Niniola’s siblings were glad to see their sister back.
“We’ve been suffering.” Her younger brother said, wiping the tears that had fallen from his eyes. “He beats Maami every day. Every day!” he said, shaking his head. “I wish we could just run away, but where would we go to? Sister Nini you have to help us!”
Niniola shook her head sorrowfully, wiping her own tears intermittently. “I don’t know what to do! I can’t take you to Aunty Rhoda’s house, she doesn’t even treat me well, and I just try to keep my head under.”
“What kind of life is this? Ehn Sis Nini? Ever since our father died, we’ve just been suffering!”
“Don’t cry Segun, don’t cry.”
But even as she said so, tears cascaded down her round face.
Her junior wife’s pregnancy was all Biola needed to jerk herself fully back to reality. Her place as the chief’s favorite wife was about to be sabotaged. She had two children, but soon her rival would have three. She couldn’t believe that the boisterous woman would allow herself to get pregnant again. This new baby would reduce the share of her own sons’ inheritance.
As she pondered what to do, her phone vibrated beside her hand. It was an unknown number.
“Biola…” It was Gbenga.
“What do you want? Why’re you calling me?”
“I just wanted to apologize once again.”
She hissed and hung up. The sound of his voice had brought back unwanted memories and she wished that she had never taken the call. He sounded weak but she didn’t care, she wished she could kill him but it would have repercussions.
Rising from her chair she wandered around her supermarket and thought of Mama Ayo’s pregnancy and what it could mean for her.
Gbenga sighed. He couldn’t get her reaction to his attack. He wasn’t even sure if she knew about it. Nneka and Fiyin had not taken his calls. He had to know who had caused him so much pain and humiliation, because even though he knew he deserved it, he wanted revenge.
“Chief please! Leave me alone. So while I thought you were supporting me, you were actually sneaking off to be with that woman. And you did it long enough to get her pregnant. ”
“Ah ah Biola, I’m sorry. But what did you expect me to do? You’re not the only wife now and I didn’t want to disturb you. You got so angry the day I touched your arm and you know I have needs.”
“Chief you’re just telling stories. She’s pregnant now, what happens to my sons?”
“Is that what is bothering you? She has just one child!”
“Ah… Chief…” she said confused.
“I’m not counting that abnormal child! That one is her own.”
“So don’t worry, the future of your sons is secure.”
“Besides, I’ve told her to abort that pregnancy. I don’t want another abnormal child under my roof.”
“Tell her to do that and I’ll reward you.” she said stroking his pot belly.
“You will reward me…” he said questioningly.
“Yes.” She replied meaningfully, sliding her hands down towards his groin.
“Give me one minute!”
The chief sprung up and dashed to Mama Eli’s room.
Mama Eli wanted to sleep but Yimika was busy coloring a garden and he wouldn’t let her turn off the lights or go to sleep.
“Yimika please, you will color it tomorrow. Let’s sleep now, hmm?”
The boy didn’t respond in any way, it was as if he had never even heard her. She moved closer towards him and her eyes fell on the book he was coloring. It was the most beautiful coloring she had ever seen. Amazed, she sat slowly and watched him color the garden meticulously when the door suddenly opened.
“Rhoda!” Chief roared. “Have you done what I asked you to do?”
“What you asked me to do?” she replied slowly, confused.
“I told you to abort that pregnancy. Have you done it?”
“Chief I can’t…”
“You can’t what? Look if you don’t abort that pregnancy you will leave this house. I will not chase you out o, you will walk out with your own two feet. I promise you that!”
Mama Eli was stunned. Where had that come from? Was he really serious? She wasn’t happy about being pregnant but she had never considered an abortion. Why was he so adamant on this matter?
Mama heard the ruckus in the junior wife’s room, her son sounded like a deranged man. Asking his wife to terminate a pregnancy that he had put there? Why? Unable to sleep she went to Mama Eli’s room and found her crying, as she expected.
“Wipe your tears. I’m behind you.” the elderly woman said. “I’m behind you and I know what to do.”
Mama Eli wiped her eyes and hoped that her mother-in-law was right.
Mama Deji could sense that something wasn’t right in her son’s house. Her son and his wife seemed to be at logger heads, they weren’t speaking to each other and she could feel the tension when they were both in the same room. She also noticed that Bolatito seemed to keep to herself and only spoke to her when it was necessary. Feeling suddenly out of place and concerned that the tension in the house had something to do with her she decided to call her lastborn Pelumi and ask if she was welcome in his home.
“Ah… Mummy you know I would have loved for you to come but things are a little tight now. I’m hustling for a contract and I’m barely home. I hope you understand ma?”
“That’s okay dear. I understand.”
“Is my brother sending you away from his house?”
“Oh no! Not at all, I just wanted a change of environment.” She said with as much cheer as she could muster, feeling hurt that her son was too busy to entertain her.
She ended the call and realized with much sadness that she couldn’t count on her children to make her happy. She had to find her own happiness. It would have been great if her husband had stayed true to his vows and remained her companion but that wasn’t the case. She was suddenly grateful that she had her business to keep her busy, she decided to return home.
When Bolatito returned home later that night and found her mother-in-law smiling mysteriously, she knew something was up.
“I’ve decided to go back home.” her mother-in-law announced as they finished dinner.
“Why?” Bolatito said, sensing that her mother-in-law felt unwanted and sad that things had come to this.
“I need to monitor my business and I want to make some plans. I need to be home to do this.”
Bolatito held her hands together. “Have you told Deji?”
“No, I will tell him when he returns home.”
Bolatito packed up the dinner plates and wondered what her husband would say when he found out his mother’s plans.
Niniola’s money was almost gone. She had spent all her profits buying the numerous things that were needed in the home. Feeling frustrated yet sad, she wondered how her mother had coped all these months. Her siblings looked skinny and malnourished, they looked unkempt.
“How have you been coping?” her mother asked after she had put the baby to sleep.
“I have been selling smoked fish. Your father collected all the profits from the kiosk so I couldn’t continue with it anymore. I’ve even sold the kiosk.”
“But what will happen when I leave?”
“Ah!” she sighed deeply. “”We will survive somehow.” She replied with her head bowed then suddenly lifted it up.
“Tell me about you. How are you? How’s your business?”
“It’s going on well. I’m making more money every day, and I’m studying for a scholarship. If I pass the exam, I will be sponsored to study in a European university.”
“Ehn? You mean you they will send you abroad? Who are these people?”
“It’s an NGO… a company that helps people.” She said, hoping the explanation would be enough for her mother.
“So all you have to do is to study and pass the exam?”
“Ah…” she held her hands together and leaned forward. “Niniola, you must do everything you can to pass that exam. You must have a better life than me! Do you hear me?” she said with a tremor in her voice.
“Yes ma.” the girl replied with a tremor in her voice as well.
“And when you make it, come and rescue me.”
Suddenly there was a pounding on the door.
“Go to your room and lock the door…”
“And don’t open it no matter what!”
“Go now!” she said with an urgency in her voice as Niniola ran to her siblings’ rooms and shut the door firmly.
Niniola’s siblings were up and alert. This was something they were obviously familiar with.
“Sister Nini you mustn’t open the door!”
Niniola wondered what the warning was about when she heard the first slap. Her mother screamed and the beating continued with her mother screaming repeatedly. It was so agonizing that she decided to open the door and help her mother out before the man killed her.
“Sister Nini no! You must not open the door!” Segun held her hand just in time. “This is what he did to me the last time I tried to help.” He pulled up his shirt and Niniola saw an ugly scar across his belly.
She stared wide-eyed at him.
“We couldn’t tell you. It was a narrow escape but God saved me. Don’t open the door.”
Niniola was paralyzed with fear, she slumped to her feet as her mother continued to scream.
The next morning, as Niniola tended to her mother’s wounds, she remembered something she had said.
“It’s an NGO… a company that helps people.”
She dashed for her pouch and brought out the woman’s card. She couldn’t be sure that the woman would help but it was worth a try.
“Make peace with your wife and build a good life together. Don’t ever let anyone come in between you two, not even me, your mother!”
Deji thought on the things his mother had said before they had gone to bed. He had been unable to sleep at the memory of the painful stories his mother had told him about her marriage and how it had almost affected her health. But most of all he was humbled by her determination to be happy against all odds, even if she was lonely.
I never want to be lonely. He thought to himself and realized that taking care of the future wasn’t just about building up his pension fund or having several investments which only took care of his financial needs. He recognized that he also needed to invest in his relationships, because a lonely heart cannot be cured by any amount of money.
He turned towards his wife. “Baby, are you still awake?”
Bolatito was wide awake. “Yes, I am.”