The Second Wife – Episode 28
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Sunday, 19th December 2004
‘Abegi make una no dey harass my wife, wetin sef?’ Dienye told his friends in mock anger. ‘Una never see fine babe before?’
Soki blushed. They were hanging out with some of Dienye’s friends at this new joint B.B had discovered off Forces Avenue. Apart from B.B and Tor Aondowase who dropped by once in a while, Soki hadn’t met the others before now. One of them in particular, Boma Martins, in particular, a good looking man with clean shaven head and side burns, shamelessly flirted with her and Dienye told him he had better go and get himself a wife before he was tempted to punch out his front teeth and change the shape of his mouth. Dienye’s friends seemed to want to get out every dirty little secret from her, hence his outburst.
Soki watched her husband. He was having fun. Sometimes work was so hectic that Dienye barely had time to hang out with anyone and would most times get back home, eat and crash in bed. She loved seeing him this relaxed. He looked so handsome, his dark eyes twinkling with mischief. He looked nothing like a CEO in his combat shorts and navy blue t-shirt.
Soki wore a red and white t-shirt from RINZ but a size lower so that it hugged her body, showcasing her curves and making her full busts more obvious than if she had won a top with a plunging neckline. She wore the t-shirt over denim shorts and a new pair of black sneakers with pink lace, which was a gift from Dienye. Her makeup had been moderate but her lipstick was currently missing courtesy of the drinks and the plenty peppered snail, peppered chicken and isi ewu they had been eating for the past two hours or so.
She was the only female in their midst but she didn’t mind. She flowed very well with them and they were amazed that she knew so much about football.
‘I swear,’ she told them, ‘there are only two clubs in the English Premier League: Manchester United and others.’
The Chelsea fans were naturally affronted.
‘I hear,’ said Olawatoke Durojaiye.
‘And I just love Sir Alex Ferguson,’ she continued, sticking out her tongue at Toke. ‘Seriously. I’ve been an ardent Man Utd fan for over eight years. I love their style of football and it doesn’t matter whether or not they win the league. They give me great football any day, anytime.’
‘Well congratulations on your 5-2 win against Crystal Palace yesterday,’ Idris Yusuf conceded.
‘And congratulations on your 4-0 win against Norwich,’ she returned with a smile at the Chelsea fan.
Dienye was a supporter of Real Madrid and had no team in the English Premier league.
Soki took a sip from her bottle of Smirnoff ice.
‘You know we’re winning the league, right?’ Tijani told her, tugging at his Chelsea t-shirt for emphasis.
‘Man Utd is the best team presently, and don’t you dare argue with me,’ she told them in a mockingly stern voice, pointing her second finger at them.
The men threw up their hands in mock surrender.
‘All hail Manchester United!’ they sang.
‘Better people,’ she smiled, lifting both hands over her head and hooting.
‘Never argue with a woman,’ Dienye told them. ‘You’ll only get into trouble if you make the mistake of winning.’
Soki threw back her head and gave Dienye a look that spoke volumes.
‘Someone is certainly not going to get any this night,’ Tor laughed, the bottom part of his moustache coated in the foam from the beer he’d just drunk. He ran his tongue over his upper lips to get the residue.
‘No o. She knows I am always loyal to her government,’ Dienye laughed, wrapping an arm around Soki’s waist and pulling her close. ‘Even if I chop craze, I no fit look for her trouble.’
His friends laughed even as Soki punched him playfully in the side.
About an hour later, they were ready to leave.
‘Next time we hang out, I’m coming with my girlfriend,’ Boma said as they stood in the car park, Soki standing in front of Dienye and leaning into him as he wrapped his arms around her waist. ‘Omo, see intimidation things na.’
‘Boma, go and marry,’ Dienye told him. ‘Before those grey hairs begin to embarrass you.’
‘What grey hairs?’ Boma asked, stroking his fair shaved hair. ‘You think say I be you?’
‘The ones down there,’ Dienye told him, pointing to the front of his trousers. ‘You can’t dye them. Soon, we’ll have to declare a state of emergency on your single status.’
Tijani Majekodunmi laughed and Boma turned to look at him.
‘You wey dey laff, you never ready to settle down. Four girlfriends just this year alone.’
‘I be you?’ Tijani returned. ‘Na Soki hold my marriage o.’
Soki looked at the tall, dark skinned man. ‘Me, ke.’
‘Yes o. I already have a date: Monday 27th December 2004. I have an emergency priest who would gladly wed my bride and I. I have a reception hall taken care of by Dienye. Tor is buying the drinks. B.B is paying the caterer. Boma is paying for my suit along with his own as my best man and also the bride’s dress and that of the Chief Brides’ maid. Toye is in charge of the D.J, the invitation cards and the decorations and his wife will be helping to buy the aso-ebi materials from Balogun market. Na the bride remain and that is your fault o. Dienye cannot be enjoying Onitsha woman alone. Hook me up with your sister and I’ll be a married man by next Monday.’
Soki almost fainted. The man sounded like he was serious.
‘Who dey pay for which caterer?’ B.B asked, frowning at the man. ‘Me that will be sitting as Chairman of the wedding. TJ better mind yourself o.’
‘Are you serious?’ Soki asked Tijani.
‘Believe me, I am not a chronic bachelor like Boma,’ Tijani responded.
‘Waka,’ Boma told Tijani, lifting his right hand and spreading his fingers in front of the other man. ‘You are just a nama. And who is your best man?’
‘You, of course. I cannot have anyone stealing my show. If I give Tor the opportunity, that Tiv man will just pose with my wife like he’s the groom and I’ll have to be explaining up and down that I am actually the groom.’
‘Waka,’ this time it came from Tor. ‘In fact, waka and shege. Anuofia.’
The way he pronounced the Anuofia, had Soki laughing until she was clutching at her stomach, tears spilling from her eyes. It sounded more like something in his native tongue than an Igbo word. The men began to argue about their roles in Tijani’s ‘planned’ wedding and Dienye herded his wife in the direction of their car.
‘Don’t mind those idiots,’ he told her to the hearing of his friends.
Soki paused only to say goodbye to the men who responded before returning to their argument.
Dienye unlocked the door and slid behind the wheel just as Soki joined him in the front passenger seat.
‘Thanks for today,’ she told him, reaching out to kiss the corner of his mouth. ‘I had so much fun. I haven’t laughed this month in a long time.’
‘I’m glad you did. Forgive them, they are not usually like this.’
‘Let me guess, they are worse.’
Dienye laughed. ‘Yes, they are. Your presence tamed them.’
Soki smiled. ‘You should invite them over for lunch one weekend.’
‘I’ll do just that. They really liked you.’
He drove out of the car park and into the street. He took a few turns and just as he hit the T-junction on Nzimiro street, he stepped on the brakes, narrowly avoiding running down the naked woman who ran past, half of her body covered in soap suds. Dienye crossed to the other side, cleared and parked. Without a word to Soki he went after the woman, calling out:
This was usually a busy road but thank God it was a Sunday or they would have had a large audience. As it stood, one or two persons had already stopped to stare at the uncommon scene.
Soibi was the last person Dienye had expected to see. He had dated the older woman for a short time during one of his break-ups with Nengi in his late teens. They had stayed friends after then and when she had sent him an invitation to her wedding six years ago, Dienye had taken one look at the name of the groom and advised her to call it off.
‘I’m thirty-six, Dienye,’ Soibi had told him, worried lines almost marring her beauty. ‘I should be long married by now.’
The tall, slim fair skinned and really beautiful Kalabari woman had never been married and was getting desperate especially when she clocked thirty-five and all the advises Dienye tried to give to her wasn’t heeded to at all. He figured that the fact that he, a man, had gotten married in his early twenties hadn’t helped the situation. He’d even gotten Nengi to talk to the other woman but she had made up her mind to settle down and with Barisi Leton.
‘He’ll change,’ Soibi had told Dienye after he had rescued her from the beating her fiancé (as he then was), had given her. ‘I got him angry.’
‘There’s no justification for beating up a woman,’ Dienye had told her, wishing he could break the other man into two.
‘I know. He’ll change.’
Dienye knew Barisi from his days in Ahmadu Bello University. They had been in the same faculty but Barisi had been a set behind him. Barisi’s temper was famous back then. He could get angry at the slightest thing and damage things. He’d beaten up his girl friends back then for something as little as not showing up when he expected them to. The one incident that had made waves was when he saw his girlfriend, Halima talking to a male colleague and had descended on her and the innocent colleague.
Despite his anger issues and abusive nature, he had never lacked girlfriends back then. Perhaps it had something to do with his good looks. He was of average height but very good looking with what women called a ‘sweet mouth’. He knew the exact words to say to them to get them on his side. And there had also been rumours back then about his sexual prowess. Perhaps that was why even the abused girls kept going back to him. Crazy!
Dienye had no problem whatsoever with Soibi wanting to marry a younger man. After all, he’d dated her for a few months. What he had a problem with was Barisi’s attitude. He seriously needed to see a shrink in order to deal with his psychological issues before considering settling down with anyone, before he killed someone’s daughter.
‘That man will be the death of you,’ Dienye had told her. ‘You haven’t waited this long just to end up in a coffin, Soso. Wait and I’m sure you’ll find the man of your dreams.’
‘Look at how happy you and Nengi are,’ Soibi had said. ‘Don’t you think I deserve that?’
‘Of course you do. That’s why you need to get away as far as possible from Barisi Leton. He’ll never make you happy.’
‘He makes me happy,’ Soibi had countered. ‘He loves me and keeps me satisfied and-’
‘Please don’t get married to a man simply because he’s good in bed. For crying out loud, Barisi has anger issues, issues he would have taken the effort to see a psychiatrist to resolve if indeed he loves you. I have to keep on rescuing you from his abuse and every time he keeps coming back, apologising and you keep taking him back.’
‘I love him.’
‘Then un-love him. It isn’t healthy. You are dear to me Soibi and I wouldn’t be all right if something terrible were to happen to you.’
‘Nothing will happen to me. Barisi and I are getting married and I will ensure that you are the Godfather of our first child.’
‘I won’t come for the wedding Soibi and I mean it.’
And he hadn’t shown up for the wedding. The abuse had started once more from the wedding night and by the fourth month, Soibi had a miscarriage. The abuse continued with Soibi calling Dienye at odd moments to rescue her. He had been on one of those rescue missions the morning Nengi died and he wondered what would have happened if he had been home. Nengi would most likely have stayed back a little longer before leaving.
A year after Nengi’s death, Soibi and her husband had left Port Harcourt and they had lost
contact. He hadn’t realised they were back in Port Harcourt, but he would recognise her anywhere, even with her hair in disarray.
He ran after the average-height muscular man chasing after his wife, wielding a large stick and threatening to beat her to death with it. Dienye was able to cut him off. He pulled off his T-shirt and tossed it at the naked woman who had finally stopped running but who had been completely forgotten about her naked state until she caught Dienye’s t-shirt.
Soki had locked the car door and walked in the direction of the couple and her husband. She saw Soibi’s eyes widen in embarrassment when it dawned on her that she had run out naked into the streets. She looked like she wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole! She quickly pulled on Dienye’s T-shirt. It ended just above her slender hips making her look like a woman who had just spent the night with her lover and chosen to put his shirt to fix him breakfast, that is, save for the trails of soap suds on her body.
The trails of soap suds and the semi-black eye told the story of a woman who had been dragged out of a shower, beaten up and who had run for her life without thinking about the state of her undress or even caring about it, just needing to get away. Dienye’s muscles rippled as he faced the shorter man. A different time and Soki would have stood staring at her husband’s beautiful muscled body. But this wasn’t the time.
She approached the abused woman and stood by her side.
‘This does not concern you,’ Soki heard the man say to Dienye.
‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, unveiling your wife’s nakedness in public!’
‘She’s a useless woman.’
Dienye turned and told the woman, ‘Go home and change into your clothes, I’m taking you out of here.’
‘You’re going nowhere,’ Barisi yelled at his wife, grabbing her as she made to move past him, punching her.
Soki gasped, even as Dienye, infuriated, reflexively lifted the other man and tossed him halfway across the street. He went after the stunned man and grabbed him and punched him before looking over his shoulder to say, ‘Go, Soibi. Now.’
Soki looked at the two men, certain that Dienye was going to murder that man for
what he had done to Soibi but she found herself going after the older woman. Soibi and her husband lived in an apartment less than three minutes from where they had seen her. Without a word, both women hurried to get Soibi’s things sorted out and into a travelling bag. They only took the things she would need for the next few days.
Soki suspected that this was the friend Dienye had once told her about. The friend whose wedding he’d refused to attend because he didn’t want to become a witness to it. The woman who had been obsessed about getting married, age-not-on-her-side things.
‘She’s a good for nothing woman,’ Barisi swore, rubbing at his jaw where Dienye had punched him.
‘And you’re a fine one to judge, you fool. That woman loves you and all you do is turn her into a punching bag like she’s nothing!’
‘She can’t even have a child for me. Six years! Of what use is she to me. I love her but she’s useless.’
‘You have beaten every child out of her,’ Dienye reminded him. He was aware of three miscarriages before Nengi’s death. Lord knows how many more miscarriages Soibi had had to suffer and presently at her age she didn’t need any more of that!
‘You don’t know her like I do. You only dated her for a few months but I have had to live with her for six years. She makes me so mad sometimes that…’
‘And you have raised your finger at every man who has annoyed you, or is it just women you specialise in hitting? Does beating up a woman make you feel like a man? Is that the only way you can find release?’
Barisi looked around Dienye and made to rise but the taller man held him back on the ground. A little crowd had gathered, watching them. It wasn’t exactly a fight. A fight meant both men would have the opportunity to throw a punch or two. No, Barisi had been beaten. He couldn’t even hit the much taller man that had him pinned to the ground.
Dienye followed his eyes and saw Soki returning to his car with Soibi. Soibi had changed out of his T-shirt into a red and white dress. She held his t-shirt in her right hand. Soki unlocked the door and was tossing Soibi’s travelling bag into the car.
‘Please don’t kill my husband,’ Soibi entreated to Dienye, obviously ready to come to Barisi’s rescue.
Women! Dienye thought. He was fed up. Soibi would have to make a decision once and for all. For Barisi to chase her out to the streets, nude, that was the final straw.
‘Get into the car,’ he ordered her.
‘Please free my husband.’
‘Get into the car,’ he repeated, this time in a voice that brooked no disobedience.
Soibi felt herself moving as though in a trance to obey his command.
‘You’ll pay for this,’ Barisi swore. ‘I’ll have you arrested for abducting my wife!’
‘Go ahead and make my day.’
He walked to the car and slid into the driver’s seat. He fastened his seat belt and looked into the rear view mirror. Soibi looked subdued but she was looking in the direction of her husband who had just risen to his feet.
Soki passed him the key and he inserted it into the ignition and started the engine. He inhaled and exhaled, then repeated this twice before driving off. Both women were silent and Dienye liked it that way. He needed to think. He would take Soibi to a hotel just outside town, his own hotel would be the first place Barisi would come looking for his wife. He would pay for seven nights, that was the length of time he was giving Soibi to take control of her life.
By God, this was an intelligent woman who had been doing so well as an insurance broker before she got married to a man who was intimidated by her success. He had asked her to stop working as he would provide for them both and she had accepted simply because she wanted to have ‘Mrs’ as a prefix to her name! She had given up her life, and what for? A man who didn’t appreciate her. Not one bit.
Only a weakling would be intimidated by a woman’s success. A real man would want his woman to succeed at all times as this would reflect positively on his reputation. He had given Nengi every support she required and he would always support Soki no matter what height she wanted to achieve.
He joined the Aba Road and Soki thought they were headed home until he drove past the first artillery. She looked at him but he said nothing. He was clearly deep in thought. The only time he spoke to her was when he asked her to take his phone and he called out a number he wanted her to dial. She pressed the numbers and when it connected, she plugged the earpiece to the phone and handed it over to him.
‘Good evening, Jide. I’m fine and you?’ he was saying to the person on the other end of the call. ‘I would like a reservation. Yes, an executive room on the fourth floor overlooking the pool. Great. I’m on my way.’
Okay, so they were headed for a hotel, Soki surmised from his call. But where exactly? She didn’t have to think much about it because Dienye drove past Oil Mill junction and Eleme Junction and continued until they got to Oyigbo. He drove through the gates of large hotel.
Parking but leaving the engine running, Dienye turned to Soibi and said:
‘I am going to pay for 7 nights here and I expect that you will properly utilise it. Your meals will be taken care of and the serene environment will provide a good place for you to think of what you want to do with your life. You can either chose to make something out of your life, forgetting about your past mistakes and moving on or you can chose to waste your life for someone who is not worthy of you, someone who does not appreciate you simply because you are afraid of what society will say to and about you. That same society you are worried about will talk whether or not you leave your abusive marriage. If you leave they will abuse you, and if you stay back and something terrible happens, they will call you a fool for not leaving in the first place.
‘Society or no society, I am done chasing after you and saving you from Barisi’s aggressive behaviour. Should you decide to go back to him for whatever reason, I will wash my hands off you, Soso and you know that I will do just that. I don’t want to see you get hurt but if you decide that you would rather get hurt then I won’t be around to watch that happen. You are 42 years old but don’t look your age. You are a very beautiful and intelligent woman and if you give yourself the opportunity you will definitely meet a man who will genuinely appreciate you. Seven days is all I give you to take back control of your life. I won’t ask you to give me your phone in order to ensure that you don’t call Barisi and I definitely won’t ask you to do anything beyond thinking about your life, past and present and asking yourself what you want your future to look like. This will be your decision and whatever decision you make I will respect it. As your friend I have given you the only advice I can give to you, the ball is now in your court. You can choose to say to hell with me and get back to your husband or you can take my advice and do the needful.’
That being said, he turned off the engine and stepped out of the car. The ladies also stepped out. Soibi picked up her travelling bag and handbag. She hadn’t said a word and Soki couldn’t tell what was going on in the other woman’s mind.
They got Soibi settled in the executive suite on the fourth floor. Soibi hugged Dienye thanking him for always being there for her and promising to take charge of her life.
‘I’ll send you the number of the FIDA Chairman later in the new week. You can talk to her and arrange to meet with her.’
‘Thanks you so much. I really appreciate you.’
Dienye and Soki left the hotel for it was late. It was a long drive home. There was a bit of traffic around Rumukwurushi area but Soki was glad to be home.
‘Do you think she’ll go back to Barisi?’ Soki asked as Dienye shut the door behind him. She had deliberately not raised the subject on the way back.
‘She always goes back to him but I’m praying that this time she’s sensible enough to finally let go.’ Dienye responded. ‘Nothing good will come out of that marriage.’
‘I feel sorry for her. No woman needs to go through that. Had I been in her shoes, I would have died ten times over being caught naked in broad daylight!’
‘Well we both know that’s never going to happen,’ Dienye assured her.
‘I know. After all I know the man I’m married to.’
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him, saying: ‘Thanks for being such a wonderful person.’
‘How thankful are you?’ he teased.
‘Lock up and I’ll show you how much,’ she told him, heading for the master bedroom.
To be continued