Nneoma The New Wife (1)

Her name was Nneoma, which means 'Good Mother', (in Igbo) but Obinze liked to call her Obim (my heart). She was, literally, his heart, he said. She liked it, the way his voice would soften whenever he called her that. ‘Obim, this is the best ukwa I have ever eaten,’ he would say, and she would smile and bat her eyelashes at him.

At night, when they were in bed together, he would touch her in places that made her giggle, and when he was finally in her, he would mutter: ‘Obim, Obim,’ and afterwards he would ask if she had liked it.

She would smile shyly and nod her head, yes, even on those nights when he got there before she did, even on those nights when she pressed her legs together and fought desperately not to touch herself.

She liked to think that she was lucky, having a man like him. She liked to think that he was her knight in shiny amour, the knight who had rescued her from the monotony of village life, from walking miles every morning to fetch water from the muddy stream.

In the city, he had introduced her to the world of rectangular televisions, televisions so flat, she thought they would break if she touched them too roughly.

He had introduced her to gas cookers and to microwaves. ‘Stop being a village girl,’ he had said when she refused to use the gas cooker. ‘Who told you it would explode and burn down the house?’

And he had gone ahead to show her how to put it on and off. She got to like the gas cooker because it did not blacken her new pots, although she sometimes missed cooking with firewood.

There were so many other things that she missed about village life, like the noise of little children playing and shouting insults at one another. She missed also the greenery, that sense of calm that came with the bushes around, that infinite bliss.

And she missed, especially, Obinze’s voice whenever he left for work in the morning. She would clean and re-clean, she would cook, she would sleep, she would wake up, and she would watch Nollywood movies on TV.

But no matter how much she missed, she never told him anything. Their relationship was a peculiar one, one in which he did most of the talking, and she did most of the listening.

There were many things she would like to tell him, but she was afraid of saying the wrong things. She was afraid of spoiling this little miracle that had happened to her. And so she always remained quiet about those things, those very important things, like not getting there when he did.

*** She first began to notice the changes in him after he told her to prepare for JAMB. ‘You’re going to BUK,’ he said. ‘You need to be a graduate. You need to upgrade.’

There was a patronizing quality to his voice, a quality she had heard before, but had always ignored. She said yes, that she would prepare for JAMB. She did not tell him that she could not start reading again after so many years.

She did not tell him that their marriage was almost a year old, and that they should be thinking about children that would come, and not about university.

She did not even tell him about not seeing her blood, about the warmth that had filled her as she stripped in the bedroom and pressed her breasts to see if they were heavy. Instead she smiled, batted he eyelids and went to the kitchen to cry.

He continued to behave strangely, returning late at night, complaining of fatigue, going outside to pick his calls.

At first she was afraid, then she became frightened, then it became outright terror. She started to scroll through his phone whenever he was in the bathroom. She would read his text messages and check his call history.

No female caller. Somehow the neatness frightened her, the fact that there was no female caller, the possibility that he was being too careful, that he was hiding something from her...

To be continued...

CULLED FROM truelifestoriesng

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