MY OWN STRENGTH - Episode 1

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - divorce, joking, Donald Trump, Jaguar, Trump Tower, I am the most beautiful girl in town, Queen Elizabeth, town, village, US Embassy, visa interview, California, America, San Diego, Toyota Sienna, weight.



I remember it as though it were yesterday…perhaps I should say this morning. Before that very moment, I had felt beautiful, important, loved, wanted, valid…I had felt as though there was a place for me in life. Then, in one moment, it all came crashing down like a pack of cards. “I don’t love you anymore, Chikaodi,” my husband of nine years said to me. “What?” I said, my eyes begging him to say he was joking. “I am serious. I met someone else,” he said emphatically. I froze. The word ‘Divorce’ had never really existed in my dictionary. It was an alien word that existed in other people’s worlds, not mine. Yes, I had seen a lot of my friends go through divorce; it was the most traumatizing experience anyone could go through, especially if they wanted to stay married. No, that was something that would not come to me. After all, we were Nigerians living in the USA, so divorce was not in our culture.

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever imagine that I’d ever hear the words, my husband, Ikenna said to me. “Don’t say things like that, Ikenna. That is an expensive joke,” I said raising my voice. “I am not joking, Chikaodi. Are you really that daft? Can’t you understand simple things? I have met someone else who is better looking, younger and…and much more presentable than you!” he yelled at me. Every word he spoke was like a double edged sword piercing my poor soul with aggression. Tears rolled down my face as I stared helplessly at him. What am I supposed to do? I thought to myself. Moving to the US had been my dream. I recall when Ikenna returned from the USA with that big car of his. He rolled into the village with pageantry.

You would have thought he was Donald Trump himself. I guess, he really was the Donald Trump of the town. People stared unabashedly at his Jaguar when he drove by, and he made sure to roll through town slowly enough to make sure that everyone got a good look at his luxury car. I had heard of Jaguars in the past, but before him, I had never seen anyone driving a Jaguar. I was swept off my feet when he made a move on me. I felt giddy to my legs, hardly able to breath out of excitement. I visualized myself in his arms, in his Jaguar and most of all, his mansion, which he had just completed. You would not be too far from the truth if you called it the Trump Tower of our town. Ikenna’s mansion was four stories, not quite Trump tower in terms of height, but it was impeccably furnished with a pent house sitting atop the third floor. You could see it from nearly everywhere in town.

My parents and siblings, friends and even my enemies were like, “what are you waiting for?” There was no time for me to do some shakara (play hard to get). I simply said yes the first time he asked before another girl in town flung herself at him. Girls would actually dress provocatively and walk up and down the road in front of Ikenna’s Trump Tower, waiting and begging to get the slightest whiff of his attention. And, he wanted to marry me? I would stare at myself in the mirror a million times in a day. I am the most beautiful girl in town, I assured myself, staring at my impeccable figure in the mirror. Come on, Chikaodi, you don’t have to be too modest; I’d think to myself, you are the most beautiful girl in the world. I recall one evening when there was a football match in town between two villages. The entire town was there. When Ikenna rolled in, the crowd turned their back to the match and looked at his Jaguar with their mouths hanging agape.

Guess who was in front of the Jaguar…yes, you guessed right, it was me. I sat their feeling important. Ifeanyi watched helplessly. He had been my boyfriend for the past year…until some two days ago. He was once the center of my life; the most handsome guy in town. Well, his term was over. He was no match for Ikenna. I saw him watching from the sideline, feeling sorry for himself. I could see one of his friends, Chukwudi saying something into his ears. I knew he was making fun of him, “Is that not your girlfriend?” I believe he had said to him. Anyway, I stepped out like Queen Elizabeth…I mean the young, beautiful Queen Elizabeth. I had never felt more important. Everyone in town stared at me…all the girls wanted to be me. I picked my steps like Queen Elizabeth; with grace and glamour.

Soon, we had our traditional wedding ceremony – it was quite the event. The entire town was agog. There were four different music groups on hand to entertain the teeming crowd. I had close to thirty five asuebis (traditional bridesmaids). There was more than enough to eat. You could hear music from my father’s compound from the neighboring town. Both our town and the neighboring ones were empty on our traditional wedding day because everyone was at my father’s compound, and I was right at the center of it. I smiled, laughed, danced and held onto my gold – my husband with vigor and passion. The church wedding was no less expensive and glamorous. Ikenna was not the type to hold back. He enjoyed the attention; perhaps a little more than myself. People much older than he was bowed to him. They adored him…literally. They ran when he asked them to. Money certainly has a magnetic power to it. After the wedding, Ikenna returned to the US. I moved to Owerri, staying in one of Ikenna’s houses. Perched atop the penthouse in the building, I truly felt on top of the world. The tenants were smart enough to accord me my due respect; after all, I was the landlord’s wife. I controlled all of Ikenna’s buildings in Owerri.

I quickly learned how to drive. My world, you should have seen me the first day I drove that Jaguar around town. One of Ikenna’s closest friends, Obioma was on hand to help me. He stood beside me in case I lost control of the vehicle. I cruised round town with him. I felt empowered; exhilarated. The world was finally at my feet. I had money to throw around, making sure that my parents and siblings were well taken care of. Soon, I was able to drive the Jaguar to the village. I made sure to have some police security with me, of course with Obioma beside me. I made sure to drive to the village square, the football field, the village post office, the schools…you name it. “Is that Chikaodi?” people asked. I could hear their whispers. Yes, it is, I thought to myself.

I waited impatiently for the visa process to go through. In the meantime, all my friends paid me their respects. I lived large. After nearly a year and half, my visa was approved. I remember picking it up and feeling elated. I was a ball of raw, feisty energy that very day I picked up my passport at the US Embassy in Abuja. Ikenna did not like the madness at the US Embassy in Lagos so he had asked me to go to Abuja for my visa interview. I was overcome with positive stress; so much so that I could not sleep that night. I imagined life in the United States of America. I thought of all the people at the US Embassy who were refused visa. What a good God you are, I lavished encomiums on God for his goodness on me. America, here I come.

Ikenna lived in California. I can tell you one thing, it is a beautiful place. One of my fears about moving to America…well I would not call it a fear per se, because I was overly eager to move to the USA. So, it was more like a small concern, and it was the cold. I had read of and heard stories of people being buried in snow. Thankfully, that is not in Southern California. It does not snow in Southern California, really, so I did not have to contend with the cold and snow. When my plane landed at the San Diego airport in California, it was magical. It felt as though the plane was going to land into the sea. Needless to say that my heart was pounding. I nearly started shouting, “Blood of Jesus.” Thankfully, the plane steered and glided majestically to the airport. The airport is by the sea, so for a newbie like me, I did not realize it, so I thought we were heading for the open sea. Anyway, I was excited to melt into Ikenna’s arms.

He reached out to kiss me – you know; American style. Local girl like me, I blushed, avoiding his searching lips. “Come on honey,” he said, “You are in America now. When in America, you behave like Americans. Don’t be shy pretty girl; give your husband a kiss. I deserve it. I have been waiting for this moment since the last time I saw you,” he begged. Shyly, I let him plant his lips on mine. Then, he searched even further, wading into my mouth. I felt the wetness of his lips and tongue. I have to admit that I had been craving that for long. I looked around to see if anyone was watching – well, no one was. Everyone was minding their own business and there were other people doing the same thing, so I let go. Ikenna must have been doing this for long, I thought to myself. I still felt a little shy nonetheless, but as for him, he was going for it.

After the kiss, he hauled my bag to his car. “I hope you brought all the Nigerian food items I had mentioned to you?” he asked. “Yes, darling,” I replied, clutching his hand as we walked through the beautiful airport. I could not help but notice the impeccable state of the airport compared to the international airport in Lagos. I am in America now, finally! When we got home in Ikenna’s Toyota Sienna, he was quick to drop off the bags and pull me into the bedroom. We had a steaming session. Boy, we both needed it after a long while.

I began to settle into life in San Diego. Ikenna worked for a big Biotechnology company. He had already bought a second car, another Toyota Sienna for me before I arrived. Driving in America was scary. I failed the driving test several times. Slowly though, I managed to navigate around that, as well as learn the American way of life. I had to go back to school to study nursing. That was what everyone did, so I followed that path – a proven template for most immigrants in America. Then, I had my first child and then the second. It took me much longer to finish nursing school, but I eventually did it.

With each child I had, I packed on weight though. I gained so much weight that I began to go to the gym, but I could not stick to a steady regimen. Life was too busy. I had two children to juggle and then I had to study too. I would lose five pounds and then gain seven back. Slowly, Ikenna began to pay less attention to me. “Don’t you want to make love,” I’d ask him at night. “I am tired, honey,” he’d answer before crashing into bed. I would go shopping for a lingerie, just anything to get the passion back in our relationship, but not even that would make him look at me.

I knew I was overweight, but….it was so hard losing weight. I did not make myself like that; having a child places a crushing burden on the female body. I wanted to wake one morning only to notice that all the weight was gone, but that never really happened. I would stand in the mirror for hours, staring at myself and wishing that the weight was gone. I had to do something…something drastic, so I doubled my efforts in the gym. I pushed myself so hard and even got a personal trainer. Just as I began to lose the weight, I took in again. I was supposed to be happy, but I was crushed inside by sadness. To feel important, good looking and wanted again, I fought and argued with Ikenna until he made love to me. Momentarily, I felt like…I felt like I had got my man back. I felt as though he loved me again…wanted me. Well, should not have forced him into bed.

By the time I had our third child; it felt as though I lived in the same house with a stranger. He went from being cold towards me to being openly aggressive. I hung in there, working so hard to finish studying and lose the weight. As I labored, my husband grew further away from me. One day, I found out that he had been going on internet dating sites. I looked through his laptop. He denied it vehemently. I knew he was lying, but a part of me could not face the truth. I let it go. I’d cry myself to sleep whenever I was home alone. When I did manage to start working, life had lost its meaning. I just wanted to beg him to touch me; just touch me for a minute - make me feel important again; wanted. I tried all sorts of things, but none worked. There were times I thought of finding someone to sleep with, just to…you know feel like a woman once again. Well, I could not bring myself to do it. I prayed and hoped that Ikenna would somehow, come back to me. I prayed and begged God to intervene in our marriage.

Narrated by Chikaodi Okere (real name withheld) and written by Victor Chinoo.

STORY CONTINUES...
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: MY OWN STRENGTH - Episode 1
MY OWN STRENGTH - Episode 1
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - divorce, joking, Donald Trump, Jaguar, Trump Tower, I am the most beautiful girl in town, Queen Elizabeth, town, village, US Embassy, visa interview, California, America, San Diego, Toyota Sienna, weight.
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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