Helen sat on the bed beside her husband wiping her eyes. “I want to ask you a question and I want you to be truthful with me.”
“Do you think I’m nosy and judgemental?”
“Where is that coming from? Did Olayinka say that to you?”
“Answer the question.”
“No, I do not think so. Did Olayinka say that to you?”
“She said I poke into other people’s businesses and pass judgment on them. Obi I swear I was just concerned for her…” Helen broke down crying.
Obiora pulled her close and stroked her back. “Please ignore what she said, I think you’re a wonderful woman who is genuinely concerned about people. Don’t let anybody make you feel different.” Helen was still crying. “Look at me.” He ordered. “You are very special, very special. I don’t know what’s going on with Effiong and Olayinka but with this I want you to keep your distance, if your help is needed then you can go, otherwise just stay away okay?”
Helen laughed. “What’s suddenly funny?” Obiora asked confused.
“That’s exactly what she told me. She said if she needed my help she’d let me know.”
Obiora snorted. “See? Just keep your distance okay?”
“Yeah, I will” Helen replied nodding.
Mrs Adepetu couldn’t take it anymore. She was tired of watching things deteriorate in her daughter’s home. Nothing was more painful to her however than the welfare of her grandchildren who were being affected by their parent’s conflict. Yesterday she had had an interesting conversation with the twins.
“Why are Mummy and Daddy fighting?”
“Fighting? Why do you think they’re fighting?” she had asked cautiously.
“They don’t talk to each other anymore and they don’t kiss anymore” Sharon replied.
“How long has this been going on?”
“I don’t know but they’ve been fighting for a very long time”
“Do you know what they fight about?”
“No, but Mummy was not nice to Daddy and now Daddy is not nice to her.” Max finally said.
“One night we heard Daddy slap…” Sharon said
“Sharon! Daddy said we shouldn’t tell anybody!” Max yelled at her while their grandmother looked on in shock.
“Does your Daddy beat your Mummy?” she asked them.
“No” they both answered and remained quiet.
Now as she walked into Olayinka’s bedroom to collect the laundry she was determined to get an answer from her. Olayinka sat at the edge of the bed lost in thought.
“Ma!” she replied startled. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
Mrs Adepetu sat next to her and breathed in deeply. “What were you thinking about?”
“Nothing? Really?” she took in another deep breath. “Olayinka I have been in your house for a little over three weeks now and I can’t ignore the fact that there’s something serious going on between you and your husband. Now I have asked you this before but you said you were sorting it out and from what I see, you’re far from sorting anything out with Effiong. What is going on?”
“Mummy like I told you before, we have some misunderstanding but we are working on it.”
Mrs Adepetu was gradually losing her patience. “Olayinka you know I don’t interfere in your marriage, it’s a commitment I made to you and myself but with what is going in this home I can’t just sit by and act unconcerned. Yesterday your children asked me why you and their father are fighting.”
At this Olayinka looked up sharply.”What did they say?”
“They said that first you were not nice and now Effiong isn’t nice to you. Your children are asking questions they shouldn’t be asking. Tell me what is going on and let’s sort it out.”
“We will be fine…”
“Shut up!” Mrs Adepetu finally lost it. “Look I know I advised you to keep your marital issues between you and your husband but this time you obviously can’t handle it yourselves. You need help! What is it that the world has never heard of before? Speak up and let’s discuss the way forward instead of you staring into empty space feeling sorry for yourself and making your precious children ask unnecessary questions!”
“Mummy you won’t understand…”
“What wouldn’t’ I understand? Is it the fact that Effiong beats you and tells your children not to tell other people?”
“What? How… who?…” Olayinka stuttered
“So in spite of the way we brought you up, you’re letting a man turn you into a punching bag and defending him?” Mrs Adepetu shook her head unbelievingly. “I will show Effiong the stuff I’m made of!”
“Mummy Effiong doesn’t beat me…”
“Don’t even think about lying to me! Your children just told me that their father told them not to tell anyone that he beats you.”
“That was just one time, we had a misunderstanding and he lost his temper…”
“He lost his temper? I don’t care what you could have done, he shouldn’t have touched you!”
“Mummy trust me it’s not what you think…”
“Don’t bother, I know you’re not bold enough to stand up to him but I am.” Mrs Adepetu concluded and stormed out leaving Olayinka very worried. Her mother had obviously gotten things wrong but she was too afraid to tell her the truth even though now it seemed that was her only option. She couldn’t afford her mother confronting Effiong and accusing him of battery, the guy was doing his best living under the same roof with her and she didn’t want to upset him any further. She reached for her walking stick in a hurry, she had to speak with her mother and calm her down before she worsened the situation between her and Effiong. She grabbed the stick and rose to her feet hastily and her knee bucked, pain shot through her entire body and she cried out. Her mother came rushing in.
“What is it? What happened?” Olayinka couldn’t respond, she was in too much pain. “Did you try to stand up too quickly?” Her mother held her and set her gently on the bed. “You should have just called me” she scolded half-heartedly, feeling guilty because she knew that Olayinka had tried to get up because of their argument.
“Mummy it’s not what you think…” Olayinka began but stopped, gritting her teeth to shut out the pain.
“Don’t talk just lie down” her mother said helping her recline on the bed.
“Ibuprofen…” Olayinka managed to say.
“Alright, let me get you some water to use it with”. Mrs Adepetu returned with the water and watched her daughter swallow the medication sweating from the pain in her leg.
“Mummy please let me handle the situation with Effiong, it’s not what you think”
Mrs Adepetu wanted to argue but decided to be quiet. “Alright, just lie down and rest”
“Kunle what exactly is the problem? You’re no longer the person I used to know. How long do we have to cajole you before you pay one hundred and fifty thousand naira?”
“Brother Banjo it’s not what you think…”
“Then what is it? Are you the only married person amongst all of us? We’re all making sacrifices too! You work in one of the best banks and you have only one child who has not even started school so what exactly is your reason for not paying up your share of the donation? Even Sister Toke who is a widow has paid hers!”
“I’m sorry sir, I’ll pay up within the week…”
“Do whatever you like! This is the last time I’m asking you for this money, you may choose not to pay but if you don’t then you must be a bastard!”
“Hello?…” Brother Banjo had hung up. Kunle scratched his head vigorously, the situation was becoming more than he could bear.
“What was that about?” Banke asked pulling her hair into a hairnet.
“Nothing?” Banke replied unbelievingly. She was about to ask another question when Teniola woke up crying in her cot. Kunle watched his wife’s retreating back and in that moment he realized that he had stopped loving her.