This thing called LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO
“Please sign here, ma’am.”
Joy Oguche reluctantly signed the document in the folder. The man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties yet smartly dressed closed the folder in his hands before handing a letter over to her. She accepted it, thanked him and stepped back into the house.
“Who was that?” John Oguche asked when his wife barely closed the door behind her. He was all dressed in his farm suit and boots. It was time to check on the livestock in the ranch.
Joy Oguche wore a worried look on her face while standing with her back leaning against the door. “Post office delivery man.”
John Oguche now understood her cause for worry. Who sends letters in this time and age anymore, by the way? Not when there are a thousand and one ways to send same content via electronic media.
For a moment, the duo stood aloof as though trying to figure out what could be in the letter or who could have sent it. An average African, they say, would still ask for the content of a sealed letter in his hand and they were both not about to fall victims of that wrongly believed perspectives about Africans.
“It’s ehmm… it’s from …” Joy Oguche spilled out in shock as she rigorously tore open the envelope to bring out the paper therein. John had drawn closest to her by the time she pulled the paper out and opened it. They both read through the content and their countenances gradually drifted from worry to fear and then to sore fear and concern.
Victor paced back and forth in the little space left in his mother’s office. The office seemed to be too crowded for his comfort. Or, were the several files littered around everywhere suddenly getting on his nerves? No. It couldn’t have been the files. His mum was Pastor’s Festus secretary; what she’s been for as long as he could remember. She’s dutiful and so are all her records keeping skills. This wasn’t the first time he’s been here, so her numerous files weren’t his problem. Not at all.
His problems can only be two things.
Why had policemen come to pick up Caleb?
It’s not as though he gave a damn about Caleb or whatever happened to him but no… getting into police case in this city was the worst thing that can ever happen to any man. He wouldn’t even wish that for his worst enemy. The lunch, of course, had to end. Caleb was led in the company of the policemen to their car and they’d zoomed off. Even with the protest from Pastor Festus about how impossible and illegal it was to arrest someone from his compound, the heftiest amongst the policemen had steadied the clergy man, whispering to him to remain silent so as not to implicate Caleb any further.
As pastor Festus had asked his driver to follow after the police vehicle, Victor didn’t know if he had the patience to go to the police station or not. He was fully aware of what his anger could do, and removing one or two teeth off a policeman’s mandible would only earn him, and maybe Caleb, a life imprisonment jail term. That was why he chose to stroll the short distance from pastor’s house to the church office where he was sure his mother would be available to hear him vent out his frustrations.
“But what could Caleb possibly have done or have with the police?”
Victor’s impatient paces made every word from his mother hit him like an arrow would hit a soft spot on a board. It felt like every word she said wasn’t necessary. And of a truth, it wasn’t necessary. Imagine her asking him the same questions on his mind.
“Could Angela have ordered his arrest? Remember she’s a top government personnel, getting the police, or anyone else for that matter, to do her bidding won’t be a big deal.”
Victor swallowed. He didn’t want to hear any voice, the noise and thundering in his head was enough to last him the next decade.
Debby Adams scoffed. “I thought as much. That girl… the clingy, attention-seeking, everywhere-everywhere part of her. That girl looks desperate to me…”
“You don’t know anything about Angela, mama!” Victor rebuked her.
She adjusted on her seat. “Well, I’ve seen her enough times to know the kind of lady she is. She’s too clingy. Too attention demanding. She literally craves to be worshipped, sort of. I may be wrong, but she appears to me to have an inflated esteem of herself. All these money-miss-road rich little girls who didn’t first grow up enough to know how life works.”
“Mama!” Victor hit the table in front of her hard, so hard she jerked back in fear. “What you are saying is not needed right now, you know? It’s not needed at all, mama.”
Debby Adams saw the redness in her son’s face and advised herself immediately. If there was anything to work on in Victor, it was his temper issues. He had this very bad, extremely and easily provocative temper. This case wasn’t about temper though, she was threading the wrong part. It was bad of her to be insensitive at this period.
Victor finally brought his buttocks on a seat. He vibrated on it. The seat felt like it had thorns piercing the flesh over his ischia bone. Many things had gone wrong. Many things, he could feel it.
If only Angela’s number went through.
He dialled her two numbers on his phone again in rapid successions and they gave him the same response of not being reachable.
He sprang up. Whatever it was, he may have to find out for himself.
“Where are you going, son!” Debby Adams stood up, almost walking after him.
“Mama, I’ll be right back!” he opened, stepped out and closed back the door behind him in a flash.
Ajifa tried to steady herself in the sitting room but couldn’t. She moved over to the dining room where the plates and trays of food were still littered about the place. She had ordered the maids not to clear the table.
Not yet, she thought.
There shouldn’t be a big case, right?
Moreover, the police are our friends. They must have mistaken Caleb for someone else. Her husband and son had followed through; the case would be settled and they will all be back to continue their celebration. That’s how it will play out. She was hopeful initially, not certain, but as an hour went by; as Anone and Vera left her alone with Vera saying to go check on Unekwu in the hospital, her worries and fears tripled.
Hope nothing worse had gone wrong with everyone?
The ringing of a phone jerked her back from her thoughts. She traced the direction from where the phone rang to where Eneojo sat during lunch. The young man had hurried off after his father that he’d forgotten his phone. She glanced at the screen of the iPhone and decided against answering it, but as the loud ringing came again, coursing down her ears into her spine, she reached for the phone. Taking in two calming breaths to be sure her anxiety won’t be noticed in her voice, she slid the receive icon.
“Hello…” she said softly, using the youngest and calmest voice she could ever imagine.
“Hello…” she said again, but when no response came from the other side, she dropped the phone.
She took in a deep breath trying to calm herself. On another thought, she pressed on the power off button.
Estelle stared at the screen of her iPhone. She didn’t know what to think or how to react. She’d lost strength to talk immediately a female voice picked Eneojo’s phone. The last time they’d spoken was when he arrived the airport in Abuja. He’d said he needed to wait for his father to come pick him up and the drive would take at least two hours or more to get into the house. That was the last thing they talked about and since he hadn’t called her since morning, worry and anxiety had set into her some hours ago. She dissuaded herself from calling, hoping Eneojo would take the lead, but later decided to call him nonetheless… to scold… to nag… to pour out her frustrations about how he’s already beginning to forget her barely a day off the shores. She’d rehearsed what to say in her head before dialling the number. It rang out once and picking on the second call, she’d wanted to lash out before the feminine voice humbled her, confusing every single thing she’d thought to say before calling and leaving her literally dumb. As she threw the phone to another side of the bed and threw herself on it alongside, she advised her brain to stop overthinking and over reacting.
Eneojo should be fine and if for any reason a lady had picked his call, he would explain it to her later… much later
Caleb was thankful Pastor Festus and Eneojo had arrived almost the same time he did in the police vehicle. It meant a lot to have someone stick out for him at this time when he wasn’t sure what he’s up against.
“Caleb!” He heard the clergy man call out to him from behind. He turned to look at him and the former was about to close up the distance between them when a police officer blocked his way.
“Get off my way, young man!” Pastor Festus barked.
“I’m sorry, sir. But you are not allowed to follow him.” The policeman responded politely. The respect in his tone showed that he knew the popular clergy man in front of him.
“Do you know who I am?” Pastor Festus was fuming and yelling at the top of his lungs.
Eneojo who had only been observing the whole time felt the need to caution his father now. He was a public figure and arousing a public show of shame wasn’t the ideal.
“Dad, I think we should see the DPO.” Eneojo opined as the policemen led Caleb farther away from them.
“Rubbish. Do you know who that young man is? That’s my son in-law for Christ’s sake. You can’t just arrest someone in broad day light from my house without stating any reasons, yet his people cannot follow him. What nonsense!” Pastor Festus ranted and barked and yelled the whole length from the entrance to the place the officer leading them said was the DPO’s office.
Eneojo found everything rather too strange and impetuous. He felt some people were over using their rights while another sect didn’t know theirs. Whatever the case, he will just observe. This was his first time in a police station in Nigeria. He need not be reminded that American system doesn’t apply here.
“I think your boys should be cautioned on how to handle people…” Pastor Festus screamed, dragging one of the chairs in front of the DPO’s table. Eneojo took the other one. “Isn’t it true that one is innocent until proven otherwise? Why the harsh mishandling of the young man?”
The DPO remained calm, unwavering, regardless of the clergy man’s yells and screams. “I apologise on their behalf, man of God. They are only taking orders.”
“What nonsense orders?” Pastor Festus hissed. “What nonsense orders would give them the impetus to come into my compound and arrest my son in-law to-be? What orders are those, officer?”
The DPO heaved a sigh and pulled out his side drawer. He had a case involving Pastor Festus and the same Caleb some months ago, when one of the elders of the former’s church said to lock Caleb behind bars. The clergy man had literally begged him to release Caleb; as that seemed to be causing more sprain on his name and integrity. That’d worked then. He’d agreed because of the reputation of the clergy man and how they’d become close over the years, even when he was not completely comfortable with setting a man such as Caleb lose and back into the society. He hadn’t any serious charge against him and so couldn’t keep him. He’d hoped a time like this won’t come, at least, not so quick. But here they were again. This time, he doubt if he would stop the law from taking its full course.
Keeping an eye on the two men in front of him while looking for a file in the drawer he just pulled, the pastor’s impatience spilled over the entire aura of the room. He found what he was looking for and pulled it out. It was a brown envelope and as he inclined it in a way only him could see the content, he started,
“We are sorry for disturbing your peace at this time of the day, sir, but as you know, the law must take it’s full course. A suspect must be handled accordingly.”
“Suspect? Caleb is no suspect. You got your facts wrong this time, DPO!”
The DPO smiled faintly, pulling out something from the brown envelop in his hand. He stared at it for split seconds before handing it over to Pastor Festus. Eneojo reflexively drew nearer to see the person in the photo given to his father.
“Do you know who that person is, man of God?” The DPO asked as Pastor Festus concentrated all his attention on the photo in his trembling hands.
As Anone killed the engine of the car, Vera’s head jerked back and forth. She’d had her head resting on her side of the window the whole ride, yet the view outside was out of focus as her mind ran over a lot of things. She was as sore worried as anything about Caleb’s arrest. It’s bad enough Mummy Ajifa had indicted her in such a way that she needed to arrange explanations in her head for him. Somehow she feels she’s overworking her head and probably doesn’t owe Caleb any explanation. The young man, she’d come to know quite well, may not even demand any. Caleb looked and acted nonchalant towards her. Like what they had – the kiss that night in Unekwu’s wardroom, meant nothing to him. Well, news flash was that it meant a lot more to Vera; still does. How his warm mouth engulfed the whole of hers while his tongue worked the entire circumference of her mouth, pushing and pulling back and forth, she remembered that one scenario fondly and she, funnily enough, had fantasized it happening again. But the circumstances on ground; with her newly acclaimed engagement to Caleb’s best man, there’s no way that can repeat itself.
“I think I should proceed to the police station, Sapphire!” Anone said.
Vera wanted to scoff. The guy was really acting it. He was really acting ‘responsible boyfriend’ and she hated the sound of that. Name calling mode just got activated since Mummy Ajifa and her mum gave him nerves, huh? Yes! If not, it’s been ‘Vera’ and ‘Anone’ the whole time. How ‘Sapphire’ got in the picture beats her imagination.
“It’s fine. You won’t even be allowed into the wardroom in the first place. See you sometime.” Vera already opened the door.
Anone held back Vera’s left hand softly and that made her turn back. He stared at her, eyes burrowing into her soul and in there laid the deepest sense of sincerity Vera had ever noticed before… except, of course, the one on Caleb’s face when he’d kissed her.
He was sincere, right?
Of course, he must be sincere to have done that.
Vera had been convincing her poor heart all the while with this.
“May I come pick you back to the house?”
The response was rather too quick to come out and Anone felt disappointed in a way, yet kept an expressionless face.
“Ehrm! I mean, I don’t know when I’ll be done here. I’ll leave whenever her mum comes around and you know how it is with older women.” Vera winked, trying so hard to believe her own self, let alone convincing another.
Anone swallowed and nodded. “Alright, Sapphire. Please take good care.”
Vera already got down and closed back the door. She bent over to talk through the partially opened windows. “Take care too, Mr Anone!”
As she walked away into the hospital, she felt quite victorious. Putting the ‘Mr’ would send a signal to the man’s brain, no matter how little – that’s if he had an active one. It’d let him know that threading the too familiar part wasn’t going to happen with her so easily; at least, not because someone forced it on her.
She slowly opened the door to Unekwu’s wardroom. Her friend was sitting up on the bed while her amiable speech rehabilitator was at his job as always. These days Unekwu almost doesn’t get the luxury of time to sleep and sleep and just sleep like her early times here.
“I am coming…” Unekwu mouthed after the specialist but hers came out as ‘Ah… ah… aam… Koooming!’
The specialist nodded his head and let out a kind smile that encouraged the recovering stroke patient.
“So you can always say, ‘excuse me’”
“Eeekusss meh!” Unekwu repeated softly.
Her face looked drained and tired. It showed in her voice too and more creases added to the fine lines on her face.
The specialist looked back at Vera who just stood an inch away from the door. She didn’t want to disturb the duo.
“Job well done, sir!” Vera finally spoke out. Her voice was easy while the specialist was arranging back some paper charts and graphs into his file.
“Thanks, miss. You came at the perfect time. It’s time to go for her break. She needs to eat and rest a little. I’ll be back in two hours.” The concluding part of his statement came when he was midway through the door.
Vera pressed her hands against her thighs as she moved closer to Unekwu. Pastor Ajifa already packaged her food to be brought over.
The door fling open, presenting a nurse… her nurse.
“Good day, ma’am. It’s lunch time and I want to feed her.” Her voice was so polite that Vera almost let her go ahead immediately but on a second thought…
“Not to worry, nurse. It’d be my honour to feed my friend today, if you don’t mind.” She grinned.
The nurse didn’t move. “But, ma’am… we don’t…” she was about protesting when Vera cut her short.
“I understand. You can stay and watch me if you want.” She drew out the food basket and set it on the table. Pulling out a flask from it, she dished a little portion of fried rice into a ceramic plate, scooped some into a small sized spoon before pushing her right hand to hold onto Unekwu’s neck. “I’ve got this…” she said as she pushed the spoon through Unekwu’s partially closed mouth. Some … a lot… dropped on the bed while some pieces got into the latter’s mouth as she tried to chew.
Vera lifted her head to give the nurse a ‘you see I can do it’ look and the nurse smiled. As Vera continued feeding her friend, she found her heart appreciating much more than anything else, the importance of being able to help one’s self out in every daily activity of life.
(You see, the speech thing is working quite well. I’m coming up, right? Well I am. Argue with your storyteller. I don’t know what this nurse is doing by the way. How would she allow this young lady to come with food from God-knows-where and start feeding me? People are not just security conscious. This girl always comes around with someone… either the older woman and her husband or any of those two crying young men. Yeah. I call them crying young men because whether it’s my condition that gives them reasons for so much sympathy or they have other issues worrying them, I don’t quite know. None of them came here today so I can feel a little better about myself. In fact, this particular lady makes me feel very wanted because she keeps talking about missing me and how she’s had no one to talk to in the past few months. Inasmuch as I don’t seem to know her, I’m sure she would want me back on my feet faster than the other folks.)
“Yes. That’s Angela…” Caleb responded briskly.
He felt uncomfortable. The wide room was very dark; so much so that one may not make out any figure in it. The only part of the room that had light was where they were sitting. ‘They’ here means, himself and the horrible, sternly looking policeman in front of him. A halogen lantern sat over their heads and another officer guarded him from behind. He didn’t understand what his offence was and why he was being treated like a criminal. His hands were taken off the cuffs just when he wanted to sit down at this table – the investigation table.
“More… say everything you know about her.” The thundering voice of the person questioning him came out loudly and truth was that, it scared the living daylight out of him.
“Angela is her name. Angela Okpe. She’s one of the top directors in the Kogi state teaching service commission and also my friend…” He needed to be careful with his words. One can never know.
“By friends, you mean, you were sleeping with her?”
Caleb gave a disapproving look to the police officer in front of him. The man was beginning to annoy him.
“Answer my question, goddamnit!” The officer thundered again, this time accompanied by a slap on Caleb’s back from the policeman standing behind him.
He felt the pain go into his spine… deep inside.
“Were you in any romantic relationship with her of some sort?” The question came again.
This time, Caleb knew better than not to respond promptly.
“Yes… yes… but… but… it didn’t last long… we called off… I mean, I… ehrm… we called off the relationship…” He stammered.
The charcoal black, scary looking man who had been questioning him the whole time spread out his teeth in a cynical smile. His teeth were rather yellow and Caleb noticed it. He noticed not because the reflection of the halogen light on the man’s teeth made it appear orange, but because he’s been noticing just everything the whole time; the bunch of papers in front of the man sitting directly opposite him; the name I.O. Akpa on his police Uniform, Caleb had been noticing virtually everything since that harsh slap on his back. It sort of awakened his entire senses widely.
“Do you mean to say you called off the relationship, or?”
“We were not… technically… not… particularly… you know we couldn’t…” words didn’t seem to be forming in Caleb’s mouth and so he stammered out whatever came.
The policemen took his face back to the papers in front of him and pulled out another photograph before handing it over to Caleb. As Caleb stared at it, his hands and body trembled. Angela was lying in the pool of her own blood just few inches away from a staircase he recognised very well as the entrance to her house.
“What….” Tears flooded his view. “What is happening here, officer?” Sincere concern spilled out in his voice.
“We saw her in this state the early hours of this morning as we were doing our usual security patrol round her estate. All attempts at resuscitation failed. Little investigation on our part reveals that you both were caught making out in front of the Federal Medical centre late yesterday night.”
Caleb’s eyebrows popped out in shock as he tried not to interrupt the officer as he’s already been forewarned.
“What you see in this photo happened not too long after your love affair last night.” He brought his hands on the table and his head nearer so Caleb could read the complete seriousness on his face.
“So, Mr Caleb Oguche, why did you murder Miss Angela Okpe?”
Love is never lost, if not reciprocated, it’ll flow back and soften and purify the heart.
To be continued…