Charles held a spoonful of rice to his wife’s mouth. She shook her head and gently pushed the spoon away.
‘I don’t want to eat again.’ she rubbed her stomach. ‘My stomach is bloated.’
Charles looked down at the half-filled bowl of jollof rice. ‘Three more spoons and I’ll stop. Please.’
Funmi grumbled. ‘Why are you so stubborn?’
She chewed the rice slowly, frowning when Charles scooped another spoon of rice.
‘I want to go home. When will I be discharged?’ Funmi asked, her eyes darting from one side of the room to the other.
It’d been five days since she’d been wheeled into the hospital’s patient room. She was tired of the pale blue sheets, the bland walls, the unexpected rounds of the doctors and nurses. She was tired of waking up to IV bags and stands. She hated the helplessness the room made her feel. Her room was small but comfortable. She didn’t have to share the room with another patient. Still, she was tired of the injections and drips.
‘The doctor said you might be discharged tomorrow.’
Funmi touched her husband’s face tenderly. ‘Thank you for staying here with me. You’ve been away from work for five days.’
Charles smiled. ‘You are my priority.’
The smile disappeared. He had spoken to his lawyer friend about filing for a divorce. Funmi’s heart would break when she discovered his plan. This was for her safety. Would she understand?
Funmi caressed her husband’s slender fingers. ‘What are you thinking about?’
Before he’d respond, the door flung open. Aunt Toyosi strode into the room, stopping at the entrance to whip a floral muffler over her shoulder.
‘My darling Funmi!’ she shouted, her face creased with worry.
Annoyed, Charles rose. He gave his aunt a long hard stare. Aunt Toyosi returned his gaze with a scowl. He looked away, defeated and frustrated. Ireti was behind her, holding a basket of banana and apples.
He ignored her and went to the window. When he stole a quick glance at Ireti, she rolled her eyes lustfully at him. His body responded to a familiar desire.
Why does this woman always have an effect on him? Why did he want her so badly?
He wanted to pull Ireti out of the room to somewhere quiet and make love to her. His thoughts scared the hell out of him.
Funmi squealed in excitement as Aunt Toyosi sat on the bed. ‘Big Mama! Oh my God! What a surprise.’
Aunty Toyosi leaned towards Funmi and hugged her warmly.
Funmi’s eyes were lit. ‘Big Mama, I have missed you. I’m sorry I’ve not called you in a while.’
Aunt Toyosi touched her chin. ‘I understand. I heard you were sick and rushed down to Ibadan.’
Funmi hugged her again and stared at her adoringly. ‘I’m so happy you are here. Please come home with us tomorrow.’
Charles shot his wife an angry glance but her attention was fixed on his aunt. His gaze shifted back to Ireti. She was smiling at him.
‘I want you.’ She mouthed.
Charles tried to tear his gaze away. He felt powerless. He stared at her, images bombarding his mind. His body curled around her while he stroked her hair. The kisses that drove him nuts. The scent of her breath.
God, what is happening to me? How can I be thinking of another woman in the presence of my wife. This is crazy.
Charles closed his eyes and let out a deep breath. When he opened them, he forced his eyes to rest on his wife. Funmi was holding his aunt’s hands, pleading with her to move in with them.
Aunt Toyosi smiled sweetly. ‘I have a pressing engagement in the next couple of days. But I’ll sure pay you a visit soon.’ She turned to Ireti. ‘Meet my friend’s daughter, Ireti.’
Ireti stepped closer, smiling shyly. ‘I’m sorry about your health. The Lord perfect your healing.’
Funmi studied her. Short gown that barely covered her thighs. Her cleavage revealed too much. What’s Big Mama doing with an indecent lady like this?
‘Amen. Thank you very much.’ Funmi responded.
Funmi felt uneasy as she gave Ireti a second look. She didn’t like her. Her afro hair gave her an innocent appearance, but she didn’t think Ireti was naive.
This lady has something up her sleeves, Funmi thought.
Funmi quickly kicked the thought aside. If there was something wrong with her, Big mama would not bring her to the hospital.
She flashed Ireti a quick smile and turned her attention to big Mama.
Charles was increasingly uncomfortable in the room and went to the waiting area. He slumped into a chair and bowed his head.
This was all his fault. If he had refused his aunt’s demand to return home after he graduated from the university, he’d never have gotten into this mess with Ireti.
Aunt Toyosi had called him the morning he finished his school clearance.
‘Charles, when are you coming home?’
He had no plan of returning home. When he became a member of the fellowship executive in 200 level, he’d spent most of the semester breaks in school. He had no excuse not to go home now that he was done with school.
Some of the students were staying back at the fellowship secretariat for a prayer retreat and an evangelistic outreach. The president of his campus fellowship had convinced him to participate and he’d gladly agreed.
‘I don’t know yet. I still have some things to do here.’
Aunt Toyosi flared up. ‘Charles, I’m not happy with you at all. I grafted you into my family when your parents died. I took you as my son. I fed you, paid your school fees, gave you the best life! I treat you the same way I treat my biological children. Why are you repaying me this way? Since you got into that school, you barely come home. The few times you came, you spent just a day or two. You are hurting me.’
Charles let out a deep breath.‘I’m sorry mum. I’ll be home this weekend.’
He’d lost his peace the moment the words came out.
‘Good. I’ll send twenty thousand naira right away. If you need more cash, I’m just a call away.’
That evening, at the sport center where he had gone to pray with his friends, he heard a small still voice.
Don’t go home.
He dismissed the words from his mind. The voice was not from God. Aunt Toyosi was a mother to him. God could not be against a short visit home. He owed her a visit. Just one more visit before his call up letter arrived.
Don’t go home.
The words rushed back to him as he woke up the following morning. He ignored it again. It would be rude calling his aunt to inform her he’d changed his mind. She’d be hurt.
‘Then send her a text. Charles, I don’t think you should go home yet.’ One of his friends said the night before his trip.
‘You don’t understand. This woman has become a mother to me. Without her support, I won’t be here. The least I can do is spend some time at home.’
When Charles stepped into the house that Saturday evening and saw a dark, plump girl sitting beside his aunt, flashing a smile that revealed a gap tooth, he knew coming home had been a mistake.
Aunt Toyosi had her plans.
She engaged him from the time he woke up until late at the night and by then he was dead tired to pray. He’d tried to wake up before dawn to pray, but every attempt was met with a loud knock by his aunt, calling for help with chores that could wait till morning. He’d given up eventually.
I’ll only be here for three weeks, he’d convinced himself. He vowed to get back into communion with God once he stepped into the NYSC Orientation Camp.
Two weeks after Charles returned home, he came out of the bathroom in a towel wrapped around his waist to find Ireti standing beside his bed, in a lingerie. He froze for a moment, stunned at the power her sight was having on his body. She went to the door, locked it and pulled him into bed.
He’d cried that night and asked God to forgive him. It had happened the next day, and the next.
Charles finally surrendered to guilt. God had no business with an unrepentant sinner like him. He was sure he had stressed out the angel in charge of the book of life. The angel must have hissed and said, ‘This man is not serious! How many times do I have to rewrite your name. I’m tired!’ Charles had given up. There was no hope for him.
Charles clenched his fist, tears filling his eyes. A woman ran out of one of the wards to the waiting room, shouting ‘my husband!’ ‘Don’t leave me like this.’ at the top of her voice. She fell to the floor, crying. The nurses gathered to comfort her and two male nurses carried her out of hospital.
God, I wish I was her husband. Let me die! Kill me please. Stop torturing me. Just end my life!
A hand tapped his shoulder. He raised his head, annoyed at the interruption.
‘My darling husband.’ Ireti whispered. Charles pushed her hand away and returned to his wife’s room.
‘Here are the divorce papers you requested for.’ Charles’ friend said, pushing a thick brown envelope across the table.
Charles reached for the envelope. ‘Thank you, Ebuka.’
‘Are you sure you want to go through with this?’ Ebuka inquired. ‘Charles, you might want to see a counselor first.’
Charles shook his head. The matter at hand was beyond a counselor’s competence.
He pushed the chair backwards and stood up. ‘I have to go now. I’ll keep you posted. Thank you again.’
His mind flew in different directions as he drove home from Ebuka’s law chambers.
Funmi would be disappointed in him. It was hard now that she’d been overly warm and patient with him since they returned from the hospital.
One time, he’d woken up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and Funmi had been reading, ‘10 practical ways to spice up your marriage.’ His meals had greatly improved too and they were served at the right time. Funmi’s gestures plunged him further into guilt. Guilt of cheating on his wife. Guilt of breaking his marriage vows.
He had to let her go. Everything was going well now but it was only a matter of time before Aunt Toyosi struck again.
I’m doing this for her, he muttered to himself. The only way to protect her was to stay far away from her.
Charles let himself into the house quietly. He heard Funmi singing in the bedroom and slumped on the sofa. If he entered the room now, Funmi would suspect that something was wrong. He didn’t want to talk about the divorce yet.
His eyes moved to the dining table. His food was ready. He wondered what she’d prepared this time.
Unsure what to do, he pulled out his wedding album from a stack of books under the center table. He flipped to the first page of the album.
Funmi stood beside him in a white lacy wedding gown. He laughed, remembering how her make-up had irritated him.
‘Where is the woman I married?’ He’d said on their way to the reception venue.
Funmi had been annoyed by the statement. ‘What do you mean by that.’
‘This face is different. Funmi, was this make-up necessary? What happened to using things moderately. I’m not saying you look terrible. I just feel like I’m sitting beside a stranger.’
He laughed again remembering the tactics he had to use to cheer her again. Later when he told his best friend about it, Shola had slapped him on the back and said, ‘You better learn how to tell a woman what she wants to hear. Women can keep grudges like crazy. For peace sake, just keep saying, ‘you look stunning baby.’
Funmi, you are beautiful. Why did you settle for a stupid man like me.
Two hands rubbed his shoulders softly. Charles jolted out of his reverie and turned to see his wife grinning behind him. Funmi planted a kiss on his lips and came around to sit beside him.
She ran her hands over his broad chest, her eyes fixed on the album. ‘I’ve really done a good job. Look how lean you were when we first got married. My husband has added plenty of flesh.’
Charles kept his gaze on her. ‘You are very beautiful.’ He swallowed hard. ‘You deserve a great life.’
Funmi pulled the beards hanging down his chin. ‘I wouldn’t have asked for a better man. I’m glad I married you.’
Charles let out a painful sign when Funmi lay her head on his laps. Why was she weakening his resolve? He wanted her to get angry and say hurtful words to him.
He raised her head gently from his laps and said he needed to use the rest room.
Funmi watched her husband disappear into the bedroom. Something was troubling him.
Was she not trying enough? What exactly did he want her to do? Couldn’t he see the efforts she was making to see their marriage work?
She stood up and went into the bedroom. Charles was lying down on his back, staring blankly.
Funmi sat on the edge of the bed and touched his leg. ‘Baby, since I got back from the hospital, you’ve been moody. What’s wrong?’
‘I just need time to process some information okay? I’m fine.’ Charles responded without looking at her.
Funmi reached for his hand. ‘I am your wife. I’d love if you carry me along. I love you Charles. Tell me how you feel.’
He lay on his side and gave her a reassuring smile. ‘Seriously, I’m okay.’
Funmi joined him on the bed. Charles tried to hide his irritation. For goodness sake, he wanted to be alone. Her presence made it difficult for him to think.
‘I know I may not have a child now but I believe it will happen soon.’ Funmi said, her face drawn.
Charles kissed her before pulling her close to him. ‘Trust me, it has nothing to do with that. I am not worried that you’ve not been able to conceive. It’s not that at all.’
Funmi touched his jaw. ‘Then what is it? Why are you troubled?’
He held her hands. ‘Just hold me, please.’
Funmi wrapped her hands around him, praying silently to break through to her husband’s heart.
‘I love you very much.’ he said, planting kisses on her cheeks.
Funmi giggled. ‘I love you too. No matter what, I’ll be with you forever.’
Tears filled Charles eyes again. He rubbed his chin on the top of her head. Maybe the divorce was not necessary, maybe Aunt Toyosi had left them for good, maybe there was hope that his marriage would work.
Funmi waited for her husband on the veranda, unable to stay still with the news she had received.
When Charles finally drove into the compound, she ran down the steps of the veranda, clapping like a little girl excited at the arrival of a father she adores.
Charles sat back in the car and turned off the engine, grinning sheepishly at his wife. She beckoned on him to get down from the car.
I’m never going to sleep with another woman in my life. I swear I’ll be faithful to Funmi forever. I will shower her with the love she deserves.
He climbed down from the car. Funmi ran into his arms. Her eyes were teary.
‘Honey!’ She screamed with delight
Charles held her close and breath into her sweet scent. ‘Iyawo mi. I couldn’t get you out of my head all day.’
Funmi laughed heartily. Charles slide his hand around her and with his free hand locked the car.
‘I have a surprise for you.’ Funmi said, giggling as they entered the house. A tear trickled down her face.
Charles stopped at the door and turn to his wife, curious. ‘Spill.’
Funmi shook her head. ‘Let’s go in first.’
When they got to the bedroom, Charles faced her. ‘This suspense is too much for me to bear. Can you tell me now?’
Funmi shook her head again as she unbuttoned her husband’s shirt. ‘Not yet. You have to take a shower first.’
He rubbed her shoulder gently and held her hands. ‘Please tell me…Please’
Funmi laughed. ‘Okay. You are going to be a father soon.’
Charles’ mouth opened. ‘You are pregnant?’
Funmi chuckled. ‘I used a test strip yesterday but I wanted to be very sure so I went to the hospital this morning. I’m six weeks gone.’
Charles carried her and swirled her around before planting her feet on the floor. He was glad he had not gone ahead with the divorce.
‘We have to celebrate this. You know what? I’m going to have a shower and take you out on a date.’
Funmi frowned. ‘What will happen to the coconut rice I prepared?’
Charles laughed. ‘Really? Are you kidding me right now? You’d rather we sit on that dining table to eat your amazing meal or we go to Plastine Cuisine for some Crispy Calamari rings and Paneer steak with strawberry parfait.
Funmi’s hand flew to her mouth. She shook her husband’s shoulder. ‘I can’t miss Calamari rings for the world!’
‘I know the woman I married. She doesn’t play with things like this.’ Charles laughed as he hung the towel over his head and walked to the bathroom.
‘You mean there is a place they sell Paneer steaks and calamari rings in this Ibadan and we’ve not visited for once.’
‘Well, I think so. If we can’t get that, we’ll settle for Bacon wrapped dates or Glazed ham.’
‘What name are we going to give our daughter?’ Funmi asked as she rubbed hair cream on her long braids. Charles didn’t response. When he turned off the shower, she asked again.
‘Who told you we are going to have a girl?’ Charles said.
Funmi was about to respond when her phone vibrated beside her.
‘Sweetheart,’ She said in a loud voice. ‘Mum’s calling. I’ll be waiting in the living room.’
‘Alright dear.’ Charles responded from the bathroom.
The first statement Funmi’s mother said left her speechless for a few seconds.
‘Funmi, I’m asking you again, when was the last time you held a prayer vigil with your husband?’
Prayer vigil? The last time she prayed for an hour with her husband was in the first month of their marriage.
‘Mum, I can’t remember but is it that important? Charles and I pray every morning. I think that is enough.’
Funmi tried to remember the last time she had devotion with her husband. It was the day she was discharged from the hospital.
‘Did you observe your devotion this morning?’
Funmi let out a frustrated cry. For crying out loud, why was her mother interrogating her? Gone were the days when as a single lady, she’d enter the kitchen to prepare breakfast and the first question on her mother’s lips would be, ‘What did God say to you in your devotion today?’
She had lied several times, quoting a scripture she’d heard somewhere or the first scripture that came to her head. Many times, before kicking off with her chores, she’d rush to check her devotional, just to have something to say to her mother.
I am a married woman now!
‘Yes mum. I had my devotion this morning.’ Funmi lied. She didn’t want a lecture from her mother that evening. She had a date with her husband, nothing was going to spoil her mood.
She sighted Our daily bread devotional on the center table and quickly reached for it. She would be ready for her mother in case she went further to ask what God said to her.
Funmi’s mother sighed. ‘Since you got married, every time I pray for you, I see darkness hovering around your home.’
Funmi frowned. ‘Mum! Please. I know you were not happy that I married the man I love but for Christ’s sake I am married now. Don’t put unnecessary fear in my heart.’
‘Oluwafunmilola, don’t get me wrong. At that time, I was just sensing that both of you were not ready and I didn’t understand the rush to get married. I love Charles. He is my son too. What I’m saying is that I’m sensing the atmosphere of your home is too cold. It’s making the devil comfortable and-’
‘Mum, we love God and our home is built on Christ. Everything is going on well. The devil cannot try nonsense in this house. God is for us always!’
Funmi’s mother let out a deep breath. ‘Amen. I love you my daughter. Your father and I are praying for you.’
‘Thank you mum.’ Funmi reclined on the sofa ‘Guess what? I’m pregnant.’
Funmi’s mother shouted in excitement. ‘Halleluyah! This is great news. I am very happy to hear this. This calls for a celebration. Where is Charles?’
Funmi turned slightly towards the bedroom. ‘He is having a shower. I’m in the living room.’
‘I’ll give him a call tomorrow. I have to go now Funmi. I should join your father at the crusade venue.’ She paused. ‘Funmi, after I led you to Christ, you were passionate about a relationship with God. You have allowed it dwindle. Get the fire back. Keep your personal altar burning. Please my daughter, I see an intense battle coming. Pass this information to Charles. Make your home so hot, the devil gets uncomfortable.’
Funmi heard the bedroom door open. She turned to see her husband bouncing towards her in a smashing red t-shirt and blue jeans. Funmi blew him a kiss.
‘Thank you mum. We’ll take note of all you said. My regards to Dad.’
Funmi ended the call before Charles had the chance to snatch it away from her.
‘Why did you end the call, I wanted to say hi to her.’ Charles said, leaning on the back of the sofa.
Funmi ran a finger lightly over his left cheek. ‘You look so handsome.’
She cat-walked in front of him. Charles grinned, his hands thrust into his pockets as he pretended to study her.
‘O baby. You are so hot.’
‘Are you ready?’ Funmi said, tip-toeing to kiss him on his lips.
‘Yes darling.’ he returned the kiss and held her hand.
Funmi stared out of the car window thinking about the conversation she had with her mother.
‘What’s on your mind?’ Charles asked as he pulled out of the street.
Funmi let out a deep breath.‘Mum can be too spiritual some times. God means a lot to me and I believe in prayers but I think she goes over board. Sometimes when she starts talking about demons and devils, it annoys me. I wonder why she believes in things like that. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.’
Charles didn’t say anything for a while. ‘Funmi, you have praying parents who blocked demonic influences from ruining your life. Sometimes I wish I was born into a family like yours. You slept peacefully every night. Before you sneeze, your parents would be around you, speaking into you. You had a good life girl, and you should be grateful for it.’
Funmi was annoyed. ‘Don’t twist my words. I’m grateful for their prayers. I just said I wish mum could relax and stop being too spiritual about everything. Even the bible speaks about moderation.’
Charles squeezed her shoulders, ‘It’s our special date. Baby, forget about mum for now and let’s have fun, okay?’
Funmi smiled and touched her stomach. ‘I’m going to be a mother soon. Yipee!’
Charles phone rang. He froze.
God, not again.
He stared at the unfamiliar number on the screen.
‘Answer the call.’ Funmi pressed, her eyes fixed on Charles’ phone screen.
Charles ended the call and turned off the ring volume. He winked at his wife before looking straight at the road.
‘This is a special evening with my woman. No calls.’
Funmi laughed and stared at her stomach again.
‘I’m going to be a mother.’ She muttered again.
Read EPISODE 4