By Ekeoma Ajah
“Don’t worry,” Chike said. “I have been making plans for months. I just didn’t think we would have to leave so soon and so suddenly. We will be fine, I have things all figured out.”
Ogemnabia allowed herself some measure of relief in the knowledge that this was not news to Chike, that he had been making plans. It did nothing for her anger, though. He had left her out of a crucial matter that affected the whole family. He had proven, once again, that he did not value her as a partner.
“This is not acceptable, Chike,” Ogemnabia said. “I am your wife, and I refuse to be shut out on things that concern me and my children.” Chike stopped and looked at Ogemnabia, and she could tell he was about to shove another lance through her heart.
“Let’s get something straight, Ogemnabia,” he said. “I owe you no explanations as far as this family’s finances go. I make the money, you spend it. You contribute nothing to the well-being of this family, no-thing. And so yes, I will make the decisions here, and I will let you know what has been decided. That is what I owe you; that is how it’s always been.”
Ogemnabia again felt small, worthless. She could not help the tears that fell from her eyes.
“I suggest you call Osinachi to come get the girls,” Chike said. “We’ll move faster with them out of the way. They can stay with her for a few days. And please, be useful. Do something besides crying.”
Chike turned his back on Ogemnabia and left the room.
Ogemnabia dialled her sister’s number with shaky fingers. When Osinachi answered, it was clear she didn’t appreciate being woken up so early on a Saturday.
“I need you to come pick the girls, please,” Ogemnabia said, trying to keep her voice from trembling. There was a brief silence on the other end.
“Is it Chike again?” Osinachi said, her voice taut with tension.
Ogemnabia hesitated. “No… yes.”
“It’s not what you think. Please, can they just stay with you, maybe for a few days? We’re moving out of the house.”
“Moving out? What the hell is going on?”
“I can’t talk much. Please just come take the kids?”
Osinachi sighed. “Of course. But I want some kind of explanation when I get there.”
Ogemnabia ended the call and began clearing out the wardrobes, beginning with Chike’s as he would have fewer clothes than she did. She couldn’t help mocking herself for putting him first even as he was tearing their lives apart. After what felt like hours she finally got to the bottom of his wardrobe, and there she found a glittering strip of something that looked like foil paper. She retrieved the material and found that it was an old pack of everyday contraceptive pills. A memory flashed in Ogemnabia’s mind from about four years ago, when she had searched furiously for her pills, turning her wardrobe and medicine cabinet upside down. She and Chike had had to use condoms for a while before she got around to replacing the pills. Around the same time she had, to her surprise, gotten pregnant with their fourth child, and she and Chike had put it down to a fluke, perhaps a defective condom, or the will of some higher power.
Now, Ogemnabia wondered if that higher power hadn’t been Chike.
She felt a hard, tight ball settle somewhere in her chest. And she decided that never again would she allow Chike make her feel this raw and vulnerable. Never again would she give him the power to use her. Never again would she be at his mercy.