Jenom

A Short Story about love and betrayal. Sometimes men just act like demons... And women, well, let's just say... Women are...

My dearest friend, the last time I wrote you a letter was twenty-two years ago, just two days before we bought our first mobile phones—or cell phones as we called them. I remember writing to tell you to come over to my place so that we could go to the Mtel office to get the SIM cards that we had paid for two months earlier but had to wait our turn to receive.

How time flies! It is exactly twenty-two years today. Twenty-two years of being confined to married life. Even though we do not wish to be single again, sometimes—just maybe sometimes—we cannot help but allow the thought to linger a little. But it may not be that enticing as, no matter what we've been through, nothing can be compared to the blessing of having the beautiful and intelligent kids God has given us. And talking about children, please, forgive my manners. You know how much I can get lost in my own thoughts, get lost in the past that brought us together. The past also intertwined our fates with our husbands'. The past will remain with us till our last days.

So, my dearest friend, how are Shimfuo, Biliyok, Sanzhit, and Bodam? I hope they are fine and are taking after their strong mother. I pray for God's divine protection and blessings upon their lives.

I shall reminisce no further and go straight to the reason for writing you this letter in an era where phone calls and social media are the order of the day. As you'll soon see, modern times have not brought me too much joy. I still very much miss the peace, innocence, and simplicity of the past. This letter is about my husband, Jenom.

Now, there's nothing you don't know about my struggle from my journey as a spinster-to a mother of four. You know my background and how I met Jenom. You know the sacrifices I made for him to graduate from ABU. You will also remember that he was at the point of dropping out of school when I met him. That was some few months after he lost his mum to the cold hands of death, and there was no one to help with his school fees. And although he was trying his best, he still could not meet all his needs. Life, I must say, was quite tough for him. I had to help somehow, and it got to the point where I had no choice but to sell my gold jewelry—necklaces, earrings, everything. I traveled all the way from Zaria to Kaduna to sell them and gave him the proceeds to pay his school fees and offset his other needs. I ran to my parents and friends for help when I had nothing left. This soon became the norm that you and other friends began to question if I was fair to myself and my parents from whom I took money to train a grown-up man in school. The truth is, sometimes I wish I didn't get myself into all that. Or, maybe fate led me to him—a sly fate that rendered me penniless.

He got a job before me after graduation, even though it was not the best paying job, half of his salary going to transportation alone. I had to support again from the proceeds of my little business. You will recall that I started selling wrappers, shoes, and bags after school. A year later, God blessed me with a job that paid me over ten times his salary. I know you must be wondering why I'm focusing on all these instead of discussing the love we shared back then. Yes, our love was indeed one of a kind. I still remember we were the talk of the entire school back then. Everyone on campus knew us. But you already know all of this, don't you? I really do not want to recount or even remember them. Those memories, sweet as they are, come with heartache.

As I was saying, I got a white-collar job and started saving. I saved and saved until there was enough for us to settle down comfortably. This did not come easily as friends and relatives who knew how much I was sacrificing in the marriage tried to talk me out of it. Of course, I didn't listen to them because I loved him so much. Yes. I loved him more than anyone or anything. Well, not until my first child, Benyan, came along. Benyan came with blessings. Almost as soon as she was born, Jenom got a lucrative job with an oil company. Our standard of living improved dramatically. But Benyan did not stop at financial blessings. Soon after her came Swanta, Kuyet, and Kassang. But it wasn't all roses.

Shortly after we had Swanta, our second daughter, Jenom, began to talk about a male child. At first, I thought he was joking because, for me, a child is a child regardless of its sex. Come to think of it, gone are the days when female kids were seen as liability or chattel. That's so outdated, as our old cell phones. It was in the past that a girl-child had limitations. Limitations were placed on her by society. To do this or not to do that. Luckily, things are changing. Women are now making giant strides across various sectors of the world. And even in those sectors where women are conspicuously absent, it is not because they cannot deliver in those areas. No. It is simply because they are not given the same opportunity. So why the pressure on a male child now?

Honestly, I didn't take it seriously. Why should I? A woman does not climb on top of herself and make herself pregnant. Even science tells us that it is the man that determines the sex of the child. I still remember everything about the x and y chromosomes from Biology class. We, the ladies, just pop out what the men deposit in us. However, I later found out that Jenom was serious about having his male child. And, somehow, it was my fault. After we had Kassang, he openly told me he'll "have to get a male child." I was both shocked and heartbroken. In short, I was confused. What did he mean by he'll have to get a male child? How was he going to do it? Jenom began to create distance between us. He would return home late and act all strange and sullen even at home. He rarely ate at home and spent very little family time with the kids and me. His excuse was always "work." He was either stressed at work or needed to meet some deadline, but all along, I had a strong feeling something was wrong. I just couldn't lay a finger on it. This continued for a long time, and I had to get used to it.

Honestly, I could go on and on, but I notice I have not even gotten to the point of the letter yet. Therefore, I will delay no further. Today, as I write you, Jenom is seriously sick and hospitalized. He has been lying there, waiting for death to come or a kidney to buy. Just yesterday, we received positive news. The tests, they said, showed that my kidney was a match for him. What better love story than that? A wife is sacrificing a part of her to save her husband's life. Perhaps, in this case, I could even be saving our marriage. Or so I thought. Ok, now I shall get to the point.

My dear, you remember when I said a distance formed between Jenom and me? Yes. He started to keep some things to himself, and I pretended not to care too much because the last time I did that, heaven knows I regretted it so much. Yes, I regretted that I cared too much, hurting myself over something I had zero control over. Anyways, he got this small safe that I never had access to, except for one time I had a quick peek and saw it was full of papers. Ok, I thought, a fireproof place to keep the house papers and other important documents. I honestly didn't think much about it. But, today, I found something in that small "harmless safe." Yes, just a few minutes ago. Please don't ask me what I was looking for or how I even got access to the safe. Dear friend, my hands have already ached from writing, and I do not want to delay any further. Now, here is why I am writing you.

In this safe, this same one he's kept for years, I saw a draft copy of his will—something he had written out to his lawyers. The contents have left me shocked. I couldn't even type on the phone as my hands kept trembling. They tremble still. My dear, do you know that Jenom has another family? He even has a son—no—two sons. Two! Maybe it was my fault after all. Maybe the science—the biology—was wrong, the chromosomes, all of that. And what's worst, he's willed most of his property to them, my daughter and I just getting pittances—items not worth a kidney. I've read the will a hundred times. I've cried a thousand.

I do not know what to do. I cannot talk. I cannot even think. My head is a cocoon of confusion. I feel so betrayed, betrayed by the man I loved—the man I made sacrificed everything for, the man I was willing to give up a kidney for. My heart bleeds. I'm torn between the devil and the deep blue sea. Do I give Jenom my kidney and live with this betrayal? And what if I don't? Will it assuage my pains? Will I be to blame if he dies? And what of my kids? Don't they need their father now? What will they think when they grow up? Will they blame me for their father's death? Will I even be able to live with myself if he dies, knowing that I could have saved him? Too many questions—I know. The tears still pour from my eyes, and my hands are still shaking. I have no answers to the many questions. I could never have imagined holding Jenom's life in my hands and contemplating saving him. But this is my reality. Jenom's fragile life lays in my hands, and I might let it drop.

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