It hasn’t always been like this, or maybe it has always been but she never really wanted to see the writings on the wall.
Well how could she? It wasn’t love at first sight or those kinds of love stories the youngsters always dreamed about. No. In her time, that word ‘love’ didn’t matter, wasn’t spoken, wasn’t even heard. So this wasn’t a relationship based on the foundation of love but of companionship and maybe convenience.
She was about twenty three, living in her uncle’s house in the city, still a young girl whose life had always been in the village and she had only been in Lagos for two years, when he had come for her hand in marriage.
He was nothing other than a mere front desk personnel in a marketing firm, who didn’t have more than a few change in his pocket, a few thousands in his bank account and maybe a promising future and lived in a one-room bearable-house. He had told her uncle that he would be able to take care of her, fend for her and be a good husband and that her uncle shouldn’t be worried about his present state, he was a hard working man, he had potential of being great and …bla bla blabardash!!
She should have known then that a man, when he wants something would even speak the language of the gods. But her uncle had called her in, and asked her if she wanted to marry him. She had looked at him, a stranger that had suddenly become familiar with his constant visits to her house to see her uncle. He seemed nice, not much older than herself. He was educated, well versed, he was definitely a step up from the village life and the boys who walked around in wrappers and played chess and drank palm wine from the farm, and went about chasing girls to get them pregnant, as though they were in some competition of being the one with the most children and concubines. The village life never really frowned upon it, no one cared about values and morals, you marry whom you wanted or rather took, and soon you became a wife. No HALABOOHOO!
So when her Uncle asked her, she realized that she wasn’t getting any younger. The stranger, he seemed nice around the edges, he smiled warmly when he greets her and sometimes he had gotten her sweet bread from the supermarkets and always claimed that he wouldn’t be able to buy stuff for her uncle and his wife alone.
She had looked at him and then she had nodded.
In the village, they never really asked the opinions of young girls, they pick your husband and the next morning before you knew it you were married off to one old bellied man with goatie and five children and maybe a few wives already. She was lucky, her Uncle took her away to the city to stay with him, his wife needed someone to take care of her child while she went to work and Mercy was too happy to leave. Yes she was lucky, to be taken away from that village and the life it brings.
So she had accepted to marry the stranger who looked sweet and nice.
“Yes Uncle, I’ll marry him” she said shyly.
A month later they had been married, a small service, no honeymoon and a year later they had their first and only Child, Emeka Odinaka Chikurdi.
And for five years, they lived in peace, her duties were to stay at home and watch over their son, prepare food for her husband and submit to him which she did gladly, and she had come to care for the man she called her husband. He wasn’t always sweet, she had come to realize, he wasn’t always nice, she noticed too. He shouted on her, he got angry and snapped.
But she realized it was the stress of work, the no-money syndrome and the hard harsh life of the economy. So she told him she wanted to help. She finally began to sell little things like fish and tomatoes in the market with her son Emeka wrapped on her back, under the sun and the rain she labored and was happy to be able to bring her little earnings home.
They had hit rock bottom when he was fired.
That was when he began to change more. He used to shout on her but it became worse, sometimes he let his anger take over him, a few times he had sent her to the floor, but immediately he would apologize but soon after she would be sent down again. He got angrily easily for nothing.
But you see, she was told by other women, that he was her husband and she needed to understand that situations might push a man to do certain things he wouldn’t want to do. So for everything he did,She forgave him every time. This went on for three years., then God shined down his love on them.
She had gotten a job as a maid to a lady she had helped with her child who had strayed away from her mother. The girl had come out of the shop she and her mother were in to chase an ice-cream man on his bike and strayed away too far. Mercy had seen her son, Emeka, staring at the little girl, his mouth drooling for the cake she had in her hand and the ice-cream she had in the next, sitting down, oblivious of her environment but enjoying the goodies in her hand.
She had walked to him and pulled Emeka away from her but Emeka,who can sometimes be stubborn wailed his lungs out. She knew why he got like that, the only goodies he was used to getting was pap, custard and an occasional indomie if days were good, luxurious foods or junks like cake, chocolates and biscuits were too much, and they couldn’t afford to indulge, but he wanted them.
“Don’t! stop it Emeka!” she says dragging him away, looking around for anyone who was with the girl, no one was in sight
“WA WAHH WAHHHH!!’’ Emeka cried, she raises up her hand to smack him across the face
“Stop crying else I would send you up to see the stars” she threatens pulling his mouth shut, But Emeka wouldn’t stop wailing, the girl, was staring at Emeka as he cried stretching out his hands towards her, Mercy pulled her son and began to walk away from the girl, Emeka wailed behind her and then he suddenly stopped, she looks down to realize that the girl had given him her cake and then fed him her ice-scream, cleaning his tears.
Defeated, Mercy sighs and stops, she watches them sit down and eat it together, Emeka’s eyes were shinning, he was happy.
“Where is your mother little girl, what is your name?”
She had told her that she was in a supermarket and that her name was Jessica, but she doesn’t know were the supermarket was in. Mercy couldn’t leave her, so she took the child with one hand, Emeka on the other and began to search shops. Tired, she had decided to take the girl to the police station to report the case of the child, but when she got there, she found a woman whose tears had cleaned out her makeup turning her mascara on her face to look like a Dracula’s queen. She had been worried, it’s been three hours, she had reported her daughter missing.
“Thank you thank you so much madam, God bless you” she hugs her daughter to herself, her husband takes Mercy’s hands and thanked her too.
They offered to give her money, but she had shook her head, they say, don’t give a man fish, he would eat it and come back for more, teach a man how to fish and he would be able to stand on his own and not lean on you anymore.
“How do I pay you back for this good deed madam, anything, please” The woman had begged
“I need a job madam, please I can do anything, “ she had said
‘’well, do you have your Cv, do you have any skills?’’
Mercy had shook her head “No madam, but my husband, he is a learned person, he can work”
“But you said you need a job, now you talking about your husband?”
“Madam they say, Men are the breadwinners of a home, if he gets a job, I am okay, he would take care of us, my son and I, if I get a job, I will take care of them both, but you know how some men can be, it is better he has a job ma’am, that is all I want” she told the woman
‘’Honey?” she turns to her husband
“Tell your husband to come to this office Monday morning with his credentials and call me.” He tells her handing her a card, Mercy goes on her knees thanking him
“Bless you sir, bless you” she thanked them
“Emeka, let us go” she calls her son, but he was seated with the little girl, God knows what they were saying to each other, they were laughing and playing with their hands
“Mercy is it?” the woman had turned back to her “What do you do at home mostly?”
“Nothing ma’am, only when I have small money I go and sell fish and tomatoes in the market.’’
“Okay, my nanny just got married and left and we have been looking for another, would you like to take her place, I”ll pay you much more than what you will get in the market plus, I am sure your son isn’t in school?’’
Mercy shakes her head bowing it, feeling embarrassed “We weren’t able to pay his fees Madam” Mercy says
“I am sure with what I offer to pay you, you can enroll him into one”
“Hay Madam!!!’’ Mercy goes on her knees
“No no get up, see you brought my daughter to me, I thought she was kidnapped, she is our only child, and God knows the amount of money they would have bagged from us, but she was safe and sound because a good woman like yourself saw her, so this is the least we can do and that means my daughter would be in safe hands when I and my husband are not home, so madam please, we should be the ones thanking you, there is no problem, come, do you leave around here so we take you home?’’
“No, at the other side of town”
“Fine, let’s go, Jessica, come” Jessica holds Emeka’s hands and went to her mother. They left the station and they drove her home, their countenance changes when the couple saw the state of their house, barely a house, a one room, leaking roof and a stove outside where they cooked
“Thank you ma” Mercy bows her head in embarrassment, she had wanted them to drop her halfway but they had insisted, wanted to know where she lived since she would be working for them
“Mercy, can you start working from tomorrow?’’
“Yes ma’am” she answered
“Okay, here is the address, come by 7am, they would let you in” she told her writing it down in a paper and giving it to her
Mercy thanked her, Emeka reluctantly said goodbye to his new friend and they left.
“What are you thinking woman, I know that look” Her husband says driving away
“Oh, I am just worried about their state of living, so sad, and with a boy that age, honey, we have houses around, and since she would be babysitting Jessica, why can’t she be a live-in nanny?”
“To live in our house?”
“No, the quarters in the compound, our old nanny had vacated the premises’’
“But she was single, this woman has a husband and son “
“Honey, don’t you feel sorry for her, we can expand the house a little, add another room and some space, they can move in and look, he would be working right, and she too and when they feel that they’ve made money enough they can move, one good deed deserves another, please baby?”
“Yes , I’ll have a new friend “ Jessica squealed
They laughed “Yes you would”
Her Husband had gotten the job, and for years they worked for them, life became better. Emeka was able to continue his education, her husband was able to rent himself a house and they moved out, Jessica was too grown to need a nanny, and she had gotten an admission to study abroad. She was leaving, so were they. They had called them to tell them the good news, and even a better one.
They offered her husband a managerial position in their company, and that while they are away, he was in charge, made him a signatory to all the accounts, and that they were relocating, they were going to pitch tent abroad, but they needed someone they could trust here. They sold their houses and every other thing transferring funds into their account. But left the company, Mr Ibekwe had said, that it was his legacy, to always have a root back in Nigeria.
It was a sad and bittersweet moment, Mercy was happy and sad that the family whom God had sent to elevate them was leaving, Emeka felt sadder, his friend Jessica was going away, they had become quite close. Her husband was over the moon, thanking them.
But their happiness was short lived, the flight that the Ibekwe’s family took went down due to the storm, everyone on board had died.
Emeka cried for weeks, Mercy was struck with a pain she never felt before, and her husband, was quiet for days.
They family members came to claim what belonged to him, but they couldn’t fight her husband because, Mr Ibekwe had signed him to be in-charge in a way that suggested that he was the next owner of the company, so her husband fought tooth and nail to keep it..
“I won’t let it go, this was the only thing he left in my care and I will not let it go, I must make his dreams come true” he had said
She had thought, yes, her husband did value relationships and wanted to do something good. But she didn’t realize that he held on to the company for his own selfish reasons… to be powerful, to be more and then to be able do whatever he wanted.
They won the case, and they buried the memory of the Ibekwe’s, albeit painfully and life went on.
But you see, that was when everything went wrong.
He had changed the company’s name to his, he fired the people he didn’t want and wasn’t loyal to him and put his, He began to build his empire so high that even her, his wife didn’t dare venture in.
He became ruthless, he became more angry with her and for awhile she felt that as things got better so would his attitude, but no, it became worse.
Soon he starting bringing strange women into their home, to their bed. Soon, the beatings began again worse than before, soon, he stopped fending for her and their son.
“I am your God Mercy, you will do what I ask and when I ask, get out, leave my house if you don’t want to submit to my rules, these women will come here as much as I want and you won’t say pim, you will cook for them, carter for them, and love them if need be, and if you and your son make a scene, I will beat you both and kick you out” he had thundered one of those days she had confronted a slut on her bed
“Papa Emeka, for all I had done for this family, for standing by you when you had nothing, for breaking my back to make sure we stand here today, despite God used that family may their soul rest in peace, for all that we have been through together, this is how you treat me?” she had cried bitterly
“Mercy, all that I have now is by my labour and hard work, you mean nothing to me, you did nothing for me, in fact, you were nothing but bad luck since the day I married you. Get out from my house woman, your presence nauseates me” he drags her by her hand as she screams thrashing her hands and legs everywhere
“Since you want to challenge me in my own house, I will show you what I can do, you witch leave my house” he says slapping her quiet, while the girls laughed.
“Throw the witch out !!’’ they chanted
“Papa Emeka, Papa Emeka” She cried holding onto him as he pushes her out the gate and she falls backwards, she runs back inside and holds him by his trousers “‘I am your wife, mother of your son, why Papa Emeka? Don’t let these women use you, don’t let the devil use you’’
He pushes her again “You are the devil and I am sending you away from my home” when she comes back he pushes her hard, falling backward she was caught
“Mama!!” Emeka screams running to catch her before she hits the pavement “Mama are you okay?” he touches her, she was crying nodding
“Yes my son” she sniffs
Emeka looks at his father as he stands up “It’s enough Papa, I won’t let you keep treating her this way. IT’S ENOUGH” his fist was folded
“HOW DARE YOU!” his father grabs a stick and heads for Emeka, Emeka charges towards him, anger flaring, fist clenched.
“I SAID ENOUGH!!’’ his fist makes contact with his father’s face as the stick hits his back
TO BE CONTINUED.