The silence that enveloped the room was long enough for everyone to look into each other’s faces. Oluchi broke the silence by introducing her mother, Mrs Nkem and the two other men as her uncles. Aduke wore a very straight face. She made up her mind not to be intimidated by the entourage. Even in his death, she still remained James’s wife. “Thank you very much sirs and ma. I suppose you came on a condolence visit. Unfortunately the condolence register was closed at 6pm”, she intentionally softened her voice. “We are not just here on a condolence visit, we are here to introduce to you a member of your family”, Mrs Nkem raised her voice in response. “Madam, if you cannot respect the dead you must respect the living. How dare you introduce my husband’s son by another woman as a member of my family? A little respect for yourself and your brothers will definitely be in order.” Aduke’s inflexions made her words heavy . Pa Mathew, Oluchi’s uncle looked up and said, “You call the boy, Emeka, your husband’s son…but you say he is not a member of your family? I hope your bereavement has not brought upon you a sickness of some sort.” Aduke, irked by the words of Pa Mathew, took the flight of stairs shouting “Stephanie, Stephanie..” , When Stephanie stepped out to meet her, she handed over her grandson to her. She opened the door to her room, and headed to her late husband’s personal cupboard. She pulled open the cupboard and retrieved her husband’s favorite shotgun. “Weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”, she muttered under her breath. “This is a carnal weapon that will be used for simple gates that are presented as strongholds.” She pushed Stephanie aside and quickly exits the room onto the staircase before Stephanie raises alarm to alert her husband, Sola, who was fast asleep.
Aduke’s feet hit the floor of the sitting room like the thud of a wild beast. Every one sitted person jumped up when they saw the gun in her hands. She pointed the gun in Mrs Nkem and the other two men’s direction. “I am prepared to give any of you three a state burial alongside my husband, but I’ll count from one to five first.” Oluchi grabbed her son, Emeka, and Mrs Nkem exclaimed in Ibo language “This woman must be mad”. “Four….”, Aduke found the cock of the gun and pulled it. Oluchi’s two uncles took brisk steps towards the exit and called out to Mrs Nkem in Ibo language to follow them immediately. Oluchi made a move to follow them but Aduke insisted that she stayed. The wooden shotgun in Aduke’s hands traced the trajectory of brisk movement of the visitors across the sitting room until they found the main door without much questioning. “Sola lock my doors…and instruct the gateman to ensure nobody enters into this compound again”, she winked at Sola who had been standing beside her for a while. Sola knew his mother better than anyone in the room that day; he knew she was not going to shoot.
“If your mother points a knife at you, must you charge towards the knife?”, Aduke said to Oluchi with a snarl on her face. “The fact that I tolerated you all these years does not mean I’m a fool. My husband strayed into your laps, and Emeka was the result, but I did not cease from being his wife, neither did my children loose the paternity of their father. If I accord you any respect, it is not that you deserve it. It is because my husband once layed his head on your breasts.” Oluchi looked away from Aduke who spoke continuously for almost thirty minutes. Memories of her affair with James flooded her mind. “I know you do not have a husband. You do not have a man to call your own, but if ever you have one, one who raids the streets in search of weak women, I hope you can stand like me, Oluchi”. Tears rolled down Aduke’s cheeks as she recounted how she had fought her friends who insisted that she divorce James because of numerous illicit affairs he had outside marriage.. Sola and Stephanie looked on in awe as Oluchi grabbed her son by the arms and knelt before Aduke and saying “Here, have him. “, she put Emeka’s hands into Aduke’s hands. “I may have given birth to him, but from today I hand him over to you. Do to him, as you would do to your son”. Aduke wiped her tears and looked away while Oluchi held on to her hands and locked Emeka’s hands in her palm. “I never intended to destroy your home. I did not know any other man that could make a home with me. Please forgive me. It’s been twenty two years now.”
The only sound in the sitting room was from the ticking clock. It was ten o’clock in the evening and the night looked like it had just begun. After several minutes of dead silence, Aduke looked down at Oluchi and said. “I forgive you Oluchi, but I’m sorry your son cannot be my son. He is my husband’s son, and its better we ended the story on that note.” She pulled up Oluchi and Emeka from their kneeling position and extended her arms to hug both mother and son. “Emeka, you are always welcome in this house”, she said while looking into Emeka’s eyes. Stephanie’s red eyes eventually gave way to the tears she had kept back since the episode of a new family member began. It was an extremely emotional moment for her. She knew there was a lot more to the story than the little her mother in-law had spewed out. She offered to prepare the guest room for Emeka and his mom, and she looked forward to hearing the rest of the story from her mother in-law. Sola, graciously, accepted her offer to sleep with his mother in the master bedroom. It would be the beginning of a long night and many stories. Aduke needed to speak and heal.