I stand in a corner and watch as Odion gently wakes the girls. My heart breaks for them anew as I watch them momentarily confused, obviously trying to remember where they are. But the pity soon gives way to resentment, as I remember these are not some strays picked up from the street…but the flesh and blood proof of my husband’s betrayal.
I duck into the study, but not quick enough for them not to see me. But I’m past the stage of caring. The last thing I want is to engage them in any form of conversation or petty chat. The less interaction we have whilst they are in our home, the better. I say a silent prayer that their stay will be short. Very short.
I wait till I hear the click of the door of the guest bedroom and Odion’s feet down the hall, before I make my way out of my hiding place. Even though seeing him is the last thing I want to do, a strange force pulls me in the direction of our bedroom. I can actually feel my blood pressure rise as I approach our door. My head is pounding as my anger bubbles to the fore again. I struggle with what my reaction will be when I set my eyes on my betrayer. The Judas Iscariot I have shared a bed with for the last 21 years. But upon opening the door to my room, I am surprised to find it just the way I left it a few hours ago, save for Marshall’s towel on the bed. I can tell than neither he nor I have returned to our sanctuary in the few hours since it has been since the very core of our marriage has been shattered.
Curiosity makes me wander downstairs, and from the foot of the staircase, I see Marshall sitting in the exact same position I left him over four hours ago. His hands still cradle his head, and his shoulders are as sunken as if they are carrying the weight of a thousand ships. The man I see is a broken man.
Quietly, so that I don’t attract his attention, I make my way upstairs. At the top of the stairs, I am at a crossroads. I wonder if I should take a right turn and head to my matrimonial bedroom to wait for my husband so we can discuss this mess in which we have unfortunately found ourselves…or if I should head left to Nathan’s bedroom, where I can nurse my wounds alone.
I head left.
Surprisingly, sleep finds me almost the moment I lay my head on the pillow. Well almost. I am not quite spared the vivid images that torment me in my head…images of my husband…my Marshall…rolling in bed with a voluptuous woman…which is what I envision Eniye to be. My already broken heart manages to still splinter further into smaller pieces, as the mental images torment me afresh. I manage a short prayer, and that appears to do the trick as I fall asleep shortly after…a deep and dreamless sleep.
A damp feeling on my hands awakens me. I open my eyes to see Marshall kneeling by the bed, cradling my arms. I realize the wetness is from his tears. I haven’t seen my husband cry in 17 years…not since I lay at death’s door. A strong part of me wants to yank my hands out of his cheating and adulterous grip…but instead I just lie there, immobile, looking at this man who has suddenly been revealed as a stranger to me.
He must sense that I am now awake as he looks at my face, and our eyes meet. If my eyes are a reflection of how I feel inside, then they must look deadpan …emotionless. His are pained and bloodshot. But I find myself unable to care.
“Molly, I can’t afford to lose you…” he whimpers, crying anew. “I made the worst mistake of my life years ago. I wish I could go back in time to erase the whole thing…”
“But you can’t erase any of it.” I say, my voice surprisingly calm and steady. “There are two human beings lying only a few doors away. It’s a little too late to erase their existence.”
He looks at me imploringly. “Please just hear me out, Molly. If you’ll just let me explain how it all happened…”
I withdraw my hands from his hold and sit up, a sardonic smile on my face. “I don’t think I need any explanation, Marshall. You had a relationship with another woman, and your daughters are proof of that. I don’t need a biology lesson to know how they were conceived.”
“Tell me this, Marshall…” I say to him, my eyes hardening. “Was it because it was clear I wouldn’t be able to have any more kids? Was that why you chose to betray me? So you’d be able to procreate more than your broken wife’s body could manage?”
He shook his head vehemently. “How can you say that? They haven’t been a part of my life for years! Immediately after Phoebe was born, I gave Eniye as much money as I could, so she could manage on her own. I haven’t been a part of their lives at all!”
I shake my head. “For some reason, hearing that doesn’t comfort me, Marshall. What kind of man walks away from his own flesh and blood?”
“The kind of man who is gravely sorry for his mistakes and wants to make all the amends he can to the woman he loves more than life itself!” he answers, gripping my hands again desperately.
“But yet, you have lived with me, lain on the same bed as me all these years when you’ve been harbouring that kind of secret in your heart!” I say, my voice quiet. “If circumstances hadn’t brought them to our doorstep tonight, we would have carried on for the rest of our lives, with me being none the wiser.”
He bows his head, unable to come up with a comeback for this. The truth is this is where the real betrayal lies. Not necessarily in his sin of years past…but in his 16-year long dishonesty.
“I’m curious though. How much was enough to pay your Mistress off? For her to truly let you off the hook for so long?” I ask.
He hesitates before answering. “Ten Million Naira.”
I do the mental arithmetic. Whilst not a lot of money now, fifteen years ago, that would have been a tidy amount indeed. It was also more than what we could afford back then.
“How did you raise it?” I ask.
“All my savings. I also sold my shares…” he answers, his head still bowed.
“And she never came to ask for more?” I ask. “Surely, she must have heard about how successful you got over the years. She never reached out to ask for more?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t seen her since the day I gave her that cheque.”
I withdraw my hands from his again, suddenly feeling choked by his presence. “I need to be alone. Please leave.”
“Come back to our bedroom, Molly! Please don’t do this to us…”
“I said leave me alone!” I yell, suddenly exasperated and desperate to be free of him.
He is taken aback by my shout, and slowly rises to his feet and makes his way out of the room. Once he is out, I jump off bed to lock the door…what I should have done from the very beginning.
For the first time in my life, a burning hatred has taken the place of the burning love I have for the man I have pledged forever to.
5:54am is the time on the wall clock, and I know there is no more chance of me getting any more sleep. So instead, I kneel on the floor and lift up my heart to the true Healer of my soul.
“Daddy…my heart is broken!” I weep to my Saviour. “This cross is too heavy for me to bear!”
I spend the next hour just lamenting and crying in prayer. When I am spent, I kneel quiet and motionless…in meditation…waiting to hear a direct instruction from God on what to do. But apart from a peace and calm that envelopes me, I hear nothing. I am still just as confused about what my next step should be.
Still in my kneeling position, I listen as the household rouses for the day. I hear the banter of the gardener and Security Guard, and as our Steward sweeps the compound. I hear Odion’s familiar footsteps down the corridor and her tap on the guest bedroom, probably to invite the girls for breakfast. Shortly after, I hear more footsteps, probably the girls following her downstairs for breakfast.
And then I am hit with a strong realization. The girls can not stay with us.
What will we tell the world? Our Church? Our boys? No, we can not allow any of this mess to unfold. Sadly, the girls will have to retreat to wherever it is they came from, as we have no room for them in our lives.
I wait till I hear Marshall’s car pull out of the compound, before making my way back to our bedroom. I know my husband is too much of a workaholic to allow any domestic issues keep him from meeting his commitments for the day. I rush a quick shower and a hasty change of clothes. I am desperate for some mature advice, and there is only one person I can think of who can give it.
For almost all my life, Bidemi has been the older sister I never had. My first cousin, she grew up with us in our little flat in Yaba, following the divorce of her parents. By the time my mother, her aunt, relocated to the U.K., she was already done with University, and found her way there shortly after. My mother was pleased to have a companion, and they both worked themselves to the bone to make ends meet. Eventually, things got better, my father and brothers relocated to join them, and Bidemi soon married a young British-Nigerian doctor. When I had all the issues after each of my deliveries, she and her husband had been solidly there for us, supporting Marshall and my parents through everything.
Unfortunately, over the years, our roles reversed and I became more of the supporter. Her marriage broke up, and after a few tumultuous years battling with her ex, she moved back to Nigeria with a man she met, leaving her son and daughter behind with their father in the UK. The marriage in Nigeria was also short-lived but unwilling to admit defeat, she has remained in the country, struggling with one failed business idea after the other. Her relationship with her children is also very strained, as they have never quite forgiven her for leaving them. I have had to mediate several times, speaking with the kids every time I’m in London, trying to patch their frayed relationship. I have also had to step in to assist her financially on more occasions than one. But despite all this, I know she has my back. She is the only one I can confide in. She is my family.
I wish I could speak with my best friend, Anita, about it. I wish I could speak with my Pastor. But that would mean leaking the information to our Church, and I can’t afford that. Anita and her husband also attend our Church, so that rules her out as well. As it is, Bidemi is all I’ve got.
As I make my way out of the house, I pray that the girls are back in their bedroom, and thankfully they are. I avoid eye contact with Odion, or any of the other staff, and head straight for my car.
The ride to Bidemi’s house is a short one. She lives in a small apartment not too far away from ours. Even though it is past 10am in the morning, I am confident my older cousin will still be at home, taking her time to begin her day. She still has enough ‘man-friends’ to keep her comfortable, and her fabric retail business appears to be on auto-run, so she is sometimes able to get away with not going to her shop for days at a stretch.
As expected, I meet her at home, lying on her couch without a care in the world.
It is only then I realize I have forgotten all about my own obligations for the day. I haven’t even bothered to call the office to inform them I will be away for the day….or maybe even a few days. To be honest, that is the last thing on my mind.
I take my seat beside her, and before I know it, I am already in tears, telling her all that has happened in the last 12 hours. She sits up as she listens…and from the intermittent pursing and un-pursing of her lips, I can tell that she is as enraged as I am.
“That snake!” she exclaims when I am done. “I always knew there was something about that snake of a man you call a husband! I always knew he was too good to be true!”
“What should I do, Bidemi? I don’t know what to do?” I whimper.
She looks at me incredulously. “What do you mean you don’t know what to do? Someone who has a secret family? Of course you have to leave him!”
I look at her, a bit surprised by her advice. “Leave him?”
“Abi you want to stay with that kind of man?!” she retorts. “That kind of man is capable of murder! And have you thought of the scandal once the news breaks?! You know your husband is very well known.” she shakes her head and clucks her tongue. “Ah, Omolara…you can’t stay oh! It will be messy!”
I sit silently. Somehow, that is not the leading I am getting in my spirit. She glances at me, and she can tell I do not have that inclination.
“Well…if you choose to stay with him, those bastard children have to return to wherever it is they came from!” she says.
I nod. Yes, this is more in line with what my heart is telling me.
“You call that their Aunty or whomever, and tell her to come and carry her people! There is no room for them in your home!” Bidemi continues.
I nod in agreement. “They have to go. They can’t stay.”
“And that foolish husband of yours has to pay you back that Ten Million Naira…at today’s value!” she retorts. “Money he could have used to take care of his family, he threw at some prostitute! Tell him that if he wants to keep his marriage, he needs to pay you…” she whips out her calculator. “Eight-Five Million Naira!!!”
I smile in spite of myself. Bidemi will always be Bidemi.
“Be there smiling, and don’t open your eye!” she scolds. “You better take what he owes you, because you don’t know if there are still more illegitimate children out there. You have to protect yourself oh, Omolara!” she clucks her tongue and shakes her head. “I always knew your husband was nothing short of a snake!”
I leave her house partially relieved. Relieved at least that I have gotten confirmation that the girls indeed have to leave our home. But as for what will happen to our marriage…
Only time will tell, really.
Catch up on Molly’s story here: