It’s been three days since John died; a week now since Frances’ life changed. The change was in the probing eyes of some of her church members in Faith Assembly Church. It was in the silent whispers of her co-workers in UCH. The change was in the midnight sobs of her lonely, now cherished, closet. The change brought a fresh wave of clarity about human frailties and weaknesses. It was now in her heart and in her prayers. It was now in her songs and in her firm commitment to do her bit and leave the rest to God. It was in the way she sees her husband too now. From his drunken adventures to his late night arrivals, the change made her think less of his acts and more about what brought him here. The change sought reprieve and understanding; it sought to make sense of her accidental marriage and religious naivety, to think less about it and pursue the way forward. The change pitched paper clips around strategic places in the house with assuring words of love, hope and faith from the scriptures. The change resisted the subtle voice of her intellect and the failing strength of her emotions. The change said, if you can make sense of a stranger’s troubles, you can make sense of your husband’s deliverance. The change made her want to fight for her man.
But the change was going to be tried again.
Frances woke up this fateful morning from the slight, soft kiss of the early sunlight on her exposed skin. She stood up to draw her curtains when a knock jolted her. “Yes, come in,” She responded. It had to be her husband, no one stays with them. No one came home with him last night.
“Hey baby,” Alabi’s voice had the cadence of a bard on a romantic adventure. Frances looked at him, bewildered, just to be sure she heard right. This was the first time her husband will be speaking to her directly in over six months and to start the conversation in such squashy tone made her suspect something fishy. She was right.
“Can I talk to you for some minutes, please?” Alabi wasn’t only asking with his lips, his face was equally doing the pleading. Frances wanted to say no. She wanted to mock his overture this morning. She wanted to express a scornful shock that he still remembered she existed. She wanted…. But she stilled her mind by reminding herself, in the words of Pastor Ben’s message seven weeks back, that she died. She sat down on her bed, while he knelt before her. Her eyes popped up, beaming so much surprise, but she recovered quickly to keep her cool.
“Frances, I am sorry for everything.” Alabi was proud of how that came out. It had in it every sincerity and penitence he meant to pass across. “I had stood before the mirror this morning, rehearsing how this would go, how this should go. I had tried to blame you for everything when I was the mess all by myself. Frances, could you find a place in your heart to forgive me?” Frances was shocked. She had changed since John died. Yes, something had changed within her. She had earnestly, tearfully, prayed for his change too, but she never expected it to be this sudden, this swift. She nodded, she wanted to hear more.
“Frances, my world changed last night.” He looked into her eyes and carefully chose his words after that. “I had this chic I got a little entangled with some months back, and I got her pregnant. I had tried to deny it, but she was stubborn and adamant. It was partly one of the reasons I have been distant for almost seven months now. Well, a very minute one though…. She gave birth last night. I was there. I was at the hospital with her. I am sorry, dear… I—I never meant to hurt you.” Oh sure, you didn’t. Frances felt like screaming in to his ears, even Cain never meant to kill Abel. Something was boiling on her inside.
He continued, picking his words with passion, with flair, with a touch of contrition. “For the first time in my life, it dawned on me that I am no longer just another guy out there. My life has changed. Everything is now different. I know it’s crazy, but I need you to trust me. I was in tears last night when I had that baby in my hands. The thought of being a father overwhelmed me and I can only think of becoming a responsible man now. I haven’t been able to sleep all night. Frances, I need you to believe me. I am ready to go to church, to see your pastor. I am willing to start afresh, prove to you that there was humanity in me even before I hypocritically joined the fellowship to woo you. Something has snapped within me, and I am willing to give God and us a chance. I only ask that you give my child a chance in our home too.” The seriousness of his rehearsed speech wasn’t lost on Frances. She could tell something had happened to him. What she wasn’t sure of was if it was real; if it was final; if it had depth. She knew true change must be rooted in something the heart can relate with, maybe this had a heart, but sounding this emotional? Alabi? She wasn’t sure. Where would she start from? What happens to their marriage now? What about the mother of the baby? Where did they meet? What happens to her? What would she want? Frances’ mind was swirling with unending questions that threatened her sanity.
“Just go, please…. Leave me alone.” She was struggling between her change and her man. She was trying to connect her hope with his bombshell. She closed her eyes for some minutes, clinched her fists painfully, and her skin began to pore sweats uncontrollably. “Get out, Alabi. I said, get out!” This time she screamed with deep-seated, passionate venom only a woman scorned can understand. Alabi stood up, took few steps backward but imploringly managed to say before leaving, “Trust me Asake, I am a changed man.”
Frances was in tears now. She wasn’t sure if this was the kind of change she had envisioned. She wasn’t sure if calling her oriki had somewhat melted her heart just like the old times. She wasn’t sure if her change was important anymore. Frances sobbed increasingly, gasping through the tightness gripping her heart, even as the raw tears jostle to mix with the heavy mucus streaming through her nostrils. It was clear now. This change was going to be a long and dark walk, with parched days and sticky nights. This change was going to be riddled with sudden violent storms, with fierce, splattered rains on the roof of hope. This change was going to have high-heeled doubts and foggy vision of faith. This change, whatever it transmuted into, if allowed to subsist, was going to change her forever. She wasn’t sure if this change had foolishness written all over it. Perhaps this was the ultimate test of her commitment.
The change, this past week, this past three days, made her pray again.