Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brand Of Cain Episode 24

Again, jaws were dropped in surprise. Some of those seated were looking at each other expecting someone to stand up and declare that what they had just heard was nothing but a cooked-up joke to pull their emotions, but it was no joke. It was another good day for aghastness in the Martins’ manse.
Daniel who was utterly astounded by the news turned his look to his father. The older man, he noticed, was anything but surprised, he looked calm and unperturbed. His father knew already.
“It’s true, son,” said Ebenezer Famous, “Sam Oliver was your father–biologically.”
“You know this already, papa?”
“Yes, what difference does it make? You’re my son, Sam Oliver was at least your father in the medical sense. We wanted to tell you when you turned twenty-one but we later decided against it. Why should we tell you that I’m not your father when your real father was nowhere to be found?”
“No, I don’t believe this,” argued Abigail, “It can’t be true, I’m the only child of my father.”
“It’s the truth,” Mrs. Famous said slowly. She reached in her handbag and extracted a photograph which she gave to Abigail, “Look at that, I take it with me everywhere I go. That’s the only thing that reminds me of him.”
It was a mini-sized sepia photograph. It portrayed the images of young Mrs. Famous with Sam Oliver. Just like most old-fashioned love-displaying photographs, the beautiful Ada Bright was sitting on the thigh of Samson Oliver; they were both grinning from ears to ears as though they had just won a jackpot.
Abigail was stunned. It’s true! Her hands holding the photograph were no steadier than a pawpaw leaf in a breeze. My father really dated Mrs. Famous! My father’s Daniel’s father too!
“But––but he didn’t tell me I have a brother, why?”
“I know he didn’t,” said Mrs. Famous, “He couldn’t even tell you.”
“Are you saying my father kept this as a secret from me––even till he died?”
Mrs. Famous paused, “He couldn’t tell you because he didn’t know that he had another child.”
“What!” Abigail stood up from her seat.
“Sit down, I’ll explain everything.”
Abigail sat back in her seat, but she was still appalled at what she had just heard. “What happened?” she asked solemnly.
Daniel’s mother took a deep breath and began her narration.
“I met Sam in 1984,” she began, “I met him in a night club, that was the mistake I made; you don’t choose your life partner in a night club. I fell in love with Sam almost immediately I saw him, he was a very handsome man––even more handsome than in that photograph. We started a relationship after the third day of knowing each other. But something went horribly wrong, I knew Sam truly loved me but I was very disappointed and sad the day I found out that he had a daughter. Truly, he wanted to explain why I met a little girl with him but I didn’t give him that chance. I would have understood better if he had told me from the beginning of our relationship that he had a child. I loved him very much and I would gladly have accepted it without blinking an eye if he had not kept it a secret from me.
“That day, before I found out about his secret I wanted to tell him that I was pregnant for him. I was not used to getting disappointed, so I walked out on him without sharing the news.”
“My God!” whispered Abigail.
“I was waiting at home for your father to come and apologize but he didn’t. It was the cruelest thing I have ever experienced. After waiting for him for about three months and didn’t see him, I decided to go and see him myself. On getting to where he lived, I met another occupant, a Hausa man, who told me that Sam had left the house about three months before him. Fear gripped my heart, I rushed to where he worked and I was told that he was one of those whose appointments were terminated because of the company’s period of retrenchment. The company had sustained a serious misfortune due to the inter-religious clash of that period, so they had to cut expenses by quitting some of the staff members therein. Your father was among the unfortunate workers. I fainted when I heard the news.
“I was already four months pregnant and I could not find the man responsible, terminating the pregnancy was not even an option––it was a risk I could not afford to take. I didn’t know any family of Sam’s, even his only friend was one of those unlucky employees. I couldn’t do anything but pray; everyday, I prayed that Sam would one day knock on the door and stand on the threshold with flowers in his hand apologizing––but it never came to pass. I gave birth to a baby boy five months later and named him Daniel.” She looked pathetically at Abigail, “Miss, your father was a very wicked human being––he took advantage of my love for him.”
The last sentence stung Abigail and she shivered, “No, my father was the kindest man I’ve ever known. I can’t believe he did such a ghastly thing. But I’m sorry, Mrs. Famous, please forgive my father. He’s dead now; please forgive him for my sake.” She started crying.
“Oh, my baby,” Ada Famous said, standing up to hold her, “Please don’t cry, I’ve forgiven your father a long time ago. It’s okay, stop crying.”
Abigail sniffled amid the sob several times before she could speak, “It’s–it’s just that I don’t want to lose you, I don’t want to lose another mother. I’ve lost too many people in my life. I lost my mother when I was barely able to walk; she died in a motor accident. I don’t remember anything because I grew up under my father’s care, the only memories of my mother are photographs. When I was still a kid my father had always told me that my mother didn’t die but went to a place where she became my guarding angel. One night, on the eve of my twelfth birthday, my father told me that it was time I knew the truth about my mother. He said that she lost her life in a car crash, he told me that we used to live here in Lagos till he was transferred to work in Plateau State––that was actually before my mother’s death. He would travel to Jos every Monday morning and return to Lagos on Fridays to spend the weekend with my mother and me. So, when my mother died, he had to take me with him to Jos. My mother died on July 18, 1984, and I moved with my dad to Jos a week after her death. We finally retuned to Lagos in June of 1985 because there was an attack by the Muslims of that area and my dad, with some others of his neighbours, had to run for their lives.”
“That means––that means it was not his fault,” lamented Mrs. Famous, “He sent his friend to me a week after I walked out on him. His friend reported that he needed to see me urgently that I should come, but I refused going. I wanted him to come and apologize. It was my fault, I should have gone to hear what he had to say but I didn’t. Everything was my fault, he didn’t know that I was pregnant––I spoilt everything with my own anger. He really loved me and he wanted to explain everything but I didn’t listen to him. Oh my God!” she held her head in both hands.
Ebenezer famous put his arm around his wife’s shoulder, comforting her.
“It’s okay, dear,” he said, “Everything that happened was in the past, you don’t have to grieve anymore. Nobody can change the course of fate.”
Daniel spoke, “So, Mrs. Martins is my sister,” he could not find the next word to say. He didn’t know if he should be glad or ashamed of himself. This was a woman with whom he had been madly enamoured and would have done anything to marry if not for the age gap. That woman was her own elder sister. Funny––very funny, and crazy.
“She’s your sister,” his father said, “And we’re your parents. You’re my son, nobody can take you from me––not even you.”
Daniel gave a very faint smile and said, “What else do I have the right to know and haven’t been told?”
“Nothing,” answered his mother, “Nothing more.”
“But there is,” persisted Daniel, “How did you meet my father?”
“I’ve explained, I met him in a night club.”
“I mean how did you meet my father sitting beside you now? Tell me, I want to know.”
His parents smiled. “Let me answer that.” Mr. Famous told his wife.
“We all have some sad stories to tell,” he began, too. “Mine occurred in 1981. I was once a married man before meeting Ada. I had a wife and a son, I was quite comfortable as a medical doctor and had my own house in a city of the suburb of Lagos––Apapa. It happened in April, I was returning from the office that night when suddenly in front of me, my house was razed by fire, and because of the many gas cylinders that we had in our house, the raze became a blast. The first blast shook the street so much that I felt its impact under my feet, and a bright rain of the fire shattered the upstairs windowpanes. The second blast shuddered the entire structure and blew out the melting glass of the windows. The third blast followed, not as loud and sharp as the first two but even more profoundly destructive, as if Satan was having a bout of sneeze in Hell. In my sight, the house seemed to swell, then twist, then shrink, and in an instant was engulfed in flames from end to end, flames seething and leaping so wildly that people even far away had to take some steps backward––not even the biblical three men from Babylon would want to take a swim in the blaze. I could not even save them––my wife and eight years old kid were cremated alive. My life sucked rotten donkey eggs thereafter. My credentials, my son, my wife––everything gone. When the rescue team came about an hour later, they found only the charred fragments of their bodies. The next thing I knew––I was diving head-on into the ocean below the Third Mainland Bridge. It would have been over––a brief struggle perhaps, and then oblivion––the end of a misused, useless, unprofitable life if not for the intervention of some fishermen who had nothing serious to do but to catch human beings instead of fish. Then I woke up lying ridiculously in a hospital bed with a broken shoulder, and thinking the prospect of being hauled up in a court for trying to take my own life. But I was discharged after spending two weeks in the general hospital without being convicted. Maybe attempted suicide was no longer a crime, I didn’t know.
“I cursed myself, cursed the people who rescued me from drowning, cursed the doctor who treated me. It was my life, wasn’t it? And if I had succeeded in the job they would have buried me piously as of unsound mind.
“It would have been the truth anyway, I was truly of unsound mind indeed. I wasn’t sane, my sanity had been burnt up in the conflagration. So, to commit suicide was the most logical and sensible thing a man in my position could do. I could not kill myself again because I have always known that after surviving one suicide attempt, you don’t try it again. But, regardless of suicidal thoughts, I became slightly mad. Research have stated that an average person has five minutes of madness everyday, but in my case, I had hours of madness everyday. I ate my shoes, slapped myself, wetted my pants, laughed without seeing anything funny. And most of all; I cried a lot. I cried for no real cause; I wept unashamedly at weddings, at anniversary celebrations, at birthday parties, at political rallies, at street fights, on Christmas and New Years’ Eves and the First of Octobers. I knew all the secrets of tears; how to use them to purge myself of grief, pain, disappointment, stress. I knew exactly how tears were manufactured, stored and dispensed. It is generally known that a mad man is always unconscious of every crazy thing he does. No, it is not true that the insane thought themselves sane; frequently the mad knew themselves to be mad. Either they were unable to fight their afflictions, or had no desire to. I was aware of every stupid thing I did, I knew they were abnormal things but I couldn’t stop myself. There seemed to be something in my head that kept jerking it spontaneously and uncontrollably. I was like a man who knew he was in a dream but could not wake up.
“I regained my sanity when I met Ada, she was coming out of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital with a baby on her back. She had probably taken the child to get treated, when I looked at her I knew that life was not treating her well. At least, we had something in common, so I approached her.”
He smiled, “I won’t tell you anything more concerning that, but that was actually how we became very close and got married. As you were growing older, you were looking exactly like Ola, my son who got burnt; you had the same look and character with him. I believed God returned my family to me; you and your mother are the family. God blessed me with three more wonderful children. You all mean so much to me, I never got my wealth and profession back but I have my family and I’ve never been so sad again.
Antonia, the girl with the quiet attitude spoke, “I guess the family has increased, we now have a big sister––someone who can scold Daniel as he does us.”
“You can say that again, Tonia,” said Juliet happily, “I’ve always wanted to have an elder sister.” She hugged Abigail, “You’re welcome to the family.”
Tears welled down Mrs. Famous’ face, “So, Sam is really dead. Oh God! Sam––Sam.” She hugged Abigail again. “I’m sorry, my baby. I shouldn’t have left your father, I should have stayed with him, and we would have taken care of you together. But I didn’t do that, I left him––I left you––oh, I’m sorry. Please forgive me––forgive me.”
“It’s okay,” said Abigail, “It’s okay, mum. I love you mum, I love you.” They held onto each other like that for a while.
Abigail was shedding tears again. You rarely laugh when you’re too happy, she thought as she held her new mother tight, when happiness comes beyond your control; colourless, salty liquid secretes from the deep crevices of your eyes. Abigail was happy. She remembered when her father had died, she had been lonely then; there was nobody she could call a family. Now she had a soul mate, a brother, sisters, parents, future in-laws. Family surrounded her and she knew that she would never be lonely again.
Mrs. Famous released Abigail and asked, “How did Sam die?”
“He was very sick, suffering from a sever case of emphysema caused from smoking too many cigarettes.”
“But Sam was never a smoker. He doesn’t smoke, I know him. In fact, he despised smokers.”
“My father was one great smoker I had ever known. I grew up to know him as a smoker, I can’t remember a day he never smoked.”
“That’s impossible!”
Abigail looked at her new mother and nodded her head. “I think I now know why he became a smoker. My father had always told me before his death that he had loved only three women deeply in this world––myself and my mother, he didn’t tell me the third woman. When I asked he only told me that I didn’t need to know, he said I would never understand. I decided that the third person was his own mother who had died long before I was born. Now I know, the third woman wasn’t his mother––it’s you!”
“My father was a teetotaler; he never drank because he saw anything alcoholic as poison–he only smoked. I know better now, he was smoking due to the depression of losing two of the people he loved the most.”
“My God!” mused Mrs. Famous, “Cigarettes killed him.”
“No, cigarettes almost killed him. He was killed by Cain.”
“Jesus Christ!”
“The irony there is that Cain killed my father and my father’s son killed him–quid pro quo.”
There was a short moment of silence as if they were paying respect to the lost soul.
“All right, enough of broodings,” Ebenezer bellowed, “Now all I want to hear is the popping of corks! Daniel, will you do the honours?”
Daniel went to the table, lifted the bottle of champagne, removed the foil from the neck of the bottle and began to untwist the wire that caged the cork, then he poured everybody a glass of the non-alcoholic wine, the only sound which could be heard was the music the wine was making as it was being poured in each glass. He also poured one for himself.
“A toast,” he said, raising his own glass of wine, “A royal toast. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Abigail, of whom I have the honour of being her brother. And Richard, my-my future brother-in-law.”
People clapped.
“To Abigail and Richard,” Daniel continued, “Long may they live!”
“Long may they live!” came the answering roar, and glasses were drained, including those of Abigail’s and Richard’s.
“Dear friends, dear relatives,” Richard caroled, “drink deep from the nuptial cups and give us your blessings all. I beg of you, eat, drink and make merry. For a union as this was made in heaven, and tickets to witness the wild revelry of the real wedding will go on sale shortly. It is, regrettably, a limited engagement this gathering is.”
There was laughter, a splattering of applause as Richard clasped Abigail again and kissed lips, cheeks, eyes, hair, and whatever additional morsels came within reach.
Even in the midst of the merriment, no one had the remotest idea of the extraordinary sequence of events which was to unfold itself in the future to come, as the needle of destiny stitched a mysterious maze in the affairs of men and shuttled on and on.


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