– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! Do know that feeling of deflation you have, when on rushing home to report to your mother a clever thing you’ve done, and you meet a blank stare from her, indicating that what you considered ‘being clever’ was actually an act of stupidity? That was how I felt when I got home and told nanny of my encounter with Belinda in the office in Ikeja.
Nanny didn’t quite tell her ‘madam’ that she had not handled the matter well, but the look of surprise on her face told me that she didn’t support my cordial reception of Belinda.
“You look surprised and disappointed, nanny,” I told her. “You don’t seem to like what happened? Did I behave out of character?”
“Ah, madam, far be it from me to hand down instructions on how to handle that woman. You and I know the sort of woman she is. I’m afraid, I don’t believe she will ever have any good intention towards you.”
“I know that, nanny, and so do many other people, including Gloria, papa Milwan’s secretary, who secretly recorded what we both said this morning. In fact, Gloria had not wanted me to see Belinda at all.”
“What a very wise lady,” said nanny with a discreet smile. Oh, I know what nanny didn’t add. Her madam had been unwise, and Seb’s secretary, wise.
Well, ask a silly question and you get a silly answer.
I asked nanny what displeased her.
“Madam, she didn’t come with any good intention. That should be obvious. What business is it of yours whether she marries oga or not? Why should you be the one who will assess her relationship with him? If she thinks he won’t marry her in the long run, she should quit, without coming to ask for your opinion.”
“That’s true, nanny. Why do you think she came to see me today? She can’t be broke. She didn’t mention money. At first, I thought she had come to tell me that papa Milwan wanted money from the company.”
“Isn’t she too proud to ask you for money? I think she is. Instead she would have dragged oga down from Accra to Lagos to get the money himself. What I think is that she wanted you to feel so sorry for her state of insecurity with oga that you would ask oga yourself, why he isn’t marrying her fast.”
“That’s nonsense, nanny. She should know that I can never go beg papa Milwan to marry her. I didn’t bring the two of them together, so, I don’t see why I should be concerned about their relationship leading to marriage.”
“Hm! Madam, my advice is that the next time you meet her, receive her with indifference so that she would know that you don’t want to be chummy with her. You may find this hard to believe, madam, but she’s evil, and whatever she does can never favour you. Our priest said I should never talk like that, because God can be angry with me for saying a bad word about my fellow human being, but I’m sure God knows that that woman’s intention towards us is not good. We should avoid her totally. I just hope no trouble would come out of her visit to you today. God forbid.”
“Thanks nanny for your concern, but I can’t see how she can twist our discussion this morning in a way to show me in a bad light.”
Nanny crossed herself and smiled a bit. We left the matter at that, but for some hours afterwards, I did wonder if I had been foolishly chummy with Belinda.
Two days later, Seb turned up on my doorstep. Was I surprised! I thought he was dead and it was his ghost I was seeing.
“Here, come on Treena, don’t faint,” he said gently as I swayed on my feet. He caught me just before I hit the floor and made me sit down in a settee. Slowly, I became aware of my surrounding. As I got better, I longed for a large gin and lime, but I couldn’t ask that in the circumstances.
Shortly, nanny emerged with two bowls of light pepper soup. Don’t laugh! Seb fed me mine before taking his. No, it wasn’t a romantic gesture, but the fact that when I tried to drink it myself, the spoon shook violently in my hand. He took the spoon from me and fed me. Before he finished, my hand was steady enough to hold the spoon, so, I wanted to take it from me, but he shook free of my hand and continued his self-appointed role of feeding Treena. Well, I let him, and when he had finished, I sat back in my chair and bid him welcome to Lagos and to Nigeria. I asked him when he got in and why.
“I got in this afternoon. Why? Since I’m a Nigerian, I thought I have the right to return to my country whenever I like. Have they legislated against that in my absence?”
“Not that I know of. Anyway, whatever has brought you here, you’re welcome. But it could have helped if you had hinted when we spoke on telephone yesterday that you’d be in town today. I could have died from the shock of seeing you on my doorstep. Do the children know that you’re in Lagos?”
“Of course. I can’t move without telling them. They’re my past, present and future. You can shut them out of your life, but I can’t.”
“Seb, you’re not here to find fault with me, are you? I think I have better things to do with my time than to start arguing with you about who of us is doing the right thing by our children; who is the better parent, and all that. One has to grow up.”
I said a lot more than this, of course. I suppose I wanted someone I could tell off , in order to get back my self-esteem after allowing Belinda to come play on my intelligence. What better victim than her own fiancé, and my ex.? Yippee!
He was staring vacantly at me as I spoke, so, I wasn’t quite sure if I got through to him. Oh dear! I hoped I hadn’t wasted my breath.
“Treena, can you do me a favout?” he asked at last.
“Sure, Seb. If it’s something I can do, I’ll surely have a go.”
“Okay, Treena dear. Please can you explain to me why you had to go make Belinda feel so distressed and insecure in our relationship that she almost took her life?”
“What are you talking about?” without registering any emotion.
“Belinda rang me in tears some days ago, to tell me that when she called at the office in Ikeja to say ‘hello’ to you, you asked her how she can bear to be in a relationship that is not going anywhere. She said she tried to explain to you that our not being married to each other doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other, but you shook your head and told her that she should watch out now that Ruth and Naomi are around me there in Accra.
She said you told her that I may not marry her in the long run, and that in five years’ time, she would remember your timely warning. She was so distraught by your cynical interference in our relationship that she took an overdose of painkillers, called in Michel to tell him what she had done, and said he must not tell anyone. She just wanted to die alone and leave this wicked world.”
“What drama! Why did she call Michel in?” I asked in derision. “She should have just checked out, and then gone to explain to her God why she had to take her life.”
“That’s a shocking thing to say about another human being, Treena.”
“I’m sorry, but she was just being dramatic in order to get your attention and sympathy for whatever she’s going through. For the record, she came to me and said I should advise her about your reluctance to marry her. I told her she was seeking advice from the wrong person since I’m her fiance’s ex-wife.
She said I knew you in your formative years during which people are normally candid about every thing, unlike the age you are now, when people tend to be secretive about their lives. At no time did I call Belinda to discuss your relationship. Your secretary can bear me out. In fact, she hadn’t wanted me disturbed that morning, but I thought you won’t be pleased if I send your woman away when she came on a courtesy visit, so I asked her to bring in Belinda. I’m sorry she tried to take her life, but that’s not in her character, is she?”
“”I wouldn’t have thought so too, but thank God that Michel had the sense to rush her to the hospital where the contents of her stomach were flushed out and they returned home. She phoned me last night, and I took the first plane down this morning. When she told me what transpired between both of you, I was in anguish. So, I came here to find out why you would want to drive another person to her grave.”
I told Seb that I will present him with evidence of what transpired in the office between Belinda and me. I thought then that I would surprise him with the tape of his secretary’s recording of the event. Seb returned home that day, without eating or drinking anything we offered in my place. That has never happened before. That showed how upset he was.
I smiled. The tape would reveal the snake in his life, I told myself.
I was shocked when I rang Gloria the next day for the tape and she told me that I would have to cough up some money before she would release it. What?