Trees lined the entrance to the house owned by one Ibekwe Samson. Not this home alone but every residential quarter in Maximiser Estate was lined with tall masquerade trees that while they gave no shade, lent an air of dignity to the entire estate. The effect was commented on by nearly every occupant of these residences and fellow prospective buyers before documents and currency confirmed new rentals. And they all agreed; it was queer and it was beautiful.
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These trees now Busola looked at out of her window ponderingly. The car went quiet outside and she heard the soft bang of its door being shut a moment later. The swaying leaves of the giants that lined the lawn made her wonder at what tall masquerade tree Samson had seen in her before he picked her for his wife. Theirs had been an almost formal courtship when it began. She had been a young girl, armed with an ongoing degree at the University of Port-Harcourt and procuring water for her family very early at a nearby borehole system in her hometown. He came up to her and she had had to stop herself from being very rude to a total stranger because of how tired she was. She had given him the directions he sought, washed her hands off him and his further attempts to have a conversation with her and went about her numerous duties as the eldest female daughter of a Bible-bashing father and a Bible-bashing mother. The next time she saw him, he had been visiting with her father, two older respectable men she had glimpsed in the village once or twice previously. He had come to seek her hand in marriage.
Following this was a wonderful nineteen years where they had come to understand each other and appreciate that both had strengths and weaknesses. Never, however, had Busola noted this clause of infidelity or flirtatious marauding from her husband and father of her children. She was fearful now of his response to her text message. Several speculations ran a loop in her mind and heightened her alarm so it seemed to have a semblance of a physical squeezing hold on her chest and it's environs.
Samson did not take his job lightly and severely frowned at disturbances during his office hours. In all their years as husband and wife, she had only called him at work when there was fire on any mountain. This issue was fire to her! It was burning and roasting her trust, and if confirmed, all unity, camaraderie, love, and loyalty their marriage had possessed in previous abundance.
But her fear was greater, God forgives her, for she knew the kind of man she was married to. So Samson walked into his residence to find his wife sleeping soundly on the living room couch. She listened with all her might and made sure he had climbed the staircase and proceeded into the bedroom upstairs before she sat up very carefully. Here she was, held hostage in her own home. Where was God in all this? Why wasn't He fighting this battle for her?
Theirs was a cost-intensive home to maintain but Samson's pay made this a non-issue. This woman had lived nearly impoverished with her family as a child and a young girl. This lent her discerning appreciation for the assets and appliances in her home that made life easy; the many inches TV sets present in nearly every room in the house, the washing machines, the vacuum cleaner, the air conditioning, the steady electricity, microwaves…
A poor husband wouldn't have time to flirt or play games with a girl the entire family had accepted and genuinely liked. She debunked this thought even as she contemplated it. Poor men will turn into drinking, unfaithful vagabonds because of life's frustrations if God wasn't their pillar and first port of call.
Eka's family and theirs had a good relationship. Eka's mother had been a strong older female support when Busola's first two years of marriage had proved childless. The woman's wise counsel had halted her mad dash for prayer houses, a desperate inclination that ensured that she knew these miracle centres enough to provide reviews and preference options to fellow miracle seekers. Subsequently, when the family had moved to Lagos with their first child and son, and the lease claim of their home had proved dubious, proferred by fraudsters seeking to dupe Lagos newbies, Mr Aberebiegha, Eka's father had welcomed and accommodated them in his home for eight months until they could stand on their own feet again. This familial basis had been enough to in turn welcome the girl into her home during the long break two years ago; the year Eka's mother had passed on, despite Aberebiegha's provision of funds and Eka's palliative care for many long months.
Deciding that she couldn't have possibly foreseen her goodwill turning sour for her, she made her way to the kitchen to get their food for the night prepared. It was a disjunct couple that sat to an evening meal that night. Samson did not bring up the message he received and she finally had to bring the issue up herself at the dinner table.
"So I can't eat Busola? Because you cannot mind your business in this house and keep your nose out of my personal gadgets I shouldn't eat again?" Samson watched her. His face was a mask of fury, he just needed a spark it seemed. She did not want to be this spark.
"My husband. It is a legitimate question…."
He didn't let her finish. He rose up from the chair. "Busola, don't speak English for me. I am glad you know that I am your husband. Why would you send me something as stupid as that text was at the office? Couldn't you allow me to come to my house first before attacking me?" His finger was in her face. She was glad it was not his full palm. He had not slapped her in three years and she was filled with trepidation that he might do so today. "Trust! That is all a wife owes her husband. Where is yours?"
"Don't tell me that Samson! I have eyes. I saw how precarious your relationship with that girl is from those texts. She is your friend's daughter for God's sake! Don't you have a single ounce of shame..." Samson cut her off with a slap that for a moment, she was sure would blind her.
"I pray God helps you and you don't carry this rubbish around because if you do, with your own hands you are destroying this marriage, understand? Better you start thinking of what's best for your children," and Samson took his leave of the table. He scaled the staircase at a rapid pace and disappeared into the first level of the house. When he came back and descended the stairs a minute later, he was holding a car key.
"Samson, where are you going? It is late. Come back and eat, I won't ask you anything. Samson!" She cried, holding her hand over her left eye and arising from her place at the table. The stubborn man ignored her. A few minutes later, she heard one of the cars hum to life and her husband left the house at 8pm that night. She kept thanking God her children were in boarding schools. How would she have explained this?
Busola stayed very busy crying at the table. Her mouth had run ahead of her and she had to fight the overwhelming urge to break something. Her phone dinged on her lap and she wiped her eyes, grabbing it like a lifeline hoping to see something from her Samson; anything.
"Ma, it's not like that o. Uncle is in safe hands. He was mentoring me on the architectural disposition of a graphics personnel. I will come to the house and see you Aunty to clear your doubts. I am so sorry that the conversations led you to this misunderstanding. Good evening Ma."
She wanted to slap the girl. Her husband was a media mogul and knew next to nothing about architecture. Even she could lie better than this. Anyway, architectural dispositions would not make a man slap a woman he had not laid hands on in years. His reaction screamed loudly of guilty defense. How she wished he had just ignored her and behaved like she was nagging him. She might have had hope.
Busola slept alone that night.
(Join us as we detail the Ibekwe journey. What do you think? Is Busola handling this potential marital separation with wisdom? Can you relate with Samson? Do you think the assumptions about him are misunderstood? In what aspect would you have acted differently if you were in their shoes? What role could God play in a family like this one?)
Somkeneolisa M. Val-Ugboma
Author, poet, scriptwriter. Seek, seek harder, seek some more