Adaku dipped the piece of yam in the plate of akwukwo anara before placing it into her mouth. She spat into her hand immediately. This was exactly what she hated- new yam! How many times was she going to tell Ifeanyi never to cook her new yam? He always forgot, or maybe he did it on purpose, to kill her slowly. She feared him, the husband who never lifted a finger against her, the one who always told her never to take a good man for granted. Yes, that’s what he called himself- a good man.
Ifeanyi turned from the dressing table where he was brushing his hair, preparing to go to his store at the Alaba International market. “Nne, eat some more, inugo? You need oil in your stomach, something that will give you more blood, not all this piri piri you have been dwelling on.”
Adaku held her neck, fixing her eyes on the slowly-rotating blades of the ceiling fan, “I am nauseated. I have no appetite. Maybe later.” She turned to face the wall. She felt Ifeanyi’s eyes on her bare back, felt it boring through her and straight into her heart, right where she kept Eric. That was the only place where she and Eric met now, where he kissed her softly, starting from her neck, then her cheek, her forehead, her nose, and lastly her lips. He called it saving the best for last and Adaku always laughed even though Eric did not intend it as a joke. Eric would whisper in her ears words that mesmerised her, and she would bask in all the attention he bathed her with. “Come here, baby,” he usually called out to her. There was something about the way he spoke that thrilled Adaku, made her want to listen to his every word, made her want to divorce Ifeanyi and marry him. Eric was the man of her dreams.
“Where were you when I was single?” Adaku would ask Eric.
“I was on my way. You should have waited, but no, you were so much in a hurry to be called Mrs.”
Adaku laughed. She always did when she had no ready response. She met Ifeanyi in her first year at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was contracted to install computers at the newly-opened cyber cafe close to her hostel.
She did not expect the large sum of money Ifeanyi doled out to her when she told him about the outstanding faculty fees she was yet to pay. Her father was being owed three months’ salary and her mother kept on pleading with her to exercise some patience, money would come soon.
When Ifeanyi returned to Lagos, he called Adaku frequently to ask about her studies. He sent her money, and when he could, visited her in school. Adaku told her mother about Ifeanyi, and she called him many times, offering profuse prayers unto God asking Him to bless Ifeanyi with all that he desired. “Okay, my in-law, bye bye,” she usually ended her calls with.
It was on the day Adaku wrote her final degree exam that Ifeanyi called. He was in Nsukka and had planned a surprise party for her to celebrate ‘the latest economist in town’. He was bringing some friends along and she could invite a few of her friends if she so wished. A cab would be waiting to pick them in a few hours.
Flooded with relief at finishing her exams and ecstatic at the prospects of grooving all night, Adaku told her close friends, Ngozi and Anita, about the party. They all spent good time complaining about not having dresses to wear while they prepared for the evening, fixing their lashes, painting their nails.
Midway into the party, Adaku stood in utter shock, tears stinging her eyes. Everyone was applauding, ooohing, ahhhing, camera lights were flashing. Ifeanyi was on a bended knee, “I have waited years to tell you. I have willed myself to be patient. I have dreamt of you as the mother of my children and the force behind my success. Will you marry me, Adaku?”
Adaku was speechless. She had never dreamt of being wife to Ifeanyi Ezeokeke. She did not want to bear his children either. She had only seen him as her God-sent angel whom she was truly grateful for.
“Go on, Ada, say ‘yes’,” her friends cooed from the sides. Ifeanyi was still on his knee, a moment too long. The waiters had emerged from their posts. Everyone was waiting, watching expectantly.
Spreading her left fingers forward, she covered her face with her right hand, “Yes,” she said, “yes, yes, yes,” she repeated as though to leave no one in doubt of what her response was.
The gathering erupted in applause, glasses clinking, camera lights flashing again. Adaku and Ifeanyi sealed their engagement with a brief awkward kiss.
The next day, Adaku travelled home. “Mummy, it’s unbelievable,” she began as soon as she had some time alone with her mother, “Ifeanyi gave me an engagement ring yesterday… in public…”
“Heeeewuuuuu,” her mother exclaimed, “My God is faithful. He will never lie. He has…”
“Mummy,” Adaku interrupted in an angry tone, “I don’t love him.” Her mother stared at her, incredulous. “I only accepted it because it was in public. I didn’t want to embarrass him. I don’t love him. I can’t even fathom waking up beside him everyday for the rest of my life.”
“I bu onye nzuzu,” her mother said in an angrier voice, “Don’t behave like a stupid ignorant child. Is that not the man who pays for the luxuries you come home with at the end of every semester? Has he not been the one taking care of you for years?”
Adaku folded her arms, looking away, “I don’t love him,” she repeated.
“Love kwa? You don’t have to love him now, nne m. Love grows in marriage. I did not love your father when I married him, but look at us today.”
“But I don’t want to end up like you. Ifeanyi has no university education sef. What will people say?”
“That is of almost no importance. He has the money that people with PhDs do not have,” her mother rebutted, “A man loves you and has the character and money to prove it. You don’t need anything else!”
And so, one rainy Saturday early in April, Adaku exchanged vows with Ifeanyi. “I will grow to love him,” she consoled herself as she tried to muster genuine smiles at everyone who told her how beautiful she looked.
Every night as she lay beside Ifeanyi, as he climbed her, as he gently pulled away her clothes, she felt him snatch her happiness. She always lay still, waiting for her love for him to grow. She waited until she bumped into Eric at the shopping mall one evening on her way back from work. She felt again what she first felt for him when she was seventeen and they were both classmates in their first year, before he travelled to Canada to study. From the way he held her hand, she knew he felt the same way too.
“Your happiness is in your hands. You can choose to mar it by considering what other people think of your decisions,” Eric told her, and she made up her mind to travel with him for the period of her work leave. She would tell Ifeanyi she was being sent for a seminar. He would believe her. What did he know about the corporate financial world anyway? She would snatch back her chance at happiness.
Ifeanyi watched Adaku as she packed a small travel bag. From the way she avoided meeting his eyes, he knew. He knew she was lying. He knew he was losing the woman he sponsored through school to a more qualified man. “Make her come back to me, God. I will not lose Adaku. Bring her back home to me.”
Ifeanyi received the call in the evening. Adaku was involved in a ghastly car accident. Her travelling partner was dead. She was unconscious, being treated at the teaching hospital. He was to come immediately.
He slowly put on his shirt, trying to organize his thoughts. Was this God’s answer to his prayers? He stayed with Adaku for most of the eight weeks she was at the hospital. He never once asked about her travelling partner. God had taken care of him.
Ifeanyi looked at Adaku, her once straight fair legs atrophying away. This was the Adaku he deserved, the Adaku that deserved him.
“I will see you when I get back, nwanyi oma m. If you need anything while I am away, call Ekene.” His thick lips brushed against her back. Adaku remained silent. For better for worse till death does us part. He intended to keep it so.