It was the setting Amina had prayed for since she came back to her matrimonial home – an opportunity to be alone with her mother-in-law and give her a piece of her mind. The irritating woman was predictable too. Sitting with her usual sufferance at the breakfast table, she shot daggers at Amina, who was now taking her time to plop her mother-in-law’s breakfast on the table.
Minutes later, the mother-in-law’s whining started – the pap was lumpy, the fried bean balls were too hard – on and on she went. “Mama”. Snapped Amina, “you know the maid left last week – I don’t have six arms. It wouldn’t hurt if you get up early to prepare the type of breakfast you would have preferred.”
The woman was gubsmacked. “Are you talking to me”, she wanted to know. “It’s amazing that you could even talk back to anyone after what you did. I mean how many wives would runoff with another man for close to a year and still come back to their matrimonial homes?” “Story, story”, Amina jeered. “It’s not your fault”, her mother-in-law continued. “God knows the type of potion you’d put in my son’s food. Or was it somewhere else you put it? The shame of it. Always being laughed at by his friends because of his wife’s insatiable appetite for sex!”
“Ah mama, how could you say all that?”, admonished Amina as if that would be the first time her mother-in-law would twist the knife in her wound of shame. “You, more than anyone else should know how grateful I was to come back. You remember the same ting happened to you all those years back when Papa sent you packing after catching you red-handed in the company of one of his friends. You too were able to come back after months of pleading and with an undertaking that it wouldn’t happen again!”
“My mother-in-law reacted more violently than I’d imagined”, Amina went on. “She leapt up from the dining chair, came to where I was in the kitchen and lashed out at my face. I tasted blood. `How dare you, you trollop!’, she yelled, her face contorted with anger. As she continued to slap me, I started hitting her where it would hurt without the marks she left on me. We were both stark raving mad. All the resentment and anger, the frustration and humiliation of the past months gave me strength.
“I yelled after accusations at her and she hit me gain. I punched her repeatedly in the stomach. In my blind fury, I didn’t know to what extent I was hitting at her until she was on her knees, sobbing and yelling for the neighbours to come and save her before I killed her!
“That was when I left her and ran to the bathroom. My eyes were puffy where she’d slapped me and there was this little cut on my lip. The woman must really hate me to have packed so much power into her blows. It’s true I’d been unfaithful to my husband. After four children, it was flattering to be wined and dined by a prominent director in my office. My marriage wasn’t as exciting as it once was and Femi, my husband, had had his flings too. But things got out of hand. My lover showered me with presents and when my husband eventually found out what was going on, he threw me out.
“My lover welcomed me with open arms, gave me one of his flats and bought me a brand new car. I also resigned from paid employment and started my own business. My husband nearly went mad. I guess husbands can’t really hand it when they throw out their wives and such wives flourish. In the end, reconciliatory moves were made and my parents insisted I went back to my husband.
“Only my mother-in-law was aghast. She thought I should cover my face with a carrier bag or something and work like a slave as a sort of penance. As luck would have I, I complained to one of her relations. She was the one who told me she was surprised at my mother-in-law’s stance since she too was once guilty of the same offence. She then gave me details of her sordid past. I was so grateful that I plied her with a lot of gifts, I then waited patiently for pay-back time which came that morning.
“I stayed in my room most of the day and avoided her. As luck would have it, Femi had never mentioned anything about his mother’s indiscretion. When he came in, I heard a muffled conversation from his mother’s room. He looked really defeated as he came to our bedroom, wanting to hear my own version. I’d already exaggerated the bruises on my face with red and purplish makeup. Femi gasped when he saw my face. By the time I finished giving distorted version of what happened, he didn’t know who to believe. My mother-in-law didn’t even let on what referred to her infidelity. So what would have been my reason for attacking her so violently as she alleged?
“A sort of truce was called and it was decided that since I was her `wife’, I should beg my mother-in-law. I did, pretending to accept the truce in the name of peace. Since then, my mother-in-law has been on her best behaviour. She’s never once mentioned anything about how grateful I should be and in return, I’ve been very good to her. Once a while, I catch her giving me some funny looks but I smile to myself. She can’t touch me any more because she doesn’t know the type of ammunition I might still have in my arsenal!”