Nkechi looked at her husband’s family members comprising her husband’s mother, his sister and his first cousin. His sister, Ujunwa spat in her direction.
“Tufia. You must leave this house today.”
“Pack your load, barren woman.” Ejike’s mother shouted.
Nkechi stood like one in a trance. She looked at Ejike but he refused to meet her eyes. His new wife sat beside him grinning from ear to ear. She was old enough to be her daughter if she wasn’t barren like her husband’s mother had called her. She took a deep breath and looked to the heavens. No words were muttered but her heart cried out to God in anguish.
Nkechi had met Ejike in the Aba market. She had run an errand for her mother and was about leaving the market when she saw one of her classmates talking to Ejike. Her classmate had introduced Ejike to her as his cousin who just arrived from Port-Harcourt for the festive season. Immediately Ejike saw her, he smiled and said; “You will be my wife.”
Nkechi had looked at him like one who had lost his senses. How do you meet someone and immediately call the person your wife? She was about to write her final exams and marriage was definitely the last thing on her mind. She intended to go to the University to study Nursing as she had long admired the sparkling white uniform of the village nurses.
A week later, Ejike and his father came to her house to discuss with her parents. Their discussion was not shared with her and she wondered what it was about. After her final exams, her father called her and informed her that Ejike and his family had asked for her hand in marriage. She told her father she wasn’t ready to get married but her father said he understood her fears. Ejike had promised to ensure she went to the University to study the course of her choice. Even though, Nkechi was not comfortable with her parents arrangements, she had had no choice but to accept.
Twenty-one years after, she had two degrees, a loving husband but no child. Ejike had stood by her all through but after the death of his father two years ago, Nkechi’s world came crashing. The death of her father-in-law opened her eyes to reveal her husband’s family. Her husband’s father was the only covering she had and she became exposed to the wiles of her husband’s mother and sister.
“Are you now deaf?” Her husband’s cousin yelled. She was yet to be married at forty-five and she really did not care about breaking her cousin’s family. She stood up and looked at her cousin. “Ejike, if you are not man enough, we will help you.” She said as she stormed towards the bedrooms.
Thirty minutes later, her husband’s sister and cousin dragged a box to the living room. “Carry your load and go oh. We don’t want a cursed woman in our family.” Her sister-in-law said.
“Ejike, Ejike!” Nkechi called as she took a deep breath. “What have I done to deserve this?”
Ejike kept mum refusing to look at the face of his wife of twenty-one years.
“No problem. I will go but I leave you in the hands of your maker.” Nkechi said as she shrugged.
“Witch, leave. Leave! She has eaten all the children in her womb.” Ejike’s mother shouted as she clapped her hands.
Nkechi went back to her mother’s house. Her dad was late and her mum now lived alone. Each day, Nkechi cried out to God and at a point, her mother had to tell her to leave God alone. “You have cried enough, my daughter. God is not deaf.”
One year later, Nkechi came back from work one evening and met one of her course mates from school talking to her mother.
“Uche!” She screamed when she saw him. “What are you doing here?”
Uche laughed. “I came to see you.”
“Me? How did you know I live here?”
“It is a small world and information flies around.” Uche said grinning.
Nkechi’s mother stood up and left the friends to catch up on old times.
“So I guess you heard?” Nkechi asked.
“I did and that’s why I came immediately.” Uche replied.
“I don’t understand.”
“Nkechi, I always wanted you but you were married.”
Nkechi stood up abruptly as she looked at Uche. “Which kain joke be dis? Abeg, stop am.” Nkechi said; her face getting serious.
“Do I look like one that is joking, Nkechi?
“Uche, abeg, come go your house.” Nkechi said.
“Please think about it, Nkechi. I mean every word.”
“Don’t you understand?” Nkechi asked; giving him a confused look. “I spent twenty-one years of my youthful life with a man and could not give him a child. I have been labelled a witch and a barren woman. I want to live the rest of my life in peace. Biko!”
Uche smiled. “I did not come to you because I wanted a child. I came to you for companionship.”
Nkechi got angry and walked Uche out of her mother’s house. Her mother who had listened to the whole conversation chided her. “I thought you had been praying to God.”
“Yes mama. What has my prayer got to do with this?”
“Open your heart, my daughter. God wants to change your story.”
Nkechi sighed deeply as she looked at her mother.
Two weeks later, Uche paid another visit to Nkechi house and decided to discuss with her mother. Nkechi’s mother gave her blessings and asked him to give her time. Soon, Nkechi’s heart softened towards Uche and she accepted his proposal. In two months, marriage preparations for a low key wedding began.
Six months after their wedding, Nkechi began to feel sick. She went to the hospital and she was confirmed three months pregnant. Nkechi could not believe the news. She went to two other hospitals to do a test and the results all came out positive. Uche was overjoyed and he began to take extra care of his wife.
In the thirty-seventh week, Nkechi put to bed a set of twin boys wiping away her shame of twenty-one years.
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