NIMI PETERS – Grace Ochigbo
Tolu walked as timid as a lamb drawn towards the slaughter. He had his heart in his mouth all along. The heavy steps of the hefty man leading the way in front of him wasn’t even helping matters at all. He was literally bundled into the car from his wretched place of abode earlier. Perhaps that which he feared most would happen today. He had a deadline to get all things sorted out and married to Joelyn. That was the agreement, that remains the agreement. Joelyn’s father has always been the only major obstacle in his way, as the girl herself has come to like him in her own way. But who cares about the excuses? In this line of agreement, it’s either you meet up your own part or you lose your life for it.
“You can excuse us!” Chief Ogbonna said to the hefty man without looking at him.
The room in which they were looked extremely scanty in Tolu’s eyes; at least compared to the other rooms he had seen on his way up here, to the uppermost floor of the large building. He thought the hefty man would be his major concern, but he suddenly got more scared as he watched the man walk out of the room, leaving him standing face to face with the blaring red eyes of his commander.
“Done or not?” There was no emotions whatsoever displayed in this voice.
“Eehmm… I… I… ehmmm!”
“Done it or not, damn you?” Chief Ogbonna’s voice came thundering so loudly that Tolu got weak at the knees.
He felt his vision suddenly grow dim with increased palpitation. He didn’t even realise he had fallen to the ground helplessly until he felt an object dangling around his right ear. He forcefully opened his eyes to see the gun – it was as dark as coal tar and chief’s hand was firmly holding onto the trigger. At last, this may be his end. He shut his eyes firmly, waiting to hear a gun shot, waiting to hear his brain shatter into pieces as he would begin his journey to hell. Would he even hear it if he was shot? He didn’t know how it would be like so he waited. Sweat as thick as moulds dripping down his entire body.
Tolu thought he was in the afterlife already. Opening his eyes was like the scariest thing for him as the voice roared again to get up. Could it be he made it to heaven finally and not hell as he deserved? Probably, God was beckoning him to get up and come over.
“Get the hell up, idiot!”
This command sort of translated into a wind that blew him up instantly leaving him standing on two legs. He opened his eyes. No glowing lights, no dazzling brightness as he had heard some Christians who get to hand him tracks say about the mystery heaven. He saw something like a throne though and wiping the back of his hand against his face, the throne gradually fizzled out till all he could see was Chief Ogbonna on a chair opposite where he stood.
So he wasn’t dead after all?
So chief didn’t kill him?
The thoughts came quite unbelievable to him, yet gradually became reality.
“Who am I to you, Toluwani?”
Tolu looked astonished and he didn’t hide any detail off his face. Chief’s voice was extremely calmer; calmer than any he had heard in times past. Even though he hadn’t met with him one on one like this before, this was an abridged version of the famous, highly feared and brutal chief Ikechukwu Ogbonna.
“Start from how you ever got working for me… c’mon, talk fast. I don’t have time!”
Now Tolu could sense a little irritation in his voice and had to be quick. Real quick.
“Cajal came to meet me and my Gees then. He said someone had a job for me and when I asked who the person was, he responded with your name. The only part he didn’t explain was how you got to know me and was specific about bringing me. I was jobless…” he paused to glance at Chief Ogbonna. “Well… I’m still jobless except that I work for you…”
“Get straight to the point.”
“Cajal said to have a conference call with you, and that was the time you outlined everything I should do to me. The assignment was specific and I actually saw it easy up until the major blockade came along our path. The whole sneaking to a party, getting her drunk yet attempting to drive, the motor accidents and my coming in the picture, including the first prison term… all the drama that ensued after then got her endeared to me more and more. I swear, I’m doing my very best. The pregnancies keep having issues. The first one was reported still birth and this very one terminated from overdose of drugs Joelyn took. I swear I’m not being negligent as Cajal paints me to be, boss.”
“Keep quiet there!” Chief Ogbonna roared from his chair. “…did I tell you to call Cajal’s name here? If you are working enough, how come you are not married to Johnson’s daughter yet? Was that not the agreement? Or have your dumb brain suddenly forgotten?”
Tolu swallowed painfully. He really wasn’t doing well enough after all.
“Where is your grandmother now?”
“Uhm!” Tolu’s eyes popped open before he could stop himself. Since when did Chief Ogbonna start checking up on his family?
“Is your grandmother still in Keffi?”
“Keffi, sir? She is still in Keffi!”
“Are you surprised? Just know I have more information about you than you can probably imagine. Don’t let me take a collateral for the time wastage! Be guided.” He let out a wicked smile and Tolu suddenly fell flat on his face.
“Please sir, kill me instead, don’t touch my grandma please. She is all I have in the world and the one to come. I beg you sir. One more chance, I swear I won’t fuck up again. Please sir!”
“I haven’t mentioned killing anyone yet, right? Anyway, I’ll give you this last tool and it’s left for you to use it well against your obstacle or not.”
Tolu strained his ears forward as he listened on.
“I persuaded Johnson to have the doctor untimely evacuate Joelyn’s first pregnancy during delivery and report to everyone then that it was a still birth. It’s because I know my friend to be very stubborn and hard-hearted. I saw a day like this coming. However, I already bribed the doctor and the baby was eventually delivered fine and given to me without Johnson’s knowledge.”
“What are you saying, sir?” Tolu couldn’t believe what his ears just heard.
“I have been taking care of your son. He is hale and hearty with a mistress. That’s if that, for you, would be any tool to get through to Johnson with. You are excused…” Chief Ogbonna turned to walk away. “Right now!” he yelled.
Tolu staggered as he walked out with his head bowed.
Chief Ogbonna let out a wry smile and drank out of his glass cup as the picture from the brown envelope in his hand held his gaze.
Nimi was talking at the top of his voice. They have decided to come sit at the general lounge part of the bar today. He felt staying in an usual place with unusual noise and people, except Edward of course, would make him unwind faster. Hell no. It was as though the Dj’s music and wildness from the crowd removed one nut per time from his brain.
Edward hurried after him still holding up to his glass of non-alcoholic wine. They both don’t smoke neither do they do alcohols. Nimi pressed down the remote and the car started blinking.
“I thought you insisted I followed you here?”
Nimi didn’t even look back as he seemed to throw the answer. “It’s not helping!”
Edward went round the car to the seat beside Nimi. He glanced at the entire colourful compound they were in, well lit and all. How Nimi couldn’t see any beauty in this whole place still baffled him.
“You know, at times I feel like something major is yet to hit me!” Nimi started, sounding extremely pathetic.
Edward chuckled as he gulped down the remaining content of the cup before flinging it out. He noticed Nimi’s displeased look at that action but he ignored.
“I doubt if you would survive anything else hitting you other than these past ones. May I inform you that you have shed off some weight? Worrying isn’t going to help you, bro.”
“He saw us. She was holding on to me then. I told you. He opened the door on us and all she did was to simply walk out with her head bowed. I thought hell would be let loose that afternoon but Mr Johnson only spoke business with me. That wasn’t supposed to be his reaction for Christ’s sake. It wasn’t.” He hit his hand hard against the steering.
Edward looked puzzled. “What then was your own idea of his reaction?”
Nimi shot him a ‘you-don’t-mean-it’ eye.
“This is a man that came to my house to share his intentions about Fiyin. He literally warned me to steer clear. You know? Seeing me with her in a compromised position in my office? Don’t that sound like betrayal to you? Yet he never spoke about it. He was supposed to have punished me, or in the very least vent out his displeasures. Here we are, one week gone and we are into the other week, he is saying nothing. He continued the rapport with me as though nothing happened!”
“Shouldn’t that make you feel better? At least, he is really acting the father to you as usual!” Nimi shot an angry look at him again and he smiled. “Seriously, I am pretty worried that he let that particular scene slid just like that, but then what would you rather? Moreover, you are the cause of all these mess in the first place.”
Nimi swallowed. “How? I was using the patience virtue. I didn’t want a repeat of Atim, you knew how she shattered everything in me. Moreover, Fiyin is also not Igala, I don’t want her coming to tell me much later that she’s forbidden from marrying outside her tribe! Don’t you understand?”
Edward nodded as he felt the frustration in his friend’s voice. “I understand, bro!”
“No, you don’t.” Nimi snapped. “You’ve never been caught up in any serious mess before. You met Ele since we were in the university, you both fell in love and she married you. She hasn’t ever done as much as threaten, let alone leave. You have Goldie. You have that charming angel for a daughter. You have it all, bro. I was taking my time to be sure of my feelings for Fiyin. I saw she liked me too, or even love, but I wanted to be sure I was sure. I guess the patience virtue is useless after all!”
“Don’t be hard on yourself, Nimi. Inasmuch as I should be consoling you right now, I must tell you the truth. I’ve been telling you but you never want to listen. It was obvious you both were into each other, I don’t know what you were still cowardly watching out for. You never presented an option of having Atim come live with you at any point.”
“No situation required that. Moreover, I did nothing with Fiyin… well…” Nimi interrupted and started counting his words much later.
Edward began to laugh. “Don’t worry! That’s you people’s business, I don’t care whether you did something or everything. My point however is that, you were quick to open your house up for her to come live in with her brother. It’s always been spontaneous about that girl. Shouldn’t that alone tell you how special you see her? I know you very much, Nimi Peters!”
Nimi took in a deep breath. “You know we are beating a dead horse right now, huh?”
Edward shook his head from side to side. “Not after you make your feelings known to her. Give her something to hold onto, something to work with, something to fight for.”
“Are you crazy, Eddy! You told me Mr Johnson came to your office to ask for your assistance in preparation for the wedding. What then are you now asking me to do?”
“I’m asking you to propose love to Fiyin. See my friend, I know Mr Johnson wants to really marry that girl, and so do you…” Nimi shot a hard look at him again and he ignored as usual. “…right now, she can’t say two men are after her because the second man never said anything. You go say something first and let’s see if she would go on with that marriage or not. That way, we all know you tried at least.”
Nimi swallowed painfully, taking deep breaths in between.
“As long as Fiyinfoluwa ‘The voice’ is not married yet Nimi, you still have a chance. A promising chance for that matter!” Edward said finally and relaxed into his seat. “Don’t waste it.” He added.
Ojima tiptoed into the darkroom. She tried to be so quiet that even her breathing could not be heard. She located the master-sized bed without much stress. That’s part of what living in the same house for such a long time can cause. She slid quietly underneath the duvet and made sure to turn on the opposite side. When she thought she had succeeded, a hand tapped her shoulder and she jerked instantly. Then light came on…
“Honey, I thought you were already sleeping!” She gasped these words as she looked extremely frightened.
“When my wife has chosen to tiptoe into her own bedroom in the middle of the night? Which reasonable man would sleep peacefully amidst such?” His face bore no expression whatsoever.
“I’m sorry, honey. I just didn’t want to disturb you so I …”
“You stay disturbed yourself?” Achile Peters cut in before she could finish. Ojima swallowed. She searched her heart for a tenable excuse or anything that would cover the whole situation.
“What is it again, Wifey? Started watching that your magic woman again? Because since you stopped some weeks ago, I’ve had a more cheerful wife to come home to with little drama, not one that forgets herself sitting in the sitting room and staring at the ceiling till midnight!”
Ojima didn’t know how to respond now. “Honey, you have to please forgive and consider me this once, please I beg you!!” she quickly got off the bed to go kneel before him.
Achile looked unbelievably at her. Was that online woman an addiction or enchantment or something? His mind couldn’t wrap well around it.
“Honey, please, I promise when you let me do this, I won’t ever bother you about her site again. In fact, I’ll make sure to show you my browsing history every day!”
“Well, that wouldn’t be necessary!” Achile interjected. “What do you want, my beautiful woman?”
She smiled in spite of herself. Her husband has this way of making her smile amidst serious situations.
“It’s still about Lauren, Honey…” She glanced, hoping to see displeasured look or anything in her husband’s eyes but there was no such thing. That boosted her confidence a little. “She is finally yielding to the pleas of her Nigerian followers and I’m sorry I went against your command of not checking her site again. I only meant to take a quick peep, only to find the announcement of her coming to Nigeria in barely a week’s time, Honey…” She rose her head to be sure her husband was still with her. “… if this is the last request you grant me Honey, I would be grateful. I really want to go. Please! I shared my problem with her some time ago and her advice coupled with your continuous support has helped me tremendously. She said to see me whenever she comes to Nigeria. Please Honey. Allow me.”
Achile took in a deep breath. “Wow!” He let out hot air. “… where is the event holding and when?”
“It’s at Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Sir.”
She could taste fear in her own voice. Fear of being disappointed by her husband, as that will be the case when he refuses.
“You are sure you can find your way around Abuja?” he had this deep concern in his voice.
“When I ran away from home to Kaduna, I haven’t been there before too, you know?”
“You were a teenager then, woman. You keep forgetting that you should be a grandma by now!” He touched her nose.
“That’s if Nimi had married before now!”
Achile shook his head in disapproval. “Ehn ehn! Leave the young man out of this discussion and let him sleep in peace wherever he is at the moment…” Ojima smiled. “…well, if going to see Lauren would make you sleep deeper henceforth, then you can go. But promise to keep to your word, this would be the last of her I would hear in this house.”
Ojima jumped up and onto his leg. “Yes! Yes! Yes honey!” she threw her hands in the air and planted a soft kiss on his lips. “Why do you love me so much, oko mi? I love you so much more, Achile mi!”
Achile chuckled as his wife giggled with excitement, like a sixteen year old, on his legs. Whatever it is, he had promised during their wedding never to make her cry ever again as he hope to be able to embalm and help heal all her past wounds.
“Lemme call Nimi immediately!” Ojima pulled her phone closer but her husband snatched it off her hand.
“It’s late. Can we sleep now?” He asked, nosing her off his leg and onto the bed.
Fiyin’s mother gave way as he walked into the house. She wanted to think he was dressed too honourable for an early morning unplanned visit such as this. An agbada with red royal beads, a cap to match and his golden walking stick. Mr Johnson’s appearance this morning should be referred as intimidating. He was as though one of the newly elected senators of the IPOB. Well, he was a chief after all, even though he hate to be referred as such. Whether it’s humility or for political purposes, no one seem to know. He gladly took the seat Fiyin’s mother offered him and refused the offer of taking something.
“You look so adorable, chief!” She finally could compliment him as she took her seat opposite where he sat.
Mr Johnson smiled. “Well, one must never visit his in-law in rags!”
Fiyin’s mother started laughing so loud, one would wonder whether it was the statement or something else that was amusing her. She felt indeed honoured to be sitting face to face with the famous money magnate, Chief E.J. Johnson. So honoured!
“You have spoken well, chief. I must say you are the most worthy in-law anyone can ever have. I mean, look at how you have made a poor and wretched woman to now wine and dine in a mansion!” She threw her hands out, gesticulating every part of her statement.
Mr Johnson smiled sheepishly and started. “We… or to be more specific now, I started this hotel business some time ago. It flourished and I think we have at least a branch of that hotel in every state in Nigeria, including the FCT here. It doesn’t bear Crestac, so most people wouldn’t in their wildest imagination suspect I own that business. But you know, man cannot depend on just one source of income. We have to diversify!”
“Beni sir o. You have just said the truth chief.” Fiyin’s mother whose head has been nodding so much so that one would think it would pull off said something at last.
“I thought to set a standard structure for it. You know, we have different managers per branch and they all report directly to me and all. That’s why my life is so so busy and tiring. Now that I’m getting married again though, I want to shed off some of these weights. I want to have all the time I can have for my new wife…” he waited for the woman’s affirmation before continuing. “…you know, I’ve put an able member of staff in charge of managing Crestac, while I just get reports from him. I also want to put someone accountable in charge of the hotels too, so that the different managers of the various branches would report to this person and I can only be summoned when my attention is needed. What do you thing about that, ma?
Fiyin’s mother felt odd when he referred to her as ‘ma’. She looks older than him, no doubt, but she was quite certain he couldn’t be younger than even her late husband. The things money can do.
“I think that’s very sensitive of you, chief. Especially now that you are marrying a young blood, you have to give her ample time so she doesn’t consider messing around.” She winked mischievously at Chief and they both landed in a resounding laughter.
“So, I’ve thought to put you in charge of that business, ma. If you don’t mind!”
Fiyin’s mother jerked up. “Me? Overall manager of all your hotels? If I don’t mind?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind I could get another job for you. This, I think, would be very demanding, but from your past experiences with Buka and the rest, I felt you would be good at managing such things even though this is extreme compared to that. I see you haven’t been working since you totally recuperated. It’s not really good for your health. And I’ve abolished that buka already. God forbid my mother in-law owns and work in such a low class place.”
Tears filled her eyes. “Thank you so much, chief…” she made to kneel but he held her up, she continued in her appreciation anyway. “You have been a God-sent to me and my family, chief. Everyone thought we would go into extinction after my husband’s death, but here you are, God used you to turn our lives around. I appreciate you, chief.”
Mr Johnson got up, still having a smile plastered to his face. It was everything to have your intendant’s mother on your side. She followed closely behind chief as he walked to the exit door. Suddenly he turned…
“Mummy Fiyin, inasmuch as I’m doing all these things because of your daughter, I want you to know that I love her enough and want her to be happy.”
Fiyin’s mother nodded hurriedly in the affirmative.
“I think your daughter is not happy with me…!”
“Haba chief…” she interrupted before he could finish that line. “… how can she not be happy with you? In fact, she loves you even more. She doesn’t know how to show it ni. Believe me, she is just a kid chief and you really have to be patient with her!”
Mr Johnson smiled. “I guess I’m really patient with her after all. I saw her almost making out with my boy, the company’s general manager the other time, in his office.”
“What?” Fiyin’s mother exclaimed in shock.
Mr Johnson smiled and continued. “I didn’t say anything to any of them because I saw no need. I just chose to let the issue go. In case it continues though and I don’t see any yielding whatsoever from her, I may have to just go my way and move on.”
“No chief. Olorun maje. It can never get to that. I’ll do everything within my power to make sure you marry her, chief. Please forgive her, emabinu. She is only a child. I’ll talk to her, chief. I will…”
Mr Johnson thought his face caught someone while the woman in front of him yet spoke. Fiyin’s mother also noticed the direction of his eyes and turned there only to see Fiyin gluing herself to the wall as always.
She looked really rough, her braids scattered everywhere around her face. She wore a pyjamas and looked extremely beautiful even in it. She’s been more or less keeping to herself for a while now and her mother had given up on wanting a conversation with her. The two people at the door stood watching Fiyin as though they’ve never seen her before. She looked like she’s been listening to them the whole time and she motioned like she had something to say. They stood patiently till she opened her mouth and allowed the words come out.
“I’ll marry you, chief!” she said slowly.
To be continued.
Please, I always love to get feedback from you. Take out a minute to drop a comment. I want to see it. #much love.