Ochuko stared at the pile of empty dishes in the sink. She wanted so desperately to complain but she couldn’t. Knowing Vuoke, he had invited some of his buddies over and they’d littered the whole place, leaving her to clean up the mess. ‘But it’s not the weekend na,’ she said to herself. When did his friends come and how did they manage to leave the kitchen in such a mess. Her phone rang and she looked at the caller ID, it was her friend, Zainab. She answered the call.

Zainab’s scream cut through like that of a Banshee and Ochuko winced as she heard her friend’s scream.

“Cut it out! Why are you screaming? Do you want to burst my eardrums?” She asked.

“I can’t beeeliiiive it! You are engaged! My goodness! I am so so so happy for you my friend.” Zainab said excitedly. “I will be in Lagos in two weeks so that we can start planning the wedding.”

“Who told you about the engagement?”

“Princess, of course.” Zainab said, referring to Ochuko’s littlest sister.

“Oh…really.”

“Wait, am I missing something? You don’t sound too thrilled.”

“Of course, I’m thrilled.” Ochuko said.

“Ochuks, I know you, remember? You can’t hide your feelings from me.”

“Okay…I am not thrilled. You see, I thought that the day a man proposes to me will be the happiest day of my life but…” She said.

“Ochuko! Why would you say that? We both know how much you love Vuoke and how much he loves you.”

“Yes I know but I’ve been asking myself so many questions. For instance, I kept asking myself today if I can live with this.”

“Live with what?”

“With the beatings of course.” Ochuko said in a whisper.

“But he apologized didn’t he?”

“He apologizes every time, Zainab.”

“Look darling, no relationship is perfect. This is Africa and a large percentage of men hit their women. It’s like a mark of possession or something and you shouldn’t think much about it.”

“Really? Did you see the news about the South African girl that was burned by her boyfriend? Her boyfriend ooo…”

“Hei! Ochuko! You can’t compare Vuoke to that girl’s beast of a boyfriend. Has he ever poured fuel on you and struck a match before?”

“Does he need to do that before I run?”

“Ochuko, don’t tell me that you don’t want to marry Vuoke. If you lose that man, a million other girls will run to grab the opportunity. Don’t be a fool.”

“I am not a fool. It’s my body that’s going through the pains and the…” She started but stopped when she heard Vuoke’s footsteps nearing the kitchen. “I need to go now, I’ll speak to you some other time.” She hung up the call.

Vuoke walked into the kitchen and made his way towards her. He pulled her into his arms and nuzzled her earlobe.

“Hey babe…”

Ochuko smiled and said nothing.

“Who were you talking to?”

“Zainab…she called to congratulate me on the engagement.”

“Hmmm…” He murmured. “Babe, why did you tell me that your daddy travelled?”

Ochuko froze, she knew her mother had told him that her dad was around.

“I…I…err…I thought he travelled. You know we don’t errmm…see each other especially because I work late and get home when he’s already asleep.”

“Oh that’s strange.” He said, accepting her answer. “Next time, make sure that you are certain before giving me false news.”

“I will.” She said.

He let go of her and looked at the kitchen sink.

“You haven’t finished cleaning up yet?” He asked.

“No…the place is so messy. Did your friends come over?” Ochuko asked.

“No, Clarry brought over some of her friends and they made the mess.” He said.

“Clarry?” Ochuko asked in shock. Clarry was short for Clarrissa and that was Vuoke’s younger sister who was serving in Lagos but living with some friends.

“Yes, she came over yesterday with her friends and they hung out here.”

“Couldn’t they have washed the dishes and cleaned up? I thought that the mess was made by your friends.”

“Does that make any difference?” He asked.

“Clarry should learn to clean up her mess. Even Princess who’s still seventeen knows how to clean.” Ochuko said sounding upset.

“Are you saying that my mother didn’t bring her up right?”

Ochuko was stunned by his words.

“I didn’t call your mother…”

“That’s what this is about right? Your mother is the best woman in the world while mine is terrible for spoiling Clarry.”

“Vuoke, I didn’t say that…” She said. “Do you know what? Let’s not argue.”

“What do you mean by let’s not argue? Are you trying to say that I love arguing?”

Ochuko looked at her fiancé in confusion, she didn’t want him to get annoyed.

“Honey, let’s forget about this. I’ll clean up the mess.” She said.

“So, now, you’re brushing me off?”

“I am not doing that.”

“I am still speaking to you and you’re ending the conversation.” He fired.

“I just don’t want us to fight Vuoke…I am honestly tired of…”

He cut her statement short with a loud slap.

“How dare you speak to me as if I am a child. Why are you pacifying me?” He yelled.

Ochuko placed her palm on her face and said nothing. He grabbed her and shoved her against the sink.

“You are stupid! What do you take me for? Do you know that I am your husband to be? If your mother doesn’t respect your father, do not bring that useless attitude into my home.” He shouted and stormed off.

As soon as he left, Ochuko straightened herself and began clearing the mess in the kitchen.

********

“Lunch was delightful. Let’s do it another time.” Fred said over the phone.

“Sure…I’d love that.” Bisiola said with a smile.

“Next time, let’s bring your son.”

“Really? Are you sure that you want to hang out with that rascal?”

“Yes, of course…that’s if his dad doesn’t object.” Fred said.

“Naaaa…he won’t.”

There was a pause as Fred contemplated his next question.

“I don’t know if it’s too soon to ask but are you still involved with his dad?”

“No, we’re separated but we take care of our son together.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. I won’t want to be the stumbling block…you know.”

“Of course not.” Bisiola assured. “I’m very single. What about you? Is the hot and handsome security guard still single or is he taken?”

“I wish.” He laughed. “If I were already taken, I wouldn’t have taken a beautiful woman to lunch this afternoon. I am a one-woman man.”

“That’s good to hear.” She said.

“So, let’s do this another time, but with your cute son, I’d like to get to know him better.”

“Sure…that would be nice.”

“I have to hang up now, I have a lot of things to go over before work tomorrow.”

“Thanks for calling…goodnight.” She said.

Fred hung up the call and dropped his phone beside his laptop on the table. He really had a lot to do as regards work. He had just opened an excel sheet when his bedroom door opened and his mother peeked in.

“Mom! You should knock, you know.” He chided her lovingly.

“I’m sorry darling, I just want to enjoy your stay in the house while it lasts. I know that you will be moving out soon.”

“Yep! In one week.” He said. “Or less.”

“C’mon darling, don’t leave yet…stay a bit longer. This house is empty without you and your siblings.”

“Mum, this is the best time for you and dad to re-enact the honeymoon phase.” He laughed.

“What honeymoon phase?” She hissed.

“Mom, you guys are terrible. If I were the one in your shoes, I’ll make sure that every day is honeymoon day for my spouse. Come to think of it, you guys are not all that old and you can still have fun.”

“If only your dad were like you…” His mother said. “Well…he used to be loving and sweet till he changed completely and began frolicking around town.”

“Don’t be ridiculous mom.”

“Don’t be ridiculous?” She said looking him in the eyes. “What do you think your dad is? A saint? Of course he’s been doing some…”

Fred held up his hands.

“Don’t say what you don’t know mum, please.”

“I love your innocence darling. Even though you’ve travelled the world and you’re one of the hottest bachelors in town, you have respect for women. I hope that a good woman will come into your life and really deserve you.”

He winked at her.

“Who knows? I might have found one already.” He said.

His mother punched him playfully on the arm and left the room chuckling.

******

Chioma watched her husband cuddle the baby and forced herself to smile. She hadn’t eaten all day and she hadn’t even slept a wink while the baby slept, she had watched him like a hawk. She was exhausted! All through the day, she had been wondering what was going on in the neighbour’s house as she’d heard furniture being moved from one side of the house to the other.

“Were you able to get some sleep?” Her husband asked.

“No, the moving of the neighbours disturbed me a lot.” She said.

“Hmmm…it’s just temporary, I’m sure that the noise will be non-existent tomorrow.”

“Nna, I have been thinking.” She said.

“Thinking about what?”

“Aren’t you tired of living in this house? We’ve been living here since the day we got married and now we have four kids.”

He looked at her, puzzled.

“Is there something wrong with this house? Besides, do you have an idea of how much moving cost nowadays? Do you know how much our new neighbours paid for the flat upstairs plus agent fee and the other crazy fees?”

“Are we going to live here forever?” Chioma asked in anger.

“We just bought a land and my intention is to move out once we’ve built our house.” He said.

“That’s a stupid idea.” She spat.

“What do you mean by that’s a stupid idea?” Her husband asked, clearly offended.

“I don’t want to live in this house anymore.”

“What has gotten into you? You used to praise the location of this house. Aren’t you the same person who used to say that the house is located close to the children’s school, the market, the church and even your former workplace?”

“Yes, I used to say that especially because it was close to my workplace but now that I have resigned, I don’t want to live here anymore.”

“Is this going to be an issue between us, because if it is going to be an issue, I’d rather we both drop the subject.”

“I won’t drop the subject Nnamdi. In fact, I am moving to my sister’s place until you find us a new house.” She said, walking up to him to take the baby from his arms.

“Chioma, is something wrong with you? Is there something that you’re not telling me? Why the strong desire to relocate?” He asked.

“I have been having nightmares…before the baby was born and after the baby was born. I dreamt that there’s a monster in this house that wants to eat my baby and I know it sounds stupid but I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

The doorbell rang but since Chioma and her husband were in their bedroom, they ignored it. Nnamdi stared at his wife in confusion while Chioma cuddled the baby and walked about the bedroom. There was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Nnamdi gritted.

“Uncle, it’s me.” His niece said.

“What is it?”

“Our new neighbours have come to introduce themselves to us, they are in the sitting room.” She said.

Chioma’s heart did a backflip.

*******

Bisiola stalked some Instagram celebrities with her phone while sipping a glass of lemonade. Emem walked up to sit beside her on the sofa.

“So, are you going to tell me more about this dude or are you going to keep me in the dark?” Emem asked.

“What’s there to tell? He’s hot and he wants me.”

“You know that’s not possible, babe.”

“There’s no such words as impossible.” Bisiola said still scrolling through her phone.

“Darling, listen and listen good. Bruce is a possessive man. He might look silent and unassuming but I am sure that he’s like the tiger, waiting for the rat to step on its tail.”

“That doesn’t scare me.” Bisiola said.

“Bisi, what else do you want? Don’t continue with this thing with this guy or you might risk losing it all.”

Bisiola dropped her phone and looked at her friend.

“Lose what? I have Bruce in the palm of my hand and as for this guy, let’s see where it leads. I can have it all, can’t I? A loving husband and family and a sugar daddy on the side.”

“Ha! Bisi! Do you want to die?”

“What do you mean by do I want to die? Men do it every time. They have families and still have affairs outside marriage.”

“We both know that it can’t work for you.”

“Says who?”

“Bisiola, please be truthful to yourself. Bruce has invested so much in you…so much. Your son attends the biggest school in town, you own this marvellous house and you have a new restaurant. Don’t throw it away for a romp in the hay.”

“Is that what you call my affair with Fred?”

“Is it an affair already? Darling, advice yourself or else you might find your backside back in the poverty you came from.”

“Don’t you dare speak of my past.” Bisiola spat.

“It’s the truth or isn’t it? Our families were so poor that we are lucky to have found our way out of the mess of poverty. Now, that you’ve succeeded in securing a better life for yourself, please don’t throw it away.”

Bisiola stood up from the sofa.

“I am going to my restaurant. I need to be sure that my manager is doing her job properly.”

Emem sighed.

“Bisiola, please…promise me that you’ll think of my words…please…”

“Are you staying over? I need you to help me watch Zed. I don’t trust my household staff.” Bisiola said and walked away.

Emem shook her head and said softly.

“She’s so stubborn.”

 

 

To be continued….

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