They got married at Nsukka in the middle of the year. They were the perfect couple. He was a handsome and talented young man, and the man of the campus. She was beauty on her own. People even said she was more beautiful than any mammy water could be. They had smiling faces on that hot Saturday in Nsukka.
They took a lot of pictures. They used the best reception hall in the dusty town of Nsukka. The happiness was there, the love was there, and the money was also there. His father had promised them a furnished flat in Lagos, and her father had promised them a car. Everything went on fine. Promises were made, advices were given. Aunty Ijeoma told them to desist from fighting. “Emeka, don’t ever beat your wife,” she had said. Uncle Emma told them to avoid adultery. “You can have all the sex you want at home,” he had said. Papa and Mama wished them a fruitful marriage with many many children. “I want to have my grandchildren in my hands soon,” Mama had said, drawing her ears.
Patience thought of this as she looked helplessly at her fifteen-years-old child who was about to die. She looked at her hands, wrinkles were forming on them. How time flies, she thought. She turned her face to her only child who screamed in pains and held her stomach. She touched her face, her face was clammy. She had cried for a long time. How wicked the people of the world are, oh, how wicked. She lamented, placed her arms on her head. She stretched her legs, and her mind wandered off.
“Witch!” her mother-in-law yelled one evening that she came visiting. “Only God knows what you used on my son. Amosu, mammy water!” The old woman untied her wrappers and tied it again.
The room was hot, Patience could tell. Her head spurn round and round, thousands of monsters were eating deep into her brain. She stood and watched Emeka’s mother lift her arms in the air, the veins in her neck stretched out and her head got bigger.
“Look at you, only God knows how many abortions you had before you married my son. Girls of these days who waste their wombs even before they get married.” Her mother-in-law gave a loud hiss. Her wrapper untied itself, and Patience watched her tied it again, this time she made sure it was tight. “See, it is done. I can no longer bear your barrenness. It is about time you left my son’s house.” She picked up her handbag from the glass table and stumped out of the house.
Patience was dumbfounded. She stared at the high ceiling, and she watched as the ceiling fan rolled round and round. She hissed. She tried to lift her legs, but they were too heavy for her. She tried her arms, and her arms failed her, too. She heaved as she was glued to that spot.
It had been twelve years since they got married, still there was no child. When it was five years with no child, it was better. Tongues started to wag that time from both sides of the marriage. Her people told her to persuade her husband so they could go for test. His people began to talk of the possibility of her having no womb. Some of his people even began to say she had as many as ten abortions as a young lady. She was annoyed by what they said, but she did nothing. Emeka was by her side all those times supporting her, and he promised he would never leave her. The love was still there.
“Ah, Emeka, God will punish you!” Patience said. She groaned in the hospital. She made to get up, when she heard her daughter steer on the bed. She ran over to her, and she ran her wet palms over her daughter’s face. Her daughter’s face had thinned so much.
Her daughter turned her face exhaustedly toward her. Her eyes were sullen. She lifted her bony arm to Patience, and Patience grabbed the arm as if she would drop it if not supported. “Mummy,” her daughter said. Her voice was so weak and tired. “Please forgive me, Mummy. I am the one who caused you all these pains.” She coughed a throaty and heavy cough. “Do not blame Daddy, instead blame me. Tell Daddy that I have forgiven him …”
“Stop this, Amara.” Patience cut in calmly. “You are not the cause of anything. Your Daddy is the cause of it. How can you even forgive your Daddy even after all he has done to us?”
“Mummy, please tell Daddy that I have forgiven him.” Tears began to run down her daughter’s cheek, and she began to sniffle. Patience couldn’t fight back her own tears as she watched the only love in her life suffer. If only Amara could understand. If only she was there seventeen years ago, then she would understand.
Patience was a Catholic by birth and by faith, brought up in the Catholic way. Emeka was also a Catholic. All the time that they sought a child, they only trusted their faith and orthodox and herbal medicine. They went to one Catholic prayer group to another, and they took any medicine that anyone prescribed could bring fertility, but all to no avail. Emeka in the thirteenth year of their marriage suggested they tried our potent gods, as he had put it. Patience was tired of going to church everyday, and shuttling down to Enugu and Nsukka for the Catholic night vigils every weekend, so she bought the suggestion. She took the chaplet and threw it away in the toilet bowl. She tore out the bible pages and kept it in the toilet for toilet paper. She took the picture of Jesus Christ and shattered it at the back yard. She also took the holy statues from the family altar and set them ablaze.
They visited one Baba in Sagamu. Baba was the priest of a goddess, whom people believed was the goddess of fertility. They went to him and laid down their problem before him. He nodded his head and said their problem was too small for his goddess. He said that the goddess would solve their problem in a twinkle of an eye. They thanked him. He told them to bring a white fowl and cook a meal and buy drinks for the spirit children, it was those spirit children who would intercede on their behalf. They thanked him again and wanted to leave, but he said wait. He said Patience had to carry the items at the middle of the night and drop them at the road junction. Patience went weak at her knees. And also, he warned them that this child they would have would be Patience’s only child, and so, it was forbidden for them to break up as long as the child was alive, or else something bad would happen to the child. Patience became doubtful of this alternate solution to their problem as they thanked Baba and left the shrine.
Patience said she wasn’t going to do that. “Tufiakwa, I will not do that!” she said when they got home. “And look, he said this child will be our only child. Don’t you even see that he gave conditions? What if I have the child and the child dies?”
“Be optimistic, the child will be a strong and vibrant child, nothing will happen to him,” Emeka said. Patience looked at him and saw the plea and hope in his eyes. Emeka had built up hope. He had even concluded that the child would be a boy.
“What if the child dies?” Patience asked.
“Nothing will happen to him,” Emeka said. Emeka had built up hope and believed the child would be a boy, so Patience also built up hope and believed more strongly that the child would turn out a boy.
When Amara was conceived, and everyone knew she was pregnant, there was joy all over the place. She was pampered and cared for by her family, his family and their neighbors. No one wanted any harm to come on the child. There was joy, but the couple never told anyone of how the child came.
When Amara was born, the couple was disappointed it turned out a girl. Emeka was more disappointed than Patience. Our gods were not that potent after all. Patience loved the child nevertheless. Emeka loved the child at first, it meant that no one would bear his father’s name, but it meant nothing. Things went on smoothly. For the ten years the child lived, things went on in the family well. But things changed when Amara turned eleven. Patience had been daring this never to happen.
Emeka began to come home with the scent of female perfume, sometimes, he came home with lipstick paint on his lips or his cheeks, and Patience always saw the picture of a young boy who looked like Emeka in his trousers’ pocket. Patience began to die inside of her. She asked him, and Emeka dismissed the allegation that he was cheating and he had mistress with a child outside. Patience did not believe him. She had to investigate it herself.
It was raining on the day Emeka threw Patience and her daughter out of the house. Amara was thirteen, and Emeka’s other son was six. While his son with his mother was seated in the sitting room watching TV, Emeka threw out Patience in the rain. Patience did not cry that night, she only consoled her daughter who cried and begged her father not to throw them out.
“Go away,” Emeka said. “Amara, you are begging me not to throw your mummy out? Then ask her if she is not a witch. Every day, she wants to harm my son. Are you jealous, is it because you can’t give me a son?” Patience watched Emeka’s face, which was covered with bubbles of the rain water. This angered her. She took her daughter and walked out of the house.
It was when Amara turned fourteen and she began to fall sick that Patience remembered the warning of Baba. “And so, you are forbidden to break up as long as she is alive, or something bad will happen to her.” This rang in her head over and over again. She went to the Baba to see if there was a way of skipping the catastrophe that may befall Amara, but the Baba had died. Patience almost ran mad. She went to Emeka and told him to remember what Baba had told them, Emeka told her to go to hell with her damned daughter. She ran back to church and visited one pastor to another, yet the condition of her only child got worse. She visited other priests of other gods, but they could do nothing to save the girl. She even went to Emeka’s family and confessed how the child was conceived and the catastrophe that would befall Amara if she was not accepted again by Emeka. Emeka’s family did nothing other than to call her a witch and put the blame on her. She cursed them. She cursed the generation unto the nineteenth generation of Emeka and his family. She cursed the day she met him. She cursed the day Emeka was born.
“Mummy, please forgive Daddy. I will ask God to bless you with another child,” Amara said. She coughed. She was too weak and sick. It was the little strength left in her that she said these words. “Remember the woman that gave birth at sixty, you can also give birth to children.”
Patience wiped away the tears on her cheeks. She was now fifty-five, how would she be able to bear another child? She watched as her daughter told her with her last breath to find another man and marry, that she will ask God to break the covenant of Baba. Amara told her mother to kiss her. Patience kissed her and left her lips there as she felt Amara’s skin get cold, and her body stiffened.