NIMI PETERS by Grace Ochigbo
“Why are you still awake, maami?” Fiyin queried as she closed the door gently behind her.
“Waiting up for my gorgeous daughter!”
Fiyin blushed carelessly. Her mother was in one of her three usual purple multi-floral night dresses and even though her hair was neatly packed in a black hairnet, she looked like someone that just came back from the spa right now, with the way she glowed effortlessly. Well, she’s been on some beautification routine in the past month – since they packed into their new home in this estate, that is.
“Oh mum, you should be asleep by now. Your doctor insisted that you take all the rest needed!” Fiyin dropped the customized shopping bags beside a chair, got down from her high heels and sat on the chair beside her mother.
“Whoever thought black cannot be this beautiful!” Her mother touched her smooth cheeks lightly, ignoring her initial statement. “I’m the proudest mother alive. You are more than a billion children to me, Abosede, òmòmĩ.”
Fiyin smiled shyly. “C’mon now, Màami, what’s all the hailing about? Because I know you!”
Her mother burst out in laughter.
“This isn’t what you wore out this morning. So what happened and what is in there?” she tried to recover from the laughter while pointing her attention to the paper bags.
Fiyin giggled with excitement. “Well, we went to the shopping mall! I mean…” her mother’s curious eyes that were staring at her seemed to be penetrating her red blood cells, and she knew explanation was most demanded. “…this is it màami, chief wanted to shop. I told you he said he needed some shoes and few T-shirts. He’s been saying it since last week and asked if I could come help him select some yesterday. I actually thought he was kidding until he insisted I follow him to the mall earlier this evening. Thankfully, we were at a unisex boutique, so he decided to buy me a beautiful gown and these shoes, to change into right there and also some take home packages.” By now, she was already stretching out a jewellery box from the bag and trying out the shoes in front of her mother.
“Wow! They are really beautiful and deserving of the queen that you are, my daughter. May God keep blessing that man for us more and more.”
“Amen màami!” Fiyin screamed, parking the items back in the bag.
“Since he came to drop you, why didn’t he come in? Would have loved to see him again tonight! He’s not been here after the second day we moved in.”
Fiyin smiled. “It was one of his drivers that drove us màami. Moreover he received an urgent call from someone waiting up for him at home… or something. I’m not sure though but they had to leave immediately. We could go over to the house sometime and say a proper ‘thank you’ again for all he has done for us, màami. What do you think?”
Her mother nodded, “That’s another wise one there. Well done, daughter.” She paused. “And I think the man likes you a lot too.”
“Like a daughter, yes!” Fiyin saw opposing eyes from her mother and frowned. “Màami, c’mon, how would you even think that? He should be old enough to give birth to me. What am I even saying, his daughter is older than me, màami. Nothing of such can happen between us.”
“Never say never. You would remind me I said so!” The older woman giggled while saying this and Fiyin eyeballed her coldly. She got up, picked her paper bag and tried heading to the room.
“Nimi was here about two hours ago!”
Fiyin froze at that announcement. She quickly came back to the couch with curious eyes.
“Nimi? … did he say anything? Did you tell him where I went to? Hope he is very fine?” Fiyin didn’t leave any space between her questions.
“Nothing much. Of course I told him where you probably would be. He looked as handsome as usual, only that today he wasn’t as casual as I always see him in the house. He was on a suit, is it tux… tu… tuxe… tuxe… what do you people call it?” she smiled, giving questioning eyes to Fiyin.
The latter tried to force a smile. Her brain was trying to add one and two together, but it was taking quite a while to do so.
“Yea, I remember now. I think he said he was supposed to pick you, or take you out on a date. Yes, that was what he said.”
The voice jerked Fiyin back from her thoughts and up in a hurry. Her strength was gone and all the muscles in her body seemed to have detached from their adjourning bones. She, most likely, just call to apologise for not being at home when Nimi dropped by. Moreover, there was no prior notice. If only he had called her up earlier, she would have either rescheduled the shopping entrancement or found anyway else around it.
She took in a very deep breath as she felt the sound of the TV go off. She quickly turned to face her mother as a thought came through her mind.
“Oh my God! Maami, please what’s today’s date?”
“25th… 25th July. Why?” The older woman answered casually as she slipped her legs in the slippers.
“Oh my God! This is not happening. Jesus…”
Her mother stared at her with confusion staining her skin. “Is there a problem, daughter?”
Fiyin was looking as though she just saw a black ghost.
“Talk to me, what’s with the date?” her mother was beside her now, patting her shoulder.
“Maami, today is July 25th? Today is Nimi’s birthday!”
Her mother jerked back involuntarily.
Mr Johnson was shocked by who his eyes was seeing as he drew nearer. The fellow was waiting up for him in the sitting room. It was the housekeeper’s call that dragged him back home in a hurry because it sounded like an emergency. Joelyn had travelled on a ‘self-finding’ vacation – so she called it. It didn’t matter so much, not as if he saw her often while around, but a correct definition of emergency would be this,
“So you went ahead to do it, Emeka?” the angry voice greeted him before he could settle in. Mr Johnson shrugged, making sure to keep a plain expression on his face.
“I won’t warn you about not calling me that name again, Ike!”
Chief Ogbonna grinned from molar to molar. “You must have developed some guts in the past one month.”
“It’s not strange, right? Moreover, all your own guts came after you found Omolola.” Mr Johnson blurted out and took his seat.
Chief Ogbonna felt something strike his head as a result of that statement, but he would just let it slide. Moreover he was here for something else, right?
“I see! How about my men go to flat 8, block 5, royal estate, Maitama, FCT Abuja tonight?” He laughed wickedly, raising his left eyebrow and lowered the other one..
Mr Johnson sat up. He felt a flush down his face and his heart seemed to miss many heartbeats in few seconds.
“You won’t do that, Ike! Don’t!” His voice came up, sounding somewhere in-between scared and agitated. “How did you find out where they live anyway?”
Chief Ike laughed wickedly again. “Don’t forget I’m Ikechukwu, you yourself call me ogadagidi. Nothing goes on in the whole of Abuja without my knowledge. Finding the house of our little wonder girl would be the least of all assignments for my boys!”
Mr Johnson took in a deep helpless breath. “Ike, you have been my friend for a long time now. You know almost everything about me. What exactly have I done wrong to you? Or, where did I offend you that you so much want to ruin my happiness? The little thing that has made me happy.” His voice sounded pathetic now.
“Ruin your happiness? How do you mean?”
“After you threatened me at that bar, you haven’t come to this house, the office or anywhere we could get to meet. You abandoned me, and here you are threatening to send your boys to the innocent girl’s house? Haba! Fear God nau.”
Chief Ogbonna started laughing out loudly, so loud, he shook the chair he sat on.
“So you still de fear?” He laughed even more and Mr Johnson only quietly stared at him. “I thought you had grown wings. I thought you want to dare me.” He chuckled lightly and then paused for a while before continuing. “You know, I’ve been thinking about us lately. We’ve come too far to allow some Munke come between us.”
“Ike, this one no be Munke o. No be Munke at all. This one na quality material!” Mr Johnson rattled in pidgin English and Chief Ogbonna smiled.
“All of them na Munke jare, we use them for small chops and clean mouth.” He insisted. “Wait! Did you say quality material?” he waited as Mr Johnson nodded. “So it’s stage two for her now?”
Mr Johnson smiled this time. “Left for me, I want stage three already. The way I connect with this girl, ehn? You know only one person has ever come close to this feeling I have for her! And you know who.”
“Of course. Only that we don’t know where she is. And we may never know… moreover none of your belongings is with her…” Mr Johnson eyeballed him, but he ignored. “Since you are bent on going through with this girl, who am I not to support you!”
Mr Johnson sat up in his chair. “Ike, are you saying I have your support?”
“Until you fall hand again.” He smiled
Mr Johnson giggled on his seat, “I won’t fall hand Ike.” He was literally jumping in the seat, and Chief Ogbonna only left the smile plastered on his face. “You know what? This calls for celebration! Excuse me!” Mr Johnson said as he made for the dining hall, towards his bar.
Chief Ogbonna stopped smiling suddenly. He quickly unlocked his tablet and scanned through the messages he received while speaking with Mr Johnson. He nodded his head in satisfaction.
Every part of this game is playing out in his favour.
Edward got off the chair.
“I think I have to leave now, bro. You know how it is for we married men.” He said calmly.
Nimi nodded in the affirmative. “Thank you, blood!”
“You really have to pull yourself together, Nimi. Conclusion and assumption is bad!”
“We both know I’m not assuming. Mr Johnson has been glowing in a strange way at the office these days. That type of glow that is seen around a bachelor prepping for his wedding. It’s bad enough he has made Fiyin his cook, keeping her way after working hours is not something I want to hear of, at all!” Nimi lamented in spite of himself.
He lay tiredly on the settee with shirts flying. His tie would soon strangle him if he moved any inch forward again. The jacket of his suit and car keys lay on a side stool in front of him.
“All the same, I still think you should hear her own version of the story. Anything could have happened! Anything could have made her stay back after closing hours.” Edward persisted and Nimi laughed mockingly.
“And make her forget my birthday, huh? Indeed. I don’t even know why I’m letting this ruin my 29th. It’s not worth it at all” He pulled himself together and sat instead.
Edward smiled. “Isn’t it high time you proposed love to this lady yet? She seemed to be scattering all your dada!”
“She wish! Please, I don’t have time for all those now. moreover, she is having fun where she is. I’ve shown enough signs that would make her know I care so much. I shouldn’t be bothering someone’s life, should I?”
Edward patted his shoulder violently. “Nimi Peters, the dark, tall, handsome, rich young man that’s everybody’s dream. That sounds like perfect description for a player, huh?” Nimi eyeballed him and he smiled. “You showed ‘signs’ but she may think you are just flirting around with her. Step up your game man! Move from showing to saying. Ladies love to hear it. They love to hear us express exactly how we feel, then the signs thereafter will make them rate how much we mean what we have said. So say it first. In another news, happy ninth anniversary of your twentieth birthday, man. I will buy you a special gift – a calendar. And I hope you keep checking it this new year. We are waiting for the wedding bells o.”
Nimi laughed out this time. “You are a punk, Eddy! Calendar? C’mon mehn!” He started pushing Edward in the direction of the door.
“Yes o, at least the only punk you call whenever Fiyin breaks your heart!” he stuck out his tongue. “Good night, Buddy!” Edward walked out giggling as he closed the door behind him.
Nimi heard the door close and collapsed into the couch behind him like a sack of fresh potatoes.
Achile Peter’s phone blinked and started to ring. He left off his P.C immediately he saw the caller.
“This is just 6:15am here, Princess!”
He waited as the person on the other side of the phone giggled.
“I know you would be on your reading table from 4am, so it was only safe I called now before your day gets busy, dad! Well, I needed to tell you I’m bringing him over this weekend.”
Achile shook his head. “That fast?”
Ojonukpe murmured from the other side. “No, dad! You know it’s not that fast. You and mum are only sceptical because he is white!”
Achile smiled. His wife has joined him on the table now. She still looked drowsy but this was their daughter and she knew better than not to get up.
“Your father doesn’t even seem to have issues with it as much as I do, Nukpe!” Ojima Peters said into the receiver of the phone.
“Mum, you again?” Ojonukpe sounded unbelieving. “OK o! You people should just prepare to receive your guest on Friday though. Caleb and I are coming powerfully!”
“Come daughter, I hope he is aware of a lot of things. First, that you are my one and only daughter, secondly that you are an Igala girl, particularly that you are a Dekina breed. We are not cheap o!”
“Oh dad! Since when did you become this traditional?” she was laughing out loud.
“Well, I don’t have a choice. My daughter is about denying my surname for some white guy who didn’t, in the least, know when my wife and I formed her!”
Ojonukpe laughed harder. “Don’t be jealous yet, daddy. I got to go now. Today is CDS and my PPA is far from the local government headquarters. Let me run. Have a great day ahead sir and ma!” she rattled without giving any break in-between.
“Oh! Really?” her mother rose an eyebrow as though she could see her.
Ojonukpe laughed, knowing where that was intended.
“Have a nice day, dad and mum. Me love you!” she blew a loud kiss and waited till she was sure they heard it before ending her call.
“Honey, you know I’m not comfortable with all these white man’s idea, right? I’m not at all. I thought you would object to it o, that’s why I didn’t bluntly refuse before now.” Ojima said, pulling a stool and sitting beside her husband’s chair.
“It’s not that bad. I wanted to marry a white woman too back then, in fact, a black American caught my fancy…” Achile smiled mischievously while saying this. The statement struck the left part of Ojima’s head, but she quickly waved off the idea and listened on. “…until, I got back to Nigeria and one beautiful, smart Igala girl caught my attention, and caught it for life o.”
Ojima blushed carelessly.
“You remember where I met you?” he questioned.
“The salon I was apprenticing in front of the university gate na. I can’t forget, you accompanied a lady to make her hair.”
Achile smiled again. “Florence, she was all over me then as colleagues. I was dodging her after I started working at Kogi state university until that day I got stuck. She insisted I followed down to the salon… which wasn’t a big deal for me, really! Back in the States where I schooled, a perfect gentleman gladly would do things for ladies – not necessarily his.”
Ojima didn’t know why he was narrating all these again, when it wasn’t as though she didn’t witness it herself.
“Thank God I actually did follow her, ‘cos I saw my perfect match there at that salon. She was dutiful, all shades of seriousness. So serious that she didn’t even notice the handsome young man that walked in.” Ojima eyeballed him playfully. “…that’s twenty-three years now, Ojima, and my love for you has grown stronger and stronger since then. You are my forever, darling!” He pecked her forehead and withdrew quickly as though he stole it.
Ojima smiled. She couldn’t have wished for a better man in her life. She drew her head closer to his thighs and laid it on them. She barely was done with that before the door flew open and they both jerked up.
“Ojonugwa, don’t you knock people’s doors before barging in?” she queried. She had a little provocation in her voice.
“No, Old woman, this is my parent’s room!” she felt like drawing the young man’s ears with that sarcastic response. She is probably tired of Ojonugwa’s comic way of life all the time.
“My boy! What’s happening?” Achile demanded, a way of cutting out the looming expected argument between mother and son.
“Daddy, I’m going back to Abuja today…”
“What?” Ojima was standing this time. “Do you ever give prior notice about your journeys, or you always make impromptu decisions?”
Ojonugwa rolled his eyes and walked over to sit on the bed.
“What difference does it make, mum? Moreover, not as if you are packing ukpeye for me!”
Achile felt the impulse to laugh but cautioned himself. His wife will get mad if anyone takes her for a joke this early morning. She normally forces the boys to go with Ukpeye whenever they are leaving home like this. Ukpeye, an igala seasoning, taste better than the most assorted refined seasoning yet. She would always say it was more nutritious than all the carcinogenic substances sold around in the name of seasoning. Since cooking with it required some sort of expertise, the boys were always reluctant to go with it to Abuja.
“Why are you going all of a sudden, my boy?”
Ojonugwa heaved a sigh of relief. His father always knew how to roll with the boys, unlike his mother.
“I read now that ASUU would soon call off this strike. So I need to go find where I kept my books. Dust some and go through others at least. We were on the verge of writing exams before the strike and school said to start exam maximum of a week after resumption!” He explained and Ojima calmed down a little.
“OK! That’s fine. But your sister, Nukpe, is coming home with her fiancé this weekend. I thought it would be nice to have a complete family.” Achile stated but Ojima cut in.
“Family isn’t complete without Ojonimi, old man.”
Achile smiled. “No one is disputing that, sir. You have to calm down o!” he warned jokingly and Ojonugwa laughed. “We all know Nimi may be too engaged at work to come down for something like this. That is why you should represent him, since you are already here!”
Ojonugwa blushed shyly.
“Moreover, I’m a man now, mum!” he called out to his mother who was standing away from him
She stared at him for some minutes with a little smile tugging around her lips.
“Mtcheeew! Not only a man, you are an elder. Ata ogijo!”
Nimi forced open his eyes. The sound coming from the TV startled him at first. What’s happening? He looked down at himself, he was still on the same clothes. Could he have slept off on the couch? He thought he heard the doorbell chime? Yes, it came again. He quickly glanced at his wall clock.
He jumped up but the sound from the doorbell wouldn’t go down.
Who would that be so early? He murmured underneath his breath as he dragged himself to the door. Wow! He didn’t even lock the door last night. The fear of kidnappers is the beginning of security consciousness. For him is once beaten, twice shy. What sort of sleep would made Nimi of all persons sleep on the couch in the sitting room? That’s atypical of his default ‘prim and proper’ setting. He opened the door and his jaw dropped. He stared uncontrollable for a long time.
“Can’t I come in anymore?”
The stare from Nimi was getting too long. He shrugged and walked back into the sitting room, stiff posture, rigid muscles, a corded neck. Fiyin walked hurriedly after him.
“I’m sorry, Nimi…”
“It’s fine!” He interrupted her, picking up the remote.
Fiyin rubbed the back of her neck as she’s just been thrown off balance again.
“I had your birthday in mind, alright? I promise, I did. Until three days ago, I had our agreed outing in mind as well. I even thought to call you, if you forget, only for me to forget when the day finally came. I’m so sorry!” she sounded pathetic, her normally soft voice got softer and Nimi knew she was torturing him.
“I already said it’s fine, right? It’s fine!” he sucked in his breath, scrubbed knuckles over his jaw, then dropped them.
“Just to make you believe me, I left the receipt on your gift.” Fiyin said apologetically, handing him the box she was carrying.
Nimi accepted it in all reluctance and opened.
A red bowtie and pocket filler.
“You see the date is 21st? I bought it on Saturday. I’m sorry! It may not as expensive as your designer products, but it’s just a gift from me!”
Nimi smiled as he packed the box back, dropping it on the centre table.
“And because I wanted to make it a surprise, I didn’t ask for your favourite colour also. I instinctively bought red, hoping it would be your colour, moreover, everyone likes red, right?”
. “My favourite colour is dark blue, Fiyinfoluwa. Thanks for the gift anyway, this would be my 7th red bowtie this year!”
Fiyin felt her heart break at that statement. She knew Nimi was trying to get back at her, so she wouldn’t let him win.
“So? Why are you here? This is surely not your work place! Or you take shifts in his employee’s houses too?”
Fiyin smiled lightly, accessing all aspect of the room with her eyes.
“Ojonimi, since when did you become scattered like this?”
“If you didn’t barge in on me so early, I would have arranged my house before seeing anyone.” Nimi cut in bluntly and Fiyin rolled her eyes.
“Ojonimi, I already said I was sorry nau. Anyway, I came here to make your favourite, drilled meat and jollof rice!”
“No way, you are leaving right away!” Nimi sounded extremely cold as he said this without looking at her. He prayed somewhere in his heart that Fiyin wouldn’t go away. He prayed she would insist on staying. Having her around felt like medicine to an ailing cold. He had missed her voice, he had missed her face, he had missed her food. He had missed the whole of her.
And that’s the truth.
“I’m sorry, Twinnie!” Fiyin’s apologetic voice came again.
“I’ve heard you. I don’t just want you cooking for me, I still have hands you know?”
“You don’t know how to cook!” Fiyin jested, laughing away, in spite of herself.
“And I don’t need you to cook for me either. I was eating before I met you and now that you are gone, I’ll still eat. Please, come and be going, Fiyin! I would be late for work.” Nimi spoke through his teeth with forced restraint. He sounded very mean and harsh but Fiyin wasn’t bulging.
“I’ll leave after I’m done with the cooking!” Fiyin said and walked away in the direction of the kitchen.
He clenched his jaw. He wasn’t making any progress whatsoever at ignoring this girl after all.
To be continued Next Monday.
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