Sunday, 22 October 2017


Josh turned away from his laptop to quickly attend to the call. Seeing the caller’s ID, he knew there would be nothing faster than a fire lit into dry harmattan grasses. The ruin is better imagined than experienced.
“Doctor Maximilian.” He seemed to be the only one that calls Max fully and it can be annoying at times like this.
Max shifted a bit away from the noisy streets, at the Ojogobi road roundabout, to a place where he would hear the commissioner clearer. At this point, he wished he had taken Jane’s car… or anybody’s car for that matter.
“Honourable Commissioner Sir, no one seems to be able to reach your friend since he left here this morning.”
“Left here? Left where? He is not in Lokoja, is he?”
Max could feel sincere confusion in the older man’s voice and he took a deep breath.
“I’m in Ankpa at the moment. Dr Nonso was able to give me good details of his family and I even met his wife without knowing she was the one. The psychotherapist here said your friend left off on hearing the little girl is pregnant. His number has been unreachable up until now.”
“Jesus!” Josh exclaimed so much so that it startled Max.
“Psychotherapist? Pregnant? Has it gotten to this? Oh no!” Josh lamented all at once.
Max blinked his eyes. He thought the Honourable would give him vital information as to where Matthew had disappeared to. He is not ready for this pity-party right now.
“I’ll talk to you later, sir.” He hung up without waiting for response as he flagged down a bike man.
“Kingdom… kingdom ministries…” He sounded unsure.
“Kingdom Destiny Ministries?” The bike man helped him out.
“Ehen! Do you know the place?”
He jumped on the back of the motorcycle before the bike man could finish nodding to his question. He didn’t even bother to bargain as he asked the bike man to move at the highest possible speed too.
The church will forever be the safest place.
Omachoko killed the break in front of Laibe’s aunt’s compound.
“Is this the place?”
He turned to respond. “Yes, Oga Jude.”
He came back into the country less than a week ago. Inasmuch as Laibe was the first person he wanted his eyes to meet, he couldn’t come straight to Ankpa without giving due reports to those who sent him. First, he had to stop over at the federal ministry of Agriculture in Abuja. He learnt that Hon. Josh had talked to the minister about the agricultural involvement venture the state is undertaking and the latter had bought into the idea. Therefore, Omachoko had to see him and give various reports, aside that they all would be meeting soonest to plan how these new agricultural schemes that is already boosting the economy of Kogi state in hundred folds can go round the entire Nigeria.
Lokoja was the next place to give his reports; though he had mailed them earlier, Hon Josh maintained that he presented some slideshows to him, in the presence of many of his directors and key people in the agricultural sector of the state. He did all those in three days and the next opportunity he got, he practically flew into Ankpa as soon as possible. That was an exaggeration though.
“Is she coming out to meet you?”
“Uhm?” Omachoko turned confused eyes at his boss
“The girl, is she coming out to meet you here?” Oga Jude repeated himself.
Omachoko felt the impulse to laugh but he maintained a straight face. Whether Oga Jude didn’t hear the part he said earlier that he hadn’t any means of contacting her… or not, baffled him.
“The house looks empty.” Omachoko carried glaring worries in his eyes as he said this. It was at this point that Oga Jude could only wonder if the young man was drunk.
“You are sitting in the car outside the gate of a heavily fenced compound, yet you can tell whether people are in there or not?” Oga Jude wasn’t asking a question. He just was being sarcastic. “Too much of planting and processing beans sha. Goodluck to you!” He said this with a deeper Igbo accent than the one he normally had. He pushed the car door open and got down.
Omachoko quickly opened his door, got down and hurried after Oga Jude who had gotten to the gate already.
Only God knows why Oga Jude insisted on following Omachoko all the way here. Aside that he said Omachoko has been away for such a long time, a proud way of saying he missed him, he asked they go check out a plot of land he is trying to buy over. Omachoko didn’t complain as he also needed some sight-seeing in this beloved town.
“So are we not going to give kolanut out soon?” He had interrupted the cool music blaring out of the DVD player of the car on their way to the land, about an hour ago.
Omachoko immediately lowered the music, he knew where conversations like this led to… not as though this is the first time, neither is it the second. Oga Jude believes a man settles down once he is married, more so, bearing the fact in mind that he has become responsible for his responsibilities now. Omachoko on the other hand believes a man should be settled before talking marriage. He knows marriage isn’t supposed to ‘complete’ one, instead it should ‘compliment’. So that even though he plans to marry Laibe as soon as he settles down, he wouldn’t rush her into anything.
“You haven’t even seen her yet Choko, stop deceiving yourself.” He cautioned himself, waiting as the gateman was taking forever to open the gate.
Omachoko smiled immediately the gateman stepped out and stood, covering the walkway through the gate. He had expected the man to recall his face and probably say some familiar words that would ease him the stress of introducing himself one more time.
Nothing of such.
In fact, the gateman stood aloof, staring back at them like he could barely see them. He looked drunk to Omachoko, or was it sleep?
“Where are the owners of the house?” Oga Jude asked, sounding extremely impatient.
The gateman shot him an annoyed look and the both of them wondered why.
“Na me be this!”
Omachoko felt like pushing his staggering soul off the gate and going headlong into the house, but no. He must tread with caution.
“Sir, you remember me?” Omachoko points his first finger towards his chest and the man looked on absent-mindedly. “Please can I see Laibe, it’s important.” He was literally sounding like a beggar now, and Oga Jude looked confused amidst it all.
“She no de. She never de for long now. Madam and oga sef comot, na me wey own house now, na me stand here so.” He mumbled in Pidgin English.
Oga Jude shook his head from side to side in gross disappointment. How can a watchman be drunk? Apparently because none of his lords are around. He started walking to the car when his phone buzzed and started ringing.
“Hello!” He mouthed into the speaker, walking farther away.
Omachoko stared at the gateman with pleading eyes. He had this feeling that nobody was inside the house, he was so convinced that he didn’t wanna push the gateman further to the point of giving him money this time.
“Thank you Baba.” He said to the elderly man and walked back into his car.
Oga Jude joined him almost immediately.
“You know, if I didn’t tell her to go to the office with that inhaler this morning, it wouldn’t have pained me, right?” Oga Jude lamented.
Omachoko was confused, but didn’t bother. He knew his boss very well; he never leaves any stone unturned in storytelling.
“Helen’s mother o…” and as though he remembered something, “…sorry, my wife. I forgot you never visited my house. How unfortunate. So, someone like you, with the way we have come thus far, you can’t even see any of my kids on the way and choose to help them? How would you anyway, when you haven’t even met them before.”
Omachoko smiled. There are various lines of discussion he doesn’t like towing with his boss and this is number two.
Inasmuch as they are closer than just being employer and employee, Omachoko believes that some things would spoil official rapport between people. One of those things would be meddling so much with the family members of your boss. Don’t get him wrong, he asks after them most of the time, he is very familiar with his boss’ wife. They call each other ‘my personal person’ and that familiarity arose because of one thing; she comes to the shop.
Oga Jude is the only Igbo man selling at Ejeh road in Ankpa that exempts his children completely from coming to his shop. His reason is very simple; he wanted to proceed more than the secondary school certificate he got but after he was sent to his uncle to learn the arts of money making, he had refused to further on realising that education is not the only determinant factor for making money at all. He however wants his child… he told Omachoko he had only one daughter, to get to the peak of her academics, after which he wouldn’t mind setting up any kind of business she wants for her.
“So where are we going now?” Omachoko asked in confusion.
“To my house, of course. Women. Women, separating them from trouble are the hardest thing I have come to find.” He complained bitterly all over again.
Omachoko smiled at his boss. He would complain over what he will yet eventually do.
“Your house?”
“Yes, my house! Don’t worry, it’s not as though I am really your boss anymore, it’s just courtesy. You should be the boss now anyway. I haven’t had round table meetings with one-third of people you have been privileged to sit and talk with.”
Omachoko didn’t even know how to answer this now, but he knew one thing for sure – his loyalty for this man that dusted him from the mud would never waver in the very least, no matter the heights he get to.
“I wanted to say, thankfully I will get to meet your daughter today, then I remembered today is school. At least I would meet Mummy Helen, it’s really been a long time, you know!”
“You can say that again. Now, move as fast as you can. She sounded like she needed it urgently.”
Omachoko heeded his orders without hesitation.
Udale stood, resting her hand on the branch of the cashew tree in front of the uncompleted building in this bushy and deserted area. She was so lost in thoughts. ‘What in her life would she ever be able to do right?’ she couldn’t supply answers to the question. She had dialled Matthew’s number over and over again, same answer. Her heart was thrown into shreds. Into broken pieces that cannot undergo any further breakage again. She couldn’t help but ask why Matthew did this to her… or did she do it to herself? She didn’t know who to handle the blame in this case. She remained still as a lot of things flashed back her mind, as vivid and as precise as possible.
“Good afternoon Ma’am!” She jerked involuntarily as she heard the voice.
No. No one should have known where she went to.
The doctor told her that Laibe’s cut was deep but she hadn’t lost so much blood, all thanks to the timeliness of the nurse. He assured her that it wouldn’t be so much issue except that they would keep a stronger eye on her henceforth, since she has resulted to attempting suicide. Udale, on her own side, couldn’t bear up the whole issue anymore.
Her husband impregnated her only niece.
The niece now is attempting suicide, aside the many other deaths in her family she blames herself totally for.
Somehow she left the hospital building before anyone could notice. She needed to think. She was getting mad.
“Max?” she couldn’t believe her eyes. “How did you find out I was here?”
“I brought him!” Udale turned around to see Pastor Lydia coming through the same side of the uncompleted building Max apparently passed.
“Minister Onuche, the chief doctor… or how do you people call it, of Bethel hospital… called me. He said he was sending this young man to the church office and there is something he needed to talk about. Since daddy isn’t in town at the moment., I had to hear him out.”
“Talk to you? Max? Except that he is a doctor practicing in Lokoja, what does he have to talk to you about?” She carried eyes from Pastor Lydia to Max. “Oh! Or has my husband been impregnating girls back in Lokoja too?”
Udale’s confusion was growing with each explanation her ‘mother’ made. She wasn’t surprised that pastor Lydia knew her hide out. They, daddy and she that is, know where she would usually run to when things get too messy for her to understand. The place she went at those early times of living with them and they were objecting to her decision of getting married to Matthew. They didn’t really have any strong point to convince her and when she took to hiding out of their sight, they gave up and let her marry the man of her choice.
That marriage was the greatest mistake she had ever made in the entirety of her life, at least, so she feels right now.
No children.
No happiness.
A pregnant niece for her husband.
Another of the times she ran here was when she was confusing one pregnant woman that came to see Matthew as a mistress.
A lot of water has crossed the bridge in Udale’s eyes and she is having a really tough time bringing herself to accepting this horrible fate.
Max swallowed. He couldn’t tell if the woman in front of him was only being sarcastic or she meant to really ask if her husband was doing that around. It’s not her fault any way; he may be tempted to think that way if in her condition.
“I have been treating Dr Matthew at the Lugard house hospital for a while now. It was under the directives of my mentor and senior colleague who is also my uncle, Dr Nonso.” Max could feel some perspiration on his forehead but he has to keep his voice normal, giving out no tension at all. He is shouldn’t be emotional, he is a doctor – the only doctor here.
“So Honourable commissioner for agriculture…”
“Wait!” Udale cut in, holding up her hand
“Allow the young man to talk, daughter!” Pastor Lydia said, after keeping quiet for so long she must have been forgotten
“Wait…” Udale yelled before she could stop herself. She finally stopped and sighed. “I’m sorry. Mummy, I’ll only ask the young doctor some questions and his answers to them would determine my audience or not.”
Pastor Lydia gave a knowing look at Max and he immediately knew he needed to brace up even more.
“So, Josh knew about this?” Udale asked, not moving her eyeballs any inch away from Max.
“Know about what, Ma’am?” He feigned ignorance.
“OK, I’ll either change or rephrase the statement. Do you know that my husband has been sleeping with my niece who is young enough to be his daughter or not?”
This was that point Max had dreaded while on the motorcycle that took him to the church. Pastor Lydia has queried him so much about why he heartlessly didn’t leak the secrets out and save everyone this traumatic situation. He tried to explain to her about the patience confidentiality part of the medical ethics. Though that particular thing feels like bullshit right now. He couldn’t even calculate how many people got and would still get affected with this. He was that extremely careful because he was caught up among politicians - toughest men in the state.
“Oh! You knew?” Udale’s voice came up loud, so loud that it startled Max.
He must have stayed quiet for too long a time.
“It’s somehow complicated, Ma’am!”
“Damnit!” Udale hit hard at the branch of the tree she’s holding onto. “Where did I go wrong? Ehn! Mummy, abuche ke? What have I done for Matthew to waste my life like this?” She was crying now.
Max felt sweats roll down the back of his hair to clog on his back, wetting the polo shirt he had on. He can never stand a woman’s tears.
“Udale, please pull yourself together?” Pastor Lydia admonished, coming to hold onto the weeping Udale. She’s weeping like a bitter baby, the type that automatically makes everyone around her feel guilty and responsible for a lot of unknown things.
“Mummy, was this what you meant by ‘some men have wives they never married? Putting a poor child in the family way?”
Udale sounded pitiful.
“Mummy, talk to me. Is it because I haven’t been able to conceive? Couldn’t he have gone for any of those rich women in his office? Any of those women. Why must it be this poor child? Mummy, can someone…”
“He is a paedophile!” Max cut in. He couldn’t stand the woman’s tears any longer. Even though he planned to eventually break the news out, this one seems like a slip of the tongue.
“What? What did you just say?”
His phone buzzed and started ringing just when he was about responding
“Dr Matthew!” He announced and the women popped their eyes open.
“Hello sir!” He waited, hoping to hear Matthew’s coarse voice but no, the background on the other side of the call was so noisy, and he was managing to hear whoever was calling.
“State patrol?” He exclaimed and the women drew closer to him reflexively.
“Accident? What!”
He couldn’t tame his mouth anymore. He was as scared of the eventualities as everyone else and somehow he found himself praying that nothing too lethal had happened.
“OK. Thank you so much for calling sir, I would be on my way as soon as possible. Thank you, sir.”
“What happened?” Udale asked just when he barely dropped the phone off his ear. His eyes carried no hope at all… for the first time.
“Matthew had a fatal accident on the Abuja-Kaduna highway.” He said, with the little calmness he could gather.
“Matthew? Kaduna? What is he going to do in Kaduna? Oh my God!” Udale was jumping on one of her feet.
“Let’s get out of this place first.” Max said, walking away immediately.
Pastor Lydia with watery eyes held onto the feeble, tired and weeping Udale.
Pain can never be measured in equal sizes.
Oga Jude walked into the office, Omachoko following closely behind him.
“You are welcome sir.” The secretary said as courteously as she could, rising to her feet.
“Is my wife in?” Oga Jude asked, smiling and ignoring her question.
“Yes, she is sir.” Her eyes are all on Omachoko and he could only wonder why. It was not the normal look of astonishment or marvel; it was the type that speaks clearly the state of her heart.
Omachoko saw Oga Jude open the door to the inner office and he hurried off after him quickly, before he would close it.
Halima was standing against her window. She probably was so lost in thoughts because she looked frightened the initial time she turned to face them.
“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t know you would get here this fast.” She moved to hug her husband. “…Choko, choko, my personal person, apart from shinning, what other hobby do you have?” she sniffed, rubbing his back lightly. The way one would a child that’s crying.
Omachoko is used to this. Maybe because she deals majorly with kids, she supposes everyone to be one. If not, what would explain patting the back of a fully grown man? Halima is extremely caring. Caring to a fault. That was probably part of the reasons Omachoko will never go to their house. At the early times with Oga Jude, she would send a driver to buy food and bring for him. She did that three consecutive times every day. That was before she got busy anyway. Omachoko couldn’t have had any mind of being more hardworking if she had stayed back and keep loading his stomach with free food. She is sweet like that. She got busy attending a lot of professional seminars and taking examinations here and there. To Omachoko, it was a good thing she got busy.
“Nice to see you again, Aunty Halima. It’s been so long. Where have you been?”
“Yeah! Really long. I’ve been in my house.” She winked her tired eyes at Omachoko who smiled. He knew where she was going to with that answer.
“Lolo, that was exactly what I was telling him in the car o. So he cannot now see Helen on the road or anywhere and recognise her.” Oga Jude added, concentrating on whatever he was doing on his phone.
“It’s not like that jor. I should have met her today, save for school. But I’ll meet her soon. Probably take her out. She may even be a wife material Oga.” Omachoko was giving an inconvenient joke and he knew it.
Oga Jude scoffs, looking at his wife. She has grown lean within the few hours she left home this morning and now?
“Lolo, asthmatic attacks now makes you cry?” Oga Jude asked
Omachoko felt that question was insensitive. Maybe not, though. He knew about her health condition right from time. He was quite close to her at that beginning time and she served more or less like a spur to him as well. Her wells are golden. Maybe that’s why his oga calls her Lolo, she is royalty indeed. Slender and tall, with ageless soft, clay colour skin. Her smile? It can melt the heart of a wicked king. And that smile was what she just gave now. He has really missed her.
“You know, because I was a victim myself, I know how it feels when poor innocent children are molested.” Halima started but her husband interrupted her.
“Nne bia, what am I saying, what are you saying? I’m asking why your eyes are red!”
“I know, sir. You know so much stress usually stimulate the attack. I had seen some messy things today and started coughing dryly some minutes ago, I didn’t want to embarrass myself so let’s just have the inhaler to be double protected.”
“Seen messy things?” Oga Jude sounded concerned. “What happened?”
She took a breath in before explaining. She talked about the girl that had been under sexual abuse by her uncle for about three years now, how she had suffered in silence because according to her, her aunty is so unapproachable. She talked up to the part of discovering the pregnancy and the suicide attempt of the little girl.
“What?” Omachoko screamed, springing onto his feet. “The bastard should be locked in the deepest part of the dungeon and the key should be thrown into the river. Mtcheew!” He drew a long kiss.
“I feel so horrible. How can people be so heartless to molest a little child? The innocence, the helplessness, the undue sadness.” A tear rolled down her right cheek and she wiped it out immediately. “…my father almost made my life miserable. He would get drunk and I became his prey for that night!” She coughed out loudly.
Oga Jude quickly got up to hold his wife down till she sat comfortably. He picked at her hair lightly.
“You really don’t have to remember all those, Lolo. You know you can’t afford to break down now.”
“This asthmatic nonsense was his entire fault… or was it Nne’s fault? She was hurt. I can understand her pain. It’s only that I couldn’t understand why she chose only me to pour the anger on; by sending me out of the house in the cold night and asking me never to come back.” She was literally crying this time.
Oga Jude held onto her. He never approves her talking about this part of her life. She wouldn’t agree, but she obviously hasn’t been able to deal with the hurt. It’s so long ago now; one should naturally enjoy saying the story. Halima’s case is different; her heart is as soft and charming as her smile.
“I didn’t get pregnant then o and you knew all I went through before God finally fated our paths to meet…” He looked up at him leeringly and he blushed. They almost have become oblivious of Omachoko’s presence and he didn’t mind. He was enjoying the whole show.
After getting everything good, get a wife good in everything. That has been Omachoko watchword.
“…this girl in question is pregnant!”
“God!” Oga Jude exclaimed, falling into the settee beside her.
Omachoko felt like getting up and going in search of the heartless fellow that must have subjected a little girl to this so much pain.
“Where is the idiot now?” He asked, in an angered tone.
“We don’t know my dear. He left here this morning when I broke the news of her pregnancy to him and they said his number has been unreachable all day. The wife is so devastated and had to leave. I understand her case.” She mopped her face with the handkerchief she dragged close from the shelf beside the settee they are sitting on.
“Can I see the girl?” Oga Jude asked, sounding really concerned.
He got up, collected Halima’s hand and helped pull her up.
“I would be back shortly, Choko. Please wait up for me.”
“Oh why?” Halima asked with surprised tone. “You can come along Omachoko. She was sedated so as to stitch the cut she gave her wrist. She is still asleep.” She turned to Omachoko who didn’t get up from his seat. “Oh! Unless you don’t want.”
He finally dragged himself up. He was fuming with anger so much so that he rolled his first into a strong blow
“Calm down, Choko!” Oga Jude said as he gave way and let Halima lead them out of her office and in the direction of the private wards.
‘The stupid men that molest poor girls would look for death if my hand lands on any of them…’ he said within himself. To him, it’s the highest degree of insolence and they are still thriving around because there is no known measure to accost them until harm has been done beyond repairs.
He stopped and took deep calming breaths as Halima opened the door to the wardroom. He waited till the other two were really inside before entering, his head first, then the body much later.
Episode 32
Udale held onto one of her husband’s hands. No matter what she had discovered he did, she couldn’t bear the mere thought of losing him to the shivering hands of death. A part of her that still felt any form of affection for him… whether love or pity, she held onto it. All through the drive from Ankpa down to the federal medical centre Abuja, she had pondered over and over again on Max’s revelation.
“Isn’t that a type of paraphilia? A mental disorder? A sexual orientation?”
She couldn’t believe her ears. Matthew seemed normal and alright. Well, according to the part of mental health that was taught her in nursing school and all the various professional courses she had undertaken in her course of service, people with sexual orientation usually lead a normal healthy life, so much so that the difference between paedophiles and the seemingly ‘normal’ people is in the category of people they are sexually attracted to. Also, it has come on record that one major boosting characteristics that can stimulate the expression of these disorders is isolation.
Matthew has always been an isolated person right from time immemorial. In fact, it was because her pastors, who were her guardians then, felt she needed some more courtship time, to get to know him better, that they were hesitating. She, however, felt she found the one. The very ‘right one’ at that. Matthew has always been a man of few words, but whenever he outbursts in anger, you would wish hell was let loose instead. She had always known him to be a lover of little, adolescent and all categories of children - probably that was why he taught at a secondary school regardless of his high performance from the university.
Perhaps he discovered this inordinate feelings for the children he taught and that was why he resigned, to the utter amazement of everyone. This could only be the most reasonable explanation for that kind of drastic decision he took, as he has blatantly refused to say to anyone why he let go of his so called life’s passion. Doctor Max said they discovered… rather, they confirmed it not so long ago. It was actually Dr Nonso that did, during one of his numerous interactions with Matthew, and he had been undergoing therapy and taking drugs alongside since then. Drugs has not been an effective medium of treating patients with mental disorders, research has come to prove, and this is even worse because it’s a sexual orientation. Maybe, all those ‘initial gragra’ were his own way of being careful so his lust doesn’t lead him into something as embarrassing as what has eventually happened.
Udale could remember a lot of things.
First and foremost was his outright refusal to accommodate Laibe, the first day she was brought to Ankpa. Udale had known Matthew to be friends with children right from the world go, so couldn’t really understand why he was that harsh with her niece. Maybe if she had calmed down to hear his reasons, she would have found another better option. But she wasn’t calming down at all, in fact, none of them seemed ready to reach a consensus regarding the matter. Udale could bet her instinct telling her that her husband had something on his mind which he needed to say. His hesitations in voicing out was more or less a source of worry to her.
Who would say such a thing as this easily, anyway?
Thence, came this issue of Matthew telling baba that he would be taking another wife; there was also a time he told Udale that she might be the ‘architectural designer’ of his next wife.
Udale cried more on his hand while all these thoughts flashed back her mind. He is lying unconscious with the oxygen mask firmly gripping his nose.
She still can’t stop wondering why Dr Nonso hadn’t told her. Matthew’s case isn’t exclusively paedophilia as it were then; because they had great sex in the beginning time of their marriage, at least up until the resignation from teaching. Things started moving down the spiral from that time, so much so that at some points, she felt like a stranger on her own husband’s bed. They slept so wide apart like young people forbidden to fornicate.
When pastor Lydia told her, ‘some men have wives they never married’, it didn’t make the slightest meaning to her or maybe the older woman didn’t explain well enough? Could she have known about this Matthew’s condition too and didn’t tell her?
“No! That can’t be!” She screamed from her thoughts.
Her head is beginning to shatter again. So much sorrow in her lifetime. She glanced at Matthew to be sure her shout didn’t wake him, on a second thought, she wished the shout actually could wake him.
The more she thinks about it, the more she realises that this abuse thing thrived in her house due to her quick assumption, ignorance and carefreeness.
What could she have rather done?
They have taken Laibe to be their own daughter. Should a mother not trust her husband with their daughter any longer?
As much as she tried, she wasn’t well able to console herself.
There was the night Matthew woke her up. He looked like he had something serious on his mind. Maybe, she should have listened instead of talking. Maybe she should not have concluded he was only worried with Baba’s ill health and let him say what his mind was. But she would not. Typical of her to take the first lead and feel in charge of every situation. See where it has landed her in now.
Then the day she found a lot of romantic presents in Laibe’s room. The little girl said her uncle bought them for her and actually when she confronted her husband, she could tell she felt discomfort in his voice. He first was eager to confirm how she learnt of it. Udale didn’t suspect anything, nothing whatsoever. Even when the white paper she saw in Ocholi’s hands that evening contained a horror diagram – a little girl with tattered clothes, like the type that result after gang rape, was pushing hard at a thick tall wall. A huge man, who she now believes was the abuser seemed to be chasing after the poor little girl as she struggles for rescue, while another older woman is seen, just beside them, dozing off on a table with lots of paper works to attend to.
Udale snapped back immediately,
“Did Ocholi say he drew that picture? He probably quickly admitted making that painting, just not to arouse further questions. So it was a cover up? Oh my God!” Her tears doesn’t seem to be finishing as they poured out the more, helplessly. She should have pressed on further till Ocholi tell her the truth about who made that painting.
Instead, she was stupidly more concerned about Ocholi teaching her fine arts than she was about the message Laibe’s painting was presenting.
She has heard that abused children result to writing or drawing their pains since they’ve been probably banned and at some case threatened from letting anyone know about it.
Why didn’t she think this?
Udale pitied herself.
Of course, the painting on the white paper, though not so accurately done depicts deep emotions. She could see the connection more now as she thinks about it. Right there was a poor girl running away from an abusive man, and she, who is supposed to be the refuge, the listener, the mother the girl could run to, was busy with a lot of work coupled with tiredness, so much so, that she didn’t even smell the aroma of the food being cooked under her very nose. She has always called herself a failed mother, guess this crowns it all. She used to be one of those persons that wonder how sexual abuses thrives in homes and people don’t get to learn of it early enough until a danger or harm is done. At those times, she blamed the man who is irresponsible enough to be involved in such an abominable act but right now, she has seen how much most of the abuses thrive, simply because one of the parents - especially the mother, has chosen to be either too busy or carefree.
The latest of the events that made her completely judge herself a failure was the day she brought Baba from the village. Truth is, everything sounded and appeared suspicious to her that morning but she didn’t let her brain think the possibilities in there. Mathew rarely sleeps in the sitting room… more like never. She found the spare bunch of keys for the house, which is always kept somewhere not close by, on the table. He was wearing only a boxer and slept so deep that he didn’t even notice when she walked in till she tapped him and the best explanation her ‘daft head’ could conclude was that PHCN probably dragged him out there.
“How could I be that dumb?” she asked herself.
“Laibe’s room was scattered. Since I don’t even visit enough times, I couldn’t tell if that was done overnight or if it was a normal attitude. God! I was so fast to judge her. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t explain herself, yet I was busy slapping her.” Udale let hot searing tears pour down her face as the scene of that day played in her head, torturing every part of her being. She should have known that Laibe would normally run into her grandfather’s arms any day, and not stand staring vaguely at him. She should have asked better to be sure her leaping painful steps was truly as a result of playing badminton as she claimed… or not. She should never have been quick to judge Laibe. She should have visited her room more often, get to know the kind of person she is, and what her fears were. She should have been less concerned with the IVF Dr Nonso advised they do and focus on caring for her niece who had become her daughter. She should have tried to understand Matthew’s hesitations about accommodating Laibe, she should have tried to understand his hesitations concerning doing an IVF. She should have done a lot of things to save her marriage and the poor girl. She should have… she should have…she should have done a lot of things, but she failed at all of it, every single one of it.
“Oh God! I’m a failed wife and mother!” she screamed out.
“No, you are not.”
Udale jerked back to see someone she presumed to be the doctor walk in. Pastor Lydia couldn’t follow them down to Abuja as she needed to stay with Laibe at the hospital. Max who drove them down has been with the doctor… this doctor, ever since and now that he was here, Udale could only hope for a milder bad news, because it’s certain the news can’t be any good.
“Doctor, is my husband going to survive this?” She dragged herself up and hurriedly moved over to the approaching doctor. She has lost appreciable kilograms of weight in the last weeks. She hopes to wake up sometime and all these are nightmares.
“Calm down, Mrs…”
“Onoja… Udale Onoja.” She cuts in before the doctor could finish her name.
He nodded.
His face wasn’t betraying any expression whatsoever and Udale could feel her heart almost spilling out through her ribcage.
“Let’s see in my office, Ma’am.” He said, and turned to walk out.
Udale glanced at the helpless shadow of her very own hefty husband on the bed and sniffs. She picked up her phone and followed the doctor as fast as she could. If there was anything she’s sure about, it’s the fact that Laibe cannot keep a baby for her husband.
Laibe felt like she was watching her own obituary.
How could this be happening to her?
She had long been eager to meet Aunty Halima’s daughter and she just did, even though she never envisaged meeting her this way. A lot of things has happened since morning. The last she could remember was that she felt horrible about herself. First was that Uncle Matthew walked in, glared at her like a piece of thrash and walked out in silence. He was followed by aunty Udale much later, and she came asking her who she was pregnant for. She had sat down helplessly when her aunty dashed out of the room, and Halima followed after her. She used to think she was a curse of some sort. If not, what would explain her losing her dad, her mother, her grandfather and now… herself. She wanted to end it all. There was absolutely no use of her anymore, so she grabbed one of the dinning knives in her food basket and slashed her hand. She was praying to die.
She needed to die.
Perhaps after death, she would understand why so much horrible things has happened to her in a life time – her father died in a ghastly motor accident when she was only a child. Then her mother died also few years ago. She felt coming to Ankpa when aunty Udale suggested it to her this time three years ago was God’s way of answering prayers and taking her many steps nearer her dreams. She had always wanted to be great, to be influential, and to be someone with a name. The first thing she did with the android phone uncle Matthew bought for her was to google names of influential young people in Nigeria. She saw many persons that gave her inspiration and if not for anything, she shares one thing in common with most of those people - they came from a very humble background. Majority of those persons are survivors of poverty, abuse, discrimination and even low self-esteem. She was so inspired that even with the torture and abuse from her uncle, she could still see that one day she would be able to break lose and become all that she had ever wanted to be.
Those are not feasible anymore.
A sixteen year old girl who is pregnant for her own uncle? What good can come out of such a girl ever again? She has lost her dignity, her self-esteem, her self-worth, and also her academic pursuit.
“Tell the members of the class that I’m so sorry for disappointing them.” Laibe cries on Helen’s shoulders while hugging her.
Helen was crying bitterly too. In fact, the latter’s tears superseded that of Laibe. Helen’s driver brought her to the hospital on the demand of her mother. The older woman has been telling Helen about an interesting patient of hers she should meet. So it’s more like she’s been looking forward to this day; the day she would finally come to her mother’s office – where she visits once in a blue moon. Her parents practically forbids her from leaving the house, let alone coming to any of their work places, not as though they are always around to start with. She was so eager to see this girl her mother told her so much about, also that the girl was eager to see her too. She didn’t believe her eyes on getting to the office to see her father and the young man that frightened them with car about two months ago. They were actually both stunned, herself and Omachoko that is, so much so that they held each other’s gaze absentmindedly for many minutes. It was her father’s attempt at introduction that interrupted the stare. One thought came to her mind, and that’s to call Laibe’s aunty that she had seen the guy again. The guy seemed dangerous, at least, her friend’s life seemed to have turned in disarray since they saw this guy. It’s even safer that he appears to be working with her father – that way they can pin him down if he attempted escaping. All these were carefully undergoing synchronous calculations in her head till she got to the ward room to see that the girl she has heard so much about was Laibe.
“Laibe!” she had screamed and her mother quickly pulled her by the arm and out of the room.
“Do you know her?” Her mother had asked curiously, sounding like she was whispering. Well, it’s an intensive care unit.
She explained everything to her mother, and they all waited for Laibe to wake up. Laibe didn’t look happy waking at all.
It was truly a suicide attempt.
“I’ll miss you, Helen.”
Helen wiped at a tear dropping down her soft skin.
“Laibe, stop talking like you are going to die.”
Laibe chuckled in spite of herself,
“Am I not dead already, Helen? Everything has been taken away from me. What more should I live for?” The questions came out so deep that Helen’s heart broke while hearing it.
“Sometimes we feel like just dying and letting the pain all go away, but then we need to stay alive… that’s because we have to see how the story ends.” The familiar voice came through the door.
“’Choko?” Laibe exclaimed tiredly, and as though his name carried onions, more tears gushed down her face.
Everyone had left Laibe and Helen alone, and have been waiting back at Halima’s office for them. Oga Jude left a while ago though, after he got a call. So Omachoko has been in that office with the two women, Halima and pastor Lydia. It was Halima that asked him to go check the girls as they appeared to be taking so much time. The poor psychotherapist was afraid of another attempted murder.
“Laibe, I need you to be strong now.” He quickly wiped a teardrop off his own face.
Grabbing Laibe’s feeble body, he bent over to hug her. He has never seen his beautiful girl breakdown in tears this way before, except when her mother died. Even the tears then wasn’t as deep, as painful and as sorrowful as this. This felt like a dagger was passed through her chest and she was screaming at every painful drill.
Helen held the handkerchief firmly to her nose as she stood somewhere there watching the duo cry in each other’s arms. It is true now that this fellow loves her friend, and he wasn’t a sign of danger as she had thought him to be. Something to be grateful for today.
Laibe quickly jerked off the hug. Omachoko would have fallen backwards if he wasn’t much bigger and heftier than her.
“Helen, please call your mum and mummy Lydia.” She signalled to Helen, avoiding Omachoko’s eyes as much as possible. She was sure he couldn’t wait to decipher what she was up to and why she was sending for those women.
In a flash, the door opened and Helen led the two beautiful women into the room. Laibe is just noticing the resemblance between Helen and her mother, Halima. Whatever made her not notice earlier, though?
Pastor Lydia came to sit down, while Halima hurried over to her.
“Are you OK, baby?” Her voice was shaky.
“I am.” Laibe manages a fake smile.
Laibe sat still for a long time. It felt gloomy in there. Everywhere was extremely quiet and heartbeats from everyone in the room came out loudly, like the characteristic traditional drums from the ogani festival. Those, and the whir of the fan above them produced the little sound heard in the deafening silent room.
“Lee, why did you ask I call them then?” Helen couldn’t hide her apprehension anymore.
Laibe carried pain struck eyes from one person in the room to another. She did it so slow that fifteen rounds of cardiac cycle would be completed by the time she was able to move her eyes to another person. Haven done that, she took in a very deep breath.
“I… I…” she stammered.
If the eyes pointing at her carried guns, she would have been shut dead, over and over again, by now with their stares.
“I want Omachoko to… I want to … I mean, I…want to go back to Ofabo.”
“Ofabo?” everyone screamed as she let out the bombshell.
They screamed it, at the same time, as though planned.
“Please have your seat, ma.”
Udale moved her curious eyes from the doctor that just spoke to the seat offered her. She stared so intensely at the seat, as if she was trying to gauge its capacity to carry her with her eyes, before finally bringing herself to sitting on it. She sat up, with her hands resting on the desk in front of her. She is as much afraid as she is scared… well, there may not be any difference between these two words but to her right now, the news should be at least better than worst. Once she is done from here, she may have to quickly go back to Ankpa and see how Laibe can terminate the pregnancy before more persons hear about it.
It’s already more than shameful as it were.
If Matthew had impregnated another person, like the Angela woman she was suspecting at the initial point, it wouldn’t have been as shameful and abominable as impregnating someone that is literally her own daughter.
Baba’s spirit would not be happy wherever he is, she thought.
She quickly discarded that thought as fast as it came. The dead are dead, and have no spirits roaming around anywhere, she reminded herself.
Another thought had come to her mind also. Perhaps this an answer to the prayers Baba made about hearing a sound of baby in her house. Perhaps, she wasn’t fated to give birth to a child for Matthew. This Laibe’s baby might be the opportunity she has been waiting for. She tried to consider the option of adopting the child as hers and letting Laibe continue with her normal life. Being the emotional person she is, she just knew she can’t.
What if the child is a girl? And Matthew being a paedophile abuses the child again.
Laibe would abort that pregnancy and that’s non-negotiable.
She brought back her attention to the doctor who was only staring vacantly into thin air.
“Doctor, you are not talking?” she querried, breathing impatiently when the doctor’s silence was becoming deafening. The doctor on the other hand maintained a straight face, giving away no expression at all.
“He drove into a ditch.” The doctor said, looking straight at Udale and she swallowed deeply.
He continued notwithstanding. “Seeing the so many accidents that are happening at the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, Road Safety officers have been heavily mobilised to that area…”
Udale didn’t know if she needed all these details. Doctors and unnecessary protocols! He was trying to calm her down perhaps, so as to absorb the oncoming bad news better. But what is the need of calming her down in the first place if she was going to still hear what he had to say?
“They said it was while your husband sped off, after refusing to harken to their flagging him down, that he drove the car off the road and into a ditch.”
“What? Were the Road safety men chasing him?” She demanded.
“No! They said they weren’t even ready to chase after him. It was in their bid to attend to another oncoming car that they heard a loud noise, only to see the car has landed in a deep ditch. Well, it appears like an attempted suicide to me.” The doctor said and that made Udale flare up.
“You just said he was attempting to avoid the never-do-well road safety officers on that road, that’s because they only wanted to collect bribe and nothing else. How can they save him when it was needed? They were busy waiting for another victim of theirs.” Udale drew a long hiss, in spite of herself.
“I don’t think it’s so, Ma’am, because…”
“Because? Because what doctor? My husband is laying there in serious coma, and all you are doing is defending the Federal Road safety commission?” she stood up and made to leave. The doctor felt frustration sauced with anger in her voice and could connect to it.
“Have you ever seen him with this before?”
Udale stopped in her track and turned to face the doctor. He is holding out a little bottle. The bottle look both familiar and unfamiliar. Familiar in that she had seen it sometimes at her workplace before, unfamiliar in that she has never seen it with or on her husband at any point. She moved closer and closer till she collected the bottle and held it in her hand.
“We found that in his car’s safe. And after the tests we ran on him, we found the content in his blood. Obviously, your husband drank this poison before driving down that road, and its effects only started at that point, blurred his vision and made him drive into a ditch. Whatever the storyline is, ma’am, the point remains that your husband attempted suicide.”
“Jesus!” Udale screamed and fell into her chair again. She left herself off so thunderously that the doctor thought she fainted. Her body shivered more and tears flew down freely off her face. Her legs felt so weak and her head so heavy on top of her neck.
“The poison has affected a lot of things in his body. We are trying our best and hope he comes around. This is a very slim probability.”
“Doctor, you mean, my husband might not survive this?” Udale’s tears could make a lion have an appetite to taste grass.
“I can’t say Ma’am. Dr Max told me you are a matron, so I would be as blunt and open with you as possible. As it stands now, his chances of survival are slimmer than the slimmest of things there is. And if he eventually survives at all, he would remain impotent and a vegetable for the rest of his life.”
Udale slid down gradually from the seat till her buttocks touched the floor as she screamed out in anguish.
To be continued..


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