Saturday, 30 December 2017

NIMI PETERS – Episode 17

MrJohnson paused ashe heard his phone ring. Hepulledit out and stared intensely the screen fora while. “Your Nigeriannumberis still connecting?” his eyessort of spelt out the question instead. Joelynchuckled lightly. “I’m roaming, Father!Good afternoon sir.” “Well, it’s justthe earlyhours of the morning on thisside of the globe. How is yourvacation coming?” Hepressed down the car’s remote andit blinked. Holding hisphone firmlyto hisear witha raisedshoulder,he opened the doorto the driver’s side and sat in gently. Hewouldbe driving himselftodayforthe firsttime in a very long time. “Father, where areyou offto so early? It’s 1pm here andsince you areabout seven hoursbehindus,it shouldjustbe 6amthere, right?” MrJohnson smiled atthe sincere toneof concern fromhisdaughter. “I’m not the daughter that need to be looked after,Chiamaka. I have togo now. We’d talk soon. You haveyourcredit card withyou, so I’m almostcertain you don’t need anything.I evenhavean intriguing news you wouldeither be proudof me for, when you hearit, or you wouldhateme forit.” Joelynpaused fora considerable spaceoftime before continuing. “What do you mean, father?” “Oh no daughter. Justwhen you get back here. Enjoy yourday Omalicha!” Hehung up the call before Joelyn could say more. Hewasn’treadyto do any introduction of agenda over the phone. He believe things are betterexpressed faceto faceto avoid misunderstandings. Taking in fivecalming breaths,he strapped hisseat beltanddrovegentlyout ofhismansion’s car park harbouring severalother cars.
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Joelynquickly adjusted on the bed asthe doorto the bathroom creakedopen presenting Tolu before her. “It’s 1pm here? For real?I guess I musthave wokenupfromthe wrong side ofthisbedtoday.” He sounded sarcastic ashe rubbed the white towelall over hishead. “You knowfather must neverfind out I’m herewith you!” “To hell withthat man, Jo.Hasn’t he done enoughharm to us? You aremineandmine forever..” He grabbedher shouldersandshook it violently. “I’m a tiger, I can play andatthe same time I can bite wickedly. Noone getsin my way, do you understand that?” Joelyn shook her head quickly in the affirmative.Shecould taste raw fear in her mouth. “Or do that old fellow wantme to eliminatehim quickly?” “I forbidyou touse ill words against myfather,Tolu. I forbid you.Ifyou loveandrespect me as youclaim,then you must respect my father also, because he would be your father in-laweventually. That’s ifanything ever happens between us!” Her voice shook while shesaid these butshe wouldn’t stop. Shejustneeded to say it nonetheless. Tolu smiledcockily. Hepecked her forehead, releasing her from his firmgrip. “Joelyn, you knowIlove you and can do anything for you!” Joelynnoddedin the affirmative. Shewas crying now. “No, Tolu.Youdon’t loveme.You wantto destroymy life.Youare getting a payback. A paybackfor whatI don’t evenknowabout.I saw yourmessages, Tolu. I read them.Someone paid you to insist on marrying me!”sheyelled angrily. Tolu’s facesuddenlyturnedpale, gradually toanger andfinally rage. “I cursethe day I metyou, Tolu. I regretit!” Hedrewcloserto her with venomousbreaths like that ofa wounded python. “You killedtwoofmy babies, Jo! Youandyour very wickedfather. How dareyou?” “I didn’t kill anyone. Thefirstone cameout immaturely… it was still birth.How did I causea still birth? Thislast one was an undeliberate suicide attempt. I could havelost my lifein the process.” “Who cares about losing your life? Youkilledmy childrenandyou havethe nerves togo throughmy messages?” Tolu’s eyeswere now asred ascrimson andJoelynknew shemost probably would loseher lifein few minutes fromnow. He drewnearer toher andshe curled upon the bedasshemovedcloser tothe wallbehindher, hopingit wouldjustbreakopen andcreate an escape routefor her. “How dare you!”Tolu yelled, grippingher throatandholding tighteronto it.
***** Nimidraggedhimselfto the door. “It’s a weekendforcrying out loud!”Hemurmured underneath hisbreath ashe pulleddown the doorknob. He was on a Roseberry shortandwhite singlet andforyet anothertime he didn’t mind opening the doorfor a visitor without being properly dressed.He surprises himselfa lotlately. “Please, have yourseat, sir!” Hisvoice hadsome little uneasiness coming fromit. Hewatched ashis boss took a seat before takinghis gentlybeside him.MrJohnson wasn’t talking,he was onlylooking around,asthougha kid thatwas broughtto the cityforthe very firsttime in hislife.Nimididn’t understand.Even though hisboss wasn’t visitingtodayforthe first time,he didn’t knowwhyit’s so early. “How areyou, son!” Nimi’s eyespopped open.For all he knows, hisfather is in the beautiful cityofAnyigba withhismother. He can’t remember enthroning anotherfather in Abuja.Even the so-called ‘office father’stunt Edward pulls at times pisses him off. “Yea! YouknowI see you asmy son!ThesonI neverhad.” Nimismiled.“Sir, whatareyou herefor?” MrJohnson chuckled lightly. Typical ofNimi. “I really want tomeetyour father someday. I justwantto ask him howhe copeswithyourarrogance. Boy! How can onebe thisarrogant andpoliteat the same time?” Nimismiled again. That statement cameacrossasa compliment and he wouldn’t be giving anyfurther thoughtto it. “How is yourtwinsister?” Nimisomehowhadsuspected what thisaugust visitwouldmost likely be about, yet he wasn’tgoing to runahead ofhimself. “She is fine. Moreoversheworks in yourhouse!” MrJohnson thought he felt provocationin Nimi’s voice and that madehim feel weirdly victorious. “And how is yourplan withJoelyn coming too? I thoughtyou would be withher for thisvacationshe wenton.” “I haveno planswithyour daughter,sir. It is you that have plansforus which I’m not cutout for. Andabout vacation, she needed an ‘alone’ time!” MrJohnson cleared histhroat. “Joelyn’s motherleft us few monthsafter she turnedfive.The poorwomancouldn’tbearup everything again. Since leaving was the bestoptionforher at the time, therewas no point stopping her. I onlyregretthat mybeautiful daughter hadto growup without a motherfigurein her life.Most times, I don’t evenknowifI should blame her for some ofthe reckless lifeshe lives.Shouldn’t that be my fault?” Nimistared asthe older man lamented.MrJohnson would always beataround the bushwheneverhe hassomething to say,andthat was sure. He’ll be patientanyway. “I’m sureyou at some points wonderedwhyI didn’t takeany otherwife after my wifeleft?”he winkedat Nimiandthe latter involuntarilynoddedhishead in the affirmative.“Well, I saw no need to.Ihave all the moneyI need in thisworld andthe next twotocome.But if happiness and lovearewhat anyonecan buy, Nimi, Iwould quickly rush to, not justbuybut, investin them as well.” Nimiadjusted uncomfortablyin his seat. “It’s been morethan three decades ago nowsince I felt my heartever reach out to someone like this. I knowthat feeling, I recogniseit when Isee it, and woulddo everything possible to get my heartits desire.” Nimiswallowed now. Hefelt his heartbeating hard against his chestandalmostspewing blood out to the exterior. “I don’t understand you, sir!” he managed tosay. “I knowFiyinfoluwa is not yourtwin sister asyou introduced her to me.” “Well…” Nimi started, butgot interruptedby his boss. “From all background checks, I see no bloodcorrelation or any formof kinship between the both ofyou, both nuclearandextended.So why did you tell me shewas yourtwin sister?” “Because that’s what Isee her as!” Nimianswered bluntly, turning his faceaway. He couldn’teven convincehimselfwiththat response. MrJohnson smiled.“How can one, asoldasyou are, be lyingto one’s self? Youreyesaresaying different things fromwhatyour mouth said. Youlove her, don’t you?” Nimistared back at him.He opened hismouth to answer the question butclosed it asno word was readytocome out.Hefelt this hard tightening around his throat. Heusedto be bold and courageous.Hehadheard the saying that ‘love is the onlything that makes a wellman sick anda sick man well’. Hedidn’t expect himselftostill be thistimidin his approach tolove.Never! “I knowyou do.Youcan deny itfor all Icare.Anyway, that’s whyI camehere!” Theyoungerman sat up again. His eyesstaring deeply at the former, such that by any means possible he could be ableto drawout the words faster. “I wantto marry Fiyinfoluwa!” Nimifelt like a ghost hit him.It was sohard,sohard he lost control over the muscles responsiblefor keepinghis eyes andmouth closed at the same time.Hedidn’t knowwhathe wouldprefer to hear afterwards, maybehe wouldwant tohear that itwas justa joke? “I see the affections youhave for that girlin youreyes.We arenot mates in anyway orlevel whatsoever, Mr Nimi Peters.I’m youremployer, andcan employ all otheremployers in thiscountry put together. It’s not pride.Everyone knows thisin Abuja. I could choose tofrustrate youat the office, rip youof all yourproperties, implicate youin some way, send killersafter youor do moredangerous things that wouldmakeyou letgo at first instinct, but asI said earlier, I see youasa son… the sonI never had.” Nimi swallowed painfully, Mr Johnson continued.“As much asI won’t haveanyoneharm my precious daughter,Ican’tbear the thoughts ofharming my own son. That’s whyI’ve come toyou in person, to discuss thiswithyouas colleagues which ofcourse,weare not closeto being.” “But sir…” “I haven’t hadstrongemotional attachmentanddrawings forany womanin a long while. I’ve said thisseverally. I knowI’m old enoughto be her father,butat the same time,Iwant to takecareof her. I wantto build her potentials, makeher stand out among her colleagues andmakeher a celebrity. I wantto make Fiyinfoluwa Mrs Johnson in few months, pleasedon’t stand in my way,Mr Nimi Peters!I don’t want youlosing out from both ends.” He said firmlyandcasthiswhole gaze on Nimi whosat atlossfor words.
*****
Fiyinwalked slowly butsteadily into the largestsitting roomshe had seen her whole life –the sitting roomofthe Johnson’s mansion. It shinedandglittered back ather facelike it’s madeof pure gold. Theonlyplaceshehadseen such widthfor asitting roomwas in an Indianmovie, andshe envied how a wedding partycould be done inside the house, yet therewas still muchspaceforeveryone. Oh! How she loves space. Ifshe can afford it, shewould want something asspaciousasthisover andagain. Somepeople wouldlivein heaven whileon earthbefore going to heavenlateron,she thought within her. Pulling the blackscarf offher head, shewonderedwhy therewas no onein the house. Thegateman handedover the key toher at the gatepost, saying it was an instruction from‘oga’. It’s rather unusual tosee the Johnson’s mansion empty. Never! At least, she hadascertained to that factin her many weeks of working hereasthe chief chef. Someone must justbe around,the gardener, laundryman, housekeeper, most especially,some ofthe numerous housestaff, someonejustmust be around. Sheturnedaround withdarting eyesasshe suddenlystarted feelingscared. Moving in the direction ofthe kitchen– her office asitwere,shenoticedthat the dining table was set.That’s rather strange too.Ifno one was in the house, who then madebreakfast forchief? Shewondered.She movedgentlyto the table and opened the covered plate.Therein was a planeenvelopewith‘Fiyin’ written boldly on it.Shefelt her body shakeinvoluntarilynowas shepicked up the envelope, toreit open anddrewout the tiny paper in it. For every time her foot landedon the staircase, shequestioned herselfagainifshe was doing the right thing. Thepaper onlyhad, ‘gotothe study’ on it. She’s been therea coupleof times, yeah! The firsttime was when MrJohnson didn’t come down on time to take hismeal andsheneeded to go remindhim. Thevery recentone was when he orderedher to start bringinghisfoodin there henceforth. Sheopened the doorto the study lightly andleft itopen.Who knows? One mayhave torun out soonest.Shedidn’t understand whatshe was seeing anymore; apartfromthe fact thatthe study’s arrangement appeared very different fromwhatshe’s been used to, shewas more amazed atsomething else; There were onlythreebooks left on the bookshelf. ‘This shelf usedto be packed full withbooks.’ Sheaffirmedwithin herselfasshemade forthe shelf butstopped when her eyesmet anotherpaper on the reading table. Onlythen did she realisethat the shelf was letteredandthe writing on that paper stated the chronological way with whichshe shouldaccess it. Thefirstbookwas the largest; it was an old photobook, looking like itwas justdug out from somewhere anddusted.Thefirst picturehada dark lady, froand beautiful, sitting in a grassland witha young man sheassumed was the younger version of chief. Next picturecontainedwho she assumed tobe chief’s friend, chief Ogbonna, chief himself andthat same ladyfromthe firstpage. “They havebeen friends for such a long time?”shecouldn’tbelieve her eyes. Shewas shockedthat therewere no morepictures left in that large photo book, soshe droppeditand by the orderin the paper, reached out forthe shelf that hadletterB on it. Thephoto bookthereinwas old butnot asold asthe firstone she justsaw. A little beautiful girlwas smilingat her in the first page. Thenwas chief, a fair ladyand that same little girl. Subsequently, frompictures showing age progressions, shewas ableto deducethat the little girlin there was Joelyn. Shequickly flippedback tothat part bearing Joelyn, chief andthe womanagain. That must be Joelyn’s mother. Chief hadtold her at oneof theirinformaloutings that Joelyn’s mother left when the little girlwas five.Thereason she left hasbeen something no one knewtillnow. Sheopened the photo bookon the lastshelf andwas extremely stunned at whoshe saw. How did he capture her in the kitchen slicing tomatoes without her noticing? Werethere security camerasin the house? Of course! Shehit her head forasking such a dumb question.Which rich man wouldn’t havea surveillance systemsin the house? Another issuewouldbe ifsecuritycameras snap andprint too. Shelaughed at her ownignorance. That was the onlypicture in the lastphoto bookandshe was going tojustdrop itandquietly leave the house. What were all these about? She questioned herself. It’s true whatthey say that a pictureis worthmorethan a thousand words butright here, she couldn’t pick the point chiefwas tryingto makeby showing her pictures.Shecouldn’tevenconnect withwhateverstories he wantedto tell.Werethose hisformer wives or something? Hesaid he hadonly been married once.Perhapsthe firstblackwomanwas Chief Ogbonna’s wife. Why wouldchief keep apicture ofhis friend’s wife? Didhe havean affairwithher? “Haba, No!”sherebuked herself immediately. Chief couldn’thave betrayed hisfriendthat way. At the same time,whywas her ownpicture lyingsoloin one whole big photo book? That was the most confusingpart.Shewas about to drop the bookback in the shelf when a paper felloffit. Shejitteredasshebent down to pickup the paper. “Please, marry me Fiyinfoluwa!” Shereadout loudly toher own utteramazement.Shecovered her mouth because shehad involuntarilyletout a shocked scream after readingthat one line fromthe note. What todo? Sheglanced atthe door, it was still open.Thank God! Sheneeded toact fast,sheneeded toget out ofthe building before anything else. What ifchiefmeets her hereandpounces on her? Many weird thoughts took mercilessspins roundher head and astypically emotional asshewas, shecouldn’tstoptears from flowingdown her cheeks. Sheran down the stairs asquick as her thin legs could carryher. She couldn’t still believe what sheread. How? How was itpossible?Her motherhadenvisagedthat some time ago.Her heart’s racing,her heartin her mouth. At the door, shestopped andpausedto calm down.Thegatemanwouldraise alarm ifhe seesher running out of the house, all sweats.Shewaited again, took in seven calming breaths andpulled down the door knob. Shealmostdroppeddead asMr Johnson stood before her, blocking the doorwayin the process.
****
Nimicouldn’tstophisstaggering legs frompacing fromoneside of the roomto another. Hefelt like crying buthadinactivated that ability foraslong ashe could remember. His heartbroke underneath hischest.Hestill couldn’t wrap hishead around Mr Johnson’s statement. Could the man havemeantit? Somehow he still wished it was a joke. ‘Nimi, I thoughtyou saw her asa sister.’ Hehisseddryly asthat thought camethroughhis head.“I love that girl, damnit!”he screamed, punching the wall behindhim hard. Heslid down withhisback against the walluntil hisbuttockssat on the baretiles. Picking uphis phone,he stared helplessly atit. Something toldhim to call Fiyin. He believesthere’s a strong connectionbetween himselfand the girl. Hefelt it.Thepain in her eyeswhenever he does some of those sarcasms that really getsto her. Why did he takethislong to realisethat Fiyin hadgotten underneath hisskin thisdeep? Heshook hishead vigorouslyas thoughhe could shakethe thoughts offit.He scrolled down hisphonebooktill itcameto ‘Twinnie’, that was how Fiyin’s numberwas saved on hisphone. Hemadeto press the dial button butsuddenlyrefrained himself fromit.He may justhavetocall Edward after all.That onewould alwaysknowhow to create a get- awayfor whateveremotional traumaanyoneis going through. If onlyhe hadlistenedto Edward’s advice the whole time. Ifonlyhe was quick toanalyse whateverthe feelinghe hadforFiyinwas. He scrolled upwards tillhe got to ‘mum’, stared at it sointensely that onewould thinkhe wantedto get hiseyes intothe phone. Pressingon the dial button, he waitedfor the call to connect.
******
Ojima Petersshushed her husband andsonup asher phone buzzed andstarted toring. “It’s Nimi!”she mouthed before answeringthe call. “Good morning precious son!”shewas all smiles as shesaid this, andOjonugwadrew closerto her. Eavesdropping was part ofhisC.V. “Mum, when did yousay you fixed Nukpe’s wedding andengagement again?” Ojima Peters’ smiles suddenly vanished.Her son didn’t even respondto a simplegood morning? Shecontinued anyway. “We–you andI, you especially, haven’t givensupport ofher relationshipwith awhite man yet, Nimi. So it’s still pending, or what otherengagementare youtalking about?” “She said the guy’s family are beggingto havethe wedding done in Norway,right? While they all will comedown to Nigeria to do the engagement.” Nimiquestioned like itwas a finite statement. “Ehen!!! Andso? Me I can’t give my only daughter to anothertribe o, letalone anotherrace, a white man.Ojokiko. Ican’tbe speaking onlyEnglishwithmy in-lawsagba!” Nimi’s mumgrumbled asshe eyeballed her husband, whojust smiledpeacefully. Hedidn’t see anybig dealwithall these intercontinental marriagesaga in the firstplace.For him,being comfortable withwho youare with is the most important thing. “Nukpe fixedendingof nextmonth tentativelyforthe trad,right?” Nimisounded like he didn’t hear anyof the things hismotherjust rantedout. Ojima was shockedandit showed in her eyes.“Nimi, what’s all these about? Youcalled me first thing thisbeautiful Saturdaymorning to discussNukpe’s marriage?” she couldn’t believe her ears “That’s because mysister’s happiness is important tome much morethan any tribal sentiments. Noonehas forevertomake a decision, mum.” Hesaid with a frustratedtone. “Are youOK, son? Yousound unlikeyou.Is all well?” Ojima had sincereconcern in her voice. “Yes, all will be wellafter westart planning to meetupwith Nukpe’s traditional wedding date. Theplans start now, mum, don’t fight itany further!Remember, no onehas forevertomake a lifechanging decision. Noone!” he said gently. Ojima Petersswallowed. Shedarted her eyesfromher husbandto Ojonugwa, feeling really uneasy whileat it.
.
To be continued

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