Her Weakest Strength

A good heart”.

That’s the name they gave to her condition.

She was without a doubt the kindest person you may never meet, and the honesty in her words flowed like melted butter.

She didn’t kid herself into thinking that she could wish away the evils of the world, but she was hopeful enough to believe in the good in everyone.

Amber.

That was her name.

And unlike the amber-coloured vessels in Chemistry, she didn’t hold any volatility within. If anything, she wore her heart on her sleeves.

It’s a nice accessory” she responded every time a friend commented to that effect. “What I am trying to say is XYZ has no reason to lie to me. We are not even close enough for me to care

Oh, Amber! This was the problem.

Reuben walked into your life in perfect order; saved you from an embarrassing situation, defended you a second time without knowing your first name and helped you meet an urgent need.

He was your Knight in shining armour, even if you claimed to not subscribe to clichés.

Ruby, that was your pet name for him, would never lie to me” that was your defence every time someone pointed out a situation didn’t add up.

Every time he called you beautiful, you believed him.

Every time he promised to do better, you believed him.

Every time he said he loved you, you believed him.

Not because on your own you felt the need for a sense of validation, but because in your books all his goodness had crossed out his tiny flaws.

What are humans without their flaws?” you jokingly ask.

You were right in believing Ruby, Dear Amber.

He did mean those things every time he said them to you.

He never intended to do you wrong. He got carried away and forgot to mention his engagement.

Time went by so fast and he didn’t get the chance to explain he was already taken.

He showed up on his wedding day asking you to elope with him, so that he can do right by you.

Good intentions never resolve the issues, Dear Reuben.

Amber hasn’t been out of her room in 3 weeks. We know she is not dead because we hear her singing. We know she is still sane because we hear her sobbing.

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Solo.

It’s that time of the year again.

The birthdays are all past and there seems to be no event in sight, to keep you relatively eager to keep in touch.
You are subconsciously wondering in every of your circle..
“Can you hear me? Can you even see me?”
You have picked up your phone and dropped it a million times already.
You can’t help that everyone and everything feels so distant.
So disconnected.
You are going to be okay, you are convinced of this.
But you don’t understand why there is a tiny voice in you not thoroughly convinced.
Saying the times are different.
Nothing was the same.

You sigh and prop yourself up again.
You are all you ever had in the first place.

Sophia Vergara

This is not a post about Sophia, I promise.
Heck, I could probably do only 5 sentences on her if I tried. So, no fear.
I couldn’t find an appropriate title, so I improvised.
Disclaimer : The following story is absolutely fictional. Any likeness or semblance to your situation is total coincidence  (& there’s something you might want to see at the end of it).
In the meantime…

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“Shirley is having a life band at her wedding. Did you know that? She says Marcus insists.” This was from the tallest girl in a gathering of five girls at a breakfast table. They all had lilac bathrobes on, which clearly meant they were uniform for something.
The updo hairstyle would be a giveaway that they were bridesmaids.
“I hope they are any good. I’m sorry Shirley,  but I can’t dance to highlife music…” “you can’t dance to any type of music” someone interrupted and the rest of the table laughed.
“We have to hurry. Shirley wants to be a punctual bride,lets not be the reason she is late.” Faye said. Faye was maid of honor so the rest of the girls were sort of her responsibility.
Two hours later, Shirley is at the vestry of the church, sitting and waiting to be called for her procession. Her Dad is fussing over how his baby is leaving, while the girls are trying   not to notice that Marcus was remarkably late and his groomsmen already arrived.
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“Marcus!”
The alarm on her face could not be disguised. She stands stunned and they stare at each other for a bit. He is looking like a deer caught in the lights.
“You came here instead?”she finally asks, trying to steady her voice.
He nods.
She fights her expression for a bit, while he stays searching her face.
She steps away from the door and works wordlessly into the house.
He shuts the door behind him and follows her lead.
She settles for the love seat in her den, he pulls a stool to sit and face her.
“Say something Sophia ”
“Say something? Marcus, really?”
“Fine. I’ll say then.
I have not spoken to Shirley yet.
This is not because I’m cowardly or anything. Or because I want to leave that option open still.
I only just realised that when you said happy married life with that smirk, you were daring me.
I couldn’t afford the gamble.
So I came here instead.”
Sophia unconsciously reaches for his a little shaky hands.
” You don’t think we are being a little too selfish? ” Sophia was crumbling inside and her voice was giving her away.
“I have not figured out how to let Shirley know. I figured I’d call her or something.
Or be that coward I despised earlier and let them do the math” he manages a chuckle and Sophia smiled.
She closes the gap and kisses him lightly.
So lightly it tickled a little.
Or maybe that was a loose hair hanging.
“As long as you are my coward, it’s alright ”

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The whispering and muttering around Shirley was increasing.
She was fighting the urge to ask what’s up. She had tried hard up to this point to not be a bridezilla.
Marcus was running late. Very late.
She didn’t know how late because she didn’t fancy brides that wore wristwatches so she didn’t get any. The clock in the vestry was out of order,  so she repasted a smile on her face and fiddled with her bouquet.
“Baby”
That’s her mother’s voice. She turns to face her and instantly panics. Mother is half crying!  Whyyy??!!!
Her mother embraces her and whispers “Marcus is not coming”
Shirley drops her bouquet. The beads go clattering across the floor.
She let’s go off all the tension,  agitation, the unbelievable pain and starts to cry. Her friends gather to help comfort her..but clearly there was hardly anything anyone could do for her.
Shirley had dreamt so much about her dream wedding to Marcus. It had nothing in common to this disaster that’s her current reality.
Loosing herself from the embrace, she whispered to be left alone.
Her mother rounds everyone up and shuts the door behind them.
Shirley searches for her phone in her emergency hold-all , switches it on and speed-dials Marcus. Call doesn’t connect.
Shirley sits again,  absolutely torn.
“I can’t believe this is happening to me”.

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“Did you hear about Shirley? ”
“Hear ke? I was there live!”
“Chai. Poor thing”
“I know right! She didn’t deserve it at allll”
“Thunder fire the next man that tries to pull that “I’m different line” on me. I mean, if Marcus,  perfect Marcus could be soo evil, imagine the ones who are now outright sleazes”
Ginika was always the dramatic one and the girls laughed at that one.
“I have not really heard the gist . biko, do you know what exactly happened? ”
“Sadly, I do.
Marcus had this girlfriend since secondary school. She was his mate and all. I heard they broke up because after their first degree she was insistent on going to study medicine, and wouldn’t marry before she had become certified. Marcus’s mother has a problem with that. Wants all her children settled before she retires and orchestrates the break up. Marcus meets our Shirley through his mom and likes her enough to date again. As rebellion though, he waits until his mother retires to propose ( the girls laugh).
Somehow Marcus and that girl meet again, I think her name is Sophia or something. Nothing has changed between them and Marcus chooses to wait for her instead of marrying Shirley ”

The “Awwws” from the girls are quite confusing at this point, you can’t tell if it’s pity for Shirley, or because they are thinking ‘awesome love story’.

Oh! & I promised to share a lesson at the end. 😆
Moral of the story is ensure to eliminate past competition who may pose this kind of threat.😐 don’t ask me how.
xoxo
Jemjem

Slavery

This is not what I anticipated that it would feel like.

Tunji and I’s romance had been amazing in every way. I told him I loved him, and he believed me.

Two months later, 96 days after we first met and 94 days after we started dating, he took me to go and visit his mother.

Alhaja Bosede Folarin was expecting us, and had made her cook prepare a feast for us.

I was overwhelmed.

The Jollof rice was well made and the goat meat pepper soup was the spiciest I had ever had. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, and the warmth between Tunji and his mother quickly dissolved my uneasiness at meeting his mother. Tunji held my hand and squeezed it lovingly at intervals. That was his way of checking if I was comfortable. I squeezed his back gently and smiled every time he did, reassuring him that I was okay.

I slept in Tunji’s room that night, while Tunji slept in the living room.

I was a bit amused at that, seeing as we were almost living together back in Owerri.

I woke up to Iya Tunji, leaning over my bed and tapping me gently.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Nkechi. But I need to speak with you before Tunji wakes and begins to rush you people back” she said.

I sat up and wiped my eyes. i managed a smile, and offered her greetings.

“Hope everything is alright Iya? “ I asked. She sat at the foot of the bed, facing me, and nodded.

There was a little pause, and I wondered what was on her mind,before she drew a deep breath and spoke.

“I understand you and Tunji have been courting for a long time now.” I giggled and tried to protest that it wasn’t such a long time but, she motioned for me to shush. “all you will do is listen. What I have to say is small and simple. My son Tunji is in love with you. He might not have told you but I am certain. You are not the first girl he is bringing home but you are the first one that he is bringing home to me. He called me about three weeks ago to stock up the house and prepare to host him and his woman. Secondly, he is sleeping in the parlour, I don’t know who is trying to deceive but I know it is to protect my opinion of you.”

She took a deep breath.

“It’s from these little but great acts that you know. I am certain of my sons intention. So, now I am asking you, do you love my son?” she asked.

I didn’t hesitate to answer, but I needed to find my voice, such that when I answered “yes ma. I do” it came out like a stutter.

“Are you sure?” she asked. And I nodded maintaining eye contact with her.

“I understand you Igbo people have converted my son to Christianity, I have no reservations. God is everywhere. But I will want my grandchildren to choose their own path, just like my son has.”

I laughed and said shyly. “Ah mama, we will cross that bridge when the time comes”

She joined me in low tones and said “get some rest now, day breaks soon, and Tunji will come for you. I just needed to reassure you of this.”

I remember being unable to control my smiles. Every time I looked at Tunji in the following days I couldn’t hide the grin. Tunji would often ask what the matter was, which I always replied in my cheesiest baby voice “nothing, I am just happy.”

150 days after we first met, Tunji asked me to be his wife and I said yes.

And in typical Tunji fashion, he wasn’t interested in the minor details, as soon as we could get a court date, we were wedded at the marriage registry and had a few friends over for dinner at our regular joint. It was beautiful in its own way. I fulfilled my fantasy of wearing a black dress at my wedding and the restaurant owner where we dined gave us a 10% discount on all orders.

We didn’t have a honeymoon. A weekend at my parents apartment in Abuja was all we could afford. Tunji was only a serving corper and I was in my 3rd year to become a Medical Laboratory scientist. We were very happy, and everyone thought that of us too.

I remember laughing whenever my mother called to admonish me, on being a patient wife. I always replied her with ”thank you mama, I will always remember your advice when I need it. but for now, God answered all, every one of your prayers for me by giving me Tunji.”

I still remember our first fight. Someone in my class was running for a students’ union post and had made me her campaign manager. This meant a lot of fraternising with other students and Tunji did not like it one bit. “you seem to receive a lot of phone calls these days.” He started quite harmlessly. I saw it as an opportunity to fill him in on all my victories. He managed to look interested while I was talking, until my phone rang and I picked up and started to chant rather wildly “ GREAT NIGERIAN STUDENT!!! I CAN NEVER BE INTIMIDATED NIGERIAN STUDENT!!!” I backed him during the conversation, if not I would have seen the change in his expression.as soon as I hung up the call, I couldn’t miss the ice in his voice when he said   “ I forbid it that I will be having a conversation with my wife and she will cut me off to scream so uncouth on the phone with who I don’t know!”  “Ah TeeJay, e ma binu,” I had started to pick up a little yoruba because it made Tunji very pleased. ” It’s the electoral body responsible for Mirabelle’s election I just told you about.” “what electoral body?!” he flared. he wouldn’t let me explain when I tried, and he screamed and scolded until he was spent then he walked away from me. Out of the house. I was too stunned to react. Before now our most heated arguments had been about our choice of pizza, or something just as trivial. I dug up my mothers advises and tried to remember what she had said, because I had hardly paid any attention. I made dinner and waited up. When Tunji returned past midnight, he walked right past me into the bedroom.

The next morning, I was told I couldn’t be in the electoral team or politics anymore  because he didn’t like the woman it was turning me into. I apologised to Mirabelle, and took a bow from politics.

We had to move back to Omuo-Ekiti when Tunji rounded up NYSC and Iya Tunji’s health deteriorated. I applied to have my studies transferred to the state university at Ado, but when it was taking too long, Tunji suggested I started taking care of his mother’s Tie and Dye shop.

Initially it was fascinating. I enjoyed the dyeing process a little more than I should have.

Until Tunji brought home another woman.  He complained that my dyes were causing him a sort of food poisoning and henceforth, the woman would be responsible for his meals. “just your meals” I asked for clarification. “whatever you want Iyawo.” He didn’t sound endearing when he replied, so I gave him a fight. “mi o understand, if u needed a cook or someone to cook your meals why did you not at least tell me so that I can ask Iya Tunji’s cook to attend to you as well?” I asked, hands akimbo and throwing all my mothers admonitions away. He gave me a look I didn’t understand, hissed and walked out on me.

I stormed straight to Iya Tunji’s room to report the matter. “Iya, OlaTunji ori e darun” I started, curtsying same time. “Ah! Nkechinyere, what do you mean by that?” “He has brought home another woman!” even as the words left my mouth, I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. “Olorun maje!” Iya exclaimed. “what is the meaning of that? Where is he?” mama stormed past me to go find Tunji, while I scuttled behind her. He had already gone out, sensing the drama that was coming his way.

When we were assembled that night, to answer his mothers question to if it was not too early, he said “I am tired of having my meals prepared by uneducated women!”

I broke down in tears instantly. Iya Tunji let out a very loud “Ah!”

I would not be consoled. Tunji felt some remorse seeing as we both wouldn’t stop, his mother especially, he tried to pacify her. I flinched at his touch.

Tunji just called me uneducated.

The lines kept replaying in my head as I tried to sleep that night, until my head ached.

The woman didn’t stay. But Tunji barely ate at home , and kept late nights. So it was obvious that he just changed location to appease his mother, who was consoled. “you should only worry about the witch that lives under the same roof with you” that was her logic. I didn’t buy it though.

My relationship with Tunji became very strained. It appeared that every conversation we had found  a way to end up in a fight. The only way I could get him to reason with me was to involve his mother as a mediator.

By 29 months of married life, I was fed up. Totally and completely.

To worsen situations, I was having a little difficulty getting pregnant. There were cases of false pregnancy, and with every menstrual period was the torment of including sanitary towels in the shopping list. Tunji insisted that every penny spent be accounted for, such that if I had to buy groundnut to drink Garri, I had to get creative. He didn’t give me any pocket money because “if I am already paying for everything you use, I might as well be aware of what my money is being spent on.” He said to his mother in one of our meetings where Iya tried to encourage him to leave me some cash.

Considering that Tunji was an only child, and Children were definitely important to Iya. I knew it was only a matter of time before my inability to conceive turned her against me.

I had lost face in my marriage, because it seemed that I was unable to be the wife I dreamed I would be to Tunji.

I couldn’t feed him.

I was uneducated and unemployed (Iya never offered me any salary for the work I put in at her place; I was not promoted past apprentice.)I couldn’t be the wife he was proud of.

I could not even give him children. I found that I was slaving away in unhappiness.

Become an unconventional slave to my high hopes and expectations. A slave to a happily never after that I didn’t plan for.

This is really not what I pictured married life with Tunji would become.