There’s a chasm opening in my stomach. A familiar feeling of sunken hopes once hatched.

“When will I see you again, Eti?” My voice is hoarse.

She fidgets and shifts her weight from one leg to the other, then scans the faces that throng the market place. When she meets my eyes, she shrugs.

“I don’t know. That’s if they’ll let me come again.”

I nod and look away, willing my quivering lips to still. She glances around again like one apprehending a sudden discovery from someone they’re hiding from.

I have wasted her time more than I should have. On instinct, I move in and wrap my arms tightly around her in a hug. She’s more stunned than appreciative of the gesture. I peel myself off her and manage a wobbly smile.

“Ba-bye, Mummy.”

I watch her dart into the crowd until her scattered cornrows disappear from my view. At least she still calls me “Mummy.”

As I turn on my heel and dissolve into the crowd, I let the tears fall freely. As if in conspiracy, the cloud releases light showers that drizzle and lap at my face. I hope I’ll see her again, and maybe my son this time around. If there’s anyone I blame for the way things have turned out, it’s Ekpema, my late husband.


I prepared yam and vegetable sauce for dinner. The last time we had yam had been around February, just before the news of the virus and lockdown. Ekpema usually bought them on his trips to Aba because they were less costly there. But with the lockdown, we had to make do with local rice and vegetables.

Mpouto sulked the whole time, pushing the yams around in his plate and scrunching up his face like someone who’d eaten stale editaiwa.

“I want to eat indomie,” he grumbled.

“Indomie is not good for the health of children. Mommy shey?” Eti asked.

“It’s not. In fact, after eating it your legs will become weak and you won’t grow taller as you’ve always wanted,” I played along.

Mpouto grumbled, pushed the plate away, and went to watch football in the parlour. I laughed and glanced at my husband who shook his head and looked between Eti and I.

“Is it my son you people are tossing like this?”

After dinner, Ekpema walked into the parlour with his shoes in hand.

“Daddy, are you going out?” Mpouto asked

“Yes. And I’ll buy you indomie when coming back.”

I caught the look of triumph on my son’s face as he turned to his sister and stuck out his tongue at her. She returned the gesture. These were my happy moments as a mother; watching my children tease each other.

“Ima, please escort me. I want to buy hand sanitizer and face masks for tomorrow.”

“I can’t believe it’s been a year already. Finally, we can leave our homes,” I said as I dashed into the room to fetch a headscarf.

“No fighting, you two. Daddy and I will be back soon.” I instructed the kids and closed the door behind me as Ekpema led the way.

The streets of epic plaza buzzed with people. Cars raced past, flashing their lights and blaring their horns in all directions. Hawkers called their wares with renewed strength in their voices. If anything, I could tell by the enthusiasm that everyone missed being on the streets.

Yesterday, when the AKBC news reporter had announced that “the government has finally eased the lockdown curfew in Akwa Ibom, but enjoins the masses to adhere to the Covid-19 protocol of using face masks and hand sanitizers as well as practicing social distancing,” a flicker of hope twirled in my heart. Life would return to normal.

We rounded a corner where the road got thinner. Roadside sellers flanked both sides of the road, forcing vehicles to slow down and in turn, pedestrians to move in single rows. Ekpema urged me to go before him.

“Ladies first.”

I laughed. “If it’s money now, you’ll not allow me to go first.”

“Haba now, how can I choose money over my wife?”

“I hear you. Is it not because of money you brought me out here in the first place?”

He didn’t respond.

A loud collision echoed and tires screeched on the tarred road.

“Jesus ooo!” An ensemble of voices screamed.

I hurried past with my heart thudding. Perhaps an irate driver had knocked down the wares of a roadside seller. He didn’t know these women. I only hoped whoever the unfortunate fellow was, he had enough money in his pockets because he certainly would be paying through his nose.

I turned to ask Ekpema what had happened, but he wasn’t there. I craned my neck and looked around. No sign of him. An eerie chill seeped into my spine.

“Akpa? Akpa? Iyammi ooo.” A woman’s piercing cry rose above the commotion. I found my feet leading me to the scene of the incidence.

I pushed past the crowd that had gathered and emerged in the circle. Lying in a pool of blood was Ekpema, unmoving.

My legs gave way and a strangled cry escaped my throat. I yelled, called his name, and tugged at his blood soaked T-shirt. How did this happen? He was right behind me all this while.

An eyewitness volunteered the information. The irate driver had driven speedily and rammed into him from behind. The impact from the hit had jerked him up into the air and landed him with a resounding thud on the ground. The driver had screeched off and disappeared.

“Somebody help me!” I screamed.

The crowd sprang into action. Within minutes, someone volunteered a Keke and two men helped me put him in the back. I sat with him, blood seeping into my skirts. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow. At intervals he jerked and I yelled at the rider to hurry up.

The moment we arrived at the government hospital, I jumped down and ran wildly into the ward, calling for help. Two nurses strolled out, one smacking a chewing gum while the other had her hands stuffed inside her pocket.

They looked at my blood-soaked clothes and glanced into the Keke, not moving from where they stood.

“My husband…accident. Help me, he’s still breathing,” I stuttered.

“Madam, Doctor ibaha, ikañ ibaha. We cannot help him.”

Did they know this was a critical condition? No light, no doctors?

“Aunty, take him to a private hospital or he’ll die oo.”

I jumped into the Keke, spurred the rider to maneuver out of the hospital gates as we headed for a private hospital—the only one in the area.

I held Ekpema’s hands, crying and reminding him our children were expecting us back home. I fumbled for my phone inside my purse. It was a miracle I still had them on me. I dialed my sister’s number and told her the news. Next, I called a member of the church and told him what I had told my sister.

“My husband just had an accident…God’s care hospital.”

The nurses at the reception raced towards us the moment the Keke came to an abrupt halt. Someone peered inside and yelled for a stretcher. I watch them hoist his hefty frame onto it and rush into the hospital. I raced after them but got stopped from going past the reception.

“What happened?” the doctor asked, donning a lab coat.

“He had an accident.” The tears came again.

“Buy a card. We’ll have to act fast.” He hurried away.

I rushed to the girl at the reception desk and asked for a card.

“It’s two thousand naira, Ma.”

I opened my purse and counted the money I had inside—one thousand naira only.

Two members of the church raced towards me and I tearfully narrated the incident to them, showing them my empty purse.

“I’ll talk to them. Just sit down, Ima-obong,” one of them said.

I couldn’t sit. I paced the whole corridor crying and muttering prayers to God. I reminded him how devoted my husband was in serving him.

“Abasi mbok kuyak énye akpa. Help me, please.”

Finally, the doctor strode out, his face expressionless.

“How is he, Doctor? Can I see him now?”

“Madam, were you there when the accident happened?”

“Yes, sir.” I narrated what happened.

“This is severe. Your husband had a hangman’s fracture. There were multiple broken vertebrae…”


“I mean the bones that surrounds his spinal cord up to his skull. His pars interarticularis, especially, was badly damaged.”

“Doctor please just stitch them together, anyhow, just make sure my husband is okay. We have two children at home.”

“I’m sorry, madam, but we lost him. His condition was too severe. He passed away shortly after we commenced treatment.”

It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I stood still, staring at the doctor but not seeing him. The words echoed in my head.

Ekpema was dead.

I slumped.


My brother conveyed me on his motorcycle to Ekpema’s village the next day. I had already informed them on phone that my husband had passed away the previous night.

I saw my mother-in-law first, making her way towards me as I alighted from the bike. Her steps were slowed by age. Behind her Ekpema’s siblings and family followed.

“Mama,” I sobbed and ran to her, throwing my hands around her to draw support. We both lost someone we loved deeply.

As my hands made contact with her, she flung them away and glared at me with her tear-stained face.

“Where is my son?”

“Mama? I told you my husband is dead. He passed away at the hospital last night.”

“Eeei!” the family shouted, each one taking a different stance, their hands splayed on their heads. When their gazes met mine, I knew trouble had found me.

“You have killed my son. Ha! I told Ekpema not to marry you. Women from the waterside are evil, but he didn’t listen. Oh, Ekpema! Have you seen how your disobedience has caused you your doom?”

Shocked, I stared at them mouth agape. This wasn’t happening to me. I knew his family never liked me, but accusing me of killing my husband? I swayed on my feet

“How did our son die?”

Again, I narrated the incidence to them, pausing at intervals to hiccup and sob into my palms.

“So the car knocked him down exactly the moment you stepped in front of him?”

“That was what happened. He was just behind me…”

“Where is the driver that killed him?”

“He escaped immediately.”

“Aha!” They chorused in unison.

“I said it! You conspired with your lover to kill my brother abi? How come no one caught him?”

Lover? Jesus! Didn’t this people hear a bit of what I had said?

“You killed our son. You and your lover, else why didn’t the car kill you both?”

The blood drained from my face. But that was just the beginning of my woes.

One week after my husband died, his people raided the rented apartment we lived in, took his bank documents, and asked for the key to his commercial bus. Countless times I told them Ekpema had no money stashed anywhere. He was only a bus driver who conveyed market women to Aba, but because of the lockdown, he couldn’t work anymore. On the night he died, we went to buy hand sanitizer and face masks for his use the next day.

“Think of his children. If you take the little we have, how will I raise them?” I appealed to their conscience.

“You have not seen anything yet. We’ll make sure you pay for this atrocity you’ve committed. M’abasi!” The man touched his finger to his tongue and pointed it upwards.

He meant every word.

Days rolled into nights and three months elapsed quickly. Burial preparations began. The church volunteered to provide the coffin while the family promised to rain woe on the burial day. I moved back to the village with my children as the date approached.

The morning of the burial started with a clear sky. Sleep had eluded me throughout the night. I dragged my tired limbs and sat in the small room watching my children sleep. Today I would officially become a widow. Grief welled inside me and my eyes stunk.

But something else troubled me. An unsettling feeling of apprehension gnawed at my insides. I couldn’t quite place what it was. Immediately after the burial, I planned to leave with my children and pick up the pieces of my life elsewhere.

It was 10am when we returned from the mortuary with his corpse. I sat staring at the coffin the whole ride home. It felt surreal that the man I’d come to love for 15 years lay not breathing inside the coffin. Lying in state commenced immediately. His family banned me from entering the room where the final procession took place.

I wasn’t bothered by their theatrics anymore, except for the veiled stares I was getting from everyone in the compound. People pointed and whispered when I walked past. As unnerving as it was, I realized there was something I didn’t know about.

Two hours into the burial ceremony and I noticed something odd. Flanking all exit routes were vicious looking young men in pairs of twos. Their eyes followed every movement I made. Trepidation coursed through me.

A tap on my shoulder jolted me to the present. A uniformed church usher whispered that the pastor had asked for my presence. She insisted I went with her. I followed her towards the end of the compound, away from where the burial held. One of the men blocked my way.

“Where you dey go? Na your place be that, beside your husband. Una go go together today.” He snickered.

“The pastor requests her presence.” The usher spoke unflinchingly. After a duel of stares, he allowed us pass.

“Nsido?” I asked the usher when we had gone out of earshot.

Her eyes were misty when she spoke next. “Aunty, go. These people will kill you. Pastor is waiting for you.”

I could hear my own breathing as I walked inside the room where she had pointed. The pastor, two members of the church, and a village woman stood waiting for me.

One look at their faces had the tears coursing down my face again.

“Pack your bags, follow this woman. She’ll lead you to safety. At the end of the road is a bike man to carry you home. Go back to your people.” The pastor spoke.

“My children…”

“Will be fine. They won’t harm their grandchildren. It’s you they want.”

“Eyènèka, hurry. The burial is almost ending. They’ll soon look for you.”

I scurried to where my bag lay, took some clothes, stashed them inside, and grabbed onto one of the men. “Please bring my children to me.”

The woman led me through a narrow bush path and out into an open clearing. Immediately the man saw me, he spurred the motorcycle to life and I hopped on it. All the way to the house, I sobbed uncontrollably.

From what the woman told me, Ekpema’s family had planned to bury me alive alongside my husband. That explained the stares I was getting. Everyone was sworn to an oath not to reveal it to me or aid my escape. But the woman couldn’t.

“I’m a mother and a woman, too. My compassionate heart couldn’t allow me to keep quiet.”

I waited for my children to return to me. But the universe, it seemed, had conspired to work against me. Not only did I lose my husband, I never got to see my children again.


A dream woke me up today. One I recall frequently.

I’m at graveside, pinned down by two muscular men. Their faces are hazy as I trash in their grip. In the open grave is a lowered coffin.

“’Til death do you part. You’ll go with him today,” someone snickers in my ear.

A blow to my head has me tumbling forward into the grave. A searing pain ricochets in my skull and my vision is blurred. With flailing arms, I try to scramble out of the grave, latching onto the legs of those standing by.

Another blow to the back of my head stills my attempts. Something wet trickles down my face: blood. Weak, I fall on the coffin just as the first thud of sand lands on my face. Before I succumb to the darkness that hovers above me, a voice squeals my name.


It’s 7am when I head for the market at the waterside. Despite the unsettling feeling, I hope at least I can see my children one more time.