BY ABIOSE A. ADAMS
Iwa was bombastic and threw tantrums. Sheri was mid-way bombastic, but with a charm. Adeiwa’s charm was that she was made of cartilages and not bones.
It was 11 am and I was at Sheri’s room that Saturday. She was plaiting the hair of her three-year-old daughter— Chelsea. Sheri had invited me to her house so she could introduce me to her eldest sister, Iwa. She had told me her sister was very powerful and connected having worked at the bank for many years. I was excited at the prospect because I needed a job badly to take care of myself and to provide a worthy future for my unborn child. But the caveat was: Don’t reveal to her you are pregnant! Sheri whispered. As she tucked the hair strands into one, I looked at Chelsea with admiration. She wore a stethoscope around her neck and carried a doll in her arms. Her eyes were full of curiosity and such purity that made me wish I could transform into a child again. She locked her tender fingers in mine, as though she had known me all her life, telling me she would be a doctor.
‘Certainly,’ I smiled at her, taking a glance around the room which was cluttered with many suitcases.
“Meet my second elder sister, Adeiwa. Sheri introduced another lady who later joined us in the room.
“Pleased to meet you,” I said.
But before she could reply, she picked up a novel from her bed and continued reading from where she stopped. I spied the cover. It was one of those bestselling romance authors. For a moment she seemed to have escaped into the ‘romance’ world in the book when she suddenly realized she hadn’t replied to my greeting.
“…oh pleased to meet you too….”
“What’s the name?”
“Cool…do you want some water?”
I took a prolonged look at her. She looked sad and saddled with problems. She wore her hair in cornrows which had become unkempt. Her belly seemed bigger than the size of a volleyball and I could bet that it wasn’t because she had overeaten.
“Yes, thank you,” I answered.
When she stepped out, Sheri quickly whispered to me that Adeiwa’s husband had been hitting her, and she had endured until her eldest sister, Iwa plucked her out of his house. I looked around the room again and I understood why everywhere seemed to be littered with baggage, fragile ceramic plates, sets of teacups, boxes of children’s clothes. She was 30 years old and she had changed two husbands and was pushed to seek a second divorce. At 30, she had had two children and was expecting a third one. She served the glass of water and escaped into her books again.
Iwa must be powerful indeed to have plucked her sister out of her matrimony. I wished I had an elder sister that could pluck me out from guys like Tunbi.
Although they all lived in the same flat of three rooms, I was told Iwa was someone seen by appointment. She was a manager in charge of three bank branches. She came across as someone whose dedication to work was to prove a point- that she needed no man. Success should be by merit, not by indebtedness. She doesn’t cook but often ate out. She had a personal maid and a driver who took care of things for her. That was the kind of woman I wanted to become too. I had not met her, but I admired her.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and Adeiwa’s children played with reckless abandon. They had no care in this world. I wished I could be like them too— without care. Sheri and I watched a movie on her laptop when suddenly we noticed Adeiwa rushed out of the room.
“Aunt Iwa is awake,” Sheri said.
And then we started hearing bickering.
Sheri apologized to me for the bickering. It was the usual quarrel and power tussle between Iwa and her 45-year old brother who teaches at a nursery school.
I could hear their voices filtering into the room:
“You…….your name is just Iwalewa, there is no single beauty in you… if you ever talk to my wife like that again… I will remind you what it is like not to have a husband to crown your head.”
“If I am looking for a crown, it will never be a crown like yours…useless, frustrated…”
Then I heard the lamentations of Sheri’s mother, a 78-year-old widow defending her daughter to her son. Sheri told me her mother was partly responsible for Iwa’s singlehood at 43.
“Can you imagine… my 43-year-old sister still shares the same bed with my mom. Mother would scrutinize any suitor that she brings, this is not good…. that is not good,…her mother always says.
House 44 was a family house of four flats in Lagos Island. But they had tenants who always owed rent. So the household income was very thin. Iwa had the most stable job, so by default, had the most money to run home affairs; and by default was the breadwinner, and by default terrorized tenants defaulting in their rent payment. This riled the older brother, whose wife also lived with him in the house.
While Sheri gossiped with her sister, Charles’ call came in; and in no minutes, both of us followed the back staircase to meet him downstairs. He drove us out and when we returned, it was around 8 pm.
Iwa waited for us to get into the room first, after which she flung open our door, shooed the children quiet, and commanded them to go have dinner with their grandma in the sitting room.
“Good evening ma,” I stood up to greet. I even curtsied to the highly revered aunty Iwa, but she ignored me.
“Sheri! Sheri! Come here,… haven’t I told you, I don’t want to see Charles near this house again?” Sheri was about to answer when she barked again.
“I introduced Charles to you. How dare you flaunt him in my face. I don’t want to see that traitor here anymore. And that’s final,” she yelled.
“I’m sorry dear sis….Charles and I are only friends…nothing else.”
“You must be crazy,” she fumed… She was fair in complexion and almost had a pretty face. She and Adeiwa looked more like sisters than Sheri.
“Charles…that idiot himself admitted he loves you. He even posted it on his Facebook status. Don’t insult my intelligence!”
“…in that case, I love Charles too.”
“How dare you?” She clenched her teeth and slapped Sheri.
Sheri held her face in her hands.
She stood there watching Sheri’s action. “That’s for crossing your boundary!” She left slamming the door.
I was speechless.
Adeiwa rushed to hold Sheri, massaging her shoulders. “No matter what she is your older sister. Give her the respect she deserves…,” she said.
“At this rate…she is about to lose all respect I have for her…”
“You know that’s how sister is…she likes to dictate what happens in everybody’s life.”
“I, Sheri Yewande, will not allow her to control me…never.”
For the rest of the evening, Sheri and Adeiwa asked me to judge if Charles was a traitor as Iwa had labelled him, or not.
He was a colleague of Iwa and had taken Iwa on a couple of dates. He had lied about his real age until one day Iwa discovered that she was seven years older than him. She broke up with him on that account, vowing she can’t marry a younger man. But Charles didn’t look too far away. He fell for Sheri’s mouth and charm and that made Iwa’s blood boil.
Rather than give them an answer, I realized there were people with bigger problems than mine. My problems suddenly shriveled, and the assistance I was seeking from her no longer mattered.
Iwa liked to control everybody. She controlled her sisters’ relationships, her older brother, her sister-in-law, and even her mother. Not because she had money and connection, which could be a prerequisite for power toxicity, but it was a counteraction to how she had been controlled in the past and how she had lost control of her emotions too.
Before we slept that night, Sheri read her case files and read her law notes to interpret them. While Adeiwa read her romance novels. We heard Aunt Iwa reading the Holy Bible. Sheri slept on the left side of the room with her daughter- Chelsea, while Adeiwa was on the right corner with two of her children. I slept on a rubber mattress on the floor, with my child in my womb. Everyone carried their cares on their chest: Adeiwa— seeking a divorce, Sheri— seeking marriage; the children, seeking nothing. And I….. not yet sure what I want— maybe independence, maybe vindication, maybe self-actualization, but definitely not marriage!
(To be continued)
You can read the last edition HERE
“Unapologetically Shewa” is a story of Shewa and Sheri. Both of them are single mothers who live in a society which judges them. While Sheri keeps seeking where and what to hide behind, Shewa decides to stop hiding or withering under the condescending glare of society. She was ready to shed no more tears, but shed off the scales of self-judgement and begin a journey of self-actualization. Coming against societal norms, will she change the norms or the norms will change her?
Abiose A. Adams, a journalist, creative writer, and senior programme officer at Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation, can be reached on [email protected]
Author’s Disclaimer: This story is purely a work of fiction. Any coincidence of the characters with real persons is highly regretted.
Photo credit: Dreamstime.com
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