NIMI PETERS BY GRACE OCHIGBO
Nimi turned his chair as his boss opened the door. Many things come across as surprises to him these days; one of which was Mr Johnson’s unusual visit to his office at a time close to lunch break. His secretary called him some ten minutes ago that the boss would like to see him at the boardroom. Nimi felt he should just go for lunch first before going to the boss’ office, since there was apparently no board meeting scheduled for today. He need not have appetite these days before deciding whether to go to the company’s cafeteria, or not. He’s found the beauty his eye had been longing to see.
He glanced at his wrist watch. This meeting had better be brief.
“Sir, I got your summon and I was just about getting on my way.” He started the discussion first. This approach has advantage – he would act the victim and his boss would probably be left with no choice than to play along.
“It’s OK. I was just on my way out anyway…” Mr Johnson responded calmly and waited. Nimi didn’t know what he was supposed to say, so he also kept quiet and stared back at his boss who was looking all exhausted and tired.
“Yeah! Joelyn…” He started but Nimi had to interrupt him now.
“Sir, don’t tell me you asked to see me just to get response to the marriage you proposed between your daughter and I. Remember that it was only yesterday morning, sir!” Nimi was trying hard to hide his anger.
Mr Johnson smiled and relaxed into the seat.
“I’m not here to get response Nimi. I’m here to ask questions.”
‘Ask questions?’ that last part of the older man’s statement hit Nimi’s brain like the sharp pointed end of a javelin. His boss was sounding unusually calm as well and it bothered him.
“Questions about what, sir?” his eyeballs widened for real.
“First question… do you want to kill my only daughter?”
Nimi gave the ‘I don’t understand you’ look involuntarily.
“OK! Perhaps I should rephrase it. Do you want my only daughter to kill herself?”
Now Nimi couldn’t understand a thing coming from his boss’ mouth anymore. He felt really uncomfortable on his seat and it was as though the padded chair was feeling really hot underneath his buttocks.
“What are you talking about, sir?” Nimi was sincerely confused and his tone displayed it.
“Joelyn is in the hospital.”
“Hospital?” Nimi jerked up from his chair, to his feet. “What happened to her?”
“That’s what I came to find out from you.” Mr Johnson said nonchalantly. “Although I was too harsh on her last night because she made me lose my calm. I don’t know what she does with money. Something tells me she wastes it on that her good-for-nothing boyfriend.”
“Boyfriend?” Nimi interrupted him.
Mr Johnson swallowed, hoping he could take back the words. “I…I meant ex… ex-boyfriend.”
Nimi took in a deep breath. He knew there was something fishy, he just couldn’t place his hand on it or wrap his head around it.
“I walked her out of the room and a few minutes later we heard a loud scream. When the house keeper got into her room, Joelyn had fainted. We found the sachet of the drugs she swallowed and the doctors said she probably attempted suicide by taking overdose.”
“Suicide? How can that be? Joelyn will commit suicide? For what?” He was referring to no one in particular.
“Well, those are the questions I came to get answers to. What did you do to my daughter that’s making her want to commit suicide?” Mr Johnson face turned so scary and dangerous as he looked on at Nimi, grinding his teeth loudly.
Fiyin tiptoed from the kitchen side of the cafeteria. Zainab had just served someone now.
“How far?” she inquired from Zainab that didn’t seem to know what she was asking about.
“Oh!” Zainab exclaimed as her head figured what the former meant. “He hasn’t been here, I thought you were looking on from the kitchen?”
Fiyin wiped perspiration off her forehead, rubbing her palm down her hair.
“I was sent to get something from the grocery shop across the road.”
“Well, your twin brother hasn’t been here today.” Zainab affirmed, sounding quite too cold for Fiyin’s liking though.
“His name is Nimi, Zainab.” Fiyin corrected.
“Of course I know his name. I’m just amazed by how much you both look so alike. You are not even the same tribe and you look this much like twins, I wonder how it would be if you were.”
Fiyin didn’t know whether to take what Zainab just said as a compliment or a course for worry. Their resemblance was so striking; so obviously striking that she may probably have to bring her state of origin and other related documents soon, just so as to help prove that she wasn’t related to Nimi Peters in any way. She wouldn’t want to be either. The young man had pulled a large chunk off her heart within the first day they met and now. Last night’s discussion was even more memorable as they freely chatted and talked away like they’ve both known each other for as long as forever. She wanted to smile at the memories that were flashing through her mind then she felt Zainab’s lips move.
“Are you OK, Fiyin? You act unusually weird these days. Is this about Nimi?”
Fiyin quickly cleared her throat. She didn’t know the answer that would be best for that question. She surely felt weird even in her own body. She feels like time should move fast so Nimi would come over to their Buka later in the night again, as he promised yesterday. She had even hoped to see him here also at least this afternoon. His face does wonders to her system… that, she wouldn’t deny at all.
“Zainab?” Fiyin called out as though unsure of what she wanted to say.
Lunch time was over and everyone had left the cafeteria, except a man still eating, and that was because he came to eat late. Fiyin wished that would be Nimi. Maybe he would come late, at a time without distraction, so that they probably would get to gist again. Nimi acted as though he liked her… as though he was completely entranced by her too last night, right? She wasn’t so sure about that anymore.
“You called me.” Zainab sounded irritated now.
“Uh! Yeah! I… know. I… I… don’t know…” she stammered and Zainab looked on at her with confusion staining the fairness of her skin.
“Do you think something went wrong? I mean, do you think Nimi is fine?” she managed to voice out.
Her heart was really beating fast at the mere thought of something bad happening to Nimi. Zainab felt the impulse to laugh but refrained from it. She knew Fiyin would feel really disappointed if she laughed with something as serious as this… as serious as Nimi rather. Even though Fiyin said nothing about it, her eyes were showing like on a Samsung plasma TV screen, the entire state of her heart.
“I don’t know. I can’t say. Only his friend came here today.”
“Uh?” Fiyin’s face lightened up. “You should have asked him where Nimi was.” she blurted out and quickly covered back her mouth wishing she didn’t just say that.
Have they become colleagues now that Zainab, a common sales girl at the company’s cafeteria would have the nerves to ask a top executive of the Crestac firm questions while serving his food? Fiyin took in a deep breath. This Nimi’s thing is eating deep into her skull, yeah! She should have known that the poor and the rich were worlds apart. She should have known that all these while.
She cursed her luck.
Ojima Peters increased the volume on her laptop. It’s a good thing she was alone at home as usual. She needed to concentrate.
“Many women need empowerment, so we don’t come to that point where we are forced to believe that we are lesser humans in any way. An average girl child goes through a whole lot, especially in the African setting; from poverty, to low self-esteem, to lack of access to proper education, to abuse of all forms, after which she would still be subjected to a subservient position… ”
Ojima jotted these lines down in her notepad as well as nodding her head vigorously in the affirmative while at it. In fact, her notepad was getting filled up. She loves Lauren, yeah, the Vlogger. Apart from the fact that she learns a lot from the woman, the latter helps to make her week exciting by giving her something to look forward to with her weekly posts. The ‘Souls Spa’ would be Ojima Peters’ best site on the internet any day anytime. She’s learnt a lot on home, time, family and relationship management from this black American lady. Achile, her husband, mustn’t find her watching it though.
Achile Peters had warned her over and over again not to follow Lauren’s site. He feels there was nothing someone accustomed to the Whiteman’s culture can teach a black woman. He claimed their views to life generally, and respect systems particularly are very different. He even said, no one without a standing relationship is qualified to talk or bring up a discussion forum on matters concerning relationship. Nimi’s mother had heard that warning over and over again but haven’t been able to bring herself to obeying it. How could she?
Full time house wife.
When she was done with her husband’s breakfast, she quickly makes lunch alongside, awaiting her husband’s return. After this, the rest of the day would be left idle for her to either see movies or read one of the numerous books from her husband’s home library. Why wouldn’t she grab one thing that makes her excited in just one day of the week?
Her phone buzzed and started ringing. She hissed dryly.
“Who is interrupting me at this precious time?” She lamented while picking up her phone from the side stool but her heartbeat increased on seeing the caller’s ID.
“Ojonugwa, are you OK?” She had fear in her tone.
She could feel her youngest son laughing loudly from the other side of the phone, even though it was so noisy – as though he was calling from a busy market.
“Long time mummy. Mummy that won’t call me because she is not expecting a grandchild from me yet.”
Ojima smiled. She was definitely guilty of the charge levied on her by Ojonugwa. Somehow, calling Nimi came in handy – Nimi would always reject and call her back. Whenever she does, she would always ask after this one. That felt satisfactory, even though she knew she wasn’t doing the correct thing.
“I’m sorry, omami, omonu, my handsome prince, Idu mi!” She tried to flatter him with some of his pet names as well as what Igala’s would call ‘odu-ugwa’ -greeting names.
“It’s OK o. I just wanted to tell you that you would get your grandchild soon cos I impregnated one senator’s daughter here in Abuja!”
“What?” Ojima exclaimed and got off her seat. She couldn’t believe what she just heard. “After all I taught you, Nugwa, you couldn’t wait to do an honourable wedding? What has come over you? In fact, I need to tell your father and elder brother immediately. What nonsense?” She rattled on and on without giving any room for response. She was really annoyed. Her legs tapped restlessly against the tiled floor of the room as perspiration appeared on her face. The anger welling up within her was even increasing when she thought she heard Ojonugwa laughing loudly from the other end again.
“Has something come lose in the young man’s head?” she asked no one in particular as she sat back, putting her hands on her laps.
“Did you really take me serious, mum?” Ojonugwa asked, sounding unbelieving. “I only called to tell you that I would be coming home, old woman.”
He heard his mother sigh loudly and that made him smile. Mothers and their hypersensitivity.
“Well, as a matter of fact, I’m on my way!”
Ojima didn’t know if she was comfortable with the news… or not. Even if Ojonugwa was to come home, why the so much haste and urgency?
“Doctor, you know she is my only child, I’ll need you to do anything… I mean everything possible to get her alright, OK? Money isn’t the issue…” Mr Johnson rattled on, hurrying after the doctor who just came out from the theatre and was moving towards his office. Nimi hurried after them as well, praying in his heart that nothing bad would actually happen to Joelyn.
“Please, sit sir.” The doctor removed his ward coat and hung it on a stand behind him before taking his seat.
“I hope there is no problem, Dr Ben? What is wrong?” Mr Johnson was sounding too scared and impatient for his typical self. His voice was so nervous that one could sumptuously taste fear in it.
The doctor took concerned look from Mr Johnson to Nimi and finally back to the file on his desk. He was taking so much time, or so it appeared to the two other men. They’ve been here for over two hours and the doctor was reported busy at the theatre. He was attending to Joelyn so they both couldn’t move an inch from the hospital until a proper explanation was gotten. And now that he was out and acting a ‘perfect gentleman’ all of a sudden? Nimi felt really uncomfortable and he was only shifting from one side of his chair to the other the whole time.
The doctor cleared his throat.
“I have two news for you, sirs… sir…” He turned his gaze towards the extremely worried Mr Johnson and the latter sat up in his chair, placing his forearm on the table.
“One is good news and the other is bad news.”
The two men’s eyeballs popped open and Nimi could hear the loud throbbing from Mr Johnson hearts clearly. He tried to sit still too, one person had to be strong for the other.
“The good news is that she is quite stable now. and the bad news is that the complications got this worse because of the extent of damage the excessive dose did to her uterus. We had to remove the pregnancy… the foetus… the child… the baby.” He sounded particularly sorry for one of the men staring at him. He must have concluded everything in his head with Nimi at the centre of it.
“Baby?” Mr Johnson quickly turned around to face Nimi, as though he was the best person to respond to that question. “What baby are we talking about here?”
Nimi swallowed. How was he going to explain this now?
“Oh! I’m so sorry, sir. I thought you knew. In any case, Miss Joelyn Johnson was five weeks pregnant and the overdose of drugs she took did a lot of damage which we are yet to confirm its extent on her womb.”
Nimi shifted even more uncomfortably now as Mr Johnson was staring at him with a deeper scowl, disdain and resentment mixed in one.
Tolu knew that black jeep was following him, he only couldn’t figure out on time exactly what to do. The car had followed every turn he took and at a point even waited up for him while he stopped over to greet some friends at the roadside bar several minutes ago. He initially felt it was the police – that was even why he entered that bar in the first place. The police would have come down and stampede the bar as it’s typical of them, and he would have found a way of escape in their moment of confusion amidst the chaos.
That wasn’t the case here.
Whoever was in that big black jeep with tinted glasses waited till he got back out before driving after him. Tolu dragged up his sagging trouser and pulled his face cap firmer over his face. He wiped the sweat from his brow with a trembling hand, sincere fear coursing through his veins.
He hastened his steps and walked on quite briskly, trying not to run yet so as not to raise an unnecessary alarm. He continued raising up his sagging trouser and pulling his face cap much more over his face. He thought of something – the road to his house was quite lonely. The person in the car might want to pursue him when they eventually get there. Well, it appears he was already there. He noticed that the bushes were grown, thanks to the numerous downpour of rain in the past fading month. He noticed the car’s speed increased greatly, then a door flew open and a hefty man started after him. Tolu dived into the adjoining bush and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Thank his stars for weed. He ran so fast, through the bushes as they slashed his body, through the stones his legs landed upon. He could feel pain somewhere underneath, but could care less. The feeling more potent was how to escape the hefty man from the car that was relentlessly chasing after him, need not say that he was still pursuing even after Tolu had ran many meters in the thick bush.
Tolu dived involuntarily onto the bare floor as he heard a loud gunshot. Even in his seemingly unconscious state, he could hear the footsteps of the man after him… just that now it’s like there were actually more than one person’s footsteps reaching the simulating centres in his brain. He tried to get up, to stable himself, to run for his life.
But hell no.
The pain from his wounded leg was taking breath away from him with every passing second.
Nimi drove with immense speed on the express roads. It was already some minutes past eight. The turn-out of events since he got back from Houston were spinning his head. It’s been from one problem to the other every day and frankly he was getting fed up. After that intense and offended look, himself and the boss left the hospital as though they just became sworn enemies. During the drive back to the company’s building, there was deafening silence. The one thing that broke the silence was a brief call Mr Johnson received. It was the briefest call anyone could receive as the only thing he said was ‘OK’ before ending the call and dropping the phone like it burnt his hand. Nimi concluded that his boss was probably transferring aggressions on whoever the caller was. It was Mr Johnson’s driver that drove so both had the liberty to keep looking out through the window, each with face glued to his own side of the road all through the journey. Nimi tried at certain points to talk to the older man but the kind of face he unconsciously shot him scared the living daylight out of the ever fearless Nimi, so he gave up. If he were in his boss’ shoe, he wouldn’t have done anything different… anything better.
Nimi was surprised his boss had let him go back to his office after that kind of revelation from the doctor. As he entered his office, he told his secretary that he didn’t want to see anyone, and not even Edward. Nimi saw the confused look of concern on his secretary’s face but ignored it altogether… as usual. He got into his office and sat on the table. He felt like punching something and he really did. He pushed the hard wall beside him and let out hot searing air through his nostrils. Whatever was going on in his life didn’t seem nice anymore. He thought of calling his mother and asking her for prayers but he dissuaded himself from that, knowing fully well that the woman would raise alarm and go far beyond what he bargained for. He thought of calling his father too. In the end, he didn’t call anyone back home. It was safer not to worry them with his troubles.
It was a loud ringing from his phone that jerked him up. Wow! He had dozed off on his office table. Too much stress in one week. He made for his ringing phone immediately yet unable to quickly fetch it. He searched the table, scattering the papers there till the phone rang out. Thankfully, it started ringing again so he traced the phone to the floor on the other side of the table. It must have fallen off as he dozed. He looked at the ID on his screen. The CEO was calling with his personal line? Quite strange. Nimi didn’t bother picking as he dashed off to the office. Mr Johnson told him something else, something other than the confrontation about Joelyn he had expected. He told him about a new business takeover he would want Nimi to head. Nimi didn’t understand. Here was his daughter in a critical state and Nimi was the arch suspect of the pregnancy saga. Why was the man acting as though nothing happened at all? It was both interesting and scary.
That fear has been eating into Nimi’s heart the whole time. He got down from his car, opened the gate, drove in and closed it back. Now he regretted not employing a gateman after he fired the last one. Well, Ojonugwa didn’t make him realise the need for one until now. He picked his briefcase and suit and headed into the house. Everywhere was dark. Ojonugwa had surely turned off every light in the house, including the security lights. He used the flashlight from his phone and found his way into the sitting room. He pressed down the wall switch and the whole room lit up. That gave him some sort of strange relief. He then remembered he hadn’t eaten anything the whole day.
He cleaned some sweat off his forehead as he sank into one of the cushions when he heard what sounded like footsteps in the kitchen. His pulse ramped up.
It’s nothing, he told himself, I’m imagining things.
But when the floorboard beside the cooker groaned once. Twice.
He froze – all his breath trapped. He was most definitely not alone. Someone was in the house. Except… Ojonugwa should be in Anyigba by now, even though he hadn’t called to confirm how his younger brother’s journey went. Nimi set aside his shoes and wristwatch, straining to hear, but his heart pounded too loudly and his breathing was harsh.
Nimi crept into the kitchen. It was empty… yet his heart wouldn’t settle. Something wasn’t right here.
He could feel eyes on him.
Weapon, his mind screamed. I need a weapon! He darted toward the wide, granite-countered island. Like always, Ojonugwa had left his chopping knife out. Nimi slid his fingers around the rubber grip, appalled by how much his hands shook.
That was when he saw a shape in the window over the sink. A reflection.
He whipped around. But nothing. No one. His pulse roared, and confusion flashed through him. He threw a glance back to the window, and realized the reflection was just himself.
His breath whooshed out.
“Idiot,” he scoffed. “Nimi you are losing your mind.”
He tried to turn away but fingers closed around his ankles from behind.