“Happy New Year, Chi Chi,” Obi said, raising his glass towards his wife, Nkechi. “Welcome to 2012! Sadly, we will only live to see the 21st of December since the world will come to a sudden and apocalyptic end based on the prediction from the Mayan calendar.”
Nkechi laughed and clicked her glass with Obi’s before the two of them shared a light kiss. She and her husband had just watched the ball drop in Times Square on television.
“Honey, I think you might have drunk too much wine tonight,” Nkechi said, teasing her husband. “You know that some wacko, or group of wackos, comes out every couple of years to say the world will end on a particular date. Do you now expect me to believe that this time is going to be the real deal?”
“Yea babe, but I have to admit that I used to listen to this late-night radio show a couple years back that talked about this whole Mayan stuff. I thought it was complete nonsense for the most part. But then they came out with the movie 2012 last year. After I saw the movie, I had to admit that the whole thing was a little bit eerie.”
Nkechi shook her head. “Well, I will let your ass wait for the apocalypse to happen then. But I do remember you telling me and Nnamdi back in law school about that radio show which talked about time travel, ghosts, and other crazy shit. We used to look at you thinking ‘this is one weird Nigerian dude’. It wasn’t until you told us you grew up watching Star Trek that we understood where you were coming from. Luckily for you, I was able to look past your quirkiness to see how great of a guy you are.”
“Well thanks for your ringing endorsement of me, Chi Chi,” Obi said.
“No problem, honey,” she giggled. Then she looked down at their sleeping son who was tucked between them on the couch and decided it was time to get him into his bed.
Nkechi smiled at her son and said to him, “Ike, are you ready to go to sleep now?”
Ikechukwu wiped his eyes with both of his hands and nodded his head.
“Our little man is growing so fast. I still can’t believe that he is already 18 months old,” Obi said to Nkechi
Nkechi flung Ike across her shoulder before responding. “Yes, you are definitely right about that. He is also starting to get too heavy to carry. Ike has such a big head which we both know he inherited from you.”
“Chi Chi, you have to realize that we Ifeanyi men have above average brains and need larger heads to carry all the knowledge that has been bestowed upon us by our ancestors.”
She burst out laughing, “Obi, you are a mess and I think you already know that about yourself by now,” she said as she walked up the stairs with their son.
Obi turned off the television and began to clear the living room of all the food and wine bottles he and Nkechi used to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. He was in the middle of picking up the last glass when some picture frames caught his eye. He walked over to them. One contained a picture of them on their wedding day and the other was of them together, in their caps and gowns after their graduation from Howard Law School. He looked at the pictures sitting on the counter and smiled. Sometimes, he still had to pinch himself to be sure that this life that he had with Nkechi was not a dream. He had transitioned from living a single, carefree life, to being a husband and father with major responsibilities in just a couple of years.
He was still gazing lovingly at the pictures when Nkechi returned to the living room. She walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head against his back. “Are you ready to call it a night?”
Obi shook his head in disbelief and turned around to face his wife. “I was just thinking about how we partied till damn near the break of dawn every night, during Obama’s inauguration three years ago. Now we can barely stay up past 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.”
Nkechi sighed, then laughed. “Yea, those now seem like the good old days. I was thirty years old, and I was in great shape and didn’t have any baby weight on me. I remember people would mistake me for Lauryn Hill from time to time. But I think we have both seen that having a little child to care for takes a lot out of you. I still remember how I broke you off on the dance floor at the Beenie Man and Sean Paul concert. You couldn’t hang with me that night.”
“I still contend that I slipped on a wet spot on the dance floor or something,” Obi said in his defense. “Anyway, I do remember you being drunk as hell and I had to nurse you back to health the next day.”
Nkechi smiled. “Well, that was such a magical weekend for the country as well as it was for us.” She traced a finger down the side of his face and continued, “That was also when we took our friendship to the next level.”
“We can recreate that moment right here in the living room if you want to,” Obi said, eagerly. “I just have to get my iPod out real quick and then we can get it popping.” He attempted to go and get the iPod by wiggling out of Nkechi’s embrace.
But Nkechi was quick to stop him. “Obi, maybe we can do that another time. I am tired now.” Seeing the look of disappointment on Obi’s face, she quickly added, “don’t forget that I have to wake up early to prepare food for the New Year’s Day dinner at your parents’ house tomorrow.
Obi struggled to get over his disappointment as they turned out the lights in the living room and headed to the bedroom. He still held out hope that he could get some sex to start off the night, but when he saw Nkechi change into some big t-shirt and sweatpants, he knew that nothing was about to happen. Thirty minutes after they entered the bedroom, Nkechi was fast asleep. Obi, on the other hand, struggled to fall asleep. He found himself wide awake and thinking about what 2012 had in store for him and his family.
The last two years had been busy, to say the least. Nkechi’s pregnancy and subsequent birth to Ike, their wedding; it all seemed to have happened in the blink of an eye. But despite the triumphs, he had also suffered some setbacks as well. The recession had caused him to close his uncle’s downtown law office and layoff the two paralegals who worked for him. He had moved some of the existing files to a storage facility and was now operating the firm’s business out of his townhouse. On top of that, collecting outstanding debts from his clients for services already rendered had become an issue he was still trying to solve. While he tried to collect what was owed the firm, he had resorted to taking on contract and temporary projects for other law firms to keep up with the piling bills. His only saving grace was that he had expanded his tax services beyond the normal tax season and was getting more clients on that end.
Nkechi, on the other hand, was on track to finishing up her Master’s degree in Public Policy from The University of Houston in 2011, but she had been forced to push her graduation to the following May to enable her to adjust to life as a new mother.
In the meantime, she had taken on some part-time work here and there. For the most part, however, Obi was the primary breadwinner in the household. Obi’s mother had retired from teaching last year which allowed her to see her grandson every day. Having his mother watch Ike during the day, cut out the cost of paying one-fifty to two hundred dollars in childcare costs every week, an expense Obi and Nkechi really couldn’t afford to pay. In addition to everything they had going on at the time, Obi had to deal with his health insurance premium going up once he added his wife and son to his policy, forcing him to consider going to work in corporate America. It meant working longer hours, but at least he would have a steady paycheck, more money, plus bonuses and cheaper health insurance premiums than what he had from buying on the individual market.
2012 was also an election year which meant that President Obama would be up for re-election as well. It was crazy how Obama had entered his presidency in 2009 with so much momentum and steam that no one had ever seen before. But now with the economy still stagnant and most Americans weary of his policies, the chances of Obama winning a second term went from an almost certainty to now being a coin flip at best. There was even talk among people in his own party that his current Secretary of State and 2008 Democratic primary challenger, Hillary Clinton, should be inserted as vice president instead of Joe Biden to give a boost to the ticket going into the general election.
Obi lay in bed thinking about everything that had transpired the year before when a thought came to him and he laughed. It was the sound of his Uncle Ugo’s voice saying, “Obi, Rome wasn’t built in a day and your problems won’t be changed in that period either. Relax and just take life one day at a time.” It was a reassuring thought that caused Obi to take a deep breath and fall asleep.
When he opened his eyes, it was daylight. Nkechi was lying beside him fully awake. She leaned across the bed and gave him a kiss on the lips.
“Happy New Year, my sweet Obi. I hope that you slept well and that all your wishes and desires for this year come true for you. Also, I want you to remember that we are in this thing together and you will always have my full love and support.”
Obi rolled on his side to face her. “Thanks, Chi Chi. You know that my feelings and sentiments for you are the same.” He kissed her on her lips and then on her neck.
“Damn, babe. I see that you woke up with all types of sexual energy,” she teased him. “The year isn’t more than a few hours old and I see the way you want to bring it in.”
“I am just trying to bring in 2012 with a bang,” he whispered against her neck. He brought his lips back to hers and captured them in a fiery kiss. The thought of sleeping with his wife filled Obi with an intense excitement. Between work, Ike, and the holidays, it seemed like it had been almost a month since they had sex. The fact that this was about to happen was cause for celebration.
Obi run his hands down Nkechi’s body, feeling the curve of her hips, before finding the band of her pants and attempting to pull it off. Just then, a loud cry came drifting in from the other room.
Nkechi placed her hand on his and stopped him from going further. “I see that our son is awake. Let me go and see what is up with him.”
Obi could have groaned loudly right there and then as he saw the moment slipping away from him. “Chi Chi, all I need is about five minutes,” he begged instead. ‘Ike will be ok, he cries all of the time anyway.”
Nkechi, who was now sitting on the edge of the bed, seemed to consider Obi’s request for a few minutes, but her maternal instinct kicked in and she stood up. “Sorry, Obi, but I have to go and check on Ike. We will get back to where we were when I am done with him.”
Obi grunted and rolled back to his side of the bed as Nkechi left the room. After about ten minutes, Obi got out of the bed and went to Ike’s room where he found Nkechi breastfeeding their son.
Obi smirked. “Ike sees more of your breasts lately than I do.”
Nkechi laughed. “Obi, stop being so selfish. This isn’t a competition between you and Ike. Ike is a baby and he needs my breasts to get his nutrients. You, on the other hand, only want them for your pleasure.”
Obi knew he was being unreasonable, so he dropped the matter even though he still felt slightly neglected by his wife. After Nkechi finished feeding Ike, perhaps he could try again from where they left off.
He was sadly mistaken. It was the New Year, and well-wishers had begun a persistent avalanche of calls before either one of them could get dressed and head out the door to meet his parents.
By the time they were ready to head out, there was no time to slow down. They had to make a stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things before making it to his parents’ house across town.
It was in the wine aisle of the grocery store where he heard a very familiar sultry voice sing out his name. He turned towards the sound of the voice and came face-to-face with his ex-girlfriend, Tamika. By the time he could react, she had her arms around him in an intimate and seductive hug.
Time had passed since their last physical encounter, but Obi still found himself thoroughly enjoying the sense of her touch; being next to her and having her skin rub against his. Just when he felt himself begin to relax in the warmth of her embrace, he quickly backed away and cleared
“Happy New Year, Obi,” Tamika said, breaking the uncomfortable silence that followed. “How have you been doing? I haven’t seen you in a long time.”
“I’m doing well,” Obi responded, looking at the woman he had once dated. She still looked fine as hell. Childbirth had been kind to her, her breasts were bigger and her body was still in great shape.
“I see you are still looking great, too,” he added, not thinking his words through. Once the words had rolled off his tongue, however, he wanted to have them back. He didn’t want to give her any type of compliment at all. Tamika had a big ego and he knew she would start to get full of herself. But it was too late to take back the compliment because Tamika basked in it right away.
“Thanks for noticing, Obi. I had to work very hard to get the baby weight off. I hired a personal trainer and I now go to the gym about four to five times a week.”
“Hey, that is good for you,” he said and tried to turn his attention back to the wine rack. But Tamika was obviously not done and was not going anywhere anytime soon.
“So, how is married life going so far?”
“I and Nkechi are doing great. She is somewhere in the store with my son, Ike. We’re picking up a few things to take to my parents’ house.”
If he hoped his newest revelation would make Tamika back off and want to leave, it didn’t. But he did not expect her next statement either.
“Wow, that is awesome,” she exclaimed. “I really would like to see her and your son.”
Obi did not have a chance to respond, Nkechi was walking down the aisle towards them carrying a basket in one hand and holding their son in the other. His heart began to race as Nkechi approached. Once she was standing close to him, he took Ike from her while she kissed him on his cheek.
“Hey babe,” he said to Nkechi, his eyes shifting restlessly from one woman to the other, “this is Tamika, my ex-girlfriend from college.”
Nkechi’s eyes widened. “Oh, it is so great to finally meet you,” she said, extending a hand out to Tamika. “Obi has told me so much about you.”
“It is good to meet you as well,” Tamika said, taking Nkechi’s hand in a delicate handshake. “Just wanted to tell you that you have a great man here. I know that you are lucky to have him.”
Nkechi could not hide the smirk on her face. “Thanks for letting me know that. He is a great husband and father. I would never dream of letting him slip through my fingers.” She sat the basket down on the floor and looped her arm through her husband’s.
Obi could sense the tension building. He tried to direct his attention away from the women and towards Ike. Tamika did the same.
“So, who is this handsome little man?” She asked, touching her palm to the baby’s face. Ike tried to shield his face with his small hands.
“I see he is a little shy,” Tamika said, redirecting her attention to Nkechi and Obi. Nkechi simply smiled tightly.
“Do you guys mind if I carry him for a little bit?” She asked, reaching her arms out towards Obi. Obi was a little uncomfortable with the whole situation and looked to Nkechi for guidance, but got none. Instead, Nkechi avoided making eye contact with him. Obi knew he would have to make this call on his own.
With a half-smile on his face, he handed the baby over to Tamika. “Yea that is not a problem at all. But be careful with him, he isn’t as light as you think he might be.”
Tamika took Ike in her arms effortlessly and began tickling his nose. Ike giggled in response as Obi and Nkechi looked on, amazed at how quickly he had warmed up to Tamika.
“Your son is so cute,” Tamika said to Nkechi, while still tickling the baby’s nose. “He looks so much like Obi and even has some of his mannerisms.”
Nkechi smiled and looked at Obi but did not say anything.
“Maybe we can set up a lunch or play date with Ike and my son, Jamal. How old is Ike by the way?”
“He is about 18 months old,” Nkechi said.
“That is just perfect. My son is about three months older than him,” Tamika responded gleefully. “I know Obi still has my number, but I will take yours down as well.”
Obi was a little bit bewildered at the sight of Tamika putting Nkechi’s phone number and email address into her cell phone. Then to make matters weirder, Tamika said to Nkechi, “Are you on Facebook? If so, I will send you a friend request. I post pics of Jamal all the time and can see some of your pics as a family and of Ike.”
Ten minutes later, they were finally able to break free of Tamika. While they waited in the checkout line, Obi could only imagine the conversation they would have in the car on the drive to his parents’ house. He was not looking forward to it.
So he turned on the radio as quickly as he could, the moment they were in the car and Ike was safely strapped into his infant car seat. Nkechi smiled to herself.
They drove along in silence for about five minutes before Nkechi reached over and turned down the music.
“Well, that was a pretty interesting turn of events back there,” she started, “all I can say is that was one hell of a way to start the first day of the year.”
Obi nodded. It seemed this conversation was unavoidable.
Nkechi continued. “Honestly, Tamika isn’t anything like I imagined her to be. She has such a bubbly personality and you can tell she has good maternal instincts in the way she handled Ike.” Obi kept his eyes on the road as Nkechi continued. “I know he is usually very shy around people he doesn’t know, but for some reason, he was very much at ease in her presence. She kind of threw me for a loop with that whole trying to have our kids hang out and stuff. But I guess she was just trying to be nice and friendly.”