The Second Wife – Episode 27
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Saturday, 18th December 2004
Murtala Mohammed Airport
Soki sat in the boarding area waiting for her flight from Lagos to Port Harcourt. She had missed Port Harcourt, most especially the calmness. Lagos was crazy and she wondered how Lagosians coped especially with the traffic. According to Dienye’s cousin, Olisa, Lagos was never asleep. People were always on the move irrespective of the hour of the day.
It had taken three weeks before accommodation was allocated to the Law School Students. The hostels were located two buildings away from the Law School on Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island. There were two massive structures, obviously intended to house the male and female hostels, however, since one of them was yet to be furnished at the time, the students had to make do with the only available accommodation which could accommodate only about 700 students and there were about a thousand or so students.
The accommodation issue was resolved by way of a ballot and Soki had picked a ‘yes’. The males occupied the West wing while the females occupied the east wing. By the Law School rules, males were not allowed in female rooms and vice versa, but there a large common room fully furnished with a television set where students converged to watch a movie or a match and visit with members of the opposite sex. According to the porters, if you break the rules you lose your accommodation and would most likely not graduate. Soki wasn’t sure about the latter but didn’t want to take chances.
She had experienced Lagos life while waiting for her accommodation. Olisa lived in Gbagada but worked on the Island. And so leaving with him meant leaving as early as 5:30 in order to avoid traffic and getting to the Law School before 7am when her lectures were to start by 9am. But that was Lagos, as she was informed. She recalled the first time she had decided to take public transportation. She realised one major thing: unless they were in a park, buses didn’t stop for passengers to alight, they simply slowed down! Yes, that was Eko for you. In Port Harcourt, the buses would stop even if it was in the centre of the road, but at least they would stop.
She smiled as she remembered that faithful afternoon after she was done with her lectures. There had been a rush and she had rushed into the bus holding firmly unto her knapsack. At least, she had felt that the rush had been responsible for the bus not stopping completely. However, when she got to her bus stop, she was literally shouting, ‘Driver, owa! Owa o!’
The conductor went into a string of Yoruba which Soki didn’t understand at all. She began to hit at the roof of the bus as the driver slowed down but did not stop, until a man seated next to her told her that she had to jump out of the bus.
‘Jump ke?’ she had asked, thinking of her beautiful black gown and four inch heeled shoes and how she would land unceremoniously on the concrete and do herself real damage.
‘Yes o and fast before he speeds off.’
‘Atokwa nu m e! (I’m in trouble o)’ she had exclaimed in Igbo, unable to help herself.
The conductor told her to hurry up and get out of the bus. A few passengers were laughing at the ‘ajebota’ in the bus and a few others were telling her to stop wasting their time as they had a further distance to cover. How Soki made it out of that bus without landing on her head was something she couldn’t even begin to understand but she had stood there staring at the bus as the driver drove away, not in doubt that she would be the subject of discussion.
When she told Olisa about it, he had laughed and given her a glass of wine, saying: ‘Welcome to Eko.’
Just imagine! That was something she would have expected Dienye to say. In fact when she had told Dienye the story, he had laughed as though he had ingested nitrous oxide (laughing gas)!
‘Tamuno e, that was a sight I would have loved to behold,’ he had told her when he was finally done laughing. ‘And with those your dangerously high heels!’
‘You are supposed to be sympathising with me.’
‘Sorry darling but you would have to admit that it was a really funny experience.’
She had agreed with him but at the time it hadn’t been funny. A few other trips and she had become used to jumping in and out of buses to Dienye’s consternation. He had told her Lagos wasn’t that safe for people not used to it and a cab would be better for her. He had a cab man whose services he utilised whenever he had a meeting in Lagos and she could utilise his services too but she wanted to enjoy the whole Lagos experience. However, when she was a victim of the famous ‘one chance’, losing her phone and money in the process, and fortunately not getting thrown out of the moving bus, Dienye had insisted that she take a cab to law school and back until she got an accommodation. He was even willing to find her an apartment within the vicinity if she didn’t end up with an accommodation at the law school. Well, she had been fortunate. She couldn’t imagine how boring it would have been to live outside the hostel where she could easily study with others and hang out with colleagues.
Her weekends were beautiful though, and a welcome distraction. Good thing Soki was used to reading her notes after each lecture so that they remained fresh in her memories, because Jaycees from different chapters in Lagos came visiting and took her out. She’d enjoyed picnics, fellowshipped with them at their business meetings, attended trainings and projects and essentially been treated like royalty. As one of the presidents said, ‘A one-time National President’s wife cannot be in Lagos and we will be falling hand.’
That was one of the things she enjoyed about being a Jaycee: the feeling of being a part of a large family. They took care of one another. All one had to do was go to a city with a Jaycee and one was covered. They were a closely knit family and she loved the fact that they took the creed seriously especially the second line which read ‘that brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations’. Junior Chamber International was a membership based non-profit organisation of active citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 which provided development opportunities that empowered young persons to create positive change in their communities. It was THE organisation to belong to! And Soki promoted it everywhere and anywhere. Besides, without it, she wouldn’t have met Dienye.
She had returned early in September for Belema and Anwuli’s traditional and white weddings. And then again in October for Mama Nawfia’s birthday. It had been a big event with guest from all works of life. What Soki had admired most was the fact that Mama Nawfia had made her home open to men and women in Nawfia irrespective of their societal status. Everyone was part of her celebration. Dienye, as expected, had gone out of his way to ensure that his favourite person in the world had a glamorous event, down to taking care of her clothes and accessories for the day.
Ezimdimma had been excited to see her favourite grandson’s wife, glad that her busy schedule at the Nigerian Law School hadn’t kept her away. But the only way Soki would have missed her birthday was if she had an exam that day!
She had taken permission from the Director General of the Law School to be out of school for two days. And it had been so worth it. She had enjoyed herself immensely. She had stayed back for the thanksgiving service before proceeding to Port Harcourt with Dienye and back to Lagos. She had easily covered up for the lectures she had missed in those two days, photocopying the notes she had taken from her colleague Iniobong who was a very fast writer and took down everything the lecturers said whether necessary or not. But it had its advantage though. Reading through the notes, Soki felt like she had been in the lecture auditorium.
Presently, she couldn’t wait to see Dienye. It had been 9 weeks and a few days since she had seen him. She had missed him so much. Thank God they were on Christmas break and with her six week court attachment commencing in the second week in January it was going to be a long holiday. She had been attached to High Court 5 in Port Harcourt. She had also chosen Port Harcourt for her Chamber Attachment. Had she been single, she would have preferred Lagos since the chamber attachment would end just before her Bar Finals began. However, her home was conducive for studying. She could make use of Dienye’s study when he wasn’t around or utilise her adjourning bedroom.
Her phone rang and she smiled. It was Dienye.
‘Hi darling,’ she greeted cheerily.
‘Hey babe,’ he responded. ‘Boarding soon?’
‘Yes. The flight was delayed for another fifteen minutes but from the announcement, the plane from Port Harcourt landed a few minutes ago. So we should be boarding anytime soon.’
‘Great. Can’t wait to see you again.’
She smiled. ‘Thanks for agreeing to pick me up from the airport.’
‘What for? I haven’t seen you in 9 weeks, surely you didn’t think I would let anyone do the honours?’
‘Plus the International Airport Hotel is just a few minutes’ drive from the airport and we could sneak in there and sneak out after a few hours,’ he added and she was certain his eyes twinkled with mischief.
‘If my memory serves me well, Uniport Collegiate Jaycees invited you for their convention. And everyone knows you’re a stickler for time.’
‘That’s for 3pm and a little dose of blood tonic will keep me fired up to deliver on the theme session.’
‘Blood tonic kwa. Sodienye thou shalt not spoil an innocent me,’ she laughed.
‘Can you spoil a married woman?’ he returned.
‘Shift joor. Na you know o.’
They talked for a few more minutes and then her flight was announced for boarding. He wished her a safe flight and told her he would meet her once they touched down.
It was a smooth flight until they landed in Port Harcourt. The pilot seemed to have literally dropped the plane from the sky. She wasn’t sure if that was the right word but it had that effect and then it seemed as though he had miscalculated and suddenly brought the plane to a stop before he could overshoot the runway. This had the effect of throwing everyone forward and then backward, only held back by their seat belts. You should have seen the way men and women raced out of the plane like they were expecting the plane to go up in flames. Soki simply made the sign of the cross and thanked God for bringing them safely to Port Harcourt.
But that landing sha!
Two years ago and she probably would have been the first one out of the plane. But a near fatal crash back then had taught her to sit back and appreciate God for life saved. The pilot had overshot the runway and they had ended up in the bushes but as God would have it, no life was lost. She had put off flying for a little over a year until a family wedding in Abuja had got her back on a plane.
‘Why travel by road and face armed robbers and reckless drivers when I can easily pay for your flight ticket?’ her father had told her.
She was used to travelling by road because of her JCI and CLASFON (Christian Law Students Fellowship of Nigeria) activities back in school. The longest distance she had covered was 14 hours for a conference. But it had been an interesting journey because she knew everyone in the bus and they had talked and laughed until their journey came to an end.
She retrieved her knapsack from the overhead locker and once out of the plane headed for the arrival section of the Airport. She took possession of her travelling bag and headed outside. She took out her new phone from her pocket and dialled Dienye’s number. He didn’t pick the call but Soki soon found herself off the ground. She cried out, clinging to the shoulders of the man who had lifted her from behind and into his powerful arms. She punched his shoulder as she recovered from the shock.
Laughing, Dienye kissed his wife right there at the entrance of the airport, ignoring the onlookers. She kissed him back. Done, he set her down on her feet and turned her around.
‘I thought law school was very stressful,’ he said.
‘Of course it was. The stress no be here.’
‘And yet you’re adding weight.’
She looked down at herself and he laughed, adding: ‘In all the right places. I’m glad that despite the stress of school, you are still protecting my assets.’
She slapped his arm playfully.
‘You look really good yourself. You don’t look as though you missed me,’ she said, her lips shaped in a pout.
‘Of course I missed you,’ he laughed, picking up her travelling bag and taking her right hand in his, led the way to his car.
He was taking her home and she teased him about not stopping at the International Airport Hotel, Omagwa.
‘I don’t think that after a stressful time in school you have the strength for a hotel rendezvous,’ he told her. ‘So we’ll take a rain check.’
‘I’m actually exhausted,’ she admitted. ‘I had to sort out a few things until late and couldn’t sleep until around three this morning and you know, because of the popular Lagos traffic, I had to be up really early in order to get to the airport on time.’
‘Thank God it’s Saturday.’
‘Yes, thank God. And I don’t need to go anywhere today.’
He stretched out his right hand to stroke her left cheek while the other one remained on the steering. No words were exchanged but a message was passed.’
He made a brief stop at a native food joint where Soki had a plate of rice and ofe akwu for breakfast, just the way she liked it. As she ate, he nursed a bottle of water, watching her. His Soki would gladly get into the kitchen once she got home and, without complaining, fix both breakfast and lunch. She loved cooking and it excited her whenever they had guests and she had to serve her amazing dishes. Before her, he picked his meals but she cooked so well, he didn’t have the mind to waste a morsel of it.
‘You don’t know how much I missed this,’ she told him, running the tip of her tongue over her lips.
‘If I didn’t stop here, you would have just headed straight for the kitchen once we got
‘You can’t blame me,’ she smiled. ‘You know how much I love cooking. Who knows, I might venture into a culinary career after I’m called to Bar.’
‘You know you can count on my support.’
‘Always,’ she agreed. ‘But you really need to eat more.’
‘Why? Are you trying to make me fat?’ he returned, his eyes twinkling. ‘I haven’t had to use the gym room so much in the last several weeks.’
‘Well, prepare to get back in there for the next two months. My court attachment starts second week in January and it would run for six weeks. Meaning you get to be my number one royal food taster.’
‘You do know that pot belly isn’t attractive, right?’
‘It’s grouse. Why do you think I love looking at you when you’re shirtless?’
‘Now I know,’ he laughed.
‘Seriously, I wonder why people allow themselves develop and then keep pot bellies and please don’t tell me it’ a sign of good living. That’s the dumbest excuse ever given! For real? The worst is those who are slim, it makes their bellies look grossly distended.’
Dienye laughed at her description. And then she told him the interesting parts of her flight and certainly not about the last part of it.
The flight had been an interesting one. Someone had actually fallen asleep, snoring really loud, as though someone had placed a mega phone on his/her lips. On a 45 minute flight? Soki had never imagined that someone could sleep in a plane especially for such a short flight. But the man everyone thought was snoring had been a massive man who had created comedy when he first tried to take his seat. The seat couldn’t fit. And it didn’t help that the person assigned to the seat beside him was a size 14.
It reminded Soki of a bus ride she had in Lagos where she had entered this tuke-tuke bus that was like a large cartoon with tiny holes for windows. According to the loud conductor with his trousers sagged so that his once-white-if-you-really-can-believe-that boxers was all over the place, each row was intended to take five passengers. He didn’t point this out until two massive women with hips like hippos had occupied the first row behind the driver. Soki held back her laugh as she jejely sat on the middle row. A third woman entered and she was also on the large side. The conductor began to shout: ‘una go pay for five seat o.’ No one talked to him. The space left was only enough for one average backside and a young woman occupied that space. While in motion, the conductor mumbled about the four women paying for the fifth seat. Well, the fare had been N30 and unfortunately for him, they all had change. See wahala na.
Well, this was a plane and seat belts were of a necessity meant to be fastened. Someone grumbled about the large man getting a first class seat instead of trying to squeeze himself in economy class and trying to change the alignment of the plane like that fat officer in Police Academy 5. The flight was further delayed while trying to get the man a comfortable seat, after all he had paid to be in this flight. Finally, he was miraculously able to squeeze into a free seat. However, once the plane hit the skies na so snoring begin o. Soki’s first thought was that it was fat bros but fat bros was fully awake. Rather, it was Miss Yellow-Sissy-I-am-so-clean-I-don’t-even-know-what-it-means-to-fart that settled in her seat by the window, mouth wide open and snoring everyone’s ear out. It was comic.
‘I never thought slim people snored like that o,’ the man seated on Soki’s left commented, apparently shocked not so much by the snoring as by the slimness of the snorer (if there’s such a word).
Just as the large man had caught everyone’s attention, so had the tall, slim fair-complexioned young woman in bright makeup (which incidentally really looked good on her), yellow top, pedal-pushers and black gladiator sandals. As she stepped into the plane, she had moved around like she was the queen of the area and the other passengers who were loyal subjects should have bowed to welcome her. From the haughty curve of her lips to the gestures of her right hand revealing long slim smooth fingers with long sharp nails dipped in blood, she had sashayed as she moved like a model on a runway. Had it been a different setting, Soki had no doubt that men would have been falling over themselves for her.
And so there she was, snoring! Soki felt sorry for her. That snoring had just reduced all her shakara in the eyes of a lot of her admirers in the plane who stared at her in surprise. Even her wicked seatmates didn’t bother to wake her up. When they could now take off their seatbelts, Soki, in the mood of girls-protecting-girls had left her seat as though intending to use the convenience, and simply stopped beside the young woman. She had tapped her gently and an even more embarrassing snore and drool followed. Another tap and the woman snapped: ‘What?’ Before Soki who had drawn her head back could respond, an annoyed woman seating a few seats ahead on a seat by the aisle shouted, ‘You’re snoring and disturbing everyone.’ Yellow-Sissy reflexively slid a bit lower on her seat in embarrassment especially when she noticed that all eyes were on her.
Soki quietly returned to her seat, murmuring something about people needing to understand that the lady might have had a rough night.
‘Rough night, ke,’ one man laughed. ‘She should have told the bros to take it easy on her because she would be travelling in the morning.’
‘Tell him wetin?’ another aproko said, ‘she was enjoying the thing na, probably telling the man to continue.’
‘Must everything be about sex with you men?’ a woman in red head gear asked them, looking like an old school headmistress without her cane.
‘What else will keep a young woman awake?’ the first man asked.
‘So many things o.’
And soon there was an argument about women and men’s responsibilities and which gender loved sex more.
‘And to think that it all started because I tried to help a fellow girl out,’ Soki ended the story, looking at her husband. ‘You should have seen the way Miss-Yellow-Sissy was eyeing me.’
‘Not all help rendered are appreciated, babe. Plus, look at the bright side: you made what would have been a quiet and very boring flight really interesting. It’s good to have you back babe.’
‘It’s good to be back.’
‘Then eat up, so that I can get you home,’ he told her with a wink.
To be continued