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NOMA’S DREAM – EPISODE THIRTEEN

NOMA’S DREAM – GRACE OCHIGBO

Lizzy takes her eyes from the computer she’s been typing away on the whole time. There’s still a lot to do. Regius Dynasty has a grand upcoming event and deliveries must be done from Noma’s Bake Shop as timely as possible. They’ve not disappointed before; they are not about to start now. The boss’ unavailability notwithstanding.

Chaii, fine girl!”
Lizzy rolls her eyeballs. “Uncle Frank, you may kindly return to the bakery, sir, your attention is no longer needed here.”

The young man, who’s the chief baker in Noma’s Bake Shop, smiles in a way that Lizzy considers completely repulsive. It’s not a matter of months anymore since Frank has been on her case, and as much as she hates to admit it, bachelors who approach her are grossly ‘unworthy’ in her sight. Seriously!

How can a mere baker be asking her for a relationship?

Working as Noma’s secretary is due to the economic condition of Nigeria and just so to pull body and soul together, if not, she knows where all her mates from the university are by now. And…

“Lizzy…” Frank’s voice interrupts her thoughts. “You love chocolate and vanilla frosted cakes, don’t you?”

Lizzy nods her head, not sure where the young man is driving to.

“Ehen!!” He points out his first finger rapidly, it almost meets Lizzy’s eyes. “As long as this whole state is concerned, Chef Frank makes the best chocolate and vanilla frosted cakes ever.”

Lizzy feels the impulse to laugh but refrains from it. She’s so curious to know where he’s headed.

“I know you are confused…” Frank smiles. “But what I’m trying to say is that, if you marry me, all the desires and cravings for your favorite cakes would be met.”

Are you kidding me? Lizzy almost spills out her thoughts.

Whoever marries a man for cakes.

Frank allows his smiles gradually diminish until his face carries a very serious look, much more than anything Lizzy has seen in the past. “In less than eighteen months, Lizzy, I’ll be out of this town. Aside my love for baking, part of the reasons I joined this place is to understand organizational structures better so as to apply it when the time comes.”

Lizzy raises her left eyebrow, lowering the other one.

“By the time I’m satisfied with what I’ve learnt here; I’ll go set up a structure larger than this in my place in the Niger Delta. That’s how the title ‘billionaire’ is spelling out my name gradually.” He places a hand on Lizzy’s hand and the latter withdraws immediately. “I hope one day you won’t regret judging the content of a good book by its seemingly tattered cover?”

He begins to move in the direction of the door above which writes a bold inscription ‘BAKERY’. At the door, he stops abruptly as though a thought suddenly drops in his mind.

“How is Noma by the way? It’s been a while anyone saw her around here.”

The words before the last one has set Lizzy on a long trail of thoughts so much so that she didn’t realize on time that he asked her a question until,

“Ehn? Answer me.”

“Ehmmm…” Lizzy sits upright. “Oh, OK? Madam?” She stammers. “Madam is fine. Just some little issues here and there with her daughter’s health and all, but she should be around soonest.”

Frank gives a bright smile and for the first time ever, Lizzy notices how handsome he looks behind his red apron and the white toque on his head.

How can that even be possible?

She queries her brain as she returns her gaze to the computer in front of her. Moving the cursor to a folder named ‘staff qualifications’, she double clicks on it with shaky hands. Her eyes move down with the slow pace of the cursor to the name ‘Frank Okeremeta’ and there, right there, she sees the greatest shocker of her days on this job yet.

 

****

 

Every time the Rolls Royce Phantom Limo gets in a gully and shakes a little bit, it unsettles the whole of Noma. It’s as if fibers and knots are loosening high up in her head and inasmuch as she’s trying to hold back the tears, she can’t help it.

“The woman knows every detail about me, Rhodess. Every single bit of me. God knows I’ve tried, Rhodess. I’ve tried to fight…” A crack in her voice and she keeps mum.

“Babe, pull yourself together, please? Get hold on your emotions. It doesn’t make sense to be crying in the presence of those people.”

Reflexively, Noma glances at one of the palace drivers and a guard in the front seat of the Limo. She’s got a lot of boxes in the trunk of this luxurious car. Boxes containing what she suspects to be clothes; unusual beautiful royal dresses, and jewelries with shoes to match from Lolo. The woman has a kind heart indeed, but,

“But what am I supposed to do now, Rhodess? Where do I begin?”

She could hear Rhoda hiss loudly. “Begin from the beginning, my friend! If I remember properly, you only met this young man not longer than three months ago. I can reckon that you both hurriedly developed emotions for one another…”

“I love him, Rhodess.” Noma interrupts before she could stop herself. “It’s not just unruly emotions, I love Akoji. And gosh, I feel so ashamed of myself for letting things get this deep.”

Rhoda swallows and continues. “Well. It’s alright to go deep with the one you love. But as I was saying, you both hurriedly developed love for each other and…”

“I can only speak for myself and not him because…”

“Can you keep quiet and listen?” Rhoda yells, sounding provoked. “If you could listen to yourself, you wouldn’t be calling me at this ungodly hour.”

Noma notices the provocation in her friend’s voice and takes in deep breaths. “I’m sorry. It’s just that… just that… I…”

“Just that you have allowed yourself become too pitiable.” Noma’s eyeballs pop open as Rhoda says this. “Yes, my friend. I love that your emotional sides were stimulated. In fact, at some points after the circumstances around Hallie’s birth, I thought you had completely lost your capacity to love a man.” She pauses, daring Noma to interrupt, then continue. “You don’t lose yourself in a bid and attempt to love someone, Noma. No, you don’t. You had a dream and goal you were working towards, long before you met Akoji. Noma, your dream was not to live your life waiting for a prince to come make you the queen of his palace. No. You knew you deserved more than that. Your dream was to build your own palace, your own empire, through hard work and consistency at your trade so that when the prince eventually comes, it’d be a case of, ‘which palace to move into’, yours or his. You understood early that the best revenge for all that has happened to you is to be extremely successful and that’s what your dream is, Noma – to be extremely successful.”

Noma takes a strand of her hair and rubs it between her fingers as Rhoda hits her with harder truths.

“Your life ran for longer than two decades before you ever set your eyes on this young man that seems to be scattering everything in it at the moment. Why would the whole of you keep revolving around a single man? He’s a stranger for all I care, Noma. I know you’ll hinge this on the fact that you’ve grown to love him so deeply, but sometimes, when it comes to love, we have to learn to take the backseat and let it unfold in front of us on its own accord whilst still pursuing our dreams and hoping for fulfilment.” She clears her throat lightly. “I’m not asking you to give up on Akoji, but sometimes, like now, you have to allow whatever would be to be.”

Noma swallows against a tightening on her throat, turning her face to the window. It’s indeed true that Akoji has overturned every single part of her and inasmuch as it has been the best feeling ever for her, life is not allowing them to proceed beyond just the love. It’s at this point she realizes,

“I give up, Rhodess.” Noma says, sounding extremely weak and defeated. “Perhaps, finding love and staying happy is not for people like me.”

“The moment you decide to pity yourself is when you become an object of mockery for the devil. You are a strong girl, Noma. If not for yourself, be strong for Hallie.”

Noma moves backwards until her back hits the backrest of the seat. It gives her such a soothing effect she couldn’t explain.

“One day, all will be well.” She sighs with a tone of resignation.

“Now that’s my girl!” Rhoda responds, chuckling.

 

****

 

Mrs. Gina holds out a ceramic plate from the kitchen from where she picks a large piece of chicken and drops it onto Hallie’s plate. Though eating really sluggishly, it’s a good thing the little girl can now hold onto a spoon and dig into a plate of rice by herself without requiring any assistance. The entire area around her plate is littered with rice but strangely, all those bring an air of fulfillment in Mrs. Gina’s heart. She read somewhere that sickle cell anemia is the highest cause of under-5 mortality in children. If she was an illiterate, she would have rejoiced that Hallie is now five and not dead yet. More like find solace in the delusion that ‘Hallie had escaped the death age’ but every day, she knows is a new sheet of hope for the girl and whatever lies in her power to keep Hallie alive, she would do.

“Are you enjoying your meal, sweetheart?” She rubs Hallie’s almost bald head lovingly before pulling the seat beside her.

“Y.E.S. grandma.” She says slowly, food in her mouth.

“Eat up, OK? I’ll help you dice the chicken.”

“No!” the girl protests with a weak voice.

“No? No what?” Mrs. Gina raises her eyebrows in curiosity.

Hallie smiles shyly. “I’ll do it, grandma.”

Mrs. Gina smiles. It’s not possible for the girl to dice a dry-fried chicken but she’s not about to get into arguments with Hallie. Not at all. When the time comes, the little girl wouldn’t remember she wanted to do it herself in the first place. Mrs. Gina digs her fork into her own plate of jollof rice, taking it to her mouth. Noma must be having such a good time that she’s forgotten to call them. Mrs. Gina is not worried, because Noma sent her a text the next day after she arrived at the palace. Mrs. Gina thought it wise not to disturb the poor girl with frequent calls. All that matters is that she’s safe and there’s no safer place to be than in the arms of the one you love and who loves you much more in return.

A beep on her phone and it begins to ring out loud from where its resting on the center table in the adjoining sitting room.

Hallie jumps up in such a hurry, she almost tumbles but holding onto the chair firmly, she trudges in the direction of the ringing tone. Mrs. Gina watches on. She’s not going to stop the girl from doing whatever she wants to do in the house. That would be the difference between her and Noma. Noma would never want Hallie to do anything because to her, the little girl is too weak to be given strenuous assignments. But what’s strenuous about getting a ringing phone for her grandma? Hallie looks fulfilled anytime she’s allowed to do that, that one thing. The ‘s’ Hemoglobin genotype is in no way a disability; Mrs. Gina had cautioned her brain a long time ago.

Rising up, she hurriedly approaches Hallie to collect the phone from her hands before it would ring out with the slow pace with which the girl is moving. Hallie, once again, looks fulfilled and proud of herself for getting grandma’s phone for her.

‘Cos she loves to get her mum’s phone whenever it rang too but mum wouldn’t allow her.

Mrs. Gina looks bewildered at the caller’s Id on the screen of her phone. She has her mind running from pillar to post as she swipes left the ‘receive’ button before placing it gently against her ear.

 

*****

 

Akoji walks out through the door of his own side of the palace; through the long adjoining passage that would lead him to the fleets of stairs before any other room is seen. He’s locked himself indoors since yesterday, thinking and pondering over the words of his father. He had to confess everything to the older man. In fact, he’d already shot himself in the leg the moment he said the truth about losing his job. Perhaps he should have covered it up for a little while. He should have said something more appealing to human reasoning, other than saying something that would arouse chains of questions until he got himself roped.

Chief Mbah initially looked pale. Akoji could bet the older man was wondering how that a married girl would come all the way to look for a young man. He couldn’t just wrap his head around it and Akoji didn’t wait until he asked to divulge the whole information. He took his time to tell his father about Noma’s five-year-old Hallie, how that the little girl has a genetic disorder that keeps mother and daughter in and out of the hospital against their will. The onus laid on him to save the life of the child, because that’s who means the entire world to Noma and Noma in turn means the world to him.

Akoji had expected his father to blow out in rage. Chief’s anger is one you won’t wish your enemies to witness. It would come like an impossible build up steam, burning him on the way out and burning the one on the receiving end. Every time Chief ever blew, he reckoned the other person deserved it.  There’s always the explosion and then the mental framework afterwards to avoid guilt, avoid owning the shame that was his. These were what Akoji had expected from the old man after relating his ordeals with him, but to his utter amazement, Chief Mbah sat mute for several minutes, gazing at the staff of authority in his right hand. Then, after what seemed like eternity, he cleared his throat.

“You know I loved your mother enough to marry her regardless of the battles we had to face with my parents and of course, the ageless and unbending tradition.” Chief continued on and on, sighting various instances where himself and wife had to hold on only to each other because non else understood them. “The elders even pulled a stunt about Beatrice being older than me and all what not. But the good thing is that we overcame in the end…” He curved the left side of his lips into a wry smile. “I don’t regret having your mother in my life, Akoji.” Akoji’s eyeballs popped out and chief smiled. “Yeah, I never call you that name, huh?”

Akoji looked helpless as the older man readjusted uncomfortably on his seat. “I’m doing that now. Maybe that’s the name you connect with much more than Nwanna. Can you see another effect of my beloved wife?” He patted his son’s back proudly. “Beatrice just knows how to pull strings, the correct strings. Look at the role she played in Onyiye’s saga. The young lady that was using the head of both father and son to get her selfish desires; who almost tore us completely apart until your mother intervened.”

Akoji frowned, as if to say that Onyinye never used his head, but they both know the truth and he’s not about to dig out the past all over again.

“This woman in question is an Igala lady, no problem.” Chief Mbah said. “Your mother is Igala from Ofabo too, remember? Even though now she’s more of an Igbo woman than any other description there is.” Chief smiled proudly. “And I doubt if the good people of Onitsha has had a better queen in history.” He paused and continued almost immediately while Akoji listened on with rapt attention. “It would be pretty easy to convince them into overlooking the tribal difference and allow you marry the love of your life, standing on your mother’s good records…” Reflexively, Akoji’s eyes lightened up and a smile danced in there but chief wasn’t done yet. “But…” the older man stressed, drawing Akoji’s attention back to him. “How do we convince the good people of the land to allow the crowned prince, the heir apparent to the throne, the next in line to enter into the heavy shoes of his ancestors. How do we convince everyone to let the revered prince marry a girl already with a child outside wedlock?” Chief Mbah faced him squarely. “How do we do that?”

And that was his last question before exiting Akoji’s bedroom, leaving the latter in stitches. ‘How do we convince the people of the land to allow the crowned prince… to marry a girl already with a child outside wedlock’ this statement took merciless spins round Akoji’s head all night. Times when he had to go stay in his balcony to receive fresh beach breeze and drown himself in thoughts. Hallie may be sick but she’s not going anywhere and same applies to him. Akoji beats his head for even considering that terrible option.

Hallie isn’t going anywhere, he affirmed.

Because Noma’s life is tied to Hallie’s. The death of her beloved daughter might birth a monster in human form Akoji may never be able to recognize, let alone accept.

His best bet now might be to cover up the truth, so no one else knows about this except his immediate family. Interestingly, he doesn’t know who Hallie’s father is. He may not have asked her, but he’s sure the process of having the child couldn’t have been something exciting for Noma cos she never wanted to share and he didn’t mind. Well, until now that he need to gather every information possible if he must fight and win this battle.

As he approaches the inner side of the veranda, he’s wondering why the mansion looks so deserted. It’s about the time for Lolo’s evening stroll, surely, but queen doesn’t empty the palace of guards and maids while going to her garden, does she?”

“Finest girl…” He calls out, tapping on the door to Noma’s room. Damn whatever tradition says a prince mustn’t go knocking at the door of a maiden’s room. He needed to talk to Noma, and he must talk to her now. “Since the prince won’t have a maiden in his chamber, I guess the maiden would have the prince in hers.” He smiles at his own statement and knocks a little louder. “Finest girl, I know you are in there, please open up.” His voice sounds sober and he taps the door again, harder.

Taking a deep calming breath, he drags down his tightly-fitted T-shirt over the midi length jean he’s putting on. “OK, Finest girl, I took out from yesterday and the whole day today to think and pull out possible solutions about us. That’s why you’ve not heard from me, OK? And no, I didn’t abandon you and nothing has changed between us. In fact, Finest girl, I think I’ve found a solution to our numerous issues now.” Partial excitement fills his tone and he knocks again. “Please open! C’mon baby. Open this door.”

Alarm rings in his head and he begins to bang the door harder. “Noma, open up. Please. C’mon baby, open. I beg of you.” Energy seems to drain from his voice as he bangs the iron door with the whole of his strength.

“My prince?”
A voice calls his attention and he turns raging eyes towards the housekeeper. “Where’s Noma? Where’s my mother? Where the hell is everybody?”
Fear grips at the entire circumference of the housekeeper’s face but he tries to maintain composure before the revered prince, if he mustn’t lose his job.

“My prince, her majesty, the queen is having her evening stroll to the beach and garden…”

The man is about to say something more but Akoji isn’t listening anymore. Relieved with the assumption that Lolo must have taken Noma along with her for a walk, knowing fully well how much of a gist-lover his mother is and wouldn’t mind company always, he dashes through the beautifully rugged veranda, down the fleets of stairs and out of the mansion.

“My Prince?” the two guards in front of the main entrance to the mansion staggers and tries to hold him back, but he is swift to glide through their midst, heading straight for the gate.

The entire palace staff manning or working outside pause as they notice the prince running across their faces before they could make the required obeisance.

“Open the damn gate.” He yells at the guards manning the gate who are trying to bow before the approaching prince. Akoji moves through the patchy ground and towards the beach. Cool air flushes over his face as he runs with all the strength in him.

“Mother!!”

His call jostles Lolo on her position and the latter quickly approaches her son, looking extremely worried, as he draws nearer.

“You ought not to get out of the house dressed like this, My prince.”

Akoji doesn’t hear that. How and where to dress is not part of his agenda right here. He’s only looking for Noma.

“Where’s she, mother?” Akoji’s eyes scan through the two maids and two guards standing behind and beside the queen, and he’s sure Noma is not among them.

“Please, calm down, Akoji!” Lolo says softly. She could see anger boiling up in Akoji, first in his eyes, then a tension of his muscles, an inability to think clearly may soon follow.

“Mother, I ask you again, where is Noma? Where’s is she?” Akoji’s hand is rolled into a firm fist.

Lolo swallows against her heaving chest, undecided about the best way to announce it.

“Akoji, she thought it wise to leave.” Her eyes darts from one corner to another, avoiding her son’s gaze. “Believe me, I didn’t ask her to. She just made up her mind on her own after our discussion yesterday. So the limousine took her with all the goodies your father and I got for her. I assure you, son, that she’s nearer her home in Kogi state than she is to this part of Anambra state.” She didn’t say it all out like this. She stammered, leaving several seconds between one word and the next like they had difficulties coming out.

Her last statement is the breaking point of Akoji’s patience. At the moment, he is blinded by a five-course serving of rage that taste bitter, yet surprisingly satisfying. He reaches out with his both hands for his mother’s shoulders.

The palace guards immediately draw out their swords and point at Akoji who’s shaking the Lolo vigorously now.

“Leave him. Leave him.” Lolo manages to say amidst the trembling way all her intestines are moving. The guards retreat immediately. “Leave us.” Lolo yells and the guards couldn’t believe their ears.

Leave the Lolo alone in the hands of her seemingly mad son?

“Leave! Everyone.” She yells with the highest voice she could mutter.

Reluctantly, the palace guards and maids leave, not without eyeballing the prince and daring him to cause a single harm to their queen.

Akoji holds tighter onto the queen’s shoulders, shaking her vigorously in the process. “How dare you, Lolo!” He screams like a wounded tiger. “I thought you and father said you love me, why do you want to ruin my life, Lolo? Why?”

His hands get weaker and weaker with each new statement and Lolo could gather herself up gradually.

“The first time I found love, father followed it up until he killed it, drilling a large hole in my heart that took several years to heal up.” A tear drops down his face. “And now that I’m back, assuming that all your professions of loving and wanting the best for me was true, you decided to send away the woman I love? Lolo?”
Lolo’s eyes water until streams of tears gush out.

“Now I know it’s all a camouflage, mother. You and father don’t love me. You only want to use me to achieve your selfish desires. You only want me to make you happy regardless of how happy or unhappy I become in the end. The leopard indeed cannot wash its spotty skin.”

“Don’t say that, Akoji. Please, don’t say that.” More tears pour down Lolo’s face, so much so that Akoji’s heart begins to melt. He cannot stand tears from a woman, none whatsoever, let alone his mother – his sweet mother.

He looks at her through wide red-rimmed eyes, his mouth slightly open and a glisten of snot above his cracked lips.

“I love you, Akoji. Your father does too. Take it or leave it, we do. Very deeply much.”

“That’s how I stayed so foolish for so long, so immature, refusing to learn over and over – sacrificing who I was supposed to be to keep a pristine ego. But that pain, that realization, when I let Noma into my life, was more school than any classroom ever was.” A sarcastic smile leaves Akoji’s lips. It gradually becomes a long laughter that keeps Lolo amazed looking at him. “Profess all the love you can now, mother, because this may be the last time you would ever see or hear from your beloved son.”

Lolo feels a band rip off in her heart. “You won’t do that, my son. You won’t. You know how much I love you…” She holds tighter onto his T-shirt but Akoji pulls himself away rapidly, staggering her so much so she almost falls backwards.

Lolo watches with teary eyes as her son turns his back and walks away. She knows Akoji. He can be self-willed and if he’s bent on doing something, one can bet he would do it at all cost. It may look like she threatened Noma but no, she only wanted the lady to know what she knows about her so as not to feel so comfortable that her secret is only known to her. That’s all.

Akoji hits his feel hardly, raising sand on his way.

Lolo swallows painfully and decides to let it all out. She’s going to lose either ways.

“She was raped!” She calls out loud enough.

Akoji almost falls onto the ground, hearing his mother’s voice calling out to him. He stops unconsciously, trying to let the words diffuse through his thick skull to the part of his brain meant to interpret it. And like a remote controlled him, he moves backwards nearer his mother, eyes so glazed, it could flavor a million doughnuts.

“What did you say?”

Lolo takes in a pained breath. “Your Noma was raped in her school hostel back in the university. And that’s what resulted in Hallie.”

Akoji feels his last energy leave him and he clasps onto his mother for support, his entire body shaking, breaking. The sobs are stifled at first in an attempt to hid his grief as he couldn’t wrap his head around what his mother just said. Then overcome by the wave of his emotions, he breaks down entirely, all his defenses washed away in those salty tears pouring down his eyes. He cries with such rawness to it, like the pain is an open wound.

 

***

 

Iye Akpa and her daughter sits on the couch, smiling sheepishly at a scene in the movie they are seeing. Kemi Adetiba’s King Of Boys is the selected movie for the night, although not without gross hesitations from Professor Iye.

“Nigerian movies? How can we use our once-in-a-month family movie night to see Nigerian movie? You think it’s joke we’re cracking here, huh?” Iye Akpa had agitated and maintained earlier.

“Mum, this movie is much more than you can imagine. Trust me.” Joyce tried to persuade. “The reviews are mind-blowing and I can assure you that it’s not just one of those crash filmmaking you guys do here.”

Her mother eyeballed her. She’d gone out to get a degree in Russia doesn’t make her less of a Nigerian. At least, she still must do the mandatory one-year youth service before anything else, which she’s doing now.

“OK mum, let’s do it this way. God! How I wish dad were here so we can vote.” Joyce groaned.

“Well, your father is not here at the moment, so we cannot vote.” Prof Iye said in a teasing tone.

Joyce retreated for a while before an idea dropped in her mind. “Mum, let’s do it this way. We start King of Boys and watch it for thirty minutes, if you don’t like what you see, we’ll put your own.”

“Fair enough!” Prof Iye agreed, relaxing into her seat while Joyce pressed play on the remote.

It’s two hours since then and Joyce can’t beat her mother’s serious attention and concentration on the screen. She picks the remote and does what only her can do best.

“Oh no. who did that?” Prof Iye yells as the TV screen goes blank.

Joyce jumps away from the place she’s been sitting and leaning her head against her mother’s the whole time. She jokingly points the remote at her Iye’s face but keeps it far away from her reach. “Mum, I thought you don’t do Nigerian movies on a special family movie night?”
A sweet smile curves around Iye’s lips. How could she have forgotten how mischievous Joyce can be. She’d actually put off the TV at a critical suspense filled scene in the movie. Gobir, Iye’s hero in the movie so far, is being tried to make a decision between taking a bribe to save his head from the deadly claws of Alhaja Eniola Salami and pay for his wife’s surgery or to keep his integrity and face the stinging political whips.

“Mum?”

“Uhm! Uhmm?” Iye’s attention comes back to the room. “What?”

“Are you still here, mum?”

Iye Akpa smiles again. “Did you see that? Those guys want to buy everyone’s integrity and block the mouth of the few well-meaning individuals who know the truth. Is this not exactly what’s happening in our country?”

Joyce rolls her eyes as her mother goes on and on, explaining scenes they both saw together. She hints on moral lessons and how they are so many she cannot even put them all together.

“The writer and director of this movie, is that one from this part of the world at all? This is a masterpiece.” Iye sits up straight. “To think that she’s a woman?”

“She was also the director of famous ‘The Wedding Party 1’. Her name is Kemi Adetiba. Mum, don’t tell me you don’t know her.”

Prof Iye scoffs. “I didn’t know her until you just mentioned her name and I’m seeing this masterpiece of a movie, Joyce. If she’s not a literary icon, head of ASUU, or a Nigerian politician, how am I supposed to know her?”
That question sets Joyce into a long trail of laughter. “I’ve been following updates on the making of this film right from back in Russia yet you are in Nigeria and don’t know about it?”

Prof Iye Akpa feels mesmerized. “Egba mi ke? How am I supposed to know about the movie again?” she sounds sarcastic.

“You have two heavy android phones, mum – an apple and a Samsung Galaxy. What do you use them for?”

The older woman is about to respond to the subtle way her daughter is looking for trouble when they hear a car drive into the compound.

“Yeaah, daddy is back. We are going to start from the beginning.” Joyce says excitedly, running out

“No way!” Iye calls out after her. “You and your daddy may have to watch yours separately. I must see to the end of Eniola Salami.” She steps out after Joyce, who’s already hugging her father. The girl has refused to graduate from being a ‘daddy’s girl’.

“Iye mi.” Prof Akpa calls out, giving her a peck on her forehead.

“You are welcome, honey.” She says, with eyes darting from side to side as if in search of something. “Where is your driver… and the policemen?” Her eyes look glazed. “Wait! You drove yourself?”

Prof Akpa nods in the affirmative with such pride in his eyes. “Sometimes, one has to stretch and exercise his muscles.”

“That’s what the gym in the house is meant for, Honey – to stretch and exercise yourself. You don’t have to drive through this dangerous city few minutes to midnight to show how much of exercise you need.”

Joyce coughs so they can notice her presence and Prof Akpa swallows back the response he’s about to give to his wife. The woman is becoming somewhat too creepy and suspicious these days for his liking.

“Dad, we are seeing King Of Boys. Mum likes it so much even though we’re going to start again now that you are here.” Joyce’s excitement has nothing to be compared to.

Prof Akpa gives an unconvinced smile. “Oh oh… today is our monthly movie night? Oh my God. I’m sorry, my angel. It completely escaped my mind.”

Iye takes in a deep breath while Joyce’s excitement seems to double for no reason.

“No problem, daddy, you are forgiven. Isn’t it so, mum?” she turns to face her mother who takes her eyes off. Confused, Joyce returns her gaze to her father, smiling. “Let’s get at it already, dad. The king is here. Whooo!”

She tries to hurry away from her father’s arms but the latter draws her backwards. “Can we do this some other time, please, my baby from the abroad. I’m too tired and don’t want to struggle with keeping my eyes open watching your movie.”

A cord of disappointment rings in Joyce’s heart at her father’s statement. In no time from then, the man opens the door and heads in.

Joyce, not still believing hurries after her father. “Daddy, you cannot sleep now. We’ve been waiting for you, daddy. Please.” She pulls out her shoulders so as to see her father’s feet as it moves up the stairs.

“Good night everyone.” Prof Akpa’s voice comes calling from above her head.

Prof Iye Akpa stands outside longer than the two others. She’s really trying to suppress everything building up in her head with the idea that her husband may truly be attempting to exercise his muscles.

There should be no big deal right? Right! She affirms, getting back into the house.

Joyce, who’s already curled up on the settee manages to jerk up as her mother walks through the door.

“Well, mum, I think just the two of us are stuck on the King tonight?” she reflexively shifts, creating space for her mother to come sit down, but,

“Joyce, my darling, make sure you turn off the TV and the lights when you are ready to sleep…” Iye Akpa says, keeping her face straight on as she walks past Joyce.

“Mum?”
“Good night, my baby!”

Joyce flings a throw-pillow away from her chest unto another chair. She pulls her legs nearer her chest, then readjust, then puts her legs back on the rugged floor.

Whatever is wrong with her parents, she murmurs in her head.

Picking the remote, she considers putting the TV back on or not.

Mtcheeeww! She drags a long hiss out of frustration.

 

*****

 

Lolo closes the door firmly behind her as she gets ready to explode.

“Chief you have to do something…”

“Why are you talking like this, my wife.” Chief Mba cut her short. “Why do you want to make it sound like I am deliberately punishing my own son, the heir to the throne?”
“Oh yes, you are, Callistus.” Lolo claps her hands in his face and Chief looks completely unbelieving. “You and all these your traditions are putting my first son through a lot of pain.”

“Our first son, you mean, Beatrice. Our first son. Akoji is as much your son as he’s mine, so don’t come here acting all self-righteous.”

Beatrice stands there, a sort of toddler expanded to adult size, irritation in her anger. Her eyes squint so tightly, as if afraid to let the light in.

“Akoji loves that lady. He loves her, Chief!”

Chief takes in a deep breath. “I know.” He says calmly, grabbing a seat. “I know, Lolo. But we also know that he cannot have her.”

Lolo frowns. Her husband never argues with his fists but his words packed a powerful punch. Carefully spoken without drama as in her own case, his words have an air of finality to them and no matter how hard she railed against them, nothing would change his mind. Akoji must have inherited this part of his father.

“The festival is here already. We are all still trying to avoid scandal, Lolo. Don’t act like you don’t know now, please. The prince cannot marry a lady with a child outside wedlock.”
“But she was raped?” Lolo interrupts, flaring up. “It could have happened to anyone, including me that you claim to love from back in the UK. I could have been raped too, you know?” She raises her right eyebrow.

“Stop being paranoid, my queen. What happens to rushing to the hospital immediately after a rape incidence? I mean, don’t doctors know how to prevent it from resulting in pregnancy?”

That sparks up her anger which starts to sizzle with very little time to duck and cover. She knew she should just stay quiet and wait for the storm to abate but she couldn’t help…

“Paranoid?” she shrugs, letting out a loud sarcastic laughter. “Paranoid is what you think I am now?” she claps her hands in his face again. “Callistus, our first son is so pained, the doctor had to sedate him to sleep some hours ago. And up till now, he’s not awake. And you want him to wake up to the reality of the same imagination that’s wrecking his entire life? You want to rupture my son emotionally and you are calling me paranoid?” she thumps her feet hard against the floor and storms out of the room with so much anger, the walls felt it as the door bangs hard against them.

Chief Mbah closes his eyes and allows his thoughts come in. They are more fears than mere thoughts and now that his wife seems unsupportive, he can smell trouble.

He lifts his staff and about to roll sideways when he hears a scream. Initially, he couldn’t place it but as he listens more attentively, he affirms it’s his wife wailing at the top of her lungs. Rushing out and heading upstairs in the direction of the place the screams and wails are coming from, he realizes she’s back in Akoji’s room and for the first time ever, chief literally begs God to avert the angels of death from the life of his son.

 

 

To be continued.

Guys, my laptop had a major accident and I’m still on and about fixing it up till now. So please bear with my incongruent updates of new episodes henceforth. This story must be completed by fire, I know. I can’t wait too, but my hands are tied now. God is in control. Thanks for your support always.

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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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    It is well dear
    Keep the good work going
    God bless you

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