Catherine was shocked. She gaped, her mouth opened to speak but the words got tied up in her organ of speech. She never deemed her son would ask her out of his house. Just then the door opened and Helen walked in.
“I am so sorry sir. I should be fired I know that, but please hear me out first.” She threw in immediately not letting James the opportunity to say a word. “My daughter…”
“I do not want to hear it.” James cut in. “Just take Junior to school.”
“To school?” Helen was surprised. “What school sir, I thought you said till next section?” She asked.
“Take him to school!” James stressed, looking directly into her eyes. “I do not want to leave my house unlocked.” He added.
Helen nodded reluctantly and took Junior from his hands. Her expression asked a thousand questions yet no way to generate answers. She took a step in, but James blocked her.
“Go now, I am late for work!” He shouted.
“Sorry sir, but I need to pick his food pack.” She explained.
James looked at her for some time and waved her through. She briskly moved to the dinning and picked Junior’s food-pack which embodied, his toiletries, the baby-milk, his feeding bottle which was left on the table unwashed, and a flask which she filled with hot water from the water dispenser and another flask filled with pap. She obviously did not see Catherine because she was in a hurry; moreover she was not expecting any visitor in the house. While returning from the dining, she saw Catherine and apologetically greeted her and left. Quickly she rushed back.
“The keys sir.” She requested.
“Alright mother, you have to come out now, I want to lock the house and give her the keys okay?” James ordered.
It was his house and he has full right to its residence, but his mother obviously found that order insulting. She was only trying to endure the pain of watching her grandson being entrusted to a stranger and another taboo hit her; ordering her out of the house so as to confidently yield up the keys to this same stranger. She found that really downgrading to her status as his mother.
“You might have to lift me out.” She said as she cosily sat down on the couch feeling the need to remind James her position in his life.
“Damn it mum!” James cursed as he watched her sit majestically on the couch. “I am late for God’s sake.”
Helen was taken aback in shock. That was her first time seeing the woman who bore James. She had always wondered if she was dead to have allowed her son hire a nanny to watch over her grandchild, but since that negligence provided a job for her, she bothered less. She relaxed by a corner to watch the family drama unfold.
“I did not train you to use the name of God in vain. So do not use such words again.” Catherine replied with so much relaxation.
James was left with three difficult options; he could either allow her to stay, push her out or forget about going to work. He discarded the options with a shake of head as they all would produce dangerous results. There was no way he would allow his mother stay in that house in his absence, neither can he push her out. The thought of what his boss told him earlier on phone and his several warnings which had come roughly six times since his wife left made him not to consider the last option. He had tried explaining his present family cusp to his boss, but he just kept acting like a boss.
“Who cares if you wife left you? I employed you, not your wife. If you want to mourn your wife’s leaving, resign and do that properly.” His mind replayed the previous warning. That was few weeks after his wife’s sudden evacuation.
“Too much of your nonchalant attitudes towards work has been enough tolerated. But the next time you come late or malfunction at your work again, just do not bother returning to the firm.” The disheartening warning came few weeks back.
Prior to his wife’s unexplainable desertion, he was the best accountant in the firm; very dedicative towards his works, performed his duties diligently and wholeheartedly. He never imagined the possibility of being sacked, not even now when his life was crashing down on him, but with his boss’ stern and unkind warnings, which had come several times, he feared that was about to happen.
He could survive and endure his marital crisis but might not survive losing his job. In the job he found happiness and solace, which transformed his life for the best. He decided to act all mild towards his mother since his harshness did not bear any fruit. So he signalled at Helen to go with Junior.
“I cannot go without the keys sir. What if we return before you, which is likely to happen?” Helen stubbornly refused. She was only doing her work and looking out for Junior, even though she did not exactly understand James’ intentions that morning. She was only acting along hoping to get a perfect and well detailed explanation later.
“What else are you young lady?” Catherine asked marching towards her. It was glaring Helen’s last statement got her real pissed. “You have really said more than a mere nanny should, you need to start going.”
Helen felt embarrassed, even if James was her son, she has no right shouting at her. She was working for James and not her.
“Sorry madam, you can’t just show up and start shouting at people. I work for your son and not you and you should thank me for doing your job for you. So do not shout at me again.” Helen angrily said.
It was obvious she has gone bananas. James knew her to be quick tempered. They have engaged in many arguments in that past during which she unintentionally aired her inability to hide her feelings, and James had come to love that about her. Catherine was shocked the instance Helen started to speak. She was affrighted at the audacity with which she talked to her, but more shocked at her son for not stopping her. She looked at James who gawked at her without any remorse. For the first time she thought she had lost the war. She turned slowly and walked back to her seat, like a child whose mother refused a hug, and again did the only thing she could do without a fight; sit down.
James looked at his wrist watch; it was past nine. He got furious and ready to take a drastic action just to get his mother out of the house.
“Please mum, do not make me do this. Just respectfully go.” He said walking towards her. “If I want to hear from you, I will call but for now, I want to be on my own and think about my life.” He added while standing in front of Catherine.
Catherine squinted at him, brought out her phone and dialled a number. James moved to push her and his phone rang. He brought the phone off his pocket; it was his boss again. Fear, wrapped in anger took over him. It was few minutes to ten and he definitely knew how that call would end.
“Hello sir, please I am so sorry sir. The traffic is just… ”
“What traffic?” Catherine loudly interrupted. “The traffic of throwing your mother out of the house, is that the traffic you are talking about?” She furiously bellowed.
There is no lying again. James could read the silence of his boss during the few seconds his mother was talking; he calmly listened to the voice from the background. He could imagine what was going through his boss’ mind. He knew he had lost it; the very people who had cost him the trouble of marriage have cost him another thing very dear to him- his job. He broke down sobbing like a child.
Helen closed the door and rushed to him. She helped him to the dining while glancing at Catherine. She made him sit. She sat Junior on the table and walked to bring water from the fridge for him. Catherine stood gazing at them absurdly. She was struggling to wave off the creepy thought brewing in her about James having an affair with the nanny, but when Helen helped James drink the water she brought, she gaped in conviction that something was really up their sleeves. She summoned enough courage and walked up to them, pushed the glass cup off Helen’s hand; it shattered on the floor.
“Are you two sleeping with each other?” She bluntly asked.
Helen could not believe her ears. She just heard the funniest assumptions of the century; an assumption she deeply wished was true, but since it wasn’t, she refused to dignify Catherine’s derisory assumption with a response, and concerned herself with James’ condition.
“How are you feeling sir?” She asked so gently that James’ attention was diverted from his mother’s nasty inquisitive query to her in an appealing manner.
“I said it. You both are sleeping with each other. Your wife said you are having an affair but I did not for once think it is true, let alone with a nanny. God! I cannot believe you effortlessly allowed your wife to leave because of this.” Catherine said scaling Helen with her eyes.
James scoffed, he wanted to tell her mother how wrong she was, that his wife left on her own accord; for some imponderable reason known to her alone, and that there was nothing going on between him and Helen, but before he could finish bringing to normalcy his cracked voice, Helen has taken over the show.
“Who do you disrespectfully address as a thing?” She asked. “I can now see why your son doesn’t want you in his house. You are callous, selfish and inconsiderate. First, you stubbornly delayed him from going to work, and now his boss has called to say whatever it was that got him, a full grown man to shed tears, and all you care about is if he is having an affair with me; insult which I humbly took, but do not ever call me a thing again, unless you want to see how things react.” She halted her long but spirit filled speech cum warning, and walked into the kitchen.
James was happily sad. He felt like smiling because his mother who had proven stubborn has seen stubbornness itself. He smiled pretentiously to Junior, and then carried him trying to conceal his expression from his mother, who stood like one who’s seen a ghost. Helen returned with a packing pan and a broom. She packed the broken glasses and disappeared into the kitchen.
Catherine was confusedly sad over what Helen said. She paced as she considered the possibility of her assumptions being a mere illusion, and the disturbing feeling those words churned up in her, replaying in her head how bad a mother she has been. She stepped closer to James apologetically, but James has found his lost courage.
“You see all that’s happening? It’s you and father’s fault. I had a lady I wanted to marry, but you two said no, because a business associate deceived you, wrapped a time bomb in the name of a daughter and presented her to you. Then you and father planted her in my life without scrutiny. You both accepted the Trojan horse in order to maintain the business relationship you had with him. The bomb has gone off and the content of the Trojan horse has manifested, but unfortunately, I bear the consequences alone.” James detailed, pacifying Junior.
His marriage to Queen has been series of problems which Catherine and her husband, Osakwe were clearly aware of, but what they did not know was that the woman who they had accorded their son to marry, was truly a time bomb; a Trojan horse. She had accused James of extramarital affair hence her reason for leaving the house. They had believed her because they trusted her parents, and not actually her.
“For your information, I just lost my job. So you can stay here as long as you want.” James said as he walked inside the room.
Helen who just appeared from the kitchen was shocked on hearing that. She scornfully looked at Catherine who seemed happy about the news. “I am sorry about that.” She said.
James nodded with a sad smile and made for his room. He was half way into the living room when a heavy knock came at the door. He startled as he briskly looked at the door. He was not expecting anybody and the manner of the knock was nowhere near civility. He respired and glanced at the duo who looked even more shocked.
“Who knocks like that?” Catherine shivered as the knock persisted. James slowly walked to the door, from the microscopic hole attached to the door, he peeped. His head tiredly fell on the door making a big thud. He turned towards Helen and Catherine.
“I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.” His tone was weak.
**… The story continues…