Friday, 20 October 2017


Edogbanya kept pacing back and forth under the mango tree in front of Baba's house where he stood, or rather where they stood, Omachoko and Baba inclusive. He was already beginning to get impatient and that was understandable. There was a lot to do at Aloma today and if he must meet up with his customers before they all embark on their trips, he got to be there earlier than 6:30am. Yes. He sells beautifully designed local caps, the type Alhajis and typical Northerners always use. Edogbanya has been known with this job for almost the entirety of his adulthood and apart from the fact that he was doing well at his business, he possessed this gross arrogance that tag along side partial education. Reason being that, as the only one among his mates who successfully finished a primary education back in those days, even at fifty two he always has the tendency of feeling ‘belonged’ to this generation. To prove that point: the point of belonging to the jet age, he bought a Nokia 3310 from Aloma about some months ago, making him almost the first person in the whole village to own a phone.
"If she doesn’t pick this time, I'll be off" Edogbanya said this to Baba in Igala, as the number Omachoko dialled was ringing out for the fourth time now. Omachoko gave Edogbanya a wicked stare. The former was beginning to get angry at the latter’s haste bearing in mind the fact that even Baba’s eyes has not tasted the luxury of sleep since yesterday morning.
Omachoko had remained fixed to the rugged floor of the sitting room after Baba asked him the heaviest 'what are we going to do now?' question. For the first time in a long while, he was unable to fix his brain around anything. They needed some proofs that would either confirm or reproof their suspicions and relieve them of the inaudible panic they were both into. It was Umali, one of Laibe's friend who whispered into his ears about Edogbanya, her uncle. Omachoko knew Edogbanya very well; he could be very stingy and mean to a fault; especially when he realises that something would be at stake without his help. No one knew why he behaved that way but rumour had it that he heartlessly watched his first wife die, as a result of a very deep injury, by not releasing money for her to go get it dressed at the only clinic in the village. The poor woman lamented in anguish and agony to no avail before she finally gave up the ghost. Being an impatient young man, Omachoko does not know exactly how he would react to Edogbanya if he tried to pull any of his stingy stunts now that his dearest one's life was on the line. After going back to Edogbanya’s house three times yesterday, one of his wives advised that he should check back very late in the night or early this morning if he will ever meet her husband at home.
‘Tell him the madaki would see him as early as possible tomorrow morning before anything else’, was the words Baba asked Omachoko to say to his wife when everyone saw that the possibility of seeing the trader that night was near zero. The Madaki serves as the chief judge of the entire village, so much so that most, if not all, cases regarding family, divorce, marriage, dispute of any form are settled before him. Baba being the oldest now after the death of Pa. Ekele assumed that position and he felt yesterday was one good time to use the influence of his position to get what he wants. That’s majorly because, everyone in the village know how arrogant Edogbanya can be and how highly placed he puts his job much more than anything else.
Omachoko tiredly dozed off on the rugged floor while still talking with Baba over Laibe's issue late into the night. Baba sat on his armed chair as usual, everything else - except that the radio was switched off that night - was usual. Omachoko had noticed at every point he jerked up from sleep that Baba's eyes were still wide awake. Aged people and their problems! No matter how Baba worries, he can’t get Edogbanya down here earlier than morning, Omachoko thought within him at some points before he decided to ignore Baba and catch some sleep. The rug used to be brown, beautifully designed brown rug that was laid by Baba's daughter, but the colour has changed from obvious reasons. It now had dirty clay patches added to the already black tainted designs. Omachoko had no choice; he couldn’t go home and couldn’t also leave the old man all to himself right in that condition. Why he did something that he considered too demeaning for his person - sleeping on the floor. But anything, just anything, he had found himself able to do for Laibe.
Morning finally came and it was Edogbanya that woke them up, maybe just him. He doubt if Baba blinked. The noisy caterpillar sound that often come from Edogbanya's old Jincheng motorcycle would wake even a dead man from a far distance. Baba got up before anyone else and headed towards the mango tree just in front of the house. Omachoko came out to join them with drowsy eyes when Baba was still explaining the situation to Edogbanya. Baba explained it in such a way that even the heartless of men would be forced to render any help to savage the situation. Omachoko kept moving his eyes from Baba to Edogbanya and back to Baba, he needed to see the true expression in their eyes. Those in Edogbanya’s was not welcoming at all. You know that type of face one makes when he is asked a favour from someone he can’t possibly refuse for whatever reasons? That was how his eyes looked like while he handed over the phone to Omachoko to dial the number they wanted to reach. The phone was on speaker. No. The lowest volume on his brand of phone is synonymous to placing a smart phone on the highest speaker volume.
They all listened with rapt attention as the phone was ringing for the fourth time now. Omachoko could literally feel Baba's heartbeat from the distance he stood so much so that he started praying in his heart the call be picked this time. In addition to the fact that Edogbanya's patience level has gone beneath zero limit.
Matthew tapped his wife lightly and she didn’t wake up. He was forced to hit her hard enough to consciousness when the loud ringing from her phone came up strongly again for the third time. He wondered why she didn’t put the phone off or on silent mode tonight, bearing in mind that they both slept on unpleasant terms.
"Why is she just deliberately provoking me right now?" He asked himself, trying to let go of the anger that was beginning to boil on his inside. Yes, he is used to his wife being called up at any time of the day, and it was more when she was still a junior nurse. He only started resting at least after she became a matron. If there was anything he hated so passionately was anything noisy jerking him up from sleep as her phone just did a while ago.
Udale cleaned her eyes with the back of her arm. She woke up because she felt her husband hit her shoulders, yet everywhere looked blurry. I thought I overhead the ending part of my ringing tone a while ago? Or was that hallucination? she questioned herself. She wasn’t supposed to be called at the hospital for no reason. In fact, she should be on leave at the moment but considering the fact that home was empty and boring, she decided to still be going to work so as to help out with one or two things. No patient needed critical care as at last time she checked yesterday before leaving, so who the heck is calling at this time?
She hissed while stretching her hand lazily to pick up the phone on the side drawers. The master bed is so large it could adequately fill up a twelve by ten room without leaving any empty space.
She said angrily into the speaker immediately she wiped at the screen of the Infinix hot note to pick up the call. She grudgingly placed it against her ear.
"Baba!" She exclaimed, sitting up almost at the same time. She watched her husband eyeball her before getting up and heading to the bathroom
"Olodùdú Baba!" she greeted her father ‘good morning’ with the kind of voice that couldn't hide apprehension. She listened quietly to the call and her heart started calming down - first, when she heard other people's voices in the background. It was relieving that her father was not alone making a call at this ungodly hour and secondly it was about his concern regarding Laibe's safety.
Udale smiled broadly when her father asked her if it was true that his granddaughter was missing. There is this special love that streams from the heart of the old man, this special affection towards his innocent granddaughter. Udale once testified that she didn’t enjoy this much attention while growing up and it sometimes made her feel jealous.
"Laibe chõlàfíà Baba" Udale replied, telling him that ‘Laibe was fine and in perfect condition’. She went ahead to clear the air about the kidnapping news that has been on air since yesterday, explaining that it was true some little girls were kidnapped on their way to school yesterday morning and the police are on serious investigation to have them brought back to their parents. She tried to convince Baba that those kidnappers in town are usually on specific missions and mostly to the end of demanding for ransom. She could hear and feel her father's voice relax when she confirmed to him that Laibe was doing very well and sleeping very sound.
"Baba, I have heard you ooo!" Udale stressed when her father kept giving her manual on how to take care of her own little niece. She was tired of hearing continuously the fact that Baba always referred to Laibe as the ‘only one’ he had left. That statement sounds very insulting to her. Yes. Does the old man mean that she is not part of what he has? After all, she is spending all her earnings to keep him hale and hearty. There is this solace she finds though that old and aged senses are not any different from those of toddlers'. She waited patiently till her father said his last statement before dropping the call. The last statement a bit irritated her but she couldn’t talk back at him. Imagine him telling her that he wasn’t really in support of Laibe staying over at her place and that she shouldn’t hesitate to send his granddaughter back to him soon enough. That sounded like the last sentence she wanted to hear right now, not when her husband had been giving her some horrible looks since he came out of the bathroom to stand tall before her in his purple stripe pyjamas. She dropped the phone from her ear and held it firmly to her chest, quite firmly, like someone was threatening to snatch it away from her. She didn’t understand why Matthew was standing and watching her that way. His stature is usually intimidating - extremely tall and huge – even when she is standing beside him. One can imagine the angle of depression now that she is resting her back on the bed’s head rest.
"Sunshine, what is the problem again?" she asked after rehearsing how best to voice out her mind for a little over five minutes. Matthew didn’t respond to her instead he headed to the intercom, picked it up and dialled…
"Come right here!" he commanded whoever received the call on the other side.
"Matthew, what are you doing?" Udale questioned her husband as she tried to gather her robust body and get off the bed. She was beginning to marvel at her husband's recent change in attitude. He was never like this - insisting on a particular matter for this long - he most times let her have her way.
The door flipped and presented Ocholi standing bare-chested, wearing only a short. He must have come here on jumping out of the bed with the kind of order he received over the phone.
"Get ready! You are taking Laibe back to Ofabo this morning" Matthew ordered harshly
"Sir!" Ocholi retorted as if to be sure his ears didn’t just give him the wrong command.
"Get out! And get dressed immediately!" The huge man sounded thunderously and the outcome was as though his voice lifted Ocholi to the door and off to his room iinstantly.
"Matthew, you can’t do this!" Udale screamed as well, coming to confront her husband directly. She knew she is petite compared to him, just round and closer to the soil than her husband who is tall and huge, yet she decided to stand with her hands akimbo, perhaps by that she could block his way.
"Get out of my way, woman! Before I get you out!" Matthew roared, used his right finger to push the fat woman unto the bed and headed towards the door.
Udale positioned her head while landing on the bed from the firm push, to avoid it from hitting the bed frame. Tears began steaming up in her eyes when she screamed,
"I leave if that girl leaves, Matthew"
Matthew only barely got to the door when she made this statement, he turned without delay and started walking back gently in her direction with a rueful smile tugged around his mouth that was supposed to make her relax. He walked as gentle as he would normally walk, rested his right hand on the bed and stretched his neck such that his face stayed directly in front of hers as he ran his eyes over her body before letting out a sarcastic laughter.
"You have no seed in this house, Udale. I have nothing to lose if you leave with her. And of course, you both are leaving right away! Watch me…" he said all these with gentle sarcasm. The more he spoke them out softly, the more the bitter fact he just reminded her of penetrated her bones, hurting her inner being. She was weak in her words. She wanted to say something, anything, anything that could justify that it wasn’t all her fault. She wanted to hold him back and say all the words yearning to gain expression on her inside but he yanked her off in a flash and stormed out of the bedroom and into Laibe's room.
Episode 7
Matthew pushed open the door to the visitor's room where Laibe lay with enormous force so much so that Laibe jerked up and drew backwards against the wall almost immediately, as though she wanted to pass through the wall out of the room. She was sleeping, sleeping so sound before now. Her first night in the town of her dreams; the only town she had been seeing flashes of, in dreams and other times in trance, whichever! She was certain she had pictured Ankpa in her head long enough to carve out its map ever before getting the opportunity to come here. She dare not lay sleeping back at Ofabo at this time. In fact she needed to have been awake early enough so as to sweep the whole of her grandfather's compound that is continuously dirtied with dropping leaves which become even worse during harmattan. She needed to be done and dusted with all of those before Umali and Ebi would come, just when it was time for stream. The stream was an average distance to her own house as the rest would need pass through hers on their way to theirs. If one must get the clean water needed for the day’s use, going very early to the stream is an indispensable virtue, because the naughty and stubborn boys in the village wouldn’t have washed their dirty bodies in it neither would they have unsettled the almost muddy water by then. That's how her mornings usually turn out to be. It's either she gets to the market after that; if the day was a market day, or whenever she can, follow some of Baba's workers to the farm and help in either harvesting or gathering, especially of beans.
Beans seem to be the most productive crop in the whole village – competing back to back with cassava though - and most families have no need of going to buy beans from the market because they all planted at one time or the other. Instead, since everyone has more than enough, they would give it to the women going to òbà - the largest market very distant from the area, to help them sell. Hard work was one good thing she came to like about Omachoko aside his many bad sides, pomposity being the highest on the list. He appear to have mastered all the possible techniques that would bring maximum harvest in beans plantation; reason why his family still ranks richest in the entire village, and the credit could undoubtedly go to the hard work he inherited from his father right from a very tender age.
Laibe looked up from the bed at her uncle and as though she was noticing this for the first time, she could not help but marvel how a man could be that huge. So tall that he had to bend real down while standing in the door way. She wondered again how her aunty coped with her husband’s height but waved that thought aside when she noticed the redness in the eyes of the giant standing before her. It is true. She hadn’t heard his voice ever, more so that he hadn’t said a word to her since the kitchen incidence. She was scared as she managed to stammer…
"O-lo-dù-dù sir"
Matthew said nothing, did nothing and didn’t blink his eyes, even after the poor girl greeted him 'Good morning' in utter fright. He stood at the door frame just unblinkingly looking at her with red shot eyes. The only movement noticeable in his whole body was the one around the region of his very obvious 'Adam apple', it moved quickly and slothfully at the same time, similar to the irregular movement of an amoeba. It was obvious that the ball of anger in him was too big to swallow with the way his face was like that of one pushing a heavy truck up a high mountain. He wanted to talk but he struggled as he refrained from it. He is not usually angry, in fact, his normally calm and pleasant demeanour had slowly changed till his face contorted in all- consuming anger; his nostrils flaring, his eyes flashing and closing into slits. His mouth had the tendency to quiver and drool angry words and he knew how synonymous to spewing into space like a volcano releasing its pent up emotions into the darkness those words would come if he let them out.
He kept staring at the girl squeezed to a corner up the bed for nothing less than fifteen minutes. Her legs crawled beneath her feet in fear as his eyes ran over her entire piece carrying gross hatred that Laibe could see clearly. The reason, she couldn’t provide by herself. She thought of saying something else, anything. Although he didn’t respond to her greetings, perhaps he would respond to sorry if she said it. Maybe, she should say she was sorry.
What if he asked her what she was sorry for afterwards?
What other explanation would she give?
‘What exactly has she done under heavens this beautiful sunny morning?’ All these thoughts and more took their time to fly or rather, drive recklessly through her mind in rapid succession until she finally made up her mind to speak out. Whatever she can bring herself to say, she would say it. Laibe rose her head up to talk and as though it was calculated, she saw and heard her door slam hard against her face before she could voice out any word.
That got her shivering even more in the hot morning. Her uncle barged into her room, forcing her door open so angrily that she almost fainted from the shock, he stood mute at the door for long without responding to her greeting and just when she was about to say something else, he slammed the door against her face? Was it that bad? She asked herself. Or better still, was she that bad and intolerable? She hit her head as though trying to bring herself to consciousness from some sort of nightmare she appears to be having since she stepped her foot into her long awaited Ankpa. Whatever must have made her uncle behave this way must be very serious and she needed to get to the root of it.
She got up and pulled another of those oversized gowns over her head - the second of the three. She planned to wash the other mud stained one today, then she would get to talk to her crush, Ocholi again, because she would surely be needing him to show her where to get water and soap. She was hoping in the process the amiable young man would smile kindly at her again like only he had been doing. Except for her friends and grandfather, she feels head over heels special anytime another fellow smiled at her and all those plans were not going to happen anytime soon with the way the morning is already starting out. She took in a deep breath, patting her chest in the process. Mimicked the sign of the cross before heading towards her door. It was mimic, she had never been a Catholic, and she only see Ebi do it sometimes because the latter is. She still tasted fear in her mouth anyways.
She got to the door and pressed down the knob but it wasn’t moving. She tried it again with her feeble and tiny fingers, this time using the whole energy left from the food she ate late last night, but the door still didn’t show any sign of yielding to her push. She moved sideways till her body hit the wall behind her.
Has it gotten to the point of locking her up in the room?
She held the wall and slid down from her standing height till her buttocks rested on the marble tiles.
"What are you doing Matthew? What has come over you?" Udale screamed as hot burning tears rolled ceaselessly down her chubby cheeks immediately her husband opened back their bed room door. She had gotten up when he stormed out earlier but she didn’t follow him. She waited till he came back. He owed her an explanation and she was getting it now, no matter what. She charged towards him and held his pyjamas around his chest region, her hands struggled to hold it firmly there though, due to the extreme height difference but she did; still crying and hitting him hard while at it.
"You must tell me what has come over you today. And you would have to kill me or Laibe, else none of us is stepping out of this house" Udale kept screaming and screaming, her voice rising higher at every new statement she made and her hands squeezed her husband’s dress the more. Matthew stood without responding to all his wife's actions on him. He knew better than to beat her up right now, because with the absolute percentage of anger locked up within him, the poor woman would spend nothing less than fifteen nights at an intensive care unit as an aftermath of any action he would take as it stands. He only pocketed his hands and watched her like one would watch from the pinnacle of a storey building as the woman jacked up his shirt.
"Perhaps if your seeds were agile enough, you would have reaped bountiful harvests a long time ago…" Udale continued.
Thankfully, the house was built in such a way that each room had its own toilet and other accessories, it is padded sound proof as well. Someone in another room would not hear screams no matter how loud it was in the room, unless the person is standing and struggling to eavesdrop right at the door. That was why even if the comments from his wife were getting on his nerves, he knew none of the two other persons in the building right now would hear them.
"Is it my fault that you are not man enough?"
With this, Matthew flung her onto the bed like a light piece of cloth and charged forward towards her with a raised hand.
"How dare you?" He roared as his hands grabbed Udale's neck.
Udale could see the end of the line close to her eyes already with the mighty hand holding her neck, she would choke, she would gasp and ultimately die soonest,
"Please let me go Matthew" she pleaded, her loud voice now as quiet as a calm stream. Matthew didn’t seem to bulge, he held her whole body up on the bed with just that right hand on her neck. Her pleas and tears meant nothing to him right now, he had just been hit on the wrongest side by those last words from his wife and she would face the consequences of touching him at the forbidden place when he is angry.
"Awaa! Please let me go" Udale continued pleading in tears
"On one condition…" Matthew answered with eyes still red from over bloated temper.
"What condition?" Udale asked with shaky voice.
Laibe quickly shifted her legs into each other immediately she heard the sound on her door. She adjusted so well where she sat on the floor like a snail in its shell, such a way that she wouldn’t be sighted if whoever was at the door only opened it to check without entering. That’s because the large beautifully carved out brown door would hide the whole of her behind it. She imagined what would happen next if that was her uncle trying to open the door again. Her eyes darted from side to side just maybe she can get an escape route out of this room before the person successfully got in. Goosebumps broke out on her skin as she searched eagerly but there was none. Even the way the bed was built was very different from the ones they had in Ofabo. The ones at Ofabo have large spaces directly underneath it where things with many inches height could freely move under the bed. This does not have that space so she can’t crawl underneath it. She saw the wardrobe and alarm rang up in her head. Perhaps that could help her and just when she ran halfway over to the corner where the wardrobe stood, the door opened.
"Jesus!" She screamed and jumped backwards involuntarily.
"What happened?" Ocholi asked immediately Laibe screamed, wondering what made her look that scared to death. Laibe gave him a 'did you just ask me that?' kind of look and he closed his once opened mouth. Laibe kept staring at him from up to toe with different unimaginable thoughts in her mind. Ocholi was all dressed up just about eight o'clock in the morning? She marvelled at where he was already coming from at this time. Worse is that he wasn’t smiling today. Even when he asked her the question, his face was stern. The clothes he had on looked quite squeezed and not properly worn; the type that usually happens when PHCN takes light for so long, one couldn’t iron a dress he had planned to wear to a celebration party and still had no choice but to wear it all the same. Well, the summary to her was that he was looking like someone hurried him into dressing up.
"You know what, Laibe?" Ocholi asked and she responded by nodding from side to side.
"Come and I'll tell you!"
Laibe hastened towards him with her heart in her mouth to at least know what the whole problem is. She stood few inches away from him as her eyes begged him to talk already but he wanted to whisper into her ears instead.
PS: I observed the likes and comments on the story is way too low,and seriously me no like to dey waste my energy... Should the story be stopped?? coz e be like say una no wan read...una no go dey busy to read,but to comment and like na issue...If it continues this way,the story go hang.....
Episode 8
At any point the car shook, it felt like nuts loosened up in her head. But the car has to shake. In fact, it must. The road to Ofabo is both hilly, rocky and dusty. So much combination for a road that this black Ford Endeavour SUV had to take this morning, in addition to embarking on an unnecessary and unplanned journey. Well, isn’t it called Ford Endeavour? It’s Endeavour, after all. It’s yet another time for the car to display its usual doggedness. Arguments and misunderstandings are normal. Yeah! Everyone nags and we all forget something ever happened once those eyes are shut to sleep. This has always been the trend, she didn’t know yesterday would still spill into today but she had a premonition of danger anyway. Right from the time Nurse Ephraim came to tell her that someone was looking for her; the way she felt scared, the way she got jittery and overtly nervous, she had this feeling that something was going to go wrong. How wrong? Was the only thing she really couldn’t tell as Ocholi walked tiredly behind Ephraim into her office. Apart from how unusually dirty he looked, he succeeded in worsening the condition of her already elevated heart rate by starting his statements with an unsolicited apology. Whatever he was apologising for, beats her imagination.
“Sincerely Sis, Faruna serviced that car yesterday. I don’t know what went wrong. I was just about taking it back to his workshop now but it broke down again just beside the secretariat. I got underneath it, to check some things and all, in trying to see if I could fix it in a manageable way. All to no avail. I had to trek down here hurriedly when there was no other way out. Sis, it stopped very close to security’s ‘no parking’ order and I need move it out as soon as possible before they deflate the tires or do worse things to it” Those were Ocholi’s chain of words. He didn’t say them all out together like this, he said one word after the other, in a manner that seemed the next words got stuck in his throat. Udale was patient though or better still, she wasn’t really paying attention to all his stories. Look at her here, almost scared to death that her niece was kidnapped or in some form of danger, only to find out the so called urgency was their Peugeot 504. She felt like holding Ocholi’s ears and telling him never to scare her like that again, but Jane was still sited there, glaring at them like she was seeing an episode from the much talked about Jennifer’s diary. It wasn’t absolutely that he scared her. Perhaps, she scared herself by having that agreement with Ocholi to have him bring in Laibe against her husband’s instructions in the first place. She would have done something to Ocholi’s ears – pull, wriggle, tickle, anything - if it was just the both of them in the office though. They are quite close. She had to hand over her own car keys to Ocholi since it was almost close of work. They both drove to the mechanic garage, picked Faruna and brought him back to the mess of a car he claimed to have serviced the day before. The mechanic was left there to figure out how to move the broken down car from the front of the local government secretariat back to his shop and get it fixed as soon as possible. That done, Ocholi drove them home.
Their house is at Olubojo, Enokpoli road, just a few distance away yet on the same lane with the secretariat. So it took barely ten minutes to get into her sitting room that had become overridden with smoke. Ocholi hurriedly picked up her bag and jacket from the car, joining her just before she opened the kitchen door. Laibe, already burning their dinner on her first night in the house was a call for concern but that in itself wasn’t as scary as her husband’s impromptu arrival.
All her plans washed down the drain that moment she saw him, on entering the master’s bedroom and when he gave her only one condition that would save her from choking under his tenacious grip earlier this morning, she was compelled to adhere strictly to the core. Even after telling Matthew that Baba was in full support of Laibe’s movement from the village, he insisted his condition was that they all go back to see Baba for reasons best known to only him. To worsen the whole matter, he made Laibe pack back her bag alongside.
“Oh! Oh!” she exclaimed when Matthew entered into another gulp hole carved out as aftermath of erosion. If her eyes carried a sword, Matthew’s head would probably be rolling off somewhere across the road with the angry look she shot at him. She drew a long frustrated hiss, murmuring some inaudible words to herself, as she bent to pick back her phone that slipped off her hand when the car vibrated vigorously. It is true that the road was horrible, but Matthew’s little expertise made the journey even more stressful than it normally should. He didn’t know, perhaps because he wasn’t used to the road, how to navigate and dodge holes yet he changed his mind abruptly about Ocholi driving, after making the younger man dress all up in haste. Everyone knows Ocholi can drive conveniently through any type of road. Much wonder the distinct differences even when from the same loins. One can vouch how brown the exterior of the car would look now from accumulated dust.
Matthew didn’t mind. He was enjoying the deafening silence in the car. Something within him kept convicting his actions this morning. Him? Holding Udale’s neck? What if he had killed her? A subtle captivating headline for the media: ‘Woman killed by husband for bringing her niece to the house’ or ‘Wicked man kills wife over 13-year old niece’. How disgraceful it would be for a high placed statesman like him to fall into the hands of these eager journalists. It would worsen his already bad situation and maybe add psychiatrist or psychotherapist visitation to his long and clumsy list of schedules. All these thoughts tortured the part of peace left in his brain as tiny drops of sweat appeared on his forehead. He couldn’t believe he did all those. Wherever that destructive anger came from, thinking about it over and over again was maybe the reason why he almost doesn’t see any gulp hole till he was midway into it. Sometimes, it is just perfect to be ignorant as what you’ll find out ends up tormenting you. Surely, all these are courtesy of the confirmation he got recently. Maybe he shouldn’t have sought for a confirmation. Now he has and everything is going haywire in his head.
“Damn!” He hit his hand lightly against the wheel, so light that it would go unnoticed if any music was streaming from the music player of the car at the lowest volume. He rose his head and saw Laibe through the mirror. The little girl’s face clearly reveals sorrow and sadness, and he couldn’t help rebuking himself for becoming a cause of sorrow to an innocent lad. But… he had to do this.
Laibe had kept her head constantly against the window on her own side of the car all through the journey. Even when the car’s rough movement shook her head mercilessly, she left it there with her chin cupped in her left hand. She didn’t understand what was going on around her since the day before. The only thing Ocholi said or rather, whispered to her ears was that she should pray as they were about to take her back to the village. She didn’t really understand him at that instant. Making that kind of emergency prayers might require some institutional training. Of course, apart from burning dinner yesterday night, she can’t place her mind on anything else she had done wrong to warrant returning her home this early – barely a day ago. They all didn’t starve last night even. Her aunty got back into the kitchen and quickly boiled some rice because there was stew left in the freezer and that was what they had as dinner instead. Though, she didn’t think she would eat anything again yesterday night because if she had burnt soup back at Ofabo, she would starve a whole household of one round of meal which she must have to receive the due punishment for few more days later. When her aunty came into the room Ocholi said was hers, with a well-covered plate neatly arranged in a tray, she knew the starvation since morning was just about to be pulled off. Aunty Udale warmly smiled while handing her the food which she bent her knees courteously to collect. The older woman welcomed her and Laibe apologised for ruining the first food as well
Laibe was happy. Her aunt’s calm and nice words made her felt a lot better as the events of the whole day kept replaying in her head till she lay to sleep and that was how sound she slept until the violent opening of the door jolted her up. She wouldn’t have believed Ocholi’s whispers if her aunty hadn’t rushed in few minutes later, asking her to get her clothes in order. Aunty Udale’s voice sounded cracked when she made that statement and by the time Laibe looked at her aunty, she saw someone as shaken, frightened and frustrated as a chicken beaten under the rain for decades, that’s aside the pints of sweat dripping down the fat woman’s face. Perhaps, if she had heeded grandfather’s elderly advice, she wouldn’t be tossed up and down the same road again by this time.
Here it is; A journey out of Ofabo yesterday, another into Ofabo today.
“Mé wòlà ùlè o, welcome o, wólà o, well done o, welcome o” were the welcome chants reigning in the air right from when the car entered the settlement area in the village. Some women followed down till the car finally came to a halt in front of Baba’s house. It is a normal behaviour in the village and Laibe knew uncountable numbers of big cars she particularly had followed, only to get some twenty naira notes from the owners of the big rides in the end. Aunty Udale got down and started greeting all the women that were welcoming them. Some she hugged, others she knelt to greet and shook hands with the rest. The women looked so elated with their different designs of wrapper loosely tied round their waist till it formed a round knot at one of the sides. Majority of them wore this white velvet T-shirt with inscriptions on them. Their sagging breasts danced within the partially transparent shirts, most common being that from the last crusade held in the village primary school field. Life could have taken aware many things from these women; money, affluence, clothes, some their husbands but it hasn’t been able… and may never be able to take away joy from them. Their faces lit in an adorable glow as they all exchanged pleasantries.
The children were there as well, they never disappoint. It was because the journey was unplanned for, else each one would have, as always, gotten a yoghurt, sachet of biscuit and some other little things including money. The only thing Udale could do right now was to give the children one of the new five hundred naira notes in her purse. She handed it over to the boy that looked oldest among them with a stern instruction to buy biscuit for every one of them. The children were happy and grateful. The effect of harmattan was so prominent on their faces that they all looked white, pale and even more malnourished with extremely dried lips. That is aside the breaks on the sole of their feet; some looked like the sores were healing up already while those on others felt like the cracks had become permanent landmarks on their legs. One thing was common to all of them though as they ran off: they were joyful. There is this depth of peace that accompanies innocence and that’s what the children had that aunty Udale wished she could have too. One mustn’t have to be living in the village to participate in such depth of peace, right?
By the time she turned to face Baba’s house, the elderly man had already come to stand at the veranda. She saw how her husband was hurrying to finish up with the women who left her own side of the car to go greet him immediately he got down. Even after asking after their husbands and children and it was obvious the discussion was over, they still stood looking on at him expectantly and it was at that point he knew he needed to give them something.
Indeed, it’s really been a long while he stepped his foot in this village, or any other village at that, and must have forgotten how these things work.
Laibe, amidst the noise from her aunty and the children, her uncle and the women, ran off into her grandfather’s sitting room after the car barely came to a halt. Just yesterday and she missed him this indisputably. Baba missed her as well with the way he held her close for so long. Somehow though Laibe felt Baba’s hug wasn’t just about missing her alone. Judging from the questions he repeatedly asked about - how she was doing, how yesterday’s journey went, when she got to see her aunty - she knew that what was coming out from Baba’s within was mixed with fear and not exclusively care as it were. He didn’t seem to believe her even when she continually said everything was fine and well.
Baba was obviously surprised to see Matthew much more than anyone else. When one say it’s been a really long while, it sounds like an under estimation to how long they‘ve both seen each other.
Matthew partially prostrated to greet baba and the elderly man held him up into a warm hug. The old man’s sense of vision is confusing – this time, he can almost see nothing and at another time, he can describe the tiniest details on someone’s face. Matthew’s height and hugeness always reminds Baba of how he used to be when he was his age and that sort of endeared him to his son-in-law a great deal.
Laibe started running off to either of Ebi or Umali’s house expectedly before the twinkling of an eye. She can’t let what happened yesterday morning that she wasn’t able to see them before leaving happen again today. Whether she would still go back to Ankpa, or be made to remain here in the village, she cared less right now as she ran. In fact, she had given up on her dreams as reality seem to be denying her of every opportunity to draw closer to it.
Udale greeted her father as well by going down on her knees. Baba held her up and hugged her lightly. He asked her why she didn’t let him know when he called earlier in the morning that they all were coming over to the village to see him and she involuntarily flashed a glimpse at her husband who took away his face. She now decided to just smile and twist an answer out to suit the question regardless. She started trying to explain to Baba how she was at the middle of sleep and consciousness because it was too early in the morning then and wouldn’t have been able to remember their plans. Baba didn’t look convinced, it was clearly written all over his face. Right from time, Udale knew her father to be so perceptive when it comes to almost anything, and can differentiate absolute truthfulness from ‘covering up’.
“Ókó wè à?" Baba questioned just when she left off her last statement. She didn’t understand Baba’s question because Matthew was standing right before him, in fact Baba’s hands was interlocked in his, so why would he be asking ‘What of your husband’ from her any longer. She kept quiet for a while trying to know where to commence from. The question had another meaning, which she thought to be ‘if you were so drowsy, wasn’t your husband there’. That was another explanation her brain came up with but she was interrupted immediately she gathered the energy to open her mouth.
“That’s why we are here Baba” Matthew responded to the question before who it was directed to did.
Another reason why Baba is so fond of Matthew is that, the older man always enjoy Matthew’s own expression of the English language and can connect to it faster. Maybe because Matthew is soft spoken and takes his time when he speaks; so slow. He is the strong-silent type.
Baba asked them to come in and they did. Hurriedly. Except for Udale, the two men bent before passing the doorway, though Matthew’s was lower than Baba’s. Baba impulsively pulled off his slippers and just when Matthew was about to do same, the elderly man stopped him, urging him to walk in like that. That was strange. No one ever wore a footwear into Baba’s sitting room for whatever reason. In there, Baba took his customary seat, followed by Matthew and Udale sat somewhere opposite the two men. She was as curious to hear why they were here as much as Baba and when Matthew didn’t hesitate to start talking as soon as they were sited, she heaved a sigh of relief which was cut midway.
“I am taking another wife” Matthew announced after clearing his throat lightly.
Udale raised her head to stare at her husband in the face. So stern that she wished, for the umpteenth time in her life, that it is her auditory canal that have issues not her reproductive system.
To be Continued..


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