“Mummy what is it?” Onyebuchi asked worried. “Is it Daddy?” he probed when his mother didn’t answer. Helen stopped pacing and faced her children.
“Boys, Daddy is in trouble right now. Do you remember what we said about prayer two nights ago?” the boys nodded. “Well this is one time when I need you to pray. Just pray for Daddy to be safe okay?” she resumed her pacing without waiting for their answer when her phone rang.
“Hello?” she almost yelled into the receiver
“Yes madam. Can you hear me now?”
“Yes, yes! What about my husband?”
“He’s alive though he just regained consciousness…”
“Let me talk to him please!”
“Alright, hold on”
“Helen?” Obiora called weakly.
“Obi? Obi, oh my God…” Helen broke down crying. “How are you? What happened?”
“Just come and get me okay?” His breathing was labored.
“O…okay, where are you?”
“So what did she say?” Kunle asked although he had had an idea what the answer would be from the look on Banke’s face.
“She shut the door in my face. Unbelievable!” Kunle sighed in response. “Yeah, I know you told me so but it’s still unbelievable. It’s almost as if she didn’t want her husband to know what we were talking about, the minute he came into the sitting room she ended the conversation.”
“Well she’s not the only woman hiding things from her husband.” The cynicism in Kunle’ voice was unmistakable.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Banke was in no mood to tolerate Kunle’s snide remarks.
“I’m just saying you should be careful about removing the speck in your neighbour’s eye when you have a log in yours.”
“Kunle what on earth are you talking about?” Banke was on the verge on losing her patience.
“Look, I’m not in the mood to get into an argument tonight with you, you never listen anyway so what’s the point…”
“No, no, no I’m listening to you” Banke’s hands were on her hips now.
“Banke I’m really not in the mood for…”
“But you started it, so finish it!”
Kunle massaged his temple wondering why he had let his resentment get the best of him.
Because you keep bottling it in.
“Okay I’m sorry” he held his hands up in appeasement.
There was a knock on the door. “Banke!” Helen called pounding on the door.
“Yes?” Banke was surprised, why was Helen at her door at this time of the night? Why was she pounding? Kunle got up to open the door and Helen burst in with her boys.
“Please watch over them. Obi was robbed…”
“What?” Kunle and Banke said in unison.
“I’m going to get him” Helen turned away quickly heading for her car.
“I’m coming with you!” Kunle grabbed his phone from the table and dashed out of the door. Banke closed the door and looked at Onyebuchi and Chijioke who looked terrified. “Err… boys, have you had dinner?”
“Yes, at school” Onyebuchi answered.
“Alright let me take you to the room where you’ll sleep in. Don’t worry your Dad will be fine.”
“I used to think that you were a responsible man but now I know you’re nothing but an animal in human form.” Mrs Adepetu said coldly as soon as Effiong walked in. Effiong was confused; he looked around wondering if his mother-in-law was talking to someone else.
“You’re looking around as if I’m talking to some one else? You’re so disrespectful!”
“I am not your mother! I know the number of children I have and you’re not one of them. Even if you were I would disown you.”
Now Effiong was very confused. Was his mother-in-law sick? He opened his mouth to speak but didn’t even know what to say with her looking so venomously at him. The last time they had spoken was the night before when he got back from work and there had been no argument, they had even talked about taking the twins to a party this weekend.
“I don’t understand what is going on ma. What did I do?”
“You won’t understand! How can you possibly understand? She cries everyday and there is nothing I can say to appease her, I knew there was something going on but she won’t talk about it. And then I found out that you beat my daughter.” She rose to her feet now, the fury in her eyes was frightening. “I will deal with you. You dare to lay your hand on my daughter, the ground will swallow you up by the time I am through with you, you good for nothing animal!”
At first Effiong didn’t know what to say, he had never forgiven himself for slapping Olayinka that night. However, the confusion didn’t last long. He looked his mother-in-law squarely in the face, all the anger he had been suppressing in the past months slowly boiling over.
“Did you daughter tell you what she did?”
“There is nothing she could have done to deserve your beating, you should have controlled yourself!”
“Mummy!” Olayinka hobbled into the sitting room with a terrified look on her face, she should have known her mother would do this. “Please leave him alone, it’s not what you think!”
“You told her I beat you?” Effiong said unbelievingly.
“Your children did, and I know they weren’t lying!”
“Mummy please this is not what you think, he doesn’t beat me.”
“Olayinka this love will kill you o! This is how Bimpe died because of a hopeless man who married someone else within the year she died.”
“Mummy…” Olayinka was crying now, terror gripping her heart so that she could barely breathe.
“No let her continue, I’m the one who has been foolish enough not to do what other men do.” Effiong was mildly enjoying this; he anticipated bursting Mrs Adepetu’s bubble, the look on her face when he told her the truth. His anger was now full blown, he was high on his resentment. He sat down and crossed his legs, this was going to be good.
“You’re sitting down and crossing your legs?” Her movement was fluid for her age, she crossed the distance between her and Effiong and slapped him hard. “Bastard! Even if I didn’t give birth to you, I’m old enough to be your mother!”
“Mu…” Olayinka watched horrified, she held her mouth to prevent herself from screaming. Her mother had finished her.
Effiong was stunned, this was not the sequence of events he had imagined. He rubbed his and rose slowly to his feet trembling with fury. “Your daughter slept with another man and got pregnant for him.” Mrs Adepetu looked at Olayinka and knew he was telling the truth, she sank to her seat feeling suddenly weak and very foolish. “When I get back I don’t want to see either of you in my house.” He picked up his bag and walked out of the house.
Mrs Adepetu walked in and came back out in a few minutes her bag packed and walked out of the house unsteadily.
Olayinka had sunk to the floor and was wailing with her head in her hands. She reached for her phone and dialed Helen’s number, Helen didn’t pick up.