The rain continued into the afternoon, slowing down to a drizzle after school was over. The creak from the medicine wrap was the only sound in the office. Violet downed the two tablets with chilled water from the fridge. This was the second time she was taking drugs that day. It still wasn’t effective in drowning out the drums that were pounding in her head. What a day! she sighed as she flopped down on her seat. The heavy morning rain and the conversation with Oyim had ruined what could have been a good day for her. It didn’t help that running around the school under the rain tired her. One of the students that had come for counseling had burst out crying as she talked about a failed test. She had little experience in comforting crying teenagers. How could she explain to the young girl that failing the Economics test did not automatically mean that she wouldn’t be able to get a job in the future?
Violet shook her head in wonder. She tried to recall if she had ever cried over a failed test when she was younger. The pounding in her head stopped her before she could think further. She stood up and went to look out of the window. It was still drizzling. Violet imagined how the roads to the market would be. She mentally went through what she needed to buy and what she had at home. Was it possible to forego the trip to the market?
A knock sounded on the door. Her heart thumped hard, she knew who it was. Could she pretend she had gone home? She immediately dispelled the thought thinking of her car in the parking lot.
“Come in.” She pulled the curtains shut and walked back to her seat.
“This rain today eh, it just wants to ruin all the roads in Awka,” C-Jay brushed away water from his jacket as he entered. He placed his bag on the ground beside the door and marched in with wide strides.
Violet gave a weak smile, arranging the books that she had been marking on her desk. “It will soon stop.” She wasn’t in the mood to talk to him, especially not after her conversation with Oyim. Thoughts of the two men kept on playing catch with her in her mind.
“So, you want to remain in your office till the rain stops?” He sat down then reached for the roll of tissue on the desk and blew his nose into the piece he had cut off.
“No. I’ll soon go home. I just want to finish marking these assignments. It’s been on my desk for three days now.” She opened another book and wielded her red pen, hoping it would pass a message across to him.
“Okay. Can I hitch a ride with you today? You’re going to pass through Ekeawka right? I’m going to Nnewi so I didn’t come with my car today.”
Violet’s hand paused on the book. She looked up at him. She passed through Ekeawka every day. She quickly ran through the possibilities of refusing the request.
Seeing that she didn’t say anything, he continued. “My cousin is having his introduction this weekend. He didn’t even inform me early. He is lucky that I am living in Awka, if not, I won’t even…”
“The road will be bad today. I’m going to use the Government Quarters’ road,” Violet quickly put in, grateful for the fast workings of her brain.
C-Jay frowned. “Is the road that bad? Maybe a little hold-up, but apart from that, I assume it will still manageable.”
Violet shook her head apologetically. “Not just the road, I have to get something from someone in the Quarters. It will be more convenient for me.”
C-Jay looked unconvinced. “Okay, but you can drop me at the T-junction. It would be easier to get a bus to Ekeawka. If I’m lucky, I would also get a pick-and-drop to Nnewi.”
“Ah…” Violet was speechless. There was no refusing this one. If she did, it would be evident that she was doing it on purpose. Dropping him at the T-junction also meant having to take the longer way home. She was certain that the road was in a worse condition than that of the Ekeawka market road. “I might take a little time,” she grimaced at the books in front of her.
“Oh,” he relaxed into the chair. “You can take your time. I’m not in a hurry. I’ll just keep you company.”
The red pen went off its designated route as Violet’s hand shook. She gave him a shaky smile. For fifteen minutes, Violet worked as though she was sitting on pins. She was certain that there were problems with the assignments she had marked, but she could barely focus on properly reading the answers written in different shades of blue and different hand-writings. C-Jay was doing the perfect task of keeping her company, talking about everything he could. At this point, he was talking of this cousin of his that was about to get married and how the family was looking to him as the next to get married. Marriage was one topic that Violet didn’t want to hear about.
As he continued talking about how everybody in his family got married, from his elder brother to his younger sister and how he was the only single child in the family, she gave up the pretense of marking books. “I’m going to mark the remaining at home,” she said abruptly, cutting into his speech.
“Are you sure? You don’t need to rush on my behalf. I can wait, seriously.” He sat up.
“No, it’s not because of you. I just remembered that I have to buy some provisions in the market.” She sighed in self-blame. “I forgot that tomorrow is Saturday.” A lame laugh.
“Okay, okay. That is even better,” C-Jay had a wide smile on his face. “I didn’t want to stand under this rain and wait for a bus.”
“You could have ridden your car to Nnewi. Isn’t it better, and even more comfortable?” she asked hopefully.
He shook his head. “These village people. I don’t want their problem. It’s best if I go by public transport. It’s not like I even know the road from Awka to Nnewi.” He laughed.
Violet picked up her things quickly.
“Let me help you with those.” He reached for the neat pile of books on her desk.
Outside, the rain had finally stopped. Violet heaved in relief. She hated driving while it was raining. They walked in silence to the car. Violet’s car was one of the three cars still left in the lot. She paid no attention to them. She was more concerned about how to carry on the conversation with C-Jay. She was feeling very awkward around him. It was worse since he didn’t mention anything of what he had said the previous day.
It was only when they had driven out of the school that the silence between them was broken.
“How is your husband?” he asked.
It was a sudden question that had Violet pressing her feet against the brakes, attracting angry honing from other cars. “Sorry,” she muttered under her breath, pressing the car’s hone to reflect her apology.
“Wow, hope that was not because of me?” C-Jay said as though he had cracked a joke, a smile playing on his lips.
Violet looked at him, for the first time since he came to the school, she took a good look at him. C-Jay wasn’t handsome in the sense that had women staring at him with starry eyes. He was good-looking though, a well-proportioned face with the right features in the right sizes. His brown-skinned face with well-trimmed beards that decorated his chin would have had Violet in her single state falling head over heels for him, only that she had married and fallen in love with a bare-faced man that loved to go beardless. Other than the earlier thrill she had felt when he had shown an attraction deeper than that of friendship for her, there was nothing else that made her eager to spend more time with him or made her want to reciprocate whatever interest he had in her. It was all a moment’s excitement. When it came to taking things to a deeper level, she had to admit a part of her was willing but the bigger part of her was scared of ruining all that she had; scared of ruining the image of the perfect wife that she had created for herself. And guilt blinked, in a smaller part of her heart. Not guilt that she was thinking of another man while she was married, guilt that Oyim was not the reason she had for refusing him. Why was it suddenly important to differentiate between being a wife and being Oyim’s wife? What exactly was the difference between the two?
When she dropped C-Jay at the entrance of the bus park, he had left in moody silence and she had driven off with a heavy heart. They could only be friends, she’d told him. And when he had asked if her husband was the reason, she’d said no, that it wasn’t because of him. But because of her three lovely kids. Oyim may not be deserving of her love and trust, but the children deserved it, She wouldn’t ruin it for them. Her sadness came from the fact that her image of a perfect wife, a perfect marriage had been ruined. And slowly, her love and trust for her husband were being stretched thin.