“Hermitism is now my way of life; could I have suddenly lost my once irresistible beauty? Oh God help me”. I was pondering that night as I lay on my bed. Henry, my husband, had abandoned me for almost a month; he had gone away with an unknown mistress. What could have made him abandon effiong and me? The thought of a justification for the sudden abdication of his responsibility knocked me off my feet. Words of his proposal still rang in my ears:”would you marry me my love, I promise to love you forever”. I can’t just imagine why he left unannounced. The first night we shared on that bed was euphoric; he pulled some sexual-stunts that only a man like him could do, for he was the master of lovemaking. I thought of all these, until I drifted off to sleep.
My phone’s beep woke me up the next morning. “Happy birthday darling, wishing you long life and prosperity” my mom jabbered from the other end of the phone. “Thanks, may God bless you ma”.”How is Effiong, hope he is fine”. “Yes, he is at Esther’s place”. “My regards to him, take care, have fun”.”Thank you ma” and she hung up. I was surprised she didn’t ask about Henry. Usually, she would ask about where he was taking me for my birthday. If she had, I would have broken down in tears, grousing about Henry’s estranged behaviours. I was glad I didn’t make a fool of myself. I was expectant, even though Henry hadn’t call all these while, at least he would do today, on my birthday. And I would be waiting to hear his sexy-baritone voice again, voice that drives me crazy all the time.
I got different calls from friends and family, but none yet came from Henry. It saddened me; I never knew it had degenerated to that level, for him not to call me on my birthday. I was regretful, for not creating a scene at his office the other day, when I barged into his office angrily, wanting an explanation about his disappearance from home. But he soothed me and said it was an issue to be discussed at home and not at the office. I reasoned with him because it is bad that he was away from home, the worst would be if I got him sacked. So I tempered justice with mercy. But he never showed up and I never went looking for him again – my banking job had been demanding. I was emotionally drilled, I desperately expected him to call.
I had my bath and dressed up to the nines – trying to look smashing in case he showed up .I was dressing my braided hair in front of the mirror; still wondering why he changed towards me. Henry had been an honest, caring, and kind-hearted man, the only case of indecency I caught him with was with my house-help – I could say I was the cause of it. My Menstrual period could come with serious pains, sometime. At that time of the month, I could be found nagging and intolerable; Henry had to stay off me, sometime, in our guest’s room. I was just coming from toilet, when I had the voice of our house-help. “Uncle, please, no, don’t do this”. I was shocked when entered, I found Henry forcibly spreading her legs.”Henry what is this!” I shouted. He couldn’t look up; he just buried his head in shame: trying to get between the legs of a sixteen-years-old girl was disgraceful.”Honey, I am sorry, I couldn’t hold my libido” he said pitifully. I felt his pain, it had been 7 days since he had me, his sexual appetite must be voracious. I pulled him up from her; he managed to look up at me and promised not do it again. I believed him, because he said it sincerely. I paid the girl off and sent her away; we managed not to make a mess of the situation.
Since then, he had turned a new leaf. Even when he travelled to Abuja, where some people termed as traps for wealthy-married men – babes over there are willing to snatch them from their wives. He was faithful all through: my radar confirmed it, but now he had changed. Could it be because I haven’t been able to give him another child after Effiong, or for my unavailability because of my challenging work? I just wished I could have an answer to all these questions.
Breakfast was due; I left for the kitchen to prepare my meal. Fried-egg and bread was on my mind: so I broke two eggs – whisked them – and then poured them on the frying-pan. The sizzling sound of the frying egg got me pensive again. “The way to a man’s heart, is through his stomach” words of my mom popped into my mind – I am not a super-cook like her. I remembered when she came to stay with us after her surgery; she spent some months with us, for her to recuperate. Those periods were wonderful for my husband, he was always commending mom’s delicacy – I heard he even popped in for lunch, sometime, from work. “Your mother is the sweetest woman” he said excitingly. “And what did you mean by that?” I said slightly irritated. “She is the best cook in world, are you jealous?”, “As-a-matter-of-fact, I am jealous, here is my husband blowing the trumpet of another woman, a woman who runs a restaurant, professionally, in far-away Akwa-ibom ”. “Don’t forget that woman is your mother” he said and chuckled. “Whatever”, we giggled on about mom. I wondered if that mistress of his had enchanted him with such cookery.
I sat in the sitting-room after breakfast. My phone later rang, I ran to the kitchen, where my phone was lying. But I was disappointed over the caller’s ID – it was Esther on line, “Big sister, happy birthday, wishing all the best in life”. “Thanks, I am grateful”. “You are most welcome”. “How is Effiong” I asked tersely. “He is doing great”. “I am sorry I didn’t come to pick him this weekend” I said apologetically. “Not a big deal, you know you can always count on me” she said and hesitated for a while. She then queried about mom: she had been calling her land-line; it rang severally without a response. I advised her to call her mobile number, which was unknown to her because I got it for mom recently. She obliged and requested I send her mom’s number, though she preferred calling her from the luxury of her office-line. “You really like free lunch” I said sarcastically and laughed. I promised to send her number. She was grateful and she hung up.
Boredom had begun to set in, not having something to-do made me really sick, and coincidentally, power from the public mains had been terrible. Even to watch a movie, was an impossible task. Our Family’s album was what kept me busy a little while: seeing the pictures of my family was the most-reliving option. Effiong’s pictures was uplifting, he was a carbon copy of his dad. He’d this dapper-chubby stature of his dad, with a kind of pointed nose like me. It had been 5 years, since he had been born. Seeing him gave me bundles of joy: I was happy to see him grow, because his delivery could have taken away my life.
I flipped through the pages of the album, until I got to a particular picture – that really caught my attention. The picture was taken at Henry’s office, at their end-of-the-year party; I wasn’t there because I had another party at my office. There was this woman in the picture whose face appeared familiar. A closer look at the picture, gave me a bizarre impression: Henry was seated next to her, with his hand on her laps, and her face twinkled with excitement. I then struck a resemblance of her: she was the lady I bopped against at Henry’s office, the last time I was there. There was something more about her I wasn’t sure, so I went searching for an old album to clear the air. I rifled all the room for it: it was in the guest’s room I found it – it was kept in a drawer. My answer wasn’t far-fetched; her picture was found in the second page of the album. She was Tonia, my husband ex-girlfriend. I wondered what she was doing in the picture, because Henry never told me that she works in their company.
Could they be dating again? I questioned myself. Henry had told me about Tonia, before we got married. He said she was his first love, and they had enormous love for each other. They could have been married but for the tribal differences – which their parents were against it. I baffled about their re-union out of wedlock, as I glared at her picture disdainfully. A wrapped sheet fell out of the pages of the album, I picked it up, I discovered another sheets was wrapped in it. The first read: Thanks for making me a woman again. Miss peters. And the other was a result of pregnancy test, which read positive and name peters was also on it. I didn’t know the name Peters, but I felt it was the surname of Tonia. I slung away the papers out of rage, because my beloved husband had been unfaithful. My legs trembled as I lay on the bed, desolate, wondering if he would ever come back to me.
An hour had gone before I came back to life. My phone rang at the sitting-room; I had to go pick it, it had ranged thrice before I picked it, oblivious of who was calling. “Sweetheart, happy birthday” Sherry my friend said in congratulatory tone.” Thank you” I said with my mind somewhere else. It was her latter conversations that interest me. “Why didn’t you tell me you had moved into my neighbourhood, so that I can come visiting”, “Neighbourhood?” I was puzzled at what she said and moved athwart; trying to assure myself that my aural wasn’t playing pranks on me, because her voice had been muffled by network. “You mean you don’t know that your husband moved into an apartment, in No 26 Adesoji Aderemi Street, my area … I have been seeing him for quite some time now”.”He! Yes, actually I haven’t move in with him” I pretended to be aware of it. She sensed my incoherence; she probably knew I was pretending and that my husband hadn’t been communicating – she said “ok, bye” and dropped immediately after then. “Sherry! Sherry! I laughed and quickly wrote down the address. Sherry had always been a talkative, but that time, I owed her one, because she had given me valuable information. Since I knew where he was; I had to go fight for him. My face twinkled with excitement.
It was next morning I arrived at the locality. I waited at the kerb patiently, until I found a loop-hole – the gate-man left hurriedly, leaving the gate open. Luckily for me, the entrance to the bungalow was also opened; I just strolled through opened-door without any harassment. When Henry saw me, he was shocked. Before he could utter any word, “Who is there?” a woman hollered from one the room and plodded into the room.
”Mom! Oh my God – so it is you”, I said and trembled with disbelief. Everything became clear on me; mom was the Miss Peters, Peters was her father’s name. I remembered she used to tease men at the restaurant that she now Miss peters, since her husband was late – no wonder, Esther couldn’t reach her on land-line. Looking at woman who trained us single-handedly, I felt nothing but anger.” Mom so you stole my husband from me, I said tearfully … even if your old engine was rusty and it needed some oiling, couldn’t you get an old hag like you to fix it”. “Do you realised you are talking to your mother” Henry interrupted. “And so what, So what! You this son of the devil! You are so full of abomination, so you have been screwing my mother under my nose … oh God, this too much me…I broke into more tears, tell me it is all a dream”. None of them could say anything; mom just buried her face in shame. I summoned courage and then pointed to mom’s pregnancy. “Listen to me you this worthless woman, let’s see how you will give birth to this bastard in your stomach, because I would make you the mockery of the world” I said without respect and barged out on them.
When Esther heard about it, she was disgusted, she couldn’t help but sympathised with me. The letter I got a week later was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It came from Henry and it read: Emem, I am sorry for the pains I put you through, it was unintentional. I just wanted to let you know this: by the time you are reading this letter, I would be in UK with your mom. Also, Please be informed that when you had effiong, the doctor discover that your womb had been badly infected, so he suggested that we removed me. The family agreed unanimously, to save your life, so it is impossible for you to conceive again. It is painful and unfortunate that this secret had to be revealed at this moment, but before you condemn me, I want you to know that all I did, I did it for love. Thanks, yours forever, Henry. When I read it, it was as if I was drowning in a Deep Ocean. I cried for many days, because right now, I am lost on the next step to take to salvage something out of the broken pieces of my life. Is this destiny? Or Perhaps I could have saved the situation if things were done differently? These are questions I fear may remain unanswered for a long time.