I heard the living room door creak open. Mama had gone out very early that morning and I had felt Ill at ease because she hadn’t informed me of where she was going.
” Mama is that you?” I asked.
” What happened Mama?” I heard Chidubem ask, walking into the living room.” Why’s there blood on your cloth?”
” blood?” I asked. I sprang up and knocked over the cup of water placed in front of me. I tried to pick up my stick but ended up hitting my big toe against the stool and I cussed loudly. This week was a very bad one, Sly had stepped aside as Dupe’s lawyer for reasons known to him alone and my heart didn’t go with the new lawyer assigned to her case but Sly had reassured me that he was a thoroughbred and seasoned lawyer. No evidence which could set Dupe free had come to light yet and my migraine and nightmares had also returned.Where was Mama coming from and why was there blood on her cloth?
Mama started whimpering,her whimpers gradually escalated into a heart wrenching sob and I felt my way towards her. I reached for her hand and pulled her towards the couch. I sat her down gently, and wiped away her tears with my palm. Did something happen to Dupe? was Mama involved in an accident?
” Mama are you hurt?” I asked, she continued sobbing and I drew her into my arms. ” Dubem, is she hurt? ”
” No. But she’s got blood all over her blouse. Mama what happened to you?” Dubem asked.
” Mama please talk to me…” I said.
” Uche…..Uche….” She started and burst into tears again.” Our prayer group decided to protest and demand for Dupe to be released since we all know that she is innocent.” She sighed heavily, ” God can you see this? Why are you allowing all these to happen to us, why us Lord?”
” Mama!That’s a bad idea!” I shouted.” You should have told me before you all went ahead with it.Was someone hurt during the protest?”
” It was a peaceful protest o. We were singing and begging for them to release her. We went to the Governor’s office at the secretariat.Then some police officers came out and asked us to leave. We continued singing and begging, that the Governor should look into the matter for us. Then one of the officers shot into the air but he misfired and the bullet hit Dupe’s mother. She’s dead! Uche she’s dead ooo. All she wanted was for her pregnant daughter to be set free. But they killed her instead,” She wailed at the top of her lungs.
I tried to make sense of what Mama just said. Dupe’s mother was shot dead and Dupe was pregnant with my child! I felt my lips quiver, my body shook uncontrollably and I felt my head swoon. My heartbeat was racing faster than normal and I felt a burning sensation in my chest. My breath caught in my throat and it was coming out in heavy pants. I felt my chest constrict painfully and I clutched my chest with my hand. I slumped to the ground, Mama screamed and tried to hold me. Dubem raced to my side and pulled me up. I felt my eyelids closing painfully, I tried to resist whatever was pulling me away but I couldn’t.
” Do you know what you are doing?” Annie asked.
I was letting the dogs out of their cage when I heard Annie’s voice, I whirled around and stood up from my squatting position.
” What do you want Annie?” I asked. She had a newspaper in her right hand while her left hand clutched a small black purse.
” Sylvester do you know what you are doing?” She asked, using my first name for the first time. She threw the newspaper at me and I caught it midair. I looked at it and wondered why she brought me a newspaper so early in the morning. I turned it over to the front page and I was shocked. There was a picture of a woman lying in a pool of blood, the caption underneath it sent a chill up my spine. I read through the story and I felt like murdering someone.
Why did the women from Dupe’s church embark on such foolish journey? Who was the stupid officer that shot her? I ran my fingers through my hair in anger. Things were becoming more complicated, we haven’t been able to get the police to arrest Funmi and nor find another suspect. Dupe had even refused to see me, so I couldn’t reassure her that I didn’t give up on her.
” Where is her corpse? there’s a case here.” I said.
” Is that all you can say? That is Dupe’s mother laying dead in a pool of her own blood! and all you can say is that there’s a case to be pursued? What have you done with your heart?”
” D–n! Annie, I am not good in letting out my emotions. I…..”
” Whatever you want to say, save it. I am not surprised. After all you killed a woman at the age of seventeen. You are not different from the officer who shot that poor woman.”
Her words felt like a physical blow but I guessed I deserved it.
” Does Dupe know?” I asked. ” She must not know of this,”
She sighed heavily.” Uche is in the hospital. He had a heart attack so I don’t think she knows about her mother’s death yet but we have all decided to keep it from her. When is she going to trial?”
” Next week.” I replied tersely.
” I only hope you won’t regret stepping aside as her lawyer.” She said.
” I trust Bidemi Bankole. He will bring her out, he’s never lost a case before.” I said.
” He’s a known womanizer ” Annie retorted.
” That doesn’t stop him from being a good lawyer. What have you got against him?” I asked.
” I hope you know what you are doing. Don’t toy with her life.” Annie said, and walked away leaving me to my thoughts.
Bidemi Bankole and I had worked on a case before. He was a good lawyer and I had faith in him.
It had been three days. I haven’t seen Uche or my mother in three days. I was becoming leaner as each day goes by. My back ached terribly, my head hurt all the time and nothing could stay in my stomach for a second. I was always rushing to the little toilet in a corner of the cell to puke. I had tried talking to the baby, mommy had to eat and keep the food in so that you could grow well but she doesn’t listen to me. It was like she was determined to punish me for some crime or offence I didn’t know I committed. My lawyer had hurriedly left the other day when I puked on him. It had happened so suddenly and the officers had thought I did it deliberately.
They had shoved me back into the cell with such a force that I felt my head spin. I could feel my collar bone sticking out now, I was so weak and tired and I had run out of my medications. I don’t know why Uche hadn’t been to see me but I knew something was wrong. If he couldn’t come see me, his mother or my own mother would have been to see me. I hoped that he was alright and I prayed for him every night.
” Visitor! ” An officer said, unlocking the cell.
I stood up gently and she took hold of my hand. She was the kindest of the officers and she often gave me words of encouragement. She led me to the waiting room where Funmi was and the female officer stood at a discreet distance. I didn’t know how I felt seeing her again, her pregnancy was more pronounced and her skin looked darker.
” Dupe, you look so pale.” She said.
” Why are you here?” I asked, sitting down.
” Uche had an heart attack. He’s at the hospital” She said without emotions.
” It’s a lie. Why are you doing this, Funmi? What did I do to you? You are my best friend! My childhood friend! How could you betray me so? why do you keep hurting me?”
” I don’t know what you are talking about. Are we still beating this same old horse? I thought we are over it and that is why I came to see you. I thought you might want to know that your mother was shot and she died on the spot. Uche is also at the hospital, I won’t come here again if you don’t want me to.” She hissed out.
” Wait, My …..my mother is….dead?” I asked in disbelief. Was she lying?
” That’s by the way. As your friend, I want you to make me the legal guardian of your child. Should in case you didn’t make it out of here, your mind will be at peace that your child is in good hands.”
” You want…..my child?” I asked dazedly. The news of my mother’s death had ripped away my soul from my body.”
” Yes. It is for your own good, I think you should have a talk with Uche as well. Tell him to marry me.”
My eyes widended in shock. “Why?”
” The marriage will be in name only, so that I can also care for him too. There’s no way he would be able to take care of himself in your absence and his mother won’t live forever, you know.” She threw back at me.
I felt the blood in my veins ran hot, she was truly the devil. I grabbed hold of her hair and yanked on it with all my might. She yelped and we both tumbled to the floor. My mouth found one of her ears and I bit on it hard, until I felt her blood on my tongue. The officer tried to yank me off her but I shrugged her off and I dug my nails into Funmi’s eyes.
I felt powerful hands lift me off the traitor groaning on the floor. The officers dragged me off to my cell while Funmi’s cries of ‘she’s gone mad’ filled my ears. The officers kicked me into the cell and locked the gate. I slumped to the ground as tears streamed down my cheeks. Just as Job in the bible refused to curse God and die, I wouldn’t too. But it was getting too much to bear, oh my poor mother. My mother was gone, I thought helplessly.
To be continued..