Friday, 20 October 2017

THE WIFE I NEVER MARRRIED Episode 3 to 5

Continues..
Ebi and Umali squatted such that their buttocks almost swept at the floor as they greeted Baba. The only reason they came over to Baba's 'state of the arts' living room, furnished for him by his daughter- aunty Udale, was because their friend was no longer around. Else they would both have sneaked into Laibe's mother’s hut, as usual, which was behind her grandfather's. Ebi was almost mad at Umali because the later was the reason for their lateness in arriving at Laibe's house as promptly as they had planned. Umali didn’t do this deliberately though, her father puts her under curfew, off and on, as he pleases; reasons best known to him. Obviously, they won’t be seeing their best friend in a very long time and not getting to say ‘proper goodbyes’ before she left the village this morning is more hurtful. Baba smiled boisterously as he asked them to rise from their greeting position. He had always known his granddaughter to be one of the most respectful young girls in Ofabo, so wasn’t surprised at her friends’ show of respect, in that light, anytime he luckily ran into them.
The chair Baba sat on is special, specially made for elders in the village. At a point, one would think that it was a stretcher with the way a very strong linen - which was the main seat, danced from one edge of the wood above to the other end where it attaches to a foot rest. The chair is foldable and when left unfolded, it would be standing just beside a table on which Baba’s old radio stood. The aged man love listening to news so much so that a stranger in the village sometimes ago thought he was a retired journalist. No. He hadn’t even smelt the four walls of any level of academic institution all his life. With his intellectual capacity though, villagers ask amongst themselves what would have become of him - how he would have been the best - if he ever went to a school. He can’t but faithfully listen to his favourite station; Radio Kogi, Ochaja and whenever he tuned to that frequency, Laibe would have to remind him over and over again that his food was getting cold. The only unfortunate part was that, there is almost no one around for him to share his political views and ideologies with anymore.
It is somewhat a thing of tradition in this part of the world that only the younger ones should visit the elder; making the otherwise an abomination. Therefore, since the death of Pa. Ekele, who died late last year at ninety six, Baba, at eighty three, had assumed the honourable position of eldest in the village. Every other elder and ultimately all the villagers are obligated to come see him from time to time, instead of the other way round. Going out on visitations has become close to impossible for him, that is accompanying the fact that talking was his strength. He could continue talking, analysing and explaining just a concept in his characteristic deep Igala intonation for hours and only a patient listener, unlike Laibe, could put up with that. It is one of the greatest times he misses his daughter-in-law, Laibe's mother, Onechojon.
Ichojo, as he fondly referred to her, remain the best wife any man on earth could ever have. Judging from the way she cheerfully relates with every member of the extended family, she found and won her way into everyone's heart in no time, with so much ease. Her cooking skills were not of this world as well, one eats her food and is tempted to eat up the rubber plate it was served in, alongside. Laibe inherited that from her mum - mastery in the art of kitchen affairs. It was on that premise that Baba brought up the idea of commercial sales of cooked food in the market square. Hearkening to Baba’s business ideas, back then, paid real well because every member of Ofabo has, at one time or the other, impulsively or voluntarily, bought food from Onechojon. All these were before the last stroke broke the camel's back, and it did break it in pieces.
Baba stopped the sound coming from his radio. He never receive clear signals- partly because of the unclear waves- he always hear some 'shhhh, shhhh' intermittently while the presenter talked but that didn’t matter to the aged man. The radio would be his most trusted company henceforth and he was quite aware of that fact. He, after switching off the noisy radio, sat up from the chair to pick up his bowl of akamu, the remnant from the one Laibe gave him to drink this morning. He poured some water to dilute it before drinking. As he did this, he pictured the stern look Laibe always wore whenever he took diluted pap - ofofolo, like this. The act seem unimpressive to her. She would always say ‘No’ bluntly when he asked her to drink out of it and that usually made Baba titter. Perhaps when she gets to his age, she would appreciate the need for ofofolo in one’s life.
Ebi turned to look at Umali while Baba drank. They too, like their friend, disliked ofofolo: the elderly people’s juice. The bowl was so big it covered his entire face as he drank from it. This is the only bowl remaining in the house with its original lid still intact and that's grossly because it was specially used to serve only Baba. No one was permitted to take it away from the side stool it’s always placed on, let alone away from this living room.
"Onùkwù mè le t'Ankpa mèwñ" Baba told the two girls that ‘their friend was already off to Ankpa’, immediately he was done gulping the entire content of the stainless bowl.
Umali and Ebi nodded their head simultaneously as though they planned it. They made to move close, perhaps to collect the big bowl or ‘cup’ as the case may be and help the elderly man replace it on the table, but he was swifter than them. It's so uncomfortable talking with an elder especially a revered one as this. History has it that Laibe's grandfather was the first grandson of the original founder of Ofabo land. It is said that their ancestor's migrated to come settle in this land and has been breeding children since then, up until the once hamlet transited into a really expanded village. That sounded true because inasmuch as Baba here wasn’t the crowned king of the land, has never been even, permission must be gotten from him as to who or not to coronate.
Baba is so tall and lanky; people marvel from his still intimidating height at this age, how he was as a young man. He always had to bend so as to come out through his door regardless of his already bent waist. That is how tall he is. Baba proudly tells children in the village during moonlight stories: concerning growing up, hunting in jungles and thick forest, and how he was the bravest of them all.
He cleared his throat as though ready to begin a narration but smiled when he saw, however dimly, the look on the faces of the little girls before him; they looked nervous, they looked impatient and he didn’t want to bore them with any of his talks. More so the day was still very young and they would need to help their parents out in the house or at the farm, either ways! In his good heart, he excused them to go home. Well, he had to, there is no way they would have the guts to leave his presence without his permission. That’s another bulky part of the tradition - they would be attracting a curse on themselves if they dared. The girls knew this and prayed silently in their hearts that Baba releases them to go this morning.
The brown curtain hanging on the wooden door opened just as they stood up to leave and the last person they both expected to see in the house this early morning walked in. He wore a native buba shirt and a trouser that stood somewhere in-between knickers and full length trouser. Everything about Omachoko, the young man that just walked in, irritated Laibe's friends, especially Ebi, to their bones. Is it the three faint Igala marks that his parents drew on his face? Drawn in such a way that it’s like running a black marker on a clean white linen. Yes. Almost everyone in the village has the Igala mark; some running from the edges of their lips to some points on the cheeks, while others from the edges of their eyelids downwards. Omachoko's whose fairness was fading due to rigorous lifestyle, wasn’t an exception. Maybe they disliked him so much for putting undue pressure on their friend, ever since he inherited that old bicycle from his father. Once, he asked Laibe to remain at home so he could fetch water for her from the stream instead. The poor girl said NO to no avail and by the time he was done filling up the two large drums at the back of the house with water, she still said NO. Another time he carried her firewood all the way from the neighbouring village, where they usually go to fetch firewood, down to her house. He said he loves Laibe - he can and would do anything for her. That would have been a melodious song in the ears of some other girls in the village who believe there isn’t so much to a woman’s life and have acquired a stereotyped dream of getting married to someone who can fend for their needs and those of the children unborn. Not Laibe, not any of her friends. The three girls have always believed in themselves, believed in the fact that if they worked just a little harder, they would get a man that deserved them much better than the ‘local champions’ around. The mothers of Ebi and Umali have however warned their girls to desist from such mentality as Laibe. Reasons being that the respective families needed the income that would be generated from the dowries of the girls.
"Olodúdú Baba" Omachoko prostrated to say ‘Good morning’ to Baba who didn’t see anyone walk in at first. Baba's vision was gradually growing dim and his sense of hearing saved him more often than not. Baba smiled on recognising the voice and Ebi pinched Umali’s hand almost immediately. They both gave themselves a knowing look and hissed lightly, so light Baba must not hear. It is another gross, unpardonable form of disrespect to hiss in front of an elder no matter how irritated one becomes. So much for tradition.
Omachoko to them look, sounds and thinks too pompous for their liking. Perhaps because his father was the wealthiest farmer in the land and he had inherited everything since the elderly man passed on, one and half years ago. They both told Laibe, just when he was on her neck, that she should look out for a young man who can make money on his own and not depend on his parents’ inheritance to survive, in her best interest. Though Laibe has been quite indifferent about the whole matter. What would a girl rather do with a never-give-up young man anyway? She still knew marriage was close to the last thing on her mind at that moment.
"Mà donè kà jì Ankpa"
Ebi and Umali stopped involuntarily at the door when Omachoko said those words, telling Baba that ‘someone had been kidnapped in Ankpa’. Many thoughts ran through their minds individually as each one tried not to believe what her brain was suggesting. Baba sat up with his mouth agape, more like jerking up. He asked for details from Omachoko and the only thing the young man could say was that one of his relations came home late hours of this morning, telling everyone that the most recent events in Ankpa right now were kidnapping and human trafficking. The relation proceeded to say that the kidnappers use several tricks to get younger children, especially girls, for what no one knew about and that; some two girls were kidnapped within the space of this morning to noon.
Tears started dropping from Ebi's eyes and Umali held her hand firmly. Ebi has always been like this, being the loudest and craziest of the three, yet too emotional for strength. Everything made her cry and Umali knew more than anything else that her friend is already regretting their actions. They were part of the strong forces that encouraged Laibe to travel even when she had double thoughts, even when her grandfather was not approving of it.
"Ì dàbù kùmà àbà!" Baba exclaimed as he sank back into the seat behind him. He said he had never been more apprehensive about anything else in his life and inasmuch as he tried to dissuade Laibe from travelling, her mind was made. He knew his granddaughter very well; how nice and humble she can be and also how extremely unbearable she gets every time she chooses to be stubborn and follow her own will.
Baba could feel his heart beating fast and his body was already beginning to get hot. He can't afford slumping over from high blood pressure at this point, not now that he had no idea, whatsoever, about the whereabouts of his beloved granddaughter. If Laibe was in danger as his minds feels right now, if she ever needed any help, he should be the one available to render one. The more he thinks about it, the more he realises that none of them, both him and Laibe, were careful enough to ask for vital details from the young man that claimed to be sent from aunty Udale. The only thing Baba know is his name – Ocholi, and that was because the young man even had the courtesy to introduce himself by that name, not because he was asked. Who knows if that was a fake name just to deceive and get his young granddaughter to follow him. The eagerness. The hurry. Everything was so much this morning indeed.
"Éwñ àche àbàjo í?" He turned to ask Omachoko, ‘what is the next possible thing to do now?’. He looked confused, he looked hurt and helpless. Omachoko looked more confused than even the two girls still clinging on to the door knob. Though his reasons for dissuading Laibe from traveling to Ankpa were selfish ones. He felt, proximity should enable him drive his point home soon enough. Home, was and is still Laibe’s heart and the more he imagines whatever situation his heartthrob was in, the more his heart broke into pieces.
Baba lay face up as though he could see heaven from where he sat with a little more intense stare. He had heard of child trafficking, he had heard of kidnapping but never imagined giving out his own granddaughter willingly to kidnappers. He never envisaged it coming this close to him. There was something he could literally taste in his mouth; it was fear.
********
To be Continued..
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Episode 4
Continues..
"Matron, horrible things are happening in this town these days" a nurse said immediately she entered through the door of the matron's office.
The office look quite too downgraded for a whole local government general hospital building; wooden chairs lay facing another wooden table that looked like it would soon collapse. The table bore some large files, a tray to left side and other little accessories that the matron would prefer she left them just where they are, for her easy reach. Dark and extremely robust she is and so, standing up happens to be the biggest task anyone could give to her once she is sited on her padded office chair.
"NTA Ankpa just announced a case of some missing children and they said they would get the details across shortly..." Matron Udale replied while fixing her gaze on the Apple iPad Air 2 on her hand as if she read her last statement from it. The younger nurse continued talking till she somehow offered herself a seat and right then the matron knew that the next bulky minutes of her time would be wasted. Ever since Jane joined the hospital, she has been notorious for highly elevated level of gossip such that most people in the hospital disliked having a conversation with her let alone on a topic making news headline such as this.
‘Uhmm! God will help us’, was what Matron Udale could say to her, after heaving a deep breath.
"Matron…" The younger nurse started, "Most times I wonder what they do with those little children they kidnap, especially the girls. In fact, they now 'kidnap' adults only to demand ransom. That's the height of it" she gesticulated all the way through her statements. She sat halfway into the chair in the gossip fashion and much louder than her voice, the movement of her hands did bulk of the talking. Unlike the other staff, only the matron is tolerant enough to give listening ears to all her tales.
The matron, on her own side, feels the younger nurse was just being exuberant because of the young blood still flowing in her veins.
‘She would grow up soon’, the matron always consoled all the staff that comes to report Nurse Jane to her.
Of course she should.
When children now finish secondary school at mid teen and already bag a first degree as early as nineteen, some of these childishness in character is bound to happen. That is surely the case with Jane and coupled with the fact that her father is the immediate past chief nursing officer of this general hospital, securing job here was as light as a bunch of dry cotton wool for her.
"Matron, don’t you think all these emanating vices amongst our youths are as a result of lack of employment? I mean, how can I have all the requirements for a job and still need a 'leg' to get it?" Jane questioned as though she was lamenting: more like letting loose some overdue grievances off her mind. Her voice was not as sharp as it usually sounded. She spoke with utter disdain and bitterness streaming up from her inside, biting her lips at every break in-between consecutive words.
Matron Udale took in another much needed calming yet deep breath. She didn’t know the best answer to give to the slim, fair with neatly tied long hair, young lady sitting in front of her right now. She can’t even tell whether Jane's last statement was actually a question. It is true that things are falling apart. She remembered during her youthful days, a primary school graduate can get a middle class job that could cater for basic needs. She got a job immediately she was done with School of Nursing, Makurdi - one of the two nursing schools in the entire state then; it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than students securing admissions there. Her major disadvantage was also that she had schooled all her life at Emodu Community Secondary school Ofabo, so her level of exposure to the world was very low. However, she was such a bright girl, have always been. That is why Baba decided to send her to school while her elder brother help out with the work at home and on the farm. Although, this gesture came handy in the mouth of critics as they devoured Baba for being so stupid as to send a girl child to school.
‘She would amount to nobody’, ‘She is only a girl and should be kept at home to help’, ‘Her brother should be sent to school instead’, ‘In the end, she would be married off to another family, and all your efforts would be in vain’, 'women education ends up in the kitchen', these and many more were some of the sayings from the villagers and extended family members. Instead of the circumstances around her education deterring her, she took it as a big challenge to prove each and every one of them wrong in whatever way she could. And as a wise man said ‘ the best revenge is to be extremely successful’, she pushed through her secondary school with very excellent grades and got admission into the school of Nursing that very year. In the higher institution, she was tops as well and everyone on campus knew Udale - the bright and reserved girl. On the day of their graduation, a lot of private hospitals as well as representatives from government hospitals came in to give them- the best among them- job offers. She finished as the best graduating student of the year and a lot of offers were made to her. It was after lots of consideration and persuasion that she opted for this hospital. Maybe because Dr Matthew who was then a 'Bro Matthew' in church, lived in Ankpa. Bro. Matthew tickled her fancy from the very day she joined the prayer unit of Kingdom Destiny Ministries, Ankpa. He was the head of the prayer subgroup then and his charm, charisma and ultimately, depth in God made almost every lady in the church fall over themselves in line to have him for keeps. Udale felt going back to the village, for the few months of compulsory waiting before resuming her work at the general hospital, was not sensible in any way, even though her father and elder brother were strongly ingratiating she came back home at least for few weeks. She stubbornly remained in Ankpa, living in her pastor's house and wholeheartedly dedicating her time to the service of God in church. Though some part of her felt like getting back to Ofabo, meeting with those sets of persons that criticized her educational pursuits and waving her certificate as well as her award of excellence at their faces. That way, less people would oppose female child education and as well reduce the cases of gender bias. She kept this plans stuck up in her head until Bro Matthew came into her life, became an integral part of it and a lot has become history since then. Yeah, things changed. For better and for worse!
"Matron…?"
"Eh! Uhnm!..." Matron Udale murmured immediately Jane's voice brought her back from her thoughts. She had tried to preoccupy her mind at every given opportunity, so as to avoid all these thoughts and memories, that result in mixed feelings, from popping up strongly in her head over and over again. It’s been getting more impossible these few days especially with the recent arguments and misunderstandings that arose in her home.
"What is the problem, mummy? Your mind seem to be very far away" Jane asked, searching the older woman's eyes with hers.
Matron Udale smiled. Was she just called one of the best names she had been wishing to be addressed with over the years? Did the little nurse really mean it when she said ‘mummy’ or was it just a slip of the tongue? These questions flew through her mind in rapid succession and she knew better than to get drown in her thoughts all over again.
"No problem darling. I was only going back memory lane. You know, things have really fallen apart in Nigeria…?" She stammered her responses.
Jane gave her the 'I don’t believe you' look and that made the matron more uncomfortable. There was no way she was going to tell her all that ran up and are still running mercilessly in her mind and head. There are personal and private. More so, the little girl would need to live for a minimum of another twenty two years to understand the situation she was in right now.
"Well…" The matron wanted to continue but was placed on hold by the flip opening of her office door.
"Madam!" the tall male nurse, that just barged in on them, called her with a voice that sounded like someone just escaping from a venomous pursuit of a wounded hyena.
"What's the matter, Ephraim?" Matron asked as soon as the 'madam' barely came off his mouth. She couldn’t understand why the nurse sounded like he was being pursued and the more she tries not to imagine whatever could have gone wrong, the more her heart threatens to jump out of its cage.
"Someone is waiting at the reception, he said he needed to see you very urgently" Ephraim responded swiftly.
Matron Udale sat up, she couldn’t mask the sore fear in her eyes any longer,
"Someone? What happened? I hope nothing has happened?" she questioned loudly but to no one in particular before looking up at Ephraim.
"Let the person in here"
Ephraim vanished out through the door immediately the order was given. Jane sat still, looking at the matron's eyes and couldn’t understand why the elderly woman should get this agitated over having someone, whoever, come over to see her urgently in the office. To the best of Jane’s knowledge, this is not the first, neither is it the second time madam is having an emergency visit or better still, that someone would come look for her during working hours. Why is everywhere tensed today?
"What is so different about today?" she voiced out before she could stop herself.
The matron, who is now standing and walking towards the window as though she suddenly started feeling hot in the well air-conditioned room looked down at Jane with confusion in her eyes.
Jane shrugged.
Udale didn’t know why she was this nervous and afraid. Maybe because she had it well planned out earlier this morning and anything going wrong right now meant more of danger than goodwill. The NTA were yet to get back to them in details.
The door opened again and Ephraim led the fellow into the office leaving as briskly as he had left earlier. The fellow looked dirty and sweaty all over with eyes bearing what was borderline between anxiety and fear. The thick hands and feet resembled that of someone that was just dug from underneath the earth few hours earlier. Udale kept on looking vacantly, showing almost no expression on her face. Jane had turned her chair in such a way that she would get a perfect view of the possible actions that could ensue between her madam and the fellow. She knew the hospital was the best place for whatever mishap that could result from issues of this nature, because prompt care will come for whoever becomes victim at the end of the day.
"I'm so sorry, forgive me…" the fellow started.
With the way the matron looked, she must be very familiar with the face standing before them. The two women waited patiently for who would begin the talk since the fellow came in, and starting a talk with apologies straight ahead was more threatening.
"What happened?" Matron Udale screamed in fear when she couldn’t bottle it in any longer.
To be Continued..
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Episode 5
Continues..
Laibe stared helplessly at the pot of soup on the cooking gas with fear and trembling. The smoke is beginning to stream out with greater intensity now. ‘Who would help me?’ She thought to herself in utter fright.
She bit her lips and cursed herself for not paying enough attention while Ocholi was explaining how to put off the cooking gas when the food eventually gets done in his absence. Maybe she should have asked him to show her instead. The three-stone firewall - ígbelí - she uses back at the village doesn’t require any special skill in putting off its fire; she most times scatters the firewood and allow the fire die down on its own accord or better still, those times when she wants to be stingy with the leftover firewood, peradventure market day was the next and the probability of going to fetch firewood was close to impossible, she just quickly pour water on the woods to extinguish it. She didn’t know what to do right now; she had tried fanning air underneath the pot but the fire flames from the gas cooker almost caught her eyes some hours ago, she waved off the option of pouring water because she feared that may put the whole house in flames.
Laibe kept watching with helplessness as the soup Ocholi was almost done with before dashing out burnt down before her very eyes. She couldn’t recall the last time she felt this helpless, the last time she felt like she was doing something of gross regret. She kept spanking her head whenever she remembered how she wasn’t paying keen attention to all Ocholi was saying before hurrying out of the house. How could she have? She muttered underneath her breath again. After locking the entrance door, the young man came bare-chested in her direction holding a knife firmly in his hand. Her mind had raced and beaten so fast that one may think she would collapse in on herself in no distant time. To her disappointment though, Ocholi only handed over the knife in his hand to her and asked that she followed him down to the kitchen so they both can prepare something to eat. That was supposed to relieve her, right? But her mind had gone too far initially, too far for it to consider coming back this early. She thought of the stories she heard about the use of children for money ritual when Ocholi approached her, she remembered all those horrible tales of children who got kidnapped and killed for many reasons best known to the perpetrators of the acts. Frankly, she was already convinced same thing had happened to her. That was why even when Ocholi brought the wooden board for her on which she would help him slice the vegetables he took out from the unusually wide white refrigerator at the left corner of the kitchen, it fell off her shivering hands in an attempt to collect it. Ocholi only smiled and kept the board on the kitchen locker instead before motioning her with his eyes to be quick with the slicing.
Laibe started slicing the vegetables carefully, almost as immediate as Ocholi gave her the speechless order. She was of course used to this at home, so much so that she could cut up to a basin full of ugwu leaves for her mum to use in cooking the usual delicious obo àpi she sells. One thing marvels Laibe though: the fact that a man was doing the cooking in her aunt’s house appeared extremely strange and ultimately too weird for her. Back in Ofabo, a man shouldn’t be seen anywhere near the kitchen, let alone allowed to go the extent of making fire and cooking. They should normally sit after a long day at the farm or for the irresponsible ones, a long day talking and drinking palm wine at the village square, to be served the food promptly prepared by their wives and girls in the home. Seeing a man cooking here now looks like the height of emasculation in her lifetime.
She stole a glance at him while he was mashing the àpí and some sliced onions in a big brown bowl. She kept on watching, even while slicing, till he opened one of the many maroon painted drawers to bring out a can of palm oil which he then poured into the hot steaming pot on the cooker. She immediately recognised that can. They would always give aunty Udale freshly prepared palm oil in it every year, just when she is about travelling back after Christmas. At least that has been a continuous gesture for as long as she could remember.
"Take care of this, I have to quickly take that car back to the mechanic and get some things for aunty before she return home from her office."
Ocholi's voice startled her and brought her back from all the places her mind had meandered to.
"Urhm?" she questioned dumbly, pointing Ocholi's attention to the cooker and he got the message immediately. The tall young man smiled peevishly before turning back in the direction of the soup pot. The only thing left to add in there was the vegetable she was almost done slicing. Ocholi told her, pointing at the switch in front of the tall gas cooker, that she should turn the knob totally to her left whenever the food was done and that'd be all. That said, he dashed out of the house like someone was pursuing him. Well, Laibe could understand why; the kitchen time showed that it was almost 3pm already and he needed to hurry down to enable him do what’s required of him. She smiled shyly at the thought that Ocholi smiled at her, but quickly hit her head off that thought almost at the same time. Why is she already beginning to like him? She does not even know.
He is very patient, very patient she affirmed. With the uncountable misbehaviours of the car on their way from the village, he still kept calm while trying to fix it at every point it broke down. He is humble, of course, because when she was outside, busy admiring the interlocked ground in the compound, Ocholi packed in everything from the trunk into the house, including the large bunch of plantain Baba sent down for his daughter. The biggest point of attraction for her is this fact; the fact that he could cook. The whole kitchen already diffused the aroma from the delicious soup he left under her watch.
‘People like Omachoko, the village champion would be claiming: I am a man and shouldn’t be seen in the kitchen at the village… Mtcheew’
She drew a long hiss after that thought flashed her mind while still admiring Ocholi in her head. She poured, after washing, the ugwu into the pot and mixed appropriately before sitting on one of the chairs in the semi dining room, somewhere near the entrance of the wide kitchen. She wondered, as she always have all the times she saw on the only wallpaper hanging above her mother's bed, why there would be a dining room inside the kitchen again. It didn’t make any sense to her, unless they expected the food to be eaten while cooking concurrently.
But right now, that soup, that delicious and inviting-to-the-nose aroma soup is burning all down. She gave up trying and just stood staring at the smoke like someone awaiting execution. She could imagine the screams she would get from her aunty when they got back here. More so that it was only her first day. Hope they won’t send her back to the village after this and leave her heartbroken again. She also felt like crying as she imagined the disgusting look Ocholi would give her when he sees this mess as well, it can never be his usual smiling face, and he may not ever show her his usual kind face anymore. All these thoughts drowned her mind as tears involuntarily started flowing down her cheeks, that's aside the large pints of sweat running down the back of her ear and soaking her dress. Fear had eaten up almost half of her.
Just then, the kitchen door opened, a tall and huge man walked in, he sneezed first at the door and brought out a handkerchief from his bag. The bag looked like a company's official bag with the many inscriptions on it and with the way he held it firmly in his hand. The huge man walked quickly past her and towards the gas cooker on which the almost totally burnt soup sat, with the white handkerchief firmly covering his nose. He simply turned the cooker’s knob down to his left and the fire was put out. Laibe didn’t understand what just happened. She thought the gas cooker was programmed to function under the touch of specific persons - maybe normal members of this house - because she struggled to turn down that knob totally to the same left side but it got stuck at some point like it was going to even break.
"Ólànè sir" Laibe greeted the huge middle age man immediately he started walking back towards the door. He said nothing to her. Neither an angry scold nor an answer to her ‘good evening sir’. He just maintained the mean look he wore right through the door.
Laibe couldn’t decipher who he was. He walked with so much boldness and composure that if here were to be a party, he would perfectly fit in for a bouncer. Even underneath his kaftan, one could trace the edges of his well-built muscular body.
"What is happening here?"
Laibe quickly turned in fear again to see her aunty running into the kitchen and Ocholi following closely behind her. Her heart beat increased greatly as her eyes fell on Ocholi. They both walked like they were under the effect of same control centre to the cooker from which the smoke, that had filled the entire kitchen, came.
"L-A-I-B-E??" Her aunty stressed after opening the totally burnt pot of obo api.
Laibe didn’t know what to say, whether to cry or just leave her shivering body standing right there. She wished the ground could open and swallow her up right now. Ocholi opened the windows to enable some air in before moving to switch on the air conditioner, thankfully there was light.
"Why did you leave her alone Ocholi, what came over you?" Aunty Udale yelled at the young man that just walked to the AC switch and Laibe felt stabbed in the heart for it. She was the offender; every punishment, every scold and maybe every stroke of the cane should be directed at her not at Ocholi, her crush.
"Aunty, I showed her how to switch it off before I left" he replied calmly
"Don’t tell me that, my friend! How would you possibly show her how to use a gas cooker just on her first visit! She's been used to ìgbelì all her life" she yelled again at the top of her voice.
"I'm sorry ma" Ocholi replied much more calmly and Laibe's heart skipped a bit. Truly this Ocholi must be another specie of a man.
Men don’t apologise. Men shouldn’t be yelled at. Men are always right.
These and many more had always been her belief. She stared at her aunty and with the way her lips were squirting, Laibe knew the woman was extremely angry over the incidence she just met. Another big issue is that Laibe found herself tongue tied, she didn’t know exactly what to say. She was sore afraid, very much afraid.
"Takeher to her room" Aunty Udale told Ocholi before storming out of the kitchen and heading towards the rooms, upstairs.
"Let us go to your room, Laibe"
She heard Ocholi’s voice come through her auditory canals calmly and it felt like icing was poured on her head. At least one person is speaking to her right now. Though she didn’t expect him to sound that nice anymore, not after he just got series of loud screams on her account. She quickly started walking out, back into the sitting room to pick up her bag.
Ocholi smiled at her fidgety walking steps before following her.
********
"You are disobeying me again Udale."
Udale stood still immediately she heard the voice, just when she was barely in the bedroom. She didn’t expect anyone to be in the bedroom. Matthew comes home only during Weekends since his official commitment in Lokoja, the state capital. Whatever brought him home today, she couldn’t place it.
"You want someone to burn down my house right? You have more than enough money in this economic recession to build or buy a new ideal house like this one?" he asked continuously without waiting for an answer, looking straight at his wife from the edge of the bed where he sat as though he had plans to get up soon.
Udale did not know what to say. She was caught in a web right now. They already discussed her intentions to let her niece come stay over at the house last month but Matthew was totally against that idea. She didn’t really understand why, because as much as she knew him, he used to be more receptive to even strangers and the needy than herself. This is not a case of a stranger, this was her niece, her late elder brother's daughter for God's sake. Matthew told her he would be coming home next week and that made her decide to bring Laibe down today, get her a bit presentable and used to the corners of their big house, before her husband gets back. He should like what he will see then. Right now, everything is messed up, she muttered underneath her breath.
"Ocholi is taking that little girl back to Ofabo tomorrow morning and that is final!" Matthew said firmly, puts his legs in his slippers and entered into the bathroom.
Udale stood for a long while, shocked, confused and unable to think before collapsing onto the bed like a big sack of potatoes.
.
To be Continued..

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