PLEASE MARRY ME – GRACE OCHIGBO
Attah is refusing to give anyone the slightest breathing space tonight. He’s been reeling on and on about the military helicopter he entered at the base. How he had been completely awestruck and scared at the same time, when Uncle Mona asked him to climb in.
“Mum, Uncle Mona said it was a combat aircraft and that there are designed to destroy enemy equipment using their own aircraft ord… ordi…” He cast his gaze on me as though I am naturally supposed to know what he wants to say. I shrug.
“Ordnance, Attah Boy. Aircraft ordnances are weapons like bomb, missiles, rockets and gun ammunition used by aircraft.” Mona says after wiping his lips with a serviette.
Attah sits up straighter on his chair.
He pushes a spoonful of spaghetti into his tiny mouth and doesn’t chew long enough before swallowing.
“Mum! It was so thrilling. So thrilling. I felt like flying to a danger zone in it. Uncle Mona says there are some well-known danger zones in Nigeria. Not so, Uncle?”
“Eat your food, sunshine. You shouldn’t talk while eating.” I say, ensuring to use my most stern voice but the lad is not even seeing me on this dining table at all.
The dining area is not as spacious as the other rooms in the house. The large wooden dining table made from expensive oak tree sits in the centre of the room and six chairs surround it. I am sitting adjacent to Mona and directly opposite Attah who is sitting right beside Ayegba.
“We all know everywhere is a danger zone in Nigeria but they’d rather deploy us military officers to Sambisa forest, as if that’s the only hell there is.” Ayegba speaks for the very first time, chuckling.
Mona chuckles louder. “E be things, mehn!”
I watch Attah angle his head from one side to the other, staring into each man’s eyeball as he speaks.
“Uncle Ayegba, so you are a military man after all? No wonder you’re so strong.” Attah turns to face Ayegba squarely.
“Was.” Ayegba cuts in, patting the shoulder of the little boy. “I used to be in the military but that’s a long time ago. I am into businesses now.”
“Right!” Attah concurs, to the amazement of everyone. He simply faces forward, digs his fork into his food and drags out a forkful, some dropping onto his body in the process. I wonder why he never eats small bites and I’m tired of nagging.
He stares at the fork like the spaghetti on it are saying some mysterious things to him. He drops them back in the plate and faces Ayegba again.
“You were once a soldier?” His curiosity rises and so does his sonorous voice.
Ayegba nods his head in the affirmative, chewing his food slowly.
“It means you’re a lost soldier? Could you be mum’s lost soldier?” Attah smacks his lips hard.
The food in my mouth almost chokes me and I spill out into my plate immediately. From nowhere, a deep cough escapes my throat.
“Wait… what’s that, Attah boy? Lost soldier or something?” Mona asks, confused.
“No. No. No.” I cut in, pushing my palms out in the air. “I am sure Attah is still very fascinated about the military aircraft and all the stuffs he’d seen at the base today.”
I could hear myself stammering while trying to say all these but I maintain as much composure as I can.
“Oh that!” Mona exclaims excitedly.
There’s a look of pride on his face. The type of satisfaction that comes when a father gives his son the best treat yet. He swallows another spoon of food and places a hand on my hand.
“Baby, I have to turn in early tonight. Remember we’re flying out first thing in the morning.”
“Flying out?” I voice out in shock.
“Don’t… don’t tell me I… Oh dear. I didn’t tell you? It was Ayegba I was telling shortly before dinner and not you…” Mona presses his right hand on his forehead
I glance over at Ayegba and he blinks knowingly, in a manner that upsets me even more.
Mona squeezes my hand he’s holding in his lightly. “I am sorry, baby. These emergency stuffs can really be overwhelming. It was why I had to go to the base early this morning. The crew needed to test-run the engine of the aircraft.”
“Yes, Mum and I intend to follow Uncle Mona on this trip.” Attah calls out from his seat.
“You know that’s not possible, sunshine.” I shush him immediately. “Moreover who will stay with me if you leave?”
“Ayegba is around.” Mona turns bright eyes to Ayegba. “Perhaps, you may even convince her to pick a wedding date before we return. Not so?”
Ayegba nods his head vigorously, I fear it may pull off.
Hot air escapes my mouth as I let my shoulders fall refusing to concede defeat.
“Don’t worry, baby. It’s just a meeting between military officers in the FCT. No guns, no nothing. You don’t think I’ll ever consider taking our dear son to somewhere dangerous, would you?”
My jaw drops to the floor this time. “Well… mmmm… I am not comfo …”
“Keep quiet, Attah.” My voice goes up before I could stop myself.
“Mummy AT Boy, please?” Attah pleads, using that voice of his he knows I cannot resist. Sometimes I wonder if he’s truly ten years old or he came into the world as a grown adult.
“Okay, alright! Just because I want you to have an adventure to talk about with your friends after this holiday…” I grumble, not completely excited about the entire idea.
Attah gets up and hurries over to collapse into my hands. “Thank you, mum. You’re the best.”
I roll my eyeballs. “I know. Now go back and finish your food in absolute silence.”
The room becomes dead silent for the next five minutes. Everyone is lost in one thought or the other while trying to finish up. For me, the spaghetti now tastes like a log of wooden cement hitting my tongue. I wish I can drop the food and go somewhere really quiet to scream. To yell. To let it all out. There are so many things to let out into the open air. The first and most important of them all being Ayegba’s threat earlier in the studio.
The squeaky sound the chair makes as Mona drags it backwards before rising to his feet sends frightful shudders down my spine.
“I guess it’s good night, baby.” He places a peck on my forehead before turning to face Ayegba. “Dude, I know you’d still be sleeping by the time we’re leaving in the morning, so please keep to your side of the bargain while we are away. I want to hear a wedding date on our return in three days’ time.”
“Who says I am staying here for another three days? My clients are waiting, bruv.” Ayegba’s response tightens something on my insides.
Mona chuckles. “I know you’ll stay. Attah still wants to see you when he’s back. Not so, boy?”
Attah nods without speaking. He can be so loud this minute and so quiet the next. His mood is like a balloon that can be easily pimped and deflated just the same way. Such an unpredictable boy.
Mona urges Attah to come to bed right away and he pulls himself up to follow without saying a word to me. Not even ‘goodnight, mum’. I watch them go up the stairs until I can see them no more and soon, I hear the door close.
An awkward atmosphere sits between Ayegba and I now and I try my best to avoid his eyes as much as possible. A part of me wants him to speak to me, in the subtle endearing tone of his I am familiar with. Not the one I heard earlier today. No. Something more Ayegba-like. If only he could just take back his words about calling his lawyer or dragging Attah for paternity test. I wish he would just get up right now and come wrap his arms around my shoulders, whispering slowly into my ears and assuring me that it would all be okay. That in the end, everything will make sense and if it doesn’t make sense yet, then it’s not the end.
The other part of me curses my mind for thinking this way, snapping me out of wonderland and forcing me to concentrate on finishing my food instead.
A few moments later, Ayegba gets up, picks his empty ceramic plate, places it on Attah’s and is about to place the two plates on Mona’s when I stop him.
“No. No. No. Don’t worry, I will do the dishes. You just go ahead to your room.”
He flashes a smile at me and I see the lopsided dimple on his cheek push in deeply. He doesn’t respond to me. He just picks up the plates and head for the kitchen.
I drop my back onto the back rest of the chair and fix my eyes on the half-eaten plate of food in front of me. When I hear some click-click sounds from plates hitting against each other in the kitchen, I get up, pick my plate and hurry in there.
Ayegba is loading the dish washer as I enter the kitchen. His wet strong hands are squeezing a napkin between them. I hesitate a bit before moving nearer.
“Look, mmmm… I told you I got it, alright? Moreover you’re the visitor here.”
Ayegba keeps a playboy smile gummed to his face like a plaster without saying anything.
“Can you not hear me?” I call out, coming to stand right in front of him and him towering over me but I don’t mind.
He looks down at me for a moment, drops the napkin and picks up my right hand that’s resting on the kitchen slab.
“Go to bed, Vee. You have a long day tomorrow.” He says, winking, smiling.
Whatever he does with his face gets to me; be it a harmless wink, smile, smirk or frown.
His expressions get my attention so much so that I don’t miss even the slightest detail and to think that my heart still throbs at the sound of his voice just a breath away from me is making me dread the days ahead.
I admit Ayegba is drop dead handsome. Ageing has got nothing on him. He still looks beautiful just the way I remember him, like he was created in a lab.
What I don’t know is how I will survive the next three days, now that he’s not just everywhere all up in my head but physically present too. Whatever it takes, I am not letting myself get too comfortable with him. For sometimes we can get too comfortable with people and that’s what causes the problems.
- What sort of lover is Mona?
- What do you fear will happen in his absence?