Love In A Photograph – Grace Ochigbo
Two days ago, Linus was finally able to remove the wooden cast placed on his right arm. He had fractured the bone in the car crash. Fortunately, the elderly man was a local bone setter and also had knowledge in the use of herbs as medicine. Every morning and night all through the weeks Linus laid unconscious, his wife dipped a clean piece of clothing in a pot of hot water and shredded leaves and used it to press all over Linus’ head. They said they’d feared blood might clot somewhere in his head so the hot water was meant to dissolve the clots while the shredded leaves served medicinal purposes.
It’s exactly a month and five days today since Linus returned to consciousness. A week after he woke up, Baba Seyi had taken him out to the farm where all the herbs used for treating him had been gotten from.
“It was right on this spot Iya Seyi found your bodywhen she came out early that morning to weed as it’s her custom…” Baba Seyi started.
The old man had kept to his promise of telling Linus all that had happened. Linus was made tounderstand that the man and his wife had been banished from the village he’d ran off to earlier, the one he found a shack to live in. And they’d lived in this thick forest, away from any form of human activity,ever since. They ate products from their medium-sized farm and the man of the house used to go out to hunt for bush meat in the early years. They were not supposed to be seen by anyone from the village they’d been banished from as such a person risked being banished as well.
“I am sure it’s one of the village hunters that picked you up from wherever the accident happened.”
Linus remembered turning into a route no other car, human or even bicycle plied. Then the song he was trying so hard to put off. That was the last thing he recalled.
“It must be the same hunter that drops bush meat in the farm for us every other morning.” Baba Seyi cleared his throat. “I can guess who. It must be my friend,Orimolade. We used to be best of friends and best hunters in the village before I was sent away.”
Linus didn’t know if it was wise to ask why a man with a heart of gold such as this could have been banished.
“It was a conspiracy that almost cost the lives of my wife and I, and we’ve never set our eyes on Seyi, our son ever since. Long story, son.” The man had picked the questions on his mind.
Baba Seyi continued his attempt at painting a clearerpicture of what happened that morning to Linus.
“You were completely soaked in your own blood and the heavy rain from the previous night. I was sure you weren’t alive when Iya Seyi called me over to the farm but she pleaded we took you in. She kept insisting thatthere must be a reason whoever picked you up left you on our farmland, of all places. I was apprehensive but she urged me on.”
The week following that was the toughest. Baba Seyi constantly ended up in one argument or the other with his wife over Linus being dead or not. Thewoman persuaded him to be patient while they treat him for another week, then the week after that and the week after the week after that. She mentioned seeing a man in her dream instructing her to take care of a stranger she was going to meet that morning. The manin her dream said he’d be gone with the stranger’s spirit for a while and her responsibility was to attend to his body until he’s well again. Iya Seyi had forgotten about that dream when she woke up and a dead man in her farmland wasn’t the exact description of a ‘stranger to be taken care of’.
“That was how we kept treating you in our own local way, hoping and waiting for the day you’d come back to your body again.”
Sore fear had gripped Linus as the old man narrated the story to him. Abba wanted to explain some things to him and had arranged these ones to keep taking care of his body on earth the length of time it would take to finish the exposition?
Such a master planner.
Timing in the two realms were entirely different because he was sure he’d spent barely two days in themansion, and here, the old couple said he’s been unconscious for three whole weeks.
The latest events had clearly opened his eyes to the truth.
Abba was real.
Abba’s love for humanity was realer than real.
The couple had been extremely nice to Linus. Mama Seyi served him food whenever himselfand the old man returned from weeding the farm in the morning, after which he proceeds to the back of the house to take his bath. He had no idea where he was let alone know how to get back to the scene of the accident. If only he could find his way back there, perhaps he may be lucky to still find his car and there may be one or two things to take from it. He didn’t let that thought bother him much. He was enjoying his stay with the old couple.
Now, as the axe in Linus’ hands landed on the hard firewood he was breaking for Mama Seyi, the woman couldn’t help but admire him while sitting some distance away, her husband right beside her.
“Sometimes, I see Seyi so much in this young man, ókó mì. Could it be that God has brought our son back to us?” She was saying this for the umpteenth time in the past week.
Baba Seyi placed his hand over hers. “God will bring Seyi to us or take us to him. How He’s going to do it, I don’t know but I believe this will happen one day, áyá mì. See that young man right there?” he pointed in Linus’ direction. “He’s Linus and he needs to reconnect with his family.”
“What?” Iya Seyi was astonished. “Ợkó mì, do you want to send him off?” A crack in her voice and she made conscious efforts to hold back the tears. “We have been in this place for twenty-eight years all by ourselves and this is the first time we’re sighting a life human. Don’t you see the hand of God in this? Why do you want to send him away?”
Baba Seyi didn’t look at her. She was a woman and most times, she let her emotions get the better of her. He concentrated on the strong muscles pushing in and out of Linus’ arm as the axe landed on the firewood. He was a well-built young man.
“Ėyìn! Linus!! Come. That’s enough.” He called out loud enough.
“Ợkó mi, please?”
Baba Seyi looked at her this time with blood shot eyes. “Please go and prepare food for us, Iya Seyi.”
The woman heard the finality in her husband’s voice and got up immediately. A lone tear dropped her face as she walked away from her husband.
“Mama, are you okay?” Linus placed his sweaty hand on her shoulder as they bump into each other halfway.
“I think the wind is making her tear up.” Baba Seyi called from his seat in front of the hut. “Please come on, son.”
Linus observed the wind for a second as if to find it.
What wind could make one tear up?
He let her go anyway and proceeded to where the old man was.
“Well done. You break firewood like you were born to do it.”
That made Linus smile. “Let’s say that’s my way of announcing that I am fully recovered now. No more pain.” He shook his once broken arm as evidence. The bruises on his head and back had healed up to.
Baba Seyi smiled, fulfilled. “I have been meaning to ask. No one uses the route leading into this forest, so where were you going at such an ungodly hour and in the rain?”
“Nowhere!” Linus said and rested his back against a bamboo pillar, defeated.
“What do you mean by nowhere?” he heard the confusion in the man’s voice.
He thought about the best way to narrate his story, whether opening up on the event that led to his killing his wife would make his helpers think him a dangerous person or not. At last, he decided on what to do.
“Baba, I am a journalist. I used to be the general manager at the NTA headquarters in Abuja where I lived until everything fell apart and I have nowhere to run to now.”
“And your wife?”
Linus was surprised at first but when the old man pointed at his ring finger and the glistering golden object, he understood. He paused for a long time careful not to divulge too much information.
“Oh dear! So sorry about that. What happened to her?”
Linus’ mind travelled from the hut to his house where it had happened that fateful afternoon. He had been having so many failures in his life at the time and thought he could drown all his sorrows down a bottle of beer. He had been recklessly drunk that afternoon and had a slight argument with his wife. He’d beaten her up mercilessly until…
“You beat your wife to death?” the old man struggled to keep his voice low.
His facial expression wasn’t judgmental, instead it was one of empathy and pity. He saw the remorse in Linus’ face and knew that whatever happened that day wasn’t a preplanned event. What the young man had gone through over the months was enough to change even the most hardened criminal.
Linus continued talking about his escape from his house, the city, the state all the way to Ipeodo village SouthWest Nigeria. It had taken him about 22 hours to arrive there. There, where he was sure no one knew him.
“So do you plan to keep running all your life or you’d go back now that you’ve been given a second chance to live?”
Linus took in a painful breath. “There’s no one to go back to, Baba. No one. My parents are dead. The only family I had was my wife’s. I killed her, Baba. Her father won’t spare me once he sets his eyes on me.”
“Of course, that is the someone.” Baba Seyi cut in. “You have hurt the old man so terribly by unintentionally taking the life of his precious daughter. You have to go back and apologize to him. You need his forgiveness.”
“He would kill me before hearing anything from my mouth.”
“You could have died trying to run too.” Baba cut in. “You underestimate the power of family, son. If a father beats his son, it’s termed punishment. If an outsider does same thing, it’s a crime. The only place such bond is found is in the family. The old man started seeing you as family from the day he gave his daughter to you. He must be broken over the loss of his girl, anyone would be. He would be angry and bitter. He would punish you, yes. But he won’t kill you. It’s family over everything.”
Hot air escaped Linus’ nostrils. Baba had a point. He could have died while escaping these whole months, he affirmed. He would return to Abuja. He would look for Ajuma’s father, lie face down and apologize to him. If the older man feels death was all he deserved, then so be it.
“Baba, I don’t know my way.” Linus had a mixture of terror and fear in his eyes.
“The hunter brought bush meat for us yesterday. If nothing changes, he would be coming to drop one again tomorrow on his way back to the village.”
Linus was trying to process the information. The hunters worked at night?
“Food is ready.” Iya Seyi’s voice interrupted them.
“Let’s go and eat, son. I will explain how to find your way back later.” Baba Seyi announced, getting up.
Linus looked at the man with deep gratitude before falling into a warm embrace. “Thank you for all these times, Baba. If God spares my life, I shall come back.”
Samson Itodo walked out of the elevator as it opened directly into his private office on the topmost floor of the skyscraper building that was his company. The office was a huge room occupying this corner of the building with floor-to-ceiling windows giving views to the peaceful FCT. He walked to his seat and sank into it like he’d just given the last breath off his lungs. He rotated the chair to face the city. The serenity on the streets, the peace and ease of movement. He wondered when that was ever going to return to his life again.
At first, it was ‘find him at all cost, he must pay for all he’d done to my daughter’.
Now, six months later, his instruction was a little different,
‘just find him at all cost’, he’d told the detectives.
The tension in the atmosphere had become so severe and pervasive that one could barely see more than a few feet in any direction. The loud sound from the intercom turned him around as he hastily reached out for it.
“Yes. Let him in.” he said before replacing it like it burnt his hand.
The glass surface of his desk wasn’t so cluttered: the macbook, a notebook, and a framed photograph of himself and the two most important women in his life, his late wife and… daughter.
There was a tap on the door and Samson Itodo swallowed as he literally heard the thumping of his own heartbeat. Hopefully, he’s able to handle whatever the news would be.
He stared at the man who walked in from the door towards his desk. His stare was so uncomfortable the man approaching him almost missed his steps. There was no life behind those eyes.
“Detective?” Samson called out when he couldn’t bear the suspense anymore.
The man stood tall on the other side of the desk, hands in his pocket.
“Good day, Honourable Itodo.”
Samson let out an understated sigh, trying to mask the fear building up in him.
“I am afraid we don’t have good news, sir.” The man continued without waiting for a response.
“What happened?” Samson exploded, standing up from his seat to come face to face with the man standing in front of him.
To be continued tomorrow.
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