Yoliba stood in front of her boudoir mirror and studied her naked outline. Everything seemed to be just as she remembered. She stuck out her washboard stomach with some effort and grimaced when it barely rounded up. She tried a few more times, and muttering in frustration, swung her head around wildly searching for the throw pillow. It was securely lodged in the crook of her sleeping husband’s arm. Sighing, she ceased her frantic exercise and sat down gently at the edge of the bed. So what if she had a body that would make Kim Kardashian green with envy? It was a useless asset if it did not fulfil its obligations to her, her husband and their extended family. She would gladly live with a pot-belly, stretch marks and sagging arms if only, if only she would carry a child in her womb. If only.
Jayike watched his wife through slit eyes as she performed her histrionics in front of the mirror. As certain as it is that day will fold into night, was the same certainty with which he had come to expect Yoliba’s mirror antics. She had started it a year ago, and never missed a day hence, no matter how busy or tired she was. Sometimes it was the throw pillow which he clutched in pretence of sleep that was the victim of the day, her imaginary foetus. Other times it was a heap of clothes, quickly rolled up and stuffed into whatever she had on. Not today though; he wanted to watch her completely vulnerable, hence his staged sleep. She was an exquisitely beautiful woman; people had always commented about her beauty. He had been tickled to see the envy on their faces especially when they appraised him and found him lacking both in the height and looks department; not anymore though. Now he saw pity. He saw raised eyebrows and questioning glances. From her mother he saw a descending despair; from his mother…he was not sure. When she looked at him, he saw pity, but when she looked at Yoliba, he was afraid to admit it, but he was almost certain he saw hate. It was deeply unsettling because he remembered vividly his mother’s avowed love for his wife in the early days. Until the years of childlessness began to take its toll on them all.
“What if, what if she never gets pregnant eh, Jayike?” His mother queried him, again and again. “What if? Will you die inside this one wife that cannot give us children?”
Now he pondered the same question himself as he watched Yoliba, two years after he had harshly scolded his mother for saying them. “What if she never bears children? Ordinary miscarriage she has never experienced, so what if? What then?” An inadvertent sigh escaped his lips and Yoliba turned to study him.
“Jay? You awake?”
Jayike feigned a sleepy murmur and snuggled even deeper into the covers, but Yoliba was having none of it. She pulled down the covers, tossed the pillow away and straddled him.
“I am ovulating Boo, giddy up.”
Jayike sighed again in exasperation. Sex was becoming such a chore, such a scientific exercise. Times and dates and seasons and methods were tacked all over the bedroom walls; it had to be this way and that way and then the other way. He sighed again, because in spite of himself, he was aroused. “Dear Lord,” he prayed silently, “Let this be it. Make it happen for us Lord; make it happen for us now.”
Three years later…
Jayike studied his secretary’s scrawny chest which she insisted on baring in her v-necked blouses. He had never scolded her for her overt sexuality because it had only amused him in time past. Not anymore though. Now he stared in full blown lust. This gaunt but efficient secretary was suddenly very attractive because she had a child borne out of wedlock for a runaway boyfriend. To Jayike’s clouded mind, that showed that Chimaya was a real woman. If she could have one, she could surely have another. So he studied her, and subconsciously planned his extra-marital affair. He would not marry her, no, but he would keep her on a permanent basis. He didn’t know how he would handle living with Yoliba and his children, but he was sure his mother would have an idea. This was for the good of his marriage he assured himself. In the long run, Yoliba would appreciate his sacrifice.
Chimaya raised her head and smiled seductively at her boss. She could sense his interest in her, and it made her take liberties she hitherto wouldn’t have. She brushed against him whenever she could and wore even more dangerously low-cut blouses. She created opportunities to be alone with him, and most daring of all, she started to snub his wife, Yoliba. “Anytime now,” she thought to herself with barely supressed glee.
They appraised each other, until Jayike averted his eyes. “Is my flight to Abuja booked?” he asked huskily clearing his throat.
“Yes sir, it is. It is for 2pm, so you should be leaving for the airport by say, 12.30, to be safe.”
Jayike glanced at his watch. It was almost 10am. “Focus man,” he chided himself. He had to get his portfolio in order if he was going to get the giant FMCG Company, ZP on his account. Big companies were wary of single operators like him, but with along and distinguished career in the advertising industry, he was sure his reputation would precede him.
Chimaya stood in the general office, arms akimbo, snarling out orders to the Driver. She was an abrasive fellow, particularly where her perceived subordinates where concerned; with her new sense of future glory though, she had turned it up a notch. Mid-snarl, Jayike burst out of his office, and she immediately simmered down
“Let’s go, let’s go,” Jayike ordered passing his briefcase and suit jacket to the Driver, Elochukwu. He bade his staff farewell and trotted briskly to the waiting transport, giving terse instructions as he went.
Chimaya grouched in the privacy of her screened desk following her boss’s departure. After the intense stares they had shared she had been expecting a more intimate farewell, a peck or two would have been in order, no? “C’mon,” she chided herself. “He’s travelling for one afternoon and you want a kiss?” Rolling her big eyeballs, she swiveled in her chair to face the PC; work waited, she didn’t want Jayike stressed or upset when he returned.
Minutes later, she paused to get a cup of water from the dispenser and noticed the smoke spiraling from underneath the door leading to her boss’s office. Alarmed she made to open the door and yelped when the heated door handle scalded her palm.
“Meta, Nonye, Kpere, come oh!!! Oga office dey burn ooo!!!” All pretence of sangfroid had flown out the window.
Her colleagues dashed in, more to witness what had disgruntled little miss perfect, than to put out a fire. Only Meta who sat closest to her had actually heard the letter of her harried words. He came in bearing the fire extinguisher which he brandished triumphantly. “Where? Where? Where?”
Carefully, they shoved the door open, and Meta tiptoed in. The culprit was the air-conditioning outlet located just behind the door. The fires on the upper half of the door burned weakly, and it was quickly put out. They walked around the office, shutting off power outlets, until Chimaya made the decision to call Yoliba and intimate her of their little escapade. She reasoned that her boss had more important matters to handle than a mere office fire which did little or no harm.
Yoliba carefully placed her make-up tools on its designated shelf and shrugged out of her branded tee. Today’s job had been particularly frenetic. The bride was an agitated shrew and her aso-ebi girls had spent the morning quarrelling about everything. “I pity the man that is marrying that one oh” she murmured rolling her eyes. She was immediately contrite. The bride to be was heavily pregnant and that might have constituted to her unrelenting disenchantment. “Who am I to pity anyone,” Yoliba thought bitterly. “Give Jayike a shrew that can bear children and an angel who can’t will be tossed aside immediately.” An image of the irritating Chimaya flashed unbidden, and Yoliba felt sick to her stomach. She sat down heavily on the sofa, but her stomach kept roiling. Uncomfortable, she crept to the floor and lay flat out, her tears threatening to spill over.
“Not today, I won’t cry today. No more self-pity, not today. God has been so good to me; my business has flourished beyond my expectations, Jayike’s company is growing in leaps and bounds. So my mother-in-law hates me. So I have no children, so Jayike might…”
Yoliba’s musings gave way to prayers, and she began to pray fervently; not about her infertility though; she was praying for Jayike, and not concerning his assumed dalliance either. She was praying for his protection and she had no idea why. Before she could further examine the motives behind her confessions, the phone rang.
It was Chimaya. She gave a brief report concerning the office fire and rung off without answering Yoliba’s myriad questions, so Yoliba called Jayike who had boarded the plane and informed him of the fire.
“I am on my way to the office,” she reported, “Where are you?”
He was reluctant to disclose his location, but the plane was filling up quickly. They would take off very soon. “I am in a Malu Airline plane on my way to Abuja Ma.”
“Abuja ke? You didn’t say anything about a trip to Abuja to me Jay,”
He ignored her inquiry. “We will be taking off soon. Chimaya didn’t call me, so I am sure she has it under control. You don’t need to go there, and neither do I. Bye…”
“Wait!” She was hurting and she struggled not to lash out at him. “The office had a fire incidence Jayike! You need to come back and check things out, for yourself! Come on! I am on my way there now, Jay, please come.”
“Pathetic, dependent woman,” Jayike thought coldly terminating the call. “Chimaya would have had this under control. She would have known that this trip is more important than a charred door.” Nevertheless, force of habit made him stand, and reach for his briefcase in the overhead compartment. Tucking his blazer and i-pad under his armpit, he strode forward, anger and disgust forming a vortex in him.
The hostess cast him a curious glance, took a step in his direction and stopped. The negative energy around him was palpable. They watched him leave in silence and recommenced attending to more friendly passengers. The doors were shut.
Yoliba sat listlessly in front of the 40-inch flat screen. She flipped through channels but her eyes saw nothing. She had tried severally to call Jayike but his phone was evidently switched off. She decided she wasn’t going to face Chimaya’s barely veiled scorn; not when Jayike manifestly valued her opinion against his wife’s. As she channel-surfed, the words ‘breaking news’ on Channels TV broke through her haze.
“Malu Airlines plane no. 2345 from Lagos to Abuja for 2pm has crashed a few minutes after it took off from the MMA airport…”
Chimaya was watching the same news in the restaurant across the road where she had gone for lunch. Her spoon dropped from nerveless fingers and her bowels let loose. Her boss was on that flight, and she had booked it for him.
Jayike saw the news flash on CNN online via his i-pad. He was in front of his office but immediately instructed the taxi driver to take him home.
Yoliba screamed and screamed; then she fainted.
Two Years Later
“They are smiling oh, take the picture nowwww,” Yoliba and Jayike urged the photographer, proud as only parents have a right to be. The twins were one today and they had been co-operating nicely with the photographer. Pictures taken, Yoliba scooped up her son, and Jayike picked up his daughter. “Wardrobe change,” he cooed as he tickled her and sent her into a laughing fit.
Depositing her with his wife and mother-in-law, Jayike made his way to the kitchen where his mother reigned supreme. She gave him a drum stick to munch on, and quietly shut out the noise and play.
“Jayike nwa’m, I know you are happy with Jayanma and Sochi, but they are adopted. What if, Yoliba never ever has her own children for you? Eh?”
Jayike sighed. “Mama, what if I had died in that plane crash two years ago? Will you even be talking about children? Eh Mama? What if she didn’t pray for me and call me? Eh? What if? Oya answer, if you can answer my questions, I will answer yours.”
She was silent for a long time, and when she spoke, her voice trembled. “Forgive me my son, I speak like a fool in my old age.”
“We have all been there Mama. I have spoken and thought and acted the fool one time too many, so who am I to judge?”
They smiled watery smiles at each other. “You have a good wife nwa’m; God bless Yoliba my daughter and bless Jay Jnr. and Sochi my grandchildren.”
“Ameeeeennnnnnn!!!” Jayike declared in a shrill falsetto, sending them both into gales of laughter.