The pulse of the beat emanating from the loudspeakers made even the most gauche and stiff person nod their heads, sway in their seats or tap their feet to the rhythm of music. That was the power of a medley of the latest Naija tunes, which by the way is a staple to guarantee a bubbly party.
The lavish get together at the opulent Oriental hotel was very well attended and the upwardly mobile guests were all dressed to the nines for the occasion. The gentlemen looked dapper in their native outfits and the ladies were a burst of brightness and elegance.
Most of the ladies were either outfitted in slinky dresses that showed off ample bosoms and ankles or were gorgeously bedecked in colorful tailored to fit Lace or Ankara attires, accessorized with all the necessary artillery, from expensive jewelery, to Manolo Blahnik shoes, bling clutches, bank-breaking hair weaves or artfully tied geles/head-ties, which perched on their proud crowns. Their faces were equally perfect canvases of fine artistry and their thick false eyelashes stood inches away from their powder layered skin.
It was a joyful occasion. It was the celebration and dedication of a child born after 14 years of anticipated waiting. A classy and sublime Nigerian party. Champagne and assorted drinks flowed freely without restrictions. Finger licking foods of diverse menu was in surplus rations and the Master of ceremony occasionally interjected the music with a rib-cracking joke or a little side talk to sweeten the atmosphere.
Yet every moment that passed was like ages spent in a hot seat for Coco. Her intestines were contorted in nerves of pins and needles and she could barely wait for the party to be over so that she would escape to the confines of her home.
“Who invited him here”? She muttered under her breath, sensing some serious mischief on the way, but she was unable to give him his matching orders without drawing unnecessary attention to both of them. It would take one discerning eye to tell. Just one eagle-eyed gossip, who spends more time with her/his nose stuck in other peoples affair. That was all that is required for her life to become a mess.
Another oohing and aahing admiration from a guest drew her attention back to the bundle of joy cradled in her arms. She carelessly caressed the little one’s soft, downy hair, as she listened to yet another analysis of who the baby looked like: whether he looked like her Coco or like Ben.
“My sister, I am happy for you o”, intoned Bisi. “Indeed, God is very faithful o”. “Ah! I was just telling my sister Lola in London, about your testimony o”. “Telling her to have courage and be patient, that he will surely answer in his time o”. “Hmm, your baby is so cute o”. “He is almost as fine as a girl o”. “See all the hair, see the fairness”.
“Your belle is very good o”. “See this fine pikin wey you just born as he yellow, well well, this one no resemble you at all o”. “Maybe na your husband people him resemble”, she carried on her monologue, whilst Coco responded in grunts of appreciation at the same time trying to keep an eye out for the uninvited guest. A good party with lots of liberal drinks had a way of bringing out the pidgin in you.
Soon enough, Simbi glided over to where she sat with the uninvited guest in tow.
“Guess who is in town”? she chirped in her syrupy falsetto. “I ran into him, and we got talking and I told him about your good fortune, I couldn’t help but invite him to come along with me, since I had no one to come with”. She and her husband parted ways, several years ago.
Coco raised her eyes, muttered a cold welcome through clogged throat as she fought an inner battle to keep her face as bland as possible, even though her heart beats were so loud that she thought it could be heard by anyone. Staring into his face catapulted her back to thirteen months and twelve days ago, when she deliberately placed herself in a compromising situation.
She had grown bone weary of being poked and prodded by one gynecologist or the other, subjecting herself to countless fertility tests. Then again, anything to have a baby was worth the while.
She had grown deeply tired of being looked on as useless and her desperation to cradle her own child reached its apogee, when she overheard her sister-in-law insidiously telling her husband that their new home was beautiful, but it was a shame that there were no patters of feet to decorate and warm the house.
She knew that it was a question of time before she would be faced with the challenge of a new wife for Ben, or if she was lucky, he would choose to be discreet and have the children outside with a more fruitful lady.
Every month that her menstrual cycle turned up was like an extra nail on her cross, and a heavy weight on her mind.
Her yearning had left a cavern in her soul. She had cried and sought forgiveness from God for any sin that might be an obstacle in receiving the fruit of the womb. She had danced from one prayer hall to the other. From one night vigil to the other. From one candle lit Pastor to the other, all to no avail.
She had proposed IVF, but Ben found a thousand reasons not to be keen on it.
Adoption was not such a common phenomenon in Nigeria, besides, she needed her husband to buy into such an idea.
The doctors had said that nothing was wrong with her, yet she secretly believed she was at fault. She felt that God was punishing her for all the abortions that she had committed in her youth.
She couldn’t scream from the rooftops or confide in Ben that she was capable of conceiving, based on her numerous pregnancies in the past when she was still single. That would be like a keg of gun powder for a canon!
His silent accusation of ruining her womb will join the turmoil that she was experiencing, thus, her guilt sentenced her to silence.
“Ore, what did the doctor say?” Simbi inquired as they strolled through Balogun market in search of the perfect aso ebi for Stella’s mothers burial.
She and Simbi came a long way from their school days as room mates at University of Ife. They had weathered a whole lot together.
“The same old story o, my sister”. “I have flushed my tubes over and over again, that they must resemble express ways by now”, Coco said wryly.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what of Ben”? Simbi inquired. Daring to venture into that aspect which was sacred and not open for discussion.
“Ben ke”? Coco asked
“Yes now”? “After all it is the two of you that are in this matter”.
“His doctor said nothing is wrong with him o”, Coco reported.
“His doctor”? “Did you two see him together”? Simbi queried, like a dog chewing on a bone.
Coco looked at her friend sharply. “Just what are you saying exactly Simbi”?
“Hmm! Ore, don’t be annoyed o”. “But has he really checked to see that he is okay”? “My dear sister, I remember some things o”. “We both know that you can conceive”. “I am just saying that you shouldn’t leave these things to chance anymore”. “We are getting old o”. “After forty o, this conception matter gets more difficult”. “This is the time to act”.
“So what is your suggestion?” Coco inquired. “You are speaking in parables”.
“I think you should get him to check again”. “I don’t want you to say tomorrow that I am the devil o, but if it is me, I will try elsewhere, just to see o, Simbi concluded in her matter of fact approach of speaking.
Those little subtle seeds of suggestion took root and festered in Coco’s mind for several moons to pass. She paid serious attention to Ben’s activities and carried out her own private clinical investigations afterwards. It was a shock to find out that he had low sperm count and had probably known that, all these years, but she couldn’t confront him. She could not dare give a voice to her questions. She knew it would bring serious discord which might cost her, her marriage. And since she wanted to stay married, she kept quiet.
In Africa a man can never be impotent. Ha! How can that be? It is always the woman’s fault for failing to be fruitful and to multiply children in triplicates or more copies.
But her vengeful heart knew no peace and other ideas took roots. She reconnected with the uninvited guest on social media and bid her time. He had succeeded in impregnating her in the past, during school days; though he had never been privy to that knowledge. They were just unprepared students. The seduction was timely and complete. Two months later it was a slam dunk. She was pregnant.
Ben had been ecstatic at the news of the forth-coming baby. They went on a shopping spree in London. The baby would have the best that money could buy.
All seemed well and blissful, until Simbi started making some sly and irksome comments.
She no longer felt at ease with her good friend, finding good excuses to keep her at an arms length.
Watching as her friend got down low to the music with him, she contemplated her next possible steps even as she joined her husband on the dance floor for the showers of monetary blessings.
They continued their dance of deceit, but at what cost? Who knows?
© Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha
For some readers who might require the meanings of some of the words for better clarity and understanding, kindly find below:
Also note that we stretch our syllables when we speak and almost always end our sentences with a long drawn ooh when gisting/discussing back home.
Ankara: African prints/fabrics
Aso ebi (pronounced Asho eybee) These refers to Nigerian outfits made from matching fabric to be worn by a group of people to a party, wedding, burial or any other social gathering.
Belle: (pronounced beh-leh) stomach/belly
Gele: traditional Nigerian head wrap made of different textures.
Naija: an acronym or slang as another name for Nigeria, a patriotic name for Nigerians to show union, emotions, strength etc
Ore mi: (pronounced Awe-reh mee) My friend
Pidgin: grammatically simplified form of English
Pikin: (pronounced pee-keen) child
wey you just born: that you delivered
Yellow: refers to very light/fair complexion.