When your seven year old daughter asked you why she, her brothers and you were no longer living with Daddy and you have no ready answer because you had not expected to still not be living with Daddy, it hurt on a level that made you wish to hit someone.
And right at that moment, Belema wished she could hit Mike. Hit him so hard, he would hurt and cry like Allison was doing now.
“Ally, we will go back home soon. I promise you this.”
“But we’ve been at Grandma’s many weeks already, Mummy. When exactly is ‘soon’?”
Belema sighed. “I’m sorry I can’t give you an exact date, Ally. But we will go back home as soon as is possible.”
“But why is it not possible now?”
She’s always been very smart, very inquisitive and very much her father’s daughter. “We can’t go home now because Daddy and I are working on something.”
“Something like what?”
Shut up and stop asking me too many questions! That’s what her mother would have said if a seven year old Belema had dared to question her like Allison was doing now. But she couldn’t snap at her daughter, that would be transferring aggression and intimidating her wasn’t just permitted.
Still, she wasn’t going to give her the answer her childlike mind probably suspected, that something wasn’t right between Daddy and Mummy.
“Ally, this is something between Daddy and I. But I can promise you, you have nothing to worry about. Yes, we have been here at Grandma’s for three weeks, but we will be going home soon.”
“Will Daddy come for us?”
Will he? “Yes, he will.”
“Are you sure, Mummy?”
“I’m positive.” She pulled her into her arms and hugged her close. “We’ll all be home again, okay?”
“Okay, Mummy.” She bobbed her head and managed a watery smile.
“My sweet little girl. Now, how about you go help me check on your brothers and see what menace they are up to now?”
Put like that, Allison rolled her eyes in big sisterly way as Belema knew she would. “They’re probably scattering everywhere in the room. And if they are, I’m going to make sure they arrange it.”
“You do that.”
But at the door, Allison looked at her. “Don’t be angry with Daddy anymore, Mummy. I know you didn’t say you are, but I’m just saying don’t be.”
And she swept through the door before Belema could respond.
“Oh dear Ally.” Belema blinked her eyes where tears suddenly pricked. Of course, her little girl has sensed some trouble between her daddy and mummy. Her brothers, five and three, might be unaware, but Allison was sensitive.
Her children needed their father. Her daughter needed her daddy. And she, did she need her husband?
At some level, she missed him, missed their home. Her home. She wanted to go home. She hadn’t expected to still be here at her mother’s three weeks after she and Mike last talked.
Well, it wasn’t the last time they talked, since they talk every other day, he came to see the children. But it was the day she’d given him her ultimatum and had refused to budge until he offered her a sincere apology.
She’d expected the apology at the most, a few days after that day. But he’d offered none again and hadn’t broached the subject of her returning home with the children.
She knew he was trying to guilt-trip her into thinking she was making too much out of nothing. He had the habit of saying a quick, and almost careless, sorry and expecting all to be forgotten.
It wasn’t going to happen this time. She might want to go home, her children might need their daddy, but no one was going anywhere until Mike did what she wanted and expected of him.
It was time he stopped taking her love and her commitment to their marriage for granted.
It mildly surprised Belema when he requested to speak with her after his visit with the children. She sat on the bed while he sat on the stool by the window, staring out of it as if gathering his thoughts.
“The house has been empty without you and the children.” He finally said, moving his gaze on her. “It’s tough staying there alone.”
“You seem to be managing just fine.”
“I am not fine with it at all. It is hard for me, lonely for me, and I am tired of it.”
“I see.” He expected her to feel sorry for him, and in a small way she did, but she wasn’t going to show it.
“Is that all you’re going to say?” He didn’t wait for her response before letting out a sigh. “I know you think I’m not truly sorry for what I did, but I am, Belema. I sorely regret what happened with Amen. I wish we… I wish I hadn’t touched her. I shouldn’t have; it was wrong of me.”
He paused, and she said nothing, only waited for him to go on.
“You want to know why I did it. You want a reason, something to explain or justify it. But there’s none. I was… well, attracted, started to think about her in that way,” he shrugged. “And acted on those thoughts.”
When she still said nothing after his pause, he prompted. “Belema, please say something. I am saying that I’m truly sorry for all of this. I am sorry for disrespecting and hurting you.”
She stared at him. On his face, she saw lines of fatigue, signs of unhappiness and the shadow of genuine contrition. He probably was more contrite because he hated having to live alone and take care of his needs himself, but he looked sorrier than he’d done in the past and that was a good beginning for a second chance.
“Thank you for the apology. But I do wonder, what about next time you feel attracted to another girl, another woman? Will you not be acting on it and expecting me to forgive and forget it?”
He opened his mouth to respond, but she went on. “Because I won’t take it, Mike. I won’t again forgive it. I don’t care how marriage is traditionally viewed around here, or what are considered the ‘manly rights’ of husbands. You and I are married and from you, I expect love, respect and fidelity. If I am to give it all to you, you will do the same to me. Treat me as you will have me treat you. Don’t take me for granted and expect to get away with anything because I am an African woman, a Nigerian wife. It won’t work that way between us, and you should know because you know who I am. You know that I am my own woman.”
“I know, Belema. I know you won’t again tolerate this from me and I, myself, do not want to see our family torn apart by something like this ever again.” He came over and sat beside her. “I messed up and I am sorry for that, and promise you it won’t happen again.”
“Are you sure, Mike, because this wasn’t even supposed to happen.”
“I’m telling you that it won’t, Belema. I am a man and have weaknesses…”
“We all have weaknesses, whether man or woman, Mike. Stop with that excuse.”
“I wasn’t giving an excuse. I’m just saying I’m a man with weaknesses but I have before now controlled myself and will do so again. This won’t happen again because I don’t want to lose you or force our children to live without one parent.” He took her hand, and she let him hold it. “Please, come home, Belema. Let’s start over. I miss you and the children.”
It was the most she would get from him and it was enough for her, enough for this new beginning. So, she went home with him and with their children to start on the journey of rebuilding her marriage and her home.