The Second Wife – Episode 24
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
When Soki returned home from school, Dienye wasn’t around. She asked one of the security guards to get her a cab while she walked into her bedroom and packed a few clothes and shoes. She had called Dienye’s maternal grandmother at the spur of the moment and while talking with her, promised to come visiting that evening.
It was almost noon and if she left in a few minutes, she could get to RTC and take a bus which would take her close to her destination. She changed into a sky blue dress shirt and jeans, and stuck her feet into a pair of sneakers. Just in time. The knock on the front door announced the arrival of the cab driver.
She left a note for Dienye. There was soup and stew in the freezer enough to last him until she returned on Sunday. She needed the break. Perhaps by the time she returned, he would be in a better mood.
Nawfia, Njikoka LGA
Soki looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her make-up was quite good. There was great improvement
from the make-up she had applied in the last few months, thanks to her cousin Chinwe Asodike who was a make-up artist and had given Soki a free makeover as a wedding gift. She was dressed in a flowing red and yellow kaftan with low V-neck and a matching scarf tied turban-like style on her head. She wasn’t sure how a married woman was supposed to dress around here. The last thing she wanted was to be the subject of some village gossip.
She stepped out of the bedroom assigned to her by Dienye’s grandmother and waited in the sitting room for the elderly woman. She was to escort Ezimdimma to a friend’s house. Ezimdimma’s friend was recently widowed and she intended to check up on her.
Soki settled herself on one of the single chairs and turned her attention to her phone. Dienye hadn’t called yet. She hadn’t bothered leaving him a message since he had this bad habit of ignoring it. He would definitely call her whenever he got home and didn’t find her there.
She dropped the phone and picked up the remote to scroll through the channels. Ezimdimma’s husband, Ekwueme, a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal, was attending a burial in Ifite Dunu and would be back the next day. Soki couldn’t wait to meet the man who had stolen the older woman’s heart 62 years ago for the second time. She had met him for the first time during her wedding and so hadn’t really discussed much with him. He appeared to be the quiet kind though, but 62 years meant there was something about him that had kept Dienye’s grandmother in the marriage for so long.
She was still scrolling through the channels when Ezimdimma came out of her room and Soki sat up. Why was she not surprised? Soki asked herself. The older woman was dressed in a simple dress that ended just below her knees. The dress was free at the hips but couldn’t hide the fullness of the hips that must have put a lot of men in trouble when the woman was a lot younger.
She was what the Igbos would call ‘Agadi ekwenka’ (someone who refused to grow old). One couldn’t blame her. She looked nothing like a 79 year old woman. She took such good care of herself and Soki admired her for that. But she didn’t expect to find her dressed like that! At least she wore flat sandals. Soki would have fainted if the older woman had worn high heeled shoes. That would have been too much.
‘Let’s get going…’ The older woman paused as she took in Soki’s dressing. ‘You…’
‘Before you say anything,’ Soki started, lifting her hand to stop whatever Ezimdimma was about to say. ‘I’m going to my room to change.’
Soki returned in a red top and jean skirt that was about two inches above her knees.
‘I cannot have it said that you beat me in terms of dressing,’ Soki told the older woman. ‘I’m the one in her early twenties.’
The older woman laughed. ‘Age is nothing but a number, my dear. It is a thing of the mind. You are only as old as you think you are. I may be almost 80 but I am 30something at heart.’
‘Mama, odi ka inye ezigbo nsogbu ka agbogho (Mama, it’s like you caused a lot of trouble in your youthful days),’ Soki told Ezimdimma.
‘You don’t know the half of it,’ Ezimdimma laughed. ‘Remind me to show you my pictures when we get back.’
As they waited for Mama Chidi to come out of her bedroom, Ezimdimma proudly introduced Soki as Nwasoka, Ari nwam’s wife to her friends who had also come visiting. Ari nwam was her pet name for Dienye, short for Arinzechukwu. No one spent much time looking at Ezimdimma’s outfit. They had to be used to her by now. She had worn a fitted flowing gown and multi-coloured bangles to Dienye and Soki’s wedding and Dienye had hailed her as ‘Hottest Mama’.
A young lady approached them and greeted Ezimdimma.
‘Ekpereamaka, ke ka I me (how are you)?’
Ekpereamaka gave a laugh that obviously wasn’t from her heart. She clearly didn’t like the use of her full name.
‘Mama, o kwa “Amy”’, the young woman in the green top and blue pencil jean trousers responded.
Ezimdimma drew back her head and looked at Ekpereamaka and Soki knew instantly that the young woman was in trouble.
‘’Ami, kwa? Gini ka I na ami (what are you sucking)?’ she asked.
Soki almost choked on her drink.
‘O bughi Ami, (it’s not Ami) o Amy ‘A-M-Y’,’ the woman returned when she should have just pretended she had something else to do and walk away.
Soki looked away pretending to be distracted by her phone. She could recall the first meeting with Ezimdimma and she had introduced herself as ‘Soki Achebe’.
‘Ndi Onitsha a na azazikwa Soki (Do Onitsha people now bear the name Soki)?’ The older woman had asked.
‘Nwasoka,’ Soki had amended.
‘Your parents would give you beautiful names and you’ll choose to go by short names that neither have meaning nor give an inkling as to your roots. What’s your second name?’
‘Another beautiful name. And yet some people would rather be known as ‘Amanda’ and pronounced like the English name itself. Children of nowadays.’
Presently, Ezimdimma was on the girl’s case.
‘Oh, Amy?’ she corrected and the young woman smiled. ‘O bughi so Amy (It’s not only Amy), A ga akpokwuzia gi ‘Ekpi’ (we would also call you ‘Ekpi’), after all it’s a variant of your name.’
This time Soki actually choked on her drink and received two slaps on the back. Ekpi? What kind of a nickname was that? Replace the ‘E’ with an ‘A’ and you’ll get the Igbo version of flea. Soki looked at the embarrassed young woman.
‘Ekpereamaka, ke ka I me?’ Ezimdimma asked for the second time.
‘A di nma ma, (I’m fine, ma)’ the woman responded.
‘How is your mother doing? I hope her hip is better now.’
‘Much better ma. She’s been discharged from the hospital.’
‘We thank God. Come to the house later and pick up some fruits for her. Tell her I extend my greetings and will come visiting as soon as I possibly can.’
‘Thank you ma.’
When the woman walked away, Soki turned to Ezimdimma.
‘Mama the mama,’ she hailed.
‘This your hailing is very suspicious, Nwasoka.’
‘Can’t I hail you again?’ Soki laughed, and then she quickly lifted both hands as a sign of peace. ‘I don’t have strength at all o, before you tell me something that won’t make me sleep this night.’
Ezimdimma laughed at this.
‘How can you sleep this night when Arinzechukwu isn’t here with you?’
I walked right into that one, Soki thought with a smile. She had received a text from Dienye about half an hour after she had arrived at Nawfia that he would be travelling to Bonny that afternoon to be back on Saturday. Soki figured she should have replied with a message informing him that she was in Nawfia until Sunday but didn’t bother because he must have known as at that morning when they’d spoken that he’d be travelling to Bonny and hadn’t bothered to inform her.
Soki had never been to Bonny. Her parents-in-law were in Port Harcourt and so she didn’t have to make any serious trip in order to be introduced to them. And the Bonny people had made it to Onitsha for her Igba Nkwu (traditional wine carrying). Dienye had assured her that they would be spending Christmas in Bonny and so she hadn’t seen any harm in waiting until then. But this would have been a good time to visit her husband’s homeland.
‘Do you actually need to go to Bonny only when Dienye’s there with you?’ a voice inside her head asked. ‘You love travelling so you can actually visit before the Christmas holiday if you really want to. It’s not like you’re married to a man who tries to curtail your movement.’
Yes, she had no one but herself to blame for not visiting earlier. After all, she had, on the spur of the moment, followed her cousin Chidiuto to Abuja five years earlier to confirm that Chidi’s long distance ‘fiancé’ indeed lived and worked where he said he did. The trip had been worth the trouble Soki faced when she finally came home, as Golibe had been ‘forming’ the NNPC employee that he wasn’t. The young man had been shocked to see Chidi in Abuja. He was squatting with a former course mate who worked with NNPC, the same friend he claimed was the squatter and the reason he couldn’t host Chidi in his home! It wasn’t like she had even suggested this to Dienye and he had said no or tried to change her mind!
‘I wonder o,’ Soki responded, her fingers curled under her jaw as though in thought. ‘I should have gone with him to Bonny.’
‘He’s in Bonny?’
‘Yes. He left this afternoon.’
‘Ok. Today’s 30th July, right.’
‘Yes. Is any special thing happening today?’ Soki responded, wondering what the older woman was getting at.
‘Of course, today precedes the last day of the month. We’ll spend several minutes before we enter into the new month thanking God for his goodness upon our lives in the month of July and for the year so far.’
For some reason, Soki didn’t think this was initially what the woman had in mind but she let it rest.
‘Look on the bright side dear,’ Ezimdimma continued, ‘we are in this together. We are both alone tonight.’
Soki looked at the woman and then her eyes widened as it dawned on her what Ezimdimma was really saying. Only courtesy stopped the word ‘Ewwww!’ from escaping her lips. No young person wanted to believe that his/her parents were still sexually intimate, let alone grandparents. Ekwueme would be back tomorrow and she, Soki, would still be alone.
Don’t even think about it, she told herself.
At that moment, Mama Obinna came into the sitting room. She was a smallish woman in her early eighties and walked with the aid of a walking stick. She smiled as she saw Ezimdimma who rose to embrace her. Ezimdimma introduced Soki to her friend and then excused her as she went in with her friend, who paused briefly to greet her other guests.
Bonny, Rivers State
Dienye’s attention was glued to the flat screen television in his Bonny home. He was watching the last birthday video he had made of Nengi: July 30th 1999, her 30th birthday. She had wanted a quiet birthday with him but he had thrown her a surprise party because 30 was a significant age.
Neither of them had expected that to be her last birthday on earth. She had died so young. He smiled sadly as he admired her in the aquamarine dress he had bought her. She had worn it with a pair of silver high heeled sandals. He’d teased her several times about not requiring a pair of high heeled shoes or sandals because of her height but she loved those shoes.
He had bought her a black Toyota corolla as a birthday gift. The car was still parked in his home and he drove it once in a while. He didn’t have the mind to give it out. Certainly not now that he had returned her personal effects to her family.
There wasn’t a picture of her remaining save for photographs he’d taken with her and B.B. He had also taken down her pictures from their home here in Bonny but he still kept the videos for himself. As long as Soki didn’t see them, there was no problem.
Her laughter was rich and infectious as she made a joke before cutting her large white and red cake. He couldn’t believe he had forgotten what date it was until that afternoon! Work was quite stressful these days. Every July 30th since 2000 was spent in Bonny. It had become a tradition.
After he’d called Soki to inform her that he would be travelling to Bonny, he’d turned his phones off so as not to be disturbed. He would read his messages tomorrow. Today belonged to Nengi.
‘Happy birthday, my forever love,’ he told her quietly. ‘I can’t believe we are no more dee ná taa ná (husband and wife).’
He sighed deeply. She was buried in their backyard and he paid someone to tend to the grave on a monthly basis. The compound was completely cemented save for the areas with the flowers and the garden. He hadn’t gone to her grave site since she was buried, not sure he could deal with the reality of her lying cold and lifeless beneath the marble slab, through the cold and the heat, the rain and the dry season. Alone without the warm comfort of her husband’s embrace.
This life was nothing. One moment you had life and the next, it was taken away from you. One only had to live life like every day might be one’s last day on earth!
He reached for one of the filled glasses of champagne on the glass table. That brand was Nengi’s favourite.
‘Cheers my darling,’ he said, clicking his glass with the other one before taking a gulp of its contents. The contents of the other glass would end up in the sink by morning as usual.
Nawfia, Njikoka LGA
After dinner, Ezimdimma brought out several albums, some dating back to the 70s. Soki looked with delight at the photographs. She certainly wanted to be like this woman when she grew up, she thought with a smile.
She admired the older woman in the famous akpola shoes and small A-Cut dresses and the large afro hairstyle. The akpola shoes were back in fashion. With all these small dresses worn in the 70s, it was surprising that mothers dared complain when their daughters wore similar clothes in this millennium!
‘Mama, these your dresses were tiny o,’ Soki noted. ‘No wonder Papa was all over you.’
‘Mechie onu (shut up),’ Ezimdimma laughed.
‘It’s true na. The length of these dresses would have caused commotion back then.’
‘The men back then were decent unlike what you have now. A lot of young men have no respect anymore and would sleep with anything on skirt irrespective of age.’
‘So we shouldn’t be wearing this kind of dress, abi?’
‘Did I say anything?’
‘I didn’t hear anything,’ Soki responded with a laugh. After all this was the same woman who ensured that her grandchildren bought their sister-in-law sets of lingerie like they wanted to ensure that Dienye never took his hands off his wife!
Ezimdimma asked her to place the albums on one of the shelves in the room divider once she was done.
‘Before I forget, I bought you a delayed wedding gift,’ Ezimdimma told Soki. ‘However, before I give it to you, I need you to honestly answer one question for me.’
‘What’s the question?’
What kind of wedding gift did this woman have for her? Soki wondered. The woman was not the average grandmother who was prim and proper. Someone like Ezimdimma would place an order for a sex toy if she thought that would help a person’s sex life. This made Soki wonder what Ezimdimma’s parents had been like for their daughter to be so open and not bound by the dictates of society.
‘How is Arinzechukwu?’
‘He’s fine, mama.’
‘He’s a very handsome man and well built,’ Soki answered evasively, knowing exactly what his grandmother was asking. She hadn’t forgotten what Dienye had told her about Ezimdimma saying that his equipment could get rusty and useless from lack of use.
‘And you know that’s not what I’m referring to.’ Ezimdimma pointed out.
‘Of course I do, but you can’t expect me to be discussing my husband’s sexual prowess with you.’
‘Why not?’ the woman asked unrepentantly shameless. ‘After all, it makes for good gossip.’
‘Hian, mama. Biko hapu okwu (please leave that talk).’
‘Very disappointing,’ Ezimdimma complained. ‘But I won’t force you to tell me about it. However, I know from the way you blushed when I said you couldn’t sleep tonight with Arinzechukwu not being around,
that your sex life was not a problem. You can’t blame an old woman for wanting a bit of gossip.’
Soki figured it was going to take time getting used to her grandmother-in-law. Imagine having this woman as a mother? Sex education would have been introduced way early in her daughter’s life. Soki’s parents hadn’t bothered with sex education until she gained admission into the University. It wasn’t a comfortable subject for either of them. Besides, Soki was closer to her father than her mother and certainly one couldn’t expect him to tell his daughter about the birds and the bees, except advise her not to let any boy get too close to her without the benefit of a wedding ring. Even when they had finally tried to talk to her about it, they had used the phrase ‘if a man tries to sex you’. ‘Sex you’? Who says that in this day and age?
‘You’re looking at me like I’m a spoilt woman,’ Ezimdimma told Soki and Soki gasped, ‘Hmmmm?’
She hadn’t realised she was looking at the older woman in any peculiar way.
‘The problem a lot of marriages suffer is the lack of communication about sex,’ Ezimdimma continued. ‘When it comes to the topic, many couples pretend to be holier than God. They prefer to suffer in silence even when nothing is happening, so as not to be dubbed a derogative name by society; the same society that would still talk when divorce occurs. It’s unfortunate. A woman is not meant to be ashamed of her sexuality and has every right to demand for proper and very satisfactory lovemaking from her husband. After all, the men do not have the monopoly of sexual satisfaction. Remember, even Sarah the wife of Abraham when told she would have a child in her old age, wondered if she could still find pleasure in it, meaning that Abraham wasn’t a selfish lover.’
Soki couldn’t believe she was having this conversation.
‘And so you have the liberty to introduce more sauce to your love life, my dear. No stew is complete without spices. Even chicken wouldn’t taste so nice unless it is properly spiced.’
‘I have no problem with Dienye,’ Soki quickly assured the older woman. ‘He takes care of my sexual needs very well.’
‘As he should,’ Ezimdimma said with pride.
‘And I believe I also take good care of his sexual needs. At least he has never complained.’
‘That’s good. Which brings me to the issue of your wedding gift. If I wasn’t sure you needed it, I’m now convinced that it is very important.’
What was it? Soki wondered once more.
‘And I think I’ll wait until Arinzechukwu comes here tomorrow.’
‘Dienye isn’t coming here. He’s in Bonny, remember?’
His grandmother smiled.
‘You think my boy will leave you all alone here to deal with me?’
‘We are getting on well, mama.’
‘As we should. But my boy would come here once he knows you’re here. And no, it’s not because he doesn’t trust you, but because he wouldn’t want you to go through the stress of taking a public transportation back home.’
‘I’m used to it,’ Soki smiled.
‘But you’re married to a wealthy man now, and a caring one at that.’ Ezimdimma reminded Soki.
‘Yes I am.’
‘And he wouldn’t want me corrupting his precious wife. Like I said, I’ll save your gift for when he comes.’
She rose to her feet and then added mischievously. ‘I hope you’re not the type that screams so loud you keep the neighbours awake at night?’
‘Mama!’ Soki’s eyes bulged.
‘What?’ the older woman laughed. ‘Men always complain about women who scream during love making but we all know that if you’re quiet they’ll think you’re frigid. The scream actually boosts motivates them to do more and also gives them the impression that they are the best lovers.’
‘Good night ma.’
Ezimdimma’s laughter followed Soki to her room.
To be continued