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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - post pictures on Facebook, gained too much weight, alimony and child support, children, Toyota Sienna, leave.

While all these were going on, I told everyone at home that all was well. I would post pictures on Facebook…sometimes older pictures of us, and friends back home would make comments like, ‘what a great life you have.’ ‘Awesome.’ ‘Remember me in your kingdom.’ They had no idea how sad, broken and worthless I was feeling at the time. Then, one evening, Ikenna returned from work and said to me, “Chikaodi, I don’t love you anymore!” The wheels came off the vehicle of my life. When he told me that he had met someone else, the knifing pain cut even deeper. I went to the gym and worked even harder. I ran up the stairs at work. I would weigh myself ten times a day, in a frantic and desperate effort to find out how much weight I had lost.

If I lose enough weight, he’d love me again, I assured myself. I begged Ikenna to love me again. “Please don’t do this to me,” I implored him. “What about our children? Don’t you think of them? What am I going to do without you?” I badgered him every night, stripped myself naked in an attempt to get him to fall for me again. I was willing to do anything. “What are you going to say to our families?” I asked him. “I don’t care! I am just trapped being with you, and I hate that. You have…you have gained too much weight. You are no longer attractive to me,” he said sharply. I burst into tears. He was not moved. He would get on his laptop and play Destiny computer game. Well, he did when I was around. At other times, he chatted with his girlfriend. One day, I looked through his computer and saw her picture.

I felt far more worthless afterwards. She was a younger, very beautiful white girl with toned body. Her sparkly eyes glazed with life. I wanted to go into our kitchen, cut my wrist and bleed to death.  Then, I thought of my children. I could not bear to watch someone else be their mother. I had to be there for them, so I ditched the suicide idea and continued to beg Ikenna. He said no to me, standing his ground. At this point, he felt pity for me. He told me that the alimony and child support would be enough to cater for me and the children. He was willing to do anything to be with that beautiful girl, and that was the part that hurt so much more.

One evening, I left work earlier on the premise that I was not feeling well. I lied to my boss. I drove to Ikenna’s office, parked my Toyota Sienna and waited. An hour later, I saw him leave the building. Then, she came out of a car that was parked near his Toyota Sienna. They melted into each other’s arms, and kissed passionately. If I had a gun and some guts, I would have wasted the two of them right there. When he came home, which was very late that night, instead of confronting him, I begged him. I had lost every ounce of my self-dignity. “Please forgive me everything I have done to you,” I pleaded with him. “I don’t love you anymore,” he shot back at me. “What have I done, Ikenna?” “Nothing, I just don’t love you.” “You brought me all the way from Nigeria only to dump me with three kids at this point? Please, don’t do this to us.” “I am leaving, Chikaodi. I am taking my things and leaving right now. I will talk to my lawyer. He will contact you later. I will pay for the children and for your upkeep. I have to leave. I am running mad living here.”

He proceeded to pick up his things. I held onto him, refusing to let go. Each item he placed in his luggage, I took out of the luggage and tossed in back into the room. This went on most of the night. The next night, he threatened to leave, but I won’t let him. I begged, and begged some more. I rolled on the floor and knelt down, asking him for mercy and love. When he left for work the next day, I called in sick. I sat in the living room crying. I could not even get my children ready for school and daycare, so I called their schools and daycare to tell them that they would not be in that day.

I sat forlornly on the couch, crying my heart out, unable to make breakfast for my children or myself. If I had any guts, I would have taken my life that morning. I would go to his laptop, look at the girl’s picture and cry even more. Then, I would sit on the bedroom floor and cry. “Mommy, why are you crying,” Oluebube, our first child asked me. She had heard me cry all morning. “It is okay, darling,” I lied to her. “So, daddy does not want us anymore?” I was shocked to hear her ask that question. “Where did you get that from?” I yelled at her. “I hear you begging daddy not to leave all the time, mommy,” she said wiping tears off my eyes. I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a peck.

“Daddy loves us,” I said trying to shield her from the situation. “No, he does not mommy. He keeps saying he is leaving. Mommy, if he wants to leave, let him leave,” she said boldly. I stared at her. “What?” I asked her. “My teacher said that when we beg people for something, they feel more…” she thought for a moment, scratching her head for the word. “Empowered!” she yelled, the word finally came back to her. I felt a storm of tears descend down my face. I wrapped my arms around Oluebube, holding her firmly as though I’d die if I left her. “God has spoken through you, my child. God has truly spoken to me through you,” I said crying profusely. Tears were dropping down her face too, but she was busy wiping tears off my face. “I hate to see you cry mommy. You get us ready for school, you pick us up from school, you cook for us, bath us, play with us, take us to sports, church and birthday parties. Daddy is never there. Stop crying mommy. If anything happens to you, what will my sisters and I do without you?”

Right there and then, I found my own strength….my own voice. Even though I was crying like a baby, a wave of peace swept through me on the inside. I wiped my tears, returned to the kitchen with Oluebube and made breakfast for them. I drew up a timetable for myself. I made sure to spend time with my children, work out and relax the best I could. When Ikenna returned from work that night, he was expecting me to beg him, as usual. I said nothing. I could see the look of surprise on his face. By morning I told him as he got ready to leave for work, “Feel free to leave, Ikenna.” He glanced at me. He was not sure what he had heard. “What did you say?” he asked. “I can’t force you to love me, Ikenna. It will hurt, but I am fine with it now. If you want to leave, you are free to go.” He stared sharply at me before leaving for work. When he returned that night, he said very little to me. I played happily with the children ignoring him completely.

Three days later, I saw him pick his things. He placed them in the car, walked up to me in the kitchen and said, “I will make sure you never lack anything.” “Whatever you do, I am fine. My life does not depend on you. I hope you do your part for your children, but if I have to die protecting and catering for them, then, I’d happily do that,” I replied. Shock was scribbled all over his face. He left, slowly. As he walked out of the house, he looked back, expecting me to run after him. No, I had learned my lesson – you cannot force anyone to love you. He got in his car and drove off. I cried a little…just a bit, but that was it. I asked God for strength and he provided it. I began to work out even more, and with the peace of mind I had found, I was losing weight rapidly. Seriously, the weight was falling off my body like water dropping off granite rocks. I felt beautiful again; worthy!

Five months later, I found Ikenna at my door. He looked remorseful. “Can I come in?” he asked. “Yes, of course.” “I came to ask for your forgiveness, Chikaodi,” he said in tears when we entered the house. I had done a night shift the previous night, so I was yet to jump into bed after dropping off the children at school. “What brought you to this conclusion that you had to come and ask my forgiveness?” “I am not just asking for your forgiveness, Chikaodi, I am asking you to please take me back. I want you back…I want the children back. I…I have not…been able to sleep in peace ever since I left. The strength that you exuded when I was leaving and the way you have carried yourself afterwards have left me in chaos. I had to…I had to sit back and ask myself what on earth I was doing.

“I am genuinely sorry. I have stopped by a few times, watching you and the children from a distance. I wondered if you had found another man, perhaps that was why you decided to let me go, but I found no man. I am…I am in awe of how you have carried yourself, so I began to think of…to think of what I loved about you from the beginning. I have to look beyond everything and fall in love with you all over again. Please forgive me, Chikaodi. I did not know what I was doing. I was infatuated with that girl and the more you begged and groveled, the more I wanted her. When you let go, I could hardly carry on. You began to take a new meaning in my life. I wondered if I was doing the right thing.”

I could not believe my ears. I cried…out of joy! I did forgive Ikenna but with conditions. We had to make new rules to live by for our marriage. He had to go for a battery of tests first and we stayed away from sexual contact for eight months. Yes, I had to make sure that he was safe for me and my children. Then, he had to get more involved in the lives of his children and most of all, in mine. Slowly, we learned how to be a family all over again. We are still learning, but we have come a long way. We laugh, cry, play and bond – we are on the same team now. We keep our computers in an open place where everyone can see them and he is not allowed to sneak around with his laptop.

When you think you are down and out, there is one more fight left in you. If you can - most of the time, we all can even though it looks like we can’t – get back on your knees and channel your inner strength and reawaken your self-dignity. Everything could be taken away from you by force, but not your dignity, unless you give it away. When all else is lost, it is the foundation from which you can start anew. I hope my story inspires millions of struggling women to find their strength and voice through self-dignity.

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


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