………. Pastor and Mrs B our friendly middle-aged neighbours came over, and in my mind, I was like; ok, this is getting to be a party. Looking back, I’d like to think the conversation was stilted, or that they were cues, but I didn’t notice anything off. Jude; my husband’s brother had lived with us for a while after school, before he got a job and moved out on his own, and as such he knew the B’s. It wasn’t until the B’s first daughter, Funmi came over and invited my kids over to their apartment for ice-cream did I guess something was wrong. I informed her that their uncle had brought them some ice-cream which they had just had and as such they couldn’t have any more for the day, when Mrs B and Uncle Francis simultaneously said I should let them go with Funmi. I immediately got goose bumps. I knew then something was wrong, they had bad news and needed the kids out of the way to break it to me.
My first thought was; my father. He was diabetic and had recently picked up an infection which was taking its time to heal. Nothing prepared me for the news I got. It played out exactly the way it does in the movies. Uncle Francis cleared his throat; “Miriam.”
“Sir.” I whispered my response.
‘You see, the Bible says, in all things we should give thanks to God, and God knows why certain things happen the way they do.”
He paused, and I waited with bated breath, frozen in my seat.
“Miriam, we have some bad news; Kenechukwu is dead.”
“That’s a lie!” I sprang up like a crazed woman. “That’s a big fat lie.” I continued. “I spoke with Ken, my husband; I spoke with him this morning.” I pointed to my phone for emphasis. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what you’re talking about. What nonsense!” I ranted. “Infact, Let me call him right now.” I dialled his number on my phone.
Mrs. B with tears in her eyes came up and collected my phone. I looked to her for confirmation of what I had just heard, she nodded in affirmation. From then on, it was all hazy for me, but I’ve been told I dissolved in uncontrollable tears.
How could this be? I asked repeatedly. I spoke with him just a few hours ago.
I was told he was involved in a car crash. A truck crashed into his car as he went out to get groceries. How could this be? Abuja is supposed to be calm; he had lived in Lagos for a long while without having an accident. Ken was the most careful driver I knew, I had known him for seven years, and he hadn’t ever had an accident.
Ken’s death was the beginning of another chapter for me. The next day, my sister arrived from Abuja. It was from her I found out Ken hadn’t been alone in the vehicle when the accident occurred. There was a lady in the car with him who had escaped unscathed. Then came the next shocker; the lady in question was his wife. Ken had a parallel family in Abuja. A wife and three years old twins; male and female!
I could have died from all the shock. How I held on, I couldn’t say. I believe it was God, and the thought of my children. What would become of them should anything happen to me.
All the frequent Abuja trips, now it all made sense. He had another family there. How could he do that to me? What did he ever ask that I didn’t give or do for him? I literarily could work on hot coals for him. I went through all the stages of grieving; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, but I just couldn’t get to the acceptance point; I kept going back to the anger point.
Really, who wouldn’t be angry? My husband was dead, and I just discovered he had a parallel family? How? Why? What did he need from another woman, or another family? Ken had been the one to insist we stop at two children, as a matter of fact in our courtship days, he kept on insisting two-was-two; male, female children, he didn’t mind. So, like a good African wife, I had both male and female children, really, what had Ken wanted?
I was mad, spitting mad. How dare Ken do this to me, and to cap it off, he went and died? He should be here to face my wrath. Maybe that would have given me a measure of satisfaction.
The burial ceremony passed in a haze for me, my in-laws put Ifeoma through hell for Ken dieing while visiting her. I couldn’t care less. I was angry with her, but I was angrier at Ken and more concerned about my kids future to care about her. After the burial, my mother-in-law approached me to inform me that the family intended to ‘collect’ the children from Ifeoma so I can raise al Ken’s children together. I looked at her like; huh? How? There was no talk of how to cater for these children, just that I take them in. Who does that?
“Ma, was I carried along when Ken married a new wife?” I asked her.
“Then I don’t know anything about any other family.” I said.
She paused, clearly trying to gather her thoughts. “You see my daughter, I can understand what you must be going through right now, and it wasn’t anybody’s intention to hurt you. You see, men are like that. Your husband loved you dearly, and never intended to hurt you. Please my daughter, you need to find it in your heart to…..”
“Mama Daniel, good morning.”
I was startled out of my thoughts. It was Mrs B, my neighbour greeting me. I smiled weakly, and she smiled back in understanding. I had almost walked past her without noticing. I was so lost in my thoughts.
“Good morning ma.” I replied. “I’m sorry, I was lost in thoughts.” I explained.
She nodded understandingly.
Pastor and Mrs B had been a rock since my husband died. They were very supportive and encouraging. I don’t know how they did it, I never felt suffocated by them as I felt towards my family and friends in the early days after my husband’s death. God-sent was the only description I could use for them, because they were always there when I needed them, but never in a suffocating way.
“It’s ok. Where are you headed?”
“I want to go and make my hair.” I replied. “I have an interview coming up the day after tomorrow.” I replied. I had begun my job search immediately I returned from Ken’s burial ceremony; I couldn’t let my kids go hungry. I touched my short hair, I had cut it to mourn my husband as required by tradition, but I was going for an interview as a Customer Service staff in a bank and couldn’t afford to wear my problems on my face.
“Oh, that’s nice. I pray you get it. Where?” She asked, taking my arm and moving me out of the way of traffic.
“Prestige bank, I’m interviewing for a customer service position.”
“Oh, that’s a good one. You’ll get it by God’s grace.”
“So where are you making your hair, Lizzy’s?”
She mentioned the name of the Salon on our street.
“Yes ma, I just want to make myself look ‘presentable’.”
‘That’s good. We serve a glorious God. We African’s believe it’s only when you’re dowdy looking, and looking better than the…… anyways, did you want something further down the road, because you’ve passed Lizzy’s.”
Only then did I look around and notice I had passed the salon without noticing. If it were someone else, I could have literarily fainted from embarrassment, but Mrs B was cool and I knew she won’t make a big deal out of my absent mindedness. I shook my head in negation.
“It’s ok, I understand. Let’s walk back together.” She hugged me and we walked arm-in-arm back to the salon.