Ifeanyi sat there, waiting, watching; his car parked just across the street, opposite the cream coloured bungalow, his fingers tapping impatiently on the steering wheel. He would love to be anywhere but here, anywhere, even stuck in the miserable two hour traffic he always faced when driving back from work, but he wasn’t. Instead, here he was, parked opposite the house where Emeka said Chisom was right now, cheating on him with another man. The thought left him weak, breathless and angry all at once. He was so angry he had to take deep breaths at intervals to calm his nerves. His phone rang, he glanced at it; it was Stephen from work, probably calling to ask him about next week’s report. He busied it and switched it to airplane mode. The stupid report could wait, the world could wait, this couldn’t. If Chisom was cheating on him, he needed to see for himself, with his own two eyes. He needed to leave here with evidence. He hoped it was one that proved Emeka to be a lying bastard. He needed that now, more than he needed the sun to come up tomorrow.
When Emeka had first told him, he had laughed. He had laughed so hard that his stomach hurt and his glass of Vodka spilled on his brand new jeans. Then he looked at Emeka’s face and saw that Emeka wasn’t laughing with him. Emeka was a joker, he joked about everything, but there had been no trace of a smile on his unmistakably serious face. Ifeanyi had gone silent, like someone who had been told to get his affairs in order because he had a month to live. His hands had shaken so badly that he had had to set his glass down for fear that it would fall to the ground. Then he had shaken his head slowly, as if coming out of a trance.
“No,” he had said, shaking his head. His eyes begging Emeka to stop his cruel joke, but Emeka was unwavering.
“I saw her,” he said. “I saw her with my own eyes.”
Ifeanyi had left his car at the bar and ordered an Uber. His hands were still shaking, but not from shock, from anger, and he knew that if he got on the road with his car, he would kill someone. When he got home and Chisom opened the door with a smile, he had stood at the door staring at her. Staring and staring and staring, while Chisom stood there looking very confused and innocent. He had wanted to ask her; are you cheating on me? Are you fucking another man? But he couldn’t even bring himself to say the words. Instead, he had walked past Chisom, slamming the bedroom door in her face. She had cried that night, hurt by his behaviour, and he had shouted at her through the closed door to “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
Later that night, he had lain next to her in bed, watching her sleep: her long dark lashes fluttering against her face, her bosom rising and falling at her slow, even breathing, and he wondered, his fist clenched how this beautiful, innocent wife of his could cheat on him. He had tossed and turned for the rest of the night. His mind in distress and finally at 3am, he had called Emeka demanding proof. Emeka had readily obliged with the address of the house where he saw Chisom with the other man, even insisting on coming to show it to him personally. But Ifeanyi had refused. He wanted to do it alone.
So now here he was, hoping to see that Emeka was wrong. To prove, as Emeka had so simply put it, that Chisom wasn’t ‘a lying, cheating whore.’
Ifeanyi checked his wristwatch; it was 7pm. Chisom had told him she was going to church. Choir practice, she had said. She was singing a special number so she would be back later than usual. He had watched her walk away, her scarf tied stylishly on her head, her hips swaying in her tight, long skirt. He had given her a 30 minute head start before grabbing his car keys from the table. He didn’t doubt her before when she said she was going to choir practice. She sang in church every Sunday, though half the time he thought her singing could use a little tuning. He didn’t use to think her skirts were too tight too, but after what Emeka told him, how could he not? He wondered about everything now, her skirt being too tight, and her favourite lipstick being too red. He wondered if that was how the other man liked it. Did he insist she wear it whenever she was came to see him? Did he like the taste as much as he did? And what about that underwear she bought a month ago? So lacey, so different. He had been delighted when she bought it, glad that she was spicing things up for him, but now all he could think about was her wearing it for that other man.
He checked the time again, 7:08pm. Time was stalling, dragging, like a child licking his ice cream slower so that it would last longer. He thought about going into the house, just badging in and catching them in the act, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. It was one thing to imagine it, but seeing another man touching his wife, riding her, made him cringe in ways he couldn’t even explain.
So he sat there, and he waited, and he hoped with all his might that his wife didn’t come out of the cream coloured bungalow.
He closed his eyes and massaged his temples. The waiting and thinking and hoping was giving him a migraine. But even now, he couldn’t help but think about how he came to be with Chisom. He remembered it vividly, the day his mother called him on the phone, sounding triumphant, as if she had just found the Holy Grail.
“My son,” she had smiled into the phone, discarding with pleasantries and going straight to the point.
“I have found a wife for you. A good girl, very respectful, you will like her.”
Ifeanyi had rolled his eyes. Mama had ‘found’ him a wife every year for the last three years, and every time she did he would patiently turn her down by telling her he already had a girl he wanted to marry. A girl that she knew about. His excuse had worked every time, but this time it hadn’t. This time Mama had snorted as if she was trying to get rid of something vile stuck in her throat.
“Is it that one?” She had asked. “That Lagos girl that her eyes has open, that is who you want to bear my grandchildren. I don’t want! Ifeanyi I say I don’t want!” She had screamed, causing him to move the phone away to save his ear drum.
Ifeanyi had been surprised. Mama knew of Ada, his girlfriend. Mama liked Ada, and before now Mama had never said an unkind word about Ada. She had always smiled and welcomed her whenever he brought her home. Sure, she called every year with a prospective bride, but it never amounted to anything. He just assumed she did that to remind him that the time was coming for him to get married. Also, Ada had been nothing but nice and respectful to her. He could not understand her sudden dislike for Ada. But he had shrugged it off. She was his mother. He knew how to handle her. He was wrong.
With the other brides Mama had not insisted, but with Chisom she had come down on Ifeanyi with the force of a bulldozer. Mama had taken to calling him day and night, driving Ifeanyi insane and making Ada wonder what in the hell was going on. When out of frustration Ifeanyi had stopped picking her calls, Mama had tied her wrapper, carried her suitcase and journeyed, determined to Lagos. She would make Ifeanyi see sense. Did she not carry him in her womb for 9 months? Did she not sell all her wrappers to pay his school fees after his father died? He was her son; she was his mother, and she would make him see sense. Ada had opened the door to welcome the woman she always thought would be her mother-in- law, but Mama had aggressively pushed past her. She had turned down everything Ada offered, even a cold bath, turning her face away and waiting for her son to come home. Ada, completely baffled, had called Ifeanyi at work, fear and apprehension in her voice.
“Ifeanyi Mama is here, she won’t talk to me. What is going on?”
Ifeanyi had tried to make Mama see reason.
“She is the one I want to marry Mama.” He had said.
“Tufia! Over my dead body! You will not marry this ashawo while I’m still alive!” Mama had replied.
“I love her, Mama.”
“Don’t worry. You will love Chisom too.”
“We have been together for five years, Mama”
“And so what! She has lived with you for five years when you have paid nothing on her head. Did her mother not give her home training?”
It was like punching a wall. He came back hurt every time. Ada had tried too.
“Tell me what I did, Mama,” she had implored “let me make it right.” But Mama had simply ignored her. In desperation, Ifeanyi had turned to his Uncles. Maybe they could convince his mother, but to his surprise they all sided with her.
“Listen to your mother” one of them had said, “she cannot lead you astray.”
The other one had simply asked where Ada was from and then shook his head when Ifeanyi told him.
“You can’t marry her na,” he concluded “she’s not from our place.”
Even Emeka had agreed with them.
“Just marry the village girl” he advised. “You don’t go into a marriage to be happy, that’s what mistresses are for.”
Still, Ifeanyi had refused. Emeka was a womaniser. He didn’t believe in love, Ifeanyi thought. He didn’t understand. He thought about that now, how resilient he had been. How he had loved Ada so much that he couldn’t bear to be married to anyone else. But he loved his mother too, and he finally caved when she fell sick and blamed it on him. Telling everybody who cared to listen that Ifeanyi did not want her to see her grandchildren. Ifeanyi did not want her to be happy. Ifeanyi had forgotten how she suffered for him after his father died. And so he agreed. “Okay, Mama” he had said resigned. Mama had recovered with the speed of light, and Ifeanyi had agonised over how to tell Ada.
The day Mama had finally brought Chisom, Ifeanyi had braced himself, expecting to see an impish village girl, but he was stunned. Chisom was beautiful, with curves in all the right places. He had expected a docile prude in bed and was afraid that she would just lie there while he did all the work, but he was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not so. Chisom was skilled in bed, shocking him every time she agreed to do something in bed that Ada would never have agreed to. He had looked at her, lying next to him after a long night of great sex had and thought that maybe his mother’s choice wasn’t so bad after all. She wasn’t the love of his life, but she would do.
He said nothing to Ada. He didn’t tell her he slept with Chisom on the bed that they bought together after Ada made him give away the previous one because it made his back ache. He didn’t tell her the weekend he took drinks to Chisom’s father, with his Uncles and Mama standing proudly beside him. He explained his absence by telling her about some work trip that he couldn’t possibly miss. He didn’t tell her when Emeka helped him print out the wedding invitation cards. He didn’t tell her he had caved and closed the door on 5 years of their lives. Five years of Ada holding his hand every time he went for a job interview. Lending him her money every time he had none, staying up at night with him on the anniversary of his father’s death because it hurt too much. Defending him to her friends every time they asked why Ifeanyi hadn’t put a ring on her finger. How could he? He knew telling her would break her, and he couldn’t bear to see that. So he didn’t tell her until Ada saw pictures of his traditional marriage on Facebook. After he had told her they needed to take a break so he could work on his mother. Ada had been stunned. She had crumbled to the ground, wailing, holding onto her stomach like someone had viciously taken a knife to it. She had cried for days, refusing to eat or sleep or see anyone. The weight of Ifeanyi’s betrayal leaving her crushed and dejected. Finally she had got herself together, drove to Ifeanyi’s home, the home his mother had assumed they shared for five years and cursed and spat in his face.
That was two years ago. And as Ifeanyi sat in his car waiting for his cheating wife to come out, he wondered if Ada ever forgave him. He wondered if he would be sitting here waiting for Ada to come out of the cream coloured bungalow. He looked at the time again, 8pm. He had been waiting for almost an hour. A hawker passed, stopping at his window to ask him if he wanted to buy oranges, but he closed his window and the hawker walked away. He looked at his time again, 8:03pm. Why was this taking so long? He took his phone off airplane mode and called her number. It rang twice, but she didn’t pick up. He flung his phone. That bitch! He thought, was she ignoring his calls or was she too busy fucking the other man to hear her phone ringing? He looked at the time again, 8:05pm. He couldn’t take it anymore.
He got out of the car and made his way across the street. In his anger, he didn’t see the car coming towards him. He didn’t hear people screaming at him to get out of the way. He crossed the road, anger and betrayal clouding his mind, blinding him. When he finally saw the car, it was too late. It slammed into him, crushing him to the ground.
As he lay there in shock, his heart beating too fast, the blood pouring out of him, the life slowly and painfully slipping out of him. It wasn’t the face of the driver who hovered over him, asking him if he was okay that he saw. It wasn’t Chisom’s face. It was Ada’s, smiling down on him.