Thursday, July 19, 2012

Noise on Hamilton Terrace

Below is the second instalment of a short story I posted in August 2011. It follows the struggles one woman has in dealing with a conniving and manupulative mother-in-law. I hope you enjoy it.

Move now! Move! Osaro mentally implored the train as it sat immobile in between Edgware Road and Paddington tube stations. Osaro shifted in her seat as the man next to her shoved her arm with his elbow, taking up the entire arm rest. She took a deep breath, immediately regretting it as the stench of stale cigarette smoke filled her nostrils.

Fifteen minutes later, Osaro exited Warwick Avenue station and quickened her pace to a fast trot as she hurried home. Please Father let there be peace tonight. Please.


Hamilton Terrace was home to some of the most expensive houses in London. Tucked between metropolitan Kilburn and slightly bohemian Maida, it was a three-quarter mile long avenue with Victorian mansions and Tulip and Redwood trees on either side. These perennials offered shade during the few London hot days and a sense of privacy from passers-by. Residents tended to avoid getting too close to their neighbours; some called it the paranoia of the very wealthy; not wanting eyes prying into their homes or businesses. On Hamilton Terrace children rarely rode their bicycles along the pavements; they did that in their parent’s compounds instead.

It was on this tony street that Kola and Osaro Williams started their married life 2 years ago. The house was a surprise wedding gift from Osaro’s parents and boasted vaulted high ceilings, 5 bedrooms, a swimming pool and some of the most fabulous furnishings and accessories that money could buy. Osaro was grateful and delighted, but Kola was less so.


“Good evening Mama.”
Osaro knelt in greeting to her mother-in-law. The older woman, pretending to be engrossed in whatever was being broadcast on the telly, ignored Osaro. Osaro was solely tempted to get off her knees and walk away, but she had learned the painful lesson many months ago not to leave the room until Mama dismissed her.
“Mama, I hope you’ve had a good day. Have you had your dinner yet?” Osaro did her best to look and sound as docile as possible. As she looked closely at Mama she noticed the older woman was wearing Osaro’s diamond earrings! The very earrings she bought on her honeymoon!
Mama turned to Osaro, with a sneer on her face, as though daring Osaro to say anything. She turned back to the telly.
“Get up! Why are you pretending? I know you don’t want me in this house, but this is my son’s house and everything in it belongs to his family.”
Tears pooled in Osaro’s eyes. She was tired. Tired of her mother-in-law’s unwarranted insults. Tired of living like a guest in her own home. She had bent over backwards to win over her in-laws, but it seemed that the more she did, the more they hated her and tried to make her life unbearable. She slowly rose from her knees and walked towards the hallway.
“Where are you going? Useless woman!”
Osaro stopped in her tracks, her fists clenched. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She opened her mouth to tell Mama just what she thought of her, when Risi walked in with baby Jessica. One look at her eight month old daughter and Osaro felt calm wash all over her. She quickly crossed the room and took her baby from the house-girl.
“Welcome Madam.”
“Thank you Risi. Has she eaten?” Osaro was referring to her daughter.
No oh! Mama say she go wait for Oga before she chop. But I don cook Efo riro with plenty stock fish.”
“I was talking about the baby –wait! Where did you get stock fish? How many times have I told you not to cook stock fish in my house? The smell upsets my husband and please stop calling him ‘Oga’, call him 'Mr Williams'.”
“I am the one who told her to cook stock fish!” Osaro jumped at Mama’s sudden outburst. She didn’t realise that the old woman had crept up behind her. She instinctively held Jessica tighter as though to obtain succour from her child.
“Who told you that stock fish upsets my son? Isn’t that what he has been eating all his life? You think all the Oyinbo mede medes that you are feeding him can fill him up? No wonder the poor man is losing weight!” With that she shoved into Osaro, causing Jessica to cry.
Osaro shook her head. No I will not give her the satisfaction! She walked out of the room.


“My daughter you did well.” Mama patted the side of her bed, inviting Risi to sit next to her. Risi tightened the wrapper she’d tied over her chest and sat on the edge of the bed.
Mama, I no know oh! I dey sorry for Madam.”
Mama rolled her eyes. Stupid girl. She better not spoil my plans.
“Ah no oh! Don’t you want to be the madam of this house? Don’t worry, very soon my son’s eyes will be opened and he drive that woman away.”
Risi scratched her head, a question in her eyes as she looked at Mama.
Mama took off the diamond earrings she had on and placed them in Risi’s hands. Risi’s eyes widened.
“Mama, Madam go kill me o! She go think say I thief her earring.”
“Don’t worry. Who do you think buys all the jewelry that woman wears? My son! Don’t worry my dear! My son wants a son and all that woman could produce was another useless girl like her!”
But Mama I know say Oga love Madam true true.”
“Love! Please!” Mama hissed as she tightened her head scarf. She drew closer to Risi and whispered conspiratorially. “I know my son. He does not love that woman. He is only confused because of all the juju she has used! But it will not work!” Her voice had reason a few octaves.
Risi visibly flinched. “But Madam dey go church. She be big Christian.”
Mama shook her head.
“Church?! You think say everybody wey dey go church na Christian? I beg! Listen, my friend. You will get pregnant and give me a grandson, and then my son will marry you.”
Mama squared her shoulders, a self-satisfied smirk on her weathered face.


Kola took another sip of his now tepid orange juice. He grimaced and pushed the glass away.
“Bro you need to go home.” Kola turned around to look at his friend Derek. Derek took a seat at the other side of the chipped table.
Kola pursed his lips. He placed his head in his hands. “I don’t know what to do. Those women are driving me crazy.”
“You know this is your fault, don’t you?”
Kola’s head shot up so fast he felt dizzy. “My fault? How?”
Derek raised his eyebrows, daring Kola to disagree. He got up to switch off the whistling kettle in his tiny studio flat. He took his time making a cup of tea as Kola stewed, waiting for some insight from the 78 year old Polish man.
Derek returned to the table, stirring his tea as he blew on to the tendrils of steam wafting from his cup.
“You married ‘Saro so you need to let your mother go. Or at least stand up to her. What were you thinking moving her into your home, when you’ve barely had time to establish your marriage?”
Seconds ticked away, with only the sound of the men breathing filling the space.
“What was I supposed to do? My mother needed treatment.”
“And they don’t have doctors in Nigeria?”
Kola looked at his watch. He should have known Derek wouldn’t understand. He stood up.
“Thanks for the juice.”
Derek nodded.

Kola took the three steps to the door. He opened the door and walked through. As he closed the door the door behind him, Derek shouted, “And get that house maid out of your house. She’s trouble!”


Ufuoma Daniella Ojo is a Technical Author and Software Trainer. She lives in London. She is editing a manuscript, learning French, working on some new stories about relationships and trusting God for connections leading to publication.

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