Hello Yarners, I’m sure you’ve been enjoying ‘Mother’s Wrapper‘ our mini series as written by our very own Olajumoke Omisore.
This is to inform the house that as is our custom every year, we will be closing up shop for the holidays on the 19th of December (next week Saturday), after serving the final episode of our four parter running serial. We sincerely hope we have been able to make 2015 beautiful together…*wipes off tear* We have awesome serials and shorts planned for 2016. So, it will be bigger and better.
Anyways before I become utterly dramatic (we have next week for all the drama), lets enjoy our featured post – Mother’s Wrapper.
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Uncle Mike was leading my mother away. Away from the hotel’s restaurant where our guests, mostly David’s were.
My stepfather told me in a tense voice to go back to our party. He muttered something else. Something about staying with David. My ears were half-working and even my legs had ceased taking instructions from my head. I wanted to go back to him, the man I chose to marry. But my legs wouldn’t take me back. I followed them as If I was in a trance.
“What do you mean mum?” I asked when I caught up with them. They were at the pool area of the hotel and Uncle Mike had gripped her shoulders with both hands.
“What is wrong with you Ada? Have you gone crazy? This girl you are trying to ruin her life is your only child.”
“Is this not why I’m trying to save her?” She dabbed at her face with her white handkerchief. Purple eyeshadow and red lipstick that Mary, one of my stepsisters made her face up with stained the handkerchief.
“Ada, I came with this man and Alhaji Shankara to tell you he wanted to take your daughter back with him. You even entertained us with fried rice and turkey. I was there when you accepted the presents he brought for you. You even thanked him o.”
“Was I supposed to throw the presents at him?”
“What would have been the point? He brought you with him to corner me, knowing you and Chioma’s father were best friends. Was I supposed to start acting like a mad woman and tell you all to get out? ”
“You could have told your daughter before today. Why shame her and him in front of all these big people? Why Ada?”
Our engagement party was not a typical Nigerian one. David’s white gold, oval stone ring had adorned my finger since our first night together. The party was supposed to be a small get-together, a chance for us to celebrate our love with both sides. A chance for my mother to meet more of his friends and family too. She had told him she would like to meet ‘his people’ to be sure she wasn’t giving her daughter away to someone that had already died in his own country.
“I have told her several times to choose someone else but no, my daughter wants this David by force. Is he the only man in this world?”
He is the only man for me, I wanted to yell. One of her cousins and two of her friends were now next to Uncle Mike matching her word for word.
The first time I saw her after David came back, she had led me to her bedroom and asked me if I really wanted to be with him. With my hands in hers, eyes filling up, I told her my future would be miserable without him. She had sighed, patted my back and told me ‘we have a wedding to plan then.’
“It is none of your business,” my mother screamed at them. “I raised this girl by myself. I can choose to change my mind.”
“But it is my life. My life.” I could no longer stay quiet. My eyes could not stay dry anymore.
The tears trickled down when my stepfather warned me with his eyes.
“She is your mother.”
“So, why is it that my happiness doesn’t mean anything to her? She has disgraced us. What do you think he will think of me now?”
My mother’s response came not in words but in loud gushing sobs that sent my stepfather racing to her. Flanked in his flowing agbada that made him seem bigger and his characteristic scowl, the women and Uncle Mike stepped back from them.
“It’s okay, love.” I didn’t need to turn around to see that David was now standing behind me. “Our guests are fine. They have all gone. Danladi sends his love.”
“I’m sorry.” I said as he spun me around to place kisses on my forehead and chin. He smiled a warm smile and his eyes glowed. “You don’t deserve all this craziness, David.”
My mother’s howling reached a crescendo. Dropping to a low whine with the rapid change expected of new widows in mourning when he told me he would always love me. Her friends and cousin were staring at her with eyes that spoke of their bewilderment. Brows puckered. They were quick to apologise to Aviel Williams when she appeared with Steph from the side of the hotel. She wore a small, crisp smile. Not the one on her face when we picked her up at the airport and she asked me to call her mum. “I don’t have a daughter, so I think we will get on fine.” Her eyes dazzled when she said this and it was hard not to say yes to her.
David gestured to Steph to come to us. “I need your help please.”
“Yes Mr Williams.” She moved closer. “The minister said goodnight sir. We found his driver.”
“Thanks Steph.” He kissed my forehead. “I will go back to The Sheraton with my Mum. My cousins will be waiting, they have a morning flight to London tomorrow. I want you to go back home with your Mum. Steph will come with you. She will look after you for me.”
“What?” I shook my head.
“You have to go home, my love. She is your mother.”
“I want to be with you.”
“I don’t want you to lose the relationship you have with your mother. You have just one mother.”
Aviel came towards us. “Are you sure that’s a good idea son? I don’t think you should let her go back there.” She didn’t turn to look at my mother who had now started walking away in the company of her friends and cousin. My stepfather was waiting with arms folded.
“Keeping her daughter away from her is not going to help the situation.”
“Nice one Dave.” Uncle Mike nodded.
“I will see you before I go back to Port Harcourt lover.” He held me to himself.
We hugged for a while. When he let go, it was so he could wipe my tears with his hands. He kissed my chin, his eyes lingering around my lips. He sighed when he broke contact.
“I would kiss you properly if your stepdad wasn’t watching.”
Although he spoke in a low tone, my stepfather heard him and raised an eyebrow.
“En enh, that’s enough.” He didn’t scowl when he shook David’s hand. “We will look after her, don’t worry.”
His grip on my hand tightened. For someone whose pink lips mouthed ‘bye my darling’ he didn’t seem in a hurry to let go. He didn’t let go until my stepfather stepped beside me.
My mother touched my face and shrank back. The worries of my mind had wrapped itself around my body. It held on tightly, blurring night into days and making every part of me ache.
It started the morning after my engagement party when after waiting by the phone to hear his voice most of the night and he didn’t call, my eyes wouldn’t stop shedding tears. Steph had stayed up with me, her voice firm at times, telling me he would call.
By the morning my body ached too much to be dragged out of bed. Now, a fever that worried my mother had curved my body into a foetal position.
“Where is Steph?” I asked, to stop me from asking if he had called again.
“I sent her to the market with Anita. You know Mary and Abigail have gone to the shop and that Anita can’t be trusted on her own. These girls are not independent like you.”
She helped me sit up and forced a bowl of something foul to my lips. “Bia, my daughter, please drink. This will help you feel better. No man is worth dying for, you hear. The same man you are here refusing to eat for has not called or come to see you for four whole days. Why Chioma? Why do you want to kill yourself over a man like that? Is he not the same one that found himself a girl the minute he got back to London?”
Gulping down my mother’s horrid mixture so I could go back to sleep, I thanked her. I had to get myself better. Steph was due to resume back at work the following week and although work had given me four weeks off, as I was supposed to be in Lagos planning our wedding which we thought would follow the engagement party, staying at home was draining me. I needed to go back to work.
“Knowing that man, he has probably gone back to Port Harcourt.” She helped me back in bed and covered me up with my bed sheet. “God will punish him for causing our problems. The wicked man! Where was he when I sold my rings to send you to a good school? Where was he when I turned down Chief’s marriage proposal so I could concentrate on you?”
She kept nagging as sleep forced my eyes to close.
The moment I realised there was a man in the room with me was the same time I noticed the hand stroking my face did not belong to David.
The hand did not bear the softness of the man I loved. It felt rough, like the voice of it owner. The one telling me my skin felt supple.
Baribor’s fiery brown eyes were staring at me. He was sitting on my bed, his neck bent low. “Your mother told me you were asking for me when I called to speak to you.”
Reaching under the bed sheet, I felt for my nightwear. It was drenched in sweat but still in place. “You shouldn’t … have come.” I wanted to say more but my mouth would not let me. My tongue weighed heavy too.
The reason Steph told me to invite Baribor to the engagement party was to help him move on from the way he felt about me. He would stare every time he saw me, going as far as sending me romantic cards and inviting me to lunch in the presence of everyone at work.
“Chioma, I’m glad I came. Just watching you sleep for ages has lifted my spirits. Baby, I know you don’t love me. Not now anyway. Perhaps if you give us a chance, you will learn to love me.”
“No baby,” he reached for my hand. “Your mother has already explained that if it wasn’t for Mr William’s position as our boss, I would be your first option. She said you had to agree to date him to keep your job.”
I could hear her voice outside. Hurried footsteps too.
“Marry me,” Baribor said. “I love you. Please say you will marry me.”
“What?” My weary eyes were glaring at him when the door opened.
David was standing at the door. Baribor did not get off my bed. He stayed there, his hand next to me.
David shook his head and bolted from the door.
“How are you our girl?” Alhaji Sankara reached out as if to hug me. His hands stopped at either side of my arms instead. “How are your sisters? And your friend, the light skinned one?”
“They are fine Alhaji.” He had a way of asking about the females in one’s life with genuine interest, his eyes twinkling with each mention.
“How is your mum? She must have had you young enh? She looks really good.”
“Yes, she does Alhaji.”
I was in his Lagos residence in Victoria Island. The snugly appearance of his private sitting room with round cushions and squashy rug failed to calm me. I hadn’t been able to relax since three days ago when David saw Baribor in my room.
The haziness varnished from my head when he dashed out of my room. Steph arrived to find me shouting at my mother. She was the one that helped me into the bathroom so I could have my bathe.
We went to the hotel in search of David but he had already checked out. Steph travelled back to Port Harcourt on Sunday so she couldn’t come with me to Uncle Mike’s office. I had to go to him after a call we made to David’s phone number at work directed us to a rude girl who introduced herself as his new secretary.
“So, I guess you didn’t come here to see me.” Alhaji flashed his extra-white teeth and gestured for me to follow him. “I’m actually on my way out but feel free to make yourself at home.”
We walked out of his lounge into the roomy hallway. Alhaji knocked on the first door on the right, gave me another smile and opened the door.
David was standing by the glass table in the room, conversing with someone on the phone. Alhaji waved as I opened my mouth to thank him. I took dainty steps inside the room and he closed the door.
The room was almost pristine like Alhaji’s private sitting room. The disorderly arrangement of the papers and files on the table was the only thing that spoilt the picture. They went well with the abstract paintings on the wall.
Staring at the room, taking furniture and stationeries apart with my eyes prevented me from meeting his. As I settled on the bed, some feet away from him, I knew his eyes were on me.
He told the person on the phone he had to go. Something the other person said made him stay on. He threw his head back to laugh his corporate laugh, the one he often dished out during social events he attended out of politeness.
He had his navy suit on minus the tie. The jacket had been unbuttoned, the way he liked to leave his jacket open on the way back from events. The shirt, a black Egyptian cotton one was partially open and I was lost between his neck and chest when he put the receiver down and said hi.
“How are you feeling?” He swept me up with his eyes and his gaze bore into me, digging with the potency of his touch every time he caressed me. “Mike said you haven’t been well?”
“I am better now.” I held my hands together on top of my thighs where my dress stopped. The dress he loved to see me in. “Did he also tell you that what you saw was staged by my mother?”
“Why haven’t you come to see me then?” The tears fell quickly, surprising me because I didn’t expect them. “I have been trying to find you for days.”
He rushed over and held me to his body. “Sorry. I’m really sorry. I called a few times. I guess your mum didn’t tell you. I didn’t know you were trying to find me.”
“Uncle Mike didn’t tell me you were here. Probably because you told him what you saw. Alhaji gave me an odd look as well. And then you got a new secretary all in the name of punishing me.”
“Stop please,” he tilted my chin up and dried my tears with his thumb. “I didn’t say anything to my friends. I wouldn’t do that to you. I love you too much to hurt you like that.”
“What about the girl that picked up the phone at work? She said she is your secretary.”
“She is covering for you. It’s temporary. Whilst you are here in Lagos.”
“You still want to marry me then?”
“Can I kiss you now? It has kinda been a while.” He was gazing at my lips, kneading the bottom of my chin.
“You have missed me then?”
“You be the judge.” With that, his mouth closed around mine whilst his free hand caressed every spot of my upper frame not hidden under my dress. The kiss took me back to the nights we spent together in Port Harcourt, when morning always came too soon. When he swore to make me his wife.
He shrugged his jacket off whilst his tongue and hands got busier. Kneeling down between my legs afterwards, he started to take off my shoes. His hands moved in stroking motions as he did so, stirring my body awake. “You are so beautiful.” Slowly, his lips traced where his hands stroked, murmuring more endearments as he did so.
“My mother will be waiting for me.” Her eyes had darted in my direction earlier when I told her I was going out. The way her hands tore at the smoked fish for our evening supper was enough to make me contemplate changing my mind.
He rose to my level and directed my hands to the buttons of his shirt. “I won’t keep you all night.” He took my lips between his again and guided me to the middle of the bed.
His hands did not leave my body even after he had finished thrusting for the second time that evening. We stayed like that for a while, my hand and head on his chest. His hands, everywhere on my body they could reach.
He kissed my forehead when I moaned that I wouldn’t be able to move for a while. “Sorry, I have missed you too much. You know how I miss you when you are not with me, lover.”
“We are supposed to be planning our wedding this week.” The realisation that it might never happen hit me with a force so powerful I thought I would cry again.
“Danladi said I should get you pregnant, that your mother would send you packing to me then. So I hope you are carrying my child.”
“Since when did you start taking relationship advice from Alhaji?” I hit his hand softly.
“He has four wives and several female friends.”
“Exactly, David.” My eyes were clearer now, taking in the magnolia colours and the strange paintings in the room. “I feel bad. I can’t believe we did this in your friend’s house.”
“Don’t worry about that. I promise you, this house has been scarred enough by Danladi.” He sighed. “Talking of which, I’m at my wits end with Barry… That Baribor! Do you want me to deal with him?”
I told Baribor that we would never be together. I waited for my words to sink in before apologising for encouraging him once. Steph had come with me to his Uncle’s house in Agege. We both refused to sit down or drink the bottles of Coke he plonked on the table for us.
“Don’t worry, David. I have told him to leave me alone.”
“He better! Or else I will be transferring him to one of our sites in Iraq.”
I slapped him. Not the same soft slap before.
“Ouch.” He pinned my hands down with his. “Slapping me only fires me up. You know that.”
“We should get dressed before Alhaji gets back. Please David.”
He let go of my hands and helped me sit up.
“Where is his Lagos wife anyway?” I met his first wife in Port Harcourt last month, a timid woman who turned to her husband every time we spoke to her. David had assured me that Amaka, Alhaji’s second wife and I would have more to talk about.
“She is in London. I spoke to her yesterday. I asked her to buy you and your sisters some nice clothes and perfume gift sets from Harrods.”
“Oh, no?” The mention of my stepsisters reminded me of the arrangement I made with them. That was the only way I could get my mother not to send Muyibat, her housemaid with me. Mary and Abigail said they would come with me. And whilst I knocked on Alhaji’s gate tenderly, the driver drove them to their friend’s house down the road.
I explained everything to David whilst searching for my dress. “I told them to come for me at eight. We can’t get home late.”
“Calm down,” he pulled me closer and caressed my cheek. “I thought you left your sisters with Danladi. Now, that would be risky. It only takes that man a minute to get women to fall in love with him.” He smiled. “I will get the security men to look for your sisters and if we can’t find them, I will make sure you get home safe. I will come in and apologise to your mum.”
We found my stepsisters. They chatted with David for a while, Mary questioning him about his single friends. Later on, when they got in the car, I struggled to say a coherent goodbye. Having explained that he needed to travel to Port Harcourt for a crisis meeting and that he would come back to talk to my mother and stepfather that weekend, our future together seemed as unattainable as it was two years ago.
“Be patient with your mother, Chioma.” His arms were around my waist.
“I don’t understand.” My eyes were already letting me down. Tears pooled and gushed. “Why can’t I come back with you? What is the point of staying when there is no wedding to plan here?”
“There is a relationship at stake here. Yours and your mother’s. If I take you with me now, we will wreck that relationship.”
“Okay. Bye, then.” I tried to get away from him.
“Trust me,” He held me tighter. “You need your mother. It’s your anger that’s clouding your head at the moment. One day, you will thank me for this.” His voice adopted a firmness that sounded forced, as if he knew his voice would betray him if he didn’t control it. “Can I get a goodbye kiss now? The bribe I gave to your mother’s driver will not last all night.”
Tilting my chin, he did the rest with his eyes. It was always hard to refuse him whilst those eyes were on him. I went to him and he kissed me like a man saying his final goodbye to the love of his life.
That was why when the weekend came and went and he did not show up, I started to turn down food. Mary and Abigail took turns running to the window for me every time they heard a car parking up. They sat with me after their sisters left for school and forced me to watch a film with them. My mother came to sit with us too bringing with her a plate of fried bean cakes. I noticed that she had chosen not to go to her shops on a day she knew David might come round and wondered if my stepfather had succeeded where Uncle Mike failed. Perhaps she was ready to accept David.
She was the one that heard the knocks first. Soft, restrained tapping on the door. We all rose together as Abigail dashed towards it.
My heart lurched when Alhaji Sankara and Uncle Mike came into the room. It wasn’t their silence that I noticed first. It was the look in their eyes. The same kind that crept into my mother’s eyes whenever she spoke about my father and her family.
“It is about David.” Alhaji spoke first. “Please can we sit down? Something terrible has happened.”
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