Anna got back from her lecturing job, tired as usual. She found the kids in their den, doing homework, and after the hugs and kisses that were mandatory for welcoming, slumped into a cushioned sofa.
Ehosa, her husband’s daughter from his first marriage, ran to the refrigerator and brought out a can of chilled ginger beer, another ritual Anna had cultivated shortly after getting married to self-made millionaire architect, Otto Alexander. She sipped the drink, savoured the sensation that went with its journey down her throat.
It was six o’clock and Otto was expected home anytime soon. Anna alternately used her toes to push off her slip-on shoes and flexed her tired toes. She leaned forward and looked at what Ehosa was doing.
Being the teacher in the family, she was saddled with doing homework. And she loved the duty with all her heart. She watched Ehosa do her arithmetic, while she finished her drink. When the 11-year old looked up from her work, Anna leaned down and picked it off the small table Ehosa sat at.
“Let’s see what my little genius did!”
Alexis, Otto’s son from another previous marriage stood with his book and ran to Anna. “Mummy, me too!”
“Of course, darling.” Anna heaved the five-year old on to her lap and looked at the drawing book he held close to his chest.
“This is massive. Am I to assume this is a car?” The drawing looked like nothing Anna knew. Just a square.
Alexis beamed. “It’s a house in the village.”
“I bet your daddy designed that house…”
“I heard that!” Otto stepped into the den.
Alexis jumped off Anna’s lap and ran to his father. Ehosa did the same and both hugged him together. He dropped his laptop bag on a nearby couch and lifted Alexis.
Anna stood and gave him a peck a nano-second before she noticed a woman had followed him in.
She looked over his shoulder at the woman, and then at him. “We have a guest.” She knew the face. Though she had never met the woman before.
Otto swung around, involuntarily clutching Ehosa to his side. His voice was strained when he spoke. “Please wait in the parlour for us.”
The woman gave a small nod and turned back. Ehosa released herself from her father’s grip and ran to the refrigerator, retrieving a chilled Sans sparkling water. She handed it to Otto, who made it a point of duty to avoid Anna’s searching look.
He took the drink absently. “Ehosa, take your brother upstairs and stay there till the guest leaves.”
Ehosa packed her books and Alexis’ and led him out. Otto followed them to the foot of the staircase, and when they had disappeared upstairs, returned to the den.
“That’s Alero, Ehosa’s mother,” Otto said. He avoided her gaze, but Anna walked over to stand in front of him, so he could see her eyes when she spoke.
“I know. What’s with her?”
Otto looked into her eyes. “She believes she’s back. Huh…”
“Back from where?”
“Anna. It’s almost ten years now, since she left me.” He shook his head and paced the room. “Obviously, things have not panned out well for her. Huh… she came… she found me in the office…” He rubbed the back of his neck and turned it round to effect circulation. “Ah, solution, Lord.”
“Why don’t you just say what you have to say? This turning about the issue is not helping anything!” Anna prided herself as a cool, calm, and coordinated person, but she realised Otto’s behaviour was beginning to get on her nerves.
When she met him, he had been married thrice, three divorces and two children. Her husband had not been a saint, in the least. They had been able to work through that rough road, and faced a future they could build on a foundation with Christ. She had known there could be the ‘ex’ problem, but she was sure they had an agreement concerning the exes. So Otto stammering over Ehosa’s mother gave her a headache.
If the woman had found him in the office, what then was she doing in the house? If she wanted to see her daughter, it was simple enough. It could be arranged, very easily.
“She needs a place to stay.” He looked at her, caught the apparent flashes of lack of comprehension on her face, and turned away. “Not here, of course,” he said. “She came in from Ife today, and um, I think her third or fourth husband just threw her out or something…”
“I think I want to sit down and hear this. She needs a place so, give her money to go find a place!” Anna walked over to the overstuffed couch she’d been sitting on and looked at him. “So since leaving you, she has married three men and this last one threw her out. And?”
“She wanted to see Ehosa.”
“Okay, so you brought her here to see Ehosa.” She hissed. “She left Ehosa alone all these years, and thinks she can just hop in without notice?”
Otto abruptly took the seat opposite her, and stared her down. “Help me here, Anna. What am I supposed to do?”
“Help you how?” Anna shouted. She took two deep breathes and clasped her shaking hands. “You told her she could move in?”
“Only till I can get a place for her… two or three days max!” He threw his hands out, imploringly. “The BQ is totally em…”
Anna sprung to her feet like someone had connected the comfy couch to live wire. “Never in your life!”
“Sweetheart, it will take only a few days…”
“Your ex is not sleeping under my roof. Get that straight. Send her back to wherever she’s coming from. I don’t care how you do it!” She stomped out of the den and bumped into the woman. They exchanged hard-staring before Anna strolled away and up the stairs.
She pulled the clothes in his closet out and folded them with shaky hands. She needed to do something so she won’t break glass, and Otto’s wardrobe had called for attention for days.
How could he?
It was the most malicious thing to do to her just barely a year after marriage. Otto didn’t have a problem with accommodation. Not in Lagos and sincerely not in any of at least ten states of Nigeria and the FCT. As an architect, he had favours from many hoteliers and estate owners. Besides, Otto owned an estate in Lagos. It wasn’t near completion but, well.
And if the worst got to the worst, her husband was a millionaire in more than two foreign currencies. He could afford a five-star hotel for his first wife if he wished.
The more she thought about it, the more she cringed at the prospect of Ehosa’s mother sleeping under her roof. What could she do? How on earth could Otto bring that woman home?
Anna swallowed the tears gathered in her eyes. She needed to be composed. She needed to handle this with wisdom. Much as she hated the fact, Ehosa’s mother would be a part of their lives from now on.
At the time the woman left Otto, he had nothing but his genius brains. Now the brains translated into millions of dollars and pounds.
“If I were the one, I’d come back too.” Anna had to laugh over that.
With the woman thrown out, she would need accommodation. A woman with such morals would find nothing wrong in coming back.
Anna dropped the shirt in her hand, and turned. Time to be a virtuous woman, she thought. “This is my house and I won’t let any ‘ex’ take charge.”
Ehosa ran in.
Anna smiled. “Your real mum is here. And I want you to go downstairs and entertain her.”
Ehosa frowned. Otto had taken time to explain things shortly after Ehosa turned 10, and gone ahead to warn her real mother could show up any day.
“You’re my real mum,” Ehosa said.
“We’ve gone through this before.”
“No, Mummy. I’m not going anywhere with—”
“If you act like this, your daddy will be unhappy with you, and we don’t want that.” She pulled Ehosa into her arms. “Now this is what we will do.”
Anna bent over the Jacuzzi and tested the temperature of the water. The hands that gripped her bum belonged to only one person. The only man who’d ever had the legal right to it.
“What are you doing?”
His gruff voice complemented the soft massage on her backside.
Anna straightened. “Preparing a bath. To calm me.” She smiled at him. “If Alero is spending three or four nights here, I’d better have my wits.”
“You’re such a beautiful woman, Anna.” He pulled her into a full embrace. “Ehosa served her. Sat with her and talked.” He kissed her lips. “I know you sent her.”
“She has to relate with her mother.”
“I love you, Anna.”
She cringed inward. Did it work, or backfired like she knew it could.
Alero had walked out of her marriage and ran off with another man on her third wedding anniversary to Otto. She had nearly taken Ehosa with her. For all those years, she never made contact with Otto or Ehosa. What kind of woman did that?
Anna prayed her plot worked if not for her sake, for Ehosa’s.
Otto nibbled her chin. “I called George.”
Amongst Otto’s friends, George was the closest. He was also Otto’s lawyer, and confidant.
“He agrees she can’t be here.”
Thank God. “I don’t want to quarrel over this—”
Otto stepped back and cupped her face. “You didn’t imagine I could let her spend the night, did you. I just wanted you to see her.”
Anna stared at the man she loved with all her heart. Yeah, right she could have said. But she allowed him to savour his deceit. All she cared about was her victory over this one.
“I’ve told her to go and see George. He’ll deal with her directly from now on.”
“If that’s what you wish.”
“It is.” He pulled off her clothes. “It is.”
He tumbled her into the warm water below them and made her forget why she wanted to tear the house apart two hours earlier.
Anna relished her victory, but remembered Otto had been thrice divorced before she met him. Two of the women have now surfaced. Bimbo, his second wife had made an appearance and a disgraceful exit before their wedding. The third one, Alexis’ mother, could too at any time.
The battle wasn’t over yet.