The Second Wife – Episode 32
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Thursday 15th December 2005
38c Rumuola Road
Dienye and B.B sat on the rug in B.B’s sitting room, half empty glasses of wine on the centre table beside several papers. B.B’s wedding was in two days’ time and they were going through the ‘to-do’ list ensuring that everything was going on as planned. And it was, so far. There were alternatives for most of the things just in case anything unexpected happened. But B.B noticed that his friend was a somewhat distracted.
As Dienye checked off the list, B.B snatched the pen from him. Dienye looked up at him, eyebrows raised.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ B.B asked him. ‘You’ve been really distracted in the last few days.
Dienye was silent for a long time and then he asked out of nowhere: ‘What does your family do when you light the candles for Nengi on her birthday?’
B.B smiled. ‘Let me guess. Soki finally told you off about visiting Bonny and shutting everyone out every 31st July. Now that’s my girl.’
Dienye frowned at his friend but B.B ignored the frown.
‘How many women do you think would stand their husbands taking off on their late wife’s birthday and disappearing until the next day while staying incommunicado? No be stick you marry, bro. You married a full fleshed woman and there’s a limit to the nonsense she can take from you even with all the money you paid before you too got married.’
‘I don’t like this at all.’
‘You don’t like not being in control all the time, abi? Welcome back to real life bro. Take me for example. I have a beautiful daughter I almost allowed my stupidity deny me the chance of knowing. Oroma and I might not be the best of friends but we have found a balance in the love we have for our precious little girl and we are able to deal with each other cordially and without any form of acrimony. The thing with life is you would always face situations you never planned for but in every situation you need to know when to get it over with and move on.
‘You asked what we do when we light a candle for Nengi. Well, for the first three years it was very emotional for us, lots of handkerchiefs soaked in tears because we would always miss her. However, in the last two years, my parents and I would light a candle and share stories of Nengi, mainly funny stories that had us laughing rather than crying. She was precious to us but we have accepted the fact that she would never be with us anymore and so have learned to share the beautiful memories. Her death’s taught us a lot of things, one of which is that life is too short and no one knows when he or she would be called home and so nothing should be taken for granted.
‘With each year, it’s easier. I would always miss her but I know she wouldn’t want me putting my life on hold simply because she is no longer in it. And I know for a fact that she would have expected you to move on long ago. She loved you that much. Being with Soki doesn’t amount to cheating on Nengi and you can’t play that card because we both know that you are very intimate with Soki and it is a welcome relief considering having to deal with Nengi’s condition in the past.
‘Yes I knew about her diagnosis and she was very vocal about how you loved her and didn’t allow it become an issue in your marriage.’
‘I don’t even know where to start. Sometimes Soki and I go through beautiful moments without any issues and then she starts again about Nengi.’
‘And can you blame her? Don’t worry, she hasn’t made any complaint to me but I have eyes. She loves and adores you. Even a blind man can see that. But it’s easy for someone to slowly find herself replacing love with indifference when it is neither returned nor respected and I don’t think you want that happening with your Soki.’
‘Good. So do the needful. Everyone has been telling you that you need to grieve Nengi once and for all and now your wife had added her voice to it. You have single-handedly chased your wife away from your home-place because you continue to preserve the place like a shrine for my sister. It’s not healthy. You need to decide whether you want to be with Soki or you want to spend the rest of your life wishing Nengi was back in your life. Those are the only two choices you have presently. When the children start coming, you may have succeeded in pushing Soki to them and she would channel her entire attention towards them and soon leave you with the crumbs.’
‘That’s the same thing she told me days ago.’
‘When a woman starts talking like that, that means she getting to the edge of her patience with you. You’ve been warned my brother. La babe is done being just your bed mate.’
Dienye sighed deeply. He extended his hands outwards, his palms open.
‘I don’t know how to deal with the loss of your sister. Just when I think it’s getting better, I find myself missing her.’
‘You’re already on the road to recovery,’ B.B assured him. ‘You haven’t referred to Nengi as my sister since you two started dating. And for the first time in a long time, you haven’t slipped and referred to her as ‘my wife’. That’s a good step. I would advise you to take a few days off work and go to Bonny. Grieve even if it takes a week. Lock yourself up, cry, scream, throw around if you have to. It wouldn’t make you any less than the man you are. I know you are scared of letting go completely but it has to be done. Cherish her memories but make your life with the living woman who loves you completely before you lose her too.’
Dienye leaned into the chair and tapped his fingers together.
‘And wait until after my wedding before you take the trip,’ B.B continued. ‘I don’t want to miss my best man. And while you’re at it, get rid of that prenuptial agreement. We both know you married a woman who would gladly add to your income than empty your bank accounts.’
* * * * *
Thursday 22nd December 2005
Several times, Dienye took deep breaths and slowly exhaled as he stood before the door leading to the back of the house. His fingers curled around the door-knob but didn’t turn it. A four day old beard decorated his chin, part of his singlet tucked into the band of the jean he hadn’t bothered using a belt with and which hung around his lean hips.
‘Just one step, Sodienye,’ he whispered. ‘Just one step and you can get this over and done with.’
He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready at all. He shouldn’t have made this trip!
Why was he doing this? Because B.B asked this of him? Because Soki wanted it of him? Or because he needed it? He wasn’t even sure. This was his home and yet it had been five years since he had stepped out back, choosing to go out through the front door and turn all the way just to get some of Mrs Cookey’s tasty chin-chin.
He walked away from the door and looked out of the rectangular window. The lights were dimmed, in compliance with his instructions but he made out the marble grave that stood on its own. Even from where he was the marble shone and a fresh wreath lay on it.
God bless you, Mrs Cookey, he thought.
He stretched out his hand as though reaching for something and then changed his mind and turned away but he couldn’t move beyond the kitchen door. Cold seeped from the cold floor to his bare feet but he barely noticed.
This was the same scenario that had played in the last four days since he had arrived Bonny. All he had to do was go beyond those doors but he couldn’t. He couldn’t bear to say goodbye. He wasn’t strong enough. But he had to do this!
He returned to the door, his hands trembling. His head hurt. He took a couple of deep breaths and turned the knob, pushing open the door. Cold wind hit his face more like a slap than the caress of a lover. Pain sheeted through him with an intensity of something eating at him from the inside. He doubled over, holding onto his abdomen. When he could, he straightened up and took the first step outside. An additional step followed and then he was finally before Nengi’s grave.
He closed his eyes, his body trembling violently but his eyes were dry. He slowly went on his knees beside the grave, his right hand reaching for the marble cover. His fingers glided over the top, wishing for one more touch against the flesh of the woman that laid beneath.
‘Oh my love,’ he groaned. ‘I miss you so much.’
He turned round and sat on the ground, pressing his back against the marble.
‘There’s no day that passes that I don’t miss you,’ he said. ‘Sometimes when all is quiet I can hear your musical voice but when I look around I don’t see you. How am I expected to deal with your loss? How do I deal with the fact that you are never coming back to me? Remember how you’d insist whenever I visit Bonny that I shouldn’t return without Mrs Cookey’s amazing chin-chin and how you wished she would entrust you with her special recipe. We had such amazing times in this house. I feel you in every room here.
‘I stayed away because to see your graveside would bring the reality of your death once more to me. Mrs Cookey’s taken such good care of this place. It’s not fair that you should be lonely in there. Yes, from the time he was a child he had heard that good people went to heaven when they died where there would be no more worries and no more pain. But you weren’t sick. You weren’t worried about anything. Our adoption plan was almost concluded. You were looking forward to finally becoming a mother. Heaven did not need you at that moment. Damn it I needed you. We still had at least seventy years left to be together. They shouldn’t have taken you away from me!
‘Had you been sick I would have spent the last cash I had to ensure that you were all right. But instead, a car ran you over and sped off just because you chose to save the life of a child. You died doing what you loved doing best, helping others, but it was too early. There wasn’t even time to prepare for the loss. There was no sign whatsoever that this would happen or I would have kept you with me. You should have hung onto life until I came to the hospital, but you didn’t. You didn’t wait for me to pray for a miracle. You didn’t even wait long enough for me to say good bye. How could you do that to me? Didn’t you trust enough in the love we shared to stay back for me? What about the plans we had for our lives? You said you wanted to be the number one architect in the world and the first female Governor of Rivers State. Who would fulfil your dreams now?
‘It wasn’t easy seeing your mangled body like that knowing that all the money I had worked hard for couldn’t bring back to life the woman I loved! It breaks me when I imagine the kind of pain you must have gone through when that car went over you. The doctors said you died of a head trauma and the shock of the pain. They should have put you on life support. If only you had any idea what your death put me through, what it put everyone who loved you through, you would have pleaded with God to give you a second chance at life. We hear stories of people who died and had the opportunity of coming back to earth. Was heaven so beautiful that you chose to stay back and forget all about us?
‘I know you would never wish for any of us to continue mourning you but it’s not easy. You were a rare breed. Why is it that the good ones always die early and those who deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth remain here wreaking havoc all over the place? Armed robbers, ritualists, you name them. They live their lives on a daily basis like there’s no life after death and I don’t see a lot of them having their lives taken away.
‘God I miss you. I got married once more. She had a financial challenge and I helped her out with her as a collateral. I know I could easily have given her the entire sum and agreed on a payment plan with her but I was drawn to her and it seemed like the most natural thing to offer her marriage in lieu of a payment plan. But I have been having difficulties relating to her on some aspects. It’s so difficult doing with her some of the things I did with you. It’s almost like cheating on you. I know it seems ridiculous but that’s how it’s been and she doesn’t deserve it. She wants to be treated like a wife, my only wife and it hasn’t been easy doing that for her. Most of our quarrels revolve around my feelings for you but it can’t be helped. I care a great deal about her and she’s been amazing. She told me she went back to taking contraceptives because she loved me enough to fear the thought of having children and focusing all her attention on them while leaving me with my obsession with you. And that got me really thinking.
‘Everyone wants me to grieve, to move on and I know now that you wouldn’t want me to put my life on hold but it doesn’t seem fair that everyone should move on and forget how important you were in our lives. Am I holding on too tight? Am I holding on because I am afraid that if I give my heart to her, I could lose her too? I’m so confused. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart but I don’t know if I’m ready to give my heart to someone else. Or perhaps it’s too late and the deed has been done.’
He bent over, hugging his knees, his body trembling with dry sobs, wishing the tears would flow once and for all but it wasn’t happening. As he shook, he suddenly felt the warmth of a blanket around him. Looking up, his eyes widened as he saw what he believed at first was a figment of his imagination. He watched as she lowered herself to the ground beside him and wrapped her arms around him, bringing his head to her full bosom.
‘Mrs Cookey called me,’ she told him. ‘She said you needed me.’
‘And you came,’ his voice was soft and quiet.
‘Not even the fear of pirates could have kept me away.’
And then he broke down, the tears running free, his arms around her. She held him close. Not far from where they were huddled beneath the blanket by the grave, a tall slim apparition stood. Soki met its eyes over Dienye’s head. She wasn’t sure if it was real but it didn’t matter.
‘I’ll take good care of him, I promise,’ she whispered to the apparition.
The slim shadowy figure looked in Dienye’s direction and then back at Soki. It nodded and then was gone.
‘We’ll be okay my love,’ Soki told her husband. ‘You’ll see.’
To be continued