Ngozi still didn‟t get it!
It had been two weeks and yet, each time she came back to it she was baffled
all over again. She wanted to respect James wish to stay away but anger burned
within her. What would make her supposedly loving and caring husband, to
abandon his family for this long? Did Iphey leave out something? Because it that
was all there really was to the story, then she was disappointed. She thought their
relationship was better, she felt the bond was strong enough that he could confide
in her. But instead he’d lied to her for months, even before finally disappearing.
The memories of her sick son having a brush with death made angrier at
James…the way she had suffered, running from place to place to make ends
meet. The showdown with his family, the nights she had cried herself to sleep,
the nights when she found solace in looking through his stuff; some documents,
his TM Lewin shirts, his shoes. She always believed he was still alive somewhere
and that he would surely come back for her. But now that she knew he had been
in this Lagos all this while, she was beginning to think that she was mistaken
“Mtsssss,” she hissed with all the energy in her. She sank into the cream sofa
in her living room, still lost in thought.
She caught an image of herself in the adjourning mirrored wall.
“So, this is how I‟ve become,” she said out loud as she looked closely. There
was definitely a look of sadness in her eyes. Her once-upon-a-time model’s body
had shrunk with time. She was slimmer and looked darker. She noticed
something in her eyes, stood and moved closer for a better view. She just
couldn‟t believe it but yes, there was a blood spot in her right eye. That was a
“James, how could you?” she wailed in anguish, and then the tears came
again. Just like the night with Iphey, she broke down, and let it all out. She
sobbed uncontrollably for a while with her hands covering her puffy eyes and
then she told herself to stop!
She wiped the tears and said “Ngozi, enough!!!” At that moment, she made
up her mind. James wasn‟t doing this to her anymore. She was a successful
“single” mother, and a force to reckoned with when it came to gourmet cake
making in Lagos. Her shop which was her garage was always bubbling with the
high and mighty trouping in to check out her latest cup cake designs.
She had always loved baking and so her business was more like a hobby for
her. She made sure she had the right things at affordable prices and she was
supplied directly from the wholesalers which made her shop even more unique.
Her mind diverted to Otunba‟s side. Hmmm…that man was just too good to her.
A superior at her former office, he had stood by her through it all. James
disappearance, her son’s illnesses, her business. Otunba had really done well to
help finance the expenses to start her up, but she had refused to remain indebted
to him. She had insisted and actually paid up just a year after she started. That
hadn’t stopped his friendship. In fact, after Obi’s near shave with death, he had
proposed. He said she was the first woman to have ever made him feel this way
since his late wife, but she thought his marriage proposal was just a way to entice
her into an affair. Alas, she couldn’t bring herself to ‘cheat’ on James.
To now find out that the man she had been keeping herself for did not even
want to return to her. She shook her head vehemently and strode back to the
sofa. One man couldn’t do this to her. As much as she thought he was worth it,
she had mourned him enough. If he didn’t want her, it was time to move on.
She walked into her bedroom and hurriedly reached for her Louis Vuitton
bag. She ransacked its contents for her W90i…her resolve began to weaken, but
she caught herself, and dialed the number instead.
“Hello,” the masculine voice on the other end supplied.
“Hi,” she replied almost regretting the action, short of words.
“Are you still there?”
“Ehmmmmmm, yes…I…” her voice failed her again.
He must have decided to take over the conversation even though she had
made the call.
“Ngozi, how are you?”
“Otunba, I really need to talk to you,” she said, hitting the nail on the head.
“Is anything the matter?” he asked with worry in his voice.
“No! but its important, I need to see you…..are you free this evening?”
“I am not even in town at the moment. I‟m in Abuja for a business meeting,
but I‟ll come over once I get back.”
“When will that be,if I may ask?” she was getting impatient, and she just
couldn‟t hide it.
“I‟m taking the last flight back today.”
“Okay, I guess it can wait……see you then.”
“Alright and please don‟t panic. Whatever it is, we can handle it,” he replied
She ended the call still not satisfied. Her thoughts just seemed
disjointed……she wanted someone to convince her that this wasn‟t happening.
Afterall she had been through? James had shown no remorse, had not even
wanted to see her or talk to her. Her mind played back that fateful night on its
“I have to see him Iphey, I have to see him.” she had mumbled into her sister’s
“You will, we’ll find him” Iphey had said firmly.
But did she really want to find someone who didn’t want to be found. Maybe
it was time to start divorce proceedings and accept Otunba’s offer. “It’s just that I
don‟t want wahala with those his ajebo kids sha,” she thought to herself.
She was brought back to the present by the shrieking sound of the doorbell.
Reluctantly, she walked to the door and peered through the peephole. She was
taken aback by the sight of her mother on the other side of her front door.
“When were you going to tell me, eh?” Her mother charged at her with eyes
filled with annoyance once Ngozi let her in. She dumped her overnighter just
inside the door and marched to the sofa.
“Mama, please let me call Iphey. She’s in the best position to tell you about it.
She was the one that talked to him.” Ngozi dialled her sister immediately.
“Iphey, Mama is here. I think she’s heard about his return…” She stumbled to a
stop as she noticed her mother looking strangely at her.
“What has Iphey got to do with Otunba’s proposal to you? Who did she speak
with? Whose return?” The older woman walked back towards her in measured
“You’re not here about James?” Ngozi could have kicked herself. Her mother
was standing right before her shaking her head.
“Tell Iphey to get over here now!”
By the time Iphey finished her call and begged off from lunch with Jane, she
had developed a headache. She knew the cause of the headache was the coming
showdown with her mother. Coming on the heels of her face-off with Bisi, it was
a bit too much to know that her mother was in town and spoiling for a fight. Still
numb from the things she heard from the conversation between Bisi and Funmi,
she grumpily set about getting ready to leave the office. She was further taken
aback to realize that the dark-blue pencil jacket which the dry cleaner had
dropped off now sported a very visible stain at the collar. And he had left with his
full payment. Terribly frustrated because she had so set her mind on wearing the
dark-blue jacket the next day, she felt like cursing him for ruining one of her best
About thirty minutes afterwards, she was at Ngozi’s place. As Iphey rolled
down the driveway and parked, she saw her mother outside, pacing the length of
the small compound. She had to pause for a minute when she noticed Mama‟s
eyes boring into hers with hurt and disappointment. Immediately Iphey knew
this was one of those days one wished to go back to bed and wake up with all the
past events being a bad dream. Not that her dreams had been very peaceful at the
moment. Iphey sighed and got out of the car.
As she walked towards her mother, it was obvious Mama was angry. She was
as tense as a cat on a spring and ready to pounce. Instantly, Iphey began to dread
the days ahead. She didn‟t totally welcome her mother’s temporary visit under
any guise because she knew how much Mama loved planning other people‟s
lives. As she guessed, Mama was too angry to notice Iphey‟s discomfort and
began to barrage her with questions even before they were inside.
“So that was why you ignored all my calls to your mobile phone these past
few weeks and just sent me text messages? If the information had not now
slipped out of Ngozi, you had no intention of telling me that you found my
Iphey continued on her way into the house. “Mama, I’m sorry but…”
“How long did you think you could keep such vital information from me,
Iphey? Or do you think I have no right to ask?”
“I didn’t want to be the one to tell you. I hoped Ngozi would do that. James is
Her mother cut her off again. “Or as you believe and have never minced
words to let me know, it is not my business? You don’t want to get married and
now you want to put your sister’s marriage in jeopardy?” Mama poured out more
They were now inside and Iphey spied Ngozi on the sofa. She sat with legs
crossed and her jaw resting on her flexed fist.
“Ngozi, you better tell your sister that life is not all about work, work work!”
At that point, all Iphey could see was Funmi‟s smiling face as she handed
over a query or termination letter if she returned a minute late to the office. She
turned to Ngozi for help, finding none there, she turned back to her mother.
“Mama, I‟m sorry for everything, but could we do this quickly? I have to get
back to work.”
Giving her a smothering look, her mother retorted, “Not this time around,
Ifeoma, you will stay here and answer all these questions I‟m asking you!”
Being fully acquainted with her moods, Iphey knew her mother could be
highly irrational when she got like this. In a reconciliatory voice, she quickly
gave a short version of the whole story.
“I bumped into James about two weeks ago in a taxi. That evening he came
over to my house to explain why he abandoned his family. He said he lost his job
but kept going to work for months, borrowing money from banks to cater for his
family and also to take care of Obi‟s high medical bills. Soon the bank began to
mount pressure on him to pay back or forfeit his house which he had used as
collateral. He resorted to gambling and loan sharks whom he now owes millions
of naira. He said he had to abscond when he realized the loan sharks were
getting ready to draw blood since he was not forthcoming with their money.”
Looking at Mama when she was done, Iphey saw that her mother looked
skeptical. Ngozi had the same raw look she wore two weeks ago when Iphey was
in her house.
“Is that all? Ngozi said the same and I was hoping you could add something
“There’s really nothing else.”
There was silence in the room. Finally, Mama in a small voice quite unlike
hers said, “I think that was a very brave thing James did.”
Both Iphey and Ngozi looked at their mother in horror. How could Mama
approve what James did?
Mama faced Ngozi, arms on her hips, “It is fine for you to feel that what he
did was unfair, making you go through so much agony all alone and turning you
into a single mother overnight. But believe me, at that point, I think he was left
with no choice. I’ve told you this and I’ll say it again, James had to make the
painful decision of abandoning you and Obi thereby guaranteeing your safety or
staying and bringing about your death. He made the right choice.”
“You say he did right? Abandoning us for three years and refusing to see me
even now?” There were tears in Ngozi’s voice.
The doorbell rang. When their mother rushed to answer it, Iphey shook her
head. One would think Mama owned the house. It was Otunba, Ngozi’s
benefactor and the quick way their mother returned to her seat left Iphey
wondering if she was expecting someone else.
Ngozi got to her feet. “Otunba, are you back already?”
“Yes I did,” he replied. “You sounded so worried when you called earlier I
had to take the next flight back and come here immediately.”
“Thank you so much.” Otunba folded Ngozi into the thick folds of his
Agbada and stroked her hair.
The long hug was Iphey’s first clue that the couple’s relationship was more
than business as she had thought. Her raised eyebrows to her mother got a nod
with pursed lips.
“He called me and asked to marry her.” Mama whispered. “No way!” She
folded her arms and sat back in her seat.
“Good evening Mama,” Otunba greeted. Mama sniffed and Iphey almost
choked on the laughter bubbling up her throat. “Iphey, how are you?”
Iphey got to her feet and walked towards him and they shook hands. “I’m
fine, thanks Otunba.” She turned to the others. “I have to return to the office
now.” There was obviously a lot of gist but she could wait.
“No, Iphey wait. There’s…”
“Mama please, not now. My boss will have my head on a platter…” Iphey
opened the door and the words flew out of her head.
Someone stood at the door, hand upraised to knock.