The congregation cheered and applauded when Fred and Sheila were pronounced as husband and wife.
“Don’t they look good together? A round of applause to the newest couple in town” Pastor Ofei said as the couple took their seat after exchanging their vows.
Then he began his sermon on how a husband and wife are supposed to live in unity and how they shouldn’t let the problems and fights they would encounter during their journey destroy the bond they had between them.
“I can boldly and confidently say that after 22 years of marriage, Mama Grace and I have never had an argument. We’re always at peace”
Pastor Ofei said as he looked towards the direction of his wife and smiled. There were ‘oohs’ and ‘eeiis’ among the congregation after his statement as some doubted it and some were very impressed. If people could see through the hearts of others, the anger that Mama Grace was feeling would be noticed.
“Liar” she said under her breath and faked a smile.
In a corner of the church hall, Maggie sat very sad and disturbed. Pastor Ofei’s statement had made her realize how bad her marriage was faring. For a little over a year now, she was always arguing with Kwaku, her husband. Things were no longer smooth between them. They have been married for three years now. The first year of their marriage was like heaven. Kwaku had a decent job and catered for her very well. Then somewhere in the second year of the marriage, he suddenly lost his job. Maggie was supportive of him and provided for them while Kwaku worked hard on securing another job. After about four months, he relaxed and stopped searching when he realized that Maggie was doing well by keeping the home and even providing him with daily allowances.
That was when the real trouble started. Maggie realized his state of unemployment was taking a toll on her finances. She was spending most of her savings on utility bills and providing food for the home and his upkeep. She would come back from work everyday to meet him either sleeping or watching television. She confronted him once and he assured her that he was trying hard to secure a job. Six months down the line and he still wasn’t making any effort. He kept lazing around and attending unnecessary social events. Sleeping became his favorite pastime and anytime Maggie complained, it became a serious argument which would lead to they not being on talking terms for days. Things had been like that between them for some time till five days ago when Maggie reached her breaking point.
It was a Monday night. She had worked overtime and arrived home quite late and very tired. Upon opening the door to their apartment, the sight she was met with was enough to drive anyone crazy. There were muddy footprints all over the carpet and just before her was Kwaku on the couch, fast asleep in his boxers. He was surrounded by empty cans of beer and the TV was on, playing loud music. Maggie went instantly mad after seeing those empty cans of beer. Certainly, Kwaku had not tampered with those drinks in the kitchen. They were supposed to be a gift to a friend who was getting married over the weekend. She stormed into the kitchen to find out and lo and behold, some of the drinks were gone from the crate. As she turned to go and confront him, she spotted something that intensified her anger. There were piles of dishes waiting to be washed, probably by her, and among the pile was the pot that was supposed to contain the stew she had prepared the day before. It was empty. An empty bag of rice was lying nearby. What on earth had Kwaku done with the stew and the bag of rice she had bought just two weeks ago? She stormed off angrily to the hall and woke him up.
“Kwaku, what happened to the stew in the fridge?” she asked.
He sat up, rubbed his eyes and answered “Oh, the boys came over so we prepared some rice and used the stew”
Maggie flew into a rage.
“And the canned drinks?”
“I served the boys with those” he replied, still rubbing his eyes.
“So what on earth is wrong with you? Is it my food and drinks that you’ll use to serve your guests? Do you have any idea who those drinks belong to or what they are meant for? And wasn’t it just recently that I purchased that bag of rice? So you want to tell me that you lavished them all on friends? Haba!” she exclaimed.
Kwaku ignored her and picked up his phone and started engaging in an imaginary activity and all that while, Maggie glared at him, trying not to explode.
“I’m talking to you and you’re ignoring me?” she questioned him.
“But what do you want me to do?” he shouted at her.
That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
“See, I won’t keep quiet about this any longer. You’ve lost your job for over a year now. You’ve decided not to work. All you do is to hang around friends, eat, sleep and drink when you are capable and qualified to work. I’m doing everything in my power to make things work in this house and yet you keep making me suffer. When I open my mouth to complain, it’s either you ignore me or tell me to keep quiet. I’m tired of you ok”
“So because I took your drinks and food, you want to remind me of my joblessness?” he cut in.
“Yes I will. Your joblessness is making you irresponsible and a pain in the butt and it seems you don’t want to do anything about it. I clean up this house and go to work only to return and find my house in this state and with all the food in this house gone and you expect me to be happy?” she shot back fiercely.
“See, shut your mouth over there. I won’t allow you to talk anyhow to me.” He expected this statement to scare her and make her break into tears like always. To his utmost surprise she didn’t.
“No, you shut up. I’ve had enough. I’m fed up and I won’t bottle it in any longer” Maggie shot back with all of her strength.
He was taken aback. He had never seen Maggie in this mood ever since he married her.
“Utility bills are waiting to be paid. The owners of this apartment are asking for the rent and you sit here and throw parties for friends with food that I prepared with my own money” she ranted.
Kwaku immediately made his way out of the hall to find some clothes to wear. He was getting humiliated and was a bit shaken by his wife’s behavior. Was he being that much of a bother? He thought.
“Don’t you dare walk out on me when I’m talking to you. For your information, I’m not cleaning up this mess and neither am I cleaning up that mess in the kitchen. I’m sick and tired of everything. And one more thing, tell that fraternity or whatever you call those friends of yours never to set foot in this house until you’ve found a job and have enough to spend on them”
He put on some clothes and started for the door.
“And as you’re going out of this house, I hope you don’t come back until you’ve found a job”
That statement resonated in his ears over a thousand times. If there was a day he felt less of a man, it was today. He wondered what had possessed his wife. She was never one to talk back and shout on top of her lungs. She would usually break down and cry. But not today. Maggie was different and he could sense her rage. In a way, he understood her frustration and he determined to follow up on that job he had applied for some time back. Right now, he was too humiliated and quite scared of going back home to meet his enraged wife. He was extremely angry too. After staying outside for about an hour, he went back home.
Just when he shut the door behind him, he heard her yelling and hurling things about in the kitchen. He slowly started cleaning up the hall and got startled when he saw her pass by into the bedroom. She was still seething with anger. After about an hour, he finished cleaning up all the mess in the kitchen and hall, showered and settled on the couch to sleep. He was not going to sleep in the bedroom, he was determined to find a job to save himself from a repeat of such disgrace. He was very humiliated, especially when he opened the door earlier to find Auntie Vera, their nosy neighbor trying to eavesdrop on their argument.
Maggie woke up late the next morning still angry. She had a serious headache and was running a temperature. She quickly made a call to her boss at work, explaining why she couldn’t make it to work that morning. She made her way to the kitchen to get some water and realized how tidied up the place was. “I’m not surprised” she muttered to herself when she opened the fridge and realized there was no water.
She made her way to the hall and found the place tidied up too. To her relief, Kwaku had left the house and that was what she had secretly hoped for. She was still angry at him and didn’t want to see him sitting idly in the house. That night, he didn’t return home and there was no call from him. Maggie wasn’t bothered because she felt he was punishing her for her previous night’s outburst.
The next day passed and there was still no news from him. She slowly started getting worried and called him. His phone was off. And for the next two days, Maggie kept worrying about her husband because she didn’t hear from him and he wasn’t returning home. She tried reaching him through several of his friends but still got no news. She was too scared to call on his parents’ house to find out about him because of the way she had argued with him the other day. She feared his parents would reprimand her, especially his mum. She also didn’t want to disturb her parents who were far away at Techiman.
Maggie snapped out of her thoughts when she heard it being announced that the bride and groom were about to leave. When the ceremony ended, she looked out for Mama Grace and found her standing quietly somewhere. She didn’t look so cheerful.
Maggie approached her and smiled. She had this special bond with her and that bond deepened when they realized they were both from Techiman. She was like a mother to her. After exchanging some pleasantries, she went ahead to narrate her problem to her. Mama Grace listened to her with divided attention. Maggie could sense her uneasiness and stopped talking for a while to enquire from her if everything was okay with her.
“You know what Maggie, why don’t you come home? Let’s have this talk there. Right now, I have a very pressing issue to attend to” Mama Grace told her.
“Okay Mama. When should I come?” Maggie asked.
“Today. In a little while. I have to tackle this urgent issue” Mama Grace replied.
Maggie nodded and waved as Mama Grace drove out of the churchyard.
She turned around to leave for the house in deep thoughts. Where could her husband be? And why don’t any of his friends know his whereabouts. If he had gone to his parents’ house, certainly his mother would have confronted her by now. She was thinking so deep that she didn’t realize Pastor Ofei was standing in front of her, staring at her.
“Hello Maggie, is anything the problem?” he inquired.
“Not at all” she answered and smiled.
“I saw you standing with Mama. Where is she?”
“Oh she just drove away. She says she has an urgent issue to attend to” Maggie answered.
“Oh ok. Take care of yourself and my regards to your husband” he said and entered into his car and sped off.
Maggie watched the car fade in her sight and sighed really hard when she replayed Pastor greeting to her husband. Maggie got home and secretly wished her husband was back. She opened the door and to her disappointment, he wasn’t back. She silently said a prayer and dialed his number one more time. It wasn’t going through as usual. She slowly changed out of her ceremonial attire into a more comfortable outfit and headed for Pastor Ofei and Mama Grace’s residence.
She reached her destination within the next forty-five minutes. She was shocked to meet the main gate slightly open with the security man absent from his post. She slowly entered hoping to find the security man inside but he wasn’t there. She knew her way round so well so she headed straight to the door. Suddenly she heard some noises. The noise grew louder as she got closer. Initially she thought it was the couple praying. Then she heard Mama Grace shout. Upon listening further she realized they were arguing.
“I won’t sit for such a shameful act to get to the congregation” Maggie heard her shout.
“Calm down. It’s not my fault. I don’t even know what came over me” Pastor Ofei tried to convince his wife.
“Oh really. You did it for the first time and I let it slide. This is the second time and who knows if you’re having more children with several other women whom I don’t even know exist” Mama Grace said.
Maggie gaped in awe as the realization dawned on her. Pastor Ofei has children outside his marriage?
“Only God knows how some of the women who know about this in the church see me. Ofei you’re heartless and shameless. How could you?” Mama Grace’s voice rang out loudly.
“We can solve this. Stop shouting”
“I’m not solving anything. You’re the same person who preaches against adultery yet look at this. So if I hadn’t gotten wind of this, I’d be living in a fool’s paradise?” Mama Grace asked.
“I was going to tell you”
“When? Ofei when? That child I hear is 7 years old. You kept this from me for seven good years. How wicked can you be?”
Maggie quickly turned around and started leaving. She was hearing too much information and she suddenly felt afraid. Those who were supposed to help with her marital problem had worse problems than she had. This was too much for her to bear.
As she made her way out of the compound and to the gate, the security man arrived, chewing on a roasted corn. He quickly stopped in his tracks, wondering how come Maggie had entered.
“I comot go buy small corn come wey you already enter this house?” he enquired of her.
Maggie apologized and quickly made her way out of the house with the security man looking at her suspiciously. On her way home, she broke into tears and impulsively dialed her mum’s number. After talking to her mum, she felt a bit relieved.
“Go home and wait for me. I’ll be on my way to Accra, early next morning. We’ll go together to his parents’ house. Stop crying” came her mum’s voice from the other end.
Eventually she got home. She tried opening the door but the key wouldn’t fit in the keyhole. Her heart skipped a bit and as she kept fumbling with her keys, the door opened from the other end and there stood Kwaku smiling sheepishly in an apron. She sobbed as she threw her arms around his neck in a tight embrace. After about a minute, she let go and playfully punched him for putting her through so much torture.
“Where have you been? Heaven knows how worried I was about you” she inquired of him as they settled on the couch.
“You were so mad at me. I had to find somewhere to hide” he said and giggled.
“And your phone? It was off throughout”
“Well, to be honest with you, I was also mad at you and very hurt. I decided to stay away for a while.
Maggie raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“I called all your friends, no one knew your whereabout. Where did you go? I know you hadn’t gone home. Your mum would have called to demand explanations”
“I was with Peter”
“Gosh, it didn’t click. I never imagined you could have been with him. Well, I don’t even have his contact” Maggie said and held her forehead.
“Yep, Peter is the only friend I confide in and tell most of my secrets to. We hardly interact but when we do, we talk about really deep issues”
“I see. That’s how come it didn’t occur to me to contact him. So why are you now returning?”
“I ran to Peter thinking he’d defend me. He rather chastised me. Honestly, I had no idea how much pain and problems I was causing you. He spelled everything out to me. And his wife, oh that lady, she’s heaven sent. Those two lectured me till I realized all my faults. Peter is blessed with a very sensible and kind wife. She made me realize how much of a gem you are. You’ve been really supportive and I’m grateful”
Maggie blinked several times after that statement. Before she knew it, Kwaku was on his knees.
“Maggie, I’m really sorry for all I’ve done in the past. Find it in your heart to forgive me and I promise to be of my best behavior henceforth”
Maggie began sobbing uncontrollably. Impulsively, she embraced her husband and nodded. She was lost for words.
“What’s burning in the kitchen?” Maggie asked and let go of Kwaku. Kwaku ran into the kitchen to stir what was in the pot. Maggie followed him and beamed with a smile as she watched him.
“I’m preparing palava sauce and oniaba plantains, your favorite”
Maggie wiped a tear off her face.
“You really came back with the intention to drive me to tears. Kwaku you’ve succeeded ok” she said and went over to embrace him yet another time. This time she wasn’t willing to let go.
“And guess what, I’m starting work on Monday. I landed a job in a brokerage firm, all thanks to Peter” he whispered into her ears.
Maggie couldn’t take it anymore and allowed her tears to fall freely. This was too good to be true.
“Forgive me too, for overreacting and saying harsh words” she apologized.
“Don’t worry, it’s okay. It was a step in the right direction” he said.
They stayed like that for several minutes. Suddenly, the door bell rang.
“One last surprise. Peter and his wife are here to pay us a visit”
Maggie freed herself from his embrace and looked at him.
“Really?” she asked as she wiped tears off her face.
“Yeah. So set the table while I usher them in” he suggested. He planted a kiss on her forehead and left the kitchen to open the main door.
Maggie smiled and went right to work while she anxiously waited for the couple that had helped save her marriage. She owed them a lot.
Oniaba plantain – plantain without seeds
Palava sauce – sauce prepared with cocoyam leaves