NIMI PETERS by Grace Ochigbo
Tolu drew longer from the pipe. He sneezed suddenly and blessed himself. He hasn’t been able to wrap his head around what next to do ever since the last time Joelyn was here. He regretted threatening and scaring her away with a knife like that. Well, he was rest assured knowing fully well that Joelyn wouldn’t stay away from him for so long. He’s beginning to doubt that now. He couldn’t just understand anymore why she hasn’t called his phone neither has she come around since then. Wisdom was utmost. It’s unsafe for him that she stays far away. His mission can only be accomplished with positive proximity. He thought of different ways to get at his assignment but ideas seemed to be pushing far away from his head. Picking his phone, he dialled the number that was going to become his worst decision in a long time.
“Fulfilled?” the husky voice came out even before he could put the phone against his ears.
Tolu shook involuntarily at first. Not as though he expected a playful response but the harshness in the man’s tone, or the usual harshness in his tone as the case may be, was ridding him of every little courage he had muttered earlier. A thin line of sweat dripped from his head down the back of his ear to soak the white singlet he had on.
“Ehhm! That’s why I called, sir.” Tolu managed to say after staying quiet for a while
“We have no business talking if it isn’t fulfilled yet.”
“I know. I want to ask for more time.” Tolu sounded extremely pathetic as he said this. The man on the other end of the phone laughed boisterously. It came so loud that Tolu had to quickly remove the phone from his ears.
“The pointer is getting red each passing day, and I need not remind you the consequences of that…” he paused. “By the way, that pipe is good enough to be thrashed now, don’t you think so?”
Tolu quickly looked at the screen of his phone and the pipe in his hand. Just when he confirmed it wasn’t a video call, how did he know I am holding a pipe of cigarette? Tolu asked no one in particular. He quickly got up to peep out through the window.
“Even if you jump down that window, you may never be able to see me, but I see you clearly.”
Now gross panic replaced the initial fear. He glanced in the direction of the ceiling. Where was the man standing and talking to him from, and how come he was able to tell what he’s doing? Tolu looked confused. Could there be a bug in his room? It’s only a single room and no one, except Joelyn of course, entered. He could feel the ‘no rhythmic’ beats from his heart as his eyeballs pop wide open.
Suddenly the man laughed again, making shudders run down Tolu’s spine. Just that the laughter sounded not only more wicked but too brief this time.
“Don’t mess with us, boy. Just know we are watching you, always!”
Tolu was about to talk when the line went dead. He held onto the phone tightly like a lifeline, staring intensely at it as though he could get some solution from the screen.
“Dad, mum is making my house unbearable for me fa!” Ojonugwa murmured in a joking manner as he brought the jug from the kitchen. He placed it at the centre on the dining table while his father dragged out a chair… his usual chair and sat.
“The last I checked Nugwa, this is my own house!” Achile Peters teased as he poured some tea into his cup. Ojonugwa wasn’t surprised, he was used to his parents supporting each other. Right from infancy, they unanimously agree on punishments the same way they do on gifts. Such incredible parents he’s got.
“Oh oh! Help me tell him o…” Ojima Peters shrugged with the tray in her hands as she joined them from the kitchen. She set the tray down and dished out fried eggs in three plates. “I claim to have a son in the university, yet he spends six out of twelve months at home.”
She took her sit.
Achile chuckled lightly.
“Mum! Is it my fault that my school is on strike?” Ojonugwa retorted, with bread in his mouth.
“No! Please swallow your food before responding to me. Bush boy! If you had accepted to go to KSU like Ojonimi, I wouldn’t be having a home based UniAbuja student under my roof.”
It was Ojonugwa’s turn to crack his ribs and as it’s typical of him to blow things out of proportion, he really laughed hard. So hard that the teaspoon fell off his hand.
“Have a grip on yourself, young man!” Achile Peters cautioned when the laughter was becoming way overboard.
Ojonugwa managed to catch his breath after a while and steadied himself.
“Really now, mum!” he glanced with unbelief at his mum who couldn’t see which part of her statement was so funny.
“You compare ‘strikings’ between the both schools? First is that Nimi left KSU quite a long time ago. You are pretending as though you don’t know they have also been on strike since the beginning of the year?” he asked the question in a sarcastic way and laughed even more. “That’s even longer than my honourable school.”
What he said somehow made his parents laugh too.
“Educational system in this country…. Uhnm! God help us.” Achile said, resigning to his fate. “Hurry, we would be late for the office.” He admonished Ojonugwa.
“I’m done dad.” The young man got up almost immediately.
Whether it was nervousness of some sort, Ojonugwa couldn’t say. He was super elated to follow his father down to work today. It’s been so many years since he last did it and for the old man to suggest it last night, he felt really elated. He grabbed his father’s bag as the older man wiped his mouth with a serviette too and got up, moved over to his wife and kissed her left cheek before joining Ojonugwa and they both walked out briskly.
Ojima Peters would normally have said something, apply some of her delay tactics on them. She was beginning to get used to having Ojonugwa around the house the times her husband left for work. She should normally have hesitated or objected to this latest idea of taking Ojonugwa alongside to work save that there was something more pressing on her mind, and truth was that she needed them to be out of the house soon enough. She had missed out of the discussion forum on the Vlog last week because of the Nimi’s kidnap saga. Bearing in mind the fact that her husband and son were around, she dared not log on to the site. Achile wasn’t going to change his stand regarding her following the Vlog. She also wasn’t going to change her mind on following it… or not. To avoid problems however, she had successfully managed to keep it away from everyone and just have the fill as her very own little secret.
She glanced at her watch and as though a needle shook her, she got up immediately. The disarrayed dining table and dishes she would attend to later. She sat in front of her P.C. and powered it. It felt as though the P.C. was suddenly taking the whole day to power on, but then it was her curiosity that was playing on her mind. She clicked on her favourite browser immediately the screen saver came up. She had noticed a message icon on her screen indicating an email but she ignored it and clicked on the website which she had saved on homepage already.
“Oh! Network, not now!” she groaned, feeling really frustrated as the page loaded as slow as the movement of an overloaded train with two faulty tires. She caught herself hissing over and over again. Her patience level was deteriorating by the minute, so she decided to open the email that had been blinking the whole time. If not for the slow network, she barely check her mail box, not as though people send her mails anyway. It must be one of those notifications from her Facebook or twitter accounts – those mails can be very annoying at times.
Her eyes widened to the size of large Mr Biggs’ doughnuts when the mailbox opened and she saw the name of the sender – Lauren Jones.
Nimi walked briskly towards the counter. It was unusual and he felt eyes turn to look at him with confusion written all over their faces. He didn’t care. What he was after was more important.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Zainab.” He said her name like it was a question. He noticed that his face came across as too stern, so stern it’s making the young lady feel extremely uncomfortable. He loosened up a little bit and let out a non-convincing smile from the left side of his lips.
“Has she been here yet?”
The lady shook her head from left to right. Nimi sighed deeply. Ever since the burial, he had only been able to talk to Fiyin once, after which her number reported switched off continuously. He was getting worried by each passing minute and really hope the poor girl hasn’t harmed herself. He was yet to meet a lady as strong and courageous as Fiyin and that sort of endeared him to her even more. The way she behaved and coordinated herself the whole of last week was amazing and worth the applaud. He however had this fear somewhere in his heart as it’s typical of people that hide pain, like himself, to torture themselves when left alone.
“Sir! I think also that something is wrong with your twin sister.” Zainab’s voice brought him back.
He couldn’t tell if that was the best thing he wanted to hear… or not. But that was reality. Both, that is. The part of the twin sister, as Nimi and Fiyin look so much alike one would think they were cut from the same sperm. And the fact that something was definitely wrong somewhere.
“You will accompany me to her house by the close of work today. Is that fine with you?” Nimi sounded like a commander and truly the question tone was just for formality. He was the superior here and could order her to leave work for the whole day if he deemed fit. Mr Johnson has put a lot of power in Nimi’s hands this moment while still recovering from a major attack.
“Yes sir!” Zainab’s voice for some weird reasons was shaking
Nimi turned to leave but paused.
“You know what? Never mind!” he said bluntly and walked out of the café.
She felt a sharp pain course through her head to her back. Struggling to open her eyes and keep it open was becoming an uphill task for her. Waking up hasn’t been so much fun for her in the past fading week. Every morning of the few nights she was able to sleep for at most four hours, she asks herself if it was worth getting up that day or not.
Aha! The shout again.
She forced her tired eyes open. She had dozed off on the only bed in the part of the house serving as bedroom, the bed belonging to her late father and very sick mother. She had stayed there after coming back from the hospital late in the night. Her mother would have been a bit better save for the sad news of her husband’s demise. The poor woman has refused to be comforted and the doctor told her that it was worsening her mother’s already deteriorating condition.
She’s grateful to Nimi for a lot of things. He was her stronghold the whole of last week, after the family members of her father arranged for a quick burial. The burial of a poor man shouldn’t be announced on the hilltop, so an adage says. The mere fact that Ojonimi followed her the whole distance to her village in Ondo state meant a whole lot. It was unfortunate that her mother wasn’t even strong enough to attend her own husband’s burial. Many times Fiyin felt like blaming someone for all their predicaments. Could it be God? Or any of the members of their extended family that didn’t even give a listening ear to their sufferings all these years. She was shocked at the burial when one very strikingly rich man was introduced to her as her father’s elder brother, though from different mothers. This man in question had a large firm running for him in Lagos and describing him as strikingly rich could still be an understatement.
Something must be wrong somewhere, Fiyin was sure of that – either her father annoyed his family so much so that they all decided to pay closed ears to their plight or the late man was too proud to ask them for help. Whichever the situation was, the deed is done and cannot be undone.
She jerked back as she heard the loud voices again. Initially, she assumed it was her ears that were deceiving her, perhaps as a result of inadequate sleep and rest but then it suddenly dawned on her. The voices were coming from the adjoining room – the sitting room. She heard her younger brother’s voice first which was later overshadowed by the numerous loud ranting from older men and also a woman, she suppose. Jumping out of the bed, she grabbed a wrapper and wrapped it around her shoulders. Her guesses were confirmed immediately she stepped into the living room, especially that it now appeared as though she was the target of their visit.
“Ekaro babas, ekaro mama!” she bent courteously as she greeted the two men and a woman that had offered themselves the seats available in the congested sitting room. Fiyin glanced at Deji whose facial expression depicted nothing.
“Eyin!! Ekaro omomi! Omo dada ni! Our very beautiful daughter, it is good that you were raised to be this respectful…” the oldest among them said, tapping her shoulders.
She could recognise him. He was introduced to her as the eldest in her father’s family and the burial rites were practically conducted in front of him according to tradition. The elderly woman too, she was said to be the iya ila. She just couldn’t understand what they were doing in the house at this time of the morning considering the fairly far distance from the village to Abuja. They motioned her to a seat. Obviously there was not a chair left, so she sat on the floor in front of them, looking all curious. The second man was smiling at her the whole time, and she felt really uncomfortable, that’s in addition to the fact that he was a total stranger in her sight.
It was the same man that has been talking the whole time that began the talk after she sat down. She couldn’t believe her ears as utter disdain filled her. The second man was her father’s best friend while growing up, and now that her father was dead, the man would want to ‘take care of her’.
“Omomi, Sobowale here na very responsible man. Like your father Lawal, they were responsible aburos to me.” The eldest man continued while steaming anger built up within Fiyin. “He is a hunter, in fact the biggest hunter in the whole of Ondo town and its environs. We sure say he go take proper care of you.”
“Beni!” the woman cut in while the so-called ‘wife-seeker’ sat glued to his chair smiling sheepishly at Fiyin. This irritated her the more. It could mean either of two things. First that he was too timid to even make a marriage proposal to his best friend’s daughter or that he didn’t understand English and so left Fiyin’s uncle to speak. He doesn’t even seem to understand exactly what was going on. History has it that most of her uncles, including her father attained a reasonable basic level of education and even when the English was ‘cut and join’, it was admirable they could speak it compared to everyone else in the village.
“My daughter, this one na for your own good. Sobowale go take care of you, pamper you gan and you would take care of your brother as well.” He smiled at Deji who was just looking on dumbly.
“And maami nko?” Fiyin couldn’t help asking.
She saw the look of utter displeasure on the man’s face immediately she asked the question. The old woman started blabbing and ranting out abusive words about her mother in Yoruba. She said with anger how Fiyin’s mother was the witch that came into their brother’s life to ruin it. She sounded so bitter and Fiyin couldn’t understand why. Her mother had always told her how much her father’s people hated her and she didn’t believe it. Well, until now.
Fiyin looked at the woman who was refusing to be stopped with red shot eyes. If her eyes carried guns, the old woman would have dropped dead on the floor many minutes ago. How can people be so callous as to bring someone her father’s age for her to marry, just a week after the burial of her beloved father for that matter.
Suddenly it struck her.
Yeah! Right there!
The woman had struck the wrong cord, the cord that threw Fiyin up her feet in anger. She balled her fist and was consciously trying to refrain herself from shutting the springing mouth of the old woman with a wild punch. Yes, that was it. She had used up the last stroke – the last stroke that broke the Carmel’s back. The woman had said her mother was responsible for her father’s death. She even went ahead to say that consultations revealed that Fiyin’s mother was ‘buying’ more time for herself to stay alive – that was why she killed her husband and they, the children, would be next on board if care wasn’t taken. The woman said it so boldly, so freaking boldly that one would think she was at that witches meeting herself.
Fiyin hit her leg hard against the wooden centre table in anger as she dashed out of the sitting room. She heard behind her as the eldest man told the loud mouthed woman that she was being insensitive. Those didn’t matter to Fiyin anymore. She pushed the door to the bedroom hard and entered in a hurry, and shut it firmly behind her. Deji who had been leaning on the wall the whole time didn’t understand what was going on except that he could bet his sister was enraged. He knew her that much to know that whatever got her angry must be really serious. He became lost in the conversation ever since it turned to Yoruba which he didn’t quite understand too well, except for the meaning of his name.
The door to the bedroom pushed open again and he saw his sister struggling to pull out two sack bags, ‘ghana must go’ as they call it. He couldn’t place his mind around what was really happening and he ran over to Fiyin to help out.
“Sis, what is going on?”
Fiyin was fuming and at the same time crying. The elderly people in the sitting room stared curiously at the angered lady who looked like she had been set up in flames.
“I won’t have you all or anyone talk about my beloved mother like that. It’s true she is battling with ill health, I’ll lay down my last life to raise money for her surgery after which she would be fine and working again. I am not interested in marrying Pa Sobowale or whatever you call yourself…” her fingers pointed disrespectfully from one person to another. She damned whatever meaning there was to the word ‘respect’ – she had just been stretched beyond her elastic limit.
“The few things you see in this house are the only property my late father, your brother, has. Let me remind you that we are owing arrears of rent. I give you all your brother’s property. Don’t you ever come looking for my brother, my mother and I, cos you will never see us again.”
The elderly man shook involuntarily at that bombshell. He quickly whispered the interpretation of her words to the duo who were pestering him for explanation. He was about to talk to Fiyin, but she looked like her mind was made. He thought it was just some mere threats until Fiyin put one of the bags full of clothes on Deji’s head and ordered him to move. The latter was confused.
“Sister, where are we going to?”
“Anywhere other than the presence of these three terrible beings.” She yelled, eyeballed them one after the other before pushing Deji out through the door in front of her and shutting it hard against their faces.
Edward pulled over in front of the old storey building. Somehow he was scared for the sake of the occupants of this building, as it seemed the next major wind would blow it down. He looked irritated by the nature of the whole environment through which they have been passing the whole time.
“Man! Are you sure this is where she lives?” Edward placed unbelieving eyes on Nimi as he undid the seatbelt.
Nimi managed a smile. He knew what was in his friend’s mind and deliberately didn’t want to tow that line of discussion; not when he came here for a serious business. Thankfully they didn’t have to drive round the whole town before finally locating this place. Nimi has always been the smart one and it took him just the two visits down here, when he brought Fiyin and her brother to and back from the village, to remember the route. The streets looked haphazard and worse was that buildings had no numbers on them. One may have to use a prominent landmark in the area if he mustn’t lose track for the next time.
Edward followed slowly behind Nimi as the latter climbed the dirty staircase at the left side of the house. Everything looked really strange to Edward but he had to swallow his appraisals – in his best interest. Coming straight here from the office after close of a hectic day doesn’t sound like a fun tour at all.
Finally Nimi tapped slightly at a door. He waited for a response.
It was the type of olden days iron doors that appears like a prison gate with a jam-lock. If it’s locked, there would be nothing to show for it as it doesn’t require a padlock.
Nimi knocked again. This time louder than the first one.
Still no answer.
He was going insane inside and merely trying to keep calm and maintain a composed demeanour.
“Are you sure this is where she lives?” Edward called out from behind him.
“Are you kidding me?” he snorted.
Edward felt the irritation in his voice and sighed. “But why is no one answering you?”
“Thank God we both got here at the same time!” Nimi retorted bluntly. Whenever he’s getting giddy, petty talks and unnecessary questions angers him more than anything else, and what Edward was doing right here was adding to his too many problems.
He needed to think.
Obviously there was no one in the house. He would have taken the initiative to ask people in the apartment, then he remembered Fiyin once said she didn’t even know the people living next block.
This was serious mess. Serious problem. Serious dilemma.
Just then an idea popped up in his head.
“Let’s get out of here, Eddy!” He was already walking away while at it.
Edward who didn’t understand anything anymore hurried after him.
“Where are we off to now Nimi?” He asked with curiosity as he joined the anxious and stern looking Nimi in the car.
To be continued next Monday
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