When Apham and Ijeoma had gotten married, it was only a handful of his friends that had attended the court wedding. His mother was absent. And despite how hard Ijeoma pestered him, he didn’t tell her about his mother or his sister both of whom were at that time vacationing in Dubai. For the first year of their marriage, they were happy, enjoying a prolonged honeymoon. They had traveled to Hawaii immediately after the wedding and stayed in France for the rest of the year before they returned to the country. Trouble was waiting for them in the form of his mother.
When she had heard of his mother, she had expected a classy woman in her late forties, sporting some wrinkles yet looking young and beautiful, with Apham taking some of her looks. She definitely had not expected to see a woman that seemed just a few years older than her, with a youthful and well-endowed body. Her short, blonde wig hugged her head in perfect shape, enhancing her bold eyes and her skin, the color of milky chocolate. The yellow gown she wore accentuated her shape, the sharp curve of her hips had made Ijeoma conscious of her medium-sized, almost flat buttocks. She had absentmindedly touched her back to be sure that her small rounded globes were still there and could at least compete with that of his mother. She finished off the look with a pair of black, strappy shoes with heels so thin, that they threatened to throw her off with every step she took, but she elegantly placed one foot against the other, the click of the heels against the tiles grated against Ijeoma’s ears. She would begin to detest the very sound of her approach and begin to wish that the woman would slip off the stairs, and ruin her perfect face.
When their plane landed in the Abuja international airport, they had visited the family house, a huge apartment located in the suburbs. Angela and her daughter, Bella were waiting for them in the living room, watching a Mexican telenovela. Ijeoma and Apham entered the house, the houseboy followed behind them with their suitcases. She wanted nothing more than to take a hot bath and collapse on the bed beside Apham.
“Mom?” Apham said. He’d looked surprised, he hadn’t expected to see them in the house.
“Luke,” she called with a sugary voice. At first, Ijeoma had imagined that it was out of motherly love that she’d preferred to call his English name instead of his native name, but her next action shocked her. Angela pulled Apham’s hand out of her and practically dragged him to the living room. Her hand settled comfortably on Apham’s upper arms, squeezing lightly as she teased him for not calling her for so long. “You just forgot your mother abi?” When she said ‘your mother’ Ijeoma could feel a subtle change in the connotation of those words. The way she said it made Ijeoma question if there was a biological relationship between the mother-son duo.
“Good afternoon ma,” Apham smiled respectfully, then pulled Ijeoma to his side. “Mum, this is my wife, Ijeoma.”
Finally, Angela focused on the woman beside Apham wearing a polite smile. Ijeoma was dressed in a loose, sleeveless gown that draped over her almost nonexistent breasts and pulled attention to her very slim figure. Ijeoma was usually proud of her figure but faced with the woman’s scornful look, she felt underweight. Ijeoma rubbed her elbow self-consciously.
“Oh dear, you’re too thin,” Angela said with undisguised delight. “You should eat more.” She turned her attention back to Apham. “So, how has the company been? I heard you’ve been gallivanting abroad.” When she spoke, she waved her lengthy, red nails around. They were sharp, and one of the reasons that made Ijeoma change her mind when she thought of getting physical with her. Those nails could cause permanent damage to her face.
Ijeoma was once again relegated to the background. Angela fawned over Apham asking him details of his travels, pointedly changing the topic when he tried to talk about Ijeoma. When Ijeoma couldn’t take it anymore, she caught in.
“Ma, can Apham show me to the room? I want-”
“Excuse me?” Angela turned to her.
Confused, Ijeoma tried to repeat her question. “I said-”
“Don’t you have manners at all? We are having an important discussion here and you have the guts to cut in? Are you in your right senses?”
“Mum?” Apham’s tone was held admonishment. “She is tired, I should have showed her to the room.”
“Wait o, didn’t you see the way she cut in? Isn’t it rude?” Angela asked.
Apham sighed. “She is sorry, she is just tired. We will come down after we freshen up.” He took Ijeoma’s hand. They had gotten to the beginning of the stairs when he turned back to Angela who was still gaping in shock. “Is dad coming back this night?”
“No, he traveled to Akwa-Ibom this morning,” Bella replied. She had been sitting in the living room, giggling at her phone. Aside from a flippant ‘good afternoon’ that she had thrown at Apham when they came into the house, she had all but ignored them.
Apham seemed like he wanted to say something, but on second thought, shook his head and led Ijeoma upstairs.
“Your mother seems like a lot of trouble,” Ijeoma said as she rubbed cream on her body after taking her bath. Apham was hanging his clothes in the wardrobe.
“She is my step-mother,” he gritted out.
“What?” Ijeoma stilled in her actions and turned to look at him. “You never told me anything about her. You only said she couldn’t make it to the wedding. Why didn’t you say anything?”
Apham dropped the hanger in his hand on the bed and then walked towards her, sitting at the edge of the bed in front of her. “It’s really complicated.”
Ijeoma scoffed, “Really? It’s complicated really explains everything.”
Apham sighed. “My father married her five years ago, she’s been divorced for over ten years. Bella is her only daughter. I think she married my father for his money.” He shrugged. “And she seems more like a female companion for my father. You know how things can get for him.”
Ijeoma waited for him to continue, but when he said nothing, she asked, “So, has anything happened between the two of you?”
Apham looked up at her in shock, surprised she had asked yet unable to say anything. A horrified look clouded Ijeoma’s face. Her palm rose to her mouth, “Oh my God!”