Chike’s people had argued that in their place, a bride price was not paid on the head of a pregnant woman and vowed to come back and pay my bride price once I delivered the baby.
They only collected the bride price list and left.
Chike convinced me to do a registry wedding with him and we were wedded at the marriage registry without my mother’s approval or presence. A colleague witnessed the wedding for me while Chike’s slimy brother,(that’s the only way to describe him) Emeka witnessed the wedding for him.
I was on top of the world. Just looking at my beautiful rings (I had bought them myself) gave me joy. I asked Chike to resign after our wedding and set up a bush bar for him as he indicated that was what he really wanted to do. I was on cloud nine. I had a good job, a husband and a baby on the way.
Things started falling apart when I noticed that Chike’s bush bar became the hangout of very dubious characters. At first, I wasn’t bothered as everyone has the right to walk into a drinking place and have fun and any business at all was good business.
I only became alarmed when I noticed Chike was hanging out with the shifty looking lot. They always dispersed whenever I arrived to help Chike out in the evenings. I was heavily pregnant at this stage.
Chike finally convinced me to stop coming there in the evening due to my advanced pregnancy but to go home and rest. Around this time, his brother Emeka came to live with us. I never liked Emeka. He was always looking to score a quick buck and had been very dishonest when I sent him on errands concerning money. At 32 by the time he came to live with us, he was older than my 29 but he lived as if he had no care in the world and both he and his brother sponged off me.
The day I gave birth, Chike did not show up at the hospital. I was lucky because both Ikenna and Chinyere had come visiting that day to mend fences. I was already on maternity leave and was at home. We were laughing together and remembering our father when my water literally broke in the sitting room.
Ikenna who was a good driver had driven me to the hospital with Chinyere murmuring words of encouragement and rubbing my back. Chike showed up two days after, apologizing profusely. I ignored him and packed up our items preparatory to leaving the hospital as we had been discharged. He could neither explain where he was or why his phone had been switched off for two days. I eventually forgave him but there were cracks in our marriage.
Cracks that were widening every day. I reached out to my mother to tell her I had given birth but I was rebuffed and told to either drop the baby with it’s father and leave the marriage or not contact her at all. I cried myself to sleep that day.
I was beginning to see what my mother had prophesized several months ago but my baby was too precious to drop with a loafer like Chike. I just couldn’t. Little did I know the worst was yet to come. If only I had foresight.
Oluebube was eight months old and I had resumed work months before when the worst happened. Now, Chike and I were barely talking to each other. I had realized I made a mistake and was not as naïve as I used to be with him. I had also reduced drastically or stopped in some cases, funding his stupid lifestyle.
His bush bar had been run to the ground. The only patrons being the shifty characters that I had so much misgivings about earlier.
I had also stopped visiting the place but rather concentrated on my job and my son.
Chinyere who was between schools at that point stayed with me and helped me look after Oluebube whenever I was at work. I was terrified of house helps and nannies and was very relieved Chinyere decided to stay.
Around this time, I also started noticing the odd closeness between Chike and my sister, Chinyere, but I did not want to scratch that surface for fear of what I would see.
On the day my world came crashing down, I was handling the monthly reports and was a little stressed that I was lagging behind deadline when the CSO of the company worked into my office with two men I could plainly tell were police officers even though they were plainly clothed…..