While Ugochi was bemoaning the loss of Kenneth as a boyfriend, instead of pain and a feeling of sadness for what had befallen her, and maybe a little annoyance that he had not deemed her worthy of the decency of a clean breakup and had instead broken a year’s worth of investment in themselves via text, what Nneoma had heard in her voice was fear, and that had rung a warning bell in her ears.
Nnanna had not lived as long as she would have loved him to but when she lost him to death what she felt was not fear. What she had felt was a hole in her life, a hole which was still gaping wide. She had felt bereft of that special relationship she knew she could not feel with someone else. She had felt heartbroken at the loss of her love, but she had not felt fear because she knew she could survive with or without him, she knew he was not her world, he was just a pivotal part of it.
It bothered her that her daughter felt afraid because a man she was in love with broke up with her.
She knew she had to blame herself for what she suspected, and she knew just the way to find out.
“I am worried about you,” she began. “And I know it must have come off to you as if I am pressuring you and I am sorry about that.”
“Ma…” Ugochi began, confusion filling her voice.
“Let me finish, Ugo,” Nneoma stopped her. “I think I am the reason you are crying now, and why I say so is that you are crying because you think it’s getting late for you. You just turned thirty and your boyfriend broke up with you and you are thinking of how else you will get the man of your dreams.”
Ugochi’s silence told Nneoma that she was right in her deduction.
“When I asked you to bring a man home, I didn’t mean you should bring just any man home, Ugo,” she continued. “I meant you should bring your own man home, the one for you. I don’t know how well Kenneth treated you, but if I have to go from the way you reacted when he left, you were with him for all the wrong reasons and maybe you should see it from that angle. I asked you to bring a man home because I want you to feel the love I shared with your father and knowing how much you love your job, I knew it was possible that you’d get carried away and not take notice even if a husband fell from the sky in front of you, so what was a mother supposed to do? I spoke and spoke, but never realized until now that it made you almost desperate to get it over with. Marriage is not one of those things you get over with. I am sorry.”
At her pause, Nneoma expected Ugochi to give a denying speech but she didn’t and Nneoma realized how close home her observation had been. Of all her children, Ugochi was the most self-aware and she knew that her speech must have made some homerun and her daughter was realizing it was true what she said.
She heard some noise on the other side of the phone and after a while heard a voice which sounded like that of Onyinye. She knew the ladies were blessed to have each other.
“Is that Onyinye?”
“Yes Ma,” Ugochi replied already sounding distracted. “Okay Nne, I’ll leave you now to be happy. Just remember that sometimes things happen to open our eyes and purify us. Have fun on your birthday i nugo, you hear?”
“Yes Ma, thank you, Mummy,”
As Eunice dropped the call with her mother, she didn’t notice that her eyes were already dry though still looking puffy from all the exertion, Onyinye did.
“I take it as a good sign that you are no longer crying,” she said once she noticed that her friend was no longer on the phone. She had spoken up immediately she entered the house and had to shut up abruptly when she saw Eunice on the phone looking demure and listening attentively. She knew only one person could keep Eunice that attentive, her Ma.
Another reason Onyinye was best friends with Eunice was that she loved her mother. Her Ma had loved her through the times she needed a mother figure and having lost her mother at ten years of age, she needed a mother figure a lot of times, a whole lot of times.
She noticed that Eunice had just nodded at her statement and was getting off the bed. While Onyinye was happy that her friend was no longer in tears and was apparently feeling better as she was already heading to the bathroom – no one thought about taking a bath when heartbroken – she wondered what brought on the sudden change. She could feel the wheels in Eunice’s head turning and knew she was not going to hear what was going on until Eunice was ready.
If there was one thing Onyinye hated about her best friend, it was that she thought a lot, no she thought too much. Sigh.
“I didn’t see the human being,” she said, referring to Kenneth. One way they referred to annoying people was to call them ‘human being’ so as not to call them insulting names. “But I am here to take you out. It is your birthday and there is no way you are spending it indoors or in tears.”
Onyinye knew that there was no need for the last part of her announcement as Eunice was no longer in tears.
“Sure, I am going out. I’m thirty today. I don’t get to turn thirty every day,” Eunice said just before she stepped into the bathroom, and that was when it dawned on Onyinye that the game had changed. She recognized the smile her friend gave before closing the bathroom door.
Suddenly Onyinye felt sorry for Kenneth.
Eunice was about to ignore him so much he would probably doubt his own existence.