Uwanna remembered the fourth time like it was yesterday; the way sun-rays sipped through the blinds hitting her closed eyelids. Her eyes fluttered open as she took in the salivating smell of melted apples and pancakes. She could feel vomit welling up in her stomach but it didn’t come up her throat and Uwanna took that as a sign that she was getting used to her condition.
She stood up from the bed, full and robust. Her swollen feet were flat against marble and she waddled downstairs. In the kitchen was the maid making breakfast and in the open parlor was Chima, her husband, talking to a tall man in stained rags.
“Oh baby, why are you up?” Chima asked, as he rushed to Uwanna and rubbed her protruding tummy.
“Who’s this?” Uwanna replied, her eyes pointing at the stranger.
“This is a painter. He’s going to paint the nursery blue. It’s been white for too long and we know we are having a boy this time” Chima replied with his eyes wide with excitement.
Uwanna looked at the smile marks by his eyes and mouth and remembered how they had been tears marks for their last three babies they never got to hold. The memories brought tears to her eyes as she looked at her husband and whispered,
“Thank you, my love.”
In that moment, she felt her baby kick inside of her.
“Oh Chima, he just kicked,” Uwanna said. She held Chima’s hand and placed it on her stomach. “Say hi to your son.”
As Chima held her stomach, she looked around the house, which shone, bright from natural lights oozing into the mansion.
They then stepped out of the kitchen into the garden then headed towards the garden gazebo for breakfast. It had become their usual spot as she sat between his open legs on the throw-pillowed futon and he placed his hand her tummy. The maid brought breakfast and set it on a low cart. The grapes, pineapples, maple syrup and buttery pancakes were inviting but they paled in comparison to the colorful garden.
Greens, purples and blues filled the space in stark contrast to the white and glass mansion. Uwanna smiled as she thought of her meager upbringing; her past as a scrawny little girl. She had been thinking about how different her former life was when her vision blurred a little.
It was her seventh month and she was used to getting a bit disoriented.
“Chima I’m tired can we go upstairs,” she said as Chima jumped up with force and she struggled to stand as he held her hand.
“Wanni!” Chima said his forehead furrowing pointing down as Uwanna looked down at her bloodstained dress and puddle of blood on the futon.
“Oh no! Oh no, Oh!” Uwanna said, her voice getting gravelly as spit clogged in her throat.
“Please God! God! Please not again!” she was repeating now, her hands shaking as her vision blurred. The garden started spinning, the greens and purples and blues merged and before everything turned black as the last thing Uwanna saw was her little section of okazi leaves in the furthest part of the garden.
Now it was 4 months later and Uwanna knelt in front of the okazi section in the garden. She shut her eyes as her soiled hands travelled to the sides of her head covering her ears. Black dirt stained her face as she pressed her hands stronger against her ears yet she could still hear the words clearly in her head,
“ To get, you must lose. ọ na-abịa ga-akwụ. Any payment is still a payment. “
She kept hearing the words again and again. She saw how the syllables were created: the tip of an icy tongue slithering to the top ridge of a mouth.
“Leave me alone.” Uwanna mumbled as tears forming at the back of her throat choked her words out. She lifted her head up to the fading day as more tears fell.
“What do you want from me?” she asked the thin air, mucus running down her nose, saliva stringing within her wailing mouth.
Her perfectly manicured nails cracked within the soil as her fleshy fingers tore beneath thorny stems. Still Uwanna kept digging, by her side was half the section of her okazi leaves when she heard,
“Wanni, What are you doing?”
It was Chima standing behind her, his body facing her back.
“What are you doing Uwanna?” Chima said again. ”Jesus your fingers!” Chima finished, the concern in his voice thick.
Uwanna stood up and looked at her husband, the garden surrounding them, their white and glass mansion behind him. She thought about her life without Chima Osondi-Eke. Was it really that bad?
Uwanna had been kneeling in front of her mother who was on the bare mattress on top the dirty cement floor. Her mother had just finished coughing 4 spoonfuls of blood and it was evident whatever was plaguing her was gravely serious.
“Mama”, Uwanna said, “Please,” – she held her mother’s hands- “I will try to get some more money so you can see a doctor. Mummy we can fight this.”
“My daughter, money cannot buy you happiness. Look at me, I am happy and I want you to know that,” her mother had said.
Uwanna had wondered what true happiness felt like and to her it meant money. Money so they could at least find out was wrong with her mom.
She had then gone out to sell some eggs the chickens in their backyard had lain. When she came back home, her mom was still coughing blood.
“Mama, please I got some money to see a chemist.” She told her mother.
The next day, the pharmacist said one more day without drugs and her mother would have died. It was then Uwanna realized she must be wealthy at any cost.
Now, she thought of how she felt in that moment. Crippled by lack of funds. Yes, that life was bad and she never wanted to go back even if it meant constantly fighting to secure her place as Chima’s wife.
“I received a picture from someone yesterday Chima,” Uwanna said, her voice breaking off as tears swelled up her eyes “You’ve been busy in this Lagos”
“You tell me, Chima?”
“Uwanna what are you talking about?
“Man up and tell me the truth for once ” Uwanna hissed the words. At point all she could only see was the softness of his skin. It infuriated her.
“I have no idea what you are talking about” Chima said as the skin on his forehead furrowed.
“Really?” Uwanna replied, dusting her dirty hands against her stained denim shorts. Her tummy still a little protruded and embellished at the sides with dark welted stretch marks. Uwanna removed her phone from her back pocket and raised it to Chima’s face..
“All I’m doing is holding that woman’s hand-“ Chima finally said, his shoulders sagging.
“In a hotel! Walking into a room! Am I a child? What are you doing in a hotel room with a woman who isn’t your wife?”
“She is only a friend Uwanna, calm down”
“How dare you? After all I have been through?” Uwanna replied. Her eyes blood red.
“It happened to me too”, Chima whispered, tears gathering in his eyes ‘that’s the thing with you Wanni. You think this is only about you.”
“So that’s why you go gallivanting around with home-wrecking sluts? You know what, this is about me, then you bastard, you bastard; all you do is cheat! I read your messages where your aunties were advising you to get another wife. Oya deny it!”
Chima said nothing. He had that genuine sadness of a child being reprimanded. It was true that his mum and aunties had approached him about getting a second wife but the thought of it was only entertaining in the way they clapped their hands and spoke to him, he knew it wasn’t an option. Besides he didn’t want to burn relationships with the women who gave him multiple business contracts. Chima moved toward Uwanna and stretched out his hands to embrace her.
“ I have never cheated on you. I know how this picture looks, but believe me Uwanna. I love you. There will be no second wife, I promise.”
“Don’t you touch me” Uwanna said, sobbing as her shoulders clattered, “ You know everyone is going to laugh if this picture gets on blogs” Uwanna said, imaging the headlines underneath the picture: Lagos Heir Chima Osondi-Eke cheating on Wife? She had worked hard to remain his wife. After 4 lost children, people were throwing their overtly fertile daughters at him and she wasn’t about to be displaced. She had her mother and sisters to still care for.
Chima watched in concerned horror as Uwanna started wailing again. Her hair spread across the air like displaced spider webs as blood and dirt mixed with muddy tears. She had never presented herself in this way. The Uwanna he knew and married was a bright and ambitious girl. They had met at a party some business partners had thrown for him. He had spotted her in the crowd, her back facing him with wide hips spreading underneath a tiny waist. When she turned around she had full breasts and the most catlike eyes. She was exotically breathtaking and he wanted to taste her. He had heard of Calabar girls, their sexual prowess and enchanting manners. He only wanted a night with her but he ended up married to her.
“Listen, you are my everything,” Chima said trying again, his eyes soft “You are my family. There is nothing like a second wife Wanni. We will have our babies, alive; I promise we will have our babies”
Uwanna looked at her husband. This was the man she had met at a party five years ago. The man who had confidently walked up to her and asked her to dance. They danced all night and he dropped her in front of girl’s hostel on campus at 3 am. At that time she didn’t know who he was, but she liked his smile. The way he showered her with undivided attention and how he would let everyone know she was with him. When she got back to hostel, her friends were quick to tell her who he was. ”OMG, Uwanna do you know who that is? Chima Osondi-Eke!!”, Uwanna lock him down!”, “Uwanna don’t sleep with him till he puts a ring on it”. When Uwanna found out who he was, she had made up her mind that she would become Chima Osondi-Eke’s wife.
“Chima, since you love me, say the truth” Uwanna finally found the words, “who is the girl in this picture and how many times have you slept with her?” Uwanna asked. She was asking for affirmation, she kind of sure Chima wasn’t cheating.
Chima bowed his head. His eyes swayed to the side as he said, “Her name is Tope.” Chima closed his eyes as he continued, “I met her 2 years ago. It only happened once. I just wanted to feel good again. Uwanna, you shut me out. I needed you but you wouldn’t even come out of your room. You wouldn’t even shower” Chima finished, opening his eyes, the Uwanna he saw was a ghost staring at him, her eyes like little daggers.
Uwanna rushed to him and pushed her dirty palms across his chest. He stumbled backward as her fists formed balls of pain she frantically pounded against his chest.
“You are so selfish. I don’t give you attention ONCE and you go nuts. It’s disgusting!” she said as she stepped back then headed towards the kitchen door.
“Do you know the reason you even married me? Uwanna said, not stopping to think, only feeling raw pain, “I went to some woman off Ugwi Street. She gave me some Okazi plants and seeds. She said to put them in your food and that you’d fall in love with me. I gave them to you the first time you wanted to leave me.”
Now Chima was staring at her, his face contoured in confusion.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
Uwanna walked to the Okazi plants she had uprooted. She picked some up and threw them at Chima, “these are the plants she gave me Chima. I planted them in our garden and I’ve been feeding them to you since we have been dating”
“You’re joking right?” Chima asked,
“No I’m not. Are you hurt? Do you feel betrayed? You should! And do you know the worst part, that witch has been killing our unborn children”, this time Uwanna choked on as tears started streaming down her face, “She is killing my kids Chima. She said something that night I went to her. She said ‘To get, you must lose. ọ na-abịa ga-akwụ. Any payment is still a payment.’ She said it when I offered to pay. When she said it I thought it was some metaph- ” Uwanna broke off rocking forward and backward crying her ears off.
“Chima, she is taking our kids,” she finally finished, “ I’m the reason our kids are dying” Uwanna said as she remembered the dingy house on the corner of Ugwi street: the old woman with her glowing skin. The way she looked at Uwanna when she threw her bones. The way she advised Uwanna to plant the Okazi leaves and make sure Chima had them everyday.
Chima looked at his wife. “You are some crazy girl Wanni but really witchcraft? I know you are trying to hurt me by constantly abusing me. Who wouldn’t cheat on a verbally abusive person and then this, Witchcraft?” Chima found himself saying
“Keep letting western ideals screw your mind up. If you like don’t believe me; these leaves are the reason we are married and have no children. That woman is taking our kids. I hear her everywhere I go. I keep hearing her. I have been hearing her voice all day that’s I came out here to uproot all her plants.”
Chima could tell from the frantic look on her face that Uwanna meant this but he was too upset by the things she had said to him.
He moved towards her and held her neck slightly between his fingers. He kissed her and she bit his lip. Chima moved back as brown droplets of blood sipped from a cut on his lip.
“Is that all?” Uwanna said, “you aren’t going to call your mum and aunties! Tell them that I am a witch? You aren’t going to send me packing?”
“Don’t tempt me,” Chima said as he moved towards her and held her waist, “Uwanna you’re the finest, most mean spirited and vindictive woman with a foul mouth I know, and I still love you. Stop trying me.”
Uwanna looked at this man she fell in love with those years ago. She wondered could this was true love? Could she have been imagining it all? Was that day on Ugwi Street real?
As she was thinking Chima carried her to the garden gazebo, using his leg to clear the Okazi leaves she had thrown at him out of his way. He lay Uwanna on the futon as he climbed onto it.
“I still love you,” Chima said again, his voice glazed in lust.
“I want a baby,” Uwanna replied, her tone taunting as she looked at Chima, her body preparing for his.
“We will have a house full of them, I promise.”
Korimobi Gboneme is a rising junior Supply Chain Management major and a Creative Writing minor at the University of Maryland, College Park. She aspires to start a literary blog on contemporary African fiction.