Last night, I called Ikem and got the answering machine. His voice was curt and clipped asking me to drop a message. That was the tenth time in a space of five days.

The last time I spoke with him, he had said that he was busy, that his business was too demanding. Two weeks ago he sent me a picture from his firm’s award night. His hands were wrapped around a pretty blonde’s waist, they were staring right into each other’s eyes. His ‘business’ looked quite interesting.

After he left for the States to further his education and career, the kids and I had a normal life for a while. We wore normal clothes and ate roasted corn during the corn season, a routine we observed even before he left. We didn’t speak through our noses then. Six years later we were driven out of our paradise. He stopped calling and started sending texts, he said it helped him manage his time better. Our vacations with him were cut short and our pictures were removed from his walls.

Our last vacation with him ended in misery. Nothing was good enough for him and we all returned with shattered spirits. He found fault in the roasted corn junior brought him from home, the clothes we wore, the way we ate the hotdogs he bought us– eagerly scraping out the sausage which tasted like raw beef. In Vegas, he scolded the kids for not speaking fast enough and through their noses and me for being too fat and shapeless.

It was after that vacation that I enrolled at the gym and lost ten pounds which I wasn’t conscious existed. It was after that vacation we started seeing American movies and changing our lifestyles and wardrobes. It was after that vacation we started speaking through our noses and stopped eating roasted corn. Naza changed her name to Daphne and stretched her hair so her father could love her. After sometime, we had a man from a popular studio take a refined photo of us and sent it to Ikem hoping he would hang it on his wall.

Earlier on today, I got a text from Ikem’s line. It was sent by his new wife. They just returned from a vacation and were very happy together. My persistent calls weren’t welcomed, it wasn’t a thing healthy for their young marriage and in extension their new baby. He had already filed for a divorce with me; he didn’t want our kids in his custody, but he would still be responsible for our financial needs.

This night we eat roasted corn with coconut while watching African Magic. “Jide obi gi aka”, Junior says. I go to my wardrobe and unearth all my wrappers, I will be sending them to the drycleaners tomorrow. I work on Naza’s hair with a pair of scissors. When I am done, she burns it.

Junior shows me a picture he found somewhere, and a budding smile dies on my face, like our feelings for the man in it.

Mbaeze Nnedimma is in the Department of English and literary studies, University of Nigeria Nsukka. She started writing two years ago. Unburnt is her first attempt at prose writing.