By Prisca Sam-Duru
Mercy considered the words from her mother-in-law and felt there was a disconnect between her statements which were actually an after thought, and the situation on ground. Those words as far as she was concerned, were empty and only came from a first class pretender.
“How on earth could people be so untrustworthy?”, she questioned. “Could it be that I was the careless one here that I never noticed the kind of deceivers I’ve spent years with?, Ahhh…God, how can people you created be so cruel…Please Daddy, let this be a nightmare that I must wake up from…please dear lord, I need to wake up… now!”
While Mercy wept, her sympathisers who thronged her compound four days after James was buried, actually thought she did the normal thing widows did.
In her own case, there were several reasons she cried. She was lost as to where she was to begin. Was it from the well constructed deception, 13 years of childlessness with James, or that of all people, her late husband tricked her like no other person had ever done.
And talk of mama, she had treated Mercy like her own child and had even introduced her several times as her own daughter rather than daughter-in-law. And then the biggest; James’ sudden departure.
“If only he is here to defend himself, then things would have been clearer”, Mercy thought, as she wiped more tears off her face which had turned red from non stop weeping, with the edge of her wrapper.
As her mother pulled her close, whispering soothing words into her ears, Mercy came back from deep thoughts and began thinking of how she was to live in their home all alone. James shouldn’t have abandoned everything to her care.
Despite the fact that even in death, he had wounded her soul, it was better he stayed alive and … “just stayed alive”, she concluded.
Mercy drifted into memories revolving round their first meeting at the church’s end of year thanksgiving and they had taken a liking for each other. They needed no time for courtship as both appeared in a hurry to be married.
James had given her what she had ever wanted from a decent and responsible man- a beautiful engagement ring after she accepted his proposal. Barely two weeks later, his family had paid Mercy’s, an expected visit where talks about marriage were concluded. Their wedding was typical of that of celebrities which they never were.
It was so glamorous that her surprise wedding gift from James was her favourite popular American musician who flew into the country and thrilled the guests with spellbinding performances. The celebration continued with a two-week honeymoon in Paris.
“How easy was it for James to have thrown all that away…what kind of a man would so treat a woman he’d professed so much love for that way?”, were questions no one would be able to answer for as long as James remained with the immortals.
As she crucified herself for being insensitive, thoughts about when she had suggested they adopted at least two children probably a boy and a girl but James had assured her that as long as there was life, she would bear him children.
He had made excuses of how he didn’t want a child from an unknown lineage becoming his heir and that since they both were certified okay by the doctor, she definitely would bear children. She had believed him and was consoled by his sweet words.
Even mama, unlike some other mother’s-in-law, made sure she worried less about her situation. That the same man who was so nice to her as her life partner, friend, confidant and brother, got involved with another woman barely 4 years into their fruitless marriage, without her knowledge, was unthinkable and in fact, the height of wickedness and betrayal.
Before her mother was through with consoling her, she cast her mind back to four days ago when James’ remain was lowered into his final resting place and it was time for his relatives to perform the ash for ash rite.
She remembered she had bid him final farewell with very hot tears streaming uncontrolably down to her neckline, how she almost fell into his grave so they could both embark on the journey together, but for the Priest and James’ maternal relatives who restrained her, and the shocker which came when Liza was also asked to join in performing the rite.
Mercy had wondered who she was but concluded that whoever Liza was, she was well known to James’ family. The tears immediately ceased flowing when she learned that Liza was James’ mistress and a feeling of pain and hatred engulfed her.
In order not to create a scene, she was instructed by other older women who themselves, appeared lost as to what was going on, to keep mute because according to tradition, a woman in her condition was not allowed to speak.
Mama had called a meeting that same night where hidden truth was laid bare. Beyond her widest imagining, she was told that indeed, Liza who was also present at the meeting, was legally married to her late husband. It was unbelievable that she had three boys, aged 9,7 and 5.
“Oh! Oh!…ahhhhh!…how cruel people can really be” Mercy managed to exclaim almost inaudibly having lost her voice to much weeping.
“Mama even you… You betrayed me.”
“My daughter you will not understand”
“Then make me understand what happened mama, I thought you said I was your child, is this how best to treat your own child? You are heartless. At least you should have intimated me with your plan to get another wife for James.”
“You didn’t seem like you’d be able to live with it”
“That’s nonsense mama, why do you think its now that I’d be able to live with this betrayal. Oh! this is the height of betrayal. We had a church wedding and of course the church had insisted we got a certificate from the registry which declared our marriage legal. How possible was it that James could have married Liza, and… where?”
The more she asked the questions, the more confused she became.
“Well”, Mercy’s mother-in-law begun, “My daughter, I’m sorry to say this, but however you see it, Liza and her children have come to stay. It would do you good if you accept them as part of your life.”
“I can’t believe you are the one saying this. You’ll surely receive an award for the best pretender in the entire universe, only God will have mercy on you.”
The house got divided and those for Mercy supported her for she had given both mama and her late son, as well as the entire Oguike’s family, love, care and everything, except a child which was why she suffered.
If only she lived as cats and dogs with them while James was alive, the pain would have been less. But for people who showed her much love and got same in return, it was unthinkable that they would commit such crime against her.
Mercy felt much pain knowing that Liza’s boys were to take over everything her husband left behind including those she acquired by herself.