Time flew by so quickly and soon, Chioma’s son was already a big baby who loved to give a toothless smile. On the other hand, Bisiola kept Bruce’s threat in mind but continued to entertain Fred’s advances until they officially became a couple, ‘I can handle two men at the same time,’ she told herself every time she heard the nagging in her head, warning her that she was dating two men. Ochuko’s wedding was also fast approaching as it was barely two weeks away. Zainab had planned a bridal shower for her and all her friends were in attendance. Life went on as normal as it could except that it was bland for some and quite interesting for a few.
Bisiola was lying in bed with Fred, when he sat up and looked her in the eye.
“Wanna meet my family?” He asked.
Her eyes widened.
“Serious? Your family? Gosh, Fred…this is so surprising.”
“I really want you to meet my family especially my mom.” He said.
“Wait…are you a mummy’s boy? I’ve sworn off mummy’s boys ooo.” She warned.
“Well, I love my mum so much and I am very close to her. I’m not a mummy’s boy though but we’re quite a pair. So what do you say? Should I arrange the meeting?”
Bisiola looked at Fred fondly, she loved him with all her heart. She was so scared to admit it even to herself that, from the moment he’d walked into her life, she’d vowed never ever to let him go.
Bisiola’s relationship with Bruce wasn’t as sweet as it used to be. She had slowly started pulling away from him and he’d noticed it. The last time he’d come to the house expecting that they’d make love, she’d pulled away.
“I’m on my P…” She’d said.
He’d given her a questioning look.
“Your period? I thought it came last week.” He’d said.
Bruce was smart and he was in the habit of calculating her calendar. She used to find it quite cute before but now, it annoyed and infuriated her.
“Well…I guess it shifted. You know Emem has been staying here with me. I guess it wants to sync with hers.” She’d said.
“Oh…really?” He’d said, sounding quite disappointed.
“Yea…” She’d replied.
“We haven’t been intimate in months.” He’d said to her unhappily. “All through last month, I was away on a trip and now…”
“I’m sorry honey but…” She’d trailed off.
As he’d left the house, something nagged her that she couldn’t refuse him forever, one day, he would demand for it and she won’t know what to do.
Now, she stared at a smiling Fred. He looked at her tenderly and rubbed her cheek with his fingertips.
“You’re far away, where are you?”
“It’s nothing…I was just thinking…you know…” She’d said.
“Are you scared of meeting the FAMILY?” He asked with a laugh.
“Well…I guess I am.” She said.
“I look forward to meeting yours too, you know.”
She startled and jumped off the bed and started wearing her clothes.
“Where are you going?” He asked, surprised at her behaviour.
“I need to get some water…” She said.
“There should be water in your fridge.” He answered.
“Well…I want a glass of water from the kitchen.” She said, slipping on her robe and wearing her slippers.
She was out of the door before he could say another word. As she hurried downstairs, her heart pounded. She had lied to Fred that her family were based abroad. How else could she explain the fancy car, the restaurant and the house? There was no way that she was going to let him find out that her family was actually living somewhere in the poverty stricken areas of the state. Even if she had to pay good actors to play as her parents and siblings, she would do it.
As Fred lay on Bisiola’s bed, he knew he was making the right decision of getting serious with her. It was time he settled down, he thought and started a family of his own. He sat up on the bed and took his phone from the side stool and scrolled to Instagram. He opened it and the first pictures he saw stabbed his heart. It was the pictures from Ochuko’s bridal shower.
“Why am I reacting this way? Is it because I am not convinced that her fiancé is changed for the better?” He wondered aloud. He quickly rid himself of his doubts by typing in the comment’s section. “Congrats dear…you’re one heck of a bride…LOL.”
He had hardly dropped his phone when it began to ring, it was Ochuko. He smiled and answered the call.
“Na wah for you…you couldn’t even wait for my comment to land before calling…” He joked.
“See dis naija guy…I see that Jerome is teaching you our slangs very well.” She laughed, referring to the way he’d spoken to her.
“Hehehehe…jealousy…” He teased.
“You’re not serious ooo…how are you?” She asked. “How have you been? Are you back to Lagos now?”
“Yes, I returned two days ago…I’ll be resuming on Monday.”
“Boss of life! I hope you bought me something ooo…you disappeared for three whole weeks all in the name of some kind of business thingy and I haven’t seen that mischievous face of yours.”
“You know what? It’s the way you tease me that makes your colleagues jealous of you and our friendship.” He said.
She laughed loudly.
“Can you believe that Jimoh accused me of sleeping with you in order to curry favour?”
“Are you serious? What was your response?”
“I laughed in his face of course.” She laughed
“This is one of the reasons I like you…you act so maturely.” He said with a hint of pride in his voice.
“So, tell me…how are you? Are you fatter or thinner?”
“Both…” He laughed.
As they were speaking, Bisiola walked in with a glass of water in her hands. She saw Fred laughing on the phone and walked over to lie on the bed beside him.
“Honey, when are we going to see that new land you procured for the new office branch on the mainland?” She said interrupting rudely.
Fred looked at her, he gave her a signal to show that he’s on the phone.
“Your phone call can wait…I need your attention.” She purred.
Ochuko seemed to have heard her voice over the phone because she said quickly.
“Talk to you later…”
“Okay…bye.” He said and hung up. He turned to regard her. “That was rude you know…”
“What…” She shrugged.
“The way you interrupted my phone call.”
“What phone call? What that someone or something important?”
“Yes, I was speaking to my friend, Ochuko.”
Bisiola’s eyes widened.
“Wait…you were speaking to who? I even thought it was your mother or a friend of yours who’s male. Why are you speaking to her?” She fired.
“Ochuko is my friend?” He answered.
“No! I will not accept that. I don’t want you to be friends with her, I can’t and I won’t condone it.”
Fred looked at her, he was a bit confused.
“You won’t condone it?” He asked.
“Yes, she’s female and you’re male.” She said.
“I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear you. Ochuko is my friend and it will always stay that way.” He said and getting off the bed, he made his way to the bathroom. “Excuse me.” He said.
Bisiola watched him leave, there was a murderous glare in her eyes.
Chioma was playing with her son in his walker when the door burst open and her husband walked in.
“Nna…you’re back, how’s business?” She asked, not lifting her eyes from the baby.
“Chioma, we need to talk.” He said and stormed into the bedroom.
Since the day she’d insulted his mother, Nnamdi was finding it very hard warming up to her and their relationship was a bit strained.
Chioma called her husband’s relative and asked her to stay with the baby as she went into the bedroom.
She saw her husband fuming as he paced the short length of the room.
“Nna…what is it?” She asked.
“I want the truth and I want it now!” Her husband demanded.
“What are you talking about? What truth?”
He looked at her as though trying to form the words in his head before blurting it out.
“Who is the father of that baby boy in the sitting room?” He asked.
Chioma almost dropped dead at that moment, she clutched her chest with her palms and stared at her husband open-mouthed.
“Whaat…are you…saying…?” She said in a whisper.
“Are you going to give me a straight answer or are you going to let me find out the truth for myself?” He asked.
“Honey…what…I don’t understand this…the child…the child is you…yours.” She said shakily.
“Really?” He asked, staring at her to see if he could read her mind.
“Yes…why did you ask that…that question?”
He sighed loudly and rubbed his head with his palms furiously.
“Every time I look at that boy I don’t see a resemblance at all. Not with me, or you or with our daughters. I…I took a picture of him on my phone and placed it as my display picture only for one of my friends to see it and shake his head…he said that the baby doesn’t look anything like me.”
“Nna…are you saying that I could cheat on you? Me, Chioma!” She asked.
“That’s not what I’m saying…but…we both know that you and I are light skinned and so are our daughters but the more junior grows, the darker he gets. It’s almost like someone rubbed his skin with charcoal.”
Chioma had also been disturbed by the skin tone of her son. Not that she didn’t like dark babies but the truth was that every one of her siblings were fair skinned and same thing with her husband’s siblings. The darkest skinned person in the family was chocolate brown and not as dark skinned as her son.
“Come with me honey…come…” She said, holding out her hand to her husband.
He placed his hand in hers and followed her out to the sitting room where the baby was playing in his walker.
“Go to the kitchen and check the food.” She said to her husband’s relative who nodded and left to do her bidding. “Nna, look! Isn’t that your eyes? That’s your chin there and that nose is exactly like yours. Look at the ears, it’s like your ears and he smiles just like you do.” She said pointing out to her husband the facial features of the baby boy.
Nnamdi looked at the boy and his heart melted. He nodded.
“Yes, even his forehead is like mine…and his smile is the same as mine.” Nnamdi said, fully convinced.
“What’s in a skin tone? Besides, the fact that our family members are predominantly light skinned doesn’t mean that…that…there’s no dark skinned ancestor or fore father in our lineage.”
Nnamdi nodded again and pulled his wife close to him.
“Forgive me…please…” He said with a sigh. “I should have reasoned first before speaking.”
As they spoke to each other, they heard a loud brawl outside their house.
“That is your business!” A male voice was saying. “What else can this mean?”
“You are stupid for thinking that!” A female voice shouted.
Nnamdi looked at Chioma questioningly.
“What is going on?” He asked, “C’mon let’s see.”
They walked to the door and opened it to see their neighbour, Lilian arguing with her husband. She held a bag in one hand and held her baby in the other hand. Chioma and Nnamdi wondered what was going on.
“You need to find out the reason this has happened because if you really don’t find a reason, there’s no way I’m trusting you ever again!” Lilian’s husband barked.
“I will leave with my baby and I will come back for the rest of my children.” Lilian was saying.
“Don’t bother because you’re never getting them. Those are the kids that I am sure of. They are the ones with my blood running through their veins. This baby girl on the other hand, is the product of another coupling that didn’t involve you and me.”
Lilian looked clearly distraught, she screamed at her husband with all her might.
“You will eat your words, I promise you…you will eat it!”
“How would I eat it? Can you explain to me the reason our daughter has sickle cell? We have taken her to so many hospitals and the result is still the same. She has sickle cell!” He shouted.
“Yes she has sickle cell but is that enough to claim that she’s not your daughter?”
“My genotype is AA and yours is AS, so this means that there is no way that any of our children can have sickle cell. The only logical explanation is that you were unfortunate to have coupled with a man with the AS genotype, hence the baby girl. Now I know why she doesn’t look anything like me, she is so light-skinned and we are all dark in my family.”
Lilian looked at her husband with tears in her eyes and stormed off with her baby. Chioma and her husband stood at their door, shaken by what they’d just saw.
‘My baby has sickle cell.’ Chioma thought in her heart.
Years ago before they got married, Chioma and her husband had found out that they both had the AS genotype. Instead of separating, they had lied to family and friends that Nnamdi had AS genotype and Chioma had AA genotype, just so that they could get married. When they’d started having children, they had been so sure that luck would shine on them and that none of their children would have sickle cell and so far, none of the first three had sickle cell but it was glaring that the fourth one did and now, it was causing problems for their neighbour’s family.
The hole kept growing wider and wider each day and Chioma had no idea of how to close it. She had taken quick glimpses of her baby anytime she was carried downstairs by any of Lilian’s relatives and her heart always lurched whenever she saw her but she always looked away quickly.
As she closed the door and entered the house with her husband, she silently wished Lilian, the best of luck in her new role as an estranged spouse and single parent.
Ochuko walked into Vuoke’s house with a bag of leftover goodies from her bridal shower. Her girlfriends had outdone themselves and she was very grateful to them. Her mother’s excitement was contagious and Ochuko seemed to have caught the bug as well.
She stepped into the sitting room and locked the door behind her. She made her way into the bedroom and saw Vuoke’s clothes spread out across the bed. After Vuoke had begged her that he’d stopped the beatings, Ochuko had waited to see if he’d stand true to his words and he showed her that he’d truly changed as he never for once, lay a finger on her.
She could hear the shower running so she knew that he was home, she dropped the bag beside the bed and sat on the bed, waiting for him.
A few minutes later, he emerged, dripping wet from the shower and clad in nothing but a towel which was wrapped around his waist.
“Hey love…” She greeted.
“Hi…you’re here…” He said simply as he walked over to his dresser to take his lotion.
“Yep and I’m with goodies.” She sang out.
He didn’t seem to hear her as he busily rubbed his lotion on his skin.
“Could you by any chance be interested in some chocolates and maybe a bowl of ice cream?” She asked with a smile.
“Huh? All those sweets? No…thanks.” He said.
Ochuko walked up to him and standing behind him, she snaked her hands around his waist.
“Take your hands off me…” He said stiffly.
Ochuko was quite surprised at his tone.
“What’s the problem?” She asked.
“Should there be a problem? Can’t I have my own privacy?”
“Are you upset about something? Is it something I said?” She asked in a near whisper.
“Just leave me…” He said to her.
“Alright…whatever you say…” She said turning to leave.
He grabbed her by the arm and dragged her to him.
“What did you say? What did you just say?” He shouted, staring into her eyes with the deadliest gaze ever.
“I…I just said, okay…” She stammered.
“That’s a lie, that’s not what you said you swine! That’s not what you said.” He screamed at her as he placed his hand on her neck and squeezed tight.
“Vu…vu…ok…I…can…can’t…breathe….” She struggled as he squeezed her neck tight.
He let go of her neck and slapped her hard across the face, she fell to the bed. He dragged her by her braids and pushed her down again, her head hit the wooden bed frame. He dragged her up by her shirt and pushed her to the wall.
“Don’t you ever disrespect me in my house! If I tell you that I want to be alone, then respect my privacy.” He screamed, hurling her to the ground.
Ochuko felt numb, blood was seeping through the cut on her forehead and she was already seeing large stars against a black back-drop.
She fell unconscious.
To be continued….