The days seemed to follow a regular pattern. In the mornings, Nnedi would prepare breakfast for her husband before he went to his shop in the center of the town. Ogbuefi Ihenacho had many sales boys serving him so he simply went there every morning to supervise them and see to it that they were not stealing from him. Nnedi spent her afternoons doing needle work and in the evenings she prepared dinner and sat watching her husband while he ate. Then she was once again at his mercy, he pounding at her furiously and she lying motionless after which he would collapse in sleep.
Nnedi dreaded the nights and feigning illness did nothing to save her from this nightly ordeal. Soon she discovered that allowing her mind to drift away to that time when her classmate, Peter, put his hand up her skirt behind the staff room block, made Ihenacho’s sexual ‘assault’ bearable. With Ihenacho she felt none of the excitement she had felt with Peter that afternoon as he deftly caressed her with his fingers bringing her to a surprising climax.
She hardly talked with Ihenacho’s other wives save greet them when and where expected. Ihenacho’s sixth wife, Chiamaka, however went out of her way to help Nnedi and show her around Ihenacho’s massive compound. She was just a couple of years older than Nnedi.
“Welcome, my daughter”
“How is your husband?”
“I’ve missed you so much”, said her mother hugging her tightly.
“Haba, mama. It has just been a month”, Nnedi chided her mother playfully
“Where is papa”, Nnedi quizzed seating herself in one of the chairs in the parlour?
“He went to the hospital my daughter”.
“He went to pay for the operation and finalize with the doctors”
“How is Chike”, Nnedi asked
“He seems okay but the news of the operation has put some fear in him. You can go and see him in his room I have some cooking to do”
Chidi was wide awake but quite motionless
“Sister, you came?” he whispered
“The doctors say they’ll do the operation and I’ll be well again”
The tears Nnedi had been trying to hold back now flowed freely.
“Sister, don’t cry. Once the operation is done I can go back to school and run and play football again”
“I hope so”, Nnedi sniffled
“Let me go and help mama in the kitchen”, she continued
“Okay sister, next time you come visiting I will be running about”
“Amen”, Nnedi smiled weakly
She could see that Chidi was doing his best to conceal his fear of his impending operation. According to Igbo tradition, men (including boys) were not to display any form of emotion. At fourteen years old, Chidi was almost a man.
“How is Ogbuefi Ihenacho”, her mother asked once again as she entered the kitchen
“And how is married life treating you?”
“Mama everything is fine” replied Nnedi a little bit exasperated
Nnedi thought to herself that married life was far from what she had expected it to be. Ihenacho left her to her own devices for most of the day until it was time to go to bed. These days she always felt faint and when she tried to dissuade him from his furious lovemaking he chided her.
“Woman!” he would say with a self-satisfied grin on his wrinkling face.
“As my latest wife you have to have the best of me”
Her thoughts quickly returned to the present and she asked her mother how they were faring
“Not bad at all”, came her mother’s reply.
“Your bride price helped us offset so many debts and pay for Chidi’s surgery this past month. My daughter God will bless you for us”, her mother continued emphatically
“Amen”, returned Nnedi
Nnedi coughed slightly and within a twinkle of an eye she was emptying the contents of her stomach on the kitchen floor. Her mother rushed quickly to her side
“Nnedi what is the matter”, she asked agitatedly
“I don’t know, mama. I feel tired and faint these days”.
Oriaku gazed at her daughter with an expression as old as time itself. She didn’t know whether to be happy or sad
“Nnedi you are pregnant”, she exclaimed
Nnedi recoiled as if she had been slapped across the face
“Mama, what did you just say?”
“I say you are pregnant, my daughter”
Nnedi slid on the floor oblivious that she was sitting in her vomit, tears streaking down her face
So Ihenacho had succeeded in planting his seed in her. How she hated him, how she hated his guts. What right did he have to get her pregnant? She quickly reminded herself that she was his wife anyway and he had every right to get her pregnant. Still she was angry and blamed God for what she considered a terrible fate. She could imagine the comments the townspeople would make once they see her middle growing fat with child. They would praise his procreative skills not knowing what a callous lover he was in bed. She felt her mother’s arms lifting her up from the floor.
“Come my daughter, let me help you cleanup” she said softly
Before she left, Nnedi went to Chidi’s room to tell him she was going. She also told him he was going to be an uncle. Chidi beamed in return
“Sister, I can’t wait to be out of this bed so I can carry my nephew and teach him how to play football” he said
“Don’t worry, Chidi. Just concentrate on getting well first” she replied with a weak smile
At the door her mother kissed her goodbye.
“Mama, I’ll come as see you as often as my condition permits”, she said turning to leave
“It is well my daughter. Take care of yourself and my grandchild”
Okeke was greeted with news of Nnedi’s pregnancy as soon as he returned from the hospital.
“Our daughter is going to give us a grandchild soon”, Oriaku announced as she cleared their dinner dishes.
“What!!!!!!!!!” snapped Okeke
“Are you not happy?” questioned Oriaku
“Happy for what?” he continued angrily. “That my eighteen year old daughter is married to and irrevocably pregnant for one village champion?”
“In my mind I hoped that someday I would be able to return Ihenacho’s bride price and take my daughter back”, he disclosed
“I never knew you haboured such thoughts”, Oriaku replied quietly
“Well now you know”, he barked in frustration
“I’m sorry”, Oriaku ventured moving to sit beside him. She squeezed his thigh reassuringly
“Let us look on the bright side. We are going to be grandparents”
“So it seems”, Okeke hissed as he flung her hand from his thigh and stormed into his bedroom.
Nnedi got home in time to prepare dinner for her husband and await his return from the shop. “I am pregnant” Nnedi said as they retired for the night
“Ehen, pregnant you say?”
“Yes my husband”, she replied. The word husband still felt foreign on her lips
“Chineke dinma” he cried
“I knew I still had it in me. I, Ihenacho, the son of Ifeacho. Kpakpando 1 of Umaku”
“I am still the true son of my father”, he continued
“Dear”, he said turning to her.
“I can’t wait to see your tummy swelling with my son”
“This calls for a celebration, let me go and get my bottle he of gin”
With that he turned to exit the room leaving Nnedi stunned. Imagine Ihenacho calling her ‘dear’, just because she was carrying his child.
Ihenacho returned with his bottle of gin and proceeded to down half the contents of the bottle in three quick gulps.
“Let’s get into bed”, he said reaching for the wrapper which was tied around her waist
Tonight he was gentler, Nnedi realized with relief, but when he kept going on and on without any sign of slowing down, Nnedi knew she was in for a rough night. He withdrew for a few minutes and Nnedi relaxed thinking it was over, only for him to return with renewed vigour thrusting into her again and again.
She sank deeper and deeper into the worn mattress beneath her until the pummeling stopped. She waited a few seconds and rolled him off her torso, she stared revoltingly at his engorged member glistening in the light of the hurricane lantern. Soon enough she fell asleep
Nnedi woke up to go to the bathroom. She noticed Ihenacho was still lying in the same position in which she had rolled him off her. She touched his arm and it was cold. She laid her hand on his chest and felt nothing.
Surprise, shock and then fear seized her in turns as the reality of what had just happened dawned on her.