Facades – Part 1: Our Life

For the better part of the last 6 hours, I am unable to wipe the smile off my face. But I guess that’s what spending time with your kids and then reminiscing about every moment you have had them since you birthed them, does to you. I was so proud when I found out Junior and Ewa came third and first respectively – no doubt they took after me. I remember the look of disappointment on Feyike ,an old classmate, wore when I told her I was only a house wife at 35. I have become overly familiar with that expression  but who I don’t really blame her and the others. ‘Efiko extraordinaire’, my nick name  back then because I had so much potential and even I knew it. 

I feel cold, cold with sadness, as I realise what on great opportunities I missed out on for what I thought was something, LOVE. Cold, ice-cold, at first my heart was frozen and now its on the floor in a million pieces. My LOVE for him, I now equate to the cataract in Iye’s eyes, although she could not see me, she could sense my emotions. Similarly, my love for him stopped me from seeing it, I still sensemy stupidity. 

A couple of hours ago, I gushed over how wonderful my marriage was with a group of mothers at the kids’ school. Jomiloju’s mother commented on how over dressed I was for the occasion and my excuse was a fictitious parties I had attended later in the day. What she did not know was that this was another work of art by yours truly, Babatunde Walter-Smith, just like the scars hidden under the heap of House of Tara cosmetics.”Donald will bring what you’ll wear upstairs in a couple of minutes, I did not like the other dress,it was too short and these legs are mine and mine alone, not for other eyes to feast on. Also, the make up artist will be here at 9. Don’t be late.” was all he said when he came into my room this morning. They were jealous of my life and did not hide it in their snarky comments like “na you oo, if only I was as rich as you were, I would have paid for my child to go on that school trip to Paris too”, but they did not understand that I felt the same way about them when they talked about how they loved their spouses through their struggles. Or maybe, like me, they were lying.

Can I blame these women for thinking that every experience in my life spelled wonderful? Not really, I come to see, pick or drop my kids in the latest car – and today its the latest range rover – with a police escort car; and in the best designer clothes, bags and shoes. My kids want for nothing, go on even the most expensive school trips and wear the latest clothes. Only if they knew that I will let it all go in a minute, if it meant I did not have to continue to live like this.

Mr. K or Baba (pronounced Bah Bah), I called him while we dated, never wanted me to keep friends because he as he said ‘these Lagos girls will destroy the wonderful home training that sets you apart from them’. Then I thought he was really trying to protect me, but now I know that it was his way of isolating me from the rest of the world. Those mothers from Junior’s school are the only ‘friends’ I have and Junior is the only reason I am friends with them in the first place. Together with Junior, they are a group of five close friends, Jomiloju; Ore; Timi; and Ayo. I was the last mother to join the group of parents and this really upset Junior but I could not explain to him that his father, Babatunde, did not want me keeping friends. Eventually, an upset Junior reported me to his father and in a bid to please his son, He instructed me to join the group with very specific rules on what and what not to do.

This weekend, it’s my turn to host the group which included all the Fathers except my husband, all the mothers and 8 kids – the boys and their 3 female siblings. Usually what happened was that we all met after the open day event at usual spot. This visiting day, I sat in the car speaking to my kids whilst Donald, the steward, and Mohammed, one of the policemen, set up 2 medium sizes canopies, with chairs and tables and the food and drinks. I know I came over prepared as I always do. I plan for these things weeks in advance, after all I have nothing else to take up my time apart from the thoughts of my kids.

“Mum did you bring the breaded chicken we asked for?” Junior asks immediately I close my discussion with them about hard work and participating in school events.

Ooops… sorry I forgot guys”I say acting as well as I could.

“Mummy, please tell me you are joking,you know you never forget anything and we have looked forward to it” Ewa says to support the expression on Junior’s face.

“Ok people …….. it’s in the other car” I say and they both sigh, rolling their eyes in relief.

I call all the parents to inform them that lunch is ready. As usual they all ask after Baba, as they called him, and I explain, as sadly as I could, that he had to take an impromptu trip to Abuja but deep inside, relief floods me at the thought of his absence. He has only been here two times and on both occasions, he found something wrong. The first time, he whispered in my ears “you keep leaning across the table in a provocative way. Are you trying to be another man’s second wife? Actually, who’ll want take an old cargo like you as a second wife…*laughs*”. The second time, as soon as we got into the car, he said “You talk too much. I don’t want you talking too much with those women”.

“Madam, the escort called to say that Oga called to say we should come straight to Oga Uche’s house. They said he said he has called you” Papa my driver calls out to me interrupting my reverie

Why does he do this to me? He told me the party at Uche’s house was no longer happening. I did not even know he was back from Abuja. I decide to call him, how can he change my destination without calling me first. He picks up on the second ring.

“emm…Hello” I say to the silence on the other end of the phone

“What is it?” he says as his voice comes through

Tunde, I did not know the thing at Uche’s house was still on. I am very tired from spending the day with the kids. Can…”

“I hope you were not just about to ask me of you could go home. Are you mad? What have you done all day apart from spend my money? If you think I pay for you to look beautiful so you are absent from being at my side when I go out, then you thought wrong. If you like, when the car gets here, don’t come out. All I know is that my cars are coming here!” He says and ends the call and I am left with the ‘beep…beep’ sound on the other end of the phone.

“STOP THE CAR!”  I yell at my driver transferring my aggression. I pull off the 5 inch heels he made me wear and get out of the car bare feet. I notice the police officer is walking closely behind me and I turn back to tell him to get back into the car. I keep walking and I don’t even realise when I start crying. Anyone else listening to that conversation will think my absence is consequential but will not realise that according to my dear husband, my voice should not even be heard at these gatherings except when during the odd greeting. Oh and that’s not all, I must paste a smile on my face. After 30 minutes, I manage to bring my tears to a halt. I call for Mohammed to bring my bag. I take out my powder and use it to touch up my face.

It’s a couple of minutes past 8pm when we arrive at Uche’s. I notice his car is already parked in the drive. I am concentrating on putting on my heels (I would wear the spare set of flats in the car but that will surely earn me a slap). Suddenly my door opens and I look up to see his face. He looks at me like a piece of filth but this is not unusual, it has been this way for the past 5 years – I wonder why he will not just let me go. Immediately he changes his expression to a smile, a fake one at that, and reaches out his hand to help me out of the car. He pulls me into a hug, no doubt for show and whispers into my ears “I have waited for you, what took you so long?” We begin to walk side by side to the house.

“We were in traffic” I lie knowing I had no explanation for the 30 minutes I spent crying.”Besides is that what you are more concerned about, you didn’t even ask after your kids” I say after a brief pause.

Initially he ignores me, paying more attention to his phone, and then later he says in a low voice “You are lucky we are not home, i think you know better than to speak to me in that way. To answer your question, I already called them at school”My heart skipped from fear after and during his response. I decide that I will be careful not to upset him today

Its half past 11 when we get home and exhaustion has become me. I leave Tunde downstairs and I go into my room -oh yes! we live in separate rooms, he moved me out of his room in the 8th year of our marriage after a round of pounding because I accused him of cheating on me. Living in separate rooms never stopped him and it damn well did not stop him tonight. I am wiping my face as I come out of the closet and when I take off the towel from my face I see him sitting on the edge of my bed. I think he is here, as usual to claim his ‘marital right, or at least that’s what he calls it.

He does not say anything so I decide to ask him why he is here. I move closer to him and I notice he looks angry.

“What’s wrong?” I ask and after a long pause he says “you lied to me”.

Confused,  I decide to ask “lied about what?” He rises and starts to walk towards me saying “DON’T PLAY DUMB WITH ME TIWALADE!” I think he realises that I am genuinely confused because he says “YOU TOLD ME YOU WERE IN TRAFFIC” and then it dawns on me what he is talking about and that he must have spoken to the driver to confirm.

“We were not in traffic, I….” but before I complete my sentence the first slap hits my face and the pounding begins

I lay on the floor and all my senses are overloaded by pain . I close my eyes and flashback to the moments of peak pain when he dragged me on the floor with my hair extensions and when he used my body as a punching bag.

The bed next to me dips but it could not have been long after I finally managed to sleep off. “I am sorry” he whispers into my neck but I just keep my eyes closed. He gets off the bed and I hear my bathroom door open and close again. I feel a warm towel on my face and he starts wiping my face. When he is done, he kneel and begs me to open my eyes and say something but I ignore him till he leaves and once again I begin to cry.

*****

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