I couldn’t append my signature on any of the documents placed on my desk.
My head was hot, my eyes were sore and my hands were shaky.
The night before was a
nightmare for me! I had never in my entire life felt so lost, tired and worn.
“Mama, what is the matter?” My husband had asked as his aunt entered our room. My eyes burnt with red anger as I walked back to the bed and sat.
Our room that was meant to be private!
My mother-in-law wouldn’t even attempt to enter our room, talk less of barging in at midnight!
“Olabode” The woman said as she entered and sat in one of our cushions.
Gnashing my teeth against one another and tightening my fist into balls, I knew I was turning red. I went even madder when I greeted the woman and she didn’t give me a response.
“Olabode” She called again, nonchalantly, like she was the madam of the house.
“Yes mama” My husband asked, bowing his head slightly.
“Is this the wife?” She asked and I frowned.
“I am his wife ma” I quickly corrected her. She eyed me from head to toes and gave a long sigh afterwards.
“Olabode, this thing here doesn’t want me here, right?” She asked and my eyes widened at her words. My husband gave me a knowing look, his brows arched.
“No she doesn’t mama. She said she is not at peace with you staying in this house” My husband said and I was dumbfounded.
I couldn’t believe my ears.
If someone had predicted that my husband’s response to her question would be that slippery, I would have fought that person vehemently.
What I had discussed with my husband as a bedroom talk, he could open it all up in public that way?
OH. MY. GOD!
His aunt sighed long and loud.
“But not to worry mama. I have corrected her. And I have told her that if she isn’t comfortable with you here, she should rather leave” He added and my eyes widened so much that one would think they would fall out of their sockets.
“You have done well, Olabode. That is how a man should do. If she cannot love your people, you cannot love her too!” She said and my boiling blood reached the peak as I jumped up from the bed.
I quickly knelt before her, my heart beating really fast.
It all felt like a dream but each time I pinched myself, it felt so real.
“Mama, I am sorry for everything ma…”
“Sorry for yourself o” She cut in but I couldn’t stop. Two wrongs, nay, three, would not make a right. I had to quickly salvage the situation.
“I love my husband and I love my husband’s family as my own. I was surprised to see you around…”
“Why are you surprised? Is this your house?” She asked, her laser-like eyes shooting directly into mine.
I flinched and whispered a word of prayer quickly.
“Yes mama. This is my house. This is my home. This is where the Lord has planted me” I said and she burst out laughing loudly.
“Why are you angry? Is there anybody trying to uproot you from this place? This girl is funny o” She said and laughed some more.
“Mama, this is what I deal with o.” Bode said and I shook my head. Every new statement he made ushered me into a new part of Bode that I had never seen before.
“Ahhhh…if a child does not know his or her place and is busy jumping here and there, the parent will always have pankere (Cane) under their bed.” She said and laughed. Bode joined too. “The fear of pankere is the beginning of wisdom o jare” She completed and I stood up suddenly.
“Pankere? For who?” I asked at once, not believing my ears. “Are you suggesting ma, that my husband should get a cane for me?”
“Yes! For you! For you!” Bode shouted, charging at me. “What is your problem? I know. I know I have spoilt you. That is why you can actually stand there and talk to my mum anyhow.”
“Your mum? I know your mum. She is godly, she is sweet, she is nice, she is a mother indeed. She would never ever want the downfall of her son’s marriage. I know your mum, Bode but I do not know this woman here. I have never met her before so you can’t just call any woman your…” I was going to round off my statement when Bode’s eyes turned red. His chest rose and fell rhythmically, with his jaws shaking with anger. He pulled me by the collar, filled my face with very hot breaths from his nose and was about landing a very thick blow on my head when I screamed.
“The Blood of Jesus! The Blood of Jesus!”
As I screamed, I suddenly kicked him off, making him fall against the bed as I jumped out of the room, my heart in my mouth.
Tears poured out of my eyes in quick succession.
I ran into my children’s room and banged the door sharply. I turned the key twice, pushed a very heavy chair behind the door and sat on it, breathing very hard.
“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus have mercy. Jesus have mercy” I cried severally, holding my beating chest with one hand and covering my whimpering mouth with another.
Tears rolled down my face as I tried as much as I could not to wake my children up. My whole world seemed to be crumbling before me.
Bode tried to hit me?
I wept and dozed, wept and dozed, wept and dozed.
When I woke up, it was 6am!
I jumped up from the warm rug where I had lay overnight, woke my children up, prayed with them quickly, bathed them and had my own bath too.
After dressing them up for school, opening the door for us to move out became another hurdle.
‘How are we going to go out?’
‘Hope he isn’t waiting anywhere to hurt me’
‘Is it safe to move out?’
I eventually summoned courage, opened the door and we all moved out. My children ran excitedly to the dining room but I walked cautiously, my bent right index finger between my two lips.
“Oh my Jeddy and Jemmy!” Bode exclaimed excitedly as he cupped his kids in his arms, planting a peck each on their cheeks. The kids chuckled excitedly.
“I made you toasts and hot tea” He said.
“Yaaaaayy!” They exclaimed happily.
“Good morning, honey” I said calmly when our eyes met. He nodded.
“How was your night?”
“Okay” I said inaudibly, moved to our room and quickly changed into a black armless gown. I picked my cream blazer and shoes and moved out briskly as if someone was pursuing me.
“I am already late. I will be on my way now” I announced and he nodded, without looking at my side.
“Bye mummy” The children said and I quickly pecked their tea-stained lips, praying for them silently as I did.
I picked my handbag from the table where I had dropped it the night before and jumped out of the house.
It was when I knew that I had moved out of our compound that I wore my blazer and shoes.
“Have mercy, Lord. I am so sorrowful. Strengthen me oh Lord” I muttered as I drove down to the bank in Lekki where I worked.
Everyone who came in contact with me that day knew that I wasn’t the Lara they had seen the day before!
Lost in the thoughts of what had transpired the day before, I didn’t know when my boss appeared in front of me.
“Lara!” She shouted and my head cleared up at once. I sat up quickly and reached for the mouse as if I had been working on my computer. “What is the matter with you. Lara?” She asked, somewhat sternly, somewhat concerned.
“It is well boss. I am sorry”
“You should better be. You know very well that to avoid mistakes in your daily activities here, you must leave all worries at home”
“Yes, boss” I said.
“Concentrate, sign all documents that you are to sign and forward them to me immediately” She said and I nodded.
As soon as she had closed the door, I jumped up, picked up the envelope on my table and walked briskly to her office.
“What is it, Lara?”
“I have a letter for you, ma” I said and she squinted as she adjusted her eyeglasses. She stretched her hand and collected the envelope.
After reading it, she shook her head.
“I can’t approve this. You know that I can’t approve this. Two weeks is too much”
“Two weeks is too much?”
“Except you want to lose your job” She said and I nodded. I was expecting her to say that.
“Ma, I must remind you that all my life, I have spent in this bank. I was twenty two years old when I started working here. I am thirty five years old now, so you can do the mathematics ma. I have never demanded for a leave like I am doing now. I have never demanded for anything special from this bank. Everyone can attest to the fact that I have served this bank with all that I have and that I am. If after thirteen years of working here, I still cannot get a two-week leave, then, is this even a job? Ma, you can take the job away, then” I said recklessly, not even knowing what I was saying.
“Lara, what’s the matter with you? Why are your words so strong?” She asked, her eyes widened.
“I apologize. My family is on fire now and I have to quench it. You are a woman, so you can understand” I said calmly.
“Still, two weeks is not something that…” She was saying when I bowed slightly before her.
“I will finish up what I have to do for today ma. Thanks for approving my leave. The Lord will uphold your own home too. Thanks” I said, bowed slightly again and started moving to the door.
“Lara! Lara!” She called after me but I was deaf to her voice. I finished all I was going to do, moved to her office to drop some files and waited before her for the approval.
She handed the letter to me.
“A month has been approved, Lara. Go fix your home. The Lord will go with you” She said and I smiled largely as I winked slowly at her.
As I moved towards my car, my stomach rumbling from lack of food, my phone rang. Squinting to look at the screen, I saw the name.
To be continued……