NIMI PETERS BY GRACE OCHIGBO
Edward hurried out of the lounge and after Nimi. The latter wasn’t stopping at all, neither was there the slightest sign of looking back as he walked briskly like he was being pursued like a wounded tiger.
“C’mon Mehn! We barely got here…” Edward murmured grudgingly as he took his seat beside Nimi in the car.
“It’s been so long, I have forgotten how to sit in a lounge, bar, club house or whatever you call this place. Moreover, Fiyinfoluwa said she doesn’t like it!”
Edward stared at the pathetic voice his friend was using and somewhat felt sympathy for him.
“We are not here to drink, dance or party…” he made parenthesis with his hands, “…moreover, we are at the private lounge. We came here to talk, remember?”
“What difference does it make. We can do that in the house or somewhere more responsible.”
“What? Did you just call us irresponsible? And since when did you start doing only what Fiyin likes?”
Nimi shrugged and inserted his car key in its hole.
“Since now! Please Eddy, I don’t have the strength for your rants!” his voice sounded really cold.
Edward’s eyes popped open. “Really? I now rant? I now rant, is that, Nimi Peters?” He sounded provoked and Nimi knew he had crossed the border with his friend again. This would be the umpteenth time he would be provoking Edward in the past one week. He seemed to be so heavy hearted that he dishes out harsh words at will.
“I’m sorry, man! I didn’t mean it that way!” he tapped Eddy’s shoulders and that sort of made the latter flare up even more.
“You didn’t mean it. You did this five days ago and then I only thought that you were in the mood. You did it the day after, and the day after, and the day after, and now we are here again today? What has come over you Nimi? Does this have anything to do with Fiyinfoluwa?”
Nimi sat up immediately. “Oh No! No! C’mon! Why would you even think of such? Moreover, people have their down moments, right? Maybe that’s just it for me now!”
Edward shook his head from left to right and placed his hand around Nimi’s shoulders. “You know you can talk to me, bro!”
Nimi swallowed painfully. The lit club house as well as its compound made inside of the car bright, and it was as though Nimi’s eyeball watered.
“You know she has now resumed as Mr Johnson’s personal cook. In fact, her mum just arrived back in Nigeria yesterday after the surgery.”
“Wow! That’s good news. Finally, our pretty girl can get some joy in her life. Her mum’s case was really eating her up!” Edward sounded jubilant while saying this, until he turned in Nimi’s direction, “You don’t look in the least excited yourself?”
“Exactly!” Nimi cut in. “I’m not excited! First being that I was supposed to pay for her mum’s surgery. I’ve been saving up some money for that since I leant about it; it was meant to be a surprise. The whole bill was ranging to the tone of millions and I am not due for another lone just yet. In fact, I was considering the possibility of selling a landed pro…” he remembered he never told Edward before now, so he quickly changed the path. “…we had a nice time earlier and I even called her on getting to the office that morning, only for her to call later that Mr Johnson had footed the bills. I felt emasculated all of a sudden and to make matters worse, Mr Johnson said to let her see him ASAP. The outcome of that visit was her becoming his cook. Can you imagine?” He hissed dryly.
Edward smiled so faintly Nimi must not see it.
“So you feel our boss is outsmarting you? Or should I say, he is taking your woman?”
Nimi let out a wry smile. “Don’t be ridiculous, Edward. You know, I don’t even know why I’m working myself up because of this. It’s really funny! Fiyin isn’t even my woman for crying out loud.”
Edward laughed out now.
“Is that what it truly is, or what you tell yourself?” he placed questioning eyes on Nimi, making him uncomfortable.
Nimi swallowed again and started the car.
Lauren closed the door behind her as she approached the only table at the other end of the large room. She was a woman gradually approaching the autumn of her life. Fairly deep wrinkle lines, that could be hidden so perfectly by the copious amounts of makeup graced her visage. Still, there was strength and wisdom in her emerald eyes and a proud carriage shown in her jutting jaw line. Mark looked on curiously and eagerly at her from behind his table, not knowing what to think.
“You didn’t show up last week, neither did you pick your call nor respond to any of my mails… And…”
Lauren flashed him a quick smile, took a seat before it’s offered and crossed her legs.
“I’m sorry, Mark! It’s really been hell of a time for me in the past week.”
“You know who to talk to at those times right? Why choose to ignore that one person? Or, you are seeing another shrink?” Mark queried, not reducing the squeeze on the front of his forehead.
“I think I’ve made of my mind to go!” she announced.
Those words came across like a javelin shot at Mark’s forehead, because it made him sit up involuntarily and stared with confusion at Lauren.
“Why the sudden change of mind? Don’t get me wrong…” he rose an eyebrow. “…you agree I’ve been a strong supporter of your leaving. I’ve been pushing you to take a step – that one bold step towards complete healing. And I know I should probably be the most elated now that you have finally decided to…” He paused and glanced at Lauren who was looking all relaxed in the chair; she looked like she found a solution to everything that ever made her worry in this life and the one to come. “…something worries me, Lauren.”
“What?” she sounded amused and didn’t mind leaving a giggle alongside her curious question.
“The suddenness! We both know that the last few weeks haven’t particularly been the merriest for you. Don’t you think you are making the right decision at the wrong time?”
Lauren sighed. Her initial amusement broke away little by little until the colour of her eyeballs gradually turned into crimson while she wiped away the tear dropping down her powdered cheek.
“Lauren, you’ve got to fight for every dream, so impossible as they may seem. ‘Cause who’s to know which one you let go would have made you complete. Are those not what you always tell me?”
Mark nodded in the affirmative. “Yes!”
“Then, let me fight for my every dream. Let me strive for completeness again, Mark. Let me take a shot at finding what I lost. And please don’t try to stop me!” She sounded firm.
Mark took a deep breath and held it.
Fiyin closed the door gently behind her. She walked the little distance from the door to the large bed as though climbing up mount Everest. Her mother’s sweet smiles greeted her all the way
“Omomi! Abosede mi!”
Fiyin chuckled lightly as she took her seat beside her mother.
“It’s good to see you are getting stronger by the day, maami!”
“Just that your father isn’t here now to see the stronger me.” Her voice cracked.
Fiyin shook her head from left to right and stroked the older woman’s hair.
“Not again, Maami! You’ve been on this for so long. You need to let the dead rest in peace, maami. We all miss baami, right? In fact, you know I miss him more than anyone else.”
“Ha! God punish poverty my beloved daughter!” The woman wasn’t bulging. “Your father worked hard all the seconds in his life. He worked like an elephant and ate like an ant. Ha! Lawal worked hard, only to be forcefully and untimely snatched by the cold hands of death! But why? Never! Never in my life will my daughter give in to poverty like I did. Never. Haa!” she sounded extremely sober for comfort now and Fiyin could only think to change the topic of discussion.
“It’s alright, Maami! Everything will be alright. Have you seen Deji?”
“Oh! Errrhin! He just left for his room. And your tall and handsome ókó brought dinner for me about an hour ago too.”
Fiyin blushed away carelessly, unknown to her.
“He’s not my oko, maami. He is just a friend, my twin brother!”
Her hands opened the take away packs on the stool beside her mother’s bed. The plates were all relatively empty. Fiyin was thankful that she had her mother back; to normal eating habit, normal talking habit and even normal jesting habit.
“Maami, please rest now. I’ll need to greet Ojonimi and go get ready for sleep too. It’s been a hectic day for me.” She got up and drew down the edges of her dress.
Her mother smiled as she stared at her intensely.
“Oluwa bukun fun wè, omomi!” she prayed that God will bless her.
“Ami màami! Odàbò ma.”
Ojima Peters had tried to throw it out of her head but it keeps coming on irregular bases. She doesn’t know if she should really call it a nightmare or not. Maybe she can never get rid of it after all, or maybe she didn’t want to. When the guilt comes, it takes her down the old familiar path. She want to refuse to walk it, pretend that she was the person she demanded to be. She want to see herself in indigo tones, not perfect colours. She want to scrub her head, but if she did she would never learn from what happened. And it’s true what they say, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So she keeps her eyes on the horizon and her mind tuned to creating a positive future for the seed, because really, isn’t that what everyone needs?
They keep telling her to forget, to let go. How? It’s all part of her, she can’t let go of the pain without losing something sacred. The good memories kept her going and the bad ones makes her want to curl under the duvet and never come out again, but they are locked tight together like two sides of the same coin.
She pushed her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her shins. The sitting room was dark and that made the pictures torturing her in the head even clearer. If she could just curl up into a ball, she wouldn’t have to go down memory lane but she still had to live with herself, with the wretched memories swirling around her head. Her eyes already red and puffy from crying, squeezed shut to push more tears out. She let her head fall down to her knees and pulled her legs closer to her. No matter what she did, there was no where she could hide from the thoughts in her head. She recalled how her body jarred with each blow, how the pain seared through her skin and took away every feeling of safety she ever had. He had put all his energy into each strike. His sinewy arm would recoil and snap back to her behind, the impact delivered by an object rather than his own hand. Maybe at first she shed tears, she don’t recall.
Crying was not allowed whenever that woman was there. That woman, extremely wicked woman, watched her, watched them. She pushed him into attempting to ruin her life.
She jerked up, wiping the tears quickly as light came on almost immediately.
“When did you leave the bedroom?”
Ojima coughed. “I’m sorry, I just needed to… to… to…”
“To? Think? To wallow in avoidable pain? You needed to remind yourself of hurt? Who punishes herself, Wifey?” Achile really used a tone of sincere of concern.
“They are sharp and cut through me every time they come to mind.” She managed to voice out with her cracked voice.
“It’s a long time ago, Wifey! Why are you allowing your healing process to take this long? It’s taking forever.” He grabbed his shaking and trembling wife, letting her rest her head on his chest.
“You know, if only my father didn’t deny me my right to attaining quality education…If only they didn’t insist on a girl’s education ending up in the kitchen. If he put me in college like my brothers, I would never have considered that option. If only…”
“Oh! Not again Ojima.” Achile interrupted. “We’ve talked about this over and again. Please let the old man’s soul rest in perfect peace. You see, if a bad memory is like a bird, it is okay to know it is sitting on a branch nearby. It is okay to notice it fly and sing. Yet move in calmness with eyes only for the nature around you, with skin that feels the wind and eyes that open for the light. When your mind naturally moves back into present, into the moment that is the gift of life, the bird will be gone.”
Ojima took in a deep breath.
“I’m trying, Honey! This one bird isn’t going nowhere.” She broke into full blown tears now.
“I’m always here for you, Oj! Just like the first day I met you. Nothing has changed. Nothing will ever change.”
He planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
Nimi was staring out through the large window of his room. It led to a wide view of the city, and the beautiful lights adorning the streets of the FCT of the only giant of Africa looked exceptionally captivating tonight. Fiyin has come to affirm that window area being his most favourite spot in the house.
“You are just getting back?”
Fiyin was startled as Nimi’s voice greeted her, even before she left off the door knob. However, he didn’t turn to look at her.
“Erhm! Yes! Not so long ago. I was at Maami’s”
“OK!” Nimi said casually, leaving the window’s rod to come sit on his bed.
“Chief would be having some visitors over for the weekend, so I had to do a lot of cooking today.”
“Chief?” Nimi rose an eyebrow. “Oh! Is that what you call him now? Like a pet name or something?” He chuckled at his own sarcasm.
Fiyin frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous, Nimi!” he stopped and looked on at her. She shrugged. “You didn’t believe me when I said Mr Johnson is actually a chief, did you? Well, you had better, because he told me that himself…” She paused and continued almost immediately, closing her eyes as though trying to remember each word she wanted to pronounce. “Chief is Ugonabo, Aka ji mba, akwa akwuru, Uba zuo oke and… and… many more jare. I can’t even remember some of those titles. He even told me their meanings individually. Only that he doesn’t like titles. I’ve never met a more humble man!”
Nimi felt like a hammer hit the left side of his head.
“You are almost an Igbo-Yoruba girl now o!” Nimi managed to keep his feelings locked in.
“Yes o. By the way Twinnie, I’ve told you to stop buying those your takeaway foods, especially for me. I cook here before leaving for work and I get to eat so much at chief’s house every day that I most times don’t feel hungry when I get back at night. The packs from three days ago are still loaded up in the freezer.”
Nimi only stared at her intensely. She was confused as the stares seemed to be penetrating her blood cells. She made up her mind to ignore the stares and continue talking.
“Chief is just some sort of cool man and…”
“Fiyin…” Nimi groaned before he could stop himself.
The lady smiled.
“Jealousy!” Fiyin tuck out her tongue and fell tiredly beside Nimi, resting her head on his shoulders. “I want to tell you something, Nimi!” her voice suddenly turned sober and that got Nimi extremely anxious, so much so that his breathing came out audibly.
“You see, it feels like your girlfriend is happy having me as her cook in the house, right?” Nimi turned questioning gaze downwards at her and she shook her head vigorously. “Anyway, that’s her business. She hasn’t tried any form of humiliation yet though. I was even surprised at her welcoming attitude towards me my very first day at work and while her father introduced us. Would you believe she totally acted like she didn’t know me from anywhere before?”
Nimi turned to her totally now, removing her head from his shoulder in the process. “Is this about Joelyn now?” His patience level was running low.
“No! No, it’s not about her!” she quickly objected. “Chief said to come live in a flat in one of his estates at Gwarimpa.”
“Huh?” Nimi let out as if he didn’t hear her earlier.
“I know Gwarimpa is quite far from here and most especially his house, OK? He said he would assign a driver to take me to and from work every day. Moreover, it’s about time my family and I stopped inconveniencing you too. Don’t you think so? Maybe that way, you will quickly bring home my sister in-law.” She giggled.
Nimi’s eyes followed the consecutive movements from her lips to her eyes while she rattled on.
“OK!” He replied calmly.
Fiyin stared with confusion as Nimi got up and headed back to the window he was standing earlier. She didn’t understand. Nimi’s sudden soberness and extreme calmness was fast becoming a source of worry, more so that it started ever since her employment as the chief chef in Mr Johnson’s house. Or was he tired of them in his house for real and just wasn’t saying? She questioned herself. He would be justified if it was tiredness though. He’s tried a great deal, accommodating her and her brother all these while? Now, having her mother added to the burden would be the extreme.
“OK? Is that what you have to say?” Fiyin sounded unreasonable as she stood behind the towering young man backing her.
“I’m sorry please, beautiful twin. What was I supposed to say?”
Heaven knows Nimi’s sarcasm was really getting on Fiyin’s nerve. She rolled her eyes.
“I just told you an offer made to me now. I haven’t discussed with my mother yet even, just because I needed to talk to you about it first and all you can say is OK?” she swallowed, feeling some bitterness in her throat. “Really, I appreciate all you have done for my family and I. I really do. Where would we have been without you at those trying periods? From my father’s burial, to managing my sick mother at the hospital, to enrolling Deji in private lessons so he can return back to school this coming session. I’m very grateful Ojonimi. Even meeting chief and all would still be credited to you… It was all you…”
Nimi felt his face water. What was he now? A signboard for Mr Johnson, or a pathfinder as it were? Whatever was happening within him was becoming rather unbearable. He wanted to talk but he was afraid. There was this fear, neatly tied and locked up somewhere to the right side of his broad chest. The last time his voice broke before a woman was four years ago; when he knelt down before Atim, telling her how much his life would be a mess if she ever left him. He was sincere with those words and the pain from Atim’s sudden breakup had been evident in his voice, but Atim only turned her face away, and walked out of the house in tears. That was the last! The last day he ever saw her.
“Nimi!” Fiyin’s voice startled him.
“You seem to have made your decision already, darling…” he turned to her now, placing his right hand on her shoulders. “…please follow your heart dear twin sister, and…” he felt his throat sting with pain, severe pain that was about to break his voice. Suddenly, the water accumulated in his face leaked and one decided to gently flow down. Thankfully, Fiyin’s head was tilted to the floor as though she read something there. She didn’t see the lone tear and that was enough relief for Nimi.
“You know what? Please excuse me!” Nimi said with a slightly broken voice and hurried out of the room into the adjoining large passage leading downstairs before she would respond. Fiyin stood as though gummed to the floor. She couldn’t make a single meaning out of what just happened now.
We all meet that one stranger who later becomes an integral layer of our skin.
To be continued next Monday.
Thank you so much for the feedbacks. It makes writing this story so much fun for me. We are nearer the end with each new episode, trust me, it will be worth your while.
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Great week ahead, Fam!