TRIBUTE TO HELEN IME ENOBONG IKPO
I’ve been sleeping helplessly since last week
My whole body screams out weak
Only if tears were life
What I’ve shed would keep you forever
You dug a large whole so deep
I wonder how we would survive without your glimpse
You are lovely, lively and cheerful
I’ll miss you is an understatement, Helen.
If only, RIP Helen means Return If Possible.
You will forever be in my heart, my Barbie doll.
It’s been a really trying week for me friends. Sorry, I brought you all into this little part of the pain. Here is your Nimi Peters. Read, comment and share.
Have a great week ahead.
NIMI PETERS by Grace Ochigbo
Chief Ogbonna laughed wickedly as he waited for his friend to finish scrolling through the laptop. He noticed that Johnson’s initial excited mood had suddenly become sober. He felt the impulse to laugh again when Mr Johnson wiped away perspiration from his forehead – the poor man was sweating profusely under the AC.
“How are we sure these are real?”
Chief Ogbonna frowned at that question. “We have come a long way, long enough for you to trust my credibility with gathering true information. Only the recent incidence of rats in the president’s office is the part I haven’t been able to find the real truth about! Since I can’t, we all have to accept that rats chased Mr President from his office on first day of return indeed.”
Mr Johnson chucked. He thought his friend got angry with his statement initially but the last sentence showed some comic relief.
“But seriously, how did you get all these in less than 48hours, Ike?”
“I don’t think that’s for you to worry about, Emeka, sorry Johnson…” he winked, deliberately looking for trouble. “…but seriously, aren’t you supposed to be excited?”
“Over the first finding or the second finding that our mystery girl lives with him? Or should I say, have been living with him?”
Chief Ogbonna smiled.
“Anyway, these are just your own findings. Nimi introduced her to me today as his twin sister. I can’t deny seeing some sort of affection in his eyes or was it the chemistry between them that appeared too strong? Who cares? He probably only sees her as a twin sister he is helping, after all. They even more so look very much alike for that matter! So how are we sure she only doesn’t know what he knows?” He said all these with his head tilted to the opposite side, away from his friend.
“You know you can’t do this. Yeah! I know it’s high time you got a girl to scratch your back again, that’s aside the other packages you’ve been running inside and outside Abuja…” chief Ogbonna paused and glanced at Mr Johnson whose shot could kill a lion. He ignored and continued, “I know we need an official wife in the house, at least, to keep you warm legally and reduce some of these illegal runs you do.”
Mr Johnson stared back at his friend now as though he couldn’t believe his ears. Thankfully, the lounge was as cool as always. They always make reservations for this VVIP room whenever they want to have serious talks. Other days they want to be mischievous, they stay where they can see ladies. Perhaps, they should have stayed in the general lounge too today, because Ike was only being cynical the whole time.
“One more sarcasm again, and you’ll see Emeka!” Mr Johnson threatened.
As though match was lit into a jar of gasoline, Chief Ogbonna went all out laughing even louder as Johnson watched on helplessly. His legs mistakenly kicked the glass table with cups of wine in front of them. It was a miracle those glasses didn’t fallen.
“OK… OK…” Chief Ogbonna tried to calm down. He laughed loud again but quickly stopped this time. “But on a serious note, man, let this girl be.” He finally managed to say after stopping the annoying laughter.
“List your reasons!” Mr Johnson cut in, looking all angry.
“Chill man! Why are you so tipsy today? You have to calm down.”
“I’m calm! Your reasons.”
Chief Ogbonna shook his head pitiably.
“Fine. As I said before, I know our mystery lady caught your attention, no doubt. I can even testify to her charm and how she has unsettled an almost fifty year old man for the past three days or more…”
“Can you drop the preambles and get on with your reasons, Ike?” Johnson sounded extremely impatient.
“Fine! My one and strongest reason – Nimi Peters!” he felt Johnson’s face blow out in shock. “Yes, your boy Nimi, the very arrogant Igala chap. He probably hasn’t brought himself to say it yet, but we both know he loves that girl. Nimi doesn’t come across to me as someone into so many girls and inasmuch as I hate his guts, I love that aspect of him. That’s my most reasonable reason. Leave her just for the sake of Nimi Peters.”
Mr Johnson took in a deep breath. He had thought of that on his way here this evening, only that this deeply seated fascination in his heart for that girl wasn’t going an inch away. That was supposed to be a cause of worry, but one more thing worried him more right now.
“Ike, if I didn’t know you more than this, I would have said you mean well by being on Nimi’s side for the first time since you met him. We both know you dislike that young man with all the tissues in your body. Since when did you become his advocate, mind-reader, fortune teller, prophet and probably his father?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Emeka…” Johnson frowned at him again. “Sorry, Johnson! Whatever is putting that name in my mouth tonight though. Anyway, you have the right to do all you want to do, but as it stands, I am not with you on this one. Nimi won’t fight if he sees his boss coming after same girl. Please leave her for him. I rest my case.” He clapped his hand against each other lightly.
“And if I don’t?”
Chief Ogbonna let out a wicked laughter again. He stood from his seat and trudged towards the door.
“If you don’t… If you don’t… well, I won’t be blamed for whatever you see thereafter.” He sounded mean, stern and firm.
“Eheen!! Are you threatening me now, Ike?”
“There is a huge difference between threats and warnings, Johnson. And we both know it!” he kept that chit eating grin on his face while tapping his friend’s shoulders as he said this.
Ojima Peters opened the door to the bedroom slightly. There he was, with a newspaper covering his face. She took in deep calming breaths as she approached him. She got to the bed and stood for a while. Achile ignored her as if no one ever entered the room. She knelt down so much so that her knees touched the tiled floor before taking her husband’s left hand gently.
“I’m sorry, Oko mi. I shouldn’t have said that… was I stupid? I didn’t just… I mean… I shouldn’t…” She sounded sober but Achile wasn’t letting go of the newspaper anytime soon.
“I wasn’t thinking straight, Honey. I admit. We had some really deep things to talk about on the site today. I slept off drowned in my own thoughts. I’m really sorry, Honey.” She waited again. “Please Honey, I didn’t mean to sound insulting. Your total disdain and absolute disgust made me wonder whether you know her at any time before now. You did the better of your trainings abroad, so it’s possible you’ve met Lauren at one point or the other… and…”
“And you are still saying that nonsense? I thought you came here to apologise?” Achile flared out, raising his voice.
Ojima shook. “I’m sorry, Honey. I really am. Please forgive me!”
Achile stared at her helplessly. “Of course it’s you Ojima. I don’t have that energy to stay mad at you for long. I still love you as much as I did when I first met you till I married you, when every single one was against it, and I almost had to stand alone with my choice. It only hurts me down my spine whenever I talk to you about something and you go ahead to disobey it. You insult me whenever you do that, Ojima. You do.” He said these with deep emotions, not as smooth and continuous as it’s written. He took time out to make each statement, dragging each word with strong emphasis.
“I am sorry, Honey. It won’t happen again.”
“It is for your own good, Ojima. See now for example, you got so drowned in your thoughts that you dozed off. You didn’t hear anything from the time I drove in till I had to tap you. Don’t you think that’s a lot of emotional job you are giving your poor heart? We are still treating you of hypertension.” He glanced at her and she quickly nodded in the affirmative.
“You are getting older, my wife. I’ve told you to let the past stay in the past. Focus on the now, make it better for the future. Why do you think God situated our eyes in front in the first place? You need to stay focused on what lies ahead of you. Even the bible says, the end shall be greater than the beginning. You need nothing like a soul-sapping site to remind you of the beginning. You don’t need to completely peel off the face of an already healing wound with your own hands. I’ve told you this times without number.” He paused to swallow, then continued. “If not that my son said to go sleep over at his cousins’ place today, this is how you would have starved father and son?”
Nimi’s mother swallowed painfully. It’s true that her husband has told her this so many times, more than she could remember, but sometimes she can’t just help it. It comes like her mind playing tricks on her until it replays scenes from her subconscious.
“Or I am not doing enough?” Achile demanded and she jerked forward, holding his hands firmer.
“No! Honey, you are doing enough. You have done even more than enough. More than enough, believe me! Please just forgive me this one more time.”
Achile smiled. “You know I have forgiven you!”
“Then let’s go to the dining and eat, Honey. I’m done preparing dinner. I’m sorry it came this late, but it won’t happen again, I promise.” She crossed her heart and managed a smile.
“Of course. It won’t. It had better not!”
Ojima smiled again. “Please let’s go downstairs, or should I bring it here?” she involuntary checked out the possibility of eating in the bedroom with her eyes. She suddenly remembered she hasn’t even eaten the whole day herself.
“I’m not hungry!”
“C’mon now, Honey! You said you have forgiven me. Please don’t do this.”
Achile smiled. Ojima couldn’t place whether the smile was a good one… or not.
“I have forgiven you!” he drew her face closer and planted a kiss on her forehead. He then put his legs into the duvet and covered his face with it.
“Goodnight darling!” he said from underneath the duvet.
“Oh! She even now lives in this house?” Joelyn’s voice startled Nimi as he led the way before Fiyin into the sitting room.
“What are you doing here, Jo?”
“I came to see who you left me for.” She got up, letting her maxi dress fall freely to the ground as she walked towards them. Nimi was seeing her in a less fitted dress for the first time ever, her head, veiled, and her hand held onto a dark sunglasses. She must have completely veiled herself on her way down here. “So you are the one? …” she turned towards Fiyin, coming so close that their chest almost rubbed against one another.
“Enough!” Nimi roared, coming to stay between Joelyn and Fiyin.
Fiyin looked extremely frightened as she ran away, heading for the stairs. Thankfully, Deji didn’t come out. It felt still safe.
“Come back here. Why are you always chickening out? Come back and face me, silly girl. You have the nerves to take my man away, you should be able to face me…” Joelyn called after her.
“Stop it, Joelyn! I won’t have you come over to my house and insult my guest, or make her feel uncomfortable in anyway.”
Joelyn let out a sarcastic laughter. “Oh! She’s your guest now? How can someone be a guest in a house she lives in?”
She raised her right eyebrow and lowered the other one.
“What do you want?”
Joelyn stared at him with her eyes begging. “My life is a mess, Nimi!”
Her voice broke while she said this.
Nimi swallowed and led her by the hand to a couch. Dragging the side stool beside the chair closer, he faced her squarely.
“Tolu may be after me now as we speak. He is dangerous. I don’t know what to do!”
Nimi was confused and his face did well to express it.
“Who is Tolu?”
Nimi felt startled at first, but gained composure almost immediately. He had heard Joelyn’s father say something in that line at the hospital when she was unconscious.
“And you are here harassing Fiyinfoluwa? So you even wanted to tag a wrong pregnancy on me? Are you OK, Joelyn? Whatever happened between us that day was only a mistake, and I apologised for it. Two adults drowned in thoughts, and got extremely emotional, that was all there is to it, Jo. I knew that once wouldn’t have gotten you in.”
Joelyn rolled her eyes. “How many meetings did it take your parents to form you?”
Nimi kept quiet now. “Again, I’m sorry about that incidence.”
“Can you let me finish what I am saying? The pregnancy is gone anyway, so you have nothing to worry about. Tolu is however extremely mad at me for it.”
Nimi sat backwards. “Why? Was he prepared to father a child already? What does he do by the way!”
“What? Drug…” Joelyn quickly moved to cover Nimi’s mouth with her right hand as he involuntarily screamed before he could stop himself.
“Why him? Of all persons?”
Joelyn’s tear dropped. “It’s a long story Nimi. It started back at Keffi, few years ago.”
Nimi waited, staring at her and giving her the impression that he needed to hear the story.
“It just happened in some way. Ehm! OK! Summary… I got out of school for a party one evening illegally. I had so much to drink at the party, so much so that I wasn’t in control of the steering on my way back. I hit one of the hawkers on the express, the poor boy was reported dead instantly.”
“What!!” Nimi screamed and Joelyn shushed him again.
She was in tears now. “Every single one on the street gathered around my car and I. Some with stones, others cutlass, some petrol, and believe me when I say I literally saw death coming. Since I already got out of the car to where the boy lay in the pool of his own blood, they approached my car with tires and Jerrican. I thought mine was done for because I’ve heard diverse stories of jungle justice by the people on that particular street being so radical. Suddenly, from nowhere, a haggard looking young man with unkempt hair and beards came from… I think around my car area though, claiming to have driven the car.”
Nimi’s eyes popped open.
“Yes. The crowd couldn’t really say who was driving as it was night, so when he declared being the reckless driver, they launched their attack at him, beating him mercilessly and pitiably, until blood came out of all the orifices in his body.”
Nimi shook his head in spite of himself.
“I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do when they hung one of those tires around his neck.”
“To burn him? Wow! Incredible.” Nimi let out unbelievably.
“Thank heavens for the timely intervention of the police that night. It saved Tolu from being burnt to death. Someone I didn’t know from anywhere, someone that had no prior interaction let alone relationship with me. He was taken to the police station, he accepted blame for the accident, for the death and everything. When I came visiting, he had been charged to court for murder and rumours went around the station that he may be given a life jail term.”
“That must be very serious. What a sacrifice.” Nimi commented but Joelyn continued like she didn’t hear him.
“So I had to rally around and press all the buttons I had to press, just to see who would help me. My father mustn’t hear about it because he had sent me abroad to school earlier but I came back midway, claiming to prefer a Nigerian university instead. Somehow, I was able to bribe Tolu’s way through and all he got was a 14months jail term with hard labour.”
Nimi found his mouth open and left it that way.
“So Tolu went to jail for you?”
“Wow! It’s more than once?”
“Let me finish, Nimi. It was during those jail terms he started saying things about being in love with me and all. He insisted not to pay him, but marrying him would be the greatest thing I can ever do for him.”
She glanced at Nimi as he took a deep breath.
“Father found out about the relationship and swore on his grave that there was no way I would marry Tolu. He is ‘street’, in father’s exact words. He wasn’t in anyway befitting my status. Truth is, my affair with Tolu is the most embarrassing part of my life, our class, level, societal status, nothing is similar at all. I know all those, but here is a young man who almost died for me. And even though my father mustn’t hear of that incidence, I couldn’t fail in my promises to Tolu. So we planned a strategy, which was to get pregnant and leave my father with no other option than to accept Tolu.”
“You love him that much to get pregnant for him just so your father can confer marriage?”
Joelyn swallowed. “I owe him that much would be a better statement, Nimi. I owe him a whole lot. Unfortunately, father got overtly enraged on finding out I was pregnant for the ‘riff-raff’. He made me keep the pregnancy but threw Tolu in jail throughout that period. That was his second jail term!” she paused and continued almost immediately. “The pregnancy continued to mature and all but some complications arose around the time of delivery and the doctors decided to force it out prematurely. In the end, they couldn’t save my baby. I was demoralised for a long time even after father ordered Tolu’s release. I came down with post-traumatic stress disorder. We re-strategized after he got back from jail again and this last pregnancy was meant to be our leverage… more like last shot.”
“Hmmmm… so why were you confronting me with it then? I mean? It’s rather strange, don’t you think so? Well, never mind! Why did you attempt suicide then? Why did you rupture the plan?”
“About confronting you, I don’t know, I still don’t know why I did that. I guess I’ve not gotten over my unending crush on you. I love you, Nimi.”
Nimi felt his heart jump a little. He let out a wry smile.
“You love Tolu you meant to say?”
Joelyn smiled amidst her tears. “Very funny. He is not befitting for me, don’t you understand? We are two worlds apart, I don’t know how to introduce him to the whole world as my spouse. But I swear to God, I didn’t intend to terminate that pregnancy. Tolu was becoming a liability on me. Asking for money day in, day out. I was broke, he wouldn’t understand. It’s bad enough that I was harbouring a secret parasitic relationship with him. Whenever a disagreement comes up, he was quick to remind me of my promise and warn me not to betray him. Father, on the other hand, was being harsh on me. You, Nimi, were busy running after a sales girl…” Nimi frowned and she ignored. “I was so frustrated and wanted to end it all. I wanted to just leave the scene. No one cared about me, no one loved me, no one understood the guilt I bear like an heavy garment on me all along every passing minute.”
Hot searing tears dropped down her face as she shook in front of Nimi. Nimi felt his heart break, his only weakness any time, any day, would be to see a woman cry.
“Tolu was extremely mad when he learnt the pregnancy got terminated. He thought I was playing the smart one on him. He threatened to kill the both of us if I ever fail out on my own side of the deal. I’m so afraid, Nimi. I’m so…” she cried, shaking her whole self on the seat.
Nimi stood up, dragged her up alongside and hugged her warmly. Her scarf removed while she got up so he stroked her hair as she yet shook helplessly in his arms.
“You will come through this Jo, please stop crying.”
Joelyn wrapped her hand tightly round his waist. She felt comfortable where her head was resting. She had always wanted it to rest there.
“I’m so scared…” she groaned again – anything that would prolong this moment.
Nimi held her tightly while still stroking her hair, and massaging her back slowly until suddenly, he withdrew from the hug. Joelyn jerked back and almost fell.
“Is everything OK?” she demanded as Nimi stood like a child caught stealing meat from the pot. Joelyn didn’t understand a thing and seeing her demanding questions weren’t going to get answers, he traced Nimi’s eyes to the direction he was helplessly staring at.
There she was.
Fiyin was looking back at him with pain and disappointment written at all corners of her eyes.
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Have a great week.