Violet spooned some of the oatmeal and swallowed it quickly, grimacing at how cold it had gotten. She looked down at the remnants of the oatmeal in her flask. She had lost any appetite to finish the meal. She closed the flask and smiled up at Enita. She was still talking. Violet couldn’t imagine what the girl wanted to hear. She had come up to her asking for relationship advice and before Violet could open her mouth to say anything, the younger girl jumped into providing details that Violet didn’t need.

“It’s not like I’m saying that he shouldn’t buy me gifts o. In fact, he should keep on buying them, but what I mean is that he should not be using gifts to apologize every single time. You know, he missed our date last week and bought me this beautiful wristwatch. The day before yesterday, he didn’t call me for a whole day. Then yesterday, he visited and gave me this.” She stretched out her hand to show Violet a bracelet. “It’s beautiful, right? I know. I sell these things, so I can tell their quality. But that is it. Do you think he is buying my affection and forgiveness? Honestly, I don’t have a problem with it. If only he will sponsor the next set of goods. Do you know how much I have to spend every time? It really won’t be bad if he decides to buy them for me. Do you think he will agree? If he does, I won’t get angry at anything he does for the next three months.”

“What exactly do you want to ask?” Violet put in quickly, knowing that if she didn’t cut the girl soon enough, the break period would be gone and she would not be able to do anything else.

“Well…” Enita rubbed her jaw and looked up at the ceiling. “How do you know you are ready to marry someone?”

Violet gasped. “He wants to marry you?” How long had they been dating? Two months. Violet had seen the man she was dating. He had come a few times to pick her up from school. 

Enita shook her head doubtfully. “He is not saying anything yet, but I feel it in my heart and soul that he is the one for me.” She added in a rush. “It is not just because he buys gifts for me.”

“So why do you feel he is the one for you?” While Violet was married, she didn’t see herself as the best person to come to for relationship advice, especially when she also needed such advice. 

“Yes, that is it. I don’t know why exactly. But something in my heart tells me he is the one for me.” Enita said.

“That’s it?” Violet looked at her skeptically. 

Enita looked thoughtful for a moment before she nodded. “That’s it. I’m sure there are other things I have to look out for before I think of getting married to him that is why I came to meet you. You’ve been married for almost eleven years now, so you should understand. How did you know he was the one for you?”

Violet had expected the question. She had been asked the same question several times in the past and her answers were always different. This time, she was genuinely at a loss of what to say. She drew out a smile. “Because I was in love with him.” She shrugged.

Enita stared at her then burst out laughing, attracting the looks of other teachers in the staffroom. She cupped her mouth and nodded apologetically at them. “You’re joking, right? Of course, you love him. But what made you marry him? I’m sure love alone doesn’t factor in marriage. If not, I would have gotten married to my ex-boyfriend. I really did love him.” She scrunched her nose mockingly.

Violet spread out her hands questioningly. “Then what other reason is there huh? Well, I could tell you, love was the number one factor for me.”

“And then what?” Enita leaned closer to her. “Because in a relationship, especially one like marriage, love only goes as far. My parent’s marriage taught me that.”

Violet wanted to ask further but the closed-off look in the girl’s eyes made her ignore the comment. “You’re right. And honestly, love was the last thing on my mind when I married Oyim. There were other things and right now I don’t recall the things on my list. Only that with him, I ticked off more than half of them. Communication, understanding, caring, God-fearing, loyal, has enough money to take care of me and our children…” She was counting on her fingers. “There were so much. And that he passed more than half was enough for me. The others, I assumed I could handle them as his faults. You know, no human being is perfect.”

“Wow! I also have a list like that. I am still adding to the list so it’s not yet complete,” Enita said excitedly.

“Be careful not to make it too long. It will be difficult to meet a man that meets all your expectations. You may even have to lower your standards. Marriage isn’t like a relationship that you can just break up if you feel that it is not working out. With marriage, you would make sacrifices, you would get tired, but it is a commitment that you made and you would have to honor. Unless, you are one of the many people that genuinely see divorce as an escape route because I will tell you, divorce is not as easy as they make it seem.”

Enita snapped her fingers. “Divorce ke? Not me o. I don’t want to ever consider that. Why get married with divorce in your mind? That is nonsense.”

Violet nodded with understanding. “Just take your time, Nita. You’re still young. I don’t see the rush for you to get married unless you want to, not under family or peer pressure. There is no constant for marriage in this life. Some things just happen. I would advise you to get married to someone that you can work with, someone that you can live with, someone that even in the next twenty years, you won’t get tired of living under the same roof with. All marriages are different. You just learn to build yours with your husband and there is very little outsiders can do for you. It is just you and your husband.”

Enita gave a solemn nod. “What you said is true. I don’t think I can marry him again.” She straightened up. “I will still think about it though. I don’t even know him that well and our relationship is still too short to consider it. Thank you so much, Mrs. Vee. I feel much better after talking to you.”

Violet smiled. “It’s nothing.” Enita made to leave. “And Enita,” Enita turned back, “Forget those gifts. Does his actions say ‘I’m sorry’? Because gifts should come with change. If they don’t… they don’t count.” 

With Enita gone, Violet tried to focus on the lesson note in front of her, but the question Enita asked was still running through her mind. How did you know he is the one for you? It was different from the question she had woken up with that morning in her children’s room. How could she love him if he kept on lying to her and seeing other girls? She was angry, hurt, sad, and felt hopeless. What else could she do to make him stop cheating? She had been so certain that with his promise, he wouldn’t go back to the girls outside. But it seemed she had been living in a dream. Oyim, why are you doing this to me? The more she thought about it, the more she felt her heart breaking into tiny pieces. 

The sound of the bell gave her a reprieve from the sad thoughts. She picked up three books that were on the table and stood up. She would deal with it when she went home. For now, she had a class waiting for her.

Violet threw her bag to the passenger seat and slid into the driver’s seat with a satisfied groan. Another day of school had ended. It was time to return home to her children and her problems.

“Violet, Violet,” A voice called from afar. 

She was about to close the door but stopped to look out of the car. C-Jay was hurrying towards her. She was tempted to shut the door and zoom out of the compound but on second thought, she merely closed the door and wind down the windows. 

“Any problem?” she asked with a steely voice. She was looking through her CD collection.

“Really? You’re still angry with me?” he drawled.

Violet sighed and looked at him. “What exactly do you want me to say? You are forgiven. Bye-bye.” She made to shut the windows.

“Come on.” He put his hands through the window and held her hand stilling her actions. She shrugged his hand away. “I’m really sorry. I was a little impulsive that day. I shouldn’t have done that, okay? I won’t do it again. I swear.”

Violet glanced at him. “Are you sure? Because I won’t take it easy with you next time something like that happens.”

He raised his arms in an ‘I surrender’ gesture. “Hands off, I know. I will keep my hands to myself. Let’s just go back to being friends.”

“Just friends, C-Jay. Nothing more. I don’t want anything that would jeopardize my marriage.”

“Of course, of course. You should get an award for the ‘Wife of The Year’.” He said jokingly.

Violet shot him a look. “And no jokes like that.”

A sour-sweet smile covered his lips. “I won’t. I’m sorry. I just hope he values you the same way you do him. Because it won’t be fair on you if it is just one-sided.”

Violet faked a laugh. “One-sided doesn’t exist in my marriage. He values me just as I value him. Don’t worry about anything. I’m good, I’m okay.’

C-Jay studied her closely. “Really?”

Violet looked away and reached to the glove compartment to scramble through it. “Of course. Everything is alright.” She schooled her expression and then turned back to him with a too-bright smile. She could feel her lips quivering at the edges. “I will see you tomorrow then. I have to rush home now.” Without waiting for him to say anything, she wound up the windows and started the engine.

As she drove out of the school, a tear ran down her cheeks. She didn’t make any move to halt the others as they followed. All the way home, she sniffed and cried silently. But when the gate to the house opened to reveal Sochi trying to pull Nma away from the way, a genuine smile was on her face. At least, she had them.