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Image Source: She carefully locked the door to the bathroom behind herself and took off her top. She...

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She carefully locked the door to the bathroom behind herself and took off her top. She held the flailing flesh on the sides of her stomach and tugged at them. Her hands went up and then down as she attempted to gauge how much weight she had stacked on. Each time she looked in the mirror, it seemed as though she had put on more weight. In front, a considerable chunk hung on in a wonky posture. She thought of what she had looked like before the pregnancy. Her skin was well toned, tight and glossy. Then she looked at her upper arms. A decent stack latched on there as well with waves of stretch marks. She wondered if Chike had taken notice of all these changes. Then she thought of an event a week ago when they had gone over to their neighbor’s for their sons’ birthday. She was sure that Chike was gawking at her friend Emmanuela who was single. Her skin was still iridescent; devoid of the unattractive dents that come on the heels of childbirth.  Maybe he doesn’t really love me or find me attractive anymore, she thought. Then she took another full grab of the flaps on the sides of her stomach and tugged at them. I wonder how long it will take to loose these, she thought to herself. “Honey the baby is crying,” Chike shouted. “I will be right there,” Elochukwu answered. Quickly she put on her top and dashed back to the living room. She cuddled her baby boy and breast-fed him. The next morning after Chike had left for work she fed the baby and made sure there was enough baby food for him in her absence. “Make sure you feed him as soon as he starts crying, okay?” She instructed her house help. “Yes ma,” she replied. She got in the car and drove to the gym a few blocks away. She climbed onto the treadmill and began to run. Without bothering to warm up first, she turned it on and set it to a high speed and began to run as fast as her legs could go. There were younger ladies nearby. They chatted and laughed as they walked lazily on the treadmill. Every look at them left her angry. They reminded her of what she once looked like. 

She turned her attention to the treadmill and vented her anger on it. After running for thirty minutes, she switched to another equipment and began to work on her upper arms. After that, she focused on her abdomen. Like a lion stalking a prey, she methodically went from one part of her body to the next. When she got home she checked on her son who was fast asleep, and then went into the shower where she went through the same routine again. She tossed her sweat-covered top on the floor and grabbed her belly. She wanted to know if she had already lost some weight, and how much. She climbed on the scale which she had bought some weeks ago and checked her weight. Nothing seemed to have come off. She frowned as she peered at the scale wondering whether it actually functioned well. That night, when Chike got into bed he wrapped his arms around her. “How was your day sweetheart?” He asked. She wondered if he meant it or of whether he was just being nice. “It was good. How about yours?” It was hectic,” he answered. He moved closer suggesting that he had other things in mind…things that required her cooperation. The reading light beside Chike was still on. I can’t let him see these unpleasant changes, she thought. “Not tonight honey,” she said to him. Her voice was brash. “You have been saying that for quite some time now. Is everything okay with you?” “Yes everything is fine.  I am tired at night with the baby needing my attention all day.”

“But Chijioke, the house help should be able to relieve you. That is part of the reason she is here. Do you want me to get a second house help?” Chike asked. “No, that won’t be necessary. I like Chijioke. She is really good.” “Then let her do the work during the day so you can get some rest, okay?” “I will try, but you know sometimes the baby just needs his mother,” she rationalized in an attempt to justify her change in behavior of late. “Okay…no problem,” Chike concurred. Minutes later, he was snoring away, while Elochukwu was still wide awake. She picked up the Cosmopolitan magazine she bought earlier in the day and began to gaze at the sleek, sexy, fat-free models whose images smiled back at her from the shiny pages of the magazine. I used to be this thin and sexy, she thought. A frown ran across her face for a while as the current state of her body stared back at her.

The next day, she worked even harder in the gym. The same trend continued every morning. One morning she finally mustered the courage to climb back on the weighing scale again. Her heart was beating…literally as she awaited the result of this all important exercise. To her delight, she had lost a few kilograms. “Yeah!!!” She exclaimed. “Madam, everything dey okay?” Chijioke asked from outside the bathroom. She was just walking by when she heard Elochukwu shouting by herself in the bathroom. “All is well Chijioke,” she replied politely. The few kilos she dropped fueled her desire to keep on going. Sadly, a week later she took ill. She was temperamental throughout her illness. She spoke nastily to Chijioke and snarled at her husband. The thought that she could not keep up with her workout regimen left her infuriated and somewhat depressed. She skipped meals and kept going back to the bathroom to weigh herself. She gained back every kilogram she had lost. The more she weighed herself, the angrier she got. Consequently, she barely ate anything. She wondered if she should have a chat with her mother, but she decided against it. Mom had us at a different time. I am not sure they had the same concerns back then, she concluded. She thought of which of her friends she could confide in, but she could not gather the confidence to share such deep fears and worries with any of her friends. Besides, most of them were single. They will not understand, she assured herself.  Alone, she labored on with the baggage that was severely weighing her down.

One evening, while she was upstairs, she saw her husband standing by his car in the street talking to a young lady. It was a Saturday morning, and Chike had left the house early in the morning. Who is that girl? She wondered. She was sleek and thin; oozing with confidence. Why can’t he say hi to her from the car? Does he have to get off the car to talk to her? And he is still holding her hand after a handshake. Why is he smiling at her like that? A million fear-stimulated thoughts whistled through her beleaguered mind. She thought of dashing down to the street to ask him what he was doing with the lady. Impulsively, she raced downstairs, panting with anxiety as she descended the stairs. Before she could reach the gate Chike was already pulling into the compound. “Hi honey, how are you doing this morning?” Chike asked excitedly. He was beaming with smiles as he got off the car. Elochukwu was still in bed when he left. “Who was that girl?” She asked angrily. Her tone was thoroughly enriched with a caustic sting. Surprised, Chike asked, “What is going on with you honey? What girl?” “The one I saw you holding her hand in the street. You had to leave your car to greet her eh? And hold her hand forever?”

He stared at her for a moment. She had her hands to her waist with her neck menacingly thrusting forward. She looked like she was about to take part in a brutal bout with an arch enemy. “Eloo, you don’t have to be like this. That lady is my colleague at work and she has just moved in next door. I know her husband too. I have been observing you since you returned from hospital after having Ikenna. I know you are not happy honey, but I am here for you. You cannot walk through all this alone. I am not your husband on the bright and sunny day. I am also your husband on the dreary rainy day; the day when you realize that all of a sudden, your body has changed. The day when you wonder if you still look attractive. The day when you go to the bathroom several times and run to the gym and work out relentlessly in a desperate effort to drop all the weight you gained during pregnancy. I have noticed all that my love. I noticed you bought a new weighing scale and that every little opportunity you get, you climb on it. You have been obsessing over your shape and weight since you returned from hospital and you keep pushing me away when I make advances at you at night.

“You are afraid I no longer find you beautiful. I may not be perfect honey, but I still do love you. I still find you very attractive. Your beauty to me goes way beyond the things you are obsessed about right now. I will always love you. By the way, I went to the shopping mall to pick up the necklace and ear rings I had custom-ordered for you. Happy anniversary, in case you forgot.” He pulled out two jewelry boxes and held them out to her. “You noticed what I have been going through?” She asked through misty eyes. “I did every single step of the way honey. I was hoping you’d talk to me as your husband. It is okay. With time, the weights will come off. Do what you can, but don’t obsess over it.” She hugged him without even touching the jewelry boxes. “I am so thankful Chike. I am so blessed. I have been feeling…feeling unattractive with the weight and the stretch marks.” “It is okay honey. That is part of life. I have got some stretch marks too and my belly has increased in size since we got married as well. Maybe I can come to the gym with you at the weekends, or in the morning before I go to work. We can support each other.” “Thank you Chike,” she said still holding tightly onto him. “You are welcome love. So, are you going to look at the jewelry I bought you?” “Not yet. I’d rather have you over jewelry right now,’ she teased. “I might as well return them,” he returned her joke. “Don’t you dare,” she replied. Her eyes were misty, but her face smiled beautifully as a sense of relief went through her.

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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