Violet clutched the phone tightly to her ears, breathing heavily. She was still sitting on the sofa, in the same position she had been since Oyim left the house.

“Vio, listen to me. Take a deep breath. You will collapse if you continue like this.” On the other side of the phone, Stella’s voice was filled with worry. “It’s okay. Just take it easy.”

About ten minutes ago, Violet had called her and in one breath told her everything that had happened with Oyim. She didn’t want to involve anyone else in her family’s problems. She didn’t like another person knowing that problems in her marriage with Oyim had gotten to this point. It gave the problems life, made them real that she could no longer hide her head beneath the sand, and pretend that all was okay. At this stage, she could feel all the fears she had been nursing since she found out that Oyim was cheating on her come to life. Was her marriage truly on the brink of failure?

“Easy, easy,” Stella continued until Violet’s breathing eased into a normal pace.

Violet was holding back the tears that were threatening to spill out of her eyes. Her throat itched as they fought to be freed. “What do you think I should do now? Do you think he will agree? I don’t want to divorce him. I don’t know why I even said it. I did not mean it.” She was shaking her head as she spoke.

“Divorce is not as easy as you think it is. Do you think he doesn’t know that? He had the guts to be sleeping with women outside your marriage. And even when you found out he continued doing it. Did he expect you to remain a moron and allow him to do whatever he wants?” Stella’s voice was sharp. “You keep making excuses for him. I’m sure that is why you haven’t done anything serious about this. Oyim cheating is a very serious problem. Since he decided to marry you, he should have known what it really meant—a commitment to one person for the rest of his life. And what more, you are the mother of his children, three beautiful and intelligent children. I see how much effort you put into your family. I know what it meant for you when you had to become a housewife. And this is how he decides to repay you? You keep on repeating that despite his faults, Oyim is a good husband and a good father. But to a level, I don’t agree with you. He is an irresponsible father and husband. You think cheating is just a form of deception to you, what about the children? They are also part of it. Imagine if your children had to deal with the fact that their father had another woman outside the family, how would they feel? Children are also sensitive, you know. And what kind of example will you be setting for your children?”

Violet sniffed. She could see the sense in Stella’s words. But it pained her to think of things from that point of view. “So, what should I do? Is there any solution to a cheating husband? I cannot just pray and expect everything to be back to normal, eh?”

“This question you are asking, if there was any real solution, you think people will not spend billions to get it? It is not only you that is facing this problem. A lot of women also do. Many choose to turn a blind eye to it, others would try to disrupt these relationships. But if you chase this girl today, tomorrow it will be another girl. Nne, it will just become a cycle that never ends, and in the end, who will be at the brunt of it all?”

“But a divorce…” Violet hated the word, repeating it made her heart turn cold.

“I told you before, divorce is not as easy as it seems. Forget about yourself for a minute, what of your children? Do you want to allow them to go through that process? And look at me, forget the way I’m always going up and down, traveling where I want, I know what a broken family can do to both the woman and the children. I won’t talk about the man because I know Ikenna is not the same as Oyim. I admit, Oyim has his good sides. Before the cheating thing blew up, I know how it was for both of you. He really suits you. I don’t know why he is so afraid of that C-Jay or whatever his name is. He should know by now that you cannot allow any man other than him to touch you.”

“Divorce will break you, it will humble you. I’m only being honest with you. You won’t know all these things until that paper has been signed and shelved away. The real problems begin after that. And you won’t begin to talk about how people here view divorce. Imagine, some parents would rather allow their daughters to be getting beaten in a marriage than allow her to get divorced. Mbanu, it is not right. Divorce can be the solution in other marriages where the couple may have lost affection for each other or where violence is involved, but with you and Oyim…I don’t think divorce will solve anything. It will only make your lives even more miserable.”

Violet finally felt her chest gradually regain warmth. “But I have put the word out there. I’m scared that he will come back with divorce papers and tell me to sign them? What do you think I should do?”

“He won’t do that,” Stella insisted.

Violet frowned. “How are you so sure of that?”

She could tell Stella had a smile on her face as she said, “After having a precious gem in his hold for this long, do you think he would want to drop it for a common stone? Oyim knows what he has, he wouldn’t want to lose it. Maybe what he needs is a wake-up call. And he also needs to get over petty jealousies. It’s the ones that cheat that are usually so quick to suspect. Most of it is self-consciousness. When you are guilty of something, you’d also suspect other people of doing the same.”

“But C-Jay also wanted to…” Violet trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

“I know.” Stella picked up. “C-Jay wanted to, and I’m sure you also considered the thought. But you knew where to draw the line, Vio. That is one thing I know you so well for. You can think about it, but in the end, you don’t have the mind to do it, because you know very well what it will do to both you and your family. You consider them before doing anything and so you know your limit.”

“Do you think I should stay away from C-Jay? Will being friends with him anger Oyim?”

“For what kwanu? Vio, stop speaking as if you don’t know anything. If nothing is going on between you and C-Jay, then why do you need to stay away from him? Unless there is something you are not telling me…” Her tone was tinged with suspicion.

“No, no!” Violet shook her head sharply. “Nothing at all. I don’t even allow him to come closer than necessary. I’ve also told him my mind and the way things are now, he is already keeping his distance. It’s just yesterday that he offered to take me to the hospital. Nothing happened all through the time I was with him to suggest otherwise.”

“Well, that is good. While I don’t exactly like many of the traditional beliefs that give more allowance to the man and then tighten its belt on the woman, I have to admit that you are the pillar of your family. Forget that thing about the man being the head of the house. If the man is the head, then the woman is the neck. Tell me who has more control? The thing is that the power to keep your family together is in your hands, not Oyim.” Stella took a deep breath. “Chai! I’ve suddenly become a marriage counselor.”

The two women burst out into laughter.

“Most of these things, I heard them before when I and Ikenna started having problems. But they didn’t work for me. Ikenna was hellbent on divorcing me, even his parents could not make him change his mind so it didn’t matter. I’m telling you these because you are my friend and our cases are different. Your marriage can still work. It is at the stage where both you and Oyim have to realign your priorities, know what is important to both of you. I believe you will get past this.”

“I want to believe it too, but the way Oyim has been behaving these past few days. I’m beginning to suspect that he has fallen in love with another woman.” She remembered what happened with Nene. How her husband suddenly sprang up with a new wife. Fear rose in her chest again.

“Then you will have to monitor his behavior. He may have become interested in another woman, but it doesn’t mean he has fallen out of love with you. So far as he still has a space for you and the children in his heart, I am certain he will soon return to his senses. But the thing is that you should stop giving him too many allowances. Peace in a marriage is important but peace of mind is more important than that.”

“I know.” Violet took a deep breath. Talking with Stella had calmed her down. It was almost noon and since Oyim left that morning, she couldn’t bring herself to stand up from the sofa. “I’m so glad that I spoke to you. I didn’t know who else to call.”

Stella laughed shortly. “I’m the only person you know that is divorced, so it only makes sense to call me. Most of these other women will not understand your fears. Some people will just tell you to divorce him, they will say it as if you were doing yourself a favor. Others will criticize you for even talking to your husband like that or even attempting to have a male friend outside marriage. I am not better than any of them, but because it is you, I will tell you what I truly think.”

“At this point, that may be the type of advice I need,” Violet muttered.

“This is my truth. You have to think on your own. For this type of matter, I don’t like advising other people too much. I don’t want someone to come tomorrow and say ‘it is you that said…’. Achorom okwu. You are my friend. My advice may be good, but no advice is better than the one you give to yourself because you have to take responsibility whether it ends in a good or bad result.”

“Stella, It doesn’t matter. I already know what to do. Talking to you cleared my head so I can think better. I’m happy I took a leave from school today. If not, it would have been a different matter altogether.”

“I’m always here, inugo. I believe everything will work out for the best.”

They continued talking for a few minutes, with Stella updating Violet on what was going on in her life and that of her son. After she hung up the call, she stood up from the sofa feeling reinvigorated. She went upstairs to brush her teeth and take her bath.