TITLE: THREE GENERATIONS
WRITTEN BY: OGECHI ALABI
Ijeoma, Chike immediate elder sister sought a private audience with Nwanneka. They had to meet at her uncle’s house so they could have the privacy they needed without her mother prying. She looked disturbed.
“Nwanneka, I found out my husband has gotten another girl pregnant. He has rented a house for her in Akure where he claims work took him. He spends more time there than with me. He hasn’t touched me in the last two years. He said he can no longer waste his sperm. I was a vir-ginwhen I got married, I was born again. I believed him when he said he loved me. I left my job and my sanity looking for a child. There is nowhere I haven’t been in search of a child. I have even compromised my faith in search of a solution. I am done. I am tired. You got pregnant out of wedlock and even had a child. You didn’t marry a v!rg!n. But, regardless of what our mother says, Chike loves you. I know my brother and I know he worships the ground you walk on. You were not a holy girl but you are with a man who treats you like gold. I’m tired of being good. I want to have my life back. I don’t know what to do but something said I should talk to you, you may be able to help me”
“Let me correct a misconception, I was and still am a good girl. I had se-xonly once and got pregnant. I didn’t attempt it again until Chike. I love Chike with all my heart. I tolerate your mother just because of the love I have for Chike. If Chike says I should sweep, clean and mop, I will do it. Once it makes him happy why wouldn’t I?”
“That was the relationship I had with Jude before the betrayal. I think you should quickly get pregnant so you don’t have issues later”
“I will when we are ready. Concerning your issue, give me a few days to think about it and get back to you. I can see you are depressed. You are a beautiful lady but you don’t dress well or carry yourself well. This life belongs to you and you alone. What if Jude requests for a divorce, what will you do? Will you die? Won’t you pick up the pieces of your life? Let me think and get back to you. Our abs£nce will soon be suspicious”
“I see why Chike married you. I love your confidence. Teach me how to be like you”
“I will teach you how to discover yourself”
That night, she spoke with Chike. She told him she would like to invite Ijeoma to the house in Lagos to stay for at least a month. She wanted her to rest and find things that would make her happy. She also talked about visiting a specialist concerning her inability to conceive.
“Why do you want to do this?”
“Because she needs help and deserves to be happy. It is a secret; no one will know she is with us”
“You are breaking our rules”
“She is depressed. She found out her husband has a child with another woman in Akure. That’s where he stays most of the time. She might even be suicidal. Let’s help her. I want to visit my mother; I want her to help her get a job in Asaba there in any of the ministries”
“That will be amazing. Will she be able to?”
They travelled to the Nwanneka’s village on the 26th of December to see her people. They were well received. Chike had s£nt home a bag of rice and a goat to them for Christmas. It was appreciated. They were to spend the night.
Mama asked her what was delaying her from getting pregnant. “Don’t be like your parents, quickly conceive, you never know what might happen”
Chike spent more time with the men discussing politics, sports and work. While Nwanneka stayed with the women talking about marriage, work, in-laws and others. “Have you joined the women’s meeting in your husband’s village?” her mother asked.
“I haven’t. Do I have to?”
“Yes o, you will join both the village and Lagos. Your mother-in-law should have told you”
“She only wants to fight me and not show me the right way”
“It is normal. She is threatened by you. You have stolen her son’s heart away from her. It is very obvious. Just be patient with her. Love wins every fight. Show her love and leave the rest to her conscience. Did you buy them the clothes for Christmas and New year as I said? Did you add shoes?”
“Chike was against it. He s£nt money to them instead”
“I told you to do something and you asked permission from your husband? What did you expect him to say? I knew you wouldn’t do so I came prepared. You will go with this bag. Sneak it into your room. On the 31st, share it with everyone in the house. Don’t let them see it. Even Chike shouldn’t see what is inside. I know why I am insisting on all these”
“That aside mma, Ijeoma, Chike’s sister who has been married six years without a child just found out her husband has a child with another woman”
“That’s wicked of him. That’s why I pray, no woman experiences barrenness. It is like torture. The family will [email protected] you while the man will still betray you. Only a few men stand by their wives. What do you want to be done?”
“She needs a job. If she can get a job with the government, it will be nice”
“Someone mentioned to me that a director in Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company (WRPC)needs a personal @ssistant. Will she be able to do the job?”
‘She will. Mma, that will be a good job, she will be well paid. Please make it happen”
“I will call the man in Port-Harcourt to confirm. I will need her doc-uments. It takes time but she will get it”
“Thank you mma. What will I do without you?”
“I want you to always be happy”
When she got back to Asaba, she told Ijeoma about her trip to Lagos. Initially, she was sceptical, but after a couple of days, she came back to her agreeing to the proposal. She didn’t tell her anything else.
As instructed by her mother, she shared new clothes and shoes to her parents-in-law. Her mother-in-law got George and abada with two lace blouses, a pair of sl!ppers and a purse. It was obvious she was excited although she didn’t say much. Chike’s father was excited about his two new outfits.
“Isn’t this the cloth Ebuka wore on Sunday to church? I am wearing something similar? See my shoes, Italian shoes. How did God bless me like this? My daughter, you are a blessing to me. God told me I will be consoled once you join this family and already, it is happening”
She shared the materials to her sisters and brother-in-law. She had bought clothes for the first child, Nkeiru’s son when she was coming back.
Chike was amazed when he saw the outfits. He could see how happy everyone was. He was glad she did this. He had already made up his mind he wouldn’t come back to the village again until he builds his mansion in the village.
The next argument she had with her mother-in-law was her refusal to allow Adanma to go back with them. Her grudge was that she wasn’t informed or a part of the process. Nwanneka told her she had taught the girl how to serve and the girl will live with her. Mama refused. She threatened it would be over her dead body. Adanma cried and went back home.
“Mama, this woman you are [email protected] is a widow. She was widowed when she just had her last child. Her daughter is fifteen and she has managed to train her up to this point. She needs help as the burden is much on her. My mother is a widow and someone gave her a break so I can enjoy what I enjoyed. Give mama Ada a break; she needs it. I can still take her without your permission but I will leave her. Just know, because of this, I won’t step foot into this village or Asaba again. I will s£nd Ada to my mother in Port-Harcourt to help her mother”
Mama Chike thought about it. She knew if Ada was allowed to go to Port-Harcourt, her life would turn around for good. But with Nwanneka, she will be a servant. She never wanted mama Ada to raise her shoulders where she was. She agreed for Ada to go with them.
They went back to Lagos on the 3rd of January. Ijeoma joined them on the 5th of January. She had not seen their home since she left Lagos. Mama was right, it was paradise. The boys had been relocated to the self-contained room Okey left. That was why Nwanneka decided to bring a maid. She would also need her for the babies when they start coming.
Ada took her bag inside the room while Ijeoma relaxed. Nwanneka welcomed her. She had another week before she resumed work. She wanted them to spend time together. Chike had resumed marketing and so went out every morning to see prospects
Nwanneka took Ijeoma around town. They went to the stores together to buy groceries. They went to the market together. She took her to make her hair. She saw a different Ijeoma for the first time. She seemed excited with her outings and new look. She asked Nwanneka to take her shopping for clothes and shoes. She had money; her husband had been s£nding money for her upkeep every month. She didn’t use the money as most times she was with her parents. She [email protected] even ate there.
Two weeks after her arrival in Lagos, she had gained some weight, she looked different and she dressed differently. She was very bubbly and full of life. Men asked her out and she excitedly shared her experience with Nwakaego. She even learnt how to drive.
Chike was impressed with her transformation. “I hope it lasts” he said to Nwanneka when they discussed.
“She is getting a job with WRPC as a pa to a director. My mother is on it. I want to take her to see her a fertility doctor someone mentioned at Ebute Metta. I want them to certify her ok so she will realise she isn’t the problem”
“How do you know she’s not the problem?”
“I don’t know; I have a gut feeling she is not”
“Don’t raise her hopes too high. The guy is with someone else”
They went to see the doctor. He ran some tests on her and he couldn’t find anything wrong with her. He told her to be patient. Ijeoma’s hope was renewed. She was ready to go back to Asaba.
Before she went back, Nwanneka went shopping for office clothes for her. She said to her, “Keep these clothes in your husband’s house in Warri before you leave for Asaba. You will get a job soon. Once you start work and mix with the right set of people, you will get your groove back. Jude shouldn’t determine your happiness.”
“You are right. All the while I was here, I never thought about Jude; I was just happy. I have watched your relationship with Chike and now I understand why he loves you so much. You are a good person. You even put Ada in school, how many people can do that? I have advised her. One of Chike’s boys has started eyeing her. I warned her to stay clear boys and get the benefits of her staying here. She promised to. Keep an eye on her”
“Thank you for this information”
A month after she left Lagos, she was invited for an interview at WRPC. She called Nwanneka to tell her. Nwanneka told her the outfit to wear with the shoes and bag. She also asked her to [email protected] her hair. She did all that with for going for the interview. She didn’t tell anyone about it except Nwanneka.
A month after the interview, she got the job. She couldn’t believe it. She cried when she received her letter. She hadn’t met her boss yet but she was already excited working there and earning well. She tried to contact Jude to inform him but like it had been for some months, she couldn’t reach him. So she wrote him a letter saying she just got a job and would be resuming.
Jude replied her, “Do whatever makes you happy. At least my parents are no longer disturbing you for a child. You can move on with your life. I don’t know the kind of job you got, but I will continue to carry out my responsibility until a time we both agree to go our separate ways.”
Ijeoma was expecting something better from Jude but her expectations were dashed. She could see he had moved on. What did she do to deserve this kind of treatment? He refused to come back to see her after all this time. Even if he didn’t desire her anymore, but just being with your husband and talking was far better than being abandoned completely.
The job started with orientation and training. Ijeoma was posted to the youngest director in their office. The department handled procurements. She didn’t realise she had landed on a goldmine. She liked her boss; he was soft spoken and very brilliant. He tasked her. Whenever he reprimanded her, which was often when they first started, he never raised his voice and made her do the work again until she got it right. He was a five years older than her and was far more knowledge. She went back to learn how to write letters, memos, the use of tenses and so on. She went as far as hiring an English teacher to improve her written and spoken English. Her [email protected] work paid off. Her boss noticed the difference in her work and complimented her often. He opened her eyes to ways she, as a P.A, could make money. She took advantage of it. He encouraged her to further her education. He told her what to specialize in apart from an MBA.
Ijeoma s£nt a letter to her husband. She told him the rent was due and the landlord had come to ask for the payment. Jude called her. He called her at her parents resides. He told her he couldn’t afford the rent anymore. He advised she either moved in with her parents permanently or get a smaller apartment and move there, he was willing to pay.
“Are you never coming back? What of all your things? Where do I keep them if I am moving to a smaller place? Jude, why don’t you be man enough and tell me what’s going on”
“I don’t understand Ijeoma, what is going on? Don’t you have a job now? Why should I keep supporting you when you don’t listen? You don’t have a child but you went back to work. Doesn’t that explain your priorities?”
“Jude, how am I to get pregnant when for over two years you haven’t touched me? Should I wait for immaculate conception? When was the last time I saw you? See Jude, I am tired of your games. If you wouldn’t come out and say you no longer want the marriage, I am smart enough to read the handwriting on the wall. Now I understand why you opted for only traditional wedding and church blessing. Let your people collect the dowry you paid so I know I am single again”
“The four years I was doing it almost every day, how many pregnancies did you have talkless of children? I know what you are up to. You want to be an akwaunna (prostitute) okwaya? You want to have lovers and you expect me to give you the freedom to do that. I won’t. I am not collecting my bride price back”
“Since you have been in Akure, haven’t you been with other women? What are you now saying? Because you are a man, you are free to have lovers while you abandon your wife for years. I’m not ready for you yet. I will not live with my parents; my job is at Warri. Come and collect your personal belonging. I will s£nd you the bill for the house, I am still your wife and your responsibility”
“Ijeoma, you have grown wings; you now challenge me. You have started mixing up with women who want to derail you. I will continue to carry out my responsibility to you; monthly upkeep and rent are the things I owe you. Let your family claim I am not taking care of you, I will prove it to them. Remember my custom and tradition. As long as you are still married to me, you can’t sleep with another man. As long as I provide as a husband, another man can’t see your nak-ed ness. When I’m ready, I will perform my conjugal responsibilities. I am working for now. Stop moving with those friends misleading you, I am your husband”
Ijeoma was angry after the conversation. She went inside to cry as she was heartbroken. Jude rarely called, he preferred letters s£nt through his office. She hadn’t seen him in a very long time. She missed him but couldn’t beg for his attention. She cried. She couldn’t ever dream of cheating on him, she loved him so much. But, she knew he had fallen out of love with her; she was holding onto the thread of a frail material falling apart.
“I don’t understand you Ijeoma. This good girl moves you are making is not paying you at all. See, this man isn’t worth it. From your conversation I heard, he has moved on. Mama is encouraging you to stay back because of the money you give her from him. She expected more money now you are working, I laughed when she said it. See, dump this guy and move on. See you now, you have never looked this good but there is still sadness in your eyes. That is why men are not coming after you, you don’t appeal to them because of your sad eyes. Jude has another woman and probably a child.” Ijeoma looked at her sister with a shocked look on her face. “Move to your own place, a small place for just you. A one room selfcontained. Make it your home and begin to live your life. If I can get a job, I will also leave this house; it is depressing. Mama never stops reminding me of my mistake. It wasn’t a mistake, no man will hit me and I will accept. I want to move to Lagos. A friend wants to introduce me to supply business. I will stay with her while there. My only problem is Uju, who will take care of him? Mama will not agree and I don’t want her to give him back to his father immediately I turn my back.”
“Take him with you to Lagos. You can drop him with Chike and Nwanneka while you find your feet” Ijeoma replied.
“Who? Nwanneka? I don’t like that girl. She is so full of herself. I just avoid her so I don’t fight with her. See what she did to Okey”
“Nkeiru, can you live with Okey? Speak the truth”
“Okey is her husband’s brother, why push him out of your house to live in penury when you live in luxury?”
“Did you ever visit where Okey was staying or is it what mama and Okey told you? If you want your son well taken care off, s£nd him to Nwanneka. Suggest it to her and hear what she will say. If you leave him with mama, for a good sum, she will return him to your husband and once he goes there, you will never have access to him”
“That is why I am considering a job. Help me with your office now. Help me get a job”
“You have never worked so you don’t have experience. You have [email protected] the age for entry level, how then can I help you?”
“Getting married to that monster was the worst decision I have ever made”
“Leaving Uju here with mama will be the worst. Talk to Nwanneka, she will take him from you”
“This one you are talking like this, are you two now friends?”
“Did you see the way she treated Adanma when she worked with us in the village? That tells you how she treats people. Chike’s boys sing her praises, they don’t joke with her. Last Christmas who did she buy clothes for first? Uju. She loves children. You will see how she will handle Uju. Think about it. Sitting here doing nothing except fight mama will not add value to your life. I shook off my depression and got a good job. Shake yours off and hustle. Our men dealt us big b!0ws but we must survive”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t talk to Chike first?”
“Talk to Nwanneka. Let me go and look for a beautiful one bedroom self-contained or even a two bedroom I will stay in for the meantime. I want to buy land and build a house soon. This is between us”
“Nne, you are reigning o! You are making good money”
“The salary is ok but I save it all. Jude still s£nds me monthly allowance and pays house rent. The house I want to get will be close to my office so I will pay far less on transport. I also want to start school again. I will get an MBA first and then an MSc. My boss is encouraging me”
“I wish I could be like you. You have everything well planned”
“You can. Take your child to someone who will show him love while you hustle. Nkeiru, you are more beautiful than I am. Even after Uju, your shape is still intact. Stop being aggressive and angry at home, let that be the fuel you will use to better your life. Put your aggression into the business you want to start. Staying with mama is draining you every day. I didn’t have self-esteem until I started work again. The same will happen to you when you start your business. I will support you the best I can”
“I have heard you. Let me prepare myself to talk to Nwanneka. It is just that Jessica insisted I come alone. She said our working hours will very late some times. I wish I had another choice. Can’t you take Uju when you move?”
“I will love to. But when I have to travel, where do I drop him? And with Nwanneka, she has a maid and her uncle lives close by. She can always leave him there for weeks and he will be fine”
“I will think about it. I am so glad we talked. We need to do this often”
“Yes, we do. I will show you the house when I get it”
“I will love to see it”