Story-telling

Ghost

DE0DA420-F26C-4941-8784-1E73CE6008CF.pngLacey shivered in delight when Daniel wrapped her in the warmth of his embrace. The fall air had grown brisk and her light cardigan did little to guard her against the chill. She could feel her very soul exhale as her body melted against him.

It feels good to be loved.

After six years, eleven months and three days of dating one guy after another,she finally found her soul mate. Daniel had been a casual acquaintance for decades. A familiar face that was always polite but never entered her orbit as anything more than a big brother type figure. He was five years older after all. They certainly did not have anything in common during her school years. He was eons ahead of her, practically a grown man as a college freshman while she was navigating the joys and sorrows of being a preteen.

When they met up at a mutual friend’s New Year’s Eve party, the sparks caught her off guard. Suddenly good ole Daniel felt less like a big brother and more like the answer to the prayer she had been too afraid to speak outloud. Lacey was ready for love in the New Year and Daniel fit her list of prerequisites to a T. It had been almost ten months and they were wholly inseparable. Forever was close enough to grasp in Lacey’s eyes.

~

Lacey considered Daniel her rainbow after the storm. Her last serious relationship was on-again and off again for five years. Rahim had been her boyfriend in every sense of the word except a title. They were inseparable but he would not make it official. “What’s understood does not need to be defined,” his favorite response when she pressed him to make their relationship exclusive. So for the years they were together, she was faithful – only entertaining  other guys when her and Rahim were broken up – or in Rahim-speak “need to take time to think some things over.”  Rahim on the other hand kept more than one relationship within arms reach at all times, often telling her about his latest or even current companion, dismissing some as nothing more than flings and glorifying others as the prototype for womanhood.

You can’t be broken up if you were not “together.”  Lacey felt initially that Rahim was a drug she could not do without. No matter how many times they went their separate ways, if he called she answered. During their breaks, she would find herself with one guy or another, sometimes even in monogamous relationship yet still Rahim was orbiting in her space. She always knew when he was in a serious relationship or just hanging out with someone new. They conversed regularly even when he was committed to someone else.

“We are friends aren’t we?” He would chide her whenever she mentioned the inappropriateness of their conversations while he was in relationship with someone else. The words “my girlfriend” always felt like a dagger to the heart. Rahim has never once used that term in reference to Lacey, only with the women that came after her.

After her twenty-first birthday and looking at college graduation, Lacey began evaluating her relationship. She made a list of the pros and cons of her connection to Rahim. Pros – they had great chemistry. Rahim made her laugh and when they were together, the whole world fades away. Cons – he wouldn’t commit, he made her feel insecure and not good enough for commitment, he compared her to other women, he always came back in her life when things were stable and upend them, he interrupted her attempts at relationships with other men. On and on it went until the “cons” column was completely full. Lacey’s heart hammered at the thought of a life without Rahim.

She changed her number and deleted all of her social media to make a clean break for Rahim. She deserved love and Rahim was keeping her from it.

~

When Daniel proposed on her birthday the following month, the answer was a no-brainer. Spend the rest of her life with the man who has loved for best? Absolutely. Lacey wore her ring proudly, texting pictures of their private engagement to all of her friends and family. Her parents were surprised. They knew Daniel. He was a perfectly nice young man. The parental concern that debated whether he should have asked Lacey’s dad for her hand was quickly dismissed as old-fashioned by their only child. No one does that anymore. Besides, he wanted to keep it a surprise and just between the two of them.

Lacey floated into the new year on the wings of love. They had decided on a short engagement. Six months and not a day over. A spring wedding in the new year would be the perfect way to start their life together. Their anniversary was coming up, New Year’s Eve. Lacey and Daniel decided to make it a night to remember. He made reservations at the grandest hotel in the city. They would bring in the New Year on the rooftop with friends before retreating for a private celebration. Lacey’s head was swimming with possibilities. They hadn’t consummated their relationship – she was not ready and he didn’t push, but Lacey contemplated if their anniversary was the perfect night to give her future husband the gift of herself. They were practically married – and she needed to get over her apprehension regarding intimacy. The few times she had gotten close enough to consider sex with a partner, the awkwardness of it all had a chilling effect on all thoughts of getting hot and heavy. But things with Daniel had never been awkward – and their chemistry was palpable. If it would work with anyone it would be Daniel.

When the ball dropped in the middle of downtown, Lacey and Daniel shared a kiss that singed her senses. Her pulse hammered in her throat. Absolutely. Tonight.

Giddy with anticipation, Lacey floated around the room, doling out hugs and pecks to friends and acquaintances in the room. She left Daniel on the balcony as she chatted briefly with a college friend. Tyler was trying to get in contact with her old roommate – they dated ever so briefly in college and the new year had him trying to get that old thing back. Lacey texted her friend to get the okay before forwarding the number to Tyler. After a quick hug and pleasantries, Lacey was ready to get back to her man.

She scanned the balcony for Daniel’s familiar figure. Nothing

”Babe, where did you go?” She texted, brows furrowed. The message was opened but not replied.

Odd. Very odd. In their entire year together, Daniel has never once ignored a message from her.

“Babe, I’m worried. Call me!” She messaged again.

He read it at 12:36am.

12:45 almost ten minutes later and still, nothing.

She called him. It rang without interruption and went to voicemail.

”Babe, where are you? Are you okay? Call me! Please!”

Her first frantic message giving way to three more over the course of the next two hours. She probably called fifteen times. His phone wasn’t dead because it rang each time before going to voicemail. Anxiety turned to alarm which turned to panic. After asking everyone present and calling all mutual friends, Lacey gave up. Maybe he had too much to drink and was sleeping it off elsewhere. Maybe he lost his phone. She told herself not to worry. Daniel was smart and strong. He wouldn’t do anything foolish and he could take care of himself.

When 3am came and went, Lacey checked into their room alone and slept terribly. She was up at six and began trying his phone again. No response. Her friends also called him with no luck.

“Lord, please keep him safe,” she prayed between tears of anguish.

As hours turned into days, Lacey began calling Daniel’s family – they needed to know he was missing.

“Hi, Mrs. Pierce, it’s Lacey. I don’t want to alarm you but nobody has heard from Daniel since New Year’s Eve,” Lacey revealed carefully. She wanted to be sensitive but couldn’t afford to mince words. It’s been almost a week!

”Hey baby? You looking for Daniel? Sugar he’s right here! He drove in and surprised us for the New Year,” Daniel’s mom explained with a laugh.

He was at his parents? He drove from Maryland to Maine without so much as a text?! Was he insane?!

Worry quickly turned to fury as Lacey made the calculations. For all the hours she was calling and worrying on their anniversary, he was driving? While she was sleeping badly and alone in what should have been their magical night together, he was on his way to see his parents?

Lacey gave her best performance at nonchalance and ended the call with Daniel’s mom. Her fiancé was in for a world class fight whenever he decided to call her back.

When the week stretched into two weeks, Lacey’s anger began dissipating into worry and something else she couldn’t identify…dread perhaps.

Daniel was acting very out of character. There was still no calls and no replies to her texts. Maybe he was getting cold feet about the wedding? They had less than five months to plan their wedding now. Maybe he changed his mind about a short engagement.

When two weeks became almost a month, Lacey had carved out a new normal. She would call Daniel once in the morning to say hello to his voicemail and leave one text message in the afternoon. The man of her dreams was going through some sort of personal crisis. Until he was able to verbalize his struggles, it was up to her to ensure that he knew she had not abandoned him.

As their wedding date drew closer, Lacey retreated into herself. Thankfully they had not sent out engagement announcements or invitations so nobody knew her and Daniels timeline but for the two of them. Despite that saving grace, she did not want to answer questions about Daniel’s whereabouts from curious loved ones. None of her friends or family had seen him since the infamsous New Year’s Eve party. The less they saw of her, the less they would have to speculate about.

When she called Daniel’s number this time…it had been disconnected. A mixture of panic and relief washed over her. She wasn’t strong enough to stop going through the motions of reaching out to him. As long as his voicemail accepted her messages, there was hope that he would call back and they could fix what was broken. That hope was the most agonizing part of her ordeal. It taunted her relentlessly.

“You’re not gonna give up on him that easily are you? What happened to love? What about “for better or worse?” You were about to marry this man!”

Her thoughts haunted her relentlessly and kept her tied to the phone. Calling and texting daily with no response as only a deranged stalker would.

As her would-be wedding date drew nearer, Lacey came to terms with her situation. Over the last months, she had lost almost fifteen pounds from an already thin frame, she lost all interest in anything  social and did the bare minimum not to get fired at her job. She did not respond to friends and had stopped visiting family. Her imaginary relationship with Daniel was a parasite that was leeching her dry. It was time to let him go.

As a symbolic release, Lacey changed her Facebook status to single. Her new relationship status had one like – Danielle, Daniel’s younger sister.

Lacey’s heart contracted painfully at the slight. Before she could stop herself, Lacey found  her eyes roving over Danielle’s page for signs of Daniel. Her eyes immediately fastened on the large cover photo of Daniel and his entire family. Lacey recognized Daniel’s parents and his sister but the one unfamiliar face in the photo was a brunette with grey eyes standing between Danielle and her beloved brother. She knew before she read the caption.

“My brother and my new sister on their wedding day.”

The date was also familiar. May 1st, 2015, Five-one-fifteen. Like they always planned. Daniel was an apparition, a friendly ghost that haunted her life and gave her the best year of her life only to go to his eternal rest in the arms of another woman.

‘Love’ was a joke.

 

 

 

Story-telling

Imposter

C9882D34-E7C7-4DF8-8E48-98B84BD18C6C.pngMy life was perfect. The love of my life and I had been married for 5 years, together for 15 (college sweethearts). We had our beautiful twin girls, conceived naturally and born with no issues at 38 weeks. I was literally living my dream. My husband had just bought me my second dream car. We were making more money than we knew what to do with. My consulting business was taking off so much I had to close my law practice. My husband had opened his second clinic and was overseeing our family owned cleaning business. We literally had it all. We are not materialistic people. We had all the things that truly mattered outside of money. Our family unit was brimming over with love; all our social circles were solid and we were healthy both physically and emotionally. I could not ask for anything more. It was amazing to me to think that just 10 years prior I had endured a traumatizing foreclosure and my then-boyfriend was couch surfing with his brothers. Yes we have come a mighty long way from the days of eating one meal a day as starving college graduates. I was and am so grateful for how our lives have changed for the better. I thought we would always be this happy and this secure. But you know what they say, when it rains it pours.

One minute we were taking the girls on their fifth international trip of their life, the next I’m standing in front of a panel, explaining why they should let me keep my livelihood and my reputation.

It all started because I wanted to help a family friend. He was living in Nigeria at the time and was the brother of one of my childhood friends in North Carolina. I’ve never met Kunle. We only spoke via email and FaceTime audio. But Kunle was desperate to start a business in the States. He has a pretty cushy life back home in Abuja but wanted to diversify his interests. For whatever reason, the United States government would not grant him a visiting visa or any other authorization to come to the country but Kunle, like most Nigerians, believed the U.S. to be the land of milk and honey. After his fifth visa denial, he was determined to make money in America even if his feet never touched the soil of this land. So Kunle found Nigerians here who wanted to ship large goods (like cars or other large machines) back home. The set up was simple. His customers will pay directly into a US bank account managed by one of his American friends. The friend gets a convenience fee of ten percent and wires the rest of the money to Kunle in Nigeria. Kunle then arranges for shipment of their goods and receives it at the Lagos port to be delivered to its final destination or last contact. Although I’m not particularly familiar with business law, the enterprise checked out. They had a business account and the venture was running as a legal tax-paying  entity.

Once he got up and running, Kunle’s little idea was making $10,000 a week on a slow cycle. I was impressed by his business savvy method of doing things. His clients paid on time and mostly in advance. His deliveries never had a hitch and he knew enough of the port authorities and greased enough hands that his containers never had a delay with the release of goods. Kunle was very generous with me. He paid me very well for my time. I billed him $500 per hour for any legal work and he never complained. In fact, he kept his retainer with me at a very comfortable $5,000. If it ever dipped below that amount, he would balance the account immediately so i could bill against it with no issues. We worked out a very lucrative business relationship. My husband didn’t know the ins and outs of our arrangements but he knew that Kunle was a loyal client and that was enough for them to build their own rapport.

Before long my husband and Kunle were phone friends and the girls started calling him uncle. He was more family than client. Thanks to Kunle, I was able to pay off my six figure student loan and max out the girls’ college savings funds. The financial security allowed me to go on speaking tours concerning my passion projects (human trafficking of young girls in sub Saharan Africa and supporting victims of sexual abuse in the global community). Kunle opened a lot of doors for my family and I. I was finally able to live the dreams my parents had for me when they sent me to law school. I paid off their mortgage, and retired both my parents. My dad was able to go to Nigeria for half the year. My mom goes back and forth depending on the season in each country. It was all thanks to Kunle. In fact, he was my inspiration for pursuing my passion. I saw how drastically life changed for all of us simply because this man did not give up on his ideas. I figured if I could tap into just 10 percent of that, I could make my own dreams come true. Everything seemed possible.

We had just returned from a cruise to Aruba with the girls. I didn’t even have the strength to unpack our bags. We laid the kids to bed and passed out within seconds for a jet-lagged sleep. Suddenly my heart was sprinting out of my chest as loud voices and infrared lights flooded our room. I could hear my babies screaming in terror but I couldn’t get to them. I was surrounded by an immovable wall of black. That wall turned out to be a team of FBI agents who were not going to let us out of their sight. The next month of my life was a blur. I didn’t see my husband or my girls. I was locked in an isolated cell almost around the clock except for the hours of interrogation in-between. The same questions over and over again. Who was Kunle? How did I meet him? How long had I been heading his human trafficking operation?

Human what???? My mind spun.

Kunle’s “heavy machinery” was actually human beings. Those desperate enough to live for weeks in a trailer sized container with minimal food or water and bottles and buckets as bathrooms. His “clients” (or cargo, depending on who you asked) ranged anywhere in age from 5 to 65 years old.

The thought made me so physically ill that I  needed a trash can to catch the bile. The lawyer and human rights advocate was in business with a human trafficker.

All of our assets were seized. My girls were turned over to the state who thankfully placed them with their grandparents. We couldn’t be trusted to parent. I was looking at 100s of years in prison for the many victims of Kunle’s gross offenses. My life grinded to a halt as the investigation wore on.

The only thing that saved me from a fate worse than death was my meticulous record keeping. Every dollar that Kunle paid me was accounted for. They could trace the money and see what services I rendered as Kunle’s Attorney. The paper trail showed that I only participated as Kunle’s business attorney. There were no gifts or shady dealings on my end. Everything was in black and white. Eventually the federal government concluded that my husband and I were unknowing participants who thought we were dealing with a legitimate business owner. They went slightly below exonerating us of any wrong doing. They took every red cent of the money and all properties purchased with Kunle’s payments to me.

And that is why I am here today fighting to keep my law license. It’s not everyday that you are accused of gross human trafficking. The state bar and their disciplinary committee  tend to frown on those kinds of accusations. It took $10,000 in legal expenses to a bar defense lawyer to convince the State of Texas to not yank away my ability to practice law. It helped that I had never even had a bar complaint in all my years as an attorney. And the fact that my trust accounting for Kunle’s retainer accounted for every penny also went over well. Eventually I was sanctioned via a strongly worded letter that warned me of impending suspension or disbarment if I am to be caught up in even the slightest of misconduct in the near future. I gladly kissed every ring of all the would emperor kings and queens who held my legal career in their hands and scurried home.

After six long months, the girls were returned to our custody. All of our loved ones were evenly divided between people who were sure that Kunle took advantage of our trusting nature and those who were convinced that we were ring leaders of the human trafficking operation.

We ended up moving to California. We changed our family name and are currently living under the radar as a typical Nigerian American family. The girls are a little older now, both in kindergarten. Thankfully they remember very little of our ordeal. Their dad and I have them convinced that it was a bad dream and their old names were their “dream names.” You can’t blame me for protecting my children. What would you have done if an imposter tried to ruin your life? So…don’t judge what you don’t know.

(Hey! Did you enjoy that? I wrote that at 1am because I couldn’t sleep. Yes, I freeformed the story from nothing and typed it out on my phone in about 24 minutes, so sorry if this draft is super rough. I will be back to edit it later. If you enjoy my writing style and my story telling, consider subscribing to my blog to get the latest updates and also to find out where you can purchase my full length books! Yes! I’ve written three books chuck full of stories and whole characters like Kunle but with many more twists and turns. I can send you links for purchasing if you’re ready. Drop a comment and email below and let me know what you think! Blessings to you ❤️)

Story-telling

“Mother Returns”

CADA9910-6550-4E46-9E52-DBAF0D0CC18F.pngYetunde’s heart was racing! She was supposed to be home an hour ago. Even though she called and told her parents that her car broke down, she was almost positive her father didn’t believe her. She was her parents only child. And at twenty years old when most of her friends were enjoying the freedom of college and independent living, she was home for the summer and under lock and key. She has always been her parents pride and joy, culminating when she graduated high school at the age of 16. Everyone was so proud of her. She breezed through her first and second year in college with perfect grade point averages. She was on schedule to graduate a semester early and decided to take the summer to enjoy her family and hometown. In the chaos of studying for finals, she forgot how limited her freedom was when home with her folks. It seems she was an adult to everyone except her parents. She still had a curfew (11pm), she couldn’t come and go as she pleased and her parents were deeply involved in all of her relationships and friendships. They wanted to know who she was with and what she was doing at every point of her day.

It was unnerving. All her friends were traveling out of the country, moving in with their friends or having the adventure of their lives and Yetunde was stuck at home with the same curfew as a high-schooler. She was too humiliated to tell her friends she had a curfew so whenever they plan a late-night hang out, she would make up an excuse as to why she couldn’t be there or fake an emergency to make it home by curfew.

Tonight she had grown restless and bored at home so at 10:30pm, she lied to her mother about going to get a milkshake from Cook-Out (her favorite drive-thru for shakes and burgers), and took off out of the drive way in her decade-old Toyota Camry before her parents could ask more questions.

Yetunde quickly called  her homegirls to see where they were.

”We are at Cookout right now just getting some food and hanging out. Girl, everybody is out here. Come through,” her friend Lola fills her in.

“Alright, perfect! I’m on my way!” So her lie wasn’t a real lie (at least for now). She was going to Cook-Out just like she told her mom.

When she pulled up to the drive thru, the parking lot was full with bumper to bumper traffic. Some drivers had their doors wide open  and were bumping their music at maximum volume. Hip hop and R&B of various varieties crooned through all the dueling stereos. The air was practically charged with a restlessness that can only come from young people awaiting something exciting. Yetunde felt invigorated in this environment. These were her people.

”Hey girl! You made it!” Lola grabbed her into a quick hug. “Come let me introduce you to some of friends!” Lola linked elbows with Yetunde and steered her in the directions of a late model white Honda Civic with tinted windows and chrome wheels.

“Y’all, this is my homegirl slash sister from another mister, Yetunde. Sis, this is my homeboy Lekan, his friend Travis, you remember my roommate Ashley and that’s her sister Erin.” Lola smiled as she made the iintroductions.

Yetunde gave a small wave to the group and told herself to relax. A quick glance at her phone told her she only had ten minutes until curfew but she had already determined to stay out past 11pm tonight. Her parents rules were ridiculous and there was no possible way for her to adequately hang out with her friends anytime this summer and be home before 11pm.

“When everyone has their food, we can head to  Lola and Ashley’s’ place. Their crib is the closest and Ashley already got the bottles for tonight,” Lekan informed the group.

Yetunde felt a small knot in her stomach. She was a social drinker despite being underaged but the thought of going to drink with a group of friends and strangers felt like a betrayal to her parents and their various warnings about bad company corrupting good character. Maybe she wouldn’t drink tonight, just to keep an eye on everyone. If they needed a designated driver, she would be it.

”Okay, that’s cool with me. I can’t stay long because I gotta work in the morning but I’m down to hangout for a little bit,” Yetunde replied, the lie falling off her lips with ease.

”Alright, then! Everyone get their food, let’s go!” Travis stated, once again taking the lead.

”Let me get my milkshake and I will be right behind y’all. I remember the complex but Lola text me your building number just in case,” Yetunde called to her friend.

”Matter of fact,  Ashley and Erin, yall ride together. Let me ride with Yetunde so I can show her the way,” Lola said, proferring a solution.

”Perfect, let’s go!” Yetunde squealed with excitement. Her joy was short lived as her cell phone began to buzz in her hand.

Mom.

It was 11:05.

Yetunde’s heart dropped to her shoes in cold dread. If she answers it, her night of fun was over.  She discreetly declined the call, taking care not to alert Lola.

The two friends chattered all the way to Lola and Ashley’s apartment. When they arrived, Ashley and Lola gave everyone an informal tour, proudly showing off their first adult home. The space was sparsely decorated but chic. Rather than looking bare for lack of furniture, their living room appeared to have a minimalist’s touch. Their only furniture was an entertainment center with a TV and stereo system, a couch, two end tables and a small rug.

Ashley brought a desk chair from her bedroom for Yetunde, turned on music and grabbed bottles of vodka and brown liquor from the fridge. Within minutes everyone was dancing and taking shots. Yetunde pretended to mix her drink with a shot of vodka but in reality she was sipping on pineapple juice. She couldn’t afford to go home smelling of alcohol. She was already pushing her luck by breaking curfew.

Her mom and dad took turns calling her the whole time she was with her friends. After 30 minutes and 10 missed calls, it was time to head home. Her heart pounded at the thought of the confrontation that was sure to happen when she arrived home or called her parents, whichever her nerves would allow her to do first.

She took a few calming breaths to get her story straight. She went to Cook Out and met her friends. They had their cars on while hanging out and talking and her battery died. They had to wait till she could find jumper cables for someone to give her a jump. That’s why she was late.

When she called her mom back, the conversation went worse than she could have imagined.

”Where are you? Where have you been?” Her mother barked without the nicety of “hello.”

”M-my car wouldn’t start. Some friends gave me a j-jump. I’m almost home now,” Yetunde stammered, her fear turning to terror at her mother’s furious voice.

“Oniro ni e! Yetunde Motunrayo Abike, o tin puro?” Her father’s voice yelled into the phone, calling her liar.

Yetunde’s eyes burned with tears of shame. She blinked them back. She couldn’t afford to look guilty during the face off with her parents. She told her lie and she had to stick by it, come hell or high water.

She was home within 10 minutes, pulling into her driveway a few minutes after midnight. All the lights were on, the front porch, back porch, driveway and living room all lit up like a Christmas tree. The sight was strangely terrifying. As if her parents wanted to see every single move she made from any angle as she approached the house. Yetunde told herself to calm down and took a few more calming breathes to steady her heart rate.

All she did was go hangout with some friends. She didn’t do anything illegal, she hadn’t been drinking or hooking up or anything crazy. She just sat in her friends apartment for a few minutes. There was no crime in that.

Before she could put her key in the back door, it was yanked open. Her mother’s bewildered face was the first thing to meet her.

“YE-TUN-DE! You want to kill me? That’s what you want, right? Why should my own child kill me when I didn’t kill my mother?” Folake, or Iya Yetty as she’s better known wailed as tears of anger streamed down her face. She grabbed her daughter by the collar and pulled her forcibly towards the living room. Her maternal instincts to protect her only child warring with her raging emotions that demanded the girl be flogged within an inch of her common sense. If she makes the pain memorable enough, her daughter would never attempt anything so foolish again.

Yetunde trembled in her father’s presence. He was pacing the floor. When he laid eyes on her, he immediately froze. Anger was pulsating from his very pores. He took slow, calculating steps towards his daughter, glaring down on her as only an angry predator could.

Yetunde’s heart froze. This wasn’t her beloved Papa Bear. This was an unhinged animal.

”If I should slap you now, you would end up in the hospital and I would be in jail,” her father spat the words at her with contempt and disdain in every syllable. “Look at yourself. We say go to school, get an education and make something of yourself but no, you want to run the night like a common prostitute. Let me find out you were with any foolish boy tonight, I will disgrace you openly and that boy will wish he was never born. Imagine a girl that was trained from a good home carrying on like a cheap harlot. Shame on you! You disappoint me. Honestly. You disappoint me. I always boasted that my child was better to me than five sons but it’s a lie. You’re a total and complete disgrace to this family. Now get out of my face before I descend on you,” her father finished his tirade, raising his hand as if he would strike her down.

Yetunde cowered away from her father’s raised hand, tears of humiliation and heartbreak pouring from her very soul.

A disappointment. A prostitute. All because she wanted to hangout with her friends for an hour? Her eyes burned as she let the words sink in. If her own parents didn’t see any worth in her, despite her good grades and all the effort she made to be a good daughter, friend and so on, maybe she was truly everything they said. There was no point in trying to be “good.” They’ve already decided she was a bad seed. She should just do what was expected and live up to her name.

They hadn’t seen anything yet. Yetunde who had promised herself at the age of 10 that she would save her body for the man she would one day marry was ready to lose her virginity to spite her father. If he had already decided that she was a prostitute, she was gonna do her best to live up to the name. Her daddy hadn’t seen anything yet. Her resolved strengthen by the vengeance and rage, she wiped her eyes and got into bed. Tomorrow begins her first day as her parents worst nightmare. If she was not destined to be their golden child, then she would pride herself on being the blackest sheep her family had ever known.

In her dark room,  on the bed beside her husband, Iya Yetty tossed and turned. The events of the evening wouldn’t let her rest. Her brilliant, well-behaved daughter was spiraling. Her worst fears were coming true. Flashbacks of her own life as young adult plagued her. She was moved from one relative to another, nine total within a year. Her parents feared her wild ways would corrupt her younger siblings so they sent her to Iya Agba in the village, hoping that rural living would remove the wild seed in her. She enjoyed her time with her elderly grandma and was adjusting well to life in the village. She woke up early, fetched water for their household use, and worked on the farm in the mornings before going off to school. Life was peaceful. The peace was shattered when her village teacher asked her to stay after school and forced himself on her. The rape marred village life forever and she did everything in her power to be sent away from her beloved grandma. She stole, got into fights and would no longer attend school. It was too much for her poor grandma to handle and she was sent to live with her aunt in Lagos. Life did not get better at her Auntie’s house. Her “uncle” was a leech and a pedophile, often attempting to touch her and sleep with her when his wife was away. For his troubles, she gave him a bite mark on his face that remains till this day. The next day, she was immediately sent packing to the next relative who would have her. On and on it went until she finally got to college. She failed secondary school classes because of attendance but tested well enough on entrance exams to squeeze into college. In college, she met mentors and counselors and was finally able to heal from the trauma of her childhood. Her life changed, she found wholeness and fell in love with the man who became her husband and Yetunde’s father. Her prayer has always been for mercy – that she wouldn’t reap the rebellion she sowed as a youth, when she had children of her own.

Yetunde was her only child, her carbon copy in every feature. They named her “mother has returned” but Iya Yetty silently prayed her only daughter would be nothing like her.

It seems those prayers were unanswered. Mother had returned indeed.

(Somewhere in middle America, summer 2003)

 

Story-telling

Confessions of A Work At Home Wife And Mom (Part 2)

4C5F79F9-E301-4212-80A8-1FC2DB594DD1There’s a magical hour in our house. It’s right around sunset, before the night descends into a departing winter blackness. My husband is home, the kids are (usually) napping which frees my hands to cook dinner and life is perfect. The overwhelming “aloneness” of being the only adult with my children dissipates and is quickly forgotten. It’s family time. The picture I had in my mind of what it would mean to have a family actually materializes. The children play on the living room floor as hubby reads or watches the news  and I attend to the business of cooking and serving dinner.

After packing away tonight’s leftovers, I snuggle on the coach with my hunny. Well, I should say, I wake him up from his snoring sleep, make him scoot over to make room for me then curl halfway into his lap. As soon as I plant a kiss on his face just because, here comes our two shadows.

“Give me a kiss, Daddy,” Thing 1, my oldest demands with his lips puckered.

Such a ham, that one. Hubby smiles and grants the request. I mean, how could you not?

“Gimme tiss, Deddy” Thing 2 chimes in, running as fast as his little legs would carry him towards his father. Daddy obliges with a chuckle.

I look over at my kitchen in disdain. I need to wash dishes, clean off the counter tops, sweep and mop my floors before I can go to sleep with a clear mind. I like to clean as I cook but there are days when that is absolutely out of the question. If the kids are awake while I’m cooking, they will not let me out of their sight.

“I wanna help,” my almost four year old would chime as I’m cooking, pushing a dining chair towards the oven. I have to be hyper-vigilant to keep him from burning himself on any hot surfaces – his favorite place is right beside me by the stove. He wants to chop, season and stir right along with Mommy. Most days, this is our time to make memories. But on some days when my sleep deprivation and constantly churning mind gets the best of me, I find myself snapping at him.

“Move! Move out of my way! Look at this mess you made!” I recently bellowed at him, frustration rising because he gave me more to do. I look over at the mess of chicken bullion powder and curry seasoning he had knocked over.

Great! I had swept the floor not even five minutes prior.

“I’m sorry, mommy,” he said, his eyes welling up already.

The guilt I felt was like a gut-punch. It really was not his fault. My baby wanted to help his mama cook. His elbow knocked the uncovered spices over as he was attempting to grab a spoon for me. It was mistake that I could have easily made myself and I made my son feel bad for it.

Lord, please do not let me damage them. I am doing my best. 

My thoughts collide wordlessly on themselves and I blink back an unannounced sting of tears.

“It’s okay, baby. You didn’t mean it. You were just trying to help, Mommy, right?” [He nods wordlessly, wiping his eyes].

“Mommy is sorry for yelling,” I state, reaching down to envelop his small shoulders in a hug. “You wanna help me clean it up?”

He smiles and nods enthusiastically. All is forgiven. Oh for the mindset of a three-year old who forgives even the gravest offenses in the blink of an eye and thinks nothing of them again.

God, please don’t let me break them.

As munchkin and I continued cooking, Pumpkin (my youngest) noticed that my attention was diverted and began to whine. “Mo-mmy? I waaaannnn duce (juice),” he demanded like the tiny boss of the house he knew himself to be.

“You’ve had enough juice today, boo boo. No juice. You can have water,” I state sternly. My mind remembering his oldest brother’s last dentist visit. No cavities but his teeth were showing weak points that demands we eliminate sugar from his diet. The fear passed down to his younger brother’s dental health.

I gotta watch how much sugar they are eating and drinking, I remind myself.

The “no juice” verdict sends Pumpkin into a tailspin. You would have thought his favorite pet died the way he wailed and threw himself on the ground. The tears flowed as he mourned his existence. What cruel world would deny him the sweet nectar of the gods? His growing mind must have wondered as he laid on my kitchen floor, a puddle of tears and toddler angst.

I roll my eyes in his direction as I grab his sippy cup. I make a concoction that is three parts water and one part fruit juice and snap it shut.

“Here, boo boo!” I thrust the cup in his direction, and like magic, the fountain of tears dry up and immediately he is on his feet.

“Tat you (thank you), Mo-mmy,” he sniffs as a small smile plays on his lips.

Mommy – 0, Toddler – 3,451.  The running tally in my head flashes like a scoreboard.

It’s okay. We will brush extra long tonight, I console myself. Anything to keep my hands free so I could finish dinner and supervise my sous-chef in the kitchen.

Making dinner with two toddlers in tow is equal parts a battle of wits (between the adults and their tiny overlords) and actual food preparation. There is a reason I do not attempt my longer, more complicated recipes unless the children are asleep. I literally do my best cooking between the hours of midnight and five.

Now that today’s dinner has been long digested and I am getting some good snuggle time with my husband, I remember my night time chores. I sigh deeply as  I pull myself away from my husband and his warm embrace.

The kitchen awaits.

Pumpkin suddenly remembers that mommy has not read him a story today.

“Mommy, I want weed eet (read it),” he says as he scrambles towards me, book in hand.

Ugh! I have got to clean this kitchen!

“Boo boo, take the book to Daddy. Daddy will read it,” I say, passing the buck to my partner in life. This is a favorite tactic of mine. When the kids are driving me absolutely crazy or one of them has a dirty diaper that smells like death (and my stomach is feeling particularly weak for whatever reason), I send them to their dad.

“Go to daddy” is my rallying cry for “I don’t wanna deal with this right now,” and most times it works. Alas, tonight will not be one of those times. The man I just left on the couch is snoring again and Pumpkin is approaching a full-blown meltdown if nobody reads him this book.

“C’mon baby, let’s read,” I beckon to my youngest, attempting to nip the tears in the bud before they start.

After story-time, we begin our bedtime routine. I wake my husband and invite him upstairs with us. I really want to skip bath time tonight; the dishes in the sink are still beckoning to me. No sooner do we get to the top of the stairs do my kids run towards their bathroom.

“Mommy, I wanna bap,” the youngest declares.

“Yay! Bath tiiiiiiiime!,” the oldest chimes in doing his best impression of Sid the Science Kid.  How come children always know when you are at your most exhausted and pick that exact moment to be their most demanding? No worries. I got something for them. As I run the bath water to the perfect temperature for both children (oldest hates to be cold, and youngest hates to be hot), I plot my escape.

“Okay baby, time to get in the bath,” I help each child out of their food stained, juice-stained, slightly peed on (I’ll explain later) clothes and into the bath. After I hunt down rubber duckies, plastic balls and foam letters to keep them company,  I walk towards my husband in our bedroom.

“Babe, can you keep an eye on the kids for me? They are in the tub and I really need to get that kitchen together,” I ask as I softly wake him from his stupor.

He nods groggily and I make a mad dash downstairs before any of my three men could ask anything else of me. As I walk downstairs, I pick up socks, shoes and toys that have lost their way and gather the pile together. I put toys in the designated baskets downstairs and leave the clothes on the stairs as a visual reminder to put them in the kids room.

I am not going back up there until they are all asleep.

Cleaning the kitchen is strangely therapeutic. I do my best thinking when I am left alone with a sink full of dishes. After scrubbing all the dishes by hand (old-school Nigerians are allergic to dishwashers, ask anyone), I put them in the dishwasher to dry and clear off all my surfaces, putting everything in cabinets or the kitchen pantry. When my work space looks perfect, I breathe a sigh of relief and smile. A quick glance at the clock tells me it is already after midnight.

So much for getting to sleep early tonight.

I make my way back upstairs to bed, grabbing the pile of clothes and socks on the stairs as I go. When I stop inside the kids room to drop off the clothes, I notice the mess of toys and clothes on their floor.

Can’t leave it like that.

I organize their clothes and shoes into their respective side of the closet and toss all the toys and books into the baskets that line the wall. Baskets are strategically placed all over the house for quick clean up because what I am not going to do is kill myself trying to clean up after a house full of men (who share none of my OCD tendencies for cleanliness). Baskets make organization easy. A roomful of toys quickly becomes clean floors and organized space with enough baskets.

I stop by the kids bathroom to turn off the lights and notice that the bathtub has not been drained. I let the water out and scoop out the mountain of bath toys that were left behind. Then I grab a towel to mop up the water on the floor, organize the vanity space littered with tooth brushes and toothpaste before finally heading towards my bed.

As I toss the towel into the hamper, I noticed it is filling up so I load up the washing machine instead. As the machine fills with water and begins slushing about, I continue my journey towards the bed. A quick peep into the darkened room reveals my husband passed out with our youngest on his chest (pumpkin still doesn’t sleep well on his own), and munchkin sleeping diagonally across our king-sized bed. How do two little people take up so much room on an adult size bed?  There’s literally no where for me to lie down unless I curl into a ball at the foot of the bed.

Forget it.

I make my way to the guest room and flop on the bed. Thirty minutes later, I am still auditing my day in my head, going over each detail to ensure I have not missed anything.

CRAP!

What’s today?

The sixteenth since it is after midnight, my phone screen confirms.

Dang it!

The light bill was due on the fifteenth and would be scheduled for disconnection if payment was not received by 5pm. I am already seven hours too late but better to do it now and call them in the morning to throw myself on someone’s mercy if necessary. I rush back downstairs to retrieve my purse and debit card and make a call into the system. I make the $250 payment and head back upstairs, making a mental note to check with the energy company in the morning.

The night passes as usual. The youngest woke me up with his whimpering around 3:30AM when their father got up for work. My oldest is still splayed all about on the bed, making it impossible for anyone to sleep beside him without making bodily contact.

I suspect his X position on the bed is on purpose. His favorite past time is rubbing up against me like a cat when I am trying to sleep. As someone who HATES to be touched as I am falling asleep, his touch irritates me into wakefulness every night. I have resolved to building a barrier between us using the comforter. Sometimes it works, sometimes the system is defeated.

I lull my youngest baby back to sleep and pass back out until the sun wakes me. I slept through my alarm. It is now 8:30. Thankfully, today is low-key day.

I check my calendar to make sure.

I have an appointment at 1pm, which means I need to be dressed by 10am, an hour for our morning routine, another hour for breakfast and whatever shenanigans the children can create to delay us from leaving the house and I should leave the house not a minute after 12 noon to drop off the kids and still make it on time to the office.

The client is a referral from a friend. My girls are forever boosting my business and recommending me to colleagues. I don’t want to disappoint. When I call my mom to check in, her voice tells me that I woke her up.

”He-hello? She croaks out, her voice cracking with the strain of answering her phone while not fully awake.

”Sorry, Mommy! I didn’t mean to wake you. I was just calling to say hi. Call me when you wake up,” I quickly hung up before I told any more lies. I forgot my mom worked yesterday.

She can’t watch the kids. She works 12 hours during third shift and needs the mornings after work to rest. Hubby is at work till 6pm and my dad is out attending to work duties. Both my in-laws work nights and sleep during the day as well and none of hubby’s siblings or mine are around.

Dagnabit! (I’m officially an elderly white man trapped in a 30 something year old black woman’s body).

Where are all those people who were praying twins, triplets and quads on me during our last baby shower? If you want me to birth a football team worth of kids, the least you can do is watch them for me while I work.

After racking my brain for a few minutes, I head towards the office with the kids in tow. I don’t have a choice. They are coming with me to meet a brand new client.

This is about to be the most shambles that has occurred in the history of working while Mom-ing.

Times like these, I remember why childcare costs two grand a month. When you’re desperate, you do what you have to do. My current budget is stretched so thin, I can see through it. An extra two thousand a month in expenses would put us in debtors prison (God forbid).

Whatever. No time for shoulda woulda coulda. I have to deal with the present. When we arrive at my office, I pull out coloring books, crayons and snacks from my office stash. We have many clients with young children so we maintain a decent activity area to keep them quiet.

”Okay boo boos. You guys color and let Mommy work, okay.” This is bribing 101. Don’t judge me unless you’ve been held hostage by toddlers before.

Let’s just pray it works.

“Okay, Mommy” they reply in unison.

Liars! My instinct tells me. But my optimistic and slightly panicked mind says to believe them.

When the client arrive, I walk down to the lobby and meet a surprise. The couple awaiting  me is an interracial duo.  The wife seems to be from Eastern Europe if her accent is any indication and the husband is one of my skinfolks. We exchange greetings and I prepare myself for the maylay this is about to be. (I left the kids playing in the office to make the quick walk to the lobby).

As we near my door, I can hear the cries of my children. I guess they looked up and found out I snuck out.

“My children are in the office today because I couldn’t get a sitter,” I offer by way of explanation.

This has got to be the most ratchet consultation in the history of law practice. I’m actually completely embarrassed but I put on my best unbothered face, take a deep breath and open the door.

What I meet is utter chaos. My children have dumped a box of plastic balls on the carpet. Broken crayons and torn coloring books littered the carpet like toddler-made confetti. My two offsprings look up with cherub-like expressions. Someone else must have made this mess.

Obviously.

Weren’t y’all just crying?

I swear I was gone for all of 30 seconds. How did they do this so fast?

“Where did you go, mommy? Why did you left us?” My oldest asks accusingly.

”I only left for a little bit, Munchkin. See I came right back,” I explain, avoiding the couples’ eyes.

This is SO janky! I hit a mental face palm while smiling confidently in my would-be clients’ directions. If they take off running and don’t look back, I wouldn’t blame them.

”Excuse the mess,” I say as unfazed as I could manage as I round the table to sit in my designated area. “Please have a seat,” I motion to the waiting chairs. “How can I help you?” I ask once they are both seated.

The next thirty minutes were filled with preventing my children from pushing over an office printer and shattering it into a million pieces, wrangling a chocolate bar the size of his head away from munchkin and eventually, obliging Thing 2 when he insisted on sitting in my lap as I offer legal counsel. In between dying from being utterly mortified, mothering and lawyering, I am able to piece together the clients’ story.

The wife came from the Czech Republic two years ago on a visitors visa. She was married at the time but her husband stayed behind. She meet the real love of her life while in the US and they decided to get married. She forgot to get divorced first before remarrying (really, ma’am?). What could they do?*

My advice was short and to the point. Annulment. You can’t get married while you’re married. Annul the second marriage because no court is gonna recognize it as legitimate while she’s still married.*

But the first marriage was all the way back home. No one would know if she didn’t tell them, she insisted.

I explained the paper trail that one leaves behind when dealing with international travel. Her visa application probably told the truth of her marital status. She can’t hide it now. Annul the second marriage and if you’re still in love, divorce your husband and remarry for real for real.**

We conclude their consultation and say our goodbyes. My kids are still operating with all the decorum of Tasmanian devils but that’s neither here nor there. What matters is we survived and I’m no more edge-less than I was when the morning began (thanks, Post-partum shedding 😒).

My nerves are completely SHOT! I decide it is time to head home. With my computer bag over one shoulder, my purse on the other arm. I grab hands with each kid and we march on to the car.

I open the door to put Thing 2 in his car seat first. I had to carry him for the walk in the parking lot because he was slowing us down but now my shoulders are burning like nobody’s business.

What have we been feeding you, little boy?

As soon as I release his hand to latch his little brother inside the car seat, my oldest takes off from my side. My heart leaps inside my throat!

He knows better! Even at the age of three he’s had multiple lessons on the dangers of cars and oncoming traffic. He usually makes it point to stay close to my side in parking lots and near streets.

But this is my fault too. I usually put him inside the car and close the door before I put his baby brother down. He saw a chance at freedom and he took it.

“Come here, NOW!” I say in my best disciplinarian voice.

He most have sensed my fury because he shuffles over quickly, his head down and mouth hanging.

”What did Mommy say about running where there’s cars?” I ask sternly, my heart still beating from the terror of what could have been.

“But, I want to get the dandy yayin (dandelion),” he mutters, bottom lip quivering.

I noticed the enticing weed sprouting up in the landscaping by the door.

“Are you suppose to run when there are cars outside though?” I ask, my anger subsiding since I am no longer terrified.

“No,” he admits, a rare occurrence.

“Okay, so you know we don’t do that. The next time, you disobey Mommy, you will be on punishment,” I state with finality. I usually leave the disciplinarian portion to my hubby but I can’t very well let the children run haywire while he’s at work.

Still can’t believe somebody gave me whole children to raise.

Every day I marvel that someone out there trusts me to be somebody’s mother. Most days I feel like the same 17 year old girl who got dropped off for her first day of college, petrified of getting things wrong and desperately wishing my mom was here to hold my hands. But nope. I’m somebody’s mama now. Two somebodies in fact. And I’m closer to 40 than 18.

No sooner did I put the car in reverse did munchkin announce, “Mommy, I’m hungeee!”

SMH! I have got to get my life together!

I’ve had these kids all afternoon and did not think about lunch. Just because I can go from morning to 6pm before having my first meal does not mean my children want to participate in my “I’m too busy to eat” Olympics.

They like food.  And I don’t blame them.

”Chick Fil A it is!” I announce enthusiastically to no one in particular. There’s no way a home cooked lunch is happening today and I don’t feel the least bit bad about it. As far as I’m concerned, CFA is God’s anointed restaurant so it doesn’t count as fast food.

When we pull up to the drive through, the line is at least 40 cars long and yet by some miracle (Jesus works the register Himself and the Holy Spirit fills the orders), we got our food within five minutes.

I told you, this place is anointed.

Thing 2 has fallen asleep on the ride so his older brother uses the opportunity to eat both orders of chicken strips because he was still “hungweee” after eating his own lunch and washing it down with two cups of CFA sauce.

The rest of my week was uneventful if you don’t count the “Instagram war” with an associate’s wife. Before you get all judgy on me, let me preface by saying it was not my fault. I saw them at a mutual friend’s wedding and said hello to both parties. For some reason, the lady took offense, took to my instagram page and cussed me slam out for being “disrespectful.” And she called me a fake born-again. I have zero clue what crawled up her breeches and I don’t intend to find out. I blocked and deleted both parties. I’m not one for dealing with a husband and not the wife. Y’all are one flesh so you can be blockt (with a T) together in one accord.

And that “fake born-again” thing could have really hurt my feeling if I was still a hypocrite. But me and Jesus sorted things out about nine years ago so I’m cool. I let the comment roll off my back and keep it pushing.

The best thing about having children this age is watching their relationships with each other. My kids are exactly two years and a week apart. I’m extra fertile in the summer, I guess.

Or maybe hubby is extra h-

Uhm…you know what?

Never mind.

The point is that having my kids so close together makes parenting the hardest job ever but it’s an absolute joy watching their friendship and bond develop.

Annnnnd, my oldest is 90% out of diapers. Not 100% but accidents are few and far between and he only needs Pull-ups for overnight sleeps. Considering that his diapers alone were costing me $50 a month, I’m glad to be almost done with this phase. And have you ever smelled a three year old’s poop? He smells like a grown man. That’s no baby. The last time he accidentally pooped in his underwear, I wanted to fight him. Like literally, square up little boy because you’ve offended all my senses and there will be retribution.

Putrid. Absolutely putrid. When that happens I throw his clothes away. Because who’s hand washing poop? And who’s putting that foul stench and matter into my good washing machine? Not I! My Nigerian people would call it being a “suffer head,” which I am not.

Throw the whole baby away, they said (the innanets). If I could lift him, believe me I would have.

The best part of my life is I get to watch my children grow up on a day to day basis even while earning an income for my family.

The “least best”  (there is no “worst”) part of my life is that I still haven’t mastered how to care for myself while caring for my family. When I neglect my needs (sleep, proper nutrition, therapy and self-care), everyone suffers – my husband, my children and even my clients.

I’m not always the wife, mom or professional I desire to be. I still worry about money because it feels like I don’t make enough. And ever so often I get this nagging feeling that another woman would do better with my life than I ever could.

But it’s not true.

Opening my life up this way is not about pretending perfection or even moaning and groaning about how difficult my roles are to navigate. My goal in sharing my confessions was to give you some insight into my day to day life and to remind myself that my circumstances do not have to be ideal for me to find joy, humor or contentment in my current stage in life.

Whatever point you find yourself in life, find what works for you and flourish. It doesn’t have to be perfect for you to own it

(FIN).

*fictional clients with a fictional scenario. I’m not giving y’all real life info because I like having a job.

**this is not legal advice for you, reader. This is a blog. If you want a consultation, call a lawyer (not someone who plays one on TV). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story-telling

Confessions Of A Work At Home Wife And Mom (Part 1)

4C5F79F9-E301-4212-80A8-1FC2DB594DD1.pngThe alarm blares in my ears and my heart does that automatic panic it does every morning when I attempt to get up without waking the kids.

7 A.M. already? It felt like I slept for 15 minutes. My eyes burned from the three o’clock cries of my almost two year old who still doesn’t sleep through the night. And the urine soaked sheets that had to be changed at 5 in the morning because his older brother had an accident. By the time I found new sheets for the bed and put a towel over the wet-spot, the sun was creeping up. Mocking my silent plea for just three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

It was not meant to be.

My husband had left for work two hours before sunrise. If I wanted a shower, this was my only window of time. I drag my weary body towards the master bath, trying to keep the house as quiet and still as my babies needed it to complete their 8 hours of rest. At this age, they should be sleeping for 12 hours each night!

Ha! In order to achieve that, I would have to keep them in bed till noon. Gone were the days when my youngest would fall asleep faithfully at 8PM each night. Even when we go through their bedtime routines by 7PM, they sit wide-eyed until 11:00/11:30 on most nights. It takes 10,000 cups of juice, water, milk and dozens of snack bribes before they run out of requests and sleep will no longer be denied.  Neither one of them will sleep without touching me in some form or fashion.

What happened to my sweet babies who slept in their bassinet or crib from the first day they arrived from the hospital? Toddlerhood has morphed them into these two men-in-training with personalities bigger than their combined 50 lb frames.

I love them with a fierceness that keeps me kissing their cheeks and praying for their futures even when my brain reminds me that I have not had one minute to myself today.

I turn on the shower to the hottest setting before entering. The scalding heat seems to melt my weariness away for a few minutes and I sink into the deliciousness of the water on my skin. Even when the kids are asleep, my mom brain tells me not to linger too long or one will wake up in tears and wake his brother. They panic when I’m not in the room to meet the morning with them. As if the house has swallowed their mom whole.

Ten or fifteen minutes is all I allow myself. I moisturize and move to my closet to choose my uniform for the day. These days, I dress with purpose. A collection of new dresses from my mom and Mom-in-love means I have options. Every day my outfit most reflect my new role as a woman who works from home. My look must be comfortable but polished. Professional yet low-key. Most days I go from making breakfast with the kids to making a run to the courthouse for a client to meeting a new client at the office. Wardrobe changes would only slow me down.

I choose a black and white sweater dress which is mid length and appropriate for all work duties. A new favorite since the weather decided our free trial of spring was over and temperatures now hover in the 40s on most days. Again, the dress reminds me to be grateful for hubby’s mom who knows my size instinctively no matter how it fluctuates, and who also happens to have amazing taste in clothes. In another life, she would make a superb personal shopper or stylist.

No sooner did I slip the dress on, my youngest cries “mom-my?” Their cries seem to affect me differently than it does their dad. If they are not hurt or in distress, my husband can tune them out for hours at a time. I, on the other hand, have heart palpitations whenever one of them seems to cry in pain. Even when they are crying just because it’s Tuesday, the noise interrupts the effective functioning of all my major organs. It’s a biological response. I literally cannot think straight when their crying is prolonged and uniterrupted.

I scoop up my youngest pumpkin and plant a kiss on his soft, brown cheek. “Good morning boo boo,” my nickname for both kids since they were en utero.

“Tood monin, Mommy.”

How could you not love that cuteness? The next two hours are filled with bath time, picking out clothes, dental hygiene and all the like as both kids are wide awake now and ready for breakfast. We head downstairs towards the kitchen and I turn the TV to PBS Kids or Rootle as it has been renamed. Breakfast is simple, pancakes that only need one minute in the microwave for a stack of three and my (almost) world-famous scrambled eggs with red peppers, tomatoes and onions – a family favorite. As the kids sit down to breakfast, the requests for juice, milk, Daddy, chocolate chip cookies or a new toy from the store pile on, uninterrupted. I say yes almost automatically. Not exactly promising anything but mainly attempting to get a few minutes of silence so that the food will actually make its way into their tummies.

My kids are a joy except when they are hungry (which is every 45 minutes). I am not trying to deal with toddler attitudes today so for all of our sanity’s sake, breakfast is a most.

It briefly dawned on me that I had been awake for three hours and have yet to sit down. I shrug off the thought as my youngest declares he is done with pancakes and hunts down a book for me to read aloud. It’s the same “First Words” book we’ve read 981 times at this point but it’s clearly a crowd favorite. Before I could sit down to oblige, my phone rings. The number an unfamiliar one, I hesitate briefly then answer. Hopefully it’s not a telemarketer.

”Hello, my name is *insert generic Yoruba name*  I got this number from *insert unique Yoruba name of someone I do not know*. Please how can I see you today? It’s urgent. I have some matters with immigration that someone said you can help me with.”

I take a mental deep breathe or sigh, careful not to make my thoughts audible.

Why do Nigerians do this to me? Even if the matter could be explained in five minutes over the phone or via email, they insist on meeting in person. I’ve resigned myself to our culture and no longer complain. Immediately I do some mental calculations. If I’m desperate (I am), I can ask my mom to watch the kids for me while I make this meeting. We are dressed already so it would take me 30 minutes to get the kids unloaded at my moms house and another 30 say goodbye and drive to my office.

“If you’re free now, I can meet you in an hour or so? Do you want to meet at my office by 11:30pm?” I offer.

”Yes, that will be fine. Please send me the address.”

”Okay, I will text you now. Thank you, sir,” I reply, hoping I sound gracious and professional, while trying to keep the children’s background noise to a minimum.

I scoop up shoes, jackets and preferred car toys in their various sizes and push the kids towards the garage. I open the door for my oldest munchkin and encourage him to get in his chair “like a big boy!” He does so with agility and I round the back of the car to buckle his baby brother in his car seat before returning to secure my first born. My arms are burning from the combined weight of my son and a mountain of jackets and toys but we are locked and loaded. Ten minutes later, we pull into my parents drive way. The ranch styled house took a while to grow on me after living in two stories my whole life but now it’s home too. I use my key and nudge the kids inside while I peep into the master bedroom to find my mom.

”Mom?”

”Hey Baby!” She calls from the bathroom.

”I have a meeting at the office, can you watch the children for me?”

”Sure, that’s no problem. Go ahead and go. I’m coming out now,” my mom emerges from the bathroom smelling like flowers and warmth. Her hair still in a silk bonnet even though she’s dressed for the day.

”Thank you, Mama. I should be back in like two hours or so,” I give a quick hug and kiss on the cheek and dash off.

“Bye baby. Listen to Grandma,” I directed to no one in particular as I hug both boys. Within minutes I am driving towards my office. I arrive 15 minutes later and shoot a quick text to my appointment.

“Please call when you are in the parking lot so i can meet you in the lobby.” The winding hallway of our business building winds along in four different directions when you enter and it’s easy to get lost. Six years after moving in here, I still don’t know our suite number so I can never give it out with any semblance of confidence unless I am looking at the door.

I take a few minutes to tidy up my desk, find a notepad and move to the front desk that belongs to my office mate and colleagues. Her desk is more impressive than mine hidden behind the bookshelf that separates our work spaces so I prefer to meet clients there when she’s not in.

I rack my brain, trying to place the name of the person who referred this new prospective client to my office.

Nothing.

I’m better with faces than names so it could very well be someone I’ve spoken to dozens of times and I’ve never bothered to ask their name.

“I’m here,” my text messages buzz, interrupting my reverie.

“On my way,” I reply without a thought.

When I walk to the lobby, the only unfamiliar face belongs to a man, early thirties, skinny and dark complexion. I smile a hello and walk towards him.

“Mr. *generic Yoruba name*? I ask with an uncertain smile.

“Yes! Nice to meet you,” he replies, beaming as he extends his hand.

We shake hands and walk towards my office. “I’m glad you were able to find the building okay,” I say by way of conversation.

“Oh yes. You are very close to my uncle’s place. He lives on this side on town,” he volunteers.

When we sit down at my (colleague’s) desk, Mr Generic Yoruba Name begins telling me  the cause of his visit. Someone had told him that their sister’s cousin’s niece’s best friend got their green card by filing as a ward of the state. Did I know how he could do the same and how much would it cost?*

I explain that I have never heard of such a thing and that he should give me time to investigate it.

Do I know if he could travel to Nigeria if he’s visiting visa is about to expire?*

We went over the stipulations of his visa and after twenty more minutes of questions, he was satisfied and ready to take his leave. He promises to follow up with me if anything changes and I also determine to look into the matters we discussed to see if there was any merit to the information he was given.

When he leaves, I check in with my office-mate who informs me that one of my traffic clients dropped off a past due payment. It’s in the office on my desk. I walk back over to my desk and notice the inconspicuous blank envelope under my printer.

The money is enough to pay a utility bill at home and put gas in my car for the week.

After making the deposit into my business operating account, I head back towards my parents’ house. I actually need to sit down and write today. And I need to eat. My hunger pangs remind me that I skipped breakfast this morning and haven’t stopped for lunch yet.

It’s okay.

When I get back to my parent’s house, I grab a banana and a piece of baked chicken from the oven. The kids are lost in the magic of Disney Junior so after their initial squeal of glee at my entrance, they go back to ignoring me, fixated on the screen. I sit down and savor my snack. I could go home now to write which may or may not happen because being back home with both kids in tow means going back to running back and forth fixing snacks, getting toys, changing diapers, assisting with potty breaks, breaking up fights, cleaning up messes and praying desperately for nap-time

At least if I stayed at my parent’s house for a couple of more hours, I had some help. After relaxing for 30 minutes, I bite the bull by the horn. It’s time to head home. I want to figure out dinner before my husband gets home at 6pm. I load up all our diaper bags and toys and my mom helps me buckle the boys into their seats, and we are off.

By the time we pulled up to our garage, both boys are asleep. I say a silent thank you to God and gingerly unload them. My oldest sleeps like the dead when he naps. I unload him first, laying him on the coach and carefully removing his coat and shoes before returning for his younger brother.

My youngest pumpkin stirs in protest as I move him out of his car seat. My heart thumps within me. Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up. He quiets back down and I find my breathe again. I lay him on the couch with the care of a bomb-squad disengaging a homemade explosive. One wrong move and the whole house will explode into chaos and I can kiss writing (or peeing by myself) goodbye until their dad gets home.

By some miracle, we made it without either child waking up. I sit down to work on my novel. I started the story when my youngest was a newborn and abandoned it at various times because of the challenges of motherhood. But inspiration has been calling to me over the past weeks and it will not be denied today. As the story of Nora and her loved ones unfolds before my screen, I look down to discover that two hours have gone by. Time to get dinner ready.

I need something easy and delicious.

Fried whiting, baked sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables. I make quick work of the dinner preparation and when my husband walks in, I’m washing the last of the dishes.

“Hi, hunny!” I greet him with a grin and a hug before planting a kiss on his lips.

“Hey!” He replies with a twinkle in his eyes, his gaze roving over my body in appreciation.

He still makes me blush.

(Look out for Part 2)

 

*Conversations portrayed here are fictional renditions of the types of inquiries I get at my office. I would NEVER actually disclose the contents of my conversation with a client because client-confidentiality is a thing (a big thing) and so is the State Bar. I don’t want those problems.