By Gideon Odiase
Mirrors are probably the only thing free of sarcasm and sentiments – Odiase Gideon.
It is very rarely an ambient atmosphere when a woman stays with her Mother-in-law in the same house, under one roof. The battle of wits and ownership sets in; the woman claims she owns the man, and then the mother bares her flattened breast, showing her the nipples he sucked upon whist still a baby. There is very hardly an occasion where these two live together peacefully, at best; a false sense of peace is built just to avoid disagreement.
After the demise of Pa Uchendu, Madam Chika, Ugo’s mother left the village to the city to be with her son. She said the house had become haunted as she could barely recall a night she slept without hearing voices, seeing shadows and moving curtains. It sounded like the perfect excuse mama needed to stay with him, Ugo could not turn her down, not now that Papa was no more. The sight of the Third Mainland bridge did very little to impress or gape her lips, neither did the unending Atlantic ocean over which the bridge was built. All that she thought about was seeing her son’s big house and the woman he’d gotten married to – without her approval. She had always claimed Amaka used black magic on her son, just to amass for herself his wealth; she wondered if that was the reason she had not birthed a child after five years in marriage.
Ugo and Amaka met each other during their time at the NYSC orientation camp. They’d both been posted to Ekiti, the capital of Ondo state, western Nigeria. When he first saw her in her white top and shorts, with the uniform cap slightly bent on her head. She was dark in complexion and stood quite some distance above the ground, even more than Ugo. It was only when they got talking he realized that they were both from Enugu State. For him, it spelled good fortune as he had always wanted to get married to a lady from his state. Schooling in the North did not help this aim. It did not take time for them to read the cross in their stars and eventually settle in marriage, after four years. She worked with a new generation bank, while he worked as a technician in one of the biggest brewery in the country.
On getting to the front of a gigantic gate attached to a large fence enclosing a milk-colored duplex, Ugo pelted out two loud car horns to alert the gateman of his presence. The gate flung open and a very thin man in large uniforms – both top and shorts – did very well to hold on to one side, leaving the car with just enough space to drive in. “ Welcome back Sir, this must be Mummy, welcome ma” the gateman said, with his lower and upper front teeth, all bared.
“Mummy, dalu ma” Amaka greeted, with her knees touching the ground, when they got to the entrance of the house, after alighting from the car. It is in line with the custom and tradition of the Ibos and virtually every part of the country for women and sometimes, men, to assume a kneeling posture while greeting an elderly person. Madam Chika did not need Ugo to introduce Amaka as his wife, she could see for herself; a maid could not possibly wear this expensive material and look this good, she thought to herself. She found her greeting awkwardly repulsive and looked away from where she knelt to pay attention to the bags she brought with her from the village. They were laden with yams, vegetables and many forms of traditional crop and foodstuffs. It took a hand gesture from Ugo to get her up. That was the draw of the first blood. It was clear to her that Madam Chika did not like her and she wasn’t planning to impress her either.
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