Against the odds

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Sweetheart!!” Ikenna called as he strolled into the kitchen. He approached me from behind and wrapped his arms lovingly around my waist. I blushed.

Ismells delicious in here. How is the cooking going?” he asked.

Almost done stirred the beef bolognese sauce and held out the wooden spoon blowing some air unto it. He pushed his hand forward and shook some drops of the sauce unto his palm, he licked it off immediately

Hmmmnnn babe, Nessa would definitely love this!

You’re sure?” I asked feeling skeptical. I had tasted the sauce many times but it didn’t taste good enough to me. I knew I wasn’t a terrible cook but today my nerves were getting the better part of me.

He sensed my worry and turned me around so that I was facing him. “Don’t worry, she’ll love you”

I twisted the corners of my lips in doubt. She was a teenager and many teenagers’  her age didn’t adapt so well to stepmothers, but I was determined for her to like me. Ihad been my prayer from the moment Ikenna asked me to be his wife and I said yes. I would be meeting her for the first time today and I was feeling very anxious.

Don’t worry” He shook me up, laughing amusingly. You’ll be fine

I smiled but that didn’t stop the beating in my heart. I loved Ikenna, he was my husband and I was determined to love his daughter in the same measure. 

He glanced at his wristwatch.

“Her flight would be here any moment, I should go” said Ikenna

“OkayYou’re sure I shouldn’t come with you?”

“No dear, since baby David is still sleepinglet’s not disturb him

“Okay”

He placed a kiss on my forehead “I love you, see you soon” then turned around and began to walk towards the door.

“I love you too!” I called after him.

As soon as I heard the door bang shut, I turned off the cooker and hurried into Nessas room. I puffed the pillows, I had done that over ten times already, ran my hands over the already made bed, grabbed the air freshener I had left on the table and sprayed it in the atmosphere. Making it the fifth time I would be doing that. I stood with my hands akimbo and evaluated the room with my eyes, it was clean and tidy. Then I walked into mine and Ikenna‘s room and took a shower,  slipped on a comfortable dress and packed my weave up in a bunBaby David was still sleeping. I applied some black eyeliner and lip gloss and went and sat in the sitting room in wait for them.

was changing TV channels when the baby started to cry. I rushed into our bedroom and scooped him into my arms then returned to the parlor and sat back on the couch with him sucking at my breast when I heard the gate rolled open. I jolted up with David in my arms and peeped through the window, it was Ikenna and Nessa. My anxiety heightened. I paced the floor, straightened my dress with my hand. The door pushed open and in walked this beautiful young girl with my husbandfelt happy to see her.

“Nessa you are welcome” I smiled.

Ohhhh my god!!!” She exclaimed, rushing towards me. She dropped her suitcase and carefully collected baby David from me. “I have a brother!” she said excitedly in her american accent.

“Hi baby” Ikenna placed a peck on my cheek then he lowered himself unto the couch, leaving the bags in the middle of the room.

“Welcome dear” I said to him.

“Dad he looks like you!” she rocked him back and forth happily.

Ikenna laughed and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Everyone says that” I said to her.

“My God. Dad! he is adorable.” She walked to her father’s side and sat down beside him. I sat back on the chair opposite them.

“We were so sad you missed the wedding, we really wished you could be there I said.

“Oh dad! I love him! But I would definitely not get pregnant before my own wedding though”

Did she just throw a shade at me? 

“Nessa!” Her father cautioned.

“What!?” She shot her eyes at Ikenna “I’m just stating how feel. Would you want me to get pregnant before my wedding day?” 

Ikenna twisted the corners of his lips at her and gave her a side eye.

She dropped her face to the baby lying in her arms “Baby David…baby David..” she sang.

“Ehm Nessa, I made spaghetti and chicken bolognese for you_ didn’t want to take her behavior to heart. Let me go set the table.” I rose to my feet and walked away, she kept on singing to David.

This wasn’t the outcome had expected, not sucoutright rudeness. She hadn’t even responded to any word I had spoken to her. pushed my discomfort aside and dished the food into a plate then proceeded to the dining table and placed it neatly on the glossy white surface. I glanced at Ikenna and Nessa in the sitting room, they were talking and laughing with baby David sleeping peacefully in her arms. I opened the fridge and pulled out the bottle of smoothie I had made earlier that morning, placed it with a tumbler beside the plate of food then I walked back to the sitting room.

“Nessa, your food is set” I said to her, lowering myself into the couch.

Her gaze stayed fixed on the TV screen.

Ikenna nudged her arm. “Nessa, Adanma made you some spaghetti, you should go eat, it’s really delicious, I tasted it myself”

“I don’t like spaghetti” she said without flinching.

Spaghetti has been your favorite food since you were five. And just two days ago, you told me you had spaghetti for breakfast_”

She turned her head to her father. “That was two days ago, now I don’t like it anymore” She handed the baby to Ikenna and walked away into her room.

I felt so bad.

Don’t mind her my dear, she will come around” Ikenna said to me. He picked up the remote control and began to alternate between channels. I took baby David from him and walked away into our room.

—–

6.am.

Baby David was my alarm. At six months old, he woke me up in the wee hours of every morning. And when I was done attending to him, I didn’t usually feel the urge to go back to bed anymore so I would just start my day.

He had just dozed off after his meal when I went into the kitchen to start breakfast. I would have usually made fried rice since it was a Saturday but what if Nessa didn’t like that? thought. Yesterday afternoon, she didn’t eat the spaghetti and definitely did not eat the semovita I later made for Ikenna. I stood there confused on what to prepare. I decided to make the fried rice anyway, telling myself that when she woke up, I would make whatever it is she wanted. 

I started cooking and was almost done when Ikenna joined me in the kitchen.

Babe good morning” I greeted him with a smile on my face.

Good morning” He yawned, stretching his arms behind his head. He sat down at the kitchen table.

“Wetin dey for breakfast?”

“Fried rice. I’m even done. It’s just for heat up the meat that’s all. Have you brushed?”

No o, I will go and brush now sha. David don sleep well well o”

I bathed and fed him very early this morning

Dis pikin, if na for night now, him no go sleep”

chuckled.

“Ehn hen babe, how far the money na? I really need to order for the wigs today. I’m out of wigs and I need to make more. Customers are already asking”

“Don’t worry I will give you later today or you can just order and I’ll give you my credit card” 

“Awh thanks babe

“Make I go brush” He got up and began to stroll his way out of the kitchen.

washed my hands clean and went out of the kitchen. I met him in the hallway knocking at Nessa’s door. 

“Nessa it’s 10 o’clock, wake up!”

moved past him and went into the room to check on baby David.

—–

I was watching TV when Nessa emerged from her room. I glanced up at the clock, it was 12.pm. 

“Hi” she said to me. Where’s my dad?”

He went out”

She turned around and began to walk away. I got up and followed behind her. “What are you going to eat?” I asked, she got into her room and banged the door shut in my face.

I knocked on the door “Nessa? Nessa? Please open the door. I just want to talk to you. Nessa?”

She flung the door open to my surprise, I didn’t think she would open it. “What?!” she yelled at me, eyes ready for a war.

“Can I come in?” 

She moved away from the door and sat on her bed with her arms crossed against her chest and brows creased in a frown. I went in leaving the door open, baby David was asleep, I needed to hear him if he woke up.

What do you want!” she spat at me.

Nessa? I know you don’t like me_

“I don’t even know you” she shook her head at me.

I nodded slowly. “Fair enough, but can you at least try? I genuinely love your dad_”

No, you don’t! He is 45 and you are only 30, how could you really love him? We were doing just fine until you hooked him on with your pregnancy. I never needed a stepmother and now you just want to take him away from me. It’s not going to happen!”

“Nessa, I’m not trying to take him away from__”

“Can you leave my room already?” she cut me shut. “Please?” she was angry, I could see the rage in her eyes.

This was harder than I thought it would be. I withdrew from the room, closing the door behind me.

I went to my room and called my mother’s phone. I held back tears as I narrated the events of the past two days to her. She encouraged me to be strong and to ignore her excesses. But she was my stepdaughter, how could I Ignore her?

When Ikenna came back later that evening, he sensed my sad mood. He sat down next to me and asked me what was wrong.

“Nessa doesn’t like me” I complained. 

Is that why you are sitting in this bed all gloomy?” He laughed it off.

“Ikenna, it’s not funny”

“Okay I’m sorry I laughed but you shouldn’t allow her to make you feel this way hmn? She is just a child. A child still grieving the death of her mother. It’s been four years, but she hasn’t forgotten. They were very close and that’s why I sent her to the States to finish her school in the first place to change her environment and try to ease off the hurt. I told you all these before” He rubbed my arm. “Give her time, okay? She’ll come around” 

I didn’t feel assured but nodded anyway.

He stood up from the bed. “Where is she?” he asked me.

“She is in her room”

“Has she eaten?”

“She refused to eat the fried rice and she made plantain and eggs for herself. Then left all the dishes for me” I added slowly.

Ikenna laughed “Don’t mind her, she’s just a child” He began to leave the room and for the first time I noticed the polythene bag he had in his hand.

“Baby, what did you buy?” I asked nodding towards the bag.

“Oh! It’s just a phone, Iphone X, I want to surprise Nessa” he said gleefully.

My head did a mental check othe price of the phone quickly. “Ikenna, doesn’t it cost about 300k?”

“Yes? And so?” he asked defensively.

“Nothing, but, isn’t she too young to be using such a phone?

Young how? Her mates in America all use it, she told me that herself.”

I nodded, dismissing the conversation.

He walked out and minutes later, Nessa’s shouof joy rang through to my room.

—–

Sunday

We had just gotten back from church when I went into the kitchen to prepare lunch. As the chicken parboiled on the cooker, I sat down at the kitchen table and started to order the wigs I needed online. When I had added everything into the cart, I proceeded to checkout. I was prompted to pay so I went in search of Ikenna, “babe where are you!” I called as I didn’t find him in the sitting room.

Out here!” he yelled

I followed his voice to the verandah outside the house. He was sitting there with Nessa.

Babe, can I take your ATM now? I’m ordering for the wigs”

He turned his side to me. “Oh! I’m not sure that would be possible anymoreit’s the money I used for Nessa’s phone yesterday. I’ll give you the money some other time”

couldn’t believe my ears. Can I speak to you inside please?”

I’ll be back okay?” he said to Nessa patting her shoulders.

He followed me into the house, made sure the door was firmly shut behind us.

“Babe, you know how important this is to me, why would you do that when you already gave me your word?

“Are you saying I shouldn’t have bought a phone for my daughter?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. This is my business, client’s are calling__”

“And I said you should wait. The end of month or something, would give you. Can I go now?”

felt so angryHe turned about and walked back outside.

—–

For the entire year I had been married to Ikenna, we had co-existed peacefully and now there was unnecessary tension in the houseNessa was not cooperating with me at all, she would make her meals and leave the dishes in the sink for me to wash, she would not do any chores around the house, she still refused to eat my food and madsnide comments here and there. Ikenna kept making excuses for her and our relationship was beginning to be affected.

It was  8pm and Nessa was yet to be back home, she had left home since 11 o’clock in the morning. Ikenna was out of Abuja for a business meeting and Nessa was clearly taking advantage of his absence to keep late nightsI was worried sick. I had been calling her all evening but she wouldn’t answer my callsWhen it was 10pm, I became desperate. What if something had happened to her? I worried. I didn’t have any of her friends’ numbers so as much as I hated to do this, I had to call Ikenna. 

dialled his number standing in the center of the sitting room, baby David was sleeping soundly in his cot in a corner of the sitting room. Ikenna picked on the third ring.

It’s late, why aren’t you sleeping” he asked.

“Ehnm, I’m baking” I lied.

“OkaySo what’s up?”

It’s Nessa, ha….have you spoken with her today?”

“Oh sure! I just spoke to her an hour ago_”

“Really?!” 

“Yes, she said she’s watching a movie with baby David in her room. Why though? what happened this time?”

So she had spoken to her father.

Oh, nothing! Just wanted to say goodnight, and be sure you’ve spoken to her too”

“Yes I have! She’s a gookid, keep putting up with hershe’ll come around I promise”

“Okay, love you bye!” I ended the call and sank into the chair.

I felt relieved that she was okay but I was not going to be able to sleep until she was back home safely.

—–

I must have dozed off because baby David’s cries jolted me out of my slumber. I quickly glanced at the clock on the wall before walking to his cot. The time was 2am. 

Nessa! I remembered her and my heart dropped.

collected baby David into my arms and picked up my phone with my free hand. I dialled her number and it started to ring till it cut off. I was terrified at this point. If anything happened to Nessa under my watch, Ikenna would never forgive me, I was sure of that. I strolled aimlessly to her room and pushed the door open. To my utmost shock, she was lying under the sheets in her bed, sleeping peacefully.

How did she get in? I wondered, then remembered that I hadn’t bolted the door earlierFeeling relieved at last, I slowly shut the door and went to my room, now I could finally get some sleep!

—–

fastened baby David to my back and was doing the dishes from last night when Nessa strolled into the kitchen.

Hi” she reached up her handand pulled the counter open. She withdrew a pack of choco pops, then opened the fridge and took out a bottle of milk. As she prepared her cereal, I stopped what I was doing and turned to face her.

Nessa, when did you come in last night?” I asked her.

She kept quiet and stirred her bowl of cereal instead.

Nessa, it’s not right for you to leave the house without informing me of where you were going to or sneek back whenever you__”

You are not my mum! You can’tell me what to do!! She yelled and barged out of the kitchen slamming the door behind her.

She stayed out late every day until Ikenna returned but I kept it all to myself.

—–

Five months later

Ikenna called me from work and cheerfully informed me that Nessa had gotten admission into the Nigerian Law School in Bwari. I was happy for her. He informed me that she was going to be staying in the hostel with her mates and I took it upon myself to do some shopping for her

Nessa could you watch baby David for me for some hours? I want to dash into Wuse market quickly” I said to her as she sat punching her cellphone in the parlour. Nessa may not have been fond of me but she loved baby David.

“Cool” shsaid

I collected baby David from my room and brought him to hershe took him from me.

“Thank you” I said and left the house.

I called a friend of mine who had been to Law school as well and she told me the things Nessa would most likely be needing and I made sure to buy everything she mentioned, and more.

When I goback home, I handed the items to her

Thanks” she said and received the polythene bags from me.

“How is baby David I asked?

“He is fine” she answered. Sleeping in your room”

——

Nessa left for Law school a few weeks after, she came home only on weekendsHer behavior towards me remained the same, I tried my best to ignore many things that she did wrong as I didn’t want any more tension between myself and Ikenna.

At home one Saturday around 2pm,  I sat at my wooden table making some wigs. I wondered why Nessa hadn’t come home that weekend as she usually came home on Fridays. My phone rang. Iwas Nessa calling. was shocked. It was unusual for her to call me, she usually called Ikenna about everything.

“Hello?” I answered.

Good evening Ma” a strange voice spoke at the other end 

“Who is this?”

“Ma, I’m Harriet. Nessa’s roommate and friend. Ma, Nessa is bleeding, please help!”

I jolted up from my stool. “What do you mean?” I asked worriedly “Where are you girls?”

“We are in the hostel Ma, please hurry Ma!

I could hear Nessa groaning in the background.

“Ma, Nessa said you should not tell her dad. Please hurry!”

The call ended. 

My heart somersaulted multiple times. I became confused. Ikenna was in the parlor watching a match. composed myself and walked into the sitting room. “Babe, can you help me watch baby David? I want to go and deliver hair to a client quickly, she needs it quickly for a wedding

“Okay” he agreed. “Don’t stay too long o, I have somewhere to go by 6″

“Okay thank you” I kissed him, strolled towards the bedroom, as soon as I was out of his sight, I picked25 race into the room, changed into a blue dress, snatched my car keys and strolled to the parlour then ran to the car. Bwari was about thirty minutes away from Gwarimpa where we lived, I accelerated the car and sped through the free highway.

I got there in 25 minutes and I drove straight to her hostel. I and Ikenna and visited her once before. I dialled her number and Harriet picked up almost immediately.

I’m outside” I informed her.

“Okay Ma, we’re coming” 

waited by the car. It wasn’t long before the girl who I assumed to be Harriet emerged out of the hostel supporting a weak Nessa whose arm was flopped over Harriet’s shoulder. I hurried towards the girls.

I helped carry Nessa into the back of the car as she was groaning and crying of tummy pains. Harriet got in with her. I jumped into the driver’s seat and reversethe car out of the parking lotshifted the gear into drive and sped ouof the school.

“What is going on?” I asked as I drove.

Nessa was crying and Harriet kept on insisting she had stomach pains. 

WheI realized the girls weren’t going to give me any more information, stopped asking. got into Gwarimpa and drove to my personal doctor’s hospital. Awe brought Nessa out of the carblood was flowing down her thighs. She was wheeled to the ward on a stretcher and I sat down in the waiting room with Harriet.

“What exactly happened to her?” I asked Harriet for the umpteenth time.

“I don’t know Ma, I went out to buy food and came back and met her like that. She just asked me to call you”

I was more confused than ever. My heart was racing against my chest. I stood on my feet and began to pray, asking God to preserve her. I paced the floor praying until the doctor emerged from the ward. I rushed to him. “Doctor, how is she?” I asked, fearing the worst.

She is okay now”

“Ah! thank you Jesus!!” I clapped in relief “God bless your name!

“Can I speak to you alone?

“Sure” I said. “Just wait here okay?” I said to Harriet who nodded and took a seat.

I followed the doctor into his office and sat down, eager to hear what had happened to my Nessa.

“She was very lucky, if you had brought her thirty minutes later, she would have lost her womb”

Goose pimples spread out through my skin. “I don’t understand. Womb? How?” I was confused.

“She tried to terminate her pregnancy with a substance__”

I cupped my hands over my mouth in shock “Eh?!”

“Which was the result of the bleeding. We were able to flush out the remains of the foetus. She’s very lucky”

I couldn’t believe my ears. My heart broke into a million pieces. I didn’t even know she had been pregnant and I hurt that she had to beathat alone.

Take care of her” the doctor said dismissively.

“Can I see her?”

She’s sleeping. But you can go in”

left the office and went out to meet Harriet.

“What did the doctor say?” She asked worriedly.

She was reacting to an expiredrug” lied. You’re a good friend, thank you so much” 

I gave her two thousand naira and asked her to go back to school

“The doctor said she is sleeping, but I’ll make sure she calls you when she feels strong enough. She won’t be coming back to school today”

“Okay Ma, thank you” 

Harriet left the hospital. I went into the ward where Nessa lay sleeping in the bed. I sat by her side and held her hand.

She shifted and opened her eyes then looked up at me.

I’m so sorry Mum” she said to me.

She just called me Mum!flickered my eyelashes as tears gathered in my eyes.

I’m so sorry” she repeated, tears flowing down her cheeks “Please don’t tell Daddy, he will kill me”

“Shhhhhh” I hushed her and rubbed her hair backwards. It’s okay now” I said. “It’s okay”.

Written by JOY TERUNDU OGBUGOH ESQ.

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    • Sounds easy..for someone who is trying to get Nessa on her team its a tricky one. Not telling might actually be what she needs. No diffrrent from blackmail.
      I was so absorbed in it i forgot there was an ending.