Things would have been better if I hadn’t remarried but stayed single. It happened when I was thirteen. A man had forced himself on me and impregnated me. He was a family friend; a trusted one as at that. When my parents had found out, they forced him to marry me, and that was when my problems began.
Alabi Ijenu was an owner of many estates in Ibadan. People knew him for what he was—a philanthropist—and a rich lawmaker. Everyone one who heard of the terrible thing he did despised him. Some going on to lose the respect they had.
Alabi Ijenu had four wives. Marrying me made it five. I was devastated because I never wanted it to be. Having a child at the age of thirteen was nothing I bargained. It was my plan to finish school, travel the world, and be a veterinarian. Marrying an amazing man was also part of that dream, but unfortunately Alabi Ijenu came in. And then he died two years later, leaving me with two troublesome kids… who look just like him.
Kowe and Ayo were their names. After Alabi Ijenu died, I ran away and sought refuge in the outskirt of Ibadan, with the kids, not bothering to go back home, to where my parents kept begging me to come.
I wanted to start anew. A fresh start for my adorable kids.
Raising them wasn’t any easy. Though my co wives treated us not any less, I thought leaving the big house was a much better choice.
Over there, used to be a bit—shall I say?—less filled with work. Now I had to labour all day just to make money, to be able to feed our hungry mouths.
Kowe and Ayo were growing up really fast. I couldn’t wait for them to be much older so they’d join me alongside.
The daily sales brought so little. With the economy hard, and the country’s situation, we hardly made enough money to last us through the day.
I sold peppers in the market alongside tomatoes. The suffering wasn’t really paying, until one day a man passed by and stopped in front of me.
“Buy your fresh tomatoes. Your fresh, fresh tomatoes here!”
“Um, excuse me?”
He looked pretty good-looking. I doubt he’s ever been in the sun for days. “Your fresh tomatoes, Sir,” the ‘sir’ or ‘Ma’ word had been a way I liked to address the old. Not that this man was old. I chose to address him, since I knew so little about him.
“Forget the tomatoes,” I thought I heard him say. “What is a beautiful girl like you doing out here?”
I felt embarrassed. I wondered why he was speaking in such way. Is he not from here? I gave a half smile and said, “I do this to feed my kids. Do you have a problem with that?” Mom and dad had taken me to a well-polished school before that awful man ruined it all. It wasn’t hard blending in. I’m sure he was surprised, from the way he looked at me.
I wasn’t sure if I should tell him mine. “Habibat.” I said, smiling.
MARRIED TO AN ATHEIST ☸
CHAPTER ONE ✴✴
The perfume Amos wore was choking me. And the moping eyes from the people around was almost suffocating me, making me unable to breathe.
He asked me to wait, and I did. Appearing again, he handed me a big basket—one so blue. Asking me to place almost two-thousand naira tomatoes in the basket, I looked at him, stunned, still going on to fill the basket to the brim. He didn’t look shy at all taking the basket from me. Taking a card out of his breast pocket, he handed it out nicely, and asked me to give him a call.
Yemisi my co seller, poked her elbow in my belly side and eyed me. “Habib, you don turn big woman o. Ehn ehn! Show me way!” she said and laughed.
Yemisi was a woman in her prime. I took her as a big sister, and liked her because of the way she treated me.
Yemisi was staring all along. I hadn’t noticed this.
I’d completely forgotten that she was there, while Amos went on talking. I must have felt a blush. The hotness of my cheeks made me realize. Blushing because of a stranger? Unbelievable!
The evening light was swiftly coming. I was done with Thursday sales. Having packed all things, I got ready to pick up my kids from the place I had them stay. On my way, I met who had turned out to be the man I’d seen hours before. A car had stopped and wound down. Popping out, two thrilling eyes drilled me from head to toes, two magnificent lips pulling giving way to produce a smile. “Mind if I give you a ride?”
I hesitated for a moment, getting betrayed by my legs. “Good evening,” I said and got in.
The way he smiled made me uncomfortable. “Manners and beauty!” his voice made me nervous.
“48 Idimotu Street…off Siani.” I kept my eyes on the road, dreading make eye contact with him.
The first few minutes was filled with a tiny bit of awkwardness. None of us said a word or even whispered—then;
“Kids… your kids.”
My eyes met his. “Yes?”
“You mentioned kids earlier, didn’t you? How many are they?”
I counted my teeth, just to add a fine touch. “Two,” I said. “They’re two.” I looked back at the windscreen.
“And your husband?”
I looked at him again. “Why the questions?”
He shrugged and pulled up in front of a white building.
“Why are we stopping?”
“I like you, Habib,”
I felt my sweat drop as he went further to say. “Erm, 48 Idimotu—” his hand touched mine. My countenance fell, and I quickly withdrew. Wanting him to stop, as I said, “Please stop!”
“Are you afraid of me?”
“Can you please drive?” I thought for a moment then made to open the door.
“I will take it from here,” I got down, and he held my hand. “Don’t go…!”
I yelled in my local dialect—Yoruba, “Please stop touching me!” I said with teeth clenched.
I’m sure he understood perfectly, as he let go of my hand, and watched me leave.
Wasting no time to walk, I moved hastily, having been free, walking downtown, dreading looking back, taking the next turn, as I hurried to where my kids were.
“Ka a ale,” I greeted.
“Ka a ale, omo mi.” Mama Iyabo replied. “Bawo ni?” she asked.
Good evening, my child—how are you?
I replied in English. “I am fine.”
“O dara,”…okay. “Let me go and wake up the kids “
Kowe came out before she could go inside. He looked drowsy while rubbing his eyes. One could tell he had slept to his heart’s content. “Mommy…”
“Eh-eh! You don sleep nah? See your eyes!” I exclaimed.
“He don sleep well, belle full. Na only food remain.” Mama Iyabo followed, handing me their bags. She threw a stern look at me, and said, “Habibat,”
“Don’t you think it’s time these boys started school? Their mates have started ooo.”
“But mama,” I scratched my hair. “you know how things are these days. E no easy ooo.” I hung the bags over my shoulder. “Eh-heh, Kowe,” I made to change the subject. “Where is Ayo?” I diverted the woman’s mind, as she said, “He is inside.”
Mama Iyabo was in her sixties. She was one of the women that came through for me, whenever I needed something. She had tribal marks on one side of her face. Although sixty—sixty-five, she had grey hairs and some on the frontal part of her neck.
Kowe said after Mama Iyabo, “Mommy, he is sleeping,”
Mama Iyabo and I, along with him, went inside, finding Ayo on the floor with a pillow supporting his head.
His baby eyes slowly opened.
“Jii dide!”…Wake up!
A smile lapped his face and he arose. He yawned sleepily and looked at the three of us. Making out who we were, and where he was, he rose to his feet, almost falling, looked back, as though looking for something, and said, “E kaaro.”
Mama Iyabo and I laughed. “It’s evening,”
He led the way, and we tagged along, surprised.
Kowe and Ayo dozed off immediately we got home. It gave me more time to tidy up the place and keep it clean. It wasn’t minutes long, when someone knocked at the door of our one room apartment and I went to open it.
Our unexpected guest—
“Amos?” It was the guy from the market…he was at our house.
Afraid to let him in, I came out, wearing a worried look on my face. “How were you able to find me?” I asked wanting to know, and he said, “Habibat, please listen to me,”
I went further to ask, “Did you follow me?”
He clasped my hand and let his ebony eyes linger. “I can’t take my mind off you. Ever since I met you…”
I hushed, and shifted to avoid getting touched. “Please leave,” I pleaded with him. “Leave or I’ll shout and alert the neighbours.”
He asked softly, “Why are you treating me like this? Am I not good enough?”
I placed a finger across his lips. “Please bring down your voice!” I didn’t want him to wake the kids. “We do not want to wake up…”
“Mommy!” Ayo called from inside.
I didn’t want him seeing some stranger, especially one I had met a couple hours.
I wanted to be out of this man’s sight—but unfortunately leaving my house would be just odd. “What do you want?” I drew a sigh.
“I want you,” He sounded ridiculous.
“Who told you that you could come here?” I crossed my arms and asked. “Wait—” I said halfway. “How were you able to locate here?” I asked with my pointy raised.
I shrugged, not convinced.
“We’ve woken somebody up,” Amos said.
“Great!” I huffed and turned around.
Ayo made towards us and I carried him, looking back at the stranger. “Good evening,” he greeted tenderly.
“Say ‘Uncle, good evening’.” I corrected him.
Feeling shy, he buried his head in my neck.
“Hey…boy!” Amos looked pleased seeing him. He took his hand and shook it cutely. I couldn’t resist smiling. He looked like a kid-lover. “Not going to offer me anything?”
I asked, not being able to hold—”Are you a Nigerian?”
He laughed and nodded affirmatively.
* * *
Meeting Amos was the best thing that happened to me this year.
…a stranger turned friend!
Amos visited more often. Seeing him get along with my kids just right, was the best I’d seen in years! Kowe and Ayo had never felt more comfortable around anyone than with him. Each time he came, he made sure they had plenty of things and never lacked.
The kids looked forward to seeing him and, whenever he missed a day, they’d be all sad and ask why he hadn’t come. “Mommy, why isn’t uncle Amos coming today? Is he sick?” their tiny voices would tell that they were missing him.
Amos was a lawyer. His work often held him, but when whenever he had the chance, he never missed coming.
It seemed I was starting to miss him anytime he didn’t show up. Sometimes, I’d intentionally wait outside, with the hope his car would finally pull up in front.
“Have you been waiting?” a voice called suddenly.
I looked in the direction, acting surprised, getting my arms crossed, as I said, “You’re here,”
“I know you’ve been waiting,” said a tender voice, so nice. His lips spread and out came a smile. A blush coated my cheeks, my face twitching. His scent captured my nose, and my heart leapt with joy. “I love your perfume—” I stopped myself from saying. “Where is your car?” I noticed he hadn’t come out of it.
“It’s at the mechanic,” even the way he said it sounded cute. Isn’t he sweet? Butterflies fluttered in my tum.
“Hope it isn’t giving you much trouble?”
He asked, “Hm?” then said, “Oh, no, it’s fine. How are the twins?” we chatted as we went inside.
How am I doing? 😋😋