” Hope you won’t have regrets Son,” My father asked. Mama sat by quietly, knitting a shawl but her ears were very attentive to our conversation. She was always by my father’s side as though he would vanish into thin air at any time. I could still remember the day I brought him to her, she was preparing for bed when I knocked on her door. She had stood at the threshold of the door, staring at us. She blinked her eyes severally in confusion and before I realized it she was on the floor, unconscious. It was almost midnight when she came to, she had flung herself into his arms, crying. Somehow she had known in her heart that her husband was alive.
They had both wept with joy, then my father asked of Abosede and they both started sobbing. It was a heart touching scene and I hurriedly left them alone, not wanting to intrude on their intimate reunion. I was already an outsider to my mother and I didn’t know if my father would also feel same way when he learn of my past. They both came to meet me outside and they led me back into the warm house. I had driven home afterwards and the next day, my father narrated how he had been taken to a prison for the condemned in Abuja, where he was incarcerated for so many years until a new Governor was brought to the prison about two years ago. The Governor couldn’t find any files on him and he demanded that all the prisoners with no case files should be set free. Upon his release he had begged on the streets of Abuja until he could transport himself back to Lagos where he saw his family last.
On getting to Lagos, he couldn’t remember the street he used to stay with his family and everywhere was strange to him. He had taken shelter in a church, the pastor of the church was a very good man and he gave him a room at the back of the church. One day, one of the members of the church asked him to work for her as a security man and he accepted.
“Sylvester! ” Mama said.” Daddy dey talk to you”
I looked up, and gave him my attention. ” Sorry, I was lost in thought.”
” Are you sure of what you are doing?” My father asked again. The trial had started two days ago and my father had testified. Bidemi Bankole and I prepared him on what to say and I got reports that the trial was progressing favorably. The PI keeping a tab on Funmi had also called to say she had been meeting with a certain lady and the clandestine meeting seemed suspicious. He was hopeful that he would have enough evidence to put her behind bars before the trial gets far. Mabel and Tade had also testified and they also said the trial was progressing favorably and my mind was a bit settled. But something else was nagging at me at the moment.
“I know,” I said.
I was becoming unsure of my decision to step aside and it would seem like an insult if I asked Bankole to step aside for me.
“I am glad you do,” My father said.
I stood up, made my excuses and left.
I stopped my power bike in front of the underground house. I went through the security scrutiny to ascertain there was no weapon on me before I was allowed in. I walked into a dark passage away, and entered a smokey little studio. Pictures of various tattoos was hung on the wall and the one eyed artiste was waiting for me. I laid on the bench, rolled up the sleeve of my shirt and signaled him to begin.
“No sedative?” He asked in a deep voice.
“No. I want to feel the pain.” I replied.
He brought out the machine, turned it on and the sound of it coming alive filled the air. He brought it close to my arm, slowly tracing the bull head tattoo on my arm. The pain seared my heart like a hot iron but I bore it calmly.
The baby had started kicking fiercely and I felt like yanking him out of me. He made me so miserable with his incessant kicking, sometimes I wished I had aborted him when I had the chance. I saw the leggy, tall, ebony skinned lady I was waiting for walk into the restaurant. Her eyes scanned the faces seated until it fell on mine and she walked towards me. She pulled out a chair and sat down.
“How are you?” Cecilia asked.
“Where is the money?” I demanded.
She opened her bag and pushed a brown envelop onto the table.
“How much is this?” I wanted to know.
” Two, fifty thousand Naira” She said.
I pushed the envelope back at her angrily. She had promised me the sum of ten million Naira and here she was handing me a paltry sum of two hundred and fifty thousand Naira. I inwardly cursed the day I met her. I had gone for a doctor’s appointment and I was on my way back to Dupe’s house when I heard someone call out my name.
” Funmi” She had said, almost breathless from running after me.
” Hi, have we met?” I asked suspiciously.
” Not officially, I am Cecilia.” She said, extending a hand for an handshake.
” How may I help you?” I asked, ignoring her outstretched hand.
” Can we go sit somewhere and talk?, I promise not to take much of your time. Please. ” She added when she noticed my hesitation.
I reluctantly agreed and we walked to a nearby restaurant.
” I am your sister, ” She said, after our orders had been placed in front of us.
“My sister?” I asked, ” What are you saying?”
” Relax Funmi. What I mean is that I have been through what you are also going through now. You have been turned away by your friends and family. Your loved ones have turned their back on you. Nobody understands you, nobody believes in you and you feel alone in your struggles. You are not alone in this, you are not.” She said.
” What do you want from me?” I asked.
” Your help. Help me to help you. You are pregnant and broke and it is not even certain that you will still have a roof over your head by the time the baby comes. It is not easy raising a child alone, especially when you have no source of income” She said.
I didn’t know how she knew about me and I stood up, ready to leave but she held onto my arm, pleading with me to hear her out. I was confused, I had never seen her before but she seemed to know me too well. She was aware of my fears and she was making me scared by her predictions. I sat down once again.
” I fell in love with a young man while we were still in school. My parents were furious with me and they drove me out. I had to stop schooling because this young man’s wasn’t from a rich home. I loved him and I stood by him, despite all I did to please him,he treated me so badly but I endured every agonizing moment I spent in his house because I loved him. I went into an early labor because of the hardship i was going through. There were some complications during the birth and my womb got damaged.” She said.” In the end I had no baby, no home and no womb”. She said.
I was touched by her words and I could see why she said we were sisters.
” That young man is married to another woman now.” She concluded.” The woman he left me for”
” I am sorry. Why are you telling me this?” I asked.
” I want you to help me take that woman out of his life for good.” She said.
” What? Did you just ask me to kill someone?” I asked in surprise.
” No. I will do the killing myself. You only have to set some certain things in motion for me” She said.
I laughed in shock.
” There’s more. The sum of one hundred million Naira is involved. That Dam wants to rip where she didn’t sow. I will pay you ten million Naira, and when I lay my hands on that money, I will give you an extra five Million Naira. Making it a total of fifteen million Naira. Think about it, you’d never worry about where your next meal will come from again.” She said.
” Good luck” I said.
” Remember I will do the killing myself. You should be able to have a better life with that money. You could even go back to Ghana and seduce your man back. All men love successful women and with your money that man will come crawling back to you.” She said.
” I am not interested.” I said.” Who told you my story?”
” Your friend Dupe has a loose mouth and she has been spreading gossips about you. She’s a big pretender but I guess you already know that. She’s the woman I am talking about. She stole Uche from me. She’s the woman I want to get rid of. I can also help you take away the obstacles in your path, take for example the mother of the man who got you pregnant. Funmi, help me to help you please”
” Stay away from me, if you go anywhere near my friend I will kill you myself ” I said and got up angrily.
I was going to tell Dupe about Cecilia that night when I got home but the words I heard as I was about opening the door stopped me cold. Dupe and her mother-in-law were talking about me.
” That your friend is a big ashawo” Uche’s mother said.” How can she be rubbing herself every night?”
” Mama” Dupe chided. ” She’s only confused. She will get back on track, in time”
” Track kwa? better send her away before she destroy your home o”
” I have talked to her but she’s just too stubborn.” I heard Dupe say, ” I will have to ask her to leave.”
” You better send her away o,” Uche’ s mother agreed. ” How can you harbor a killer! I can’t even sleep well at night for fear that she might kill me in my sleep.”
Dupe laughed.” Mama! Don’t worry, I will ask her to leave soon.”
” Did you notice how she looks at Uche?” The older woman asked.” I don’t want trouble o, you better send her away.”
Instead of walking in I went back outside. I was boiling over with anger. If Dupe too turned me out I would have nowhere to go. She was supposed to be my best friend, she was supposed to have my back but sadly she also wants to cast me aside like a mangy dog. The next time Cecilia approached me again I gave her a listening ear. She had the blueprint of her plan etched in her heart already and she went over it with me. The plan was to take Mrs.Afolabi out of the way and Dupe gets the blame. According to Cecilia with Mrs. Afolabi gone, Tade would be vulnerable and I could do whatever I like with him in his state of weakness. and She would also have access to Uche with Dupe out of the way. Although I needed the money Cecilia promised me and I also want to take my revenge on Tade. It was a deal too good to let go.
We had gone over the plans carefully on many occasions before Cecilia executed it on the day Papa Love was off duty. She had also prepared me on what to say when I was called to the police station for interrogation. I had acted so well and coupled with my alibi I was allowed to walk free. The only oil in the ointment now is that Cecilia hasn’t fulfilled her end of the bargain and she wanted the one hundred million Naira which was Uche’s settlement all for herself. I wont let her outsmart me, I thought. I won’t let Cecilia see even a dime of that money. I won’t let her take over my friend’s life. I wont let another human fool me again.
” This wasn’t the agreement we had! You said you will give me N10M, and the remaining five when you get the money.” I said.
She sighed heavily. ” Please don’t be too difficult. I haven’t been able to get access to Uche. His mother has refused to let me see him, as a matter of fact, she sent me away when I went to see him at the hospital. I still need your help, we need to lay our hands on that money as soon as possible”
” You told me you had the ten million Naira!” I said,” You told me the money was in your account!”
She laughed shakily.” I lied. Come on, we can still make this work.”
” You are a lying Dam! And a murderer too! You think you can outsmart me just like Mabel did?” I asked angrily.” If I don’t have that money in three days time, I will turn you in. I will tell them how you killed that poor woman”
” Resorting to threat now? Do that and you will be thrown into jail with me. Don’t forget you are an accomplice in this.” She stood up, picked up the envelope and tucked it into her hand bag.” If I were you, I wouldn’t make such lame threats again.” She walked out of the restaurant.
I would convince Dupe to name me the guardian of her child and I will make her force Uche to marry me. Let me see how you will lay your dirty slimy finger on a single note of that money, I thought angrily. When I am in control of the money, I will pay a quick visit to Tade and Mabel before I leave the country for good with Serwa and that money of course.
To be continued..