Ikenna, so what do you intend to do now? hope you don’t expect that my poor salary as a nursery school teacher will sustain all of us,” I said, drawing his attention to the obvious reality on the ground. Aside the two of us, there were three children- a boy **and two girls to look after. My salary was just fifteen thousand naira a month, and most times, we would not be paid for upwards of three or four months at a time.
“I know all that, and I am determined to change all that”, he said quietly, before he waved me to the old and torn sofa in our room-and -parlour apartment.
“I am moving to Lagos. I spoke with a childhood friend of mine, and he assured me that he would house me. But at the moment, you will remain in Onitsha with the kids.
When I make headway, you would resign and join me there. All I need is your support and prayer”. Ike spoke with utmost concern.
Who would not pray for the success of her husband? From that day, I made it my prayer point. I was just asking God to take charge of his movement to Lagos and avail him the needed opportunities to have a breakthrough. I actually did not know the old school mate he was planning to stay with, but I was expecting that he would treat Ikenna right to enable him achieve his set goals. But I still had my doubts.
Ikenna my husband did not have any secondary school certificate, having withdrawn from secondary school in form three. So how on earth did he intend to make it in a town as competitive as Lagos? I had heard severally that so many people, who even owned university degrees, walked the streets of Lagos, searching for a job to do.
The first eight months were simply indescribable. It was the first time Ikenna and I would be living apart for so long and what made that particularly hard was the fact that he called only about twice or so. In fact, the first time he did, he carefully avoided telling me what was happening to him. There were no GSM phones then, so interactions were either by word of mouth or the slow moving letters by NIPOST. To make up for the lull, I would close for the day, and gather my kids around me to weep. This often baffled my first daughter, Nneoma. She was about eight years old then, and was fast growing as a smart girl.
Often she would ask if her Daddy was still alive. And such questions, to say the least, often made me imagine life as a widow.
Perhaps this aspect of the entire experience was not as embarrassing as the words passing also around in the neighbourhood. Our neighbours, I heard, were bandying words around that Ikenna had abandoned me and the kids. In fact the day Mama Nkechi, a neighbour told me that I had become a huge subject of gossip in the area, I almost broke down. She had entered
our apartment that evening to ask if I was still in touch with Ikenna.
“Yes … but small small”, I had replied. You know how it is when you are confronted with inquiries you had little facts about.
“I am asking because of what everyone is saying about you. They said he has left you to marry another woman in Lagos. In fact,
someone said he left because he found out that you were a witch, and that you have been preventing him from making money
like other men. You are my close friend that is why I decided to come and ask you”, she said.
“You did well, my sister. Ikenna is still married to me. To the best of my knowledge, he is okay, and he has not married another
woman. Anybody who comes to tell you that, please ask her if she was present at his wedding:’ That was what I said, not minding if my explanation was reasonable or not. That very day I wept more than a widow would. I was also wondering if there was any element of truth in the news that was making the rounds. Of course, I knew that news get slower when one is involved. If
Ikenna had indeed married another woman in Lagos, perhaps, I would be the last person to know. The whole frenzy made me take the decision to travel to Lagos.
My trip to Lagos was revealing. It gave me a firsthand knowledge of how my husband, Ikenna was coping in Lagos. It was not easy to locate him but by the time I did, I almost
shed tears. He had lost so much weight, and anyone looking at him would know that he was being confronted by myriads of financial challenges. Of course, he was surprised when he returned to see me, waiting at the balcony of where he was staying, somewhere at Ijesha in Lagos.
“Stella?; he was surprised. “How did you get to know here? Is there any problem? What about the kids?”
“No problem. Everyone is fine. I came to know how you are doing. I also came to see your new wife in Lagos,” I said.
“New wife in Lagos?” he asked with sarcasm. “If that is the reason for your trip, then you wasted the money.”
That night, he explained how he had been faring. According to him, he had had to do all sorts of menial jobs just to be able to feed himself which was why he had not been bothering to get across to us. According to him, he did not want to insult me with his misery. In spite of all those odds however, Ikenna still looked hopeful. He told me that a man he met three days earlier had promised to help him purchase a second hand molue, which he would use for transportation business.
” Stella, the whole thing is like a miracle. In fact you are even coming at a time, when the whole suffering is about to end”, he said.
“And you will not believe I have just known this man for three days”.
“That is good news. I am happy that at least you are living and that contrary to what people in Onitsha are saying that you have abandoned us, you are still my husband”, I told him.
“Stella, I will never leave you. In fact once this business begins to move, all of you will move to Lagos with me. I have great plans for all of you, and I have sworn with my life to make it happen”, he said.
I spent four days in Lagos, and luckily by the time I was leaving, my husband, Ikenna has taken delivery of the bus. The terms of repayment, from what I gathered were very friendly too, and Ikenna was most ecstatic about it.
To be continued…