on the internet, Mina had read wonderful testimonials from other users and had become convinced.
When Baridi came home that evening, to his surprise and relief, she had a hug and a wide smile for him. Mina had made his favourite meal and they had dinner together.
Later, drifting off to sleep in her husband’s arms, she had thought, No way am I losing you to Lagos girls.