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A New Beginning

A New Beginning

Illustration
A New Beginning

 

By Chinedu Eze

 

Part 1

 

It was not the first time Steve had travelled overseas since he married Uloma. He usually travelled, spent about two months and came back. In the past he travelled to the US but this time he said he wanted to go to Canada.

Six years ago, he had just landed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and passed through Immigration, ready to hop into a taxi when he switched on his phone and received Uloma’s call. She announced to him that Somto, their first child and his only son was born. He was overseas when his son was born. He was also overseas when his daughter, Kosi was born. So Uloma was used to not having him around at such critical milestones in the family’s history.

But this time he travelled to Canada and five days after his arrival in Canada, Steve sent a long WhatsApp message to Uloma and told her he would not come back any time soon; in fact, in the foreseeable future. Why? He said that his business in Nigeria was not doing well. Besides, he reeled out so many grievances he bottled up and stoically tolerated in silence for years against Uloma. Steve complained that Uloma who was a cabin crew staff of a major domestic airline in Lagos didn’t have time for him or their two children. He complained that Uloma kept two maids at home despite the family’s lean resources and did not delineate their duties so they worked at cross purposes. Steve was also critical of his belief that Uloma never took his directives or instructions seriously and tended to scoff at him. And above all, Steve complained that the children never received the attention the deserved from their mother.

What riled Uloma was when he said he ate better and lived happier life when he was a bachelor.

“I was in love with you. Perhaps that was why I didn’t really evaluate you. I told myself, you would never do anything that would be so wrong that I would not be able to let it pass. That may be why I endured you excesses these years. Why our daughter, Kosi was born I realised that I was no more part of our home because whatever my needs might be, nobody really cared.

“So I have decided to stay back in Canada until further notice. I will make more money and help the family. I started the process while I was in Nigeria so I already have work permit and I am staying with Osahon, my cousin. I have asylum interview in the next two days. Maybe we may talk more about that but do look after our beautiful children, God’s special favour to us,” he wrote.

Uloma’s heart started beating faster. She thought she was going to die. Her whole body began to quiver. Steve could not be described as very caring but he loved the children and could be selfless whenever he wanted to. But what was very important was that Uloma loved him. Yes, family issues could tear couples apart. Children tend to sap the romance between man and wife, but the nucleus of that love remains because every child shares the heart of father and mother and there exists the umbilical cord that yokes a family together.

Now, Steve would not be coming back. His absence was so loud. How was she going to cope? Would she tell the children their daddy would never return to them again? She had physically and psychologically leaned on Steve for support. Yes, she needed Steve to be around her, her life and the lives of their children would feel a big gap without him.

“What made Steve take the decision to leave us? I have loved him since we met. I have never put him under pressure in terms of monetary demand. Whatever he brings I always augment. These days I was the one bringing. Why leave us so suddenly…” she started to cry.

“Mummy, why are you crying,” Somto asked, inquisitive.

“Nothing my darling,” she responded, drawing her son closer. Kosi snuggled to her. She held them to her chest. Her tears dropped on them. She lifted her head and kissed them.

That was on Saturday morning. No school. She had three days off, as she operated international flight that the return leg ended the previous day.

By Sunday afternoon, Steve had called and spoke to everyone. He was on phone with his wife for one hour. Then he spoke to Somto and Kosi

“Daddy, when are you coming back?” Kosi asked.

“Darling, I have a lot of things I am doing here. I will come back when I finish them. What will I buy for you? I will call you on video. I will like to see you and you will see your Daddy.”

“Buy me teddy bear. Buy me tablet so I watch cartoons. Buy shoes and clothes. Daddy bye-bye…I love you…”

Uloma put cartoon for the kids in the sitting room and went to the bedroom to talk to Steve after he had spoken with the kids.

After listing to Steve for sometime she decided to interrupt him.

“There are things I want to know. By deciding to stay back in Canada, are you quitting our marriage?”

“I never say I am quitting. Do you want to leave me?’

“If you are not quitting I suppose you should have discussed your plans with your wife. We have children for God’s sake. We have responsibilities. Did you put them into account before you took your decision? Don’t you think they will like to be with their father as they grow up? You just told me you were travelling and by the way, you showed me Delta Air Lines flight ticket and you said you are in Canada. Why go to US? Why didn’t you go to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and from there to Toronto? Did you do anything in the US before you left for Canada? Please Steve, what did I do to you that you decided to torment me so? I thought I have been a good wife to you; a good mother to our children. Yes, we don’t have so much but we have been managing our resources. If you plan to stay back overseas, I think it was something we should have discussed. Why are you doing this to me?” She started crying.

Steve paused. Listened to her sobs.

“Baby, please don’t cry about this. My decision to stay back is for the good of us. You know that for some time my business has not been doing well. When I bring goods from overseas and sell; at the end of the day my earnings barely offset my expenses. So I just decided to stay back and work and I know that Canada has higher prospects. There are cities where they look for workers. I can go to Quebec, Ontario or Sherbrooke where they pay more, but I am here in Toronto. Osahon said I should stay here and get my documentations and then I can go anywhere and work. I think you should be happy with the sacrifice I am making for the family,” he said.

“Steve, the sacrifice you are making is for yourself. You didn’t think of us when you decided to travel and stay permanently overseas. If you were thinking of us, you would have thought how all of us should have travelled together…”

Uloma did not wish to continue with the discussion. She collapsed into bed and cried until Somto’s voice jolted her from her thoughts. She wiped her tears and prepared the children to go to bed. She had sent the maids away. But her sister said she would bring one that would start work on Monday.

 

Part 2

 

It has been six months since Steve travelled to Canada. He was calling very regularly after he left. He would demand to talk with the children and Uloma had not stopped missing him. Most of the time when they chatted she ended up crying. She sorely missed him. His presence at home meant a lot to her. Uloma grew up with her parents. Her father played his role as the man of the house, making sure that the right things were done, disciplining the children when necessary and advising everyone about the right things to do. One day somebody knocked at their home about 2:00 am in the night. Her father got up, told his wife to wear trousers, ensured Uloma and her sister wore trousers, as the knocking persisted. He looked them over, pushed them to their mother’s room, locked the room, picked a cutlass and went to meet his adversary at the door. It turned out the person who knocked was a street wag, who was believed to be schizophrenic and sometimes a nuisance in the neighborhood.

Uloma cannot forget that experience. Now, every responsibility was on her. She never dreamt that she would one day live alone with her children like a single mother. But since the past six months she has been living alone with her children. Steve had not sent money to them. He was talking about settling down, leaving Osahon’s home and getting his own place. Whenever he called he would start thanking her for taking care of the children, but he never asked how they had been feeding and how their school fees were paid. Steve called recently and she told him that their rent was due. He told Uloma that to do everything possible to renew the rent.

“Don’t worry, when I settle down in my own place I will send you some money. It’s tough here. The cold is killing but we aren’t got choices. But don’t worry. I will get back,” he assured.

Uloma’s new maid, Mary had been wonderful. She was practically a surrogate mother to her children. She was so devoted, very sincere and very hard working. But Uloma had to change school for the children. She needed a school very close to their house. They lived at 55 Harrison Sholaja Street Ago Palace Way. So she got a school at Owolabi Street one street away so Mary could be taking them to school. That helped so much. She left the house whenever she had first flight by 5:00 am. The airline usually dispatched a bus to come and pick her. But she would drive herself to the airport when she had noon and evening flights.

One Wednesday when she had afternoon flight she drove the family’s 2007 Toyota Camry car to work at about 10:am. As she joined Ago Palace Way from Harrison Sholaja and drove past the old Century Hotel, the car started coughing and jerking. She accelerated. The car did not lurch forward; rather, it slowed down. She quickly drove towards the sidewalk and parked. She became worried. What is wrong with the car, she asked herself. Since Steve travelled, getting to about one year now, she had never serviced the car, checked oil or anything. She just fuelled the car and drove on. Although Uloma did not stress the car, she would just drive to the airport sometimes, to church and to supermarket, but the car needed some maintenance.

She reluctantly opened the car door and came out. She grudgingly opened the bonnet, careful not to stain her uniform, just to look over the engine. As she opened the car engine, confused about what to do, as everything seemed normal, she noticed a car drive past her and drove in front of her. The man got off his car and walked towards her. He was tall, fully bearded, dark and handsome. He walked to her and said, “Good morning dear. What’s wrong with the car?” She looked beckoningly at the man who looked like he was in his early 40s.

“Good morning. My car just stopped. I don’t know what happened.” She felt she needed his help.

“You are obviously going to work. My name is Larry. I live at Harrison Sholaja, two blocks away from yours,” he told her with a smile.

“Ah, I don’t know”.

He had long admired her. She is beautiful and she does not even know how beautiful she is, he told himself.

Uloma was tall, light skinned and beautiful with voluptuous breasts she did everything to suppress because it embarrassed her. She had all kinds of corsets, which has become part of her fashion regimen. The gap in between her upper front teeth and the small mole on right side of her upper lip gave her a unique, attractive countenance. When she smiled, men get overwhelmed.

Larry noticed her two months ago and had been monitoring her. He knew she was married. He also knew he had two children. He has helped Mary with the kids few weeks ago. But he knew Uloma did not know him.

He looked the car over. Took the key from her and went and started it. The car coughed twice and refused to start. He tried again, it made prolonged kicking noise and that shook the engine but refused to start. He switched it off, came out and stood besides her.

“You know what, when did you service the car last?”

“I can’t remember. It is my husband that does such things.”

“I know him but I think I have not been seeing him lately.”

“Yeah, he travelled. I am expecting him back next week,” she lied, feeling unsafe.

“Okay. What you car needs is servicing. There is nothing wrong with it. Let me call my mechanic to come and pick it then I will drop you at the airport with my car. I hope that’s okay with you.”

“That’s very good of you but I can get Uber. I am sure you were heading somewhere. I don’t want to disorganize your programme today. Thank you so much. By the way, my name is Uloma. Ah, you seem to know everything about me.”

He smiled.

“We are neighbours. I understand the nature of your job, so I am not surprised you don’t know me. I am an architect so more often I work from home. In fact, since the Coronavirus lockdown I have been working from home. I only go to site to inspect projects. I know your children. They attend the same school with mine. I have a boy, 7 years old,” Larry told her.

By the time the mechanic came they had waited 30 minutes. Uloma was reluctant to give his key to the Mechanic whose name was Kazeem, until he asked him about Daddy Somto.

E don tee since I see am last. Na me dey do im car.”

Knowing she was getting late and she had to go for briefing before her flight, she entered Larry’s car, a Lexus RX, 350, 2013 model and sat beside him and he drove off.

Larry drove towards Cele Bus stop. At the roundabout, he climbed the bridge that brought him to the Oshodi-Apapa expressway towards the Airport Road. She was anxiously hoping that there wont be traffic snarl at the Airport Link Road after the tollgate, as they made their way towards Terminal 1 of the Lagos airport, known as General Aviation Terminal, she felt relieved that by that time of the day, there was light traffic on that road. She asked Larry to drop her in front of the airline’s office. He insisted on driving in to the premises. She felt grateful.

On their way to the airport they talked about many things. Larry subtly asked her about her husband and she spoke glowingly about him with a tone of longing and so much love. He told her she was beautiful. She thanked him. He told her again she looked as if she had not given birth at all. She thanked him and quipped that he was not looking bad himself. She was the first to ask for his number; maybe because her car was still under his car. When she dropped from the car she looked at him admiringly and thanked him profusely. That was the beautiful image she left with him at the airline office, as Larry drove happily back to Ago Palace Way.

She returned on Friday morning. The crew travelled to Luanda, Angolan capital and did a night stop. On arrival, she was taken home in the airline’s executive bus. The children jumped over themselves when their Mummy returned. That was early in the morning. She did not go to bed. She rather decided to bathe her children and prepared them to school. She remained eternally grateful to Mary who knew what to do without waiting for instructions. And Mary was just 18 years old. Uloma was now thinking about what to do for her.

At about 11:00 am Larry called and told Uloma that the car was ready. Kazeem drove it to her place few minutes later. She called Larry back and thanked him. She asked him how much he spent on the car so she would pay him back. He laughed and told her not to worry. She thanked him but was not comfortable with that generosity.

The car nearly spoils o. oil wey dey inside no dey good again. The steering oil don dry. We changed the plugs and put new gear oil. Oga Larry give me money.”

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Uloma thanked him and as Kazeem left, she sent a message to Larry and thanked him again. That evening he drove out with Mary and the children. They went to the supermarket nearby and bought necessities for the home. On their way back she saw the house where Larry was staying. It was a two-story building. She looked at the building, hoping to see Larry but nobody was at the balcony. She drove home.

It was surprising that Larry had not married at the age of 41. It was not really what he wanted. He married when he was 34. That same year, Onome his wife gave birth to David, his only child. They separated shortly after and Onome remarried. Larry still suspected that Onome was dating that man when they were still married because not up to two months they separated, he married her. That was what prompted him to do DNA test on David, which confirmed he was his son.

As an architect, Larry was well off. In fact, he just finished his house at Ajah at the Lagos Island but he was torn between renting it out and moving to the place. But he liked Ago Palace Way and that was where most of his clients lived.

 

Part 3

 

Steve sent $500 to Uloma, a year and four months after he travelled. The money came handy. She changed it to Naira and offset the money she borrowed to complete the rent. She thanked him, but when they spoke on phone, Steve made it clear that he drained himself to send that money. He also sent some clothes to his children and a pair of shoes to Uloma. She was happy. But she was missing him.

Since Steve travelled Uloma had not had sex. In fact, how to manage the home, take care of the children and keep up with her job had taken away personal emotions and the thought of sex. Yes, there was one pilot that always made overtures to her. She usually smiled back at him. Knowing she was married, she knew that the pilot would not push his luck far. But now, when she seemed to have taken control of the home front, she had started feeling like a woman who needed companionship. She broached the idea of returning to Nigeria with Steve, but it seemed he had made up his mind to stay back in Canada. He listened to him carefully to hear when he would suggest plans for the family to come to Canada but he didn’t. Rather, he was talking about taking IT courses to strengthen himself in his workplace.

She also knew that at her age, she didn’t need to live like widow. I am 37 years for God’s sake, she told herself. What is Steve thinking? Does he plan to just leave me here? Why is Steve so selfish! That was the butt of discussion two days later and it ended in a shouting march. It became obvious that Steve didn’t have plans for the family. He just wanted to stay overseas and enjoy himself.

Two days later, Uloma had just landed in Lagos on her last flight for the day, marked her time and was about to leave the office when she switched on her phone. The first call she got was unknown number. She hesitantly picked it and heard Mary’s voice that told her, amid tears that Somto was injured in class. He jumped from his desk and fell down. Mary’s sobbing voice made a tragedy of whatever happened and Uloma literally jumped out of the office and into her car and drove recklessly back home, cursing every vehicle that slowed her down. When she arrived home, Mary and Kosi jumped into the car and they drove to a nearby private hospital, Alexandra, where Mary just came back from. Uloma rushed in without waiting to be ushered, but the nurse on duty called her back and told her to follow due process. She was impatient, but was later taken to the ward.

As she walked into the ward she saw Larry sitting beside Somto who lay in bed with bandaged arm. Larry’s son Osas was leaning on his father. Uloma rushed to her son and gently lifted that injured arm.

“Mummy, I fell down.”

“Oh sorry my darling.”

“They said my hand is broken, Mummy”.

Larry smiled as Uloma who looked at him gratefully.

“He sustained injury from the fall. There is no fracture. Luckily, I just came to the school, so I brought him here.”

“Thank you so much Larry, I don’t know how to thank you more. I am very, very grateful. What did the doctor say?”

“He said Somto should be observed for sometime. I think he should be discharged shortly. He was given anti tetanus and some analgesic. From tomorrow he would be brought here for the wound to be dressed. I am used to it. Osas had many of similar incidents,” he said, laughing.

Uloma heaved a sigh of relief. She looked intently at Larry and thanked him again. Larry excused himself a while later, taking Osas with him. Osas and Somto had become friends and before he left with his father, he told Somto to get well quickly. Uloma hugged Osas and kissed his forehead.

Larry took Mary and Kosi home while Uloma stayed with Somto who said he wasn’t eating anything. He was so excited his mother was with him. They were discharged later that evening but when Uloma wanted to pay for the bill she was told Larry had paid for everything.

She returned home bathed Kosi and Somto herself; careful so that water would not touch his bandaged hand. That night she showered, wore light make up, good body spray and evening gown and went to see Larry.

When she arrived at the house she asked the security man Larry’s flat and he showed her. It was on the second floor of the two-story building. She knocked at the door. Larry who wore a pair of shorts but naked to his waist opened the door and was surprised and at the same time embarrassed because his bare, hairy chest starred at his visitor, who coyishly looked down so that their eyes would not meet. Larry has a good frame, thick and handsome. The hairs on his chest sprayed generously to his breasts and cascaded down to his navel and finally met the lush pubic hairs; that he shaved clean always. He ushered her into the sitting room.

Osas was engrossed with cartoon on the 60-inch television located at the centre of the room. It was well furnished with high equality leather upholstery and at one end lay very complex drafting table where Larry could sit 18 hours of the day when he had to deliver urgent work.

Asking his visitor to sit down, he quickly excused himself to wear a shirt and came back quickly.

“You are so beautiful, Uloma. In fact, you are radiating this evening,” Larry told her.

“Thank you,” she responded with a smile.

She called Osas who half followed the movement in the room. He walked to her and greeted her to the approval of his father, then turned back to the television. But Uloma hugged him, lifted him and sat him down on her thigh.

“You like the cartoon?’

“Yes auntie. It is Power Rangers.”

Then he remembered.

“How is Somto?”

“He is well. He was sleeping when I left,” she answered with a smile.

Larry sat at the single seat beside her and asked her what she would take.

“Anything you feel is cool for the evening,” she smiled looking up at him.

“I have red wine. I have orange juice?”

“Juice will do. I want to monitor Somto,” she said, adding, luckily I am off tomorrow.

Larry came in from the kitchen with three glasses of orange juice. Gave Osas one glass where he glued his eyes on the television and whispered, “Thank you Daddy”.

Larry and Uloma sat side by side.

“Where is his mother?”

“She lives in Port Harcourt.”

“You chose to live with him here alone, without his mother?”

“Not exactly. I separated from his mother. In fact, she married to another man. Osas is the only fruit of the union and he is everything I have,” he said and laughed.

“You didn’t want to remarry?”

“I will but I wasn’t thinking about it until I began to see you in the neighbourhood,” he said and laughed softly.

“But I am married.”

“I know. If not I would have proposed to you since. But marriage comes to my mind whenever I see you.”

She looked intently at him and laughed.

“You are not serious.”

Then she gathered herself together and looked seriously at him.

“I came to thank you for what you did for me today and what you did last time. You know, I didn’t know how to start thanking you. I didn’t know what to do or say so that you will know how grateful I am. But I said I should come and see you and thank you. You know, when the car was brought to me, the mechanic told me you have paid for the servicing and everything. And today, you paid the hospital bill. I was really embarrassed. Taking me to the airport and taking out the car for maintenance and taking my son to the hospital were already too much. Then you paid the bills. Larry, thank you so much. I wish I will have an opportunity to retaliate,” she laughed.

“Doing that gave me immense pleasure. I am happy I did it for you.”

She pressed her hand on his and said, “Thank you so much.”

They spoke about other issues. His job as architect, the cost of property in mainland and in the island, his clientele and why Lagos would become a double mega city in no distance time.

Then they also spoke about her job as a flight attendant, the inherent risk in flying and how she coped with the job.

“Truth is that many Nigerians who travel by air are afraid of flying. I think that has to do with the number of accidents we have recorded in the country in the past. We really don’t deserve the rate of air crashes we had in the past because only about one per cent of the population travel by air. But I can assure you that things have changed. Airlines are more carful and the regulation is more efficient. That’s why we have not been having more accidents,” she explained to him.

“I have travelled many, many times but I have never got used to turbulence; especially in local flights. So I often imagine how you people that work with airlines how you cope?”

“It is training and also a career one has chosen to do. I have always liked flying and wanted to work with airline. But I actually wanted to be a pilot, but I couldn’t actualise that so I decided to be a flight attendant.”

“Daddy, I want to go to bed,” Osas interrupted.

Larry excused himself, took his son to the toilet first so that he would urinate and then took him to his room and made sure he lay down before coming back to the sitting room. The night was running fast. Its already 9 o’clock, Uloma thought as she looked at his phone.

When Larry came back to the sitting room and sat down. Uloma said it was getting late; that she had to go.

“But your house is two blocks away. You are almost in your house. Yes, lest I forget; you said you were expecting your husband last week?”

She kept silent, then hesitated and said, “He didn’t come back as planned.”

“What happened? Did he travel out of the country?”

“Yes, Canada.”

“You are not feeling good. What is the problem?”

She leaned on him and cried briefly. Then wiped out her eyes. Composed herself well and started speaking.

“My husband travelled to Canada. I really don’t know when he will be back. He never told me when he would be back.”

“But two of you are still married?”

“Yes. We are. But he has been away for over one year now. Soon it will be two years.” She started crying again.

Larry went and held her.

“He left the children for me alone. They have been asking about their Daddy.”

“But does he call?”

“Yes, but these days he does not call as often as he used to do. I don’t know what is wrong.”

“But he sends money and other things?”

“Once since he travelled.”

“This is serious. I know you must be missing him dearly, especially with the kids. Osas used to disturb me about his mummy and at a time I begged the woman to be talking to him. But these days I tried to dominate his life so that he wont be asking about his mummy. With the job you are doing, you need a man at home. I understand that you do over nighttime on international trips. But let me assure you that I will help you sort things out. We are almost in the same situation.”

He saw her off to her house. She went in and locked the gate before he went back home.

Illustration
A New Beginning

 

Part 4

 

One of the Sundays Uloma was not on duty he visited his sister in-law, Maureen who lived at Ketu area of Lagos with her husband. She wanted to know whether she was hearing from her brother, Steve. From the tone of discussion and Maureen’s responses, she could glean that she was abreast of Steve’s activities more than herself. She could also confirm that Steve spoke with his mother regularly.

“My brother said you were not treating him well before he travelled. Even if he was not getting money as he was getting before, but you should not have neglected him the way you did. Now that he is overseas you call and be crying. Our mother is not happy with you. Steve is my only brother and you treated him that way. It is not good, my sister. He told me everything….”

“Auntie, it is not about me and what your brother told you about me. What is important is that he has two children whom he should care about how they are doing. I know that I have not offended your brother, but I understand what the situation is. I didn’t know that he took the same false accusation to you and Mama. Even if he decided not to marry me again, he should be a responsible father to his children…”

“That one no be problem na. Very soon he would come and take them to Canada where they will stay and be enjoying their lives. Na this suffer wey we dey suffer here.”

Uloma had lived briefly in the UK, visited US and Canada before she returned to Nigeria and got married and settled down. She knew that Nigerians tended to exaggerate the beauty and comfort of life overseas. She also knew that Steve being a man in his late 40s it would not be easy to hit such a job that would give him the comfort, which his sister was talking about. Of course, she wasn’t going to release her two beautiful children to him, even if he wanted to have them come to Canada.

Now she had confirmed that Steve took the same false story to his family, she had become convinced that he had some other plans that did not involve her. But she had to take things easy. Steve knew that as carrier woman she could not give him all her time. She had to work. Before Steve travelled she was the one that was providing all the money needed for the home. She would buy everything, pay the bills and still cook whenever she was home. Steve was only good at sleeping with her. Even when she was preparing for early morning flight, Steve would insist they had sex before she left. Sometime the bus that would take her to the office would arrive and Steve’s penis would still be inside her. She couldn’t really understand the wrong she had done to him.

It was getting to two years since she had sex last. Although she felt like doing it sometime and those times she would miss him and feel very lonely but taking care of the children, meeting her job targets took away so much from her.

When she returned from Ketu. She stayed with the children, playing with them and trying to enjoy the cartoon they were watching. Then Larry called.

“Hi dear. Good evening.”

“How are you doing Uloma? How are the kids? Osas told me Somto is splaying again in school. He is very, very okay now.”

“Yes dear.”

“I didn’t see you again, not even a shout.”

“My dear, I had so much in my mind. I said I shouldn’t be disturbing you.”

“You will never disturb me. In fact, I am in front of your compound. Can you come out let us see?”

“Okay, wait.”

She came out and met him. He gave him a bag and told her to take it home and come back to meet him. She obeyed. Took the bag, called Mary who came out and she handed the bag to her.

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She strolled with Larry towards his house. They went upstairs together. Osas was glued to the TV, watching cartoons. He got up and greeted her…”Good evening Mummy Somto.”

She hugged him. He went back to watch TV.

“You are such a beautiful woman but what really attracts me to you is the fact that you have no airs. You don’t seem to know that you are beautiful and you are so responsible.”

“Ah, why are you saying all these to me? You want my head to start swelling? Don’t mind me o. You know, everyone carries his burden. I am just anxious about my children. Their father doesn’t seem to care about them and that gives me concern. Where I come from fathers take fatherhood seriously; just like the way you are to Osas. I admire how you take care of him without a maid or male servant. I don’t know how you were able to do it but I admire you for that.”

“Uloma, it is a long story. My former wife started making trouble with me shortly after our son was born. Everyday she would bring up new issues. She was making trouble with me and I tried to avoid it. One day I returned home and saw her note and our baby. Our baby was with our neigbour, auntie Margret. In the note she told me she was no more interested in the marriage. Two months after I learnt she was married. I investigated and found out she married her former boyfriend who served a sentence while living overseas. He returned home and started clearing business in Port Harcourt. That is where they live now.”

“It must have been traumatic for you.”

“It was. It took me a long time to overcome the shock. I didn’t trust any woman again since after that time. I noticed you some months ago. Maybe after your husband had travelled. The first time I saw you, you were driving to church with the kids and Mary. So I started monitoring you,” he said, laughing.

“So you became monitoring spirit?” she said laughing.

“For weeks on end I won’t see you and then I will see you again. So that day your car broke down, it broke down for me,” he laughed long and then continued,” the problem with the car was lack of maintenance. You were driving the car without servicing it. Women are fond of that. When it breaks down they start calling their husbands. That was Onome style.”

“Leave us alone joor.” She laughed.
When Larry took Osas to bed he came back and Uloma told him her story. She said what Steve told his family was an indication that he didn’t care for the kids again.

“It is clear he has moved on,” Larry said.

“As a married woman I have to protect myself. I have not had any intimacy with any man and in few months it will be two years since he left. I was waiting for him to change his mind.”

She started crying. Larry went closer to her, held her hand and then stretched his left hand round her waist and held her close to himself. She relaxed her head on his chest and cried, heaving spasmodically. She held him and cried even more and then stopped.

“Thank you Larry for being there for me.”

“You are welcome.”

Please come and see me off. I want to get home. I have early morning flight tomorrow.

When she got home she checked the bag Larry handed over to her. So many things were inside. Provisions, Short bread biscuit, kilichi and other things that she really needed and she promptly sent him a thank you message. She ended it with, “You are such a caring man and I know you must be a loving man. Osas is a good evidence of your love and care. Thank you so much.”

 

Steve called one night, when everyone had gone to bed and while the discussion went on he wanted to speak to Somto and Kosi, but Uloma insisted that they had slept and would not wake them. He said whatever happened that those were his blood and nobody would take them away from him. At another breath, he said he had not called because he was very busy and had moved to Quebec; that the place was too cold and he was considering going back to Toronto. Uloma was really not concerned about what Steve was going through in Canada. As far as she was concerned, Steve was on a jamboree. She had started missing him less and less; not because of Larry. In fact, she had not put Larry into her horizon. She was too busy to articulate such emotional issues at that point, but she knew that something was about to happen in her life. She never considered moving overseas as a plan. She realised that most Nigerians who created wealth did so in Nigeria. Her experience overseas told her that you just prepare yourself for a good job, acquire the necessary skills and education, just to work for a company, a government agency etc. she considered it difficult for a black person, an immigrant to become an entrepreneur, except in some circumstances.

When she returned to Nigeria she noticed how easily people could establish their own businesses and told herself that why working as a flight attendant she would seek for a niche to establish her own business.

So she was not one bit enthralled by Steve’s trip and that perhaps explained why she never raised the issue of her going there with the children. But she noticed that anytime she discussed with Steve, he tended to exaggerate his suffering.

“I want you to know, Steve that I am not interested in coming to live in Canada. I will not want our children to live in Canada as youngsters. What I want is for you to be sending some money to us to support me in taking care of them. I don’t think that is too much to ask. When they grow up they will decide whether they will live overseas or they will continue to live in Nigeria.”

“They are my children. I decide where they will grow up when the time comes.”

“Maybe, that is what you have been discussing with your siblings and your Mum. I know you are always in conversation with them. You are not very busy when it concerns them, but you don’t talk to us because you are very busy. That place you live is land of freedom. I want you to imbibe the tenets there and stop being overbearing. Somto and Kosi are our children. They are not your children alone. For almost two years you don’t know how they eat. You don’t know whether they took ill. You don’t care about anything….”

She cut him off. He called again and again. She switched off her phone.

Uloma operated early flights the following day and was home by 4:00 pm. Shortly after her phone rang. It was Larry.

“Hi dear.”

Good evening Larry.

“I want to come and take you out. Let’s go to the Roses. I will come by 6.”

“Please can you make it 6:30? I want to bathe the kids myself.”

“Okay dear.”

She dressed up and waited for him. She was resplendent in sexy evening gown cut above her knees. Larry drove to the front of the house, parked his car and went in and knocked at Uloma’s flat. She opened and welcomed him in. he walked straight to where Somto was sitting and lifted him.

“Good evening Sir,” Somto said, excited. Kosi leaned on him and imitated Somto, “good evening Sir.”

Their mother was excited.

“We are going out. What will I buy for you,” Uloma asked her children. That was also a way of announcing that she would go out without them. They shouted their needs and Larry and Uloma walked out, but before that Uloma told Mary what to do and whispered to her, “I may come back late.”

At Roses they took a table located at semi dark location. It was relatively secluded with soft music blaring and gingering a sexy atmosphere. On her agreement, Larry ordered for red wine and roasted croaker fish. They drank wine and chatted while they waited for the fish to be ready.

“Uloma, do you know that my thought is full of you for some time now? Let me tell you a bit about myself. When I broke off from Onome and she married shortly after, I was so shocked that I began to hate women, except my mother and my sisters. There was no reason for her to end our marriage. She just trumped allegation and started nagging at me and eventually packed out of my house. I left Osas with my Mum but when I visited home I felt he was not being attended to well and decided to take him. From the age of three I have been taking care of him. You know that I work mostly at home and visit sites. Whenever I want to leave home I go with him. We have a very strong bond. I have had flings here and there; nothing serious, but you are now bringing back those old feelings…”

“You mean you didn’t do anything to Onome?”

“I didn’t. I later learnt she had dated the guy who is marrying her now for years before she met me. He travelled overseas and she felt he would forget her. But when he came back and called her, he told her to leave her husband. That was what I heard. I don’t know how true. I was shocked and the shock lasted for years. I left many beautiful and caring women who really loved me for her. She was heartless and unconscionable. But on another thought, I felt it was nemesis. I know I had broken some hearts too. What she did to me made me reflect on what some girls I left suddenly at my hey days must have felt.”

“Larry, you have conscience. It is good you also remember that you might have hurt some persons too.”

“Uloma, the vacuum in my life has been waiting for you.”

“But Larry, I am married. I have two children I am raising alone, as Steve has been away. You know that it is not easy for me. You are a dream man a woman would want to have. I have looked at you and I know you are good guy, but you know the society we live in. A year ago I dared not come out with you like this. But I am reconciling myself to reality and I cannot turn down a request from you.”

“Uloma, I am very serious. My inside tells me that you and I are going to be together. We are made for each other. I am going to dig into Steve. What is his surname on Facebook?”

“Steve Okoye. I am Mrs. Uloma Okoye.”

“For now. Not for long, I am sure.”

“You are so confident!”

“I know how I feel.”

“But do you really love me, Larry?”

“I am sure I do.”

“But you know you can get yourself a younger woman without burdens, more beautiful and all that?”

“I know. I have been seeing such women all my life, but I know what I want.”

They left the Roses before 9:00 pm so that Larry could supervise Osas going to bed. He insisted that Uloma followed him to his flat. Osas was glued to the TV as usual but stood up when his father knocked and he opened the door for him. He saw Mummy Somto and greeted her. He went to bed shortly after.

“Can we spend one hour together?” Larry pleaded.

“Yes, of course. I need your company too. You are cute, you know.”

“Thank you. You just made me happier tonight.”

They laughed together.

They sat on the settee. Their bodies were touching. Each felt tipsy. They took two glasses of wine each.

“I wish you and I are together and that you wont leave here tonight.”

“That’s a good fantasy. I wish I can.”

He leaned and kissed her. She responded. She put her right hand round his neck and said, ”You are sending me into memory lane.”

“Why?”

“It has been a long time.”

“But men are always wooing flight attendants.”

“Yes, but I fend them off with my wedding ring. You meet a lot of highly placed people in a flight. Some will give you their cards and ask you to call them. They will hand you over their cards with some money. Some do it in dollars. On a good day you return home with reasonable amount of money. But you have to be careful. Yes, you don’t reject gifts but you should be weary of making commitments. This is my little secret,” she said and laughed.

“But were you never tempted?”

“Why should I be? Those men don’t have any feeling for you. They just want to have sex with another woman, a cabin crew, nothing more. Successful Nigerians enjoy life well and they do whatever they want, break all the rules and get away with it. Love does not exist for them.”

Larry kissed her again and held her close to him, their chests touching. He moved his hand towards her right breast.

“Please don’t dear. Don’t put me in that mood. I am not ready for it now. We can’t go all the way. Please see me off. Thank you for everything Larry. You are such a good man…”

 

Part 5

 

Last two weeks had been stressful for Uloma. She barely had time off because she stood in for her colleague after doing three international flights. But Beatrice always did the same for her. She went for the burial of her father and did not want to take official time off so that she could take all her leave in December. Uloma and Larry hardly had time for long chats. Just two times they have video chats, but Larry was missing her. She also had started taking Larry seriously. At first she felt that Larry just wanted a good time but she had seen that he was a very responsible guy and might well be serious about what he wanted. In fact, she looked forward for another outing with him. But she knew she was married so she would not want things that would get into social media and she had spent almost two years without a man, so she wouldn’t want to mess up her life.

She went to bed early with her children. She took them out when she returned by about 4:00 pm and they bought ice cream and other things they needed. The children were in cheerful mood and wanted to watch more cartoons but Uloma stamped her foot and insisted that they should go to bed. She was not going to wake up early the following day because it would be her day off.

But a call jolted her by 5:30 am. She looked at her phone. It was her younger sister, Nneka. She lived in Abuja with her husband.

“Nneka, I hope it is well, this one you are waking me this early morning?
“How is Steve?”

“We have not spoken for weeks.”

“You don’t mean it! I sent some videos to you on Whatsapp. Watch it and call me.”

“Okay.”

Three video clips she sent showed Steve in obvious intimacy with a lady she felt she knew very well but she could not believe that it was she. When did Mabel travel? Did they meet by chance or it was arranged?

She called Nneka back.

“Is it not Mabel? When did she travel to Canada?”

“I heard she visited her brother in the US and heard that Steve was in Canada and she went to see him. Uloma, I heard they are talking marriage and Steve’s family is aware! Did you quarrel with him? What has been happening between two of you?’

“Nothing, my sister. You know, I told Mummy everything and she advised me to keep faith and watch things unfold and that I should put everything in prayer. You know Mummy now. But Steve travelled and after some days he called me and told me he won’t come back and complained that I don’t care for him; that all I face is my job and allowed the maids to be doing everything at home. I know that he didn’t have enough money to take care of us, so I needed to work and I have to take the job seriously. In that case, I wont have time to besot and attend to all his needs. But I just find that as an excuse. He had always wanted to travel out but I didn’t know he wanted to stay out.”

“My sister, don’t enslave yourself for Nigerian men. You are lucky. You have a boy and a girl. No one can take them from you.”

“That is my consolation. I missed him dearly but it has been almost two years now. I didn’t want to complain because I felt he was joking but after six months I realised he was serious. I closed our joint account and knew I am on my own.”

Mabel was Uloma’s classmate, a very good friend and bridesmaid. Steve obviously fell in love with her and would be asking about her after their marriage. “That your friend Mabel is very funny. Why not invite her to come and see us”. Maybe, they were dating without her knowing. From the video it was obvious that they were in a long relationship.

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She waited till about 7:00 am she called Steve. The phone rang and stopped. She called again. It rang and stopped. She called the third time before Steve picked it. She didn’t have time for pleasantries.

“Now that you have chosen another wife that sets me free. Where you are does not recognise polygamy.”

“Which wife? If you want to leave me, just say so. I know that you cannot cope without having a man for a brief time. So go ahead and do whatever you like with them…”

“You make me laugh. I have always known you are not a man. I married a weakling. You are a shameless man. A man who cannot carry out his manly duties is not a man. In Nigeria I had to provide for you and our children. Let me see whether you will not provide for Mabel and the children that will come. Two of you should be ashamed. You don’t have integrity. That is why you dated my bridesmaid and now you took her to Canada to marry her. I want you to know that henceforth I will take decisions of my future and the future of our children without considering you. You have been extinguished from my life and as far as I am concerned, you seize to be the father of our children…”

“You are not serious. You are not serious!”

“Shameless man!”

She cut off the call and started crying. She cried her eyes out and wiped her face. It was Saturday so the children slept till 8:00 am. By then she had bathed, dressed up in house clothes, while Mary was working in the kitchen. Later in the day she announced to the children that they would be going out. They drove to Maryland and watched a cinema. When they returned Larry visited them with his son, with Osas. The children were together in Uloma’s house when she and Larry went to the Roses.

Larry and Uloma were really having a good time, drinking and chatting when Larry’s phone rang. Uloma was avoiding staying alone so that she would not start thinking about Steve. And it worked. She had been busy since morning and she was excited this evening because Larry was very happy to be with her.

“Who is this?”

“This is Onome.”

What do you want?”

“I want to see my son, Osas.”

“You are remembering him after how many years? I hope you are not fighting with your husband?”

“I am in Lagos so I want to see him.”

“I will get back to you on that.”

Larry was sad. This was a very bad call. He could not mask his sadness. The call had spoilt his mood. Uloma noticed. She became worried.

“Who is that?”

“My former wife. This is the first call I am getting from her since we separated. She said she wants to see her son; that she is in Lagos. I suspect something is wrong.”

“My dear, you cannot deny her the chance to see her son. Two of you can meet in a public place and you let her see your son. Don’t get angry about the past. I had similar issue this morning. I learnt from my sister that Steve is dating my bridesmaid. I am inclined to believe they have been dating and she went to see him in Canada. I confronted him in the morning. He didn’t utter a word. Shameless man. I made up my mind that other people should not live my life for me.”

“You are right dear. Other people should not live our lives for us.”

But they could not get back their enthusiasm. The rhythm had left. But they went home cheering each other. Osas came out and met father who took him home. The children were happy to be together.

Larry’s mother called him in the morning. Onome and her husband had separated. Onome and her husband’s manager connived and stole N25 million from his company. The husband believed that for them to work together they must be having sexual relations. He could not pin the allegation down but the more he thought of it, the more he was convinced. That suspicion was what drove his decision to end the marriage. With that knowledge, Larry insisted that Onome would not see Osas. But she found out his home and waited for father and son as Larry came back from school run and saw her. She looked withered. That her hitherto irresistible dark skin wore patches. She had been bleaching. He allowed them to chat outside his house. He waited until Onome felt she had seen her son enough and instead of going home he asked Osas to get back into the car and they drove out. Onome left also. Larry was still very angry with her. But she must get close to her son. Eromosele, her husband had filed charges against her and Victor his former manager. They had been ordered to be arrested by the police. So Onome decided to go to Ghana and return when the situation had calmed down. She was arrested in the small hotel she was staying as she was leaving for the airport. Eromosele paid good money and police trailed her movement.

 

Part 6

 

Uloma was surprised when she was visited by Steve’s sister, Maureen and her mother one Sunday afternoon. Luckily she was off duty. She welcomed them served them food and drinks and she noticed how Steve mother was using her eyes to follow every movement Somto and Kosi were making. When they spoke she would laugh. Everything from them was making her happy.

Later Steve’s mother said she wanted to see her grandchildren and even suggested that they would visit her and spend a week during holidays. Uloma did not object to that but she was not sure she would allow it. In the course of discussion she also learnt from them that the Toyota Sienna they came with was sent by Steve. She did not show any surprise. She just tucked that in. When they left, Uloma concluded that Steve asked them to come and see her and the children to know whether they were still there, possibly, whether she had disappeared with them, she laughed.

But Larry and Uloma were getting closer and closer. Uloma called her Mum and told her about Larry. She was skeptical. That was expected. As a Catholic she would not want Uloma to date or even marry another person, as long as her husband was still alive. She asked again and again whether Steve had unequivocally said he was ending the marriage. Uloma would respond by telling her that he was living with Mabel now. Her mother would pretend she did not hear that and in a round about manner would ask the same question again. At a time, Uloma could not take it any more.

“Mummy. You are against my having another man in my life. I can understand that. You want me to pine away and die waiting for Steve to show up one day and start marrying me again. That will make you happy. But you don’t care about my happiness. What you care for is that the conservative rules of your church are kept. Even if I die and your church is not offended, you will be happy. But Mummy, I want you to know that I want to be happy. I am only 38 years. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in misery to make you happy. If Daddy were alive, I am sure that he would understand me. Steve left us and travelled to Canada. In Canada he invited my friend and bridesmaid and they are living together now. You want me to waste my life. Mummy, I am also going to make myself happy. Steve has not called me in one month, but he just sent a car to his sister. They came the other day to visit me and see Steve’s children. I want you to know that if it works I will get married. For now, I want to start dating Larry. I have not done anything with him but I may not be able to hold myself any longer because I am not a piece of wood. I want you to know. I don’t want you to hear it as rumour.”

Uloma’s mother kept quiet for some time and later said, “My daughter I have heard you. So he sent a car to his sister? It means you don’t mean anything to his life. Anyway, anyone that is rejected does not reject himself.”

It was about 8:30 in the morning. Osas, Somto and Kosi had been taken to school. Mary busied herself with house chores and Uloma had her day off. She dressed up sexily but casually and went to visit Larry. They drank tea together. They ate toasted bread and fried egg. Uloma took over the preparation and completed it in Larry’s kitchen. When she said she was feeling pains all over her body, he offered to massage her.

They discussed other issues, feeling good and happy together. From the dining room, Larry guided Uloma to the bedroom. She knew what he was doing but was not averse to it. She sat down on the bed and Larry opened a drawer beside the bed and brought out a jar of massage oil. He opened it and its reductive fragrance wafted and embraced the corners of the room.

“I am going to massage you and take care of those pains. I know you don’t have time to exercise but it is necessary. I registered in a gym around this place. One day we will go there. You need to be doing exercise so that you keep this your beautiful body intact. You are so beautiful.”

“Larry please, it is enough. Stop making my head swell. You know, every six months we retrain. We go through drills and recast emergency situations. So you need to be smart, agile and highly observant. I do quick exercises regularly but I am interested in that your gym.”

Larry was almost 6:5 feet in height. He had massive frame, not fat; mot muscular but solidly built. As they chatted he asked her to lie face down and started massaging her hands. He took the right hand and slowly, deliberately began to work on it. He picked her fingers, devoting enormous time on each finger, caressing it, strengthening it; squeezing the knuckles. When he finished with the right, he took the left and performed the same routine. Uloma allowed his hands all over her. It was dreamy. He went to work on her toes and laboriously dwelt on her feet and then moved to her ankle and then her calf and worked on each leg to her knees. It was when he poured the oil on her thighs that the sensation started. He spread the oil on her left thigh and slowly caressed it; dutifully pressed it, rhythmically moved his fingers to the right thigh. Poured more oil and spread it with his fingers. As he moved his fingers towards her underpants, she squirmed. He slowly removed her underpants; she quickly held it back, and then let go, avoiding looking at him. He covered her buttocks with a white towel and continued to move his fingers underneath it.

Beyond her buttocks, he spent ample time on her waist, then her back and her neck. Then he told her to turn, took the towel and covered her loins. He now slowly removed the short gown and her bra. He was fully erect. She saw it. But he still held back, controlling himself and dutifully massaged her body, very deliberately, almost professionally. By the time he poured the oil on her breasts and started caressing them, Uloma could not hold herself back. She moaned, she grunted and whispered unintelligible noises.

Then she said, “Please take me”, grabbed him by the waist. He hurriedly took off his shorts and leaned on her. He sucked her breasts and ran his tongue down to her vulva and then entered her with his penis. She moaned, held him tight and called him names. She was overwhelmed. Surprisingly he didn’t come quickly. He carried her up in acrobatic way to delay his ejaculation by exerting his muscle on her weight and thrusting deeply, he lifted her up on a full embrace. She whined and growled and moaned. He breathed hard and groaned in spasms. He rested her on the bed, lifted her buttocks and ejaculated.

They slept side by side. Naked.

It was Uloma’s phone that woke them up. Steve called. It was a video call. She cut it off and called him on voice.

“Where are you?”

“It is none of your concern.”

He paused.

“I sent two cars a Toyota Venza and Honda Pilot. Maureen, my sister will clear them. I told her to send the Venza to you and sell the Pilot. She will give you half of the money so that you will use it and renew the rent.”

“Ah that’s good of you for remembering me this time. But please in as much as I appreciate your kind gestures, I don’t want you to knock my head with your siblings. Please save me that embarrassment. If you sister clears the car and brings it to me I will accept it. If she sends me money I will also accept it but I will never talk to them about it. I know you have been sending them vehicles before. Now that you have remembered me, please make it a clean affair. Thank you for remembering me. I am happy it was your decision to send those things. I have never asked you for money and I have never asked you anything. It is over two years since you left your wife and children. We have been surviving.”

“You are not happy with me, why? I am doing everything to make you happy and you seem to be very hostile to me. Why?’

“That was when I learnt you have been sleeping with my best friend. That was when I learnt that while you were in Nigeria you were dating my best friend. I do not understand why in Africa a woman is expected to be faithful but a man is free to lecherously forage the world. My bridesmaid I introduced you to you. Steve, I want you to know this. I hope the car you are bringing is because you and I have children together because I have moved on.”

“What do you mean? You can’t tell me that. You are my wife.”

“Who? Me? You wan to be a polygamist? You want to have a wife in Canada and another in Nigeria? It can never work that way. You cannot eat your cake and have it.”

“Mabel and I are not married.”

“But you are living together.”

“She has accommodation issues.”

“Can we end this conversation now? Thank you.”

She cut off the call.

Larry was watching her and smiling. She smiled back. They made love again. This time slowly, traditional and deliberate.

“After two years of sexual abstinence I met a professional!”

“I am not one but thank you for your judgment.”

“That massage was something. Who taught you how to do that? You killed me with it.”

They bathed. Uloma used the bedroom bathroom while Larry used the one in the visitor’s room. Dressed. As Uloma walked towards the sitting room, Larry blocked her, knelt before her and proposed marriage. Uloma was aghast.

“No darling. That is too fast!”

“My heart compels me. We will resolve the jigsaw puzzle. It is on both sides.”

She looked intently at him, “Are you sure?”

“If you accept my proposal, the puzzle must be resolved.”

She looked into his eyes. Held his shoulder for a while and slowly removed the ring in her finger and replaced it with Larry’s engagement ring.

“We are in it babe,” she told him.

That night Uloma called his elder brother and told him everything Steve did to her. Finally, she told him that after two years she had decided to remarry and she wanted Steve’s bride price returned.

“Brother, as our Daddy is no more, you will be the one that will spearhead it. You will have to talk to Uncle Enyinnaya.”

“Don’t worry. I will arrange it.”

Steve kept his word. Maureen brought the Toyota Venza and N1.5 million, her own share of the money earned from selling the Honda Pilot. Uloma described it as a parting gift. She sold the old Toyota Camry and started driving the Venza.

By the time Larry and Uloma announced their marital date, Onome was in prison while Steve had secretly wedded Mabel. It was a modest wedding, attended by selected aviators and Larry’s rich clients. When Uloma’s mother saw Larry, she said almost to herself, “No wonder she insisted.”

Illustration
A New Beginning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Beginning

About Chinedu Eze

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