The next morning, they took a flight back to Lagos. It was easy to forget about Angela when they were miles away from her. Apham always knew that Ijeoma suspected that the woman still had her eyes on him, but she never said anything about it. He never told her what happened the night she was made to pick beans. They settled easily into married life. Ijeoma was always home in time to prepare dinner and they went for work at the same time in the morning in their separate cars. It was a routine that quickly grew on her.
She got pregnant three months after they returned to Lagos, a piece of news that was happily received by Apham and his father. Apham was excited about the child, staring at her while he palmed her still-flat stomach. He browsed about foods and fruits that were good for pregnant women and bought them for her. He often indulged her in her favorite snack, suya. Ijeoma basked in the attention he showered her, even getting impromptu massages from him when she returned from work.
She was four months pregnant when Angela came to visit them. When she got the call that Angela needed someone to pick her from the airport, she had been stunned. Apham had not informed her of her impending visit. No preparation made to welcome her into the house.
Ijeoma took an early leave from work to rush home to prepare one of the empty rooms in the house for her, ordering a taxi for her as well. She had assumed that Angela was in Lagos for personal business but had decided to stop by their home and see them since she was pregnant. She was making eba that would go with the ogbono soup she had brought out from the fridge when she heard the gate-man opening the gate. Leaving the task at hand, she hurried to the gate to greet her.
“Good evening ma,” she greeted, reaching for the woman’s bag.
Angela handed it to her with a frown on her face. “Why couldn’t you come and pick me by yourself? Why would you send a stranger to pick me? What if something had happened on the way here?”
“I was at work when you called. I had to come back home to prepare a room for you.” Ijeoma reached for the small luggage bag that the taxi driver had brought out. She paid him the fare.
Angela was already marching into the house so she had to hurriedly pull the bags behind her.
“How do you maintain your house?” Angela was standing in the living room, looking from one corner to the other.
Ijeoma joined her in confusion. “What is wrong ma? We clean the house every morning before we leave for work.”
“We kwa? Don’t tell me Apham joins you in the house chores. How lazy are you to let your husband sweep the house?” Angela pounced on her.
“Ma, we just take turns in cleaning because we both have demanding jobs. I’m pregnant now, so he offers to do it sometimes even when it is my turn,” she explained with as much patience as though talking to a child.
Angela caught the belittling tinge in her tone. It was then that her eyes went to Ijeoma’s stomach which beginning to show. “Ehn? How many months?”
Ijeoma’s hand went to her tummy, rubbing it lovingly. “Four months now.”
“Hmm, congratulations,” she said with a bitter tone. She sat down on the sofa. “Is there anything to eat?”
Ijeoma remembered the eba that she had been making. “Yes, ma. Let me show you to your room so that you can freshen up.”
Angela was quiet as she showed her the guest room that she had hurriedly cleaned, spreading a blue bed-sheet on the bed.
“Don’t you have any other color of bed-sheet? This color is too bright for my liking,” Angela said when she saw the flowery, blue bed-sheet.
Ijeoma was shocked for a moment, then mentally went through the colors of the bed-sheet in her wardrobe. “Would you prefer a white, red, or black bed-sheet?” she asked. The question reminded her of a hotel worker.
“Get me the black one,” Angela said with distaste. “Hope it doesn’t have all these flower things on it?”
“No ma,” Ijeoma was already heading back to the kitchen. The black bed sheet was her least favorite. Apham had bought it when they were decorating the house. In fact, most of the dark-colored curtains that had been hanging around the house when they packed in were all bought by him. The next day, she had pulled them all down replacing them with light-colored ones.
Angela was eating when Apham came home. The smell of hot suya and akara filled the house as he entered. Ijeoma was in the guest room making the bed with the black bed-sheet her mother-in-law had requested.
“Honey!” he called, removing his shoes by the door to wear the slippers that lay beside the foot-mat.
“Luke.”At the voice, Apham froze. Surely it was his imagination. But the faint smell of perfume that pervaded his nose told him that it was no imagination. His mood changed as the figure of Angela came into view.
“What are you doing in my house?” he growled out.
She laughed lightly. “What does it look like? I came to see my pregnant daughter-in-law. Help her take care of her home.”
“We don’t need you in this house. Any help we need, shouldn’t come from you,” he said. But for the things he held in his hand, he wanted to reach out and literally toss her out of the house.
“Babe,” Ijeoma’s voice reached them from the stairs. The sound of hurrying footsteps approached them.
Ijeoma smiled as she neared him. “Baby, how was work?” She took the nylon bag from his hand, already salivating for it’s contents.
He forced a smile. He bent down to kiss her on the lips. As he kissed her, his eyes cast a warning look at Angela. “Work was good. Why didn’t you tell me she was coming?” He tipped his head at Angela.
Ijeoma sighed. “I got her call at work. It was too sudden.” She smiled at Angela. “I have remade the bed with new bed-sheets. Let me know if there is anything I can get for you.”
Apham was already heading up to their room, taking the stairs two at a time. Ijeoma tried to catch up with him. When she entered their room, she found him taking off his clothes. She could feel the anger rolling off him.
She placed a hand on his shoulder. “Darling, what is the matter?”
He stilled in his actions. “I want that woman out of my house,” he said pointedly.
Ijeoma stared at him in surprise. “Why?”