It was a Sunday and like every other Sunday, the Madukas home was a furry of activities. The family of five had just returned from the church and gospel music was bursting from the speaker in the parlor. Violet and Sochi were in the kitchen preparing lunch. Sochi was sitting on a small stool, grating carrots while listening to her mother talk about how to cook white rice perfectly. She handled the two tasks well, sliding in questions about the amount of water and how to know when the rice was done.
Violet was happy to explain to the inquisitive girl. The older Sochi grew, the faster she took on responsibility for the house. She had all the features of the first child she had envisioned before she got married- responsible, intelligent, respectful. The list went on and on. She could not be any more prouder of the product of her womb.
In the living room, Chike sat on one of the small chairs that had been tucked between the bigger sofas. He was frowning at the story book in his hands. The storybook had already been smeared with orange fingerprints and haplessly drawn figures, a product of a restless Nma. Few weeks ago, he had approached his father with a tearful look and showed him the book. Nma burst into tears as soon as she was confronted. He had been promised a new book but he shook his head, preferring to manage the soiled book.
On the larger sofa, Nma and her father sat down. Oyim was cutting her finger nails, listening to her babble about the type of cake she wanted for their birthday. The twin’s last birthday had only been three months ago and she was already looking forward to the next one. Oyim indulged the small girl, asking clarifications on why it had to a princess kicking a football on the cake instead of the usual princess holding a flower that she preferred.
Violet loved Sundays. Her children shared the same sentiment with her. For Sochi, it was the day she dressed up and sang with the other children in the church or if she was lucky, she would be chosen to recite the Prayer of the Faithful in front of the congregation. She loved the looks adults gave her when she pronounced big words and finished her lines without forgetting them. Nma enjoyed the family outings when she could stuff herself with ice cream and chocolates without getting reprimanded by her mother. She also enjoyed the visit to Awka Wonderland and other places where she could ride merry-go-rounds and take pictures with Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters. Chike, always the quiet one, liked the evenings most, when Violet sat down to read him a story, a practise he had fallen in love with from watching foreign movies where parents read bedtime stories to their children.
Violet loved Sundays because it was when she could spend time with her family with no distractions. Sunday equaled family day in her dictionary, so she tried to avoid any commitment that would make her take away this time from her family.
But today was different. Oyim’s words since the day before, when he returned from work in the evening were still ringing in her head. He wouldn’t be joining them on their trip to the Shoprite in Enugu. He’d told her this when she was still caught up in a daze from the orgasm he had given her. Talk about being pulled down from cloud nine. Her vision had cleared immediately and whatever euphoria she felt from the mind-blowing sex disappeared. She sat up and looked at him.
“You said?” she asked in Igbo.
He was tying the waist band his sleeping shorts. The sound of water filling the septic tank reached the room from the half-opened door. Why couldn’t he close the door after using the toilet?
“I said I have a meeting tomorrow. I wouldn’t be joining you guys for the Sunday outing.” His voice was cool as though he didn’t understand the severity of what he was telling her.
“Which meeting?” she asked reaching for her night gown where it had been discarded on the tiled floor.
“The men at work are having a get-together. I’m going to join them.” The bed creaked as he laid down beside her. The smell of his soap tickled her nose.
“But it’s family day. Can’t you go then come back and join us?” Her heart was beating rapidly. There use to be meetings on Sundays, village meetings, church council meetings but none had ever meant total absence at the family outings. Most times, the five of them went out but Oyim left in the middle of the outings. She had no problem with that. But this, he was talking of not joining them at all.
He pumped the pillow and laid his head on it. “You said we will go to Enugu. Do you know the time it will take to go there and come back? What if the meeting ends in the evening, should I fly and meet you.”
“When is the meeting?” The screws in her head were rapidly turning, calculating distance and time. “What if-”
“Don’t worry. I will stay in the house till you go. I will buy something for the children when I’m coming back.” He said with finality and turned his back to her, reaching for his phone.
Violet opened her mouth to talk then shut it. “Okay.” She climbed down from her bed, feeling irritated by the drying substance between her legs. She spent thirty minutes in the toilet. Scrubbing then rinsing, then scrubbing then rinsing her body again. She used cold water, but the water running down her face felt warm.
She hissed in pain when something sharp landed on her hand. Her attention returned to the pot of stew that she was stirring. She reached for the cover of the pot, trapping the red, jumping droplets under the glass lid.
“Mummy, I’ve finished cutting the cucumber.” Sochi dropped the bowl of the diced vegetable on the counter.
Violet nodded, thinking of what else to give the girl to do. An array of colorful vegetables lay on the counter.
“Should I bring out the meat from the oven?” Sochi was peering into the oven. “It looks like it’s done.”
“No, let me do it myself.” Violet picked up her gloves and marched to the oven. She had almost forgotten about the chicken she had placed to roast in the oven.
Oyim was singing as he took his bath in the bathroom. Violet sat in front of the dresser, widening her eyes as she ran an eyeliner over her lids. Lunch had gone well and even though she was still angry at Oyim, she had somehow managed to go through it without snapping at him. She hadn’t said much since they woke up in the morning. He hardly seemed bothered by her silence, talking to her as though it were any other normal Sunday.
“I maka,” he said when she came down after dressing for church. You’re beautiful. He had kissed her as he usually did on the cheeks before they entered the car and departed for the church.
“Delicious,” he said when he took a spoon of the rice and stew she prepared for lunch. The children echoed his praise.
After lunch, they watched the bible story program with the children. Oyim asking the children questions when an important information was laid out on the screen.
Just like any other Sunday. Only this time, they would be taking the two cars out at the same time. There would no Oyim carrying Nma and teasing Chike about allowing his sister to overtake him while they walked through aisles. It would be just her, dealing with Nma’s demands, trying to include Chike in the discussion. She was beyond angry.
A phone pinged. She looked accusingly at her phone on the table beside her. It wasn’t hers. With a frown, she turned to look at the phone on the bed, beside the Senator Oyim had laid out on the bed. She looked at the bathroom door. It was shut and the shower was still running.
She stood up and went to pick the phone. It wasn’t difficult to draw the pattern to unlock the phone. Oyim’s attempt at keeping his phone locked centered around three patterns that he rotated. He rarely went outside this three.
A feeling of Deja vu hit her as she saw the message on the notification bar. She didn’t open it. Her concern was the sender of the message. It was from Benny. She locked the phone and returned it to it’s original position. She dragged her feet to the dresser. When she sat down, she didn’t reach for the powder pad that she had been using. She pulled out three wipes from the baby wipes packet that sat in front of her. She began from her lips, working slowly.
When Oyim came out of the toilet, he met Violet back in her house wear, a gown she had removed minutes earlier.
“What happened?” He gave a quizzical look, walking to the wardrobe.
“I’m not feeling too good.” She was packing up the soggy wipes, now a combination of brown, red and black into the small dustbin.
“Is it because I’m not coming?” He had a cheeky smile. He came up behind her and wrapped his hands round her and kissed her on the neck.
She pulled away from him. “Go for your meeting. I and the children will stay at home.”
“What about the children?” His eyes twitched. “So because you are angry with me, you will make the children stay at home too.”
“We will go to Crunchies later in the evening. I don’t have strength to drive to Enugu with them.” She took her phone and started looking through it.
Oyom grunted. “Okay. If you say so.” He pulled out his wallet and brought out a card. “Use this one to buy things for the children. You know the password.”
Violet collected it and placed it on the table.
Oyim whistled as he dressed. Violet ignored him, still looking at her phone, tapping twice on every post she came across.
“I’m going,” he said when he was done. When he bent down to kiss Violet, she moved her head away. He laughed. “Don’t worry, I will buy you barbecue when I’m coming back.”
He left the room. A few minutes later, Violet heard the sound of his car leaving the gate. Nma’s cries of “Daddy” followed almost immediately. It didn’t take long, a small knock came on the door.
The door opened and Sochi poked her head into the room. She stood at the door and gave Violet a strange look. “Are we not going out today?”
“No,” Violet said tiredly. “Your father is not around.”
“Oh!” The disappointment was heavy in Sochi’s voice. She waited for a while but when her mother didn’t say anything, she slipped through the door and closed it softly behind her.