The world had arranged Nosa’s marriage to Lanre. A phone call from a friend of a friend telling her about the gorgeous guy who wouldn’t stop asking about her. An invitation from a cousin to a party he’d be attending. He’d lavish her with gifts, too many of them which she was reluctant to accept at first. He would visit her parents more often than not, gradually slipping himself into their hearts. Her mother offered several words of advice. He is kind, he is a Christian and he is rich. No need to continue denying her the joys of being a grandmother. Even her pastor had a hand in bringing them together.
When Nosa eventually agreed to his proposal, the world was there to witness their union. Little did she know that the same people that had worked so tirelessly to see they wed would be the one’s pulling them apart. They are the same people occupying the seats in her father’s sitting room, witnessing the return of her bride price- their divorce.
Their first argument after marriage was about money. The cost of organising and sponsoring a grand wedding had taken a toll on their finances. Lanre was the sole sponsor of the wedding. He wanted to give the world a wedding to remember and he wouldn’t spare any costs. Nosa constantly cautioned him about his expenses on the wedding. The ceremony isn’t the marriage, the marriage comes after the ceremony. However, Lanre was a lavish spender that would not be cautioned. His mother would not caution her son even after Nosa repeatedly complained to her. Why would she? He is the only one of her three sons who actually provides for her. He pays the piper and should dictate the tune. Let him spend as he likes as far as the money keeps flowing in.
The money stopped flowing in and the woman blamed Nosa. She accused her of embezzlement and reckless spending. Before he married her, she wasn’t so fair, now she is lighter in complexion, rubbing expensive skin tonners bought with her son’s hard earned money. It was true Nosa spent money on her family, on cream and on anything else that she fancied but it was false that she spent Lanre’s money, far from that.
Bankruptcy immediately after marriage forced Nosa to get a job. Her initial plan for her life was to get married, have kids and spend her days raising them the best way she could. Lanre had agreed to her plan before they tied the knot, he thought it was an unselfish plan. However, he changed his mind after the knots had been tied, when the bank kept sending reminder mails and calling often. They had debts from their wedding to settle and no matter how much she argued, Nosa knew she was going to lose. They were broke. So she placed a call to an old friend, who helped her secure a job.
Their second misunderstanding was about sex. He wasn’t getting enough. She was always too tired, work wore her out during the day. When it was night and time to perform her wifely obligations, she would be too tired, not in the mood. It did not help matters that their marriage was plagued with other issues like childlessness. After much complaints on his side and less effort on her side to resolve the matter, the complaints suddenly stopped. Lanre became more pleasant and wore a smile more often. It was a smile of a man who was sexually relieved. It was obvious to Nosa that he was getting the cookie elsewhere and she did not mind. Their home was peaceful again, no yelling and no yearnings that she could not satisfy. She was even quite grateful to whoever it was that was responsible for restoring peace to her home, only became ungrateful when a friend of a friend called her to inform her about her husband’s indiscretions. He was being bold about it, he took his mistress to public places and introduced her to their friends. Nosa could tolerate his cheating but she wouldn’t tolerate him embarrassing her in front of her friends and family.
The couple soon found themselves in the pastor’s office for counselling. Voices were raised and blames were passed. Pastor eventually sent them home with words like forgiveness and faithfulness. Nosa was charged to be submissive and more open to loving. Lanre, to be understanding and patient.
But old habits do not fade away with words, efforts have to be made to chase them away. Nosa was making the efforts, trying out submissiveness and openness to loving. Lanre’s unfaithfulness only deepened by the day. He slept with any woman that was willing to open her legs to him, any woman but Nosa. It did not matter that her dress was tighter and shorter, that she spent so much money settling household bills alone, that she cooked him fresh meals on a daily basis, all in an attempt to please him. Lanre was unwilling to go back to her.
Their quarrels increased in frequency by the year. One day Lanre brought home his brother, Jide. He was to live with them. Nosa was the model sister-in-law, her hospitality was commendable. She served him dinner and prepared the guest room for his dwelling. Later in the night, after the goodnights had been said and the doors tightly shut, she let Lanre know how displeased she was with him. He showed no regard for her, did not check in with her before bringing home his brother to live with them.
Within a short time, the much rejected brother became the much desired lover. He reminded her so much of the younger Lanre- kind and attentive to her needs. He noticed the short dresses and the butt-tight jeans, the blouses with necks too low for comfort. Nosa was desperate for attention from her husband, Jide was desperate to give her the attention she sought and deserved. He ate the delicious meals that went cold from Lanre’s rejection. He smelt the excessively applied perfume that choked everyone but Lanre. He washed the dishes, cleaned the house and held her hands, did all the things Lanre should have done. Anything to land him in her bed. He got his landing, shared her bed and shared her love.
Like all conceited adulterers Lanre would not tolerate adultery. Especially when his brother was the third person. He spread the news like a flu. Everyone important learned about her infidelity. Her mother was disappointed, she did not want to know Lanre’s role in the whole matter. Men cheat, it is who they are. As women we are expected to hide ourselves and submit to our husbands. It is mortifying enough that you committed adultery, why sleep with his brother? Jide was sent back home to his mother quickly.
A marriage is not plagued enough without a cantankerous mother-in-law. She moved in shortly after Jide’s eviction, under the pretense of a medical check-up. A medical check-up she did not attend for the six months she stayed with the couple. She spent that six months tormenting Nosa, asking her to leave her son’s home. She forgot it was Nosa’s home too. Lanre would not do or say anything, he saved his speech and his strength for his mistresses. Nosa soon got used to nicknames like witch and whore. The woman was very creative with insults and would not relent until Nosa was frustrated out of her family. The barren Edo witch, slept with two brothers and couldn’t even miscarry a baby.
During that period Nosa would run home to her mother, to bare her frustrations. Her mother sent her back home more clueless and frustrated. Her mother was besieged with more serious problems, like her father’s dwindling health. His blood pressure was rising every day and she feared he would have another episode of stroke. Go home and deal with your problems and let me deal with mine. You are a home maker now. If the woman wants you to learn their language, do it. If she asks you to retrieve his clothes from the drycleaners and wash them with your bare hands, do it. She’s your husband too and you must please her. Nosa did her best to please Lanre’s mother, the woman kept on inventing new things she didn’t do or didn’t do well.
A child would have been her ticket to winning her mother-in-law over, unfortunately for her all the pills and syrups her mother had given her, to aid conception, failed. She was already the topic of discussion in the church, at work and at family gatherings. Everyone wanted to help, some genuine, some pretentious. A colleague at work offered to take Nosa to a spiritualist she claimed worked wonders for her when she sought her children. Out of desperation Nosa let herself be taken to the spiritualist. The man’s magic only worked when he slept with his patients. She was not convinced and would not let herself be taken by the spiritualist.
Nosa wanted a child but recent events made her reconsider whom she wanted to have that child with. She wanted a love child, one born out of true love and passion. Her and Lanre were no longer in love with each other. They couldn’t even tolerate being together in a room for more than ten minutes. Their love had turned to resentment and she was sorry about it. There was a time they were crazy about each other, a long time ago before marriage unloaded its weight on their shoulders. At that time when all was lovey-dovey, they made a love child but could not keep it so that they don’t disgrace Nosa’s family.
Family honour was important, that is why Nosa’s mother forbade her to get divorced. It would please her enemies to hear of her predicament and they wouldn’t rest until the news has reached every corner of the world; her only daughter, sent away from her husband’s home because of her promiscuity. Nosa was asked to beg for forgiveness from her husband, if not for anything but to prevent her mother’s enemies from wearing a victorious smirk.
Her plea did not appeal to Lanre’s heart, hence the distressing gathering that is now holding in her parent’s home. Her father sits in his favourite seat, a wooden seat with no padding. It is taller than every other seat in the sitting room, and gives the impression of being in control. His face is serious and contemplating and Nosa can see a hint of disappointment as well.
Four tubers of yam, a bag of rice, one hen and one thousand naira are set before him. Her bride price that her in-laws have come for. The day she called her father to notify him about the impending divorce, hew was unusually calm, as he is today.
‘Four tubers of yam, one bag of rice, one hen and a thousand naira, have them in the house before your husband’s people arrive.’ The only words he said to her, after which he asked about her progress at work.
She has one more shot to save her marriage. She’s knelling before Lanre and his people as instructed, to beg him to have her back. His mother is positioned just behind him and Nosa can see her smug smile from above his shoulders. What she’d do to avoid giving the woman the victory she now celebrated. Lanre on the other hand, looks sorry. She can see the silent apology in his eyes. He is sorry for shaming her before her family and his family too. He is sorry for sleeping around and bringing his mistresses into their bed. He is sorry for letting his mother and other outsiders interfere in their union. He is sorry for luring her into a marriage that was headed for the rocks from the very beginning.
Nosa wants to reply him, to yell at him. It is too late for sorry now. There is no remedy for their circumstance, for her circumstance. She can’t speak, she has only her eyes. But even her eyes cannot say the words ‘I’m pregnant’.