CAN’T HOLD MY TEARS*
I opened my eyes to the tap of my mum’s hand. I felt a bit hot and feverish, having to swallow hard before uttering a word.
“Amara, your husband has sent someone to pick you up” she said.
My heart beat escalated and she touched my hand, coming instantly to touch my neck. “My God, your temperature is so high, are you sick my dear?” she asked, jumping up at once.
“I am fine mama” I murmured.
“You are not. You are as hot as a boiling kettle. You can’t go anywhere today. Let me get you some drugs, I will tell the guy to come for you tomorrow” she said hurriedly.
I shook my head, “No mama, I would leave this place today” I said.
She frowned. “You are not well Amara, let me take care of you, I know that that useless husband of yours would not do anything” she said with obvious anger.
Her anger was starting to irritate me. “Whether you like it or not, I am leaving this place now. I have signed the contract of this marriage, it is high time I stopped postponing the inevitable and start living the life I signed up for” I tried to get up, hiding my slight discomfort. My tummy hadn’t started protruding because I was just two months gone but as I sat up, I could not escape the sudden wave of dizziness that gripped me. I shut my eyes tight for several seconds until I felt safe to open them.
“Please be reasonable Amarachi” Mum pleaded as I pushed off the bed and slipped on my slippers.
“I am the only one being reasonable here mama” I stopped. “Wait, what am I saying? I am the most unreasonable and senseless person on earth, but I knew mama, I knew marriage to Corper Bello was a terrible idea.” I turned hurt eyes at her. “Mama, I made a mistake, even God knows that I made the worst mistake of my life, but don’t I deserve forgiveness? Do I have to spend my whole life paying for this one mistake that I made?” I cried. “When I discovered that Corper was a wicked man, I was ready to take care of my child alone, I wanted to, I only needed the support of my parents, even if it was only you” I swallowed and shook my head. “But you did not support me mama, you could not stand up to your husband; you never could, even if it was for your only child” I exhaled. “Now, I have done what papa wants me to do; please don’t try to stop me because I would not listen to you”
I opened the door and walked out, leaving my mum white-faced, with tears streaming down her cheeks. I knew I was transferring the aggression I was feeling but I really could not help myself. I had blamed myself too much for my misfortunes and I felt it might ease my burden and guilt if I blamed someone else. As I walked, I discovered that it did not work, if anything, what I just did was making me feel guiltier for making my mum sad.
My dad stood up and approached me immediately I entered the sitting room and I wished I could have escaped him somehow. Anger took over me again as I wondered what the hell he was about to say to me. No doubt, he would insult the living daylight out of me again, and I obviously deserve it.
Immediately he got to me, his face lit up in a broad smile. I was momentarily stunned. Ever since this drama started, I don’t think my dad has ever smiled. He placed his hands on my shoulders and I was forced to look up into his eyes.
“My sweet daughter, you have no idea how much I am proud of you” he breathed out. What? I blinked. This is definitely something you don’t see every day! If not for the fact that I could not perceive the smell of beer, I could have sworn that my dad was drunk. “Oh my dear, I know that I have been hard on you since this started, but it is for a good cause”. He continued, completely rubbing me of my power of speech. “You know, I am so lucky that I have a daughter who uses her head properly. Now, stop beating yourself over this pregnancy issue, it is a gift from the most high. It is definitely the key to our breakthrough. Look my girl, you are rich” he declared. “Very rich! You always wanted to lift the poverty in our family, now; God has just answered your prayers. Unknowingly, you have taken our family out of the gutter and you have placed us right inside the palace.”
“What are you saying papa?” I croaked out.
He put his arms around my shoulders as he propelled me towards the exit. “Amara, you are a wise girl, I am sure you understand me perfectly. Now, what you have to do next is to make full use of this opportunity that landed on your laps on a platter of gold. You think Alex is so mean and wicked? He might be. But it is just a matter of time. It just takes a beautiful woman with enough sense like you to bend him. We men, we pretend to be strong and invincible, but trust me, all women came through Eve, and inherited her cunning talents. Make use of it my daughter and you would be able to totally change the fortune of our family. All the dreams you have of being a doctor, can still be achieved. Think about it my girl.” He gave me a bright smile. I just could not believe all I was hearing. Vaguely, I saw the car that was waiting for me. “Now go my daughter, your husband is waiting in your new house. Be a good girl. He kissed my pale cheeks and led me to the waiting car. I walked like a remote control robot, still not believing that everything I just heard came from my own father. My mum met us, dabbing at her eyes. I didn’t know what to feel. Was she also aware of dad’s tactics? It was too much to take in.
I slid onto the soft leather in the car and closed the door. The person who seemed to be a driver, started the car. I stared at my parents in disbelief as the car sped off. They vanished from my sight and I was left with the words of my father. I felt as though I did not know my parents again but measuring everything, this seemed like the smallest of my problems as I looked forward to the next phase of my life.
The car entered a large compound that left me momentarily stunned. It was not as big as the senator’s house but the design was exquisite. I would not have imagined, despite the fact that I had seen many houses on my neighbor’s television, that such an exquisite building existed. And to think that someone as young as Corper Bello lived here was so unbelievable. I instantly felt out of place.
When the car was finally parked, I stepped out of it, looking a little frozen. Am I expected to live here? In this massive house? How would I cope with this? I had slept in the BQ in the senator’s compound and even that had been too much luxury for me, even though I barely stepped out of my room. But here, if what I saw outside was any indication, the house itself would be mind-numbing. Getting used to this place would be a great deal of work, no doubt. The only problem was that I would not be able to find joy here, the thought was so painful. Even my shabby village was filled with joy and a hope of a better tomorrow, there seemed to be none of that here. The man I thought I loved, cherished and respected was gone, replaced by this terrifying monster that would do anything to make my life miserable.
The driver took my sack of clothes, holding it with two fingers like it was trash, as he led me into the massive building. I was right. The house was spectacular, so breathtaking that it had me gawking like a fool. A young pretty girl of about my age approached me with an apron tied to her body. The driver gave her the sack and left her as she stared at me vaguely.
“Hello” she said softly as if she were talking to a child. I looked at her silently. “Mr. Alex told me that you were coming and that I should show you to your room” she explained. I smiled briefly and followed her lead.
She took me through a narrow passage in silence, and as we walked, it occurred to me that the girl would be a staff. Still in the narrow passage, we passed by two doors which faced each other and took three steps further before the girl stopped in front of a door which she opened. There was also a door facing the door she opened but I disregarded it and followed her inside.
A mattress was on the floor, enough to fit one person comfortably. There was a small table beside it, and a big box lay at the far end of the room, by the wall.
The girl smiled, and then frowned. “Oh, forgive my manners, I am Tina” she said. “I am the cook, even though I look small, my food is always very sweet, you could eat your tongue” she boasted with a grin. “My room is opposite yours. You would meet another girl, Tola, she is the cleaner. She went out to get some things. I am sure you are Amara” she ranted.
I was feeling awkward because something seemed very wrong and out of place. I nodded stiffly. “Yes. Amara” I responded. “Where is corper… I mean, Mr erm.. Alex. Where is his room? Does he stay in one of the rooms we passed?”
The girl laughed. “Of course not. His room is upstairs” she leaned forward to whisper. “It is a very massive room. This place is not as big as his toilet” she grinned. “This is where the staff stays”.
What? What the hell is going on? Before I could voice my panic and question, we heard a car horn and the girl startled. “The boss is here, I have to go and serve his food. He asked me not to talk to you, please don’t tell him I said anything, if he asks.” With that, she vanished.
I stood, still reeling from the implications of what I had just heard. Am I to stay with the staff in my own husband’s house? It can’t be real. The drama just never seemed to end. I don’t know how long I stayed there, at the middle of the room, but suddenly, the door opened and I spun round to see corper Bello crowding the entrance. He entered and closed the door behind him.
“I see you are fully settled” he said with clear indifference. “Well, since you have obviously pushed your way into my life, let me lay down the rules and regulations. You are in this house as maid and not a wife. Don’t ever mention it to anyone that we signed a marriage contract, or worse, that you are carrying something of mine in your tummy” he said with obvious disgust. “Everyone here has been informed that you are the new staff employee, and that is what you would be in this place. You would join Tola in doing the cleaning and other house chores. Never interfere with my food because I won’t want to contact cholera or food poisoning. You would be given the staff uniform, so you don’t have to go around in your pathetic clothes. Do you understand me?”
I stared dumbfounded. He seriously did not mean all he just said, did he? “You expect me to work as a maid in my husband’s house?”
His eyes flashed with fury. “First of all, you are not my wife. Even though we signed a bunch of miserable papers, you can never be my wife. Secondly, you should be glad that I dignified you with a maid’s position. You either do this or leave. You chose to marry me, whatever you see is of your making, not mine” he growled out.
I swallowed. “What did I ever do to you? What is my crime Corper?” I breathed.
“You got pregnant. That is your crime” he turned to leave then stopped. “And while you are here, you should never call me Corper, you call me boss” he opened the door and left.