NIMI PETERS by Grace Ochigbo
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He got back into his car after locking the gate firmly and drove towards the car park of his fairly large compound. It’s nothing compared to the Johnson’s mansion but it’s large enough to suit his status as a bachelor – a chronic one at that. He was surprised to see another car parked in his parking lot. He recognised the car very well but just couldn’t place how it probably broke its way through the huge iron gate or either sides of the tall and mighty walls.
“How did you get in, Eddy?”
Nimi was startled as Ojonugwa’s voice came greeting him from the kitchen. Of course, Ojonugwa had his own keys to the gate and the house but that doesn’t also explain how he developed wings from Anyigba to Abuja on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
“We barely got back from church when he came to the house. Said he was here, and thought you would be with us since he didn’t meet you!” Edward explained, his face firmly glued to the screen of his tablet as though he read from it.
Nimi walked tiredly to a chair, undoing his tie while at it.
“You don’t look excited to see me, big bro!”
“Because I am not. Must mum always think someone needs to monitor me? The last time, she was already packing to come search for her kidnapped son in Abuja all by herself, this time, she is sending you down. Can’t I make a simple contribution to the family without being misunderstood?” Nimi yelled.
Edward dropped his tablet in utter shock and stared at his friend. The latter was sounding rather too pathetic for safety. He winked at Ojonugwa, motioning him not to say any further and of course, the latter obeyed, simply picked up his shirt from the handle of the chair and headed upstairs.
“Buddy, where are you coming from by the way?” Edward turned questioning eyes to his friend who was now sited tiredly and fully into the chair beside his.
Nimi scoffed. “Today is Sunday.”
For weird reasons, that simple statement seemed to amuse Edward a lot and he laughed till he could stop himself. Nimi wasn’t going to stop him after all – it’s a free world.
“Nimi Peters goes to church!”
Nimi ignored the sarcasm in his friend’s tone. “I have never been a pagan, Eddy. Moreover, at a point, I just got too occupied with activities and traveling up and down. My pastors at Dunamis headquarters, area 1, Garki, know me. If I’m lying, you can go and do your investigations.”
Edward laughed even harder. “Brother Nimi! Nagode! But why haven’t you been picking Fiyin’s calls? Does that have anything to do with your newly found change in Sunday routines?”
Nimi scowled. If only Edward could get into his mind or learn about the ordeals from yesterday, he would mellow down on these inconvenient jokes.
“You know, I really don’t think it should be anyone’s business whose calls I pick up or not. It’s my goddamn phone, right?” He was screaming at the top of his lungs now.
Edward sat up in his chair. “Calm down, bro. What’s wrong?” He felt the impulse to draw nearer Nimi and possibly place a hand around his shoulders but refrained himself from it. He, of all people, knows how irrational Nimi can be when angry or upset or provoked.
“You shouldn’t tell me to calm down, Eddy! Yes. You shouldn’t!” Nimi wriggled his head vigorously as he said this. “You guys should really stop meddling in my affairs. I am not a patient in the hospital, neither am I a flood victim helplessly driven out of my own house. I am a man. A fully grown man. I’m aware of my life and decisions and would want you all to acknowledge that!” Nimi pushed himself forward and picked up the remote control on the side stool beside the chair.
“What did our queen Fiyinfoluwa do to you, bro?”
“Nothing!” Nimi snapped, changing channels. He just needed to get Edward more pissed so the latter could let him be.
Edward walked over to the television. He scanned his eyes around till he found the switch hidden somewhere behind. Reaching for it, he put off the television that was distracting his very much important conversation. He walked back gently but this time towards the side stool. Pulling it forward, he sat on it, coming to stare face to face at the Nimi who was doing all possible to avoid eye contact.
“What is wrong, bro? You know you can always talk to me. First is with the ‘all -of-a-sudden’ going to church and attending all five services…” Nimi eyeballed him coldly but he ignored and continued. “…now is this unusual venom sitting deeply on your inside you like that of a wounded tiger, awaiting someone to call for a deadly bite. What is wrong with you, my dearest friend?”
“Nothing” Nimi snapped out again. “So long as she is OK there, that’s all that matters, right? Moreover, I’m not so much into her anyway!”
“OK where? Into who? You are speaking parables, bro.” Edward sounded sincerely confused.
Nimi laughed in spite of himself. “Into Fiyinfoluwa, the soon-to-be Mrs Johnson!”
“Fiyi… Fi… Fi… Mrs what?” Edward suddenly felt weak at the ankles as blood appeared to have drained from all over his face.
Fiyin jerked up as her door opened forcefully.
“Yes daughter. I’m so sorry, Abosede mi! He is gone now!”
Fiyin flipped her hair from her face; her eyes were swollen, puffy and red already. Her body shivered as though all available litres of fluid were draining out.
“He told me everything, Abosede! Was that why you locked yourself up in this room since yesterday morning?” She grabbed Fiyin’s shivering body as more tears poured down this time. Mr Johnson had tried to stop her at the door yesterday morning, but she wriggled herself off his tender grip. She had to run away, run into the safety of her quiet room and cry.
“Maami, I can’t do it!” she sounded as though a gun was pointed at her forehead.
Her mother took a deep breath in. She removed that one strand of hair that was struggling for space around Fiyin’s lips.
“Abiodun Lawal… ha! He suffered. He suffered so much in hustle, and struggle all his life. Every breaking day he wanted to make all ends meet, but then everything kept going far away from his grip with each step. Ha! He suffered!”
Fiyin had stopped crying now and stared anxiously at her mother while the latter lamented. She didn’t see the point the older woman was driving at just yet.
“When my father’s family members fought hard against my getting married to your father, I thought they were just being haters. I saw potentials, didn’t I? of course! I saw potentials. I was ready to start a life with him, however small, even when he could barely feed himself. We moved down here and began from one struggle to another, so much struggle that finally made me come down with a terminal illness. And I thank God for people like chief who have kind hearts. Thank God for the surgery, daughter… It was… wa…”
Fiyin couldn’t keep it in any longer. “What are you talking about, maami!”
“Your father’s people call me a witch up till now. They say I’m the reason for his ill luck in life. They claim their son was doing well until I came into his life, but that’s not true! That’s not…” her voice broke and Fiyin drew closer to her. “I’m not a witch. I didn’t do anything bad to your father, instead I kept my own life on the line to save this family. To save my children. I toiled morning, afternoon and night, until I nearly lost my own life, just to put food on the table, Abosede mi. I did my very best!” A tiny line of tear dropped down her face now.
“I know that, maami. I know you are not a witch. You don’t have to prove it by saying it over and again. You are my rock. I can’t even imagine what I would have done if I’ve lost you too to that terrible illness. Maami, stop torturing yourself…” Fiyin rubbed her back.
Her mother sniffed. “None of his family members care about our welfare. It doesn’t matter to them where we went to, where we now live, how we now cope. It doesn’t matter to any of them, including his so-called egbons. God punish poverty!”
Fiyin swallowed. She couldn’t find more words so she just looked on.
“If I’m to make any prayer in life daughter, it would be that my children never come close to the type of life I had lived in suffering and penury. God forbid!” she rose her both hands in demonstration and continued. “And you beautiful daughter, I’m very proud of you. I’m proud of the woman you have become. It’s because of you that I’m alive today. It’s because of you that I now live in an estate. Emi? Estate in Abuja? Olorun Ese o! It’s because of you àbèkè. It’s only because of you!”
“It’s God that did it for us, màami. It’s no one’s making!”
Her mother smiled briefly at her protest. “He did it through you noni. Look at it this way daughter, chief would not only be a husband to you but also the father you no longer have…”
“What?” Fiyin exclaimed before she could stop herself. She couldn’t believe her mother just said that.
“I’ve come to realise at this stage that our choices shouldn’t be made for the present alone. That’s the real definition of selfishness. Have you ever imagined how it would be if I had considered my children’s welfare when I was signing into abject poverty with your father?” she swallowed. “Look, I’m not complaining. I thank God for the gift of life and all, but have you ever thought of how life would have been better for all of us if I had put you children in mind all along? And how enhanced your glowing black beauty would be?” she touched Fiyin’s soft cheeks.
“I have nothing to regret, maami. I love you and baami, I love Deji, I love my family. We may not be perfect but we are perfect for each other. Moreover, Chief is old enough to be my father!”
“Exactly!” her mother cut in before she could continue. “That’s exactly my point. And also rich enough to bear your burdens in this life and the one to come, my dear. You have to drop sentiments aside now and think through this, daughter. Don’t be too quick to conclude on someone just like that. Chief ranks one of the topmost among the richest and most influential people in this country. Consider yourself becoming a territorial commander after marrying him. Imagine the numerous things that would be under your control and influence. Imagine how your children would be grateful you brought them into so much affluence. Remember, all those your childhood dreams of holding chains of business empires, having enough money to feed thousands per day, help poor people go to school and all? Don’t you think God is answering your prayers here?” she turned questioning eyes at Fiyin who swallowed painfully.
“Anyway, as you ponder over this when I’m gone, also remember the man has stayed unmarried for a very long time now and there are no records of promiscuity around him. He travels around the globe and has lots of high class women, first class societal women begging and calling for his attention, but he chose you, daughter, you should really feel on top of the world for this!”
The older woman got up and started walking towards the exit. Fiyin’s eyes followed her as she walked. Her mother’s words stuck like glue to her brain. They sure had some sense.
“Maami, I love Nimi!”
Her mother stopped abruptly as though a ghost just struck her from the walls. She turned to face her daughter who looked as innocent and as drained as a chicken beaten in the recent Benue floods.
“Does he love you too?”
Fiyin wanted to respond. She wanted to say ‘yes’. She wanted to say ‘I think so’, she wanted to say something but nothing could come out of her mouth. Her mother was back and sited in front of her now. The latter placed a hand on her shoulders and cupped her chin with the other hand.
“A young man has his whole life planned out in front of him, daughter. I know how it feels when a lady is first to love a man – a young rich and famous man at that. I know you love him but the most deadly thing for any lady is to ever assume a man loves her when he never said so. Actions? Yes! Men have been proven and shown to be able to put up acts in complete opposite ways from what their heart really feels. You can’t correctly judge a man by merely judging his actions. Abosede, never you assume a man loves you and wants to marry you until he says it from his own mouth and then shows you how much he means it!”
Fiyin swallowed again painfully as her mother’s last words hit her again like the sharp edge of an arrow.
The woman was right!
Nimi doesn’t obviously give a damn about her. He never confessed love to her at any point whatsoever. Yes, there were the outbursts of emotions sometimes, but guess those were all they were – outbursts. She must have been building castles in thin air all the while. Perhaps she should get over all these one-sided infatuations and move on with something substantial… something real!
She waited till the door closed firmly behind her mother before reaching out for her phone. Her hand shivered as she held onto it and at some points she thought she would smash it on the ground sooner than the call would go through. It’s a new Samsung Galaxy edge, and it was gifted her by chief only a week ago.
She muttered some inaudible things to herself, like prayers, as she pressed down the call symbol against Ojonimi’s name.
“The number you dialled is switched off. Please try after…”
Feeling frustrated, she threw the phone far away from her to the upper edge of the bed, falling alongside it also like a log of wood before the automated voice could finish.
Ojima let out a loud painful scream.
“Next. Time. You. Won’t. Open. Your. Stinking. Dirty. Mouth. To. Talk. To. Me. Anyhow. I’m. The. Only… Only Man. In. This. House. Get. That. Into. Your. Useless. Brain.”
Saying these with utmost rage, he descended more heavily and angrily on her.
With the little energy left in Ojima, she spit in his face.
The thin line of spittle ran down his cheek. He daubed it with his fingers, gazing at it in shock. Grabbing her, he threw her to the floor. Drawing back his foot, he slammed it into her stomach. She gasped in shock and pain, curling protectively around her swollen belly. He kicked her again and again.
Ojima’s mind refused to accept what her body felt. Time seemed to speed up while the rest of her slowed down.
He backhanded her so hard that blackness curled in from the outside of her vision. The blackness receded. Tiny sparks flashed. Shaking her head to clear it, her face screwed up in agony as he pounded her – his features contorted by a bottomless rage.
“I’ll kill you tonight!”
A kick to Ojima’s already bruised ribs stole her breath. Another made her whole body clench in protest. Another and a scream of pain tore from her throat. Her whole existence revolved around waiting for the next kick and the next explosion of pain.
Something cracked, it sounded like lightening. At first she thought something inside her had finally snapped, but she didn’t feel it. And then the kicks finally stopped.
She rolled and vomited again, and again, and again.
When her wretched finally stopped, she managed to look up. Pa. Andrews and his wife, the elderly couple next door, had come in.
She realised her hand was wet and looked down. Bright blood pooled beneath her. Barely holding onto consciousness, she felt blood gush between her legs, soaking everything around her. She hurt so much. She couldn’t reach through the pain to her thoughts.
Ojima tried forcing herself to get up. A face appeared before her. It took a moment for her to realize it was Mama Andrews.
“It’s not my blood.” But she tasted blood in her mouth.
Not wanting to make herself sick, she spit it onto the already stained floor.
Pa. Andrews glanced down. “Let’s get her to the hospital immediately.
A hand tapped her shoulders and she jerked back. Fear written all over her eyes.
“I’ve been calling you, Wifey!”
Ojima stared back at her husband with frightened eyes that threatened to fall off the orbits. She suddenly realised the sauce on the cooker was beginning to burn. She hurried over to it and removed the pot, replacing it with another one, filled with water.
“You’re lost in thoughts again, isn’t it?” Achile Peters demanded as he continued the dishes from where she left off. She’s been holding onto one plate the whole time while outside the whole world.
“I hope we don’t get to pack out of a burnt house empty-handed because my wife has refused to get over her past after how many years?” he made sure to plaster a cocky smile somewhere to the left side of his lips.
“I’m sorry, Honey! This thing just overwhelms me at times. I’m really sorry. I promi…”
Shhhh! He shushed her before she could finish the statement.
“Promising me over and again hasn’t helped you. Make up your mind to make today better for the future instead of continually staring at the past, my queen.” He held her gaze this time.
“Honey! Nimi’s words struck me yesterday. He said, no one has forever to make a life-changing decision. No one. I feel like that statement was for me. I need to make the decision to let go of these hurting memories. That guy nearly killed me, Honey. Ha! God!” she let her tears flow freely. She then swallowed and paused for a while before talking. “Well, I need to fight the horrible memories away, I need to forget it.”
“We are in this together, Ojima. I love you and I mean every single word of it. I’m always here for you. Forever is our own beginning.” Achile said as he drew her closer for a hug.
Chief Ogbonna dropped the glass of cold juice in his hand alongside the newspaper. It was only Mr Johnson that had the right to come meet him at this time. It was an alone time for him and it’s usually the whole of Sundays, right here under one of the shades in the extra-large garden behind his compound.
“She is avoiding me. I’m just coming from her house. Her mother said she would talk to her!”
Chief Ogbonna at first felt startled by his friend’s agitated voice but pulled himself together to talk.
“You still went ahead with that shit, Emeka Jones?”
Mr Johnson returned a wicked stare at him and he knew why.
“Don’t give me that look, cos right now you are acting like that part of you!”
“What part of me? If I may ask.”
Chief Ogbonna scoffed with disdain. “The greedy, selfish, domineering, callous and stone-hearted part of you. Or you mean to tell me that you don’t know how that boy would feel when you finally marry the girl? This is cheer wickedness Emeka and sincerely I’m very much disappointed in you!”
Mr Johnson chuckled lightly. “Are you for real, Ike? You are defending Nimi Peters? I thought you were both sworn enemies?”
Chief Ogbonna drew a long hiss at Mr Johnson’s sarcasm.
“Enemies with that tiny brat? Dare me and I would go public with it!”
Mr Johnson saw the terrible look on his friend’s eyes and came down from his high horses. “What do you want from me, Ike?” his voice was sober this time
“Leave Fiyin alone for Nimi to get married to!”
Chief Ogbonna was looking away and that worried Mr Johnson even more. “You know that’s not possible, Ike. I love that girl.”
“You can even give birth to two of her!” Chief Ogbonna yelled back before he could stop himself. He saw Mr Johnson jerk backwards. “Anyway, I have another option for you… I am merciful, ain’t I? It has to be one of the two, else I’ll make it public and you can begin to imagine your fate, and that of the name you have built over the years, thenceforth. Remember, there is a huge difference between ‘threats’ and ‘warnings’ Emeka. Don’t push me!”
Mr Johnson stared back at his friend. Truth was that he felt really scared, knowing fully well what Chief Ogbonna was capable of doing to one and his career. He knew caution was his best bet at the moment so didn’t interrupt.
“You would let that miserable daughter of yours marry the father of her child!”
“What?” Mr Johnson screamed out in shock as his eyeballs were almost dropping off.
To be continued next Monday.
How are you my friends?
I hope you enjoyed the bonus? Have a great day ahead.