My life took an exciting turn when I began flying from Lagos to Abuja every other week. Sometimes, I also travel from Abuja to Kaduna, and Adamawa to Borno before returning to Abuja and then Lagos which is my base. I am all over the North of Nigeria attending meetings with different community leaders, local and international non-governmental organizations, as well as development partners and other stakeholders to finalize the guidelines and operation manual for the care and support of the internally displaced people in Nigeria. We are trying to ensure that these tools can be used to handle any crisis or emergency situation involving displacement of people in the country. It feels so rewarding because I am actually contributing to the lives of millions of people by trying to make it better for them. There is always a reward when you serve others. Although I am earning just about $400 a day, it is not my focus. Money has never been my motivation, because it would never be enough. I think that my motivation comes from the fact that I feel liberated after 6 years of total devotion to the care of my family.
The past six years had been about wiping noses, washing Bum bums, cooking, school runs, helping with homework and generally taking care of the of my family. I have four mighty little people and one big man that I love dearly.
My Tintin is the baby of my life. He is my last born and he is so adorable. He is a darling at all times. Some friends tell me that most babies are darlings when they are infants, well mine is a super darling. I wish I could see them right now. My eyes puddle with tears. Tintin will be one in a month’s time.
When I left home two weeks ago, Sola, my eldest, the reserved and bossy one, told her father that she wanted to be like me. How sweet but we are nothing alike though. As young as she is, her personality is forming towards the blend of the phlegmatic and choleric kind and we are as different as night and day, in many things. Sholz, as we call her, is a perfectionist at 6 years of age going on 7. She drives everyone crazy.
Ademide is my Mini-me. She looks like me and acts like me. Mide is always bubbly and outspoken like her mama and I delight in the fact that she mirrors my looks and my personality. I try not to dote on her at the expense of others. My mother always said one should not have a favorite kid. Well for me, I would say that one should not show who the favorite one is. I am adjusting my ways though. I love all of them dearly and equally but I just have that sense of bonding with Ademide. My Friend, Ijeoma, tells me that I should enjoy it while it lasts because children who have the same behavior patterns with you would end up clashing with you or something like that. Bringing up children is mind blowing though; the expectations are so many.
There is also the Daddy look alike, Isabelle. She is the third and a great girl. While Sholz is reserved, Fade is quiet. She’s a reader, that one; always playing with a book and pencil. She spends a lot of time by herself and it is hard for me to know what is going on with her. Hopefully all of the children would turn out right. I am hoping that Izzy will be a writer or at least be into the arts. She seems more inclined to the Arts than the sciences; always tinkering with musical toys and art and craft materials that Mide leaves about. She is just 3, I know. A mother can hope and dream. We all have our expectations of what our children should grow up to be.
I wonder how my Tony is coping with all the children. Thanks to his mother I can breathe easily and do my work without much worry. Tony is such a hands-on father, he pays attention to the littlest details of their lives.
I was close to the house now. The taxi stopped before our rented duplex in Ikeja. Joshua, The security man, who had been sitting outside came over to assist with my luggage.
“Welcome, Madam.” He greeted.
“Thank you, Joshua. Oga dey house?” I asked
“No, e don commot. Na Victoria and Mama dey inside.” He responded as a carried my luggage.
“Victoria? Who is victoria?” I asked, alarmed.
Before I left home two weeks ago, my mother-in-law came over to help with the children. I got a house keeper that came in the morning and left in the evening everyday so that my mother-in-law would not be stressed and she would be able to focus on the children.
Joshua tried to answer but I was already pressing the doorbell. Joshua waited behind me. When I did not get a response, I opened the door. The children were all in the sitting room watching Television, the volume was extra loud.
“Children, I’m home!” I said, so excited to see my kids. My excited was met with squirms and screams of joy. Mide was the first to run to me. I hugged her tightly. Sholz and Izzy followed suit and I pulled them all into a hug. A young fair skinned lady collected the luggage from Joshua. She had my excited Tintin at her hip. I left the other children to carry him. I could see that he missed me dearly.
“Welcome,” the faired skinned lady said as I planted kisses all over Tintin. He laughed out clinging to me as if I could disappear in a second.
“Yes, yes. Thank you. Who are you?” I asked as I swept her up and down with my eyes. I was not expecting a stranger in my house and I was alarmed that she obviously slept in the house.
Before I could probe further, my mother-in-law came out of her room.
“I see that you’ve met Victoria,” she said.
I greeted her, “Good evening Mama T. Yes I am just meeting her.” I knelt down, genuflecting like I was brought up to do.
“How was your trip? I hope that you didn’t bring Kilishi for us this time?” She inquired, smiling at me.
I laughed, trying to hide my frustration. I wanted an explanation as to why a stranger was in my house and I was not informed about it. “No, Mama T. I bought Kuli Kuli instead and some kaftans for everyone.” The children cheered.
“Mummy, I want a black kaftan so that I can look like a Fulani princess,” Ademide squealed with delight.
“Mummy, Ademide did not finish her school homework so Daddy spanked her,” Sholz spilled.
“It’s a lie. I finished my homework. I did not remember to submit it at school because it fell from my bag in the room,” Ademide defended herself.
“That is simply because you are playful and careless,” Sholz responded, with a smirk on her face.
“Children, let your mother change her clothes and then eat some food. Then you can disturb her.” My mother-in-law intervened.
I turned to Victoria. She smiled shyly as I openly scrutinized her. She was slim and tall, fair skinned and pretty. Her hair was neatly in place. Her nails were painted too. She had a resemblance to Shalewa in the online TV program titled Skinny Girl in Transit.
“She is my distant relative. Mama Kelechi’s sister’s daughter. Victoria is waiting to finish her school cert so she’s here in the interim,” Mother-in-law said.
“Good to meet you Victoria,” I said.
My nostrils were flaring already. I hated surprises; a super-hot and sexy surprise in my house was no different. How am I to know who Mama Kelechi is? I just needed to settle down and everything would be sorted out. Tony should be home soon.
By the time, I had showered and showcased what I brought, ate and played with Tintin and the others and tucked them in bed, Tony made it back home.
I was in the kitchen looking at how some contents of my kitchen cabinet had changed. “where are the spices?” I asked, exasperated.
“I put them in the lower cabinet. Grandma said I should move them down,” Victoria responded while chewing gum.
“Spit that chewing gum out!” I ordered immediately. Victoria complied immediately but stuck the gum behind her ears. “In the dustbin,” I instructed. She looked at me, and then flipped open the bin with her feet, her well manicured and painted toes seducing the pedal of the dustbin.
“I see that you have already met Victoria,” A deep voice said behind me.
“Tony!” I went to him and fell into his arms. No matter how miffed I was at the moment, I had missed my big teddy bear. My six foot five inches hunk of a man was the dearest and most important person to me on the face of the earth.
“How was your trip? You look like you were working for red cross in a desert. Lost some weight on the job I see,” he commented. He gave me a kiss on the lips. I could see that Victoria stood there watching. I felt like smacking some sense and etiquette into her. I led Tony to the parlour and got him seated. I asked Victoria to serve him some food. I could see the fuss with which she served him. I even noticed that he seemed a bit irritated by her actions. Sitting opposite us in the parlour was my Mama T. She was looking at us and watching my expressions. I was never one to hide what I was thinking. It was an impossible task as my face betrayed me every single time.
“Victoria has been helping me care for the children since I hurt my back,” my Mother-in-law said.
“What about Mama Dami? Is she not coming anymore?” I asked, trying to bridle my tongue from uttering any ungrateful words.
“I sent the woman away. she was starting to get sloppy. Leaving things undone and she argued with me so much,” My Mother-in-law said.
Tony was becoming uncomfortably with the conversation. I turned to him, hoping that he would say something. He did not.
Victoria came back to the parlour and perched like a goose on one of the cushion beside Tony’s mother.
“Why don’t you go to your room?” Tony said to her immediately. She got up and left. I was ready to send her out of the parlour myself. What audacity!
I did not say a word again till we got to our bedroom. I was certain that any word that would come out would be something that would cause a situation in the house.
How can someone be brought into my home and I would not know about it? no one had the courtesy to give me a call. Not my husband and not his mother. My kitchen was rearranged and who knows where else in the house got the same treatment. As we bid good night to my Mother-in-law, I literally dragged Tony to the room and shut the door.
“Tony, what is going on?” I asked, blowing anger in full steam.
“Calm down, Ayomide,” he said, pulling me into his embrace. I pushed back at him.
“Calm kini? Who the heck is Mama Kelechi? What is that girl doing in my house? why are things rearranged in my house?”
“You are sounding ungrateful. Mama Kelechi is one of my Mother’s relatives from her own mother’s side. Victoria is here to assist. Like Mummy told you, she hurt her back.”
“Ungrateful, Tony? You had the enfontery to bring a stranger into my home without informing me. Did we not agree that we would have no sleep-in helps? What happened to Mama Dami? That woman has served us since we moved into this house. she did her work diligently. What is going on? I ask again,” My ruffles were up. I was angry and shouted at my husband.
Tony was tired, an obvious fact in the way his eyes were red, “Babe,there is so much going on here. Imagine Mummy handling four kids on her own. I got a contract that is taking much of my time and I cannot be on ground like before to help her out. Can we deal with this tomorrow morning? I am pretty exhausted and you should be also.”
“All this could have been sorted out with Just one phone call. One phone call!” I shouted at him. I turned to remove my glasses and packed up my hair. I got into bed beside Tony who was already under the duvet. I got under the duvet too but I was at the other end of the bed. He tried to pull me into an embrace the way he usually did before he slept but I jabbed his chest with my elbow so that he would get the message.
There I was in a cloud all by myself, enjoying my new found freedom to pursue my interests and a career only to come back to meet all of this. the thing that annoyed me the most was the confidence with which Victoria moved around. She appeared like a mousy and shy girl but I was 100 percent sure she was not that naïve. I saw the way she looked at my husband, looked at me and even acted around my Mother-in-law. She was a calculative little thing. A beautiful one at that.
I was running around the country working on a guideline for people in crisis situation. I should have been developing it for myself. I have never had any issue with my. I do not know if she is blind to the Victoria girl or working in tandem with her. I know that she was not so into me and preferred one other lady Tony dated before he met me. I also know that she was angry when Tony and I gave 2 of the kids Yoruba names. She felt that I was making him do things he would not ordinarily do including giving up his rights to name his children. While Tony is from Rivers state, he personally chose the yoruba names for his daughters. I had to insist that he named Tintin, Timothy.
When I got married to Tony Briggs, it was obvious that the bond between mother and son was stronger than what I usually saw. I guessed that it was because they had only themselves all his life. His father was late and his father’s relatives threw his mother out of their own home. The only thing she took with her was her husband’s last name. It was tough growing up with little to eat but obviously she was a very strong woman. Tony wanted no association with his father and so he preferred to associate with his mother’s side of the family and every other tribe but not his father’s.
I am not one to dillydally. I needed to make decisions. I needed to get rid of Victoria. Perhaps his mother needed some time to herself in her own home too. My neatly arranged life was a little bit upset and I needed to straighten it out. Tony and I cannot be so busy at the same time. Someone was needed to focus on the children. Was I ready to give up my new career? My stomach filled with dread. Could I walk away from realizing my dreams just when I started to build up my network and career? I do not want to make rash decisions.
To be continued!