The Second Wife – Episode 31
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Saturday 3rd December 2005
Soki looked at her wristwatch for the fifth time in a quarter of an hour. Where was Dienye? She put a hand to her right brow and slowly massaged it careful not to wipe off the makeup she had carefully applied. She sat on the couch in a knee length red dress that clung to her full curves. It came with matching red high heeled sandals and a black purse. A set golden earrings, necklace with matching pendant and bangles. All these made up her graduation gift from Dienye.
She had graduated with a first class degree from the Nigerian Law School and won the awards for the best graduating student and most outstanding student in five courses: company law and practice, civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence and legal drafting. She had a scholarship to further her education in any university of her choice. Life was good.
They were supposed to be having lunch for 5pm and he wasn’t here yet.
The doorbell rang and she walked down the hallway to see who it was.
‘Wow!’ Belema gushed as he saw her. ‘Who said my brother didn’t marry a beautiful woman?’
‘Hi, bro,’ Soki greeted, accepting a hug from him.
He was dressed in a black tuxedo and she grinned. The only other time she had seen him in a suit was on his wedding day and he had quickly taken off the tie immediately after the pictures, unbuttoning the first two buttons of his shirt.
‘What’s happening?’ she asked.
‘I’m taking you out for dinner,’ he smiled.
‘You look great bro but your big bro has beat you to it…’
‘He won’t be able to make it,’ Belema quickly informed her. ‘He’s sorry he couldn’t get off work. He has a crucial meeting but he’s asked me to take his place and give you a treat today. Anwuli wouldn’t mind at all.’
She tried to hide her disappointment. Work. It was enough that he had to work on Saturday but why didn’t he pick her calls or even call her?
She thought of undressing and changing into house clothes but thought better of it. She couldn’t let this dress and special makeup waste today. For what?
‘Help me lock up and we’ll be on our way,’ she told Belema.
She was silent as Belema drove off a few minutes later. There was so much she had to discuss with Dienye but she guessed it would have to wait until later. She thought of the pills she had bought from the pharmacy a few hours earlier. As agreed, she had taken herself off the contraceptive pills she had been taking since she and Dienye got married. But she had been compelled to start once more.
Nagging hadn’t solved the one problem that had been existing from the inception of their marriage: Dienye’s obsession with Nengi. And ignoring the situation and pretending it didn’t exist also hadn’t. After twenty months of marriage, you would think things would be better but ignoring the problem meant it only waited patiently for you and not that it had disappeared.
They spoke constantly while she was in Lagos but two dates had stood out: 13th June and 31st July. On 13th June, Dienye hadn’t called her and hadn’t picked her calls either. That she knew was the anniversary of Nengi’s death and she suspected he had locked himself up in a room, mourning her. He had called her the next day.
‘Sorry I couldn’t take your call yesterday,’ he had apologised.
‘No sweat. I actually wasn’t expecting you to but I was hoping you would prove me wrong.’
‘I’m sorry, babe.’
‘Only until 13th June 2006. I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed, D.D. After over a year of being married, I still have to deal with the issues I was confronted with from the beginning.’
And then on the 31st July Dienye had gone to Bonny, switching off his phone. At first Soki had been worried and then she had remembered his grandmother’s reaction when she had informed her same time last year that Dienye had travelled to Bonny. The older woman’s action had been quite strange and with good reason. Trusting on her instincts, Soki had called B.B and in the course of their conversation and found out that he had stopped over at his parents’ place where a candle was lit for Nengi. It was her birthday and the fifth birthday without her!
What did Dienye do when he got to Bonny on Nengi’s birthday? Did he spend time crying over her grave site? No, she didn’t think that was it. Priye said her brother hadn’t grieved Nengi as he ought to. Did he travel from Port Harcourt with a cake and a bottle of wine to celebrate with her? That seemed more like it. She was buried behind the house for crying out loud.
Soki sighed deeply. Dienye was the kindest and most attentive man she knew but he was still obsessed with his first wife and that wasn’t healthy for their marriage. She couldn’t imagine bringing a child into a home where she had to constantly deal with a rival.
Second year of marriage and some of the people she met subtly looked at her stomach expecting to see signs of a baby bump. Not that it was any of their business. She had been posted to Kogi State for her National Youth Service Corps Programme but she had worked her transfer back to Rivers State and was posted to the High Court in Isiokpo as a Legal Assistant to the judge.
‘Are you all right?’ Belema asked her.
‘Yes,’ she responded. ‘I just have a lot on my mind.’
‘When you’re in my company? I must be doing something wrong.’
She smiled and quickly assured him that he was great company any day anytime. She slowly inhaled and then exhaled, making a conscious effort to leave her troubles in the recesses of her mind, at least until she was back home.
‘We’ll make a brief stop at the hotel,’ Belema informed her. ‘I need to pick up something from Dienye.’
He pulled into a parking space at the Exquisite Hotel and got out of the car.
‘I’ll wait for you here,’ she told him.
‘Oh no you won’t,’ he pulled her gently out of the car. ‘You can’t look this good and not let him see you. That would be an offence. Let’s make him regret being too busy to take you out.’
‘Belema you are…’
‘I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he sees you.’
Seeing that Belema meant business, she linked her arm through his and allowed him to lead the day. She was warmly welcomed at the reception. Belema led her up to the BANQUET HALL 1 which could sit about thousand guests.
‘Dienye’s office is the other way,’ she told him, pointing down the hall.
‘I’m sure it is, dearest,’ Belema smiled. ‘Now hold your breath.’
He opened the double doors. The banquet hall was fully occupied and Soki wondered why Belema hadn’t just called his brother on phone. The women were elegantly dressed as were the men in the room. Soki recognised a few of them as she stood beside Belema just outside the door. This didn’t look like the setting of any meeting!
And then she saw him!
Dienye was dressed in a white dinner suit and black bow tie over silk white shirt and black slacks. He looked good enough to feast on. He smiled once their eyes met and he walked across the room to the door. He took her left hand in his and lifted it to his lips, the feel of his lips on her flesh sending shock waves up her arms. She held her breath.
‘You look beautiful,’ he complimented, gently twirling her around, his eyes following her curves in the dress. ‘I knew the dress was meant for you the moment I laid my eyes on it.’
‘Thank you,’ she smiled lightly.
Belema was suddenly missing and Soki realised that this was the plan all along. She didn’t have to look for him because his voice was soon heard loud and clear as he announced:
‘Please join me with a standing ovation as we welcome our reason for being here, one of my best friends, a sister, and our very own Dienye’s lovely wife who’s got it all: beauty and brains. The best graduating student in her university and currently the best graduating student at the Nigerian Law School. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Barr Nwasoka Daniel-Hart.’
Soki had been staring at Belema when it dawned on her that this banquet was actually in her honour! She turned to Dienye as her guests rose to their feet clapping.
‘You did this for me!’
‘You deserve it,’ he replied. ‘Now go and welcome your guests.’
Taking a deep breath and letting it out once more, Soki sashayed down the hall, stopping at interval to say hello. Dienye’s eyes followed her as she made her way to the front where Belema stood with the microphone. She recognised a lot of persons including classmates. How long had Dienye been planning this and how had he gotten her friends involved?
Well it didn’t matter. She basked in the euphoria of the moment.
* * * * *
Soki stretched out on the bed beside Dienye. The party had been a success and she had been so grateful for it that she had paid special attention to his sexual needs that night.
Soki lay in her husband’s arms listening to his breathing as he slept, one arm around her waist. His hold though unconscious was possessive. Was he thinking of Nengi? She asked herself then immediately told herself that she really had to quit thinking about the other woman. It didn’t help matters.
She wasn’t in doubt that Dienye was the man she was destined to spend the rest of her life with. However, there were times she found herself questioning her feelings for him. She loved him but she wasn’t sure what exactly he felt about her besides being attracted to her and treating her like a very good friend he was intimate with.
She wanted him to love her, just as much as he loved Nengi. So powerfully, so complete that it would take her breath away. She wanted him to look at her like a man looks at a woman he was completely crazy about. She wanted to feel secure in his love.
He took care of her and her needs as his wife but was she really important to him? She figured she was fortunate to be married to a man who believed strongly in fidelity but her rival was a ghost and you can’t openly confront a ghost.
‘You’re so hung up on Nengi,’ a voice inside her head told her. ‘You really need to stop it.’
‘I can’t help it,’ she responded silently. ‘He’s still very much in love with her and I cannot settle for scraps of his affection. I am not an insecure woman who would take what she is given and just be grateful for it.’
With B.B and Ese’s wedding coming up in two weeks, Soki found herself thinking more and more about her own marriage.
* * * * *
Soki didn’t raise the issue until they had returned from church and had lunch. She waited until he had rested before bringing up the issue. She simply piled the contraceptives and then placed them on the bedroom table. He looked at her with arched eyebrows.
‘Contraceptives,’ she told him. ‘I want to get rid of them but I needed you to see them first.’
‘I don’t understand. You were supposed to be off them months ago.’
‘And I was, but then I had to start taking them again.’
‘Why on earth would you do that?’ he asked rising to his feet, his eyes narrowing to slits.
She knew how much he wanted to have his own children and understand how easily he could see her action as a betrayal. Good thing she had come up front. Imagine if he had caught her taking contraceptives! He would most definitely blow a fuse and then proceed to make it very easy for her by ending all sexual relations with her! Yes, she knew him that much. And it wouldn’t be difficult for him. After all, he had spent four years without a woman in his bed.
‘I didn’t do it because I don’t want your child. I want that so much that I have Igbo names lined up for our future twin boys and precious little girl.’
‘Then why did you do it?’
‘Because I love you very much, that’s why.’
He drew back his head. She might as well have just spoken gibberish.
‘What has love got to do with making a conscious effort to deprive me of something you know very well is important to me?’ he asked her.
‘Everything, Dienye. Everything. Sometimes we get along but every now and then you let Nengi come between us.’
‘Don’t you dare blame Nengi for your actions!’
‘You’re so quick to come to her defence even when there is no need for it,’ she grated. ‘That’s the problem. We get along just as long as I don’t try to be more than a friend and lover to you, but I can’t continue to act like I don’t have emotions beyond those which are displayed in the course of intercourse. I don’t blame Nengi for our problems but she still has something to do with them, albeit unintentionally. Sometimes I am tempted to imitate her in order to get you to fully accept me and that goes to the root of my femininity. I can’t be like her and I don’t want to be like her. I am Nwasoka and that’s the only woman I want to be. I know sometimes I pick the wrong time to raise issues but I’m only human. I make mistakes just as I made the mistake of thinking that if I got back to taking contraceptives it would give me the time I needed to get you to come to your senses about me and our marriage.’
He looked at her as though she had suddenly taken leave of her senses.
‘Back in Law School, my greatest fear was losing you completely and I don’t mean physically.’
‘We spoke almost every time,’ he reminded her.
‘It’s not the same. During the long court attachment break I almost gave in to the urge to get off the pill so I could get pregnant before returning to school irrespective of how it might affect my academics simply because I felt the presence of a child would make you feel differently about me but then I didn’t want you to love me because I was having your baby. I wanted you to love me for me. And then at the point of writing my exams, I had to deal with a greater fear and that was the likelihood of becoming bitter towards you.
‘You have continued to stick to the memory of Nengi like a drowning man sticks to a rope thrown at him. As long as you do not take the time to properly grieve, your heart can never be open to love again. In the past I felt that if I got you to get rid of everything belonging to Nengi, then all will be well but you would always have her memories because of how long you knew each other and what she was to you. I can deal with that. What I can’t handle is having to constantly take second place in your life.
‘When I came to you for help, you could easily have given me the money and made provisions for a payment plan, but you chose the option of marriage and I accepted wholly not just because I would be getting my father out of police custody but also because I was completely infatuated with you and had entertained a lot of fantasies about you…that’s a story for another day. You didn’t have to marry me. And you clearly weren’t ready to be involved with any woman at the time you married me but it’s done. I’m your wife now and for as long as we both draw breath but I cannot continue to pretend that all is well. Nagging didn’t work but certainly ignoring the situation isn’t making it better. You lock everyone out on her birthday and each anniversary of her death and I know if we don’t resolve this once and for all, that will continue to happen.
‘I don’t want to see her as a rival but rather as a woman who helped shape you into the man you have become, the man I have fallen completely in love with. I do not want to have a child and take sides with him or her, dedicating my complete attention to him or her and leaving you to your precious Nengi. A lot of women around the world do that but I don’t want to be like them and that is why I said love pushed me into taking the contraceptives once more. Things like this start seemingly little with a woman channelling her love and affection towards her child and then grows into completely ignoring the man and sometimes even becoming bitter towards him leading to very nasty divorce proceedings. I don’t contemplate us getting divorced. I don’t want to, even if I am able to save the complete sum you paid to help secure my father’s release.
‘I know Nengi would always have a place in your heart, and that is natural, I have come to realise. However, I don’t want to be just your friend and lover, I want to also occupy an important place in your heart just as you occupy in mine. I can’t settle for anything less in spite of the circumstances under which we got married and the prenuptial agreement we signed. You need to do the needful and grieve Nengi once and for all Dienye if you have the least respect for my feelings. And importantly, I need you to do this for you.’
She lifted herself on tiptoes and kissed him, adding, ‘You need to do this as soon as possible because once our children start coming, neither of us would be responsible for our actions.’
To be continued