Marriage is not the peak of endeavour, and this house is no Kilimanjaro, she said, when Gani suggested she was a wife now and should get used to it. She now cooked and went to him occasionally at night, but it was all down to her whims.
Gani began to seek my company. Sariatu, what am I to do about this girl? he asked me one day, and urged me to eat with him. "I tell you, this sugar-daddy foolishness has really left an after-taste." He took a long look at the bitter-leaf stew before helping himself to a piece of Tilapia.
Be patient with her, I advised as I washed my hand in the bowl. The way I always told her to be patient too. I felt like a mother to the overgrown children that my husband and his wife had become.
Tell me, havent I tried to do the right thing concerning Clara? What more could she want?
I unfolded the napkin and dried my hand. I no longer wanted to eat. Not once had he asked if I thought he did the right thing concerning me.
Clara's admission letter led to the fall. Gani returned home late in the afternoon and went straight to his room. He padded into the backyard soon after, stretching, having shed his babariga and cap. Only his trousers and singlet remained. I watched from the bottom of the backyard, thinking he'd want a snack. Maybe Clara could get it for him, I told myself. I pretended not to notice him as I let the chickens out of their coop, making clucking sounds as I sprayed corn on the ground for them. Then Clara came out brandishing her admission letter. She had enrolled at the polytechnic three towns away and wanted the money for fees.
What money? Gani shoved the letter back into her hands. He shook his head and wagged a finger. I have not planned this kind of expense, Clara. You cannot just spring this on me and expect me to pay." He turned to walk away, but Clara grabbed his trousers till the Guinea brocade material stretched tight on him. A ripping sound made me forget the chickens. I had sewed that outfit for Gani; the only sewing I was allowed to do after my marriage was for the family.
Clara tugged tighter. You wont pay, ehn? You wont pay? Ah, you are a joker. I will show you pepper today!
Let go of me! Gani commanded with a stern face, but Clara was already on her toes. I put down the corn-feed bowl and the chickens crowded around, turning it over. They pecked in frenzy at the abundance of corn. I crossed the yard and closed the door to the main house, so the children would not hear. I held on to the door handle to ensure it could not be opened from the inside.
I will not let go of you, foolish man! Clara fumed. You want to ruin my life? No way! You cannot ruin my life. I will go back to school and you must pay. Ah-ah? You are wicked. What if I was your own daughter ehn, would you want my ambitions curbed by some man?
Gani lost his temper and pushed her and she fell on her backside. He pulled her up, shamefaced, mumbling an apology. She got up and attacked him.
How dare you? Ehn, how dare you? Who do you think I am? She prodded his chest repeatedly and he backed away, nearer and nearer to the clothesline.
Clara child, stop it! I cried as I rushed to stop the fight. Its not done!" But my hands disobeyed my voice when I reached them. I held our husband tight so Clara could beat him all the more. I dont know where I found the strength.
Claras straightened hair flew up and down as she pummelled him, yelping from her efforts. I let go only when she was done. He staggered but quickly steadied himself, standing momentarily as if suspended from an invisible rope. Then he crashed into the clothesline. I stepped back, my hands raised with palms outstretched in a show of innocence. I fled when Amina handed me the baby.
Clara got her school fees and I agreed to look after the baby. She planned to live on the campus, and would only come home on the odd weekend and holiday.
The night before she left she came to my room. Thank you so much, Senior.
No problem, I replied, the baby will be no trouble.
And the fight, Senior, I didnt know you had it in you, to pin our husband's arms back like that! We taught him a lesson, don't you think?
She puzzled me. What, after all, did she have to resent our husband for? He had at least tried to do the right thing concerning her, even if it fell short of her desires. I parted the mosquito netting and rose from my bed. I went to the dresser and rummaged absently through a drawer, my back to Clara.
I dont know what you are talking about, Clara. I merely separated you two, to stop the fight. Why would I do otherwise?
Why indeed! Anyway Senior, at least now I know you won't stand for any rubbish."
Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas
Ganis Fall by Molara Wood