It was unbelievable, what I was hearing. I thought I was in a dream or my hearing organs were malfunctioning. I couldn’t tell if he said “you’re moving to America” or “we’re moving to America”. I looked at the face of my rich boyfriend turned fiance, then at the grinning face of my mum, dad and younger sister. I looked round our small house, the curtains were lifted up to allow light and fresh air into the house as was our custom when we had a visitor. The melody of ‘akanchawa’ played subtly from our sound system, the volume was turned down yet it filled my head, it filled the house.
My gaze fixed on an award I had won in secondary school, an award my parents displayed proudly on our small TV. Somehow they knew, somehow they were sure I’d go places and make them proud, they never failed to mention it anytime the chance arose. I didn’t disagree with them, and now, here we are.
“Chika, inugo?” My rich boyfriend asked me if I had heard what he said, it was cute when he spoke Igbo. “We’re moving?” I asked him, just to be sure I heard right and it wasn’t a dream. I could sense the excitement in my voice, my eyes were glowing and Chike was there, looking at my face and smiling, more like he was grinning from ear to ear.
I jumped up, shouted and turned up the volume of the stereo system and we all started singing and dancing. It was a new dawn for my family and I, or so we thought.
* * *
“Hello, earth to strange beautiful woman”, the white man sitting opposite me brought me back to present. “I’m sorry, these thoughts keep coming” I said faking a smile at him. It’s been five years since we moved to Philadelphia from Lagos, that is Chike and I and I’ve set my eyes on him just four times. He visits once a year, during summer. According to him, business is better in Nigeria. I was lonely, America was not what I had imagined. I couldn’t go back to Nigeria, whenever I call home, mama and papa will tell me how they’re enjoying the big house my “American husband” built for them and how their friends now call them “nne americanah”. I would smile, I was happy they were finally enjoying, I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t take the enjoyment from them.
“I’m David”, the white man seemed persistent, I always thought white people were too plain, no unique name, everything about them was ordinary. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the fine waiter walked up to me and his name tag read ‘Dave’, or if the young woman across the table called out to her son whose name was David. “I’m Chika”, I said to him. Normally I would have given him my American name but something just didn’t feel right about today. I stressed the name to make sure it sounded Igbo, I knew my acquired accent wouldn’t have done much justice to it.
“Nice name”, he said. I didn’t care if he thought my name was nice or not. I hated how Americans judged blacks by their names, if your name didn’t sound pleasant, they’d pretend it was but their expression says it all.
He got up, leaving me wondering why he was no longer interested in the conversation, he started it after all.
I looked outside the old African eatery I was in, whites only came here because the coffee was really good, it was the only one close to the house, Chike and I used to come here whenever he visited, we’d order ‘ofe aku’ with ‘isi ewu’ and pound yam. They made it better than those in Nigeria, we enjoyed it. I looked at the untouched plate of jollof rice in front of me, it disgusted me so I got up and left.
* * *
“Ouch!” , I keep hitting my big toe on the dining chair each time I go to answer the phone, I knew I should have removed the chair a long time ago but it felt irrelevant to me so I just ignored it and endured the pain. I knew who was calling, only him calls this late, only him calls!
“Hi honey!”, his voice sounded enthusiastic as usual and he always spoke before I did, he never gave me space to speak first. “I’ll be coming over for summer holiday next week, I can’t wait to wrap up this project and head over to you, I miss you baby”. I could tell he only said that to pacify me, five years and no child, my jovial emotions were dead and he knew it. Every time he came around, it was a chance to try and get pregnant, it was tiring!
“I miss you”, I said into the telephone, it was hard not being able to spend quality time with him and I still loved him, I missed him every day, life here was lived in solitary.
“I’ll see you soon baby, I love you, bye” he said and hung up.
* * *
I remember how we met, it was one of those busy Lagos Mondays, I was job hunting at a new firm that had just opened in town and I was sharply dressed. Then, my “no university education” didn’t have much effect on me as I got jobs that graduates couldn’t. There was an opening for the position of a personal assistant to the managing director and I did my research well enough to know what the M.D liked and what he didn’t. Little did I know he was going to be my husband. “Good morning”, I said with a corporate smile to the receptionist, “Good morning”, she replied with an even bigger smile, her complexion was breathtaking and her voice was heavenly, no man in his right thinking mind wouldn’t fall head over heels for this young lady, I could tell she was older than her mid-twenties look. “How may I be of help to you this morning ma?” It was quite early and she made it feel like the day will be great, I guess that was her job. “I’m here for an interview, 9:00am”, I said and noticed how her brows raised when I mentioned ‘interview’, I’m sure I had the looks of a CEO so I wasn’t surprised that she was surprised. She took a brief look at her computer and looked at me, then again at the computer and finally said with a smile, “you must be miss Chika, you’re early”, I knew I was early, a little too early for the interview but I wanted to make a wonderful first impression, it was 7:00am. “Please take a seat, the boss will attend to you once it’s time.”
I turned and found a seat, picked up the newspaper and got myself occupied. It was the first big position I was applying for since I got my SSCE and I ready to get it or die trying.
The boss walked in around 8:00am, I noticed it as everyone hurriedly put finishing touches to their work and when he passed by, I could hear sounds of “Good morning sir” filling up the reception. He walked straight to the receptionist and as if it was a rehearsed routine, she handed him a file and said with a more seductive smile “Good morning sir, your 9am arrived an hour ago, should she keep waiting or should I send her in now?” He looked in my direction and whispered something to the receptionist whose name I later discovered to be Daphne. Thirty minutes later, she told me I could go in for the interview. That was how I met the business mogul Chike Tyson. I had pictured our lives together the first day I met him, I so badly wanted to be his wife so it was easy for him to woo me and get me to agree to marriage.
I remember when he proposed, I had woken up feeling a lot of excitement inside me, I was already working as his P.A but we were already dating. He paid me though, like he paid every other employee of his, sometimes I felt he paid me more than I worked for. I couldn’t reject it, I worked for money at that time, I was the first child and I had a lot of responsibilities. That day at the office he worked me up a bit, I ran his personal errands, delivered messages, represented him at meetings and still showed him love. He had his driver take me all around though but that didn’t keep the stress away. The day ended with him asking me to dinner and I accepted.
Dinner was lovely, it was a different restaurant this time, more classy, it was neat and men with expensive tuxedos walked around majestically. I should have suspected he wanted to propose but I was too busy enjoying the evening I didn’t see it coming.
He proposed eventually, I said yes, everyone in the restaurant clapped and cheered us.
* * *
I looked at the shaving cream, I was about to perform one of my yearly rituals; shaving the hair on my legs, Chike liked it that way and every year before he visited, I’d shave it the way he likes it. I closed the cream, I was tired. I wanted out, I wanted to let him know, I was tired!
I drove to the airport to pick him, he had his usual cheerful face on. I love my husband, he was good at pretending, his face was his major instrument of deceit. He’d smile even when he was about to commit murder and you won’t suspect a thing. “Mrs Tyson!” He yelled with a laugh, I couldn’t help but blush, it wasn’t often I was referred to as Mrs Tyson and I liked it. I melted in his arms and he hugged me tight, more like he squeezed me. We drove home in silence, he could tell something was wrong, I tried not to show it by talking about the new roads and the ones that were newly closed for construction but somehow I could tell he knew.
We got to the apartment and it was like I wasn’t even gone, I helped him unpack after which he went into the bathroom. Our child making efforts usually started in the bathroom whenever he visited. We’d shower together and have sex till we get tired. This time he was only staying a week.
My mouth went sour when he informed me, I couldn’t understand why I was feeling cheated on, “this has to stop”, I said, “no baby, continue, please” he must have thought I meant the blowjob I was giving him had to stop. “No, I mean us, we have to stop!”. That was the longest statement I had made since we got home. “What do you mean Chika?” He asked, sounding confused, his manhood lowered and his countenance changed. He must’ve thought I was about asking for a divorce.
“Chike, I love you, I can’t stand seeing you once a year anymore, I want to have children, I want to have a family with you, I’m not getting any younger and neither is our marriage, I’m moving back to Nigeria with you”.
I’m sure he never really saw things the way I did, he was always chasing money he never thought to have a child.
“But darling, I could spend more time with you here, all you need to do is ask”, he said sounding really caring, but I wasn’t having that anymore, “I know and I appreciate it, but I want to move back to Nigeria with you, that’s what I want”. I wasn’t changing my mind, he knew it so he agreed.
I spent my last week in America and moved back to Nigeria with my loving husband, in the plane, I felt this was the new dawn! My stomach had butterflies, my cheeks were swollen from too much smiling, we landed in Lagos Nigeria and his driver was waiting to take us to his house. “Ah madam, welcome o, long time, your face e don dey shine o, America don do you better”, he teased, Abdul had always been a friendly person, I was happy he was still around, “Abdul, you’re now a big boy o ahn ah, only you dey drive this big car”, I teased him back. We got to the house after a while, Lagos traffic was worse than it was when I left Nigeria.
As soon as the car parked in front of the big mansion the door came open and at first I thought it was going to be one of the maids coming to welcome us but to my greatest surprise, two young lads with a striking resemblance to my husband came out shouting “Daddy daddy”.
I woke up in our living room, it was quite different from how I remembered it, Chike must have changed the arrangements, or was it this new woman who sat in front of me that changed it? I couldn’t tell, not yet at least. My eyes were blurry, I saw double of everything for three seconds then my gaze rested on the two boys. They were so young and innocent, they looked fresh and robust, and the resemblance to my husband was overwhelming.
Chike was sitting next to me, he had a wet towel in his hand and I felt a sudden urge to puke.
“Honey are you okay?” I couldn’t answer him, he sounded really concerned but I wasn’t buying it. I wanted to know why a huge woman was sitting on my arm chair, in my home, smiling and holding two robust looking kids who called my husband ‘daddy’.
I finally looked at Chike, “Who are they?” I asked him, I wanted to make sure I made them look like outsiders, especially the woman, something just didn’t feel right with her. “I can explain”, he said looking away from me. “So, explain please, I need an explanation right away”, I was almost shouting.
“It was some months after our wedding, I returned to Nigeria for business and I was really glowing that I invited a few of my friends over to the house for a sort of after party. We drank all sorts, and partied like kids. Then I met her, a friend of mine actually came with her as his plus one, she needed to use the restroom so I told her where to go but she insisted I go with her since she was obviously tipsy and drowsy. I accepted, I was tipsy as well but I accepted to show her to the restroom. When we got there I had to wait outside the door but I can’t remember what exactly happened, she called for help and I rushed in, one thing led to another and we had sex.” He wasn’t done, I expected a twist to the story at least, but I still felt like that wasn’t all.
“I had thought it was just a one night stand and we would forget it since we were under the influence of alcohol, but two days after the incident she came to me saying she was carrying my child.” Now I was furious, she came to him and he willingly accepted?? “She came to you”, I repeated in his tone, “Yes, she did”, he replied, “although we had all kinds of discussions about it and the first thing I mentioned to her was I had a wife whom I loved, but she was bent on keeping the child.”
I looked at her, then back at my husband who sat close to me, he irritated me now, I just didn’t know how to believe any of these stories, all along I thought I was the only woman in Chike’s life. The silence was somehow more comfortable than I thought it would be. “I see two children here, I know how one came to be, now what’s the story of the second one?”, I was almost in tears, not knowing what to expect anymore, it was scary. “I’m really sorry darling, I didn’t know she would come today, she doesn’t live here and I don’t love her, I love you”, he said. The more he talked the angrier I got, it felt as though getting angry was the right thing to do. “Who is the father of the second child?!” I shouted finally, it felt satisfying.
“When she gave birth to the first,” he began, “She brought him to me and my mum was around. You know how my mum has always wanted to see grandchildren, my mum welcomed her and insisted I accept the child. I made it clear to her that I would accept the child but not the mother, I reminded her of you but she didn’t seem to care. She made sure we lived as husband and wife, for a very long time.. “Chike, go straight to the details please”, I interrupted, “..one night, a few weeks from my return from a business trip, I was tired and stressed and I needed a massage. She offered to help and one thing led to another, we had sex that night and she took in. Since then I rented an apartment for her and the kids and I’ve been taking care of them.” He concluded.
I was done, I was done with him, this was the end, I couldn’t be a second wife simply because I couldn’t bare kids before an outsider did, which wasn’t my fault at all. I only have this man to my self for two or sometimes three weeks every year and now I get to leave him because of two children! I knew if his mum got to find out I’m back, she’ll do all she can to make me frustrated, she never liked me from the start, and after two years of our marriage she wanted to find out if I had taken in, then she’ll say things like ‘what are you waiting for’ or ‘do fast o, I want to carry my grand children’. I knew this was a lost cause, one child I could handle, but two was out of it. Right there and then I picked up my hand bag and walked out of the house. Into my car and I drove off, this was the new dawn. I never saw Chike again.