The morning Nkem woke, she noticed a mole on her inner thigh. For the first time, it brought sweet-unpleasant memories, hidden in the enclave of contended loss. The mole was just a little too close to where she cut herself, while trying to tame the grazing hair that shepherd that extreme area of her intimacy.
She woke up with a feeling to go for morning mass, but as she looked deep into the mirror, another face greeted her. The face was hers, but something looked different for the first time, after eighteen years of marriage: the bugs under her eyes, the numerous blow outs on her face and dark crusts that receded to make space for more that were yet to come.
From her face, she travelled down to her neck that looked dry and unsavoury. She stretched her arm towards her neck, lingered for a while before joining the other just to relieve herself of the short silk nightwear she wore right from their conjugal night. She looked at the image again; naked, under naked florescent light. The image in the mirror thrust forward, as though it were about to judge her of something she couldn't be blamed for; a bleak-bad memory, maybe.
Her breasts nestled upon her chest like how Chuma would descend on their pillows, each night he came home drunk and soaked in miseries of yesteryears – from wherever – and his head would hit the pillow from ground zero. With revolting abandonment, his naked back would lie far away from hers, which was always cold, hungry and neglected. But the image that morning was different; she could see the black dots on her chest, the insects that slept over the night and the images that scuffed at her.
She dropped what she discarded where they belonged, and went under the shower to relish her body in reckless abandonment.
"Forgive me father...."
It was the third time she tried to confess to Father Nzube, but her bowl came forth empty. Her mind was actually clouded on what to confess; there was not a single sin she got a grip on. The dejection she felt inside, Chuma's audacious take on the pleasures that drove him at night, her boss’ incessant needs that harvested every woman in her... or just nothing. She could not come each morning to confess; the same bone got in between her speech zone. But gazing deep into her preconceived basket of sins, she could not pick out a dirty lining.
She unclasped her knees off the floor, dusted herself, turned around and started to walk away to the far end of the church. A still quiet voice came floating, engraved around her ears and she redressed her steps. Nkem made her legs stop and wait while Father drew forward in a white apparel that swept the marble floors sinless. His face was hidden behind glasses that stuck too close to his carrot nose, but he wore a smile that made her remember the raging image in the mirror. But she could not get herself to stare at him the way he did her; she once heard that his eyes drew all storms to a standstill.
He looked at her in a questioning way. This man she had confessed her sins to for a year now, sat on the high tables next to her during their zonal harvest and Bazaar, or anything that needed her attention at the Parish. This same person she stared at on each Sunday, waiting to hear a word of comfort that would repel the rivers of guilt, depression and fatigue that accompanied her each day to and fro work. His words always made her drop memories and smoke on life. But his words didn't stop her boss from his cajoles of her inner entrails – his frivolities with her – nor did it stop Chuma from coming home drenched in a shadow of himself at night.
His words could not take away the smell of blood from her senses; neither would it cure the loss of Nedu – their only hope of being called parents. It was at his fatal death that Chuma took the runway. They used to be one happy family until that faithful day. Nedu's teacher called from the mortuary; he wanted them to come and identify a corps with no identity. The trailer driver didn't see their little superman crossing the road; neither did he sense the crushing bump under his heavy tyres. He was only a child! It was his blue school bag – blue was his favourite colour – that gave him away.
Chuma took his death like a woman. He was meant to pick him up from school because Nkem was far away in PortHacourt with her overly demanding boss, editing company accounts and attending to his itching needs in between rumpled sheets. But the gruesome news came, searched and found her... her son was dead! A painful death which no child at seven deserved. It tore them beyond redemption.
His grandparents could not cry... they couldn’t. They just couldn't bring themselves to do so, when his parents were silent beyond consolation. It was impossible to cry more than the bereaved. Nkem came home to nothing. Her husband had relieved himself of his duties, earned much more debt and she became the oxen that hunched under the weight of an elephant.
Chuma gradually slided down the ladder of family responsibility. It struck her from nowhere, and she landed on her bare behind.
She came back – much later at him – who knew she had gone a long mile all the while. He looked her up and down, folded his lips the way she knew, and descended his browse in a state of worry.
"How are you? You don't look your everyday spirit, why?”
Her lips were sealed from confusion. She felt embarrassed for walking out on him the same way she did many years back. He did no wrong, but life had handed her nothing but a place on the wrong side of the bed. He knew she had a lot to say.
“Go to work,” He said, “We shall meet when you come to deliver the report.”
As she made to turn, he held her on the shoulder with one hand, and with the other came a mighty gust of peace which she departed with.
Nkem gathered her bag, papers and the things she needed for dinner, so could leave. She noticed that her hands shook. She was done with him! She stopped gathering her things, sat back on her chair and then held her head in her hands while few drops of tears escaped through her palms. She was a woman, broken beyond repairs. Her vision was already blurred from the sobs that escaped her. Father always said they should not allow their problems to get to them, but this was more than she could handle. She wiped her face with the hem of her gown, stuffed the rest of the things in the bag and left the office. She never looked back.
It wasn't that she wanted it all, but some bread to quench her cravings wouldn’t kill at all. As she drove home from Father’s that night, the dark veil was lifted off her face. The memory of their meeting resonated; rounded her like the drum beats from the ikoro.
Flashback to memories of old. When she were small till she finished school, her parents normally took her home for Christmas. There was this football festival that brought everyone together. People abroad usually came home just to watch this football match. Most times, they played for so long till the food and water in the shades eventually ran out, because nobody wanted to leave. They wanted to know which team would reign supreme for the next one year.
Their walk together began on a cold rainy December night. On that faithful day, the match ended so late that people were forced to find their paths home using torch lights. While she found her way, a car halted by and the driver offered her a ride. She couldn't help walking under the rain; but she obliged the offer and glided onto the passenger's seat. The Good Samaritan was not so bad; he immediately shut down his air cooler and turned on his heater. He withdrew his jacket from the back seat and offered her some warmth. She was ever grateful. Notwithstanding the distance, he placed her feet upon her father’s threshold, leaving her with his name on the tip of her tongue. And after so many years down the line, she couldn’t forget Nzube.
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If you liked this story, kindly leave a comment below
Good job.....the story line is captivating..... It ended abruptly though.
@Anuli... Thanks four your comment. The author of this story will be glad to read them.
Good job.....the story line is captivating..... It ended abruptly though.
The work is simply wonderful
@Faith Ajokeade... Thanks for your honest review. The author will take note of it in her subsequent writings.
THE STORY ENDED ABRUPTLY.TOO MANY LOOSE ENDS. note: THIS IS A HONEST REVIEW.
@Jammy @Kofi... Thanks for compliments. Oluoma would be glad to read them
Nice one there . Love your style of writing. Looking forward for more. Thanks
@Oluoma... Thanks very much for your compliment. We really appreciate. 😊
In a sentence, coutales is simply the best. Dear reader, in my language, DALU, THANK YOU.
Excellent writing style. I've been following your stories closely. I enjoy them.
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