© Folakemi Emem-Akpan
“For good, Mum. This time, I’m leaving him for good.” Theresa is gripping the baby too tightly, and the boy is squirming but not crying, as if he senses his mother’s anguish and does not want to add to it.
Gently, Marie prises her daughter’s fingers away from her grandson’s torso, holds him against her chest.
“Come in Theresa.”
Still grumbling, sometimes cursing, Theresa obliges her mother and steps into the cool foyer of the home where she’d grown up. The sight of her mother’s faded gingham upholstery cools her down somewhat, stops her heart from racing with so much fury.
In the kitchen, Marie brings out a huge pitcher of cold tea and pours both of them a glassful each. The baby gets a soft biscuit.
“He’s so inconsiderate. Yeah, he’s the only one working and earning money for the home, but does he forget that I take care of the home, am a permanent servant to Joshua? Imagine, he asks me why I forgot to pick his suits from the drycleaner’s yesterday?”
Marie hides a smile behind her glass, is amazed that she has raised such a flighty.
“Is that what he did?”
“Yes. Am I his housekeeper or something?”
For the umpteenth time, Marie is glad that her daughter’s family had decided to settle close by. This has enabled her to put out many a fires before her son-in-law even became aware of them.
“That can be insulting, ehn?” Marie finds a good place to start.
“Of course it is. I’m sure Dad never treated you like that?”
Marie is no longer smiling, but she manages to keep herself from frowning. Perhaps Theresa had been too young at the time to understand that her parents had struggled with their marriage or perhaps she’s just chosen to romanticise her dead father.
“No, he didn’t treat me like that.” For a particularly bizarre period in their marriage, he’d treated her worse. He never beat her but would withdraw into days of absolute silence. He wouldn’t speak to her, wouldn’t touch her meals, wouldn’t even look at her. And he wouldn’t talk to his young daughter too. It took Marie a whole year to find out he had a mistress and two children outside the home.
She remembers those dreary years clearly. She’d lost two sons in a fire incident at their preschool, had almost lost her infant daughter too because she had been too grieved and too ill to breastfeed her, had turned to her husband for comfort only to find he was totally emotionally absent from her.
The five years that took them to get back together were dark, lonesome, and absolutely heart-wrenching. It was in those days of deep anguish that she’d met with Jesus and adopted a Bible verse that would tide her over every other heartache she would face.
Despite her hard life, Marie’s had a fullness of joy in her life that defies comprehension or explanation.
In silence, Marie refills her glass and takes a sip of the sweet liquid before speaking again. “There are certain things you need to know, Theresa. The first thing is that things are not always as bad as they initially seem. And there are things that look good on the outside but are really quite rotten on the inside. Your marriage is an example of the first, and my marriage to your father was at a time a mirror of the second.”
She waits for comprehension to hit Theresa, sees only a familiar stubbornness on her face.
“Andrew loves you, you know.”
“Yeah yeah, but why does he treat me like trash?”
“He doesn’t. And you must be careful not to allow his words get you worked up all the time. He means well.”
Theresa doesn’t reply, bends over and wipes a glob of biscuit off Joshua’s face. When she straightens, she’s smiling that smile that melts Marie’s heart again and again. “I don’t know how you put up with me. I’m a regular pain, am I not?”
Marie smiles back, says nothing.
“But he doesn’t have to talk to me in that commanding tone, does he?”
Marie rolls her eyes, smiles wider and returns to her tea.
* In everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18