I hung up.
I folded the cell phone so tightly inside my palms. As much as I didn’t want to hear my mothers preaching, the thought of my child made my stomach twitch. I clutched my stomach, the place where some months ago, I was battling to let hope out for air. I began to feel light headed. I walked slowly, relying on the other couch close by for support as I got to where Daniel was.
When he saw me, his legs automatically left the floor. He rushed to my side.
“Whoa, whoa , are you okay?” He asked, placing his arms around my shoulders, he led me to a chair.
“Water,” I called out in an hoarse voice. I was having a panic attack. I was fighting for air.
“Jesus, just calm down. Just breathe okay? I’ll go get the water.”
He stopped half way and turned around. I waved him off, urging him to be fast about it.
“The last time I saw a woman have a panic attack was with Tolu, the day she found of she was pregnant again with her second—”
I held on tightly to the cup of water he handed me.
“Please don’t say anything…”
“But I’m only trying to calm you down and—”
“I said don’t say anything! Don’t try, just shut up!”
“Are you kidding me right now?”
He stared at me for an explanation to whatever was wrong with my sudden change of attitude. He wasn’t going to get anything from me. I sipped on the cup of water I was holding on dearly to. He hissed and walked off.
What was I thinking, that was what my mother asked me. Running away wasn’t going to help anything. My fingers began to shake. I had made up my mind, planing and planing that staying away from everyone and my life in France was the best answer to my problems. I thought I had the heart to go through with it, to leave my suckling child forever.
As I thought about my wicked act, I became stronger. I needed to see it through. Nigeria was slowly becoming the most desirable place on earth for me and it was nothing like France.
I got myself together. I knocked on Tolu’s door. Daniel opened the door. He didn’t look at me. Tolu got up from the bed she was sitting in. She looked jumpy as she came to me. Pretending as if her brother hadn’t spoken to her about my behavior, she said,
“Let’s have some breakfast now, I’m hungry. I’m sure you are too.” she led me out of the room back into the living room.
She handed me a bowl of freshly cooked rice.
She served Daniel his food too. I knew he was angry. He chewed his food ever so slowly. He kept an intimidating eye on me. I tried focusing on something else as we all ate. No one said a thing. This family was either extremely strong or waiting for me to break down.
As if Daniel couldn’t take the heat of my silence any longer, he said, “So you’re just not going to say a thing about what happened back there abi?” He spoke in an accusatory tone.
“Daniel!” his sister called, begging him with her eyes to stop.
“What? Does she think I’m her mate? Do you know the way she spoke to me back there?” He hissed as he continued with his meal.
“Haba naw, you suppose understand. Biko. Just leave her alone.” Tolu stared at me sympathetically. “Eat your food okay?”
“I can’t deal with you women right now.” He dropped his bowl of rice on the table and walked out.
“Daniel,” his sister called out. “You better come and finish this food oo, I don’t have lunch to give you today.”
“I get it, you don’t want to talk about it but you shouldn’t have spoken to him like that. Daniel can be really playful, but when he’s vexed ehn, there’s really nothing I can do about it.”
The last thing on my mind was Daniels feelings. “I will speak to him later.”
I wanted to be left alone and Tolu understood. When her daughter came back from school, the bond between mother and child made my my stomach burn. Was this all what I was missing staying back here in Nigeria? I asked myself, watching as Tolu helped her daughter out of her uniform.
“Ola, you will not disturb aunty today, she is very tired okay?”
The little girl frowned.
“Aunty are you okay?” she came towards me.
“Of course.” I answered, playing with her hair.
The rest of the day went by like a breeze. I lived that day like a feather, weightless, powerless against my suffering heart.
At about 6 pm, Tolu’s husband strolled in.
“My food.” he ordered. He looked past me as if he didn’t see me sitting on the couch in front of him. He sat down, pulling his shirt off. He oozed of cigarette smoke and alcohol.
“Where is the food? I have somewhere I need to go.”
“But you just came in.” Tolu replied nervously, as she pulled a small stool in front of her husband and laid down the tray of food on it.
“and so? Since when do you start controlling my movements?”
“I’m sorry.” she relied. He opened the first bowl of food. He hissed.
“The same thing every day.”
“It was Daniel that gave me the money for it, I wanted to buy more meat but—”
“Get out.” he said so carelessly.
“Okay.” Tolu said, embarrassed. She didn’t once look at me. Her husband was a shameless prick, humiliating a wife who at least found food to fill his alcohol filled stomach.
“Oh one more thing, this aunty helped pay for Ola’s school fees.”
He rapidly washed his hands, leaving his food, he stood up.
“So we are beggars now huh?”
Tolu said nothing, she kept her head down in front of him.
“When I’m talking to you, you look at me!” He forced her jaw up. I was boiling in my seat. Anticipating when to act.
“I’m sorry.” she whispered.
“You’re sorry?” he asked, just as he slapped her hard on her face. Tolu’s feet failed her, she dropped to the floor.
I raced up, just in time for little Ola to come in.
“Ola go and get your uncle.” I said panicking. She yielded to my request and rushed outside.
“Oh let her die. She’s been doing this, no be today… and don’t you dare touch her.” The man hissed, kicking his wife hard on her stomach.
Tolu cried out in pain. Her complained about the meal he didn’t get to finish, he complained about his bike no longer working because of his wife’s witchcraft or whatever he called it. This ungrateful man complained about everything that was possibly wrong with him except his unborn child and wife.
“The baby,” Tolu whispered. “I think his coming?”
Just then, her husband who had lite up a cigar looked at me and for the first time, I saw fear in his eyes. He stepped away from her and I quickly took the chance.
“What the hell is going on?”
Daniel rushed in. As soon as Daniel saw his sister on the floor, he raised up his fist at the husband.
The man backed away as Daniel launched forward. Escaping Daniel’s punch, he ran out.
“Daddy, please don’t go.” Ola screeched in tears, holding on to her father’s trousers.
I watched her cry, begging her father to stay. He swung the leg his daughter was holding on too and she lost her balance.
I realized that a troubled man will keep on running, no matter how loud his daughter’s cries become.