Sabina is the seventh lady we have hired since the birth of our firstborn, Lawal. She started work two months before she turned eighteen and it rattled me a little bit. Recently admitted to the bar, upholding the constitution has become suddenly so important for me and the little things I would sweep under the rug toy with my conscious.
Lawal seemed to like her, as opposed to the previous girls we hired. There was this particular one, Stacy who ate all of our baby’s food when she refused to eat so she could lie that the baby had all of it. It was impressive at first, but the drastic loss of weight contrasted with Stacy’s claims. She pulled classic house girl behaviour barely two months later and I was more than glad to let her go.
Then there was Bridget. She had worked for several households around the city and was pretty good at her job. I was confident leaving Lawal in her care because she too had a child, three years old. However, it was displeasing that she didn’t follow the simple rules we gave her when she arrived. My husband and I had agreed to never let the house help bathe the baby because of all the horror stories we heard. But Bridget had broken this rule a couple of times and it irked me.
She too left one Sunday morning on claims that her child was sick, only to meet her at the local supermarket with a man I presume she met while working for me and she ran off to hide. It troubled me, however, if the man had come to my house in our absence and if Lawal had been left unattended as they went about their business. So, when Sabina arrived, naïve, respectful with a warm smile, I thought she would be easy to handle, unlike my previous employees.
Dennis liked that she was respectful, but most importantly, that our child seemed to be comfortable around her. We prayed that she would stay longer than our previous house helps and that she wouldn’t have suspicious family emergencies to trick us into quitting her job. There was one thing that I had failed to check when she arrived though, her clothes. I grew up in a household that was frequented by different types of domestic workers, so I sort of had a crush course on How to handle domestic workers 101.
One evening we arrived home and Sabina emerged from her bedroom clad in this bodycon dress that had quite an extremely revealing cleavage. Dennis and I exchanged surprised looks because it was the last thing we had expected. I didn’t even begin with a greeting, I just started probing her.
“Sabina, how would you even mop with that?” I asked, analyzing her face.
“Mama Lawal, it’s not too short, I can comfortably bend,” she answers with a weak smile.
“I’m talking about your breasts. Can’t you see you they are all over the place?” I inquired. She looked at me quietly and I continued with my sermon.
“Between me and you, who is the owner of this house?” I ask looking at her downcast face. She was quiet again.
“Remove that dress and never wear it again in here. If you must, put on a sweater or something to cover that up,” I finished the conversation.
Dennis seemed disinterested in our conversation as he was playing with Lawal the entire time. He didn’t bring it up in a joke like he always did with most of the scenarios, he just didn’t take part at all, but I didn’t find it alarming. Sabina was moody for the rest of the night, doing things rather too slowly, waiting to be called twice so she could respond and going to bed much earlier. It’s normal, I’ve seen it in my mother’s household so it really didn’t baffle me, she would go back to her normal self, and if she persisted, she would get another scolding.
However, I really missed my smoking gun when I thought it was okay that Dennis didn’t have anything to say about Sabina’s dressing. Dennis is a moral cop, he examines situations, likes to banter and even gossips with our friends. He’s not the kind to lack opinions on matters of family, friends, entertainment and anything that could be deemed controversial. Knowing him, he would probably label me a few Nollywood characters that had played such a role and even teased me a few times. It all came to me on Sabina’s birthday when he came in with a giant cake to surprise her.
Usually, we order cakes from a former high school classmate of mine and so all orders were made through me. It was even more surprising that Dennis of all people remembered anyone’s birthday apart from his own. I followed him to the bedroom with my long list of questions that had to be answered before any cake-cutting could happen. Sabina had sprung up from the sofa in excitement, ran to him and hugged Dennis. I never in my life, have ever seen Dennis so comfortable with someone, not his older sister, not his nieces, no one, nobody!
“What is the cake for?” I asked.
“Sabina’s birthday. I know you have missed cake too, so I decided to surprise you.” He answered as he took his socks off.
“Why didn’t you consult me?” I probe. Dennis is short-tempered and when he’s not having something, his eyes blink more than usual.
“I said it was a surprise babe. How many times should I repeat that?”
“She’s our house help. Anything concerning her should come through me!” I respond.
“I’m sorry, it will never happen again.”
“This isn’t over. We’ll talk about this.” I said as we both headed to the living room to have dinner. But something in me was disturbed, so I went into Sabina’s room, collected her phone, put it on silent and hid it in one of my bags. She was desperately looking for it and I could tell by the lines on Dennis’s face, he was too worried about a house help’s phone missing, especially when he can buy ten more phones of the same calibre.
Joy was lost as Sabina cut her cake and Dennis didn’t sing as loud as he sings at other people’s birthdays. Only Lawal seemed to enjoy the birthday because there were cartoons on the screen singing happy birthday. The tension built as the song neared to end and I knew I had to look through that phone. Their body language wasn’t something to overlook.
Getting married to Dennis, I thought that there were some challenges our marriage would never experience. Like the possibility that he could have an affair with a house help when we literally called out men who did these kinds of things out loud. I thought we hated the same things and believed the same things. I knew confirming my suspicions would damage me, but I appreciate the truth.
Dennis was following me at every turn I made in the house. He was uneasy, and it was evident.
“I have her phone,” I said when we locked our bedroom door.
“Have you gone through it?” He asked. I could hear his heart beating.
“Not yet. Dennis, should I be worried?” I ask after a heavy sigh.
“Why? Just give it back, please.”
“I will, tomorrow morning.”
“She needs to use it now, maybe?” He added as if to steer the conversation to a different angle. I looked at him quietly and walked out.
Thankfully, Dennis sleeps like a log, so he was out by the time Lawal slept and I had my time to check through Sabina’s phone. I’m pretty certain Sabina had retired to bed out of frustration and Dennis would have been still awake if he didn’t come back too tired.
4 NEW MESSAGES
Delete all of our chats.
Don’t agree to anything she asks you.
I hope you swallowed the pills.
Don’t text me for now and delete our chats ASAP!
My heart sank as I quickly went through their chats. They sleep together when I go for the Tuesday fellowship. He’s never home early enough to tag along and yet it’s a requirement for our church wedding. From what I have gathered, this has been going on for over a month. I look at the phone, a pretty old Neon Kicka I had gifted Sabina for easy communication when she stays home with my child. My rage draws me to Dennis and instead of the vile things I’ve thought of doing, I decided to be rather modest, something he can’t afford to be right now.
I tapped him and he sobered up the moment he saw Sabina’s phone in my hands.
“She’s not even legal yet, your paedophile!”
“I can explain. Please don’t shout,” he begs.
“No, the first thing you do when you wake up, I want you and her gone. Do you hear me?”
“Yes! Yes!” He says as he tries to hold me.
“Use the couch! Wait, go sleep with your house slut.” I want to hurl insults and probably do the extremes like breaking his phone, but I don’t want to interrupt Lawal’s sleep. Where was she when her father was sleeping with the help? Doesn’t he think of her? Because it’s all I ever do.
He left the room in haste and locked it from the outside. I’ve barely slept. I’ve been tossing and turning, asking myself countless questions. Did he sleep with her in our matrimonial bed? Should I tell our parents? Will our wedding still proceed as planned?
Morning has been a long time coming. I heard Sabina leave the house at 6 am. I peeked through the bedroom window. Carrying the same old bag, she came with. At the bottom of my heart, I think I didn’t protect her enough, but I’m also praying she’s not carrying my husband’s child. I’ve avoided having a conversation with her because I don’t trust myself to be logical and objective, I’m a scorned woman, and I could say some pretty distasteful things. I’m tempted to call her back and question her, but my raging heart wants to deal with the liar in my living room. The idiotic man I call a husband.
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