Keeping Peace #6

Stephanie watched the doorknob move in the left direction and tensed.

Clement entered and she got up to welcome him. The diner had been prepared with her money as usual. She preferred providing the meal to giving up her earning. No matter how long the challenge would last, she’s ready to stand to face it without any qualms.

“Welcome, darling.”

No reply.

She collected his briefcase, placed it on the sofa and made to undo his tie as she used to.

But he swept her hands away, picked the briefcase and walked to the bedroom. She waited at the dining table and after an hour he walked to the television turned it on and sat to watch.

Stephanie sat by his side.

“You need to eat.”

No reply.

“Stop this drama, Clem. It won’t do us any good.”

No reply.

“We really need to talk,” she said.

“I’ll only talk to you when you place your March earning on my palm,”

“Hear me out first.”

“Everything had been moving on smoothly until you changed.”

“See, life doesn’t work that way. We’re partners in this union.”

“Where did you learn that? The last time I checked, this is Africa. Not the US. Here marriage is not a partnership. In this part of the world, the husband and wife are not equal. The husband is always the head and the wife is supposed to be under him, loyal and submissive..”

“Well, that sounds like the era of the savage and uncivilized. This is the twentieth century and we are learned and should be liberal.”

“Being learned doesn’t make the man the woman’s equal. Wake up.”

“Understanding, Tolerance, respect is all I need from you.”

“And so do I, Stephanie. I need those from you too. Desperately.”

Silent ensued.

” How will I make you understand that you’re stretching me beyond what is tolerable buy forcing all my earnings out of my grip every month. If you really love me, you were supposed to care about how I feel about certain things you do.”

“I believe so much in the adage which says that if you know what triggers dispute between you and someone, avoid it.”

Stephanie watched his eyes spark the fire and knew it’s either she gave in to his demand or give up the marriage. It was that serious and that realisation terrified her. But she was determined to fight for her right to the end.

“Okay.” She took his hand in hers. He didn’t resist.

“I have an idea.” She said and waited.

He kept silent.

“How do you see us opening a joint account?” He scowled, got up and went away.

Stephanie went into the bedroom and called Mrs Gelu to give her some update and ask for what to do next.

“Allow him some time to digest the evening dialogue. Remind him again about it in the morning.”

“Thank you ma.”

Stephanie heard a noise in the bedroom restroom and felt like the earth should open up and swallow her. He had been in the restroom the whole time she had been talking with her life coach, Mrs Gelu. She was sure he heard her. conversation but why didn’t he react.

“I’ll call you tomorrow.” She ended the call with a whisper and followed him. He entered the visitor’s room and locked the door.

That was very childish of him. Keeping malice was not her thing. Growing up she was nicknamed the ‘okay girl’ some called her Miss No Problem. As far as she was concerned, no one needed to apologise before being forgiven and no one needed to complain because she readily apologised. She didn’t like that side of her but she didn’t have any choice. That was one of the stuff she was made of.

It took a lot of effort to say no to her husband.

So when morning came and Clement didn’t listen to her, Mrs Gelu told her what to do.

“Do not bother him anymore. Your duty now is to be nice to him. Perform your duty as a wife but whatever you do do not give in. He’ll get over it.”

But John had already told Clement to do something drastic.

“If she can’t do what you say, then stop her from working.” he had said over the phone.

“How on earth will I ever do that?”

“Put her in a family way. Make her a mother. And then tell her you to want your kids to always have their mum around. She might even decide to stop work. Mothers hardly cope with banking jobs.”

Thanks, John. You’re such a handy friend.

“Everything will be fine. Go back. Be nice and do what I said. Within one year, she’ll be out of work and you’ll have your wife as humble as a Jesuit to his superior.”

Clement went home from work that day to be nice to Stephanie.