When his arranged marriage goes haywire, James, has to juggle from being a father to his eleven months old son, keeping his job, finding love in the strangest place, maintaining a balance and peace between his family and that of his in-law’s who are lost in the battle of power and authority.
The scorching effect of James’ trickling hot tea on his body jolted him to reality as he sat at the dining table for breakfast. Having just finished feeding his eleven-month old son, he sat him on the white leather couch in his living room, in wait for the nanny. He saw the tea drip, but didn’t take notice because his thoughts were focused wholly on his wife who left him a few months back, leaving their then five-month old son behind. He sighed, glancing morosely at his stained white shirt. Then a gentle but loud thud jolted back his distracted mind to reality. His hand shook, causing the remaining tea on the spoon to pour on his clothes. Before he could hiss about the tea, he heard a loud cry. That was his son Junior; fallen from the couch where he sat him. James rushed to lift him up. He looked at his head and saw a lump which was rapidly swelling up. He used his palm to massage it. That made Junior to cry out in pain even more, but he has to dissolve the lump before it degenerated. When he felt the lump was gone, he dashed to the dining table to prepare the baby milk he substituted for breast milk since his wife left. He poured two scoops into the feeding bottle, and poured in the cold water he kept for himself. He then shook it and poured a drop on the back of his hands to check the temperature; that was the secret behind the ritual. It felt cold, so he remembered the milk should have been mixed with warm water. He sighed, made to pour it away to prepare another. But as he got closer to the sink located just beside the dining table, Junior let out a loud cry, which forced him to hurriedly cover the bottle and hand it over to the boy. Junior gulped it down like it was just a spoonful.
“Wow! That was fast,” he said to Junior, who kept sucking at the empty feeding bottle, surprised.
Junior looked happy, so he made to collect the feeding bottle from him, slowly, but the protest from Junior forced James to return it.
“Okay, you can suck at it till I finish changing,” he said softly, sitting him on the living room’s floor. Then moving inside to change his stained shirt, he took a glance at the wall clock right above his head; it was eight forty-five.
“Jesus!” he exclaimed. “Where the hell is this woman?” he cursed moving into the room. He just finished undoing his button when the door bell rang.”God! I wish I can just fire her,” he muttered and walked out, buttoning up his shirt. He opened the door, and to his surprise, it was his mother. They stood glancing at each other for a moment.
“What are you doing here Mother?” he finally broke the silence, remembering his warning to his parents never to visit his home or call his phone, especially his father.
“I am doing great. Thanks for asking,” Catherine said brushing past him into the room. She dropped her bag on the couch and carried Junior who was crawling in pursuit of his feeding bottle which seemed to have broken up with him. “Oh my son, look how thin you have grown. Has your father been starving you? Don’t worry, granny is here and…”
“I made myself clear when I asked you and Father to stay away from my house. So what are you doing here?” he asked sternly. Locked the door and walked towards her. He waited for an answer, but Catherine was too busy playing with Junior. He looked from her to the fully packed hand bag she dropped on the couch, a strange thought struck him. “I want to believe you have no intention of sleeping over in this house,” he asserted, and feeling satisfied his intention was made known; he grabbed Junior from her and bustled inside the room. Just as he put Junior on the bed, his phone started ringing: it was his boss calling. He checked his wrist watch and automatically knew he was in trouble. He picked the call and after some seconds, which seemed like eternity, he muttered, “I am sorry, sir. I am stuck in traffic, but I will be there in less than thirty minutes hopefully.” And rage took him hostage.
If he had stood his ground when the whole marriage issue was trending, he probably would be enjoying his marriage by now. He would have kissed his wife goodbye and left for work a long time ago. But trying not to be a disobedient child earned him more trouble than disobedience. He was at risk of losing his job and he couldn’t even understand why Helen, Junior’s nanny has not resumed for the day. Being his paid staff, he expected her to resume early so he could be free to also work and earn her salary. His rage was fueled by three things: the presence of his mother – the cause of his agony and the self-pity she came with which he did not need; Helen’s lateness which made his mother to meet him at home, and his boss’ call which had predicted trouble for him if he doesn’t get to the office as quickly as possible. He finished tucking his shirt in and buckled his belt, then looked at Junior who was busy sucking at his index finger.
“No, prince, do not suck your finger, okay?” he said, and picked him up, pulling the finger out of his mouth. That, however, made Junior cry. He overheard his mother say something about the cry but ignored her. He pacified Junior, opened the door and pressing his phone inattentively, he walked past his mother. He picked the feeding bottle lying on the floor and dropped it on the dining table, then made for the door.
Catherine stood watching her son toil with his phone, oblivious of her presence.
“This attitude is not the solution to the problem. We need to think together as a family, and figure out how to bring your wife back. You cannot keep resuming work late because of Junior,” she said with a gentle and motherly tone.
She was a tall chubby woman, compassionate and kind hearted, with skin of a teenager even after having her 50th birthday months back. She loved and believed in her children, but circumstances beyond her control often made her doubt and let them down. If only they knew how much she loved and cared about them, James especially, things would have been a lot better.
James, however, did not regard her concern or call for solution. How could the same devil that helped ruin his life turn around to offer help from the havoc she caused? He fell before, which was a mistake, falling again would be foolishness on his part. He scowled at her for a moment, shook his head. Something in him wanted to scream senses into her, tell her how evil, selfish and inconsiderate she and his father were, but he was restrained by a force he could not explain.
“I appreciate your unwanted concern, Mother, but please, do me a favour by taking your bag out, I want to lock my house,” he finally won the battle of his mind.
Catherine gasped, utterly shocked. She never imagined her son could ever send her out of his house. She always thought the warnings were just words of an angry son to his unseen mother, which would instantly go away once the mother appears, but now, she wasn’t quite sure again. She gazed confusedly at her son’s blurred face, her mouth agape, wanting to say something, yet no words came out.
Just then the door opened and Helen, a tall, slender chocolate skinned lady in her late thirties, scuttled in.
“I am so sorry, sir. I should be fired I know, but please hear me out….” she threw in, not giving James the opportunity to say a word. “My daughter…”
“I do not want to hear it,” James interrupted. “Just take Junior to school.”
“To school?” she was surprised. “What school, sir, I thought you said till next session?”
“Take him to school!” James stressed, looking directly into her eyes. “I do not want to leave my house open,” he added.
Helen nodded reluctantly and took Junior from him, puzzled. She made to enter further into the room, but James blocked her.
“Go now; I am late for Christ’s sake!” he yelled.
“Sorry sir, but I need to pick his food pack,” she explained and whisked to the dining room to pick Junior’s food-pack. It contained his toiletries, the baby-milk, the empty feeding bottle, a flask which she hurriedly filled with hot water from the water dispenser and another one filled with pap. She obviously did not see Catherine because she was in a hurry; moreover, she did not expect James to have any visitor. It was while returning from the dining room that she saw Catherine. She greeted her apologetically and left, but scuttled back again.
“The keys sir,” she requested.
“Alright Mother, you have to come out now, I want to lock the house and give the keys to her, okay?” James ordered.
It was his house and he has full right to determine who stays in or out. But his mother found that order insulting. She was still trying to stomach the pain of watching her grandson being entrusted to a stranger while yet another taboo hit her: James ordering her out of the house so as to confidently entrust the keys to this same stranger. She found that really degrading to her status as his mother.
“You might have to lift me out,” she said, sat cozily on the couch, feeling the need to remind James of her position in his life.
“Damn it, Mother!” James cursed as he watched her majestically relax on the couch. “I am late for God’s sake.”
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