SO NOT LOVE
Though I was still afraid that anything can happen between the two us. I just pray it won’t happen because of too much silence between us when he came back inside the bedroom. When he wanted to make advances towards me I simply said “No, no, no, Chris I can’t…” I told him. “I’m married, I just can’t.”
“Shrrr…” He whispered, “I’m not going to take advantage of you.”
“Please don’t because I’m very vulnerable right now…” I said frankly.
“I know…” He answered
In my mind, I began to pray all the prayers I knew how to in my head for nothing to happen between and God eventually answered my prayers because Chris made it known clearly as much as he really wish to have me by his side that he cannot do such to me or take advantage of my vulnerability and that he cannot possibly defy another man’s wife.
I started to grow tensed now. I lifted my head off the bed and asked. “Are you in any way asking me to divorce my husband so I can be with you?”
“No, I haven’t said that… At least not yet. But you are an adult and you should know what’s good for you. Would you rather spend the rest of your life living in a loveless marriage?”
“You don’t know anything about my marriage!” I defended, breathing hard in anger. I might not, but I have seen enough to know that you do not love him too. I don’t know why you are in it though. Is it because he’s rich?”
I looked away and said nothing.
He continued. “Look Victoria, I’m never going to force you to do whatever you do not want to. The decision of either choosing to remain in or leave that marriage is totally up to you and I’m not going to impose any decision on you. If you wanna be happy, do the right thing, if you wanna keep wallowing in sorrow and pain, you are not too far away from it already.
I opened my mouth to speak when we heard a noise outside. It was like a ruckus and he got up and moved to the window where he could see the gate. I got up, quickly slipped into the t-shirt and then my tight which I had worn under my dress to the outing. I joined him at the window and we could see the gate man arguing with some elderly men in red caps and igbo native attires and they had a lady with them.
“Shit!” I heard him mutter under his breath and I turned to give him an inquiringly look.
“What is it?” I asked.
“The least people I expect.” He answered and then called out loud to the gate man. “Effiong! Effiong!”
“Oga!” The gateman replied aloud, turning towards the window but still barricading the partially open gate with his body as if trying to make sure no one came through it.
“What’s going on out there?” Chris asked.
“Oga, na all these old men o! Dem say dem be your papa brothers and elders of your village. I tell them say I no know them and you no dey expect any one from village, dem no wan gree and they wan just enter by force!” (Boss, it’s some old men! They claim that they are your uncles and elders from your village. I told them that you are not expecting anyone from the village but they want to force their way in!)
Chris sighed then replied. “Let them in!”
“You say, oga?” The gateman said in surprise as if he hadn’t heard Chris right the first time.
“I said let them in!” Chris repeated then moved away from the window and walked out of the room without another word to me. Curious to know what was going on, I followed him and we descended the stairs just in time to find three elderly women and the lady who was carrying a bag walk into the living room.
“Ha! There he is!” The first elder exclaimed. “That’s our son!” He pointed his walking stick up at Chris who was still descending the stairs with his hands in his pockets.
The other elders were busy looking around and admiring the sitting room and their village scent instantly permeated the air in the sitting room. I remained on the stairs to watch what was going to happen while Chris walked towards them.
“My elders, I greet you but why the surprised visit? How did you find where I live?”
“Your aunt gave us your house address in Lagos, so we decided to come here and do the needful.” The first elder replied.
“I hope everything is okay?” Chris asked.
“Ehn…” The first elder reached behind him, wrapped a hand around the lady’s upper arm and pulled her forward to his side. “We have brought your wife.”
Chris scrutinized the lady for a moment and asked, “Isn’t she my late father’s wife?” He asked. “Why did you bring her here? Why can’t you just let her return to her family?”
“Chris…” A second elder stepped forward to explain. “You know your father married her just a few months before he unfortunately passed away.”
“And I was against his decision to do so.”
“Well, Uju here is still young, she’s just twenty four and so young a widow she is.” The second elder explained.
“And what has that got to do with me?” Chris asked tersely.
“It’s our tradition that the first son must take after his father by marrying his youngest widow if she’s still below thirty and we the elders have dutifully brought Obinanuju here to Lagos to you. Fortunately, she never conceived for your father, I think your father was too old to fire that spot very well. Well, since your father is dead, you are to marry her. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay any brideprice. Your father’s bride price have already covered it all. All you have to do is let her live here with you so that she will not be lonely in the village and all these young jobless youths that we have there will not tempt her into offending the gods.” He chuckled and asked the other elders. “Or is it not so?”
“It’s so.” They agreed and laughed too.
“I don’t know what you old men are up to but if this is a joke, it had better stop. Take this girl back to the village or better still, one of you can marry her.” Chris spat.
“Taaaa!” The third elder exclaimed.
“Abormination!” The second elder clicked his fingers in the air.
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“Alu!” The first elder squeezed his shoulders. “Chris, if we lie with your father’s wife, Amadioha will strike us with a terrible diseases. The knacking is solely for you alone. Uju is a beautiful girl, see her backyard, it’s enough to make any man’s eyes pop out. She’s your possession and we have brought her to you to keep. You can knack her anytime you want… Help your father continue where he stopped.”
Chris frowned. “Are you people not listening to me? I said that I’m not interested. I don’t want a wife, and definitely not the one my father has laid with!”
I saw the elders rivet their gaces to me now. “And who’s that one on the stairs there?” The third elder pointed his walking stick at me. “We didn’t know that you are married…” Then he turned to the other elders and ask. “Or did any of you accompany him with a keg of palm wine or some kolanuts to her family house?”
“No, not at all…” They chorused, shaking their heads and I caught the first elder ogling my exposed thighs where the t-shirt stopped.
“Leave her out of this, she’s my guest!” Chris said to the elders.
I felt nervous as I watched what was going on from the stairwell. Somehow, I felt a little jealousy creep into me even though that I had absolutely no right to be jealous. I checked the girl out, scrutinizing her from where I stood. Unlike me, she was fair in complexion. I could settle in between a little plump or just okay but she was close to being skin. Her backside stood out and it was as if one could place a cup on it and it would remain there for some seconds. Her breasts were average though and she was close to what I would call pretty. She had on a natural hairstyle and had a black mark on her right temple like most people from the Eastern part did. Her eyes were sharp and I read something about her that was a little bit unsettling but I waved the thought aside and concluded that I shouldn’t just judge her before knowing her.
“Obianuju?” The second elder turned to her. “We have done our part according to tradition and now it’s left to you to behave as a good wife. Do not look down at your new husband because he’s way younger than his father. As long as a man can make your waist ache in the bedroom and can also put food on the table, then that’s the perfect definition of a man. You should love and respect him like you did your first husband. Remember that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach so feed him very well with those delicious food you have been serving your late husband. Anything you want, he will give you. As you can see, he’s rich. We will send this house address to your parents so that they can know where to find you in case they need to see you. And…” He smiled now. “I hope that by the time we come visiting, you’ll be very heavy with his child. A home is nothing without a child in it… God will bless you both with enough sons to carry on your legacy and-”
Having had enough of the elder’s words, Chris rudely cut in. “Are you people not listening to me? I said that I’m not interested! She’s not my taste! She’s not even educated!”
“My son, Uju has a secondary school certificate. You can sponsor her to the university to suit your taste. See, she’s a very fast learner so I assure you that your problems with her will be minimal.” The first elder said.
“It’s not even about the education alone. I’m simply not interested. What kind of stupid tradition is this?! How can you people force me to marry someone that warmed my father’s bed for two years? I can’t even imagine it.”
“It doesn’t matter…” Stated the third elder. “As long as your father didn’t leave his John-thomas inside of her. Your father was the one who deflowered this girl. I’m sure that she’s still very tight because your father didn’t have enough time to drill the holes very well. In fact, you are lucky that a child hasn’t passed through it yet. Your baby will be the first.” He glanced down at his wristwatch and tapped the end of his walking stick on the floor then said, “Anyway, we have to go now if we are to arrive before midnight at the village. We have to take our leave now. The journey was very stressful.”
“Hold on.” Chris stated and turned. He came up the stairs, walked past me then disappeared above, soon, he returned holding two bundles of money then he t—-t one of the bundles towards the first elder who took it and stared at in amazement as Chris explained. “That’s one hundred and fifty thousand naira. That’s for your inconveniences and your transport fare back home.”
“Ha! My son, but this is too much.” The first elder said but quickly shrugged the third elder away who tried to take the money from it. “But all the same, it’s not a good thing for an elder to return a gift, especially money, so may the gods bless you abundantly and replenish your pocket.”
“Amen sir…” Chris said then t—-t the second bundle towards the girl who hesitated and gave him a puzzled look before glancing at the elders who were also puzzled. “Take it.” Chris said to her but she didn’t reach for it.
“Stop behaving like a bush girl, take it! The second elder goaded her and she reluctantly took the money from him.
“I’m paying you off. Go back with the elders. That’s a hundred thousand naira. Use it for anything you want. Open a business or anything and get your life back together. I don’t know who you are and why you even agreed to this nonsense in the first place, but get one thing straight, my late father married you, not me, which makes you his widow. I’m setting you free because I’m not going to be a victim of this nonsense tradition. Go back to the village and remarry if you want to, but as for me, I have just found the woman of my dreams.”
“Ahan…” The second elder said in surprise as he exchanged glances with the other two. “Son of Okafor, what do you think you are doing? You can’t pay her off. Our tradition doesn’t allow that. It’s a must that you marry her. The only way this can be nullified is if she refuses to marry you then we will have to perform some sacrifices in the village to appease the gods and set her free since she has no heir for your father which has not fully linked her to your family, but for now, paying her off is like incurring the wrath of the gods.” Then he turned to the girl and ask, “Or Uju, don’t you want to marry him? Don’t you like him?”
She glanced around the sitting room in admiration then returned her eyes to Chris. “I want to sir.” She spoke for the first time and in a shy way. “I like him already.” She smiled shyly with her hands almost covering her face as she turned away and the elders gave some remarks and laughed.
“Then it is settled!” Said the first elder to Chris. “Uju has confessed that she likes you already, what more could you possibly want?”
“I don’t like her.” Chris stated flatly. “I want her gone this instance! Take her back to where you brought her from. I will never marry my father’s widow.”
The third elder cleared his throat then said soberly. “My son, ehn, I appreciate the money that you have given us but what you ask of us is impossible. Since Uju has confessed that she likes you, our hands are tied. We will have to leave her here, may the gods forbid that we take her back to the village with us. I’d advise you let her live with you. As time goes on, who knows? You might come to like her too then you’ll know what your father saw in her. If as time goes on and she changes her mind before conceiving for you and states that she’s no longer interested, then who are we not to set her free? Or is that not so, my fellow elders?” The other elders nodded in affirmative, mumbling some words in igbo language. Then the third elder continued. “Our son, we can no longer debate over this issue anymore, especially if we do not want to miss our bus. We leave your house in peace.”
I saw the second elder moved closer to the girl and took the money from her which he quickly slipped into his pocket. “Let me help you give this to your parents. I’m sure that your mother needs a new wrapper while your father needs to replace his bicycle and get some new farm tools.” He chuckled and flinched his brows at her but she said nothing. I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to give her parents a dime from that money. The selfish old man.
The third elder turned towards the door and the others followed. Chris called after them but they only shook their hands in the air and shook their heads but they didn’t turn. One by one, they walked of the living room and were gone.
Chris turned from the door and stared at the girl for a moment. His eyes ran down her body. She was wearing a black striped blouse and a flowing blue skirt which matched a black pair of slippers. She hugged her bag of clothes to her stomach and lowered her eyes in respect as he scrutinized her again. “What’s that your name again?” He asked.
“Uju, sir!” She curtsied. “Obinanuju!”
Chris heaved a sigh then said, “Look, I know that you are not a child and you know what you want. I have a feeling that this elders forced you on me and I hope that before the week runs out, you’ll change your mind and return to your village but for now, I’ll let you stay in my guest room.”
“Where can I find the kitchen sir?” She asked.
Chris gave a puzzled frown. “Why?
“I came with some soup ingredients from the village.” She answered. “I want to prepare delicious Oha soup for you. That’s how we welcome our husband in my family. I also have bush meat and some periwinkles in my bag here.” She patted her bag. “I’m a very good cook.”
Chris made a face as he glanced at her bag. “Do not worry about that. it won’t be necessary, for now, I’ll show you to your room so that you can freshen up, change your clothes, I’ll get you a body spray and please get rid of whatever bushmeat is inside your bag because I can’t stand the smell. When you are done, I’ll take you out so that you can buy some new clothes and get rid of this sweep-africa-clean skirt that you are wearing.
She glanced down at her skirt. “What’s wrong with my skirt, sir?”
Chris gave the skirt another look and shook his head in disapproval. “This is Lagos. You don’t wear such skirts here. You can get it Tangled in a bus when you are about to get down from it. In Lagos, you have to look sharp. Your dressing tells a lot about you and fraudsters can easily figure out that you are a newbie, so you’ll have to change your entire wardrobe if you are to fit in.”
“Alright sir.” She meekly said.
“Come with me.” Chris said and started to lead her towards the stairs as they came up towards me, Chris leaned in and whispered with a remorseful smile. “I’m sorry that you had to witness this, as you can see, my hands are tied and she was just dumped on me like that.”
“You owe me no explanation whatsoever, Chris.” I gave him a reassuring smile. “It’s fine, I saw everything and I perfectly understand.”
“Yeah…” I saw him bite a part of his lower lip before he said to me again. “I want you to go with us. I need to get you some clothes too.”
I gave him a surprised look. “You don’t expect me to stay here, do you?”
“Then where will you go to? Back to him? If he doesn’t come looking for you then it means he’s not remorseful yet but if you were to go to your parents, I just might let you.”
“No…” I slowly shook my head. “That’s not a good idea. They never listen to me. They care about him more than they do about me. In their eyes, he can never be wrong and the fault is always mine.”
He nodded and took my hand, then patted the back of it. “I understand but don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” He kissed my knuckles and went up the stairs and I saw Uju give us a curious look. As she walked past me, she sized me up and said, “Aunty, good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon.” I acknowledged her and she simply walked past me. Soon I followed and saw her go down the hallway to a door at the end and Chris opened it and led her in. I walked into Chris’ bedroom and sat down on the bed and some minutes later, Chris appeared. He squatted in front of me, holding my hands and said “You’ll have to get into your gown again so that we can go out, I believe that it’s dry by now.”
I nodded. He was still holding my hands when Uju appeared in the open doorway, clad in only a wrapper. “My husband.”
“What!” Chris cringed at the mention of the word and rose to look at her. “Do not call me that.”
“Then what should I call you?”
“Call me by my name. My name is Chris.”
“No o…” She shook her head in defiance. “It’s disrespect to call a husband by his name, I’ll have to look for a pet name…” She began to think, looking up at the ceiling with her index finger in her mouth..
“Do not call me any pet names please!” Chris tried to interrupt her.
“Ehen!” Her eyes brightened up and she clicked her fingers “I’ll call you Obim.”
“I don’t want a pet name!” Chris said firmly then asked. “What are you even doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be having a bath? And why the hell do you have a wrapper on?”
“We tie wrapper in the village if we want to bath.” She answered.
“No no no no, not in my house! This is the city and you can’t go around tying wrapper while you are fully naked under it.”
“Then what should I do? Do you want me to take it off?” She began to loosen the wrapper from above her chest.
“No no no!” Chris yelled, sticking his hand out towards her and turning his head away. “There’s a towel in the bathroom. That’s what you use when you want to take a shower. And it’s only to be used inside your room, you can’t walk around the house in it.”
“Okay o…” She said in resignation then glanced around the room. “Ehmmm… I did not see your clothes inside the cupboard.”
“It’s called a wardrobe, not a cupboard. That’s the guest room and my clothes aren’t supposed to be there. They are in here. This is my room.”
She gave a puzzled frown. “Then why did you take me to that empty room? We are husband and wife and I’m supposed to be here. Why is this aunty sitting on our bed?”
Chris glanced down at me then back at her. “Are you okay? Are you by anyway insinuating that we share a bed?!”
“Is that not the normal thing? Or do husband and wife have different rooms in the city?”
Chris placed his hands on his hip, lowered his chin and shook his head in frustration. “Uju, go back to that room, you and I will not share the same bed, get that straight!”
She cast a glare at me. “Who’s this aunty sef?! Look at what she’s wearing. All her laps are showing. Or is she ashawo?! Those girls who stand on the road and follow men to hotels?”
“What!” Chris exclaimed. “That’s it, to your room!” Chris pointed towards the guest room, walked to the door and slammed it shut. We heard her grumbling outside before she finally walked away, fuming.
Chris slowly turned to look at me. “I’m sure that came out wrong! She didn’t mean to say it, she’s just naive. I’m sorry.”
I swallowed hard. “She’s right, Chris. I don’t belong here and I really should leave so that I could give you two some space.”
“No… Please… Stay with me…” He pleaded. “You’ll not leave me in my dilemma now, will you? Just please stay and battle this with me. I’m sure that before the week runs out and when she realises that I have no interest in her, she’ll pack up and leave.”
I sighed then said. “Fine, but one week it is. I’ll have to go see my husband too.”
“And I guess that I’ll try not to stop you.” He reluctantly said.
After thirty minutes, as Chris and I descended the stairs, Obianuju rushed past us and disappeared outside the house. When we reached outside, we found her leaning on the other door opposite the driver’s. Chris and I exchanged glances but said nothing. As Chris unlocked the doors with his remote, she quickly opened it and jumped into the front seat. Before Chris could order her to the back, I held his hand and he held his peace. I sat down at the back and Chris got in next to her and drove out.
When we reached the boutique, Chris instructed the sales girl to attend to Uju, while he went around with me, helping me pick some clothes. Whenever I tried out a hat or sunshade, we would laugh or he would tease me about a certain outfit that I had picked. All the while, I noticed that Obianuju starred closly, she kept shooting glares at us and hissed a million times. I realized that whatever Chris liked and selected for me, she quickly instructed the sales rep to select the same design but with a different colour. I tried to ignore her as best as I could but Chris just couldn’t stand her. Chris saw a handbag and told me to choose it, but Uju suddenly brushed between us snatched up the bag and handed it to the sales girl who was carrying everything she had selected.
To Be Continued…