BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
A CRACK UNDER THE STRAIN
The study room in the house is very quiet and sited at the highest corner of the duplex. Professor Arome Abuh practically hides there to read at least three times a week. He may not get to be faithful to his planned hours of study as much as he would have wanted to but he doesn’t joke with Saturday mornings like this and he is rather quite consistent with it more often than not.
He was so engrossed in the book that he didn’t even notice when Mrs. Abigail Abuh, his wife, entered ‘the study’ until she dropped his favourite and usual apple juice on the table in front of him. He was startled and looked up almost immediately.
“Honey?” Arome exclaimed, removing his eyeglasses and dropping it on the table. “I thought you were going to the mall with Tonia to get those items. Why are you still here now, it’s almost noon.” He demanded an explanation as he picked up the drink before him.
Abigail chuckled and leaned her body around his shoulders.”Yeah Honey, I would have gone with her but Tosin offered to take her, so she will be going with him instead.”
Arome’s drink spilled off his mouth immediately he heard her last statement and he tilted his head over his chair to face her almost at the same instance,
“Woman! I am begining to get uncomfortable with how you lease Tonia off to that young man all the time and hour. I hope you have not forgotten that she is very much engaged to be married to my friend’s son, Jerry?”
Abigail sighed deeply, pulled a stool beside her closer and sat beside her husband,
“Honey, inasmuch as I have never liked this marriage arrangement, I am not leasing our daughter out to the young man as you called it. He is just a sweet kind-hearted gentleman that my daughter seems to like very much and loves hanging out with too. So why will I deny her the opportunity?” She shrugged her shoulders and played with her hands on some pieces of paper on the table.
Arome frowned at her nonchalant response. “Can you hear yourself? A beautiful lady should carelessly hang out with a handsome young man just because her mother thinks he is harmless? Don’t spark up any relationship between Tonia and Tosin or any other man by way of this carefree attitude please. In fact, if you must do anything, let it be for her relationship with Jerry to thrive, do you understand me?” He warned sternly while trying not to raise his voice.
“I am sorry Honey; I have to disagree with you on this matter.” Abigail started still with her calm voice, standing to her feet, “I love my daughter because I am her mother, I know what I have gone through in bringing her up to this age and what am still going through in making sure she stays healthy and happy, I can’t let anybody make me feel like am lording my beautiful daughter on him for whatever friendship reason.” She sounded quite bitter towards the ending of her statement.
Arome straightened out on his chair and faced his wife.
“What do you mean by that?” He asked
“I asked Tonia yesterday when last she heard from her supposed fiancé and she said the last time was last week Saturday night when he dropped her off after his graduation party. What kind of thing is that?” Abigail asked, pushing her lips forward and turning her eyes in a sarcastic manner.
Arome kept quiet for a while. This is ‘women’s issue’ as he would always say and ‘caution cannot be thrown to the wind at this time’ if a serious misunderstanding must be avoided. He sought deep within him for the best way to sound that won’t aggravate the anger already welling up in his wife. One thing he knew was that he can’t break his dear friend’s heart likewise and that’s for sure at least not this early.
He started by placing back his eyeglasses,
“Well, that is not enough excuse to give her to any other fellow without proper procedures. There are procedures for doing things and you know it. Moreover, Jerry is a very busy young man with a promising future. Once he gets to the place of his dreams, he will have all the time in the world for Tonia. Just do your job as her mother and keep her for him till then”
“I don’t and won’t have my hand in all this Honey! Whatever makes my daughter happy, I go all out for it.” She retorted bluntly, trying to get up
“Yea I know mum! I see am the topic of discussion here this morning…” I said amidst smiles as I barged in on them without knocking. Mum and dad immediately turned to face me.
“Sorry! The door was open.” I added quickly, raising my left eyebrow and lowering the other one, because I already knew what dad’s next question would be. I continued immediately.
“Anyway, it’s nothing serious. And don’t worry, I didn’t hear your discussions, I just came to tell you, mum, that we are leaving now. Are you adding anything else to this list?” I asked, waving the paper at her.
“No darling, that’s all we will need in the kitchen for now and you guys are still not resuming till after your IT right?” she asked for confirmation,
“Yes… for now” I replied briskly
“For now? Like there could be a change or what? Anyways, that’s your school’s business. Please, buy quality stuffs for me not like the last time” Mum replied without waiting for my response to her questions, “And don’t stay too long as well; I would need some of those for weekend food.” She added quickly
I rolled my eyeballs as I folded the paper into the pocket of my black jean pants and made to leave.
“And…” Dad started, stopping me in my tracks “Don’t be too comfortable with Tosin, Baby. I know you may not be so crazy about Jerry now but give it time.”
I turned to look intensely at my both parents, moving my eyes simultaneously from one to the other.
If only they will understand that there is more to my emotional life than meets the ordinary eyes right now, I thought within me as I opened the door of the study and walked out without uttering a word.
After all the haste from mum and dad, I can’t believe am caught up in this again. This girl should have been the male child instead of my calm and loyal King David.
“Go ahead!” she answered when I threatened to leave the tab with her.
“Success nau! Stop! Tosin is waiting for me outside.”
“Since when did you start going to shopping mall with your phone? I am out of data and I have an online class meeting. Be ‘the big sister’ you are and allow me use your tablet, stingy elder sister!” Success retorted teasingly.
Can you imagine? Upon confiscating my tab, she still has the nerves to call me names,
“You will be dead by the time I get a hold on you and you are making me run around this sitting room.” I said, charging towards her direction.
“Unfortunately, you can’t! So just go. I need to concentrate, the meeting is on already” she replied, sticking out her tongue at me.
I stopped following her round the sitting room and stood to catch my breathe
“Please, please, awa am begging…”
“Sister Tee…” King David said as he hurried into the room on his roller skate. I don’t know how he does it, but skate is one thing I can never play with. So much that I even fear for anyone around me running on it.
“Uncle Tee said I should ask you if you need a horseback ride out of your room.” He announced and went out as hurriedly as he came in.
I laughed. Obviously, the young lad doesn’t understand the message he just delivered. But this little one too called Success won’t let me leave with my tablet. I remain fixed, staring at her with pleading eyes,
“Yeah, go girl! They are waiting outside for you…” She screamed, tapping hard on the screen.
“Make sure you don’t exhaust my data by the time I got back” I said, accepting defeat and made for the door.
“Group chat is different from downloading ‘Game of thrones’ Ma! When all you do with your phone is Whatsapp and Facebook, how would you know how data charges works?” She retorted
That got me smiling again. She could be a pain in the neck when she insists on some things at those moments when she is bent on making everyone else bend to her way. Not as though I needed the Tablet, but I still love carrying it around with me everywhere. Who knows? There may be an urgent photograph to capture for my ongoing story. I’ll just let her win as other times anyway.
Mr and Mrs Onuh sat in their sitting room engaged in petty discussions with their last son Joseph. A very expansive sitting room with exquisite set of black leather chairs, lying beside each chair is a shiny glass side stool that blends with its larger member serving as the centre table. Long almond curtains carefully selected by the only woman of the house, with colourful stripes adorned the two large windows on the two ends of the rectangular room.
“Where is Jerry, Joe” Jacob Onuh asked after a long while of silence.
Joseph, the second son and last child of the Onuh’s, often called ‘Joe’ was watching his favourite match and so didn’t contribute much to his parents talks all the while. Hanging on the wall is the largest size LG plasma TV, black and sleek, so large one could assume the images on the screen were real. The home theatre speakers too produced real sounds and were all carefully selected by Joe himself, the only member of the house interested in electronics and gadgets. The ultimate aim was to enable him watch his football in the comfort of their house since he saw no need stacking himself in a game centre. His dad like everyone else doesn’t like distractions when he is watching a match. Much more that Arsenal football club- his best team- are killing the game but he was worried, he was extremely worried about Jerry’s reserved nature lately.
“Must I be in all your discussions? Or is there another ploy ganging up against me soon?” Jerry replied before Joseph could, as he came to join them from his room. He could hear their discussion all along and decided he would only come out after anyone eventually mentions his name. He slid over the arm of the chair to take his seat beside his mother. He then picked up the Techno Y8 phone she kept on the centre table and started going through it.
“Younger sister! You are really doing a great job at your spa.” He complimented, teasing his mother with the fond name he calls her, as he flipped with his fingers through pictures of her adorably designed beauty shop alongside some of her customers. She laughed, rubbing his hair.
His father sat up on the chair and cleared his throat before talking,
“Jerry, it’s quite unusual of you to keep yourself locked up in your room doing nothing for almost a week. Hope all is well with my barrister?”
Jacob Onuh had learnt from interactions and from books, he had an idea how living with another male adult under the same roof could be tasking. One will have to be extremely careful not to bridge on another’s privacy and he has decided to put in his best so as to have his ‘two soldiers’, as he always called them, as friends.
“I know you are waiting for law school in few weeks, but that shouldn’t make you a prisoner in your father’s house. Go out, mingle with people, and learn!” His mother added, though her voice wasn’t as soothing as his father’s. The both of them have a way of forming a cue over somebody’s issue and personal life.
“Mum?” Jerry mumbled, dropping the phone
“It’s true son. I asked you if you could join my friend’s chambers for these few weeks of waiting for law school, you bluntly declined. Shouldn’t I be worried?” His father asked calmly.
Joseph neglected the match and sat back into his chair, listening as his parents engaged his elder brother in their usual morality sermon again. He and Jerry, his elder and only brother, are best of pals even with the five years gap between them.
“Dad…” Joseph started, interrupting his father, “…Leave Jerry alone, he may be looking like he is not doing anything but in his mind he is very busy.” He voiced out jokingly.
“So what is he busy doing then?” His father asked, looking curious
Jerry stared at Joseph as he picked his jaw with his right hand. Everybody’s attention turned to Joseph eagerly awaiting the response to the last question. At least, for record purpose, he makes the ‘J-family’ lively unlike Jerry who almost live a sedentary lifestyle
“..Well, he is busy in love…!” Joseph voiced out and Jerry threw a chair pillow hard at him immediately he said that. Everyone knew Joe would say something quite hilarious so Jerry held the pillow to throw all along.
“Ouch!!!!” Joseph screamed as the pillow hit his head hard and everybody started laughing.
“Yes about that, how is Tonia?” His mum asked as she tried to recover from the laughter.
Jerry shrugged and sat up, “She should be fine, wherever she is! I last saw her on the first day I met her by the way.” He retorted, vigorously shaking his head as though he had plans to detach it.
“What!” The both parents exclaimed almost the same time.
“How can that be?” Jacob asked, referring to no one in particular.
“It is so, Dad! You asked me to meet her at least, I obeyed and we met, what other thing do you expect of me again?” Jerry asked harshly. He was fed up with the fact that his parents were putting undue pressure on his life.
“Haba! Jeremiah Ojotumale Onuh!” His mother exclaimed, calling his full name. This got Joseph laughing hard. She does this anytime she is about to rain her tales of gross disappointment in him on him. “Are we to also give you a timetable about your dealings with your fiancée?”
Jerry turned to look at her with his face frowned, “Point of correction Mum, she is not my fiancée.” He displayed provoked gestures, almost yelling at her again
“Oh! Yes she is… and the earlier you sink it into your brains that she will soon become your wife, the better for you.” Juliet said sternly at the top of her voice.
“Mum…!” Jerry screamed too, hitting hard on the handle of the chair he sat on.
Jacob let out a loud cough to bring the attention of mother and son back from their argumentative train. They both placed angry frowns firmly on their faces as they turned to face Jacob.
“Jerry, its high time you told us why any conversation that has Tonia mentioned in it pisses you off so quickly? I mean! What has your mum said that has provoked you this much?” His father demanded while Jerry kept fuming on his inside. “Jerry, do you know Tonia from somewhere else or at any point before now?”
Jerry’s mind split immediately he heard the question. He stole a glance at Joseph on the other side who just shrugged his shoulders motioning him to answer their father. Jerry turned towards his mother who looked rather too impatient all of a sudden.
“Jerry, answer your father…!” She responded loudly
Jerry considered many possibilities in his mind and weighed his options as he moved his eyes from one person in the room to the other. He may not know but he was more certain of one thing than anything else.
“I am not having this conversation, Dad!” Jerry replied, got up and headed back towards his room.
“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Ojotumale come back here” His mother screamed to no avail as Jerry slammed the door of his room angrily and bolted it from inside.
To be continued.