The other side of Envy

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I drove into Eziamaka’s compound thirty minutes after 4.pm. The kids excitedly rushed out of the car to mingle with the other children scattered around her compound. I was really late, she had asked me to come by 3:pm. I reversed the car and parked it properly amongst the other cars lined up in her Carport.

I got out of the car and walked past the screaming children, dancing excitedly to the booming music that resonated in the arena. The M.C’s voice clamoured over the microphone, encouraging the children to dance their best as a prize awaited the best dancer.

I found Eziamaka in the kitchen giving directions to her cooks. Two of our mutual friends were standing by her.

“Hello!!” I greeted everyone heartily then proceeded to hug Eziamaka. I noticed the gold chain she was wearing, It sat so beautifully on her neck.

“What happened na?” she was asking. “Why are you just coming?”

“My dear no vex, I wanted to wait for Dubem and Chisom to finish their lesson before I bring them”

“Toh, no wahala. See food o, you can dish yourself whatever you want.”

“Don’t worry, I will eat later”

“Let’s all go outside then” she said and began to lead the way out. “Junior will be cutting his cake soon”

We proceeded outside and joined the party. I was enjoying mingling with the other mum’s and watching all the children have a good time, but deep within my heart, I was feeling very bad.

The time for Junior to cut his cake was announced, Eziamaka’s husband joined her and their son on stage, he gave a very heartwarming speech about how proud he was of their son, and went on to rain praises on Eziamaka about what a good mother and wife she was.

I wished Frank could show me such public affection. I had told my husband several times about how I liked public display of affection, how much I enjoy seeing husbands openly profess their love to their wives, yet he would barely even upload pictures of us.

The birthday party went on beautifully, I gave Junior the gift I had wrapped for him, hugged my friends goodbye and took the kids home with me.

**

Frank was in the sitting room, watching a match when we got back. The kids ran to him, cheerfully showing him the packages they got from the party.

“Good evening” I greeted walking past him.

I got into the bedroom and sat before the mirror, removing my earrings.

The door swung open and Frank walked into the room. “What happened?” he asked

“What?” I asked back, glancing sideways at his tall figure, hovering over me.

“You don’t look happy. You barely said anything to me when you got back. Did someone offend you at the party? because you were fine when you were leaving”

“Frank please I’m just tired” I said dispirited, making futile attempts at opening the clasp of my necklace. He stepped behind me and placed his hands over mine, I let him unfasten the stainless steel jewellery and hand it to me.

I dropped it on the dresser. I rose to my feet and began to unclothe myself. He was still standing there watching me, his forehead bunched in a frown. He wasn’t going to let it go until I gave him an explanation, that was Frank, my ever caring husband.

I gave in with a sigh.  “I saw Eziamaka with this gold chain we had priced together in the market. I felt somehow seeing that she went back to buy it, I mean, I can’t afford it so__” I paused and shrugged.

His frown deepened disapprovingly. “Sarah you know we can’t afford all that right now_”

“Yeah I know, I just feel bad. Then there was the toast her husband gave at the party”

“Sarah_”

“Don’t look at me like that, you asked!”

He heaved a sigh, took a few steps towards me and pulled me into his embrace. “You have to stop looking at what your friends have, we will get there someday. okay?”

“Why can’t you even upload my pictures on your Facebook page and say all those nice things, at least you can afford that now, can’t you?” I asked sarcastically.

“But your pictures are on my wall”

“Yes but you wait until it is my birthday or our anniversary, other husbands do it all the time”

“I don’t like to live my life on Facebook or Instagram, I feel my family life is my private life, but if it  bothers you that much, I would try to be more expressive, hmmn?” He smiled, pinning his forehead to mine. “I hate to see you this way” he added.

I nodded and walked away from his arms, he always promised to be more expressive but Frank was an introvert and being expressive didn’t come easily to him. I slumped into the bed. I could feel him smiling and shaking his head at me. He just didn’t get it, and I found that so frustrating. I was glad when I heard the sound of the door close behind him.

My phone beeped and I reached out for it. It was Eziamaka, she tagged me to the birthday pictures we took on Instagram. I flipped through the photos, twisting the right corner of my lip displeasingly. I hated the way I looked standing next to her.

“What sort of life is this?” I hissed.

I had to call Jane, my best friend, she always had a way of making me feel good. Even though she was only three years older, she had so much wisdom about life and I could use her words of encouragement. I exited the Instagram app and dialled her number.

She picked the call on the third ring. “Hello dear, how was the birthday?”

I had told her that I was going to attend it.

“Hmnn my dear, you know Eziamaka na, she always does her things over the top”

She laughed. “How was it?”

“I’m feeling so bad ehn”

“Ah ahn, what happened?”

“Every time I go around Ezi, I just end up feeling so bad__”

She was laughing at the other end of the phone.

“It’s not funny o. You need to see the photos we took at the party, it’s on her Instagram page, I looked so poor standing next to her. Okay, last week she asked me to accompany her to the market. When we got there, we branched Mallam Abu’s store, there was this fine gold necklace, 75k, do you know I saw her with the chain today? As in, she actually went back to buy it after that day. Me I’m here using stainless steel. I just tire for this kain life! Frank will be there doing love every time, he thinks love is everything”

“You sure say no be jealousy dey worry you so?” she asked laughing.

“Jealousy ke?. I don’t even know why you are finding this funny”

“My dear, don’t mind my laughter, I’ve been there before. My cousin Chimoma, she married a rich man too, I used to feel so bad even going around her because I wasn’t up to her standard, even the type of friends she kept intimidated me, I could so envy her life ehn, but all that only made me feel the way you are feeling now. It got to a point that everything my husband did was not good enough for me__”

“I feel that way too o, sometimes the sight of Frank makes me so mad. In my mind, I will be like, shebi it is a fellow man like you that is giving his wife a good life. I can even just start giving him attitude out of nowhere, the thing dey bite body”

“Exactly. so my dear, no too think am o. Everybody’s life is different, if you know what some of these men even do to get their money, or what their wives are enduring in their hands, the envy would clear from your face. Forget all these perfect pictures and public show, things are not always as they seem”

“I no sure say Ezi and her husband dey even argue sef”

“Which husband and wife no dey argue? no be wetin you show people wey dem go see? abegi! My dear, just be content with the one you have. Put heads together with Frank and someday you guys will make it”

“You are right sha. But I am not sure I will keep going around Ezi, I don’t want to keep feeling this way”

“Is she doing anything to make you feel this way?”

“She’s not but seeing the kind of life she lives always makes me feel bad about my own life”

“You have to work on yourself, my dear. Seriously, envy and jealousy would only make you resentful, it’s not worth it. Just be happy for her, your time will come, our time will come”

“Yeah, you are right.” I said sighing, I saw the points in the things she said.  “Thanks, dear. Let me go and make dinner for them”

“No wahala, later”

“Okay bye”

I got up from the bed and made my way out of the room to the kitchen.

***

I went about the next weeks trying to heed to Jane’s advice. Eziamaka would ask to meet up with me or to go with her to some function somewhere. Sometimes I really just wanted to tell her that I didn’t have what to wear to avoid tagging along with her, smiling like everything was okay yet feeling insecure and self-conscious on my insides.

I hated that I felt that way, she was my friend but I couldn’t help wishing roles where reversed and I had her home or at least, the nice things that she had.

Tuesday was a very boring day for me. I texted her to know where she was, I wanted to spend time with her. She replied that she was at home. l got dressed and drove in my Toyota Camry 2001 model to her beautiful magnificent home.

She met me at the door, we embraced chattily and climbed upstairs to the sitting room on the top floor.

“I was feeling so bored at home ehn. I decided to come and chill here before it will be time for school runs.” I said, getting comfortable in the high-grade soft sofa.

She slumped into the space next to me. “I will just send the driver to pick Junior, I’m not feeling too well today”

“I was surprised when you said you were home, my initial plans were to go to your store. What’s wrong?”

“Severe headache my dear”

“Aaaryarh, sorry. Me I’m just tired of this Leave” I hissed. “I can’t wait to resume work”

She laughed. “You’re bored already”

“I swear”

“What do you want to have? Let me call the kitchen” she said and picked up the intercom sitting on the glass stool next to the couch.

“Let them bring just juice, I am still full from the plenty rice I ate this morning”

I watched her dial the intercom in the kitchen downstairs and ordered for a drink to be brought upstairs for me. Her house was so big that she installed intercoms in strategic places within the house.

“I found this wonderful tailor!” she exclaimed, cutting into my thoughts. “You need to see the kind of things she sews!! I’ve already dropped two of my laces with her. Let me show you her Instagram page, she sews very lovely things”

She shifted closer to me and began to flip through the tailor’s page.

“How much are her clothes?” I asked, looking into her phone as she scrolled through various made dresses.

“Like that dress she is sewing for me, she said I should bring 15k”

I swallowed hard. 15k for a dress, when I could get someone that would make it for me for at least four thousand naira.

“Give me her number” I said. “I would call her, there is this material I have sitting at home. “

“Okay. I’m going there next tomorrow, we can just go together”

“No, don’t worry. I would give it to her next week, I’m not sure I would be free this week” I lied. We buried our heads back into her phone flipping through more Instagram posts when her husband walked upstairs.

“Ah! baby” she said, getting up quickly and walking to him. “I didn’t know you were coming home” she said, placing a kiss on his cheek. I could see the frown on his face.

“Good afternoon Sir” I greeted.

“Good afternoon Madam, how is your husband?”

“He is fine”

He turned around and began to walk away.

“I’m coming” Eziamaka said and followed him to their bedroom. I picked up her phone and continued scrolling through the posts we were viewing.

I started to hear noises coming from their bedroom. Wondering what was going on, I strained my ears to listen further. The noises got louder, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were having an argument.

It was none of my business, I tried to return my focus to the phone screen when I heard a bang. It was the sound of something hitting against someone, my heart dropped! I got up and rushed to their door. I didn’t know whether to knock or just barge in, so I lingered at the door, confused on what to do.  When I heard a second and then a third bang, I barged into their room. He was standing over her curled up body on the bed, hitting her repeatedly with a horsewhip.

“Jesus!!!” I shouted rushing to her side. He dropped the cane, grabbed his phone and keys and stormed out of the room. Eziamaka was crying profusely. I held her in my arms and let her cry against me.

What did I just witness? I was completely dumbfounded.

“It’s okay” I consoled her, holding her tightly to myself.

“I’m sorry you had to see that” she apologized amidst her tears. She couldn’t raise her head to look me in the eye. I could sense how ashamed she felt.

“Ezi, how long has he been doing this to you?”

She sniffed, rubbing her nose with the back of her palm. “I’ll be fine don’t worry”

“Ehn?”

“Please don’t tell anyone what you saw here today” She turned pleadingly to me, diverting the topic. “Please, he was only correcting me”

I couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth.  “With a horsewhip?” I asked feeling confused. “At least tell me what happened”

“He was only correcting me, It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have complained about the lipstick stains I saw on his neck. It was all my fault”

I stared at my friend in shock. What was wrong with her?

“Please promise you won’t tell anyone”

“I won’t” I managed to say.

“Let me go and beg him” she said hastily and began to scramble to her feet. “I’m sure he is in the other room. And please you have to go, he won’t be happy seeing you here after all that just happened, please, I will call you”

I looked at my friend pitifully. This wasn’t the Eziamaka that I knew. She was behaving like someone who’s brain had been brainwashed.

I got up and followed her out of the room. She went into the opposite door and I made the rest of the walk to the sitting room. I picked up my bag and let myself out of their home.

I didn’t know what shocked me more, the fact that Eziamaka’s husband beats her or the fact that she makes excuses for him about it.

As I drove out of her compound, for the first time since I knew her, I did not wish to be in her shoes. Who knew what else she was enduring in the hands of that man. I shook my head in pity. I was definitely going to share with Frank all that I just witnessed.

“Ah!” I exclaimed biting my lip. He even cheated on her.

Jane was right after all, nothing in this life is as it seems.

Written by Joy Terundu Ogbugoh

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