Sunday, 22 October 2017


“At least, let me see her aunty.” He pressed on.
“Oga! I no wan look like say I de shout, but you don de insult me and I no like am.” The gateman’s voice is at its peak as usual.
“Insult you? Haba! How is that?” Omachoko’s eyes begged for explanation.
“I don talk am today say Laibe no de house…” He paused, and accessed the young man standing in front of him again, “…she no de. You no fit see am, you no fit see madam too. You don understand wetin I de talk now?” He rattled more and more in Pidgin English.
Omachoko swallowed. He didn’t know why the gateman was acting so impolite and all rude towards him. Perhaps if this old baba knew who he was, he wouldn’t be behaving like this. To think that the man is paying special attention to his dreads. Surely, he would be thinking that this is one tout or something even worse than that. Well, it’s not safe to start showing one’s identity everywhere one goes, right?
Inasmuch as Omachoko never envisaged not being allowed into the compound, he had envisaged the possibility of not meeting Laibe in the house. There was not so much time on his hand after all. He walked back to the car and picked up a little note from the side of his seat.
“Please give this to her as soon as she gets back. Please!” He saw the disapproving look on the gateman’s face and was tempted to ask what his stress was. It’s not as though he is one irresponsible boy looking for someone’s daughter to harm. Having the nerves to come down to a girl’s house in the first place is some guts if you asked him. Although he has been that daring all the while and his relationship with Baba – Laibe’s grandfather, is one proof of that.
“Sir, please, hand it over to Laibe herself. This is urgent please.” He accompanied the paper with two new five hundred naira notes. The older man started smiling immediately the notes settled in his hand.
“Ah! My son, thank you oh! Laibe go see am. In fact she de…” and on a second thought, he changed the statement, “…she go see am omami. Thank you very plenty o.”
Omachoko smiled at the man’s gesture.
My son? Seriously?
Here is the man that was almost calling heaven down a while ago.
He just turned around as he headed back into the car. The gateman at this point practically opened the car door for him.
There is nothing money cannot do, he thought deep within.
Omachoko shook hands with the older man one more time before winding up his tinted mirrors and zooming out of the area.
The gateman quickly pushed down the naira notes into the deepest part of his pocket, like he didn’t want anyone to see it at all. He opened the gate and was about to open the door to his house… or office as the case may be, when he heard,
“I heard you shouting, Faruna.”
He jerked back involuntarily, “Shout? Me? Oga! NO o!”
Matthew shook his head, “You are shouting again, already!”
The gateman quickly held his mouth. Every member of the house seems to have given up on him.
“Who was that and who did he leave that note for?” Matthew’s curiosity rose.
The gateman looked at the note he still held in his hand and remembered the instructions of the young man that just left here. More so, the ‘boy’ gave him money, he shouldn’t betray him, right? But here is the higher authority - The person that hired his labour.
“Na de boy wey bring Laibe come house from school that evening…”
Matthew hastily drew closer,
“I thought I told you to come and call me whenever he comes around again?” he demanded.
The older man hit his head hard, “ah! Oga, forgive me!” he was almost squatting, “…I think say na make I tell am say Laibe no de anytime hin come here you talk oga. No vex abeg.”
“Oh! Was that what I told you?” Matthew got the confirmation from the gateman’s nods, “…Ok then. Let me have the note.” He stretched out his hand.
Gateman placed the note in Matthew’s hand without any further delay.
“Let no one hear of this…do you understand me?” Matthew warned before heading back into the house, folding the paper gently into his pocket.
Though the gateman felt somehow about all these warnings he is getting from diverse quarters, he knew he needed to play his card well and with caution as well. Heaving a deep sigh of relief, he entered back into his house.
Laibe held onto the tray tightly. For good reasons; since everything frightens her, she wouldn’t want to shake and pour away Baba’s akamu and akara in her foolish fright. It’s a good thing she could prepare him breakfast again. Baba’s presence in the house since Wednesday has been a thing of relief for her. Probably because the visitor’s room where Baba stays is not so far from hers. Hence, her horrible night scenes haven’t been reoccurring. It dare not even.
She feels very bad within. She had been warned both casually and seriously not to tell it out to anyone. She’s been living by that instruction but dying inside as she has to lie to cover up a lot of times. The most recent was the day Baba was brought to the house. She didn’t like it that she couldn’t just act along and go hug her grandfather as everybody had expected. Truth is, she wanted to. She had even told Ocholi before he left that she misses Ofabo for one reason, that only reason is her grandfather and would jump at any opportunity to see him. She surprised her own self that she could stand aloof staring back at Baba for that long and even requiring pushy statements from her uncle to move into action.
Well, again, it wasn’t her fault, she would try to convince herself.
She was in pain, excruciating pains.
It was as though something had torn her into shreds from her spine down to the least of her foot bones, and to worsen the whole matter was that her voice was lost. She had screamed and wailed in anguish the better part of the night.
She must not let anyone know of it...
So she told a lie… again.
She told them that she had played badminton at school the day before and incurred a painful dislocation on her ankle.
It didn’t really sound sensible to her aunty. It was written all over the poor woman’s face, especially judging from the state of her room she met earlier that morning. Laibe guessed her aunty just waved the whole scenario away because of Baba. The old man needed rest and not to chair a panel at his very first moment of entry into his daughter’s house after a long time.
And that was how she escaped them on Wednesday.
She was thankful no one had raised that issue up since then… yet.
Laibe felt the main door of the house open and she knew it must be her uncle coming into the sitting room. Without further waste of time, she hurried till she flew the door to Baba’s room fast open so he doesn’t get to see her. Thankfully, Baba wasn’t asleep. Aunty Udale had warned her, since the first and last time she ever did that, never to wake baba up when he is sleeping.
“Laibe, omanyebe, otuokpa lodu.” Baba rained encomiums on her immediately she stepped into the room.
Laibe only smiled as she walked slowly to the side table where she normally keep the food. Baba’s Ofofolo was still remaining.
Such a hard thing, she thought as she placed the tray on the stool.
It is only sickness that can make Baba unable to finish his ofofolo.
Only sickness.
“Iye we, Ichojo, me du da kpakpo…”
Laibe smiled again.
Baba had started, he had been saying this particular thing for days now - since he got here.
“Laibe, you are just a carbon copy of your mother’, ‘oh! How I miss Ichojo, your hardworking and respectful mother’, ‘she definitely transferred her hard work and culinary skills to you’ and on and on.
If a drop of rain fell for every time he made these statements, the whole town would have been flooded by now since he got here.
Laibe knew her mother very well. They had gone to the farm together, planted and harvested cassava together. They both fried garri together, cooked the rice she sold together and transported the whole stuff to the market together at the same time. That was before her death, anyway. Baba knew she and her mother were an indivisible item, she didn’t now understand the basis for Baba’s continuous referral to the dead.
Laibe was done setting the stool, dragged it towards the bed and Baba was required to sit up and eat his meal.
“Ojo abene omami.” Baba stretched as he struggled to sit up on the bed while blessing her.
“Ami” Laibe kept saying ‘Amen’ to all the pronouncements.
Picking the cup containing half-filled ofofolo, she made to leave when Baba stopped her. She’s wondering what the problem was this time.
“Gwane!” Baba motioned her to sit beside him on his large bed, and she did almost instantly.
“ukawe kakini, anyaja a kedo ofun…” Baba reminded her of the advice he gave her when she was about travelling from Ofabo that very fateful morning.
Laibe’s mind could recollect clearly. Baba had said these words, more like a proverb, with all seriousness and certainty. It meant and still means ‘despair has no meaning where there is faith’. Yeah! Her faith has been the rock she’s holding onto, else the very many unfortunate things that had befallen her in this house is strong enough to make her run away and not look back. How farther her faith would carry her through is what she couldn’t say.
Baba continued talking; from how proud of her he is and how he is sure she would make it in life with or without him around.
That bothered Laibe.
She has heard how the elderly people in Ofabo usually die. They most times give final words of advice to their children and protégé before sleeping peacefully, never to wake up. She hopes for herself that would not be Baba’s case. He looked totally unhealthy now but she has faith. She believes he would stay alive for her, at least a little longer till she is able to bring herself to say all the ordeals she’s been through.
Baba suddenly sat quietly for a long time. Something serious was definitely going on in his mind. Laibe sat still too. They may not be in the village right now but as wrong as it is to interrupt an elder while talking back there is the same way here. If it’s going to take Baba the whole day to say what he is pondering over, then she would have the whole day to wait. Walking away is not close to the option. Laibe is just a typical example of a well-behaved cultured girl and everybody is fond of her for that.
“Ewn a che?”
Baba’s voice was coarse as he asked simply ‘what’s wrong with you?’ and that agitated Laibe. She didn’t expect this question to be the result of his long minutes of thinking. Baba has always had this discerning mind after all, so she got to be watchful as to whatever answer she wanna give him.
“Laibe, uka ki ewn a che?” this time his voice rose up a little bit and sounded coarser.
Laibe just stared at the blue coloured wall opposite her as though addressing it. If she said nothing was wrong with her, she is certain Baba would take her mind back to her various unusual actions he has seen since he got here. If she said something is wrong with her, that would even be the worst as Baba would insist on her telling him what she had been warned… at other times bribed with gifts and materials not to say. She knew she was in a deep mess right now and would do anything to get out of the tight corner this situation has placed her.
She thought of something and started clearing her throat till it turned into a loud continuous cough. She did that the first time and the second time but had to caution herself. Baba is giving her the ‘be fast and answer my question’ kind of look; which is very much unlike him. He is one to be concerned when she starts coughing or gives the slightest sign of breakdown, but he could care less about this at the moment.
She stopped and turned to stare at Baba who is actually looking away, deep in thoughts.
“Baba wola oroka.”
She jerked back quickly as she heard her aunt’s voice. Oh God! Aunty just came in here at the right time, she thanked her stars.
Following closely behind her was uncle Matthew who looked quite cheerless unlike his dear wife. Udale walked over to her father and hugged him slightly but Baba was more interested in giving a handshake to Matthew than he was in responding to his daughter. Baba started smiling all of a sudden and in few moments, it felt like no one noticed Laibe’s presence anymore. Well, she is so thin and short compared to her tall and huge uncle, the tall and thin Baba and the fat and short aunty.
Her eyes popped open as Baba held onto his son-in-law’s hands. Uncle Matthew glanced at her coldly and removed his eyes. Baba told him he is committing Laibe into his hands, that he should help his wife take care of her and help her realise her dreams and vision of building him a storey building even when he wouldn’t be alive to live there anymore.
Everyone, most especially Udale reacted to that statement,
“God forbid Baba, you are not dying yet”, “you will live to see your second grandchild”
Baba smiled and asked Uncle Matthew to promise him he is going to take good care of Liabe.
“I will Baba. I surely will.”
Laibe could see the sense of overjoy in Baba’s face as he hugged Matthew.
Laibe was so sure her uncle was capable of taking care of her, at the same time she wouldn’t want Baba to die anytime soon too. In all, she was grateful Baba had forgotten that he kept her on his hot seat some minutes ago.
Max drove into the crescent restaurant. If there is anything unique about this place is its touch of pure nature. The trimmed flowers, the green grasses on the lawn, the palm trees and other fruit trees – all to mention but a few. Whoever did the architectural design for this place must be extremely wonderful at his profession. He got down and hurried over to the other side of the car to open the door for his lady. Gentlemanliness is not exchanged neither is it forgotten in the study and practice of medicine.
Jane stepped down looking all shades of adorable. Maybe because she is beginning to get accustomed to her nursing uniforms and is seen majority of times on those, her beauty seem to magnify once she is off that dress. Today’s is exceptional. With her hair making a pony tail at the back, jewelleries to match her straight short royal purple gown, she looked really and gorgeously dressed for this meeting and Max wouldn’t give a chance for any of those jobless men to think she is his sister. Even though they kind of look alike at times, he held her so close today that even the blind would see they are an item.
Finding his way around this place isn’t so much stress for him. This is where most top government officials patronise. One would be tempted to ask if he is one but the fact remains that, working in the Government house medical centre has given him undeserved access to a lot of places. They walked gallantly into the beautifully coloured restaurant proper. Max waved the gateman on duty who screamed, ‘oga, oga, I be your boy o.’
Max smiled, he would give him some money by the time they are leaving here.
“One minute please.” he excused himself and went over to the receptionist.
Jane stood glued to the floor as she felt almost all the eyes turning in her direction. She definitely wouldn’t wanna stand there for so long. Thankfully, Max got back to her almost immediately and held her hand as they continued walking. She is not really familiar with this terrain so would just make do with trusting Max’s judgement and leading.
Their relationship has been smooth and beautiful, that’s partly because she had come to accept the fact about him – he is busy. He would probably be this busy or even busier later on when they eventually get married, so why won’t she save herself from hypertension? It is better he is even busy with work than being busy with other women.
She definitely would be badly hurt, no doubt.
Talking about marriage, Jane has recently been all about her big day these days. The trigger might have been her father who called to inquire whatever was going on between her and Max, but deep within, she knew it was time to settle.
She is working.
Max is working, with a very robust pay.
The only thing that has been stopping them from tying the nut has been them.
It came like a fantasy, then later became a wish when Max asked if she could come over for the weekend. Her own hospital has gone on strike again. In fact, health workers in the state has made it a perpetual habit to strike yearly and that hasn’t helped no one at all. She’s been using her strike period to see a lot of movies and especially those containing diverse interesting proposal scenes. There was this particular one she adored and wished Max would use; proposing to her in a garden.
Max pushed the slightly covered gate that lead into the garden open.
The whole place was beautiful. The grasses and trees made it look like it is coloured green.
Max took a step through the foot path on the lawn that led towards the middle of the whole compound. Jane saw a prepared table somewhere around where they were headed and it took her patience to avoid letting her fantasies get the better of her.
Jane took her seat as Max drew it out for her before returning to his own seat. This is quite impressive, she thought.
She blushed the whole of the time her eyes caught Max’s. He owned the whole of her heart and he knew that quite well, she didn’t only understand why he had to act like he is stealing a glance. While they ate in silence, they winked, giggled afterwards with the hearts doing the bulk of the conversation. Once, they held their stares uninterruptedly for about five minutes before a wide grin formed around their lips. Jane is so certain she loves the man sited in front of her. It’s about time.
“Goddess…” he spoke for the very first time since they sat.
Jane gave him all her attention but Max was unusually quiet. Just staring and probably searching out something from her eyes with his. His eyeballs are brown and small, so small one would think he wouldn’t see anything if he brought them any closer.
“What?” Rice was still in her mouth when she exclaimed before catching herself. She is allergic to stares and Max’s eyes are really getting her uncomfortable.
A light smile formed around Max’s lips.
“What is what?”
“Why are you staring at me like that?” Jane asked immediately she managed to swallow the food in her mouth.
Max cleared his throat first, “I love you, Goddess!”
Shivers ran down Jane’s spine. It feels like her heart just skipped a beat and words all of a sudden couldn’t form in her mind. Not as though she hadn’t heard those words before; it’s always been the closing statement at the end of their usual long calls. Of course, she’s heard it almost as many times as she’s heard her name in the office, but this is different. She could see the dear look on his face and her mouth felt as though filled with sugar. And the ‘Goddess’ part? Spins her nuts to unwind.
“Working at the government’s house hospital is everything…”
Oh! Here he goes again. Can’t they ever have a decent discussion without having to involve work? She’s heard so much about his work and can practically name the key workers in Max office even though she doesn’t frequent the place. They talked work over the phone last night, they talked work on their way driving down here and now they would talk work again?
Max is a killjoy like that; she surrendered and dipped her fork back into the snail meal.
“…all these our leaders have a lot of things under their agbada. You would never know until you get close or until you are privileged to treat them like I am.”
Jane tried as much as it depended on her to still pay attention to the seemingly unimportant subject Max was discussing at the moment.
“Baby, can you remember paraphilia? More specifically, paedophilia? You nurses did a bit of mental health back then, right?” he gave a questioning look to Jane, dragging her attention to him.
Jane nodded in the affirmative. She knew Max would want her to say something more, talk excitedly over topics as always. She is sorry to disappoint him though, she is not in that mood at the moment. She is in the mood for what this meeting appeared to look like at first… not this.
“With the increase in numbers of people with diverse forms of sexual orientations, don’t you think it’s high time we… I mean health workers now… start letting the public know some salient points that could make just a difference no matter how little?”
Jane swallowed, “OK Max, where are you going with this? Can you go there already?”
Max felt the impatience in her voice and only smiled, “I’m saying a lot of times we see some of these things as a mystery that leaves all of us helpless, Meanwhile, some people have taken their precious time to research and come out with valuable points. We shouldn’t be helpless at all. Well, except that it’s even typical of us blacks never to read.” He chuckled at his own joke which didn’t appear funny to the lady in front of him.
“For me o…” Jane started, wriggling her hand carelessly, “…I’ve seen that there is nothing medicine doesn’t attempt to prove. You keep giving proof about things that are delusional, how do you expect the men out there not to do rubbish? The issue of same-sex marriage came and proofs came that they are suffering from some sexual orientations nonsense. Really?” she raised her eyebrows, “… then is this new form of classifying abusers, some would say molesters, others would say abusers. What is the problem exactly?”
“It’s because sex specific therapists keep finding things every day. I think the same way I don’t punish you for being a lady, I shouldn’t be punishing others for merely displaying their genetic composition.” Max opined
“Oh! Come off it Max! Paraphilia… be it paedophilia or hebephilia, be it abuse or molestation, I don’t actually care. I believe any defaulter of the law should face its full wrath.” Jane spilled.
Max couldn’t tell if what he felt in her voice this time was anger or frustration. It’s only good however that he has a very intelligent lady all to himself. Jane matches up to his standard in all ways and he’s usually proud of showing her off anywhere and to anyone.
“I know if you release one of two persons who commit virtually the same offence on the guise of orientation, tongues would wag but believe me, there are proofs that these persons came like this…”
“Then they should put more efforts to avoid the occurrence. They say you can force the horse to the stream but you can’t force it to drink water. No excuse is good enough to abuse a child sexually if you asked me.” Jane cut in
“Look at it this way again…” Max started, his voice calm and persuasive
“Max!!!” Jane shouted now. She can’t bear in her frustrations any longer, “…can we talk about something better, please?”
He adjusted his blazer.
“OK! We’ll. It’s just that there is this….”
Jane slammed her hand hard on the table and juice spilled from one of the glass cups.
“Really, is this what we are here for?” Her anger is very obvious now. “…can we go to the house and have this very noble discussion of yours instead?” she pushed her chair backwards and got up.
Max hurriedly got up after her with pleading eyes. It’s a good thing they are of same height so he could still look eyeball to eyeball even at standing position. He watched his woman’s lips as they quivered, hot searing anger must definitely be burning on her insides and he couldn’t seem to know the reason for this.
Jane started to walk away but he caught her hand before she would move the third step. Holding onto her hand, he dragged her closer to his till their bodies touched each other. Jane is reluctant. Her face is contorted in a round ball of disappointment, frustration and anger all bottled up in one piece as she looked away from him. Max moved his hand till it wrapped round her tiny waist, he kissed her lightly on her lips and that caused more reactions from Jane as she immediately withdrew from his grip.
“Your order ma…” a waitress’ voice seem to startle them, though Max didn’t appear startled in the very least.
“My order?” Jane stared at Max before turning to the waiter who is carrying a tray in which a beautifully designed flat plate with cover sat, “It must be a mix up dear, I didn’t make an order.” she said frankly.
She turned to Max again and he is smiling. She couldn’t decipher what was going on.
“At least allow the young lady to drop the tray on the table Ma’am, her hands are hurting.” Max said casually, still smiling. The waitress appeared moved by Max’s statement as she dropped the plate before those words were off his mouth.
“Max, there must really be a mix up somewhere. Say something. I didn’t order anything. I mean, I don’t even know this place well enough.” Jane was still defending and Max sat really carefree.
“You fret too much young lady…” Max started, “…it’s one of two things, either the Crescent restaurant has seen you worthy enough for a free additional plate of food; which is very unlikely because even we the customers haven’t had that before.”
Jane was beginning to get angry at Max’s sarcasm again, he saw this and readjusted,
“C’mon, don’t you ever joke in your life?” Max asked her grinning, “… or it could actually be a mix up as you rightly said.”
“Oh!” Jane gave a dour stare, “… you are now being reasonable after she’s gone right?” she pointed in the direction of the waitress who is already at the door of the main restaurant.
“Why don’t you even find out what ‘your order’ is first. It could be desert, cheese, peas or even food, your favourite.” He winked at her.
Jane shrugged as she sat back. The tray has been set in front of her own side of the table so she need not do anything other than removing the lid.
She gaped as she did, covering her mouth with her right hand.
She is not only surprised that the plate is empty but more at the inscription on the plate, ‘Will you marry me?’
She raised her head and turned in Max’s direction only to notice he had come to stand in front of her. He held out a little golden box from the pocket of his blazers and got down on one knee,
“Pick any Saturday from today and we would do it. Marry me, Goddess.”
Jane sat too astonished and overwhelmed to give any response whatsoever.
Episode 27
Laibe was so grateful aunty Udale let her cook today. It’s been such a long time since she cooked real food. Trust! It’s not been a long time at all since she ate real food. Both courtesy of her aunty. The older woman wouldn’t leave her kitchen for anyone except Ocholi. Quite strange, but her close relationship with Ocholi is alarming. The only thing Laibe has been able to do alone in the kitchen is making Baba’s akamu while aunty fried the akara. This isn’t a big deal for the young girl but who would she complain to? She’s always on edge whenever she’s alone with her aunty. Something tells her the woman may ask her questions, and probably insist she give answers but her aunty has been disappointing her and she really hopes the woman keeps up with it.
She opened the door to Baba’s room quietly. He is still sleeping? She glanced at the wall clock to be double sure. 12pm. It’s way past his breakfast time and time for taking the morning dose of his numerous drugs.
Uncle Matthew practically ran out of the house earlier this morning after he received a call. Laibe saw him explaining some things to her aunty though he wasn’t audible enough. They had all gone over to Baba’s room at that time even though they knew it would be very odd for the old man to be awake by then. Who knows?
Baba had played so much with them the whole of yesterday. After repeatedly asking Matthew to take good care of Laibe, he also showered prayers on his beloved daughter, praying specifically that her womb be opened. There is this belief that all reproductive issues in marriage is from the woman’s side, and Baba, maybe due to his age has no objection to this school of thought. He practically faced Udale while praying for the sound of a baby to be heard in their home. Laibe really didn’t feel comfortable with the whole drama she was watching as something seem not to be going right but she was at least comforted with the fact that Baba had forgotten he was asking her some questions earlier. It is good to escape from Baba’s questioning sessions.
Laibe closed back the door to the room.
‘Though aunty has warned me never to wake Baba up whenever he is sleeping, I would disobey her this time. More so she should be fast asleep upstairs. Baba needs to take his drugs, he needs to eat and most importantly, he needs to eat this ukpehe rice, he specially asked us to make for him yesterday, while it’s still hot’ Laibe told herself as she walked back into the kitchen. She picked up the big ceramic plate – Baba’s plate – and started dishing the ukpehe rice whose aroma has filled the whole kitchen and even streaming into the sitting room. Though the special Igala spice, Ukpehe, has it’s delicious effect like that, Laibe’s expertise in its use made it even more significant. She picked up a bottle of water from the carton; Baba isn’t allowed to take cold water neither should he take any form of sugary drink - all these dos and don’ts are saved on Laibe’s head. Recently, she is beginning to welcome this thought of wanting to become a medical doctor. She needs to treat her grandfather and heal him of diabetes completely. She needs to build a real hospital in Ofabo and treat the other uncountable sick people who don’t have children to run to in the city like Baba. She needs to build her dream storey building in Baba’s compound and do a lot of things to help people where she grew up. She needs to do a lot of things actually, first on the list is to pass her Js3 promotional exam – junior WAEC - which would be in about three months.
She pushed the door open with the tray in her hand and walked in fully. Pulling forward the side stool beside the bed, she kept the tray carefully on it. She thought of what to do for a moment. First, she took her seat in front of Baba and placed her right hand on his forearm. She immediately removed the hand involuntarily. She thought she felt something extremely cold. She isn’t sure so she would try again.
The result is the same.
Alarm rang in her head as she got up and tapped him lightly. Baba didn’t shake neither did he make any move or sign. She felt her heart racing hard as she shook Baba a little more vigorously.
She screamed as she ran out of the room and made for the stairs.
Miss Mary got off the ergometer and cleaned off sweat with her face towel. She has practically converted this part of her two-bedroom flat to a mini gym, even though the running machine and ergometer are the only equipment in here. Every single person that had ever entered this ‘gym’ would ask her why she bought the two equipment, knowing truly well they serve same functions; she didn’t mind. She is the ‘no one pound addition’ person and she tries so hard at it. It’s just unfortunate that unlike her friend, Jane, who is slim-to-fashion by nature, she probably need to work out more often. from time to time to stay fit. She’s not complaining; not as if she needed to pay an exorbitant fee to enrol into any gym. It’s just the part of being faithful to her work out time that’s important. Believe it or not, the last time she did this was two weeks ago.
‘I thought you said you would work out every morning before work?’, Jane scorned when she called her two days ago.
Mary would never come into her mini gym with a phone.
‘Let’s minimise distractions’, she would always tell herself.
Whatever made her leave her ringing tone as loud as this still baffled her. The phone is in the other room and it’s ringing for the third time now.
Who could that be? She cursed as she reluctantly headed for the phone.
Today is public holiday. Everyone has gone on it… everyone should actually go on it, herself inclusive. It had better not be the principal or anybody from the school calling her. She plans to make good use of this compulsory holiday before she resumes to face her life as a form teacher again, especially with her very dramatic student of the year – Laibe!
“By the time you kill my battery Babe, you would come and charge for me.” she screamed into the phone immediately she swiped right the receive button.
Jane burst into laughter, “Is it now my fault that you use light as prayer point in that town of yours?”
Mary sat into her bed, giving a smirk as though Jane could see her.
“I see. I hear you my friend. It’s not your fault…” she hissed dryly, “…I won’t sacrifice Ankpa for the heat in Lokoja. Never.” She paused, “…and it was meant to be a weekend, right? Not a vacation!”
“General Hospital is on strike, my dear. I’m not a teacher working in a private secondary school like you, you know?” Jane still had an iota of mockery in her voice.
“Well, I’m not the one who had been jobless for about a month or so now.” Mary responded.
“OK! Alright, you win. Must we quarrel every day, Punk?”
Jane screamed so loud Mary had to move her phone a bit away from her ears.
“Everyone would know that a new child now lives in GRA.” Mary stressed the ‘child’ part of her statement, and laughed hysterically.
“Yeah! A child that’s getting married pretty soon. Mrs Obaje in a bit…” Jane said it so slow and low, like she didn’t mean it… like she isn’t excited about it.
“What do you mean? And why is your cranky voice like that?” Mary’s curiosity can be tasted in her voice. She knew her friend so well. Jane and sarcasm are five and six. Jane and seriousness are two poles apart. Jane and playfulness are yam and egg, so she didn’t want to assume anything. Let Jane use her own mouth to talk.
“Girl, I’m getting married!!” Jane screamed even louder now, giggling with the type of excitement Mary could literally feel from where she is.
Mary jumped up and started dancing. They both could be children at heart a lot of times. “I’m so happy for you, girlfriend. Maximillian my Edo brother, always representing!”
She knew Jane would react to that and Jane didn’t disappoint her at all.
“Abeg o, he is an Igala o, it’s only his mum that’s an Edo o…”
Mary wouldn’t give Jane the privilege of arguing over Max’s tribe today; God knows they’ve done that enough times. One’s father is Igala and the mother is Edo, Mary still doesn’t know on what ground they would conclusively place Max as an Igala. Two different blood runs on his inside for crying out loud.
“Oya! Why I called you. I’ve been staring at this table top calendar all day. Any Saturday I pick is good with him, he said, but I seem not to know which to pick. I don’t even know what to consider in consideration.” She sounded really frustrated, “…this is one of the times I miss mum…” she took in a very deep breath that came loudly over the phone.
“Ehn ehn! No. Please don’t start now. We are talking about your big day here, don’t ruin the moments.” Mary cautioned her.
“But what do I do? You are not even the emotional kind of person…” Mary’s eyebrows rose up involuntarily at that hurting truth but she said nothing in defence. “…how would you know what and what I should consider in choosing a wedding date? Go into a relationship, you won’t give any of those your plenty guys a chance…”
“Is this about me now Jane?” Mary cut in, trying hard to keep her voice normal. She hates when her relationship, emotional and private life becomes a subject for discussion. It’s not written anywhere that we all must get married, she would always told herself.
“No o! It can’t be about you o. When you are not the bride.”
Mary smiled at Jane’s statement. She isn’t even dreaming of becoming one anytime soon.
“Perhaps, if you get back here soon enough, you would know that you still have an office mother in Matron Udale…”
“Oh my God!” Jane screamed, “… how be it that I totally forgot about my mummy of life?” she didn’t expect any answer for that so she continued anyway, “…you see, your brain is good for something after all…” she tuck out her tongue.
“You are crazy Jane!”
“I’m crazily in love with you Mary. I’ll think of when to return and we would go see mummy soon. See you soon. Love you plenty. Bye!!” Jane mumbled everything together hurriedly and excitedly before dropping the call.
Mary stared at her phone smiling. She moved backwards till her back hit the soft bed. Surely, her work out is over for today.
Matthew is frowning seriously at his friend while the other seem to be having the time of his life, rotating in his armed chair.
“C’mon man, it’s not that bad.” He is apologising to his friend for the umpteenth time today.
“It’s not that bad, huh? Matthew snapped, “…by 5:30am, that your disturbing spirit chose me again. ‘Mat, it’s emergency and you need to be in Lokoja as soon as possible’. I tried in vain to know exactly what the problem was but you said we needed to see the governor as it’s not something we can discuss over the phone. Wow. Well done sir!” He saluted.
Josh started laughing out even louder, “Because I know you wouldn’t come if I told you.”
“Are for real? If you love seeing my face more often, why don’t you just say it forefront?”
Josh stopped laughing but a smile was still plastered on his face. “Mat o. Not as if what I did was totally wrong, was it?”
“It’s a public holiday, damn it! I have a sick father in-law to attend to. I have a family, Josh.” Matthew’s voice rose now.
“Is this about coming with me to see the governor in order to finalise Mr Ekele’s travelling plans? I thought you of all people wanted to meet the young man?” Josh sincerely couldn’t understand what was annoying his friend this much.
“I could see the guy any other time except today. You could finalise the plans with His Excellency. My problem is in you dragging me into all your jobs…” he got up angrily and walked to the cabinet at the other end of the room, “…there are some roles that are exclusively yours Mr Commissioner, don’t always keep dragging me into it.”
Josh felt something stabbed him as Matthew made the last statement. It’s true. He actually doesn’t know why he likes having Matthew present at every of his meetings and joining him in taking every single decision there is. Perhaps, he sees Matthew way more capable than himself. Matthew is right anyway, there are things he should do headlong without inviting anyone else. The roads are even too bad for all these impromptu journeys.
Josh cleared his throat and finally the smile disappeared, “ I’m sorry, I didn’t really mean it this way but right now I see your point and …”
He got interrupted by the knock on his door,
“Come in…” he answered loudly and Matthew quickly returned to take his seat.
The door opened and two men walked in. One is much more elderly compared to the second.
“Commissioner, I sincerely want to appreciate you so much for your efforts and assistance, thus far.” The elderly one started, immediately everyone exchanged pleasantries and took their seats. Matthew brought out his phone hurriedly like something just popped in his head. Something he would forget if he didn’t act immediately.
“Ha! You are the one we should be thanking. Mr Ekele here, is an asset to us… to the entire state even. And all thanks to the training you have been giving him at your company.”
“It’s a great pleasure Mr Commissioner, thank you for the exposures and for finding my ideas useful enough.” the younger man said very politely and Josh nodded his head. He has always been and is still impressed with the youngman. Matthew’s forehead was creased as he’s still busy on his phone.
“Omachoko and I dropped by to say, thank you Mr Commissioner. We would be taking our leave now sir. He needs to get to Abuja before the night falls, if he must make his journey tomorrow.” The elderly man said, getting up alongside.
“Yes! Of course, of course!” Josh nodded in the affirmative. “It’s important he flies out tomorrow. We can’t afford any delay in sealing up deals with those companies. For once we would export something to them, and this is not anything but our very own beans.” He patted the young man’s back as he moved to give them another handshake. “Omachoko? Is that your name?” Josh asked as though his brain just simulated it, while wriggling the handshake he took from him.
“Yes sir. Omachoko Ekele is my full name sir.”
“Wow! Impressive, oko eche ochochi o” Josh commented that he is really an asset, as he shook him better, noticing his almost completely faded tribal mark for the very first time..
“Uhn?” Matthew gave a lost look at them immediately the elderly man’s arm tapped his shoulder lightly.
“Oh! Very well sir. Have a good trip and you too Mr Ekele, I trust like always you would deliver again. Safe safe trip.” Matthew quickly said, hiding his absentmindedness.
The two left the room after exchanging final pleasantries.
Josh saw them off to the door, closed it gently and came back to take his seat.
“Whoever that was must be very important, Mat!” Josh said immediately he got back to his seat
Matthew gave the ‘what are you talking about kind of look’ and Josh pointed at the tablet on his hand.
“What was that about? That you blanked out on all of us in the room till someone had to tap you?” Josh confronted, sounding really serious for the first time in a very long while.
“That fellow is getting on my nerves…” Matthew started
Josh cut in, “allow her to have a life. You already have yours, why are you ruining someone else’s own?”
Matthew eyeballed him coldly, “he had the guts to still come over to my house yesterday afternoon, Josh. He should thank his stars I didn’t lay my hands on him. He left a note with my gateman for her and I seized it.”
Joshua started laughing at his friend’s seriousness. Matthew never ceases to amaze him really.
“I’m serious. The crazy part was that there is no form of identity whatsoever on that note. Just, ‘Laibe, I expected your call and now I’m here. I feel you have lost my card. Just call me back on 08103872490 as soon as you see this’, can you imagine that?”
“Matthew, don’t tell me you crammed every word in the note…” Josh shook his head in utter disbelief. His friend’s solution is really far-fetched. “…have you dialled the number then?”
Matthew shook his head from side to side, “Udale dragged me to Baba’s room immediately I entered the house and we talked so much I forgot about the note, then came your emergency call this morning. It was while the two men got here it popped up in my head. I knew I saved the number, I couldn’t just remember with what I did that.”
“You see the kind of work you are giving yourself, my good friend? You got lost, searching the whole numbers on your phone book.” Josh nodded his head in disappointment this time. “Maybe you should call him now!” he added.
Matthew picked his handset from the table and unlocked the tablet to copy the number into the dialler of his handset. He is about tapping on the call button when his phone buzzed.
“Udale!!” His eyes popped open as he looked at Josh. Josh shrugged, not knowing what else he was expecting.
“Why is she calling me? I told her…”
“Why don’t you pick the call first? We would know after that.” Josh motioned him to pick up before the phone would ring out.
Matthew felt a part of him not comfortable with the call but he had to pick up to be able to understand his reservations. He sat up and slide the receive button, placing the phone closer to his ears, the background of the caller sounded so noisy. The type of unclear noise one would not be able to make any sense out of.
“Hello…” He said when it was as if Udale didn’t know she dialled him.
Omachoko sat in the car awaiting his ‘oga’, as he usually call him. The man had gone to do some transactions inside the bank. It’s meant to be a quick transaction, or so oga said before leaving, asking him to wait back in the car. Omachoko checked his wristwatch for the third time and it’s already over an hour.
Well, banks in this country can be very frustrating. Frustrating you over collecting money what’s yours. One would wonder, if banks are to give free money, the level of frustration then would be greater than frustration itself. Whatever happens though, he has to wait. He didn’t really have a choice after all.
Oga telling commissioner he should be at Abuja by evening was all fables. Though all he needed for his journey was already at the back of his car. Since the flight is for 8.00pm tomorrow, Omachoko would drive his oga down to Ankpa and take a commercial transport down to Abuja early tomorrow morning… or just anytime that would take him down to the airport before his take off time. They had to sound dutiful before the commissioner anyway, like they are really in this for real. Truth is they are in it for real, but the actions in there a while ago was barely exaggerated.
At times he wondered what he would have ever done in this life without Oga Jude. His main reason for coming to Ankpa… maybe it hadn’t even changed was Laibe. The fact that he had cousins, whom he stayed with in Ankpa during his senior secondary school days set his mind at rest that he had no problem. From the little money he gathered as the chief merchant in Ofabo, he arrived in Ankpa to see everything has absolutely changed within the short number of years he left here. His uncle and family could barely feed one meal per day. At a point, he literally fed the whole family while job hunting. Since Ankpa isn’t a small town, he was rest assured that he would never run into Laibe at any time, that’s in addition to the fact that her aunty wouldn’t let her out anyhow.
Oga Jude is a wholesaler, dealing with food crops and related products. When he employed Omachoko as a sales boy in his shop at Ejeh road, the once ‘wealthy’ local champion Omachoko didn’t mind. He needed to make a living, so as to be worthy enough to marry Laibe. While at the new job, he later found out Oga Jude got his products from many farmers in the nearby villages; one day they even travelled all the way down to an interior village called ojuwo olijo to get cassava.
“This is what I grow in the village on a normal day, even much more, beans, yams, potatoes…” he came to a realisation.
Bingo! That was the beginning of his exploits.
He made his suggestions known to Oga Jude who for some surprising reasons agreed immediately. So Omachoko would go to the village during planting season, do all his work there, intermittently go to check on it and then finally harvest the produce. His harvest are usually massive as usual. He would take Oga Jude’s truck with which he brought all the produce to Ankpa for sale and give a percentage of the produce to his Oga.
He could remember the day Aunty Udale came to their shop, it was a miracle she didn’t see him – very narrow escape. There is something peculiar about the produce from Omachoko’s farm at Ofabo, people come purchasing it like their lives depended on it, so much so that in no long time, Oga Jude had grown from being an ordinary wholesaler to one of the biggest dealers in agricultural farm produce and he owed Omachoko for all of it. Omachoko on his own side wasn’t left out in the dividends as he got enough money to increase his farm; employ people to work all year round and even use mechanised methods. In a space of one year, the young man had become Oga Jude’s main distributor, helping him deliver goods across the country. Everything still feels like a dream to Omachoko till this moment, especially after he was chosen as the best candidate in Kogi Young Farmers scheme; everything about him has turned beautiful since then.
“If not for you Omachoko, who would think I can ever sit and talk with the executive governor of Kogi state.” Oga Jude told him today and he felt a flush of fulfilment gush down his throat. Seeing and talking with the governor as well as other notable key holders in the state has never been his dream, not to talk of traveling in and out of the country for trainings and business transaction like one would go to his backyard.
A broad smile formed around his face as he played P square’s ‘chop money’ from the DVD player of his car. Oga Jude bought this car for him as a show of appreciation immediately he got back from the States. His life feels fulfilled, yeah, but very empty without Laibe in it. He doesn’t know why he has this strong affection for the girl, right from their tiny childhood days. He had seen girls in the courses he took in Thailand and Canada, girls who literally threw themselves at him. Apart from his very attractive well-built stature, his dreads has become a selling point for him as well. But he didn’t see any of the things they asked for in him to offer them. It is Laibe he loves and would love, forever and a day more.
“Why hasn’t she called me till now? OK! Agreed she lost my card, that was why I left my number on the note with the gateman, why hasn’t she called?” Omachoko’s thoughts spilled through his mouth.
He ran his mind around possible reasons and couldn’t find any. Laibe appeared matured in some way the last time they talked. It’s not as though she didn’t like him at all, was it? It’s those her friends back at Ofabo that won’t let her consider him.
He jerked up as he heard a tap on the mirror at the driver’s side. Looking in that direction he saw it’s his Oga. He immediately pressed on the car lock to unlock the doors as Oga Jude came to sit beside him, sweating profusely.
“Inside the bank is extremely chilly, just the little distance from there to this parking lot and I’m sweating like Christmas goat already.”
Omachoko chuckled, “What took you so long sir?”
“Don’t mind those rubbish children they employ to work in banks these days. Can you imagine one telling me the amount on the cheque Chief K wrote for me as payment for those goods we delivered to him last month was too much? Maka why? Is it her money?” Oga Jude gesticulated as he said all these and Omachoko laughed out this time. His boss can be very funny when frustrated.
“I apologise on their behalf. Can we go now?” He asked politely, starting the car.
“Yes. Sure… Wait!” Oga Jude rose his right hand.
Omachoko wasn’t taking this delay so well right now. It’s not good for him at all, especially for his plans to see Laibe this evening. He would go back to the house with more money and perhaps a bag of their processed beans and beg the gateman to help him call her out. He needs to see her, he needs to have a medium of getting across to her, especially now that he would be travelling for how long he wasn’t sure of.
“Senator Farouk called me while in the bank. You know we have been seeking audience with him for a very long time now…” He paused to seek confirmation.
Omachoko nodded in the affirmative hurriedly and he continued,
“… he asked if I can make it down to his office by 7am tomorrow morning and who am I to say no?”
Omachoko continued looking at his boss, wishing and hoping he wouldn’t say what he was thinking.
“So?” he asked, when Oga Jude was taking forever to continue.
“So we are going straight to Abuja right now ‘Choko. This is very important. Don’t worry about me and your car, we’ll find my way back after that.”
What! Ocholi exclaimed inside him. This is not happening right now. Abuja? Right now? He need to go to Ankpa and see Laibe. How would he tell his boss now? How would the older man not see it as rebellion, on his part, jeopardising the business that made him, for a little girl.
He took in deep calming breaths and pushed the key into its hole. It’s at this point, for the first time, he wished he knew Laibe’s uncle in person or where he lives. Someone had told him he works in Lokoja. Laibe’s uncle would have been the best person to give him anything linking to Laibe right now; a phone number, a social media username, an e-mail address, just anything.
He is caught in-between two balls with tied hands now.
He swallowed as he zoomed out of the parking lot into the main roads.
Episode 28
Ocholi opened the door wider, gently. Laibe is standing at the window. The window of her room that opens to the gate area of the house. He stood for over ten minutes, yet she didn’t notice.
Poor girl!
She has drastically reduced in size… and it looks like her height came down as well. It’s been three very rough weeks for the whole family.
He walked over to where she stood and put a hand around her shoulders. She didn’t jerk this time as she would have usually done, neither did she appear scared or frightened, and that, instead of comforting Ocholi, bothered him even more. He had to come down to Ankpa. Big sis, as he normally calls Udale, had called him, reporting that Laibe was acting all too strange for her comprehension. She also said that the little girl hadn’t said anything to her since the past one week she got back from Ofabo.
“You know how to relate with her better… please come and help me, Ocholi. Your brother and I have tried in vain.” Udale had helplessly told Ocholi over the phone some days ago.
Even though travelling down to Ankpa was a little bit of a sacrifice for him, as he had some things to put in place before his long awaited trip, Laibe is worth way more than all.
Actually, some burial rites according to tradition, especially that Baba was the oldest man and Madaki of the village, must be performed before and after the burial. His children… his daughter in this case, had to stay back for about fourteen days after the burial. Udale didn’t really see a big deal in that traditional rite; not like she was asked to do anything extraordinary, apart from sitting indoors all day long and not changing clothes. It’s rather unfortunate that Baba is only survived by a daughter and granddaughter. Some elders talked this over for a long time during the burial. She wondered exactly what their grievances were. Some said Baba’s house would soon become ‘alache’ as there is no one to stay there anymore. Others recalled the times they pestered Baba to take more wives so as to improve the size of his family. The rest only looked at Udale with sympathy, carrying the ‘we wish you were a man’ look in their eyes.
It’s a man’s thing, yeah!
What a world?
What responsible man would come back to settle in the village because his father’s house is empty?
Udale couldn’t tell if Ugbede, her late elder brother, would have remained at Ofabo till now if still alive.
“How are you, Lee…” Ocholi said quietly.
Laibe still remained still, facing where she’s been facing. She acted like no one walked in, not to talk of noticing any hand on her.
“My very beautiful big girl…” Ocholi started slowly, trying to remember words that would normally get a reaction from Laibe like this ‘big girl’, but the little girl was falling for none of it. “… so I came here last night but you were fast asleep, I didn’t know you sleep that early these days…” Ocholi smiled first, then he cautioned himself. These lines were not important, the girl here almost didn’t care who comes in and leave this house anymore, obviously.
“So… so I… so I know it’s been a very hard time for us all…” Ocholi continued. He didn’t know if he should put himself in the picture like that; he barely knew Baba anyway. “…but I need you to stay strong for yourself and be rest assured that I’d be here for you anytime any day…” then he remembered something, “…especially that it is important you insert the battery into your phone first. Only then would I be able to communicate better with you anytime and from anywhere.”
Ocholi searched her dressing table with his eyes for her phone. He found it and moved over there hurriedly. He tried fixing the battery but couldn’t find her SIM card in it.
“Laibe, where did you put your SIM card?”
The silence he has been getting as response is still his greatest cause of worry.
When a very proactive girl starts acting like a vegetable, it only calls for concern, yeah!
Laibe hasn’t been able to neglect his questions ever. Even when he asked his annoyingly repeated questions, the young girl would only delay his answer, not that she wouldn’t answer at all. The only answer of hers he hasn’t been able to wrap his head around and talk himself into believing is the one about the white paper. Ocholi knew Laibe was covering something up but how will he enter into her mind to bring it out?
“So you wanna paint?” He gently drew her face towards him, holding her little chin in his palms. Her eyes were still normal. She still look alright, no tears, no pain… yet no words. He brought out a paper diagram from his pocket, “… how about you come help me paint this diagram? It is a sample of a work I was given. You still have all the apparatus in your toolbox, don’t you? Yea, come on!”
Ocholi’s eyes begged her to respond but she was staring back at him instead. Soon enough, she withdrew her face and turned back in the former direction.
Ocholi took in a deep breath. Thankfully, he isn’t one to get angry over anything – direct opposite of his elder brother. Aunty Udale told him her husband had given up asking Laibe questions after attempting three times. The only issue Ocholi has right now is that he had not so much time on his hands anymore and he needed to tell her exactly what brought him back home. If it would change anything anyway.
“So I told you the last time that I’m putting in for a scholarship scheme to help me run my masters abroad, right?... In another news Lee, I got it!!…” He sounded excited while talking at first, then he paused and waited. Somehow he felt a flush of disappointment all over him. He had expected, even if nothing would, his announcement should make her elated of course; because she, specifically, has planned out how they were both going to celebrate when the scholarship finally comes. All thanks to this unfortunate incidence. Ocholi, however, sees this incidence as just a trigger for Laibe to expose her very many locked up emotions. It’s been a long time coming, he could tell.
“There were many options…” he continued anyway. He was satisfied she could hear him even though the aim of communication could not be achieved right now. “… so I chose half scholarship. That option had provision for me to take on a part-time job while still running my Master degree. Actually, it’s big bro that chose it for me…” he glanced at her again, “…Laibe, you know I don’t wanna leave you right? But it’s not my money o. This is an opportunity everyone would kill for…”
He waited for her one more time.
He swallowed, put back his hand on her shoulders. She didn’t move, she didn’t jerk. He brought down his hand and pocketed it. He opened his mouth to speak again but nothing was forthcoming this time.
“I… I guess I’ll talk to you later.” He said calmly and walked out.
Jane pulled over at the gate. She didn’t know if she should call her first before going in but she must do one thing surely today, no matter what, and that’s seeing Matron Udale. She turned to Mary when she noticed her lips moving.
“It’s not really your fault, alright? You were in Lokoja - On becoming Mrs Obaje…” Jane cut her a livid stare. “…it’s true na. Perhaps, they didn’t really want us to know about it in the first place…”
“How is that, Mary?” Jane interrupted, “… you know that’s not true. Laibe was away from school for over two weeks, didn’t you know that?”
Mary smiled. “Really? Was I not the one that told you that?” Sarcasm. “…well, we called the number of her guardian with us and it was her uncle who picked it up. He simply said they all went to the village urgently and that we shouldn’t worry about it. He didn’t mention anything that can point someone’s attention to death, let alone burial…”
Jane sighed. “I’m so nervous. I don’t know how my mummy would be by the time I see her. Imagine me planning to bring wedding plans before her, I dare not anymore. That woman seem to be suffering from something all by herself in silence.”
“Na you know… OmniSabi! Weh done ma!” Mary nudged her at the side and opened the car door, “…let’s go in before people start thinking we are spying on her house.” She got down immediately and started towards the gate. Jane quickly locked the doors and hurried after her as well.
The gateman didn’t say much to them. Apart from the fact that he is familiar with Jane, he seem to be grieving as well. At the door, Mary pressed on the door bell and waited. She pressed it again, this time listening to confirm if she felt someone’s footsteps inside.
“Hi Ladies…” Ocholi smiled at them, giving way.
Jane smiled knowingly at Ocholi but the young man obviously couldn’t place her face. He left the door for them to come in.
“Nurse Jane. I was in Matron’s office the day you brought Laibe to town and your car broke down or something.”
“Ah! God forbid, that Peugeot 504 can never be my car o… You see, we have thrown it away from this compound. One car be giving people so much problem.”
He said these in such a hilarious way that the two ladies laughed lightly.
“…anyway, pardon me! I was so scared and nervous that day, I didn’t even see any other person in the office. You know how your matron can be.” He lowered his voice a little.
“ I noticed…” Jane started but stopped as she heard Mary’s greeting.
“How are you my darlings?”
Jane ran into Udale’s open arms and rested her head on the older woman’s breast. It felt like her real mother.
“I’m so sorry mummy… I … I … didn’t…”
“Shhh!” Udale placed a finger on her mouth. “How are you my daughter?”
Ocholi didn’t wait to be told to excuse them. It felt like a mother-daughters reunion. He is not caught out for any of these emotional shows right now. He had some parking and arrangements to do.
“Ma, Laibe’s uncle told us when we called that you all went to the village for something urgent. He never mentioned burial…” Jane’s eyes begged Mary, while talking, not to say this part but she knew her friend better – so direct to the point, to a fault.
Udale’s eyes widened, “Oh! Really?”
She motioned them to a seat before taking hers.
“We are sorry. I would have led delegates to Ofabo if I had known that it was Laibe’s grandfather that died. I know how fond of him she is.” Mary affirmed.
“Well, the little girl has been acting really weird and strange lately. I don’t know what to think anymore.” Udale confessed and the two ladies sat up quickly on their seats like pins pierced them.
“Strange and weird? How do you mean Mummy? Where is she by the way?” Jane rained the questions, leaving no breathing space in between.
Udale got up, started walking away and they followed her.
Matthew kept pacing around the spacious home office. He wasn’t talking, not saying anything. Josh who had tried to force the words off his mouth, in vain, had given up. Yet, he could not concentrate on the mail he is trying to make a meaning out of, on his laptop.
“Mat, you need to see this. This young boy is doing great feats there. The company has accepted to send down the agricultural machines we are bidding for, at a very ridiculous low price. You won’t believe this. Isn’t this guy a genius?” He thought a change of topic would ease the tension in the air.
Josh, to Matthew, was talking at the top of his lungs.
Matthew could only wonder why.
“Mat, did you hear me at all?”
Matthew turned to him, creasing his forehead. “What?”
Josh showed displeasure. “Now tell me I have been talking to myself all the while?” He hissed dryly, “…well I was talking about Mr Ekele. Or Omachoko? Yeah, that was the name he called the last time. Anyway, here is his picture with the managing director of the company…” Josh started turning the screen of the laptop in Matthew’s direction, “…and he attached a scanned copy of their acceptance later…”
“Can you just keep quiet, Josh? Please!” Matthew yelled, hitting his hand hard against the wall.
At first, Josh was taken aback then he calmed himself down and got up. He didn’t know if it was wise to go near Matthew as it is right now but he trusted his guts. The highest that would happen is for the press to carry it later today that the commissioner was involved in an exchange of blows with one of his dear managers, who is also a close friend. Not as though he would be the first person in the state to do that; some paid leaders do it during most of their sittings.
“What is the problem again, my friend.”
Matthew squatted, rubbing his sweaty hands nervously against each other. As if that position wasn’t soothing anymore, he got up and went to hold onto the frame of the window.
“What is…” Josh was about to complete this when Matthew interrupted him.
“She is damn not saying anything anymore. Since then!”
Josh looked morose. He couldn’t understand who the ‘she’ and when the ‘then’ in his statement were.
“I’m talking about the little girl. I’m talking about Laibe. You know we both got back from Ofabo together, about a week before Udale…” he gave Josh a questioning look and the latter nodded in the affirmative before he continued, “… she didn’t say a single word to me, up until her aunty returned last week. I have done everything possible; scream, talk, at a point threaten, and plead at other points but she is stubbornly unyielding.”
Josh took in a deep breath.
“The crazier part was after her aunty got back.”
“Did she talk to Udale?” Josh sounded curious.
Matthew looked more tensed and anxious. “She didn’t… she hasn’t. Ocholi had to be called from his place of work even when his trip is soon… tomorrow or so, I can’t recall now. She is still damn not talking, even to Ocholi.” Matthew hit the wall hard again.
Josh swallowed. He knew what he was about to say wouldn’t help matters but they both can’t give in to fear and anxiety, drowning in the ocean of regrets right now.
“Maybe she has come to that stage the doctor talked about the last time.”
Matthew stared back at his friend, trying to recall the ordeals of the last meeting with the doctor and nothing seem to be clicking. He is even too nervous at the moment for his brain to consider thinking.
“What stage?” His eyeballs were almost dropping to the floor.
Josh walked back to his table and closed his laptop. Picking up his suit, phone and car keys, he walked back to where Matthew stood.
“You know what? Let’s go see the doctor immediately.” Josh said firmly and walked out of his office, leaving the door open for Matthew.
Laibeis still standing by the window Ocholi met and left her some minutes ago. She appears to be really focusing on something only her could see – something so far away, where no one could reach out to her. Jane ran over to her and grabbed her waist from the back. Mary was so startled by Laibe’s emaciation that she couldn’t even lift a limb.
“Laibe! My kid sister. Look at you? How are you? I’ve missed the hell out of you?” Jane talked on. Sometimes dragging Laibe’s face to her but the little girl would pull her face away and back to where it was.
Jane turned to Udale, eyes demanding answers.
“That’s how she has been since Baba died. She saw him first, while trying to serve him his food. She ran up to call me and we rushed the old man to the hospital…” Udale moved towards Laibe’s bed and sat down. She has never been the person to stand long, “…will you believe if I tell you that even when the doctors at Bethel hospital certified Baba dead, this girl didn’t shed any tear?”
“What!!!” The two ladies exclaimed as though they planned it.
Udale gave a little sarcastic chuckle. “That’s even small. At the village, during the burial and up until now, she hasn’t shed a single tear. Neither has she said anything to anyone.”
“Oh my God! This isn’t good” Jane exclaimed touching Laibe’s neck.
“What is that?” Mary said for the first time today and she’s just also able to move from the door post where she had stood looking electrocuted all the while.
She drew closer to them and touched Laibe’s neck also, removing her hand involuntarily.
“She is running temperature, ma…” Mary exploded.
At times, Jane wonders what kind of nurse her friend, Mary, is, as everything gets her agitated and worried. This is only high temperature for crying out loud!
Just when Udale was about to get up, Ocholi opened the door. He didn’t leave the door knob as he carried confusing eyes from one person to another. He had a bag dangling across one shoulder and he had changed into a more formal dressing now. Udale quickly got up and made a sign to the ladies with her eyes. Jane and Mary immediately understood what she meant and started smiling.
Ocholi wasn’t convinced but then… damn! he is running out of time.
“Trust me, I would have driven you down to the park at least, but you see what your sister is making me go through?”
Ocholi smiled as Udale patted him on the back like a child.
“Yes o! You just must make these ladies know that I haven’t gone abroad before in my life, huh? Big sis!”
Everyone started laughing, except Laibe of course - she doesn’t even feel in this room at all.
“Sorry Ladies, I’m no comedian. It is just this ecstasy that comes with first time things.” He blinked at them and they smiled back. Mary was beginning to like him. He is probably her type; the fun type with well-built muscular body. “…Sis, please take care of my Lee. And find her SIM card, I need to call her or otherwise, I will have to be disturbing your phone…” he hastily pecked Udale. He didn’t want to go to Laibe any longer. Ladies are here with her now, she should come around soon.
“Bye…” They waved at him.
“Good bye.” He closed the door hard.
Udale turned to the ladies and thanked them for playing along. When they asked her why, she simply said Ocholi could damn that whole trip if he discovers something else is wrong with Laibe. She told them he really cared about her welfare. But then, they had paid so much for the tuition to risk him missing that flight the next day.
“So what do we do about her running temperature now?” Mary asked, not really interested in Udale’s explanations.
“We would wait for her to come…” Udale said firmly, going to touch the neck as well before returning to her seat on the bed.
The two ladies turned to face each other, as though they got hit by a ghost, and Udale afterwards,
“Who?” they shouted.
“Doctor, don’t you understand? She isn’t talking. She isn’t damn talking doctor!” Matthew yelled, shifting in his chair.
“As I said before sirs, she probably has reached the height of it. She has gotten to the peak of how much she can take…” Dr Max said, trying as much as it depended on him to maintain a very polite and calm tone even amidst the tension. Typical of doctors, isn’t it?
He dropped the pen in his hand, sat up straight to face the two older men eyeball to eyeball. “I told you the last time that children in her condition have limit to how much they can bear…”
“What damn condition are you talking about Doc?” Matthew interrupted.
Max shot an annoyed look at Matthew. The type that says ‘can you shut that wide mouth up, already?’
Though, he couldn’t say that now but that look said it all.
Josh noticed this and held Matthew’s wrist.
“You have to calm down man!”
“Calm down?” Matthew flared up again. “… are you really asking me to calm down?”
He got up from his seat now.
Dr Max sighed.
In his next world he wouldn’t let Dr Nonso do this again.
“Well, you have to calm down to be able to tell your wife, to start with. I have given you enough time to make this decision all by yourself sir, but as it stands now, I may have to go out of my way and contact your wife. At least, for the sake of the poor girl.” Max looked firm, no one could really tell what was going on in his mind.
Matthew laughed lightly. “Are you threatening me now, Boy!”
Wow! Max just got hit on his bad side. This man is beginning to step on his nerves more than he could bear.
“We don’t threaten here, we treat, if I may remind you this is an hospital sir. By the way, the rule of confidentiality in the medical practice has its exceptions. As it is in this case, the other party is in danger.”
“He is threatening me again!” Matthew sounded sarcastic amidst his uneasiness. Josh worried for his friend greatly, Matthew most times doesn’t know how to manage anxiety and he needed to intercede soon enough.
“Doctor Maximillian, I apologise for all these…” Josh pleaded, looking sideways at his friend with a corner of his eyes.
“No problem, honourable commissioner. He has to tell them now, or I would be left with no option than to tell his family myself. Protecting the girl is most important right now. Whatever we must do must be done now. Either ways, danger is still ahead.”
Matthew calmed down a bit and came to rest his hand on the table, looking at the doctor from high up there.
“Either ways? There is danger ahead? What does that mean?”
“You have to tell her before your wife employs the services of a psychotherapist. You wouldn’t like the outcome if she learns about this whole thing from the girl herself during therapy.” Max admonished and started typing away on his laptop.
Josh jerked up immediately and came to stand beside his fidgeting friend. It’s been years something scared the living daylight out of Matthew like this. Matthew is too cool, calm and collected to shake over any matter, no matter how tensed up the matter is. He is usually the comforter. This case is really different. Josh took out his phone, pressed some buttons on it and placed it against his ear.
“What are you doing Josh?” Matthew managed to ask, his voice shook terribly.
“I’m calling Udale. It’s about time!” Josh kept his voice calm.
Jane opened the door, gave way to let her come in. She is dressed in a long black skirt and her blouse is tuck into it. She looks extremely smart as she walked past Jane and into the sitting room proper.
“Matron Udale?”
“No. She asked I bring you in. Please do follow me.” Jane said politely as she led the way to Laibe’s room. This woman called while at the gate and Udale asked Jane to go lead her in. Only God know who she is.
“Ah! You are welcome, Halima. I’ve been expecting you!” Udale gave her a side hug immediately the all-smiling woman stepped into the room. She doesn’t look Udale’s age mate and Jane knew she definitely isn’t either of herself or Mary’s age mates, as well.
Who is she then?
“Ma’am, I apologise. Some emergencies came up at the office.”
She sounded so professional too.
“No problem Halima. It’s good you are here now. Here she is…” Udale got up as she led Halima to where Laibe is standing. Laibe quickly turned for the first time as Mary gave space for the two women. Laibe’s turn was so quick that Udale tittered backwards.
Halima had this smile which appeared to be permanently plastered on her face. She looked so welcoming and nice already even at first sight. She stood before Laibe and squatted so as to become equal heights with her.
“How are you today, pretty damsel…” Her smile didn’t waver, even when Laibe gave no response. “You are so so beautiful. My daughter would be so delighted to meet and become friends with you.” She paused for a while and saw that tactic didn’t work.
“Can we talk as friends? I like you a lot already…” she added.
“Who is she?” Jane thought she was whispering not knowing that her voice was out there.
Halima smiled. Jane just gave her a good ground to start from now. She smiled more at Laibe who didn’t seem to even be seeing her.
“My name is Halima, I’m a psychotherapist.” She stretched forth her hand for a handshake but Laibe only kept her face fix to where it has been fixed to. They left the door to her room open, so she was busy staring through it to the adjoining passage - her very own Veranda. Mary and Jane heaved a sigh of relief on getting to know who the smiling woman is.
“Laibe, I’m here to help you. Trust me, I know you are such a wonderful person. I only need you to talk to me.”
They, most especially Udale waited anxiously for her to talk but she is disappointing all of them again. Laibe didn’t do as much as blink an eye. Strange indeed!
“OK baby. Please allow me to help you…” Halima continued. Smiling even sweeter. “I’ve helped a lot of girls your age. I was only able to do this because they agreed to become my friend. Please talk to me!”
“Leave me alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Laibe screamed at the top of her lungs.
Inasmuch as everyone was elated Laibe spoke for the first time in three weeks, this talk isn’t a good one at all. She is screaming. She is pulling her hair tightly with her hands.
“Leave me alone. Uncle, uncle…” she held onto her shirt and ripped it off, “Uncle, leave me alone… NO!!!!!!! Uncle…” she held onto the window rod like she wanted to pass through it. When she saw that wasn’t feasible, she put the edge of her torn shirt in her mouth, “…uhmmm… sweet… ice cream… beach… sweet.” She laughed out loud to herself.
Mary is crying already and Udale’s eyes were flooded with tears.
Laibe threw the shirt in her mouth away and threw herself onto the floor.
“Please!! Leave me alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!” She screamed even more.
Halima motioned them to shut the door.
As if she saw it coming, Laibe got up in a flash and hurried for the door. Mary and Jane grabbed her. It’s funny how the both of them are struggling to steady the small girl but Laibe wouldn’t calm down.
She is still screaming,
“Leave me alone!!! Uncle, Uncle please, Leave… Leave me… Leave me alone!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Man the door Ma’am. I need to sedate her, we are taking her to the hospital right away.” Halima ordered Udale before heading for her car outside.
A mixture of fear, confusion and frustration gripped Udale as she occupied the entire doorway with her bulky self.
Episode 29
“Some man got me extremely infuriated, Goddess. You wouldn’t believe it. Damn! He probably just planned to ruin my day.”
Jane smiled as Max voiced out his frustrations.
Maximillian, for as long as she knows, is not one to complain or lament on, let alone about his job. He is that good par excellence. Having him ranting at this moment is quite strange in her ears and truthfully, she didn’t know what soothing response to give him.
“Don’t you think you are under so much pressure with this thing? I know it must be the commissioner and his friend’s case. Even though I haven’t met them, I can bet on my honour that they are extremely arrogant. Well, who does money not make arrogant anyway? Don’t you think you need a break off all of these?” Jane opined as she turned into the junction in front of her. She readjusted the earpiece which slid off, onto her right hand and quickly stole a glance at Mary. She couldn’t tell whether the lady beside her was meditating or lost in some wild thoughts. It’s just obvious that she’s been staring out through the mirror of the car, all the way from Bethel Hospital.
They had driven behind Udale and the psychotherapist after they were sure Laibe fell asleep. The sedative didn’t take so long to work on her after all. They both had to stay around Matron Udale for a while and only left when her husband finally came around. His face didn’t look good neither did he appear as welcoming as the first time Jane met him. Something must have gone so wrong and it was only wise they excused the couple.
“Pressure? This is my job, you know!” Max objected, changing from his initial devastated voice to a firmer one.
Jane smiled broader this time. She knew Max so well. He can do anything in the defence of his much-talked-about job.
“Soothe yourself then. I’m not really in the best of moods myself…” She dragged the gear to park, in front of Mary’s compound.
“What is the problem, Goddess? I noticed that in your voice too.” He had sincerity in his tone.
Jane rolled her eyes.
“I guess I have to move in with Mary for the meantime…”
She jeered and could feel him very uncomfortable over the phone.
“That’s not what I’m asking and you know it. What is the problem?”
“My mummy, my matron, you remember her now?” That was meant to be a question but Jane didn’t stop to let him respond. “Her daughter is behaving strange and weird. We just left the hospital. She would even be seeing a psychotherapist…” She jammed everything together, not breaking to breathe.
“Psychotherapist?” Max sounded amazed.
He felt something was trying to pop up in his mind but he was too tired to think at the moment so he dismissed it, as quick as it came.
“Yes Love.” Jane removed her car key and got down.
Mary had gone in a long time ago, when she saw the call wasn’t going to end anytime soon.
Max was quiet for a while.
“You know what, Jane? Come to think of it, I think I actually need a break…”
Jane was taken aback.
First, by him calling her first name but she understood - he is under so much pressure.
Aside the fame and the honour that comes with working with politicians, it can be extremely hectic more often than not as they would require you to do things at their own convenience and at their beck and call. She had come to totally understand her fiancé’s predicament and has adjusted to it. Moreover, the past few weeks she spent at his place had opened her eyes to a lot of things. He had assured her that things would get better with time. She totally doubt the possibility of that anyway, because it appears he would continually even get busier with time and chance. Unless, of course, the government refuses to stay stingy for once and employ more hands - especially doctors - to come work in the Lugard House hospital and every other hospital, for that matter.
“Are you for real?” She caught herself saying. She didn’t know if she was excited about the news or not. “…when and where would that be then?”
“Hmmm… I guess this weekend? I’m not sure. And where else? I would be coming to Ankpa surely.”
Jane tittered unconsciously. It’s about time.
She told Max how her father is longing to see him, so much so that they, Jane and her father that is, both talked about it this morning before she left the house. She couldn’t have let Max in on it. It would have been extremely insensitive of her, knowing how busy he is. Now that he has, by himself, succumbed to taking a break? The pleasure is all hers.
“I can’t wait to see you and get to go to all the places and people you said we needed to visit. It’s high time we doubled the speed of our wedding plans. You know it’s not so far away anymore.” He waited as Jane chuckled. “…I love you so much, Goddess!”
“I love you too Max!” Jane screamed into the receiver excitedly.
Max ended the call but she still held onto her phone, staring with unusual full attention at it for a very long time.
What a good surprise?
Finally, her darling mummy, matron Udale, would also get to meet Max officially.
Another intriguing episode of ‘On becoming Mrs Obaje.’
Udale frankly didn’t know why Matthew is nagging again. Truth is, she is truly becoming fed up with all of him. All of his guts. All of his threats. All of his harsh words. All of his nonchalance. All of the damn things in him. He had started all the way from the hospital till they got into the house and he is still keeping up at it. She has had a very trying moment in the last few weeks and having Laibe laying on that hospital bed doesn’t seem like something she found interesting in the very least. It’s good Matthew is only nagging and not shouting. Only God can tell what she would do if he had shouted on her before the ladies.
He dashed into the hospital not so long after Udale asked Mary to send him a message using her phone. Udale had forgotten her own phone at home during all the rush hour events down there. Mary simply drafted a short text, saying ‘Laibe was rushed to Bethel hospital’. There was no much details and she thought Matron’s husband would call back immediately after reading such a message. Well, this is not the first time the man’s actions are leaving her in utter disappointment. The very latest being Baba’s burial secret.
“Which of them have I done wrong now, Matthew? Calling a psychotherapist for a girl who isn’t talking yet behaving unusually weird? Or sedating and rushing her to the hospital when she started screaming your name all of a sudden.” Matron demanded with a raging voice. Her eyes flashing and burning with anger.
Matthew swallowed.
“I’m not saying any of your actions were wrong Udale. I’m only saying…”
“Only saying what? Only saying what, Matthew?” She cut in, raising her voice.
“…excuse me sir? You are only saying I should sit back and fold my hands while my only niece and of course the only blood relation of mine left lose her mind? Incredible!” She looked at him with deep concerns, unable to believe her ears. “What should I rather do? Run away to work in Lokoja as well, and leave her to run mad? Can you listen to yourself, Matthew?”
Matthew knew he needed to tread with caution now. Udale was apparently blowing the whole matter out of proportion. He picked up the remote and turned on the TV for no good reason; he just needed to be a bit distracted. Music? Alright. At least, so Udale wouldn’t notice his nervousness… or is it anxiety? He is actually unlike Matthew at the moment.
“And did Josh call me over three times? Was there a problem?” Udale jolted him again, staring at the screen of her phone as she picked it up from the side stool she had left it while taking Jane and Mary to Laibe’s room earlier.
Matthew glanced at her. He now realised why the calls rang out unanswered, earlier. Perhaps he would have been able to say all of it then, if she picked up the call. Josh was more or less a great source of morale for him. Josh would have helped him say it, if he couldn’t. Right now, he is struggling hard with how best to say what is eating up his mind. The doctor was right, he would wish for death to come if Udale finds out through the psychotherapist what he had done… or what he has been doing.
If once was to be a mistake, how then can one account for several times?
“Did you hear my question at all?” Udale frowned when her husband didn’t seem to be responding to her. Whatever was on his mind, she could care less right now.
“Yes… yes… yea I did. I … I did…” Matthew sat up on his chair. “Never mind. I guess he only wanted to tell you something.”
“Something? Josh?” Udale sounded unbelieving. “…I should call him right away then!” She started tapping away on the screen of her phone.
Matthew jumped up and snatched the phone from her hand before he could stop himself. This got Udale both confused and suspicious as she turned questioning eyes at her husband.
“You don’t have to call him back, OK? He… he… he probably wanted to reach me…” Seeing Udale didn’t fall for that. “…I know… I know… I know we were together, alright? But you know Josh now, he can be extremely… erhm… extremely forgetful.”
He knew he wasn’t sounding convincing but he got to take a chance.
Udale couldn’t comprehend what her husband was saying in her head but didn’t really want to raise more alarm… not at this time.
She was about to say something when the doorbell chimed.
“I’ll get it.” Matthew sprang up and hurried to the door immediately.
“I’ll need some explanation on why she kept screaming out ‘Uncle’ and asking you to leave her alone too. That’s after all this is over.” Udale called out from behind him.
Matthew felt extremely weak at the knees but didn’t stop. He only continued walking till he got to the door and pulled down the knob. He was startled initially but quickly gained back his composure.
The faces he was seeing didn’t appear familiar to him in any way.
Laibe tried to open her eyes. It’s as if there was something gluing the upper part to the lower one. She forcefully continued till she could see something before her. It looked like a white cloud.
Oh, she made it to heaven so early? She questioned herself.
Then she thought she heard a voice, “it must be the angel sent to welcome me.”
A broad smile formed around her face.
“You are back.” The voice came again, and at this point, she was beginning to joggle her brain to remembrance, especially the part talking of the journey she got back from.
She tried to get up. A pang flew through the inside of her right eyes all the way through to her back. She fell back almost immediately.
“You need to rest, my friend.”
Laibe heard and this time she was certain it wasn’t any heaven and the white clouds were the colours of the ceiling right above her. She turned to see the woman smiling at her. She definitely isn’t so young neither is she too old. Laibe didn’t seem to remember anything as she just stared at the women demanding answers.
“I’m Halima, your friend. And ehrm… and we rushed you down here some … some hours ago.”
Oh! Here she is thinking she had at least escaped the torture of her grandfather’s death and the other one she faces at home yet unable to confide in no one. She didn’t mind ending it on earth at the moment already.
“Friend? Did you say your name was He… Halima?” Laibe sounded like someone recuperating from chronic amnesia.
Halima smiled.
Laibe thought that the woman’s smile is very beautiful. At least, it’s giving her some bit of comfort and relaxation right on this hospital bed. The first time Laibe was in this hospital was when they rushed Baba down here and he died before her very eyes. She remembered she couldn’t even shed a tear after that incidence. Her heart was heavier than a stone and perhaps, a portion of it detached and had probably come to clog her throat. That explains why she wasn’t talking too then.
A woman’s heart is indeed a deep ocean of secrets.
“So you relax, OK? I would get the doctor for you soon.” Halima said politely and got up.
Laibe watched her as she walked on till she was almost opening the door.
“When do I meet her?”
“Meet who?” Halima turned confused face back at Laibe. She thought the girl was hallucinating again but all of a sudden, her brain gathered up the many things she thinks the young girl must be talking about. She came to one conclusion and believed that must be what Laibe wanted to know.
“Anytime you want, my friend!”
Laibe smiled at this and Halima returned the smile before walking out of the wardroom.
Helen sat a little bit uncomfortable. Though she is an Igbo girl, she has learnt every single alphabet in the Igala language; so much for being born and bred in Ankpa. She didn’t have issues communicating with aunty Udale… it was not as though they spoke Igala with each other.
When Laibe’s uncle opened the door, she wasn’t surprised at all that he stood staring back at them for a long time. Helen, herself, didn’t also help the issue because words failed her on seeing the huge man… suffice to say that she felt intimidated all of a sudden. Thank God aunty Udale came to the scene at the time she did. Laibe’s aunty is the only one Helen is familiar with, they have seen and talked the many times she came to drop or pick Laibe at/from school. It’s rather unfortunate that her friendship with Laibe had always been within the four walls of school. Since their driver brings her to school, Laibe hadn’t gotten the opportunity to meet any of her own parents, unlike her.
“Wow! Helen? Great surprise. How are you my dear girl?” Udale had said, hugging Helen, on getting to the door. Helen quickly introduced the other man with her, who insisted on waiting outside, as her driver. Udale felt really impressed as the little girl said she asked her father to let the driver bring her here to check Laibe immediately she got home after school.
“Where is she now?” she had asked almost as soon as she took her seat.
Laibe’s uncle didn’t look the least interested in her question neither did he seem as excited as Udale was to see her. Helen felt he hated her already with the way he snubbed her and sat on his own like he wasn’t in the living room at all. Funny enough, Laibe has never mentioned him in any of their discussions, so Helen has not the slightest idea as to who her friend’s uncle was.
“She is in the hospital.” Udale responded, taking her seat.
Helen sat up involuntarily. “Hospital? Which hospital? I mean why?”
She saw a look of gross irritation on Matthew’s face as her voice rose. And before she got an answer to her questions, the man got up, picked his car keys and excused himself; heading up the stairs.
Helen absolutely didn’t understand. Was Laibe’s uncle this unkind to visitors who are her friends or it’s peculiar to her? She let the thoughts slide away. Where to find her friend is the most important thing right now.
“Your friend is having some health issues… I truly fear it wouldn’t result in mental issues in the long run.” Udale said slowly, counting her words out like she needed prayers to say every single one of them.
“How do you mean mental issues, ma?”
Udale swallowed painfully. Stress has left a permanent crease on her forehead today. It’s been such a hell of a day.
“Well, I’m just hoping it is not, my dear. Please can I ask you a question, Helen? And I need you to be extremely sincere.”
Udale’s eyes were penetrating the young girl now and she felt really uncomfortable. But as it is typical of Aleka Academy, the school has put in her courage and boldness to politely face anyone in whatever situation. Thus, she tried to still maintain a fairly stable and comported facial expression.
She nodded in the affirmative. That was the most polite response she could give right now and thankfully, aunty Udale didn’t mind.
“Was your friend following any guy around in school or anywhere else? Anyone that you are aware of? Was there any unusual male around her at any point that you know?”
Helen stared back at Laibe’s aunty in confusion. The confusion was gaining a lot of grounds in her head, more and more by each ticking hand of the clock. It can’t be Ezekiel, surely. Laibe couldn’t have had anything to do with him, she knew that deep within even while they were keeping malice.
“You see Helen, you may be afraid of talking now…” Udale’s voice brought her from her thoughts, “… this is for her own good. Your beloved friend is acting abnormally and we left her unconscious at the hospital…” Helen’s eyes popped open and Udale smiled lightly, “… she was actually sedated.” She corrected and felt Helen take in a deep sigh of relief.
“Aunty, Laibe doesn’t like boys. She hates them with passion, you will know even from the disgusted way she talks about them.” Helen’s voice was calm as she spoke.
“Disgusted? How do you mean?”
Helen twisted her tongue inside her mouth.
She would try to stay within the confines of what she can remember. She didn’t want it to be said that she betrayed Laibe... or whatever the so-called code of friendship entails.
“I don’t know how to explain ma, but whenever we talk and it comes to issues of boys, she gets overtly infuriated and screams at the top of her voice.”
Udale felt another big blow on her face hearing this. How couldn’t she have known, noticed or found that out? There was no way she would have. She haven’t had any deep conversation with Laibe in recent times… that’s if she ever did at all. She had always thought Laibe should be fine… and finest if need be, because, unlike the village where she was taken from, she has more life to herself now than ever before.
I’m a failed mother obviously, perhaps that’s why God didn’t give me a child, she cursed herself silently within.
“So you mean there is no boy she has introduced you to? She hasn’t told you she liked any one? I mean, you know what I’m saying. What you people call ‘crush’, am I right? Think! Anyone, anytime.” Udale pressed on
Helen still shook her head from side to side
She knew Laibe’s disposition whenever it comes to the opposite sex. In fact, at a point she began to wonder if Laibe was homosexual. That should be the only thing potent enough to completely erase a lady’s attraction for a man, right? Udale kept pleading eyes on Helen while she nodded from left to right in thoughts, until gbam! Something seem to flash back in her brain.
“No one that she had told you she liked? No…”
“Yes, there was one guy…” Helen interrupted, “… the first time we saw him… well, I don’t think that’s Lee’s first time though, he scared us with his car. We were walking down that lonely street from our school, so we thought he was a kidnapper.”
“Kidnapper? Walking to where please?” Udale asked in astonishment and continued, “Eehen! So what happened?”
Helen felt quite uncomfortable saying this. Her only solace is in the fact that Laibe didn’t tell her to keep it secret as they would always do.
“Nothing ma. Nothing happened. We later found out he was someone she knew. Actually, my guts tells me the person looks familiar, but I couldn’t point it. At least, till the guy drove me home before bringing her here and up until now…”
“OK! Thank you very much. Anymore thing?”
“Laibe didn’t come to school the day after that. She however told me some days later that the guy has been asking her to marry him… though we couldn’t talk much that time because it was our test week. We haven’t finished the discussion since she has been away from school for so long now, her phone has been off as well and I was worried until Miss Mary told me she lost her grandfather.” Helen narrated.
“The guy you both met, how long ago was that?” Udale asked.
Helen shut her eyes for a while, as though trying to picture the date required of her.
“Uhmm…It was on a Thursday… yes. Thursday. She didn’t come to school the next day. I guess she said, her grandfather was brought home that Friday or so. I can’t completely recall.…”
Udale felt alarm ring in her head.
“So she didn’t play badminton that Thursday at school?”
Helen found the question funny but she didn’t show it.
“No ma. Miss Mary excused Laibe and I from extracurricular activities that day.”
“So you are sure she didn’t play badminton?”
Helen didn’t understand anymore. Aunty Udale is asking the same question she just answered.
“We both didn’t do anything other than walking out and getting frightened initially by the guy who later drove us home.” She sounded very firm while talking. She was as sure of this as she is of her surname.
Udale swallowed, many pictures were reappearing in her head and she was trying hard to figure out a sensible way of merging everything together.
“This guy in question, do you know his name?”
Helen stared back at aunty Udale, searching deep inside her head, perhaps she would find the guy’s name, that’s if she ever heard it in the first place.
Udale violently pushed the door to the bedroom open. She glanced at Matthew who was sitting at her dressing table and headed towards the bed. She was not going to be satisfied, after all Helen told her, until she finds the guy whose name Helen couldn’t provide. She sat down on the right side of the bed where her husband usually use, feeling extremely restless and then jerked up. She felt Matthew’s eyes turning to her immediately she dragged open his side drawer.
“What are you looking for in there?”
Udale shot a cold eye at him and he kept quiet immediately. She pulled out one of the notebooks from the drawers and tried to fan herself with it, then a paper fell off it.
Matthew felt the impulse to rush for that paper but he knew better than adding to the very many reasons he has given his wife to suspect him today. He however prepared himself, bracing up for expected questions.
“Laibe, I expected your call and now I’m here. I feel you have lost my card. Just call me back on 08103872490 as soon as you see this…”
Matthew listened, without looking, as his wife read out the content of the paper that fell off the book she carried out of his drawer.
“…You knew about this?” Udale kept unbelievable eyes on her husband.
“Knew about what?” Matthew replied.
He has always known the ‘question back’ mechanism to be efficient.
“Oh! Don’t give me that Matthew…” Udale seem to be flaring up by each statement she made, “…you knew about the guy that dropped her at home that Thursday? You saw him? You knew he probably slept in this house with her? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Slept in this house?” he snorted, “… and you believe I’ll let someone in here to sleep with our daughter? Do you know how precious she is to me?” Matthew sounded extremely disappointed this time and that worked. It worked because Udale started crying. Kudos to reverse psychology.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore, Honey. Helen just told me about a guy we don’t know his name, this paper is having probably the guy’s number and that appears like you know him. I met her room in complete disarray the morning of that day and you were sleeping in the living room, she said she played badminton, Helen said, they both didn’t do any activity the day before. She walked like she had balls between her legs. I don’t know what to think anymore.” She started sobbing even louder, so much so that Matthew had to get up and go pat her gently on the shoulders. Her fat body vibrated heavily, shaking the bed. He could feel his own heart beat loudly against his chest as his wife’s tears poured.
“Contrary to what you think, I don’t know the guy. True, I saw them the day he dropped her and I confronted her but she said nothing. I ceased this note from the gateman’s hand some days later - apparently the same guy came looking for her.”
Udale wiped a tear drop with the back of her left hand.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Matthew? Why do I think you are the one encouraging this girl in all the rubbish she does?”
Matthew swallowed, making sure there was no eye contact with her.
“Far from it Udale. Baba was very sick, I felt you had enough already to handle knowing how extremely worried you can be. I decided to handle it my own way.”
“Now, she is going haywire, how in your own way did you handle it o? Have you called the number?”
“The number has been unreachable…”
“Ha… unreachable?… Ojo mi o!” More tears poured off Udale’s face. “…did he rape her and ran away? Were they having an affair? Laibe looked heartbroken, could it be as a result of his unavailability? Oh God, what is happening to me?” She wailed louder and deeper.
At this point, Matthew didn’t know what to do. Udale’s questions are very many and he will never be able to answer them correctly. He also know he had an answer that would clean off this set of questions and arouse entirely different ones. Perhaps this is the opportunity he has. It may even be the last chance he would have. He needed to pull himself together anyways and say it now or forget it forever. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it when Udale cut in,
“Matthew, I feel like I failed my own only brother.” Tears poured freely even more now.
“No Baby, you are just being hard on yourself. You never told your sister-in-law not to bother you, did you?” He’s trying to be as consoling as possible.
“I’ve always suggested to my late elder brother Ugbede, that he should move to Ankpa. I was ready to do whatever it would take me to make him settle down here when he comes, but you know you men and your ego right?” Udale explained.
“Yeah! And I know this story you are telling me already too. He insisted he would stay back at the village and try to make ends meet because it sounded insulting for him to come running to his younger sister for help.” Matthew concluded it for her but she wasn’t satisfied. She still continued.
“And that was how my brother… my only brother… went to Oba and never returned alive.” Udale cried more and more.
“Youhave to be strong, Honey, I know it’s hurting! It was a road accident, it could happen to anyone. Pity party would not help anyone now.” Matthew said, gently stroking her hair.
“You have no idea Honey, you have no idea what it feels like for your own brother’s wife to be seriously sick and not mentioning any of it to you because she also feels she shouldn’t disturb you. Seriously, if I had learnt of Ichojo’s sickness earlier than I did, she would still be alive by now.”
Matthew didn’t know what he was supposed to do anymore. None of his consoling words seem to be sinking into his wife.
“But death can happen to anyone. It wasn’t your fault. Remember, you did your best after realising it, no matter how late it was. It wasn’t your fault any of them died, Udale. Don’t be hard on yourself.” He managed to pull this off his throat comfortably without accompanying his frustrations alongside.
“My brother died because I wasn’t able to convince him well enough. His wife died because I was too negligent… perhaps, I should have visited the village more regularly, now my father has died too and my only niece is going mental. I don’t have any child to call my own. Am I not heading to hit the rocks? Who is doing all these to me?” Udale wailed loudly.
This time, Matthew knew his wife has chosen the path of self-pity and nothing would be potent enough to comfort her. He drew her closer for a hug and pecked her hair over and again. It’s good there is even chemistry adequate for these. She is his wife and it’s his duty to comfort her no matter the guilt that is firmly tied to a part of his heart.
Udale rose her head, bringing her eyeballs to come stare straight into Matthew’s. He felt a bit uncomfortable but couldn’t show it. He mustn’t show any cause for suspicions just yet. Maybe, he should just go ahead and tell her. The worst that would ever happen will happen. There is no good time on his hand, he is aware of that, and his grace period expires with each tick of the clock.
“Matthew, please tell me what you are not telling me.” Udale’s question brought him back from his thoughts and he felt his heart race heavily against his rib cage. So heavily that one would think the heart was going to pull out of its cage and unfortunately, Udale’s head is resting on his chest.
His hand on her back got weak immediately and her teary eyes got the words in his throat pushing out but he is yet to fathom the best way to begin this.
He swallowed deeply.
Episode 30

OK sir… alright sir. I’ll definitely do the needful as soon as I can. Thank God, you just confirmed they actually live in Ankpa and not Lokoja.” He turned his face, when he felt the door creaked, to see Jane coming in.
“You know what, Uncle? I keep saying in my next world, I’ll not accept that kind of person again, whether the order came from you or mum.” Max practically mouthed into the phone. He waited for what the person on the other side of the phone was saying and he laughed lightly. “OK sir. I guess my woman just came in to tell me my time is up…” He flashed his eyes at Jane who was looking all dressed up, “…I’ll sir. In fact, I’m greeting her now for you already.” He winked at Jane and she smiled. “…I’ll get to work as soon as possible. Thank you sir. Bye for now sir.” He hung up and hastily moved over to hug Jane.
Though he came into Ankpa yesterday, he haven’t had her time. Majorly because her father kept him engaged all through. It’s really been a long time and the men both had a lot of things to talk about, especially now that they are working towards the date Jane chose.
“You and this your uncle! What kind of person has he given you that you wouldn’t accept next time?” Jane confronted him, immediately he released her from the hug.
Max smiled, pecking her forehead.
“You know I told you that man was infuriating me the other day. Thank God he hasn’t returned since then, I’m hell fed up with him. Uncle Nonso was the one who directed them to me. That’s not even the problem, he is a chronic insubordinate patient. You give the man simple instructions that would help his situation, he would not do it, then, he comes back yelling at me over what I didn’t do. It’s annoyingly crazy! He even threatens me about losing my license, can you imagine that?”
Jane started laughing and he stopped because her laughter got him confused. He didn’t know what was funny in his statement. He had an idea what Jane was laughing at though. It was probably the serious face he wore while talking. Truth is, this matter usually gets him infuriated, especially after the last meeting with them. He wished the man’s wife had picked up her call when the honourable commissioner called her in his presence. He would have insisted on talking to her himself.
Bloody lying rich men! He drew a very long hiss before he could stop himself.
“Are you OK, Max?” Jane called back his attention.
Max quickly dragged down the edges of his polo. “Of course I am. Is your father ready to move now?”
Jane didn’t believe him fully but also didn’t want to push anything.
“He was the one that asked me to come and call you. You are obviously keeping the old man waiting.”
“Let’s hurry then. Don’t mind my uncle. He rarely calls and so keeps one on the phone, the few times he does, so long you will wonder if he gets charged by his network providers at all.” Max said, spraying a deodorant on himself.
Jane smiled.
She has heard so much about Dr Nonso, his uncle, that she is beginning to wonder whether Max’s dad is his actual father, or not.
She opened the door and led the way.
“Do you by any chance know any Dr Matthew Onoja?”
Max thought she could be of help, so as to ease his findings.
“No!” She cut in, without thinking, even before the words barely left Max’s mouth. “Why did you ask?” Jane inquired with questioning eyes. Not keeping her father any longer than they have now was most paramount.
“OK! Never mind then. I’m supposed to discuss something with his wife.” Max said firmly and followed Jane out of the room.
Udale had to stop as she saw a car drive into their compound. Even though the car looks very familiar, she wasn’t expecting any visitor as it were. In fact, she should have left with Matthew to the hospital an hour ago if not that she isn’t someone to dress up in a hurry, most especially after she was just done cooking Laibe’s meal - and so she asked him to go ahead of her. Laibe has been in that hospital for almost a week now.
It’s sickening.
Halima said she’s gradually succeeding at making friends with Laibe, even though she hadn’t been able to get Laibe to say all the things they needed her to say.
“Therapy works, Ma’am. It’s one step at a time.” was what Halima told her two days ago.
She is running out of patience sincerely and her new found job of taking food to the hospital every morning didn’t come across as a newly found hobby to her. What can she do?
She beamed with smiles on seeing who stepped out of the car. These are truly August visitors.
“To what do I owe this august visit, Sir?” she said, bending courteously to greet patron Odaudu, her predecessor. Jane quickly came over to hug her while Max said his greetings from somewhere there.
“U…dale… you look adorable, as usual!”
Udale blushed as Patron Odaudu said these things. Though he wasn’t being truthful, it felt nice to hear a compliment in a long while, most especially the modified way he often calls her name… like he was stressing the first part of it to sound like Uh…dale.
“Thank you sir. Please do come in sir.” Jane was still clinging onto her. A child in an adult’s body she is really.
“Come in? You look like you are headed somewhere. We didn’t intend to stay long, just to greet you and your husband, since it’s been so long.” Patron Odaudu said courteously.
“And to let you finally meet the much talked about Max…” Jane whispered in her ears and her smiles got broader.
“Maximillian? Our very own Dr Max. It’s nice to finally place a face to the name.”
Though Max didn’t understand the part of ‘our very own’, he didn’t show it. He only moved forward and took her hand politely, in the perfect gentleman’s fashion.
“Same here Ma’am. Jane has told me a lot about you too, her mummy.”
They all laughed out.
Max and Patron Odaudu, his soon-to-be father in-law were almost on the same clothes. Well, it was coincidental. Max followed Jane downstairs to see that her father also was on a jean trouser and polo. It felt good and Max immediately made some grandpa goals; to be as young and fresh as the older man even in his old age.
“Please, let us go in. You don’t want my in-law to know my house?” Udale joked, winking at Jane and they laughed again.
“Some other time, some other time. How about your husband, where is he? I’ve since longed to see him.” Jane’s father said.
Udale’s smiles has reduced appreciably but she is trying very well to mask her feelings.
“He went to the hospital earlier. I was just about going there too myself.”
“Hospital? Who is at the hospital?” Jane’s father exclaimed. Just then, his eyes fell on the basket filled with food flasks beside Udale.
“I told you about my kid sister’s condition, daddy.” Jane interrupted and that eased some burden off Udale’s heart.
“Oh! I’m so sorry. Is it that serious that she has to stay there till now? It’s about a week or so now.” Philip Odaudu couldn’t help his curiosity.
“It’s serious, sir.”
Jane thought her mummy’s voice broke while saying this. She picked up the basket and started out, ahead of them.
“Well, let’s all go together then. I wanna see the girl and also see your husband.” Patron Odaudu turned knowing eyes at Max who stood quiet all the while, seeking what seemed like approval, and the later returned his stare with a nod in the affirmative.
“I guess, we are all good then.” He said, leading the way.
Udale wasn’t sure of this.
Especially that Matthew had warned her not to come visit Laibe with another person, let alone two new face, but she is caught between two balls here; this is her superior and she shouldn’t be disobeying or talking back at him. Any hesitation to his suggestion would paint a picture and atmosphere of suspicion which she wasn’t ready for right now.
She took deep calming breaths and hurried after them.
Max drove a little calmer this time. There is this thing about taking precautions whenever you are driving elderly people. In fact, common sense would tell you it’s important. He didn’t want his father in-law to-be to complain about him driving recklessly. He applied the break slowly as he tried to negotiate the bend that lead to Jane’s street. He knew Jane was not happy in the very least. She had really wanted to follow her ‘mummy’ to the hospital.
Well, perhaps if she used her own car, she would have been able to follow her ‘mummy’ without them, but this is her father’s car right here and everyone must submit to his authority.
“You know, son, that there is actually nothing urgent to attend to right?” Philip Odaudu started.
Max looked sideways at him with confusion in his eyes. Nothing urgent? So why are they not on their way to Bethel hospital after or in company of Udale as the older man opined earlier, he thought within him, and as though Jane’s father could read his mind, he answered the questions.
“Yeah! You know when you get to my age, with so many life lessons and experiences, observing some things comes in handy, simple and natural.”
Max coincidentally saw Jane’s face through the mirror as she smirked. Her father is towing the path she obviously don’t always get comfortable with… more like she had heard those lines over and over again and she finds them hell boring already.
“And what was that observation, sir?” Max said politely, masking the smile that Jane’s action almost formed on his face.
“She didn’t want us to follow her to the hospital…”
Max and Jane’s eyes popped open.
“…Yes! I know what I’m saying, she surely agreed just because she feels I shouldn’t be disrespected, and not because she actually was comfortable with our following her to the hospital idea.” He explained further.
It’s true though.
Max had observed the hesitations in Udale’s footsteps earlier and she’s apparently not one to be able to hide her emotions clearly away from her eyes. He felt relieved when Jane’s father saw it too.
“That was why I had to tell her to go ahead this time and we would, on another occasion. I actually used the guise of someone waiting for me at home, and something urgent to attend to; so as not to make her feel bad about it because I know Udale, her eyes are as close to tears as a fish is closed up in water.”
His words got Max pondering again.
It’s good to have an intelligent father in-law, really. He pulled into the compound and dragged the gear to park.
“Sorry Sir…” He said quickly before Odaudu would step out.
If Jane’s eyes carried guns now, he would have dropped dead from the look she shot at him. Jane had admonished him, even when she claimed to be joking but he knew she was serious, that he should be calling her father ‘daddy’ and not address him as ‘sir’. Most especially that their rapport is very good, she wonders what makes it hard for Max to sound ‘personal’ with her father. Max on his own side, maybe due to excessive years of studying and living abroad, has come to see that taking someone ‘personal’ should be in calling him or her by the first name and not in all the titles that we blacks make a big deal of. Well, that belief of his cannot grow here, if people mustn’t read him as disrespectful. That’s why the words, ‘ma’am and sir’ are vital part of his vocabulary. His own parents are not even helping matters; they call each other by their first names and don’t even mind if the children call them as well.
“Yes! What is that, son?” Odaudu said, sounding a bit impatient.
“Uhm… Mr… I mean, Dr Matthew Onoja, do you by any chance know who that person is?” Max asked, hoping he could get a lead to the man’s house. The database of Matthew in his file had the commissioner as everything; the next of kin’s phone number, the home address, the contact address. Seeing how large Ankpa is, whoever would give him any information about his patient is welcomed.
Philip Odaudu placed a finger on his empty jaw. There was nothing to pick, so the finger only rested.
“Matthew… Matthew… Matthew Onoja…” He muttered to himself for a while. Jane sat still at the back, she could bet that the name sounded very familiar. At least, her mummy’s name tag at workplace bears, ‘Matron Onoja’. It couldn’t have been her own Onoja anyway. Jane presumed the name must be for that horrible man that did all those nonsense and still have the nerves to wanna cover up, if, and of course she is quite sure, all the stories Max told her are correct.
“Yeah!” Odaudu sprang up on his chair. “…that’s Matthew now. Udale’s husband, the person we would have gone with her to the hospital to see. Oh! Matthew! It’s been a really long time. Since he started working at Lokoja, I barely see him around anymore.” A smile formed on his face but quickly faded when he turned to Max.
The young man was sweating in an air-conditioned car. Jane had let out a loud shocked scream when he affirmed the person with the name identity. If nothing else, these two children are having him confused here.
“Is there any problem, Max?” he called him by his first name for the very first time in a long while.
“Ye.. yes sir… no, I mean no sir…” Max stammered and Odaudu rose his eyebrows.
“If you don’t mind sir, I have to follow the woman back to the hospital, this is important and urgent.” Max requested, dragging the car key out of his hole, handing it over to him and stepping out while at it.
The older man was obviously confused and could see how Jane worked so hard not to leave any expression on her face as well. He only could pray Matthew was in no danger.
“Why not?” He excused Max, who practically took off to his heels.
“You don’t know Bethel hospital, Max.” Jane called out, running after him till he stopped. “Let’s go in my car.” She said calmly.
“I’ll handle this, Goddess. Just pray for me.” He mouthed and walked out through the gate.
Jane stood fixed, looking at him till she could see him no more.
She would pray that nothing happens to her fiancé in this mightily complicated case, especially now that the victims are people close by.
Halima hurriedly followed after Udale. She didn’t know if she should have said what she said, or was it the way she said it? Maybe, she shouldn’t have said it that way, or should not have even said it at all. But what would she rather do?
Udale’s husband had driven out of here earlier too, just immediately he heard it from her. He didn’t even wait for her to say the last part. The part that would require her asking more interesting questions.
Perhaps, this couples behave the same way, because Udale also isn’t patient to listen to her.
She hurried over, and her leg was almost hitting Udale’s when the latter opened the door to the ward room where Laibe was staying. Laibe was sitting on the chair beside her bed instead. Udale had left off the basket of food in her rage from Halima’s office. Though the last one she brought alongside cutleries are still on the side table.
Laibe rose to her feet immediately her aunty walked in. Her eyeballs were so red that they could stain a white material. She couldn’t move so much because a drip was placed on her hand. She had been vomiting all the things she ate in almost the whole week she has spent here now. She made sure nobody noticed it and thankfully that she was in a private ward containing its toilet. She had successfully kept everyone out of it until two days ago when Halima came in to check on her at an unusual time. Laibe knew her therapy time, she enjoys the discussion with Halima, especially the part that made her anticipate seeing Halima’s daughter soonest. It’s either Halima wanted to surprise her two days ago… or not. Whichever way, she came in late in the evening with some cookies, only to find Laibe throwing up in the bathroom. Her uncle and aunty were done visiting and had left then. Laibe could remember the surprised look on Halima’s face and she wondered why. At least, it’s as normal to vomit as it is to run temperature, right? Halima sat back interrogating her instead of dropping the cookies and leaving immediately, Laibe cursed her luck. Asking her questions like; the day she last saw her period and very many inconsequential questions… or so she thought. She had felt like throwing up about twice during that time of interrogation and excused herself each time. Halima however followed her in there the third time, cleaned her up and held her hand.
“We need to run tests on you, Laibe.” was the simple answer she gave when Laibe asked where she was leading her to. She had awaited Halima to come over and talk to her all through yesterday, at least about the various tests they conducted on her, but nothing. She also expected unusual questions from her folks, that’s if they’ve learnt of the test results, but to her amazement, none made mention of it yesterday.
The drip that was set by a nurse, after those series of tests, now feels like a trap to her because she couldn’t detach it and move outside to go meet Halima for clarity after anxiety became her food. Earlier, about an hour ago, Uncle Matthew also walked gently into this room. She wasn’t sleeping, she had her back resting against the rod that edged the bed. She stared back at him demanding answers as he stared at her. He didn’t say anything, he just held onto the door knob like he would usually do. It felt like that door was his pillar while helplessness filled the bulk of his eyes. Laibe could feel pains almost dropping off his shoulders and hitting the floor so hard it could cause an eruption.
“What is the problem?” She muttered underneath her breath.
Surely, she wasn’t going to ask him questions, not with the way he is looking like someone that just got struck by a purple ghost.
After some appreciable number of minutes, she watched as her uncle left off the door knob and walked out, closing the door gently behind him. She felt like jumping off the bed and running after him, or meeting anyone… just anyone that can save her from this brain torture of waiting for Halima… her friend. It was in her confusion and frustration that she slid off the bed onto the chair beside it… that was the much she could do. She stared so much at the needle that was bounded by whatever that brown thing is…plaster… whatever… to the back of her hand with wishful eyes. She felt so much pain that she started to cry, weep, wail, and even sob, all together.
Udale stormed in with red shot eyes as well. “So you let that riffraff sleep with you?” Her voice was at its peak
Laibe looked back with the ‘excuse me’ look.
“The boy that drove you and your friend from school on that Thursday evening I travelled to bring baba.”
Laibe didn’t know what to say now.
“Was he the one that got you pregnant?”
Laibe’s heart missed many different beats in succession. She saw her whole world crumble before her own very eyes and the broken pieces, like glasses, broke into even tinier and useless pieces. Pregnant?
“Answer me before I poke the whole length of my arm through your throat.”
“You have to take it easy, Ma’am.” Halima spoke out for the first time when she saw Udale would beat Laibe up if she didn’t speak up early enough.
Halima blames herself for all of these. She should have kept the findings from the test results to herself and continue therapy till she is able to get Laibe to say who was responsible for the pregnancy. She just felt Laibe’s folks are learned people, especially that Udale is a matron, she expected more maturity in the handling of this case than she was seeing now.
“Take it easy? Take what easy?” She laughed in spite of herself. “...Laibe, after all I’ve done for you? Picked you up and made you one to stand out amidst others, you decided to let one never-do-well boy make a mess of your life?” Udale was still screaming but tears were flowing from her eyes already.
Laibe is no exception to this tears party. In fact, hers is more pitiful.
“I… I am sorry, aunty.”
Udale rose her hand and landed a hot slap on Laibe’s cheeks.
Halima immediately jumped in between them, pushing Udale onto the bed beside her.
“Are you OK, baby?” Halima asked, rubbing Laibe’s face.
More tears. Less words.
“Yes I am…” Laibe held her cheek. She thought she had gone blind earlier when the thunderous slap landed on her tender cheek, that was because she began to see numerous sizes and colours of stars.
“You better tell me who got you pregnant, if you don’t want me to strangle you with my bare hands.” Udale screamed from where she was sited, stretching her hand to reach the little girl but Halima prevented it.
Halima held onto Laibe’s hand, the one drip wasn’t fixed to, tenderly. Her eyes drilled into the little girl’s petite body and wished she could help her bear the pains right now.
“Who got you pregnant, my friend? You know you have me. I’m sorry about this, but just tell us, please?” Halima kept her white eyeballs on Laibe while saying this. The poor girl was still in tears, shaking and vibrating so violently like someone set on a vibrator.
“You don’t have to patronise her. All her tactics have been laid bare. Tell me now or never.” Udale called out.
“Enough Mrs Udale. Please let’s hear her out.”
Laibe saw Halima frown for the first time, thank God it wasn’t towards her… yet.
“We lodged in the same room at confluence beach hotel, as father and daughter, on the first ever vacation after my result came out…” Laibe swallowed and tears poured. Halima encouraged her with nods and attentive eyes as Udale sat up. “…on the second night, he asked me to draw closer to him. I didn’t see it right, but he pounced on me during the moment of hesitation and slept with me.” She didn’t say them together all at the same time like this, she said it bit by bit, pushing out the next words like it stuck to her throat.
Udale thought she was listening to an episode of This Life family drama’ and she drew closer, though feeling weak at the knees this time. So much so that she knew she would drop down if she made any attempt to stand up.
“I screamed and screamed till I could no more…” Laibe’s tone brought tears to Halima’s eyes. “I saw my blood everywhere as he entered me, yet he didn’t stop. My groaning didn’t make him stop. I tried to fight with my leg but just one of his on me, covered the whole of me.”
Laibe could picture that night as she said this. That night remains the most unforgettable night of her life. She hadn’t seen it coming at all. He had made her have so much fun at the confluence beach earlier in the day. He even told her goodnight when she came to lay after insisting she took her bath and change into the nighties he bought for her. About two hours into the sleep was when she felt a hand caress her thighs. She thought it was dreams until the hand started raising her dress. She immediately put on the bedside lamp and saw her uncle, sweating with red eyes. The sweat was so much, it dripped onto her. It was mixed feelings for her; fear and confusion. He started sounding helpless while begging her not to stop him. The words were barely off his mouth before he pulled his entire weight on and into her.
“ahhhhhh! No… Uncle, no! Leave me alone! Leave me!!!” Laibe screamed from her thoughts.
She had prayed nothing would require her remembering those horrible pictures vividly ever again. Though she probably wouldn’t forget it but telling someone else about it has been what she hasn’t been able to do for about three years now.
“Laibe…” Udale’s voice sounded light as she sniffed. “You mean your uncle slept with you?”
She was only able to nod her head in response.
“How many more times?”
“Oh! No, please…” Halima cut in
Laibe answered anyway, “A lot more times. All the other vacations we had, at times when you travel and even when you are around and sleeping. The day I started menstruating, many more times after that.” Laibe has exhausted all the pity she has for herself and saw nothing to lose or gain hiding any detail from her aunty. She has come to her final stop. She would say everything there is and await the consequence.
“He told me not to ever tell anyone. At times, he would threaten to kill me if I did; at other times, he would promise to give me whatever I wanted; and at other times, he would bring expensive gift items for me.”
Udale could connect the loose dots around those costly gifts she saw in the little girl’s room and she said were from her uncle. Udale also remembered the shocked look on her husband’s face at the dining table when she asked him about the gifts.
Why didn’t she suspect anything? Oh God!!!
“When was the last time he did this to you?”
Laibe cried more. “The night you went to bring Baba. It was so merciless that I felt something tear in me. When I tried to move, I couldn’t. that was why I couldn’t run to come hug baba as you expected.”
Halima was also crying now. Udale unlike before, now feels enormous pity for her niece. She had brought this upon the little girl. Her negligence and ignorance have.
“Is she five weeks pregnant, Halima?” Udale asked with the little more energy left in her.
“Yes, five weeks and three days.”
Udale got up and stormed out of the room, in so much haste that she disappeared like lightening, slamming the door hard behind her.
Halima left off Laibe’s hand and followed after her.
Laibe cried more and more, searching for something on the side table with her eyes.
“Ma’am, ma’am, someone is here to see you.”
“Not now!” Halima snapped, waving her secretary who was running after her, off.
She watched and continued in the direction Udale was headed, the latter didn’t stop and didn’t slow down, holding an handkerchief to her nose.
Udale held her phone out when Halima came to meet her.
“I have ruined my own self, Halima.” She sounded painfully sarcastic as she said this and Halima dragged her closer for a hug. Udale shook in Halima’s hands.
“What did I do to deserve this? From Matthew? Unbelievable!”
She lamented on and on and on.
After a while, Halima released her from the warm hug and made her sit. They were already at the front of the hospital building.
“MTN number you are trying to call is currently switched off, please try...”
Udale ended it before it would finish the statement she has heard thrice in the past few minutes.
“He switched his phone off.” Udale started another round of wails.
“You have to be calm Ma’am, you are outside.” Halima cautioned.
“Who cares, my husband has been sleeping with my niece under my nose and have now impregnated her? What a wretch I am.”
“You have to be…” Halima started and was interrupted by her phone. The number she just busied is calling back.
“I said not now, Ele.” She yelled at her secretary.
“I’m sorry ma, we’ve looked all over the place for you.” The voice came out loud over the speaker. Whenever she isn’t with her earpiece, she puts the call on speaker. Never would she put a cell phone close to her ears. Her life is still precious to her.
“By we, you mean? You and the visitor? Can that wait please?” she caught herself screaming. She needed to calm down too obviously. “Alright, what is the problem?”
“The… the nurse that attends to her…” she talked like being held under gun point. “…screamed and ran out of the room just now… she is either looking for you or going for the doctor now, I can’t really say.”
Udale jerked up as Halima repeated that.
The latter ended the call and hurried back into the building with Udale practically running after her.
They opened the door to see Laibe’s head tilted to the side of the chair she’s been sitting on. The dinning knife was left somewhere on the blood stained floor. The women drew closer to see that Laibe has cut herself with the knife and is losing so much blood from that deep cut on her wrist already.
The door flew open almost instantly and they jerked back. The doctor, accompanied by a younger man, Udale recognised as the same person she saw earlier, rushed into the room while the nurse that obviously went to call him…or them now, hurried after them.
To be continued..


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