‘Interesting coincidence- another Ben’, Gabriel said sarcastically knowing something was obviously going on.
‘Are you calling me a liar?’ she became defensive.
‘I didn’t say anything Sharon. Why don’t you answer that question yourself?’ he turned around to leave.
‘Gabriel, you had better warn yourself…oh. Don’t bring your annoying attitude here’, she said rudely.
He instantly felt irritated again. He remembered what made him not pick her calls in the first instance. He left the room without saying a word.
After three days, she was discharged from the hospital. Gabriel took over most of the house chores. He wanted her to get maximum rest. He intentionally did not bring up the issue of the 8-week old pregnancy or Ben. He wanted to give her time to rest and recover.
Sharon, on the other hand, did not care about what he did or did not do. She lived as if he was nonexistent. They lived like strangers. The atmosphere in their home was cold both emotionally and spiritually. This went on for days and finally, on one of those days, Gabriel decided to break the silence and revisit the crucial and pending matter.
Sharon was seated at the dining table, having breakfast that Saturday morning. Gabriel joined her and sat opposite her.
‘So when were you going to tell me about it?’ he asked as he was about finishing his meal.
Sharon ignored him and continued eating.
‘Sharon, you do know I’m talking to you, right?’ he was already getting pissed at her.
‘You’ve not been there for me and now you are acting as if you care’, she replied bluntly.
‘I don’t care? Sharon, I’m the one that does not care, right?’ he tapped his chest. He couldn’t believe that after all he had done for her, all she could say was ‘he didn’t care’.
Sharon remained silent and continued eating.
‘So is that an excuse for you to go sleep around?’ he flared up and angrily dropped his cutlery. ‘Who is responsible for it?’ he asked, anger written all over his face, his nostrils flaring.
‘I wasn’t sleeping around’, she replied him immediately.
‘Then who is the bastard responsible Sharon?’ he banged the table.
Sharon shivered in her seat. She hardly ever saw Gabriel that angry or use such words. ‘I met him a few months back. It was when I was looking for a job. I applied to different firms. His firm called me for an interview which went pretty well but he told me the condition for me to get the job was to sleep with him’, she explained.
‘And you did. After all I have done for you, for us Sharon, this is how you repay me? Have I ever failed as a husband?’ he was hurting real bad.
‘Was it not you that persistently nagged about how I was wasting away here while my mates were out there doing something worthwhile with their lives? You literally made my life miserable, Gabriel. You pushed me into this mess so don’t ask me why I’m repaying you with this. You caused it!’
‘I caused it, Sharon?’ He pointed at himself.
‘Yes, you caused it; just the way you caused our son’s death.’
‘What! What did you just say?’ He could not believe his ears.
‘You were to pick Chidi up from your parents’ place that day but you chose to send your organisation’s official driver and that was how he was involved in that accident.’ She began to sob. ‘I should have known that day; I wasn’t myself at all. I kept calling you to find out if Chidi was with you but you didn’t pick because of the useless board meeting you were attending.’ Tears rolled down her face.
Gabriel went silent.
‘Our son is dead because of you so don’t come and point that useless finger at me making me look like the bad person here.’ She got up. ‘This marriage is as good as over. I don’t know what I’m still doing here. After all, my mates are out there doing something worthwhile with their lives.’ She took her plate from the table and went into the kitchen. She dumped them in the sink and broke down in tears afresh.
She looked back at the past four years of her life and regretted ever meeting Gabriel let alone getting married to him. ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve such a terrible life?’ she asked herself and cried some more.
Gabriel remained in his seat. Sharon’s words cut him real deep. He did not know what to do or say. His life was messed up big time. If anyone had told him he would be the man at the verge of a divorce, he would not have believed. Right now, the only way out of the mess he had found himself seemed like a divorce. He was ready for it. He could not continue like this. ‘What’s the point?’ he asked himself. ‘Should I remain here and continue to perish on the inside in the name of ‘divorce is not good’? Let that person who says divorce is not good come and take my marriage certificate and marry that thing’, he fumed.
The next day was Sunday. Gabriel did not feel like going to church. As a matter of fact he wondered how the church or anything God-related had been of help to him. He considered himself better off without church. He lay on his side of the bed facing the wall.
‘Aren’t you going to get ready for church?’ Sharon asked. She didn’t care one bit.
‘No’, he said sharply, still facing the wall.
‘You’ve forgotten that your mum said she’ll be coming to spend some time with us. Didn’t she say she’ll join us at church and from there follow us home?’ she reminded him.
Gabriel had totally forgotten. The thought of his mother coming to visit at such a crucial time made his heart heavy. He loves his mum quite alright but he needed as much space as he could get now. ‘Why now of all time?’ he grumbled. He got up from the bed and reluctantly went to the bathroom, had his bath and prepared for church.
‘I’ll be downstairs’, he told Sharon. He would have preferred they go in different cars if he had his way but for his mum that was coming he was not ready to start answering questions.
Sharon heard him and knew he meant she should not delay him. She did not reply. She took note of what he wore and brought out her own version of the cloth. She did that not because she wanted to wear the same attire with him but because she wanted to make a good impression on her mother-in-law. The cloth was a purple lace they sewed for her dad’s 60th birthday two years before. After about 15 minutes, she went downstairs- looking beautiful in the flowing A-line skirt and peplum blouse with silver head tie.
As she descended the stairs, Gabriel looked at her. He remembered how beautiful she looked when she wore the clothe two years before. She had the exact same appearance that Sunday morning but he could no longer appreciate her beauty. He was no longer attracted to her. It was not as if she had become ugly or anything like that, the repulsion he had was just beyond the physical. Things had gone so wrong. He stood up turned off the lights and allowed her to leave before locking the door.
The ride to church was long and boring. They barely spoke to each other. The silence was almost deafening. It was the radio that Gabriel later turned on that rescued them. Cool gospel music played and this helped to shake off the gloom in the atmosphere a bit.
When they got to church, they were ushered to sit together. They did so reluctantly. Gabriel kept checking around for his mum. He was going to be really upset and disappointed if she didn’t come because she was the reason he came to church in the first place. He was only there physically. Nothing that went on in the rectangular shaped and heavily decorated pulpit interested him.
When it was time for testimony, a couple came out. They were the first to testify. The husband was limping while the wife supported him. He took the microphone and began to share his testimony.
‘Praise God church’, he said.
The church responded ‘Hallelujah’.
‘I stand before you by the mercy of God. Believe me; no testimony is too small or too big to share. We go out and many times, take the fact that we return safely for granted.’
People in the congregation nodded in agreement.
‘Two weeks ago, I left home for work just like every other day. My wife bided me goodbye not knowing that would have been the last time she’d see me if not for the mercy of God.’ His eyes became wet with tears.
‘A few meters from my office, as I was about to make a left turn, a petrol tanker came from nowhere and drove right into my car and immediately I fainted.’
A few people exclaimed. Some put their hands on their heads; others covered their mouth in shock.
He continued, ‘Brethren you won’t believe when I tell you that the driver of the tanker died on the spot, not only that, cars adjacent to mine got burnt because the fuel in the tanker spilled and caught fire. My car was crushed badly. Here is a picture’, he signalled to the guy in charge of audiovisuals to project it.
Members of the congregation exclaimed.
‘It’s still a mystery how my car didn’t get burnt. I was stuck in the car for about 15 minutes. I was told that men had to break the door to pull me out. I was unconscious for the next two days and afterwards miraculously regained consciousness. It was a miracle because even the doctors testified that with the state in which I was when they took me to the hospital, there was only a very slim chance that I would survive. Not only did I regain consciousness but my recovery was speedy. The same doctors that said I wasn’t going to be able to use my legs again told me that as I continue with physiotherapy, I will regain full control of my legs. I want you to rise up to your feet and join me to celebrate the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, the giver of life. Praiseeeee theee Lorddddd!’
Everyone stood to their feet clapping, shouting and praising God ‘Hallelujah’ they all chorused.
Gabriel and Sharon also stood up. Gabriel realized that God had done something great for them too which they barely acknowledged. He remembered how he prayed to God for his wife’s life while she was in the operating room and there she was, sitting beside him hale and hearty yet he barely thanked God for her life. He knew God deserved the praise. After he sat down, he bowed his head and said ‘Lord, I’ve been so ungrateful. I’ve allowed the chaos my marriage is going through stop me from thanking You. Thank You for not allowing Sharon to die.’ He lifted up his head. He had thanked God quite alright but his mind was made up about the divorce. There was no way he was going to continue with the marriage. Towards the end of service, he spotted his mother at the back, seated and listening attentively to the pastor giving the announcement. It was a big church so she didn’t see him. He felt satisfied that his coming wasn’t in vain.
After the service, Gabriel and Sharon went to meet her.
Sharon, being a Yoruba lady went on her two knees, ‘Good afternoon, mummy’, she said with so much respect.
‘Oh my daughter, get up. How are you?’ She lifted her up and hugged her.
‘Nne ehihie oma (mummy, Good afternoon)’, he hugged her. ‘Hope your trip wasn’t too stressful?’ He asked as he carried her bag.
‘It was pretty smooth and fast, thank God. We took off around 6 am so what I need now is sleep.’ Mrs Okafor explained.
‘Sorry mummy, don’t worry you will soon be home where you will be able to rest’, he reassured her.
As they stood up to leave, the assistant pastor approached and greeted them warmly. ‘This must be mummy’, he said looking at Gabriel, ‘I can see the resemblance’. He smiled and greeted her, ‘You are welcome ma’am’.
She was pleased. ‘Thank you Pastor’, she said. ‘It was a beautiful service’, she complimented.
‘Praise God! We hope to see you more.’
‘I’m here for just a week’ she told him.
‘Aww! What a pity, but we can still see you on Wednesday and in the vigil on Friday?’
Gabriel was boiling within. ‘Who sent this man all this talk…sef?’ he thought.
‘No problem, let’s see how things go’ she was careful not to make any form of commitment.
‘Alright then, do have a great week. See you on Wednesday.’ He left.
‘What part of ‘let’s see how things go’ doesn’t he understand?’ Gabriel said in annoyance as they walked out of the church.
‘Don’t talk like that about a man of God’, his mother corrected him. ‘You may not always agree with them but you should always respect the anointing of God on them’ she added.
‘Ok ma’ he rolled his eyes.
‘Well done o’ she said without looking at him.
‘What? Mummy I didn’t roll my eyes’ he said.
‘I never said you did’ she continued walking.
Sharon watched the mother-son drama but her mind was miles away.
On their way home, Gabriel tried to start up conversations with his mum in the car so she won’t notice the awkward silence between him and Sharon.
‘How is daddy?’ he asked and occasionally used the rear mirror to look at his mother who was sitting at the back.
‘He is ageing gracefully. He sent his regards.’ She replied.
Sharon prayed within her that her mother-in-law will not bring up the grandchildren talk.
‘I can imagine things have been hard for both of you especially considering that you lost a son and have had miscarriages. I want you to know that your father and I are praying for you. Don’t let anyone put you under pressure. The Bible says that God has made everything beautiful in its time. Is that Okay?’ She encouraged them.
Gabriel was speechless. His mother had just blown his mind away. She wasn’t the typical ‘give us grandchildren before we die’ mother. She feared God and it reflected in everything she did.
‘Yes ma’, he replied.
‘And the same goes for you too my dear’, she patted Sharon on the shoulder.
‘Yes mummy, thank you.’ Sharon replied.
‘So to more pressing issues, this young woman is hungry.’ Mrs Okafor laughed at the sound of her reference to herself as a young woman.
‘Don’t worry mummy, we’ll soon be home. What will you like to eat?’ Sharon asked.
‘Anything you prepare is fine by me. You know your mother-in-law is not choosy and my son took after me’ she chuckled.
The smile on Sharon’s face disappeared.
‘Or did I say something wrong?’ she asked a bit confused.
‘No mummy, not at all’ she put up a fake smile.
Gabriel observed all that happened but remained silent.
When they got home, Sharon went straight into the kitchen while Gabriel helped his mum carry her bags into her room, the guest room on the ground floor.
Sharon quickly prepared Jollof rice with chicken and salad. She then dished it and placed on the dining table. Afterwards, she went to the guest room to call her mother-in-law to meal. She knocked on the door.
‘Come in’, Mrs Okafor said.
Sharon went in and saw her sitting at the edge of the bed, reading her Bible. ‘Food is ready ma’, she said.
‘Alright my dear, I’ll be out soon.’
‘Ok ma’ she turned to leave. ‘After all the Bible reading in church, this woman is still reading Bible again. Doesn’t she get tired? Sharon thought within her.
‘Did you say something? She asked.
‘No mummy’, she replied and left the room. ‘Abi, she can hear my thought too?’ She asked herself after leaving the room.
Mrs Okafor came out to eat and saw only one plate on the table. ‘Sharon bia, bia (come, come).’
Sharon came out of the kitchen.
‘Why am I seeing only one plate here?’ She asked, standing as she pointed at the table.
‘It’s for you mummy, Gabriel said he is not hungry and I too am not ready to eat’ she explained.
‘No, no, no, not when I’m around. We are all going to eat together.’ ‘Ju-ni-or’, she called out on top of her voice. That was the name Gabriel was called while growing up.
‘Yes mummy’, he answered from upstairs, ‘I will be with you in a moment’. He came downstairs.
‘Nne (mummy) do you need something?’ He asked
‘I need to eat with my children. Is there a problem with that?’ She asked still standing.
‘None at all. I just wasn’t ready to eat but since that’s what you want, no problem then.’ He initially had no intention of eating Sharon’s food but because he didn’t want his mother to find out what was happening, he had to pretend all was well.
Sharon went into the kitchen and brought out two more plates. It was then that Mrs Okafor finally sat down. Gabriel sat at the end of the table; Sharon was at his left while his mother sat at his right.
‘This is lovely’ Mrs Okafor said after taking a spoon of rice. ‘Junior, I hope you appreciate your wife’s cooking regularly?’ She asked him.
‘She is a good cook’ he avoided answering the question.
‘That was not the question I asked’ she said.
‘Mummy, you know your son; he is very appreciative.’ Sharon cut in.
‘Every woman loves to be appreciated’ Mrs Okafor told her son.
He nodded his head and continued his food.
‘You know, your father and I fought a lot because of this issue. Then, he hardly ever complimented me or appreciated what I did, I’d correct him and tell him I didn’t like going unnoticed. It took him awhile but finally, he got the message and now he is a pro.’ She told them.
‘Ok mummy, I’ve heard’ he said. He was getting tired of his mother’s talk.
After the meal, Sharon cleared the table.
‘I enjoyed the meal’ Mrs Okafor said.
‘Thank you ma’ Sharon smiled as she cleaned the table.
Mrs Okafor and Gabriel were still seated. She cleared her throat trying to get her son’s attention.
He didn’t respond.
She did it again, this time making it louder and more obvious
Gabriel knew what she wanted. ‘The food was nice’ he said to Sharon and rolled his eyes.
‘What did I say about that?’ She smacked his hand.
‘Nne (Mummy) but you weren’t even looking at me’, he rubbed his hand.
‘That’s why I am your mother’ she said. ‘If you like don’t learn, you hear? I’m going to my room’, she stood up, ‘I need to sleep’.
‘Yes, you need it’ Gabriel said . He allowed his mother enter her room then he stood up and went upstairs to their room. A few minutes after he got in, Sharon came in.
‘Just how long do you think we can continue living like his?’ She asked.
‘Not for long anymore. It’s our parents I pity. We disappointed them when you got pregnant before marriage and now we’ll break their hearts when they find out we are getting a divorce. But you know what? I don’t care one bit.’ He picked up the book he was reading and continued reading it.
‘You really think I care, don’t you? There are many men out there much better and manly than you that will fight and kill to have me’, she told him.
‘Yeah, Ben being number one, isn’t it?’ He didn’t care if he hurt her feelings.
‘Let this be the last time you mention that name’ she threatened him.
‘You’d better kept your voice low, except you are ready to expose what a mess you are.’ Gabriel said with disdain.
‘I’m not a mess Gabriel. How dare you call me a mess?’ She raised her voice.
Gabriel picked his ear phones and plugged his ears. As he was about to choose the song to listen to, he saw a text from a strange number that read thus, ‘You can run but you can’t hide’. He wondered who the sender was. ‘It must be a mistake, maybe the person sent it to a wrong number’, he thought.
Sharon was so upset. She annoyingly left the room and went to sit in the sitting room.
As she sat there starring at the TV, she fought with what she thought was her conscience.
‘Go and apologise to him’, the still small voice told her.
She ignored it.
The voice persisted, still calm and not forceful, ‘You need to apologise, Sharon’.
She knew what the voice told her was right but she argued, ‘He is the one at fault. How can he call me a mess?’
‘But you were wrong too.’ That was the last thing she heard the voice say.
‘Who were you talking to?’ Gabriel asked.
Sharon was startled, she turned around. She had no idea that Gabriel was standing behind her or that she was speaking her thoughts aloud. ‘No one, not like you care’, she folded her arms and continued starring at the TV.
‘I came to say that I’m sorry’ he said and immediately plugged his ears and went back upstairs.
Sharon turned back at him and watched him climb up the stairs. She couldn’t believe her ears. ‘Did he just say that he is sorry?’ She wondered. ‘What has gotten into him?’
To be Continued…
What do you think happens next?
Watch Out For Behind Closed Doors Part 4 next week Sunday. Don’t miss it.
Share this post with your friends. It’s gonna be lit!