– the funloving, but hardworking single parent

By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! I had no clear-cut plan in my mind when I shooed Michel and his wife Lucy off to nanny’s room for the night. It wasn’t with an aim that they would forget their quarrel, kiss and make up in the intimacy of nanny’s room, but still, that wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

I woke up that Saturday morning to the appetite-whetting smell of Spanish omelette with bacon in it. I remembered that it was a specialty of Michel’s, so, with a light heart I got dressed and went downstairs.

“Good morning ma,”said Lucy courteously as she emerged from the kitchen with the food.

“Good morning, Lucy, I hope you slept well.”

“Not so well ma since I had to sleep on the floor, but I survived.”

“Why did you sleep on the floor? I thought there’s a bed in nanny’s room.”

“That’s true, ma, I didn’t want to sleep on the same bed as Michel.” I stared at her briefly. Her face was tight. Poor thing!

“I’m sorry to hear of your discomfort, Lucy. Where’s your husband?”

“Ma, he’s over there in the garden, helping malam to tidy it up. He prepared this food, ma. He insisted on doing it.”

“Oh, thank you. I don’t mind, Lucy. Go call him in, after I’ve finished eating. We have to settle your quarrel”.

“Yes ma, but please don’t ask me to remain with him, ma. Please.”

“We’ll see, Lucy. Go call him in.”

While waiting for the couple, I was wondering how to spend my Saturday, when I caught sight of Tayo’s jeep sweeping through my gates. I was pleased. When she comes that early, it means she wants us to go out together, and I won’t have to drive myself around in heavy rain and on flooded streets. She has drivers seven days a week and twenty four hours a day, if need be.

Lucy went out to help her with her bag. I saw she was already in her tennis gear. Yippee! That means we’re off to Ikoyi Club for tennis. That wouldn’t be a bad idea, provided it isn’t raining over there.

Tayo came in regally with Lucy and Michel in tow. Her driver came in to pay his respects. I tossed a thousand naira note his way. “Use that for lunch wherever you find yourself in the afternoon,” I told him. “Thank you, ma. God bless you, ma.”

“Treena dear, you spoil that man,” said Tayo, as the grinning man left us.

“Well, he serves you well, and these things are expected of us by our workers. Why else would he come in to greet me specially?”

“That’s expected of him, but if you have to reward him with a thousand naira note each time he greets you, he’d expect everyone I visit to do the same, and would sulk, if they don’t.”

“He’s too mature for that. So, what brought you out so early?”

We hugged and kissed, and she said she had come without having breakfast, and Michel had already told her that I’ve just feasted on Spanish omelette with bacon and toast. She wanted same treatment. Michel looked happy and set to comply, even without me issuing the order.

I sighed and we sat down.

“What’s happening around here that the team of husband and wife are here looking after you?” she asked me later as I sat watching her eat.

“Er, well, why don’t you finish breakfast and then hear what the couple have to say?”

“You mean they just turned up on your doorstep without a warning? Are they trying to make another baby and they’ve been told that there’s a fertility bed in your house?”

“Making a baby? Why would they dare do that when they already have four and Michel was telling me yesterday that since Seb left, he’s been having money issues?”

“So, what’s Michel doing here? I know that Lucy’s here to stand in for nanny for a fortnight, but why would Michel be in residence as well? Or did he arrive this morning?”

“Wait until later, Tayo dear. Where are we headed for? Tennis at Ikoyi Club?”

“In this rain? Not on your life. I hate being soaked while playing. I don’t think I’m that addicted to the game to the point of doing that..”

“But you’re in tennis gear.”

“Your eyes are not deceiving you, Treena dear,” she said, avoiding giving an answer. “Wao! That was great breakfast. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Michel is the best cook around in my world, any day. I wonder, sometimes, if I shouldn’t tempt him with a higher salary and take him from Seb.”

That would be a very good idea. It would bring joy to my heart, as it would end the very good relationship you and Seb have been enjoying. That would delight me, because you’d no longer take sides with him whenever I complain about him. Go on! Lure him away from Seb.”

“That’s pure malice on your part. Fancy wanting Seb and I to become enemies! It can’t happen! Or rather, it shouldn’t happen! Oh well, taking Michel away from Seb was only wishful thinking. After all, I gave Michel to you and Seb many years ago.”

“One tends to forget that. I’ve often wondered why you didn’t retain him for yourself.”

“That was because I couldn’t afford him then. Seb and you were making big money, and I was just struggling to take off. What Michel wanted when I got him from Togo seemed outrageous salary to me. In fact, I was going to apologize to the lady I had given money to go get me a male steward/cook from Republic of Benin or Togo, and send him back, when you and Seb came to tell me that you urgently needed a cook. I quickly gave him to you. Later, when God had smiled on me abundantly, Michel became the source of bringing domestic helps for me and my friends.”

“He brought nanny.”

“Sure. We thank God for his life. Now, I must thank you for the lovely breakfast. Call in Michel and his wife and let’s hear why he came here to join his wife and abandon his post in Ikeja. Let’s hope that won’t get to Seb. He’ll be very angry with you.”

“Why? I didn’t ask Michel to come here.”

I called out to Michel and Lucy and they came in almost immediately. I told them to sit down, and I went over what Michel had accused his wife of. I watched Tayo, thinking she would be shocked. She wasn’t, rather she was furious with Michel.

“Michel, what’s this about beer parlour again? When Lucy’s business of selling cooked food crashed, you suggested that she should go help out in local restaurants or beer parlours around you there in Ikeja, so she could save money to start another trade. She’s been doing this for a couple of years now, and you’ve been enjoying the proceeds from it. You were monitoring her, and I didn’t hear complaints of her being free with men.”

“Madam T, that’s true,” admitted Michel. “But this one here is different, ma. I don’t know these people in Amuwo.”

“Madam T, God bless you ma,” said a grateful Lucy, who was close to tears. “I’m glad you remember all that. Even when I was here the other year, he knew that I went to work in this particular restaurant in Amuwo. Even nanny knew. Michel said we shouldn’t allow Mama Milwan to know because she wouldn’t like it. I give him the money I make. I didn’t tell him about this one this time because I wanted to keep the money for myself. For about three years now I haven’t bought myself new clothes, not even the very cheap ones that I normally wear. He takes the money I earn and says it’s for looking after the children. I’m fed up. I want to leave him. He won’t change, ma. Don’t ask me to be patient. I don’t want to die young from stress. It’s because he chases women that he feels I must be chasing men. Why didn’t he confront our town’s woman who runs the restaurant in Amuwo if he suspected me?”

Tayo asked Michel to defend himself. He kept mute with head bowed.

“Then you have no case,” concluded Tayo. “You don’t deserve a nice girl like Lucy. If you had married any of those girls you fool around with in Ikeja, they would have shown you pepper. They wouldn’t give you the money they earn, and they may actually date other men.”

“I’m sorry, madam,” muttered Michel. “I’m sorry.”

“Beg your wife, and make a promise now that you’ll never beat her or harass her again.”

“I promise before God and man,” he vowed.

“Lucy, forgive him. No, no. Don’t refuse. He played into our hands by coming here. God caught him, so that the marriage can continue.”

Silence. After a while, Lucy nodded. Michel got up to hug her, thanked us profusely, and he said he was leaving for Ikeja. Later, we saw Lucy escorting him out of the gate. Phew!

Tara.

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