Bisola stared at her nails with a bored expression on her face. It was a Saturday morning and her son had gone to cut his hair with her driver. She tried to block out the memory of what had happened last night from her mind. The waiter had waited till the most distinguished guests were about to leave before crashing the tray of champagne glasses to the ground.
Any other boss will overlook the mistake but she wasn’t like all the other bosses out there, she was different, she was a perfectionist. She sprawled on her pristine white sofa and flipped through the television channels disinterestedly, there was nothing to do. Her restaurant was billed to open only during the evenings. She had just changed the television to CNN when the doorbell rang.
“Julius! Julius!” She gritted.
Her housekeeper ran out of the kitchen as though he was pursued by something terrible.
“Are you deaf? Didn’t you hear the doorbell?” She spat.
“I am sorry madam…I am very sorry.” He apologized as he rushed to the door to answer it.
He opened the door and her friend, Emem walked into the house holding a celebratory bottle of wine in her hands. Bisola looked at her, hissed and looked away.
“Na wah for you ooo…” Emem laughed, walking over to seat beside her.
“Abegi…just hold it there. You call yourself my friend and you didn’t come for my restaurant opening. You’re nothing but a fake friend.”
“Says who? I am the only friend who’s had your back babe. I know your grass to grace story so don’t call me fake.” Emem said.
Bisiola’s head snapped at her friend’s last sentence and she forced herself to smile.
“You know you upset me when I didn’t see you yesterday.” She said.
“I told you earlier that I’ll be out for the week with my boyfriend and we just came in last night….but guess what?”
“I’m not guessing jorr…” Bisiola hissed.
Emem giggled and flashed her fingers before Bisiola’s face to reveal a gigantic engagement ring on her fourth finger. “He proposed! I’m getting married!”
Bisiola couldn’t speak, it was as though the words had dried from her mouth, she stared at the ring in disbelief.
“Seun proposed? Wait…are you saying that after nine whole years of dating that bastard, he proposed?”
“Stop calling him a bastard, he’s now my future Mr. Right.” Emem said with a smile.
Bisiola grabbed her friend’s hand and stared at the ring and tears stung on her eyelids, she wanted to bawl.
“Wait…don’t tell me you want a ring too.” Emem asked with a smile.
“Of course I want a ring…who doesn’t?” Bisiola said jealously.
“I thought you said you were fine being Bruce’s mistress and the mother of his son.” Emem said.
“Look at me!” Bisola said, standing from the sofa. “I have everything I could ever ask for. I live a luxurious life, I have a big business, I have a wonderful son and even with all these, you’d think I’m happy.”
“You omitted the part of having a man who loves you.” Emem said.
“He loves me, yes, but he is still married to that pig-faced wife of his.”
“What do you expect Bisi? They have been married for thirty-seven years. Are you going to suddenly destroy a marriage that has lasted that long?” Emem asked.
Bisiola looked at her friend and said.
“I don’t mind destroying it, besides, I know he doesn’t love her anymore and that….that…” Bisola started.
“Look, my friend. You wanted this life for yourself. You wanted to live a life of luxury and you met Bruce and you had a child for him. We both know that Bruce doesn’t have any intentions of marrying you.”
“Well, he will…I will make sure that he marries me.” Bisola said in determination. “I also need a ring, a bridal shower, pre-engagement part and a grand wedding. I want it all!”
Her friend stared at her and shook her head in pity.
Chioma wiped the tears from her eyes, she refused to look at the baby girl nestled beside her in the hospital room. She felt betrayed, cheated and abandoned by God.
“How could you do this to me God? I prayed, I fasted, I gave my tithes, and I donated to Charities. Why?” She sobbed.
She looked at the other woman who was lying on the bed beside her, she too had given birth but to a baby boy.
“It’s not fair! Life is not fair!” She cried.
The woman opened her eyes and turned to look at Chioma who was crying into a handkerchief.
“Are you okay?” The woman asked.
Chioma didn’t look at her, she simply said the word,
“Why? Were there any mistakes during your delivery? Are you in some kind of pain?” The woman asked worriedly.
“You won’t understand.” Chioma said. “You’re so lucky that you can’t understand what I’m going through.”
The woman looked at her compassionately.
“What do you mean by that?”
“My husband is going to marry another woman who can give him a son, this child is our fourth and she’s a girl…again.”
The woman looked at her, she didn’t know what to say.
“I bet you don’t understand what I’m talking about. I saw your husband here last night, he is so doting and so loving…” Chioma burst into tears. “My husband didn’t even stay, he swore that if I have a girl again, he’ll abandon me at the hospital.”
“But….it’s not your fault.” The woman said in sympathy. “We all know that it’s the men that determine the sex of the child and not the women.”
Chioma shrugged and continued to cry.
“This is my third son…I have always wanted a girl but since this is a boy, I’ll just end it here. I’m not having any more children.” The woman said.
“Is that supposed to help?” Chioma cried. “You’re rubbing the fact that you just had a boy in my face.”
“No…no I’m not.” The woman said sitting up.
Chioma looked away and continued to cry. The woman said.
“Your daughter is so beautiful…”
“I don’t care…” Chioma sobbed. Then all of a sudden, she stopped crying and turned to stare at the woman. “You said…you said you always wanted a girl…please…please…help me…save my marriage.”
“I don’t understand you…what are you asking me to do?” The woman asked confused.
“Take my daughter.” Chioma said. “Give me your son.”
The woman’s eyes widened, she was shocked by Chioma’s request.
“I promise to love him…I promise that he will be my priority in life…I will give him everything he wants…everything…please. Your husband will be here soon, please…take my baby and give me yours. I am giving you a chance to have a daughter and you’ll be giving me the chance to have a son.”
“I…I can’t…I mean…the nurses…everyone knows that I have a boy and you have a girl. We can’t just deceive our husbands and…I don’t want to lie to my family.”
“Please…please…do this for me as you would your sister. Do you want to help save my marriage? Don’t you want the institution of marriage that God ordained from the beginning of time to remain the way He ordained it? You might think that you’re giving away your child but the truth is, you are blessing my family with a son and helping my marriage. I beg of you. I am sure that God brought you to me for this purpose….please.”
The woman looked at her son who was lying peacefully on the bed.
“I can’t…I’ll be cutting him off from his brothers and you, your daughter will be apart from her family.”
“I don’t care! She will be fine with you. She will be the jewel in your house. This will be our secret for the rest of our lives. We will take it to our graves.” Chioma begged.
The woman looked at Chioma and saw how miserable she was and after a short while, she said.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this but…”
“Can I take him? Can I?” Chioma asked hopefully.
The woman hesitated.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying this but yes, you can take him….”
“Thank you! My goodness! You have made me the happiest woman on earth. I swear that I will take care of this boy with all that is in me. I swear that he will lack for nothing. I swear that…”
“Stop swearing. We have to think of what to tell the nurses because they need to know or they could tell on us.” The woman said, wondering why she had agreed to do this.
Chioma quickly got off her bed and went to carry her baby from the cot and handed her over to the woman. The woman looked at the baby in Chioma’s arms and hesitantly took her from her. Chioma rushed to the cot by the woman’s bedside and picked up the woman’s son. She carried the baby to her bed and sat down.
Just then, the door opened and Chioma’s husband stood at the doorway.
“Nna, it’s a boy! We have a boy!” She said.
Ochuko lay in bed and watched the clock, it was ten am and she dreaded getting up and seeing her face in the mirror. She was sure she looked a horror. She was still lying on her bed when she heard a rap at her door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s mommy.” Her mother said.
Ochuko quickly picked up her shades and covered her eyes.
“It’s open, please come in.”
Her mother walked in elegantly dressed in a bright yellow lace and a silver aso-oke.
“What is it with those sunshades of yours? Are you alright? Why are you wearing shades in the house?” Her mother asked, walking over to her mirror to admire herself.
“Good morning mom. The light is too bright and you know that I sit in front of a computer, all week long…the shades is like a breath of fresh air.” She said. “Enough of the shades, where are you off to? You look gorgeous.”
“Well…today is Ayeni’s daughter’s wedding.” Her mother said retouching her makeup.
“Which other Ayeni do you know? My former colleague na…”
“But Ayeni has only one daughter and she’s a little girl…” Ochuko said.
“Ayeni’s daughter was born twenty three years ago.”
“She’s twenty-three already? I remember that I attended her first year birthday party.”
“Hmmm…do you see it now? Do you see that you’re old?”
Ochuko looked away and pulled her bed sheets absent-mindedly.
“I am attending all these weddings with hope that yours is coming up soon. You’d better not let Vuoke slip away from you ooo…I cannot be the only one of my mates who has three daughters and who hasn’t invited anyone for her children’s wedding.”
Ochuko didn’t say anything.
“I have to leave now. Make sure that your sisters clean the house and also, make sure that your father doesn’t skip breakfast this morning. I don’t want his ulcer problems to start again.”
“Yes mum.” Ochuko said as she watched her mom leave her room.
As soon as she left, she stood up from her bed, walked up to the mirror and removed the dark shades from her eyes. There were still some bruises near her eyes but she could cover them with makeup. She walked over to her wardrobe and opened it, wondering what dress was appropriate for her dinner date with Vuoke.
To be continued next week….