– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! I was surprised to find Michel waiting for me in Sebâ€™s office the Monday after he and his wife had a quarrel at my place. Nanny was due to return home that week, so, Lucy, his wife, who had come to stand in for nanny, was winding up.
As I was leaving home that morning, she had come to ask my permission to go work for some hours at the restaurant in Amuwo, where Michel had â€˜caughtâ€™ her working behind his back, and which had led to their quarrel. I couldnâ€™t understand her insistence in going to work there again that day, but I granted the permission, advising her not do anything that would bring disgrace to her home and marriage.
She muttered â€˜thank you maâ€™ under her breath and I left for Ikeja. I expected that she would have cleared with her husband, the issue of going to work there that day. Was that what Michel had come to discuss with me? I could feel annoyance welling up in me. It was Monday morning and both my desks in Ikeja and Apapa were piled high with work. The last thing I wanted to do was to start settling yet another quarrel. I didnâ€™t think I would have the patience to cope.
â€œI hope allâ€™s well, Michel?â€ I said in response to his greetings.
â€œMadam, no ma!â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the matter? You look worried.â€
â€œMadam, Lucy phoned me last night to say she will not return to me here, but will leave for Togo from your place, as soon as nanny returns. I thought she was trying to make me feel bad again, so, I told her to calm down, and that as I had promised, I wonâ€™t beat her again, or, go after women. She said okay, and I thought that was the end of the matter. Now, madam, Nanny has returned this morning, so, Iâ€™m worried.â€
â€œNanny has returned this morning? Thatâ€™s not possible. It will take her at least six hours to get here from Lome, if she left there this morning, and then thereâ€™s the traffic build-up on Badagry Road. Itâ€™s only ten oâ€™clock now. Maybe she got into Lagos last night and had to sleep in a friendâ€™s house, and then come home this morning. Who told you that she has returned?â€
â€œLucy told me. I spoke to nanny, she said she would have called you, but her battery was down. She said she slept at the Seme border last night, and this morning, she crossed over to the Nigeria side and took a bus home.â€
â€œI see. I was actually expecting her in the evening. So, why did Lucy say she wonâ€™t return to you, after you had apologized for your ill-treatment of her?â€
â€œEr, I thought that she might want to return to the restaurant of that our townâ€™s woman to work again today, so, I rang the woman and warned her not to allow Lucy to work for her there again.â€
â€œYou had a quarrel with the owner of the restaurant?â€
â€œEr, her husband who works with a construction company, madam, is known as a womanizer. Heâ€™s always shown interest in Lucy, and even his wife knows this, but she takes it lightly as a joke. He has more money than I have, and Lucy is still young and pretty, madam. You know how tempting money can be, especially as things are tough for me now financially, since oga left for Ghana.â€
My annoyance was approaching boiling point, but I controlled myself.
â€œOkay, Michel, how can I help you this morning, or did you just come to tell me the latest in your marriage?â€
â€œAh, I can see that madam is very angry with me. Please forgive me, madam, but you and oga and also madam Mrs. Tayo are the only friends I have in the whole world. I mean proper friends, so, when I have problem, I have to turn to you. Mrs. Tayo would be angry if I bring up the matter of Lucy and I again, and oga is out of the country. Youâ€™re the only one I can talk meaningful to.â€
As he was talking in that dejected way, my anger began to ebb away. I mean, the poor guy needed a listening ear. So, well, I have to give it.
â€œMichel, sorry I sounded impatient. I have a lot of work here and in my office in Apapa. But weâ€™re friends, arenâ€™t we? So, I set aside work and listen to you. What can I do to help?â€
â€œDonâ€™t be annoyed ma, but can you speak to Lucy one more time? Sheâ€™s my wife and I love her. I donâ€™t want her to go back to Togo just like that. I know that Iâ€™ve misbehaved, but is there a perfect marital partner, who never misbehaves? If after youâ€™ve appealed to her she tells you that she wants to return to our village, Iâ€™ll accept that decision. I just want you to help me try one more time.â€
â€œBut Michel, you shouldnâ€™t have rung to warn the owner of the restaurant that she shouldnâ€™t employ your wife again. Frankly, thatâ€™s wicked. She needs the money. Donâ€™t you trust your wife to be faithful in your marriage?â€
â€œMadam, let me tell you the truth from my heart. Lucy is a good wife and mother. It isnâ€™t that I donâ€™t trust her. Iâ€™m afraid that if she has money of her own, she would abandon me.â€
â€œAbandon you to marry another man or what?â€
â€œWell, not another man, but she will want to leave. I know that sheâ€™s fed up with me, because of the way that I treat her. But Iâ€™m harsh with her because I love her and donâ€™t want her to go. Thatâ€™s why I take the money she earns from her. I tell her it is for school fees, but itâ€™s oga that pays school fees for our children, right from the start.â€
â€œI see. So, what do you do with the money Lucy earns but which you collect from her? You give other women?â€
â€œEr, ma, you know how all these women are. They wonâ€™t want you unless you give them money. When oga gave me the station wagon to use in running around, many girls around us in Ikeja suddenly wanted to be my friend, and when they wanted to go out they would ask me to take them in the car. â€œ
â€œSo, you became popular, eh? You enjoyed it all, didnâ€™t you?â€
â€œThatâ€™s true, madam, but now that thereâ€™s no money and no car, theyâ€™re not answering my greetings any more. So, if Lucy leaves me, Iâ€™ll be finished. Sheâ€™s now bent on making and keeping her money, and then going away from me. Please beg her to return here tomorrow as planned. I will let her work and keep her money. I will change. I have changed.â€
â€œMichel, but youâ€™ve just told the restaurant owner not to allow her work today. She asked me if she could go and I said â€˜yesâ€™. How can you say youâ€™ve changed? Iâ€™m sure the woman sent her away.â€
â€œNo, that woman is stubborn. She abused me when I told her not to allow Lucy work for her. She said that Iâ€™m a lazy and useless man, and I want my wife to die in poverty. She said she wonâ€™t allow that, and that sheâ€™s there right now helping to cook and serve her customers. She said if I come there, she will call the Police. She talks like a man – that our townâ€™s woman. We all know that she rules her home. She even collects her husbandâ€™s salary and gives him pocket money to spend. But she spends the money well. Theyâ€™ve built a house in a village in Badagry area, and all their children are doing well in good schools here in Lagos. Lucy admires her a lot. The woman will spoil her for me.â€
â€œSorry, Michel, but I think you deserve all the names she called you. However, I will help beg Lucy on your behalf. But not right now. I have to get through this work and then rush to Apapa. She canâ€™t leave my place until tomorrow. So, relax.â€
â€œAlright, ma. Thank you, ma. I feel better now. She will listen to you. Thank you, ma.â€
As he was leaving I called him back to clarify something that had puzzled me for some time. I asked him something which Iâ€™ve never asked him before; how solid is the relationship between Seb and Belinda; how come sheâ€™s not in Accra, but socializing here in Lagos, etc.
â€œDid they really go to Accra that day he went to meet her at the airport after Patricia left? People seem to think that Papa Milwan was in the house when I came over here to work out things.â€
â€œMadam, the truth is that oga went to the airport early to send the lady from Jos back. As we were going to drive over to the International Airport for him to join Madam Belinda, she rang oga to tell him they werenâ€™t travelling that day.
They travelled a week later. Their relationship is good, at least for now, though she travels down to Lagos from Accra frequently to attend one function or the other. Oga has visited twice since then to find out how you are doing, but he told us that if you know, you wonâ€™t concentrate on the job. He warned us all, even the senior managers not to let you know. So, it was his voice nanny heard when she came here that time. Your friends came over to see him.â€
I turned this over in my mind, whether to smile or be angry. I ended up neutral.
That evening, nanny and I had a happy re-union. She was looking robust and fresh. She said she spent most of the time in Accra with my parents and she enjoyed herself. And Lucy? She said she had no intention of leaving Michel, but only wanted to rattle him a bit, so he can allow her to control her earnings. Smart girl.