Since Violet started working in the school, she had spent break times in the staff-room, eating from a well-packaged lunch box that carried the same food her husband had at work and the children would eat when they returned from school. It was different today. When she returned from the last class she had before break, C-Jay asked her to join him for lunch outside the school. She readily agreed. She could go one day without the meals she prepared for the family.
They went to a restaurant about five minutes drive from the school. It was a small restaurant. As soon as they sat down, taking a table in the middle of the restaurant, a waitress rushed to their table and took their orders. C-Jay ordered for eba and egusi. Eating outside had never been her forte, so she ordered for a plate of fried rice.
“The way you are looking around, I can tell that you have not been here before. And honestly, I’m surprised. Most of teachers come here to eat,” C-Jay said giving her an amused look.
She shook her head. “I make my lunch at home so I don’t need to come out to have lunch. It’s a waste of both time and money.”
He leaned over the table towards her. “Oh? The mysterious contents of the blue flask,” he said referring to the small, blue flask that she often brought to work.
A small laugh. “I have to prepare lunch for my children and husband, so it’s only natural that I cook for myself as well.”
“So can I apply to be one of the fortunate people to have the pretty Mrs. Violet prepare lunch for me.” The waitress brought their food. He leaned back to give her space to place the plates of food on the table.
“You still haven’t changed with this your mouth.” Violet laughed and reached for her spoon, wiping it in the serviette it was wrapped in before she started eating. Truth be told, she didn’t know much about him when they were in the university. Their paths had barely crossed even though they were in the same department.
“So where have you been working all these years? You served immediately after our graduation, right?” She took a sip of water.
He nodded, molding a morsel of eba. “I served in Kano that year. It was a federal government school. After service, I remained there for two years before I got another job in Lagos, in a bank.”
Her eyes widened. “You worked in a bank?”
“Yes, for six years. Don’t ask me how I was able to do accounting work when it had nothing to do with the course I studied in school.” They laughed. “I got tired of working in Lagos. You know how life is there, the rush and the whole bustle. So I decided to look for another job in the east. I was lucky when someone told me about this one.”
She looked at him. “Wait, so you just left Lagos because you got tired of the place? Is the salary that the school paying you higher than that of the bank?”
He looked at the ceiling. “Honestly, it is not. The difference is not much but the pay at the bank was higher. But the salary is not a problem. I have a side business that I do to complement the pay.”
“What business?” she looked at him suspiciously.
He sucked on a piece of bone, a twinkle in his eyes. “Don’t worry. One day you will find out. So what about you? Married for ten years with three children. You were among the girls that married almost immediately after graduation. Huh?”
Violet wiped her mouth with a serviette. She nodded. “Yes. I met my husband during service. You know I served here in Awka. Coincidentally, he is the person that helped me work it to the immigration service. That is where he works.”
“Wow! You are so lucky. You just got connected to the person that you were destined to be with.” He put the heels of his hands together in an attempt to clap.
“We thank God. I just started working here last year, when they resumed for first term.” She smiled at the cleaner that came to pack the plates.
They remained quiet until all the plates had been cleared away. C-Jay asked her if she would drink anything. She shook her head opting to take water. He ordered for a bottle of coke.
“So you’ve not been working for the past eight or more years?”
She shook her head.
“Why? Don’t tell me you were a housewife all through that period. Looking at you now, I won’t even believe it.”
You wouldn’t believe half of it, she mused. “I had to stay home and take care of the kids. I couldn’t leave them at home when they were still babies.”
“How old are they now?”
“Sochi is nine years. Nma and Chike are six.”
C-Jay gestured at the waitress while he pulled out his wallet. Violet also made to remove a naira note from her purse, the only accessory she brought out with her when they left the school. He shook his head at her. “Let me handle this. I’m the one that brought you out.”
They returned to school just a few minutes before the bell was rang to signal the end of the break period. When Violet sat at her desk, she eyed the blue flask that was sitting untouched in her last drawer. The potato porridge packed with spinach was one of the meals Nma detested. She often came back from school with her small flask as it was when she packed it in the morning. She’d have to eat it as her dinner, she decided. She shut the drawer, locking it and then picked up her books to head for her class.
Violet pulled the car to a stop in front of the blue gate. She honked twice before she came down from the car. By the time she got to the gate, it was already opened. A young boy was looking at her.
“Aunty Violet, good afternoon.” The boy shifted to let her go into the house.
She patted the boy on his shoulder. “Junior, how are you? How is school?”
“School is fine, ma.” She followed him into the house. “My mother is in her room.”
“Don’t worry, go and continue what you were doing.” She took the stairs to her friend’s room. The door was slightly open.
“Is she around?” Violet opened the door and poked her head through it.
Nene was sitting on the bed, in front of her was a heap of clothes still in leather wraps. She was dividing the heap into two smaller groups. She looked up. “Vio, welcome o. Come inside. There is no even space on the bed.”
Violet made her way through the mess of packaged clothes. She sat down on the small space that Nene had cleared on the bed. “Odika you got new arrivals from abroad.” She picked up one of the packets.
“My dear. It came in yesterday. I went to bring it today.” Nene sighed and sat up.
“Nne, how are you doing?” Violet looked at her friend. In the fews days she had not seen her, Nene seemed to have grown older, the wrinkles around on her face deepening.
Nene licked her dried lips. “What can I say? We are fine. God gave us food and house, should I complain?”
Violet cleared her throat. “You know what I am asking about. What of your husband? Don’t tell me he travelled.” The news that Nene had told her last time was still ringing in her head.
“Is it not better if he travels? Whether he is around or not, it doesn’t make any difference.” Nene breathed deeply and bent to continue her task.
Violet was filled with pity for her friend. Even though Nene was five years older than she was and had married very early, she hadn’t felt any connection with any of her other friends as she did with Nene. Married for almost sixteen years, Nene had given birth to four children—two boys and two girls. Unfortunately, Nene’s husband was a business man, often travelling from one place to the other, both within and outside the country. Even when he was at home, it was no different from when he wasn’t around as he was always on his phone or his I-pad. Just the last week, he had returned from one of his abroad trips, revealing a heartbreaking news to his wife. He was going to take a second wife.
“So he is serious with the second wife thing?” Violet looked at her.
Nene laughed sarcastically. She reached for her phone and after touching her hand on the screen, she handed it to Violet. “He sent me the marriage certificate yesterday. He also sent their picture, if you swipe you will see it.”
Violet hesitated before she took the phone. Indeed, on the screen was the image of a marriage certificate. When she swiped to the next picture, it was a picture of Nene’s husband, Jide and another woman. “Wait, she is Nigerian?”
“Yes o. She was married to all one oyibo man before they divorced. Jide says he met her last year. That is almost six months now. She has a daughter.”
“Is she Igbo?” Violet looked at the picture, studying the chocolate-complexioned woman.
“Mba. I don’t remember where he said she is from. It’s like it is Akwa-Ibom. But is it my business?”
“Heei?” Violet clapped her hands incredulously. “This man dikwa heartless o. How could he do this to you? So he travelled to stay with her?”
“Nne, what choice do I have? I cannot stop him. Look at me.” She looked down at her body, the folds in her stomach, the excess skin peeking through the sleeves of her blouse. “I’m not like you that can still be running and be carrying weights. I’m not as opportuned as you are.”
“I’m so sorry, eh. Nne, Ndo.” Violet didn’t know what to say to comfort the older woman. She couldn’t even imagine the pain the woman was going through.
“You know the girl called me yesterday.” Nene scoffed. She straightened up. “Jide gave me her number last week. He said he would like the both of us to be keeping in touch. Keep in touch kwa? Why is he doing like this? I said okay, but I knew I would never, when I mean never,” She put a finger to her mouth and pointed it upwards, “I would never ever call that woman. Call her and say what kwanu? But I still saved the number. So yesterday afternoon, this woman called me. She said she wanted to give me her respects as the junior wife.” She shook her head. “Chei, respect? At this point she is talking about respect. I just kept quiet and when she finished talking, she cut the call. I just sat there with the phone in my hand. This is what I have turned to. Me, Nene, senior wife. Kai, this life is not fair at all.”
For a thousandth time, Violet was truly appreciative that she had a husband that still came home to her and their children. She placed her hand on her woman’s shoulder and rocked her softly. “Nne, don’t worry, all will be well.”
“My dear, it will be well o. I will take care of my children very well. They are all I have now. Neche is about to write JAMB. Jide is saying that if she does well, he will send her abroad. If it is the only good thing he will do, I will take it like that. I will not kill myself because of him.” She hissed. “Look at me, I’m just bothering you with my problems. I didn’t even offer you anything. Junior!”
“Ah, Nene, no need. I just came to greet you.” Violet made to stand up but Nene pulled her back.
“Biko, it is not in my house that that one will happen.”
“Yes mum.” Junior stood at the door.
“Go and get a can of malt from the fridge for Aunty Violet.” Junior left immediately to do his mother’s bidding.
Violet smiled. “Okay o Since you don’t want me to go. The chin-chin you fried the other day, is it still remaining? Let me take some for the children. They won’t let me rest.”
“Of course, of course.” Junior entered the room with a can of malt. “Junior, when you are done, go and bring three santana leathers for me.”
Violet put the malt in her bag. “You will tell me how to make this chin-chin,” she said as Nene brought down a bucket filled with the brown snack. She handed it to Violet who scooped a handful and started eating it.
Nene laughed. “If I give you will you make it? Next thing, she will start talking about excess carbs and too much calories. Biko, it’s not me and you that will act that drama this evening.”
Violet laughed, but the reminder had her returning half of the chin-chin in her hand to the bucket. Nene burst out in loud laughter. “Look at her, ndi fit-fam.”