When tete Anne and her brother, Alfred, showed up, Tay realized that she was in for it. Of course, Ben’s mom would call the two people in her family who hated her the most. When her parents died, aunt Anne is the one who had wanted her to look for a maid job, while her brother, uncle Alfred had suggested marriage. And neither of them had been too pleased when her aunt Angie had taken her in.
Of course, aunt Angie being the youngest in the family, was well known for doing things her own way. She did not follow any route set before her by her siblings and generally went against what they wanted for her. To her the only thing she ever did that they were proud of was marrying uncle Andy, not that she had done it for them though, again she had just been following her heart as she was known to do. To say that they had been disappointed in her with her decision to take in Tay would be an understatement.
And since she had received the information she had received from Grace, she could not help thinking that tete Anne had probably been the one to start the rumors. Of course, she did not ask Grace who had started it because she did not want to put Grace in that position. Of all of her late father’ siblings, Grace’s father, uncle Mark was the only one who did not hate her, but then he was never one to voice his opinion on minor issues so maybe he did but he just never got to say it.
Uncle Mark was the patriarch of the family, being the first born, and he usually did not like getting involved in petty family squabbles. According to Grace, he felt that the less he chimed in on everybody’s problems, the more he would be taken seriously when it was time for him to intervene. And true enough he was living by his word because his word had become law in the family, whenever he had something to say, people would usually listen, of course, tete Angie had been the exception who usually challenged him all the way.
Letting out a deep sigh, Tay shook her head to get all the thoughts about uncle Mark from her head, he wasn’t here to help her, she was on her own. She and Grace were cleaning up the kitchen and while the elders were in the lounge having some tea. With Grace’s encouragement, she had taken a little nap after she had gotten too tired to help with supper, she had only just woken up after two hours of sleep to help Grace with the tea.
She was surprised to find Grace, with the help of Joy, had already cleaned up on the dishes for the supper, but she was really grateful because she knew she did not have enough energy to deal with both the dishes and the meeting coming up. Any moment now she could be asked to come in because she knew they were having their own little meeting without her in there. Grace kept saying how it was unfair that they were discussing her without her in the room but Tay knew that this was how things were going to be anyway, she did not expect any less.
She wondered though what she was going to say. She knew that right now was not the right time for them to even be having this meeting because her head was not in the right place. The fact that she had just come out of the hospital and had for the first in a little over a year just confessed and talked about something she had been in denial about for so long had just wiped her out. Her own mind was right now fighting her and she just wasn’t sure how she was going to survive the attack that she was sure was coming her way.
Looking at the time she saw that just a few minutes before eight and decided it was time to put the children to bed, the meeting would have to wait until she was done with that. With the help of Grace, she had the children tucked in and prayed for quickly and even Ben helped and prayed with them. When they were done though she knew there was no more hiding and she would have to face everyone waiting for her. She would just have to trust the Lord to fight the battle, though in this situation she did not know what that meant.
When the meeting started, it started with a bunch of complaints from everyone about how she had not been available to serve them dinner as she should have been. At some point, Grace and Ben disappeared for a little bit but the complaints about how disrespectful she was were still going on when they came back. Not knowing what they expected from her, Tay decided not to defend herself but just apologized for not being the best she could be. Defending herself would just have gotten her into more trouble and that was something she did not want to deal with. She didn’t bother to check why Grace had left the room and she worked to build herself up against the attack coming, this was just the beginning. She was glad though when her friend came back because she needed the moral support.
Though the moment that thought came she realized she should be depending more on God than she depended on Grace. Jesus was with her and he was the one who was going to be fighting her battles. As she thought about His love, she looked up on the wall and read the words she had forgotten for a bit,
“Jesus loves me, Daddy God loves me, so what could I ever lack? I have I Am on my side, I am good.”
He was in control and she had nothing to worry about, He would fight all her battles and take care of everything. As she began to let go, she felt all the tension draining from her body and chose to believe that God was going to make the situation to work together for her good. She was more than a conqueror through Christ who loved her and she trusted Him to get her through this.
The meeting though was now taking a different turn as they started to list their accusation and talk about all the things that they had discussed during their tea. Ben’s mother looked extra angry though as if she was holding in something that she really wanted to say. Tay could tell even as she started asking questions that she really wanted to say something else but she was waiting as if she planned to use whatever informations she had as a sort of trump card.
“Tendai, do you really think that it is proper for you and your husband to be living separately? What example are you trying to set for the children?” Tari, Ben’s mother asked.
It wasn’t really a question though it had been phrased as one and Tay knew better than to answer, either way, things were not going to go well for her whether she answered or not.
“Are you going to ignore me then?”
Again, she did not respond but said a silent prayer hoping something would happen to stop this whole conversation. When nothing happened, including a response from her, Tari let loose on her.
“Have you any respect for me at all? Or your husband? You are treating him like a stranger instead of your husband in this house! And why are you still even living in this house? You need to get a new house with your husband instead of living in a house that you are renting! How dare you? What did you do with the money that my brother left?”
“Mom…” Ben tried to speak.
“That money should be used to buy a house for you all to live in, or if it’s not enough to buy a house, which I don’t believe, buy a stand somewhere and build a house for the children…”
“You cannot keep all the money for yourself!”
Tay sighed but she did not say anything. She was not sure what her mother-in-law wanted her to say, it was not like there was anything that she could say in her defense. And Ben seemed to want to say something but his mom was not letting anyone else speak.
“I knew that this marriage was a bad idea to begin, you are just not the kind of woman that I wanted for my son and you’re a disgrace to this family!” Tari snapped
There was a silence where no one said a word and all that could be heard was her heavy breathing as she had exacted a lot of energy shouting at Tay. Tay sighed again and decided that maybe she should just say something because it seemed that her mother-in-law was getting angrier by the second.
“I am sorry…”
“No, Tendai, stop. Mom, I want to say something before we go any further with this conversation. I would actually like to respond to some of your questions, starting with the first,” Ben added.
Tay looked at Ben in confusion wondering what he was doing, why would he want to respond to the questions that had been directed at her? Shouldn’t he be happy that she was being put in a corner having to answer to both his family and hers? Or maybe he was just taking the chance to add more coal to the fire, yeah that was probably it, there is no way he was on her side or trying to defend her. Somehow he was going to twist the situation but then Tay decided that it was whatever there was nothing she could do to change anything or change anyone’s mind about her. She had cast the situation into God’s hands and that’s where it was going to stay, no matter who spoke up or who attacked her, the battle was not hers to fight.
“Ben, what are you…” His mom started.
“You know I love you mom and I respect you more than anyone else in this world, I value your opinion and I love it when you come to my rescue but mom, should I not be allowed to handle my own marriage? I have asked you before to leave all of it to me and allow me to take care of my own marriage, could you not give me just that?”
Tilting her head to the side as she looked at Ben in confusion, Tay wondered what was going, what could Ben mean by that statement? Was he implying he was not in support of his mother’s attacks on her? None of this was making sense to her.
“But Ben darling…”
“You taught me to a man mom, and I know I am failing at being that in my own marriage but then to have you come and try to intervene and try to help me out makes me feel like you do not trust me and I am just an utter failure in you eyes. I am sorry mom if I have disappointed you so much that you think I cannot work on my marriage and turn it something that if it’s not a total success, at least a workable relationship.”
As Tay stared at Ben, now completely beyond confusion, she could feel that her heart was now beating at a very fast rate as wondered if Ben, in his own way was actually defending her against his mother’s wrath. To her mind, canceling or postponing this meeting to a later date would have been the least type of defense he could have offered her since she had just come back from the hospital and all that but this she had not been expecting.
“I had even kindly requested mom that we not have this meeting at all or at least postpone it to another date because my wife is not in the best of shape right now and the doctor ordered complete rest for at least a week but mom, you are not giving me the opportunity to be man you taught me to be. Are so disappointed in me for running away during the whole of the first year of my marriage that you don’t trust me anymore?”
“No Ben, of course not, I could never be disappointed in you for that, you had every right to leave, don’t you realize how proud of you I am, I know even your parents would have proud of the man you have become,” his mother added.
“But would they really mom? Abandoning my new wife and children is not the man you taught to be, or who they would have wanted me to be. I know we were not married in the best of a situation and confess that I would have never married her if it were not for the children but mom, I did marry her and then I flaked out on her. So what if I did not trust her or believe that she was the best woman for me, in doing what I did, in running I made the situation worse and became no better than the worst wife you are accusing her to be and that I thought she was all this time.” Ben looked down and sighed before he looked back and turned to look at Tay.
“I abandoned you and the children and when I came back I was completely horrible to you. I had my reasons but as our children like to remind me, two wrongs do not make a right and unless I open myself up to you and show you that you can trust me, we could never have a happy marriage and you could never be honest with me or accept me as your husband.”
“Children? Please tell me Chipo didn’t…”
“Don’t worry about it, they did not attack me in any way, and definitely not Chipo. While you were worried she would say something you did not keep as close an eye on Rumbie and Tino, all our children are very protective of you Tay. They would do anything for you, including pointing the fact that I had left you to fend for yourself against both of our families for too long. Apparently, I am far from being the best husband in the world and according to what their dad taught them before he passed, a man who cannot take care of his wife does not deserve her love or her trust.”
It was now Tay’s turn to look down at her hands as she remembered her uncle Andy always used to say that, he would say that it was his job to make his wife bloom and be a fruitful vine. He would quote the bible as he taught them about how a man should treat his woman and how a woman should treat her man. As she thought about she realized that she had failed in all the lessons her aunt and uncle had taught her about how a wife should treat her husband. She was supposed to love him and respect him as unto Christ; everything she did was supposed to be as unto Christ and she had failed to live up to that. Had she done anything right since tete Angie and bamukuru Andy had died?
“No Tay, stop, I can almost see the thoughts going through your head right now, this is why I did not think this is the right time for this conversation,” Ben said coming to stand by Tay’s chair.
“So here are your answers mom, not sharing a room right now is actually the best thing either of us could do. We both need the chance to communicate with each other honestly, get to know each other and decide together where our marriage is headed before we start sharing rooms. The children would actually think less of us if we’re to pretend nothing was wrong and live life as if we do not need to build on our relationship. I ruined the chance of them never knowing something was wrong when I left and so did the rest of you by saying things against my wife and our relationship while the children were close by. You may not know it, but they are always listening and hear more than you want them to, way more than they ever should.
“Secondly, Tay not responding to right now mom is better than anything she has ever done because you came here looking for blood and whatever she could have chosen to respond would have only made you angrier because you are not in the mood to hear her out. And I know you have never really liked her mom, even when uncle Andy was alive so I am sure not there has ever been a time when you were ever willing to give her a fair shot. But mom, she is my wife and that’s not going to change anytime soon so can we at least be civil with each, even if just for the sake of the children?
“And you questioned whether she has no respect for me and honestly I wouldn’t blame her if she doesn’t because to me respect is earned and I have done nothing to earn her respect so I am not sure why I ever expected it. My own wife does not trust me, mom, and I have only myself to blame because the way I treated both before and after our marriage. I never gave her a chance to trust me and so how could she?
“And as to why we are living in this house, I actually prefer it and I haven’t asked her to move. I know you are not aware of this but uncle Andy was building a home for his family when he died, and that house is right now finished and its just waiting for people to move in. We could have moved in if I had not bailed on my family but I have decided that we will only move in when things are settled between me and Tendai and we are ready to share a room. Right now as we work on things I would prefer it if we stayed here, of course, I wouldn’t mind if Tay would let me take over some of the family expenses, including the rent but that is something me and her would have to talk about and come to an agreement on.
“And because he was building, uncle Andy did not leave a lot of money behind, but what he did leave, Tendai had already added it to the trust funds he had for his children. There is no money anywhere to spare that came from uncle Andy, even the insurance money has been put in the children’s trust funds. Everything Tendai has been paying for has been with her own money, money she has been making from her Illustration and Graphic Design business.
“I sent money for the children’s upkeep even when I was away but I ashamed to say that I had treated my wife so poorly she did not feel comfortable enough to use the money. Instead, she has been giving to you and using it to help our family whenever one of you came to her assistance, she hasn’t been giving you uncle Andy’s money because she has none of to give you. And where my money was not enough, she has been adding her own so I really do not think any of us has any ground to stand on where money is concerned. Did I leave any of you questions unanswered?” Ben inquired.
Tay sat there, completely quiet, and in total shock at Ben defending her. All this time she had been thinking Ben was the enemy when in fact she was the reason they had been fighting. From the sound of it, Ben was not purposefully making her life miserable and he maybe possibly didn’t hate her anymore. Where had she gotten it all wrong? Why had she not stopped to ask him what he really felt? Why had she not fought harder for their marriage to get it to a better place? Her own tete’s cutting response brought her back from her thoughts though.
“Ben, you cannot be defending this wretched liar right now, do you really have any proof of what you just said? Tay is such a skilled liar, you should not just take her word for it. Do you know the things she has been doing behind your back? Do you know she adopted the children without?” tete Anne asked.
Tay froze at that statement, knowing that she had in fact done that and not told him, well not directly anyway. She had been sending him monthly reports on the children and their welfare but she knew he never read her reports. So she had purposefully taken advantage of the fact that he had signed a document saying that with the exception of taking away his guardian rights, she could make a decision about the children just as long as she found a way to let him know. If for any reason he disagreed with her decision he would communicate against it but if not, his silence would be the go-ahead she needed.
So her crime in that situation was that she did not communicate with him in a way where he would have had the chance to say something or voice his opinion. In fact, besides the things she had asked the children to talk to him about, or that went through his lawyer, she had made a lot of decisions underhandedly sending him communication through emails that she knew he never read. It had been very unkind of her and she knew that it was just another mark against her.
“I actually I do know about that, Tay has been sending me emails with reports about the welfare of the children and any decisions she would have made during my time away,” Ben responded but he gave her a look before he turned back to everyone and she knew she had been caught. “I have also taken the time to go over the accounts with my lawyer since I have been back, not because I did not trust her but because I wanted to see if there was anything I could change to make things better.”
He had probably only read the reports in the past two months since he has been back. Had the children told him to do that too? While she was grateful to him for standing up for her, she was also a little disappointed in herself for failing to protect her children from all this drama. If she couldn’t even do that right then what was she actually good at? She was on the fence with her children being the ones to convince him to work on their marriage.
On one end, she happy to know they loved her enough to defend her without alienating Ben or cutting him off, but on the other hand, she never wanted them to be in a situation where they had to defend her. And she questioned what else they said to him to make him change his mind about her? Was that the only reason he changed what he thought about her or was there something else? Has God possibly been working on his heart, not just through the children but also through other means?
It had to be God though because there was just no way his change of heart had come from self-introspection or whatever. She had not imagined the hate she had seen in his eyes all those years before and on their wedding day. She did not think that the kind of hate he had could just disappear, choosing love was already hard for her and she had never hated him, how hard would it be for him since he not only hated her but resented her because he blamed her for the marriage they were stuck in?
“You do not know everything there is to know about this woman son, she has been lying to you from the beginning!” His mother snapped. “You know how we used to think that she was the one donating eggs to your aunt for her to have children? How we all thought the children were hers and not Angie? Well, her tete here just told me that Tendai is barren, while Angie had fertility issues, at least she could have a child with IVF, your wife is completely barren!
“She fooled you into marriage and she did not tell you. Everyone knows you love children and could not wait to have your own, but now how can you when you have her for a wife? She betrayed us all by tricking you into this marriage and there will be no children from this union. She is definitely not worthy to be your wife! What happiness can you have with her, what can she give you?”
Your wife is barren…
She betrayed us…
…not worthy to be your wife…
As the words played over and over in her head, Tay found it was becoming harder and harder to breathe. As her breathing became more laboured, she realized she could no longer hear what anyone was saying. All she could think about was the fact that he hadn’t known, he hadn’t known that she was barren. And if he didn’t know before, but had he still hated her so much, what chance did she have now?
His mother was right, she wasn’t worthy to be his wife, she couldn’t give him children. She knew that people could be happy without their own children, and they already had four, but the truth was he really did love children. Since she had known him, she had known how much he looked forward to being a new father and having children of his own.
Sure there were options, they could get a surrogate but she knew that’s not how he envisioned everything, that was not his dream. And while she had not lied outrightly, by failing to inform him of her condition, she had betrayed him and tricked him.
I am such a failure
That was her last thought before everything became black again and she lost consciousness.