IT was 5.45pm as Alice skidded through the traffic at the 4 Mile intersection on her way home.
She knew she was late. Her usual arrival time was 5.20. And home was another hour away.
Alice was a regular commuter who travelled between her village and her job in the city. She made it to the PMV stop just in time to hop on a bus that was just leaving for the village.
As the other passengers joked and chatted to each other, Alice sank into her seat in deep thought. She knew Rick would not be happy about her coming home late.
As a matter of fact, he had been unhappy a lot lately. He was often quiet and seldom joked with her – or had a good time. She knew it had something to do with work. He never wanted to hear her stories about work and he was always frustrated when she was very busy and came home late.
He was also not helpful. Rick expected Alice to do all the housework. As soon as she got home she was expected to cook and clean and sort out any unexpected visitors who would turn up at their home.
It wasn’t always like this. When Alice first started work, Rick was happy. And he was understanding and supportive. But she knew time had taken its toll. Not to mention society. She knew people were talking about her.
And Rick was frustrated. It was already two years since he was laid off from his last job. And with someone of his stature, coming from an important family, this was not a situation he was supposed to be in.
Alice was doing well at work. This was her second year working and she had already been promoted. She had announced the news to Rick the previous week but he did not seem impressed. As they drove on passing other rural villages, Alice made a decision.
She knew she had to save her marriage and raise her daughter Nifa in a happy home. She would talk to Rick and tell him that she would help him find a job. Then she would quit her job and stay at home to tend to house chores and take care of Nifa. She would be selfless and sacrifice her dreams just for her family. She looked out the window as a tear ran down her cheek.
Rick took another look at his phone. It was already quarter to seven and his wife was not home yet. What was she doing? Rick resisted the urge to call her. He was not going to turn into one of those uneducated lunatics who constantly checked on their wives and belted them up whenever they felt like it. Instead he went inside to check his daughter and his sister, Alana. He saw that Alana had washed and dressed NIfa.
“Please go and prepare dinner. Your sister-in-law is not here yet.”
“What!” she shouted in frustration. “Is she a mother or what? This child, this house, and you are her responsibility. You are her husband. Set her in place.”
Rick sighed, “Just do it please. I will talk to her when she gets home.”
He picked Nifa up and walked outside. They both sat on the veranda and waited for her mother. He gave her a toy to play with while he thought. Nifa was three years old. And he was more than happy that she was in this world.
He thought hard about Alana’s words. She wasn’t the only person who thought that way. His friends made fun of him. They often told him that Alice was ruling his life. His family were certainly not impressed that he had let his wife go off to start a career.
But he felt he owed it to Alice. He had ruined her chances of completing her degree. She was also smart and ambitious. And he knew her job would help the young family in a lot of ways. Even if he found a job – he would not earn as much as she was capable of earning. He just wished people would stop thinking back to the traditional ways and start working together to make life better.
As Nifa laughed and ran around the veranda playfully he knew they had to make some tough choices about their future. He would talk to Alice as soon as she got home. He would tell her it was time she accepted the company accommodation in the city.
They would move into the city. That way they could raise their family away from the stigma faced in the village. It would be hard to leave all his family behind but it was the right thing to do for his family.
As he looked out from their beachside house toward the sunset, he could make out the silhouette of a woman walking toward the house. The figure looked tired and weary. But in her he saw strength, intelligence, and gentle care. And this had won his heart in the very beginning. As she walked up the stairs slowly, as if frightened, Rick stood up from his chair. He was ready to welcome his wife home.