THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED – EPISODE TWENTY TWO
“Not again!” Laibe made a great fuss, squeezing her nose upwards and contorting her face into a tired piece.
“Who are you doing that sexy face for?”
Laibe dropped the board she was holding and hit him hard on his back four times.
“I… I have… I have told you not to use vulgar words for me.” she said consecutively with every instance her hand landed on his back.
Ocholi started with a light chuckle which culminated in a loud laughter later on.
“Really? Laibe! Vulgar?” he sounded with disbelief. Raising his left eyebrow and lowering the other one, anyone could clearly sense awe in his tone. “Mehn! Aleka Academy is treating you well. Where did you learn such big words from?”
Laibe shrugged and picked back the drawing board she left off some moments ago. “Apart from the fact that we do spelling competitions most often than not, everyone is obligated to learn at least one new word each day and my form teacher herself made sure of that. I’ve spent over two years there, so you can imagine how many new words I have learnt.” She tuck out her tongue after the statement and Ocholi shook his head.
“What are you feeling like?” he asked with sarcasm, “Most learned of our time, huh? Here, your block head cannot simply understand that while contour shading you make your pencil as light as possible. Can you see the rubbish you just drew again?” Ocholi mocked
Laibe kept staring at him while he spoke, as though thinking of something mischievous to do to him.
“If not that I’m sited here ehn? You would have known whose head is blocked by now.” She feigned seriousness as she put her index finger onto her tongue and out, mimicking an event of swearing.
Ocholi laughed so much at her actions till his back hit the bed he sat on, just beside her. The petite girl he had brought from the village over two years ago has become almost an entirely different specie. She is becoming someone new every single day. Yes. Because, her expression wasn’t this firm the last time he came for holidays, the same way her mouth wasn’t this sharp as well. She seem to be getting more interesting by the day and even when he knew the poor girl hasn’t ever had any interest in fine arts, he took it as a responsibility upon himself to teach her some basic things whenever he is home on holidays like this. Laibe appear creative and imaginative and those, to him, are strong enough selling points in fine arts.
“Are you done laughing now?”
Ocholi’s eyes popped out at that firm question coming from Laibe. He couldn’t particularly decipher whatever was going on in her mind from the expressionless face she wore at the moment.
“Very well then. Let’s get down to business. Show me the contour thing and I’d be done with Art lessons for tonight, I have assignments to do.”
Ocholi smirked. “Dear Aleka Head prefect ma, today is Friday and that is a weekend on this part of the globe” the sarcasm was so readable in his voice.
Laibe let out a quick smile. So quick that it would go unnoticed save that Ocholi’s eyes were firmly on hers.
“Moreover, aunty would soon call us for dinner…” she said. Not believing she just said that, she turned briskly to Ocholi and the other tittered backwards involuntarily. “Why are you making me explain up and down sef? Are you going to show me the part of this my beautiful artwork I should erase and the so called contour margin?” Her voice sounded threatening now.
“No!” He said politely.
“No?” she furrowed her forehead
“Not until you tell me why you did that”
Laibe stared like a ghost just hit her. She had no little idea what Ocholi, the only guy she has always had a strong crush on, sited right beside her was talking about.
“Why I did what?”
“You know what I’m talking about…”
“Oh come off it Ocholi…” she interrupted quickly, “… if I know what you are talking about, I wouldn’t be asking.”
Ocholi heaved and kept quiet just staring at the opposite wall in front of him as though addressing it. At this point, Laibe was getting more and more impatient. She didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about and if anything else spins her head faster than suspense, then it is still suspense itself.
After what seemed like forever, Ocholi got up. Laibe’s eyes followed him all the way up and with the so much dramatic performance the usually free minded Ocholi is putting into this, she didn’t know where to find her racing mind some water to cool off with.
Walking slowly towards the door with his hands in the side pockets of his shorts, Ocholi felt like there was an external force other than him lifting his foot. Everything can be said, it depends on the right time it is said. Same way the truth can be gotten, depending on the time and mode of confrontation. His mind pondered on this as he walked sluggishly in the direction of the door. He turned to face where she sat and he could see the uneasiness boldly written over her face.
“Promise me you would tell me the truth” he said, more like a request anyway.
Laibe rolled her eyes, “Truth about what?” sounding much more impatient than at other times earlier.
Ocholi paused and dipped his right hand into his back pocket. He held out a white and neatly folded paper from it and started undoing the folds slowly. Laibe got up on seeing the paper and started walking towards where Ocholi stood leaning his back against the closed door. He was done unfolding it by the time she came to stand in front of him and turned the other side to show her the content. She felt as though the ground should just open and swallow the whole of her into it. Alas! No wonder. She had searched every nook and cranny of this room in vain for this particular paper. At a point she concluded she must have mistakenly taken it to class and perhaps forgotten it there. That would be a dangerous one though but it is still far better than having it in Ocholi’s hands. Ocholi couldn’t have gained access into her room in her absence and there was no way he could have picked up that paper from where she hid it without her knowing or suspecting.
“How did you get this?” her questions escaped her thoughts into her mouth before she could stop herself.
“Why did you do this Laibe? And… and you know better than to lie to me.” Ocholi’s voice carried deep sincerity, care and affection that almost brought Laibe to the brink of tears. She stood frozen to the floor. Her long hair resting over her shoulders as she ran her hand through it for the third time already.
Ocholi took two steps forward and came to stand directly before Laibe so much so that their bodies almost rubbed each other. She rose her head to meet his eyes while he dropped his head to meet hers. The height difference hasn’t been resolved yet… up till now.
Laibe felt more uneasy with every instance their eyes met. Her silent affection for the young man in front of her hasn’t faded in any form, in fact, all his actions tend to deepen the whole quiet torture she goes through in her heart.
“Once again I ask, Laibe my pretty and cute lady, why did you do this?”
Laibe sought for a more convincing way to let Ocholi know that she didn’t want to talk about what he is interested in. Not now. Not anytime soon. She thought of lying and covering up, but that’s almost impossible. Ocholi is the most sensitively smart chap she has come to know.
“Where are these children?”
They jerked back to reality as Aunty Udale’s voice came in loudly from behind the door. Thankfully, they both already turned and faced the door before she pushed it angrily open without even a light knock.
“Oh! I have to scream my lungs out before you both hear me, is that? Or where are the headphones you both had on?” Udale questioned angrily.
“Aunty, aunty…” Ocholi started smiling jokingly. He was hoping perhaps he could make the angered Udale laugh at the moment but the careless wave of the paper in his hand at her face while talking is about turning the beautiful intended sarcasm into a more serious case.
“What’s in that paper, Ocholi?”
Only then did he realise that he had been flagging the paper at aunty Udale’s face. Laibe’s breathing became heavier. Of all things, she would be dead if her aunty lay hold on that paper and especially with the obvious connection the content had with her. She started muttering inaudible prayers underneath her breath. Ocholi needed a higher degree of wisdom to pull them both through tonight without anyone getting hurt and beaten.
“Let me have that paper…” Udale yelled as Ocholi stood looking blank after her first question.
Ocholi thought of something quickly and then started laughing out loud. Udale felt a little bit irritated at first but this is Ocholi, her ‘right hand man’ as she called him.
“Big Sis, I heard nurses now take a minor course in Fine Arts”
Udale furrowed her front head in confusion. “What’s that?”
“Yeah! It has to be. Of course. It is only then a full certified nurse would ask someone grounded in the mastery of the Arts for a paper when she knows paper to a fine artist is like a stethoscope to a doctor.”
Laibe took in a very deep calming breath.
Udale rolled her eyes twice before saying another thing.
“Now both of you, out and off to dinner now!” she opened back the door and made to leave.
Laibe’s heart was full of appreciation and her respect for her crush increased again with this wise defence he just put up for her a while ago.
“Let me watch the both of you leave this room this minute.” Udale commanded pointing her fingers from one person to the other and finally pointing towards the door. Laibe hurried out. She just narrowly escaped the judgement of fire now, she can’t afford to be caught up in any further web again tonight.
Ocholi stood, hoping Udale would go ahead and let them, himself and Laibe that is, complete their discussions but Udale looked unrepentant with the way she is standing and waiting at the door. Taking a deep breath, he reluctantly followed after Laibe.
Udale flapped the door and headed towards the dining room behind Ocholi and Laibe. She asked Laibe to go bring the last food container in the kitchen which the latter hurried over to do quickly. Frankly, the last thing Laibe would want is to give any allowance that will make her aunty ask about that paper again. To think that the paper is still in Ocholi’s possession, his pocket to be precise. Ocholi can be a pain in the neck at times like this.
“Awhhh!” Ocholi screamed out impulsively when Laibe’s leg hit the door frame hard and she almost fell over with the food flask.
“So long as you don’t make us sleep hungry tonight.” Udale answered coldly.
That struck Laibe, but she understood her aunty to be very blunt much more than anyone else in this life. She managed to lift her hurting foot, at least Ocholi’s smiles ministered a little dose of relief to her. If her mind wasn’t occupied, she would have remembered the kitchen door’s frame is still elevated, unlike other doors in the house.
“She didn’t hit her leg intentionally, right?”
“Well, after I practically had to force you all out for dinner, I deserve to eat my meal in peace too, right?” Udale answered, turning in the direction of Matthew who was climbing down the stairs. She wanted to talk further but she was too hungry to say more. The very instance the bowl of soup in Laibe’s hands sat comfortably on the dining table, Udale got up and started dishing out without hesitation.
“Sorry my girl.” Matthew said affectionately, pulling out his chair to sit down. He was wearing a midi length jean trouser which displayed in all clarity the smoothness of his legs. Perhaps, it’s because he’s always on long trousers, one doesn’t readily get to see his legs often. His red striped T-shirt hugged his body so tightly that Laibe wondered if he was breathing in there. So much for his huge form and stature.
Laibe smiled at her uncle.
This is normal to her.
The abnormal part is that her aunty smiled as well.
Innocent woman she is, Laibe thought as she dished food for Ocholi and herself.
Matthew almost caught a glimpse of them while Ocholi winked at her, but thankfully, he was more interested in the delicious meal of white rice, stew and plantain in front of him than with anything or anyone else as the case may be.
Laibe returned Ocholi’s wink with a dour stare. Her shocked eyes begging him to behave well before elderly people but he wouldn’t bulge.
Laibe rose her head up immediately as Matthew started, midway into the meal,
“…help me bring the nylon on the stool beside my reading table in the study.”
“Ok sir!” she responded politely and made to go, ensuring no eye contact with him as usual, all through.
“Honey, can’t that wait? She is eating.”
“It’s alright aunty, I’ll get it now.” Laibe responded and hurried off before anyone else could comment. Ocholi was only looking, dumbly from his brother, to his sister-in-law and of course his amiable Laibe.
Matthew smiled at Laibe’s smart response and a wind of satisfaction gushed over him. Indeed, she defines satisfaction.
Udale continued munching her food as the little girl ran upstairs and downstairs in a flash, holding a KOS delivery customized nylon. She recognised the nylon immediately because shopping from Konga – the online market deal, is one of her favourite hobbies. Yes. Apart from the fact that her rotund size made her naturally lazy, she sees no need going in search of things at the Ankpa busy markets when some people have put it upon themselves to get one those things and even deliver them at your doorstep. She is not also surprised seeing it, because Matthew himself is the chief online purchase guru. In fact, he indoctrinated her into it, could be an appropriate claim. That is paying him off anyway because with the ease at which he misplaces phones, he would need such outlets to be at his service most often than not, twenty four hours. The only obsolete thing right now though is that she is not aware that Matthew placed any other, more so that they almost need no new gadget in the house at the moment.
“Here, Uncle” Laibe handed the nylon over to her uncle with her head tilting towards the floor. This is one behaviour Ocholi has been racking his head all the while to understand.
“It’s for you…”
“Uhmmmm?” Laibe stared vacantly back at him, like she suddenly didn’t understand English anymore.
“What’s that?” Udale left her food now, asking curiously.
Ocholi who was getting pissed off with the dumb way the two women were behaving snatched the nylon from Laibe’s hand and tore the package open.
“Samsung. Galaxy. S6. Edge. Plus!!!” Ocholi exclaimed, unable to believe his eyes, “Konga’s freebie Power bank, screen guard, gold case, a SIM pack!” Ocholi spoke like he was in awe of the whole event right now.
Laibe stood forgetting her mouth wide open. She had few clouds of tears forming around her eyes. She didn’t even know what to say.
“Honey, a phone for her already? Isn’t this too early?” Udale asked
“I heard when one of her friend’s, is it Umali now? Or…” He got a confirmation from Udale’s affirmative nod before continuing, “…Eheen! Umali, I heard when she called you asking to speak to Laibe. Also Baba needs to speak with his granddaughter more now that his body isn’t strong.” Matthew explained, smiling broadly. His smile is so sweet whenever it comes out genuinely like this.
“Honey??? Baba is too sick to make a call, more so her school wouldn’t let her use a phone.” Udale protested. Reasons for her protest, she couldn’t really place any in her mind. Maybe she is being over protective of the seemingly little girl but in another section of her mind, she is so happy with the deep affection her husband showers on Laibe.
“Why are you standing that way, won’t you say thank you to your uncle?” Udale faced Laibe who stood aloof like her skin was disjointed from every bony attachment in her body.
Laibe ran over to her uncle and held him tightly. The older stood up and received the deserving hug in full measures, drawing and pressing her small body closer to his. It’s one thing he had always struggled to get Laibe come to give him willingly, coming now, he should make full proof of it. He put his hand on Laibe’s back and pulled her chest firmly against his even more.
“This is a big surprise, brother”
Ocholi’s voice broke them off the hug. Udale was reading the writings on the carton bearing the phone all the while. Laibe felt really shy now. She rushed back towards Ocholi, walking like she was stepping on hot coals. Matthew readjusted his jean trouser and sat down gently with that fulfilled smile still plastered on his face.
Udale pushed the phone back to Ocholi.
“Lee, let’s go arrange your phone at the veranda.” Ocholi suggested, getting up.
“Finish you dinner first. And why the verander if I may ask? There is more than enough space in the sitting room in front of you.” Udale questioned.
Ocholi particularly didn’t know why his sister in-law has become so suspicious of everything all of a sudden. Initially, he thought it’s a joke but this is gradually turning to serious stuff and it’s beginning to irritate him already. He kept staring expressionlessly at her for a while.
“Auunty! Uncle, thank you again. Thank you so much. Ocholi, oya lets go fix my new phone.” Laibe giggled excitedly as she packed her stuff into the nylon that it came in and ran off with it. Ocholi swallowed; put his hand in his pocket and walked majestically after her.
“Your show of love to my little girl is so overwhelming…” Udale turned in Matthew’s direction.
He blushed and scooped another spoon of rice into his mouth.
“Thank you Honey. The other time I saw some dresses you bought and one special card. How is it that I don’t know how to do all these ehn?” she placed her two hands against her chest regretfully.
“Special card?” Matthew asked, sounding confused.
“Yeah! Special card. Wait. Or you weren’t the one that bought it?”
Mathew shook off some thoughts from his head as his wife faced him squarely now.
“No… I mean… yes I did” he stammered, “…did she show it to you? I mean, how did you see or learn of it?” He demanded with some manageably gathered boldness.
Udale smiled, “Nah! She didn’t show me. She couldn’t have. I know I’m not that close to her as you are. I found it in her room a long time ago. When o?” she asked no one in particular and answered herself before Matthew would talk, “ yeah, her menarche day. That evening we got back from Enugu and I was confronting her about crying in class and so on…”
Matthew chuckled lightly while shaking his head, “ what a mother she has. I guess you haven’t been in there since then.”
“Haba nau!!” she gave a look of displeasure. Seeing no need for long explanations, she let it be. “Well, I was there today when they were taking long to come for dinner and I saw them dragging some paper like that. Those children though!!” she lamented.
“How would I know, your brother is an artist and he is really bent on making Laibe one.”
Matthew heaved a loud sigh of relief, reasons best known to him.
“… I want her to become a nurse like me, you know? She is so smart and learns very fast. I mean, see how fluent her spoken language is after barely two years. The medical field is obviously where she belongs, a nurse or even a medical doctor is not a bad idea right?” she paused to look at Matthew, he wasn’t listening to her. His mind seemed far away. Very far a way for that matter. She slapped his hand and he jerked back.
“What’s on your mind, Honey?” she demanded an explanation with her eyes and hands at the same time.
Matthew swallowed and readjusted uncomfortably on his seat.
“My mind? My mind is here. You were talking about eherrrmm…” he tried to joggle his memory.
Udale hissed dryly, “ you see? And you said your mind was here. Anyway, I was talking about Laibe going to the sciences rather than the arts as Ocholi is bent on making her.”
Matthew smiled faintly, “No problem. Wherever she wants to go is good and when we get there Baby, we will cross the bridge.” He finalised as he dug his fork through the large turkey lap on his plate. Splitting it in pieces, he put one in Udale’s mouth before putting the next in his.
“One, let’s charge the phone before switching it on as directed, your eagerness wouldn’t let us. I’m sure this would be your work henceforth. You no go do any better thing with your life again o, e sure me scatter!” Ocholi teased the girl that was trying hard to navigate the corners on her new phone.
Laibe gave him a wicked look, “Which better thing?”
Laibe turned towards him only to see the paper again.
Oh God! Is Ocholi going to weary life out of her.
“Why did you do this?” he asked, sounding extremely serious.
“Not again Ocholi”
“Why do I think something is wrong somewhere?” he pressed on.
Laibe’s patience was running out. She needed to seal Ocholi’s mouth before he succeed in launching an avalanche on her.
“Lee, you can talk to me. What is wrong?”
“Wrong where nau?” Laibe snapped in provocation and that sent Ocholi aback. She calmed down and decided to say something, anything.
“Well, Helen my friend doesn’t talk to me anymore. She packed her things from my seat. I even think she is teaming people up against me.” She said quietly. Sounding remorseful.
Ocholi’s eyes were as round as large doughnuts.
“Why? What’s wrong?” He asked.
“She thought I betrayed her. Her crush who is our senior colleague says he loves me and not her. The stupid boy went behind me to tell her I accepted him. I don’t and can’t even love him to start with. God knows I wouldn’t forgive Ezekiel if he makes me lose my friend…” she cursed, “what am I even saying? I’ve lost Helen already.”
Ocholi sighed, “this is really a dicey one!”
“Yes it is!” Laibe affirmed.
“But that doesn’t answer this anyway”
Laibe turned to see Ocholi still waving the white paper at her.
To be continued