Monday, 1 January 2018

NIMI PETERS – Episode 25

“How may I help you, sir?” Nimi jittered as the voice startled him. He glanced at the young lady behind the table and smiled faintly.
“Ojonimi?”
He turned quickly again in the direction of another voice that called out to him. “Fiyinfoluwa, what are you doing here?” he walked towards where she sat on the couch opposite the waiter or secretary or whoever the young lady was.
“I was called here by the white lady anchoring this program.” She said, seeing no need for any details. “And you? This is supposed to be an all-women meeting.”
Nimi blinked. “Well, my mum is here and I came to get her. She’s taking too long anyway.”
“Your mum?” Fiyin’s eyeballs blew out. “Is she the one inside right now? Chief just barged in some moments ago. He was so enraged he didn’t even notice me or anyone around. I guess he has some issues to iron with the host of the program.”
Alarm rang in Nimi’s head. “Mr Johnson?” he got up, dragging her alongside and straight to the secretary. “Mrs Ojima Peters…”
“Yes, the host is currently seeing her at the moment.” The lady replied politely. Nimi wouldn’t be surprised if this lady knows him, as he’s had meetings in this hotel severally.
“I demand to see her… immediately.”
The young lady stood up as though controlled by Nimi’s voice. “OK sir.” She hurried towards the door leading into the other room.
*****
Lauren was the most confused, or so it appeared. She cast questioning gaze from her client in front of her to Mr Johnson that barged in on them. Just then, her door opened presenting the waiter serving as her secretary for the day.
“Ma’am, someone is here for you.” She directed her statement to Ojima Peters who without thinking ordered to let the person in, to Lauren’s surprise.
The young lady quickly disappeared behind the door and it flew open almost immediately as Nimi walked in slowly, followed by Fiyin. The two were astonished as to why everyone stood in the office where there’re more than enough chairs to go round. It’s actually a board room. Nimi threw a disdainful look at his boss who he hadn’t seen in a while – since the latter’s open declaration of his two weeks’ time destination Dubai wedding.
“Mum, sorry, you were already taking too long and…”
“Ojimaojo is your mum?” Mr Johnson asked before he could stop himself.
Nimi quickly turned around to face the older man. “How did you know my mum?”
Mr Johnson didn’t answer. He was tapping something on the screen of his phone. “Please come over immediately.” He said simply to whoever was on the other side of the phone before dropping it.
“What is going on here? And who are you, young lady?” Lauren queried, staring at Fiyin who just hung beside a wall, staring from that position as though she wasn’t part of the persons in the room.
“You sent a text and called me yesterday, ma…” she gasped her few words.
“Oh! Our new bride-to-be…” Lauren sounded sarcastic, casting some weird gaze at Mr Johnson and he frowned.
The door opened again.
“Ikechukwu?” Lauren and Ojima Peters exclaimed as though they planned it, immediately Chief Ogbonna walked in fully.
Now Nimi was officially confused and impatient at the same time. “What the heck is going on here?” He yelled at the top of his lungs. “Mum, how did you know these wicked men. Tell me? What’s happening here, Mr Johnson?” He rattled altogether without taking a break to breath or swallow.
Chief Ogbonna, being the usual boisterous one, took his seat and demanded they all sit down. Everyone except Nimi complied.
“Now, it’s obvious there is a big story to tell here and we are going to listen to everyone’s side of this big story, starting from Lauren. Lauren, how good to see you after so many years…” He winked at Lauren who sat opposite him, her face contorted into a deep frown.
“Of course, I don’t mind starting.” Lauren said, sitting up. “I’ve been running away from ME for such a long time and it hasn’t been working. I run a site and Mrs Ojima here is one of the friends I’ve made via that media. She learnt I’d be in Nigeria, and decided to come down to meet. By the way, I’ve been seeing a shrink…” she noticed confused look on their faces. “…a psychotherapist… for some time now, who thinks I should really return to my family, at least for our daughter.”
Ojima stared at her and Fiyin couldn’t understand something. Lauren saw Fiyin’s eyes and smiled. “Yeah. I’ll explain. My father was a business partner with Lolo Chidimna, Emeka’s late mother and somehow they connected us and we got married. We have an only daughter, who isn’t biological by the way. She was adopted.” Everyone ignored the pronunciation errors with the Nigerian names. They had this more important part of her speech to worry about.
Chief Ogbonna jerked up. “What? Emeka, Joelyn was adopted?”
Mr Johnson was sweating profusely. He looked at everyone else before nodding in the affirmative. He watched his friend boil in anger with some feelings of betrayal as well. “I’m sorry, Ike! No one, except Lauren and I, know Joelyn was adopted. Joelyn herself doesn’t know too.” He swallowed deeply then continued,
“The ghastly motor accident that claimed my mother’s life, took my sexual potency alongside. Lauren and I had barely married for two months then when that unfortunate incidence happened. Because of the society we live in and how having a child was very important to people, we quickly resorted to adopting a child as fast as possible. We literally adopted Joelyn at childbirth from the hospital and everyone thought it was my wife that actually gave birth… it was all a planned drama. Lauren went abroad about some ten months earlier and everyone thought she travelled to go have a baby.” all eyes were fixed on him. He bowed his head in embarrassment. “Lauren tried, did all she could do to stay with me in this my impotent state because she had come to love Joelyn as her own child. But then, there is a limit to what a woman can bear…”
“Yes…” Lauren cut in. “…we lived together like roommates who were not attracted to each other in any way. It was bad enough that the marriage was purely the selfish desires of our both parents, Emeka’s impotence even made him extremely aggressive and sometimes he attempts physical violence on me. I patiently endured till my daughter was five before packing and leaving his house for good. My father’s empire was very much there for me abroad so it wasn’t hard gaining my footing in the U.S. I joined a media house where I worked for several years before starting professional public speaking and of course, running the website.”
Chief Ogbonna cleared his throat. “So did you remarry? You wanted to have children, right?”
Lauren nodded from side to side. “Leaving Emeka wasn’t about having children or not. The union was a parental arrangement, we really had nothing going emotional between us. Moreover, he seemed to be in search of some girl from his past, so I knew I wasn’t the one. And no, I couldn’t remarry. I couldn’t bring myself into doing it for fear of the unknown. No one, except my family and my shrink knows about this. I just stayed by myself, tortured everyday by the rash decision I made in leaving my precious daughter here in Nigeria with her father, but then I couldn’t come back anymore.”
“Why? Emeka also didn’t marry.” Chief Ogbonna queried and Lauren shot an angry look at him.
Fiyin was in tears. She was about signing into barrenness for real? How can life be so cruel. She’s always questioned why Mr Johnson stayed unmarried since his acclaimed separation.
“When did you move in to Abuja?” Ojima directed the question at Mr Johnson.
“Few years after you left. We needed to expand. Lauren’s parents were very instrumental to that.” He said slowly. “That was even why Lolo insisted on my marrying Lauren. The company in Kaduna became our first branch while the headquarters is here in Abuja.”
Ojima swallowed.
“Mum, I won’t ask you again… how did you know Mr Johnson? He is my boss, for your information. The same boss and here is the girl…”
Fiyin felt so embarrassed at Nimi’s carefree introduction. There was actually nothing to worry about though, every secret would be eventually split here today.
“Really? Emeka is your boss?” Ojima couldn’t believe her ears. She paused and cleared her throat. “Remember the girl whose father refused her from furthering her education?” Ojima demanded.
Nimi didn’t need to crack his brain as the conversation with his mother from last night was very much fresh in his head. “Yeah. She ran away from home to a distant place… and her fate got changed… and … how did you even conclude it again?… Mum… Yeah… you didn’t conclude it before I interrupted you. But what has that got to do with this?” he didn’t understand.
Ojima took in a deep breath. “The young girl, a little shy of fifteen years old ran away from home and to Kaduna…” now everyone sat up. “…she tried all manner of means to survive; living under open skies, scorched by the hot sun during the day and even beaten by rain sometimes, yet she was determined to pursue her dreams to the latter.” She paused to look at Nimi, the latter was looking all enraged.
Ojima Peters talked about how the girl in her story found an alternative to survival and that was by going from giant houses in the city to another, asking for whatever job she could help do. That was how she got to this big house owned by Lolo, a very wealthy and influential woman in the city. It was Emeka, Lolo’s son that she met and he gave her some cleaning jobs to do in the house.
Nimi looked at Mr Johnson and somehow prayed for his sake that he wasn’t the same Emeka in this very story.
“Lolo had travelled out of the country on a holiday which was supposed to last for several months. Emeka asked the girl to come back to work in the house over and again severally, until when he offered her a place in the BQ of the main house. With time, Emeka grew so fond of her, so much so that he confessed love to her. Being a girl, with no one to go to and here was a young rich man showing her all the blessedness of love, she innocently fell in love with him in no time. Ike here was also in the know and in support of the budding relationship between these two persons from two worlds apart.”
Mr Johnson and Chief Ogbonna breathe loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Then Lolo returned. Emeka claimed Lolo’s return was sudden and unannounced. He tried to steady a lot of things but that became the beginning of hard life for the young girl. Lolo made sure she showed her that her place was in the dustbin and she had no chance whatsoever with her only son. Ike also suddenly turned against the girl and severally instigated Emeka against her.” Ojima’s eyes were clouded with tears and she let them pour freely. Nimi was sited already, he couldn’t tell where the story was headed.
Ojima talked about how the innocent girl overhead Lolo telling Emeka one night that he was wasting his time ‘frying fish for someone else to eat’. The older woman told her son how women are not deserving of sincere love and affection from a gentleman as they would backstab him at the end of it all. That was the beginning of physical violence from Emeka.
Emeka would beat the girl to stupor, so much so that he injured her a lot of times. The girl couldn’t bear it anymore and thought to escape. Anywhere was better than that abused place, but Lolo won’t let her out through the gate. One night, she tried to escape over the fence but unfortunately, Lolo caught her. Emeka in utter rage landed slaps and punches on her, pounding the living day light out of her. As if that wasn’t enough, he tied her down and had his way with her, deflowering her in the presence of his mother.
“What?” Nimi sprang up and headed towards Mr Johnson who shifted backwards involuntarily. Nimi has always had this intolerance for violence against women and children and could strangle whoever attempts it, be it to someone he knew or not. Suddenly, Nimi stopped… his mother actually begged him to stop.
“Let me finish, Ojonimi.” She begged, tears pouring down her face.
Nimi felt something sting at his throat but he couldn’t do otherwise.
“The poor girl was greatly injured from that forceful sexual penetration – rape, but that was nothing compared to the psychological trauma she underwent. There was no one to talk to. She couldn’t even contact her parents back in Anyigba because cell phones weren’t available then. The sad part was that the rape that night resulted in pregnancy…” Ojima sniffed in.
“Mum, she should have reported. Anyhow! You can’t tell me she was freaking locked in a compound without any way of escape. There are social activists and workers around for welfare of girls who are violated that way…” Nimi was screaming bitterly at the top of his voice.
“One good thing Emeka did for the first time in confronting his mother was accepting responsibility for the pregnancy. He insisted the girl keeps the pregnancy against the bidding of his mother. The girl however received lots of beating and blows even during the formative months of her pregnancy. Emeka was always hitting her at the slightest provocation.” She swallowed and continued. “He hits her with iron, side-stool, ceramic plates, shoes, belt. He hits her with anything at all he finds. The last straw that broke the Carmel’s back was a big straw and it almost broke it completely.”
“How do you mean, mum?” Nimi sounded very empathetic and emotional.
“One night, no one knew what came over Emeka that he beat the hell out of her – taking the pregnant young girl up and throwing her unto the ground like a piece of useless feather. He kept telling her that he would kill her if she doesn’t recognise his position as the man in the house. She cried for help but Lolo locked herself up in the room pretending not to hear anything. Emeka beat the poor girl sore till blood gushed out as she bled heavily…”
Everyone casted a disdainful and hateful look on Mr Johnson now and he wished the ground could just give way and swallow him.
“It was Pa and Ma Andrews, the old couple next door that came and rescued her from his hands to the hospital before he would truly kill her.” She shook violently on her seat and Nimi quickly came to grab his mum.
“I’m sorry, mum, this girl must be really dear to you. I told you these two men particularly are very wicked. Extremely wicked!” he hissed dryly and eyeballing them at the same time.
Lauren gave a questioning look at Mr Johnson.
“That was the last time I saw her. God! I feel so terrible and horrible. I was young and foolish. The old couple told me when I went to them several months later, after my head had returned to normalcy, that the girl escaped from the hospital after the doctors announced she lost her pregnancy. Saying all attempts at finding her was in vain.”
“Disappeared from the hospital? To where?” Nimi couldn’t bear it.
“I had to run away. I felt Emeka would make my life a living hell again when he gets hold of me. I didn’t want to see him or his mother or Ike. They had ruined the life I ran in search of. If I can’t find my way forward, at least, I know the road to where I came from.” Ojima didn’t say it together like this, she spoke one after the other as though the next word wasn’t going to come out.
“Mum, what are you saying? Do you mean the girl ran away for her life? Why then are you using personal pronouns all of a sudden? Why…” then suddenly, it struck… “Mum… are you…?” his eyes begging that she denied it.
Ojima peters nodded in the affirmative. “Yes Nimi. I was the one. I was the one in search of life but got hindered by my encounter with Emeka and his family. I’m the one he almost killed.”
Nimi sprang up and Chief Ogbonna immediately hurried after him, coming to stand between him and Mr Johnson. Fiyin also quickly held onto Nimi’s hands and begged with her eyes. She softens him effortlessly.
“Emeka, I live everyday tortured by memories from my horrible past. I live with regrets and scars – perhaps, I should have accepted that a girl’s education ended in the kitchen instead of embarking on a quest that left a deep scar on me; perhaps, I should have just stayed back in my father’s house. You took the life out of me, Emeka, and it’s taking me almost my whole lifetime to heal.” She wailed loudly.
Mr Johnson walked with his head bowed towards where Ojima sat. He took his time, every step felt as though he would collapse and die. He never envisaged life running in circles roundabout him like this. He never thought his past would come knocking at him ever again… let alone, now.
“I’m sorry, Ojimaojo. I know that saying I’m sorry wouldn’t change anything but I’m being sincere.” Nimi scoffed from his distance and hissed dryly. His hatred for the heartless man disgusts him. “A lot of revelations in my life since yesterday. I hope I can even live a day after now, my heart is pained and weak. Ike came into my life to revenge my mother for his lost family. A lot of dues I’m paying for… where I wasn’t even particularly guilty. Instigating me against you was part of his revenge gimmicks and I was stupid to have fallen for it. I was stupid, Ojimaojo. I traded the love and affection we shared. I suddenly became a monster and that was not what I promised you. I’m sorry, Ojima” His voice faded slowly till it broke.
A real man shouldn’t cry!
Chief Ogbonna’s head was bowed now and he moved that way to join his friend.
“Forgiveness wouldn’t be named so if it’s deserved. It’s always unmerited. I’ve wronged you a lot, Ojimaojo. I pushed my friend to hurt you, but please find a place in your heart to forgive us. I can only imagine how you feel remembering that his beating even made you lose the pregnancy, your very first pregnancy. We are sorry, Ojimaojo. Please.” Chief Ike said slowly and humbly for the first time since Nimi knew him.
Ojima wiped her tears off and steadied herself a bit. “It was a miracle that I didn’t lose the child even after losing that much blood…”
The older men stared at her with the, ‘what-are-you-saying’ look.
Ojima nodded. “The doctors probably just assumed I lost the pregnancy due to the so much litres of blood I had lost. I escaped from the hospital back home and it was a hell of time. My father denounced me as a child and everyone ridiculed my life. Girls I left off were now married honourably and it was double tragedy for me to be uneducated, yet pregnant. Many times I took in pills to end my own life, and at other times, I starved myself almost to death. I wanted to die, but through it all, the child in my womb somehow insisted on living and he miraculously survived. That was why I named you OJONIMI…” She turned towards the baffled Nimi. “Ojonimi, which means ‘God owns life’. God proved to me at that time that He alone owns one’s life and no one is capable of terminating a life He didn’t approve of.”
Nimi burst out in unbelieving chuckle. “I didn’t get you right, mum? You said then that daddy travelled, he came back much later and you got married. What then are you now saying?”
Ojima smiled in spite of herself. “I owe you the most apology, dear son. I do. I hope you can forgive me soon. About ‘daddy-travelled’ story, it was all a lie. I couldn’t confront your young mind with the truth about your father. You were all I had. You grew up as a smart kid, full of life and I knew you would want a revenge or go in search of your father somehow if I told you, that’s why I thought to keep it in my heart.”
It is true what they say that a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.
“Mum!” Nimi’s hand landed aggressively on the wall behind him and it shook…everyone shook.
“I’m sorry, son. Achile Peters came my way, about five years after I had you and even though it took him time, he won my heart again. He accepted you as his first child and told me he would never make me cry. You see, he kept to that.” She smiled faintly through her tears.
Mr Johnson and Chief Ogbonna were now casting gazes at one another now. Lauren just stood there with mouth wide open, same as Fiyin, only that she’s still holding onto Nimi’s hand.
“So mum… what, in God’s name, are you saying.”
“Ojonimi Peters, my dear son, you’ve heard my entire story. That’s the truth, the whole truth. Nothing but the truth. Emeka Johnson is your real father…”
“What?” Johnson and Ogbonna exclaimed in shock.
Nimi stared at them with utter disgust and rage. “You mean… I … I …am…” he couldn’t talk any further as he hurried out of the room and slammed the door hardly at their faces.
****
Deji dropped the box speaker in front of Ojonugwa. His headphone looked larger this afternoon, same with the other.
“Do you think we would win? Leewy and Frenzy are coming in the rap category as well.” Ojonugwa lamented for the umpteenth time.
“Guy, sometimes, competition for me is really not about who takes the prize home, but more importantly, the lessons we would learn throughout the whole process. That’s priceless.” Deji said, fixing the box to a wall socket.
“I like that you have an optimistic spirit, Deji. You never pay attention to the odds, even though you see them staring at you in the face.”
Deji smiled faintly. “My sister Fiyin should be thanked for that. She’s my backbone anytime, every time. I hate that she’s marrying in two weeks. I’m so going to miss her.”
Ojonugwa laughed. “You won’t miss her jor. That was how I thought my life would end after Nukpe, my gist partner married, but somehow God gave me you…”
Deji looked back at him, smiling. “Thank you, bro.”
They shook hands fondly before getting back to work.
*****
Ojima hurried to the front of the large hotel compound. She’s checking around for familiar cars… Nimi’s car particularly, while on the phone with her husband.
“Honey, I can’t find him. Honey, he is not here. He is nowhere. I can’t see his car.” She lamented into the speaker of her phone.
“You have to calm down, Ojima.”
“Honey, how am I going to calm down o. How am I? Maybe I should have told him all these while. Honey, he will never trust me again, he would never love me again.”
“For Christ sake, can you keep quiet and look for Nimi’s car. I’d be on the phone till you find him. You have to learn how not to panic in all situations. You are old enough to know that.”
She felt her husband’s provoked voice and cautioned herself. There was no way Nimi would leave her here. She glanced towards her left and saw a car that resembled Nimi’s. She hurried over there to see it wasn’t. Oh God! She exclaimed loudly. Then she heard a car door creak and hurried over there. There he was, sited in the car with all windows locked. She tapped at the window and he looked at her first then dropped back his face.
“Your father…” she mouthed, tapping harder at the window. Nimi unwound it and collected the phone off his mother’s hand.
“I’m sure you are mad at all of us. I’m an accomplice to the crime you think your mother committed, so I guess you should just get a court ruling and get us all out of your life. But I must tell you that whatever we have done for you all our lives was love you. I love Ojima. I loved her so much right from when I set my eyes on her. It was hard to detach a little of her affection from you to me. She blocked out everyone else from her life when we met and it took a long while to gain her trust. I promised never to remind her of her wound ever again. Nimi, your mother loves you dearly. Sorry, she didn’t tell you about your biological father earlier. But if I’ve been father enough to you these 23years, you would go out now and hug your mother tightly and thank her for everything she’s borne silently just to give you the best life.”
Nimi swallowed, wiping a tear off his right eyes. “I love you, dad.”
Now that was sincere and it made Achile Peters smile sheepishly. “I love you too, dearest son.”
Nimi dropped the phone and gathered his energy. He peeped through the side mirror to see his mother was still crying. It broke his heart. Being the girl in the story, he had an idea the knives that must have cut through her heart. Then, he pushed open the car door and his mother jerked back. He got down and moved closer to her, coming to tower in front before pulling her into his arms for a warm hug.
“I’m sorry, Nimi. I never wanted to hurt you… ever!” Her broken voice said these while her body shook in his arms.
Nimi planted a kiss on her forehead. “I appreciate your love for me, mum. Thank you for being a mother to me in all sense of the word. Thank you for putting me first and waiting until you found a man ready to accept me as a son before getting married. Thank you mum for being the best ever.” He wiped tears off her eyes
“It’s OK, son. You deserve it and more. I love you so much.”
Nimi smiled. Everything now made sense, but was just about to make better sense. He cupped his mother’s face up and stared deep into it, still having that mischievous smile on. His mother couldn’t read his mind at this point.
“Hey, why are you smiling so much, my boy!”
Nimi didn’t say anything else. He only locked his car with the remote and pulled her by the hand on his way back into the hotel… still smiling.
****
Everyone jerked back involuntarily with the way the door flung open. There’ve been graveyard silence in the room ever since. Nimi held his mother’s hand into the room and everyone’s eyes followed him as he led her honourably to a seat. He squatted to place another kiss on her forehead. He loves her that much too. He then stood up and headed towards the edge of the room where Fiyin stood. The latter had her heart in her mouth as she watched her crush approach her. Nimi hasn’t changed in looks whatsoever, in fact, he looked even more broadened and handsome now than she had seen before.
She felt sugar in her mouth as Nimi took her both hands. His eyes were not getting off hers. If she effortlessly seduces him with just her eyes before now, well, here is a field day for her. He didn’t mind that the room had three other persons aside his mother – his newly found father, his father’s wife and their friend, all these meant nothing right now. It felt like they were the only two persons left on this side of eternity – Ojonimi and Fiyinfoluwa.
“Love is a little silly, Fiyinfoluwa. Look how it drove us through a merry-go-round. It creates magic through our eyes.” He said and chuckled. Fiyin’s lips widened in a smile as well. “Trust me, henceforth, I won’t even share your shadow with anyone. It doesn’t matter where the sun rises and set in the world but my morning would never arrive again without you. No complaints from God now, let’s shorten the distance between us.”
Fiyin stared unbelievably at the poetic side of Nimi Peters and she smiled sweeter than honey. “What are you saying, Ojonimi?”
Nimi smiled. “There is sleep in my eyes. There are dreams in my sleep. The dreams speak of me and you, Fiyinfoluwa. May I be granted the permission to have you live in my heart, in my house and in my life forever, till death do us part?”
Fiyin burst in tears.
.
To be concluded

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