As is my custom, I don’t post on weekends, therefore, the series will continue on Monday.
“The engine took a while to start this morning.” I say to Dayo, rubbing my sore foot.
Dayo looks up from his phone and frowns. “I thought you just serviced the engine.”
“I did o, I was so confused! Thank God it eventually started.”
He shakes his head in despair and I know what he’s thinking. We need a new car. We’ve been using our 2002 Toyota Corolla for the past seven years. Luckily, Dayo drives his company’s truck to aid his sales job so I can drive the children to school with our family car. In recent times however, we’ve had to repair it several times.
“Should I take a car loan?” he asks tiredly.
“It’s tempting Dayo but you know that we are already in debt as it is. Let’s not make things worse.”
“What happens if the car breaks down in the middle of the road? I wouldn’t want you to be pushing the car in traffic.”
“We can’t afford it Dayo.” I reply wearily, it’s the bitter truth.
He exhales and sits up. I out down my foot and fold my hands, I’m about to tell him something and I’m not sure how he would respond.
“We need to change the boys’ school. We can’t afford it Remi.” He says just as I open my mouth to speak.
I roll my eyes in frustration. “Dayo, I’ve told you that’s not an option. Look at all the progress that they’ve made in the last one year! Do you honestly want us to stop it because we want to buy a new car?”
“It’s not just about buying a new car Remi. We are constantly in debt! The house rent is due in three months and we don’t even have half of it saved up…!”
“We can’t change their school Dayo. If we can’t give the boys the best education they can get what’s the point in buying a car or renting a nice house…?”
“So you want us to move out of this house?”
“If we have to…”
“Remi! Forget it. We can still afford this house if the school fees are not so high!”
“Barely Dayo, we can barely afford it!”
“Well I’m not going to live in a rowdy environment because I want to send my children to an expensive school…”
“It’s not just an expensive school…!”
“Whatever! I’m not going to move out of this house because…”
“Will you just calm down! You’re shouting!” I look at the door and wonder if the boys have heard us arguing.
He sits down and holds his head in his hands. I can see his body trembling slightly, he is reaching his breaking point. This man I love is burdened beyond measure.
“We are sacrificing too much for the school fees. We can’t continue like this.” He says wearily.
“This house is more than we can afford. It’s always been more than we can afford. I told you this from the very first time you brought it up.” I counter.
“Remi, this house is off-limits. If we have to leave Gbagada, we’re moving to Lekki. I cannot add the stress of being in traffic coming home to the stress of driving all day to do my job.”
“But you’re not driving as much as you used to. I thought you said that you have younger guys running most of the errands for you now…”
“I’m not leaving this house. I can’t sacrifice this. I’m sorry.”
We are quiet for a while, each of us trying to cool down from the heat of our conversation. I can’t believe that this house is more important to Dayo than the future of our boys. What happened to the selflessness of parenthood? I lean forward and stare at my wedding rings.
“I got an offer today… from a multinational company.” I take a deep breath in and exhale. “The job is in Kenya. They want me to join their research team on a project… It’s going to be for two months. They’re willing to pay one million naira, exclusive of travel and accommodation expenses.”
“And what did you tell them?”
“I told them to give me some time to consider it.”
“What happens to your job?”
“I’ll tell them I need to go on a training, extended leave… something! My salary for two months isn’t even up to half a million!”
“So you want to take the offer?”
“Dayo! We need this money! Besides, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to get a better job. If I impress them, they might actually consider making me an offer.”
“I know you will miss me and you will have to take care of the boys alone for two months, but if this opportunity came for you I wouldn’t even consider it. I’d support you all the way. We need this!”
“Can I think about it?” he asks.
I’m baffled. What is there to think about?
“Okay.” I mutter and go into the bathroom.
Bimbo Martins as she insisted I call her, invited us for her son, Tola’s birthday party. I’ve dressed the boys up as best as I can, happy that they would have some fun and lead them downstairs.
“Mummy, I’m hungry.” Dotun says.
“Don’t worry you will eat at the party.” I reassure him.
Children are already jumping on the bouncing castle, munching on small chops and gyrating comically to the dancehall beats blaring from the speakers. The Martins have outdone themselves with the party. There are colorful balloons everywhere, game stands, drinks, sizzling barbecue on the grill and impeccably dressed people sitting in clusters. I’m glad that I dressed up considerably well, in spite of the fact that the party is in my compound. Tomiwa and Dotun hold on to my hand, I can tell that they feel out of place.
“You guys should go and have fun.” I say enthusiastically to them.
“But we don’t know anybody.” Tomiwa replies.
“See Mummy Sikemi’s children. Go and play with them.”
They run off to join our neighbour’s daughters who are seated quietly by themselves, obviously also feeing out of place. I seek Bimbo out and see her standing by the popcorn machine.
“Hi! Ah ah! Nawa for you o! I’ve been wondering when you would join us.”
“I’m sorry. I was trying to finish up some housecleaning.”
“Why can’t you get someone to do it for you? You go out all week and then you clean the house by the weekend. Don’t you get tired?”
As if I don’t know this.
“I do o, but I enjoy it you know, and I like to clean my home myself. I don’t think I would be satisfied if someone else cleans for me.”
“Wait until Monday cleans your house! The guy is so good at what he does, it’s unbelievable. Sometimes I pay him five thousand.”
“For a month?”
“No o!” she laughs. “For a day. He comes thrice a week.”
I do a quick calculation. Fifteen thousand naira a week, sixty thousand naira a month.
“That’s not bad.” I say as convincingly as possible.
“Madam, we need more sugar o!” the man behind the popcorn maker says.
“Oh! Please excuse me, I need to get the sugar immediately. I’ll be back soon.”
We don’t get to continue our conversation and at the end of the party, I realize that Tola’s gift is still in my hand.
I’m seated in the home of the Martins later a few hours later trying hard not to gawk at the glamour of the room. It is tastefully furnished in peach and cream color themes. Kola and Fola are watching cartoon on a 42 inches LED TV and eating ice cream with candy toppings. I think of the storybook I bought as a present for Tola and wonder if I should have even bothered to bring it.
Just then Mr Martins comes into the room.
“Sorry madam, she’s downstairs, seeing her friends off…”
“Oh!” I spring to my feet. “I thought she was home. I just wanted to drop this for Tola.”
“Oh thank you.” he replies, flashing his milky white teeth and taking the present from my hand.
“Please greet her for me.” I manage to say without stuttering.
“I will. Kids say good night to Mrs….”
“Ige.” I reply in response to the puzzled look on his face.
“Goodnight ma.” they reply without looking away from the TV.
On my way out, the electricity goes out and I trip on something.
“Ow!” I yell in pain.
Suddenly I feel his hand around my arm.
“Are you alright madam? Sorry… Blessing! Put on the inverter now!” he yells impatiently at the maid.
The lights come on a few seconds later and I look at the ground. I tripped on a toy truck and have sprained my ankle a bit.
“Are you alright?” he asks, holding my arm when I limp as I walk. “Maybe I should put some ice on it. Ble…“
“No no no…!” it still hurts to walk, but I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with his touch. “I’m fine. I’ll go and take care of it at home. Thank you sir.”
I still feel his touch on my arm as I walk into my own flat. Dayo is searching for something on the dining table with a torch, a tooth pick is dangling from his lips. He raises his hand to scratch his stubble and I notice how tired he looks for the first time. He’s never been a particularly handsome man but tonight he looks older, weak, and unattractive.
“Have you given them the present?” he asks nonchalantly, eyes fixed on the table.
He hasn’t noticed that I’m limping, he’s searching the table frantically.
“What are you looking for?”
“The keys to the generator.”
“They’re on the fridge.”
“Why can’t you leave things where I put them?” he asks irritably, walking away.
It’s dark in the siting room, I feel for a chair and sit down gingerly. My ankle still hurts, and as I bend down to massage it, the memory of Mr Martins holding my arm fills my mind.
Dayo returns shortly, hissing and sitting with a huff beside me.
“The generator is not coming on.”
“Ah ah, why? But we used it last night.”
“We need to call the generator guy.”
“We need a new generator guy, I don’t think that guy knows what he’s doing.”
“And you came to this conclusion because it’s not working now?” he asks derisively.
“No, I’ve just been observing him and I think…”
“So now you know about generators?”
“Dayo what’s the problem, why the sarcasm?” I’m genuinely confused by his response to me.
“I’m not in the mood for this tonight.” He rises from the chair and heads towards the room.
Should I ask him for that foot rub now?