I stood there, flanked by the three women, all of whom were waiting for the words that would come out of my mouth. My mother’s eyes were blazing fire in her anger, and my Aunty Felicia looked like she had a front row seat in the best live action movie in town…and I suppose she did, considering the kind of fight my mother was spoiling for. And Voke…well, all I could see in my sister’s eyes was pity, because knowing our mother, she knew I was about to really get it!
But from nowhere, I got the courage to stand my ground.
“I’m a grown woman, Mom. I’m not some 18 year old you still have control over. You can’t come to my own house and be issuing threats! You don’t pay any bills for me, so I’m not answerable to you!” I snapped, making all three women recoil in shock.
“What did you just say, Isio?!” Mom said, rising to her feet and advancing towards me.
Ordinarily, and as I knew that gesture always preceded a resounding slap, I might have taken cover somewhere. But instead, I stood right there. My heart was racing a mile a minute, but I was determined not to cower just because my mother was angry. Telling them Pere was responsible was as bad as telling the Pere himself…and that wasn’t an option.
Mom stopped mere whiskers from me, and it was obvious from her face that she was surprised she didn’t get the usual reaction from me.
“You want to slap me, Mom?” I asked. “Oya, slap me now. Beat me like you’ve threatened. You can beat both babies out of me, no problem.”
Now, that was me being strategic!
“Both babies?!” Mom exclaimed. “Na two? Na twins?”
Okay, so we were back in Pidgin English territory, meaning the coast was getting clear.
I smiled at her. “Yes, Mom. I’m having twins.”
A broad smile broke on her face, as Aunty Felicia jubilated. Voke just stared at me in something close to astonishment and awe. I had just literally dodged a big bullet.
“Na only God save you, Isio!” Mom muttered, still unable to wipe off the smile on her face. “Or else na for road them for find all the teeth from that your yeye mouth!”
With the tension diffused, I was finally able to take a seat.
“You are right about being a grown woman, Isio.” my mother said, just as I was about to get comfortable. “But no matter how old you are…13, 33 or 103…as long as your dad and I are alive, you are answerable to us. I will let you be for now, but when I get home, I am going to tell your father. When he asks you who is responsible, if you like you can also tell him this same nonsense about paying your bills and not being answerable to anyone.”
Oh dear. She was back to speaking English again!
“But Isio, how you wan take do am? Pikin no be doll-baby oh! And na two for that matter! Ha! How you go take care of them if dem papa no dey? Abi you tink say na your own papa go dey give you money?” Aunty Felicia asked, clearly worried.
The truth is that I hadn’t even thought that far. With my current job, it would be close to impossible to do it on my own. But I was ready to wing it and have faith. Maybe I would finally get the job of my dreams. Maybe I would hit the jackpot or something. I wasn’t sure how, but I just knew that I would cope somehow.
“Money wey we no get!” Mom cackled. “No mind am. She just dey talk her own. I know wetin I go do. As for you Voke, I dey look you oh. You no dey talk anytin. Abi you wan tell me say you no know who get the belle? Two of you dey here for the same house, but you wan say you sabi?”
“Ah, leave me out of this oh!” Voke exclaimed, throwing her hands up. “Nobody should drag me into this at all! I have enough stress with this wedding, abeg!”
It was like the mention of the wedding reminded the two older women of a more pertinent fact.
“So wait oh, Isio! If the person wey don give you belle no marry you, who come marry you na? Which man go wan carry woman wey get two children already, put for house?!”
Gee thanks, Aunty Felicia!
Mom sighed deeply, shook her head and rose to her feet. “Make we dey go, Felicia. I don dey get headache. Voke, when you look those materials finish, select your own and ask James to bring the ones wey remain to me.” she looked at me. “The next person wey you go talk to na your papa!”
When they left, Voke stared at me. “Mehn, you have what they call liver, for standing up to Mom like that!”
I shrugged, knowing fully well that even though I’d dodged today’s bullet, there was a full arsenal waiting for me back home. Once my father heard, it would be a completely different story.
But like the eerie calm before the storm, I heard nothing from the old man. I was expecting a telephone call summoning me to Ogudu to explain myself…but there was none. Instead, each day I woke up and went to bed with the rising premonition of what was brewing. Frankly, I would have preferred a confrontation to the passive aggressive silence.
The weekend of Voke’s introduction soon came, and I had no choice but to finally go home to face the music. Voke and I left for Ogudu the day before, a Friday, and when we got home, I quickly disappeared into our old room before anyone could see me. I was now almost 11 weeks pregnant, and my stomach no longer looked like that of someone who’d just eaten too much. It was still small, but it was an unmistakable bump. The babies were determined to make an early announcement!
Walking in, they were both seated on the bed, looking sober. My father took one look at me, and my heart broke when I saw how weary he looked.
“Your mother tells me you are pregnant.” he said. “I would have asked you if it’s true, but I’m afraid I think I can see it for myself.”
I immediately regretted my choice of outfit. A flowing boubou would have done a better job of camouflaging me than the summer dress I was wearing.
“She also says you have refused to disclose who is responsible.” he continued.
I said nothing, but just listened with my head bowed.
“I won’t lie if I tell you I’m not disappointed, Isio. I had such high hopes for you.” he went on. “But children are a gift from God. And twins are even double the gift. So, even though it’s not our preferred path for you, especially with your insistence to do it alone, we remain grateful to God for this blessing, and we will support you.”
I looked up, overwhelmed with happiness…and relief. I proceeded to hug my father, and my reluctant mother. It was clear that she wasn’t in agreement with her husband’s neutral stance, but knew she had no choice but to go along with it.
The next day, our house was a flurry of activity, and it brought back bitter memories for me. Eleven years before, Ejiro and I’d had our very elaborate introduction ceremony. Who would have thought that, fast forward 11 years, I would be not only unmarried but pregnant! I remembered how it had been Voke who had been sad and wistful then. Now, I was the one feeling wistful. It was ironic. But I was happy for my sister, regardless. She was getting her happy ending like she’d always wanted.
Thankfully, it wasn’t quite the carnival mine had been. Only a handful of our relatives had been invited, and we were expecting only a handful of Obiora’s relatives…or at least, that’s what we were told. Thankfully, our parents had the foresight to prepare for a large crowd, because by the time Obiora’s family arrived my compound in a convoy of 12 cars, we knew it was about to go down!
Obiora’s mother’s contingent had 9 of those cars. She, her relatives and a few of her friends looked elegant in the same elaborately beaded yellow George wrapper, atop different colours of lace blouse. Obiora’s mother’s blouse was white and with her heavy gold jewellery, could have passed for the bride herself!
In quite the contrast, Obiora’s father alighted from the most modest car in the convoy, a 1994 Nissan Pathfinder. Dressed in a very simple kaftan, he was accompanied by 2 men, whom we later found out to be his brothers. Having been divorced from his wife for over two decades, he had made the journey all the way from Owerri, where he now lived with his new family.
Obiora, his older brother and two of his friends, were in the other two cars.
It could have been an incredibly ackward gathering, especially given the animosity between his parents, but thankfully, it wasn’t. It was also clear where Obiora got his jovial good nature from, as almost from the very minute he walked into the house, his father was full of jokes and laughter.
But as full of jokes and laughter as he was, he was determined to take charge! He might have been only a retired Civil Servant, in contrast to his top-shot banker ex-wife, but he was determined not to be relegated to a corner, and took control of proceedings.
“I remember the first time my son brought Voke to me!” he said nostalgically, when the ceremony was underway. “That was sometime in 2001 or so. I was in Lagos for a family function, and Obiora, my youngest son introduced me to ‘the woman he was going to marry’. I laughed at him, because he was only about 20 years old or so. But he was very, very serious! Over the years, I met her a few more times, and I could finally see what it was my son saw in her. Well mannered, courteous, polite, kind…I told my son that girls like her don’t come along every day. And I should know!”
There was laughter but, as expected, Obiora’s mother didn’t even crack at a smile at the dig that was clearly targeted at her.
“A few years ago, when he told me they had gone their separate ways, I was surprised. But I didn’t press further. I wasn’t the one wearing the shoes, so I didn’t know how it was pinching him. All I could do was pray for him to find another girl just as lovely as Voke. So, you can imagine my joy when he told me that, not only were they back together, they were finally going to do the needful and get married! My joy is complete! Voke, welcome to our family!”
There was applause, but the man wasn’t finished.
“I had almost given up hope of participating in any of my older children’s weddings, considering the older two were not allowed to do it properly! But thank God she finally allowed this one!” the man continued, and this was followed by a murmur in the crowd. The shade at his ex-wife wasn’t subtle this time. It was direct.
It was common knowledge that she was the reason Obiora’s two older siblings had opted to elope. When his older brother, Bart, had brought home his intended fiancée, Ebele, their mother had kicked against it because the girl didn’t meet her expectations. Even when Ebele got pregnant, the woman refused to budge. In the end, Bart got angry one day, damned all the consequences and took Ebele to the registry. His only witnesses had been Obiora, Voke, and a handful of friends.
Very shortly after Bart’s elopement, their only sister, Ndidi, had run away with her own boyfriend, a young man whom their mother also classified beneath their standard. Upon their arrival in Ireland, they had married quietly, and now the so-called good-for-nothing man was a successful doctor over there.
It now made sense why she had decided to go along with whatever decision Obiora made. She didn’t want to miss out on all three of her children’s weddings.
But she wasn’t to be outdone.
“Obiora’s father has said it all. We are very happy to receive Voke into our family. When they broke up for some time, Obiora was dating a very lovely and intelligent girl from a very good home. So when he still insisted on going back to Voke, even though I was initially surprised, because the girl he was with was very lovely, I knew that I had to allow him follow his heart. Welcome to our family, Voke!”
Everyone exchanged puzzled glances, and Voke looked so angry she would burst. Obiora looked like he could kill somebody, and his father just shook his head. The woman, meanwhile, just sat there, happy with herself. I guess it was mission accomplished for her.
“Can you imagine that woman actually bringing up Belinda here?! Can you just imagine?!” Voke snapped, when we went to our bedroom for her second outfit change.
Belinda! Obiora’s famed ex-girlfriend that just wouldn’t go away!
“Don’t let her get to you. Even her own family members know how troublesome she is.” I consoled, as I helped her into the bedazzled Ankara dress. “Just ignore her.”
“I’m so sorry about my mother, Voke.” Bart apologized, as soon as we were downstairs. “You know how she is.”
Voke smiled reluctantly and nodded. The truth is that she did know how the woman was. We had talked at length about how she hoped to manage her after the wedding, because that’s what a relationship with her would have to be all about. Management.
Thankfully, the rest of the ceremony went well, and by the time his parents and relatives left, Obiora was able to heave a sigh of relief.
“Thank God! Part 1 is down. Two more to go!” he exclaimed. “I wish everything was happening now, and not all the way in December.”
“We can’t even have it before then anyway. Isio has to have given birth by then, remember?!” she chided.
“Mehn, Pere is going to have to pay a fine for making me wait this long oh!” he laughed.
“Ehn? Wetin you talk? Pere?!” my mother exclaimed.
Obiora’s face went pale, and Voke shot him several daggers with her eyes. As for me, I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.
My mother started laughing. “Wait o! You mean say na that Bayelsa boy give you belle? Hey hey! Na from clap dem dey take enter dance true true! Isio!!!! Pere?!!!”
“You mean that young man who lived on Iwaya Road? The one whose Uncle used to attend Saint Dominic’s with us?!” my father exclaimed, also surprised by the revelation. “I thought you two parted ways years ago!”
I covered my face with my hands. When Pere and I had given our relationship another shot in 2013, I’d been sure to keep it from my parents as I hadn’t wanted to get their hopes up…which was just as well, considering we’d broken up shortly after. So it was no surprise they were surprised by this unexpected blast from the past.
“My husband, you too talk! Problem don settle!” my mother said with glee. “Na to go tell that im Uncle. Na family matter. If the Pere like, make e gree, if e like make e no gree… no do no do, the matter go still settle. At all at all, na im bad pass!”
My eyes widened in fear. My parents going to Pere’s family was the WORST thing that could happen.
I dropped to my knees. “Mommy, I beg you. Please don’t go to his Uncle. Please let me handle this!”
“I agree with your mother, Isio. It was one thing when we didn’t know this mystery man. Now that we know, of course his family has to be involved!”
I threw my hands on my head. Ye! I was dead! Casting a desperate look at my father, I pleaded with him to reconsider. Whatever happened to what he’d told me barely 24 hours before?! About children being a blessing and them supporting me to do it alone?! But the man remained adamant.
I knew I had no choice.
“Please…I will tell him! I will tell him myself.” I pleaded. “Just give me a little time, and I will tell him. Please!”
My parents exchanged a look, and I knew I was finally getting through to them.
“Just give me a few weeks, and I will tell Pere myself. It will be better for him to hear it from me, and for him to be the one to tell his family himself.”
“Two weeks, Isio.” My father said. “His family has to be here in two weeks, or we will go and look for them ourselves.”
I nodded in acquiescence, knowing I had no choice.
Because, like it or not, if I didn’t tell Pere myself…my parents would.
Iya Beji returns on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.
Catch up on Isio’s story here:
- Iya Beji 1: A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Iya Beji 2: Destiny Blocker
- Iya Beji 3: Daisy
- Iya Beji 4: Upgrade
- Iya Beji 5: Bleeding Love
- Iya Beji 6: The Beast
- Iya Beji 7: The Standby Guy
- Iya Beji 8: The Boss
- Iya Beji 9: The Deal Breaker
- Iya Beji 10: The Convert
- Iya Beji 11: Hiatus
- Iya Beji 12: Never Stopped
- Iya Beji 13: Jealousy
- Iya Beji 14: Pure Magic
- Iya Beji 15: Congratulations, Mrs. Clarke!
Catch up on our other series here: