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NOMA’S DREAM – EPISODE 14

NOMA’S DREAM – GRACE OCHIGBO

EPISODE FOURTEEN

 

Noma rubs her smooth palms over Hallie’s scanty hair lovingly. The little girl is deep asleep and Noma has refused to take her to bed. She’s missed her child – her heart in one person. Whatever she was thinking when she neglected Hallie to go look for Akoji. She had left her heart here searching for one that would soon belong to another – that should belong to another. She feels used in a way. Around the chair she’s sitting on are boxes littered everywhere. Mrs. Gina, out of curiosity, opened some immediately Noma got back and the limo departed.

“Wow.”, “just look at this”, “this is pure gold” and many more beautiful compliments came out from the woman’s mouth as she offloaded some of the bags. She was holding onto Hallie on her laps while reading the little girl’s favorite storybook out loud to her before Noma came and collected the child onto her own laps.

“Mum, I’d love to tell you something and please don’t hate me for it…” Noma mouthed, almost a whisper.

Mrs. Gina left off the items she was offloading to come sit in front of the obviously disturbed young woman sitting up on the couch. That particular line strikes the wrong cord in her head whenever Noma uses it.

“Did something go wrong, daughter?” Mrs. Gina asked out of curiosity.

Noma has been looking into empty space since Mrs. Gina asked that question some ten minutes ago. Yes, something went wrong. In fact, a lot of things, better still, everything had gone wrong but how’s she supposed to say it?

“Can I take her to bed now, please?” Mrs. Gina doesn’t wait for an answer before getting Hallie off Noma’s laps and heading in the direction of the bedroom.

Noma swallows against a tightness on her chest. She hopes she doesn’t explode right here tonight.

“So, can you talk to me already? I’m getting too curious.”

Noma doesn’t see Mrs. Gina come back and the latter’s voice takes her unawares but she adjusts quickly.

“Mum,” She starts, facing the ground squarely as if she read her next lines from it. “Six years ago, you took in a girl to work for you right in this house. A young girl who just saw a notice of vacancy on the fence and chose to try her luck. Who employs a pregnant girl anyway?”

Mrs. Gina smiles, sure of where Noma is headed. “I had my reservations, no doubt. In fact, I insisted I wasn’t going to employ the pregnant girl, but she got down on her knees, begging and asking for help in tears.”

Noma smiles through the tears already pouring down her face. She recounts how that the first experience of the young girl on the job was nothing to write home about. How that the girl really was lazy, that’d be in association with her heavy state.

“One day you were trying out a flavor of cake you said you saw on YouTube…”

This makes Mrs. Gina burst into genuine laughter. “My dear, I got lost along the way. Well, it’s not my fault, the website didn’t warn me that I was going to hit that rock as to whether to use hot or cold water.” She pulls out to sit straight faced. “But the pregnant girl I employed to take care of the house knew just what to do and that was pretty wowing to me. You see how God works? What if I didn’t employ her? She may not really have the energy to do house chores as it were, but she was a pro in anything catering; fries, cakes, doughnuts, small chops. I became so curios to see all her hidden treasures and so didn’t hesitate to give her something she can handle.”

“In other words, making a frosty vanilla flavored cake for you and thereafter teaching you how to do it made you fonder of me so much so that we started Noma’s Bake Shop?”

“Exactly!” Mrs. Gina affirms, raising her hands. “I never imagined that a poor village girl could bake such delicious cakes.”

Noma lets out a tired chuckle. “Baking is my dad’s hobby. In fact, we bake every Sunday afternoon in the house.”
Mrs. Gina looks up at Noma with confusion discoloring her eyes. Noma didn’t meet her husband alive, “Dad? Which dad?”

Noma feels like her heart is about to shred into tiny unrecognizable bits but holding on tightly to the edge of the couch she’s on, she mutters the last energy left in her to speak.

“Contrary to what I told you, mum,” She observes the shock in Mrs. Gina’s eyes as she drops the shocker. “I’m sorry, mum, please don’t hate me because I’m afraid I lied.”

Mrs. Gina takes in loud breaths. “You… you…”

Noma nods her head so rapidly it may fall off anytime. “I know, mummy. I said I came from Ofabo to Anyigba because things were very hard for me and all the stories I made up were just so you could pity my condition and help me. Though I was meant to go to Ofabo ab initio.”

Mrs. Gina leaves her mouth opened and couldn’t believe her ears. Initially, when Noma came to work in her house with the stories about coming from the village where she’s lived all her life, it was difficult to believe. The young girl had a rather excellent poise as well as good command of English and Mrs. Gina couldn’t reconcile the possibility of acquiring those in a village. Her skin didn’t even look like a child who’s known suffering longer than a minute or two. All indications pointed out to an obvious fact that her tears and pleas blinded Mrs. Gina from taking seriously obvious pointers to the truth. Now, as she rewinds her memory back to the time she’d employed Noma in her house, it dawns on her that she had let a lot of things slide under the carpet.

“I was raped in my final year in the university, mum.” Noma says slowly until the tears gushing down her face could rival the high pressure pump in the Kainji. She shakes in her seat so much so that Mrs. Gina rushes over to grab her slim body in her hands. Noma’s heart feels like pepper is being dropped bit by bit onto a sore. She could feel a tightening on her chest as she wraps her hand tighter round Mrs. Gina’s waist.

“I lived off campus with my friend Rhoda but that fateful night Rhoda, had stayed behind on campus to read all night…”

Noma shuts her eyes tightly and like rapid motion pictures, she could view all the events of that night that changed her entire being. She’d just gotten back from campus herself to realize that Rhoda wasn’t coming back home. Their hostel was located somewhere a bit secluded yet safe enough for students’ welfare, so they said. Well, so it was until that night when it seemed as though the entire security officers were spell-bound, or should we say ‘sleep-bound’. Whichever way. They were too bound to notice cultists raid an all-girls hostel.

Noma was still sound asleep until a heavy leg landed on the door of her room. Jerking up with cold shivers, she tries to listen for a familiar voice to no avail.

“Open the damn door, slut, before I do it myself.”
Noma’s eyes popped open in fear and shock at the same time. She’d heard of cultists raid in other schools but had never imagined it coming this close to her. Before she could think of the next logical option, the guys had opened the door on her. She couldn’t figure out till today how they did that. They didn’t break the door, they simply opened it with… whatever, whoever gave them the key.

Like a nightmare, four hefty and well-built muscular bodied young men marched into her room. As they drew nearer, she moved closer to the wall, hoping and wishing that somehow she could disappear into it. They were so bold, two didn’t have masks on, yet Noma couldn’t tell if she’d seen any of the faces somewhere on the campus before or not. Perhaps, they were not students of that university, she thought.

“Where is your roommate?” One of the four thundered, his voice shaking the foundations of the three-storey building they stood on.

“Ehmm… I… I don’t … I don’t know…” Noma stammered

“Close your eyes.” Another roared, cracking a gun as if he’s about to fire.

Fear and trembling encompassed around the young girl as she struggled to keep her eyes shut. In between her partially closed eyes, she could see one of the young men being ordered to ‘take action’.

“Take action now!” The man giving the command yelled, and the latter, who appears quite too timid for a professional, jerked into unzipping his jean trousers.

“Do it now!” Came the command again and before Noma could arrange what all the yelling was about, two persons held her hands and legs tightly. She struggled with all the strength left in her to pull away from their firm grip to no avail. The commander, as Noma chose to call him, looked rather impatient, as the one commanded to ‘take action’ is taking forever to make up his mind.

“Guy, no fuckup! Na your last chance. You feel me so?”

And as if those were some propelling force, the initially timid young man pounced on Noma like a lion would devour its prey. The masked young man holding her hands held her mouth tightly so much so that her scream couldn’t even go as far up her throat. Noma struggled with every single one of the young men but they overpowered her, as expected.

“He raped me, mummy. Right on my hostel bed, he raped… he ra…” The tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down her face. She feels the muscles of her chin tremble like a small child. There is this pillar of rock on her shoulders again, the side effect of the constant fear, constant stress she lives with. Her eyes drip with tears. Her walls, the walls that hold her up, make her strong just… collapsed. Like a virus, her tears infected Mrs. Gina and the two women wailed in each other’s arms.

“I was raped, mummy. I was raped right in my own room.” She sounds pained and sarcastic at the same time and Mrs. Gina knows better than to let her continue at this rate,

“You should rest, my baby, please?” The older woman urges. Knowing Noma to become an emotional wreck as soon as her past comes crawling up in her mind, she’s not about to have a sleep over at the hospital just yet.

“It’s fine, mummy. I’m fine.” Noma dabs the tears gushing down her face with the back of her palm.

Typical, Mrs. Gina thought.

“My roommate returned to the room the next afternoon. She met me laying on the bed tiredly but everything in the room had been arranged back to their original state. I didn’t want to give her a clue that something had happened in her absence. I couldn’t bear the thought of telling anyone that I was raped by a member of a cult.”

Mrs. Gina nods her head, giving the impression that she could relate well with what Noma is saying and that builds more confidence in the younger woman to speak on.

“Rhoda noticed my unusual quietness and sober demeanor and God knows she pressed and pressed to know what was wrong with me but I didn’t say. I couldn’t bring myself to saying it.”

Noma describes a couple of instances when Rhoda almost made her voice it all out. One of such was when the latter caught her crying profusely in the room. She didn’t see Rhoda come in, yet she escaped without divulging the actual fact. In fact, one day when Rhoda returned from school, she tapped Noma quickly to give her a ‘gist’ – their polite name for gossip.

“Babe, you won’t believe that they caught some students who were said to have robbed female hostels in town.”

Looking all curious, Noma sat up. “Ehen?”
“Yeah. The senate sat on their case. They are all cultist and have been expelled.”

Noma was tempted right there to leap for joy, but that’s unnecessary. No punishment met on those guys would replace the trauma and havoc raping her had caused.

“So how did you learn about all these? Or you are now in the senate?” Noma queried. Because if anyone was to get such information in the actual fact, it should be her. Her father was a profound stakeholder in the university.

“Their names, department and photos are pasted on the notice board in the senate building. The large notice board on the ground floor.”

It took Noma a week before she was able to go check that notice board. She had fear, fear of the unknown. Fear that seeing her assailant’s face may bring back all the memories from that night. Fear that she may breakdown right in front of a mere notice board and rouse more attention than she could bargain for. But the day she finally went over to check,

“You wouldn’t believe it, mummy.”

Mrs. Gina sits up. “Believe what? You were able to recognize them, huh?”
Noma smiles amidst her tears while nodding from left to right. “I wish!”

Now, the older woman looked more confused than shocked. “How do you mean?”

“On the board, mummy…” Noma starts, fixing her gaze now on the woman holding onto her palm. “I saw the guy that was commanding. You remember two of them were masked?” she seeks confirmation in Mrs. Gina’s eyes before continuing. “OK. So there’s no way I can recognize them, but I’m pretty sure their names and photos were on the board.”

“And the person that raped you?” Mrs. Gina asks out of curiosity.

Noma shakes her head from left to right. “I didn’t see that one’s face on the board.”

Mrs. Gina wants to talk, but pauses and opens her mouth again. “Are you sure? Perhaps you couldn’t recognize him.”

Noma chuckles lightly. “I was fully conscious while he raped me, mummy. I was. In fact, all the time the other man commanded him to get on with it, I saw his face enough to recognize him from even my sleep.”

Mrs. Gina takes in a deep breath. “So how be it that his face wasn’t on that board?”

Noma shrugs her shoulders helplessly. “Up till now, I have no idea. And never for once did I bump into him on that small campus. At least, I was still a student six months after that scenario.”

“So you got pregnant? Didn’t you know you should run to the hospital immediately after a rape scenario? The doctors know what to do to prevent pregnancy and most importantly, sexually transmitted infections.”

Noma is laughing now amidst her pain. “I was scared, mummy. Almost everyone in that school knew dad and going to the health center to report that I was raped would only amount to the information getting into his ears. I didn’t want that.”

“But it got into his ears eventually, didn’t it?” Mrs. Gina hits her with the greatest truths of all times.

“Oh! How foolish anyone could be.”

“No, daughter, you were afraid. Which is OK, baby. It’s OK to be afraid sometimes.”

Noma hesitates for a moment, as though giving the older woman’s statement a second thought. As more and more reality dawns on her, remembering every single time she’s had to sleep over at the hospital because of Hallie, her pain increases. Mrs. Gina swallows severally, not sure what she’s about to say is necessary. She doesn’t intend to afflict Noma with her past any more than has already happened right now, but she needs to know this one truth, if it’s just this one.

“My girl,” she starts but Noma interrupts her.

“My parents, right?” Noma raises her left eyebrow and lowers the right one.

Mrs. Gina hurriedly nods in the affirmative. “Yes, Noma. Your parents. How did they handle your getting pregnant after being raped?” She hesitates for a moment before dropping the greatest bombshell. “You told me you are an orphan. Are your parents truly dead or they are just dead in your mind?” She picks up Noma’s hands, staring deep into her eyes and they she finds her answer. “Now tell me, where are your parents, daughter?”

 

 

******

 

Akoji hurries out from the compartment in front of Polaris Bank where the ATM stand is. The taxi man is waiting rather too impatiently for him and he could understand. They’re stopping at the fifth bank now since he got out of the palace and none of the machines is dispensing. He needs money, a lot of cash for that matter, if he must make it down to where he’s headed. He had bargained with this taxi man and though, the fare is pretty high, there’s no cause for alarm. Anything that would take him down faster; more so that’s late in the night.

“Oga, abeg, any other bank de around?” Akoji questions in pidgin English, taking his seat beside the cab driver. He’s still on the midi length jean and tightly fitted T-shirt he ran out of the palace with earlier in the evening. The only addition to his dressing right now is the black face cap and thick dark glasses that would make even the housekeeper at the palace not recognize the prince.

“GT bank de before the junction.” The cab driver says, starting and driving the car out of the parking lot.

Akoji lets hot air out of his nostrils and rest his back against the backrest of the seat. He can only imagine the commotion that’d be set lose in the palace in no time. One thing that gladdens his heart is that before they realize that the prince is gone, he would have gotten to the outskirts of town. Well, that was the plan until now that the Banks have unanimously teamed up not to put money in their ATMs.

He had acted like he was still asleep when his parents came to check up on him earlier in the evening. After the revelation about Noma being raped from Lolo, he was in so much unbearable pain he’d begged them to call the palace doctor who gave him some sedatives. As relaxing and potent as the said sedatives were, ‘cos he’d used them before, he couldn’t sleep for a long time. So that by the time his parents came and thought he was still asleep; the time his mother started pushing blames on his father, yelling and throwing tantrums everywhere, he was already conscious, though weak. He heard every line of the argument his parents started from his room before heading out to – where he could guess would be – his father’s chamber. Chief never wants to engage in word battle with his wife anywhere else. He feels his chamber is the safest region in the entire palace, especially when his wife is angry and she lets uncanny words out without a second thought.

As soon as Akoji was sure they were gone, he sat up on the bed for several minutes. He initially thought his legs would be too weak to hold him up until he set them on the floor and voila! They stood upright. That achieved, he knew he had a handful of power to take him all the way. So he got a face cap and thick sunglasses from his drawer, a wristwatch, his mobile phone, three ATM cards and that was it. There’s this route through his balcony…

Yes! How had he forgotten?

It’s part of the emergency exit routes out of the mansion and thankfully, it also doubled as the emergency route to get his soul out of this sickening atmosphere. He could bet on his life that two guards were outside the door, with or without a maid meant to wait on him.

They would stay there forever, while he exits through his balcony out of the house, he thought.

He took in calming breaths and gently opened the door leading to his balcony. Sitting on the lone stretcher there for some minutes also, he muttered the energy to climb downstairs gently enough not to be noticed by the guards at the front of the house. By the time he got downstairs, he hid behind a coconut tree at the left extreme. Maids were moving all around with trays in their hands and that confirmed to him that it was dinner time for the palace staff. Thankfully so.

He waited till the maid going towards the gate house called the gatemen and guards from their post. Akoji tiptoed briskly and could only pray that the guards forgot to bolt the huge iron gate. To his greatest surprise, the huge iron gate was truly left ajar – so many things food can do to a soldier. As soon as he miraculously got out of the palace unnoticed, he took to his heels down the lonelys street until he found this cab driver.

“Oga, we are here… Oga.” The cab driver waves his palm across Akoji’s face and the latter sits up immediately. “Oga, we don reach the bank.”

Akoji sighed inwards. How had he lost track of the roads and his environment for that matter? Stretching his hand,

“1996. Please, withdraw 60k.”

The driver’s eyes pop open in shock at first but he quickly gets back himself and steps out. “OK!”

The driver is far gone before Akoji would realize what he had done –he’d handed his ATM to a complete stranger who would be taking him all the way to a far place alone.

What if the man decides to rob him along the way?

He quickly discards the thoughts and mutters a quick prayer underneath his breath. He wants to think about Noma; about her welfare, about how hurt she must have felt after being raped. What responsible man rapes a vulnerable girl? Akoji couldn’t wrap his head around that, aside that he feels like holding the neck of whoever the fellow is that has put his beloved through so much pain in life and snapping the person’s empty skull off it. But he would be calm. He would find Noma first, he would tell her that finally he knows about her past. Not full but in part. Not even close to 50%. There are so many questions still left unanswered. So much he’d never broken through. He doesn’t know much but he knows he loves her. That may be all he needs to know after all.

A bright light shines on the cab and Akoji quickly moves the seat he’s on downwards, to avoid it. Perhaps they’ve found out in the palace, and guards had been discharged to ransack the entire town. He knows what his mother is capable of. From his partial hiding position, he glances in the direction of the cab driver who’s still at the ATM stand. Regardless of the intense brightness of the area, Akoji could taste sour fear in his tongue.  The car approaching is suddenly driving rather too slow for comfort and that leaves his heart panting even more. It may be his imagination but the car looks like one of the several fleets of exotic cars in the palace. He can’t tell precisely now. The car gradually parks a little distance in front of him and he waits to see who would step out of it. Scary hefty men with shades darker than anyone he’s seen in recent times storm out from the two front doors, and Akoji’s heart miss beats. Then, they open the back door for a man dressed in all white; white agbada on white shoes. The only thing stopping him from being a snowman would be the red beads hanging down his neck and wrapping around his thick wrist.

Akoji squints under his thick shades, trying to see who the person is. The face rings a bell but he cannot particularly remember. The bodyguards of the man hurry the cab man away from the ATM machine as the obviously wealthy man approached it.

“Oga, they no gree me withdraw again o.” The cab driver calls out through the window of the car and Akoji almost jumps at him to seal his mouth. The former, who didn’t get answer to his statement, steps into the car.

“Oga, na 40 I withdraw before they chase me. I go go back after these men comot.”

Akoji shushes him as they notice one of the bodyguards drawing nearer to their car.

“Drive away now, please.”

The cab driver turns confusing eyes at Akoji. “Oga na only 40 I don get. I never…”

“Move the hell out of here, driver.” Akoji raises his voice before he could stop himself. Rubbing his mouth with his left hand, he doesn’t know if he should apologize or not. As the cab drives away and Akoji bends over to look at the man clearer, he remembers him,

Chief Boniface! He almost spills his thoughts.

 

****

 

Everywhere is in utter disarray as the queen has refused to be consoled. She’s been shouting and screaming right from the prince’s chambers to her husband’s. For optimum privacy and security reasons, Chief Mbah was sure to keep her in his chambers all night. A lot of palace guards, as well as vigilante group members, had been deployed to scout and bring the prince back home immediately. They were dispatched to different nooks and cranny of Onitsha and he’s hopeful they would find the prince before he goes too far.

Inasmuch as two of the four squad sent out had already returned without any useful information, he’s certain the remaining would have good news.

“Where’s my son?” Lolo asks, hurrying over to the guards entering into the mansion.

“My queen, go back inside…” Chief Mbah approaches her and is about to place a hand on her shoulder when she shrugs, letting the hand drop down carelessly.

Mazi Amadi stares in silence from his corner in the large sitting room. He’s the king’s right hand man and chief Mbah doesn’t hesitate to share whatever matter bothers him with Mazi Amadi.

The head of the squad looks completely morose and God help him Lolo doesn’t snap his head off his neck right here.

“Igwe, Lolo…” He begins, his croaky voice almost a whisper. “We searched the entirety of church street, down to Iweka road and down south, your highnesses.”

“Then…”  Chief Mbah voices out his curiosity. “We saw no trace of the prince, your highness.”

That singular statement erased all sense of decorum left in Lolo. She begins to jump so carelessly; she almost falls but the maids are right behind to catch her. They try to hold her down to no avail.

“Now, my queen, you have to keep your cool OK? What you are doing is not helping anyone.” Chief Mbah voices, his tone completely aggravated.

Lolo stops jumping and begins to move towards her husband with tears clouding her vision. Mazi Amadi feels the need to say something but he suddenly lacks the proper words. In front of the king, Lolo comes to stand shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye and everyone wonders what she’s up to.

“Would you let my son marry the love of his life, or not?”

Chief is taken aback, not knowing where the question is popping out from and what’s the proper less-implicating answer to give.

“Lolo…” He begins, putting a hand on her shoulder and she shrugs again, letting the hand fall off.

“Akoji told me to my face that we don’t love him. That we only want him to come back to us so as to cover the shame that may arise when the sitting Igwe cannot bring forth a heir apparent to the throne.”

Chief Mbah shifts his weight from the right leg to the left. “My lolo, you know this is not true.” He thinks through his next statement. “You know we love Akoji and wants the very best for him. We…”

“Then…” Lolo interrupts. “Would you let him marry the girl he loves, tradition or no tradition?”

First issue is that Chief Mbah never saw this day coming; one where his wife would single handedly put him in a tight corner in front of everyone and leave him there. They’d never disagreed on any matter before.

“But you know the people of the land, Lolo. It’s against the tradition. Consider the very many issues around this girl, please Lolo, let’s not start this.”

Lolo stamps her feet angrily against the floor. She’s a robust woman and any impact of her leg on the hard floor produces a significant effect.

“If you were not the Obi of Onitsha, would you let Akoji marry the woman he loves?”

“But I’m the Obi, Lolo. Please, don’t make things more difficult for me. I’m still battling with my health, remember?” He pleads genuinely but all these drops off Lolo’s ears.

“Akoji told me that once he leaves this time, we would never see him again.”

That shakes Chief Mba as well as Mazi Amadi.

“I want to see my son, again, Calistus. Akoji is my first fruit. I want to see him again…” Tears pour down her smooth face and Chief feels like grabbing his wife nearer his chest but he’s afraid of the woman’s reaction. “So I’m going in search of my son by myself.” She says it so casually it took the next statement for the king to understand what she means. “I’ll bless his union with his lover. I’ll support him.”

“You would do no such thing, Lolo. I forbi…”

Shhhhhh! Lolo shushes him before he could finish. “I’m leaving with the limo that took Noma back to Kogi state. I leave you to the decisions of your people but I chose my son’s happiness and fulfilment.”

Chief feels weak at the ankles as Lolo’s words hit him hard.

“In the end, you’ll come to agree that none can be like family and that family is all there is. It’s family over everything, Callistus. I hope it’s not too late before you realize that?”

Lolo pulls her heavily beaded wrapper up in her hands as she takes the part of the stairs leading to her chambers. As she ascends, maids move downstairs with boxes of bags and out of the mansion. Chief stares at Mazi Amadi as though begging for assistance to savage a situation weightier than him but the latter looks as astonished and confused as himself. He makes to follow after his wife but the look on Mazi Amadi’s face stops him.

“Women?” Mazi Amadi says, assuredly. “She would come around by herself.”
That makes Chief Mba take in deep breaths and collapse unto his own designated seat among the many couches in the sitting room.

 

*****

 

Iye Akpa closes down the computer in front of her and places the glasses she’d just removed on it. It was last night when her husband wanted to ‘exercise’ that he drove himself around the city alone late in the night. He had refused to join them to see a movie and of course, that killed her own initial interest. But these are not as worrisome as the strange reactions from Prof Akpa lately. The man acts like something is pursuing him, judging from his over-alert stance and standing body hair. He’s become always ready for flight and fight and that’s pretty strange. Iye would normally not be bothered but lately, thoughts of the one she’s lost creeps into her heart much more than anything else. She’d called her husband’s folks who were in the initial plan and none seem to know anything. Prof Akpa was reluctant to involve the police in the whole issue.

Mtcheeeew!!! She hisses loudly as a reality dawns on her.

No one is about to keep her in captivity in her own house.” That thought out clearly, she gets off the chair and out of her bedroom at the speed of light.

As she draws nearer the study where she presumes her husband is, she could hear a voice. A loud voice. First it sounded like two persons were having a serious verbal combat but it becomes clearer and she realizes that her husband is literally screaming someone down over the phone. Tiptoeing to the door in such a silent manner that no one, however attentive, would notice, she inclines her ears to eavesdrop.

“But why would you just come up all of a sudden with all these?” Prof yells louder, anger consuming the entirety of him. his phone is on speaker and however faintly, Iye could hear a bit of the conversation.

“Let’s say I suddenly recognized my right.” A woman’s voice comes out loudly.

“What stupid right are you talking about, woman?”

Loud hysteric laughter comes out through the phone and that infuriates Prof even more. “Look, resorting into blackmail would do any of us no good.”

“But how is it blackmail, dear prof. How? Audu is flesh and blood for your information.”

Iye staggers back at first, but quickly regains composure to listen on. She has to get to the root of all these.

“I’ve told you to leave my son out of this woman. Leave the boy alone.”

Iye feels like her legs would break anytime soon and she grabs the adjoining walls for support. ‘Her husband has a son?’ How incredible!

“Our son. Audu Akpa Jr is as much your son as he’s mine. And mother and son are tired of living outside the comfort zone and reach of his beloved father. We want to… we have to come back home, prof.”

“I’m working on it…” Prof’s voice suddenly goes calmer than before. “You can’t just wake up in a week and demand to move into my home. Do you want to destroy my family?”
“You knew you had a family before you put some of us in the family way…” The bitterness in the woman’s voice is palpable. “You’d better do the needful before I do it for you. Don’t take me for a ride…”

“Now, don’t even think of threatening me, woman.” He seems to gain back his composure. “I am not one to be…”

The door opens slowly and he reaches out for his phone in a flash. The speed makes the device falls to the ground and being on speaker, the voice is still coming out loudly. “I dare you to try my patience, prof. Just try it… you’d…”

He finally gets hold on the phone and ends the call as soon as his hand could move. Left to how he feels right now, he would just throw the device down the window of his study.

At the door, Iye Akpa stands, frozen to her bones. She doesn’t know what to do first; ask, talk, sit, scream or just look on. She chose the last and as Prof Akpa stands with shivering feet staring straight-faced at his unusually quiet wife, he could only imagine what would be left of him after this time.

 

*****

 

Joyce moves as brisk as her plump weight can carry her. She makes sure not to glance backwards and that she’s keeping up with until now that she could hear footsteps and they are really catching up with her so fast. Taking exasperating breaths, she turns rapidly and he almost bumps into her…

“Now what?” Her hands stretch out in a questioning fashion.

The young man hesitates, trying to catch his breath. “We agreed you’d tell me when you are leaving.” A sly smile forms around his lips.

“So that?” Joyce is not about to mellow down a little bit on the harshness in her tone.

“I told you we need to talk, Jay…”

“Joyce.” She cuts in, waving her hand almost into his face. “My name is Joyce Audu and not any of the Jay, Jo, Ja that you go about calling me.”

The young man couldn’t place why the lady is so pissed but resolves to keep calm on his own end. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, miss Joyce.” He flashes his teeth at her but quickly covers them back seeing the frown forming on the lady’s face.

“All I want is a lunch date with you, Joyce. Please.” He clamps his hand, almost begging.

Joyce rolls her eyes. “Where I come from, Nick, we don’t go around on dates with someone we don’t like.” Her partial American accent comes out strongly in that statement.

Nick lets her last words sink in for only fewer than a minute then braces himself up to talk again. “How would you know who you like when you won’t even listen to a thing I wanna tell you?”
“OK! Alright,” Joyce waves her hands carelessly again. “Where are we going to?”

Nick is both awed and amazed. “Is that a yes? You mean right now?” He couldn’t contain his joy.

“Can we get going already before I change my mind?”

“Of course, sure.” Nick says, mimicking a cowboy’s bow.

He couldn’t have imagined being in so much luck today, after all these months of trying and failing.

 

****

 

Noma could feel a hand move around her face. It must still be in the dream. In the dream where she’s walking down the aisle to meet Akoji, the man she’d come to love so much that the thought of him consumes every bit of her. He had promised her back there, that afternoon in his chamber, before everything got sour, he’d promised her he wasn’t going to leave her again. A part of her wants that to happen but the greater part of her knows how nearly impossible that is. Staying and sticking with her would mean damning a lot of things, including the throne.

She’s not worth that much, is she?

She’s used to being rejected.

Yes.

Letting Mrs. Gina in on all the things that had stayed deep inside her heart the whole time made her feel a bit relieved. She feels a hand pick a strand of hair off her face again and she tries to open her eyes this time. They are weak, drained from excessive tears and sobs and wails and pains and sorrows. She’d cried herself to sleep last night in Mrs. Gina’s arms and even the morning sunlight struggling to get through the window blind into the room is not waking her up at all.

Finally, her eyes open and then pops open widely. They are so glazed they could flavor a thousand and one doughnuts. She quickly jerks up to a sitting position. They are facing each other now, and then, as if he’s wondering the same thing, Akoji takes her hands in his. And inasmuch time as it takes her to breathe, the moment becomes deeper, more intimate, exactly what it had been in his chamber at the palace.

He searches her eyes, “Noma, I don’t know.”

Her heart skids into a strange rhythm. “You don’t know what?”

The muscles in his jaw flexes and he looks upward for a long time, up at the different colors dancing in the light bulbs. He exhales and it makes him sound beyond weary. Then he faces her again. “I don’t know how…” he looks towards the door, like he’s expecting someone to walk in. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to live without you, Noma. You are all I’ve been living for.”

She has a funny look on her face, almost a smile but not quite. “Why are you here, Akoji?”

He gulps, then he pulls a small grey velvet box from his pocket and holds it out to her. Her eyebrows lifts, then she looks from the box to him and back to the box. He opens the lid and the glisters from the ring inside almost blindfolds him.

“My mother bought this ring for me several years ago, and told me to give to one woman only and after I’m certain she’s the place my heart finds home.”

Noma could feel herself grow uneasy by each word.

His voice cracks as he asks her the question. “Marry me, Finest girl. Not today or tomorrow, but as soon as we can, Okay? I still need my parents to accept us so I can become a prince again.” He lets out a nervous laugh. “I still know about your desire to marry a prince charming.”

“Akoji!” Noma sounds unbelieving. She’s staring at the ring.

 

 

To be continued.

Hey lovelies, it’s well with our story, ba? It is really well o. Hope you enjoyed this episode. Kindly leave a comment and share. Thanks. Also, I need someone to guess the conclusion of this story… who’s first to try?

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About Grace Ochigbo

Grace Ochigbo
Grace Ochigbo is a Christian, storyteller, inspirational speaker and the Founder of Gemstone Sickle Cell Aid Team, a non-profit organizations working to end Sickle Cell Disease. IG; graceochigbo Tweeter; graciouselara email; gemstonescat@gmail.com

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    I pray this comment gets posted; I’ve been discouraged against posting because they don’t seem to be posted. Maybe I’m going about it the wrong way. Smiles. I think Clinton, Akoji’s younger brother raped Noma. Hmm, that might make it more difficult for the two of them to marry, especially as Akoji has been through one heartbreak his father contributed to. Well done! I am so looking forward to the next episode.

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