It was a familiar sunset, the kind that a beautiful house or a homestead gets to be seen from. This is the sunset that she woke up to in a Malibu beach house, her house it seemed. A house overlooking the ocean; not too big but more than enough, enough to contain her book shelf, her desk and her computer—the important things in her life now and beyond. It’s no longer Arinze, it’s no longer her parents. It was all going well, and it was not but here she is now; taking-in the scene, the sunset that seem so distant but enough to define that this was a better place. Enough savouring of the sunset already. Now, she’s on her computer, typing away, working on the manuscript for the final episode of her comedy series. And the main character of her story is an African-America female version of Charlie Sheen playing out a sequel of the comedy series, Two and a Half Men. Happiness serenaded her world, everything was okay. The email pop-up on her computer screen detailed the $5,000,000 pay out that concludes her deal with Netflix, another harbinger of happiness. “Alexa play Happier” – “playing Happier”; sounds, rhythm was so in her head and the chorus I want you to be happier was floating away like Marshmallow was in her head. She was singing along to it but it did not feel like her mouth was moving. She felt herself floating away to the rhythm and to a memory playing out like a dream, and she was starting to doze off.
She only dozes off when she gets to live in another world made up in her mind. Her name was Amanda and her fantasy wishes and dreams were what kept her sane. The past few months have given her a lot to ponder on and to decide. So, it was decided: ‘she is leaving Arinze’; she was not going to take this insolence from a man who was her second choice, and of course was not her soul mate. Many things have influenced her decision for the past ten years. The society, her family but none of those things are there now to guarantee her happiness. None of those things could have slapped Arinze senseless for the cruel naïve power he thought himself to possess and hold over her. Five years of marriage with no child was her fault; even though medical tests said otherwise. Those things can go ahead and tell her that Arinze’s affair with his assistant was equally her fault. But, while they do that they should know that she was done with all of it—she was ending the marriage. But moving back to her parents’ house frightened her, how will her parents react to this? ‘Okay, she decided, moving back home will have to be temporary, she would have to make life plan, but she will have to do that at her parents’ house.
Life Back Home with her Parents, her Mother
“Amanda, gbatueegwu ahu, lower that music down…Amanda!”
“Eeh!” the jolted Amanda answered as she turned down the volume of the CD player.
“Mummy ogini? What is it?” she asked her mother.
“Amanda staying here, sleeping, watching laughter movies and always playing music won’t solve your problem o, you should go back to Arinze; just go and pretend like nothing happened. In fact, if you have to beg him, beg him.”
“ Isi gini! What!”
“I said, go back to him,” her mother pronounced loudly again.
The shocked Amanda was looking at her mother wondering if aging has made her insane and foolish. She wondered if grabbing and shaking her would snap her out of this foolishly insane talk. But, this is her mother, and maybe she has forgotten the predicament that brought her back home. So, she will just remind her.
“Mummy, go back to who? Arinze that slept with his assistant, and not just that he slept with his assistant, he didn’t even respect me enough to keep it a secret…and what do you mean ‘beg him’? For what? Did I climb my assistant like a he-goat? Mummy, please! Leave me alone.”
“Amanda, you should be glad that he has not taken another wife to give him a child, eeh? You should be in that house now making sure that he doesn’t while trying to get pregnant…”
“What!” Amanda exclaimed, enraged. She understood that there had been a rift between her mother and her, in the years past, precisely after the incident; ‘the Nneoma incident,’ her mother used to call it. But for her to say this to her, does she hate her that much now? She asked herself. She felt like crying but she wouldn’t, not right now, she would not give her the satisfaction of being weak by crying, and be perceived as a naive child who has found yet another way to disappoint the family. She had been strong enough to bury her emotions from the day she left her matrimonial home, so she will soldier on. So, she will keep the promise she made to her self—‘no crying’.
“Amanda, you are not the only woman in Nigeria whose husband slept with his assistant, whose husband even has a mistress. If all the women in this country should start leaving their husbands just because they slept with another woman, then many women will be back in their parents’ house.”
Now, the enraged Amanda had heard enough. Rebuking her mother will end up with her feeling sorry, and with tears. So, she opted for the seemingly mildest and psychological way of maybe ending this seemingly cruel conversation with her mother—“So, Dad has slept with another woman,” Amanda said in a near whisper tone while avoiding her mother’s gaze.
“Isigini! What! Amanda, do not let me slap off your mouth,” her mother said as she hurriedly lifted herself from the sofa with her arms. Amanda who was now starting to regret her words was now thinking ‘here comes the slap’…the slap did not come; it was something else that came flying at her. “I know she is the one deceiving you again, continue with her and you will see where you will end up.”
Now, Amanda was confused, she was glad that she had not been slapped, but what was her mother talking about? There was no asking her because her last words were said as she stormed out of the sitting room. Amanda now realizing that what was flung at her which luckily did not hit her but landed on the sofa, was her phone. As she picked it up and pressed the button at bottom middle, the screen lit up and what her mother said now made sense; the missed call, the caller, the ‘she’. There was no time to have her thoughts linger on what has been said to her. It was time to make plans, further plan that will get her away from this sofa and get her started on a new life. So, she started dialing.
She went to sleep that night knowing that the final phase of her plan will unfold a week from that night. She was glad but not happy. She would have been happy if somehow her mother understood; it was her mother’s understanding that she had ever needed ever since her father was too invested in her brothers’ lives to care about what is happening in hers. And that was since the day she was born with female genitalia. It was like, to her father, nothing she does matters. The only thing or moment in her life that seemed to have mattered to him was everything that has to do with her marrying Arinze. Being back home has put her right back in those days of few sentences with him which is now conflated with a look of disappointment. So, she wished that somehow that her mother would cut her some slacks and make her peace with ‘the incident’. She imagined what she will think of the decision that she has made, her plan to reconnect with her soul mate. As she slept that night, she wished and hoped that her mother would still pick her calls after she would have told her not to think her kidnapped or abducted, that she was in America with Nneoma.
Life in America with Nneoma
“Amanda…Amanda…wake up,” a familiar voice called out. She felt something on her lips, a momentary brush on her nose, a hot air. Whatever it was gave her warmth. As she forced her eyes open, the image before her went from blurry to clarity. It was an oval smiling face with a pointed nose, light skin and brown eyes of Nneoma staring down at hers.
“Amy, I am sorry for waking you. I know you must be very tired, being jetlagged and all. But I prepared a special dinner for you, and I know you must be hungry, and the repetition of ‘chicken and chips’ while you were sleeping proves that you are indeed hungry,” Nneoma was now trying to feign a serious facial expression.
“I am sure I didn’t say that,” Amanda said smiling, but the furrowed brow and wide eyed expression on her face suggested that she was not too sure.
“Hahahaha, okay, you didn’t but you were muttering something when I came in. It was like you were dreaming and the expression on your face suggested it wasn’t a funny dream.”
Amanda sighed and said, “Well, it was fun till I started reliving the reality of my last days in Nigeria…that particular day with my mum, the day you called…,” Now she was drifting away, Nneoma could see it in her hollow eyes.
“Amy, you are here now, and everything is gonna be alright… Come on, let’s go and sit in front of the TV and eat, I queued up the last three seasons of your favourite show.”
“Two and a Half Men?”
“Yes, of course, I know that movie cracks you up like crazy”
“ Yeah, it crauucks miu ap, Americana,” Amanda was now laughing at her attempt to mimic Nneoma’s intonation.
Nneoma was also laughing; feeling proud of her successful attempt to make Amanda realize that all is well and will be well. Nneoma trying to mimic her was a sure way to know she was okay and will be okay. Now, that she was in America with her.
“Hahhaa…yeah, the movie cracks you up.”
“I actually watched some episodes that I downloaded before boarding the plane…with the WIFI there. It kind of kept my mind off my phobia for flying.”
“Hahaha…I guess that’s why you didn’t throw up…ohh…you are adorable; with your fears…”
Both their voices echoed in laughter as their eyes fixated on each other’s. “ Alexa, play ‘Adore You,’” Nneoma commanded the Robotic player on the nightstand beside the bed on which Amanda lay and she, Nneoma, seated beside her. Nneoma leaned-in and kissed her as if possessed by the melody and as if urged by Miley Cyrus’ voice resonating from the robotic player on the nightstand. She wasn’t alone in this feeling; Amanda’s lips held on to hers with her hands on Nneoma’s cheeks. They drifted away in the moment; just as they felt on the day of the incident, ten years ago. The day Amanda’s mother walked in on them kissing; the day that separated them. Now, they can have a go at what used to be; ‘what could have been’. They had always loved each other, but Amanda’s mother rebuked and demonized them for that love that day. It was the day that Amanda’s foreign Romantic books hidden behind the bookshelf in her room were discovered in an attempt to find out other so called filthy closed door engagements of hers. It was found and was burnt. It was that day that a dream of hers seemed to have died. That dream of one day writing and directing a romantic comedy with a black female character just like Charlie Sheen but would later fall in love with someone; maybe a male or female. It was the same day Arinze kissed her in school. It was the same day that didn’t give her enough time to choose Nneoma over Arinze. It was the day they graduated from secondary school. It was in the morning of that very day, that for the very first time, she noticed and savoured the beautiful sunset. The day she realized that her room in their two storey duplex in Enugu has a beautiful view as would have been described in the books that she read, and could have been as beautiful as the one she saw in the show, Two and a Half Men that aired every Friday on their DSTV cable; if only the house was situated on the beach. For Nneoma, it was the day she got to know that Amanda was bisexual, but her long term friendship with Amanda will give her an edge over Arinze. That day Amanda’s mother called her own mother and told her about the incident. It was the day she knew her mother’s love for her trumped many things. It was the day their aunty who lived in America told her mum about entering for American visa lottery. It was the day she last saw Amanda naked.
Chidi Ilukwe was born in Onitsha; a town in Anambra state, Nigeria. He is the last of 7 children. A graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University; he studied English Language and Literature. As an undergraduate, Chidi with some of his classmates compiled and published a collection of short stories titled ‘Rakes and Dustbins’. He is a freelance writer and a researcher who is looking to add journalism to the dream of ‘a versatile career’. He currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria.
Mobile Number: +2348036400586