“STORIES THAT TOUCH THE HEART?” (SHORT STORY)
Ola was amused when she came into their guest room on Monday morning and saw how her friend, Oluoma, was hurrying to get dressed. Oluoma had been unable to get hostel accommodation and had been squatting here and there. The situation had been driving her crazy with her health jeopardised and her class attendance drastically reduced. Her belongings were scattered between the places she squatted: Onuiyi, Odenigwe and Mary Slessor Hall. She had even lost some stuff because she couldn’t remember where she left them and she didn’t have secure closets anywhere. Her suitcases were in Ola’s house and she dropped by every other weekend to pick a change of clothes.
Ola was newly married and lived with her husband, a lecturer, in the staff quarters on campus. After Oluoma’s hospitalisation the previous week due to malaria and stress, Ola had convinced her husband to bring her home to stay. The girls had been close friends in secondary school and were very excited to meet each other in a General Studies lecture after a four-year break in their relationship. That was in their first year. Currently, they were in their third year, Ola in English and Oluoma in History.
Ola had an 8 o’clock class. She had woken up early to prepare breakfast and get dressed for school. Oluoma was still weak from her recent illness and when she staggered into the kitcheni around 6 a.m., Ola had urged her to go back to bed. Ready to leave, she had come to tell Oluoma her food was on the dining table and to wish her a great day.
“Babe, what’s up? I thought you didn’t have lectures this morning.”
“I don’t but I’m leaving with you.”
“Why the rush?”
“Sweetie, I’m not staying here unless you’re around. I don’t want stories that touch the heart.”
“Stories that touch the heart? Babe, you’re tripping!”
Ola walked out of the room angry. She pecked her husband, Ikenna, who was watching the news on TV, on the head and went out of the house. Oluoma followed shortly after, still putting on her earrings. She waved to Ikenna and ran after Ola.
“Wait up, girl! I’m in no shape for a race.”
Ola didn’t slacken her pace though. She was beginning to wonder if she had made a mistake inviting Oluoma into her home. Stories that touch the heart? What was Oluoma insinuating? That her husband might make sexual advances which might result in what? Or that she might be blamed for seducing him if …? Or that Oluoma and her husband might have an affair and break her home?
Why would she even think that? It’s been what, three days? Could my husband have given her the reason to think that way? Has his eyes lingered on her and her goods indecently? Or is she attracted to him and feels that in the event they are left alone, something might go wrong?
Whatever the case, she shouldn’t have spoken like that. It was a very flippant thing to say! And what good could come out of it? This can only make me suspicious of my husband and threatened by her, none of which serves her well in the desperate accommodation situation she’s been in.
As she thought about it, she got madder and walked faster, causing Oluoma to give up trying to catch up with her.
[bctt tweet=”Words are like yeast. Think of their multiplied effect before you use them.” username=”edithohaja1″]
Ola began to remember the marriage advice they’d received.
“Do not let a third party into your relationship,” the Marriage Committee Chairman at their church had warned. But did the present scenario qualify as third party meddling and was Oluoma really a third party? She had never thought of her that way before. She was her best friend on campus, her “sister from another mother” as she liked to say. She had been her chief bridesmaid too at her wedding a few months ago. And ever since she introduced them, she hadn’t noticed any strange vibes between her and Ikenna.
Oluoma was just being stupid, she told herself. She was a beautiful girl but so was Ola. Most importantly, Ikenna was a disciplined young man. Which was part of the reason Ola married him: he didn’t have roaming eyes. He was too focused on his work to pursue women. She had been the one to do the heavy lifting of capturing his attention by serving as a volunteer (teaching English) at his Free Exam Prep Centre and once she did, he proposed soon after. He didn’t have the stomach for a long relationship outside marriage, he had said. She called him “the last of the innocents” because she was aware of the havoc other young men were wreaking in girls’ lives.
And the worst are the lecturers! It’s a nightmare for a woman, young or old, to be married to them. It appears that once they are hired and see all shapes and sizes of women, they lose all self control! Kids in candy stores, that’s what they become!
But she was convinced Ikenna wasn’t like that.
Still, if Oluoma has started thinking like this, shouldn’t I kick her out right away? Is our marriage not too young for us to be having a live-in guest in our home, and a PYT at that?
As angry and conflicted as she was, Ola couldn’t forget how close she and Oluoma were and what the latter had passed through due to lack of steady accommodation. She could not, in good conscience, send her back to that type of wearying experience. She was certain that if the tables were turned, Oluoma would not have allowed her to suffer before welcoming her into her home. She was such a large-hearted girl.
[bctt tweet=”Caught between obeying the Golden Rule and securing your marriage, what would you do?” username=”edithohaja1″]
Sure, she had spoken out of turn but, perhaps, she didn’t know the implications of what she had said or that it would upset her so, Ola reasoned. She could also have been trying to protect her. With this turn of thoughts, she slowed down. Looking back and seeing how far behind Oluoma was, she waited for her under a pine tree nearby. They were close to their faculty and would soon part to their different departments.
As she watched Oluoma walking towards her at a quicker pace, she wondered what she would say to her. Scold her? Apologise? She couldn’t make up her mind. She wasn’t even sure it was such a good idea to keep hosting her. She wondered what other issues would crop up in time and how much they would strain their friendship and her relationship with her husband.
[bctt tweet=”One wrong move can trigger events that summon years of tears.” username=”edithohaja1″]
She needed to stop worrying and hand over the matter to the most capable hands she knew, she advised herself. God, take control of this situation and grant me wisdom in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2018
Hi, hi! Would love to chat with you about the story.
Do you think Oluoma was right or wrong when she told Ola, “I’m not staying here unless you’re around. I don’t want stories that touch the heart”?
Do you feel Ola was right to be upset about what Oluoma said or she overreacted?
Going forward, how should Ola handle the situation?
Are you or anyone you know affected by accommodation hassles? Can you offer some coping mechanisms to such people?
Ola has a terrible opinion of male lecturers. Sounds like an overgeneralisation. What’s your take on that?
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