If Violet expected to hear anything from Oyim about a divorce when he returned home later that day in the evening, she was disappointed. The days that followed remained the same. Oyim mentioned not a word about divorce or C-Jay to her. It seemed as though the conversation didn’t take place with him but with another person. At first, Violet was apprehensive. Had it gotten to a point where her words didn’t hold water where he was concerned? She monitored his expressions. They didn’t say much. He maintained a cordial but distant relationship with her. With the children, he was the ever-smiling and ever-jovial daddy. Violet didn’t want to broach the unfinished matter that lay between them. She began avoiding him the best she could, a feat that was practically impossible, given that despite the tense air between them, both of them still carried out their responsibilities. Violet prepared and packed lunch for him, which he took to work, and often came home with an empty, clean flask. Oyim still took the children to school when it was his turn, asking her questions about the children like what snacks to buy for them if he could take them out, etc. When Sochi had to go for one of her common entrance exams, he’d taken her. They agreed that it was the person that bought the form for the school that would accompany Sochi for the common entrance exam. Oyim had consulted Violet on what he would need to do during the process. Despite the various discussions surrounding the children and other miscellaneous things in the house, the relationship between the couple didn’t seem to be improving. It only seemed to be getting even more distant.
Violet didn’t know what to do. Her pride and fear didn’t allow her the courage to broach the topic with Oyim. She was the one that had brought up the topic of divorce, and if her instincts were right, Oyim didn’t want to walk through that path. Then what did he want? His silence on the matter was killing her. But she maintained her facade of calm. They still slept on the same bed, bathed in the same bathroom. Their mornings were as normal as that of any couple. Violet would be at her dressing table drawing her brows and lining her eyelids and Oyim would be putting on his uniform. As each departed for their various work destinations, they politely bade each other goodbye. From the outside, their marriage was going smoothly, everything was okay. But Violet knew better.
“Thank you, Mrs. Violet.” A female student got up from the seat opposite Violet. She curtsied before she walked out of the office.
Violet used the tip of the biro in her hand to relieve the itch on her head. She had five minutes before the next student knocked at her office. She looked at the register in front of her. It was a familiar name and a case she was becoming familiar with. This student had registered with “friendship issues”. Violet was certain it was not just friendship that was bothering the young student. Friendship was what many students used to apply for a counselor appointment, but most of the time, it was a cover for relationship or emotional issues. The girls needed advice on how to decide which male suitor would be her best option or having to deal with an unrequited crush, or heartbreak when the boy they had their eyes on asked another girl out. Very few times, Violet got male students asking for advice on how to go about problems that sprang up in their relationship.
Violet was surprised at the activeness of students in matters relating to relationships. At some point, she began to think she was a relationship counselor. Three out of every five students that visited her office wanted advice on relationship issues. Violet understood that simply telling students that they needed to concentrate more on their studies than on whether this boy liked her current hairstyle or the previous one wouldn’t make them anymore serious with their studies. She knew that if she tried that approach, many of the students would prefer to keep such issues to themselves leading to even more serious problems. Surprisingly, many of the students were aware of this fact. Violet thought of different strategies to make the students more focused on their studies. First, she made a rule that relationship issues were not to be discussed if a student performed poorly in a test or was caught disobeying a school regulation. It worked to an extent. But it wasn’t the perfect solution. In fact, there was no perfect solution.
At this age, students were beginning to come out of the shell of protection their parents had built for them. They were thirsting for freedom, they wanted to become adults, in charge of their own decisions. Most of the time, they didn’t want to listen to anyone else apart from themselves or their friends. Violet couldn’t do much. She offered the best advice she could without going over the moral line. She had to continuously remind herself that they were still growing. While they could be protected from the harsh realities of the real world for a short time, this protection couldn’t continue forever. She comforted the heartbroken ones, telling them they still had a lot waiting for them outside the walls of secondary school. Life wouldn’t halt for them because they got heartbroken. The ones excited about life outside school gave Violet the most headaches. She tried to tell them that being an adult wasn’t as easy or as fun as they thought. There was a price that came for that freedom. But they seemed more interested in living away from home, pursuing life on their own terms than the repercussions that came with it. Violet couldn’t do much to change their perception. After all, what they saw most times were the beautiful wigs and make-up Enita put on, they didn’t see the rent waiting for her to pay or the responsibilities that followed her with calls from family members almost every day.
They were still teenagers, she often told herself. At this point, they were full of optimism, excitement, and promises for the future. Who was she to douse their excitement? It was true, life beyond the walls of secondary school, beyond the walls of their homes, was difficult but for now, they still lived under those walls. They still had the privilege to enjoy its protection while it lasted. And moreover, she didn’t have the heart to burst their bubble of optimism.
School had been going smoothly for Violet, a welcome change from the tension that fell on her shoulder the moment she walked into her home. That Monday when she resumed work, C-Jay had visited her in the office. Any feeling of awkwardness had long disappeared after the day he drove her home. He had promised to put away all inappropriate thoughts he had towards her and remain innocent friends with her. It was only best they remain friends. Staying away from him would be practically impossible as they would be co-workers for a long time. It would be unfair for either of them to quit working at the school because of this. Their relationship was still a little sensitive. It would be unrealistic for either of them to move on so quickly from the ambiguity that had been clouding their relationship for the most part of the time since C-Jay started working in the school. Baby steps, Violet told herself whenever the urge to jump into a lengthy talk with C-Jay arose.
Everything aside her marriage seemed to be moving pretty smoothly. She had gone back to a strict diet following a rapid increase in her weight after the period of depression. It wasn’t difficult to readjust as it had been when she first started her weight-loss journey. This time, she knew the drills. She knew what worked for her body and what didn’t. During exercises, she knew when her body had reached its limits, and when she could still go on for half an hour. She began to appreciate herself more than she did before. It helped maintain a good state of mind. Stella had been right. She had to reorganize her priorities to be able to make her marriage work. The problem with her husband was far from solved, but it helped her maintain her composition, carrying out her duties as a wife and mother without losing her mind.
She had to wait, she decided. Wait for Oyim. He needed to set his priorities straight. This time, it didn’t just require her efforts. She couldn’t be the only one trying to make the marriage work. She would wait for him to catch up. He would have to make his own sacrifices as she’d once done. She didn’t know how long she would have to wait. But she hoped that she wouldn’t have to wait for too long.