There was a knock on the door when he was inside so she went to open it.
“What? What are you doing here?” Michelle screamed when she saw Oleng.
Oleng surveyed her coolly.
Michelle roughly pushed her aside and entered the house. Oleng shut the door but stayed by it.
“So, Dave is still going out with you? I thought he had sense. What have you done to him? You Calabar witch!” she raged.
“Michelle, what is the meaning of this?” Dave demanded fiercely as he came into the living room.
“She has cooked for you, hasn’t she and you have eaten. She has used her Calabar witch to charm you, hasn’t she?” Michelle spelt out bluntly as she faced her brother.
“Michelle, I’ll not stand here and watch you insult my fiancée.” Dave was furious.
“My fiancée.” she mimicked mockingly. “Fiancée, my foot, you’ve been bewitched, you don’t know. But really Dave, what are you doing with a Calabar girl? They’re notable for their prostitution and witchcraft” She seemed baffled.
Dave walked to the door where Oleng was standing quietly, watching them and placed an arm around her shoulders.
“I love her. That’s all that matters.” he told her squarely.
“You’re not serious.”
“Thank you.” he intoned coldly. “Now what do you want? I don’t believe you came all the way from PH, left your husband and son to come here to insult my fiancée.”
“My business brought me here. I decided to stop by to say hello.”
“Well, you’ve said it, now goodbye.”
Michelle looked at him as if she had been slapped. “You’re asking me out of your house because of this…this…” She gave Oleng a seething appraisal.
“This what?” Dave demanded curtly.
“This tramp! This low life daughter of a nobody.” she delivered with acidic bite.
“That’s it! I want you out of my house now!” Dave retorted sharply.
He left Oleng who tried to hold him back and went to grab his sister harshly by her arm.
“You can’t come here and insult my wife to-be and think I’ll do nothing about it.” He dragged his sister to the door whilst her screams and protests.
They halted at the door.” Alright. Alright. I’ll leave. Hold on.” she conceded witheringly and he left her.
She straightened her clothes and stared at Oleng who was standing beside Dave, surveying her steadily. Michelle smiled.
Before any one could say ‘Jack Robinson’, she gave Oleng a dirty slap on her face. Dave quickly held her and opened the door.
“Bitch! You’ll pay for this. My own brother throwing me out of his house because of a harlot.” she screamed like a banshee before he threw her out and locked the door.
Oleng held her reddened cheek. Dave quickly took her in his arms.
“Sweetheart, please I’m so sorry. Please don’t threaten to leave me again. I’ll handle her. She’s just jealous because you’re more beautiful than her. She has always been jealous of my beautiful girlfriends in the past. Please don’t mind her.
She’s the black sheep of our family. Her son is even for another man not her husband. She got pregnant when she was eighteen. She didn’t know who was responsible but pinned it on Tawari. He had no choice but to marry her.
She was into drugs in school and was expelled twice in different secondary schools. Please don’t worry about her. I’ll handle her.” he soothed her gently.
Some days later, Oleng went to her tailor’s place in Marian market to see if her dress for their small traditional wedding had been made.
All of a sudden she heard that angry voice that she’d forever recognize even in her sleep.
“Yes! I said it.” Michelle ranted as she came into the shop and closer to Oleng while the tailor looked at her as if she’d gone bonkers.
“Gold digger! You’ve come here to spend my brother’s money, haven’t you? You filthy nobody, you dirty whore. Because of you, my own brother threw me out of his house. Because of a harlot like you. Let me tell you, I’m ready to go to the end of the earth just to make him forget about you. Foolish witch.” She declared harshly.
No one could determine who was more surprised, Michelle or the tailor when Oleng gave her a sound slap on the face that turned her head sideways.
“Is it because I’ve been keeping you quiet that’s why you want to embarrass me anytime you see me? What’s your problem anyway? What did I do to you? Why are you so bent on making me unhappy? I love your brother and he loves me too. I’m not after his money or anything. I just want to make him happy. What’s wrong with that? You should be thinking about your own miserable life instead of poking your ugly nose in the matters of others.
You think I don’t know about you? Do you know the father of your first son? Talking about witchcraft, didn’t you bewitch your husband because I don’t know why a young man would saddle himself with a banshee like you who doesn’t even know the real father of her son.” Oleng slammed back at her with angry emphasis.
Michelle could only stare at her in a dumbfounded state. The tailor was perplexed. She had always thought of Oleng as a quiet and shy girl but here was a very angry girl. The saying was true that when pushed against the wall, you’d be forced to retaliate. She had always known Michelle to be a very troublesome woman and was glad that Oleng had put her in her place.
She quickly held Michelle when she wanted to retaliate. She was a very strong woman so she was able to hold her down while Michelle protested vehemently. Her admiration for Oleng grew when she stared at her sister-in-law-to-be, unperturbed.
“You’re finished! I’ll deal with you. You’ll regret ever knowing me. I give you one week to leave my brother alone or you’ll have yourself to blame for the consequences.” Michelle launched back furiously at her.
“When you finish making a spectacle of yourself, ranting and raving like a lunatic, go back to your husband and child and remain there for the rest of your miserable life. Please Mama Etim, I’ll see you another time. The air here has been polluted by this deranged thing. Mtchew!” Oleng looked at Michelle with scorn and walked majestically out of the shop.
When she got outside, she took a deep breath. She was shaking inside but didn’t allow it to show. God! Dave’s sister was a dreadful person. She hadn’t meant to slap her but the insults had been too much coupled with the slap of the other day. She prayed Dave wouldn’t be angry with her. She’d better report to him first before that witch would go and tell him another version of the whole story.
She was amazed when she told Dave and he laughed and hugged her.
“Thanks a lot for doing that. I’ve wanted to do that to her for a long time but as you know, my parents brought me up as a gentleman. Don’t mind her; she’s a toothless bull dog. All bark and no bite. I’m going to report her to her husband by the weekend. This has got to stop.” He completed with a note of finality.
“Please don’t do that,” Oleng quickly interposed. “I don’t want to get her into trouble. She’s just being a caring sister even if she’s going by it the wrong way.”
“Caring sister my foot! She likes bullying people but she can do it to someone else not me.” he remarked, not heeding her words.
Oleng couldn’t dissuade him. He traveled to Port Harcourt during the weekend and told Michelle’s husband to warn his wife or he would deal severely with her. He also went home to tell his parents to warn Michelle off Oleng or she would have herself to blame.
His mum quarreled heatedly with him while his dad promised to talk to her. After a while, they heard nothing from her again and they breathed a sigh of relief.
Oleng and Dave got married in a registry a month after that. It was a quiet affair. They had had a very small traditional wedding the previous day with only Aunt Vien and three distant uncles as the only relatives there to represent her family. Only Dave’s dad and younger brother attended the wedding from his family. They had not bothered to inform Mrs. Linda Akpan. Marvy was her maid of honor. Zinny came but she came late and didn’t participate much in the activities. Edward didn’t attend. His excuse was his work. Oleng was hurt at Eddy and Zinny’s behavior but kept it to herself. She was determined to be happy no matter what.
They had a quiet reception also at Dave’s new place. It was a building with two flats and a big compound. His colleagues and boss from his office came and Oleng’s friends and former course mates from her university days came also. Her friends from the bank where she served were present also. The full compound made her happy and forget that her best friend, Zinny went about mopping on her own wedding day as if she was in a funeral just because she wasn’t in support of the marriage.
She was depressed inwardly but hid it and looked forward to a future with her husband. She couldn’t believe she had actually married Dave. It was like a dream.
She smiled when he came to her side and gave her a kiss. She was glad Eric hadn’t shown up. She couldn’t help feeling joyous within that Eric would be jealous when he found out she had married Dave. She shut out the thought that she had sub-consciously married Dave as sweet revenge against Eric. She killed the feeling also that she was having inside; the one telling her that she had made a great mistake. She hugged her husband.
Time would tell if she had.
“We warned you, didn’t we? Now see your life. Mum and I continuously told you not to marry her but did you listen? No. You went ahead and married her. I told you Calabar girls are not good. She has probably destroyed her womb through numerous abortions and now she can’t even conceive not to talk of giving birth. Is this not your fourth year of marriage?” Michelle raved as she stood in her elder brother’s living room, dressing down both him and his wife who was staring intently at the rugged floor.
“Michelle, why can’t you just leave us alone?” Dave calmly enquired and held his wife.
“Leave you alone? You must be joking. We’ve left both of you alone for four good years and what good has that done? Look, it was mum who sent me here o! Don’t think I’m here on my own accord. Left for me, I would have allowed you to die childless after all, I warned you not to marry this tramp.” she hissed furiously.
“Michelle,” Dave stood up angrily. “I’ll not sit here and watch you insult my wife. If you were not heavily pregnant, I would have thrown you out of my house before now.”
“Yes. Throw me out.” She went closer to her brother and clapped her hands in his face.
“Jealousy! Because your wife can’t give you a child you want to make me lose mine. God forbid! This is my third child, whereas your wife hasn’t even conceived once for us to say she miscarried not to talk of giving birth. Shameless couple!” she sliced back.
Dave sent her a frowning appraisal, sat down and comforted his silently weeping wife.
“Mum told me to tell you to get ready to marry another wife. She’s giving this thing here three months to get pregnant or else she will personally come all the way from Port Harcourt to throw away her things and marry another wife for you.”
Dave continued to ignore her and console his wife.
“Okay o! Continue pretending as if you can’t hear me. I’ve warned you. And you, cry baby, continue crying like the baby you don’t have. Don’t go and look for how to get pregnant for your husband. Remember what you told me four years ago, that I’m a banshee who doesn’t even know the father of her first child. Fine, I accept it but at least, even with my temperament, I already have two sons and a third child is on the way but what about you, what do you have to show for your cool temperament? Barrenness, that’s what!” She released a scornful laugh.
Oleng burst into tears and ran out of the living room amidst her sister in-law’s laughter.
“Michelle, it’s enough. You’ve had your say, now leave. Give this message to mum. Tell her over my dead body will I watch her throw out Oleng’s things and marry a stranger for me. I love my wife with a passion and will stick with her no matter what. It’s not her fault that she hasn’t conceived yet. Such things happen. She’ll conceive in due time but in the meantime, you all should stay away from us. Don’t you know that too much pressure won’t help her to conceive?” He pointed out curtly
“Have we been disturbing her? Didn’t we leave both of you alone since you got married? Pressure my foot! If she’s capable of conceiving, she’d have done that a long time ago. Four years is even too much. It takes even less than a minute to conceive. Just face it; your wife has destroyed her womb, hence her inability to conceive!” Michelle spelt out bluntly.
“Enough!” Dave yelled, scaring her. “Now get out of my house and stay out. I don’t need your advice and do us a favor, leave us alone!” He pronounced with thunderous bite.
“Suit yourself. Mum was the one who sent me to you. You can take her advice or lump it. Personally, I don’t care,” she intoned coldly and walked to the door. “Remember that dad is no more and you’re now the man of the house, so behave like one or do we have to look up to Harry as the man of the house? Think about it.” With that she opened the door and closed it behind her quietly.
Dave rubbed his head vigorously before going in to meet his wife who was crying helplessly on their matrimonial bed.
“Angel, it’s okay. Please stop crying. Don’t mind her. She’s jealous of the love we share which she can’t boast of in her matrimonial home.” He held his wife in his arms and soothed her.
Oleng raised a tear stained face to look at him. “But she is right. We’ve been married for four years now yet I haven’t been able to conceive not even once. The doctors say we are okay, so why can’t I conceive? If I hadn’t gotten pregnant years back, I would have said I’m barren.”
“No, my angel, please don’t say that. You’re not barren. You’re going to conceive and give birth to our child.”
“When?” she yelled. “When your mum throw my things out?”
“No one, I repeat, no one is going to throw you out of this house. Angel, I love you and I can’t live without you. No one is going to control our marriage for us. Absolutely no one.” he declared and kissed her.
“O Dave! What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I been able to get pregnant?” she sniffed.
“Angel, we can’t question God. If it’s His will for us to wait a little longer, who are we to complain? Please keep the faith alive. You’ll conceive and give birth to our child. You’ll see.”
“I want a baby now. I don’t want to wait any longer.” she wailed.
“Angel, please stop crying. It breaks my heart to see you like this…okay, why don’t we adopt a child while we still wait on the Lord?” He looked at her in expectation.
“I don’t want someone else’s baby. I want our own baby.” She started weeping profusely again. “You really shouldn’t have allowed your ex-girlfriends to abort those pregnancies. You would have had two kids by now.”
“But would you have married me? I knew I shouldn’t have told you my secret on our wedding night.”
“O my angel!” Dave cuddled her to himself and glared at the wall. He felt like killing Michelle for making his wife unhappy.
Oleng kept praying and praying within the three months given to her to get pregnant. She attended one church function to another and even went for checkup twice, yet at the end of the three months, she was still not pregnant. She was in great despair.
A few days later, Oleng went to see Zinny in Warri when Dave went off shore. Zinny was now married to Eddy. They got married two years after hers and already had a one year old son. Eddy and Dave were no longer friends much to her chagrin. She didn’t know what happened between them but had tried countless times to bridge the gap between them but both party refused. And to her annoyance, Zinny hadn’t even tried to reconcile them.
She too had never visited her ever since she got married. She was always the one visiting Zinny whenever Dave wasn’t around.
Zinny warmly welcomed her when she came. They sat in the living room discussing things joyfully until Zinny heard her baby crying. She went to the room to carry him and brought him to the living room. Oleng carried him and they continued their discussion.
“Oleng! Why are you crying?” Zinny asked all of a sudden in alarm when she glanced at her friend and saw tears rolling down her eyes.
Oleng simply shook her head slowly and sadly. Zinny went to sit beside her and put her arm around her shoulder.
“What is it? Why are you crying?” she softly enquired.
“Just look at Emeka,” She looked down at the baby. “You’ve been married for only two years yet look at your son. I’ve been married for four years, four years, yet I haven’t been able to conceive let alone give birth. What’s wrong with me? Why is life so cruel to me?” she wept bitterly.
“It’s okay, Oleng. You’ll have your own baby. It’s just taking a little while but it doesn’t matter. You must surely carry your own child. No worry abeg.”
“You don’t understand my pain, Zinny. My mother-in-law gave me three months to get pregnant or she’d come and throw my things out of the house and marry another wife for Dave and now the three months is over and I’m yet to conceive.” She lamented sorrowfully.
“Wetin? She can’t do that. Gone are those days when mothers-in-law do that. What’s wrong with her? You be God?”
“You know she was against the marriage in the first place. So this is just an excuse to throw me out of the house. I don’t know why God is allowing them to torment me like this. God, what have I done to deserve this? What?” she demanded with pent up pain.
Zinny cuddled her with her baby in between them. ”Please stop crying and questioning God lest he gets angry with you and withhold your child forever. Remember Hannah, Sarah, even Rachel in the bible. It took time but they finally had children. Please just continue to wait on the Lord. Delay is not denial.” She consoled. “I’m happy you came. There’s this crusade that is taking place in my church. Tomorrow is the last day. I plan on attending and I’d like you to come with me. That’s if you no go say no since you be Catholic.”
Oleng sniffed. “The way I’m feeling right now, I’m ready to go to even a native doctor just to get a child.”
“God forbid! Don’t say that. E never reach that stage na. God go do am for you.”
“I’ll come with you. Thank you very much.” she sniffed.
“You’re welcome, my dear. By the way, how’s Dave taking it?”
Oleng heaved before replying, “He’s as calm as ever concerning it. He keeps telling me that God will give us a child in due time. He promised me that no one will throw my things out of his house.”
Zinny was silent at that.
“Honestly, I can’t believe why I can’t get pregnant. Our family doctor ran a number of tests on both of us and said we are okay. I have even taken Clomid and some fertility drugs, even herbs yet nothing. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant for Eric then, I would have said I’m barren but I did. I keep thinking though, did giving birth to that baby at such a tender age cause complications in my womb? But then again our family doctor examined me and said I’m okay and the baby didn’t cause any damage.”
“Stop thinking like that Oleng. It’s because you married the wrong person.” Zinny pointed out bluntly.
“Please please Zinny. Please don’t start. Please,” Oleng’s mood changed “I know you were against the marriage from the onset but please don’t attribute my inability to conceive to marrying Dave. Please.”
Zinny shrugged with nonchalance. “Suit yourself but be sure I’ll tell you, ‘I told you so’ when the time comes.”
“Don’t worry it will never come. Please let’s change the topic. Have you heard from Marvy?”
“I called her last week. Her masters degree program is really taking all her time.”
“It’s to be expected. M.Sc. is tough here in Nigeria not to talk of abroad where she’s doing it. She should be fast about it in order to begin her marriage plans. Education is not everything.”
“Na exactly wetin Kelechi tell am.”
“Isn’t he to blame? Wasn’t he the one who sent for her?”
“It was just an excuse for them to be together over there.” Zinny said and they laughed. “Anyway, they have plans of getting married soon. I think when she finishes her program.”
“Thank God. I’ll call her when I get home to ginger her up.” she declared happily and laughed when Zinny’s baby laughed. Tears welled up in her eyes when she looked at the handsome baby.
Zinny saw them and hugged her friend. “Please don’t start again. God will do it.”
Oleng went home on Sunday after attending the crusade the night before. She left because she had to go to work the following day. She worked in an insurance firm.
She went back to the lonely house because Dave wasn’t back from off shore. She cried because she felt if she had a child she wouldn’t have been so lonely. She went to visit Aunt Vien in the evenings.
She was at home alone the following weekend when she heard a knock. She was surprised to see her mother-in-law, Michelle and Felicia.
“Aren’t you going to allow us in?” Michelle demanded sternly.
Oleng knelt down to greet her mother-in-law before opening the door wider for her to come in.
“Welcome ma. It’s unfortunate Dave isn’t at home. He went off shore.”
She made to carry her small travel bag but her mother-in-law refused.
“I know, that is why I’m here.” Mrs. Sokari tautly informed her and brushed past her to go and take a seat. Michelle and Felicia followed her and sat down beside her.
“Please ma. What should I prepare for you? I’m the only one at home so I don’t cook much but I can prepare anything you want to eat. Can I get you a glass of cold water to cool you down from your journey?” Oleng was all smiles though she was very nervous because this was her second time she of setting eyes on her mother-in-law. The first had been her embarrassing visit to Dave’s family house in Port Harcourt. The woman had never visited in all her four years of marriage and she in turn had not gone to visit her in Port Harcourt because she knew she wasn’t welcomed there.
“Stop with the niceties. We’re here for business, so stop pretending.” Michelle snapped and hissed.
“Sit down.” Mrs. Sokari calmly told her daughter-in-law.
Oleng slowly sat down on a chair facing her with her heart blocking her throat.
“How long have you been married to my son?” she quietly asked.
Oleng just stared at the rug in pain.
“Shey you no go answer?” Michelle interposed with great anger.
“Four years ma.” Oleng replied in a small voice.
“How many children do you have?”
“None ma.” Oleng admitted ruefully.
“Good. I’ve waited quietly for four years for Dave to bring my grandchild to me yet he keeps telling me to exercise patience. I even gave you three months to get pregnant but it’s still the same old story. I’ve tried my best. Other women wouldn’t have been so lenient with you.
What you will do right now is to go quietly into your room, pack every single thing you own and leave my son’s house. I’ve already started making plans for him to marry another wife.” Dave’s mum calmly but firmly told her.