A SEQUEL TO QUAGMIRE by Sinmisola Ogúnyinka
Demi had just met the first woman her husband married, and was ready to die.
What was she to do? She had grown up in the western part of the country, most of it in her home town of Owena. She had only done her university education in Lagos, and then gone to Ilorin for one year youth service. In general terms, she had never crossed the Niger until she met and married her heart throb, Idem. Only that the throbbing of her heart now was not that of love but hate.
They had met when Idem travelled to Owena to carry out a construction project. For Demi, it had been love at first sight. Had she suspected he was married, she probably would never have given him a second thought. But not only did he somehow ‘look’ unmarried, he did not wear a ring, and through the three months of their courtship, never spoke of another woman. He never mentioned even a child, not to talk of three children.
Demi’s mother had been uncomfortable with the fact that only Idem’s junior brother came to represent the family at the wedding ceremony. It was so ridiculous that some of Demi’s friends and family had had to sit with the brother, and one other friend Idem met in Owena. Her father on the other hand, thought the world of Idem, and boasted of the kind of people Idem came from, Akwa Ibom people.
Demi would have loved to travel to Akwa Ibom state to meet Idem’s family, especially his parents, who he boasted of so frequently, as godly people who would ‘fall for Demi’ the moment they set eyes on her. But she could not find time to embark on the journey because Idem’s project took all the time, and the journey was a long one.
At some point, it seemed she didn’t trust him anymore, and he expressed hurt at her insistence, which he believed was fired by her mother. Demi relaxed after that, unwilling to risk her relationship with the ‘best man in the world.’
Now standing in the middle of a small parlour in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state, faced with a rotund woman who had just been introduced as her husband’s first wife, and three young children who looked ready to do anything their mother asked, she couldn’t think of what to do.
Idem had dropped her bag in the middle of the floor and after dropping the bombshell, walked further into the house. The woman stood arms akimbo, glaring at her with an expression of anger, disgust and so much hatred, you could almost taste it.
There was only one thing to do.
Demi moved forward in the direction Idem had taken. He couldn’t just leave her to face this woman alone. She had nothing to say to the woman. Her husband owed her plenty of explanation!
Offiong, that was what Idem had called the woman, stepped in Demi’s path, just in time to block her advance. “Where do you think you’re going to?”
Demi met her gaze. They were about the same height, 5’6, though Offiong seemed shorter, probably because she was plump. The eyes that stared back at Demi were round and dark with a threatening storm.
“To talk to my husband, of course!” Demi stepped aside out of her way.
Offiong took a quick step in the same direction. “This is my house. You are not welcome!”
“Excuse me!” Demi could not believe this. She had come to meet Idem’s family. She was already two months pregnant for him. She could never imagine what she was faced with now, but she was not ready to take a bow. She had not known he was married when she took her vows to love him and live with him for better or for worse!
Demi moved into the woman as though to walk through her, and the fat woman pushed her back. She lost her balance and fell on her bottom. A soft cry escaped from her lips.
“Idem!” she called out but got no response. “Idem!!! Come out here o!”
Offiong carried her bag from the middle of the floor where Idem had dropped it and opened the door, flinging it out. “Go back to where you came from, foolish idiot. Husband, my leg!”
She lifted Demi up by her upper arm quite easily, and pushed her out as well, and slammed the door.
Everything happened so fast, Demi could hardly catch her breath before realising she was out! She tried the knob of the door but it refused to budge. She banged on the door furiously, screaming Idem’s name at the top of her voice.
“You coward! Come out here if you dare. Come out and face me!”
A few curtains of neighbouring houses tipped and some people peeped. One or two others came out to check what the noise was all about but soon, everyone went back to their normal businesses.
Just to be malicious, Demi banged on the door a few more times with a stone she saw nearby, and then circled the bungalow.
She discovered it was a twin bungalow with a dividing fence, so one part was against the fence. The other part led to a small backyard that seemed as though doubled as an outdoor kitchen. Exhibiting a streak of malice she never knew she possessed, Demi proceeded to vandalize the backyard.
She didn’t realize she was crying until she stopped to examine the damage she had wrought. A pot of soup had been overturned, firewood and ashes were scattered everywhere. The dustbin had been emptied with the contents littering every available surface. Broken plates and cups were on the ground where they had been smashed.
The damage was much, but compared to what she felt, it was close to nothing. Demi heaved heavily, and smarted tears away from her eyes. She looked round and spied a window with the curtain partially opened. Three small pairs of eyes glared at her in consternation and awe.
She picked up a small pot she’d earlier emptied of its content and flung it toward the window. The children promptly closed the curtain.
Offiong’s voice, from within the room, came to her, strong and teasing, “Ashawo!!! Go back to where you came from o! Husband snatcher!!!” Offiong’s hand would have been on her mouth to make the screeching, mocking sound. “Wooooooo!”
Demi walked back to the front of the house, her shoulders slumped in defeat and hurt. She picked her luggage. Tears rolled down her cheeks in leisure. How could this be happening to her?
It was getting to late afternoon. She knew nowhere in this god-forsaken land. Where would she go? How would she get back to Owena? What would she tell people? She really did feel like dying. Hers had been the beginning part of a fairy-tale, and now a horror ending. And Idem had refused to come out to her aid. Wouldn’t an apology have made a difference? Why did he bring her here to treat her like this?
She walked to the road and looked up and down. She wasn’t helpless, she admonished herself. Her bank had a branch in this city. She would not be struck to the ground and stay there.
Demi implored all the inner strength she possessed and stopped a taxi. It was a working day, thank God. She had some cash on her. She asked the driver to take her to a good hotel.
She would make enquiries on how to get to Lagos by air. And then find her way back home.
When Demi finally arrived Owena the following day, it was with a resolve to pick herself from the dust and move on. She had learnt a bitter lesson. She would, could never trust any man again!