Adeyinka raised her head from between her cradled arms and pushed herself off her mat. I could hear her shuffling her feet against the clay ground.
“Moremi?” she called.
“Moremi, the boy is fine. Stop sulking.”
I knew. I knew my boy was fine.
“Your husband,” she said as she trudged towards me, “you know he’ll come when he hears the news.”
Yes, I knew. I knew my stiff-necked adulator of a husband would come back when he heard that his child narrowly escaped abduction. What good father wouldn’t?
“Moremi,” she muttered, “you don’t have to talk to me. You don’t have to talk to the Ooni. You don’t have to talk to anybody, ko buru. But you will talk to your husband when he comes.”
“Adeyinka,” I warned.
“What does that one mean now?” she snapped, “What will people say!” she raised her voice, “A whole Ife prince— being avoided for only God knows how long by his own wife! How long has it been! Has your husband even seen Ela since he started to talk? Can your dear son recognize his own father? What kind of woman—”
“Leave me.” I interrupted, kicking my feet against the ground.
“What kind of woman throws her husband out of the marital house! His own house! You’ve kept him from seeing his own child!”
“What you are doing—what you’ve been doing is so wicked!” she screamed.
My blood was boiling.
“Remember Orayan’s first journey to Benin,” I muttered, “Remember how I begged him to stay, and in the face of his stubbornness begged to go with him?” she rolled her eyes, “No, remember how long I waited for him to come back?” I snapped, getting up from where I was sitting. “ Remember that he left me pregnant,” my tears ran down my cheek in a furious haste, “and up until I gave birth to Ela, and my husband was not here,” I wiped my left eye, “and then I was a nursing mother with a heavy new-born son on my back, and all these Ife men perching on me like a lonely worm in the grass. But it was fine.” I smiled, wiping my other eye, “because like I was told, I carried my child on my back, I chased all those men away, and I waited here for Orayan to come home. I prayed for him to come home. Like a good woman—like a good wife. Not wicked. Quiet.
Then he came back, Adeyinka, with the full entourage that had followed him initially—and some extras. Do you remember that I was carrying Ela on my hip as I walked into the courtyard? Remember that we saw a large woman there, between the men, talking loudly through her thunderstorm of a voice? Remember how she thrust her baby higher onto her hip? I was so excited—another baby, I wouldn’t be the only nursing woman in the palace anymore. I almost ran towards her, partly because she was standing right next to my husband and his men.”
Adeyinka looked away from me.
“Remember that we watched this woman pull her baby from between her curves, hand the child over to my husband? Do you remember how confused we were?”
“Moremi” Adeyinka muttered.
“And you remember that the excitement of seeing my husband again, kept me running towards him? Remember how I also pushed Ela up on my waist and ran to my husband with our son. I barely greeted the men, I barely greeted the visitors. I nearly tripped over my own feet.”
“I remember,” she responded.
“So then you remember that as I arrived at his hip, Orayan turned to his brother with the biggest smile plastered on his face, and he said—do you remember what he said?”
“Moremi it’s okay”
“I was so sure he was going to ask where I was. He hadn’t seen me yet. I was going to tap him and show him our child.”
“And then he said to his brother—?”
“You think I’m angry!” I screamed, squeezing on my stomach, “Because of what? Yes—my husband distastefully brought another woman into our marriage, and announced that she’d had his baby, while I sat here waiting for him to come home,” I laughed, “But I’m not angry because that’s alright!” I shouted again, thrusting myself onto my feet, “Orayan can bring as many of his women, and as many of his children here—without asking, or even mentioning it to his wife first! That’s no reason to be angry?”
“Moremi stop talking like you don’t know how things work. The man is free to do what he wants. He can have as many—he can even marry as many as he wants. Be happy he didn’t bring her in as the junior wife! He’s a good man, and you are shaming yourself by shunning him like this!”
“The shame is all his,” I screamed, “because he knows the promises he made to me! He knows the things he said to me in confidence. So the shame is his for dishonouring his word. And the shame is his for pridefully announcing his dishonour in the palace of Ife. Why should I own his shame?”
“Because such is the plight of a woman!” Adeyinka screamed.