When his arranged marriage went 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-laws, who are lost in the battle of power and authority.
Helen was taken aback in shock; it was her first time seeing the woman who bore James. She always wondered if she was dead to have allowed her son hire a nanny to watch over her grandchild, but since that negligence provided a job for her, she cared less. She twitched her face, leaned on the wall, ready to watch the family drama unfold.
“I did not train you to swear, so do not use such expressions again,” Catherine replied, unperturbed.
James was left with three difficult options: allow her to stay, push her out or forget about going to work. He however discarded all options as they all would produce dangerous results. There was no way he would allow his mother stay in that house in his absence; neither could he push her out. The thought of what his boss told him earlier on the phone and his several warnings which had come roughly six times since his wife left made him not to consider the last option. He once tried explaining his present family issues to his boss, who just kept acting like the boss he was.
“Who cares if your wife left you? I employed you, not your wife. If you want to mourn her leaving, resign and do that properly.” His boss said when James informed him of his wife’s sudden disappearance. His mind replayed this rather sarcastic reply again and again.
He was also given a second warning…“I have tolerated enough of your nonchalant attitudes towards work, James. When next you come late or fall short at your duty, you may as well not bother returning here.” The disheartening warning came a few weeks back.
Prior to his wife’s unexplainable desertion, he was the best accountant in the firm; very dedicated to his work, and diligent. He never imagined the possibility of being sacked, not even now when his life was crashing down on him, but with his boss’ stern and unkind warnings, which came several times, he feared the worse was about to happen. He could survive and endure his marital crisis, but might not survive losing his job: he found happiness and solace in it.
He decided to act mildly towards his mother, since his harshness wasn’t fruitful. Therefore, he signalled at Helen to go with Junior.
“I cannot go without the keys, sir. What if we return before you, which is likely to happen?” she stubbornly refused. She was only doing her job of looking after Junior, even though she couldn’t figure out James’ intentions that morning, she was still ready to play along, hoping to get a detailed explanation later.
“What else are you waiting for young lady?” Catherine asked marching towards her.
It was glaring Helen’s last statement got her really annoyed. “You have really said more than a mere nanny should, you need to start going.”
Helen felt embarrassed. Although she was James’ mother, she has no right to shout at her. She was working for James and not his mother.
“Sorry madam, you can’t just show up and start shouting at people. I work for your son and not you; and you should thank me for doing your job for you. So do not shout at me again,” Helen roared. She has lost her composure, which was not new to James; he knew her to be hot tempered. They often engaged in arguments, where she displayed her inability to hide her true feelings, and James loved her for that.
Catherine was shocked the instance Helen started to speak. She felt threatened at the audacity with which she talked to her, but more shocked at her son for not stopping her. She looked at James who gawked back without any remorse. For the first time she thought she had lost the battle. She retired to her seat, like a child whose mother refused a hug, and sat again, waiting for James’ worst.
James looked at his wrist watch; it was nine-thirty. He got furious, ready to do something drastic to get his mother out of the house.
“Please, Mother; do not make me do this. Just go honourably,” he said walking towards her. “I will call for you if I need to see you, but for now, I want to be on my own and think about my life,” he added, standing in front of Catherine.
Catherine squinted at him, sighed, brought out her phone and toyed with it. James moved to lift her up and his phone rang. He hissed, pulled the phone out of his pocket; it was his boss, again. Fear and resentment engrossed him. Nine-forty and he definitely knew how that call would end.
“Hello sir, please I am so sorry sir. The traffic is just… ”
“What traffic?” Catherine interrupted loudly. “The traffic of throwing your mother out of your house; is that the traffic you are talking about?” she bellowed, standing up.
There was no lying again. James could read his boss’ silence while he calmly listened to his mother’s blab. Then the dreaded statement finally came, shattering the speakers of his phone like a hurricane and injuring his ear drum. He froze; the same people who cost him his marriage has now made him lose something else which was very dear to him – his job. He broke down. His lips trembled and his heart ached. He ran his hand over his head, glancing into the empty air. Tears trailed down his cheeks.
Helen closed the door, rushed to him and helped him to the dining while glowering at Catherine. She made him sit, sat Junior on the table and walked to bring water from the fridge.
Catherine stood gazing at them absurdly. She was struggling to wave off the creepy thoughts brewing in her head about James having an affair with the nanny, but when Helen helped James drink the water she brought, she gaped in conviction that something was really up their sleeves. She summoned enough courage, walked up to them and pushed the glass cup off Helen’s hand; it shattered on the floor.
“Are you two sleeping with each other?” She asked bluntly.
Helen could not believe her ears, or her eyes. That was the funniest assumptions of the century; something she deeply wished was true, but since it wasn’t, she refused to dignify Catherine’s derisory thoughts with a response, and concerned herself with James’ condition. She glanced at the broken glass on the floor, and then at James.
“Are you okay, sir?” she asked so gently that James’ attention was diverted from his mother’s nasty inquisitive query to her in an appealing manner.
“I said it. You both are sleeping with each other,” Catherine clapped her hands into the air. “Your wife said you were having an affair but I did not for once think it is true, let alone with a nanny. God! I cannot believe you effortlessly allowed your wife to leave because of this thing,” Catherine said, eyeing Helen menacingly.
James’ face twitched. He wanted to tell his mother how wrong she was, that his wife left of her own accord for reasons best known to her, and that there was nothing going on between Helen and him; though he wished there was, but before he could find his voice, Helen took over the show.
“How dare you refer to me as a thing?” she yelled at Catherine. “I can now see why your son doesn’t want you in his house. You are callous, selfish and inconsiderate. First, you stubbornly delayed him from going to work, and now his boss has called to say whatever it was that got him, a full grown man to shed tears, and all you care about is if he is having an affair with me: an insult which I humbly took, but don’t ever call me a thing again, unless you want to see how things react.” She halted her long but rage-filled speech cum warning and walked into the kitchen.
Her outburst pleased James. His stubborn mother has been paid back in her own coins, and he touched Junior’s hand and smiled at him in pretence, concealing his expression from his mother who stood like one who saw a ghost.
Helen returned with a broom and dust-pan with which she packed the broken glasses and disappeared into the kitchen.
Catherine was confused and sad over Helen’s response, wondering whether her accusation was a mere supposition or something she knew. The words made her sad and suddenly, she realized what a bad mother she has been. She stepped closer to James apologetically, but James already found his lost courage.
“Everything happening is your fault and father’s. I was engaged to someone else, but you two said no, because your business associate presented his troublesome daughter whom you planted in my life without scrutiny. You both accepted the Trojan horse in order to maintain the business relationship you have with him. The bomb has gone off now and the content of the Trojan horse manifested, but unfortunately, I bear the consequences alone,” James said, pacifying Junior.
His marriage to Queen has been a series of challenges which Catherine and Osakwe her husband were clearly aware of, but what they did not know was that his wife was a potential trouble. She accused James of extramarital affairs, hence her reason for leaving the house. James’ parents believed her because they trusted her parents, and not actually her.
“For your information, I just lost my job. So you can stay here and merry with me for as long as you want,” he added, standing up.
Helen who just appeared from the kitchen was shocked to hear that. She only knew that James’ wife left but never bothered to ask why. She took a disdainful look at Catherine, hating her even more for standing with her husband to steal their son’s happiness from him.
“I am sorry about that,” she told James.
James nodded with a grin, stood and made for his room. He was half way into the room when a heavy knock came at the door. He startled, glancing at the door. He was not expecting anybody, and the manner of the knock was nowhere near civil. He sighed, and looked at the duo who were even more shocked.
“Who is knocking like that?” Catherine shivered as the knock persisted.
James slowly walked to the door. He took a peep from the microscopic hole on the door. What he saw made him hit his head on the door with a big bang, and then turned towards Helen and Catherine.
“I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed today,” his faint voice came.