THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – GRACE OCHIGBO
EPISODE THIRTY ONE
Josh turned away from his laptop to quickly attend to the call. Seeing the caller’s ID, he knew there would be nothing faster than a fire lit into dry harmattan grasses. The ruin is better imagined than experienced.
“Doctor Maximilian.” He seemed to be the only one that calls Max fully and it can be annoying at times like this.
Max shifted a bit away from the noisy streets, at the Ojogobi road roundabout, to a place where he would hear the commissioner clearer. At this point, he wished he had taken Jane’s car… or anybody’s car for that matter.
“Honourable Commissioner Sir, no one seems to be able to reach your friend since he left here this morning.”
“Left here? Left where? He is not in Lokoja, is he?”
Max could feel sincere confusion in the older man’s voice and he took a deep breath.
“I’m in Ankpa at the moment. Dr Nonso was able to give me good details of his family and I even met his wife without knowing she was the one. The psychotherapist here said your friend left off on hearing the little girl is pregnant. His number has been unreachable up until now.”
“Jesus!” Josh exclaimed so much so that it startled Max.
“Psychotherapist? Pregnant? Has it gotten to this? Oh no!” Josh lamented all at once.
Max blinked his eyes. He thought the Honourable would give him vital information as to where Matthew had disappeared to. He is not ready for this pity-party right now.
“I’ll talk to you later, sir.” He hung up without waiting for response as he flagged down a bike man.
“Kingdom… kingdom ministries…” He sounded unsure.
“Kingdom Destiny Ministries?” The bike man helped him out.
“Ehen! Do you know the place?”
He jumped on the back of the motorcycle before the bike man could finish nodding to his question. He didn’t even bother to bargain as he asked the bike man to move at the highest possible speed too.
The church will forever be the safest place.
Omachoko killed the break in front of Laibe’s aunt’s compound.
“Is this the place?”
He turned to respond. “Yes, Oga Jude.”
He came back into the country less than a week ago. Inasmuch as Laibe was the first person he wanted his eyes to meet, he couldn’t come straight to Ankpa without giving due reports to those who sent him. First, he had to stop over at the federal ministry of Agriculture in Abuja. He learnt that Hon. Josh had talked to the minister about the agricultural involvement venture the state is undertaking and the latter had bought into the idea. Therefore, Omachoko had to see him and give various reports, aside that they all would be meeting soonest to plan how these new agricultural schemes that is already boosting the economy of Kogi state in hundred folds can go round the entire Nigeria.
Lokoja was the next place to give his reports; though he had mailed them earlier, Hon Josh maintained that he presented some slideshows to him, in the presence of many of his directors and key people in the agricultural sector of the state. He did all those in three days and the next opportunity he got, he practically flew into Ankpa as soon as possible. That was an exaggeration though.
“Is she coming out to meet you?”
“Uhm?” Omachoko turned confused eyes at his boss
“The girl, is she coming out to meet you here?” Oga Jude repeated himself.
Omachoko felt the impulse to laugh but he maintained a straight face. Whether Oga Jude didn’t hear the part he said earlier that he hadn’t any means of contacting her… or not, baffled him.
“The house looks empty.” Omachoko carried glaring worries in his eyes as he said this. It was at this point that Oga Jude could only wonder if the young man was drunk.
“You are sitting in the car outside the gate of a heavily fenced compound, yet you can tell whether people are in there or not?” Oga Jude wasn’t asking a question. He just was being sarcastic. “Too much of planting and processing beans sha. Goodluck to you!” He said this with a deeper Igbo accent than the one he normally had. He pushed the car door open and got down.
Omachoko quickly opened his door, got down and hurried after Oga Jude who had gotten to the gate already.
Only God knows why Oga Jude insisted on following Omachoko all the way here. Aside that he said Omachoko has been away for such a long time, a proud way of saying he missed him, he asked they go check out a plot of land he is trying to buy over. Omachoko didn’t complain as he also needed some sight-seeing in this beloved town.
“So are we not going to give kolanut out soon?” He had interrupted the cool music blaring out of the DVD player of the car on their way to the land, about an hour ago.
Omachoko immediately lowered the music, he knew where conversations like this led to… not as though this is the first time, neither is it the second. Oga Jude believes a man settles down once he is married, more so, bearing the fact in mind that he has become responsible for his responsibilities now. Omachoko on the other hand believes a man should be settled before talking marriage. He knows marriage isn’t supposed to ‘complete’ one, instead it should ‘compliment’. So that even though he plans to marry Laibe as soon as he settles down, he wouldn’t rush her into anything.
“You haven’t even seen her yet Choko, stop deceiving yourself.” He cautioned himself, waiting as the gateman was taking forever to open the gate.
Omachoko smiled immediately the gateman stepped out and stood, covering the walkway through the gate. He had expected the man to recall his face and probably say some familiar words that would ease him the stress of introducing himself one more time.
Nothing of such.
In fact, the gateman stood aloof, staring back at them like he could barely see them. He looked drunk to Omachoko, or was it sleep?
“Where are the owners of the house?” Oga Jude asked, sounding extremely impatient.
The gateman shot him an annoyed look and the both of them wondered why.
“Na me be this!”
Omachoko felt like pushing his staggering soul off the gate and going headlong into the house, but no. He must tread with caution.
“Sir, you remember me?” Omachoko points his first finger towards his chest and the man looked on absent-mindedly. “Please can I see Laibe, it’s important.” He was literally sounding like a beggar now, and Oga Jude looked confused amidst it all.
“She no de. She never de for long now. Madam and oga sef comot, na me wey own house now, na me stand here so.” He mumbled in Pidgin English.
Oga Jude shook his head from side to side in gross disappointment. How can a watchman be drunk? Apparently because none of his lords are around. He started walking to the car when his phone buzzed and started ringing.
“Hello!” He mouthed into the speaker, walking farther away.
Omachoko stared at the gateman with pleading eyes. He had this feeling that nobody was inside the house, he was so convinced that he didn’t wanna push the gateman further to the point of giving him money this time.
“Thank you Baba.” He said to the elderly man and walked back into his car.
Oga Jude joined him almost immediately.
“You know, if I didn’t tell her to go to the office with that inhaler this morning, it wouldn’t have pained me, right?” Oga Jude lamented.
Omachoko was confused, but didn’t bother. He knew his boss very well; he never leaves any stone unturned in storytelling.
“Helen’s mother o…” and as though he remembered something, “…sorry, my wife. I forgot you never visited my house. How unfortunate. So, someone like you, with the way we have come thus far, you can’t even see any of my kids on the way and choose to help them? How would you anyway, when you haven’t even met them before.”
Omachoko smiled. There are various lines of discussion he doesn’t like towing with his boss and this is number two.
Inasmuch as they are closer than just being employer and employee, Omachoko believes that some things would spoil official rapport between people. One of those things would be meddling so much with the family members of your boss. Don’t get him wrong, he asks after them most of the time, he is very familiar with his boss’ wife. They call each other ‘my personal person’ and that familiarity arose because of one thing; she comes to the shop.
Oga Jude is the only Igbo man selling at Ejeh road in Ankpa that exempts his children completely from coming to his shop. His reason is very simple; he wanted to proceed more than the secondary school certificate he got but after he was sent to his uncle to learn the arts of money making, he had refused to further on realising that education is not the only determinant factor for making money at all. He however wants his child… he told Omachoko he had only one daughter, to get to the peak of her academics, after which he wouldn’t mind setting up any kind of business she wants for her.
“So where are we going now?” Omachoko asked in confusion.
“To my house, of course. Women. Women, separating them from trouble are the hardest thing I have come to find.” He complained bitterly all over again.
Omachoko smiled at his boss. He would complain over what he will yet eventually do.
“Yes, my house! Don’t worry, it’s not as though I am really your boss anymore, it’s just courtesy. You should be the boss now anyway. I haven’t had round table meetings with one-third of people you have been privileged to sit and talk with.”
Omachoko didn’t even know how to answer this now, but he knew one thing for sure – his loyalty for this man that dusted him from the mud would never waver in the very least, no matter the heights he get to.
“I wanted to say, thankfully I will get to meet your daughter today, then I remembered today is school. At least I would meet Mummy Helen, it’s really been a long time, you know!”
“You can say that again. Now, move as fast as you can. She sounded like she needed it urgently.”
Omachoko heeded his orders without hesitation.
Udale stood, resting her hand on the branch of the cashew tree in front of the uncompleted building in this bushy and deserted area. She was so lost in thoughts. ‘What in her life would she ever be able to do right?’ she couldn’t supply answers to the question. She had dialled Matthew’s number over and over again, same answer. Her heart was thrown into shreds. Into broken pieces that cannot undergo any further breakage again. She couldn’t help but ask why Matthew did this to her… or did she do it to herself? She didn’t know who to handle the blame in this case. She remained still as a lot of things flashed back her mind, as vivid and as precise as possible.
“Good afternoon Ma’am!” She jerked involuntarily as she heard the voice.
No. No one should have known where she went to.
The doctor told her that Laibe’s cut was deep but she hadn’t lost so much blood, all thanks to the timeliness of the nurse. He assured her that it wouldn’t be so much issue except that they would keep a stronger eye on her henceforth, since she has resulted to attempting suicide. Udale, on her own side, couldn’t bear up the whole issue anymore.
Her husband impregnated her only niece.
The niece now is attempting suicide, aside the many other deaths in her family she blames herself totally for.
Somehow she left the hospital building before anyone could notice. She needed to think. She was getting mad.
“Max?” she couldn’t believe her eyes. “How did you find out I was here?”
“I brought him!” Udale turned around to see Pastor Lydia coming through the same side of the uncompleted building Max apparently passed.
“Minister Onuche, the chief doctor… or how do you people call it, of Bethel hospital… called me. He said he was sending this young man to the church office and there is something he needed to talk about. Since daddy isn’t in town at the moment., I had to hear him out.”
“Talk to you? Max? Except that he is a doctor practicing in Lokoja, what does he have to talk to you about?” She carried eyes from Pastor Lydia to Max. “Oh! Or has my husband been impregnating girls back in Lokoja too?”
Udale’s confusion was growing with each explanation her ‘mother’ made. She wasn’t surprised that pastor Lydia knew her hide out. They, daddy and she that is, know where she would usually run to when things get too messy for her to understand. The place she went at those early times of living with them and they were objecting to her decision of getting married to Matthew. They didn’t really have any strong point to convince her and when she took to hiding out of their sight, they gave up and let her marry the man of her choice.
That marriage was the greatest mistake she had ever made in the entirety of her life, at least, so she feels right now.
A pregnant niece for her husband.
Another of the times she ran here was when she was confusing one pregnant woman that came to see Matthew as a mistress.
A lot of water has crossed the bridge in Udale’s eyes and she is having a really tough time bringing herself to accepting this horrible fate.
Max swallowed. He couldn’t tell if the woman in front of him was only being sarcastic or she meant to really ask if her husband was doing that around. It’s not her fault any way; he may be tempted to think that way if in her condition.
“I have been treating Dr Matthew at the Lugard house hospital for a while now. It was under the directives of my mentor and senior colleague who is also my uncle, Dr Nonso.” Max could feel some perspiration on his forehead but he has to keep his voice normal, giving out no tension at all. He is shouldn’t be emotional, he is a doctor – the only doctor here.
“So Honourable commissioner for agriculture…”
“Wait!” Udale cut in, holding up her hand
“Allow the young man to talk, daughter!” Pastor Lydia said, after keeping quiet for so long she must have been forgotten
“Wait…” Udale yelled before she could stop herself. She finally stopped and sighed. “I’m sorry. Mummy, I’ll only ask the young doctor some questions and his answers to them would determine my audience or not.”
Pastor Lydia gave a knowing look at Max and he immediately knew he needed to brace up even more.
“So, Josh knew about this?” Udale asked, not moving her eyeballs any inch away from Max.
“Know about what, Ma’am?” He feigned ignorance.
“OK, I’ll either change or rephrase the statement. Do you know that my husband has been sleeping with my niece who is young enough to be his daughter or not?”
This was that point Max had dreaded while on the motorcycle that took him to the church. Pastor Lydia has queried him so much about why he heartlessly didn’t leak the secrets out and save everyone this traumatic situation. He tried to explain to her about the patience confidentiality part of the medical ethics. Though that particular thing feels like bullshit right now. He couldn’t even calculate how many people got and would still get affected with this. He was that extremely careful because he was caught up among politicians – toughest men in the state.
“Oh! You knew?” Udale’s voice came up loud, so loud that it startled Max.
He must have stayed quiet for too long a time.
“It’s somehow complicated, Ma’am!”
“Damnit!” Udale hit hard at the branch of the tree she’s holding onto. “Where did I go wrong? Ehn! Mummy, abuche ke? What have I done for Matthew to waste my life like this?” She was crying now.
Max felt sweats roll down the back of his hair to clog on his back, wetting the polo shirt he had on. He can never stand a woman’s tears.
“Udale, please pull yourself together?” Pastor Lydia admonished, coming to hold onto the weeping Udale. She’s weeping like a bitter baby, the type that automatically makes everyone around her feel guilty and responsible for a lot of unknown things.
“Mummy, was this what you meant by ‘some men have wives they never married? Putting a poor child in the family way?”
Udale sounded pitiful.
“Mummy, talk to me. Is it because I haven’t been able to conceive? Couldn’t he have gone for any of those rich women in his office? Any of those women. Why must it be this poor child? Mummy, can someone…”
“He is a paedophile!” Max cut in. He couldn’t stand the woman’s tears any longer. Even though he planned to eventually break the news out, this one seems like a slip of the tongue.
“What? What did you just say?”
His phone buzzed and started ringing just when he was about responding
“Dr Matthew!” He announced and the women popped their eyes open.
“Hello sir!” He waited, hoping to hear Matthew’s coarse voice but no, the background on the other side of the call was so noisy, and he was managing to hear whoever was calling.
“State patrol?” He exclaimed and the women drew closer to him reflexively.
He couldn’t tame his mouth anymore. He was as scared of the eventualities as everyone else and somehow he found himself praying that nothing too lethal had happened.
“OK. Thank you so much for calling sir, I would be on my way as soon as possible. Thank you, sir.”
“What happened?” Udale asked just when he barely dropped the phone off his ear. His eyes carried no hope at all… for the first time.
“Matthew had a fatal accident on the Abuja-Kaduna highway.” He said, with the little calmness he could gather.
“Matthew? Kaduna? What is he going to do in Kaduna? Oh my God!” Udale was jumping on one of her feet.
“Let’s get out of this place first.” Max said, walking away immediately.
Pastor Lydia with watery eyes held onto the feeble, tired and weeping Udale.
Pain can never be measured in equal sizes.
Oga Jude walked into the office, Omachoko following closely behind him.
“You are welcome sir.” The secretary said as courteously as she could, rising to her feet.
“Is my wife in?” Oga Jude asked, smiling and ignoring her question.
“Yes, she is sir.” Her eyes are all on Omachoko and he could only wonder why. It was not the normal look of astonishment or marvel; it was the type that speaks clearly the state of her heart.
Omachoko saw Oga Jude open the door to the inner office and he hurried off after him quickly, before he would close it.
Halima was standing against her window. She probably was so lost in thoughts because she looked frightened the initial time she turned to face them.
“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t know you would get here this fast.” She moved to hug her husband. “…Choko, choko, my personal person, apart from shinning, what other hobby do you have?” she sniffed, rubbing his back lightly. The way one would a child that’s crying.
Omachoko is used to this. Maybe because she deals majorly with kids, she supposes everyone to be one. If not, what would explain patting the back of a fully grown man? Halima is extremely caring. Caring to a fault. That was probably part of the reasons Omachoko will never go to their house. At the early times with Oga Jude, she would send a driver to buy food and bring for him. She did that three consecutive times every day. That was before she got busy anyway. Omachoko couldn’t have had any mind of being more hardworking if she had stayed back and keep loading his stomach with free food. She is sweet like that. She got busy attending a lot of professional seminars and taking examinations here and there. To Omachoko, it was a good thing she got busy.
“Nice to see you again, Aunty Halima. It’s been so long. Where have you been?”
“Yeah! Really long. I’ve been in my house.” She winked her tired eyes at Omachoko who smiled. He knew where she was going to with that answer.
“Lolo, that was exactly what I was telling him in the car o. So he cannot now see Helen on the road or anywhere and recognise her.” Oga Jude added, concentrating on whatever he was doing on his phone.
“It’s not like that jor. I should have met her today, save for school. But I’ll meet her soon. Probably take her out. She may even be a wife material Oga.” Omachoko was giving an inconvenient joke and he knew it.
Oga Jude scoffs, looking at his wife. She has grown lean within the few hours she left home this morning and now?
“Lolo, asthmatic attacks now makes you cry?” Oga Jude asked
Omachoko felt that question was insensitive. Maybe not, though. He knew about her health condition right from time. He was quite close to her at that beginning time and she served more or less like a spur to him as well. Her wells are golden. Maybe that’s why his oga calls her Lolo, she is royalty indeed. Slender and tall, with ageless soft, clay colour skin. Her smile? It can melt the heart of a wicked king. And that smile was what she just gave now. He has really missed her.
“You know, because I was a victim myself, I know how it feels when poor innocent children are molested.” Halima started but her husband interrupted her.
“Nne bia, what am I saying, what are you saying? I’m asking why your eyes are red!”
“I know, sir. You know so much stress usually stimulate the attack. I had seen some messy things today and started coughing dryly some minutes ago, I didn’t want to embarrass myself so let’s just have the inhaler to be double protected.”
“Seen messy things?” Oga Jude sounded concerned. “What happened?”
She took a breath in before explaining. She talked about the girl that had been under sexual abuse by her uncle for about three years now, how she had suffered in silence because according to her, her aunty is so unapproachable. She talked up to the part of discovering the pregnancy and the suicide attempt of the little girl.
“What?” Omachoko screamed, springing onto his feet. “The bastard should be locked in the deepest part of the dungeon and the key should be thrown into the river. Mtcheew!” He drew a long kiss.
“I feel so horrible. How can people be so heartless to molest a little child? The innocence, the helplessness, the undue sadness.” A tear rolled down her right cheek and she wiped it out immediately. “…my father almost made my life miserable. He would get drunk and I became his prey for that night!” She coughed out loudly.
Oga Jude quickly got up to hold his wife down till she sat comfortably. He picked at her hair lightly.
“You really don’t have to remember all those, Lolo. You know you can’t afford to break down now.”
“This asthmatic nonsense was his entire fault… or was it Nne’s fault? She was hurt. I can understand her pain. It’s only that I couldn’t understand why she chose only me to pour the anger on; by sending me out of the house in the cold night and asking me never to come back.” She was literally crying this time.
Oga Jude held onto her. He never approves her talking about this part of her life. She wouldn’t agree, but she obviously hasn’t been able to deal with the hurt. It’s so long ago now; one should naturally enjoy saying the story. Halima’s case is different; her heart is as soft and charming as her smile.
“I didn’t get pregnant then o and you knew all I went through before God finally fated our paths to meet…” He looked up at him leeringly and he blushed. They almost have become oblivious of Omachoko’s presence and he didn’t mind. He was enjoying the whole show.
After getting everything good, get a wife good in everything. That has been Omachoko watchword.
“…this girl in question is pregnant!”
“God!” Oga Jude exclaimed, falling into the settee beside her.
Omachoko felt like getting up and going in search of the heartless fellow that must have subjected a little girl to this so much pain.
“Where is the idiot now?” He asked, in an angered tone.
“We don’t know my dear. He left here this morning when I broke the news of her pregnancy to him and they said his number has been unreachable all day. The wife is so devastated and had to leave. I understand her case.” She mopped her face with the handkerchief she dragged close from the shelf beside the settee they are sitting on.
“Can I see the girl?” Oga Jude asked, sounding really concerned.
He got up, collected Halima’s hand and helped pull her up.
“I would be back shortly, Choko. Please wait up for me.”
“Oh why?” Halima asked with surprised tone. “You can come along Omachoko. She was sedated so as to stitch the cut she gave her wrist. She is still asleep.” She turned to Omachoko who didn’t get up from his seat. “Oh! Unless you don’t want.”
He finally dragged himself up. He was fuming with anger so much so that he rolled his first into a strong blow
“Calm down, Choko!” Oga Jude said as he gave way and let Halima lead them out of her office and in the direction of the private wards.
‘The stupid men that molest poor girls would look for death if my hand lands on any of them…’ he said within himself. To him, it’s the highest degree of insolence and they are still thriving around because there is no known measure to accost them until harm has been done beyond repairs.
He stopped and took deep calming breaths as Halima opened the door to the wardroom. He waited till the other two were really inside before entering, his head first, then the body much later.