Ten Things His Mother Told Me: Number 5

Number 5 {Don’t forget the Lord...}

The shrill alarm coming from the other side of the room dragged Chiaka out of a not-so-restful sleep. She burrowed deeper into the covers as she tried to capture the rest that somehow eluded her. From the sounds Obinna was making, she could tell that he was getting ready to shower and get dressed. A desire to catch a few more minutes of sleep kept her in bed as her husband moved around the room. Though deep under the covers, she could feel his gaze on her. She was sure he was looking at her quizzically, wondering why she wasn't making any attempt to get up and get dressed. Or maybe he wasn't looking at her and didn't care if she went to church with him or not.

"Aren't you going to get ready?"

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Annoyance rippled through Chiaka. "No, I don't think I'll go today. I'm kind of tired."

A short laugh escaped Obinna,, but he wasn't amused. "'Kind of tired'? What kind of excuse is that?" 

Chiaka pulled herself up to a sitting position, raising her eyebrows at his sarcastic tone. "It's not an excuse. It's a reason. I'm not going today because I'm tired. Simple." You can go jump in a lake if you don't like it she thought, but didn't say aloud. Some things were better left unsaid.

"You haven't gone for a couple of weeks. I left it alone because I know you've been upset and I didn't want to make things worse. But, you can't keep cutting church like this." Obinna kept his voice calm...placating almost. He didn't want to make an already bad situation worse.

"Cutting church? You say that like I'm your teenage daughter cutting school. I'm not a child, Daddy" she said in a cutting tone. "I can decide where I want to go and when. So, please, just quit."

Uh-oh. She called him Daddy...in that tone. She only did that when she was really, really, really upset. Socks in hand, he walked over to the bed and sat at the edge.

"Baby, this is a crucial time for us. I know things haven't been so great around here, but I trust God to open a door. One of these jobs will click...and it will happen soon."

Obinna reached for Chiaka's hand and was heartened when she let him hold it, though she made no effort to grasp his hand.

 "Baby," he continued "I really believe that things will change soon. But, I also believe that God is watching our attitude. He's watching how we act while we wait. Are we going to draw closer to Him or push Him to the backburner and do our own thing?" 

A sense of frustration filled Chiaka. How could Obinna be so resolute in his faith while she had none? How could he still trust God when she was on the edge of turning away? God had surely abandoned them. If He cared so much about them, why had He let Obinna get fired? Why did He close every door in their faces as they struggled to make ends meet...barely able to keep their child in diapers? Wasn't there a passage in the Bible that talked about God having thoughts of peace towards them...towards her? There was noting peaceful about what they were going through. Nothing at all. 

Leaning towards Obinna, she stuck her face in his and pointed her finger for emphasis. "I. Am. Not. Going. If God doesn't like that, He can tell me so Himself."

With that she turned away and resumed her position under the covers. "And you better take KT with you!" she called out, voice muffled. She didn't have the energy to keep up with him. Not today.

 Throwing one last glance towards his wife's huddled form, he prayed "Lord, help us. Please. Please. Our hope is in You.As Obinna walked away to wake KT, a strange sense of foreboding clung to him, but he tried to shake it off. He was jobless, his family was on the knife edge of poverty and his wife was slipping away from him. Really, what else could happen?


A few days later...

Dawn’s breaking light filtered through the venetian blinds, bathing the bedroom in a soft glow and revealing the empty space beside her. But that wasn’t what woke Chiaka up. Her senses had tingled with a strange sense of excitement since the previous night, preventing her from sleeping much. It had been two weeks since she had called him. Driven by desperation, fueled by a need to do something – anything – she had pressed the ‘Send’ button and invited her past into her present.

It had been so easy really. Easier than she thought. Heart pounding, she had waited as the phone rang. Thoughts bombarded each other in her head…she remembered her reaction to him when they had bumped into each other at Dave’s party two months ago. Why would she let him back into her life? Indecision warred with need in those few seconds. Anger flashed through her. This was all Obinna’s fault. All of it – their non-existent savings, the tension at home, teetering on the edge of financial ruin – all of it could be traced back to one person. Her jaw tightened and her resolve was strengthened.

One of us has to get a job, she thought. None of the jobs she had applied for had responded and it had already been a month. They couldn’t go on without any income – they barely had this month’s rent. What would happen after that? Should she do nothing, they could soon find themselves on the street, or imposing on the kindness of family.

No, she shook her head. She would do her part….like Obinna should have done his.


KT’s whining cry snapped her mind back to the present and she scrambled across to the foot of their king-size bed. He was already standing in his crib, arms outstretched.

“Mama!” he chortled. Laughing, Chiaka scooped him up and nuzzled his neck while he giggled. Love for him filled her and she sighed, looking over to the empty side of the bed again. She wished it were that easy with her husband. He had taken to leaving the house very early every day. Most times, he was gone before she woke up around 6.30. She had no idea where he was going, but she didn’t want to ask. Conversation had been lacking between them since Obinna’s big reveal about his job. The few times they talked, every word was cloaked with tension so thick; she could cut it with a knife. Her unease had increased since she spoke with Drew and set up the interview – Drew had referred to it as a meeting – for today. From his subdued reaction the last time they spoke about Drew, she knew Obinna would find it hard to deal with the fact that she had called him, so she didn’t mention it.

Glancing at the clock, her senses pulsed with that strange excitement again. It was time to get ready. Entering the bathroom, she started running water for KT’s bath. It was usually better to have him bathed and fed before she got ready herself. He could sit in his crib and watch TV while she showered.

As she showered, she could hear KT laughing happily as his favorite show – Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – came on.

“Tootles, Tootles” he yelled.

Chiaka smiled to herself as rivulets of water ran down her body. Their next door neighbor, Lily had agreed to watch KT for a couple of hours while Chiaka went on her interview. Her thoughts wandered as she imagined how the meeting would go. Toweling herself dry, she walked into the room and ran straight into a solid mass of muscle.

A guilty flush warmed her cheeks as she realized Obinna had come home early…for whatever reason. Today of all days! The last thing she wanted was to explain where she was going or who she was going to see. Good thing he was home though, maybe he could watch KT while she was out.

“You’re home early today” she said.

Obinna flinched at the accusing tone in his wife’s voice. She seemed constantly angry with him since he had finally told her the truth about his job. He knew things were difficult and he was trying his hardest to get a job, but nothing changed the look on her face or the tone of her voice.

Nothing except KT, he thought bitterly to himself as he watched her cooing to their son. Why did things have to be so complicated between them? He sighed and walked into the closet to take off his running clothes. Hearing sounds behind him, he turned around and realized Chiaka was getting dressed to go out.

“Going out, baby?” He forced a lighthearted tone into the question.

She nodded wordlessly. “Yes, I have an interview.” She looked at him like she wanted to say more, but looked away briefly then continued. “It’s at the Galleria and I’ll be away for a couple of hours. I was going to take KT over to Lily’s but maybe you can watch him instead.”

The lilt in her voice made the statement seem more like a question. But Obinna had his own questions. She had an interview this morning and was only just telling him? Something constricted in his chest but he pushed the hurt aside and somehow managed to smile at his wife.

“That’s fantastic, baby. I hope it goes well. What company is it?”

A look that he couldn’t quite identify flashed across her face, then it was gone, replaced with a blank expression.

“Oh, it’s a construction company. They need an accounts manager and asked me to come in. I won’t be gone long.”

He smiled at her gently. “I know you’ll be great. Don’t worry about KT…I’ll take care of him.”

Chiaka watched as he stripped off the rest of his clothes and stepped into the shower. Something stirred in her as she reluctantly admired her husband’s body. She had seen the hurt on his face when he realized she hadn’t told him about her interview. Everyone could keep secrets. It felt petty, going back and forth in an effort to show him how upset she was, but she couldn’t do anything about it right now. Maybe later. They could talk later.

Yes, she nodded to herself. They would talk when she came back from her interview.


Chiaka was glad Lily answered the door on the first knock. Her round face creased into a welcoming smile as Lily glanced leaned over to look behind Chiaka for KT.

“Where’s KT? I thought you were bringing him over?”

“Yeah, I was but then his Dad came home so he’s watching him” Chiaka explained.

“Oh, okay. No worries. Mason will be disappointed though. He loves it when KT comes over.”

“And KT loves coming over. Maybe we can arrange something for tomorrow? I have to leave now, I don’t want to be late. But, thanks.”

“No problem. Bye, Chi” Lily waved.

“Bye, Lil.”

Her heels clicked on the concrete as she walked quickly towards her car. Luckily, it was almost 10 a.m. - past rush hour - so traffic on I-10 was light. She pulled into the high rise building that housed Drew's offices and found a spot in the parking garage.

As she got off the elevator, she looked around, impressed with the subtle elegance that surrounded her. Drew's office was more of the same - the dark beige carpet felt plush under her feet and tasteful art pieces hung on the walls of the front office.

A well-dressed young woman sat behind a gleaming desk, fingers hovering over the  keyboard. Her navy shawl-collar jacket and tie-neck blouse were tasteful and blended in with the stately office.

"Good morning, ma'am. How may I help you?"  She asked with a slight smile.

Chiaka cleared her throat nervously. "Good morning. I'm here to see D...umm...Mr. Curtis." She didn't want to give anyone the impression that she knew Drew personally.

"He's expecting me."

The receptionist swept wavy, brown hair her off her face as she looked at something on her computer. "Of course, Ms. Namani" she said, pronouncing it without the double-N. "Please, have a seat" 

Chiaka sat in one of the leather guest chairs and flipped through a magazine unseeingly. Lord, I hope everything goes well. Please, just let this work out. Part of her scoffed at the fact that she was trying to pray after snubbing God for the past few weeks. Why would God hear this prayer anyway? He hadn't heard any of the previous ones she had been sending on a daily basis.

"He'll see you now. Right this way please." The intrusion was a welcome diversion from her thoughts and Chiaka followed the woman to a door at the end of a short hallway. There were three or four other offices located on either side of the brightly lit corridor, each with an employee behind a desk, busy with what Chiaka presumed was construction business.

Hmm, Drew seems to be doing really well for himself.  The thought gave her comfort and a measure of confidence that he would be able to find a position for an old...friend. So, why did she feel like Daniel, walking into the lions' den?

To be continued...

Onyih Odunze

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