I woke up feeling unrested. I had looked forward to a restful weekend but the thoughts and conversations of last night came back to me. They pushed me to open my eyes and think. I was so angry that I was contemplating whether I should say my morning prayers or shove it aside. I made a mental decision to say a few words to God, telling him how I was feeling at the moment and asking him to take control. Tony stirred beside me. He tried to pull me to himself. I was having none of this. I took my pillow and slammed it on his head and he folded up himself in a protective stance.
“Ha! What is your problem woman?” he snapped at me.
I was happy that I got him riled up for a minute. How could he be sleeping so soundly and calmly when I was still so exhausted?
“Thank you,” he said.
“What?” I asked, confused for a moment.
“Thank you is what you should have said to me last night. Gratitude is the emotion I expected you to exhibit since you got home. My Mother is Elderly and she did her own hustle all by herself during her own time. While you were busy prancing about the Arewa states of the federation, I, your very supportive husband I should add, was here caring for our children with my mother. Because things go contrary to your plan should not make you forget that you are only free to do what you have been doing because other people sacrifice for you.”
I was silent for a moment; disarmed almost. There was truth in some of what he said but I was drawing strength from anger I started feeling about some of the words he used.
“Me? Prancing about? Did you not agree to my going? Why are you trying to demean what I do just because I am not so dependent on you for everything like before? People out there, in the so called Arewa states as you called them appreciate the lifelines we are creating. If you cannot handle my success, tell me so that I can step down. That is what you want isn’t it?”
“What are you talking about, you this woman?” Tony was getting very angry. I don’t know if I struck a nerve but I needed to bare my mind.
“You do this for 3 months and you are talking sacrifice. Just 3 months! I have been doing it for the past 6 years. I left my job and I stayed at home. Yes, we agreed to do it this way. But, do you think I didn’t want to make something of myself also? Or you think that I would be like some women that say that their children and husband are their achievements? Never! I have too much ambition and passion inside of me and you know it.”
I was as mad as a hatter.
“I thought I had your support,” I said, feeling dejected all of a sudden.
“My undying support has always been yours. Total support!” Tony said, sitting on the bed. His hair was knotted like the typical Nigerian hair when uncombed, a day old beard featured on his chin and his eyes, no longer red, were alive, staring back at me as if I had grown horns.
“Your support counts better when the going gets tough. You threw me under the bus. This house, this family is my personal territory and you did not guard it for me. You let your mother take decisions without even informing me. Like before, we agreed that I could go work out there but somehow I see that you resent me for it because it puts more strain on you. ”
“My mother is not your enemy. Yes, I let her make decisions; we all have to compromise sometime. If she’s doing the work for us, she might as well be comfortable while doing it. So what? They rearranged a few things. Sending Mama Dami away was extreme I admit but I was not even here when all that happened. Besides, victoria has been great help to her and the kids love her.”
“Please, I never said your mother was the enemy. I really appreciate all that she does but you see that girl Victoria, that one is not something to appreciate,” I told him.
“Finally she shows some sense of appreciation,” He said. He picked up his T-shirt and wore it. “I do not know what your problem with Victoria is. You have not even stayed with her for 24 hours and you are going all ballistic. Tell me, what’s your issue with the girl?” He did not give me room to respond. Tony got up and left the room.
At noon, I was hard at work in the kitchen preparing lunch. “Let Victoria help you,” my Mother-in-law shouted from the sitting room.
“I’m fine Mama T,” I told her. I did not want that girl in my kitchen or around me. It was bad enough all the children suck up to her.
I was slaving so much in the kitchen though. I decided to take a break.
In the sitting room, Mama T was settled against a fluffy couch, Tony’s favorite seat in the house, and stared at the television. It was black and quiet with no motion. I joined her and tried to turn on the television but the remote control was not responding. It probably needed a change of battery. I was too tired to go up to the television itself so I just sat there. The silence was deafening. I started contemplating a quick trip to my bedroom to lie down while the food was cooking but the implication was that the Jollof rice I was preparing could burn. So I sat, wallowing in the uncomfortable silence. I was a chatty person so silence was not the scenario for me. I realized that I was becoming accustomed to restraining my tongue whenever I was around my Mother-in-law.
“Grandma, I really want to thank you for all that you’ve been doing for us. I truly appreciate it. In fact on my way home, I had peace of mind because I knew that you were in charge here,” I said.
Mama T looked at me and smiled, “My dear, we do what we can. But I hear a but.”
“But? No buts. My appreciation should not be marked with a ‘but’.” I replied.
“I heard you and your husband arguing this morning. I was coming to knock on your door and I heard some of your exchange.”
“Yes Ma, we did have some conversation this morning. Let me be truthful to you, I did not expect to meet anyone in this house like victoria. We had agreed that we would not have any live-in help. Tony should have called and told me that this was what you had done.”
“Understandable,” she said. And she was quiet after that.
What was Mama T up to? I expected that this was the moment that she would address the situation. I understood that I was the only one that saw an issue with the current arrangement. I searched myself. If Victoria happened to be a scrawny ugly girl or a naïve girl would I be so bothered? No, I admitted to myself. It was only understandable that I would mark my territory. I trust my husband but when you read and hear heartbreaking stories of adultery, you just want to protect what you have. The smell of burnt food filled the air. I jumped up and ran to the kitchen.
On Sunday, after church activities and lunch at the Cafedeviande, we spent the rest of the day lazing about. I was lazing about in our bedroom while Tony was working on his laptop. Since the makeshift bed in the study was where Victoria slept, he had no choice but to work in the room.
“When did you start working in the room? I thought we agreed that we would always use the study for work,” I asked.
Tony looked up from his computer. He laughed suddenly.
“Babe, do you know why companies pay me big bucks? It is because of how I use my brain. I know your question was posed as if it was an innocent one but I know where it leads. Victoria sleeps in the study and you know this. I envisage that your next question would be to find out if I had been working from the study even though she is using the room. If I were a wicked person I would just drive you crazy with my response.”
“Mr. Big bucks, you would have lost your money on this matter. The sitting room and our balcony are also places you can work and you have worked before. You set the rule about our room being a place we would not bring work to. I don’t play mind games, you ought to know that. You know what? I will just take care of this whole situation the way I deem fit. End of discussion.”
I got up from the bed and slipped on my rubber slippers. Tony focused on his computer, typing away. He said, “You and Sholz have so much in common it’s amazing. Always trying to have your way and getting miffed when things do not go according to your plan. How did I not notice this before?” he looked puzzled at his screen.
“Na you sabi! I am going to see what is going on outside the gate. I can hear some noise.”
I went down the stairs and out the front entrance. Joshua was standing by the gate pushing a young man violently. The man tried to push back.
“What is going on here? Joshua?” I shouted. I was alarmed and hoped that it was not armed robbers trying to get into the house.
“Madam, this boy came looking for a Cynthia. I told him that we do not have any Cynthia in this house. I called Victoria but she did not answer when I called for her. The man keeps insisting that Cynthia lives here,” Joshua said.
“What does he want? Young man, what do you want?”
The young man, probably twenty at the most, was visibly angry. In between curses and spewing bad grammar I was able to understand that the Cynthia collected money from him and promised to date him but it seemed that she scammed the poor young man. My head was growing hot. My spirit told me that this was Victoria. I told the young man down that I would get to the bottom of the situation. This seemed to calm him down. By this time, Tony was already behind me and he heard some of the things the man had said.
“Victoria!” Tony called out.
She showed up in no time. Apparently she had been hiding behind the curtain by the window of the sitting room listening to everything.
Mama T came out also. “Tony, what is going on?” she asked.
“We will soon discover, Mummy,” He responded.
“Victoria, do you know this young man? “ Tony asked and she nodded. Looking at the young man, up and down, “yes I know him. He walks about the street with no ambition.”
“Me? Cynthia? Me? Just give me back every kobo you collected from me and I will not cause trouble for anyone.”
Victoria hissed. Her hiss turned to a scream as Mama T gave her a terrible slap behind her head. I have never seen Mama T in action but I was seeing a Tiger all of a sudden.
“Stupid girl! The same things you did at home to your mother is what you are repeating here? No wonder she threw you out of the house. Just get inside. Hmm. You have shamed me!”
I saw Tony counting some money and passing it on to the young man who swore once again at Victoria before he left. I did not say a word. Everything was sorting itself out.
By the time we got inside, I could see that Mama T was still livid. Victoria knelt down in front of her while she sat on a chair. I looked to Tony for direction because this had to do with his mother.
“Mummy, what is happening? Why didn’t you tell me all this when you sent for her?”
“Honestly Tony, I did not know that it would result to this. She had been behaving herself since she got here or so I thought. The thing is, her mother sent her away from home and I know that I know that sending her back now would be more trouble for this girl. Everyone that her mother sent her to had rejected her. If I had told you about this, I knew you would do this same.”
“Certainly Mummy. Certainly! I have impressionable young girls at home. This is not the kind of person I want around my daughters.” Tony said.
In my mind, I was dancing and singing praises but I stood there watching the whole scene.
“Please, my Son, Mama Kelechi was the one who took us in when they sent us out of your father’s house. This is the only way I can pay back my debt to her. If I send her back, this girl will destroy herself. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.” My Mother-in-law pleaded. Tony looked like he was caught between a spider and a cockroach. He hated both animals. Mama T was obviously speaking from a pain from the past; a pain that Tony felt also. I started praying. The pain that they are jointly feeling must not spell doom for me. I prayed harder against every plan that would make me unhappy in my own home. Tony turned to look at me and I glared at him.
“Ayomide, I think we can let Victoria stay for a week until Mummy and I can sort out a better arrangement,”Tony said.
“Ehn! Week bi ti ba wo? How is that possible? Anyway, you are the head of the house. If you like let her stay for one year. I will leave the three of you in Lagos and I will take my children with me to Abuja,” I told him. I just walked away.
By Monday afternoon, the children had just returned from school. I had reinstated Mama Dami’s position in the house. She had cooked and cleaned up already. I was not due in Abuja until another two weeks but I had a lot of work to do. Mama T stayed in her room all day. Tony came home and mentioned that Victoria was leaving the next day.
I felt some peace and vindication. The only thing that bugged me was my relationship with Tony. It seemed that he was avoiding me. It was hard to read him. His mother however was not hard to read. She had sadness and upset written all over her. I wanted to make her feel better but it would seem hypocritical so I did not say anything.
I was lying in bed at night and Tony had come to join me in bed. He was reading a book about Investments. I looked for how to break the silence.
“How was your day? How did the meeting go?” I asked.
“Good. It was good. Thanks.” He responded and went back to his book.
Ademide came into the room and climbed unto the bed.
“Grandma said Victoria is leaving tomorrow,” She said.
“Yes, she is,” I responded, pulling her into my arms. Tony was still reading his book but I was certain that he was losing concentration.
“Mummy, I am happy that Victoria is leaving tomorrow.”
“Why is that honey?”
“She used to call Sholz Daddy’s girlfriend number one.”
“What is wrong with that?” I asked. Tony and I did not encourage jealousy in our children. We try to downplay favoritism but I guess that Ademide can see how her father and Sholz get along. It was not favoritism per se but Sholz was always tagging around her Father.
“Well, when I tell her that I’m Daddy’s girlfriend number 2, she would said no that she will be Daddy’s girl friend number 2,” Ademide concluded.
“Out of the mouth of babes.” I muttered.
Tony had dropped his book by now. He grabbed Ademide from me and held her face to his, “My dear, she was just joking. She teases a lot. You will always be my girlfriend number 3.”
“Who is number two?” She asks him innocently.
“Sholz of course.”
I snickered. I knew where he was going.
“And number one?” she continued.
“Right now, number has been sacked. Vacancy is open,” He said. I laughed out loud.
As far as I was concerned Victoria was gone. I was glad. Was Mama T going to stay or leave? I did not want to quit my new career but my children are young and they needed constant care. I was wondering how I was going to handle everything considering the recent happenings. It was obvious that new arrangements had to be made.
“Ayomide, we need talk. The plan we have for the children is obviously not working for us anymore and I have become super busy. We need to sort things out. I do not know if we are going to go back to our previous arrangements,” Tony said to me.
My head started hurting. No wonder he had been avoiding me. I could believe that he would even suggest that I go back to being a stay-at-home mother.
Stay tuned for the concluding part of Unbridled.