‘NIMI PETERS BY GRACE OCHIGBO
Nimi pulled over at his car park tiredly. He wished something would miraculously disconnect his phone from the Bluetooth device hanging onto his left ear. He could drop a call on anyone else, definitely not on his mother. His craziness was never getting to that extent, save that, at this junction, he may have to do something he hadn’t done before. The woman was sucking the living daylight out of him by her continuous naggings and that’s the last thing he wanted to do right now.
“If you continue like this mum, I won’t even be alive to give you those grandchildren, because your naggings would have killed me before then!”
He knew that would be his mum’s default response – ‘God forbid’. That has always been her response anyway. It’s not surprising.
He smiled lightly as he handed the jacket of his suit over to Ojonugwa who also picked up the bag carrying his laptop from the back seat, alongside the nylon bag containing fruits.
“Well you see what time it is now, Mum? I’m just getting home after a very hectic day…” his mind flashed back at the very many sagas he had been through today at the office. “… how about you spend your airtime calling your second son too, Mum? Don’t you think you are paying so much attention to me?”
He could imagine the displeasured look on his mother’s face as he knew, to her, he was being sarcastic over a serious matter. Yeah! Very serious one at that. No one else could correctly fill the void and emptiness in his heart since the last and real ‘her’. His friends, especially Edward, had tried talking him out of his locked-up state; it’s been six years already and no one has been able to reach out to deep within his soul. He didn’t plan to continue like this forever, but how long more was just what he can’t exactly tell at the moment.
“I’m responsible, right? I house, feed and pay all my younger brother’s bills. I send money to my parents, what else is left? One mustn’t be married to be responsible!” he would always convince himself whenever these marriage thoughts began to drown him – and it’s usually after all his mother’s long sermons. That wasn’t going to help him tonight. He had had enough worries for a lifetime in one day.
The aroma of something delicious greeting him from the kitchen as he immediately opened the entrance door took him aback. He had suspicions in his eyes as he immediately headed in that direction but was promptly intercepted by his brother.
“Bro, I was about telling you but you were on a call. Miss Joelyn is here!” Ojonugwa announced carelessly, jumping back on the sofa and picking the TV remote.
“Joelyn?” Nimi exclaimed.
Getting off this girl was as hard as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. He pocketed his car keys and stormed into the kitchen. Joelyn staggered involuntarily by the venomous manner with which Nimi entered the kitchen, so much so that the sauce she was frying almost fell off her hand.
“What’s going on here, Joelyn?”
“Oh! Welcome darling. We have all been expecting you? Please go take a shower and your food…”
“Shut the crap!” Nimi lifted his hand, motioning her to keep quiet.
Joelyn smiled and continued.
“I felt my Baby’s father needed a good treat tonight. So I drilled the meat, just as you like it…” Nimi was salivating unconsciously at this statement. Salivary secretion reflex, so much for his love for drilled beef. “…this sauce is for the rice. Trust me, you would ask for more after tasting this.”
Joelyn put some on her palm and licked it slowly, turning alluring face at Nimi while doing that. He managed to ignore her and turned away, moved over to the refrigerator and picked up a bottle of cold juice. He needed his head calm. This girl right here was driving him nuts but he had been pleaded with to take things easy with her. Who was he not to?
“I hope you eat it all when you are done cooking. If you may excuse me…” he made to leave the kitchen but paused suddenly as if he remembered something. “… and please don’t you dare disturb me or knock on my door. I’ve had a crazy day, all thanks to you.”
Joelyn rolled her eyes as Nimi stormed out of the kitchen. She caught an idea. He likes to be cajoled into doing things most times… or so she thought. And that is especially her field of specialisation. So long as he remained in the house here, he must eat this food she had taken her whole evening to prepare.
The weird yet strong feelings she has towards Nimi had remained undoubting. As strong as it was the very first day her father introduced them both at the office. Everyone thinks she is living too reckless for her esteemed personality, even though she finds it difficult to understand their points.
She turned around, when a smell came through her nose, and quickly reached for the knob of the cooker. The sauce was burning.
Nimi stood for a long while in front of the door. He wasn’t sure he should knock. He glanced at his wristwatch again for the umpteenth time.
He damned everything and pressed down the door bell first. If no one answered that ringing, he might just leave. He pressed it down again.
“Oh my God! Are you OK, Nimi?” Ele asked as she opened the door and stepped aside to let him in. She was only having a wrapper tied across her chest and a shower cap over her head, it seemed like she just came out from the bathroom, or something along that line.
“Are you OK, Nimi? Why are you here at this time of the night?” she questioned more curiously now. Nimi didn’t know if he was supposed to respond to that. How on earth was he going to say that he ran out of his house because of a lady?
“What’s up, Man?”
Edward’s husky voice came calling and Nimi could breathe a sigh of relief. It’s easier communicating some things man to man.
“What are you doing in my house at this time? Surely, you know Goldie is fast asleep!” Edward said with a tone of sarcasm.
“Let me get you something to eat…” Ele said and left without waiting for his response.
Nimi wanted to say he was fine and not hungry, but that would be a gross lie from the pit of hell. After savouring in the aroma from the food Joelyn was cooking, his appetite had been greatly stimulated. He knew Joelyn quite closely; she was never going to oblige his warning of not disturbing him, so he just took the initiative and slid out of the house without anyone noticing. He didn’t even bother using his car because that would surely draw attention. He had no place in mind to go to as he boarded a taxi from the estate gate. Anywhere else outside his house would do. He thought of many places he could go to, then he remembered Edward asking him to come hang out with the boys again at that new club sometimes ago. Although he knew it was very stupid to knock at the door of a married man few minutes to midnight, let alone asking him to accompany you to a club. Well, he didn’t have any other option.
“What mess were you talking about earlier today?” Nimi asked Edward who had been impatiently waiting for someone to break the deafening silence.
Edward chuckled. He didn’t believe what he just heard. Could that be why Nimi came calling at his house this late?
“Nimi, you know Joelyn is crazy! She alone is mess enough for you”
Nimi shrugged. “Worse is when she claims to be pregnant for me.”
Nimi said that so carelessly yet he was marvelled that Edward didn’t raise any alarm or show any iota of surprise. He appeared to have learned of it earlier before now.
“OK, this is it, I came back from work to find her in my kitchen. Can you imagine that? That girl is looking for who to kill. I’m surely not going to be her victim.” He spat out in utter disdain.
Edward smiled – at least, he showed one expression finally.
“I know you can’t vent it all out here. You were hoping we could go to the club, yeah? I’m sorry, man! Ele won’t let me step a foot out of this house tonight.”
Nimi managed a smile. One of the very many reasons he wasn’t really enthusiastic about getting married.
“Give me your car keys. I should return first thing tomorrow morning.”
“You don’t have to. Ele is having a free day tomorrow, so I should use hers.” Edward got up and headed towards the shelf where his car keys were. He picked it and walked back to Nimi. “Are you sure you can go there alone?”
Nimi smiled and got up. “Even the lion’s den is safer than my house right now. You know I can’t resist drilled beef, that’s what that crazy girl was making.”
Edward burst out in laughter. “She sure knows the way to your heart.”
His laughter rubbed off on Nimi and the latter laughed too, though not as loud as Edward. “Flee is my watch word, bro. See you at the office later today.”
They both headed towards the door.
“Nimi, you know you can’t go anywhere!” Ele’s voice turned back their attention. They watched as she came to set the tray in her hand on a side stool in front of the place Nimi just stood up from.
Nimi knew how bad Ele usually feels whenever her food is ‘refused’ and he knew he must thread with caution right now.
“Eddy, see how I forgot our Babe went to make food for me?” He made a little gesturing sign to Edward and they both laughed lightly. “What do I do now o? You know I have to leave urgently.”
“Which urgently? So that the food can waste, huh? Do you know how much a grain of rice cost now in Abuja market? Divide the price for the bag by the number of grains in it.” Edward said as Ele kept looking on from one man to the other.
“Bros, I thought you were on my side na? Why you de fall my hand?” Nimi rattled in Pidgin English.
Ele couldn’t hold back her laughter this time. She has become used to these two friends, how deeply and easily they understood one another beats her imagination. At times, she even feels jealous as it’s obvious she can’t predict and understand her husband as much as Nimi does.
“OK! Babe, let’s allow him to go tonight? It even looks like whistle blowers are after him. You see the way he is panting? Darling, let our house not be his hide-out o.” Edward’s sense of humour increased by each passing word.
“Oya! Go o, Nimi! Please go! Before the both of you would kill me with your talks. Oya, please come and be going.” Ele managed to say amidst her laughter.
Nimi winked at Edward and they shook hands. They’ve defeated Ele in this one… as usual.
“I trust you to take good care, man.” Edward said as Nimi entered the car.
Nimi smirked. “Are you concerned for me now, or your car?”
“Don’t you know how much a tire cost?” Edward retorted. Nimi laughed. “…but on a more serious note, please take care of you, you will pull through this. Every single bit of it. You need more wisdom now, and just when you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you, bro.”
“Thank you, man.” Nimi said simply, started out the car and drove off slowly.
Edward sighed and walked back into the house.
“What was the problem?” Ele demanded before he could even enter through the door.
“Problem?” Edward sounded confused at first but quickly caught his wife’s point. “Oh! OK? He is going through some trying moments, darling. Don’t worry, he would come around.”
Ele shrugged and picked back the tray.
“Are you packing them away?” Edward’s gluttonous part was having the better of him right now.
“You didn’t tell me you were hungry o.” Ele said cynically and returned the tray onto the side stool.
Nimi drove down the lighted and beautiful streets of Abuja. He didn’t know the city could be this less busy. It’s night already and people… normal people should be on their beds, curled up in the warm embrace of loved ones. Normal people!
He saw the new Lounge where him and his friends hanged out the last time. It was beaming from afar off. People lead different kinds of life really. He thought of turning and going into the place then he remembered he was at the other side of the road.
“Gosh. The next turn is still up there.” He murmured underneath his breath as he continued driving to find the U-turn. His eyeballs darted from one side of the road to the other, as though he lost something that he was in search of.
There it was.
He wondered why he hadn’t ever noticed that place before. He couldn’t even have, the last time he came here in the company of friends, he was so occupied with discussions and gist that he barely took note of anything on the road.
He turned off the road, into the open place that was meant to be a parking lot. He could hear the music coming from the Lounge which was only about three buildings away. Picking up his wallet, he got down and pressed the lock door key on the car’s remote. He dragged the edges of his polo down and pushed the face cap more into his head, he probably would have preferred a totally veiled face tonight. Joelyn was capable of anything… anything, including sending people to trail him.
“What do you have?” He stood tall in front of the young man he presumed should be either the owner of the shop or the sales boy. The latter presumption felt rather truer though.
“Food don finish, oga.” The young man replied courtly.
“What!” Nimi exclaimed before he could stop himself. He must have been destined for a long night of hunger today.
“We get goat meat pepper soup and small stout, or any drink wey you want oga.”
The young man’s convincing tone made Nimi smile. If not that he had sworn never to take alcohol again, the way the boy just presented this offer was enough to change the mind of the arch pope. He was Nimi Peters, strong-willed! Once he makes up his mind on something, nothing external can change it.
“Never mind.” He replied softly and made to leave.
“I could fix something for you in ten minutes.” A voice came from behind him.
Nimi turned involuntarily, in the direction of the voice.
The wonders this voice do to his system. For some minutes he stood like everything around him practically stopped. He stared at her again – deeply, unaware of his environment. Well, there was only a man inside this roadside local restaurant, filling his protruded stomach with bottles of liquor. That’s, of course, aside the young man and the owner of the voice. The long and short being that whoever was in his environment wasn’t a good reason for worry as far as he was concerned.
“Deji, quickly put water on the fire. Sir, you can take your seat. The amala would be ready soon.” She uttered one after the other. For every word she spoke, it hit Nimi like a sharp end of a knife driving through his ribs. He wanted to say he would be fine. He wanted to say she shouldn’t stress herself as he may just have to proceed to that lounge after all. He wanted to say so many things but his mouth felt glued to each other as his feet moved him to a seat.
He couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Unlike this afternoon, there was no more apron, so he could see her full body dimensions more clearly. Her long hair dangling as it’s packed at the back. The dress she had on displayed almost the entire length of her spotless arms and Nimi could get filled already by merely staring at the freshness of that one hand.
“Get a hold on yourself, Nimi!” He admonished himself as the lady disappeared after the young man she just called Deji, to the backyard – which should be the kitchen.
His eyes quickly flashed at the older man busy getting drunk at the other end of the room and he pitied him. Having a wife, probably wives, and children at home and all he could do was coming to waste off the whole night at a Bukateria doesn’t sound like anything near his random circles of imagination. Who knows? Perhaps it was his wife making the house too unbearable for him. He has no right to conclude anyway. So many things are giving him enough reasons not to want to marry.
Just then, a thought came to his mind. He needed to call Edward. He needed to tell him that he was seeing ‘the voice’ again. ‘The voice’ was what he and Edward resolved to calling her, since they both didn’t know her name after their first contact this afternoon at the company’s cafe.
Still on that thought, he reached out to his pocket for his phone.
Joelyn paced the entire length and breadth of Nimi’s wide bedroom. She was uneasy and may not be able to get calm, at least until it’s confirmed that Nimi was fine. She thought of calling some of her rough ex-boyfriends, and plead if they could help her check the clubs around Abuja for Nimi. Then she advised herself against that decision as it would only endanger the poor man’s life even more than it was already.
She heard her phone ring and rushed over to pick it.
“Evening Father!” she said reluctantly. Her initial excitement and hope that it would be Nimi was all gone.
“Where are you, Joelyn?” Her father’s voice came up thunderously from the other end of the phone.
“Dad, you really don’t have…”
“Where the hell are you, stupid?” his voice roared over the phone now, cutting off the words in her mouth. She could feel her phone shaking against her ear. Yeah. It was her hand that was actually shaking. She thought of the answer to give him. She couldn’t say she was at a club, which would have been her most valid excuse, save that this room was too quiet to be near a club house. She weighed her options. What would she lose by telling the truth for once, anyway?
“Are you deaf, Amaka?” Mr Johnson’s voice was increasing in pitch and frequency simultaneously.
Amaka? Now, there it was. Whenever her father chose to address her by her tribal name, she knew she was done for.
“I’m at Nimi’s!” She stammered into the receiver of the phone.
“What? At this time? You have no shame? What are you doing there?” He asked all these questions without giving the slightest break in-between for her to respond to any.
Now he was done and she was required to give answers. Orderly or not, no question must be left unanswered. “What is she doing here?” She pondered on that question quickly. She didn’t know what she would say that would make sense because her being here right now wasn’t making any sense. The owner of the house wasn’t even around, neither was he picking up his calls. But she had to answer her father, and on time too.
She cleared her throat and made up her mind. She would say something… anything at all. Even if she has to lie.
Nimi licked every single egusi left in the soup bowl after devouring the amala served him just few minutes ago. ‘The voice’ stood there on the counter stealing glances at Nimi. He was eating like he’s been starving for days. She loved the other free version of the man in a very expensive suit earlier at work, she was seeing now. Within the same day, different shades of just one man.
Her fellow waitresses at the company’s restaurant earlier this afternoon had told her she looked so much like Nimi. She didn’t really believe them. Or should we say, she deliberately refused her heart from believing them? Whichever way, the saying that every shoe has its own size works with everything and with everyone. This was a top executive member of one of the biggest companies in Abuja they were referring to here. Someone that travels in and out of the country like he was just strolling to his own backyard still amidst the recession in the country.
“Are you done, sir?”
Nimi jerked up as ‘the voice’ called out from behind him. He was noticing now that the other drunk man had since left. How didn’t he see him going? The things delicious foods can cause, especially from people we have a special crush on.
“Yes. No. You mean… with the food? Yes.” Nimi stammered. He knew the young lady was probably wondering why he was sounding nervous… for the second time today.
“When does this place close?” He found a more comfortable place to start a conversation.
“It doesn’t close, sir. Well, not literally though. It closes when people stop coming. More like runs twenty four hours every day.” She responded while packing the plates.
“Wow. And you work at the company also?” Nimi couldn’t hide his surprised look.
“I’m new there. I mean, I just got the job there. This place belongs to my mum, but she took ill and I had to not just run this place alongside my younger brother Deji, but also take up another job so as to make ends meet.” She said, still having that sweet smile around her lips.
Nimi couldn’t help but wonder how she could still manage a smile amidst all these stressed conditions she has found herself.
“Sorry about your mother’s health.” He managed to say.
The lady smiled and picked up the tray of empty plates she just packed.
“What about you? Do you rest at all?” she asked it like it was a finite statement yet returning a questioning gaze at Nimi.
“Me? Ehrmm! Rest?” Nimi didn’t understand his newly found love for stammering. The lady whose voice spins all the neuronal circuits in his brain just asked him a question he should have asked himself a long time ago.
“Rest? There is no resting for any man entrapped by Joelyn.” He spilled his thoughts out before he could stop himself.
He now wished he could take back his words.
No, it’s too late.
‘The voice’ dropped back the tray and sat in front of him, piercing his livid face with her deep stare.
“Who is Joelyn?” she asked, showing no clear expression on her face.
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