Dreams of Cascades - Ngozi Omolaiye
Kemi could feel the blood draining from her face as Julius pinned her face deeper and deeper into the pillow. In that split second her whole life flashed through her mind as she said her last prayers.
The bedroom door opened and her three year old son, Barth walked in.
“Oh no! the door hadn’t been locked”, she thought
“Mummy, Mummy, why is Daddy putting your face in the piwo?”
Kemi could not find the right words to say, she was still out of breath.
“Your Mum and I were just playing. Now come on Barth, go and play with Oye, Mummy and Daddy are coming to join you.”
“Okay Daddy”, replied Barth as he sauntered away.
Julius left their bedside and went into the bathroom. He slammed the door and sat at the edge of the bath tub. Then he stood up, splashed cold water on his face and went back to meet his wife in the bedroom.
Kemi was sobbing. She sat on the lush carpet with her legs propped up and hands wrapped around them. Julius came to sit by her, hands trembling and eyes moist with tears.
“I’m sorry Kemi, so so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it, honestly.”
There was silence, an uneasy one for what seemed like a decade, then Kemi spoke in muffled sobs.
“Julius, why do you keep doing this? Do you want to kill me? If Barth hadn’t barged in, you probably would have been making funeral plans now. Do you want to kill me Julius? Is that what you want?”
“Kemi, my Angel, I only just want you to see things my way.”
“And the best way to do it is by strangling me and stuffing my face in a pillow? How long will we go on this way?”
“I promise it will…”
“…stop Julius! This is your fifth promise in five weeks. I don’t think I can take it anymore.”
She didn’t wait for him to say more as she stood up abruptly, picked her car keys and dashed out of the house before Julius could catch up with her.
Her most popular film strip, the horrid scenes of Julius’s batter played back in her head as she drove to her friend’s house. In the past five weeks, it had been a weekly affair. The last attack had been the worst, he had cut her on the back with an old machete in the garage. As usual, she couldn’t tell her doctor what really happened. They had lied that robbers broke into their home as they drove in. The doctor somehow knew it wasn’t true but he couldn’t interfere. It was a Friday night, so Kemi had two days to rest it out before she got back to work on Monday. She certainly could not call in sick again, so as usual she covered her wound up nicely beneath her camisole and designer suit, smothered herself with her latest Bvalgari perfume and went on to work to live her life as the high-flying professional.
As she took the last turn to Kunbi’s house, her best part of the movie, when she met Julius, played. It was the most romantic time in her life and her brain refused to match the two people she was living with, Julius of old and Julius of now.
They met on the plane to Kenya. Kemi was on her way to visit her friend Kunbi who had just been transferred by the manufacturing company she worked for and Julius had a conference to attend. The other two passengers sitting in their foursome row finally agreed to let them swap seats when Julius kept on talking over their heads to reach out to Kemi.
Julius was a hunk and a brilliant smooth talker. He had worked in virtually all the countries of the world and minced no words letting Kemi know he had a virile bank account. Kemi fell hook line and sinker for him before they got off the plane. That was the man of her dreams and he fit the picture perfectly. He was the man who would finally relieve her of all her burdens. He would take over the responsibility that came with caring for her diabetic father, her three siblings at university and the other two in secondary school. She had carried her burdens for too long. Above all, he could become a father to her son, Oye.
The next five days of his conference were the best days of her life. He came and took her for a private three day Safari to Masai Mara National Reserve. The high point for her was their Hot Air Balloon ride, where he proposed to her. She couldn’t believe her luck. In the ecstasy of it all, she said yes.
“You did what Kemi?’ her friend Kunbi had asked her disgusted.
“I said yes.”
“When are you going to learn? This is exactly what happened with Oye’s father. “Have you told him about Oye?” she almost taunted.
“Yes I have, he says he doesn’t mind.”
“Kemi, I’m not comfortable with this at all. Why don’t you go back to Abuja, do a little search on him first. This is happening too fast.”
“But I’m 39, I will be 40 in six months, I can’t be caught single on my 40 birthday. Never Kunbi! You can stay in that single’s doldrums if you wish but I won’t “, she said as she stormed out of Kunbi’s Kenya home.
She cut her vacation short and flew back to Nigeria with Julius. Guilt haunted her two days after that, so she called Kunbi and apologised.
“I’m really sorry Kunbi, you are my best friend”.
“It’s okay Kemi, you know I’ve always told you that I’ll be here for you. Whatever decision you take is okay by me. But please just ask around about Julius first. Okay?”
“Okay, okay, I will”.
But she never did, all she did was waltz around Abuja showing off her engagement ring and telling everyone she was getting married in three months. Her father and siblings were happy for her, only Oye was sad.
“I don’t want a new Daddy. I like my Daddy.”
“Think of it this way darling, this Daddy will be here always. You will wake up to see him everyday. Won’t that be nice?” she asked sweetly as she ruffled his afro he had grown for months.
Oye shook his head sadly and said, “No Mummy.”
The pain in his eyes made her consider the decision for the first time but the gains outweighed all the sadness in his eyes. She would be ‘Mrs. Julius Peter’ and the stigma of being a single mother would finally be taken away from her. Her aunt Bola would finally stop comparing her with her cousins who were all married and settled in their homes. When her mother passed on twenty years back, her aunt had been the ‘mother figure’ in their lives, even though she hadn’t contributed a penny to their upbringing or given any word of encouragement. But she sure had loads of evil words to pour on them. Also her lonely nights would cease.
In the days that followed Julius showered her with so much love but one thing worried her, he never wanted to meet her father and siblings, neither did he want her to meet his friends. He said they all lived in the UK and USA. Getting him to talk about his family was an issue, let alone getting to meet them. His excuses were that everyone was too busy to meet up.
The blare of the horn brought her back from her reverie. She looked up to find out it was Kunbi. She parked her car and quickly got out. Kunbi got out of her car too and the two friends walked towards each other. Kemi couldn’t hold back the tears as she held her friend in a tight embrace. She wept as Kunbi soothed her but she couldn’t stop. Pent up emotions of three years had burst and the tears just flowed.
“Kemi, it’s okay. Come on, wipe your eyes, let’s go to my house.”
“But I thought you were going…somewhere”, she said in an emotion-laden voice.
“Yes I had stuff to sort out in the office but I’ll call to say I have an emergency. You are an emergency”, she said with a smile, trying to cheer her friend up.
“You can say that again, thanks Kunbi”, Kemi said, half-smiling.
Kunbi made a u-turn and drove ahead of Kemi back to her apartment.
“Kemi, I really think it’s time you left Julius. Do you want to wait until he kills you? You are my best friend, I don’t want to lose you. I want to see us grow old, I want us to enjoy our grandchildren together. I don’t want to be the one taking care of Oye and Barth. Please Kemi, leave now”
“But Kunbi, what will people say…”
“…when are you going stop caring about what people say? What will people say made you get into this mess in the first place? What will they say if I turn 40 still single? Oh! The stigma of being a single parent will stay with me for life…Oh I just need to be Mrs…”
“…stop Kunbi! Stop! I didn’t come here to get reminders of my failure!”
“But history is meant to teach us not just stored up in our memories or in the archives. That’s why I hate advising you, we always end up achieving nothing Kemi. Please listen to me for once, please”, she pleaded as a tear trickled down her cheek.
“Okay, I’m sorry Kunbi”, she said apologetically as she wiped the lone tear on Kunbi’s face.
“Kemi, we’ve got to have a game plan. You have to rent a house and move out as soon as possible. I know what you are going to say…No I’m not asking you to divorce him, just move out first. You need your sanity. Your job is being affected and you are losing yourself. I don’t know you anymore Kemi. Look at Oye and Barth, they are scared silly. They can’t trust Julius, they are scared of him.”
“I know Kunbi. But I don’t know if I have the nerve to move out.”
“You’ve got to be bold. Look at you! The cut on your back hasn’t healed. No one knows what plans he has for you next.”
“Okay Kunbi, I’ll get a house and let’s pray he doesn’t do anything before then.”
“You just be a nice and gentle wife, no talk-backs and avoid him as much as possible.”
Kemi did just that, she avoided Julius like the plague in the next couple of weeks but he was not one to be ignored. She got home one Monday evening two weeks after the talk with Kunbi and he was at the door to welcome her.
“Why have you been avoiding me?
“Just work pressures
“I don’t believe you. “, Julius said tenderly.
“But it’s the truth.”
“Don’t lie to me Kemi. I know you too well. Can we not talk it over? I know we’ve had rough times in the past weeks but I’m sure we can get through it.”
Kemi’s heart melted. Maybe Kunbi was over-reacting after all. Maybe she could work things out with Julius. She really did love him so much. The ringtone from her phone interrupted her thoughts. She rummaged through her bag to retrieve the phone while Julius watched her closely.
“Can I call you back please, I’m in the middle of something”, she said in a trembling voice.
“Who is that?” Julius asked.
“A colleague of mine…”
“…don’t lie to me. Look at me in the eye and tell me it’s your colleague one more time “, he said as his temper rose.
She kept quiet and at that moment he grabbed the phone from her. He quickly scrolled to her received calls to check the last caller.
“Who is Collins House?”
Kemi kept mute, she knew any word from her would trigger off an argument.
“What’s this new style of yours to keep silent when I’m asking you a question? For the last time, who is Collins House?”, his voice thundered.
Subconsciously, she put up her two hands to shield her face from him.
“Oh, so you know what is coming your way? I’ll kill you tonight!”
“Oh no you won’t Julius, enough is enough! I’ve held on to the dreams of cascades for too long! They have to end tonight!”
He grabbed her arm but she quickly wriggled out of the hold and ran out of the door. He caught up with her quickly and pushed her down, then dragged her right leg as she pleaded.
“Julius, please don’t kill me. Our children need me, if you don’t…please”.
“You have to tell me who Collins is. So you plan to leave me? After all I’ve done for you Kemi. I saved you from loneliness, depression and I have been the saviour of your family. You can’t leave me Kemi”, he said as he held her legs shivering.
Kemi kept mute, she didn’t want to say the wrong words. She needed to move fast. Someone was at the gate, which would be her escape. The gateman was coming towards them. As he did so, Julius let go of her leg.
“Oga, somebody de look for you. He say him name na Mr. Gboye”, the gateman said in pidgin English.
“Okay, tell him to come in”
Kemi quickly stood up and walked calmly to the gate, she knew Julius wouldn’t follow her and wouldn’t ask questions. Gboye had saved the day. She bumped into him at the gate. It must be a quick visit, probably to drop something since he didn’t drive the car in.
“Hi Kemi, you look so ruffled. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just go on and see your friend, I need to dash to my neighbour’s.
“Sure, you’re okay?”
“Yeah, thanks, see you soon.”
She hastened her steps to quickly get a cab before Gboye finished with Julius. She knew Julius would try to dismiss him quickly. So she needed to act fast. This was it, she was walking away. She would get Kunbi to pick up her children later. She had finally had it. She had to take one day at a time. She had to let go of Julius. She had to let go of all her dreams of cascades.
Diary of a Naija career woman – Ngozi Omolaiye
Eno is a pretty high-flying professional who works in a blue chip IT firm and feels her biological clock is ticking away at 37. She is meticulous to a fault and has a challenge of finding the man of her dreams. Though they initially swarmed around her like moths to a flame, none of them were able to slake her thirst and right now it seems all the men have migrated to Siberia or somewhere in the North Pole. Eno lives in the high-brow Lekki and drives the latest Honda Accord. The first class Computer Whiz kid with an eclectic taste in music takes you on a journey with tales of her professional and personal life. How she juggles it will enthral you and keep you waiting rather impatiently for the next diary notes.
Week 1: Manic as usual. Had to get to the office a bit earlier on Monday. Some UK-based IT firm came in to make a presentation at 8am. One of my sub-ordinates, Deji is really getting on my nerves. I can’t seem to deal with his late-coming. He comes in about 10am and 11 am sometimes. When you ask him he is so so nonchalant! That ticks me off big time. I tried calling Kester on
Tuesday but he didn’t pick up his phone. I just wish he could change his mind and get back with me. Four years ago when I felt I was still young I really played with his emotions. Looking back I really can’t tell what the problem was. Yeah, I remember, I didn’t like the way he ate then. But look how he’s turned out now, so polished. I think his latest job has helped him a great deal. Well, I just have keep hoping for the best but…?
Mum called first thing Wednesday morning wanting to know if I had made up my mind when I was going to finally choose a man. I wonder why the fuss. I know 37 is just three years from 40 but what can I do? Yeah, so she got married at 20 but that was back in the day. Of course that set the mood for my whole day! Guess who bore the brunt? Deji, he got in at 11.30 am! Reason? He over slept! He is certainly going to get a final warning from me. Meanwhile, my MD wants me to fly out over the weekend to sort out some transactions with the UK –based IT firm and wants Deji to come along. No way! I protested. The young man would probably just sleep through the journey and forget to get down at Amsterdam. I would certainly be too pleased to abandon him there. Well, I didn’t succeed in dissuading my MD because he got Admin to sort his Visa. God help me!
Mine! Last week flew by so fast. It’s Tuesday morning and I’m waiting for my connecting flight to Amsterdam. I can’t believe I abandoned my diary for 4 days! Well I have an hour on my hands so here I am writing away. The travel plans were certainly crazy. Guess who is sitting beside me, Deji? He didn’t have a visa so it took extra connections to get him one within 2 days. Then of course he almost missed his flight on Friday. I really didn’t see the need for him to come. He was late for everything as usual and that really put everyone off. Enough of him. I was able to get to HMV to buy my ‘habits’. As usual, I was like a child who had so many toys to choose from. I ended up with Peter Cincotti, Chris Botti, Josh Groban and Michael Bublee. Oh, did I mention that I had always wanted to buy Queen Latifah’s Jazz CDs? I got two of them, Travelling Light and The Dana Owens Album. It’s amazing that she’s even better with jazz. She is really good. Gotta go now, I need to listen to them before I get on the plane.
I had a lovely flight. I took Wednesday off as I was really knackered. Jet-lag really does get to me. It’s Thursday and I’m so glad the weekend is fast approaching. Christmas is around the corner and I haven’t done my main shopping. Except of course for the gifts I bought for my loved ones. Dad’s gift is always the hardest to get. It’s really hard to please him. But he has to make do with what I have. Back to the office gist, we are going ahead with our technical partners. They are good. There’s this particular whiz kid, wonder if he has blood ties with Bill Gates. The guy seems to be fond of me. He looked out for my every need. He even wanted to take me out for dinner. I think he’s way too young for me. He is 35, I know it’s just two years but I prefer men who are older than me. He’s onyinbo but I don’t think I mind. Any tribe or race will do. Wonder what my Dad will say to an onyinbo son-in-law. At this rate, I may just go with them. Dad will have a fit. These Naija men are not performing o! Or is it just me?
Finally, it’s Friday! My younger sister is coming to town tomorrow from Abuja. I look forward to having her around. I had to dash to the shopping mall to stock up the house. My ED is really acting up big time. I really don’t know what he wants. He said my report from the UK trip was nonsense! Those were his words. No one has ever told me that. Is he questioning my first class grade? Does he think I went to play in the UK? I personally think it’s an insult. I spent all of Thursday working on it. Sometimes I just feel men like to oppress us. Well, I’m not going to let him mess up my weekend. My dear sis is coming and besides I have a lovely wedding to attend. I guess I have to keep attending all the weddings I can. I feel it’s a way for me to invest in mine. And you can never tell, maybe a guy will come along. A big grin on my face.
Must Mondays always be mad? My ED really got me thinking today. I really feel like resigning and going out to set up my own thing. For the heck of it, I decided to take out time on Sunday to review the report again but he still doesn’t think it’s okay. He really got me upset. Well, I’m just going to let it be and when his bad mood passes, he’ll come round. My weekend was swell though. I had so much fun that I didn’t have time for my diary. I ran into Kester at the wedding. I clung to him like glue and of course I turned on my charm. Surprisingly, he didn’t protest but at the end of the reception, he got into his car and curtly said bye. There was no, “I’ll call you”, but it’s okay, at least he’s being friendly. My younger sister, Edidiong got in on Saturday evening. I picked her from the airport. She went on and on about the new local airport. It is really techy. It’s always nice to have her around, she is so well brought up, unlike typical lastborns. I can almost go to sleep when she is here.
It’s Wednesday already. My ED woke up on the right side of the bed today but I’m not impressed. We reviewed the report together. He actually said he was impressed. Strange! But of course he didn’t apologize for being a chauvinist. Well, I later found out why he changed his mind. The UK partners called and apparently went on and on about how brilliant I am etc… I’m not one to blow my trumpet but hey, it’s my diary. The CEO of the IT company just went on and on about me. I’m sure my ED thought they have plans of poaching me. I’m a Naija for life. I love my country. I don’t think I can re-locate. I love travelling and meeting diverse people but to live in another country? Hmmm….except for Mr. Right’s sake of course! There’s a BIG grin on my face.
Another Friday. I was the Queen of my ED’s heart for the rest of the week. Eno here, Eno there. He even offered to buy me lunch but I told him I was on a diet. Really, I’m not impressed. Enough of work. My life just seems to be about work. I have to visit two of my dear friends, Vicky and Tiffany. They are both married with children but we’re still great friends. Vicky has a lovely husband but Tiffany’s hubby is a bit arrogant but we get by somehow.
Monday again? Guess what? My week’s been bought over by my office as usual. I’m off to the UK again for a full week! With this lifestyle, will I find a man? Maybe I’ll go on the date with Bruce, the onyinbo whiz kid. Maybe, just maybe. At least we have something in common, our music taste…that’s exciting. I’m off to pack, my flight is first thing Tuesday morning. Thank goodness Deji is not coming!
Spending wisely this Yuletide- watch out for that spell! – Ngozi Omolaiye
The air just seems to cast a spell on you this season and you find yourself light-headed and almost floating. Your head clears when it’s January 2, 8 or 14 depending on your line of business. The first working day of the year comes with all those feelings of guilt, helplessness, and above all anxiety over your expenses in the past month. The spell is broken and reality sets in.
You start to wish you hadn’t bought all those groceries, presents, and you wonder what in the world you were doing buying all those shoes, bags, clothing you bought on impulse. Or no! it’s the spell that took its toll.
The Christmas season is usually wrapped with a multitude of activities. These activities start in your mind and take you back to your roots where you remember your Mum, Dad, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grand-aunts…the list goes on and what with all the presents you have to buy for them. You think about the endless flow of visitors that would swarm your home and all the goodies you have to offer them. The children’s needs and cravings are not left out, not to mention that priceless gift you want to give your spouse.
There are just too many strings that pull you this season and you need to act wisely in order not to fall into the temptation of spending unwisely. Unwise spending can come with its many frustrations.
“Christmas is simply exasperating, and I’m almost tempted to say I hate it” says 35 year old Marketing Executive Andrea who is a mother of three.
“I just hate the whole idea of buying endless presents and having to host people all through the celebrations, it tells on my finances”, declares Toke a 33 year old Consultant. “ Everyone just expects something from you!”
To be free of this cyclical financial web you need to plan ahead of time and prioritize.
It’s wise to have a budget for this season, plan for it at the beginning of the year. If possible, start saving from January, this will go a long way to helping you by year end. On the other hand if you get a year end bonus or “13 month”, try as much as possible to spend just that during the Yuletide. You can also fix some money in an account to be drawn in January.
Find other ways to be more liquid, purchase an investment product and get the returns round about the season. Most anxieties all boil down to cash as long as you can keep your cash flow buoyant, chances are you will be less frustrated.
Draw up a list of people you plan to give presents to and adhere to it. Set a limit. Everyone who cannot get a present this season can get it in the next holiday when people are usually not very expectant.
Depending on which part of the world you live, prices of most items go up this season, so learn to shop much earlier to save some cash.
If you don’t have much to spend, why not be a trendsetter by being innovative. Buy little things that touch the heart and package them in your own customized fancy packages. It could be miniature inspirational books, baked stuff, a tie, scarf, and inexpensive gift vouchers, name it. It’s all up to you to be creative, you know those tiny things that touches the hearts of your loved ones.
Whatever your options are remember that no one will drop dead if you don’t buy that fancy gift !
- Have a budget- you need to know how much you are willing to spend and stick to it.
- Prioritize- draw up a list and stick to it.
- Shop early to get the good bargains.
- Be a an innovative trendsetter, customize your gifts
- Save early! Start saving for the season in January.
When Cupid strikes- How do you handle your teenage daughter’s new beau? – Ngozi Omolaiye
It was all girly giggles, pillow fights, shopping trips to choose her dresses, trying out all sorts of recipes…those were the nice little things you enjoyed with your little girl, then “Jack” came tumbling after. Cupid struck his arrow and it got to your daughter’s heart much faster than you imagined. You just wonder whatever happened to those precious moments? And what about all the plans you made for her life. You cannot but remember her first cry, her first tooth, her first step, her first birthday and you are quick to lay claims to her. You are quick to say, “she is mine and I own her”.
Mothers usually find themselves at cross-roads when their sweet little girls find their first love. Letting go is never easy.
*Salewa shared a very close relationship with her daughter *Bisi. They looked forward to when her husband would travel and 16 year old Bisi could cuddle in her bed where they would share girly gossip. But when Bisi met *Kayode those cuddly moments became torturous for Bisi because it became 'Quiz time'. After she was long asleep (of course backing her mother), she would be awoken rudely to be quizzed harshly rather then spoken to nicely like in the good old days. Bisi quickly developed a tactics by pretending to be lost in sleep when Salewa came to wake her up.
Teenagers have a deep need to be understood and they have peculiar characteristics that need to be observed closely. They are pretty sensitive and are looking for a sense of belonging.
The experts in teenage psychology have found out there are basic truths about being a teenager which will never change; need for acceptance, the general insecurity of getting to adulthood and the feeling that rules are meant to induce pain and not to protect.
The world is in a jet-age what with media saturated environments and things were certainly different from when you were growing up. Adults today are very different from adults a few years back so are teenagers. To touch their hearts and influence their decisions, you have to first understand them. Teenagers look up to understanding folks and not old folks. So it has nothing to do with fact that you are ‘old’.
Parents need to admit that they recognize some truths about their teenage children but fail to adjust their methods/style of relating to them in order to accommodate them.
Psychologists go further to say that teens are usually hesitant to open up even to their peers so they trust and true friendship. From age 16-17, new pressures make them experience anxieties, especially about future careers and dating. This is when they are learning to adjust to the expectations of people, especially yours as a mother. This leads to increased emotions and insecurity.
Don’t forget the hormones, they are constantly changing at this age, the journey to adulthood can be quite confusing. These hormones affect moods and emotional responses. Patience is the watch word.
So when cupid strikes her heart, what do you do?
- Don’t let things change between you and your daughter. Just let her be herself. If you’ve taught her the right values, there is no need to panic.
- Just let her do the talking, that way she gains your trust.
- Never compare her with her siblings, friends, cousins or neighbours
- Find out all you can about ‘Jack’ in a nice way, that way you can chip in where apt.
- Get him to be a friend of the family and invite him over for dinner. If he’s far away, get to speak to him over the phone. Key thing is, get to know him.
- Get her to describe the man of her dreams once again, that would keep her in check and let her know if ‘Mr Right’ is in line with ‘Mr Dreams’.
*Not real names