I jerked awake as I felt a hand on my chest, I pushed off the trespasser while I swiftly pulled out my gun from underneath my pillow. The light in the room flickered on and Annie stared at me. I sighed and shoved the gun under the pillow.
” What was that about?” She asked, looking frightened
” I’m sorry. I forgot you were here”
” I didn’t do anything to warrant you pulling out a gun”
” Annie you knew not to touch me!” I growled,” Why the hell did you put your hands on me?”
” Why are you so against being touched? You make love with your shirt on, you sleep with a shirt on and it took me months of begging before you even allowed me to sleep in the same bed with you! Why’s that?” She asked dramatically
” I sleep in my shirt because of emergencies such as this, if you were an assailant I would have knocked you out cold and still flee before the rest of you get here.” I explained
” How does that explain you making love to me with your shirt on?. I have never seen you Unclad from your waist up.” She fumed,” Or do you have an ugly scar on your upper body?”
” I don’t like being touched. I wouldn’t want you to mistakenly touch me”
” You ask too many questions Annie,” I said, ” Go back to sleep”
“And risk you blowing off my head? No thanks.”,
She stood up and gathered her clothes on the floor.
” What are you doing?”
” Going to the guest room”
She walked out and slammed the door behind her.
” Shark, why didn’t you tell me you had an appointment?” Mrs.Ahmed asked, glaring at me. She placed a cup of dark steaming coffee on my desk.
” I don’t have an appointment, if i do won’t you be the first to know about it?” I asked, seething silently. I should just fire her while I still have the strength.
“There’s a young man at the reception,he claimed to have an appointment with you today.”
” Uchenna Nwafor” She said
” Send him in”
” But you said….”
” Send him in Please! ”
” What a mood we are in this morning ” She muttered before walking out
A knock sounded on my door and Uche walked in. He looked smart in an expensive navy blue suit.
” Good Morning,” He said.
” Morning, please sit down”
” Thank you,” he said, ” I’m sorry I had to tell your secretary I had an appointment. She almost chased me away”
” She’s too tough for my own good. How may I help you?”
” I came to seek your legal assistance,”
” Have 1 k on you?” I asked,”
” Slip it here” I said, touching my desk.
He brought out a crispy one thousand naira note from a ward of notes and slipped it on my desk. My fingers grasped it and I slip it into my pocket.
” I now represent you. Shoot”
” Oh” he said in surprise,”My younger sister was raped to death before my eyes and I want to bring the culprits to book.”
I felt like a huge fist had been slammed into my chest. The images flickered in my memory quickly. Baby Bose in Mama’s hands as the blood drained out of her. We had seeked shelter in an uncompleted building when the landlord ejected us, I had gone to hawk on that fateful day and Mama had left the four year old child sleeping on the floor in one of the uncompleted rooms. When she came back from where she had gone to buy garri, she had met the child awake and crying. Her pant was bloodied, she had finger nail marks and bruises on her young thighs.None of the other occupant of the uncompleted building owned up to the crime or named any suspect. My baby sister died few days later as a result of infection.
I signalled Uche to continue and he related the whole sordid event to me. I could feel my blood boiling in my veins by the time he was done talking.
” Give your brother a call, he should know who they are. Hire a detective to get dirt on them and leave the rest to me. They will never see the light of day again.” I promised.
He sighed as if a great chip had been taken off his shoulders. ” Thank you” he stood up,” I will keep you informed”
” Do so,” I said, standing up. ” By the way, you mentioned during dinner last night that your girlfriend sells jewels, I want to get a special one for my mother”
” I will get her card for you, it’s in my car”
” Thank you,” I said, walking him out.
” Afolabi residence,” I said, the house phone had been ringing for a while until i decided to take the call.
” Funmi,” Mabel said, ” I have been trying to reach you but your line isn’t available”
” Mabel! ” I said, pretending to be happy.” My phone is getting faulty”
” So sorry about that, please do try to get a new one” She said,” Are you alright? You don’t sound cheerful”
” I am missing you” I said hastily,” How was your trip?”
” It was fine. My mother has been admitted, the doctors are yet to give us her diagnosis but we are keeping our fingers crossed it won’t be something too serious. I called Tade but he’s at work, Is Serwa there?” She asked.
I glanced at the little girl glued to the TV set, watching her favorite cartoon.
” No,” I replied.
” Awwn, Where is she?” She moaned, ” I miss her terribly,”
” She’s taking a nap.” I said, ” I will give you a call when she wakes up so you can talk to her” I said
” Thank you my dear, hope she is behaving” Mabel asked
” Yes she is.”
” I see a doctor approaching, I want to talk to him. I will call before Serwa’s bedtime, precisely 8:30 Ghana time. Give her my love. Bye”
” Bye” I said and dropped the call, wondering why I felt so much at peace in her absence. It was like the house, the girl and the man belonged to me. A girl can only but dream, I thought.
” Miss Funmi, who was that?” Serwa asked, looking back.
” A wrong number.” I snapped and the young girl resumed watching her cartoon.
Later in the evening, I was setting the dinner table when Tade walked in.He looked so rugged, tired and sexy just like the verile men I saw in e.rotic videos online. He gave me a tired smile and I felt my heart flipping. Serwa had taken her dinner and I had already sent her to bed although she begged to wait up for her dad.
” Welcome Sir,”
” Thank you,” he said, ” I hope you are not setting dinner because of me” he held up a white fast food carrier bag. ” I got takeout”
” Oh, I went to so much trouble to make dinner. Besides Mabel will be pissed at me if she learn I didn’t take good care of you” I pouted, thanks to all the foreign movies I have been watching online.
He gave a throaty deep laugh.” You know that’s the first full sentence you have directed at me and you have been here for almost four months.What’s for dinner?”
I laughed.” Amala, gbegiri and Ewedu”
He whistled and dropped the carrier bag on the ground. ” For real? d–n! I forgot you are a born and bred Nigerian.” I totally forgot if not I would have asked you to teach Bell how to make our local delicacies.”
” No problem about that,” I said
” Where is Serwa?” He asked, glancing around the living room
” She’s already in bed,”
” Wow, so early?” He asked, ” This is just eight.O’Clock ”
” She didn’t take a nap at noon,” I lied, the truth of the matter was I sent her to bed early because I didn’t want her to talk to Mabel when she calls in some thirty minutes time”
” Hope she did not miss her mother much?”He said, ” Bell called me earlier in the day”
” No, she was pretty much herself”
” Thank you for taking good care of her. I will go shower and come down shortly for dinner. Thank you Funmi,”
” You are welcome Sir, ” I said, smiling.
” Mama,” I called, walking into the living room. I dropped the carrier bag containing the provisions I bought for her on the table in the living room.She had called me to inform me of her Illness so I quickly dashed over there when I rounded up at the office.
” In here!” A familiar voiced called out from the kitchen.
A tall, curvaceous ebony skinned lady was in the kitchen although she had her back to me, I would recognize the woman who caused me so much pains even in the darkness.” Cecilia,” I said in surprise.” What are you doing here?”
” Good to see you too Uche,” She said, frowning
” You haven’t replied me.” I said, marching towards her in anger.” What the hell are you doing here?”
” Don’t talk to me like that!” She fumed,” Your mother was sick and she called me to assist her.”
” I don’t know what games you are both up to but I won’t allow it. Since when did you become a doctor?”
Mama came into the kitchen, a wrapper was draped around her shoulders.” Uche, you are here” Mama said softly, ” Please thank Cecilia for me o”
” What is she doing here?” I spat out in anger
” Cecilia has been helping me since Chinasa returned to her boarding school” Mama replied, patting her on the back.
” Why is she helping you? Since when did she become a nurse maid?”
” Calm down nah, is that how to talk to your wife? ” Mama said, ” She has been of great help to me unlike that other girl”
” Wife? ” I laughed in mockery, ” Please don’t start.”
I made to leave but both women blocked my path.
” Where do you think you are going? ” they both chorused.
” Please leave my way”
” You are very wicked Uche,” Cecilia said, ” After you made me lose my baby you ran into the arms of another woman. A Yoruba woman for that matter! now she has turned you against your own mother?”
” Where were you when we were in abject poverty?, where have you been for the last two years?.” I asked Cecilia, I turned my anger on my mother.” Despite all Dupe has done for this family is this how you choose to reward her?. Mama, You will regret ever dragging this girl back into your life.” I said and walked out of the kitchen, I vowed within never to step my feet into my mother’s apartment again.
The next day, I dialed the number Chidubem called me with to no avail while I packed my suitcase in preparation of my travel. I picked up the black velvet box holding the engagement ring i bought and kept it back in a safe smiling. I had already reserved a seat at the restaurant I want to propose to my sweetheart. I walked out of the house with my suitcase, my phone went off in my pocket and I slipped it out.
” Hello Uche,” Dupe said, in a low voice.
” Hello baby,” I said, ” What happened? are you crying?”
” Your mother and …….” She choked on tears
” What did my mother do to you again?, What did she do?” I asked in anger
” She came to my shop with a lady, the lady said I snatched you away from her. They both damaged my goods, they tore my shop apart. My showcase glass was broken……..” She said, sniffling.” Uche, I am getting tired of this”
“D–n.Are they still there? Call the police!” I said
” They have left.”
” I’ m so sorry dear, honestly I don’t know why my mother is hell bent on tearing us apart. I will pay for all the damages incurred, Please get them arrested when next they try to pull such crazy thing on you again. I am waiting for the taxi that will take me to the airport, remember I told you I will be away for two weeks? Site supervision”
“You did.have a safe trip” She disconnected before I could reply.
” I love you, we will talk when I get back” I said.
I have been following the girl for reasons I couldn’t explain even to myself. She was a sweet kind soul and she always wore a bright smile on her face. No wonder a magnetic force seemed to be pulling me to her. After a victory in court, I felt like celebrating with her, sometimes I get tired of trying alone, sometimes I feel so small and uncertain.Sometimes I wish someone could hold my hands and tell me not to worry too much and that it would be alright. There are several women who would be more than glad to hold my hands but it won’t be to comfort me. I drove down to her shop in the evening and I parked few meters away, I was wondering how best to announce my presence to her when a taxi stopped in front of the shop. Two women alighted, the younger one had a long stick in her hand.I didn’t think it was weird of her to be carrying such big log since she was going into a luxury shop. Maybe they wanted to do some carpentry work for Dupe so I paid them no heed.
Some minutes later they emerged and re_entered the taxi which zoomed off. I alighted, prepared my lines and headed in the direction of her shop. I was perplexed to see the shop in disarray when I entered, a glass which must have held some jewelry lay broken on the ground. Some Jewelry cases was broken, some strings of beads was on the ground and a box of beads was scattered all over the place. Dupe had her back to me but I knew she was crying and sniffling back tears as she tentatively picked up each of the Jewelry cases.
” Dupe,” I called gently
She whirled around and froze, her eyes was bloodshot and her cheeks was stained with her tears. She wiped away the tears with the back of her hand. ” Hello,”
” What happened? Were you robbed by the women who left here some seconds ago?” I said without thinking. ” Should I call the police?”
” No. It’s okay ” She said, standing up.
” Your goods have been compromised and your shop is in disarray. It is not OK”
” How did you know here?” She asked.” I mean how did you….”
” Your boyfriend gave me your card. I wanted to buy a jewelry for my mother”
” That’s …..that’s nice. I will put things in order, so you can choose what you want” she bent to retrieve another jewelry case and pricked her finger on a shard of glass. She snatched away her finger but the damage was already done. Her blood trickled down her hand and landed on the floor.
“Now you have hurt yourself” I wrapped the bloody finger with my handkerchief.” Let me drive you home”
She shook her head.” I want to put this place in order”
” Dupe don’t be stubborn about this please. Lock up the shop I will drive you home”
” I can’t go home…..now.” She said, ” I need to pull myself together first” She dapped at the tears streaming down her cheeks with her good hand”.
” Where’s the key to the shop?”
She fished it out of her bag and I took it away from her.I led her outside, locked up the shop and I coerced her into having some hot chocolate drinks.She was silent all through the short drive to the hot chocolate cafe. I ordered two hot cups and handed her one as we took our sit.
“Thank you,” She said, lifting the cup to her full lips.
“You are welcome,” I replied ” Why did the women attack you?”
She sighed and placed her cup on the table,”She said my shop belongs to her son.”
” Who? the older woman? ” I asked,” Who is her son? Is she Uche’s mother?”
She nodded and took a sip of her chocolate.
” Do you want to sue her? She damaged your goods?”
She smiled,” No, Thank you Shark. I can take care of myself ”
To be continued..