Gospel music played from Violet’s phone on the table. She hummed to the song as she powdered her face. The song made the silence in the bedroom bearable. It was one of the methods she used to avoid being the first to talk to Oyim. A little childish, she knew, but she was bent on the decision she had made days ago.
It was almost two weeks since she had mentioned divorce in her discussion with him. He had not made any move to say anything about it to her. He could talk about how Sochi performed when he took her for her common entrance exam; he could talk about how worried he was about Nma’s unusual quietness; yet he said nothing, not even “I’m sorry” to her about all that had transpired between them that Thursday morning. She could say it was a forgotten matter, swept under a thick and heavy carpet never to see the light of the day. She knew better. It was still hanging over their heads. It had settled in their house, a thick cloud that blocked both of them from viewing each other clearly. And neither of them made any attempt to clear this huge obstacle.
Another horrible Sunday, she had thought when she woke up that morning. Indeed it was horrible. It was the second Sunday since they quarreled and Violet had endured enough during the previous Sunday to make her dread the next few hours. Staying in the same space with Oyim and the children as they drove to church was punishment enough. There was this stiff silence that hugged the both of them, even the noises the children made in the backseat of the car could not thaw the tension. It made the weekdays when they both had to go to work pale in comparison. This time, they had to spend time together in front of their children. While Violet could maintain a facade of cordiality with Oyim, the fear that the children would figure out that their parents were having a problem continuously plagued her. Their fight had already gone too long for the children to not notice, but one could hope, right?
Oyim came out of the bathroom dressed in boxers, a towel hanging around his shoulder. She self-consciously adjusted her chair. He passed her and headed over to the small table that held his minimal skin and hair care products.
They prepared in silence. The voice of Lara George floating around the room, mocking the stiff air in the room.
Violet was the first to leave the room. She looked into the children’s room as she walked and sighed when she saw how scattered the room was, with clothes hanging around. She shut the door. No matter how hard she had tried in the past, it was difficult to get the children ready for church on Sunday without the room turning into what seemed like a tornado had run through it. It’d only become worse when she left the task of preparing the children for the church service to Sochi. Most of the mess was caused by Nma. She never liked to wear the clothes that Violet had picked out for her the previous day. A huge part of their preparation time on Sunday was spent with Nma running to and fro the laundry room with a new set of clothes that she wanted to wear. They had all gotten used to this kind of Nma, learned to deal with her. Of lately, it seemed Sochi could handle it even more than she could. Once again, she couldn’t help but be proud of her Ada.
The children were watching a cartoon in the parlor when she got downstairs, all properly dressed in their beautiful Sunday dresses.
“Oya o, switch off the TV. We are going to be late for church.” Violet took Nma’s hand and made her stand in front of her. She loosened the bowtie ribbon on her hair and retied it. “My beautiful angel.” She kissed Nma on the cheek. “Chike,” she stretched her hand towards him. He quickly came to stand in front of her, presenting himself for inspection. Violet brushed away imaginary dirt from his red shirt. “Why didn’t you tuck it in?” She directed the question to Sochi, whose eyes were still fixed on the screen. ‘
“I want to wear it like this,” Chike said the same time Sochi replied, “He refused to allow me to tuck it in.”
Violet laughed. If there was anything about Chike she loved, it was his stubbornness when it came to little matters. If he didn’t want milk in his pap, he wouldn’t drink it no matter how you coaxed or threatened him. It was a trait that followed him right from birth. She liked it, enjoyed it sometimes. “My boy may be calm and quiet, but he is definitely not a pushover,” she often boasted to Oyim anytime this trait of his played out.
“Sochi, come here. Let me see what you’re wearing,” Violet said.
Sochi came over reluctantly, her glossy lips in a pout. “Mummy, I thought you said you will stop checking my clothes like you do to Nma and Chike.”
Violet pulled her closer. “I said when you enter secondary school.” She gritted her teeth lightly at the small lie. She couldn’t stop the Sunday inspection. Sochi was dressed in a denim jumper wearing a pink shirt under it.
“Isn’t this what you wore last two Sundays?” Violet frowned, mentally running through the young girl’s wardrobe.
Sochi sighed, as though explaining to her was a huge task. “I have three of these—black, blue, and red. I wore the black one last two Sundays. And this one is different from the other two. See-” she gestured at the bottom of the gown. Not a gown, Violet corrected herself, taking note of the division of the suit at the thighs.
“You like this type of clothes, eh? You no longer wear those gowns in the laundry room. What about the one I got for you last Christmas?” Violet tucked in a protruding piece of pink cloth around Sochi’s waist into the suit.
“Mummy, most of them are like what Nma use to wear. I don’t like them. But I like the other one, the red suit.” She finished with a wide smile.
“Yes, you like it,” Violet agreed drily. “That is why you wanted to wear every Sunday after Christmas. Next time, you will follow me when I go to the market to buy clothes. I cannot be buying clothes every time and you will be saying you don’t like them. I don’t buy clothes for them to be packing dust in our house.”
Sochi pounced into Violet’s arms with a wide hug. “Thank you, mummy.”
“Take your siblings to the car. Let me go up and call your father. We are almost late to church.” She gave Sochi her purse and went upstairs.
A surprising sight met her as she entered the master bedroom. Minutes earlier when she had left the room, Oyim was already dressed. But now, he had gone back to wearing his stay-at-home clothes.
“Are you not going to church?” Violet asked. Her chest pounded heavily. This is not good, she thought. Different scenarios ran through her mind in just the few seconds it took for Oyim to respond to her.
He was returning his clothes to their position in the wardrobe. “I cannot go to church with you.”
“Why?” The single word came out sharply, in a shrill tone.
He heaved a breath, closed the wardrobe, and turned to face her. “What is the use of going to church as a family when things are not right between us. We have to settle the problem first before going to church.”
Finally. The fear brooding in her chest paused in its tracks. “Are you willing to stop cheating on me? On this family?” She didn’t beat around the bush. This was the only question that she needed an answer to. If he couldn’t give her the answer she wanted, there was no settling of any problem, even if she had to go to church without him.
“Oma-” He raised a hand towards her, demanding patience.
“Yes or no?” She asked again, ignoring his gesture.
“Just listen to me-”
“Oyim,” she called the name slowly. “The question is simple. Just give me a yes or a no. All these long explanations… Seriously, if you cannot give me a quick answer to this question, then I don’t see the need for a discussion.” She turned. “I’m going to church with the kids. If you like…” She left the words hanging and went out of the room, shutting the door loudly.
Her eyes burned. She hurried down the stairs blinking rapidly. She picked up the car keys from where they were placed on the stool at the entrance of the parlor and went out. Sochi and the twins were standing beside Oyim’s car. She unlocked her car. “We are using my car today. Your daddy isn’t feeling well today, so he won’t go with us to church.” She ignored the look of worry and interrogation in the children’s eyes and got into the car.
“Chike, Nma, get into the car. Sochi, open the gate for me.” As the children each carried out her bidding, Violet composed herself behind the steering wheel. She had to put all her concentration on driving, not just for herself, she had to also think of her children’s safety.
As she drove to the church, Violet desperately tried not to think of Oyim. Was she wrong for not listening to him? She wondered. But if he couldn’t answer that question with a straightforward and firm ‘yes’, then what were they supposed to talk about? Did she have to listen to another round of empty promises?
No. She forced herself to harden her heart. She was willing to make concessions for her marriage, but this wasn’t going to be one of them. Not now. Not ever. She pressed her lips firmly.
“Your seatbelt,” she said to Sochi who was sitting on the passenger seat beside her, then pressed her feet on the accelerator.