EPISODE 1 (Till Death...)
The fifteenth of June 2011 dawned like every other day. Bisola Biboko was soon to realise that day was the first of the rest of her life. As a Christian, she considered the day she got saved as the most important in her life – right beside her wedding day- but she added the day she learnt she was dying to the list.
She had woken up as usual for the past fifteen years beside her husband Seyi. The family prayed together, she and her maid prepared their four kids for school and she dropped them off at school. All these, normal daily activities. Her day veered off routine when rather than drive to her supermarket, she drove to the hospital. A persistent cough was the reason she went to the hospital. she couldn’t remember exactly when the cough began but it had lingered and instead of getting better, it worsened.
Her sister had commented on it the last time they spoke on the phone. The painful, dry cough seemed to have an inverse relationship to treatment. Cough syrup, organic honey, palm oil, bitter kola, lime juice, antibiotics, any and everything said to treat cough, Bisi had taken all without success.
After months of self medication, Bisola had gone to the doctor for tests. Even if it were TB, she rather she treated whatever it was and be free. The doctor, her family physician, had listened to her complaints and sent her for comprehensive tests. Two days later, she was back for the results and she got the most shocking news of her entire life. Not just did she have Tuberculosis, she was also HIV positive! How?
Her last child was two years old, and as is hospital policy, she had comprehensive tests while pregnant, and was certified disease free. How could she now be HIV positive? After birth, Funmi (her baby) was also tested and was disease free. There had to be a mistake somewhere. She hadn’t been ill since then as to receive an infected blood or be pin-pricked, and she wasn’t one of the aesthetic types as to be infected via unsanitary beauty practices. She had never cheated on her husband.
‘’Oh Lord Jesus!’’ She moaned, trembling hard from shock.
She heard the doctor’s voice as though from a far off place. She stared at him sight unseen, tears running down her cheeks.
‘’Madam, are you alright? I know it’s a lot to take in now, but there are anti-retro viral drugs you can take, combined with a healthy lifestyle, you can still live a normal life…..’’
The doctor spoke gently to her, she shut out his voice. His tone of voice reminded her of over ten years ago, when this same doctor had told her she needed help conceiving. Ten years later, she had four healthy children all conceived naturally by the grace of God and this same doctor was now telling her she was HIV positive!
‘’God forbid.’’ She whispered. ‘’That is a lie! A lie from the pit of hell.’’ She got up clutching her handbag to her chest. ‘’I refuse to believe that report. That is satan’s report.’’
“Doctor, why have you allowed yourself to be used by the devil to torment me?”
“I beg your pardon Mrs Biboko?” The doctor retorted sharply.
“Doctor!” She returned to her seat. “Were you not the same doctor that told me I couldn’t get pregnant ten years ago?” She spoke in the gentle persuasive voice often used for children. “Today, I have four children.” She held up four fingers. “All born in this same hospital. Now you’ve come with this….. Haba doctor!”
Doctor Salami sighed. Obviously, she was in a state of shock and not processing the news. “Madam, that was based on scientific diagnosis, as is this. The tests were run twice.” He paused. “Madam your husband will also have to come in for tests….”
“God forbid!” She spat, rising to her feet. “I reject it! Back to sender!” She repeatedly moved her hand over her head, casting out every evil. With that she turned around and left the office, leaving the doctor staring after her mouth agape.
Eight days later, after a seven day dry fasting and prayers during which she locked herself up in her room and refused to see anyone, not her husband, nor her four children. She went to another hospital for another HIV/AIDS test. Two hours after her blood was drawn, she was invited back into the doctors consulting room and given the same result. She was still HIV positive.
How? How could she be HIV positive? She broke down and wept. In her fifteen years of marriage she had never strayed on her husband, not even in her mind. How was her husband, an associate pastor in a popular Pentecostal church going to take this news? Where did she get this terrible disease from?
Broken and frightened, she took a cab home, returned to her room and continued to cry her heart out. Her maid, Feyi kept knocking on the door and entreating her to open and tell her who died. When her children returned from school, Bisi tried to quieten her sobs, not to alarm the children. However, Feyi must have told them something was wrong because their voices and play was subdued, even the TV volume was unusually low. Bisi’s heart broke further. Her beautiful babies, who would care for them after her death? A fresh equally disturbing thought occurred to her; if she had HIV, she must have also infected her husband. Bisi wept, wishing this was a nightmare which she would soon awake from.
The children were confused as to why their mother was crying. The house was in mourning, and only their mother knew why.
When Pastor Seyi Biboko returned from work on that day, from the door he sensed something was gravely wrong, and he was disturbed. His wife had been in seclusion for the past seven days. What she was praying for, he didn’t know, but he prayed along with her. He knew none of their family had recently suffered any mishap or was in need, neither had he heard of any misfortune befalling a parishioner. Feyi opened the door when he rang the bell, greeted and let him in.
‘’How are you Feyi?’’ He asked as he walked into the sitting room. Her response as she took the shopping bag and his bible was drowned in the children’s excited welcome scream.
‘’Daddy!’’ Oreoluwa and Ifeoluwa, his two older children ran to him in greeting. He hugged and lifted them, carrying them with him the couch. He noticed the younger children asleep on the couch.
‘’How are you children?’’ He asked smiling fondly at them.
‘’We are fine daddy.’’ They chorused.
‘’What did you buy for us?’’ Ifeoluwa asked him, her two front missing teeth on display.
‘’Ask Feyi to wash some apples for you.’’ He sent them to the kitchen. ‘’Feyi!’’ He called.
‘’Sir.’’ She replied drying her hands on the apron as she came into the sitting room.
‘’Take this children in to bed.’’ He instructed, rising to his feet. ‘’Where is my wife?’’
‘’She is inside sir. Mummy has been crying since.’’ She replied, gesturing with her hands.
His heart sank, his fears were confirmed, something was definitely wrong. He went to her bedroom door and knocked.
Bisi heard her husband return from work and knew he would be coming to her room soon. Still she was startled when he knocked on her door. Wiping her tears, she composed herself and opened the door. She had to tell her husband, she had been a faithful wife for fifteen years and hadn’t hidden a thing from her husband. She wasn’t about to start now.
She opened the door. Unable to look him in the eyes, she let him in and shut the door behind him.
He pulled her into his arms in a reassuring hug and she burst into tears. He led her to the bed and they sat, still with his arms around her. He let her cry for some minutes till she reduced to sniffles.
‘’What’s the problem?’’ He asked softly, wiping her tears.
She slowly pushed out of his arms and looked at him. She opened her mouth but no words came forth. How do you tell your husband of fifteen years you had HIV?
‘’You are my wife, whatever it is, tell me.’’ He reassured her, his gaze on her very tender.
‘’I went to the doctor.’’ She began. ‘’The doctor said….’’ She couldn’t go on, she stuffed her right fist in her mouth to muffle the painful shout about to burst from within her.
‘’What is it, what did the doctor say?’’
Pastor Seyi feared and expected the worst. Could it be Cancer? ‘’What did he say?’’ he asked again, his heart racing.
‘’The doctor said I am HIV positive.’’ She whispered emotionless, staring straight ahead.
The ensuing silence was so silent, Bisi looked at her husband to confirm he’d heard her, he was staring sightlessly into space, silent tears rolling down his face. She fell to her knees and took both his hands in hers.
‘’I swear, I don’t know how it happened. This is the devil’s handiwork. I have never cheated on you, I swear on my life, I swear on my children.’’ She cried desperately.
He pulled her up, back to her sitting position. Sitting side by side, they both cried.
He remembered the encounter, it was a one off, but like they say; once is enough. As a faithful husband and pastor, he hadn’t been prepared with a prophylaxis. He had succumbed to pressure and temptation and had sex with a woman not his wife.
It was the pastor’s retreat in Abuja two years ago, a pastor colleague of his had encouraged him to unwind. Back at the hotel after the retreat, Pastor Dafe had called an acquaintance of his, who came with a friend of hers. They promised discretion, his wife had just had their last child and hadn’t recovered from the birth, the temptation was great and he yielded.
The sin had weighed on him for months, it was only after a parishioner testified to having received divine healing that he was relieved. Two years later, his sins had found him out. It had to be him, he could vouch for his wife’s integrity. He had brought this terrible disease into his house. He had infected his wife with HIV.
He screamed hoarsely. ‘’God!’’ he cried out.
How did this happen to him?
Bisi was startled out of her tears by her husband’s scream. In their years of marriage she had never seen him shed such tears. It was her turn to comfort him.
‘’It was me.’’ He whispered hoarsely.
‘’What?’’ she asked softly, she didn’t hear him well.
‘’It was me. I…….. There was a woman.’’ He mumbled out.
Bisi froze, she couldn’t believe her ears, her hearing must have gone bad for what she was hearing these past days, were too horrible to understand. What was her husband confessing? Pastor, faithful husband and father, she could vouch for him.
Slowly, he untangled himself from her embrace; he looked her in the eye and whispered. ‘’I cheated.‘’
As he confessed, Bisi remembered her wedding vows:
For better or worse,
In sickness and in health,
To love and cherish,
Till death do us part.
A hollow laugh emitted from her. They had pledged those words to each other on their wedding day. The irony was; her husband had altered those vows. He had found a way to take her with him in death, or send her ahead of him.
EPISODE 2 (All my worldly goods...)
“How could you, what were you thinking?” Nnamdi Asogwa yelled at his wife. He couldn’t believe what she had just told him; that his wife of fifteen years could buy land, a whole five plots and keep it a secret for two years. He got up from the sofa on which he was sitting and went to stand by the window, staring out sight unseen. Lost in thoughts of this betrayal by his wife.
Nkechi recoiled from her husbands outburst, thankful their daughter was away in boarding school and nor present to witness this scene. She had expected him to be angry, she doubted there was a person alive who won’t be angry at the news she just gave him.
Two years ago, when she was laid off from her high-ranking bank job; she invested the money with which she was paid off in a supermarket and landed property. Conscious of the fact that she married an African man who might have collected the money from her, she didn’t disclose the full amount she was paid off with to him. Rather she disclosed to him an amount that tidily covered the cost of the supermarket she was planning to open. And had used the extra added with her savings to buy five plots of land in the Mowe area of Ogun state.
Her husband Nnamdi; worked for The African Development Bank and was doing very well. He provided for her and their only daughter so very well, she had no complaints. However, her husband’s siblings as well relied heavily on him financially, added to the fact that she had only a daughter for him she had felt the need to have something of her own, in her name. So should anything happen, she and her daughter will have something to fall back on.
But, what had really convinced her to begin keeping her finances a secret from him was when she discovered some official documents in which her husbands immediate younger brother was still listed as his next-of-kin.
She had confronted him about it and he said he had forgotten to change it after their wedding. That those forms had been filled before they got married and he had forgotten to change his next of kin. He promised to rectify the situation immediately, but from that day on, he kept all official documents away from her. She didn’t know what to make of it.
So, she bought the land through her step-brother Nnanna; a land agent, and for two years she kept this from her husband. She had only been alerted to a discrepancy recently when she heard the Ogun state government had begun a state-wide land verification process. She had alerted Nnanna to this news. Then the real drama began.
First; he said he had done the verification. She had been impressed and promised him a financial reward. She requested to see the verification documents, then he stalled. He said he was really busy pursuing a deal and will get back to her soon.
A week later he was still busy and started avoiding her calls. What really got her curious was; previously, when she mentioned a monetary reward he was willing to meet with her immediately. But when she requested to see the land documents he became avoidant. So, on a saturday morning, she surprise an caught him at home. Not wanting to display her anxiety, she lied she was in the neighbourhood to see a friend, but thought to see him and his family also. But while she was there, she might as well see the land documents.
Nnanna went into his bedroom, and returned five minutes later to say;
“Ehm sister, I just discovered I’ve not collected the complete land documents from my contact in Ogun state.”
More confused, Nkechi asked him to explain how that was possible since he had previously told her he had all the documents with him.
Sweating profusely, despite that it was a cool morning, he blamed the misinformation on confusion and distress brought on by a bout of malaria. He promised to get the papers to her within the following week. That was two months ago.
He had stopped picking her calls, and his wife and mother had both called her to ask and threaten her to leave Nnanna alone. That if she really bought land through Nnanna where was her proof?
That was when she knew she’d been totally duped. By family no less. She couldn’t believe Nnanna could do this to her, she paid him over and above his requested fee, all because they were family, and she stressed upon him the need to keep the purchase a secret from her husband. Little did she know Nnanna was going to dupe her. She had tried to get her father to wade into the matter, but he was old, and Nnanna was the son of the wife he married after Nkechi’s mother died giving birth to her younger brother, so he couldn’t put much pressure on him.
This whole matter had turned into one big nightmare and Nkechi knew she had to bring her husband into the matter if they were to salvage the situation.
“I wanted something of my own, a little insurance.” She replied as an explanation.
“Insurance? How? You wanted something of your own, what have you ever asked of me that I haven’t given you?” Nnamdi asked in confusion, turning to face her.
“Should anything happen to you (God forbid), my daughter and I would have something to fall back on.” She explained, trying to defend her actions.
“In case you haven’t noticed, our society has moved beyond that.” He exhaled loudly. “If you wanted to buy a land, why couldn’t you go about it through a legal means? Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked.
“It was after I found those documents with your brother as your next-of-kin, I didn’t want to….”
“That was an omission! I changed it immediately and double checked all other documents!” Nnamdi protested.
She didn’t know what else to say, how else to defend her actions. So she settled for; “I’m sorry.” She said quietly, hoping it will calm her husband.
“What’s even more mind-boggling is the fact that if it hadn’t blown up in your face, I wouldn’t know about it. What else are you keeping a secret; a house somewhere, more land?”
“I’m sorry.” She repeated.
“Yea right. What happened to; All my worldly goods I share with you?”
“I’ve said I’m sorry! Besides you know my mother’s story, all that added together, it just…”.
Her mother had a thriving commodity trading business, but when she died in childbirth, with Nkechi her oldest child still twelve years old, her father had re-married almost immediately and the new wife had taken over the business, and the rest as they say is history.
“For goodness sake Nk!” Nnamdi struggled for calm, and tried to pace. What his wife had done was terrible, but they had to find a way to salvage the situation. “You do know you’ve seriously damaged my trust in you?” He asked.
“I really am sorry.”
He sighed. “Tell me everything about this whole deal from the beginning. Did you pay cash, cheque, charge, did you see the land, everything.”
Nkechi re-narrated the story being careful not to leave any detail out.
EPISODE 3 (With my body... #1)
As Marian dished lunch for her children she prayed it wouldn’t be their last meal. She prayed her husband would return with some good news, preferably with some cash for dinner.
How had things gotten this bad? She asked herself over and over again. A few months ago, her husband’s construction firm won a contract for the landscaping and beatification of a federal housing estate in Abuja.
They had celebrated; they were now playing in the major league, no more petty ‘bricklayer’ construction.
Just as he was about to be paid a mobilisation fee, the minister for works and housing had been redeployed. The minister of state for the ministry had urged the contractors to begin working, assuring them of 100% payment once he is confirmed as the full minister. Daniel; her husband had gone on to pour all his savings and even borrowed against his assets to finance the project.
Unfortunately, another person had been appointed minister. He had taken four months to ‘find his feet’, and just when he was about to approve payment he was accused of financial impropriety, which led to his sack, and once more they were in limbo. No new contracts were forthcoming for her husband, as things stood she wasn’t even sure they could execute a contract were they to get one. Now, a new minister had been appointed, her husband had flown to Abuja this morning to see the minister, Marian prayed for luck.
Ifeanyi, her six year old first son tapped her and brought her back to the present.
“Adaeze is crying.” He said.
It was then Marian heard the cry of her youngest. Oh Lord! She prayed silently; help me get through this, she had been so far into her thoughts she stopped listening for her children.
“I’m coming. Here, carry your food.” She gave him a plate of food, while she carried two plates and they both went into the dining table.
“Julian.” She called to her second son, who was so engrossed in the cartoon he was watching. “Come and eat.” She set the dishes down and lifted Adaeze, who had walked to her and wrapped herself around her legs.
“Hey you, why are you crying?” she jiggled her soothingly. “Were you missing mommy?” She planted kisses on Adaeze’s face. “You know you’re the prettiest girl in the whole world, my princess, daddy’s princess.” Adaeze had stopped crying by this time. “Mommy made jollof rice.” She sat at the table with Adaeze on her laps.
“Julian!” she called again. He hadn’t moved from the front of the television. ”Come and eat, now!”
Julian grudgingly got up, and walked backwards, his eyes glued to the screen. He moved his plate to another chair from which he could still watch tv while he ate. Meanwhile, his elder brother was half way through his meal.
Marian ate a spoon of rice to confirm it was cool enough for Adaeze; she scooped another and attempted to feed the child. Adaeze shook her head in refusal and refused to open her mouth.
“Sweetie, aren’t you hungry. You should be hungry. Eat some rice.” She tried again.
“It’s very sweet. Ifeanyi isn’t it?”
“It’s sweet.” Ifeanyi affirmed.
“Very sweet.” Julian added.
Adaeze was a picky eater, and her brothers were used to their mom’s tricks to get her to eat, and diligently played their part.
“Bread!” Adaeze said. This time using her hand to push her mother’s away.
Marian sighed, if only this child knew how bad things were.
“Eat rice now. Daddy will buy bread on his way home.” She cajoled.
“I can eat her food.” Julian offered. He had finished his.
“Hear that, princess. Eat your food so Julian doesn’t eat it.”
After much cajoling, Adaeze ate some of the food, still insisting on bread.
Her husband returned as she was washing up the lunch dishes, from his countenance she could tell he didn’t make much progress. She served him the little she’d saved for him and they went into the room to discuss.
Ever since, her oldest had innocently told his playmate their neighbour’s son that his daddy borrowed money from the bank, they had stopped discussing serious issues in the children’s presence.
“He promised to look into the matter!” Daniel said before she asked.
“That’s the new minister right?” Marian asked as she tidied the room.
“Yes. The honourable Danladi Usman.” Daniel reclined on the bed.
“Danladi Usman. I used to know someone by that name, back in school. We’ll keep praying.” She sighed and dropped some clothes in the laundry basket.
“It might be him, because this guy is youngish. You’re so hopeless with current affairs.” Daniel teased. “Other women would have researched the man their husband was going to see, what if it were one hot chic?” He picked his phone and googled ‘Danladi Usman’, he clicked on a page that opened on a picture of the man and passed the phone to Marian.
“That’s him!” she exclaimed. “That’s Danladi! He came to UNN for a course or something sha. Stayed for a year, during which he pursued me relentlessly.” She laughed and passed the phone back to him smiling. “You see, maybe if I had agreed, I would have been a minister’s wife now.”
She joked as she sat beside him.”
“Are you serious?”
She laughed. “He used to tease me that fate already knew I was to be his wife, that’s why my parents gave me a name that could be both Muslim and Christian.”
“So what happened?”
“He just packed up one day and left. He finished his course. He called a few times after, but since I didn’t want to encourage it…….. Anyways, the Danladi I knew was a good man, if he said he’ll look into it, he will.”
“Yes he did. I just had an idea, why don’t you call him?” Dan said.
“Call him for?” Marian asked puzzled, sitting beside him on the bed.
“Maybe he could speed up the payment for old times sake.”
“You can’t be serious. It’s been like ten years, what if he has forgotten me, what if he bears a grudge?”
“I doubt it, Hausa’s don’t bear grudges like that. Besides, I trust you to soothe away any grudge. You didn’t study Public Relations for nothing.”
“He’s Fulani. Besides, what has a PR got to do with anything, and, do you have his number?”
“You know how to handle people, and he gave me his card. Might not be a direct line, but you could introduce yourself with your maiden name.” Dan was getting more excited by the second. He was dialling already and switched the phone speaker on. It was answered as it almost rang out.
“Hello. This is the office of the Honourable minister for works and housing; Mallam Danladi Usman, my name is Saheed, how may I help you?” a cultured male voice spoke through the phone.
“Ehm, my name is Marian Okoro, I want to speak with the minister.”
“The minister is in a meeting, would you like to leave a message or schedule an appointment?”
She looked to Dan for the next move.
“Leave a message” he whispered.
“Please tell him, Marian Okoro from UNN called. I will call back, when can I call back?” She said.
“Is it official University matter?”
“No, no. it’s personal. When can I call and speak with him?”
“I do not know madam.” He replied with a note of finality.
“Ok. Tell him I called, Marian Okoro, UNN.”
She ended the call, her heart beating wildly.
“You see, that wasn’t so difficult. I predict, one or two more calls and you will speak with him.” Dan said, a call came in on his phone. “Are you there?” was all he said before ending the call.
“I need to see someone.” He got up and got dressed. “Let’s split the money I have.” He handed her A thousand Naira with the warning; “Stretch it far.”
Dan went out and Marian began to calculate how to stretch One thousand Naira.
Marian was in the middle of a ‘report fest’ the next morning when her phone rang. She was frazzled from having to prevent a battle between her boys. There was ‘no light’, so the boys had to play with themselves. One or both of them had made Adaeze cry, and they were trading blames, in the midst of which she had to calm a screaming Adaeze. She would have ignored the call but for the fact that she was waiting to hear from a friend whom she had asked for a loan.
“Both of you, kneel down, hands up and close your eyes.” She ordered the boys.
“Mommy its Ifeanyi.”
“No, its Julian.”
The boys traded blame.
“Now!” Marian screamed. The boys immediately obeyed. Even the crying Adaeze stopped her wailing. Marian picked her phone and glanced at the screen, her heart sank, not the call she was expecting, an unregistered number. She hesitantly picked the call.
“You know, I get many calls from people who claim to know me, but none thrilled my heart like the call from you.”
Marian recognised the voice instantly. “Danladi!
EPISODE 4 (With my body #2)
“You know, I get many calls from people who claim to know me, but none thrilled my heart like the call from you.”
Marian recognized the voice instantly. “Danladi!” She cried warmly. “I mean, Honorable. Or how are you ministers addressed?”
“My name is still Danladi, and I am surprised you are still Marian Okoro. Those Igbo boys are blind?”
Marian laughed nervously. “Actually, it’s Marian Ifechieme. Mrs Marian Daniel Ifechieme. I used Okoro so…”
“So I’ll know it’s you.” He concluded. “How are you, it’s been like, how many years?”
“Eleven years and we meet again, or speak again. I lost your number, and apparently you lost mine as well, because we lost contact.
“Yes, imagine my surprise when my husband told me you were the new minister for works that he had just met with.”
“I met with your husband? Forgive me, I can’t remember the name. I meet so many people it’s difficult to keep up.”
“He is one of the contractors for the Greenland estate. He did the landscaping and beatification.”
“Oh! Ok. Sordid business that estate. The former minister messed everything up, each contract will have to be verified before they can be paid.”
“Ah Danladi, that was why I was calling you. If you can help us, my husband borrowed for that project, he has completed it, and our creditors are at our door.”
There was silence from the other end of the phone.
“Danladi?” Marian asked to confirm he was still on the line.
“I hear what you are asking, but it’s a difficult situation. In order not to be shown the door like my predecessor, I have to do everything by the book.” He explained.
“I understand Danladi. All I’m asking is that you maybe, pay him an advance, or speed up the process. I’m desperate Danladi.” She threw caution to the wind. “I have three children Danladi, there’s no food for lunch for them. No money for school fees when school resumes, if we survive that long. Our rent expires in two months; the bank my husband borrowed money from will fore close on our assets at the end of the month. Help me Danladi.”
“How did your husband make such a mess of the whole situation?” Danladi asked.
“He was assured he’ll be paid before the project was completed.”
Danladi exhaled. “Let me see what I can do. You know if you had married me, you would have lived a life of luxury.”
“I love my husband Danladi. Besides, aren’t you married now?”
“I am, two wives. Still, you would have been the first and only.”
“All that is water under the bridge now, Danladi.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. Anyway, I have a meeting now. I’ll get back to you.” He ended the call.
Marian cradled the phone to her chest and prayed for God’s favour. Snapped back to the present, she went back into the sitting room to check on her children.
“Did you call the minister today?” Dan asked Marian after dinner later that night. The children were in bed, and Dan and Marian were preparing for bed.
“He called me. He said he would look into it.”
Dan lit up in excitement. “That’s my girl! Tomorrow you call again, did he call with his personal line?”
“I don’t know, but it was a different line from the one you have.” Marian couldn’t explain it, but she felt uneasy about this whole thing and couldn’t share in Dan’s excitement.
“That must have been his official line. Tomorrow you call again. Ah! The payment is near, I can feel it.”
He snapped his fingers and did a little dance as he went into the bathroom.
When he came out a few minutes later, she broached a topic that had been on her mind for a while; “Dan, I was thinking. It’s time for me to get a job again. It’s been over six years, and Adaeze is now in school. I could…….”
“Get a job that you’ll be returning by ten pm. Who’ll be here for the kids when they return from school?”
“I thought of that, and, even if it’s a teaching job so we can close at the same time.”
“No.” Dan refused with a note of finality. “So because this past year has been rough you’re now insinuating I can’t cater for my family?”
“No my love, I was just thinking. My qualifications are just wasting, and……”
“I said no! You just concentrate on getting your ex-boyfriend to pay my company. That’s all I ask of you.” He switched on the television, switched to a sports channel and settled into the bed to watch.
Marian couldn’t believe this was her husband. He had stopped her from working six years ago with the promise that she’ll pick-up when the children are in school. Now the time had come and he was refusing. She was getting restless and couldn’t continue to sit at home, particularly, they needed a second steady income Dan’s business was one that could dry-up for a long while before picking up, and he was still refusing her getting a job.
She was hurt that he was beginning to make it look as though she could take care of the delays with the ministry.
Calming herself, she went into the bathroom for her nightly routine.
Two days later, Danladi called again. She had been on pins and needles wondering why he hadn’t called. Daniel hadn’t spoken to her except to ask if she had called Danladi.
“Hello Danladi.” She answered crossing her fingers for luck.
“I apologise, it’s been work, work, work, and more work. How are you?”
“I thank God. You sound tired.” She observed.
“Trust you to notice. This job isn’t easy. All the rest of you see are the allowances, not the work.” He chuckled.
“I bet the allowances make up for the work.” She quipped.
‘Yes it does. I’ve missed you. Why don’t you come to Abuja, my treat? So we can catch up.”
Marian laughed nervously. “I’m a married woman with three young kids. I can’t just pack up and take a trip.”
“Surely there’s someone who can watch the children for you. Ask your husband, and get back to me.” He offered.
“Ok, but I doubt it.”
“Ask him.” Danladi insisted.
The next day, she flew into Abuja on the midday flight. A car was waiting for her at the airport, and she was driven to a hotel and installed in an executive suite.
The speed with which her husband agreed to the trip amazed her. Almost as if he was expecting it. The children were taken to his cousin’s house; sister Bisi, who was told that Marian had an urgent job interview in Abuja. Daniel drove her to the airport and warned her not to return without a check from the ministry. This whole thing was so bizarre to her and she felt out of her depth.
Her hotel suite was beautiful with a scenic view of the city, her bar and refrigerator fully stocked. The staff had kept bringing food and snacks to her; she feared Danladi’s instructions were to fatten her up. She hadn’t spoken to Danladi after she called him to tell him her husband approved of the trip. Saheed was the one who called with the details of her flight, and the one who met her at the airport, extending the ministers’ apology, and informing her he’ll be with her later in the evening.
She was so nervous; she took a moment to pray. Prior to this whole contract fiasco, she hadn’t been deeply religious. But she found that of recent, prayer calmed her anxiety, and helped her to see straight and persevere.
Mindful of the fact that Danladi hadn’t been to see her, she didn’t prepare for bed. She glanced at the time, past nine, when there was a knock on her room door.
EPISODE 5 (With my body... #3)
Mindful of the fact that Danladi hadn’t been to see her, she didn’t prepare for bed. She glanced at the time, past nine, when there was a knock on her room door.
It had to be Danladi; she had told the staff she required nothing more from them for the night, so it couldn’t be them.
Peeping through the peephole and confirming it was him, she opened the door and smiled nervously at him. “Hello.”
He entered and shut the door behind him and drew her into a bone crushing hug.
“Okay, I guess you’re happy to see me.” She said when he released her, trying to lighten the situation. She consciously tried to put some space between them.
He laughed richly. “You’re nervous, don’t be. Stand back let me get a good look at you.”
He gave her a thorough look-over, and she returned the favour.
He looked the same as years ago, not one ounce of fat anywhere on his tall lean, Fulani body. He looked almost boyish in jeans and tee-shirt, he could be mistaken for a regular guy.
“The years have been kind to you.” He said.
“Same as you.”
“Three children you say?”
“You don’t look it.”
“Thank you.” She blushed beneath her dark skin.
“Why don’t we get comfortable, we did pay for the whole suite not just the door.” He joked.
They went in and sat in the mini sitting room and caught-up on old times and old friends.
As the night progressed, Marian’s discomfort grew. Danladi showed no sign of leaving, on the contrary, he had made himself comfortable.
As though on cue, he got up and excused himself to use the rest room.
Marian was alarmed when she heard the shower running, and was waiting for him at the far end of the room when he exited in a bath robe.
“Why are you standing far off there?” he asked.
“What are you doing?” she countered.
“I don’t understand.” He seemed truly perplexed.
“I don’t either. It appears as though you’re ready to go to bed here.”
“Yes, I thought we had an understanding?”
“What understanding, that I would sleep with you?”
“Yes, isn’t that why you are here.”
“Excuse you! Are you forgetting I’m married, same as you.”
“Your husband sent you here.” He pointed out coldly.
“What does that mean?” As she asked the question, the answer came to her, and she was horrified.
He saw illumination dawn on her, and shook his head sympathetically. “Eleven years later, you’re still naïve.” He said, approaching her slowly.
“I can’t, I made a vow to my husband before God.” She refused backing away.
“And he pimped you out.” He spelt out coldly.
He attempted to touch her, she pushed him away and ran to the opposite side of the room.
“This isn’t about the contract. This is about you and I. A man who will pimp you out for money doesn’t deserve you. I want you, I’ve always wanted you. Name your terms, name a price and its yours. If you want me to marry you…..”
“I AM MARRIED!” she screamed.
“Doesn’t matter to me. Your marriage is over. The day a man decides to send his wife to sleep with another man is the day the marriage ended. Let me take care of you, give you a better life. Name your terms.” He persuaded.
She ignored him and ran to the wardrobe, she dragged out her suitcase and began packing.
“Ok, keep your marriage. This will be our little secret. I’ll give you anything; name it. I’ll pay the contract first thing in the morning even if it’s from my pocket. I want you, I haven’t stopped wanting you.”
She stopped and turned to him. “I made a vow, to honor my husband with my body. I will not share it with another, regardless of the circumstance. Even if my marriage is over, I’ll leave with my dignity.”
“You are making a big mistake, your husband doesn’t love you.” He said as she walked to the door with her suitcase. “Where are you going, it’s late. Okay, stay. Lets talk about this rationally like adults.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” She left the hotel room.
It wasn’t until she got to the hotel lobby that she asked herself where she was going. It was late, and the people she knew in Abuja didn’t know she was coming into Abuja.
She spied Danladi’s car outside. She marched purposefully to it and tapped on the window. The driver woke from his nap with a start and rolled down the window.
“Oga said you should drop me at the airport.” She said.
“Yes ma.” He came down to stow her luggage in the boot, got in and started the car engine. On the drive to the airport she prayed she could change the ticket she had for the next available flight. She refused to think of the scene that just happened at the hotel room, or the scene she would meet back in Lagos. She couldn’t believe Dan could do this to her. She refused to believe it.
“You’re back already?” Dan asked in surprise when he opened the door to his wife the next morning. “How did it go?”
Marian refused to answer, she pushed past him and went into the bedroom.
She was tired in the body and in the spirit. She’d had to sit in the airport all night as the next available flight was for 6:15am.
“I take it the trip didn’t go well?” he asked following her.
“You couldn’t just do this one thing right!” He accused.
“You claim to love your family, yet you couldn’t convince your ex-boyfriend to pay what is owed me?”
She sighed sadly. “Daniel, did you send me there to sleep with Danladi?” She asked him point-blank.
He stared at her in surprise. “Ehm, I. I. I expected you to do the needful. We need that money Marian, can’t you see how bad things are?” He spread his hands helplessly.
“Chikadibia!” she called him by his native name. “How could you? I am your wife!” she cried.
“Yes! But desperate situations call for desperate measures!”
“Every other sin is outside the body but fornication, adultery. Daniel! You pimped me out!” she screamed at him.
“What was I supposed to do? That was our one chance! And you blew it! All you had to do was be nice to him and this morning we would have been out of the woods! It’s the morning after, has the world come to an end?”
“Daniel!!!” Marian was aghast, was this her husband?
“I’m going to pick up our children, cook your morality for them.” He grabbed his car keys from the dresser table and left.
Marian screamed in frustration and sank to the floor in tears.
EPISODE 6 (A chance for redemption...)
A week after Daniel left the house after dropping the children off, he returned with two large shopping bags, hiding behind a bouquet of flowers.
“Daddy!” The children ran to him. He hugged each of them and walked to her.
“I’m sorry.” He said kneeling at her feet.
Mindful of the children; she got up and went into the bedroom, he followed her.
“I’m sorry.” He repeated.
The dam of all the pent-up emotions burst and she burst into tears. He cried with her.
“I got a call from Danladi.” He said through his tears.
She looked at him sharply expecting the worst.
“I’m very proud of you, and very ashamed of myself.” She watched him in silence, tears rolling down her face. “He said he’d never met any woman like you. He said I don’t deserve you. He has paid the contract.”
“Oh now we know why you’re back!” Marian snapped angrily.
“Marian?” Dan was perplexed.
She shrugged. “He paid the money, good for you. Finally I did something right!” She said sarcastically wiping her tears.
“I don’t understand Marian, we should be happy, rejoicing. We’re out of the woods.”
“I’m happy! Can’t you see how happy I am?”
“I need to check on my kids.” She left the room.
Dan sat wondering why Marian wasn’t happy at the good news. Wasn’t this what they had waited and prayed for? Was she still upset over the Abuja thing? That was in the past, and all things have worked for their good; the contract has been paid and Danladi had promised more contracts. What was her problem? This whole thing was getting him angry.
“Marian!” He called her in anger, he could hear her and the children in the living room. He heard Julian tell her he was calling her. He knew she heard him call and was just ignoring him. This escalated his anger.
She walked in defiantly after some minutes, and leaned against the closed door.
“What’s your problem?”
“Really, you can ask me that?” She countered.
“Yes! Because I can’t understand why…..”
“You return home, a week after you walked out on your family. A week during which you refused to pick my calls, or reply my texts, IMs or email. Not caring that I was worried, not caring how we fared. You are not returning home because you’re sorry, no, you’re returning home because; oh! The contract has been paid, the contract which you sold me out for. And you’re wondering why I’m upset? If you don’t know, I can’t help you.” She snapped struggling to keep her voice down for the sake of the children.
“I’m sorry.” All the anger was gone out of him.
“Yea, so you say. I hear you, I want to believe you, but I’m sorry I just can’t draw up the required excitement!”
The ensuing silence stretched out. Dan stared at his shoes while Marian stared at him.
“Well, if there’s nothing else, I have to go cook up a pot of ‘my morality’ for my children.” She couldn’t resist inserting the dig, after all he used it first.
Daniel helplessly waved that she could go. He couldn’t believe how he’d made a mess of things.
Weeks later, the situation in their home was deteriorating. Dan and Marian were at loss as to how to repair their marriage. Marian knew she should snap out of the funk into which she had sunk, but was helpless as to how to go about it. She was constantly irritated, spending money given to her by her husband really depressed her. She was either ignoring him or snapping at him at the slightest provocation.
Dan was at a loss as to how to show Marian he was sorry. He couldn’t talk to her, her body language discouraged it, and when he braved it, she either snapped at him or ignored him. Marian was usually the cheerful one brightening the home, now she was silent and sullen. He missed her, he missed the sparkle in her eyes. He was even considering letting her get a job, he just didn’t know how she’ll manage the home, kids and a career. He was both concerned and worried, which led him to speak with his cousin; Bisi about it hoping for an insight into how to solve the situation. He didn’t like the idea of discussing his family issues with another, but Bisi was his cousin, a pastor’s wife who was involved in women’s ministry. Bisi had scolded him thoroughly after he told her the whole truth, but had promised to speak with Marian.
Marian let Bisola Biboko into the house. She had called earlier about the visit. Sister Bisi was her husband’s cousin and the person she was closest to in the family. Bisi had been a blessing to Marian since she was married into the family especially in the recently financially trying times, and it was always a pleasure to see her.
“Daniel told me of his shameful action.” Bisi delved right in once they were done with pleasantries.
“I must say I admire you for your courage to stand in the face of temptation.” Bisi went on.
Marian couldn’t say anything, her heart was so heavy, she couldn’t put into words all the emotions she was feeling.
“How are you, how have you been holding up?” Bisi asked.
Marian nodded her affirmation.
“I cannot claim to know what you’re going through right now, though I have been in a slightly similar situation.”
“Similar situation?” Marian asked shifting to the edge of her seat.
“Yes, I have been betrayed by my husband, felt the worst possible fear…..” She trailed off staring into space.
Marian stared at her in confusion, what was Bisi talking about? “Your husband….?” She asked in disbelief.
“No, not really, but he did expose me to harm. Remember my testimony of how God overturned two HIV positive results?” Bisi asked smiling wistfully.
“Yes I remember…..”
“You know, we never tell the full story in public testimonies.” Bisi laughed softly. “And I haven’t ever told anybody the full story, but I feel I should share with you. My husband cheated.”
EPISODE 7 (A chance for redemption)
“You know, we never tell the full story in public testimonies.” Bisi laughed softly. “And I haven’t ever told anybody the full story, but I feel I should share with you. My husband cheated.”
Bisola was cast back to that dark time in her life after her husband confessed his infidelity and being the source of the dreadful disease she had been diagnosed with, that night they had cried in each others arms, they wept through the night.
Anger came the next morning.
She was angry, bitter. Why her?
How could her husband do this to her? How could fate be so cruel? He said it was just once, just once and he got infected with HIV?
How was she sure it was just once?
She felt like screaming out her pain! She felt like tearing away her skin! She felt like dying.
She wept. She was broken and wished she could weep her pain away.
Her husbands attempts to soothe her infuriated her more and she lashed out at him in anger. He took it calmly , still apologetic and this worsened her anger.
She totally forgot her children were going to school in her grief. Feyi, the maid must have prepared them, because when she remembered the house was quiet, an indication the children weren’t home.
Her children, who will care for them after she and her husband were dead?
Oh God! She wailed.
She struggled for calm, she had wept enough. This wasn’t her, she knew better.
What was to do in times of tribulations?
The answer came to her loud and clear; go to God in prayer.
She knelt on her bedside to pray. Word failed her.
Refusing to give in to the threatening tears, she picked up her Bible. It opened to 2nd Samuel chapter 12, she began reading. It was the story of Prophet Nathan’s visit to King David, after David committed adultery with Bathsheba and he had her husband killed to cover up the sin.
Verses 20 to 23 of that chapter spoke clearly to Bisola; when the child that was the product of the adultery died, David
got up, washed and changed from his sack clothes and went into the house of the Lord and worshipped, after which he requested for food and ate.
His response to his servants query on his behaviour in verse 22 and 23 was: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The lord might be gracious to me and let the child live. But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me”.
“I got so much inspiration from that chapter, my interpretation of it was; like David, I couldn’t do anything about the situation. It had happened, rather than focus on the pain of it, I needed to move on.” Bisi wiped tears from her eyes. “I must tell you Marian, it wasn’t easy.” Bisi took Marian’s hands in hers. “I couldn’t pray, all I could say was; God help me. And that was really all I needed to say, He did help me.
Have you thought about what you really want to do, where u want to go from here? Have you asked God to help you through these trying times? His grace is really sufficient for us.”
Bisi paused, tears were flowing down the faces of both ladies.
“Eventually, my husband and I began to pray together again.” She continued. “We comforted each other, we made peace with the situation and decided to make the best we could of the life we had. We went back to the hospital to consult with our doctor on how to manage the disease. The doctor asked that we undergo another test to ascertain the present level of the disease, there we got the miracle of our lives. Both our tests returned HIV negative. My understanding of that positive result was to free my husband from the guilt of sin. My dear, those were dark days for me. I felt betrayed, I thought my life was over, but God saw me through it.
Ask God to see you through these. I’m not here with any ready-made answers, I cannot tell you what to do, the mortal me doesn’t even know what I would do in a circumstance like this, but I know I would ask God to help me through it.”
Marian wept, she wept away the pain and betrayal and anger of the past weeks.
Bisi held her as she cried.
“Would you like some water? Or anything else?” Bisi asked softly when Marian’s sobs subsided.
“I’m fine.” Marian wiped her tears.
“I think you’ve come to a decision?”
Marian nodded in affirmation.
“Let us pray.”
Both ladies bowed their heads as Bisola led them in prayers.
As Marian walked back into her house after waving off Bisi, she felt profound peace. Like the weight of the world had been lifted of her shoulders. Bisi’s visit had been such a blessing to her and she was grateful she and her husband had this chance to redeem their marriage.
She shut the door, picked up her phone and dialled her husbands’ number on speed dial. Even his caller ring-back-tune felt refreshingly fresh for she hadn’t called him in a while.
She smiled when he answered his call almost immediately.
“My love.” She said.