Femi leaned into his seat and shut his eyes. Pictures of Freda welcoming him home after a long day at work danced in his head. The happy laughter of their children always like water on a sun scorched ground as the rushed up to him in the warmly boistrious welcome. That alone was so much to look forward to at the end of every day but there was this extra special topping of that smell of something nice cooking in the kitchen. Whatever it was, it always tasted as nice as it smelt. Then he would head to his bedroom for a much deserved bath as the children hopped and skipped after him, filling him in all at once on the happenings of the day. A promise of some special goodie right after his bath was what finally got the children off his back till he was done with his bath and his meal. Thoughts of deeply inhaling Freda’s soft coconuty scent in the cuddling that followed dripped a giddy feeling through him.So much bliss with his heart throb, surrounded by their children, her unflinching love for him, a thriving Pastoral ministry…Life was perfect. Perfect…Only in his head. It was all perfect in his dreams just the way he imagined before he exchanged marriage vows with Freda 9 years ago.He slowly flipped his eyes open to the place where he really was at the moment. The place where many things were slowly falling apart.
The chiming clock said it was time to go home. Home to everything different from those pictures he held in his heart. No warm welcome from his wife. No children; not because they didn’t want to come out to welcome him. Children had remained a prayer request yet to be answered. There was hardly any smell of something nice cooking in the kitchen. When there was, which was usually once in a blue moon, he either ate alone or left it half way as a touchy subject would get in the way. The memories of his wife still being the gush of warmth he had married were now a distant blur.
His eyes drifted around the office and rested on a framed portrait of Freda. A sigh escaped as he picked it up. He brushed his thumb across it’s glass surface. Freda’s face beamed at him through eyes that shone from her soul…Memories of how he would gaze into those eyes and talk far into the night about life and the future ahead of them danced in his head. Her wide eyed innocence that shone from her glowing ebony face had held his attention from that first day at the canteen. A tap at the door drew him out of his reverie. He set the portrait on the polished glass topped table. The door creaked open and Angela his PA popped her head into the office.
“Pastor, the driver is here.”
“Okay. I’ll be out in a bit.’
Anything I can help with?” She stepped in fully, glancing around the office.
“Hmmm…I don’t think so. I can manage with my bag. Just tidy up and lock up.”
He shuffled around the table and Stiffled a yawn. “You can close for the day.”
“Okay sir. My regards to pastor Freda.”
Femi nodded , picked up his laptop bag as Angela got busy stacking away a pile of magazines scattered on the coffee table.
Femi gave the office one sweeping look and and headed out.
Freda pulled into the car port in her home and killed the engine. She cast a quick glance into the rear view mirror. For a split second her heart dipped at the sad and exhausted woman who peered back at her from the mirror.
Slowly , she picked up her hand bag from the front seat beside her, tossed her shoes into a carrier bag and slipped into a comfortable pair of slippers. The light filtering through the living room window hinted at Femi being home but strangely , his car was not in sight. Pushing the door shut, she locked it with the cars remote controlled lock and headed towards the house.
“Welcome madam.” Edet, the security guard greeted. She stopped in her tracks and turned in his direction.
Freda responded with a nod as she shifted the weight of her bag from one shoulder to the other.
“Oga say make I tell you say e don comot. He say him nor go tey.”
“Oh, okay . Thank you.”
“Yes ma.” Edet gave a half bow and returned to his duty post.
Why hadn’t Femi bothered to call her? What was so hard about taking up his phone to put a call through to her.
She felt those tears sting her eyelids, a sensation she was almost now totally accustomed to. She walked up to the front door, dug the key into the key hole and let her self into the house.
She would never get used to the deafening silence that rang in her ears everytime she got back home from work. Femi’s perfume lingered in the air mingled with a slightly dank smell from the windows being shut all day. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. Everything was a reminder of what her life had become. The dank smell in the atmosphere because there was no life in their home when they both headed out in the morning. The brightly coloured throw pillows that sat on the coffee brown sofas just the way she left them in the morning, the 52 inch TV that hardly ever came on, the clean walls that could use the scribbles of a child. The hum of the refrigerator and the clock ticking had become sounds that filled the living room, louder than they should be. They were sounds that the happy chatter of Children should drown. She dropped her lunch bag on the dinning table and plodded towards the bedroom.
Freda slowed to a halt by what was to be the children’s room. The door was ajar. She frowned. She rememberd shutting it , locking it actually for a while now. Perhaps, Femi had gone in there to pray and call forth their children. That would thrill her some years before but not anymore. Light filtered into the dark room from the lobby. She picked her way in and looked around. There was a time when dusting and cleaning it up was her favorite Saturday chore; a time when she was prepared to wait no matter how long it would take, until she began to erect this wall between herself and Femi. She shrugged off the guilt. No she hadn’t. Femi had set the growing bricks in motion when he began to choose their congregation over her.
Every now and then, she felt a twinge of guilt for not being understanding enough and being too demanding but somehowshe pushed it aside and held on to her argument that a woman needed full attention from her husband.
‘There is a way to go about it.”
Her mother’s gentle admonition,rang in her head. A wise woman builds her home but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.
Her heart twisted in pain at the thought of her mother passing on without the joy of holding her grand children. Silently she was mad at God for not at least honouring her mothers desire.
“Freda, your babies will come and you will be crying to God for help because he will compress time for you.” Her mother never stopped believing ño matter how bleak it looked.
The tears flowed freely as she looked at the lemon green colour wardrobe that held baby clothes, most of which her mother had bought. Her mother had been her rock. God didn’t give her babies and as though that was not enoughhe had taken her away from her. He should have at least given her the joy and reward of holding the babies in her hands.
Since her mother’s passing away a year ago, coming into this room had become unbearable.
With trembling hands, she opened the wardrobe and took out a pair of mittens. She had been hopeful that Saturday morning when her mother had brought them. Her heart squeezed with pain at the sight of a blue overall. It was too late to hope.
“You need an egg donor. ”
…The words echoed in her heavy heart from that Monday morning several years back. Words that had shattered her hopes no matter how laced with compassion her doctor’s eyes were as he explained other options that could lead to them being parents.
Femi cleared his throat and startled her. She had been so drawn in by her sad reverie that she didn’t hear him drive-in or come into the house.
Freda straightened herself and faced him.
He stood at the entrance of the room like he wasn’t sure if going to comfort her was a good idea. His six-foot frame, well-toned muscles would have sent the butterflies fluttering with joy in her tummy some years ago. A twinge of guilt hit her at the sad eyes that stared at her from his clean-shaven face.
Freda brushed away the tears with the back of her palm and pulled on her battle stance.
“You should have at least called.”
A muscle twitched on his face…a face that made her heart swell those years ago to be married to one of the finest men in town. Maybe that’s why their church was fast growing because of how people … especially ladies were enamoured by his natural charms. He was an anointed preacher all the same Freda chided herself.
“I’m sorry. It was a distress call.”
Yeah, right. She thought, sighing in exasperation. Distress calls were now his speciality. He spent more of his time answering distress calls than taking note of her new hairstyle.
Too emotionally drained for a fight tonight. Freda pushed past him and headed to her room. A part of her wished he would come after her, grab her by the arm and pull her into his embrace filling her lungs with the smell of his cologne, apologize and cover her face with a dozen kisses. The part of her that wanted to be a generous host to this pity party that she had going stole the day as she made a detour and headed into the guest room instead of the master’s bedroom, shutting the door before collapsing against it and letting the dam in her eyes break free.