“So you’re not going to say anything?” Oyim asked. 

Violet had been humming all through her routine. She was now dressed in her nightgown and was putting on her night-cap. “What do you want me to say?” she asked flippantly. She picked up her phone from the table and looked at the time.

Oyim straightened on the bed, setting his legs on the ground. “You know what I am talking about. Why would you allow another man to come into the house without my permission? Even after I told you that I did not like him seeing him around you or the kids but you’re still hanging around him.”

Violet scowled at him. “He had to bring me back home from the hospital because my husband said he couldn’t pick me up even though he was at home.”

“You didn’t tell me what was wrong with you. You just told me you needed a ride from the hospital. I told you to take a bike from there. It’s not so far, is it? I thought your car broke down or something like that,” he ended vaguely.

“Something like what? I was in the hospital, for God’s sake. Why would I go to the hospital unless someone was sick? The hospital is not even directly on the way home that you will say my car broke down in front of the hospital. It is in another estate. In that message, I told you I wasn’t well enough to drive. Just tell me you didn’t read the message well before you replied. You couldn’t even call to know if it was a serious problem. You just replied with a text message,” her voice caught. “What happened to you, eh? Before if I complained of a little headache, you will be running around because of it. And now? The hospital that is just a five-minute drive from the house, you cannot even drive there because of me.”

“And what of that man…” Oyim started saying.

“You are not understanding what I am saying, are you? Why are you so bothered about him? With all the girlfriends you have outside, I cannot even have a male friend? If that is what you want to talk about, then I have nothing to say to you. Until you understand what I said, what happened to lead to C-Jay driving me home, we don’t have anything else to talk about. Unless you want us to open the can of worms that is you and your side-chicks.” With totality, she laid down on the bed, turning away from him.

“What is wrong with this woman?” Oyim asked. He reached over and shook Violet a little too violently. “I’m not done talking to you. At least explain why it had to be him that took you to the hospital. What of the other teachers? Didn’t they also know you were sick as well? I thought…”

“If you don’t want me to sleep, you can have the whole room to yourself.” Violet stood up from the bed. She took the wrapper hanging on the handle of the chair in front of the dresser and wrapped it over her nightgown. “I have said my own. I don’t have the energy to stay here and be arguing with you.” She made out of the room.

She was about to close the door when she paused, and with a sigh said, “Oyim, I have nothing, nothing improper with C-Jay. He is just a co-worker and a friend. I am just saying this because I don’t want to add any more problems to this marriage. But on this, I am not going to give up easily. You have to acknowledge your faults. I can ignore your girlfriends and whatever you do outside this marriage, but when you start neglecting your duties as a husband or a father, I won’t just let it slide.” She closed the door softly and headed to the children’s room.

Nma was playing with her doll on the tiled floor. From time to time, she would reach out with the doll’s hand to scatter the building blocks Chike was concentrating on. She sprang up as soon as Violet entered the room.

“Mummy.” She hugged her mother’s thighs. 

Violet sat down on the bed and settled Nma on her legs. “Have you had your bath?” she asked even though she knew the answer as they were already dressed in matching pajamas. 

“Yes, mummy. I bathed myself today,” Nma announced proudly. She pouted. “But Sochi said I didn’t do it well then bathed me again.”

Nma kissed her on the forehead. “That’s my baby. Next time, mummy will teach you how to bathe yourself, hmm?” 

Nma bounced happily. “Yay!”

A small cold hand touched Violet’s forehead. “Mummy, are you still sick? Do you need medicine?” It was Chike. He had abandoned his building blocks and gone to stand beside the seated mother and daughter pair.

“Mummy is fine. She is not sick.” Nma slapped his hand away. “Is it not true, mummy? You’re not sick.”

Violet smiled and shook her head. “Yes, Nma is right. Mummy is okay. There is nothing wrong with her.”

Nma nodded her head sharply. Chike merely nodded and climbed the bed to sit down beside Violet, leaning on her and wrapping his hands around her upper arms, 

Violet remained with the twins until they slept off. It wasn’t a Sunday but they got a bedtime story from her. Warmth kept spreading through her heart every passing minute she spent with them. She’d been so caught up in her emotions that she hadn’t really spent time with the children for a while. After they slept, she settled them properly under the blankets and left the room.

Sochi was sitting at the desk they had set up for her when Violet entered her room. She was solving some maths questions on a sheet of paper. Violet looked around the room before she headed over to stand beside her. 

“Mummy,” Sochi said.

“Are you having any problems with any subject?” She picked up the maths textbook and looked at the questions on the opened page. 

Sochi shook her head. “I have finished solving most of them. I am just repeating them so I won’t forget.”

“That is good. What of English?” Violet returned the book to the table. “I know that maths is the most difficult one for you, but don’t just concentrate on it. Make sure you spend time on other subjects.”

“Yes, mummy.” Sochi bit her lips. 

“I hope you don’t stay up too late? What time do you normally sleep?” Violet sat down on the bed. It was beside the table.

“Sometimes by eleven, sometimes by eleven-thirty.” Her voice was low. 

Violet pinched herself sharply on the arm. How could she ignore her daughter for this long? “It’s still too late. You need at least eight hours of sleep. It’s nine-thirty now, as soon as it clocks ten, close your books and go to bed.”

Violet stretched out on the bed. “I’m going to sleep here this night.” 

“Okay.” Sochi’s voice was small. 

It had been a long time since Violet had slept with Sochi. Sochi had gotten her own room when she clocked eight and the twins five. Before then, the three children had been using one room. It was always a mess in the room. Though most of the clothes and shoes that belonged to the children were placed in the laundry room downstairs, they still found their way to the bedroom, piling up on the already strained cabinet and littering the room. Sochi complained a number of times before Violet and Oyim finally decided to convert the visitor’s room to what would become the girls’ room. When Nma grew older, she would also move into the room, something Sochi wasn’t eager to experience. 

Sochi was growing quite fast, Violet admitted to herself. She could already see the two bulges growing, albeit slowly, on her chest. Psychologically, the signs were there. She was no longer as talkative as before and preferred to spend more time on her own than with the twins. Violet wondered what she often did during those times. Sochi was growing up. She wanted to be part of this growth. She wanted to be Sochi’s friend as she was her mother. She had only been a counselor for a short time, but she knew enough about how important it was for her daughter to be able to talk to her without feeling pressured. It would be a slow process, Violet thought. She still saw Sochi as a child and it would still take some time for her to admit that her baby girl was quickly becoming a teenager.

“Your father wants you to go to the boarding school in Nimo, but I want you to attend my school. Which one would you prefer?” Violet asked. Small steps, she told herself. 

Sochi wrinkled her nose. She turned eagerly as though she had been anticipating the question a long time. The answer she gave sounded like it had been repeated a number of times. “I don’t want to go to any boarding school.” Her tone was firm. She continued, “I like your school. I heard that they also go to summer camps there.”

Violet couldn’t contain her laughter. “Is it because of summer camps that you want to go there? I can send you to some summer camps if that is what you want. But is there any other school in your mind?”

Sochi thought for a moment, biting her lips. She shook her head furiously. “No other school. I know that you and daddy have bought the common entrance forms for the two schools already. I will just write the two. I know I can pass both of them.”

“Of course, you can. I’m very sure of that.” Violent gave her a warm smile. She sat up on the bed, leaning on the headboard. “Your father bought another form. It’s a Command school in Enugu. The common entrance is next month but you won’t have to go to Enugu to write it. They are opening an exam center here in Awka. If you pass, you will go to the school for the interview.”

“I don’t like that school,” Sochi said. “We hear stories about what goes on there. They are so strict with the students. And I would have to cut my hair.” She ran her hands through her cornrows.

Violet nodded. “I know. But you know your father…” Violet trailed off. 

“Mummy, I want to go to a day school. I don’t like all these schools daddy is picking. Help me, hmm? Don’t allow him to send me to a boarding school.” Sochi had completely abandoned her books and gone to crunch beside the bed.

Violet smiled fondly and rubbed her head. “Don’t worry. He won’t do anything. I will handle everything. Just perform very well during the common entrance. He won’t have any complaints if you do well.”

Sochi reached over and gave her a wide hug. “Thank you, mummy.”

Violet patted her back. “Oya, it is time to sleep. Close your books and switch off the light. Tomorrow, you still have school.”

Sochi skipped over to obey her mother. “Mummy, good night,” she said settling her thin figure beside her mother’s. 

“Good night, my love.” Violet kissed her forehead.