Three types of husbands cheat — The one who loves someone else but is compelled to marry another woman because of circumstances best known to him — The one who is in love with his wife and with every hooker who is willing to get laid- And the one who marries a woman to punish her for the offences committed by others.
Tade came from the last group.
“Coffee or Tea, Uma?”
Mpilo calls me Madame but I treat him like a brother.
“With or without milk?”
“Without milk. On second thought, bring water instead.”
“Mineral or sparkling?
Mpilo used to work at a restaurant in France before Tade brought him home to be our housekeeper in Cape Town. His incessant questions when it comes to choosing a drink could drive an African crazy. Yet he was always respectful and performed his duties with impeccable manners. He was family. He lived with Tade for many years before I finally came into the scene. Mpilo was more faithful to us than a dog and I could trust him with my virginity.
“Just water!” I said.
“I’d be right back, Uma.”
I am an early bird but I woke up quite late today. Tade was coming back from Paris. I picked up the glass of water and looked around for my supplement. Walking stealthily on the vinyl floor, I walked past “Chouchou”, who slept lazily on a rug in front of the 60″ led TV. The Maltese dog had separation anxiety, typical of their breed. He would follow me everywhere but today I was in no mood for attachment.
I felt liverish. I was having heartburn, and the stomach cramps I had for days increased in intensity. Tade would soon be home. He was gone for two weeks this time. Dealing with morning sickness must have been Eve’s first punishment after eating from the tree of life.
Mpilo arranged the supplements in a plastic pill box that had compartments. The box helped me to remember to take my medications daily. All I have to do is to pick the daily dose and swallow them. I picked up the colourful-looking pills. One particular white one stood out among the rest. Tade had asked that I never miss it before he left for Paris. I swallowed the pills and felt them glide happily down my throat.
Staring at my appearance in the cheval glass beside our large bed made me sigh. My hair stood like palm fronds and dark circles danced around my eyes like Dracula. The scattered notes on the nightstand reminded me of the lesson notes I had to complete. The casement window was the only source of light in the room but the curtains prevented the sun from peeping through. Drawing the curtains, I inhaled the pungent smell of blossoming Jasmine and Frangipani flowers, blended with the sweet smell of the morning dew and dust.
The clock struck seven. In thirty minutes, Mpilo will leave to pick up Tade from the airport. What should I wear?
Tade had complained before he left that I wasn’t taking care of my looks. He wanted me to stop wearing full pants and opt for G-strings. He said they covered too much of my buttocks and I should allow them to be free. Even my bras were not spared. He said they were too modest. He loved the push-up bras that popped up the cleavage like two smooth mounds of fufu, his favourite African dish.
I’m six weeks gone and I wasn’t feeling that awesome with his rules. I donned a smocked dress and applied a little make-up after combing up my hair in a bun. Thank God, I was blessed with that much hair. The bed sheet creased like a maze and I straightened them, tucking the edges under the mattress. I made the pillows kiss as they were designed to. The photographer who did our pre-wedding photoshoot gifted them to us. The left one had the image of Tade pouting his lips towards the edge and the right one had mine. When placed side by side, the pillows kissed and I think it’s the most romantic gift I have ever received.
The bedroom looked perfect. Mpilo did a good job cleaning the whole house. He was the family Tade never had. Tade’s mum, Arike, was impregnated as a teenager and she abandoned Tade to his grandma and left with a man outside the country. When Iya Eleko, Tade’s Grandma died, Tade’s aunt, Tola, took him in as her protegé but as the saying goes, “ there’s no one like a mother.” Tola used Tade to meet her family’s needs. No family cared about Tade’s welfare so he relocated to South Africa.
Oh, these cramps again!
“Uma, are you alright? It must be the pills. You should stop taking them.”
“They are supplements, Mpilo. Every pregnant mum needs them.”
“But you miscarried your last baby. You should be careful of drugs.”
“That is why I need supplements.”
I grimaced and moved to the dining table. Mpilo was leaving to pick Tade up from the airport. I was enthralled by the thought. Soon I will be in the arms of my love and he will tell me like he did the last time that my baby will be fine this time. During my first pregnancy, I overworked myself. The examination questions for the fourth graders had to be ready before resumption and I struggled to beat the deadline. This time, Tade told me to resign from my job till my baby was born. He made sure everything I needed was at home.
When I started spotting after I first conceived, I thought it was “implantation bleeding”, I told him and he immediately got me drugs to keep the baby safe but I still lost it. Tade cried more than I did. He dried my tears with his lips and soon I conceived again. He wasn’t so happy I conceived so soon because of my health and told me I should have been more careful but when he saw the happiness radiating from my smiles, he promised to be there for me all through the journey. Even when he was out of town for his business, he would call to make sure that I was alright. Tade is the prince charming on a white horse.
Breakfast was set. A simple Christmas meal of bread and omelettes. The chicken will be served later. Tade loves a light breakfast. Then he would make love to me all morning before lunch and take a nap till evening. He was a night owl. While I slept, he would be on business calls and chats till midnight. I didn’t disturb him because I thought he was working hard to make us live a good life. Most evenings, we will go have cocktails on a terrace at “Jamaica Me Crazy”.
The doorbell rang.
I ran to the door forgetting I carried the future heir of Tade’s mansion. The metallic door felt heavier than usual. Yes, this was it. But it was not! Mpilo stood there at the entrance, pointing a letter at me.
“ Uma, you have a letter.”
“A letter? Where’s Tade?”
“Mnumzane said to give you a letter. He left.”
“I do not know.”
Mpilo went into the kitchen to make lunch. He did not come with a bag or any luggage. Where would Tade have gone? I opened the letter quietly as I sat on one of the dining chairs. Chouchou was fully awake and was prancing about to be cuddled. I didn’t feel like it. Mpilo set his meal before him and he forgot his attachment for a while. What could be so important that stopped Tade from coming home first?
Tade never called me Amahle. He either called me Onitemi meaning “my own” in Yoruba or “Othandekayo” meaning “darling” in Zulu. His voice was always soft when he spoke to me. Only once did he ever shout at me. That was the day I picked up his call and a female voice cooed “Baby” in my ears. I asked him who it was in Zulu as I walked to the bathroom to tell him he had a call. He came out of the bathtub with soap bubbles partly on his skin and his towel loosely tied and collected the phone only to end the call.
“You don’t even know who it is?”
“I thought it might be urgent since the number is not saved. That’s why I picked it”
“It was my mum. She’s back in Nigeria and I don’t want to speak to her. You shouldn’t have picked up the call.”
Tade never shouted at me. I must have upset him. The voice didn’t sound like his mother but I apologised. I was suspicious but he apologised too and invited me to join him in the bathtub. We had a sweet and romantic bath that washed off my doubts.
The letter was still in my hands. I was trembling all over as I read the strange words written in cursive. Tade wanted a “breakfast”. At first, the Nigerian slang didn’t sink in. Then he explained. He wanted a breakup. No, he didn’t ask to be divorced. He just left. He said I was too good for him. That he was a wounded lion that would never heal. His words burnt more than the hot tears that rolled down my cheeks. The tightness in my throat intensified. The omelettes covered in china plate smelt like rotten eggs. Or was it the words I read from the white sheets stained in red ink? Why did he choose to write in red ink?
“… I don’t think I can ever love you. I don’t want a family. I hate having a child. I am a shattered plate. First, my mother left with a man when I was just nine. Then, my grandmother left me alone in the world and Tiwa, my first and only love, left after aborting my very first child. She never wanted to ruin her career and her figure by having a baby in school. But you…”…”
Yes, me? He said I was true to our love but he was a philanderer and he desired wild fun. I trudged from the living room to the bedroom stopping to rest on a white recliner. Mpilo stopped me in my tracks.
“Uma, you are bleeding!”
“Uma, are you alright? Your dress is stained with blood. It must be the drug, I’m sure.”
“I know it very well, Uma. I have seen my father prescribe that white drug among your supplements to ladies. It is an abortion pill. Why do you take it?”
“It’s Tade. I trusted him with my whole life and he ruined it.”
“Uma, I need to call the doctor.”
“It’s too late. I have lost this one too.”
And I passed out. All became bleak. My future has plummeted into a crash.
I have decided to send you a mail since our love story started with your first mail. I waited for 10 years to hear your response to my question since we first met. Mpilo said you were back in Cape Town and that you have finalised the civil divorce at the court on the grounds that your ex had gone missing for over seven years. Hope you had a great time in Western Cape. I read the article written by your student in the journals. I am proud of you and can’t wait to hear a reply to my long-awaited question:
Will you marry me?
25 -12- 2022
Merry Christmas and a Happy New year in advance.
See you on new year’s eve, at “Jamaica me Crazy.” On the terrace. Where we first met while I was drowning my hurt in whisky. Same time.
And Yes, I will marry you!