This series was inspired by a mother’s letter to her new daughter in-law.
Number One – Build a Lasting Relationship
A thrill sped down her back as she shivered in anticipation. She knew what was coming…expected it even, but it was still a shock when she felt the gentle pressure of his lips on hers. She clung to him like a starving woman as he deepened the kiss, gently at first, and then more ardently at her fevered response. When his hand moved towards the buttons on her blouse, the haze of passion cleared and she gasped.
She wrenched herself away from him, shunning the contact she had so desperately craved just a few minutes ago “No! No, Drew…please don’t!” God, what is wrong with me? What am I doing?
Contrite, Drew pulled back, a look of consternation on his handsome face. “Goodness…I’m so sorry baby, I...”
“Don’t call me that!” she screamed almost hysterically as she hurriedly smoothed her mussed hair and slipped her feet back into her black pumps.
“That’s what my husband calls me” she muttered under her breath as she walked – no, dashed out of Drew’s office. She ignored his calls for her to come back, resisted his apologies. She had to get out of there. Desperation fueled her and she ran, trying to escape what she had done…what she had been about to do. She gave no heed to the fear curling in the pit of her stomach as she hurried to her car, stumbling on the concrete pavement as she made her way across the parking lot. Some other emotion gripped her, but she didn’t recognize it until she fumbled her car door open and sat staring at herself in the visor. It was emblazoned all over her face…lurking there in the shadowed brown eyes of the woman that stared back at her. Guilt.
Six months ago…
Chiaka laughed as she tried to catch up with her crawling son. He had just upended a white cardboard box that held her old letters and cards and was heading towards the small bookshelf in the corner of the room.
“Oh no you don’t, KT!” she exclaimed as she grabbed his legs. Frustrated, the baby kicked against her hold and burst into angry sobs when he couldn’t break free.
“Aww, don’t cry my KT boo boo…Mummy just doesn’t want you making a mess.” Obinna and Chiaka had shortened their son’s name to KT after a few weeks, because his given name – Kanyitochi – was a bit of a mouthful. They figured he would either grow into his name or decide to keep the nickname.
Chiaka and her son were spending the day together as they did most days. She had decided to take a break from her job and stay home with him for a few years. Fortunately, her husband’s income was enough. For now. Hopefully, for a while, she thought as she cuddled her son. She never tired of his baby soft smell, or of kissing that spot right between his neck and his shoulder. It always made him laugh and left her amazed at how blessed she was.
Thank you Lord for such an amazing gift. She had heard stories of couples who tried to conceive for years and she was grateful that she had gotten pregnant before it became a ‘prayer project’. Her son giggled as she tickled him, but his good mood soon dissolved into sobs when she put him in his playpen.
“Sorry sweetie, but Mummy has to clean up this mess.” She sighed as she surveyed the cards and letters littered all over the carpeted floor. She surfed channels and found a one showing cartoons, which caught KT’s attention and transformed the sobs to sniffles.
As she picked up the papers strewn all over the floor, a small rectangular piece of paper with slightly faded writing caught her attention. She placed the other documents back in the box and held up the paper. She smiled as she realized what she was looking at. It was a note from her mother-in-law, written shortly after she and Obinna had gotten married eighteen months ago. She read the first few lines and remembered why she had decided to save it.
Your relationship counts. I am handing him over to you so both of you can cleave together as one. Create enough space in your whole being for him…he has never married before, so give him time to learn.
It was an unassuming note, written on the back of an airplane ticket holder. Filled with motherly advice, the handwritten lines were scribbled next to each other, cramped and difficult to read. But she had treasured it and saved it, more as a keepsake than as something she would find useful. Now, I’m glad I did, she thought as she skimmed the rest of the note.
Frustrated at being left alone, KT started to fuss and Chiaka hurriedly picked up the rest of the papers and stuffed them in the box. Walking into the bedroom closet, she placed the box on the closet shelf where it would be safe from her son’s inquisitive hands. She folded her mother-in-law’s note and tucked it into the pocket of her jeans. I need to read this later. God knows I need all the help I can get.
The muted sounds of the TV and the humming AC were the only sounds in the house. Mercifully, KT had fallen asleep and Chiaka was enjoying some much needed respite. She lay on the couch in the living room, one arm holding the sleeping baby sprawled on her chest. She knew she should have put him in his crib but she was so tired, she could barely move. She consoled herself with the fact that even if he somehow fell out of her grip, it was only a short distance from the couch to the floor. Remembering her hard wooden floors, she reluctantly sat up.
She glanced at the clock hanging on the beige walls. 5.45 p.m. Obinna would be home soon. She walked down the short hallway to the nursery and gently put her son in his crib. Quickly, she picked up the toys that littered the small living room and put them KT’s toy box, careful not to wake him. She picked up a few other odds and ends and looked over her work when she was finished. The ultra-modern living room gleamed, just the way Obinna liked it. The charcoal sectional sofa was free of clutter and the matching ottoman sat squarely in the middle of the plush area rug. Sunlight filtered through huge bay windows and bounced off the shiny wooden floor.
Satisfied, she walked the short distance to the kitchen and started getting dinner ready. Measuring out a few cups of rice into a bowl, she lightly washed it at the sink, quickly running her fingers through the long, slender grains. The sound of keys in the lock told her Obinna was home and she smiled happily as he walked in, shedding his jacket and tie.
She walked towards him and kissed his cheek “Hey, honey.”
Obinna dropped his briefcase on the floor and hugged his wife. “Mmmm…that feels good. More please.”
Chiaka giggled as he nuzzled her neck, enjoying the feel of his lips on her skin. “Not now. The baby is asleep and I’m making dinner.”
“That little boy is cramping my style”, her husband said in mock disappointment. “One of these days, we’ll go dump him with his aunty for an entire weekend so I can enjoy my wife.”
“Promises, promises.” Chiaka smiled. It would be nice to have some time to themselves. Obinna’s aunt and uncle lived in Rosenburg, about 40 miles from Houston. Their busy schedules meant visits had to be carefully planned in advance, but it was always nice to see them and it would be doubly great if they could take the baby for a couple of days.
Chiaka busied herself with the dinner preparations, setting the placemats on the dining table and steaming vegetables in a saucepan. “Baby, please could you go wash up so we can have dinner? The rice is almost ready and I just have to heat up the stew.”
“Oh, baby. I’m sorry, but I have to dash out for a quick meeting.”
Puzzled, Chiaka raised her eyebrows. “But, you just came back from work. Why didn’t you have the meeting there before coming home?” She studied her husband for a few minutes and sighed at what she saw on his face. The emotions shifted so quickly, but she recognized one of them – guilt.
“You’re not really going for a meeting, are you?”
Shame-faced, he shook his head. “No. Baby, you know I hardly get to hang with my guys anymore. I’m just going for a quick pick up game and I’ll be back before you know it” he said pleadingly.
Obinna had a very close circle of friends and they were all huge basketball fans. The guys liked to play pick-up games several times a week, but Obinna had slowed down on the gatherings when they got married, only attending once or twice a week. She knew he needed space to do things on his own or with his friends, but it didn’t stop her from feeling lonely. Spending all day alone with the baby meant she was desperate for adult conversation with her husband when he came home. She briefly considered making a fuss, but what would that achieve? There was no point forcing him to stay home and have dinner with his family, if he would rather be out with his friends.
Sighing with resignation, she forced a smile to her face. “Sure. Go and have fun, babe.”
She kept the smile on as he rushed through the apartment, shedding clothes as he went. She wore it like a cloak, hiding her disappointment and it stayed on as she waved and watched him leave for his game. Luckily, she kept busy through the evening, bathing KT when he woke from his nap and putting him to bed after a dinner of mashed rice and vegetables. Energized after his nap and meal, KT played hard and wore himself out after about an hour. Tired and bored after KT was down for the night, Chiaka mindlessly surfed channels, watching TV but seeing nothing. She told herself she wasn’t waiting up for her husband, but three hours later, she finally gave in and went to bed.
A piece of paper fell out of her pocket as she wriggled out of her jeans. She picked it up and tears pricked her eyes as she remembered her mother-in-law’s note. Create space in your life for him, she had written. Tears streamed down Chiaka’s face as smiled bitterly at the irony. She looked around the empty room…the cavernous bed that would feel his absence as much as she did. There was enough space for him, more than enough…he just didn’t want to fill it.
To be continued…