HEY ANNIE!

For the first time, Allen understood what it meant to be breathless, especially when one was not asthmatic. He just couldn’t keep his eyes off Annie who sat beside him as they took their first philosophy lecture as freshmen. Her beauty was novel-like, and she wore a perpetual smile that reflected the beauty this world had to offer. Is this love at first sight? Allen pondered as his heartbeat seemed to have lost rhythm. He watched the professors lips mumble, but he was deaf to the words.

Allen had rehearsed over a million times in 30 minutes and was still rehearsing for the perfect pick-up line to start a conversation.

Hey Annie, do you understand this lecture?

Hey Annie, I like your shoes?

Hey Annie, can I use your Pen?

Hey Annie, can we talk after class?

Hey Annie, do you like popcorn?

Hey Annie, wanna see a movie with me over the weekend?

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Oh, it’s pointless and stupid he taught. Why don’t I just say – hey Annie, I know I’m not the coolest of guys, I wear braces and look like a geek of the first order. I’m not one of those athletic and fun guys that every cheerleader admires. I don’t have everything in the world to offer you, but I’m smart, funny and really nice. I have a dream for my life and a passion to make the world a better place. I may not know all about love, but I have never known about lust. They say its impossible to fall in love at first sight, but I think sitting beside you has changed my opinion because I think I’m in love. Maybe I could be your hero, your knight in shining armor. I would love you like no one has ever before me or would after me. Someday, we would have kids and they will see how much a man can honor a woman and how ethereal love can conquer everything. I want you to be my world, the reason……. (his thoughts still going on).

He kept thinking while Annie stood up and walked away, totally oblivious to Allen sitting beside her. “Maybe my thoughts are best kept to me,” Allen said as he walked out of class totally disappointed in himself.

If you love someone…

…Say something

…Face that fear right in the eye.

…because you never know what is possible

Until you try…

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THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE OF THE BELOVED COUNTRY

By Richard Oti

“I love you, daddy! Come back home safe,” his 3-year-old daughter says, wrapping her little arms around him. He takes a look at her and realizes that it might be the last time he stares at her beautiful chiseled face and lovely hazel eyes. Eyes that held all that was innocent and pure. So, he holds her tiny arms and pulls her closer one more time for a kiss and a tight embrace he hoped could last forever. His wife locks herself in the room, trying so hard to stifle the tears because she didn’t want to break his heart. He walks away and won’t look back. There was only one thought on his mind – ‘The freedom of the beautiful people of the beloved country.’

He stands 6 feet tall, fully dressed in camouflage, holding tightly to his ammunition as if it were the only ticket back home, and the only hope the beautiful people of the beloved country would enjoy the freedom they all longed for. Lifting his eyes, he stares and salutes the glorious flag dancing in the wind. The beautiful flag representing all the states and beautiful people of the beloved country, all of which shine as one big bright star. There was no prouder moment for him than to be of service to his nation.

Like a bird, the helicopter takes flight, taking them all to the land of the unknown. The fear they all shared was palpable. No one knew what the next few hours held in store. But their hearts were beating only for the beautiful people of the beloved country. And in unison, they all began to sing; sounding like a beautiful choir backed by an orchestra. It was a genuine camaraderie of hearts, all beating for one purpose. And beside him sat his brother of a different color; but none of those differences mattered because they were in love with the beautiful people of the beloved country, and the flag with 50 stars; land of the free and the home of the brave.

He places his left palm over his ear to block out the deafening sound of bombs and bullets falling like rain. With his gun, he tries to wage war while also looking out for his brother. Shhhhhhhh! It suddenly began to get quiet, and the lights start to fade. A bullet had made its way through his clay jacket and had done extensive damage to his vital organs. He lay in his pool of blood gasping for life. And all he could think about was his little girl at home waiting for his return. But his dying heart was still beating only for the beautiful people of the beloved country. And then the light of day completely fades away as his breath ceases. But his heart never stops beating.

“I love you, daddy! Come back home safe,” his 3-year-old daughter whispers as she tucks herself into bed for the night, and hopes the wind would travel with her voice to remind her father of how much she loves him.

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The freedom and liberty we enjoy were paid for with fields of blood by patriots who would have given up anything for the beautiful people of the beloved country.

And in the very words of the declaration of independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

God bless the beautiful people of the beloved country.

Written by Richard OTI

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LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

All I saw was a glimpse of you,
One my eyes caught in the night
A night when the moon would not reflect the sun
And the stars wouldn’t shine bright.

It was cold and the street was deserted,
And then I saw you. But then I blinked,
And you were gone.
You disappeared into the darkness of the night.

But how can I forget your beautiful eyes?
They were full of dazzling light.
Glowing with the colors of iridescent waters.
And how can I forget your smile?
It carried all of heavens warmth and grace.

Bus as soon as I blinked, you were gone.
You left me no name.
You left me no clues.
But you left me a smile,
And a memory of your eyes – eyes that look like iridescent waters.

I fell in love with you.
It was love at first sight.
And someday…
…I hope your smile and eyes would be my last sight.

Written by Richard OTI
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LIANNA AND JONES (DADDY’s LITTLE GIRL)

Every relationship has many facets: the obvious, the non-obvious and the never to be obvious. Confused? Take a deep breath, grab a bite (preferably; a Dagwood sandwich), and then enjoy the story of Daddy’s Little Girl. Well, they say girls are hard to understand. It’s like studying Applied Physics, Industrial Chemistry & Pharmacy, all at the same time. What’s the right word? Aha! I remember. It is Complex. So, when you find that girl you easily understand, you’ve got yourself a miracle.

“It’s only a few hours more and dad is going to meet Jones,” Lianna said, lying on her bed, finding it hard to fall asleep. She was ecstatic. A few miles away, Jones was fast asleep. He had spent most of his day at the gym, the barber shop and the Louis Vuitton Store at 101 avenue des Champs-Elysees 75008 Paris.

“First impression matters. I’ve got to look good and stay fly” Jones said to himself. At the end of the day, he looked himself in the mirror and was impressed. “My hair is right, my suit is tight and my 6 packs are nice. So I’m gonna switch off the light and I’m ready for a good night”. It’s 5:00 am and she hadn’t slept.

So, Lianna got off the bed and knelt beside it to pray. “Lord I’m grateful for today. Thank you for Life, dad, and the perfect boyfriend. He’s handsome, intelligent and a little silly sometimes, but he’s perfect” (It was shorter than her usual prayer). Then she got off the rug and hurriedly picked her phone to Call Jones. Jones had hit the snooze on his traditional wind-up alarm clock over and over. At least, he had done it six times since 4:00 am. He was still snoring.

“gring gring”

The mundane ringtone kept ringing annoyingly, till jones picked up.

“Hey Bae,” Lianna said.

“Hey Boo” Jones replied in a sleepy voice.

“Hope you slept sweet?” Lianna asked.

“How could I, when I know I’ll be sitting a few meters away from your dad and starring him in the face in a few hours.”

“Liar Liar” Lianna replied.

“You sound like someone who has been sleeping since 10:00 pm”. (They both laughed).

“Ok, guilty,” Jones said.

“Hope your dad won’t find pleasure grilling me?”

“Naaaaaah! He’s the sweetest man in the world” Jones cleared his throat.

“Sorry dear, he’s the second sweetest man in the world. No one can take your place.”

“That’s more like it,” Jones replied.

“All right, get off your bed now. I’ll be expecting you by 10:00 am” Lianna said.

“Je t’aime ma cherie”

“Je t’aime monsieur” Lianna replied, and then she hung the phone.

Jones stretched his body and yawned for a few minutes before he got off the bed and also knelt beside it to talk to God. “Lord, you know I dread special days like today. They always don’t turn out right. But for all it is worth, let today count for everything special. Amen”.

It was 9:00 am and he was dressed up. He had worn a black Louis Vuitton tuxedo, a crisp white Excalibur shirt with a skinny black bow-tie. And of course, he complemented it all with a well-shined black Salvatore Ferragamo shoe. He knew that dressing any other way to this meeting would be a faux pas. He got into his BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and off he went. It was a fairly quiet and boring ride till he got close to Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, the restaurant hidden in a small street behind the Pantheon, where he first saw Lianna. Then suddenly he began to remember how it all began. It was over a year ago, he had walked into Café de la Nouvelle Mairie to have a cup of coffee. Lianna usually volunteered as an in-house musician on the weekends. The customers were usually serenaded by her acoustic guitar and sweet voice. That is the only adjective to qualify her voice because it was like mixing cappuccino with warm almond milk. Sometimes, Lianna sang alone, and at other times, she did so,  assisted by two professionals playing the Ukulele and the violin. Those moments were breathtaking. Jones suddenly had an unusual urge to drink coffee every weekend. At least, he would get to see Lianna’s beautiful face again and enjoy the music. He also enjoyed the privacy he had over there. No one recognized him, although his album was topping the charts all over Europe. He was the lead singer for “Feu de l’amour”, a French/English rock band that had just released their debut album “amor sur les ailes”.

 

Lianna usually sang about 8 – 10 songs each night. Most were covers of her favorite songs, both French and English. But she had also written a hand-full too. Once she was done performing, she would quickly slip away through the stage door to the dressing room, where she sat down to rest and savor her experience for a while before leaving through the back door. She never entertained conversations with the customers, although the always pushed for it. She felt that would be very unprofessional.

One night, after Lianna had finished performing and gotten off the stage, Jones decided to perform a song. He had come with his Gibson SJ200 steel-string acoustic guitar. He sat on the Rockville portable performers chair and drew the Shure microphone a little closer to himself. “Isn’t she amazing?” Jones said, and then he struck a few strings and began singing “tout ce que je souhaite pour” the first hit-single off “amor sur les ailes”. It wasn’t long before Lianna’s ears were glued to his singing. As he sang on, her eyes got as big as saucers. That was one of her favorites she had sung that night. “His voice sounds exactly like Jones Jean-Claude” Lianna spoke out loud and then quickly ran toward the door, drawing the curtain aside a little so she could take a peep. “That has to be Jones Jean-Claude” Lianna repeated, and then her heartbeat suddenly accelerated and her hands began to sweat. While singing, he already knew he had blown his cover by throwing himself on stage. Most of the “little crowd” was already aware he was Jones the lead man of “Feu de l’amour”. After he was done with the signing, Jones received a standing ovation, he responded with a smile, then walked off the stage and out the front door. Lianna ran out as fast as she could through the back door to catch up with him. She bumped into him just before he could reach for the door of his car.

“Are you Jones Jean-Claude?” Lianna asked, still breathing hard from the race and the anxiety she felt.

“Maybe” Jones replied. (Lianna screamed)…..

“I’m sorry if I’m embarrassing you. It’s just that…. I never imagined.” (Lianna screamed again). “This is totally unbelievable”.

“Will you come see me in concert at Elysee Montmartre tomorrow?” Jones asked. Jones was snapped out of his flashback by the honk of a car behind him. It was a perfect flashback for a special day and to maximize that moment, he reached into his cd rack, got a compact disc and slotted it into the CD player. It was “the beautiful letdown” by Switchfoot.

Just a few meters away from Lianna’s home, he stopped by at Monceau Fleurs to get some roses for her. Just in front of Mr. Nobert’s (Lianna’s dad) Apartment; he parked his car, grabbed the flowers and then alighted. He walked to the door, and then he pressed the doorbell.

“Hey handsome”

“Hi love” Jones replied the gorgeous looking Lianna who had come to open the door. She had on a Mauve mesh build corsage maxi dress. Her golden-bronze hair was packed neatly, allowing the ponytail to gently stroke the side of her shoulder as she tilted her head to the right and welcomed him with a broad smile. Mr. Norbert was already seated in the parlor waiting.

“Papa, c’est jones” (dad, this is Jones). They both shook hands and then Mr. Norbert asked Jones to have a seat. Mr. Norbert, ci-devant banker turned stockbroker was a man of a peaceful disposition. He was a little man too, one the French would call petite. He was smoothly shaved, exposing his dimple, the one thing that Lianna wished she had inherited from him. He had hazel eyes that looked like wells of compassion and also like they could search a man’s soul.

“She tells me you are the second sweetest guy she has met” Mr. Norbert prodded. Jones looked Lianna with the corner of his eye. Her eyebrows were lifted and had become curved and central to her forehead. Her expression spelled guilt.

“Yes sir, I believe I am all she has told you I am” Jones replied.

“Do you love Lianna?” Mr. Norbert asked.

“Yes, I do with all my heart”. Jones replied.

“Ok then, why don’t you join us on the dining table. We are having French toast with honey, eggs and skimmed milk for breakfast.”

“I believe I would do just that” Jones replied.

They had a fun breakfast. Jones was a little surprised how easy going it had been. It was more like he had always been La Familia. And the only question Mr. Norbert had asked him was all the grilling he actually prepared for him. After the breakfast and interesting conversations they had had, Mr. Norbert handed Jones a big blue covered book.

“This book means a lot to me. Read it when you can.” Jones nodded his head and received the blue covered book. It was thick-spined and supported a lot of pages. It was 1:00 pm and Jones had to catch up with the band at the airport. So he quickly left Mr. Norbert’s apartment. But not without receiving a bear hug from father and daughter. The rest of the band had been waiting at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Europe’s 2nd busiest airport after London’s Heathrow.

They were off to Pilton in Somerset, England, for the annual Glastonbury Music Festival. They were among the few newcomers to headline the festival that year alongside old favorites like U2 and Coldplay. Aboard the British Airways flight to London, he brought the book out of his brown knapsack, where he had carefully kept it. He flipped the book open, the first page reads:

The memoirs of a father: The journey to raising the most beautiful girl in the world. He turned over to the next page.

Day 1: My little darling was born today, February 25th, 1992. Sadly, her mum passed on while bringing her forth. It’s heartbreaking to gain life and loose life the same day. Where do I start from? How do I cope? But I’m grateful for this gift of life. P.S: I’ll be the most awesome dad and mum to her.

Day 2: she cried half the night. She wouldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t sure if she was hungry or just needed a mum. I cuddled her for three hours before she finally fell asleep. I woke up holding my precious jewel, still fast asleep in my arms. That feeling was priceless.

Day 3: The nanny won’t be here always, so I began learning the art of changing diapers. The diapers stink so badly, but I enjoyed doing it.

Day 4: I had to learn some new lullabies today. She especially liked ‘somewhere over the rainbow’. She chuckled as I sang. But then again, she wouldn’t let me stop. I guess I’d have to record my voice on a tape.

Day 5: I miss my wife, and I wish she was here to hold my hands. Her burial is tomorrow. It’s really been a sad day, very sad day. But it was as if my little darling understood how I felt, as I kissed her good night, she gave me the best smile that made me cry for joy. This gift of life is greater than my loss.

Day 6: They say men don’t cry, but I cried all day. I was 28 years old and she was 25 when we met. I adored her like she was the only woman alive. We had our rough times, but it always ended up helping us fall deeper in love with each other. “Tu me manqué Carla” (I miss you, Carla).

Day 7: Today was her dedication; I named her Lianna Marion Norbert. And also, I think I heard her say, daddy, today. I know people will think I’m crazy.

Day 8: It couldn’t have been daddy; she repeated that same gesticulation almost half the day. I guess I’m sane.

Day 9: I’m tired of the diapers.

Day 10: It’s been a lazy day, we both slept for many hours. Jones had gotten fascinated by this memoir and kept reading and flipping the pages.

Several days stood out to him. Days like;

Day 320: She said daddy today. No kidding, I heard well this time 🙂

Day 366: She is one today. I can’t believe my princess can now walk. Can’t wait for her to grow up more, we would walk hand in hand through the parks; I promise her a good life.

Day 727: First day of school, she cried real hard. She didn’t want to let me go, neither did I want to let go; we both share one heartbeat.

Day 4724: It’s career day in school. She’s tilting toward being a professional musician. What can I say?

Day 6570: She turned 18 today. She has grown up to become such a beautiful, witty and charming lady. I must confess, I have done a great job.

Day 6574: She got admission to study music at ‘Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris’. Her dreams are quickly becoming real.

Day 6935: She signed an agreement with Café de la Nouvelle Mairie. She would perform every weekend as long as she was available. Good exposure for a good kid.

Day 7320: She came home ecstatic today. She has always been a happy child. But as for today, there was more to it. I guess a boy must be involved.

Day 7321: Yes, it is confirmed; a boy is involved.

Day 7942: She graduated from music school summa cum laude. It’s been one of the best days of my life.

Day 8000: Only a few days more and I’ll get to meet this boy she has been talking about.

Day 8001: I really don’t care how handsome he might be neither how wealthy he is. I hear he is popular; I also do not care for that. I care about his heart. I hope he would love my angel as much as I have for the past 21 years.

Day 8021: it’s D day. It’s been 21 years and I haven’t yet seen anyone more beautiful than Lianna.

She stands beside the most precious shining stones

But her glory is far greater

It’s like that of the sun in its youth.

She is as strong as an eagle,

Yet tender as a juvenile pale-yellow primrose.

Before her, there was no awesome.

She is one my First-lady, the queen of my heart.

Lord, I know I’d have to let her go soon, but I pray he’d be worthy of this gift you gave me. I pray he would love and cherish her forever.

P.S: This is my last entry in this book. The remaining pages of this book will depend on you very soon. I pray it’s beautiful.

Tears ran down Jones’ eyes as he read the last line and closed the book. For the first time, he realized that Mr. Nobert was actually the sweetest guy in the world. He also realized he wasn’t just in love with a girl. He was in love with the greatest girl alive, the girl that meant everything to someone.

Every girl is priceless and special. At least, my father in heaven and I think so. The world would be beautiful if we all see ladies through the loving eyes of a father.

Dedicated to all the beautiful & remarkable ladies I have been privileged to meet. Y’all are amazing.

Written by Richard Oti

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CUPID AND SAM INC. Part 4

It was very early on Saturday. Chief was awake, “it’s a brown new day,” he sang like a chirping bird, walking around his room aimlessly, whistling and smiling sheepishly. It’s amazing how love revamps a person. Ever wonder how happy people become once they fall in love? Yes, that’s because they actually lose common sense and so they see the world through a new lens, the eyes of love. I’m convinced that people would live longer and happier if they remained in love. Remember smiling all alone to yourself while your mind drifts away, thinking about the one you love? Think about the days you bought expensive gifts to give to your darling even when you were strapped for cash. How unselfish were you then? Recall how hearing his/her voice made you feel? Then things always start to fall apart because people stop trying hard any longer. The emotions wane, the love becomes a corpse flower with a withering stench of rottenness and the adventure of a lifetime ends almost as fast as it began.

Chief never even started the love journey, and so, this was a new adventure for him. A year before now, he had received a call from his 70-year-old mother who had informed him that if he didn’t marry and give her a grandchild in twelve months, he would be her pallbearer before the year ended. She swore to drink otapiapia and end the misery of not having a grandchild. It was an ultimatum given to the Roman man. He was torn between spending millions for a burial ceremony or marrying a wife for less. As an astute businessman, he picked profit over loss. He knew that he couldn’t give his mother a low-key burial but he could afford a low-profile marriage, so he picked the latter, took his mother off the suicide watch-list, and then hamstrung her into finding the wife for him. All he did was arrive a day before the introduction to see what his mother had shopped for from the bride market.

In the eyes of Mr. Romanus, Anurika was just like a young bird trying to take its first flight; innocent and nothing like the evil Lagos girls he dreaded. She was pretty and he knew that his mother had sealed a deal he couldn’t pull himself. He was a handsomely challenged out of shape wealthy mid-aged man with a big nose and puny eyebrows that had been shaved before he embarked on the trip. But the asa nwa, Anurika, didn’t mind his looks and she went ahead to serve him the palm wine at the igba nkwu and then two weeks later they tied the knot at St. Patrick’s Catholic church, Mbaise. “Thank you Jehovah overdo,” Chief’s mother shouted severally as the priest pronounced her son and Anurika husband and wife. When you hear such terms as Jehovah overdo and Jehovah possibility, you are among the Igbo brethren. (Asa nwa – beautiful girl, Igba nkwu – traditional wedding.)

CHIEF peeked from behind his curtain, and the sun was still pretty much asleep and darkness was still hovering over the face of Lagos. The week had been remarkable in every way; so many new things had been learned and it had been one crazy adventure for him. There were things he would have sworn he would never do in his life that Cupid had convinced him to do. A perfect example was the previous day, Chief told a waiter “thank you,” and then went ahead to tip her with 100 bucks. It might sound ridiculous to you that he tipped with such an amount. But Rome was not built-in a day, and just a week ago, Chief would have seen no reason in the world to tip anyone for doing a job they were being paid to do. After all,  no one ever came to his shop at Alaba and gave him a tip after he had sold them an electronic device. Instead, they were trying to pay less than what he had requested from them.

Chief was in the mood for Morocco but he knew that Cupid wanted him to get funkier, so he tuned the radio, in search of something that would pass for groovy. The music was nothing close to what he considered ‘original.’ Autotuned voices and people rapping over beats that sounded like a war cry. How could one’s ears decipher what was being said? The younger generation would love it but not Chief who didn’t know any foreign songs except Michael Jackson’s Billy Jims as he renamed it. He believed there was nothing better America could offer compared to the sheer bliss from Morocco and Osadebe; because they made music of ethereal quality.

There was no time to waste, so, Chief hurriedly took a shower, and dried his body with one of his Isiagu tops that he had turned into a towel. Cupid was not there with him but for the first time he felt ashamed that he did not have a towel and he hadn’t cared to get one. “nwanne echi, next tomorrow, ” he said out loud, convincing himself that nothing in the world would stop him from purchasing a new towel come Monday. The Roman man had started becoming conscious of himself; wanting to smell good, combining the right colors and even glancing at the mirror before he jumped out of the house. (Isiagu – an Igbo native attire)

They say ‘New York is the city that never sleeps’ but Lagos I think should be ‘the city that never lets you sleep.’ It was still a few minutes past 5:00 am but the bus stops were already buzzing with life. Women frying akara sitting close to loud comrades selling agege bread. Young ladies preparing ewedu soup and ewa agoyin for customers with large appetites who wouldn’t wait for daylight before having the first meal. Bus drivers yelling at the top of their voice and conductors chanting what seemed like a demonic chorus to attract the hordes of people trying to get to work on a Saturday. Agberos with egos larger than life. Policemen breaking the law they swore to uphold. What a city! But Chief was en route the Island to meet up with Cupid and nothing could bother him today. (Akara – bean cake, ewa agoyin – cooked beans with sauce common to the Yoruba fam)

Chief was giddy with excitement, “Coopeedi,” he said, standing erect with his arms akimbo. It was a few minutes past 6:00 am and he was outside Cupid and Sam Inc., feeding his eyes on the architectural beauty, the edifice before him. “Coopeedi,” he said again, amazed at how a young man could accomplish so much and yet be so reasonable, personable and likable. Most of the wealthy people Chief knew were very arrogant. Talk about Hon. Cornelius Azubike, his friend who had never been anywhere near a local government office or house of assembly, but added honorable to his name as soon as he opened the third shop in Alaba. Or is it High Chief Nebukadineze Nwankpa? That one added high chief to his name as soon as he started importing from China. But Cupid, the CEO of a blue-chip company, was simply known by his first name. No titles. No one carrying his briefcase around. No bodyguards or escorts to shield the peons away. Chief was much impressed with the young man to the point where he had already begun considering offering his sister, Akudo, as a mate to Cupid. “Free of charge,” he said out loud, deep in thought, still pondering on how easy he would make it for Cupid to marry his sister. That would have been something remarkable because it’s not easy to marry an Igbo girl for free of charge, especially when her brother is Chief Remigus Romanus, the Okosisi of Mbaise. Akudo was clocking 24 and Chief knew that soon, his mother would start another otapiapia episode. What kind of mother uses suicide to threaten her children?

It was a few minutes to 7:00 am and Chief noticed that there were no signs of activity around the building, just an armed police guard and two broad chested lively blokes wearing black suits. So, he decided to ring Cupid and find out when the office doors opened for the weekends. The phone rang but Cupid was fast asleep and didn’t want to be disturbed. So, he pretended he didn’t hear a thing and proceeded to adjust his head on the throw pillow, and snuggled under the duvet. But Chief was dogged and kept dialing until Cupid got frustrated.

“Coopeedi,” the Roman man called out, still sounding as excited as he had been since waking up at past 4 am. “Good morning, Nwanne,” he greeted, twitching with much adrenaline.

“What happened to the word coach?” Cupid asked, still infuriated that his sleep had been cut short. That was uncharacteristic of Cupid not to even greet back before lashing out. But sleep is sweet and when someone messes with it, it gets personal. “I’m sorry, Chief. Good morning and how are you today?” Cupid asked, in a sleepy voice.

“Coopeedi, ina ehi ura?” (trans – are you are sleeping?)

“Chief, I asked how you are doing?”

“Ayam fine, butu ina ehi ura? Chief repeated. (trans – are you are sleeping?)

Cupid was wondering why he was so concerned about that, but he replied: “It’s Saturday Chief, I sleep a little extra on the weekends.”

“I’m at the office waiting for you.”

“You see, instead of listening to me yesterday, you were busy looking into everybody’s eyes like a psychotic, even after my warning to you on Wednesday.”

“It’s a brown new day. Nna, hapu ihe psychotic.” (trans – forget that thing about psychotic)

“Ok, Chief. I had informed you that we would spend the day at my crib.”

“Where?”

“My residence. The place where I live.” Cupid almost screamed but it dawned on him that he was talking to a client who had paid a million Naira and familiarity would start to be the bane of his success with his clients. So, Cupid sat up on the settee, “Chief, I’m sorry, it’s a little too early for me because I slept quite late. But you would need to meet up with me at home.”

“Coopeedi,” Chief murmured as if it were Cupid’s fault that he had not listened to the instruction Cupid had given him the previous night.

“Do you need someone to bring you over?” Cupid asked, hoping that he could easily request a favor from one of his security details…

“Nwanne, just send me the address, I will find ya house.”

CUPID thought he could sleep a little more before Chief would show up, but Sam called in too.

“Hey, buddy,”

“What’s up bud,” Cupid replied, happy to hear from his pal.

“I’m aight, bro. What’s on the schedule for today?”

“Got the Roman man coming over. He should be around anytime soon. And as for the rest of the day, it would depend on my mood.”

“I’d come over tonight. It’s been a while I enjoyed the comfort of your beautiful house. You know I have a nice house, but my house still wants to be like yours when it grows up.”

“You silly, bro. Yes, it’s been a while I’ve had anyone over here. Guess you can’t save the world and have too much fun at the same time.”

“Superman!” Sam muttered, he was the only one who understood how much Cupid loved helping people. “We could watch a movie or two, and just spend some time not discussing work, failed marriages, and the plans for the merger.”

“That sounds like fun. If I had a helicopter we would have flown around the city enjoying the night view and eating suya in the sky.” Cupid liked being in the sky very much and he enjoyed sky-diving in the Canadian and American skies. He never dared to skydive in Lagos. The fear of Igbobi orthopedic hospital was real.

 

“Wouldn’t that be something?”

That really would have been something, and Cupid had imagined for a long time how much time he could save by having a helicopter. No more traffic stops. No insane drivers behind the wheels cursing at him because he drove a Maserati or other expensive cars. He was not a politician, but their little minds could not imagine anyone being wealthy who hadn’t plundered the coffers of the government at the Federal, State or local level. “It’s going to be a good tool that would free up some extra time for me,” Cupid said, solidifying his intent to get a helicopter.

“The office can take care of that for you. Just say the word.”

Cupid walked to the kitchen, the phone up against his ear being supported by his right shoulder because his two hands were busy with fixing pre-breakfast. “No, bud, I can take care of that myself. The office can take care of the helipad.”

“We’d get that done by next week.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Cupid asked.

Sam laughed for almost a minute. “Where did that question come from? We were just talking about something exciting.”

“Exciting? Is the question depressing?”

“No. But-”

“Samosa!”

“Ok. I’d tell you all about it later.”

“How about you, our Superman!?”

“I’m still saving the world,” Cupid said with a sadness laced in his voice.

“You deserve the best wife in this world. Someone who could give back the love you have sown into so many people. I wonder what goals I would be pursuing today if hadn’t met you. Meeting you really changed my life. I’m yet to find someone with a heart like yours.”

“At least, I’m sure that with a name like Samosa, you could be managing a KFC or Chik-fil-a franchise abroad,” Cupid replied and went ahead to laugh at his friend. “Ok, this conversation is getting too mushy. Go fight some karate or taekwondo man. Stop getting emotional on me.”

“See you in some hours.”

“Alright, bud.”

Cupid poured himself a glass of soya milk and sat down to enjoy his pre-breakfast. It was Saturday and there was no reason not to pig out. While eating, he thought about his mother and wished she was alive to enjoy the fortune he had made off making other people happy. It was legitimate wealth and nothing to be ashamed of. Hard work pays. “I would have built you something out of this world and named it utopia. It would have been the slightest resemblance to my idea of heaven. Beautiful.” But he could not do any of those things now. For a moment he wondered if he could at least do something nice for his father even though the man had failed him in every way one could fail a child. So, he googled his father’s name – Kelechi ‘Nwokeoma’ Orji. But the fear of what Google might pull up made him close the page before it would fully load. “Maybe someday you’d change pops,” Cupid said. He had avoided any contact with his father so as not to tarnish the good name he had worked really hard for. Forgiveness required an extra-large heart and Cupid was willing to forgive his father for abandoning him and his mother, although he didn’t expect any close relationship to evolve. His extended family also never really cared when he was down and out, so he learned to live like a hermit. Now everybody loved the illegitimate child they had previously despised. He was free-handed and so he kept sending money to anyone that needed it, but he kept them at bay.

ANURIKA was up by past 7 am and had noticed that Chief had left the house already. It was an opportunity to go into his room, to find out what was happening to Chief. Whatever it was, she knew it was good, but she was curious. “Chief!” she exclaimed when she tried to open the door and it was apparently locked. Chief kept lots of money at home, in his room, so since the night he returned and found Anurika in his room, he started locking his door with two padlocks. The man loved his wife, but apparently, he also loved his money. “Nwanne, be kiaful with ya money. If I keep small change, even if it is two hundred Naira, my wife will take it,” High Chief Nebukadineze had told his friend Okosisi  during a marriage counseling session. This was a disaster counseling another disaster. But birds of a feather hang out together. So, Chief took the counsel to be wise with how he kept his money. But he always had a tendency to overdo things and so he took it to a new height. He went as far as collecting the list for what was needed in the house and he became a gofer, sometimes he sent his boys to do the buying, and that was something they both hated. Anurika could live with for the first two months and then it became irritating when Chief wanted to start buying even the relaxer she needed to curl her hair.

“Kizito, oga gi kwanu?” Anurika asked, wanting to know if the chief was at work. (trans – how about your master?)

“Mba, oga hasn’t come to work since this week,” Kizito replied, knowing that he had over-answered the question. But he wouldn’t stop there and went ahead t tell Anurika how his oga sent him to withdraw 7 million from the bank on Monday. That was none of his business. But like Chief suspected, there might have really been an evil spirit disturbing the young man.

“Afam kwanu?” (Trans – how about Afam?)

O na eri nri,” Kizito replied. (Trans – he is eating food)

“Ok, kelee ya.” (Trans – greet him)

Anurika was really confused at everything but the new chief she was seeing was better than the one she had married and had lived with for an entire year. Just the last night, Chief said thank you and helped her even wash the dishes because he realized that she was tired. Thank you is a word most people can’t imagine saying because they believe it makes them appear weak. But in Chief’s case, it was because he never grew up hearing thank you even if he had walked 700 miles just to fetch firewood or farmed two plots of land in one day. So, he just tried to mirror his father as much as he could.

“Coopeedi,” Chief called out into the receiver of his phone. “Is ya house the one that is glass?”

“Chiefo, you are welcome. Yes, I’d be down shortly.”

Cupid pushed a button and the gate opened up on its own accord. “Nna mehn, lekwanu ulo mmadu,” Chief shouted as he drove in. “Coopeedi, o bu nani gi bi ebe a?” he immediately asked the handsome young love-coach who was dressed in a hoodie and camouflage shorts. (Trans – lekwnu ulo mmadu – look at somebody’s house. o bu nani gi bi ebe a – are you the only one living here?)

“Yes Chief, I live here alone. No neighbors. No relatives or squatters. No wife or kids. No pets, wild animals or even bugs. Just me, living in every square inch of this big house.”

Nna, You don’t need my money. You will give me discount.” Chief kept looking around the beautiful piece of property that Cupid called home. The magnificent cars. The Olympic-sized swimming pool. The lovely flowers and carpet grass.

“Chief pay for service like a boss, with a smile on your face.” Well, it’s easy to say when you are not the one paying. Have you realized how sweet it is to order for roast turkey with fried-rice and Caesar salad when you are not the one paying? Or how fun it is to chat on the phone when using someone else’s call credit? Chief was the one feeling the pain.

They both got into the elevator, “nwanne lekwanu machine,” Chief said, placing his hand on Cupids shoulder to steady himself because he felt unbalanced as the elevator went up. He had never been in one before. “Coopeedi, you didn’t notice I’m wearing Jims today?” (Trans – My brother see machine)

Cupid hadn’t paid attention to that detail. But the Roman man had squeezed himself into a pair of denim jeans and T-shirt. He didn’t stop there. He wore a papa’s hat and hid his eyes behind dark shades. “You are dressed for the event,” Cupid acknowledged. “You have lost some weight already, Chief,” he said as they walked into the living room. Chief had lost a few pounds and although the outfit seemed pretty tight on him, he was making progress.

Chief was overdoing it just like a teenager who visits the gym for the first time and thinks he is going to tone his body to resemble that of Dwayne Johnson in one day. “Keep your looks simple and classy,” Cupid said to him.

“Alexa, play me something nice,” Cupid said out loud. That command was to the intelligent personal assistant designed by Amazon.

‘Playing a list of songs that I think you would like,’ Alexa replied.

Chief was surprised by the voice and curiously looked around. “Nwanne, Coopeedi, I thought you said that you live hia alone. Who is that girl?”

“She is an artificial intelligence, Chief,” Cupid replied and then he lowered the top of his hoodie exposing his fresh neatly carved haircut. “Artificial intelligence is the future that we all have to embrace soon. I decided to start now so I could keep up with the millennials.”

Por Una Cabeza by Andrae Bocelli was the first on the list, and then it was followed by Conte pa tiro. Cupid had a thing for Italian songs, but Chief grimaced and barely endured as the speakers blared. There’s as much as a man can take, “Anexa, ekwela iwe, nwanne I nwere ike igwu egwu Osadebe?” the frustrated Chief requested. (Trans – Anexa, don’t be angry, please do you have the power to play me Osadebe songs?)

‘Sorry, I cannot understand that,’ was the reply. Cupid heard Alexa’s complaint from the speakers in the room and practically laughed at Chief.

Walking back to the living room, wearing an apron, “Chief are you seeing the sun that I’m not seeing?” Cupid asked, taking another look at the super dark black lens he still had on. “Wear this,” he added, throwing an apron to Chief, who went ahead to take off his cap, dark shades and embraced the inner cook in him. That inner chef that couldn’t even fry eggs.

“Tomorrow is Sunday Chief, and you are going to surprise your wife with breakfast in bed.”

Chief was displeased and he put on his sad face, and rightly so. There was no telling where this road would lead to. It could start with breakfast in bed and then branch off to mopping the floors and then washing his wife’s clothes. Being 22 years older than she was and having a chieftaincy title, he felt it was beneath his dignity to do some of these things. Don’t open Pandora’s box, if you don’t want to be surprised by what jumps out. “Mbanu, nwanne,” Chief replied and went ahead to take off the piece of clothing he had hung over his T-shirt. (Trans – no my brother)

But the art-of-the-deal joker card could always be pulled out. “Chief, we would make a trip in a few days that would change your life if you will just give me a chance to be the coach I should be to you. There can’t be two captains in charge of a ship. You paid me to be your captain, coach, teacher, boss, and there are a hundred other words that could describe what I should be to you.”

Chief did some reminiscing about the past week and how much it had already revolutionized his marriage. If things kept up the way they were going, Romanus Jr. would be could be conceived soon. “Butu butu-”

“I understand your concerns. Will your wife take the new you for granted and make you her house help?”

“Yes, nwanne,” Chief grumbled sharply, his eyes squinting and his face squeezing into a frown.

“Can that happen?” Cupid asked, and his lips curled into a smile. “Yes,” he added, answering the question. “I can work on you but I cannot work on your wife because she is not my client. Do you want to pay one million a day for her too?”

“Coopeedi, idi savage,” Chief blurted out. “Nwanne, you will teach me everything so that I can teach my wife by myself.”

Chief was still reeling from the 7 million Naira that he had paid already and the balance of 14 million that was to be paid by the coming week. It wasn’t Cupid’s fault that his clients had to pay that much. He was excellent and they all knew it. And if he billed at a thousand Naira per day, he would have the world as his client. But it is always better; one relationship at a time. Chief mumbled some expressions in Igbo and then he put on the pinafore and was all smiles. “Ebee ka anyi na aga njem?” (Trans – Where are we traveling to?”

“Speak English Chief,” Cupid replied, dancing to the kitchen. “And it’s meant to be a surprise,” he informed Chief who was behind him. “By the way, do you have an international passport?”

“Passpot? I don’t have one now. Butu Okey international use to snap passpot near my shop, I’ll branch dia on Monday.”

“Don’t worry about that Chief. It’s not that kind of passport. We’d take a trip to the immigration office on Monday. But for now, let’s cook.” Cupid opened the fridge and out came the green and red ball peppers, eggs, mixed vegetables, and broth.

“Nwanne,” Chief repeated severally, excited that breakfast was about to be prepared.

“Chief do you know how to chop any of these?” Cupid inquired, using the knife in his hand to point to the ingredients lying neatly beside the bamboo cutting board.

“Coopeedi!” Chief said and didn’t offer an answer to the question but instead, he had a cheesy smile on his face, trying to mask his confusion. The man only knew about selling and making a profit. Cupid went ahead to demonstrate to him how one diced pepper and onion. The oven plate was getting hot and the frying pan began to warm up, the groundnut oil was poured in.

“Chief, allow the oil to heat up well, and then you throw in your ingredients. But you have to be careful of spatter, you don’t want hot oil in your eyes or on your skin. Once you have everything in the pan, we allow it to sauté.”

“Ok nwanne. How many minutes will it take to sustain?”

“It’s pronounced saute and not sustain,” Cupid corrected his protegé and then he handed him the silicone spatula. “Gently stir and then you add half a cup of broth.” Chief was enjoying the task so much that his lips just seemed to curl into a permanent smile. “Chief whip the eggs before you pour it into the mixture.”

“Isi gini?” Chief asked because the sound of the blender in combination with the rock song Alexa was now playing made hearing strenuous. (isi gini – what did you say?)

And so, the heat was reduced and the eggs and corned beef were added. The precious little aroma of bread heated in the microwave and a sautéed egg sauce filled the entire house. “Alexa, play some soft jazz,” Cupid requested and he proceeded to pull out a bottle of Chardonnay, a wine that has a fine bouquet. Everything was perfect. “I’m proud of you Chief,” Cupid said and then he poured some wine into the wine glass and handed it over to Chief. “I make a toast to you, Chief. You are a conquistador.”

Nwanne, thank you,” Chief replied, and he went ahead to repeat “Konki stadium” quietly and severally. Cupid wondered if he was going to add that to his new lingo just like he had added savage. Time would tell. But for now, it was time to eat, and after a word of prayer, they both ate with enthusiasm and Cupid used the window of opportunity to teach Mr. Romanus about table etiquette and how to eat like a boss.

The food was so sweet, Chief said to Cupid “I esi nri di ka a nwanyi,” and then he proceeded to request for a second round. (Trans – you cook like a woman)

After the meal, Cupid and Chief sat down to watch some soccer and Chief slept off while Chelsea was tormenting Arsenal, so, Cupid also took a nap.

Chief snored while he napped and when he did, it seemed like thunder rumbled. Cupid was awakened by the annoying sound. “Chief, this is bad,” he said, stupefied by the almost impressive falsetto and throbbing vibrato of Chief’s snoring. “You can cause someone to have sleep apnea.” Well, that’s the beauty of snoring; everyone gets disturbed except the one making the awful sound.

“Nwanne, do you have a guest room?” Chief asked.

“Why do you ask, Chief?”

Nna, I need more sleep.” When you have that kind of delicious breakfast the next thing that usually follows is a good sleep. “Do you have wrapper so that I can cover myself well?”

“You don’t want a pair of pajamas and socks?” Cupid asked before hissing almost silently. “Let’s hit the gym, Chief.” That was the last thing Chief wanted to hear when his eyes were still supercharged red as if blood samples had been dropped into them.

“Coopeedi, Coopeedi, idi troublesome,” Chief replied and then jumping up, he screamed “Eyimba le!” out of the blues. (idi troublesome – you are troublesome)

“Chief, keep your traditional ways to yourself,” Cupid replied, amused at how local Chief was. They both hit the gym and Lecrae provided the motivation. Chief complained that he couldn’t understand what Lecrae was saying. “You are not on that treadmill to listen to the lyrics of the songs playing, but to work out,” Cupid informed him and kept him busy like a tactful drill sergeant would.

Chief’s quadriceps and calves were hurting badly but Cupid kept pushing him to build his endurance. With each exercise session, Chief got better until he began to feel good about the progress he was making in shedding off the excess weight, especially the stubborn belly fat that he had considered as an evidence of wealth.

“Nwanne, I have a sister?” Chief said, sweating profusely. For a moment, Cupid assumed he was talking out of point, just like he had yelled “Eyiimba le!.” But Chief repeated, “I have a sister.”

“Interesting,” Cupid responded. “Is she pretty much like you?”

That question was subtle and Chief was convinced that Cupid was taking a thinly veiled jab at him. “Coopeedi, idi savage!” he replied and then decided to not proceed in that direction. “I will bring her with me to your office one day.”

“Ok, Chief, it would be a pleasure to host the two-”

Chief’s phone rang, “Important call,” he said, subtly hushing Cupid. “Umu darkness,” he said when he realized who was calling. (umu darkness – children of darkness)

“Oga, ndewo,” Afam greeted. (ndewo – an igbo greeting)

Enyi, kee kwanu?” Chief asked in a gruff tone. (Trans – my frined, how are you?)

Adim nma. Oga, how is your body?” (Trans – I am fine)

“Why do you ask?”

Kizito hurugi na uzo. Ya asi na ina ata hu na odika inaria HIV.” (Trans – Kizito saw you on the road he said you are losing weight. It’s like you have HIV)

Idi babaric. Ibu a wild animal. Anu mpama. ” Chief hissed and cut the call. “Coopeedi, continue from where you stopped.” Cupid laughed so hard his tummy started to hurt. Chief was really an exciting fellow to be around. Back to business; Cupid required Chief to spend the next two hours reading and that apparently seemed more difficult than the exercise session. It wasn’t an interesting activity as being at Eko Hotel eating pounded yam with ofe nsala, looking into people’s eyes, observing their body language and emotions. But Cupid didn’t care how many times Chief yawned and hissed and shuffled his feet; he was going to read that book and learn many new words. (Trans – idi barbaric – you are babaric, ibu a wild animal – you are a wild animal, Anu mpama –  a foolish person.)

“I want your wife to look at you and desire to be better too, because you, Chief, are leading the way.” It was certain that marriages and relationships have failed, owing to the fact that neither parties were willing to make an effort, or one of the two made all the effort. If Chief’s wife doesn’t also make changes, it would only take a few weeks after his “rehab” session for things to go back to where they were before he spent 21 million Naira for a makeover. That would be a colossal waste of funds. Not something that the client or his coach wanted.

Chief stayed the course and immediately it was two hours he moved the books away and folded his arms, frowning just like a judge that had recused himself from a case he never wanted to be part of in the first place.

“Chief would you stay back a little later for a boy’s night out?”

Chief’s face was still ruffled like a 10 Naira note that had passed through a hundred hands and couldn’t survive the next exchange. “Gini?” he asked, not understanding what Cupid had asked him. (Gini – what?)

“Repeat that in English, Chief. Good English, precisely.” Cupid responded and completely disregarded the face and body language of his clients. If he spent time observing the participant’s attitude, there would be no Cupid and Sam Inc. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. After a saved marriage or relationship he could tell them how petty they were through the process.

It’s one thing to know what to say, but it’s another to know how to express it in Queen’s English. So Chief took a deep breath, clenched his fist, squinted his eyes, and licked his lips with his tongue. Clearing his throat, “What is happening tonight?” Chief asked.

Nwanne,” Cupid excitedly screamed, jumping up and jiggling a bit. “You deserve pounded yam with afang soup.”

Chief was all smiles now that pounded yam had been mentioned.

“You deserve it but you would not get it. Fewer carbs and more protein. Remember?”

SAM arrived with a bang, honking so annoyingly that Cupid had to scream “what’s wrong with you man?” Sam decided to honk even louder. “Hey bud, this is reserved location. Why have you got a cell phone?” Cupid asked as Sam drove in.

“That’s the point. It’s too quiet. The neighbors have to know that Superman lives here. Buddy, don’t keep it quiet sometimes. Have fun, make noise, disturb the neighborhood and just have an off-the-regular-you kind of day.” Sam got out of his car with a bottle of Dom Perignon, “I want to be the one to save you, bud,” he said to Cupid. “It’s the least I could do for you.”

“Who told you I needed to be saved?”

“You are Superman to everybody. But I’m your friend, and you are as close to me as a brother. C’mon, let’s go inside and turn up.”

The night was everything Chief had never experienced. It started with video games, none of which Chief could play or was interested in learning to play. So, while Cupid and Sam played, he kept himself busy by calling all his buddies in Alaba. Then they proceeded to watch Fences in Cupid’s mini cinema. After 5 minutes, Chief kept asking “nna, no shooting in this film? Achorom action film.” But the teriyaki chicken, fresh fish pepper soup, and wine was the most exciting part of the night especially for Chief who could not get enough of the feast. (Trans – I want an action-packed film)

“Coopeedi, nwanne, thank you.” Chief opened the door to his car and was about to step in when Cupid stopped him.

“I ordered two pieces of wrist watches on Amazon a couple of days ago. I received both today because I had requested it by priority shipping.” Cupid handed a a box to Chief, “this is for your wife,” he said and then he patted the Roman man on the back.

Chief didn’t know what to say, so he just kept looking at Cupid. “Thank you,” he finally said after what seemed to be forever. “Chukwu gozie gi,” he added, and then he drove away. (Trans – God bless you.)

…THE NEXT MORNING…

Anurika had slept off before Chief returned the previous night, so, she never got to see him for the entire day. But it was Sunday and like most people, a little extra sleep before Church is always a nice thing, and therefore, she kept snoozing her alarm clock. After a prolonged period of pandiculation, she finally stood erect with clear eyes and an alert mind.  “My lord, what is burning,” she screamed and rushed to the kitchen. The Roman man was in his apron, and the kitchen was on ‘fire’.

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CUPID AND SAM INC. Part 3

Chief had a delicious sleep for the first time in many months. Technically, sleep should not be qualified with such a term because It is not Nigerian jollof-rice. I know there is a war still ongoing between Ghanaians and Nigerians as to which country holds the bragging rights for the best jollof-rice in Africa. Where were the Ghanaians when Nigerians used the power of jollof-rice to get independence from the British? Or when Nigeria jollof-rice was the biggest source of foreign exchange In the early 60s before crude oil became the black gold? This young generation seems to be clueless about African history.

The sun was rising slowly from the east and its rays brightened up Chief’s room. Never had he been as excited for a new day as he was this morning. It was the spirit of love slowly possessing him. It’s funny how the spirit of love and common sense can’t live in the same person at a time. When love takes over the wheels, common sense gradually recedes. But Mr. Remigus Romanus was still an Igbo man to his bones and his common sense was not going anywhere anytime soon. Young children let love make them stupid. How does someone take out his tuition fee to buy his girlfriend Valentine’s day gift and then he spends the rest of the semester hustling to make up his tuition instead of reading his books. Or explain how a guy spends all night talking to his girlfriend; telling her how the moon revolves around her because she gleams with bright perfection like the sun, but his brain cannot revolve around the simple arithmetic he needs to know to pass an exam. Chief was not cut out for all that poppycock. Back in his heyday, things weren’t as complicated as they have become now. It was this simple:

“I like you.”

“I like you too.”

OR

“I like you.”

“Thank you. God bless you for liking me.”

The first was a green light to meet at the stream and talk about the future. The latter was a polite way of saying – run off. But nowadays, everyone is singing I would give you the world just to see you smile and that’s why love has become more complicated.

“It’s a brown new day,” Chief rejoiced as he got out of bed and was already looking forward to what secrets the day would reveal. Well, if this beautiful Wednesday was going to be like the previous days, then it’s certain to be a home run. Starting the day with songs by the Igbo highlife legend – Morocco was Chief’s favorite way to get motivated. A long-term goal that Chief had pursued since he became Okosisi was to make money to the point that Morocco would notice and mention his name on a track. You might think that’s definitely a useless goal. But if Dee Morroki mentions you in a song, you are a chairman. After that dream was achieved, Chief had purposed to take up another Chieftaincy title as – ego di ka aja 1 of Mbaise. The excitement of the new day quickly flew away as a bird when Chief remembered that this was the third day his business empire would be managed by Afam and Kizito, the two boys he perceived to be possessed by evil spirits. (ego di ka aja – having money like sand)

Chief laid out the outfit for the day – a baggy green trouser with a pink shirt and a decent pair of black leather sandal. “If I wear this thing now, Coopeedi will not let me rest,” he murmured and continued combing through his closet for something Cupid might approve. All the new outfits they had purchased didn’t fit yet. And neither did Chief expect there would be a time in his life he would wear Italian suits with a tie. Cupid just wasted the money on that shopping as far as he was concerned.

Enyi,” Chief said gruffly. “Come to the house with all the money you and Kizito have made before you go to the market.” (trans – enyi – friend)

“Oga, hold up nke taa bu ogologo,” Afam complained, hoping to escape Chief’s plan to rearrange his day. (trans – the holdup today is lengthy)

“Ok, then come after you lock the shade,” Chief informed him, not in the mood for a debate.

Afam murmured under his breath and then he replied – “Aga m abia ugbu a,” (trans – I will come now)

“Tell Buchi to bring you.” Buchi was a driver Chief could trust. Chief didn’t want to hear that suddenly as Afam was in a molue, the money realized that its destiny was not to be in the bank and so it developed wings and flew. It had happened before in 2016. Kizito was to bring some money to the house and claimed that a man who wore a multi-colored coat and talked with a funny accent had preached to him and after the man prayed for him, he was under the anointing and on waking up, he couldn’t tell where Chief’s money had vanished to. It took two slaps that came from the bottom of Chief’s heart – energized with the anger of the recession – to get Kizito to ‘remember’ all of a sudden where the money might be. “Umuntakiri na-akpa agwa dika ha nwere ogugu isi.” Chief murmured and then he disconnected the call with Afam. “Oh, my buriful wife,” Chief remembered Anurika and wanted to see her face now that he had handled all money related issues. First things have to come first. After all, the money he was making was for his family. (trans – Little children will be acting like they have too much sense)

“Good morning fam,” Cupid greeted, walking to the elevator briskly. He had on a carton colored chino trouser with a Brunello Cucinelli crewneck white T-shirt. “You look good,” he said to Chabria, the IT geek, who seemed to enjoy a moment of reverie, staring at Cupid.

“Thank you, sir,” she replied. It was a fact that she looked good. Chabria was a mulatto chick and a computer geek of the Chloe O’Brian order; a programmer extraordinaire. Her eyes were as beautiful as iridescent waters and her long curly hair was blonde. Standing at 5’11, she had a commanding presence, the face of an angel, a characteristic nose ring and a smile that was magical.

“Hey Chabria,” Cupid called out just before stepping into the elevator.

“Hey Cupid,” she replied walking up to him. There was a first name office culture observed in Cupid and Sam Inc. Nobody was oga or madam or some of those silly titles that people added as a prefix to their name as soon as they climb the first step of the corporate ladder.

“The summit is scheduled for 10:00 am today. Remember?” Cupid asked. The summit was the brainstorming session where new ideas were discussed.

Chabria whipped her hair backward, “Yes sir, I have my itinerary drawn up for the day and that is number one priority.”

“That’s good. But we have to reschedule it for an earlier time. What do you have going in the next 15 minutes?”

Chabria quickly pulled out her iPhone from the back pocket. “It’s just 5 minutes past 8:00 am. If you need me, sir, I can clear my schedule. You are the boss.”

“Tell Nelo about the change of time. I’d have Onyinye send you both a mail as soon as I step into my office,” Cupid informed, and then the Mr. Fix it grace seemed to be present all at once. “I notice you had to pull out your phone to confirm the time. Do you have a wristwatch?”

“I had, but-”

“I’d buy you one,” Cupid interrupted.

“You don’t have to, sir,” Chabria replied, hoping he would insist. You have done that before, right? You are hungry and someone offers to take you to Chopsticks for lunch, and you decline but keep hoping the offer is made one more time. It’s called – forming.

“Have I given you a gift before?” Cupid inquired.

“Yes sir,” Chabria replied in a beautiful Afro-American accent. “You sent me to Maldives for my 25th birthday. You gave me a million Naira for Christmas shopping last year.”

“Oh, I did that in my capacity as the head of the organization. But I would like to get you a wristwatch. Consider that a personal gift… and thank you for all that you do for Cupid and Sam Inc.” Cupid walked into the elevator and then he hit the button, for a ride to the top floor. Chabria just couldn’t wrap her mind around how Cupid could be this charming, handsome, nice, special, kind, loving, an excellent leader but single at the same time. Then she smiled at the thought that he had no ring on his finger because she had none on hers too.

“My boss,” Onyinye quickly saluted and stood at attention as Cupid walked into the office. “Good morning.” She added with so much enthusiasm. The dinner they had last night was something she was still very much grateful for.

“Onyi, I had no idea I was now a military General,” Cupid queried, shaking his head while walking into his office. “A full salute for a bloody civilian like me. Haba!” he informed and went ahead to open the blinds and turn on the air conditioner.

“You are our General, sir.” Onyinye’s eyes couldn’t keep a secret and Cupid could see all that it was saying. But there were things Onyinye wouldn’t understand even if he tried to explain them. If he was to date her, then she would have to be fired. Being a multi-millionaire, Cupid knew that Onyinye wouldn’t need to work and losing her job wouldn’t bother her either. But his heart had been scarred before; the wounds remained fresh even after several years. That was the one place the physician needed to heal himself because he had helped many others out of the same deep pits he was helpless to get himself out of. But the entire world still needed to be saved first and the selfless Cupid wanted to make it a better place for everyone.

“Ok. Call the Seargent’s office and find out if he is on seat already. If he is, tell his secretary I need to see him right away.”

“Seargent?”

“What rank is Sam?”

“Oh, boss number two?” Onyinye smiled and then proceeded to laugh. “Ok, I’d ring his office right away.”

“Thank you for calling, this is the Administrator’s office. Sharon speaking, how may I help you?”

“Sharon, please is Sam around?” Onyinye asked.

“Yes, Sam has been in for about 20 minutes now.”

“Ok. Please let him know that the Chief Executive Officer needs him over here asap.”

In ten minutes, Nelo, Chabria, and Sam were all sitting In a circle, breathing in the same frigid air and sipping on coffee or hot chocolate. Nelo was the chief business strategist and the reason the organization was outperforming even some heavyweight banks.

 

“I had a eureka moment yesterday,” Cupid said, allowing his words to create an anticipation. And then he said nothing else for about two minutes, arousing their curiosity.

 

“Cupid, you know we can’t wait to hear the next big goal, don’t leave us hanging.” Sam had been in such meetings for many years since their University days. He could easily testify of the crazy ideas that had changed lives, saved marriages and had helped countless people find love. In Sam’s mind, Cupid was nothing short of a genius.

“I want a partnership with match.com and eharmony.com. Of all the players in the love business, our success stories are the highest and most remarkable. And this is because we match the right people instead of pairing based on a random algorithm. and the metrics are so clear that Time magazine wants me on the front cover of an episode with the caption – Africa’s Cupid. We make it a human-human experience and not human-machine like these other competitors do. If we can foster a merger of some sort with them, they would have an inroad to the African market and we would sail smoothly into the American and European market.”

“How can we make this a reality?” Nelo asked, already feeling stoked.

“I’d like you to scrutinize the merger from a business perspective, Nelo. I want a game plan on how we could achieve this. It could drive our revenue up by 10 billion Naira before the year ends. Sam, I want you to do an analysis and give me a feedback on how many new portfolios and staff would be needed if we pulled off this deal. Lastly, Chabria, I want you to think big. I expect us to have about half a million new clients in 6 months from the time this deal goes live. I want to know what it would take to have an upgraded multi-server and data bank room that could cater for that many new participants.”

CHIEF was walking on sunshine nothing could keep him down, there were springs in his steps. It was Christmas in April, and a good day to be alive. Kizito had just dropped off N1,450,000 for the sale of two days and that was cause for the chief to smile temporarily until he remembered that Cupid billed a million per day. The frown didn’t last long because he remembered the feeling of the previous night; it was unique and beautiful. Butterflies were rumbling in his belly for the first time. He was yet to see his wife this morning because she had not come out of her room, and neither had he too until Kizito shouted “Kpoi Kpoi!” severally while standing beside the front door. Chief was irritated by the repeated loud bang on the door, “Ina eme ka savage,” he informed Kizito as he opened and saw him standing. (trans – you behave like a savage)

“Garbage?” Kizito asked looking bewildered. He neither knew what either of the two words meant.

Onye iberibe,” Chief replied and rolled his eyes. “Instead of going to school, you are hia chasing money.” See how the pot suddenly turns on the kettle and calls it black. Chief only had enough education to determine a profit and a loss. He had been to school for a while and then he decided that his destiny was not going to be decided in a classroom by a teacher who had a bicycle and spoke English through his nose. Who BODMAS or Pythagoras theory epp? So, the money chasing began at the age of twelve, and by the time he was 21, Chief was already a millionaire and had never regretted quitting school until he met Cupid. Cupid was the first man he had met who was so charismatic, charming, well-spoken, handsome, educated and made of money. Chief was very rich but not as opulent as Cupid. And It was obvious he was handsomely-challenged, lacked charisma, and everything else that should have made him an eye candy.

Shaking his head and stretching out his hand, “give me the money,” Chief demanded hurriedly, his eyes rotating around the living room viciously as he kept hoping his wife would not suddenly walk out of the room when he was collecting the cash. They weren’t on the best of talking terms but that had never stopped her from collecting money from him whenever she could.

CHIEF WAS all smiles as he walked through the doors of Cupid and Sam Inc. He was really expecting a lot from his appointment with the Big Dawg.

“Would you like to have muffins or cookies with a drink while you wait, sir?” The handsome suited up young man asked his guest.

Chief first looked at the good-looking guy from head to toe and it astounded him because every staff of Cupid and Sam Inc. was pretty smart and good-looking. Even the houseboy is wearing a suit and can speak good English? Chief thought.

The cookies and muffins looked really nice but that was not chief’s kind of thing. Maybe his wife would enjoy such but not Okosisi, a red cap chief. “Do you have ugba or beer?” he inquired. (ugba – an Igbo special delicacy)

“No sir, we just have soda, coffee, and water.”

“Soda?”

“That’s a term for drinks that contain carbonated water sir,” The receptionist replied.

“Oh, is mineral you are calling soda?” Chief tried to educate him.

“Yes sir, mineral,” the young man replied, trying not to laugh so that his guest wouldn’t feel embarrassed. How does Fanta or Coke resemble crude oil or zinc the receptionist kept thinking.

“Butu why will you people be serving sugar-drink to someone like me? You don’t know that too much sugar is not good?”

“It’s just something that goes with the corporate atmosphere. Nothing meant to despise your drinking preferences, sir.”

Chief laughed as if he understood everything the young man had said. “Oyibo! Onye bekee,” he replied with a smile. “Coopeedi! Coopeedi! Even your houseboy is behaving like you,” Chief said under his breath before he cussed out Kizito and Afam in Igbo for not having common sense.

Cupid ended the meeting as soon as he was Informed that Chief was in the building. The client is king and should be treated as such. That’s a solid principle that lots of organizations had shelved as soon as they started making profit in 6 digits. But Cupid and Sam Inc. capitalized on treating their customer like King to build their brand. “Hey Onyi, I’d be out of the office most of today. All urgent issues should be referred to Sam. If Sam is not on seat, give me a call only if you need to.”

“Yes, boss,” was the swift response from Onyinye who was already sad because she was going to spend the day all alone again without the warm smile and often light humor from her charming boss.

The waiting room was so cozy with snug sets of upholstery and relaxing music such that Chief began to sleep. Doesn’t the DJ know that you can’t play Celine Dion in the day time under such circumstances and not attract the spirit of sleep?

“Chiefo!” Cupid called out, excited to see the Roman man again.

Chief opened his eyes; they were red and protruding and for a second he looked confused as if unsure of where he was. “Coopeedi,” he almost screamed out in excitement before yawning and then reaching out for a handshake. “Nwanne, idi charp.” (trans -my brother, you are sharp)

Cupid was all smiles because there was something about chief he just seemed to love. “I know I look sharp, thank you, sir. But no Igbo for the rest of the day. We need your lingo updated.”

“Coopeedi, idi savage!”Chief was the most stubborn client Cupid had worked with and now It seemed the Roman man had picked up a new word – savage.

 

Nwanne, My brother, it’s a brown new day. Ayam very happy.”

 

“Ha! Chiefo, idi omimi,” Cupid replied, forgetting that he had just put an embargo on Igbo for the rest of the day. “Chief you are having a negative influence on me,” Cupid said, laughing hard. “And chief why are you wearing Isiagu instead of spandex? We are going to the gym and not the New Yam festival. Remember this… always dress for the event.” (Isiagu – a traditional Igbo outfit, idi omimi – you are deep)

“Always dress for the event,” chief repeated like an obedient child that didn’t want to forget the instructions of his father.

“But you look and smell good.” Cupid gave him a pat on the back. “I like the fact that you have begun to use the perfume we bought.”

Chief was thankful for the warm compliment. No one had ever told him he smelled or looked good since he was born and could tell the difference between profit and loss. Well, he had never told anyone that they looked or smelled good either. ‘Idi charp’ is a poor substitute for you look and smell good; just the same way ‘love ya’ is a poor substitute for ‘I love you!”

The experience at the gym was expected to be more fruitful than the previous, but Chief’s appetite needed to be tamed. It wouldn’t profit much if after burning some calories, you put three times the amount you got rid of back in your system. “Chief, I have a list of foods you might need to cut down on temporarily if we are to reach our goal.”

Chief’s face straightened out immediately and the ball of pounded yam that was wrapped in ogbonno soup almost got stuck in his esophagus. “Coopeedi, you have said I should not be drinking beer. What again? Nna mehn, you can give someone trouble.”

“You need to cut down on the carbs,” Cupid bluntly told him. “Pounded yam, fufu, garri, beer, rice-”

“Coopeedi, kill me.” Chief rolled his eyes at Cupid like a woman in labor who was being asked if she wanted to drink pepper soup or eat shawarma.

The art of the deal was always something Cupid could leverage on when trying to make things work out. “Chief, how about we cut it down for only two weeks and few days? After that, you can eat anything you want to eat. But for now, I need your protein levels up.”

Mba! No. Who told you beer, pounded yam or rice does not have protein?” Chief was suddenly a seasoned food nutritionist.

“Chief, if you pay 21 million for three weeks and we don’t meet our goal, how would-”

Nwanne, tell me what you want me to be eating.” The thought of missing out on the prize after paying twenty-one million was not something Chief could live with. There was no telling how much profit he could get from that in just a month.

But Cupid knew that if he could get Chief to focus on the goal ahead, then the joy of victory would be so sweet that he would cause him to keep up with the lifestyle that helped him win back his wife. “I’m not asking you to completely leave out eating carbohydrate, but I want you to reduce your intake. Your wife is young and she would love you to be in shape. Eat more of protein and vegetables for now. And do you like the new millennium haircut?”

Chief didn’t know how best to respond. The feelings were mixed because the haircut made him look like a young boy although he was not. But on the other hand, his wife seemed to like the haircut because she smiled but wouldn’t laud him. “I can manage the hair,” Chief responded.

“Let’s do something right away. I want you to send your wife a text message and tell her something wonderful about her that captivates your heart.”

“Now?”

“Yes!”

“Just like that?”

“We have discussed this before. Why are you twitching?”

“Ok. I cannot spell very well, biko will you help me? (trans: biko -please)

“Sure, Chief,” Cupid replied and reached out to collect his phone. “So, what do you want to say to her?”

“Mummy, alikirim gi very much. Idi biuriful and I don’t want you to go away, please. I like the way you make me feel. When I see you, my heart use to do somehow that I cannot explain. I will buy you anything-” (alikirim gi & idi biuriful – hybrid Igbo – I like you, you are beautiful)

“Are you serious?” Cupid interjected when he heard that line. “You would buy her anything?”

“That is a bad line, okwaya? Before she will ask me to buy her a new car now. Remove that one.” (okwaya – a request for affirmation).

Cupid laughed and kept listening as his client kept talking. Chief, I have typed what I heard your heart say… ‘Baby, you are the queen of my heart. You are beautiful and special. I really do love you more than I have been willing to admit since we got married because I haven’t known how best to express myself. My heart sings every time I look at you and I would give the world to you if I could.’ Cupid knew that chief would decline to read it because he had a poor command of the English language. But he asked politely, “Do you want to read it?”

“No. You can send it.”

Cupid requested for Anurika’s number and then he hit the send button and passed the phone back to Chief. It was less than a minute and a half after the text had been sent, chief’s phone rang. “Hello,” the sweet voice on the other end called out.

“It’s mummy,” Chief whispered to Cupid, his eyes wide open and his nose was slightly expanded due to the shock.

“Who is this? Did you steal this phone?” Anurika demanded to know.

“Mummy, it’s me,” Chief said quietly not knowing what to expect next.

Anurika mistakenly disconnected the call in shock. Chief kept waiting for her to call back but she didn’t. “Coopeedi, what did you write in the message?” Chief demanded to know.

“Chief, read it. It’s only a click away.”

“You know I cannot read very well,” Chief replied, looking somber. Now, education never looked more attractive. It was more than being able to read and write, it was an undeveloped mind that had become a limitation.

“I’ll read it out, Chief.” Cupid read the text slowly so that each word would resound in Chief’s ears. “Did I capture your heart?”

“Thank you!” There was nothing else to say other than that. Sadness wrapped itself around Chief like a turban tightly fitted to one’s head.

“Why are you sad?” Cupid inquired.

“I thought Mummy would be happy to read it.”

“Stop calling her mummy. She is a young girl of 23,” Cupid reminded Chief and after a weary sigh went on to say “we can’t judge if she is happy or not just because she dropped the call. Mr. Romanus, it’s too late to give up now. You have already invested 7 million alrea-”

Mba! Nwanne, that money cannot waste. Butu what will I do now?” Chief had paid 7 million already and kept hoping that somehow Cupid would bring down the rates after a week.

“Let’s just keep on with the script. Each scene has its purpose, but the goal is to create a wonderful play that the actors and viewers would enjoy. Do you trust me enough to direct this play in such a way that every kobo and energy you have spent would not be lost?”

Chief replied with a broad smile that exposed his denture. Cupid pulled out a notepad and drafted a few things about the day and what needed to be improved and worked on. It was just a few minutes past 12 pm and there was still time to do so much.

“Let’s get to the next thing on my list… observance. Don’t let the word scare you. Think of it this way – Can I notice a lady’s mood without her saying a word. Cupid motioned for the waitress who was staring at him from a distance. “Hey ma’am, how are you today?”

“I can’t complain, sir,” she replied, trying a wear a weak smile.

“I’d like to have some coconut rice with shrimps and chicken. But first, can I have a glass of mixed fruit smoothie?”

“Ok sir, is there anything else I could help you with?”

“No, that would be all for now. Have you had lunch today?”

“No, sir,” the petite waitress replied. “Her eyes looked sunken like she had been weeping. It was obvious she was smiling because she only needed to for the sake of the job.

Cupid said no more words but watched as she walked away. “Did you observe anything about that lady?”

Nna, the girl is short.”

“how about something that isn’t already obvious?”

The Roman man looked up as if ceiling held the answer to that question. It was clear he wasn’t paying any attention to the lady. That was the same way he had been treating his wife… never paying attention to things that weren’t already obvious.

“That lady is unhappy. I could see it in her eyes.”

The petit waitress walked back with the smoothie in a fancy glass cup and had it placed right before Cupid. “Why is he looking at me that way sir?” she whispered to Cupid who was already laughing at the zeal with which Chief was looking into her eyes.

“You are unhappy and I could see it in your eyes. Do you want to talk to me? I could help you,” Cupid offered his assistance.

“You are a customer sir,” she whispered again not wanting anyone else to know that their discussion was becoming personal. Cupid placed an envelope in her hand, “that’s a tip,” he also whispered. “Thank you for your service.”

“Thank you, sir,” she replied and quickly walked away.

“What did you see in her eyes?”

“I didn’t see anything,” Chief replied honestly.

“Sometimes, she wouldn’t want to tell you what’s on her heart. Don’t try to force words out of her, but push with your heart. Make her believe that you really care about how she feels. A lady’s emotional cycle can be compared to a pendulum; most times, it swings south. But you have to be the force that helps keep those emotions balanced.”

Chief squinted his eyes and shook his head slowly. You know that kind of head shaking you do when you were thinking of fried rice and suddenly pastor is standing in front of you and you begin to nod as if you just received a revelation.

The next on my list is Courtesy; “Learn to say thank you. Appreciate the slightest things she might do for you. Help her when she expects it and when she doesn’t. Open the door for her. Admit when you are wrong and don’t try to prove you are right even when the earth under your feet knows that you are. Just be a gentleman,” Cupid said. A gentleman was something Chief had never been all of his life. You can’t be a gentleman and survive in Alaba international market or Idumota. The violent has to collect sales by force. That’s was the only reason chief still liked Afam and Kizito; they could sell ice block to an Eskimo and make madt profit.

“Thank you so much, sir,” the waitress said, offloading the contents of her tray and interrupting Cupid’s coaching session. “No one has ever been that kind to me.” Tears had welled up in her eyes and her words were becoming slurred. In a few seconds more, it was a free flow of liquid from her eyes. Cupid stood up and held her in an embrace and she didn’t resist but held tightly to the stranger who was so kind to write her a cheque of a hundred thousand as a tip.

“Can I buy you lunch?” Cupid asked the waitress, using his thumb to wipe the tears off her face.

“Yes sir,” she replied, laughing; and this time it was from the depths of her heart. Like a brightly burning halogen bulb, her eyes were lit up and her gap tooth was now visible. It finally hit Chief what Cupid was trying to teach him earlier. He could tell the difference on her face even though he kept looking into her eyes and could only see an iris and a retina.

“Coach, what did you give to her?” Chief asked in his thick accent.

“I gave her love.”

Nna, teach me how to be giving love like that,” Chief requested, looking intently at the waitress who was almost leaping as she walked away.

“Money isn’t everything, Chief. I gave her a cheque but what I wanted her to see was something more than the money I gave her. I wanted her to see love. Money won’t satisfy your wife if that’s all you give. Give love and value.”

“Coopeedi! Coopeedi! Nna, where did you learn all these things from?”

“Don’t worry about that for today, let’s focus on you assimilating what I’m teaching you.”

Cupid took a break to finish up his meal. A little girl of about 2 years sitting on the table opposite them kept looking at him and suddenly blurted out “Coopeedi,” and then proceeded to smile.

“Hello sweetheart,” Cupid replied and waved at her. “Chief can you see how you have destroyed my name?”

Chief was not concentrating at all. He was focused on looking into everybody’s eyes as they either ate or walked by.

“Chief!” Cupid raised his voice to get the Roman man’s attention. “You don’t want anyone to think you are psychotic. Stop looking at people like that.”

Ogini bu psychotic?” (trans – what is psychotic)

“Yaba left. Straight jacket things. Deranged. Get it?”

A few minutes later, they both entered Cupid’s Maserati and drove back to the gym. Chief was excited to get on the treadmill. Cupid had made him desire change more than ever. The anticipation of what the night might hold for him and his wife kept him pushing hard for 7 minutes before he began to squeal again. “Coopeedi, this thing is not easy o.”

“You should have taken it easy on the pounded yam and nkwobi when you could,” Cupid murmured. “You would need some kind of workout music to motivate you. What songs do you like? I could stream on YouTube and you could plug your ears with good music.”

“Anything from Morocco,” Chief replied.

“Who is Morocco?” a surprised Cupid replied. “You want Moroccan songs?”

“You don’t know Chief Emeka Morocco Maduka? All these young men that don’t know good music.”

Cupid searched YouTube and surprisingly there were songs from Morocco. After playing the first song for about a minute plus, “Chief, what kind of music is this? For working out?” Cupid questioned.

Nwanne, you don’t know good music. Dee Morocco and Oliver de Coque use to play original African music.”

“Whatever that means,” Cupid replied. “Do you have something funkier you like?”

“Play Billy Jims by Michael Jackson.” Yes, Chief wanted to listen to Billy Jims and not Billie Jean. An interesting man indeed.

*****3 hours Later*****

Cupid was back at the office and Chief was sore and on his way home. It had been an eventful day. Lots of things to think about both for Cupid and Chief. Cupid had ordered a platinum Swatch watch for Chabria on Amazon, and he also bought Lunch for Onyinye and Sam on his way back to the office. There was nothing more fulfilling than helping others but now more than ever, he wished someone could care enough to fix him. It was at times like this he missed his mother and wondered how much of a succor she could have been to him. And maybe if he had a sister or brother, there would have been someone to tell him ‘buck up, boy, everything is gonna be alright.’

The past was in the rear view but the future was worth fighting for. “Maybe I’d just throw caution to the wind and break the work ethics I so much cherish,” he muttered, deep in thought and oblivious that Onyinye was standing at the door. “I want to fall in love too.”

“Are you alright, sir?”

That snapped Cupid and he quickly replied “I’m doing fine. Was just thinking out loud.” Onyinye hadn’t heard much of what he said but was concerned by his facial expression.

“Boss, you look a little tired. Give me a smile, would you?”

“Yes. I’d leave early today. Maybe in some hours hour or more when the beast – the Lagos traffic – would be asleep.” And then he went ahead to give Onyinye the smile she had requested for.

“Did you have lunch?” she asked.

“I would when I get home. I have some stir fry in the fridge and left over rice too.”

“Ok sir,” she replied and thanked him for all he does to make the world a better place. “Have a wonderful rest of your day.”

Cupid pulled out a wad of clean bills and took out a large chunk, “buy petrol,” he said and placed it in her hands.

“I love you,” she whispered loud enough only for her ears to hear.

Chief parked the car quietly and was not sure whether to come out or to stay in till it was very late into the night and then sneak into the house. For most of the day, he had forgotten that his wife had dropped the call while they were about to start conversing. But now, the reality of having to see her face-to-face and possibly explaining what motivated the text was too much for Chief’s tender loving heart. A heart attack might be imminent. So chief stayed in the car and just kept reminiscing about the time he had spent with Cupid and everything that he had learned. Cupid was a cool guy after all. The only challenge was how he behaved like he was a mixed breed of European and American blood. Chief wasn’t feeling the Igbo man in him yet. Where was the mazi or ichie spirit that his father should have passed down? But after a few days of coaching, Chief quickly realized that he was the one paying one million per day and not Cupid, and as such, he needed to learn from the master and not try to teach him the Igbo way of life.

So, to burn daylight, Chief called all of his friends at Alaba market; buddies that he had not seen in a few days and talked for as long as he could. He wouldn’t disclose to any of them why he had not shown up to his place of business all week even though they all found the behavior erratic for the Roman man. Chief remained in the car till it was a few minutes past 9 pm. It was certain that his wife would be in her room watching some telenovela as presented by Telemundo. Chief usually considered those men in the soap operas to be weak men. No Dimkpa from the Igbo land would be applying gel to his hair, carrying flowers up and down and also allow a woman to control him.

Chief tiptoed to the back door as gently as he could to avoid any noise that would alert his spouse. Looking through the keyhole, he couldn’t make out much, so he quietly pushed the door open and then jammed it slowly behind him, “Coopeedi,” Chief shrieked in fear as he turned on the light. “Mummy, what are you doing here?” he questioned. His wife had been sitting on the bed in the dark, waiting for him to come in.

“Chief, you have been in the car for the past two hours. You have been acting strange for a few days now. What is the matter?”

“Coopeedi,” Chief involuntarily muttered again.

“And what is Coopeedi?”

Chief was speechless. “Mummy!”

“What was the text you sent to me all about? The dinner you served me last night? The new haircut? And Chief you are wearing spandex!”

Chief stammered and tried to comport himself but he couldn’t. So, he just stood there, helpless, battin’ his eyes like a toad in a hailstorm.

“I don’t know what is happening to you. But whatever it is, I think I like it…”

If you enjoyed reading, please leave a comment and kindly hit the share buttons below and share with your friends, family and everyone you know. Thank you!

Photo by Shelby Deeter on Unsplash

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BLACK, BOLD & BEAUTIFUL…

Young African woman,
You are strong,
You are beautiful,
And you are smart.

Young  African woman,
Don’t let the walls of any college scare you.
The fierce monsters you see are all in your mind,
They are not real.

Young African woman,
Don’t let your mistakes haunt you.
Don’t let the ghost of your past be your shadow.
Don’t feed them in the darkness of the night while your head lies on the pillow.
Don’t let them see you cry.
Always remember this… You are strong!

Young African woman,
You can fly high,
You can dream big,
You can work hard.

Young African woman,
The world is yours.
You can reach for the stars,
You can be all that you want to be.

Young African woman,
You are black,
You are bold,
And you are beautiful.

Written by Richard OTI.

Facebook – Richard OTI

email – richard4evah@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Audrey Jackson on Unsplash


CUPID AND SAM INC. Part 2

Chief was non-malleable this day. Just like he had been most of his life.  Eyes squinted, and his face ruffled. Even the new millennium haircut did not look so nice on him any longer. A frown makes one ugly. Very true. How does Chief get himself to say those words, or refer to his wife as – babe?  It was like trying to get a good church boy to cuss on a Sunday morning. That’s a herculean task. Chief was not one of these young kids who believe that Valentine’s day should be a public holiday. Different strokes for different folks.

Cupid was not pleased with the hesitation from his client. “Mr. Remigus, this is just the first task,” Cupid informed him. It was evident that if he would not man-up on step one, there might never be a second or third. How do you walk, if first, you don’t crawl? “Will you at least try?” Cupid asked.

Chief bent his head, and then he turned his face sideways. “Coach, it’s not easy, butu I will try.”

Welcome to the fight to save a marriage, Cupid almost whispered. Many clients don’t understand that most marriages do not hit the rocks in one day. Harsh words. Broken promises. Lies; white, black and navy blue, told several times until trust was lost.

“You can have this,” Cupid said, handing his complementary card to Mr. Remigus who was now a little more mellow. “It’s my number. Call me tonight when you have done what I have asked you to do.”

Chief stared at the little four-cornered piece of beauty with admiration. His eyes picking each number apart. “What kind of number is this?”

It was 0800-Call-Cupid. “It’s special, just the way I want you to treat your wife like she is – special.”

The grimace and frown returned to Chief’s face. Fewer wrinkles this time because he had accepted to put in some work. “OK Coopeedi,” he replied in his thick accent. “Anyi ga ahu na echi. We would see tomorrow.”

“Have a beautiful evening, Chief,” Cupid replied, tapping Chief twice on the shoulder before getting into his car. It was 5:42 pm, a good day to be alive, but not a very good time to be on Lagos highways. “Oh no,” Cupid murmured. He had promised Onyinye lunch, and somehow, it had skipped his memory. Integrity was paramount, and Cupid had more of it than a lot of companies put together. “Hey! Still In the office?”

“Just left. You didn’t show up again, sir,” Onyinye replied, sounding like a baby that had just been deprived of a favorite toy.

“That’s why I’m calling. Where are you at?”

“Close to the Jeffersons. A few minutes away from the office. Not too far to drive back if you want me to,” she replied, sounding less whiny.

“Ok, I promised you lunch, but guess we could have dinner if you aren’t in a hurry.”

Onyinye’s spirit almost leaped out of her body in joy. She didn’t know how to respond without sounding like a serial US visa applicant that had just been granted a visiting visa.

“Are you there?” Cupid asked.

“Yes, sir,” She responded, practicing breath control techniques that had been learned in the choir, to keep her voice sounding as normal as possible. “I’d just drive back to the office.” Onyinye reversed and in a few minutes, she was sitting in the parking lot of Cupid and Sam Inc. in a 2016 Toyota Corolla, her official car. Yes, her official car. Staff welfare was prime at Cupid and Sam Inc., and that was one of the reasons it was listed among the top five best organizations to work for in Nigeria. Pulling out a purse from her bag; the usual items began to fly out. The earlier makeup wouldn’t suffice. She improved on her looks, constantly evaluating her facial features and outstanding gap-tooth smile in the mirror while waiting for Cupid to arrive.

Cupid needed the break; a break from the Roman man and his shenanigans. A break from saving the world that didn’t want to be saved. Most especially, it was an opportunity to get away from the beast. The monster known as – The Lagos highway. Onyinye was a good girl, an excellent secretary that did her work with so much enthusiasm that Cupid couldn’t wish to ever have her replaced. They had lunch together before. But there were several others with them. There was Sam and Sharon his secretary, and Justice Opuruiche, a client whose marriage had just been saved by Mr. Fix-it, Cupid. It was more like lunch to appreciate how much had been done for him. It was brief and very formal. Both secretaries acted like they were still at their desk. Only speaking when their bosses poked them for a response. Professionalism had no substitute. In a short time after the host had left, they were all up and familiar with each other.

CHIEF had missed two days at Alaba Market. Not something he liked, especially because he had little trust for the boys who managed the business when he couldn’t do so. He perceived they were smarter than he was, but he would never let them get to that conclusion on their own. He believed that both lads were possessed. He had never seen two boys, 17 and 18 years of age, who loved money as much as Afam and Kizito. There had to be an evil spirit involved. The trip home was long and boring. Chief spent most of his time thinking than observing. He completely missed all the fights, cussing, and drivers who sped and swerved like they had a pact with death. Most Lagosians were not qualified to have a driver’s license, including Chief Romanus. “Ebe a anyi no, here we are,” Chief said, talking to himself just like he had done for the last 30 minutes of his journey. It wasn’t madness in its infancy, but the turmoil of soul. A red cap chief, soon to be anointed Obi Dimkpa of his autonomous community – about to call his wife – babe, and tell her he loves her, just like that? His father was a warrior and not a weakling. Chief was confident that his father wouldn’t be proud of him at that moment.

Mrs. Romanus was in the kitchen when her husband walked in. For security reasons, she peeped to see who had stepped in when she heard the jostling, and the sound of the door opening afterward. It was the ‘devil,’ so she just continued pounding the yam. Their differences didn’t mean that chief wouldn’t eat that night. It wasn’t that bad yet. At least, she was kind enough not to resort to using food as a weapon to fight Chief. And that was why his stomach was still glorious.

Chief sat down for a few minutes to soak in the calmness of his house. It’s always home-sweet-home. “Nne,” Chief said as he walked into the kitchen. “I bought you bread,” he added, and then it dawned on him that he lacked wisdom.  Trying to correct the foolishness, “the bread is for us,” he added. That was an epic fail. How do you buy bread for your wife? Hadn’t he heard that women like shiny things? Especially when they are made out of gold and precious stones.

“You are welcome, chief,” Mrs. Romanus replied. It was a lukewarm response and demoralizing to the morale chief had worked up shortly before he had walked in.

“Babe,” he said, a little above a whisper, but loud enough for Anurika, his wife, to hear. She heard but did not respond. Maybe he was thinking out loud or having some kind of hallucination she imagined. It didn’t ring a bell that he could be referring to her. It’s like when your father who has called you Emeka all your life, suddenly returns home one day and calls you Mesco. It doesn’t click in the brain. So Chief humbled himself and walked away, straight into his room. They had separate rooms. The room separation happened after the first week of being married. Chief wanted his privacy to count his money. “Nna men, you cannot be counting money when your wife is dia. The next day she would tell you she wants to buy one shoe for 45 thousand,” Chief said to his friend, shortly before he made the decision to assign his wife to her own room.

Before now, they also ate from the same plate. That lasted only two weeks. Mr. Remigus didn’t like how his wife had zero respect for tradition. How dare a woman touch the meat in the soup when the man of the house had not taken a choice piece or two, as his appetite may permit? The younger generation and their lack of proper home training, Remegius thought to himself, the first time he ate fufu and Ogbono soup with his wife. The few times he ate with his wife… the dinner was brief and precise. There were no candle lights and roses, nor all the drama romantics try to create before eating a meal. How does a candle affect the pounded yam? Nonsense! The man was a straight shooter.

Meanwhile, Cupid and Onyinye were at Protea Hotel having the much-anticipated dinner. The feeling was not exactly mutual. Cupid was being a nice guy, but he was also trying to buy some time off traffic. For Onyi, it was almost like a dream honeymoon, the night after an elaborate state wedding.

“Thank you so much, sir,” Onyinye said to Cupid. Her smile was alive because it was from her heart’s depth.

Cupid laughed. “Why are you thanking me this much?” he requested to know. It seemed like Onyinye had thanked him a thousand times already.

“How many bosses would have dinner with their secretary at such a lovely place?”

Actually, many bosses would. But after that, like piranha’s with razor-sharp teeth, they would forge ahead to devour. “You are like a little sister I wish I had,” Cupid said and gently touched Onyinye’s chin with his fingers.

Little sister? Onyinye felt like slapping sense into him.  Her smile quickly eroded much to the notice of Cupid. “Are you alright?” Cupid was a very sensitive man. He could pick out details that no one else would. “You feel sad that I don’t have a sister, right?”

Give yourself brain. That was the only thought that came to Onyinye’s mind.

Now, it was unbelievable how naïve Cupid was. It actually stunned his secretary that a guy with so much experience in the love business could be as naïve. But his innocence made her like him even the more. In many years of working with him, girls never trooped in and out of his office, neither at home. No parties or clubbing on Friday. God, work, Chelsea FC and more work. That pretty much summed up his entire life. But every now and then, he would have fun at a golf course, art exhibition or at a jazz festival somewhere around the world. It was on one of those days he was embarking on a trip around the world he met Onyinye, a young girl of 23, fresh out of college with eyes set on the future. Beautiful and slim. Light skinned with bleached hair that made her look blonde. She was waiting for a flight to Enugu, while Cupid was en route London for the Wimbledon Championship, the most prestigious grand slam. He was 27 then, weighed 250 pounds and kept a mustache. Now, he was 32, the beard was gone, and he weighed 200 pounds. The face was pretty much the same – handsome.

“Hello,” he greeted and sat down beside her. Onyinye seemed to be celebrating the #makeupfreeday. Her face was a little pale and looked a little like that of a mourning widow. Cupid was concerned. As usual, Mr. fix it had to save the young lady. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I am, why do you ask?”

Cupid didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable if he told her how somber she looked. “You look so natural. Don’t get me wrong, you look beautiful too.”

“Oh! Thank you. I’m just celebrating the makeup free day trending on Twitter at the moment.”

“I never knew there was a celebration like that.” Cupid didn’t know much of what happens on the social media platforms. You don’t save the world spending all of your time on Twitter and Snapchat. The only platforms that housed his profile were LinkedIn and Facebook. The conversation with Onyinye was so fun that a complimentary card had to be pulled out from the back pocket of Cupid’s denim jean. Onyinye had just completed her youth service and was going home to visit her family. “Call me if you need anything,” Cupid said to her once his flight had been announced. By the next week, she needed something. A comfortable small office with an ocean view was offered her, as secretary to the Big Dawg. The view of the Lagos bar beach was not really an exciting one though.

“It’s an honor to be considered your sister,” Onyinye said, smiling broadly. Haven spent a few years In the Love business, she had learned a thing or two. Love is like a seed; if it’s planted in the right soil, and watered properly, with the help of a little sun light, it would bud and eventually become a tree. “What would you like to eat?”

Cupid smiled the way someone who isn’t hungry would. “I’m your host. Let’s talk ’bout what you would like to eat.”

Onyinye returned the favor with a mischievous smile. “A few minutes ago when I stepped out of the car, this was Protea Hotel and not Hotel de la Cupid.” Another smile followed. This time it was warm and cute. “We are both visitors, I would only eat if you would have something to eat too.”

For a moment, it seemed that Cupid was lost in thought. It was more like a battle going on in his mind. Office romance was not a good idea. Ask anyone who has been a successful CEO, they would give you that tip, off their fingers. There are a few things that do not work when it comes to running a successful firm. Firstly, don’t employ your family members. And if you must, then place them in positions that leave them out of the day-to-day decision-making process. Of course, give them big titles. People love big titles… Senior Managing Officer in charge of hygiene, Executive Operations Manager in charge of the parking lot or maybe Chief Maintenance Superintendent overseeing the office electronics. Give them a real office and a handsome pay cheque at the end of the month too. Don’t get giddy with emotions and turn your business into a family affair. Not good.  Secondly, don’t fall in love with your staff. Once you discover you have started falling in, find a way to fall out. If it’s a female secretary, send her to another department and bring someone else. Preferably someone older who is a little beautifully-challenged. Cupid knew all these things. In fact, he could write a bestseller on ‘what it takes to be a successful CEO in the 21st century.’ And he was probably going to do so; riding on the fame, he had received recently having been featured in Forbes magazine as one of the richest African entrepreneurs under 40 and  Time magazine named him one of the leading young African Leaders to watch out for. “OK. I’ll do fresh fish pepper soup with a bottle of wine,” Cupid informed Onyinye who seemed pleased that she had hamstrung him into eating.

Looking at the menu with intent, Onyinye scanned from page to page. How hard is it to decide what you want to eat? It seems that women have a universal challenge – it takes them time to make a decision. A shoe rack with just 6 shoes, and it would take 15 minutes to decide which to wear. Let’s not talk about dressing up for an event like a dinner or gala night. Forever is the right word. Even the great Cupid had not really figured out this part of the woman-makeup yet. Just when it seemed like Onyinye had found the dish-of-life that she had been looking for, she flipped to the next page. Cupid took a deep breath to express his frustration. “Are you alright?” she asked him.

“Sure, dear,” Cupid lied. It was easy to be a love-instructor, but not as easy practicing what he preached. He recalled how he would tell participants to be calm with their wives no matter how much time they needed. “Give your wife all the time she needs, and she would give you all the time you need too,” he would advice. A smile broke out on his face as he listened to his own voice in his head and he realized it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. If it was taking Onyine this long to select a dish, how long would it take her to make up?

“Why did you laugh?”

“I just remembered something I usually share with participants.”

“Want to share with me?”

“No. Except you want to become a client.”

“Would you handle my case if I were to apply to be a client?”

“No,” Cupid bluntly said and avoided eye contact for a minute. Well, it was about two minutes.

Onyinye maintained her gaze. “Why?” she quickly asked as soon as Cupid thought it was safe to look at her now.

“You can’t pay a million a day. I’m your boss, you know. I know what you earn per month.”

“I could for a few days, and then I would be broke. But it would be worth it just to have the great Cupid help me fall in love.”

“Who is this amazing guy that you are willing to break the bank for?”

“Do you really want to know who he is?”

Curiosity kills the cat. “No. But I’d like to meet him someday,” Cupid informed her.

That was not the desired answer Onyinye wanted. “Someday?”

“Yes. For now, you need to decide what you would like to eat.”

“I can do fish pepper soup too with white rice.” After taking forever, she ends up wanting the same thing. Cupid just shook his head silently.

THE waiter taking the order was overly dressed. A red band across his waist. It was so tight Cupid was scared he might suffocate while bending to ask questions. Then a big red bow tie hung around his neck, it was the same color as the pocket square that filled up his entire pocket. And to make things worse, he wore a cheesy smile, exposing his dentures which was not amazing. Cupid concluded that he was in need of braces. “Would you want some appetizers before the food is done?”

“Spring rolls and samosa,” Cupid said, and then he laughed. “I wish Sam were here, it would have been a good time to make fun of him.”

“Boss number two,” Onyinye added and then they both laughed. “Your phone is ringing,” she said to Cupid who was so focused on the waiter, he didn’t notice his phone was vibrating. Maybe it was also because there was some annoying afrobeat song playing in the background that seemed to drown the sound of the ringtone.

“Hello,” Cupid said into the phone receiver.

“Nwanne, Coopeedi,” was the response. It was the Roman man, the Chief himself. No one else would refer to Cupid that way.

“Mr. Remigus?”

“Yes, you recognize my voice,” Chief replied happily.

The accent was unmistakable. It was thick. “Yes, you are my client. Before we are finally done, I would be able to recognize you even in the dark.”

“Thank you, coach. You see ehn, ehn, I don’t know how to start. Can I speak in Igbo.”

“No chief. Speak in English please.”

“Coopeedi, Nwanne m nwoke, I bu onye Amerika? Ok, I will try.” (trans – my brother, are you from Amerika?)

“That’s better. It’s part of my professional ethical standard.”

“You will kill someone with ya English o.” This was Cupid being moderate with his grammar, but Chief was drowning already. Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon would meet his match in Cupid when the young CEO wanted to be mischievous.

“Let’s talk about your task, chief.” Cupid waited for a response and got none. “Did you tell your wife you love her?”

“That is why I am calling you,” Remigus replied.

“Give me a minute, chief,” Cupid said, and then he covered the receiver of his phone with his hand. “Hey Onyi, can I take some time off? I’ve got a client on the phone.” Clients privacy was one of the reasons Cupid and Sam Inc. had outlasted many organizations. Even your wife would not know you had ever been their client except you spill the beans yourself. Cupid learned the importance of privacy back in the University when he had a broke client who had a crush on some cute girl who was not his mate on any level. Asa nwa the Igbos would call a beauty like her. The other guys who had interest too would have ridiculed this dude for the rest of his stay in the University if they ever discovered that he even had a fading thought of being with her. The privacy policy saved him. That was the first failed project Cupid handled. If you give yourself brain, you would know when a girl should only be on your wish list. Positivity doesn’t work in some cases, especially when you look in the mirror and you know that the reflection you see is not that of David Beckham. Keep her as the girl of your dreams; let it remain only in your dreams.

Onyinye frowned like a spoiled kid who didn’t want her father to leave for work in the morning. “OK,” she said reluctantly.

Cupid walked away, trying to find a more quiet spot where he could talk with Chief. A VIP lounge was around the corner a few meters away from the restroom. “I need to receive a private call. Can I do that here?” Cupid asked the receptionist at the door.

“Oga, sure,” was the quick reply. Cupid was a regular, and an excellent tipper too. A few thousand bucks was going to line the guy’s pocket before the Big Dawg would leave the Hotel.

“Thank you!” Cupid smiled in appreciation. “I’m sorry Chief, had to find somewhere private.”

“It’s ok, Nwanne,” Chief replied. Nwanne was gradually replacing coach or Cupid as a favorite name. Cupid couldn’t fight it off forever. So, he had already begun to ignore how the name made him feel like he was in an Igbo traditional meeting with red cap chiefs and Ichies making noise as Oliver De Coque’s music played in the background.

“So, did you tell your wife you love her?”

“As I entered the house, I gave her the bread I bought for her-“

“Haba chief,” Cupid interrupted. “Who asked you to buy bread? Was that part of the deal?”

“No. I wanted to surplise her.”

“With bread?”

“It’s Agege bread, the kind that she likes.”

Cupid thought about it for a second. That was a stupid thing to do but also very thoughtful. He didn’t just buy bread, he bought the kind that she would enjoy eating. The night could still be remedied. “So what happened after that?”

“She just told me I was welcome and didn’t say anything else.”

“Did you tell her the bread was Agege?”

“No.”

Cupid had an idea. Always look for the light in the tunnel instead of fighting the darkness. “What does she like to eat the Agege bread with?”

“Hot akara or this Yoruba beans, what do they call it?”

Ewa agoyin?”

“Ehen!” Chief echoed in confirmation.

“Can you find somewhere to buy any of those for her tonight?”

“Coopeedi. Coopeedi.” The frustration was evident. Chief didn’t want to try anything else that would make him look more stupid.

“Drive around. Buy your wife something to go with the bread. Make a cup of tea for her if she likes drinking that too. Then serve it to her.”

The phone went dead. Cupid dialed back immediately. Chief picked up and vehemently swore that this was the height of degradation anyone had tried to put him through. “If she leaves me, I’ll just marry another girl. There are many everywhere. The other day Amaka that sells in Alaba was even telling me how lucky my wife is. Biko, hapu m aka.” (trans – please, leave me alone.)

“Chief, you have paid two million. Do you want to waste it, just like that?”

That was a sobering thought for a man who could use two million to order knockoffs of SAMSUNG home theaters and make twice the investment as profit. “Ok, I’m sorry.”

“Now, you don’t do anything expecting an overnight miracle. Just do it from your heart.”

“Ok, I will try,” Chief replied, sounding downcast.

The Roman man needed a little motivation. “Chief, by this time tomorrow, we would be eating fufu with ofe nsala if you do your task well. And we can have nkwobi too, but no beer.”

“Coopeedi nwanne,” chief almost screamed over the phone. “Ibu nwa afo nwanne nwoke.” The man had not even thought about the fact that the new outfits he had bought weren’t fitting. Chidi afo nri would have been a good nickname, but Cupid was too much of a gentleman to call him that. (trans – You are a son of the soil my brother.)

Mrs. Romanus had finished cooking and served her husband’s food. She did not inform him. If he were starving, he would come out to find out if the food is done, she convinced herself. Shutting herself in the room, she was now in her safe space. The devil, her husband, could have the rest of the house to himself. It’s funny because 12 months ago, she was smiling, dancing shoki while the chief and his friends sprayed her with clean bills. That’s the sad thing about failing marriages and relationships. Two people who had been inseparable and always dressed uniformly as if they were twins now can’t stand each other. What happened to the days when both lovers kept smiling and giggling at each other even when it was unnecessary?

Mr. Romanus walked out and got into his car and searched all over the neighborhood, looking for ewa agoyin or hot akara. The things men can do for love. It took some time, but chief found both items he had been searching for and seemed to have some sense of fulfillment that it had not been a futile journey. On returning home, Chief scattered the kitchen looking for silverware and an excellent porcelain plate to serve his wife. Cupid had informed him that the secret to enjoying food wasn’t just about the size but in the color and presentation. Those principles don’t apply to average Nigerians who are hungry. Food for the belly, and the belly for food.  “Nna, I hope I’m not wasting my time,” Chief said as he cut the bread into thin slices and lined them in a saucer just beside the bean balls and steaming ewa agoyin. A bottle of cold mountain dew was also in the tray. The Mountain Dew was chief’s idea. The Roman man was already taking the initiative.

The knock on the door was weak. It was like a foam thudding against a wall of steel. It was evident, the Roman man was scared. “Mummy,” he called out.

“Onye?” was the harsh response. It sounded more like if the caller did not back off, a violent attack would follow. (trans – who is it?)

“Mummy, o mu,” Chief replied like a squealing pig being chased. (trans – o mu – it’s me)

“What do you want?”

“I have something to give you.” For a moment, the entire idea looked much more ridiculous to Chief than he had even imagined when he was out searching for where to buy what he needed.

It was quiet for what seemed like an eternity but was only a minute and a half. “I’m coming,” the voice on the other side of Paradise said. It looked like she walked the slowest she had ever walked to the door in her entire stay in the house. The door was pulled open with such force that Chief was scared and had to move back a little before a slap would follow.

“Mummy, I prepared dinner for you,” Chief said, his eyes trying to hide the fear of the unknown. Would she fling the tray away, or insult him for trying. Not that she had ever abused him verbally. But she knew how to throw shades at him. Subtle jabs that could hurt down to the bones. “Can I come in?”
Mrs. Romanus was weak. It seemed like her entire system was paralyzed. “What is happening?” Anurika, or Mrs. Romanus as she was fondly called asked in a clipped accent.

“I love you,” Chief said and immediately almost wanted to repent for cussing. Embarrassed by what he had just said, Chief quickly walked in and dropped the food on the bed. For a moment, Chief looked at the bed, the giant size bed that had accommodated him back in them days before things went south. The room had a large plasma TV hanging on the wall. The last time chief visited, it wasn’t rugged. Now, it was wall to wall. For a moment, Chief thought he was in a hotel room. Mr. Romanus aka Okosisi wasn’t as extravagant. He had three money-counting machines in his room, a cassette tape player, and a humble bed on which he could rest his head for just enough hours to regain his strength again for another day of hustling. Anurika was still at the door, looking at her husband who had dropped the food and now was walking back towards her.

“Ka chi fo!” Chief said and left the room His wife was still standing at the door. It seemed she had regained her body functions except for her speaking faculty. She closed the door and couldn’t say a word. (trans – Good night!)

Chief’s heart was beating like a drum. Now in the room, Chief locked the door. He was nervous like a teenager who had written a love letter and gave it to his friend to give the girl of his dreams. “Coopeedi,” he said out loud, and then he picked his phone to call.

The dinner with Onyi had been good. It was not a date, so Cupid wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. He hadn’t been on a date in many years. The world had to be saved and who else cared so much? The trip back home was nicer than he had expected. The mad men behind the wheels that drove with intent to kill or maim had somehow all gone home and only sane people were still on the roads. It had been a rewarding day for him. He had conceived a new idea that could make Cupid and Sam Inc. much more valuable than it had been. So much money would pour in if it worked. The money wasn’t the excitement. It was the fact that he could fix more marriages around the world if the idea worked. Cupid shelved the idea in a cabinet in his mind just like several others. Somehow, when the time was right, things would play out like they have for many years.

Standing in his living room with a glass Dom Perignon in his hand, Cupid looked around. A fine wife wouldn’t be a bad idea. And maybe one or two children running around the glass house. No, the latter was not a good Idea. All night crying sessions, teething pains, uncontrolled bowels releasing its content everywhere and all the other things associated with raising little children were terrifying to him. A wife was enough. It wasn’t hard to find one. He hadn’t been searching. Too many unhappy people around the world needed fixing for now.

The phone had beeped a couple of times before Cupid reached for it. “Hello!”

“Coopeedi,” the heavy breathing but excited chief greeted. “Nwanne, I did it!” he exclaimed.

“Did what?”

“I told her that I love her. Nwanne, my heart was beating ehn. She was just looking at me. I’m sure she was surplised.”

Yes, she was really surplised. “That is just the first of many surprises we have for her. By the time we are done, she would have a brand-new husband.”

Chief went into details of how he went around the entire Lagos to find hot akara and ewa agoyin and how he didn’t even know where to find the dishes in the kitchen because he never had a need to look for one before. Anurika’s room was a talking point too. Cupid had to listen to everything the Chief had on his mind, and there was a lot in there. “What are we doing tomorrow?” Chief asked, already anticipating a new day and another exercise.

“We start the day at the gym. I would let you know what else I have for you by the time we meet.”

“OK. But Coopeedi, is there a way you can reduce the amount? I’m like ya brother now. One million a day di kwa too much.”

“Chief, did you call your wife babe?”

“Hello… Hello… Hello… Coopeedi… What is wrong with this network?” Chief said, and then he dropped the call.

The network was alright for over 25 minutes till Chief was asked if he called his wife babe. Cupid just laughed all alone, and for another moment, he wished there was someone in the house to enjoy a good laugh with him.

If you enjoyed reading, kindly leave a comment, and hit the share button too. Invite someone to read and have a nice time. Thank you… Blessings!

Written by Richard OTI

Email – richard4evah@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash


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CUPID AND SAM INC. part 1

 

His lovely slim tie was placed neatly beside his well-starched and ironed white cotton shirt. It wasn’t one of those white shirts that were on the borderline, closer to brown than white. It was pristine, slim fit and expensive too. On the bed, he neatly arranged his black suit and red linen pocket square. His shined shoe was custom made by Stacy Adams, as almost all of the shoes he had, lined up in his 6 tier wooden shoe dresser.

It was the fourth day in his new condo on the island. Life was good, and so was the stock market. Walking into the kitchen, “I can’t believe I have come this far,” he said, amazed at what he had accomplished at age 32. The fridge swung open, and he stood gazing at how much food and drinks it had to offer. Who would have thought that he would ever be this wealthy – no one. “I’d have some fresh milk this morning.” The living room was 90 percent glass. Well, there were no kids, therefore, nothing to worry about. What he loved most was the beautiful view at night. He could lay on the couch and just gaze at the heavens and the beautiful stars, thanks to a special architectural design that replaced the ceiling with transparent glass.

It was shower time. Walking towards the steam shower with jacuzzi bathtub, it made him laugh to think that all he needed to do was walk in there and push a button or several buttons to enjoy a shower of a lifetime. There was a time he had to take a pail and walk outside the house to buy water and then walk back, and probably have a ten-minute rest before he would take his bath. “My mother would be proud of me if she were still alive.” But she wasn’t. She died when he was still very green, a little boy, still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. It was the tragedy that should have broken him. But he owed everything he had accomplished to the power of transforming pain to gain. He hoped one day, his autobiography would be titled ‘The rose that grew from concrete.’ Standing still at the entrance of the bathroom, he looked up to heaven, “mother, I miss you,” he said. “Your little boy, Cupid, is now the man of your dreams.”

Cupid had been named after that little-winged-guy with the bow and arrow who flew around trying to get innocent folks minding-their-business to fall in love. How cruel? Cupid had once been so ashamed of his name that he swore to have it changed as soon as he was old enough to stand before a judge and take an oath. Then he could call himself something normal like – Monday, or Friday. It was evident he had a poor taste for names. But it was difficult not to imagine how different life would have been if his father loved his mother enough to have been there for her when she got pregnant at 18. Yes, she was stupid and a trusting juvenile who wanted to believe that she was loved by a handsome man who had big biceps and flattered her with words and occasionally handed her a box or two of chocolate. But he lacked a big heart and would disappear before even the second trimester when her stomach would start to show signs of carrying a baby. Despite being forsaken with a seed of life already planted in her womb, Cupid’s mother never stopped believing that true love was meant to last forever, even if it was not with her baby’s runaway father.

It was a warm, refreshing bath. Cupid greased his hair and perfumed his body till he smelt like an Ambassador for the Clive Christian brand. While staring at the mirror, Cupid kept thinking that if he resembled his father, then the man must have been a handsome fella. The last time he had heard of his father was before he turned 21, that was in his second year in the University. Kelechi ‘Nwokeoma’ Orji, Cupid’s father, had been as unstable as the ship tossed by the wind. One day he was impersonating Fela Kuti and trying out his musical talent. The next, he was an aspiring professional footballer or stand-up comedian. Then at some point in his life, he was also a wealthy Nigerian prince whose father had oil wells in Olobiri, diamond fields in Sierra-Leone and had left him enormous wealth. Such was the opulence that he couldn’t spend the cash alone, so he needed a white friend who knew how to spend money to share in his fortune. But they always had to pay a little price, the wealth sharing processing fee.Good riddance,” Cupid said out loud while thinking about his father. He wasn’t bitter but was ashamed that his father wasn’t man enough to take responsibility for the baby he created. “Who does that?” he asked himself.

No chauffeur. No maiguard. No house maids or man servants dragging their feet and responding with ‘yes oga’ and ‘no master’ every time they are called upon. No chef who specialized in intercontinental and local dishes wearing a long awkward cap and eating half the food he cooks. It was just an architectural-master-piece of a house filled with state-of-the-art gadgets, all belonging to an independent young man who was on a mission – a mission to help everyone he could, fall in love.

Cupid took the elevator to the ground floor. Not many houses in Lagos had elevators. But this house was like a fine-tuned machine. There was a fleet of cars parked outside, a few meters away from his Olympic-size swimming pool. He was one who enjoyed the BMW and Bentley brand and had not missed acquiring a new model in almost 5 years. “Let’s get going baby,” Cupid said, talking to his car as he turned on the ignition and hit his foot on the accelerator.

The traffic was jammed. It seemed like a billion vehicles ahead and a million behind. “Eko o ni baje,” Cupid whispered several times as he tried to keep calm. It was hard to understand why Lagos still did not have bullet trains, and subways, and road networks that looked like a puzzle when viewed from the sky. But it is what it is – that’s why the country was still classified as third-world. The rickety buses that looked like they were a death trap, falling apart, and emitting fumes that could kill faster than cigarettes, was considered the primary source of moving people around the busy city. Reaching for the auto-tuning button of the car radio, Cupid searched for something to listen to while the traffic moved at the speed of a turtle. “It’s good to be your own boss in this kind of city.” He had no need to clock in or out at work. No one would subpoena him for coming late. Cupid wasn’t one to be considered lazy in any form. There was no staff at the office that could keep up with his work rate, not even his best pal, Sam, the co-founder of the firm they started back in the university.

Cupid had met Sam back in a reading club in the University. Sam was shy and looked like a nerd of the first order. But he had a heart that was larger than life and always wore a gracious smile. There was something magnetic about him that attracted Cupid. It wasn’t any of the virtues he had, but his name.

“Hey, I’m Cupid.”

Sam lifted his head up to stare at the figure standing in front of him. His eyes seemed to take some time to really focus through the thick glasses he wore which looked like binoculars. “I’m Sam, and it’s good to meet you.”

“This is my first day. How long have you been a member of this club?”

Sam smiled. “I started the club in my first year. That would be precisely 2 years and 3 months ago,” he said, somehow feeling impressed with what he had accomplished. He had extraordinary organizational skills that had proved critical to the growth of the club. They had by-laws and identity cards, and now they could boast of a library that housed a reasonable number of books. Sam’s reading club had hosted special key speakers who would motivate the club members on academic excellence. The best students from almost all the departments were solid members of this book club, and that was what had aroused an interest in Cupid to have fellowship with them.

“So, I’m standing in the presence of greatness?” Cupid said, reaching out his hand to shake Sam, who was already having a spell of shyness.

“Good to meet you, sir,” Sam replied.

“It’s good to meet you too, Samuel,” Cupid responded.

“My name isn’t Samuel.”

“Samson?”

“No.”

“Sambo?”

“Not close,” Sam replied, looking at Cupid as if he expected him to keep guessing all evening.

Samanja? Samantha? Samaria? Samaritan? Sample? What in the world could the full name be, Cupid thought.

“It’s Samosa.” A shocking reply it always was whenever he told anyone. Usually, it took a few seconds for the individual’s brain to process the name, and then, “what does your name mean?” would follow suit for those who had no idea what the name meant. Others would laugh at the thought of such a name.

“I was named after a snack. Funny?” Sam asked, expecting Cupid to laugh hard, and mock too.

“There must have been a good reason your parents chose to name you after a snack. Of all things in this world, you were named after something we fry and eat. Well, I was also named after some little fictional myth that carries a bow and arrows-of-love, purposefully trying to get people to fall in love even without their consent. It’s good to meet you, bro.” Cupid went ahead to give another warm handshake to Sam, and that was how the friendship began.

The roads were getting cleared up as most commuters seemed to get to their place of work. So, Cupid was able to step on the accelerator for longer periods and not on-and-off for every few seconds as he had been doing for over 30 minutes. “Eko o ni baje,” he repeated endlessly, still amazed at how a journey of about 30 minutes would take more than an hour.

Arriving at the parking lot, Cupid was greeted by two neatly dressed security guards who would easily pass for staff of the DSS or CID operatives. That was the kind of culture he had created in the work environment. Excellence. Stepping out of the car, he took a moment to admire the beautiful building that he called his second home. “Whoever said crazy dreams couldn’t come true has probably never met me.”

An insignia was boldly displayed on the building – Cupid and Sam Inc. What started as a hobby back in the university, was now listed on the Lagos stock exchange and was worth more than some of the ‘serious-minded’ companies which found the idea – ridiculous – that an organization should have one sole purpose – to promote love, just the way it should be.

The idea for Cupid and Sam Inc. had been conceived by Cupid just a few months after he had met Sam at the book club. The idea was Cupid’s, but he knew that if Sam was able to grow a successful book club on a campus where more people would rather go to a party than read a book, then he could be of help in growing the brand. Cupid explained the concept to Sam, and once the vision was clear, magic was born. Cupid and Sam Inc. kicked off with just a website that offered blind dates to students who wanted to find love. Cupid took the time to go through the files of every applicant, and he would match them perfectly, with the aim that they could fall in love after a first date. And this matchmaking was for a fee too. That lie that love doesn’t cost a thing only works in the movies.

The success stories led to more participants, and that also led to more money and a demand to expand their vision, the vision to ensure that everyone finds true love. Sam’s club seemed to motivate students to read. But Cupid’s idea was where the money was at. Cupid offered Sam an opportunity to be a partner after they had been out of the University and that was how they kept building on a dream that had been birthed by the horrors of being raised by a single mother who had to juggle between being a man and well as a woman. No one should have to endure that – if they found real love… That was the conclusion that Cupid had come to after many years of being considered a misbegotten son.

“Good morning, sir!”

“You look lovely today, sir.”

“MD sir, you are sharp as usual.”

Compliments was a daily lifestyle that Cupid had had to live with working with a fantastic team of young people he had hired to fulfill his mission. “Hey! It’s good to see you all today again,” he responded and walked past the guest reception point, taking the elevator to the top floor where his office and that of Sam were adjacent to each other. Walking into his office, “Hey!” he greeted his secretary who was munching on a homemade burger – some fried eggs, four slices of fresh tomato and a few green leaves cramped between two slices of bread that had been heated in the microwave. It was against the work culture that was demanded, and his secretary, Onyinye, knew that very well, so she almost choked when he walked in.

“Good morning, sir,” she quickly replied, drinking some water. The greeting was laced with fear.

“Hey! Onyi, why is guilt choking you this early beautiful morning?” Cupid asked with a smile that was reassuring enough to let her know that her sin was forgiven even before she would ask for mercy.

“It’s good to have you around, Boss,” Onyi said. “You look stunningly handsome today,” she added.

“So, It’s only today?”

“No, sir,” Onyi replied, laughing at his comment. “You know you look amazing every single day. I mean, who compares to my boss?”

Cupid’s entire face smiled. It wasn’t the compliment, but the fact that he and his staff treated each other with such love and respect as if they were all siblings. But even the most knit families still had to have disciplinary measures to keep everyone in check. This family was no different. ‘Let’s laugh, love and play. But let’s work, respect and honor each other too.’ That was the code of conduct by which everyone had agreed to work by when they were hired. They all signed a document that suggested they would comply with the code of conduct. It was like signing your death warrant with your own pen and by your own hand, some people thought. But Cupid realized that the more staff they hired, the more likely that the culture they had maintained from inception would erode. Every wise CEO would know that too.

“Boss, boss number two checked in on you earlier. Want me to ring him up?”

Cupid laughed. “I have told you severally not to call Sam – boss number two. the day he would overhear you… like Pilate, I would wash my hands and even dry them with a designer napkin right in front of you.” Cupid walked into the office and dropped his briefcase. “Call Sam and let him know I’m around,” Cupid screamed from inside his office, and then he realized he could have just made use of the intercom without straining his voice. “Also, finish up your breakfast in the kitchen,” Cupid added, and then he walked over to the water dispenser to get a drink. “To thirst is human, but to quench it has to be divine. Thank God for water. And air, and food and everything too,” he said and then sat down, ready for another busy day of matchmaking, counseling, and coaching. Only level-one cases were assigned to Cupid. This had to be a serious case, one that none of the interns, or staff, or even Sam was able to handle. The big dawg, Cupid, was always willing to take such cases. And It was for big money too.

“Hey, brother, good morning,” Sam greeted Cupid over the phone.

“What’s up buddy?”

“I’m doing good. Got a case for you. It’s the first case I have ever categorized as – hopeless.”

“Is the case hopeless, or is it the person?” Cupid asked, laughing at the way Sam had given up on the case before he even handed him the file of this applicant. “Come to my office, let’s talk about it.”

“Alright bud, I’d be with you In a bit,” Sam informed Cupid, and then he went ahead to end the call.

It was just a few seconds walk, and Sam was standing before Cupid. “I’m sure even the great Cupid would reject this client,” he said and handed over the file to the big dawg.

Flipping it open, “Remigus Romanus. Participant is 45 years old, married to a young lady of 23,” Cupid read out. “His name is already very discouraging. But so is your name and mine too,” he added. Raising his index finger in the air, Cupid shook it as if he were a father trying to instruct his little son, “don’t give up yet,” he said.

“The surprises await you bud, keep turning,” Sam responded.

Cupid kept researching through this participant who had sent in his details and filled the required documents. “This guy has not told his wife I love you in a year. And they have been married for a year and one day.”

“That means that the last time he said it – I love you – to his wife, was on the day of their wedding,” Sam said.

“You got that right, bud. This guy has got no romance in his bones.”

“I told you so, maybe just in different words,” Sam said, and then he went ahead to sit down without asking for permission to do so because he was the second most important person in the workforce.

“He doesn’t believe in spoiling a lady with gifts or special treats every now-and-then. He has not surprised his wife since they got married. Romanus also does not think he should do anything else in the marriage except provide for his wife and children when they begin to rear one or more as the case may apply. Can you believe this?”

“No, I can’t,” Sam replied and pulled out his phone from his pocket to respond to a beep sound. When he looked at his screen, his face seemed to lighten up. It was the glow, the kind that Cupid – the love expert – could recognize even in the night when the lights were turned off.

“Who is making you smile?” Cupid asked, direct to the point.

“What? Can’t a brother smile when he wants to?”

“Ok. Yaba left things. I know it’s a lady, anyways, let’s leave that for now. Romanus is killing me with his personality. His wife is on the verge of filing for a divorce. Can’t blame the young lady. How do you stay with such a man and feel like a wife?”

“Cupid, was it an arranged marriage? C’mon! How do you marry someone like this? It’s almost like they are incompatible.”

“You made a valid point, Sam. It could be an arranged marriage or one that had little or no courtship. Nevertheless, he came to us because he needs help. Our duty is to save this marriage, completing ignoring all the obstacles that we can see. Romanus boldly printed on this document that he loves his wife, and that’s all the motivation I need to start this case.” That was not all the motivation, really. Romanus was also going to pay a million naira per day for Cupid’s personal coaching and time, and he had signed off to allow Cupid determine how long would be needed to turn things around. “We could have a brand new man in 3 weeks.”

“That would be 21 million naira in charges, right?” Sam smiled with his eyes, ears and even his broad nose too. “You sure you need only 21 days?”

“You want to drain his bank account?” Cupid asked. “I’d take up his case. Invite him for meeting tomorrow.”

“Ok. My secretary would sort that out.”

“Thanks, bud. Also, please send me a review of all open cases being handled and how much progress has been made on each of them.”

“Your wish is my command.” Sam was a multi-millionaire. He was worth over 55 million bucks, but he was still as passionate as Cupid the Visioneer and CEO who was worth well over a 100 million naira. Sam was loyal to a fault, something Cupid never took for granted.

Cupid had been consulted by politicians, celebrities and a lot of wealthy citizens who needed to have their relationships or marriage saved. Sam was in charge of administration. The guy was born to be an administrator, shikena! Other non-administrative staff handled the matchmaking process which was not as easy as you reading might think. They had to sieve through thousands of profiles, reading so much information just to pair two people they believed were the perfect match for each other. The interns stayed on the phone. Every call had to be answered by a happy young person who could convince the caller that Cupid and Sam Inc. was the one place to find your true love. The search had to end there. The success stories were impressive. From young college students finding love to busy bankers having blind dates arranged for them that ended in ‘I do.’

IT WAS ANOTHER DAY. Cupid had left the house earlier because he had a 9 o’clock appointment with Mr. Remigus Romanus, the hopeless case as judged by Sam. It was a 45 minute nightmarish trip to the office. Cupid had already begun to consider having a helipad on the office grounds. A helicopter wouldn’t be a luxury, but something he needed if he was to remain sane. “Hey!” Cupid greeted and walked past everyone. The usual compliments followed and a warm smile from him too, a motivation his staff needed. “Hope y’all have a great day. Let’s get everyone falling in love.”

“Yes, sir,” was the unanimous response, followed by screams of excitement.

Cupid walked into his office, dressed in a gray suit, putting on a white shirt, a brown shoe and belt. A tie wasn’t hooked to his neck this day. It was Tuesday, a day he could relax on his all out corporate dress code. “Hey! How are you doing?” he asked Onyinye his secretary who was in full ethical compliance today. No sandwiches, or hamburgers, or crackers hid beside her desk.

“My boss, good morning, sir,” Onyinye responded with a grin, her face lit up like she had played the Lagos lotto and was confident that the wheels would turn in her favor.

“Why are you all smiles this morning?”

“It’s a good day. I have got the greatest boss on earth. So, give me one good reason why I should not be this happy?”

Walking into his office, he reached for the blinds, ushering in the sunlight. “I have none. Be happy all you can girl,” Cupid said out loud from his office. “Has Mr. Remigus called in?”

“Not yet. The appointment is for 9:00 am. Guess he might be on the way.”

“Call him and find out if he intends to keep the appointment.”

“Yes, boss.”

It was 15 minutes past the hour of 9 in the morning, and Sam ushered Mr. Remigus to the guest room. It was a finely designed room with a wooden floor made from polished mahogany. The walls were designed with pictures of happy couples, a testimony to the success of Cupid and Sam Inc. The furniture in the room was really comfortable, and the atmosphere was that of a café. Nice slow music played In the background while the guest could request for a cup of coffee, a bottle of soft drink or just enjoy the free wifi service offered.

“Hey! Bud… you have a guest,” Sam said over the phone to Cupid.

Cupid cleared his throat. “Mr. Remigus Romanus?”

“Yep, it’s Mr. Lover-boy. And his physical appearance is almost as bad as his profile.”

“That’s why he is paying a million a day,” Cupid responded and stood up to put on his jacket. “Let him know I’d be with his shortly.”

“Alright, bud.”

“Dear Lord,” Cupid whispered when he walked into the guest room. Mr. Romanus was seated, dressed in a red trouser and green long sleeve shirt. His stomach was bulging out badly, almost trying to rip its way through his shirt. “Mr. Romanus?”

“Yes, my brother,” was the reply from the guest who had been sweating when he walked in but looked a lot more relaxed.

“I’m Cupid. Your coach.”

Remigus rubbed both palms together and quickly stretched out the right to greet Cupid. “Oh! It’s really nice to meet you,” I have heard a lot of good things about you.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

Cupid looked transfixed on Mr. Romanus’ frame. His Air Jordan snickers rocked. And that was kind of the only thing that was nice about his outfit. It’s was a little funny because he shouldn’t have been wearing snickers on a plain trouser – a red one at that. “I’m glad you accepted to help me.”

Cupid was still in awe for a moment. “We’d take a fight to the devil right in hell – his domain – if we have to, just to save one marriage, or to help two people fall in love. That is what we do,” he replied.

“Thank you!”

“First things first – today would good for a tete-a-tete, maybe we could watch some soccer and play a few games.”

“I will still pay one million today?”

“Yes, you would,” Cupid said.

“Just like that?” The grief in Remigus’ eyes could be seen from a mile. A local Igbo businessman doesn’t believe in wasting money. This was a scheme apparently planned out by Cupid to drain his pocket, Romanus imagined.

“Do you have any problems with that?” Cupid asked.

“No, nwanne, that’s fine. Could I have a glass of water, please?” Remigus said in a thick accent.

WELCOME to Eko Hotel the teleprompter read as they walked in. The cute and fashion savvy Cupid alongside his client. Taking a seat and offering one to Mr. Remigus, Cupid asked his client to what drink he would like to have.

“Anything is fine.”

“Want to take a look at the menu?”

Romanus looked at his watch for what seemed to be like the tenth thousand time. It was obvious he was more concerned about time than whatever Cupid had in mind by bringing him to Eko Hotel. “Anything is fine,” he repeated, and then he went ahead to gaze at his watch one-more-time.

Cupid smiled. “Are you in love with your watch?” he asked sarcastically to shake him up a little.

“Nwanne, I have a business appointment today.”

“I’d prefer you call me coach. Also, did I forget to tell you to clear up your schedule for the day? I’d decide when you can leave. That didn’t sit down well with Mr. Romanus who was now thinking if it was better just cancel this crap-of-a-meeting and save his money for some other important business adventure he could undertake in Alaba or Idumota market.

“Bros-“

“No. It’s coach. Remember?”

“I’m sorry, coach, this meeting is critical,” Remigus said, stretching the word – critical – to emphasize his point.

“Mr. Romanus-“

“Call me Remigus. That is my first name. Or you can refer to me simply as Chief or Okosisi.”

“Ok! Mr. Remigus. I’m sorry, but you would have to reschedule that meeting. You signed an agreement to work on my terms. It’s either you comply with that or…”

“Or what?” was the sharp reply. Flashes of lightning could be seen in Remigus’ eyes.

Cupid laughed out at the venomous reply from his client whose face now looked like a three-day-old sour soup. It was not uncommon to have fights with clients before they would finally get along. He had once had to pepper spray a client in the eye when the conversation got too heated and was about to get physical. A quick apology followed. But the sting in the eye lasted a while and was never forgotten by that client. But it worked. That client is still married to his wife today and has a new born baby to prove that it was worth every minute he had put in to save his marriage.

Cupid was the most tender person at heart. But sometimes he would act like a defense attorney that smelled fear all over a witness during cross-examination. “Or you could walk away. I’d charge you nothing for wasting an hour of my time already,” Cupid said, looking as serious as he could. “Also, no more phone calls.”

The fight was over. “A cold bottle of beer,” Romanus requested.

“No.” Cupid quickly interjected. “Could you request for something soft?”

“Why?”

“We hit the gym tomorrow. Your stomach is a wonderland,” Cupid replied, lowering his voice before taking the jab at the bulging belly.

They spent over Five hours at Eko Hotel, just talking. This was what Cupid usually would call assessment time. There was nothing too personal to be revealed. Every single question had to be answered. And he scribbled important details about the client while they spoke. Now, fatigue had set in. Mr. Remigus was a broken man already on the first day.

“Would you like to have fufu or pounded yam?” Cupid offered.

“Nwanne,” Remigus replied with a smile. “Sorry, coach,” he corrected. “Yes, I dey very hungry.”

“I won’t limit what you can eat. Eat all you can,” Cupid said and handed him the menu booklet.

For a moment, Remigus reacted like a little boy whose father had just offered him a trip to Disney land. “Thank you,” he said to Cupid, euphoric. That was the art of the deal. After 6 hours of what has looked like torture to the client, allow him to have some fun. The fufu and vegetable soup – garnished with liver, kidney, goat meat, cow tail and fried snail – was not what a man with such glorious belly needed. It was still the first day, and Cupid could still give some concession.

The horror of the trip back home surpassed that of the morning. Cupid walked into his domain, the new house he had purchased for 75 million naira. No children running up and down screaming – daddy oyoyo. No gateman standing at attention and saluting with a silly smile. No wife to welcome him with a kiss. No Pets. Just Mr. Save-The-world, all alone. There was no one else to welcome him but the sweet smell of success. Cupid quietly stepped into the elevator, and up he went into his living room. Dropping his briefcase by the glass center table, he reached for the television remote and flipped the channel to TBN, and then to CNN and finally to Super Sports Select. Cupid wouldn’t agree to this in public. But he wished he had a wife. The thought of that made him miss his mother all over again. “Guess sometimes even Mr. Fix it needs to get a fix,” Cupid murmured, and then he reached for his phone and went ahead to buzz Sam.

“Hey bud, how did it go with the client?”

“Not bad. Might be the worst I have had, but the Roman man is not beyond redemption.”

“That’s a nice nickname for him. Give me stats, bro.”

“The marriage was pretty much arranged. His wife knew so little about him and vice versa.  Remigus seems to treat marriage like a business. I’ve got to work on his mind. But he loves her very much, and that counts a lot.”

“What’s up for tomorrow?”

“Getting to know him took all of today. Tomorrow, we hit the gym, and then we go over to the barber shop and an excellent boutique and maybe play a few games to get him to loosen up.”

“No one can repay you brother for all you do to save the world. You are Superman!”

“Sometimes I wish I could save myself,” Cupid murmured. “Thanks, Sam. Saving the world – one marriage at a time. That’s what we do.”

“Yeah! Good night!”

“Have a good night, homie,” Cupid said, and then he crumpled into the sofa and just looked out to the night sky. It was beautiful.

Still dressed in his suit and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, Cupid slowly drifted into slumber land. It didn’t matter how tired he was when he slept, it was certain he would wake up motivated. That was something he had never lacked – motivation.

The next day was warm. The weather report was favorable. A little sunshine to kick-start the morning, more clouds during the day and some rainfall at night. Cupid was up early. Some cereal with a big piece of grilled chicken lap. Busy bachelors don’t cook moi-moi or ofe-nsala in the morning. Ben Tankard spiced the atmosphere with his lovely piano sounds. Heavenly.

A Bentley Flying spur was the car for the day. Tinted glasses with a customized interior, designed to the taste of Cupid. The sound of the engine was tweaked to sound like that of a Harley Davidson motorbike. Cupid was dressed in work-out clothes. Anything Cupid wore always looked good on him.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, my boss,” Onyinye replied as always; cheerful and sweet.

“Are you at the office already?”

“In the parking lot.”

“OK. Please call Mr. Romanus and tell him not to come to the office, but to hook up with me at  the Proflex Fitness Center.”

“Sure, boss,” Onyinye replied. “Would you drop by at the office today?”

“Why?”

“I would miss you.”

Cupid was silent. It seemed like he was trying to process what she had said. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“I’d stop over and drop lunch for you. Refer all pressing issues to Sam. Keep my schedule cleared for the day. Have a great day.”

“Thanks a lot, sir,” Onyi replied and then she hung up.

Cupid had been working out for an hour already when Chief showed up. Without wasting time, he invited him to the thread mill. For starters, the speed was on 2.2, not too slow, but fast enough to burn off some calories far more quickly. Two minutes into the process, Romanus was sweating and squealing at the same time. His phone rang, and he requested for permission to pick the call.

“Nwanne, I dey gym o,” Remigus said, panting like he had competed with Mr. Bolts for the hundred meters title. “O bukwa obere nwanta nwoke n’atam ahuhu o. Umu okorobia Lagos ndia na-eme ka ha anaghi eri akpu.” Romanus kept ranting on the phone and even had sometimes of serious laughter as he talked with the caller. (trans – It’s one small boy that is making me suffer like this o. All these young Lagos boys that would be acting like they don’t eat fufu.)

Cupid waited till he was done talking and then walked closer to him. “Chief, ndewo o,” he said to him sarcastically, just to inform he that he could speak and understand Igbo.

“Nwanne m nwoke, nke bun a ibu nwa afo, gi na-eme ka I bu onye Amerika.” (trans – my brother, so you are a son of the soil and you are behaving like you are from Amerika.)

“You would address me as coach, and not nwanne. No more phone calls. We need to get you in shape. Back to the thread mill.” The sound of Cupid’s voice carried the weight of his title – coach. It was hard not to obey when he spoke. Chief quickly hurried back to the gym and began to burn up the calories. After two hours of working out, a little water break followed and more drills. Chief was sore and whining like a lady, and  he kept asking “am I paying one million for today also?” It seemed to him like Cupid was just toying with him. His weight was not the reason why he was here. When were they going to get down to the business of making his wife change her mind about leaving him?

They hit the barber salon next. Remigus’ present haircut would be named – undecided, because it seemed he couldn’t decide if he wanted to have it afro or punk, and baldness was already doing justice to the middle of his head. “Give him something for the new millennium,” Cupid requested from his barber who had a ‘Ph.D.’ in haircuts. After that, they went to the palms to shop for clothes. “Some of the outfits we would buy now would not fit you until you lose some weight. But we would buy them and soon, you would wear them. We would get as many clothes as you need to reset your wardrobe.”

“Who will pay?”

“Your bills are on me,” Cupid replied like a boss.

A few Italian suits. Many polka dot, striped and plain ties. Several pairs of jeans, parkas, mittens and T-shirts. New traditional attires that were more fitting. Shoes, snickers, and boots. It took a while to shop for all the items they wanted, and it cost well over a million to the surprise of Remigus, who for the first time realized that Cupid was legit and not just out to rip him off.

“Now Mr. Remigus, when you get home tonight, I want you to tell your wife – I love you.”

A long stare followed that statement. “Just like that?” Remigus asked.

“Like how?” Cupid replied, clearly not understanding what he had been asked.

“I’ll just get home and tell her I love her? Just like that?”

“Is there supposed to be a carnival before you tell her that you love her?”

“But coach-“

“Why are you already finding it hard, before you even try?”

“It’s just that you can’t be telling women that you love them anyhow. They will use your head. Umunwanyi di ike.” (trans – women are powerful)

“This is not any woman. This is the lady you took an oath to protect, to love. You swore before God to be there for her in sickness and in health, and till death… and you can’t tell her that you love her because you are scared that that would make her feel like she was a queen? Is she not meant to be your queen?”

“Nwanne, it’s not that easy,”

“What pet name do you call your wife?” Cupid asked, still stunned that Remigus was having a hard time with his first proper task.

“I call her mummy.”

“What kind of nonsense pet name is that, chief? Is she your mother?” Cupid was dumbfounded that a young wife, a lady of 23 was being called mummy by her husband.

“What then should I call her?” Remigus asked.

“Can’t you call her babe?”

“Is she a baby?” he protested.

“Chief, I’ve seen many people in my life, but idi omimi.” (idi omimi – you are deep)

PART 2

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Written by : Richard OTI

Image – courtesy – Unsplash

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Part 2

A DAY WITH CARLA CARLSON

01

A Day With Carla Carlson

The little girl sat just a few feet away from me. A crease on her face, her eyes swollen; looking like she had deprived them of sleep for many days. I could see pain living in her deep moans, for she was unable to cry again. I wondered how this beautiful girl that looked not a day older than sixteen would be in such pain. I had been waiting to meet her, for several hours.

“I’m Carlson Carla,” I say to her, reaching out with a smile. It does little to bring her to life. She looks pale and just when I look at her wrists, I see the marks. Yes, she had cut both wrists, trying to take her own life. I have been doing this for years, I have seen many try to do this same thing – suicide – so many different ways. Some were young just like this little girl sitting opposite me. Others were middle-aged, a few as old as I am. I’m 87 years old if you care to know. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” I could see the desire still in her eye. She still wanted to end her life, and she believed they had brought her to me so I could waste the valuable time she would have used in doing so. It seemed the very air in the room was protesting with her.

I pour myself another cup of coffee and walk towards the window. The kids in the neighborhood are loud as ever. I smile because they remind me of my childhood. Then I turn again and look at the little girl in the room who feels robbed of hers. I’m not as nimble as I used to be when I was much younger, but  I try to walk up to her, I bend with much pain, and I give her a kiss on her cheek. Her cheeks burned like she had a fever. “I’m not giving up on you sweetheart.”

I go back to my seat and try to remember where I had stopped. “My father had been out looking for me. I was his only child, and that was understandable.” I realize I’m about entering a territory I have avoided for a long time. But if wading through those waters was going to give this little girl another chance at life, I was willing to. That was why they brought her to me. “Daddy met me while I was halfway home. So, I hugged Erwin and wished him a good night.” I was hoping that we could see again, maybe in a week or two. Maybe another date. We could milk the cows together, play around the farm, and someday travel south. Maybe get married and have children. Pretty boys, who would like their father, and beautiful girls who might look like me.

“you know baby, back then we were not as free as we are now,” I say. A few decades can change a lot of things. This was a few years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, much longer before Marin Luther King Jr gave his I-have-a-dream speech. “Erwin turned back and began to walk in the opposite direction, while my dad and I started to walk forward. I stopped to look back several times. I wanted to get one more glimpse of Erwin, even in the dark; It was puppy love at its beginning stage.” I look over Ivy, and it seems the knob of the door is turning. “Who is it?” I ask.

“It’s me,” a woman answered and then she opens the door. I could see her facial features; they looked exactly like that of Ivy; beautiful and chiseled. Her eyes were swollen too. I could tell she was the mother of the young lady in the room. “I was wondering if you needed me around?”

“It is a day with Carlson Carla. I’d be okay. I might be 87, but I’m fit as a fiddle,” I reply and bless her with a smile. Ivy still looks like a zombie. Poor little girl. I apologize for the distraction and pick up from where I had stopped. “So, as we were going home, I could tell that my dad was scared. I should have been too, but Erwin occupied my mind. I was thinking about things that every girl thinks about once in a while when they meet a cute boy. Me and him holding hands, walking around the countryside and doing whatever we wanted to.” Ivy looks at me for the first time. I wondered if I had struck a nerve.

“We were close to home when all of a sudden three white men jumped out from nowhere. Baby, we were scared, but Daddy held me close, tightly.”

“You don’t touch my baby or me,” Daddy screamed.

“I could see the hate in their eyes. There was a smirk on their faces, such as you would see in someone who was obsessed with doing evil.” My heart breaks whenever I have to retell this story. “One of them tried to pull me away from my daddy.” I stop for a few seconds. I cry whenever I tell this story. I thought 69 years would have helped erase the memory… it remained fresh in my mind, preserved in a neatly painted canvass.

“My daddy struggled to push me behind him, and then he screamed… run baby, run.” I began to race in the direction I faced. I heard my father keep shouting run as he fought them back to keep them from following me. “Run baby, run,” he said. I still hear that voice in my dreams. I’m certain I will tonight. I bow my head for a minute, I’m overwhelmed for a moment. I raise my head, and I realize that Ivy is looking at me. It has happened this way 90% of the times. These patients brought to me usually, start to connect with me at this point.

“I kept running. It seemed like I ran all night. I didn’t know where I was running to, but I just kept running until I found somewhere I could hide. I was surviving on adrenaline at that moment. But my dad was out there all alone. All I could do was pray and wait for the morning light. As soon as I could see ahead of me, I began to rush back towards where I had left my daddy. 20 feet away from where we had been attacked, I see my father hanging from a tree. His body had been burned.” It’s hard to continue telling Ivy this story as I start to cry at this point. “It’s all my fault I scream as I run towards the lifeless body dangling from the tree.”

I look at Ivy, and she is sitting upright, with tears in her eyes, she is staring at me. “I screamed and cried. I held on to his burnt body. They should have killed me in his place. It was all my fault. If he had never come to look for me, he would still be alive today. That memory haunted me for years. My mother was devastated for the rest of her life. She lost her mind and had to be institutionalized. I couldn’t forgive myself for my father’s death. I blamed Erin for keeping me out late into the night, and I blamed every other person I could too. I wanted to kill myself several times… what else did I have to live for?”

Why didn’t I kill myself is the question these patients always ask when I get to this point? It’s a silent question, but I can read it in their eyes. “I met someone who stopped me from pulling the trigger. I met someone who took away the pain and hatred in my heart towards the men who burned my father while he screamed. I was given another reason to live. I fell in love again. This time, it was much stronger than what I had felt for Erwin. It was an unconditional love that wouldn’t trace my history. Baby, I found Jesus! Take it from this 87 years old lady, you are not beyond redemption. I can get you into the wells of mercy this afternoon. We can swim there all day until you are soaked.”

I see the light in her eyes at this point. I see hope as I have seen in several hundred patients that have sat in that room with me. “You can exchange your guilt for a not-guilty-verdict. You can leave here today knowing that the past wouldn’t have any power to haunt you anymore.” Ivy breaks down crying as I speak. So, I walk up and sit beside her. “Baby, I won’t let the devil have you. I know You’ve failed your family and God, yes you did. I failed too. But you can meet my high priest who knows just how you feel. Will you let me take your hands and lead you down that road?”

I watch her cry profusely. “I killed a baby,” she says, trying to persuade me how far she was from redemption.

“I know baby. If you were good enough, you wouldn’t need Him. He gave his life in exchange for folks just like you, and me too. Can you trust me? Let me take you down to the riverside where your past can be washed away.”

“Yes,” she replies and buries her head in my body, groaning in deep pain.

“Would you repeat these words with me, sweetheart… Jesus, I believe you died for my sins and rose for my justification. I confess that you are my lord and savior.”

Yes, her face lightened up immediately. I know how she must have felt. For me, it was like some heavy weight was lifted off me. “We won’t let the devil have you, baby, no, no, no.” I held her in my embrace and just loved her back to life. I would like to meet you and help you back to life too. You are not beyond redemption.

You are loved!

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MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 8

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Akin had great pleasure breaking the news to me as we sat in the car headed back to central Abuja city. It felt like an ice-box had replaced my heart. I was cold, and in shock, a little more shock would have been all that was needed for a heart attack. It wasn’t that Chyoma didn’t have a right to move on. But she deserved better. She was the closest thing to my idea of an angel. It felt as if I just began to relive the divorce all over again.

“Congratulations,” I said to Akin. At least, I wanted him to know I wished him well. If he was going to be anywhere close to my daughter, I wanted to be in his good books from now on. Because he was now in a capacity to determine if I would ever see her again or not. I couldn’t imagine Shirley being treated any less than I would treat her. Akin had already shown me that he could treat people like lesser mortals.

Etim tried a few jokes, thinking that was going to lighten my mood. He had heard Akin break the news and knew how much impact it was having on me. Etim was almost like a member of Chyoma’s family, and there was nothing about Chyoma and me that he wasn’t aware of.

“Oga Etim.” My tongue seemed tied. I was dizzy and nauseous all of sudden. “Drop me at City Gate.” I managed to get those few words out.

“Oga, I been wan carry you reach your house,” Etim replied, looking concerned.

“Just stop at City Gate, please. Thank you.” I didn’t want to give Akin the pleasure he would have hoped for. He wouldn’t see me cry, I kept telling myself.

My flames of hope had become a smoke of despair. I had dressed extra-special to the airport, spending extra time to shave, and perfume my body. I was hoping that Chyoma would find me to still be the eye candy she had always admired and that maybe she could see that though we were separated, I had never gone a day without wishing we could be back again. Each day, I remembered our vow, the moment I promised to love her in sickness and in health, for better and even when hell breaks loose.

Our wedding day was beautiful. I stood inside the church, waiting for her to walk in. She had requested that ‘A thousand years’ by Christina Perri be played for that moment because she always liked to tell me how she would love me for a thousand years and after the first thousand years, she would have no regrets, and would be ready for a thousand more. As she walked down the aisle, I couldn’t believe that God had been that gracious to me; blessing me with the most beautiful girl alive. In my eyes, she remained the perfect girl, never looking a day older than when we first met.

The first kiss was magical. I had waited patiently for it. It was the beginning of our thousand years together. I couldn’t wait to leave everyone and everything behind and just whisk her away. I wanted to look into those beautiful eyes all night. I wanted to watch her sleep. I wanted to hold her hands all day and keep her wrapped around me at night. I couldn’t wait to be the father of the children she would bear.

Now, sitting beside Akinyele, all I wanted to do was to sing a sad song, and hope that a good sleep would help erase my memory. Maybe a temporary amnesia would be perfect. How would I live through this nightmare? Did hope and faith still have a plan for me? If I could still tell her how much I loved her, would the Heavens fight on my behalf?

When Shawn and I got home, we both fell fast asleep. I could not comfort him and neither could he do so for me. We were both hurting deeply. He missed his sister. I missed her too. I had never met a little girl so charming. Shirley warmed the atmosphere every time she stepped in. It was magical. As a little girl, Shirley was already learning to be selfless. I watched her several times over the few days we spent. She would do things for Shawn that amazed me. There was nothing too good for Shirley that she couldn’t share with her brother and me. I was blessed to be her father.

“Lala, Brotherly, it has happened,” Akin shouted, “I no fit contain my joy,” he added.

“Baddo, wetin happen nah?” Fred asked.

“Brotherly, e just be like when persin dey drill for crude oil for many years, and then finally, you just hit a gusher. Lala, I asked Chyoma to marry me,”

Akin quickly rushed to his fridge and pulled out a bottle of Andre Brut Champagne; a blend of pinot noir.

“Ehen!” Fred anxiously replied.

“She has agreed. Brotherly, just like film trick.”

“Badoski, kai, I dey fear you.”

“Oh boy, this marriage must happen before this year ends. Show this night abeg make we pop champagne,” Akin replied.

I had barely napped for 30 minutes before my phone began to ring. It took almost all the strength I had to open one eyelid. It was Ndidi calling. I gradually shut my eye back and drifted off again. I didn’t want to speak to anyone. For the first time in my life, I felt I didn’t want to live again. But as my body moved a little, it touched Shawn, and I realized I still had one reason to stay alive, one reason to fight, one reason to hope for the best. I reached my arms and wrapped them around him.

“Mummy,” Chyoma called out happily. “Guess what?”

“You know I don’t like guessing,” Mrs. Frances replied.

“Akin asked me to marry him, and I said – yes.”

“Ewo! Ewo!” Mrs. Frances shouted. “I have to tell your father the good news before he leaves for the airport o.”

“Please don’t, I would do so myself. Is daddy busy at the moment?”

“You know that even if your father is with the president, he will pick up whenever you call,” Mrs. Frances murmured. “There is almost nothing that your father would not do for you. I’m jealous of you o.”

“Haba mummy, Is there anything that he doesn’t do for you too?”

“When you married Mitchel, he wanted to give both of you ten million Naira as your wedding gift. Has he ever given me that kind of money before?”

“But Mitchel didn’t accept it. Because of you, remember?”

“How was it because of me?” Mrs. Frances asked.

“You were the one that said he was marrying me for the money. The moment he heard that,  he refused to even collect a dime from you or daddy. I hope after four years, you now believe that he loved me, and was not my husband for the money.”

“Let’s talk about your new husband to be. Please leave Mitchel alone. He is history.”

“Mummy, I need to call daddy. I’d talk to you later,” Chyoma said and then she dropped the call.

“Daddy, how are you?” Chyoma greeted, excited to speak with her father again. “It’s been just over 3 hours, but I miss you so much already.”

“I already miss you too, my dear. But I’d visit soon when I’m In the States.”

Chyoma discussed a lot of things with her father. But she found it difficult to hit the bull’s eye, the main reason why she had called. “Daddy, what would you say if I tell you that I…” A pause followed; it was lengthy and awkward.

“If you tell me what, my dear?” he requested to know.

“It’s Akin,” Chyoma said. “He has asked me to marry him.”

“What was your reply?”

“I said yes. I love Akin, Daddy.”

“I have trained you and Nennaya to trust your instincts and take responsibility for your actions. I really think you might be making a mistake this time, but I have no proof for that hunch. I respect your decision. You have my support, a hundred percent.”

“Thank you, daddy, I love you.”

Akin had had several hours of partying, he had uploaded a picture of Chyoma on all his social media platforms with the caption – my wife, in a few weeks. The congratulatory messages kept pouring in. And so did the insults too, from some of the ladies who had been played by him at some point. He was proud of Chyoma. Who wouldn’t be proud of a fiancée who was that beautiful, and rich too?

“My baby!” Akin said, and then he looked at his watch as if he just realized he should have checked the time before calling. “Did I wake you up?”

“No, it’s just a few minutes past 10. You know I’m nocturnal… the night is still very young.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, babe.”

“How’s my little angel,” Akin asked, “is she sleeping?” he added.

“Yes,” Chyoma informed. And they went ahead to talk and enjoy each other’s companionship over the phone.

I had awoken a few minutes past 11:00 pm. The last meal I had was breakfast, I was a little hungry, so I fixed a light dinner. Shawn was still in slumberland. He resembled his lovely sister a lot in sleep; calm, cute and innocent.

The hours of sleep had been refreshing. I felt less bitter and seemed to want to talk to Chyoma and just tell her what I should have told her since the day we had lunch together with the kids after four years of being apart.

I knew she would be awake, so I went ahead to dial her number. “Hey,” I said and waited for a response.

“Mitchie, how are you?”

“I am-,” I kept quiet for some seconds. Was I about to lie? Or the cliché would suffice as it always did.

“Hey!” She asked after I had been silent for a while.

“I’m still here.” It had to be now or never. I had nothing left to lose. If I tell Chyoma or not, Akin was going to be her husband in a matter of weeks or months. “I love you,” I blurted out.

That was all I could say. At least, when Chyoma walks down that aisle, or when she gets her first kiss after the vow, she would know that I still loved her. I promised to love her forever. Things changed, but my heart remained the same, I still loved her.

“Mitchie, you know I love you too, right?”

I wasn’t sure I could attest to that with all that had happened with Akin. “Yes, I do.” I didn’t want to be a jerk, at least not on a night that meant a lot to her. I wanted to share the joy with her, although it was not the kind I had hoped for. “I’d do anything-anything you need me to do. Just call on my name, and I’d be there.”

Chyoma seemed to laugh and asked if I was quoting the Jackson 5 hit song – I’d be there. I hadn’t even thought about that. I laughed it off and went ahead to tell her how happy I was for her. To be honest, I was sad. I would have been happier if she was about to wed a more responsible man than me. Someone noble. No guy readily accepts that another guy might be a better man than he is, but I was certain that Akin was not even half the man I had been all of my life.

“Have you guys fixed a date?” Should I be asking these questions? Or do I just go ahead to tell her that in a month of being his wife, she would wish she had never said – yes? I badly wanted to reveal all that Akin had said to me, and done to me. Shouldn’t she know how bad this guy had been treating me? She had never asked. I was the villain, and he the superhero. I decided to keep my lips sealed.

“We talked about a date for the wedding, barely 30 minutes ago,” Chyoma said, “hold on Mitchie,” she added.

While holding on, I thought about Ndidi and the future we could have. A small grin broke out on my face. I won’t lie, as much as I felt so blessed to know her, I wasn’t still sure I wanted to spend forever with her. Maybe time would work wonders between us. But for now, I couldn’t tell. But I was willing to give it a shot, now that I had lost to Akin on this end.

“Sorry Mitch, it was room service.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “back to talking about the wedding date. Remember?”

“Yes, I do. Akin wants us to tie the knot before Christmas.”

“Wow! You have only 4 weeks to do so.”

“Yea, I know. Seems like everything is being rushed, but I understand his reasons. He is afraid that time and distance could play a fast one on the two of us.”

Oh, please, spare me. A better reason would have been that Akin needed to become the son-in-law of the Minister of  Foreign Affairs as soon as possible and start eating money. “Yes, I agree,” I said. Was it really in my power to disagree? “So, that means you’d be back in Nigeria, in a few weeks to say – I do?”

“Yes. I should be in the country three nights before the wedding day. I’m planning on having a small wedding. I don’t think It’s something I can’t plan from the US.”

“That’s fine.” As we spoke, I kept thinking about Shirley. I really wanted to make a selfish request. A wish that I would be granted custody of Shirley. Yea, that’s selfish, I know, so I shelved the thought.

I tried to stay in touch with Akin after that night as much as I could. A beautiful text to him once in a while wouldn’t hurt. The taunting and insults didn’t stop, but as long as he was going to have some part in Shirley’s life, I had to befriend him, before he would give my daughter rat poison because he hated me. I didn’t doubt his capability to do such, for a minute.

Dec 16th, 2015

It was a slightly cold Wednesday, the Harmattan was wrapping its arms around the city. I had spent some time with Ndidi that morning. Things were not picking up as fast as she would have loved. It was my fault. I had still held back from her, a lot. The heart doesn’t heal overnight. I know people say – move on like it is the easiest thing to do. Have you experienced a broken relationship before? Ok, that disqualifies you from passing judgment.

I was about to start watching the 5th Season of 24 when my phone rang. Jack Bauer seemed to be my hero. Wouldn’t it have been nice If I could kidnap Akin, and teach him one or two things I had learned from Jack?

It was my ex-father-in-law calling. I was a little surprised, but since Chyoma was to return to Nigeria that day, I guessed that was the reason he was calling.

“Eclectic Mitchie,” Ambassador Andrew called out, sounding full of the juice of life.

“Daddy, good evening,” I greeted him. It was splendid to hear his voice.

“How is my grandson?”

“He’s taking a siesta. That’s the reward for several hours of play.”

Ambassador Andrew laughed and then went ahead to remind me how every child deserves the chance to play, for as long as time would permit them.“I’m sure you know my daughter is coming in today?” the Ambassador asked, and didn’t even give room for a reply. “Saturday is going to be amazing,” he added.

“Yes, Saturday would be fantastic,” I replied, a little confused why it should be fun for me, of all people. I knew it would be amazing for Mrs. Frances,  Akinyele, Chyoma, and now the Ambassador had added his name to the list. But, certainly not me.

“I want you to look your best on Saturday. I’m sending Etim over to your place soon. I want him to take you and Shawn shopping for new suits.”

I couldn’t understand why I needed to wear a new suit for Chyoma and Akin’s wedding. I was only attending because Chyoma had told me several times that if nobody else made it, she didn’t want to look for me. If that was the only wedding gift I could give her, I was determined to do so. “I still have that Dolce & Gabanna suit you gave me sir on my wedding anniversary,” I reminded him. I would have even preferred to appear in khaki shorts and a white t-shirt. What was the deal with looking cute for the wedding? Who fine boy epp?

“Oh, that suit must be old by now. That’s about five years ago. You need something new. You need to look dapper,” Ambassador Andrew said, and went ahead to insist that I had to go shopping.

If this man knew how clean that Dolce & Gabanna suit was, and how I had been preserving it, he would know that in five more years I could still wear it and look good. “Thank you, sir,” I replied. It wouldn’t hurt to shop a little, I thought. I couldn’t remember the last time I had such an offer. I had never even had one before.

“I’d send Etim to pick you up on Saturday morning also. Please, you both should be ready on time.”

Why was this sounding strange to me? “OK, sir,” I replied.

Etim was outside the house at past 5 pm, waiting to take us shopping. “Ete, Idem fo?” (Efik – how are you)

“Idem mi osong,” he replied. (Efik -I am well)

Shawn and I got into the SUV and made ourselves comfortable. “Has Madam Chyoma arrived?”

“By 6 pm sir. But no be me dey go airport. Na oga official driver dey go pick am.”

I wanted to ask him why my ex-father-in-law was having him take me around while someone else would have to pick up Chyoma and Shirley. But it was evident that he wouldn’t be privy to such information. “So, where oga say make we go?” I inquired.

We drove to Ceddi plaza, and I was welcomed like royalty. It was a blank cheque to shop for the best suits, shoes, and accessories for Shawn and me. I took a dark blue plaid Kiton suit and another Black by Ralph Lauren. The prices scared me. I had never imagined wearing a suit worth over a hundred thousand Naira. But now I had two of such being packed for me, with shoes that could pay off half of my rent.

Shopping for the suits had been a joy, but it was not anything compared to the pure bliss I hoped to experience when I could stare at those beautiful eyes and hear that precious voice call out – daddy, again.

That night I spoke to Chyoma. It was the nicest call we had ever had since we got divorced. I couldn’t understand why all this harmony now when it was too late. It reminded me of how we enjoyed each other’s company while we were married; I couldn’t wait to get off work just to be home on time. She would always tell me how much she had missed me and how her heart kept beating for me all day. For what it was worth, I would have given up anything to have just one more day like that. But as they say, you don’t miss the water till it runs dry.

Wedding day

 It was the day we had all waited for, not one I had really looked forward to. I had tried to bury my emotions and everything else I could too. But they all seemed to awaken that morning, staring at me with a million eyes. The thought that I had failed my kids ricochet around my mind, as I kept trying to get myself and Shawn dressed for the big day.

I hadn’t yet seen Shirley because her mother had been so busy, and I didn’t want to go visit her at home. You can understand that I was trying to preserve my dignity, the little I still had. You don’t want your self-respect putting on wings and flying out every now and then. It might never return again.

“Badoski,” Fred called out, looking at his Friend with such envy and admiration.

“Lala, the day don reach o. Finally!”

“If person tell me say one day you go marry, I no for believe, at all,” Fred said.

“Brotherly, wetin I dey find again?” Akin asked his friend and best man for his wedding.

“Abi?”

“Na so nah..  Iyawo mi toh fine gan gan (my wife is really fine). My father-in-law; baba olowo ( a wealthy man), and now, I have endless opportunities too. Wetin again?”

“But how you go take cover all the lie wey you don tell now?”

“Lala, brotherly, leave that one for me. I don cover all that one already. See ehn, after today, we dey enter Calabar tomorrow morning. Na from calli she dey go Lagos, from there America. Before you know, I don join am for America, start new life. I go just claim say I sell everything wey I get for Nigeria to come join am for there. Lala, you no know me yet o. E don tey. But finally, I don dey like the girl well well.”

“Baddo, no forget me o. Na me help you pass.”

“Brotherly, haba. We be mens nah. If I forget anyone, no be you. But for now make we dey dress, time dey go.”

 At the Ambassador’s Residence

 “Is Shirley ready?” Chyoma screamed from her room. She was wearing her makeup. Nennaya and Ezinne were with her.

“Leave Shirley alone,  it’s all about you today, isn’t it?”

“You guys don’t have a clue what is happening today, do you?” Chyoma asked her best friend and sister, who were both looking astonished.

“It’s your wedding day. That’s why we spent the entire night here with you, having a ladies night out, one more time,” Nennaya replied and then walked over to the air-conditioner, adjusting the temperature of the room. “Is there something else we don’t know?”

“I know you might be a little nervous, I’ll be if I were walking down that aisle a second time,” Ezinne said.

“You both don’t have a clue what I mean. Don’t worry, time would tell. I’m so happy. Happier than I have ever been in a while.”

“The house is busy. Cousins, relatives and everyone you want around you on this special day. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be excited,” Nennaya said.

Etim picked Shawn and me up at about 23 minutes past the hour of 9 in the morning. It almost looked like I was the one wedding, and Shawn was going to be the little groom. My little Pharisee looked so handsome. What would you expect? He was a chip off the old block. Like father, like son, many would say. You can imagine how I looked.

As we drove to the venue, I was reminded of 6 years before then. I had no car to use on my wedding morning. Mrs. Frances would not allow the driver to come pick me up. After I had waited till almost 10:00 am, I had to leave home, and get there with a cab. I’ll tell you one thing; If I had to get there on a donkey, I was willing to do so. All I wanted to do was put that ring on her finger and give her that first kiss. I had prayed and wished for it ever since I met her and knew that I wouldn’t want to spend forever with anyone else.

“Shawn, are you alright?” I asked. He looked somber and a little downcast. I couldn’t guess what was running through his mind. But I knew that he had a little understanding that his mother was going to be marrying someone else that morning. It wasn’t her fault. I was the failure. I was the one who should have fought for her. I was the one who didn’t fight to stay with her for a thousand years.

She had fought off everyone’s opinion of me and their negative rhetoric of how she was making a big mistake to marry me. It was just her father and sister standing by her when the entire world was against our marriage. It didn’t change her mind for one second. Then why did I give her a reason to after 2 years?

I put my arm on Shawn’s shoulder and held him close. “It’s going to be alright,” I said as we approached the venue. “You would see Shirley soon,” I added, believing that would comfort him a little. He had been waiting to see his cute sister again.

You could hear a pin drop in that car. Etim was as quiet too. I had never been with Etim and have him that quiet in 6 years. It seemed the three of us had drifted in deep thoughts. I didn’t know what he and Shawn were thinking, but I kept wishing that Jesus would return that morning as Chyoma was about to say – I do. I just wanted something to stop the wedding from happening. If Akin gave her a lifetime of pain, I would feel guilty for giving her the chance to meet him in the first place. If our marriage had worked out, he would never have had a chance.

The car came to a stop inside the Whitewalls Tents and Events venue, Wuse II. I spent the first minute looking around. I couldn’t believe what Chyoma’s and her team had done to this place. It looked like…  I wish you were there. It’s hard to explain. There was this beautiful wedding arch decorated with brightly colored flowers. And the man-made lake; It just left me breathless. The path through which Akin and Chyoma were to walk was carved out with dahlia and rose flowers. There were about a hundred and twenty chairs, arranged 60 a piece, facing the beautiful altar. The opposite side of the lake was where the reception was to take place. The roundtables had been neatly arranged. How could she plan all these in 3 days? My head was spinning.

Walking away from the car, with Shawn’s hand in mine, I headed towards the sitting area. There were a few people there already. Etim quickly showed me a woman who was dressed in aso oke. Her gele stretched towards the heavens and the tribal marks on her face had been covered with Mary Kay Foundation. “That’s Akin’s mother,” Etim whispered to me. He went ahead to inform me that the person beside her was his brother also. He had flown them in from Lagos and lodged them in an exquisite hotel. He had to live up to the status he had created for himself. His father wasn’t there I was told, but a few other relatives had been around too. I kept wondering how a woman looking that innocent could give birth to a piranha-like Akin. It had to be his father’s genes, I thought.

Shawn and I made our way to the front row. The first and second seat. I also reserved the third for Shirley. The people began to arrive one by one. Each time I looked back, I saw a new face. After a while, I looked back, and I saw a few of our friends in church. The ones that knew when Chyoma and I began our relationship. I was wondering what they were doing there. They were closer to me than they were to Chyoma, why did she invite them? That was none of my business. Well, I was about to make it my business. I had planned to walk up to them when my ex-father-in-law arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Mehn! The glasses were tinted. His security aide first got off the car and then opened the back door for him. The first person to drop off was that little girl who holds the key to my heart.

“Shirley, baby,” I screamed out, not caring who was looking or listening.

“Daddy,” she responded and began to run towards me. I didn’t stand and wait. I started to move towards her too. Up in the air, she went as my hands touched her. My lips on her cheeks, and hers on mine severally. I had missed her so much. She was gorgeously dressed in a Jenny Packham designer frock. Her hair was styled in the dutch braid. “Shawn,” she screamed as her eyes met his. I don’t know if he had been overwhelmed with emotions, but he hadn’t shouted back, he just kept walking towards us slowly. When he arrived, his eyes were watery. I let his sister down and gave them a little space while I went to welcome the Ambassador.

“You are welcome, sir,” I greeted and smiled at Ambassador Andrew. He looked 10 years younger, and a lot happier.

“Thank you, Mitchel. You look superb in your suit. I’m glad you are here. It’s a big day you know, a very big one.” This man has begun with his big-day-talk, I murmured.

“Thank you, sir. I wouldn’t have looked this lovely if you hadn’t been generous enough to let me shop on your account.”

While we were talking, a senator who had been around walked up to us, to greet Ambassador Andrew.

Amb. Andrew quickly introduced me. “This is my son-in-law,” he said and smiled with the corner of his mouth.

“Your ex-son-in-law,” I whispered to him immediately. It was not a good day to be making such mistakes. But the Ambassador acted like he had not heard me. He did the same thing when another government official walked up to greet him. I decided to chill and just ignore everything. What was the difference basically?… Take away the ex, what you have left would be son-in-law.

As I walked back towards my seat, I saw my cousin. This was irritating me now. Why would Chyoma invite my cousin? Haba! It was embarrassing enough for me to be there with the kids, dressed like I was the one giving out the bride. Now, my friends were there and my cousin. I just kept a straight face like I hadn’t seen her and walked back to my seat. It’s better I play Ray Charles, and act like I didn’t see anybody. After a few hours, it would all be over, I imagined as I sat down.

The first Car arrived. It was a white limousine carrying Akinyele Olaoluwa Opeyemi Solarin. I didn’t forget… you can add Judas Iscariot to the list of names. Akin got out of the car. I heard people say – wow. It seemed like he had built his upper body a bit more. The suit fitted and Akin actually looked handsome. His hair had more grease than usual, and almost like a lady, he had a pretty smile. He seemed happy.

Fred got off the car too. Fred didn’t turn heads like his friend, Akin. He looked rather outrageous in a suit and a little timid too. You know, he had that kind of face that fits a kaftan, and not an Italian suit. I’d like to call it the ‘alaba face.’ They both walked down towards the altar as soft music played in the background. I tried cheering and arousing the crowd as he came closer. I wanted him to see that I wasn’t his enemy. It was all a show, at least one that was done in Shirley’s interest.

Then the next car pulled off. It was Chyoma. I quickly stood up, and so did everyone. The door opened, and for a few seconds, it seemed time stood still. We were all waiting to see the face of the most beautiful lady in the world. My heart and soul. The mother of my children. She got off the car. The veil was covering her face, but I could see right through it. I could see the beautiful lips, lightly coated with a light reflecting plumped shine lip gloss. I could see her eyelids polished with mascara. I could see those beautiful eyes that looked like living wells of love. I could see her ears and the diamond earrings dropping from each end. I could see it all even if no one else could see beyond the veil.

Her wedding dress was a line floor-length cathedral patterned gown. Lacey on some ends and had so many shiny stones that glittered attached all over. I couldn’t see her shoes as the gown caressed the lush green grass. It was beautiful.

Don’t tell me it was too late to fight one more time. Don’t tell me, this was the end, that my wick-of-hope was finally about to go off in a few minutes. It was a solemn moment for me. Marry me by Train began to play over the speakers as Chyoma’s father walked her down the aisle. I thought I would have been man enough to cheer her on, but I quickly had to turn the other way because the tears wouldn’t let me mask my emotions. Each step she took reminded me of how she walked down the aisle to the sounds of Christina Perri’s ‘A thousand years.’ As I kept fighting back the tears, I realized that a little hand slipped up mine and squeezed it tight. It was Shirley. It was as if she understood how I was feeling.

As Chyoma walked up to our row. She stopped, and for a moment turned toward the kids and me, and then she smiled. Was I losing my defenses? I was hoping I could make it out of the wedding in one piece, but at that point, I wasn’t sure anymore.

The pastor kicked off the wedding ceremony with a prayer; one that was heartfelt. Then he proceeded to give his opening remarks. If I tell you I heard anything he said, I would be lying. My mind had drifted off, as far as I let it, and it was still sailing further. Then he preached a short sermon which lasted for about 15 minutes. But to me, I could have said it was nothing short of 2 hours. I wished it would last even longer, so that maybe by the time he was done, Chyoma might have changed her mind about the wedding.

It was time to exchange the vows. The preacher asked if there was anyone in the crowd who had a strong reason why the wedding shouldn’t proceed. My hand had never itched me that much. I wanted to raise it high to the heavens, jump to my feet and shout in Akin’s face – you don’t deserve this beautiful woman. But the headlines would read the next day – jealous stupid ex-husband crashes the wedding.

While I was still thinking, I heard the noise at the back, turning to look, there was a finger shot up in the air. It seemed a few people were trying to persuade whoever-the-woman was to put her finger down. In a few more seconds, another finger was up a few rows behind. Then a third. Then my father-in-law too. Then Shirley, and of course, the little Pharisee has to always join his ‘siamese’ twin. It was incredible.

Akin looked dazed and confused, but Chyoma looked calmer than I would have expected. My ex-mother-in-law was already screaming at the back. Nennaya and Ezinne had to help take her away before she would have a cardiac arrest.

Chyoma had requested the pastor give her the mic. She had something to say.

“Akin, do you know the first woman who opposed our marriage? ” She asked him.

“I have no idea who that is. I’m sure Mitchel hired her or something,” he responded, angry, breathing heavily.

“That is your aunty, Mr. Tai Solarin’s daughter.”

Akin didn’t know what to say.

“How ‘bout the other man who lifted his fingers after she did?”

“I don’t know him,” Akin replied, he was a little more mellow now.

“That’s the HOD of Business Administration, University of Lagos. You don’t know him too?”

I had no idea that Ambassador Andrew had investigated Akin. Akin was not even related to Tai Solarin as he claimed. They just shared the name. So, he had no idea who the lady was. And because he never went to the University of Lagos, he had no Idea that the man who had raised his hand was a long-serving professor of the Business Administration Department and former Head of Department.

I quickly adjusted my neck tie. I didn’t want anything to disturb me from enjoying the drama. How did Akin think he would get away with deceiving Ambassador Andrew? For the first time, it made sense to me. I kept wondering if everyone had drunk the ‘be stupid’ syrup and had lost their sense-of-reason.

“My father has in his possession right now, documents that prove you never went to Yale School of Architecture as the résumé you sent to my dad claims. How long did you think you could lie to me and get away with it?”

Akin just stared at Chyoma in disbelief. I liked the look on his face. It seemed like he was watching a horror movie.

“I realized you vilified Mitchie with every opportunity you got. You lied that Mitchie took your phone, and that was why you couldn’t call me when I got to Sierra-leone. How ‘bout the barrage of insults you sent to him severally? I know about everything you slime of a man.” Chyoma broke into tears as she spoke. Akin tried to put his arms around her. “Take that filth off me, she screamed into the microphone. Now, I’m almost certain that the little girl with emphysema is also a lie. How would I have spent the rest of my life with a serial liar? Just how?”

At this point, everyone was standing. Not knowing what to expect next. This was a high-profile wedding. The cameras were still rolling, and the journalist had their hands full.

Then Chyoma walked up to me. I was hoping she wanted to apologize for not listening to me all-the-while. “Mitchie,” she said, in a sweet tone.

Suddenly, it seemed the picture began to fit. Chyoma had planned to do this to Akin already. That was why my ex-father-in-law had been saying it was going to be a fantastic day. I turned to look at him, and he was smiling.

But I still couldn’t understand why my friends and my cousin were invited too. Why the suit shopping too?

“We’ve only spent two out of a thousand years together. We still have 998 years to go. Each day of these four years without you was like living without a part of me. I know that I could be a loudmouth sometimes. But you’ve always been everything I have ever wanted. Mitchie, I’m sor-”

“Shhhhhhhhh! I quickly stopped her. I’m sorry I didn’t fight hard enough. I didn’t pray long enough. If there is any regret I have in my life, It’s letting you go. I was not there when Shirley started the first day of school. I have not given her the chance to introduce her father to her friends.”

She just kept looking at me with a spark in her eyes. “Will you-”

I quickly realized what was happening. Now I understood why the new suit, my friends and cousin being there, and my father-in-law’s awkward joy. So, I quickly composed myself. “What are you trying to say?”

Chyoma laughed, and then she smiled. “Will you re-marry me and spend the remaining 998 years of your life with me. Will you give me your heart one more time? Will you wake up with me in the morning and spend all day with me again. Will you be my husband once again?”

I leaned forward and kissed her on the lip. It was like our first kiss, magical in every way. I like to have fainted. I could hear the crowd cheering and screaming. The kids walked up to us, and we just kept hugging and crying. I had waited for four years for that day, and God had been so gracious to me. Akin had been very kind too. Who would have believed that he helped plan my wedding?

THE END…

Fight for love. Divorce hurts them kids and wreaks much havoc. Love your wife like Christ loves the church… Stay together!

If you enjoyed this story, please hit the share button below… Thank you!

Story Written by Richard Oti.

Email – richard4evah@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by pixabayHenri Meilhac on Unsplash


MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 7

joanna-kosinska-44214-unsplash


Akin was stunned. It was hard to believe the gravity of his mistake. Never had he been that careless, not in many years of scheming. “It’s Fred’s fault,” he said out loud, hitting the steering wheel in annoyance. Things couldn’t go south now, not after he had done so much work to get to this point.

Parking the car, Akin got down, and then he handed the Key to Fred. It was 5 minutes to 10:00 pm. “Baba, no vex abeg,” Akin murmured. Fred seemed to ignore the apology and quickly rushed in. “If I tell you the kain mistake I make this evening after me and you talk for phone ehn..”

“Badoski, we go talk later. If my madam reach home before me, my job done finish for that house be that ” Fred replied, and starting the engine of the car, he zoomed off.

“Wuye?” Akin asked the cabby he had stopped. He decided not to have a fight over the fare the driver was requesting. He needed to get home as fast so he could find a way to get out of the mess he had put himself in.

Meanwhile, Chyoma and her mother were still discussing Akin. Showing her mother the pictures of her date with Akin, “he’s simply amazing,” she said. The date at Jabi was masterly executed. The speed boat was allowed to drift off a little, till it was in the center of the lake. The engine was turned off. It was just Chyoma, Akin, and the beautiful night sky. The bag with all that Akin needed was beside them. He unzipped it, and then he began to offload its content. An ultimate Godiva Truffle chocolate collection. Scented candles. Multi-coloured Chinese flying lanterns. A bottle of Carmen Gran Reserva wine. A battery-powered compact disc player.

Chyoma switched off her phone when she realized how beautiful the date was going to be. She let go of her fears and decided to trust him. At least, Ezinne, her best friend had been informed on what to do in case things went wrong. Akin kicked off the night by lighting the scented candles and then playing the Luther Vandross album. Akin had a good voice, and she enjoyed as he sang along to the tracks. And then they shared some wine and chocolates. One by one, the flying sky lanterns began to be sent up into the air, until the entire sky above them looked like a beautiful constellation of lights. And then there came the selfies. Those were the pictures Akinyele sent to me, to tick me off. The picture that broke my heart most was that of Chyoma resting her head on his shoulder.

“Babe, are you home yet?” It was official now, Chyoma had decided that babe was the best name to call Akinyele. “Are you alright?” she sought to know, referring to the manner in which he had left the dinner.

Akin had been home for over 15 minutes already and had time to think. He had already figured out what lie to tell as regards why he had to leave suddenly. “My love, I’m fine. I just got home now. You won’t believe I had to rush to the hospital to see my neighbor’s little daughter who was admitted. It was critical, and her parents really needed some money at that time I was called. That’s why I had to leave hurriedly.”

“Awww! You should have let me know. I would have loved to go with you.” Chyoma breathed deeply, and then she asked – “What’s wrong with the little girl?”

“She has emphysema,” Akin said and then went on to hiss as if he felt so much pain for the sick girl. “She was having shortness of breath, so it was very critical tonight. I had to spend almost a hundred and fifty thousand. The mother kept kneeling down and thanking me. It was the least I could do, I mean, thank God I had my atm card on me. That was a life saver for that little girl.”

“I love you, Akin!” This was the first time Chyoma was expressing love for Akin in black and white. The stage was set. He had expressed how he felt, and she had just reciprocated it. “You have a heart of gold. I don’t know if anyone has told you that before now. The kind of things you do just leaves me speechless. How many neighbors would be that caring?”

“A neighbor like me,” Akin suggested.

“That’s what I am saying. There are few persons like you. I feel pity for that child. A little girl shouldn’t have emphysema. That is just so sad.”

“That family has spent so much  money, on her medical care, and I have been supporting them for a while now.”

“Would you mind sending me your account details?”

“Why?”

“Akin, I want to send you some money. Please, don’t say no.” There was silence on both ends of the phone for some seconds. “Pleaseeeeeeeee,” Chyoma said once more, stretching the plea so that he would accept.

“Ok. I would do that before I sleep.”

“Thank you!”

“Has your father said anything to you concerning my résumé yet?” Akin asked. His heart was pounding. It was almost sure that the Ambassador had not said a word yet. Because if he had, Chyoma wouldn’t be having that conversation with him.

“No. I don’t think my dad has or would even go through it. My father is a very busy person. He would probably just forward it to his PA or secretary and advice on what should be done.”

“God is magnificent!” Akin blurted out in relief. “Your father is such a kind and gentle man.”

“So, did your dad have good things to say about me?” Akin asked.

“Akin, my mother loves you. My father has never been an issue. My mom kept talking about you till we parted just a few minutes ago. But you have some work to do in regards to Shirley. She loves her father to bits. Even before our arrival, it was always a special time for her whenever she was speaking with him. Meeting him in person has created a much bigger romance between them. I’m afraid that she would be an emotional mess for some time after we leave on Friday.”

“What!” Akin screamed. Chyoma hadn’t told him she was leaving on Friday. It was breaking news to him.

“I know I have not told you, babe. I really didn’t know how to inform you,” Chyoma said, shutting her eyes, plunging her head onto her open palm. “I guess this is starting to get hard for me.”

Akin was a little distraught. The future of his scheme was hanging in the balance right now. “What becomes of us?” he wanted to know.

“I have fallen in love with you, and that’s all I can say for now.” Chyoma seemed to sob a little. “What do you think?”

Akin was quiet for an entire minute, and then he asked her, “Will you marry me?”

Chyoma’s eyes got as wide as saucers. It was the last thing she would have imagined or expected Akin would request. Akin seemed to have said that on the spur of the moment. That was a way to ensure that his hopes stayed alive. On second thought, it didn’t seem wrong to him to have Chyoma as a wife, considering the influence that her father commanded in the society. There was just so much splendor and opulence about her family.He perceived it would be a win-win situation if she married him.

“Are you kidding?”

“Nope. I’m dead serious. I’ve got my knees on the floor right now, and I’m asking you once again so that you’d know I’m resolute on this… Chyoma, would you marry me?”

The tears came rolling from Chyoma’s eyes. It wasn’t all for joy, but confusion too. Here she was in love for the first time in four years of being alone and to some extent lonely. If she says no, it might turn out to be a terrible mistake she will regret for a long time. She made a great mistake when she served me a divorce bill. It had cost her a relationship with her son. It had cost her son a relationship with his sister, and it had made her a single mother. It messed my life up and also hers. We should have fought hard, prayed, believed and loved harder. But Akin could be the bridge that takes away the memory of the past. If she says yes, that would be the craziest decision she has ever made in her life.

“Akin, I need some time to think about this. I really don’t know what to say. I love you, but I’m not certain I can give you an answer now.”

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes for your reply. I would wait. It doesn’t matter how far you are, our love would defy the obstacles. In you, I find all that I could ever want. A wife, a friend and someone who would be the mother of my child. I wouldn’t have had it more perfect with any other.”

The tears seemed to flow more as Chyoma listened. She had to rush off to the bathroom and lock it so that Shirley wouldn’t walk into the room and find her crying out her heart. There were many things still running through her mind. Shirley needed a father figure in her life – would she accept Akin in that capacity? How about her career?

“Akin, I need to be alone for now. I would talk to you later. Thank you for coming over for dinner.” Chyoma cut the call without waiting for a response from Akin.

Akin quickly typed his account number and sent to Chyoma before the emotions would make her change her mind. But for once, he wasn’t gloating over his smoothness as a player. Chyoma’s tears really got to him. But because of breaking so many hearts, he had learned to separate business from pleasure. His favorite quote was by Johann Wolfgang… ‘things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’ Chyoma’s feelings or emotions mattered least, even if she agreed to marry him.

Akin had had a fulfilling day. He remembered he hadn’t made my life miserable for the day, and there was still much time for that. So, he decided to send me a few of the pictures he had taken with Chyoma and her parents before he rushed off to go return the car to Fred. The caption this time was – what a real son-in-law should look like. But as long as Shirley stood as far away as possible from him in all the pictures, I was alright.

I typed my reply… I’m proud of you. You’d make a great son-in-law. But you’d never be a father to my daughter.

Guess he was certain that neither Shirley nor I was going to give him that chance. I knew I had lost Chyoma. I had seen enough proof to convince me of that. But when it came to my beautiful daughter, Akin wasn’t the kind of man I wanted playing the father figure to her. He was a slime.

It was very early in the morning, the cock was yet to crow, and sleep still had sway over the sons of men, but I was awake. That was the fourth night now. Short sleep was becoming a norm. It was a little different this night because my thoughts revolved around Shirley and how I could make her last day with Shawn and me one that she would never forget. An evergreen memory. But I was really short on ideas. Everything I thought about just seemed too conventional.

Akin was up early too. But he was awake for a different reason. His phone had beeped by 37 minutes past 2. It was a bank alert, notifying him that Chyoma had transferred a million to him. He couldn’t sleep again for the joy that had overtaken him. This was the biggest one-time money transfer he had received from anyone in his life. Now, he was more determined than ever that Chyoma was the last bus stop for him. There was so much wealth around her that he didn’t need another lady.

Akin was off work for the day. He had decided that he would go spend the day with Chyoma and her family. Cook for them, and mesmerize them some more with his charm.

It was 5:00 am when I started to feel sleepy. I still hadn’t been able to come up with a mind-blowing idea of how to spend our time with Shirley. So, I decided to sleep a little before I reviewed a poem and prepare Shawn for school.

It was now 6:52 am. “Wake up daddy,” Shawn screamed into my ears. I jumped up looking confused. My eyes were bloodshot and wide open. He started to laugh at me.

“Silly boy like you,” I responded.

“Good morning, dad.”

“Come give me a hug son.” I was all smiles because I had a dream which was like a blueprint for how unique I wanted to make the day. But I needed Ndidi’s help. “I’m sorry I overslept. Have you had a bath?”

“Yes,” Shawn responded. “But I haven’t eaten.”

I quickly got out of the bed and rushed into the kitchen to prepare noodles. “Hello dear,” I said to Ndidi as I was about to sauté the egg, corned beef, green pepper, and sausage.

“Hi sweetheart, hope you slept sound?”

“I did my dear. How’s Joan?”

“She’s here. We are getting ready to leave the house. Is Shawn ready?”

“That’s one of the reasons why I called.. you are just so amazing.”

Ndidi seemed to chuckle over the phone. “It’s a pleasure. What’s the other reason?”

“Shirley would be spending the night with us, her-”

“Are you serious?” Ndidi screamed over the phone. “How did things change?”

“I don’t really know, but her mother informed me last night. And I want to make it unforgettable. There are some regular things we want to do together, but I also have a hare-brained idea, one that I want to be aired on TV. Can you pull that off?”

“Ah! Mitchie,” Ndidi muttered. “What kind of idea do you have?”

“If it’s TV-worthy, would you find a way to have it aired on AIT?”

“I’m not the director of programming. But if it’s something that’s really sweet and beautiful, I believe she could consider it.”

That was a little encouraging. At least the idea wasn’t just one to dump in the cooler. “I promise you I’d discuss everything with you once you are free. Are you working a shift today?”

“No,” Ndidi replied, and then she went on to say something to Joan. “I’m off the entire day. I’d come over once I drop off Joan and Shawn.”

“Perfect. Thank you!”

“Anything for you bae,” Ndidi said, and then she went ahead to end the call.

I wasn’t still used to her calling me bae. Well, I wasn’t entirely against it either. If there was anyone apart from Chyoma that I would have wanted to call me bae, it would be her.

“Now Shawn, remember we have a busy day after school.  I have not told you this, but your sister would be traveling back to America tomorrow.” That statement seemed to wallop home. His countenance had a sudden change.

“Why?” he requested to know.

I could see his eyes tearing up already. “Your mother has to get back to work.”

“Can’t she leave Shirley with us?”

“It’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s just like me asking you to follow Shirley to America. Would you want to go without me?”

“No,” Shawn vehemently declared. “But if you would come with me, I would.”

“That’s the point. It would be selfish of us to separate Shirley from her mother.” Shawn was hurt, but I was glad he appeared stronger than I had anticipated. I really loved this boy. He was my little Pharisee. My best friend. My adorable son. “Now, don’t forget to be a good kid. Share your food with someone if you can. I love you.”

Chyoma woke up still confused. A little more chaotic than the previous night. So, she decided to call Silvia Milowangawe, the friend she had made while in Sierra-leone.

“Hello, Silvia, sawubona!” (good morning)

“Sawubona. Habari gani?” (how are you?)

Chyoma laughed because she understood what Silvia had asked. “Sijambo!” Chyoma replied. (Sijambo means – I’m all right.)

“Wow. You are now becoming a Zulu princess too,” Silvia responded to Chyoma’s reply.

“My heart is heavy Silvia. I needed someone I could talk to. Someone who would tell me the truth.” Chyoma took a deep breath, and a sigh followed. “Remember the friend I told you I was having dinner with the last time we spoke?”

“Yes, I do.”

“He wants me to be his wife.”

“Wow! Are you kidding?”

“I kid you not dear. Akinyele made his intentions known last night. But I keep remembering the quote of your uncle Mandela; a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. My head says one thing, and my heart says another.”

“What does your heart say?” Silvia wanted to know.

“It says it’s all too sudden, and that maybe I should wait a little longer. But my head keeps reminding me how long it took me to fall in love again. I have met many guys, Silvia, believe me. I don’t get swept off my feet so quickly.”

“I believe you. From the little time you spent with me, I could tell that you are an independent woman who isn’t looking for a man to take care of her. This must be difficult for you.”

“What makes it harder is that I’m leaving Nigeria tomorrow, and I’m hoping I can give him a reply before I do so.”

Silvia knew that this matter was not as easy as saying-do-this or do that. “Trust your instincts. Whatever you decide, I’d be here to support you all the way. If you love him, and if it’s right, your head and your heart would align.”

“Thanks, Silvia, I knew I could always get some common sense from you,” Chyoma replied and then she laughed. “By the way, the story I covered has been so big that I have my hands full.”

“Tell me ‘bout it.”

“I have an offer to run a weekly column on Wall Street Journal. I have a meeting with WHO and UNICEF in the coming weeks. I have been asked to do more original stories by my head of programming. Finally, I think the government of Sierra-leone would have to come clean and allow those poor sick people receive help from these foreign organizations. That gives me so much comfort. My effort was not in vain.”

“Well done my dear. You inspire me with your courage. Now, I’m tired of talking with you, can I finally say hello to Shirley?”

Chyoma laughed, “Shirley!” she went ahead to scream several times.

“I’m coming Mommy,” Shirley yelled back as she ran up the stairs.

I had hatched out the entire plan for the night. Moreover, Chyoma had sent me another text to inform me that Etim, the family driver would bring Shirley by 5:00 pm and he also would be available all night, in case I felt like hanging out with the kids. All I could say after reading the text was – “God bless you Chyoma.”

Akinyele was determined to have the greatest day of his life. He started off by having a big breakfast at The Charcoal, which was on Aminu Kano Crescent. And then he used a nearby ATM before proceeding to visit Fred. “Brotherly, I dey outside, abeg show,” he said over the phone to Fred, who had ignored two of his calls already.

Fred didn’t sound excited over the phone, and Akin could guess why. “Bros, how nah?” Fred said. His appearance was scruffy and his countenance unwelcoming.

“Fredo lala, brotherly, I know say I no try yesterday. But I just came to say sorry.” Akin pulled out a bundle of fresh notes from the back pocket of his trouser. “This is N50k.”

Fred’s was speechless. The money was fifteen thousand above his salary. “Bros, how e take happen?”

“I told you we would reap the dividends soon.” Akin smiled, and then he tapped Fred on the back. “Chyoma gave me a hundred thousand. But as my friend, it’s 50/50.”

“Kai! You are a good friend,” Fred said, almost moved to tears at the kind gesture.

“Brotherly, can you imagine if it’s one million she gave me?”

“That would have been 500 thousand for me. Akinyesco Badoski!”

“Abeg no vex for yesterday.”

“Yesterday, haba, we be mens nah. I don forget that one since.”

“I Know say your madam dey, I no fit get any car this morning, but how ‘bout evening? You fit bring the vehicle come Chyoma house?”

“What time?”

“I plan to spend some time in their house, so anytime from 4:00 pm is alright. I’d just pretend the car had an issue and it’s being worked on. When you come, just hala me, I go come down collect key from you.”

“No wahala!”

“Brotherly, brotherly,” Akin said, smiling as if Fred was the best thing to happen to humanity. “Ose.”

Ndidi was at the house after she dropped off the kids as she had promised. “Hey!” I greeted, and then ushered her in.

“So, what’s up?”

“I was thinking of doing something that had the potential to go viral. Something that Shirley could watch on youtube twenty years from now and remember how much her father and brother love her.”

“Hmm. Sounds nice. Let’s get down to the details. That’s the skeleton. Can I have some meat?”

“I was planning to take her on a date, I might not get the opportunity again in a while except things change.”

“OK,” Ndidi answered. “But what’s the unusual catch ‘bout the date?”

“I just want to show every father how special their daughters should feel when with them. I want to show Shirley how a man should treat her. And I would love to have it aired and also posted on YouTube. She could always go back to watch it and see how loved she is.”

“Sounds nice. We can get it into the entertainment news for tonight if you’d have it ready before 7:30. All content for the 9:00 pm news must be approved at most 30 minutes before we go live. Also, who is doing the shooting?”

You see the funny thing about hare-brained ideas.  I was thinking only in black and white and not in colors. So, I just kept smiling, while Ndidi looked at me funny.

“Mitchie, you apparently didn’t think this through,” Ndidi murmured. “But I can sort that out. I mean, it’s you, anything for you.” So, we spent the next 30 minutes fine tuning the plan till the blueprint was perfect.

I wanted to badly say… This is why I love you. But I wasn’t sure what the outcome of that would be in the coming days, so I just smiled and said “thank you.” I still felt I hadn’t appreciated her enough, so when she was about to leave, I gave her a hug.

I dug out my suit and bow tie from the trunk box where it had been stashed in. It was kept for special occasions. Before you laugh at me and think that I am el-cheapo, I’d like to inform you that it’s a Dolce & Gabbana dinner suit and it was given to me by my father-in-law. That suit smelled like a field the Lord has blessed.

“I’m outside, in a cab, looking up at you,” Akin said to Chyoma over the phone. “I don’t know, but has anyone told you today that you are beautiful?”

“No,” Chyoma giggled, “So?”

“So, I would like to be the first to tell you today that you-are-beautiful.”

“Thank you, Akin,” Chyoma said and then she called out, instructing the security officials on duty to let Akin in.

Chyoma gave him a hug as he walked into the house. “It’s good to see you, babe,” she said. “How’s the little girl?”

“She is doing much better than she did last night. I went to see her this morning, and her parents are just so appreciative and grateful.”

“Awwww! You are such a special guy.”

Akin smiled in agreement. “Thank you for the one million you transferred to me. But you know you didn’t have to, right?

I wanted to. Thank you for not returning it back.”

Returning it back? Chyoma seemed to be totally unaware that this guy would have pocketed 50 thousand Naira without complaining. But the façade of being a wealthy chef was working out just fine. So, she believed one million wasn’t so much money for someone who had a Mercedes-Benz-C-Class and 12 million in savings for his restaurant.

Akin didn’t waste time making his presence felt. Wearing an apron, he went into the kitchen to show everyone what he was made of. Chyoma also wore her apron. She wanted to be a co-chef with him. It was an excellent opportunity for him to play with her. Mrs. Frances also wanted to be in the kitchen with them. There was just this charm about Akin that made people revolve around him. It was like an anointing, but not from God. Chyoma’s heart began to align with her head faster than she could imagine. Akin seemed to get along with everyone in the house. Mrs. Frances loved him. He was unconventional. There was no reason for this love to be denied a right to bloom, Chyoma thought.

I had called Etim to inform him that he would meet us at Nicon Luxury Hotel in Garki Area 11, close to where I lived. It was close to the house, and that’s where I decided would be best for our dinner. The proximity to the house was so good, I could be at Ndidi’s place in barely 5 minutes.

“Hey, Shawn, When the car pulls over. Open the door for your sister, and then give her a peck on the cheek. I would do so same too. Tell her how beautiful you think she is. You do believe she is pretty right?”

Shawn was listening with rapt attention. “Yes, Daddy,” he replied.

It was funny, I was talking to him like an adult, but I wanted him to say it because he believed it. “Then you’d hold her to the left while I hold her by the right hand. We would walk with her into the hotel, then into their restaurant. Once we get to our table, I’d pull out a chair for her, and then we’d both wait for her to sit before we do same. I want to teach you how to treat your sister. So that if any man treats her less, she would know that he doesn’t love her.” Shawn was all smiles. I couldn’t help but allow a grin to break out on my face too.

“Give her preference, we would let her pick what she wants to eat first before you do, and then me. Then, the rest of the evening is up to me.”

The night was really fun. We kept laughing and playing. I tickled them, and they tried to do same to me. A lot of those in there were staring at us because we were loud. Who cared? I knew they wished they could be as in love with their children as I was with mine. After we had eaten and cut the cake I had ordered, then it was time for my last act. “Shirley, I want to sing something special to you,” I said, rubbing her chubby red cheeks.

She blushed and chuckled. I could see so much of her mother in her. A beautiful soul and heart. “What song?”

“Whitney Houston’s – I will always love you.” I knelt down on one knee, then I began to sing out loud. And everyone started to turn towards our table to watch. I started off very well, but I couldn’t go past the second stanza. Because as I looked at her, it dawned on me that I was singing a farewell song to my own daughter. It didn’t feel right. I couldn’t hold back the tears, I just held her in my embrace and allowed the tears to flow.

Of course, none of it was rehearsed. It was all spontaneous, and Ndidi seemed to like the video when she saw it, because it was emotional and not surreal.

That night, we played and laughed again and again. Wrestled each other, played hide and seek,  ate some more and then played some more till late into the night. I had decided Shawn wasn’t going to school the next day, so we cared less about time. Shirley slept in my arms. I kept staring at her. It reminded me of when she was a baby, how I would hold her and just keep imagining how God was so gracious, to give me a little girl that beautiful. Chyoma had a stronger bond with Shawn than I did back then. But when we got divorced, it was certain I wouldn’t be able to raise her better than her mother could, and vice-versa. So, she filed for custody of Shirley, and I got Shawn.

It seemed the night was good for everyone. It had been a great evening for the kids and myself. Akinyele and Chyoma had a beautiful time together too. Everyone was happy, and for once it seemed Akin forgot to torment me. I was grateful for that. And yes, our video was aired on AIT, much to the admiration of everybody. I cared less for the accolades, but  I was confident that if I didn’t see my daughter for the next 10 years, that video would remind her of what kind of man I am.

 

It was morning, and Shirley was still curled up in my arms while Shawn snuggled up around my waist. It was a beautiful feeling. My phone had rung several times already, but I had been unaware because we all seemed tipsy. We had had a weekends amount of fun in just a few hours.

There was a knock on the front door. It’s sound kept getting louder until it seemed I heard it in my dreams. Opening my eyes, it was past 8 am.

“Who is it?” I asked, having one eye closed and the other opened.

“Oga Mitchie, na Etim,” he replied. “I don call your phone tire.”

Opening the door to him, “Oga Etim, emesiere,” I greeted.

“Emesiere nde!” He replied and then walked in.

“Oga, I come to carry Shirley.” Etim looked a little tired also. He had been with us most of the night. The cinema. The suya spots. The fast food restaurants. He took us everywhere. We rocked the night and rocked it more when we got home. “Madam don start to dey park already,” he informed me.

“This early?” It wasn’t really early. I usually start packing two days before a trip. But I needed to give myself some reason to delay Shirley leaving. “OK. I would wake little madam.” Etim laughed. He knew I was teasing him by calling Shirley that. I didn’t like him calling my daughter ‘little madam’.

“Sweetheart,” I called out into Shirley’s ear. “Shirley,” I called out again. I knew she was still in sort of a hangover mood. The yawning and stretching just went on.

“Etim, you fit just wait small make I cook food for am?” I knew he was working on strict instructions, but I wanted to stall a little so that Shirley could wake up properly and not feel forced to do so. “You go chop indomie?” I asked Etim.

A smile broke out on his face. “Oga, I go chop.” I knew it was going to be hard for Etim to say no. The size of his waist was a testament to the fact that he had not said no to food in a long time.

“No wahala.. make I enter the kitchen.” The hot plate started heating up, and I got to chopping and pounding. I had a concoction in mind, then wanted to fry some eggs and plantain too. In thirty minutes I was done and began serving. Shirley’s prolonged pandiculation had stopped, and she was now arguing with Shawn over some animated character.

We all sat down to eat, and I asked the little ones to pray. This felt like the last breakfast.

For once, I got a graphic picture of how the disciples felt when they were eating the last supper with Jesus. The only difference this time was that Akinyele ‘Judas’ Solarin was not on the table.

We had just started eating when Chyoma called Etim, upset that he hadn’t still returned home. “Give me the phone, please,” I requested.

“Good morning Chyoma. Sorry, I just wanted Shirley to eat something. We had a long night, we didn’t wake up on time.”

“It’s ok, Mitchie,” she said and then seemed to laugh a little. “Nennaya sent me the link to the video you made for Shirley. I think it was beautiful. I don’t think she would have had a better father. Thank you!”

For a moment, it seemed my faintly burning wick-of-hope got reignited. “I wish you were there with us.” The conversation went silent on both ends for almost a minute. “What time is your flight?” I asked, to break the ice.

“It’s actually tomorrow morning by 6:00 am. But Delta doesn’t take off from Abuja. So we would fly to Lagos this evening by 5:15 pm precisely.”

“Can I come along with you to the airport?”

“Sure. You would be good company.” It seemed Chyoma wanted to say something else but was finding it difficult. “But I must tell you, Akin would come along too,” she finally said.

Oh, not again. Me and Akin in the same car, for a trip over 30 minutes. I wasn’t sure what might happen. The kids would be there, and I didn’t want to erase the good memories with one-act of stupidity. “Would he follow you all the way?” I asked. After saying that, I realized how silly a question it was.

“of course, he will,” Chyoma replied. She seemed adamant that nothing was going to stop Akin from being in that car.

“Ok. I’d come over to the house by 2:00 pm. Would that be okay?”

“Yea, that’s perfect. How is Shawn?”

“He is here.  I pay his tuition, so I declared today a school-free day for him. Want to say hello?”

“Sure,” Chyoma said excitedly.

So, I passed the phone to Shawn. He seemed to enjoy the call. I kept wondering what his mother was telling him that just made him keep laughing.

We made it to Ambassador Andrew’s house on time. Standing outside, I had to think for a minute if it was worth using 2 calories of my energy to knock on that big black gate that stood as a barrier. Being outside, I still had a lot of self-respect, but there was no telling how much of it I was going to lose in a short time if I walked in.

“Hello, sir, who are you please?”

I introduced myself and who I had come to visit. The not-so-good-looking huge security personnel  radioed someone inside, seemingly to confirm if Chyoma was expecting me. While waiting for feedback, I kept wondering why this bouncer-looking-security-guy was stoney faced. That was why he looked less handsome than he had potential to look. Well, it was none of my business I thought.

“You have been confirmed. You can come in, sir.”

So, we walked in. I was warmly received by the steward. Oh, boy, this guy reeked of garlic more this time than the last time we met. I was just hoping Shawn wouldn’t be naughty and ask him why he smelled like that.

“Bonnyface, how are you?”

“I’m fine sir.”

Bonnyface was a good man, to me that was more important. It was his prerogative if he wanted to smell to high heaven. I tried not to focus on that much.

“Is mummy inside?” I inquired.

“Yes, she is in the living room,” Bonnyface replied and then he began to lead me into the house.

I thought about staying outside, in the garden. There were seats available, fresh breeze and big trees which provided shed. But that would be the best grounds on which Mrs. Frances would insult me. I hadn’t seen her in four years, and now I come to her house and sit outside knowing she is just a few meters away?

“Mummy, ndewo!” (Igbo greeting)

“Is that my grandson?” Mrs. Frances shouted and quickly motioned for Shawn to come closer. I was totally ignored. My people, I mean totally, like I wasn’t standing there. The self-respect I came in with was already putting on wings and ready to fly out in just seconds. “Mitchel, didn’t you meet me talking with someone? Did you greet him?”

Guess who that person was?…   Akinyele ‘Judas-Iscariot’ Badoski.

“Akin, good afternoon,” I said to him, avoiding eye contact so it would be less annoying. He was drinking red wine, sitting on the same seat with my ex-mother-in-law. This was how close they had become?

“How are you, Michelle?” Akin asked. That was when the self-respect finally took flight. He had called my name in the female version again to provoke me. This was only happening because neither Chyoma nor Ambassador Andrew was there. They would not have put up with the crap Mrs. Frances was permitting.

So, I just stood there, instead of trying to sit and then someone would ask me if I had such gorgeous upholstery in my house.

“Mitchie, why are you standing?” Chyoma asked, pulling a bag in each hand.

“Are you ready to leave?” That was the only question I could ask. She could see from the squinting and narrowing of my eyes that I was getting chaffed.

“Daddy!” That was the sweet voice that  changed everything. It was angelic. It was honey-like. It was Shirley’s.

“Yes baby,” I said and scooped her up into my arms. “Wow, You weigh a lot o,” I informed her.

“But daddy is Superman, right?” she responded in her beautiful American accent.

“Yes, daddy is Superman, he is ready to carry you in his arms all day and all night if that’s what you want.”

A kiss on my cheeks followed that statement. I was really glad that those who mattered most to me loved me and respected me. So, my smile returned.

The ambassador walked into the parlor just when we were about to leave. I felt refreshed. It was almost like I had seen a long-lost friend. “Daddy, it’s good to see you again.” He had been resting because he was also traveling that night to Berlin, Germany, for a meeting with his foreign-counterpart.

“Akin, how are you,” Ambassador Andrew asked the once again fully prostrated-prostrated Akinyele.

“Fine sir!” Akin went ahead to ask him if he tasted some of the food that he cooked the previous day.

“My wife gave me some of it. I really enjoyed the grilled chicken breast with onion sauce and the sweet potato pie.” Ambassador Andrew wasn’t one known for flattery. If he said he enjoyed something, then he really did.

Bonnyface and one of the security guards helped haul the boxes into the Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV. “Who would like to sit with me in the front seat?” I asked the little ones. Chyoma was a little far away with her father, talking privately. The driver was already warming up the engine. Akin had taken his place at the back of the car. It was obvious that the front had been left for me.

“Me,” Shirley shouted.

“I would stay in the back with mummy and uncle Akin,” Shawn replied.

“He is not your uncle,” Shirley said sharply to Shawn. It was loud, Akin heard it, and I like that he heard it. But it was true also. I thought an uncle is supposed to be your mother’s or father’s brother?

Far from rebuking her, I said, “God bless your akan’uche (common sense) my darling.” At least I was sure I had a fellow warrior in her, someone who would give him the creeps.

We all hopped in and embarked on the journey to the airport. I was reticent and didn’t want to speak much. I just wanted to hold my daughter in my arms for the last time and run my fingers through her hair and enjoy the warmth of her sweet smile. Then Akin decided to destroy the calm.

Shawn had been between Akin and Chyoma in the back seat of the SUV. Then suddenly I noticed that Shawn was sitting on Akin’s hips, and the latter had moved closer to Chyoma. I wasn’t comfortable with someone who disrespected me that much carrying my son, but I ignored it. Then in a few minutes, I noticed that he had pushed Shawn aside towards the window, and he was so close to Chyoma now, whispering things in her ears. This guy moved Shawn out of his position on purpose. What kind of man could be so cruel even to a child? Was his mother blind to what was happening?

I couldn’t hold myself again. “You should be ashamed of yourself Akin,” I blurted out. “How dare you move my son away from his mother, so you can have your personal space with her? Do you know the last time he had that privilege? For once, can it not just be about you?” I yelled in disgust.

“Mitchie, I was the one who asked Akin to move Shawn to the other side. I wasn’t sure you’d have been comfortable with him sitting on Akin’s lap,” Chyoma replied softly.

Akin was just calm and all smiles. I had acted the fool again, giving Chyoma another reason to believe that I had just disliked Akin without just cause. But I wasn’t going to let him win this time. “I’m sorry Akin for falsely accusing you. I really do apologize.” I apologized to Chyoma too and made sure she realized I had no ill will towards Akin.

“Do you want to sit with me, Shawn?” I asked. I couldn’t understand why his mother would not use the opportunity to create a memory with him. I guess Akin was more important.

Shawn joined Shirley and me in the front seat of the car. “Can you play some music?” I asked Etim. I needed something soothing. Something to take my mind off the depressing thoughts. Akin was in the car. Shirley was leaving. Chyoma, the lady my heart was still beating for, was leaving too. I felt sick in many ways.

‘Attention, please! This is to announce the boarding of Arik Air flight A321 to Lagos. All passengers, please proceed for boarding. This is a first boarding call, please.’

It was time for them to leave. I had planned how I would express my love and adoration for Shirley one more time. But I was speechless. One word would have opened the floodgates for the tears to begin to flow. Shawn was already crying so hard, and so was Shirley too. This was too painful for my heart.

Chyoma was a little distance away because she had something she quickly wanted to tell Akin. “Akin, I thought carefully about what you want.” She took a deep breath and then she looked into his eyes as if she wanted to see into his soul. “Yes, I would be your wife. I would marry you.”..

If you enjoyed reading, kindly hit the share button, leave a comment (a feedback is always appreciated), share story on your wall, tell a friend about my blog, and support in any way you wish to. God bless… Many thanks!

STORY BY; Richard Oti

 

CONTINUE STORY...

MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 6

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Ndidi looked exceptional this afternoon. She was dressed in a black Tom Ford sleeveless jumpsuit. A cream shawl hung around her shoulders, flowing down towards her sides. Her braids were styled in a box bun. Her eyelashes were full, and her lips coated in light red. I looked down at her legs, she had on an Ericdress solid-color sequined zipper stiletto sandal. Oh boy! I couldn’t help but smile over and over again. Here was I, dressed like someone who just came from the farm in comparison to how classy Ndidi looked.

“I must say; you look stunning… breathtakingly beautiful!”

Looking into Ndidi’s eye, I could see that look. It was the kind Michelle had in her eyes when Barrack Hussein Obama gave his farewell address as president of the United States of America. I knew Ndidi adored me.

“You are handsome Mitchie,” she said smiling, and then she reached out and touched my chin. It felt like 2000 volts of current went through my body when that happened. It was the first time in many years, I felt this much butterflies rumbling in my belly. It was a daily experience with Chyoma though before things went south.

“Thank you. That’s what people always say,” I replied cheekily. “Actually, you also look like a million bucks.” It wasn’t an exaggeration. Ndidi was elegant and by all standards -beautiful.

“Awwww! Thanks, bae.”

I wasn’t sure if she should be calling me bae. But I had started the wahala by inviting her to lunch, and telling her she was breathtakingly beautiful. So, I just smiled and replied – “you are welcome, boo.”

Ndidi seemed to be on cloud nine, maybe moving towards the tenth. “So, tell me how you have been since Sunday,” she requested, and then she mused as she flipped through the menu.

“What’s funny?”

“The food on the menu just reminds me of my experience in France. My honeymoon precisely. No questions Mitchie, now back to you.”

Sunday was the last time I had seen Ndidi. We had been to Salamander Café where the drama I acted with Akin had been videotaped and passed on to Chyoma. “I’m not sure I want to relive the last two days. It’s been a roller-coaster experience.”

“I want to listen to you Mitchie,” Ndidi replied, “You know you can talk to me, right?”

How do I say – No. As much as I wanted to keep my private-life-private, I also knew that there would be nothing more cathartic than talking to someone close. Who else was closer to me now? “Are you sure?” I requested to know.

Ndidi sort of leaned closer, as if to say you-can-begin-talking.

“Could I drink a little from your bottle of water?” I asked her because my throat was dry. “You still haven’t made an order,” I noted.

“Sure, you can have the entire bottle if you wish. At this point, you are more important than whatever this beautiful fancy restaurant could serve me.” Ndidi reached out her right hand and took mine.

I felt tingly, and for a moment, there was a glint of boyish ebullience about me. I hadn’t felt that special in a while. More than four years precisely. It wasn’t just because Ndidi was paying attention to me, it was because she reminded of what love felt like. She reminded of how it used to be with Chyoma. It seemed the universe stood still anytime we were together; nothing else mattered.

“It’s about my ex-wife,” I said, looking at Ndidi, trying to evaluate her reaction. After a few seconds, I was making no headway with the evaluation, so I just decided to pour out my heart without reservation for the next thirty-five minutes. Sometimes, almost moved to tears, and at other times laughing as I told interesting stories of our marriage. That was the first time I was actually sitting down and talking to someone about my failed marriage. “Thank you for listening to me,” I said to Ndidi. “Hope I didn’t bore you?”

“No, you almost moved me to tears.” Ndidi pulled out a hanky from her Louis Vuitton vintage bag, and then caught a tear that was about to escape her eye. “You know, I can relate to everything you are experiencing. I have been separated for 8 years too. It’s not been easy,”

“You know what makes it worse?”

“Will you tell me?” Ndidi asked.

“I would if you would request for something to eat, right now.”

So, swinging her right hand into the air, she requested that the waiter comes closer. “I’d like a glass of smoothie. Well, and this is called Steakhouse, I would like to taste your steak. A portion of fried rice, two big pieces of chicken, and a plate of baked beans. Also, some sweet corn and two sets of cutlery. Thank you.”

“Why two sets of cutlery?” I demanded to know.

“You are eating from the same plate with me,” Ndidi said, “and no objections please,” she added.

“OK, ma’am,” I replied, and rolled my eye upwards.

“Mitchie Mitchie, haba, you have to eat with me o,” and then she reached out and touched my chin again. Another 2000 volts of electric current went through my body.

“Yes, I would,” I quickly responded. 4000 volts was alright for one lunch.

“Now tell me what you were about to before you insisted I ordered for lunch.” Ndidi relaxed to listen.

“Remember the guy I had a brawl with on Sunday?”

“At Salamander?”

“Yes,” I replied, and then hissed. “The one who made me act a fool in front of the kids and everyone.”

“I know he really hurt you that day. I have never seen you act that way. See quiet uncle Mitchie ooo. Joan kept talking about it all afternoon after we got home.”

“Oh, dear lord,” I responded, and scratched my head. “I wish I had displayed more self-control.”

I had apologized to the kids, but I felt I owed all of them another round of apology. I immediately tendered one to Ndidi again.

“It seems the guy has been out to frustrate me ever since we met. Right from the first second, the devil has been using him to get to me. Like on a daily basis. Do you know that he had someone record the incident at the café, and he sent it to my ex-wife.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Not at all. I really don’t know what he must have told her about me, you, and the lunch we had at the café. But I took Shawn over to see his twin-”

“The eight and most beautiful wonder of the world,” Ndidi said with a smile, repeating the words I had used to introduce Shirley to her.

“Yes, the cutest and most lovely daughter anyone could wish for. The daughter I would not get to see after Friday, for only God knows how long.” Tears suddenly welled up in my eyes. “Her mother has decided to leave the country by Friday.”

“Are you alright Mitchie?” Ndidi asked, looking concerned as the tears made a quick race down my cheeks.

I felt embarrassed for a moment, and looked around to see if anyone was eavesdropping or staring at me.“I would be. I just need time to soak up all of these.”

“If there’s anything you need or want me to do, I would be most glad to do so for you right now.”

“You’ve been most kind. Without you, I doubt Shirley would have enjoyed her stay with me that much. Seeing her yesterday was amazing. You know, I have lived without her these many years, and I had gotten used to it. But now, I can’t explain it, I would give anything just to have my daughter and…” I was about to say – my wife, but I remembered this was supposed to be a date, and the lady adoringly listening to me was hoping someday I would be kneeling down beside her with a ring in my hand, asking her to be my wife.

“Daugther and?” she asked.

“My daughter and son, living under the same roof till they both grow up and decide to start families of their own.”

“Wouldn’t that be something?”

“Sure, it would. Do you remember the night you guys came over with food?”

“Friday night after church?” Ndidi asked.

“Yes. Do you know that as I was going to buy suya from mallam Shakiru, this guy called me and was asking me about Shirley and telling me that Chyoma had called him twice since she arrived in Sierra-leone, and he wanted to send her greetings to Shirley? As an assistant father or what?”

“I’m starting to see why you are hurt.”

“Yesterday, he sent me pictures of his date with Chyoma, and added a caption – these-are-for-you-looser!”

“No, haba! This is too personal,” Ndidi angrily said. “Mitchie, we can’t allow this to continue oo.”

I suddenly started to laugh. “So, what’s your plan? I have never seen your Killi Wee Nwachukwu face until now. You look funny when you are angry.” We both laughed out loud and continued the chitchat.

“Hey! baby, who is that guy?” Mrs. Frances asked Chyoma as she walked into the kitchen. “I watched you both while you were outside.”

“Mummy! Are you stalking me with your eyes?”

“No. I saw you were all smiles, and so was he. And you both looked happy talking to each other.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. So, tell me all about him.”

Chyoma kept smiling. “He would tell you all about himself when he comes tomorrow night,” Chyoma murmured, as she walked towards the refrigerator,  “where’s my chocolate bar?”

“Your daughter ate it.” Mrs. Frances seemed so excited about Akin’s visit. “Tomorrow night? I couldn’t see him up close, but he looked handsome and nice. What’s his profession?”

Chyoma knew that if she dared to portray Akin as the chef/waiter he was, it was certain that the dinner would never take place. “I invited him for dinner. He’s into a lot of things.” The subject was changed quickly. “Would daddy be home tomorrow night?”

“You have to ask him. Your father is like the wind; now you see him, and thereafter you don’t. kpo ya na ekwenti ya.” (call him on his phone)

“OK. I will do that.”

“I hope this boy is not like Mitchel?”

“Mummy! What is it with you and Mitchel, till now?”

“You and Nennaya are my only daughters. I only want the best for both of you.” Mrs. Frances paused for a moment. “Why did you ever choose to marry Mitchel instead of Ifeanyi?”

Yes, Ifeanyi Achinivu – was the main reason Mrs. Frances made my life unbearable. Ifeanyi was a business mogul, the heir to an empire – one that was worth billions of Naira. I could never measure up to Ifeanyi in any way. You know, being a fine boy can only do so little to impress your mother-in-law. Who fine boy epp? I couldn’t impress my ex-mother-in-law no matter how I tried. Ifeanyi would have given a better wedding ring. Ifeanyi would have given a wedding of a lifetime. Ifeanyi would have given a better life. Ifeanyi wouldn’t have allowed Chyoma trek in the sun. Ifeanyi would have sent her abroad to give birth. The comparison was endless. But Ifeanyi wouldn’t have ever loved her and adored her like I did. Never!

And yes, I was young and pretty stupid to have let my ego start to get the best of me. I began to take out my feelings on Chyoma. As Mrs. Frances made my life hell, I unconsciously made Chyoma’s life unbearable too. Each day, I picked a fight, and misread her every action. But how much can one take before giving up? Soon, there was really nothing in our marriage worth fighting for. I was fed up with the barrage of insults, and she was weary of my behavior too.  We got divorced and then she relocated to America. It was a hard decision. But she wanted to be as far away from me, Ifeanyi and her mother too. In doing so, she sacrificed her relationship with Shawn.

“Mummy, please, please, please, don’t mention Ifeanyi again, except you don’t want to see me for the next four years.”

“I’m sorry my dear, it’s just-”

“Don’t go there. Not for a second. Let’s talk about Akin, he is the Future.”

Mrs. Frances sighed and then she laughed. “I wish you would tell me more about him.”

“I won’t. You have to wait until tomorrow, and then you can find out all you need to know from him.” It wasn’t really that Chyoma didn’t want to tell her mother more about this gentleman the mother was curious to meet, but she barely knew enough to start down that road. Everything was happening so fast, but it was too good to let-go-of, she believed.

 

Wednesday Morning

 I was up early, barely slept more than three hours all night. The-sleepless-nights was becoming a trend, three days in a row. I had still not been able to tell Shawn that Shirley was leaving on Friday, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do so.

I hadn’t reviewed a poem in four days, and I had recived so many poems, running into almost a hundred. But it was Wednesday, the dead poets day, and I usually reviewed a classic poem in honor of the legends who had laid the foundations on which we stood.

Anabel Lee

 

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me,
Yes!, that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we,
Of many far wiser than we,
And neither the angels in heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

 

Review: This is one of the most beautiful poems ever written by Edgar Allen Poe. For me, it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Khalil Gibran’s ‘on marriage’. The writer seems to portray his love in the realms of fantasy. But he does it so brilliantly that you would wish to challenge the angels for taking Anable Lee. The writer wouldn’t even allow death separate him from his true love. Don’t let anyone or anything come between you and that special person in your life. Believe me, I have learned this the hard way, and I wish I could go back in time to fix this, but it’s too late. Remember, it’s dead poets day… write a poem today. I wish you all a love and poetry filled day. Salute!

Everything looked black and white to me; was it the lack of good sleep or the burden of not seeing Shirley again? I couldn’t tell which.

What lasting memory could I create with Shirley before she leaves? How do I keep Shawn’s spirit from breaking? My mind kept going in a million tangents as I lay in bed, waiting for the sun to overpower the night, and then force its light into my room.

I could remember the first time I held Shirley in my arms; It was a few minutes past 9:00 am, and there was such a joy and ecstasy about it. It was picture perfect. She weighed 3.5kg, and her facial features were just too beautiful; especially her eyes, they looked like beautifully polished glass, underneath which there was trapped all of heaven’s peace and love. I just didn’t want to let her go. I must have sung all the lullabies I knew to keep her from crying, but she needed her mother, while I just wanted to keep cradling her, forever.

While sitting beside Chyoma and the baby, I kept imagining how I was going to take her to school, walk her around the block, play hide and seek with her, tell her about fine boys and how to avoid them. My imagination just seemed to stretch as far as I allowed it. It was right there in the hospital I decided I would name her Shirley; meaning bright wood. She was everything bright and beautiful to me.

I called Ambassador Andrew to inform him that he was now officially a grandpa. That man is just a rare gem. He was standing beside me in the hospital in just a few minutes, laughing and rejoicing. I had also called Mrs. Frances to notify her. She came to visit two weeks later and never showed up for omugwo.

The next day, we were back to the hospital again, because Chyoma was in so much pain. I was scared, worried, and confused. I kept pacing around while the doctor was trying to figure out why she was in pain. Then came the loud screams. The sound seemed to stab the air viciously; It was pains of labor, again. Since they wouldn’t let me into the room, I just kept pacing around, outside her door, singing Majek Fashek’s ‘send down the rain’, a song that the radio hardly even played again. I wondered how the song got started on my lips, but I was nervous and didn’t know what else to sing.

Then came that moment that every husband fears; when the door opens and the doctor walks out, looking like he had fought a battle to keep a patient alive, but had failed.

“Congratulations!” Dr. Orjiugo said in a quiet voice and reached his palm over, and took mine in a warm shake. “You now have a son too.”

 

Ambassador Andrew’s Residence

The atmosphere was astir, the kitchen was alive with so much aroma. The dining room was aglow with lights. I had eaten at that dinner table three times before. It was the most amazing dining room I had been in, in all my life. There was a large wall aquarium adjacent the dining set, giving it sort of an ocean-view setting. The dining table could seat ten and had a little extra space for two more side chairs if needed. The entire furniture in the room was Michael Amini, and the crystal chandelier was an 85 light foyer from the Maria Theresa collection. The room was designed for beauty and glory.

“Bonnyface, please make sure the security officers are aware that my friend would be around in an hour.” Chyoma had been actively engaged in the kitchen, ensuring the chefs were doing the best job. She had determined to make Akin feel as special as he had made her feel two nights before. “Sweetheart, have you had your bath?” Chyoma quizzed Shirley, who seemed not to care for whatever was making her mother shuttle between the dining room and kitchen.

“Will you bathe me?” Shirley asked, putting up her pity face, one she had used to coax her mother into giving into her demands over the years. She tried doing that to me when she came over for the holiday, but it didn’t work; because if I had given in, my little pharisee would pick up from where she had stopped and take it to a whole new level.

“Ok, go to the room, take off your clothes, I would be there shortly,” Chyoma said with a smile, and then she walked back into the kitchen.

The inviting aroma struck Mrs. Frances’ nose as she walked in. “I have a feeling that tonight is going to be a lovely night.” She winked at Chyoma and smiled. “Your father just called me. He would reschedule the meeting he has for the night, just to be here.”

“Daddy has not changed. Always going out of his way to make me happy.” Chyoma was really close to her father. She was his baby. “Mummy, have you taken your bath?”

“This one you are asking everybody to take their bath, are we smelling?” Mrs. Frances replied jokingly. “I saw Shirley running up the stairs, saying you had asked to go get ready for a bath.”

“Mummy! We have been in the kitchen most of today nah. Right now, you smell like fried chicken.”

“Taa! Si eba puo.”  (get out of here)

“Mummy, I’m leaving on Friday o. You would miss me.”

“My dear, I don’t want you to go, but I’m glad you even decided to return after many years.”

“Mummy, it’s just four years.” Chyoma shrugged, and then she walked over to the window, looking outside towards the gate. “What’s the time?”

“When is he supposed to come?”

“He should be here by 7:30 pm. But knowing the kind of gentleman he is, he would be here before then.”

Mrs. Frances had a smile on her face, like one she had the first time she met me. It didn’t last long, though, it began to erode as I began to give my autobiography. “I’d instruct Bonnyface to supervise the kitchen staff. You should get ready for the dinner.”

Chyoma nodded her head in agreement. She threw the napkin in her hand into the sink and then heaved a sigh as she turned towards the door. “Please call daddy to make sure he is close by.”

“What happened to your phone?” Mrs. Frances replied sarcastically.

Chyoma just shook her head as she walked away, up the stairs to her room; her favorite space.

“Akinyesco Badoski,” Fred hailed from the other end of the phone.

“Fredo lala, Brotherly!” the criminal Akin replied his buddy.

“Which of the cars would you like to use tonight?”

“I would have loved to use your oga’s Ford Mustang, but that car is very expensive mehn.  I can’t appear to be too rich, that would be my Achilles heel.”

“How?”

Akin hissed, a little irritated that his friend seemed to lack a lot of wisdom. “How does a chef have a Mercedes Benz-C-Class and a 2015 Ford Mustang?” Akin waited for a few seconds for Fred to reply.

“What if your father is rich?” Fred asked.

“You see why I said that by the time you grow up I would have been badder than I am right now. Her father is influential, and my father must be in his age range. If I make false claims, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out. But I will tell that I am a chef, one who has been very successful.” Akin took a few seconds to clear his throat. “Also, I can sprinkle a little lie. I would inform them that I sometimes get big contracts over the weekend to cook for very wealthy families. I can even offer to cook breakfast for them for free. You know I am a good cook nah. That way, they won’t really know how much I might be worth.”

“Kai! I envy you,” Fred said. From the sound of his voice, you could tell that he wished he could be half as good as Akin. Akin lived comfortably in Wuye, a place where the landlords don’t smile. He had a moderate looking Toyota car, one that his last victim had bought for him.

“Don’t envy me, brotherly, you are not as handsome and you lack the flows,” Akin informed his friend,  Fred, in a cocky tone. But Fred was too foolish to consider that an insult, even though he was the one providing his oga’s car for Akin to use. Fred had been more important in the scheme than he even knew. He was the one who made the plans for the dinner at Jabi lake, the one who videotaped and the one who had access to a fleet of cars, from which Akin could choose. But he lacked wisdom.

“I’d bring the car in fifteen minutes. My oga traveled, and my madam won’t be back till about 10:00 pm. Abeg, make nothing keep you for that house pass 9:30 pm. I dey beg you.”

“No wahala brotherly, we would both enjoy the dividends soon, very soon.”  Akin walked to the mirror, staring at his reflection, he smiled.

It was 10 minutes to 7:30 pm, Akin had already called Chyoma to inform her that he was close by. Chyoma’s look defined the word gorgeous. She was dressed in a black Herve Leger Signature Essential long sleeve cocktail dress. Her feet were beautified by a burgundy Rhinestone lace peep-toe sandal. Her long shiny silky hair caressed the sides of her shoulder

Shirley had on a burgundy top, black solid tights and a brown Sam Edelman Penny boot. “You are beautiful, mommy.”

“So are you, sweetheart.”

“I wish daddy was the one coming.” Shirley walked up to her mother, holding her hand, “Will I see daddy and Shawn again before we leave?”

Chyoma had planned before now that Shirley wouldn’t be allowed to spend any more time with Shawn and me. I could understand that she was trying to make leaving less emotional for everyone. “How would you like to spend tomorrow night with daddy and Shawn?”

“Yaaaay! You are the greatest mom,” Shirley said, wrapping her arms around her mother’s thigh. “Can we go pig out now?”

“No baby, you know mommy doesn’t eat that much. But you know what?”

“What?”

“I’d let you eat all you want to tonight, tomorrow and next. But once we go back to the US, you’d have to eat like me.” Chyoma asserted. Shirley didn’t seem to like what she had just been told. “Do you want to look attractive and slender when you are my age?”

Shirley seemed to look at her mother again from head to toe. “Yes mom,” she said with a gummy smile.

“The secret is… eat like a girl. OK. Let’s go down, baby.”

It had been a great evening for Shawn and I. I had bought him ice-cream, shawarma, Kit Kat bars and some packs of Capri Sonne. I permitted him to watch his favorite animations ever since he returned from school.  I was just too nice to a fault that the little guy began to wonder why.

“You have been a good boy and daddy really appreciates you a lot.” I could tell by the look in his eyes that he didn’t really believe that that was the reason why I had allowed him to watch so much TV, bought him all his favorite junk food plus a bicycle, his number one wish for the last two Christmases. The truth is that I was trying to ease the emotional pain he would have when I tell him the bad news. So, I was just paving the way for that hour.

The table was set. It was feast-mode. Bonnyface had stepped out to receive Akin while everyone was seated, waiting for the ‘special one’ to step in.

I must give it to Akin, the guy doesn’t disappoint with his looks. He wore a Sutton Peak lapel tuxedo burgundy jacket on top a black turtle neck. His black trouser fitted perfectly and so did his black Calvin Klein shoe, which was made from burnished leather. I don’t know if he fried his hair, or whatever he did, it shined a lot. He looked good. The outfits were matching. Chyoma, Shirley, and Akin all had a touch of burgundy and black. It wasn’t planned.

When Akin walked into the dining room, everyone’s eye seemed to turn at once. And like the Yoruba son he is, he immediately prostrated. Face down and arms stretched. That seemed to please Mrs. Frances a lot. Ambassador Andrew was used to seeing all forms of greetings due to his high-profile, so he never judged people based on that. But he seemed impressed nevertheless. Akin had made a good first impression.

“My son, please stand up, you are welcome,” Mrs. Frances happily said, getting up from her seat and walking towards Akin to give him a hug. “You are even more handsome than Chyoma said you were.”

“It’s so good to meet you mommy, and daddy too,” Akin replied. “Not to forget beautiful Shirley.” Shirley just stared at him in a confusing manner. He couldn’t tell if she was happy or sad to see him. I know my daughter very well… she was not happy. But Shirley’s approval was the least important to Akin at this point. There were bigger hurdles to cross.

Chyoma walked up to Akin and gave him a hug, and then she urged him to sit beside her. Shirley sat at the head of the table. Mrs. Frances and Ambassador Andrew sat beside each other, directly facing Chyoma and Akin.

“Would you kindly pray before we eat?” The Ambassador requested, pointing at Akin.

“Sure sir, that would be a pleasure,” Akin replied and then he went ahead to bless the food.

Everyone began to take a little of this and a little of that. It was a buffet. So many dishes to select from.

Dipping an oval spoon into the bowl, Mrs. Frances served some cheesy potatoe chowder soup and passed it to Shirley. “Tell us a little about you,” she went ahead to ask Akin.

“I’m Akinyele Solarin, an indigene of Ogun State. My grand-uncle is the late Taiwo Solarin. You may know him as Tai Solarin, he was-”

“Your grand-uncle was a respected man. I once met him when he was chairman of People Bank, way back in 1989.” Ambassador Andrew said, and then he apologized for interrupting Akin.

Akin shrugged, “It’s alright sir,” he replied. “I went to the University of Lagos, where I obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Business Administration. I graduated with honors”

Chyoma looked at Akin with surprise when he revealed that. That was the first time she was actually knowing that about him. “Yes, Akin is really smart,” she said in support.

Akin looked at Chyoma and smiled after she had praised him. “You are the smartest lady I have seen in my life too.”

“Awwww babe!” Chyoma replied, moved by his compliment.

Akin’s heart seemed to leap… she called him babe in the presence of her parents.

“After I obtained my first degree, I did my masters program at the University of Ibadan. But after everything, I felt like something was missing in my life. I decided to pursue what I enjoyed doing best – cooking. I had always wanted to be a chef. So, I enrolled into a culinary school and trained for a year. And ever since, it’s been rewarding. Cooking has taken me places I could never have imagined.”

“I believe it must be rewarding. I saw your car yesterday. I must confess it’s a nice car.” Mrs. Frances complimented.

“Thank you, mommy. It’s one of the cars God has blessed me with.”

“Do you own a restaurant or work in one?” Ambassador Andrew asked.

“I’m planning on opening one soon. Just need about ten million to add up to the twelve million I have reserved for that project. But for now, I work at Salamander café. I usually handle intercontinental dishes. Most weekends, I have appointments to cook for celebrities, politicians, and prominent people within the Federal Capital Territory.”

“We should have you come over one of these weekends.” Ambassador Andrew smiled and then filled his mouth with diet coke.

Akin had completely killed it. No one was even interested in asking further questions in regards to his financial status. He had portrayed himself as a young man who had a vision and was on the road to becoming very wealthy. Chyoma suddenly slipped her right hand under the table and reached for Akin’s left hand and then she locked her palm in his. That was a way of saying well done, you-have-been-impressive. Akin tightened the grip a little more and then he let go.

Everyone kept up with the eating, till one-by-one, the spoons and forks began to get laid. Shirley was the last lady standing. Well, she had decided to pig out, so no one was stopping her. Ambassador Andrew wanted to have some private time with Akin, so he requested Akin followed him to the music room, a room he had named ‘The Frank Sinatra hall’.

He wanted to give Akin a music and personality test. Apart from a grand piano, cello, violin and saxophone, there were thousands of records neatly arranged by genre in the room. He quizzed Akin about music for some time. Akin turned out to be really shallow. I remember the day I did my own test, I aced it so well he nicknamed me – the eclectic Mitchel. The test was not to pass judgment on your heart, but it gave him a good idea of the kind of person you are. For example, people who like classical music a lot are perceived to be smart.

On other subjects, the conversation flow with Akin was really good. They talked about several topics; sports, politics, Investments and foreign policy. When they tried to discuss faith, Akin’s shallowness was revealed again. This guy couldn’t quote a scripture to save his life. Ambassador Andrew was doing an assessment, but he was unaware that Akin was also doing same. Akin seemed to ask him so many questions which he happily answered. Akin now had an idea of what he was worth, his investments and the plan for his political future. All these were important to the big picture of the scheme.

The night was still young and everyone seemed to be having fun. The ladies were still together, while Akin was watching soccer with the Ambassador. Then suddenly his phone rang. It was Fred.

“Please, can I take this call, sir?” Akin requested.

“Sure, go ahead.”

Akin walked a little far away, so he could have some privacy. “Brotherly, how far?” he whispered.

“Bros, 9:30 pm done dey reach o, you never show.”

“Brotherly, no vex. I still dey there o. You know how e be nah. The man don like me sotey me and am dey watch football now.”

“Football? You no get TV for house? If them sack me, nah which car you go use next time?” For the first time, it seemed Fred was really angry with his ‘mentor’.

The last question Fred had asked seemed to make a lot of sense to Akin. So, he quickly apologized, cut the call and rushed back to inform everyone that he had to leave because he had just received an urgent call.

“Do you have a soft copy of your CV?” Chyoma’s father asked.

“Yes sir,” Akin answered. “I have it in my mailbox.”

“Send it to me right now, I’d like to see how I can help you. Later we can talk about the proposal for your restaurant.”

Akin quickly pulled out his phone. “What’s your email address, sir?”

“Oh, it’s just my name @ foreignaffairs.gov.ng.”

“I have just sent it sir.” Akin was sweaty already. “He was trying to leave as fast as he could.”

Mrs. Frances wanted to preserve some memory of the night. “Let’s take some pictures,” she suggested, “or are you so much in a hurry?”

Chyoma could sense that Akin was jittery. She didn’t know why but guessed it was related to the urgency of the call he had received. So, she helped hurry things up and then escorted him to the car.

Akin gave her a hug and a kiss on her forehead. “I love you,” he said and then he got into the car and drove away as fast.

Chyoma just stood outside and watched his car leave, till it disappeared from sight. It was the fact that Akin had professed his love for her that seemed to have gotten her frozen. It was like the icing on the cake for the night. There was no better way to end it.

Chyoma was all smiles as she walked back into the living room. “Hey! Dad, what do you think?”

“Well, it’s the first impression, and I would say he scored high, although I have some reservations.”

“How about you mom?”

“I love the young man. He is just too amazing. If this is the only reason God brought you back to Nigeria… Chukwu thank you, sir!”

It was 15 minutes to 10:00 pm, and I was just warming up, preparing to inform Shawn of his sister’s departure. My phone beeped. It was a message from Chyoma. I was undecided for over a minute whether to open it or not. I wasn’t sure what the text would notify me of this time.

‘Shirley would spend the night with you and Shawn tomorrow… Good night!’

I shouted for joy. “Shawn, come let’s turn up,” I said and started dancing. Shawn looked at me carefully to access my mental stability, and then he came over and began to dance with me, without knowing why. “Guess what?”

“What?”

“I said you should guess, and you are asking me what.”

“No school tomorrow?”

“Lazy boy!” I passed the phone over to him, “read the text”. In a few seconds, he was the one leading the dance. Kimon!

Akin was driving as fast as he could and was now just a few meters away from where Fred had been waiting. Suddenly, he remembered that the CV he forwarded to the Ambassador didn’t match any of the lies he had told that night.

“Akin, fun ara re ni brain,” (Akin, give yourself brain) he screamed out in the car….

If you enjoyed reading, kindly hit the share button, leave a comment (a feedback is always appreciated), share story on your wall, tell a friend about my blog, and support in any way you wish to. God bless… Many thanks!

Poem.. Anabel Lee (written by Edgar Allen Poe)

Story written by Richard OTI

CONTINUE STORY...

MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 5

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“Daddy, its past 6 am. Wake up. Wake up.”

Turning slowly away from the edge of the bed, I pulled the duvet over my head. “Do you have to go to school today?” I asked Shawn, not really interested in his answer, though. I know it’s very silly when your five-year-old son wakes you up in the morning and then you act like a little kid. The previous night had ended greatly for Shawn; he had dinner sitting beside his twin sister and she was great company while he ate. That was all he had wished for all day. I always wondered what experiences in life they had to share with each other. They could talk to each other all day, and never seem to run out of things to discuss. So, I could understand perfectly why Shawn was up so early and twitching with adrenaline. But how about me?

“Daddy, sure, I have to go to school today, it’s Tuesday, remember?”

“No, how would I remember, I am an illiterate obviously. Mtchewwww!”

“You are an illiterate, daddy?” Shawn asked.

I lifted up the covering over my head, “that was supposed to be a sarcastic reply to your question Shawn. Do I look like an illiterate?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t let me get off this bed, cos I would feed you to Aunty Ndidi’s dog.”

“Hahahahahaha… catch me if you can.”

My little Pharisee found a way to get me out of bed and chasing him all around the living room. I had barely had 2 hours of sleep all night because I spent 90% of my time in bed reminiscing and having spells of nightmares. I kept thinking of the time Chyoma’s car pulled off, by the curb. It was exactly 15 minutes past 9 pm. I had been standing with Shawn outside her gate for over 30 minutes; I knew Shawn would always have a place inside that massive mansion, but I wasn’t sure if I would receive the same warm welcome, so staying outside seemed the best place for both of us.

“It was really a breath-taking night,” Chyoma said with glittering eyes that seemed to adore Akinyele. “This is where I live. It’s not so far from the café, you are welcome to visit me anytime you want. Just give me an hour’s notice.”

Akinyele reached out for Chyoma’s right hand, then bowed and touched her knuckles with his lips. I quickly used my right palm to cover Shawn’s eyes. I bit my lip so hard till I could taste fresh blood, my fist was closed, ready to be used as a weapon if needed. It was just a kiss on the hand, but I guess with the emotional attachment I had to Chyoma and the dislike for Akin, it meant more to me.

“Would it be too much to ask for another date now? How about the visit?”

Chyoma just smiled, both offers were alluring. “Another date would do for now,” she replied.

Akin scratched his head hard. I wondered if there was vermin in his hair or something. At this point, my heart beat was swinging all over the place, and I was certain I might have to take anger-management classes if I had to keep being anywhere close to Akin. This thing was killing me softly.

“You don’t want to visit me? Did tonight not end on a great note?” Akin probed, trying to remind Chyoma that visiting him had been dependent on how the dinner ended, and from her confession – it was great. Really great.

“Would you have dinner with me at home? I would want you to meet my parents,” Chyoma appealed. She had the look of love in her eyes, although she was trying really hard to mask it.

Akin smiled, and then he began to laugh and clap his hands. “Are you serious?” he said, “I feel like screaming.”

Please who laughs like that in front of a lady; laughing till you start to clap your hands? This guy was a first-class dud, and it beat my imagination how Chyoma couldn’t perceive it.

“Don’t scream, before people think I’m trying to rob you.”

“Very funny!” Akin said happily. Was there a better proposition than a dinner with Chyoma’s parents; Ambassador Andrew and Mrs. Frances Orjiuche? I guess not.

It was obvious Chyoma wasn’t aware that I was with Shawn, outside, close to her gate; if she was, I doubt she would have left her dome light on, and I’m sure she won’t have been having a cherry banter with Akin. I was just waiting for the scrawny fellow to disembark so I could get down to the business of why I was there.

“I’d fill you in on the date by tomorrow or next. It’s almost 10 pm, you should get going.” Chyoma lifted her right hand up, trying to reach the dome light. “That reminds me, do you still hurt? Like real bad?”

The dome light went off, so it was dark in the car now. I felt better about that. At least, I won’t have a heart attack before the night was over.

“It’s like a miracle. Each minute I spend with you, I feel much better,” Akin paused for a second, “Have you asked Mitchel why he punched me in the mouth?”

Chyoma breathed heavily, “I watched the video, there is nothing more to discuss with Mitchel,” she said.

“It’s just because I honor you a lot and I had respect for the presence of the kids that I kept my calm. No child should see his father beaten up in public. So, to avoid embarrassing Mitchel, I just kept cool.”

“That’s why I said earlier you are an honorable man. I am proud of how you comported yourself,” Chyoma replied.

“As for the woman he came with, she even came back today to insult me.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“The lady is not even half as beautiful as you are, yet she was so full of herself, wanting Shirley and Shawn to call her mother. I don’t want to start brooding on how miserable Mitchel and his girlfriend or whoever she is to him have made my life, in just 24 hours.”

“I’d make up for it. I promise you, Akin.”

“You don’t have to. I’d do anything just to put a smile on your face,” Akin informed Chyoma.

Finally, the door opened and Akin alighted. It felt like I had been standing there for 3 long nights, waiting, waiting, and waiting. I was glad Shawn hadn’t even complained for a minute the entire time we stood, waiting. Akin got into a cab, and zoomed off, not before he had waved and blown a kiss to Chyoma. I was exhausted, and I had lost all desire for a confrontation with Akin, and so I cared less. Chyoma reversed the car and a second later the beam of its headlight was focused on us. She was shocked, and then she drove closer, honking, trying to get the attention of the security personnel’s that guarded the house.

“Mitchel, what are you doing, standing here by this time?”

“Is that all you have to say?” I replied curtly.

“How long have you been here?”

“Long enough to have seen enough,” I gruffly said. “I guess that’s why you refused to respond to my text or to pick my calls. All day. It’s really sad. Do you want to say hi to your son?”

“Why are you talking to me that way? Will you punch me soon like you punched Akin?” Chyoma replied in a nasty tone.

For a second, I was grateful she mentioned that. I was wondering why she had refused to pick my calls all day or respond to my text, even when the latter was just to congratulate her for the intelligent report she had done in Sierra Leone. “So Akin squealed about the fight?”

“I watched the video. It was not a fight. He never touched you or responded, although you physically assaulted him. I was so embarrassed,” Chyoma screamed, and then she remembered that Shawn was still standing there with me, so she lowered her voice to a whisper. “How could you fight in public when the kids were there Mitchie, how could you? Is that how a responsible father behaves?”

I felt so ashamed when she asked me those questions. I quit trying to explain what had happened the previous day with Akin. “I’m really sorry, there’s no explanation to justify my actions,” I said, and then I walked closer to the side window. “Please, take your anger out on me in any way you want. Cuss me out, if that would be an atonement for my sin. But right now, your son is standing behind me, and all he has wished for all day is to see his sister. He has not napped nor eaten. I might be the poorest example of a father, but I love that little boy so much, he means the world to me, and I promised him. I promised him he would see his sister today. We have been standing here for almost an hour because I want him to know that when I give him my word, it should mean a lot to him. At least that is the kind of father I can hope to be. I don’t mind staying out here if going in would be a bad idea-“

“Mitch, he is also my son,” Chyoma said, and kept quiet, trying to strangle the tears that were welling up in her eyes. “He’s just five, and shouldn’t be living without his sister,” Chyoma cried.

We just spent a minute staring at each other. I could read it in her teary brown eyes; she blamed me for everything that had happened between us. I was the failure. “Would you say hi to your son? You have not said a word to him tonight.” We had selfishly bickered back and forth, ignoring Shawn all along.

“My baby!” Chyoma called out to Shawn. She had to use her palm to cover her mouth, so as to stifle the deep groan that accompanied the free flow of tears. She just put her other arm around him and drew him closer. It was a warm tight embrace, followed by many kisses. She did the kissing. With every kiss, Shawn just seemed to look more confused. I knew what was running through his mind; what had been done to deserve all these kisses. Cos when I gave him a kiss, it was a reward for something good he had done.

The security details had opened the gate, but we spent some extra fifteen minutes outside. I desperately wanted to cut down on all the protocols and just get Shawn to see Shirley so we could leave. The next day was school, you know!

We walked into the living room. It had been many years since I last was there, but it’s graceful look still left me speechless. The floor was made from calacatta gold honed marble. It glittered. The drapes were pristine white, with tints of burgundy at the edges. The most beautiful golden chandelier was hanging in the center of the room, hanging from the finely designed pop ceiling. The walls were covered with expensive pieces of art and a few memories captured in pictures. Some of the memories captured were of Ambassador Andrew’s time of service in the military as a General and commander of the 12th battalion, while the others captured his life as a politician. He had been an ambassador to the United States and South Africa, before being made the minister of information, and now foreign affairs. To be honest, he was a sweet man. I wouldn’t have had an issue seeing him again. It had been a year since I last saw him. He was actually the only family member I had been in touch with. We had hooked up a few times over the years. He loved his grandson to bits. Mrs. Frances was different. She didn’t want anything to do with me again, and I’m certain that if she knew her husband had been visiting, all hell would have broken loose.

I was relieved when the steward confirmed that her mother was asleep, and her father was attending an important function at the Hilton.

“Where is Shirley?” Chyoma asked the steward.

“She’s in your room ma, sleeping.” The huge pot-bellied man replied in clipped English. I liked his accent. He was new I could guess; I didn’t recognize him, and that went both ways – my face didn’t ring any bells. The last steward was a woman in her mid-forties. Erinma was her name. She was very beautiful, youthful and likable. I had never met any woman more polite than she, it was almost to a fault. Everyone loved her sweet spirit.  “You are welcome sir,” Bonnyface assured, and then he turned his gaze back to Chyoma. “Should I wake her up?”

“No, I’d do that myself. Thank you!”

“You are welcome madam.”

There was one thing about Bonnyface I didn’t seem to like. It was his breath. It seemed to reek of garlic, one thing I found difficult to stand. The repugnant smell usually caused nausea to well up in my throat.

I sat down on the soft blue velvet mid-century sofa that faced the television. Shawn found his place beside me, and then he placed his hands in mine. I could tell that he was slumberous. He was struggling to keep his eyelids open.

Chyoma got into the room and lay on the bed, “Shirley, Sweetheart,” she called into her ears, trying to wake her up. That didn’t serve, so she tapped her a little to wake her up.

“Mom. Where did you go to?” Shirley queried in a sleepy voice.

Chyoma had promised herself never to hide anything from her daughter. She had promised that she would not just be her mother, but her best friend too. “Mummy went out for a date,” she confessed.

“With who? Daddy?”

Chyoma had to think it over before replying. She knew that Shirley loved me a lot. But did Shirley like Akin? Was Shirley going to like the fact that she had spent the evening with him? These were questions she played over and over in her head. “It was with Mr. Akin. Remember him?” she asked, and then quickly found a way to make her not remember him. “But guess what?”

“You have someone special in the living room who has been waiting all day just to see you.”

Shirley’s eyes widened, “Who?” she sought to know.

“Take a wild guess.”

“Shawn?”

Chyoma seemed to keep her face expressionless. That made Shirley doubt the answer she had given. “You miss Shawn a lot?”

“Yes.”

Chyoma ran her fingers through Shirley’s thick dark curly hair. Then she planted a kiss on her cheeks. “Your brother has been waiting all day just to see you.”

Shirley jumped up from bed. “Shawn?” Mummy, Shawn?” she asked loudly, almost screaming.

“Yes baby, Shawn.”

She finally screamed and began running to the living room. I heard her scream. It was one of joy, but I was also afraid she would wake her grandma – my nightmare – up. But as soon as Shawn heard her voice, life came into him, and he stood up in anticipation. She burst onto the scene, and in a second, she and Shawn were locked in an embrace which lasted for over a minute. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I just slumped into the chair and cried like a little child. Then I felt those little arms I had missed so much in just one day, around my shoulder and head.

“Daddy.”

“My baby. I can’t believe how much I have missed you.” I drew her close, and held her tight as if I was never going to let her go. I couldn’t believe what I had missed for four years. Chyoma stood by the corner, her eyes were teary, but she was smiling. It was only a few minutes, and they were up to their usual shenanigans, again. I couldn’t care anymore if their grandma would be awakened or not. That is the sacrifice she was supposed to be making for having grandkids.

“Have you both eaten?” Chyoma asked, standing over me.

“I think Shawn would need some food. He hasn’t had any for many hours now. As for me, I’d be fine.”

“Sure?”

“Yep.”

Chyoma picked up her phone and rang the chef, requesting he prepared something for Shawn, and myself nevertheless. Such a big-hearted lady Chyoma is. We spent the remaining hour around the dinner table; eating, laughing, playing and just being what we should have always been – a family. Etim and one of the armed security details dropped us off at about 12 am. Shawn slept off in the car and didn’t seem to want to wake up. I couldn’t blame him, he had daddy ‘the wishing well’ make his wish come true. It was a sound sleep for him, but a rough night for me. Apart from the picture Akin sent that was still haunting me, I got a message from Chyoma at about 1:13 am – ‘This reunion is getting too emotional for everyone. I’m especially concerned about Shirley. If she stays much longer, it would an emotional disaster when we have to leave. So, we would be leaving the country by Friday.’

“It’s past 6 am Shawn, I shouldn’t be chasing you around the parlor.  You need to shower.”

“OK, daddy.”

“Did you sleep well?” I was certain he did. But I wasn’t sure he might in the coming days. How do I explain to him that he wouldn’t see his sister again, maybe not forever, but for as long as his mother decides? I won’t want to pitch it to him that his mother wants to separate his sister from him again. I don’t want him growing up a bitter child.

“Yes, dad, I did,” Shawn replied. He stopped the hide and seek game and immediately went for his towel. I felt too weak to take him to school, so I had to call Ndidi. Somehow, just thinking of calling her made me smile. She was like the only friend I had close by, although I knew she had a crush on me.

“Hey,” I greeted her, “good morning. Did you have a sweet sleep?”

“I did. It was the best dream ever. And you were in it.”

Now, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to find out the details of that dream. I really liked Ndidi, but my heart still had a sign over it that said – closed. But with the way things were going with Chyoma, I felt I should reconsider removing that sign.

“So, will you tell me about it over lunch?” I asked before my brain could process the information, what I had just said. Over lunch? That was a suggestion. Really silly.

“Yes,” Ndidi replied blissfully.

Now I had a date I really hadn’t planned for. “Will you pass over to pick up Shawn?”

“Sure. I would be there in twenty or thirty minutes.”

I hadn’t reviewed any poems today, I didn’t feel like it. I felt like two ton of steel had been placed on my shoulders. I kept reading Chyoma’s text, wondering how best to reply. All I wanted to know is if she would allow Shirley to spend one more night with us before Sunday. That might even end up being more torturous. But it was better to see her one more time than not again.

“Akinyesco Badoski,” Fred, the criminal replied. The part many of you reading this do not know is that Fred was the one who videoed the altercation I had with Akin at Salamander café.

“Fredo lala,” Akin laughed over the phone.

“You are a badt guy. The baddest of them all. How’s the scheme going?”

“Better than planned mehn. Things are falling into place quickly. Should be meeting her parents soon.” Looking in the mirror, Akin shrugged, as if it was a normal thing to be the good playboy he was. “Blame it on the looks and sweet flows bro.”

“How about her husband, is –”

“Hey, it’s her ex-husband. And I intend to make sure he knows that is his position. That guy picked on the wrong person o. I have dealt with worse. You know me nah.”

“I know you. I dey pity for the guy sef. If he decides to interfere with your plan, then, you would interfere with his life. Period.” Fred gloated and laughed for half a minute. “But finally, the guy na fine boy sha. Their kids are  sweet and cute too.”

“Who fine boy epp?”

“Abi o!”

“Brotherly, if you see the car she came with the first time I saw her. It was a bad Bentley. When I sighted her from inside, I decided that I had to attend to them personally.”

“But you didn’t know she was divorced then nah,” Fred quizzed.

“How that one take concern me. She was beautiful and looked wealthy, that was all that mattered. Now, she is falling per second for me. I plan to buy ice-cream and flowers for her today. Should be going over there soon before I proceed to the office. Her father is wealthy mehn, and very soon, I’d be balling.”

“I want to be like you when I grow up.”

“Brotherly, by the time you grow up, I would have been badder than this. Just grow up to be yourself mehn.”

After Shawn had left for school, I tucked myself back into bed. But I couldn’t sleep, so I just plugged my ears, some smooth jazz was needed. I had no close friends I could talk to. Ndidi had feelings for me, and I felt best not to let her know what I was going through emotionally. A lot of things didn’t make sense to me. How did Chyoma get the video? And who knows what else she must have been told that I wasn’t aware of yet? Concerning Akin, I kept wondering if I had met him somewhere and had greatly wronged him. Just maybe I had. He had to be one of those SS2 students I had greatly offended whilst I was senior prefect at Demonstration Secondary School, Jos. He had to be.

Chyoma had planned her day. Work. Salon. Work. Work. She was scheduled for a video chat with the CNN New York studio, there were a lot of questions needing answers about her story. It had caught the eyes of the United Nations, and that was quite big. Right now, it was an endemic disease, which had the capacity and tenacity to become epidemic, especially because the government of Sierra Leone kept denying the truth and kept referring to the story as a propaganda. But it was being taken seriously by other countries. The threat of borders closing or extra health checks at the airport for Sierra Leoneans was already considered by a lot of countries. Chyoma wasn’t trying to put the country in bad light. But to stem the increase of the disease and help those suffering and were in need of serious medical attention.

“Hey babe,” Chyoma called out to her best friend over the phone.

“I have been waiting for your call o. You asked me to call your father yesterday if I didn’t hear from you in two hours. I almost did so. Only for me to call you first, and you were laughing, the kind of laugh that…”

“Zinny!”

“It’s true nah. The chuckling and laughing were too wonderful for me not to be briefed fully on what is going on.”

“Well, let’s say… I’m falling in love.”

“Kimon!”

“Who would have thought I would after four years. You know, I met lots of guys in the US, didn’t like most of them”

“But you like this guy?”

“Yes.”

“Knowing you for over 12 years now, this guy must be something special.”

“Well, I don’t really know him so much, but he makes me feel almost like I was 16 again. It’s hard to say this in public, but Mitchel is the most special guy I have ever met. Things didn’t work out for us. My mother had a part to play. Mitchel also seemed to play his part well. But this new guy is the only person that has come a little close to making me feel how Mitchel did.”

“Why didn’t I hear about this guy until yesterday when you were afraid of being kidnaped?”

Chyoma laughed and tried to explain it off. She and Ezinne had been best friends as children. Ezinne’s father was the second most decorated officer in the military quarters, after Chyoma’s father, who was the commandant on the base. We were all friends till things went south. I ditched everyone so that my heart could heal from the pain I was experiencing. That had turned out to be a bad idea because now I needed someone who could talk some sense into Chyoma, there was no one I could talk to that could be a mediator between both of us. Not one person.

Akin parked the Mercedes-Benz C-Class beside the gate and motioned for the security personnel outside to come closer. That didn’t turn out well. Obviously, this was not your regular Hausa mai guardi, who was illiterate. The security detail was neat, dressed in a black suit and had on a white shirt and a black tie. His right ear was plugged with midland AVPH3 transparent security headset, and he had on a holster belt with his weapon, which was hidden by the jacket he had put on. As he got closer, it became obvious to Akin that he wasn’t going to sweet talk this guy into delivering the flowers and ice-cream.

“Is Chyoma around?”

“Sir, you are not allowed to park here.”

“Why? The owner of this house is my friend. His daughter precisely. You think you can just intimidate me because you are wearing dark shades and look like Hulk Hogan,” Akin said, laughing.

Seemingly unamused by the response, “I’m sorry, but if you do not move your car, I’ll have you detained, just as fast as snapping my fingers,” the serious looking guy said without mincing words.

Akin hurriedly moved the car a few blocks away to a point he considered not to have restricted parking.

“Hello Chyoma,” Akin greeted over the phone, “I’ve been outside your gate for a few minutes now, and your security man treated me like I was a scum.”

“Oh, dear Akin, I’m so sorry. That’s why I had informed you to let me know an hour before, anytime you intend to come over. My father is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and –”

“My lord, chai, my life don change,” Akin said under his breath. He knew Chyoma’s family was rich. But he wasn’t aware her father was a serving minister. And Foreign Affairs for that matter.

“Did you say something dear?” Chyoma asked, after faintly hearing Akin mumble some words.

“No, please ride on.”

“OK. So, whenever he is in the country, the security at the house is extra-tight, especially when he is in the house. Do you want to come in?”

“No, I just wanted to drop off some ice-cream and flowers for you. That’s why I didn’t call, didn’t plan to stay around for more than a few minutes. It’s 12:40 pm already, and I resume today in 20, you know!”

“Yes, in twenty minutes, but can I steal a 10?”

“I came with my car, so I’d give you more than a 10, how ‘bout 15 minutes?

“Awwww! I’m on my way down right now.”

Akin had on a denim jean and a fresh white Tee. Plus he smelt like he had been in the inner courts of heaven – it was a Kenneth Cole cologne that did the magic.

“Hey boy, you look super fine,” Chyoma said, as she reached out to hug him.

“Is this your car?” Chyoma asked, looking like she was impressed with it.

“Yes,” being a chef has paid off in many ways.

Chyoma hadn’t been in Nigeria for a while before now, so she had no clue what the monthly pay of an average chef would be. Akin was good, but I didn’t know he was this good. How does a chef have a C-Class? But he was playing a good game – ‘appear not be in need of money, and as such, nobody sees you as a gold digger, and then you can actually dig all the gold you want.’

Appearing to be a gold digger was my bane. I actually wasn’t. I just refused to live a fake life by pretending to have an affectation of great wealth. Chyoma’s mother never liked me. But her father didn’t care for any of the materialistic things I couldn’t afford, he just loved me for the fact that I loved his daughter with all my heart.

It’s 1:00 pm, I’m in the shower, playing sad music – the kind that says I can’t live, if living is without you – while taking my bath. I wish I could call or text Ndidi to tell her it was a slip of tongue caused by a moment of confusion. But knowing how emotional a lady Ndidi is, that would be dealing her a bad blow, one that our friendship would never recover from, even if she does heal with time. I’d try my best to look as unattractive as I can. Maybe I should wear no perfume and put up a mourning face? It’s not that bad, it’s just  a date I convince myself.

I texted Ndidi to come over to 355 Steakhouse and lounge at 35 Osun Crescent, Off IBB way. My pocket wasn’t smiling at all. I knew this lunch was going to cost me more than I had bargained. But do I take her to Iya Saraki’s buka just cos I’m trying to save money? Wouldn’t be nice, especially for a lady who has been so helpful and kind to me. At exactly 1:25 pm, Ndidi walked in, looking like a million dollars. I suddenly swallowed some saliva involuntarily. I knew very well that that meant I was having some anxiety. I had never seen her look that beautiful, not even when she was reading the news live on TV.

“Mitchie, I had to clear up my entire schedule for today,” she said, as I pulled the chair out so she could sit.

“Why nah? You would have just told me you had a lot to do, I would have rescheduled.”

“I have nothing more important to do, than sitting here, about to have lunch with you,” Ndidi said, smiling and just with the right amount of shyness.

When she said that, I involuntarily swallowed some saliva several more times…

If you enjoyed reading, kindly leave a comment (a feedback is always appreciated), share story on your wall, tell a friend about my blog, and support in any way you wish to. God bless… Many thanks!

Written by Richard Oti.

CONTINUE STORY...

MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 4

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“Would you say a prayer before we eat?” Chyoma urged Akin, who was sitting opposite her. The time was 6:00 pm, their meeting was later than they had scheduled because Arik Air had delayed Chyoma’s flight to Abuja by over two hours.

Sheraton never looked so good like it did to Akin this night. “Sure let’s bow our head.” Akin was dapper in a black tuxedo and it was complemented with a flawlessly shined George Cleverly black shoe. “Lord we thank you for this dinner, for-” Akin seemed to pause as if he was trying to analyze what he was about to say next if it were appropriate or not. “-Thank you for this newly found love in my heart for Chyoma & Shirley-” Chyoma opened one of her eyelids briskly when Akinyele said that. He looks so serious Chyoma thought. So, she smiled and closed her eyelid. “….May we have more times like this in Jesus name.” And they both responded with an – AMEN.

Picking up the cutlery, “your prayer was simple and beautiful,” Chyoma informed Akin, and then she stuck her fork into the bowl of salad. Chyoma had a thing for salads. This time it was the chicken salad made with celery, cucumber, apples, fresh dill, and mayonnaise with salt and pepper.  “How bad does your neck hurt?”

“I can’t chew for so long. I’m surviving on liquids at the moment.”

“I think you should have some coconut curry chicken soup. You would love it.”

“I love chicken curry soup.”

“This is a little different… You left the coconut out.” Chyoma shrugged and forked a piece of chicken off the autumn foliage platter set a few inches away from the salad bowl sitting on the table.

“Why didn’t you bring Shirley along?” Akin asked, putting up a serious face while taking a sip of Chapman.

“It’s meant to be dinner, you know!” Chyoma whispered and smiled, and then she bent forward to smell the flowers. “It’s just meant to be the two of us. And these flowers have a lovely fragrance. Where did you get them from?”

“I ordered them from Petals & More, somewhere around this Central Business District. You should tell about your stay in Sierra Leone; starting with – what kind of people they are.”

“They are amazing and beautiful people. You won’t believe how receptive they are.”

“More receptive than Nigerians?”

“That’s an unfair comparison. I would give a biased answer because I’m Nigerian. But guess what?”

Akin squinted as if that was going to help him figure out the answer. “I’m a poor guesser. I couldn’t guess right to save my life.”

“I met a Mandela. Oh, she is the sweetest soul I have met all year.” Chyoma immediately remembered that she had not talked with Silvia since arriving Nigeria. Quickly pulling out her iPhone from her bag, she dialed Silvia’s Cell phone. “Will you excuse me, Akin? I would need a few minutes to speak with Silvia.”

Akin looked confused for a minute. Well, to me he always looked like David Moyes when his team was conceding three goals-CONFUSED.

“Who is Silvia?” The inquisitive Akinyele asked Chyoma.

“Oh, dear, she is the Mandela I just told you about. I haven’t even informed her that I have arrived. Without her, I wouldn’t have had my big story air today,” Chyoma smiled. “Have you had time to watch the news today? CNN?”

“No, I haven’t,” Akin replied.

But how would he have time to watch CNN when he is busy with other people’s business?

I had called Chyoma several times, but she wouldn’t pick my calls. Shawn was ruining my night; he wouldn’t eat, nor do anything else, except remind me that I had promised that I would work things out with his mother so he could see Shirley. He even went as far as reminding me how he had been taught in Sunday school that no one should make a promise they could not keep. This boy was just a little Pharisee. How many times had he made promises that he broke in 2 minutes? But now, he was trying to hold me to ransom.

“Ete etie didie?” (How is it with you?)

“Idem mi osong.” (I’m well, thanks.)

It was obvious Etim was nibbling on something. “Di dia mkpo,” he said and kept up with the chewing. “Oga I know say you no understand wetin I talk.”

Etim really didn’t know that I was less concerned about what he was saying. I had just one interest; how to see Shirley once more. It began as Shawn’s dream, but now It had become mine too. “Etim, where are you?”

“Oga I dey house.”

“Is madam at home?”

Etim hesitated; he seemed to play deaf for a minute, “madam comot,” he answered.

“Where she go?”

“Oga, I no know where she go. Na madam drive herself.”

“That’s fine. Is Shirley there with you?”

“No. Little madam dey with her grandmother for upstairs. You wan make I give am phone?”

I wanted that more than anything else. But I wasn’t sure her grandmother would allow her to talk to me when Chyoma wasn’t around. You see, it had been four years two months, 5 days and 3 hours since I last saw my ex-mother-in-law.

“Don’t worry Etim, I would call you back later to find out when madam is back home.”

“Ok, oga Mitchel. Greet oga Shawn-“

“Etim, please no carry this your oga thing come my son side, abeg.” I said, abruptly interrupting Etim, and then I thanked him for his time and dropped the call.

Shawn had been standing beside me all along while I spoke with Etim. “Daddy, so?” He asked, anticipating some good news.

“So?” I replied him, pretending I had no idea what he meant. Then he suddenly tilted his head, and his countenance changed.

“It’s just 6:22 pm Shawn, we can still go over to see Shirley before the frogs begin to croak and the chirping birds retire to their nest for the night. And before -“

“And before you kiss me good night,” Shawn completed my statement and then he sat on my lap and put his head on my shoulder. I patted him on the back and just allowed him to enjoy my embrace.

“Sawubona!”

“Oh, is this Chyoma?” Silvia asked.

“Yes, it’s me Zulu princess.”

“When I didn’t hear from you, I began to wonder if your airplane was hijacked.”

“Very funny, why would anyone want to do that?”

“That was a joke, but I was really scared for you because your story was aired on CNN this morning. I wasn’t sure if the Sierra Leonean authorities had prevented you from leaving the country because your story caused no small stir.”

“I was informed that the story would be aired this morning, and I have already received over two scores of congratulatory messages, the first being from my ex.”

“How is he?”

“Who?”

“Your ex-husband.”

“I haven’t talked to him since.“ Chyoma used her palm to block the transmitter of the phone, “Akin, is it alright if I go somewhere private to finish this call?”

“Sure, but don’t make me miss you.”

“You are such a-“

“Darling?” Akin quickly blurted out, cutting Chyoma off.

Chyoma just laughed and hurriedly took her leave. “I’m so sorry Silvia, I’m having dinner with a friend.”

“Would I be inquisitive if I asked who this friend is?”

“No, you won’t. In the fullness of time, you might get to meet him if all goes well.”

“That’s a strong statement. It seems someone is falling in love.”

Chyoma chuckled a little. “You asked about my ex.”

“True, I did.”

“I haven’t seen him or talked with him, although he sent me a message and has called me several times already.”

“I think you should talk to him, Chyoma.”

“But Silvia, you know…”

“Yes, I know,” Silvia spoke up. “Is he not already your past? Would picking his calling or talking to him make him any more of your ex than he is now?”

That point struck a chord with Chyoma. “You are right Silvia. I would listen to what he has to say. I bet he is still unaware of why I was upset and why I asked my driver to pick my daughter up a day before she was to leave. I guess I was really rude to him yesterday.”

“It’s nothing a good apology can’t fix.”

“Well, the apology should be the other way. He was the one who acted like a teenager when he decided to throw a tantrum in public, in front of the kids. I think my reaction was appropriate, but the manner in which it was executed was not. ”

“Time would tell. But like my uncle Mandela would say; A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Silence on both ends followed that statement, and then Silvia went on to explain what she was implying. “You have a lovely head and heart. But in this case, I think one is being left out, and that is – YOUR HEART.”

Chyoma took a deep breath. “Thank you so much for everything, Silvia. I couldn’t have covered the story without you. And you made my stay so memorable.”

“Wamukelekile!”

“Take it easy Zulu princess,” Chyoma said, laughing out a little. “Oya translate.”

“It simply means – you are welcome,” Silvia responded, “and I would add a phrase to your Zulu vocabulary tonight.”

“What phrase would that be?”

“Ulale kahle.”

“Ula what?”

“Ulale kahle… it means good night.”

“Good night Silvia.”

“Lest I forget – tell Shirley that she has someone who cannot wait to meet her.”

“Oh, she is going to hear all about you tonight.”

They both talked about trivial things for a few more minutes, and then they decided to end the call. It had been over 15 minutes since Chyoma had left the table. So, she tried to walk as fast as she could, and that made the click of her high heels so audible, it made a lot of people turn to look at her.

“Hey Akin,” Chyoma said, and then she drew the chair backward so she could sit. “I’m sorry I kept a gentleman like you waiting.”

“It’s alright, but I missed you a lot while you were gone.”

Chyoma blushed, and then she picked up a spoon to continue from where she had left up. “The soup is cold already,” Chyoma murmured. Everything was already cold because she had been away for 22 minutes.

“I could ask the waiter to have everything warmed up for you.”

“No, I think I’m fine. Did you enjoy the coconut chicken curry soup?”

“It was nice, but I could have done better.”

“Men… That’s what you all always say. I remember how much Mitchie used to brag about his cooking skills. The day after we got married, he made me breakfast and served it while I was still in bed. The food looked so good, and I thought it would taste like heaven. The first bite was all it took for me to get out of the bed and get into the kitchen to prepare a proper breakfast for both of us.”

Chyoma kept laughing as she told Akin stories about our first few days of marriage. But it seemed that the more she talked, the more Akin’s face ruffled.

“Are you alright?” Chyoma asked Akin, wondering why his mood seemed to be swinging south.

“I’m fine. I would just prefer you tell me something else. I don’t want to spend my date with you talking about Mitchel,”

“I’m sorry Akin, I should have been more sensitive.”

“I could make breakfast or lunch for you if you would visit me.” Akin indirectly requested, hopeful that Chyoma would say yes.

“No promises Akin. It depends on how this dinner ends.” Chyoma said, and then she took a bite off the chicken lap. “This chicken doesn’t taste as nice again.”

“I want the day to end on a fabulous note because I really want you to visit me. So, why are we doing something mundane?

“Are you calling my dinner boring?” Chyoma asked, putting up a frown.

“No. No. No, don’t get me wrong, I’m loving every minute of our time together. But if you are going to visit me, then it depends on how this night ends, remember?”

Chyoma giggled, bent her head down for a few seconds, and then she turned her gaze from the floor below slowly back to Akin. “You really want me to come to your place?” Chyoma was a little surprised that Akin would push for a visit, as most guys usually tried to avoid being visited so that they could hide whatever they wanted to. He must be an honest handsome gentleman Chyoma thought. The devil wears Prada and Louis Vuitton too she forgot.

“Yes, it would be an honor to host you for breakfast or lunch. A candlelight dinner would be so legit.”

“OK, so what is your plan Mr. unconventional? Are we going bungee jumping or skydiving?”

“Something even better,” Akin proudly said, grinning as if he had needed just one more lucky number to win the lottery. It would have passed for a silly grin if not that Chyoma was really anticipating what he had in mind, so she repaid him for the silly grin with a broad smile. “Can we have dinner on the lake?”

Chyoma had a good laugh, it was so loud she felt embarrassed when she turned and saw a few people staring at her. “I’m sorry I laughed that loud. It just sounded sooo…”

“Unreal?”

“Yep”

“Why don’t you give me a chance to show you how serious I am?”

Chyoma was much skeptical. As much as she was trying to convince herself that Akin was not a stranger, her heart wouldn’t be deceived – he was a stranger. What was his favorite color? Where does he stay? Who are his friends? None of these things could be answered, except that his name is Akinyele Solarin, the waiter/chef who works for Salamander café. There was a part of Chyoma that still yearned for an adventure, so, giving the idea a thought, she asked Akin to give her a few minutes to decide. Scrolling through her BB Messenger, she read all the messages she had received. Most of those messages were still congratulatory ones from friends who had seen her story aired on CNN. Chyoma began to type ‘Hey babe, I’m off to dinner on the lake with this dude I met sometime last week while hanging out with Mitchie and the kids. Don’t ask me questions about this date for now. The guy works at Salamander café in Wuse II, and his mobile number is 08140049694. If you do not hear from me in two hours, kindly call me. And if I do not pick, please alert my dad. He knows who is who in Nigeria and the police would be looking for me in no time. LOL’ The message was sent to Ezinne, Chyoma’s closest friend.  “OK, let’s go,” Chyoma said to Akin, and then she wiped her mouth and got up.

 

“Daddy, what is the time?” Shawn asked, keeping his face like two days old bread.

“It’s 17 minutes past the hour of 7.”

“When are we-“

“Not again Shawn. I promised you already that today would not end without you seeing Shirley. Are you questioning my integrity?”

Shawn just stared at me a little confused, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I was addressing him like he was an adult. I was just as confused as he was, maybe even more. How was I really planning to pull off this promise? I had no idea, and time wasn’t even trying to be kind to me. I phoned Chyoma again, hoping she would pick and somehow tell me she was not on her phone all this time that I had been calling. Her phone kept ringing, but she would not pick the call because she perceived that Akin might be persnickety, especially if he knew I was the one she was talking with, so she didn’t want to ruin the dinner. I kept thinking as the second hand of the clock kept ticking.

“Daddy.”

“Shawn, I have called your mother several times already, and she is not picking her calls. I think she is very busy at the moment, and she would call us back when she is less busy. You know your mother is an international journalist and her story is the hottest piece of news trending at the moment. So…” I just kept on talking, and then for another moment, I realized that I was being more defensive than I should be.  “I’m sorry Shawn, what did you want to say to me?”

Shawn seemed to smile, just the way he did when he had a hare-brained idea. “Why don’t we go to Shirley’s place?”

I gave Shawn the look; that kind of look Jesus gave Peter before he said to him ‘get thee behind me Satan.’ The last thing I wanted to do was to be anywhere close to that house. I had not seen Chyoma’s mother or father since the divorce, I wasn’t sure this night would be the time to do so. But in all honesty, Shawn’s idea seemed to be the best we had both thought up that night. I wasn’t willing to take that option, so I phoned Chyoma’s younger sister, at least, that seemed to be a better option.

“Hey Nennaya,” I greeted, trying to sound excited to speak to her. But I couldn’t remember if we ever spoke on phone after the divorce.

“Who is this please?” Nennaya asked, sounding more welcoming than I would have thought. Or was it because she was still unaware of who she was speaking with?

“It’s Mitchel,” I responded and paused for a reaction.

“Oh, Uncle Mitchel, it’s been ages.” She screamed, sounding warmer than I would have imagined.

“Yes, it has been. I’m sorry I have not been in touch despite having your number all these years. And I told you several times, many years ago, my name is Mitchel, just take away the uncle.

“OK. How is my nephew?”

I searched for Shawn with my eyes, but couldn’t find the little man. “He was here with me a few seconds ago. I guess he just went to the restroom or kitchen. Actually, he is the reason I am calling you.”

“Hope he is alright?”

I felt unworthy to be asking for a favor from someone I had not talked to in a while, but I had an obligation to follow through on my promise. “He is alright. It’s just that he wants to see his twin sister so badly that he wouldn’t eat, rest or sleep.”

“Have you called Chyoma?”

“Yes, I have. She wouldn’t pick my call, nor respond to my messages. I was wondering if there was a way you could get across to her?”

“I haven’t spoken to her for about a week now. The last I did, she was on her way to Sierra Leone. If she is back, I could call her to find out where she is, and then I would get back to you.”

“Yes, she is back. That would be much appreciated Nennaya. Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome, anytime. Say me hi to my little nephew. Hope I can get to see him when I’m in town.?”

“You could see him anytime you choose to. Just let me know beforehand so that I can prepare to host you.”

“OK, Mitchel.”

The phone went dead on Nennaya’s end, and I was still as confused as I had been before calling her. “Integrity is just an English word,” I said out loud twice, trying to convince myself that I could get Shawn to understand that I had tried my best.

“Daddy, why are you talking to yourself?”

I was a little startled, and then a smile broke out unconsciously. “Wear your boots boy, we are going to see Shirley.”

“Yesssssss. Yessssssss.” Shawn’s face seemed to glow like a neon billboard. He ran to his room to pick up his boots, while I walked into mine to get my wallet.

Chyoma got into the car, and then Akin followed suit. “Strap yourself to the chair,” Chyoma said to Akin, smiling at him while giving him a look that said – what next?

Akinyele pulled out his phone, “give me a minute,” he said to Chyoma, and then he began to type. ‘Guy, just like we planned, everything is falling into place. I hope the boat, wine, and chocolate are available?’

“Just turn around and take the straight road. We are off to Jabi lake,” Akin said after he had received a confirmation that the things he had requested were available.

Chyoma hit the road, smiling intermittently. It was the kind of smile that you would usually see a lot on Valentine’s Day. “Would you like to take the wheel?”

“No, I enjoy the part of directing you and staring at you while doing so. How could anyone be this beautiful?”

Chyoma wasn’t one to get shy when complimented, but she chuckled and for over a minute and then she caught her self-shamefaced. “Stop staring at me,” Chyoma playfully murmured to Akin, “I’m getting so conscious of myself around you.”

“One thing just keeps running through my mind as I stare at you.”

Chyoma snorted, not knowing whether she was willing to find out that one thing that Akinyele was talking about. But like you know, when people say – one thing just keeps running through my mind when I stare at you, they want you to ask – what?

Putting her foot slightly on the brake, Chyoma slowed down the car so she could make the turn leading to the lake. “What keeps running through your mind?”

“Why did you ever marry Mitchie?”

Chyoma’s expression went blank for a moment, and it became obvious to Akin that he had said the wrong thing, but for the joy of ridiculing me further, he didn’t stop there. “Mitchie is such failure-“

“You don’t know Mitchel as much as I do,” Chyoma interjected, stopping Akin from any further assault to my person. “My marriage to him might have failed, but he’s a good man.”

It was funny how cool the car had been, but Akin suddenly began to feel hot. “Do you like football?” Akin asked, trying to switch the conversation flow to something lighter.

“Soccer?”

“Yea soccer.”

“Oh, no! Another soccer freak?”

“Errrmmmm! Not a freak in the real sense of a freak, but I have freakish tendencies when Arsenal is playing, though.”

“OK. You just lost me with that statement.” Chyoma sighed and then she laughed. “Akin, where do I park?”

Pulling out his phone from his side pocket, Akin called Fred his friend-I prefer to call him-his fellow criminal. “Hey! Fredo, Where you dey?”

“I dey close to the lake.”

“OK. I see you brotherly.”

“I like that,” Chyoma muttered.

“Like what?” Akin quizzed looking a little surprised.

“I liked how you called him brotherly.”

“Oh, that? Yes, he has been one of my closest mens since my secondary school days.”

“Closest mens?” Chyoma laughed uncontrollably.

“Why are you laughing again?”

 

Back at my house

Shawn was in high spirits, singing all over the house while waiting for me to come out of my room. I was still trying to figure out if to put on a suit or something casual. I wasn’t sure who I was going to meet at Chyoma father’s residence. I had been there for a few celebrations before we got married, and believe me, the crème de la crème of Nigeria military and politics were usually present. When I had married Chyoma, her father was the minister of Foreign Affairs. Those were some of the issues that contributed to our breakup. I won’t talk about that now, maybe later.

“Daddy, what are we still waiting for? Will aunty Ndidi go with us?”

“No, aunty Ndidi is not going with us, and please Shawn, don’t ask me more questions. You are adding to the stress I’m already going through. When I’m ready, we would be on our way to see your mother and sister.” I wasn’t sure my message was pitch perfect because the look on Shawn’s face was pitiful. I walked closer to him. “I’m sorry Shawn. Daddy is a little livid at the moment, but that isn’t enough reason to speak to you in that tone.”

Shawn didn’t seem to understand what livid meant, but he got the message. “I love you, daddy,” Shawn spoke up, standing just a feet away, and then he proceeded to hug me.

“You are the best son ever.”

The night had been one of my longest. It was just past 8 pm, it seemed like a starless night that was destined to last forever. I had not heard from Chioma yet, neither Etim nor Nennaya had also gotten back to me. I was hungry, hysterical and almost looking paranoid. For a few minutes, I began to wonder if it would have been much better Chyoma and Shirley never showed up in our lives again after these “many” years. It was all of a sudden hard to live without them, something I had been used to. Or maybe it was just Shirley I couldn’t live without. I was sure I just couldn’t live without that pretty little girl.

“Daddy, your phone is beeping.”

I was lost in thought, and I didn’t notice the screen of my phone light up or hear it beep. “Thank you, Shawn,” I swiped the screen to unlock it, “I hope it’s good news.”

“Is it?” Shawn asked after about a minute. “Daddy. Daddy,” Shawn repeated.

“It’s news, Shawn. It’s neither good nor bad.”

That seemed to startle the little man for some seconds. He looked away, then turned back, “OK daddy!”

It wasn’t news, it was more like a nightmare. It was the sort of horror you got as a child after watching ‘Nneka the Pretty Serpent’ and you had to sleep alone at night. It was several images Akin had sent to me via what’s app. Pictures of he and Chyoma in a boat. I proceeded to take another glance at the pictures. “How would this happen?”

“Daddy, what did you say?” Shawn inquired after he heard me talk out loud.

I tried keeping quiet, but I knew Shawn was going to persist. I was the most important person in his life, and as much as he was a little Pharisee, he really cared for me. If I was unhappy, somehow, he would know and would keep trying to find out why I was bummed out. “The truth is – Daddy loves mummy and Shirley so much that it’s hard to see them stay apart. Daddy robbed you of your sister and a loving relationship with your mother.” It was hard to keep back the tears – so I let it flow freely.

“Stop crying, daddy,” Shawn begged, and then he began to cry too.

“Oga, why two of una dey cry nah? Wetin dey happen?” The driver inquired rudely, meddling in a father and son personal moment.

“Oga e no concern you o. If me and my pikin wan cry, how e go affect the money wey we go pay you?” Mtchewwwwww….

If you enjoyed reading this, you would enjoy reading other short stories too. Also, kindly drop a comment. Thank you!

facebook: Richard Oti

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash  and Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 3

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Sunday mornings were always exciting for me. I liked church a lot, and as was my custom, I tried to always be in the building at least 10 minutes before service began. I didn’t review poems on Sunday. The kids were up by past 6 and were already turning the house upside down.

“What are you guys gonna have for breakfast?” I asked Shirley, squatting so that I could be about the same height with her.

“I’d like bread with eggs and some lemonade or milkshake, I’m sure Shawn would want same too,” Shirley replied.

I got down on my knees and took Shirley by the hands. “Sweetheart, bread with eggs, I can do that for you. But lemonade or milkshake, daddy can’t give you that this morning. So this is what we are gonna do. I’ll put milk in a bottle, and then you would shake the bottle very well, and the milk would be turned into a milkshake. Wouldn’t you like that?”

“Sure.” Shirley excitedly replied, and then she ran off to tell her brother how she was about to turn milk into a milkshake.

I was certain that service was going to be emotional. Many of my friends in the church had never seen Shirley, some saw her last when she was a little baby. I had mixed feelings; one was of excitement, the other – I really couldn’t place it.

The excitement in church on this Sunday was extraordinary. The praise and worship session was the best we’ve had that year. Or maybe it was just me feeling that way. I let Shirley sit beside me on my right and Shawn on the left. Allowing both of them to sit beside each other would have been bad for those around. These young ones didn’t still understand that you only talk in church when the preacher says Hallelujah or Amen.

It was time for the sermon, and Pastor Andy Osakwe was already standing in front of the lectern. But as usual, he liked a song of worship to be sung before he preached. That session was handled by Miss Agodichinma…  She was good, she usually handled that moment with the finesse of Sinach or Karen Kiki Sheard. That moment reminded me of the first time I attended Summit Bible church, it was Chyoma who handled that moment. She did it with such grace that I spent most of the time staring at her instead of worshipping with others. That was the first time in my life that I fell in love at first sight. After Chyoma was done singing, she stepped off the stage and joined the other members of the choir at their stand. My eyes were transfixed on Chyoma. Till this day, I have no idea of what was preached, because I wouldn’t stop stalking Chyoma with my eyes. After service, I walked up to her and told her how special I thought she was on stage. She obviously had heard that several times, but she was appreciative nonetheless. I asked for her phone number, but she wouldn’t give me because I was a stranger. I thought there were no strangers in the house of God? I asked her. But she just laughed and walked away without doing so rudely.

“Hey Ndidi”

“Hello Mitchie Mitch” She replied, reaching into her purse to pull out her car key. We were now at the car park after service had been dismissed. It was Shirley’s last day with Shawn and I, I was already getting emotional about the entire scenario that would play out the next day, when I would have to let her go. I kept thinking of the possibility of just kidnapping her, and running away, far from where we all could be found. But that was selfish, and I had to stifle that thought.
“I want to take Y’all out for lunch,” Ndidi said, kick-starting her Range Rover Sports utility vehicle. “You guys should hop in.”

The kids all sat at the back, while I sat beside Ndidi. “Where are we off to?” I asked, clipping the seat belt, and adjusting myself to enjoy the ride.

“Salamander Café”

“No, can‘t we go somewhere else please?”

“Why? I think Salamander is the best place we could hang-out at the moment. It’s closer to home, you know.” Ndidi replied, not understanding why I had objected to Salamander. While I was still trying to figure out how to convince her to consider Dominos Pizza, Johnny Rocket or one of them fanciful restaurants, she immediately put up an opinion poll. “If you want to go to Salamander Café, say yea.”

Unanimously, everyone in the car said – yea, excluding me. So, at this point, my opinion didn’t matter again. Ndidi hit the accelerator harder, and we were en route the café.

“Welcome to Salamander” The beautiful lady who ushered us in said.

My eyes were moving through and fro, searching the most annoying man alive – Akinyele. It didn’t take but a few seconds to find him.

“Daddy, see uncle Akin,” Shawn shouted, pointing towards a table Akin had been waiting on.

“He’s is not your uncle. He can never be your uncle. Anytime you see him just refer to him as Mr. Akinyele.” I said to Shawn, looking as serious as I could be. Anyways, Akin didn’t matter, so I just acted as if he didn’t work there and enjoyed my time out with the Kids. The meal was a special one, without any interruptions from Akin. At some point in between bites, a tear rolled out from my eye; It was hard to imagine how hard it must have been for Shirley not to have a father with her. What would she say to her friends at school when they asked about her father? How does she feel when her friends are picked up from school by their fathers? Being separated from Chyoma was far more than how each of us felt. How ‘bout the kids – their dreams, hopes, and future?

It was time to leave after we had had a splendid time. Ndidi wanted to pay for the meal, but I refused. “Haba! I will take care of it.” I said to her and pulled out my ATM card from my wallet. Even though I wasn’t very rich, I felt I shouldn’t just sit back and allow ladies to keep paying the bills whenever we were out. I had very little money the last time I had come with Chyoma, but I had a little more now. So, I walked out to the counter to settle with them.

“Your bill is N19, 500, sir.”

“Ehn,” I screamed. I knew the bill was going to be high, but I didn’t expect it to be that high. I couldn’t swallow my words back, so I slotted my card into the POS machine, entered the amount, my pin, and then I hit the enter button.

Akin walked by, stopping beside me. I acted like I didn’t notice he was standing next to me, although I could feel his hot breath on my neck. “You can’t even wait for Chyoma to leave for the United States before you return here with another woman.”

I kept quiet, ignoring him, maybe my silence would be golden I thought to myself. I remembered Pastor’s message that said ‘We were wrestling not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers,’ so, I just relaxed.

The lady at the counter handed me my payment receipt, and then I turned to walk away.

“Are you walking away Michelle?” Akin said to me. He purposely called me the feminine version of my name, invariably referring to me as a woman who could not stand up to him.I stood still for a few seconds; my pride said fight, but my feet said go, so I obeyed and kept moving.

I suddenly felt Akin’s hand draw me back… “Chyoma said you were the biggest mistake of her life.” He only whispered it, but it echoed so loud like he had spoken with a megaphone.  I suddenly forgot the part of Pastor Andy’s sermon that said ‘we weren’t wrestling with the flesh,’ I turned and landed a punch on his face.

“Why wouldn’t you let me and my family be?” I screamed at him. I had lost my self-control and I just let the floodgates open, and just kept talking and screaming at him. It was when I felt a little hand on my leg, I realized that everyone in the café was looking at me. “Daddy, why are you angry?” Shirley asked.

I felt so ashamed and embarrassed; most especially, because Akin was so calm, cool and collected while I was raving, although his lips were bleeding profusely. I began to wonder if the devil could suddenly change from a masquerade outfit into a Prada suit within seconds.

While we were in the car on our way home, I felt so bad. I knew that I had failed my kids and Ndidi. Although I had apologized to Akin before leaving the café, I still picked up my phone, scrolled through my true caller app call records for Friday, the day he had called me. ‘I am really sorry I hit you. Please forgive me.’ I hit the send button.

“I don’t know exactly what pissed you off, but I know you are a good man Mitchie,” Ndidi said to me after I had apologized to her and the kids too. My temper was in my control, and there was no excuse to justify the way I had behaved.

 

*Back in Sierra Leone*

Chyoma and her team had made a lot of progress with her big story, thanks to Silvia Milowangawe. Silvia had linked Chyoma to an NGO, providing her an opportunity to pass off as a health worker rather than a journalist, which would have probably gotten her arrested. The needed interviews with doctors, survivors, community member, and other health workers had been captured on video. Chyoma’s perceptions had been true. The Government had really controlled the local media to do downplay the real devastation of the outbreak; over 250 had died in the Njallah Geima and Kambia community only.

“How long would you need to edit and have this story ready?” Chyoma asked Barry, the head of programming supervising the story.

“Quarter of a day, or half at most.”

That’s great!”

Chioma was scheduled to return to Nigeria the next day. Spending the rest of the evening with Silvia was her only priority for the rest of that Sunday. “What a busy, but productive day,” Chioma murmured, and then lay on her extra-large bed, hoping to catch forty winks. The sound of her phone beeping was disturbing, very disturbing, the nap was cut short. “Twitter, whats app and Instagram messages,” Guess Chyoma hadn’t had time to go through her notifications. “Akin sent me a video? What’s it all about?” Chyoma grumbled out loud and then proceeded to download the video. She was still a little sleepy, tired from the several hours of road trips and information gathering.

‘Why wouldn’t you let my family be? What is wrong with you? I’d punch you a second, third and fourth time if I have to…..’

“What? This cannot be true,” sitting up on the bed, Chyoma replayed the video – my encounter with Akin. I had no idea he had planned the provocation and had told someone to record it from the point when I hit him and began to shout. He carefully left out the aggravation on his part and the apology on my part after I had hurt him. Scrolling through her contact list, Chyoma quickly dialed Akin’s number.

“Hello Akin… “ dragging his name to show her Empathy, Chyoma called out, being so touched by the pains he had been put through. “How are you dear?”

“I’m fine,” Akin informed, coughing hard and moaning in pain. My mouth and my neck hurt me soooo bad. I took an x-ray, and I’m being observed by the doctor at the moment.”

“I saw the video. It’s sad to believe that Mitchel would stoop that low and act like a teenager. How did it all happen?”

“Mitchel stopped by at the café today, at about 10 minutes past 11 am. I knew the time because I had just received a text message from my Manager informing me that most of the customers that had walked in that morning had been so impressed by my service and how nice I was that a few of them went ahead to commend me.” Akin gripped for a few seconds, followed by a few seconds of silence, and then he picked up from where he had stopped. “I walked up to Mitchie, as someone I knew and greeted him, trying to put aside our differences. I noticed he came with another woman; she looked a little older than him, but she was nowhere half as beautiful as you are. You know you are so beautiful, right?”

Laughing over the phone, “Yes, I know that,” Chyoma replied, and gave Akin a kind compliment too – “You are a perfect gentleman, you know, right?”

“I didn’t know. No one ever tells me that. Thank you, you are just so special.”

Fifteen seconds of silence followed Akin’s compliment. It seemed they both were trying to savor the compliments a little more before akin continued his story.

“…OK, so I thought the lady he came with was someone you knew, so I welcomed both of them and gave Shirley a hug.”

“Oh my Shirley, How is she?”

“She is such a lovely little girl. She was the reason Akin hit me.”

“How?”

“I noticed that each time I walked by their table, I would hear Mitchie ask Shirley to refer to this woman as mother.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“True. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard it with my own ears. I kept wondering, why would Mitchel try to fill up your space in Shirley’s life overnight? I wouldn’t stand back and let that happen, not when I’m alive.”

Chioma wasn’t aware when she blurted out “You are so much of a man,” realizing she had spoken out loud, “Thank you for standing up for me,” She said to Akin.

“So, when he walked up to the counter to pay the bills,”

“Sorry to cut you short. Are you trying to say he paid the bills?”

“Yes, he did.”

“You won’t believe the last time I was there with Mitchie, he said he didn’t have money, so he took us to Mr. Biggs. I noticed the kids were so uncomfortable, so I had to pull out my phone and search online for the best spots to hang out in Abuja. Based on the reviews and closeness, I preferred Blue Cabana and Salamander café. But Salamander was just beside where we were, so that was how we came over.”

“He came over to pay ooo, and that was how I accosted him, trying to inquire why he had been asking Shirley to call that woman – mother when it was obvious that she wasn’t and could never be. And that was how Mitchel flared up and attacked me.”

“I’m really short of words. It’s amazing how quiet you were. You wouldn’t even defend yourself. I was thinking, what kind of man are you? Really, Akin, what kind of man are you?”

“Just a man who believes in standing up for what is right. I’m just a man who believes in love. Just a man who believes in you.”

“Can we have lunch tomorrow?” Chyoma asked.

Akin was shocked. He had hoped to ask chyoma out for lunch but didn’t expect the offer to come this early, and on a platter of gold too.

“Wouldn’t you be tired after a long flight tomorrow?” Akin asked acting very concerned.

”It’s not really a long flight. It’s just 2 hours and 48 minutes from Freetown to Lagos, and an extra 50 minutes to Abuja. I should be in town before 11 am, and then I could rest a few hours before our lunch. I want to have lunch with you. Don’t say no, please?”

“It would be such an honour,” Akin replied.

Of course, for Akinyesco Baddoski things were falling in place, and he wasn’t even trying as hard as he could.

It was 5:45 pm, my phone was ringing. The number resembled the number that Chyoma had called me with on Friday night. The kids and I were in the parlor watching the Johnsons on Africa Magic, so I excused myself and walked into my room to pick her call.

“Hey Chyoma,” I hollered, sounding excited to hear her voice again.

“Where is Shirley?”

“She is in the living room with Shawn.”

“Please, pack her things. Etim would be coming to pick her up in 15 minutes.”

“But… why?” I quickly retorted. The phone went dead. I couldn’t explain why Chyoma’s voice was so frosty. I sat down on the bed to try figuring out what was happening. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I looked at my phone again, and I realized I had lost two minutes out of the 15 I had to pack Shirley’s bag and have them ready for Etim.

“Sweetheart, your bag needs to be packed right away. Uncle Etim is coming to pick you up,” I said to Shirley, not being able to look into her eyes because mine was already teary.

Holding onto my hand, “Daddy… Why?” Shirley asked. “You don’t want me to stay with you?”

I quickly knelt down beside her and gave her a big hug. “I would give anything to have you stay with me forever, but mama needs you at home tonight.”

“Daddy, would you allow Shawn to come with me? Would you come with me too?”

I just held her tight, not knowing how best to respond to her questions. Shawn not understanding why we were both crying, joined in, and it seemed for the next few minutes I hosted a real pity party. Shirley had changed our lives in just two days. I hadn’t figured out how much I had missed this little precious gift God had given me until that moment.

Opening the door, “Ete Ideme,” I greeted Etim and invited him into the house.

“Osong” Etim replied and then, he walked in. “Madam say make I come pick little madam.”

I would have fought with Etim for calling Shirley that. But I was unable to at this time because my heart was heavy.

“Your madam called me. Shirley’s Bag is packed. Let me go get it for you.”

I could see the pain in Shawn’s eyes. It felt like I was depriving him of being with his sister all over again. He began to cry again when I walked out with the bag. You see, Shawn had been my roommate and best friend, I almost forgot he was just 5 years old.

“I love you, my baby, I’m grateful to be your father,” I said to Shirley, kneeling beside her. I kissed her on her forehead and gave Shawn some room to spend a minute or two with his sister before she left.

Chyoma had gone to spend the evening with Silvia, and her new friend, in turn, had cleared her schedule for the evening to accommodate the visit.

“Sawubona!”

“Sawubona dear… Ngiyakwemukela!”

“I have no idea what you just said, but come over here and give me a hug, would you?”

“It means you are welcome,” Silvia informed, and then gave Chyoma a peck on both sides of her cheek.

Lying on the sofa, Chyoma was snuggly with Silvia’s teddy bear; she felt much better at Silvia’s than she did at the hotel. “What were you doing before I interrupted?”

“Cooking,” Silvia responded and quickly dashed into the kitchen. That question had reminded her that she had a mixture of beans with pork in tomato sauce, simmering. “Hope you don’t have a phobia for pork?”

Reaching for the remote, Chyoma began to flip stations in search of something interesting to watch.

“Young lady, do you eat pork?” Silvia yelled from the kitchen a second time because there was no reply to the first call.

“I eat anything that tastes good.”

“That makes two of us.”

Silvia was in and out of the kitchen every few minutes. She was more in than out, so Chyoma decided to walk over there to keep her company while she cooked.

While Silvia kept up with the cutting, simmering, chopping and frying, Chyoma pulled out her phone and began to watch the fight between Akin and I. Well, it wasn’t a fight, it was one-sided, so I would call it an assault.

“Why so serious?” Silvia murmured, “What are you watching?”

“It’s my ex. I’m watching him make a fool of himself.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, what more painful is that our kids were right there with him while he was doing so. Take a look at this video.” Chioma angrily passed the phone and hissed in disgust.

“What made him act this way?” Silvia asked as she kept watching the video.

“That’s even more disgusting, I won’t want to bore you with the details. I have instructed my driver to pick up my daughter. I wish he could have picked up Shawn, but the terms of our divorce give him the right to custody of our son.”

“Have you asked him why he behaved this way?”

“I have all the information I need concerning this video. There is nothing more to ask him.”

“Who furnished you with the information?”

“Oh, it’s the other handsome gentleman who wouldn’t even cuss or fight back….” Chyoma’s eyes seemed to lighten up as she spoke about Akin. But Silvia seemed to pause for a minute to analyze the video and everything Chyoma had said.

“I think this whole thing is biased if you don’t hear the other party’s side of it.”

“It’s not biased, one bit, believe me.”

Silvia walked closer to Chyoma and put her arms around her. “Baby, I have been married for 26 years, and I know that no man is perfect. But one thing I have come to understand also is this – never make judgments without your heart. What does your heart tell you?”

MONDAY MORNING

I had slept for several hours but still found it difficult to get off the bed; not that I felt sleepy, but because I still felt knocked out from the happenings of the previous evening. The poems were good, so much genius in them. The first ten poems I had gone through were really beautiful, but the second, really had my heart, and that was my piece for that morning.

MY IMMORTAL BELOVED
Sitting on the lush green grass

Sprouting from the rich earth, the exact color of brass,

Surrounded by numerous brightly colored butterflies

And the beautiful symphonic noise of singing birds and buzzing flies

The wind is blowing so softly

And into the still, cool pond dangles our feet lightly

Everything smells so beautiful, looks so magnificent

Because I’m with my Unsterbliche Gelibte

Right next to him, my Immortal Beloved

Our eyes are shut, for this moment ought to be savored

He reaches out, takes my hand in his

I turn and look at him, my eyes lock with his

And time and nature stands still

Words can’t explain how we both feel

So, I say nothing, neither does he

Everything has finally become as God meant it to be

All I could hear was the beat of my heart Or was it his?

No, it’s ours. For now, we have but a heart.
Review: The writer was able to capture love, not just as a fleeting feeling that last only for a week or two, but as it should be – forever. I get amazed at the depth of rich minds that contribute to this blog every day. I’m honored that a lot of these poets will give me the opportunity to review their poems. I pray you fall in love, and that it would last forever. I wish you all a poetry and love-filled day. Salute!

It was 5:35 am, and I had to start preparing breakfast for Shawn. Opening the fridge, I had a pack of fresh milk, an open can of corned beef, eggs, bread, and chicken. These were enough to draw up an early morning menu. I mixed the eggs with corned beef and allowed it to sauté for a few minutes before adding the spices. I always prided myself on being a good cook. That estimation was me being modest; I’m really an exceptional cook. It was 6 am and Shawn had awakened from slumberland. I had placed a pail in the bathroom for him, and breakfast was already set on the dining table.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” I asked Shawn after he had greeted me. He looked a little livelier than he did before he had gone to bed.

“Daddy, do I have to brush every morning?”

“No, you don’t have to, but you can only take that decision when I don’t have to be so close to you, to smell your stinky breath.”

“What if I run away? Daddy, catch me if you can?”

I began to chase him all over the living room, and we began to play for the next few minutes, I helped to take his bath, dress up, and get ready for school. We were out of the house at 6:52 am, and in 17 minutes, we were standing just outside the school gate.

“Be a good boy. Share your food with a friend, if you can. Always remember, I love you.”

“Thank you, daddy, I love you too.”

As I turned to walk away, Shawn tapped me on my right leg. “Can I see Shirley after school?”

I could see the hope in his eyes, and I didn’t want to be the one to dash it. I was flummoxed on how to respond, but I decided to be honest with him.

“I don’t know when we would be able to see Shirley next. But when mummy returns today, I’m sure we would work something out, I promise you.” His eyes seemed to lighten up even more, and then he turned and walked away. I stopped a cab, hopped in, and was off to the gym.

The treadmill never looked so unattractive as it did today, even for me a die-hard workout advocate. Everyone and everything about the gym looked clumsy today. My mind was more pre-occupied with what was going to happen to the newly built relationship I had established with my daughter when she and her mother returned back to the States in two weeks. Would it take another four years to see her again? Would Chyoma eventually marry someone else who would replace me in her life? The latter question seemed to hunt me. I decided to take a break and rest for a few minutes.

Settling down on one of the chairs beside the cables and pulleys, I lifted my eyes and behold, CNN was airing Chyoma’s story from Sierra Leone. I jumped off the chair and hurried closer to the Television, but the sound of the music in the gym was drowning the audio of her report. The story was tagged as exclusive. Oh, I was so proud of her. I pulled out my phone from the back of my jeans and dialed her number, but it was switched off. So I typed out a message – ‘just watched you on CNN, I’m proud of you always,” and then I hit the send button….

Poem – immortal beloved – written by Laura Uwajimba.

Image courtesy – Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash AND Pixabay

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MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 2

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MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 1

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It had been 4 years since they had been separated as little kids, but on reuniting, they were up to their usual shenanigans. In comparison to their mother, I was broke; so I took them to Mr. Biggs for lunch. It was easy to interpret the look on the red faces of both lads. There was a spirit of el cheapo hovering all over the air. The taste of the meal cast a pall upon all of us, not one that would last long though, we were out of there in a jiffy. I was doting on Shirley, while Chyoma reciprocated same to Shawn. It wasn’t rehearsed, we were meant to be a family. I had been shellacked by life all the years we had spent apart. There was never a day I hadn’t wished we were together, building the family we had dreamt of.

Settling down on the sofa, it was like we had just walked into the outer courts of heaven. “Would you like to have some cappuccino?” I asked Chioma, hoping she would say yes. We were at Salamander cafe in Wuse II, Abuja, precisely. The kids felt more at home and the el spendo spirit was all over. Well, I wasn’t the one spending, so I just relaxed my nerves and prepared myself to enjoy the beautiful café.

Shirley was 5 years, 6 months, 15 days and 35 minutes old. She was just a Day 5 minutes and 20 seconds older than Shawn. We wanted to be as traditional as we could be while Chyoma was pregnant; so, we didn’t perform an ultrasound scan to determine the sex of the child. Why spoil the fun? I would be holding my child in my arms in a few months. Whatever the sex was, I was going to be a dad, and that was all that mattered. Shirley had been brought forth, and we had no idea another little man was coming behind her. It was many hours later and then Chyoma was in labor again. I was worried, scared, and a very young nervous husband at the time. Shawn was born the next day. He was brought forth, having a smile on his face, something more like a smirk saying – did you guys plan to leave me behind? I answered that question by holding him lovingly in my arms. Of course son, we wouldn’t trade you for anything in this world.

Chyoma seemed to think a little, “A cup of creamed coffee would be fine,” she replied.

I asked the waiter for two bottles of something soft for the kids, a cup of cappuccino, and another of creamed coffee. The waiter took note of what we had requested, and then he handed us a menu, so we could select our meal.

“Hello everyone, lovely kids, beautiful lady and…”
You won’t believe this dude stopped just when he should have referred to me as a handsome man or gentleman. He stopped and rather he said – ‘….and oga.’

I just kept quiet and held my peace. Oga isn’t a bad name; it means he respects me a lot. I tried to convince myself the young waiter or chef meant no harm.

“So, have you all decided on what you would like to eat?” The waiter asked, smiling all the way.

“I’ll have some salad; a little lettuce, cheese, bacon, chicken, boiled eggs, avocado, and tomatoes. I’d like to have some fresh curried fish too.” Chyoma said.

“I’ll have a plate of fried rice with grilled chicken and a bottle of Sprite,” I told the lanky waiter, who didn’t seem so excited about my order – maybe it was too simplistic. But I wasn’t ‘bout to eat curry soup with black beans, basmati rice with black-eyed Lobster. I wonder who conjures up these menus.

Shirley and Shawn were having the time of their life. I always heard there was a magical closeness between twins, even when they were not Siamese. Four years hadn’t changed a lot, they were having fun, and they really looked cute together. I stared at Shirley adoringly, while Chyoma wouldn’t take her eyes off Shawn. I was a little jealous that my son was getting more attention than I was, but he was her son, and myself – once her husband.

The waiter was back again. The chef was already working on the first order.

“And what would you like for the little cute girl?” The waiter asked, smiling from ear to ear, with sparks of light in his eyes. The kind of sparks I had in my eyes when I first saw Chyoma on that beautiful Sunday in church.

This dud couldn’t be hitting on my wife right in front of me, I thought to myself. Then again, I realized she was no longer my wife and I had to get used to that. But at least, the waiter knew this was a date. Or, wasn’t it obvious to him? I’ll give him a little space and watch how far he goes with this, and then I’ll fix him right in his place.

“She’d have Italian chicken with mashed potatoes and some salad. Also, bring a drink with little or no sugar please.” Chyoma requested on Shirley’s behalf.

The waiter spent more time trying to get the details of Chyoma’s order perfectly, that I thought – how unprofessional can this dude get? He seemed so nice and was all smiles when attending to her. But when I had ordered, he wouldn’t even let me repeat myself. He said – ‘oga, I got your order; you don’t have to say the same thing twice.’

“What would your order be for the little handsome boy?” The waiter asked Chyoma. This guy completely ignored me. 

“He’d have Jamaican fried chicken with spaghetti Bolognese,” I replied the waiter without looking at his face. I wanted him to know that I didn’t like him and I had zero respect for a man who won’t respect another man’s lady.

“Get him a glass of smoothie too.”

“Will that be all sir?”

“If I need something else would you need to remind me?” I replied, my face looking like an angry Killi Wee Nwachukwu.

The waiter was handsome and wore a crisp white shirt with fitted black pants and a well-shined shoe. Maybe I was a little jealous. But I was more handsome. Maybe thrice as handsome as he was. But my trousers were not fitted and my shoe looked like they had survived four generations of hardship. My properly starched blue T.M Lewin shirt was the only source of swag about my outfit. Things were a little rough, but Chyoma knew I was avant-garde when it came to fashion. But sadly, today I looked more like a shadow of myself.

“Don’t you think you are being a little too harsh on the young man?” Chyoma asked, looking right into my eyes.

“What?” I replied, acting like I didn’t understand what she was talking about.

“Come off it Mitchel, You haven’t treated that young man nicely since we walked in.”

I wanted to badly ask her if she noticed how ‘that young man’ had been looking at her and how he had been treating me too. But if I did, she would say I still same old me, as ever. I wasn’t about to let her open an old wound. Most especially, a wound that hadn’t completely healed. So, I apologized and promised to treat him better.

“Shawn, do you like this place?” Chyoma asked, wearing a loving smile.

I realized she so badly wanted to hold Shawn in her arms. I could tell it from the look in her eyes.

“Yes Aunty,” Shawn replied.

“No Shawn, she’s mummy, not aunty.” I quickly interjected.

“It’s alright. He hasn’t had me as a mother for four years.” Those words almost brought tears to her eyes.

“Will you like to listen to some jazz music while we wait for the food?” I asked, trying to get her mind on something else.

“That feels just so right.”

So, we left both lads and took a walk to the lounge. It was cozy and had a good ambience – just as the entire cafe did. The playlist was a mix of Chris Botti, Kirk Whallum, Dave Koz, Kenny G and George Benson; we couldn’t have been having a lovelier time. The music afforded me a respite from thoughts about the waiter, and it afforded her a breather too. At least, her eyes were no more moist like they were when Shawn called her aunty.

Shawn had spoken to Chioma several times over the years, and he had often called her mom. Well, that was easy, I usually notified him who was on the other end of the telephone before he spoke. Now, placing a face to the voice was not so easy for the little man. Shirley knew I was her dad – she called me that. I wondered if a day, 5 minutes and 20 seconds made her all that wiser, or had I failed in my part to keep his mum’s memory fresh in his mind? I’m sure it’s the latter.

“How long do you have to be around?” I asked.

“A couple of weeks” Chioma replied.

I wanted to ask her lots of questions. For one, I still had butterflies in my tummy for her, I needed to know if the feeling was mutual. It seemed selfish to ask such at this time. I should focus on her and not me.

“What have you been doing in the US for the past four years?”

“Well, nothing you don’t know. I’ve been pursuing my career as a journalist. Finished my internship with the Voice of America last year, and landed a job with CNN as junior correspondence.”

“Wow! Way to go girl.”

I was sincerely happy for her. I didn’t think she would have been able to accomplish that if she had still been married to me. It was a nice feeling and a sobering moment too. What had I achieved in four years since we separated? That was a rhetorical question I asked myself, as I smiled and took a sip of the smoothie from the big glass cup before me, trying to take my mind off the sad answer to that question.

“So what have you been up to in 4 years?” Chyoma asked.

It’s funny how she didn’t know anything happening in my life – she was once my life, the very center of my world. I would have given up my breath for her in a heartbeat. It’s funny how things suddenly change.

“I found a new love – poetry.”

“Tell me more about your new love,” Chyoma asked.

“Well, after we separated, it was difficult for me to move on. I blamed myself for months. I blamed your parents, I blamed our friends, and I blamed everything and everyone. Then, I found solace writing my thoughts almost every day. At first, the pieces were dark and had a lot of pain and grief concealed in them. Then, after a while, the light began to break-forth, and they became more beautiful. I eventually started a blog, one dedicated to love and poetry.”

Chyoma didn’t say a word for the next few minutes. I wanted her to so badly ask me to read out one of my poems to her. I was wondering what was going on in her mind. She just smiled at me and kept smiling. I couldn’t help but stare at her when she wasn’t looking at me. Chyoma was beautiful, really beautiful. I know they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I wasn’t just the only one seeing it, the waiter must have seen the same thing too. Chyoma usually wore light make-up and most importantly a charming smile, one that had characterized her for many years.

Chris Botti has got to be the godfather of trumpet jazz I thought to myself. I was loving the jazz collection playing in the background. Whoever the Disc Jockey was, he had to be a jazz freak.

“I should check on the kids,” Chyoma said, and then stood up.

Shirley and Shawn were done with their drinks, but the bonding didn’t stop. It was the twin spirit at work. It was unbreakable. Chyoma walked up to them, and then she sat on the sofa.

“Mummy, when are we going home?” Shirley asked.

“As soon as you want us to baby” Chyoma replied.

“Can we take Shawn with us?”

“We will someday, but we can’t today.”

Shawn was looking at Chioma the way a kid looks at a stranger he wants to get acquainted with.

“Shawn, come over here,” Chioma said, reaching her hands out toward him. The little man was up and sitting on her laps in a few seconds. She ran her fingers through his afro while holding him tightly to herself with her other hand.

The lanky waiter walked into the lounge with an assistant, both searching with their eyes for Chyoma and me. Walking to the table, they off-loaded the delivery – our order. I could tell they seemed disappointed that I was alone. I guess he had gone to rub powder on his face, add a little swag to his step and had brought along a co-worker just to score a point; that there was a pretty lady who seemed to fancy him.
Well, maybe it was all just in my imagination, however, I thanked him for the meal served.

Shirley sat on my lap while I ate. She was having fun playing with my beards. I had missed so much of her life that I wished that moment could last forever. Shawn was a little more reserved, he sat quietly on his mother’s lap and wouldn’t say much. I was racking my brain for the right pick up line to say what I had in my heart. I was wishing we would spend some more time the next day, and every following day. Maybe they could even spend the weekend at our crib.

“Mitchy, I think it’s time to leave. We’ve spent quite some time here.”

“That’s true,” I replied. But I was just half-way through the meal. So, I pounced on the chicken quickly, and had my mouth full in a bit, while also trying to feed Shirley with some. I could tell by the look on Shawn’s face, he was starting to get jealous. Was I loving this?

It had been a beautiful outing, and now, it was time to leave. Chyoma had settled the bill and given the waiter a tip. The latter seemed to annoy me a lot, especially because he wouldn’t just take the tip and walk away, he had to spend two minutes talking to her. What does he want from her? I kept asking myself as I kept looking at both of them with the corner of my eye.

“I have just been in the country for a few days. It’s a new number, I haven’t memorized it.” Chyoma responded to the waiter’s request for her number.

“Ok, then I’ll just give you mine.” The waiter cum chef said, smiling like he was about to do an ad for Oral-B toothpaste.

I had become certain this chef of a guy was doing all these on purpose just to irk me. This guy wouldn’t qualify for the celebrity chef reality show if Nigeria ever did one, so, what was it about him that made him feel like the special one?

“What is his name?” I asked Chyoma as we walked out the door.

“Whose?”  Chyoma asked, acting as if she was oblivious to whom I was enquiring about.

“The waiter or chef guy, or whatever he is,” I replied in a not so friendly tone.

“Akinyele”

“In the words of Asa – Akinyele wants to marry wife, He doesn’t want to pay some bride price.”

“What did you say?” Chyoma asked me, not grasping what I had just said.

“He seems like a pretty nice guy,” I said to Chioma, hoping to score a point – I wasn’t this jealous egotistical fellow she’s thought I was.

“Yes, he seems nice. He wants me to go on a date with him.”

My heart stopped for a few seconds, it seemed I had swallowed my Adam’s apple and had to gasp for breath.

“Are you alright?” Chyoma asked.

“Sure. I’m awesome.”

I kissed Shirley on her forehead and made sure Shawn gave his mum a big hug and a kiss too.
Shirley and her mother both got into the car; Mr. Etim, the driver had been waiting. I had known Mr. Etim for a long time now. He had been Chioma’s family driver for many years – and he kept getting fatter and also, the family cars just kept getting better.

Shawn waved goodbye to Shirley, I blew a kiss into the air to her – she blushed and chuckled.
“Do you like mummy?” I asked Shawn, kneeling down beside the road while trying to lace up his And1 canvas.

“Yes, but I like Shirley more.” He replied.

“Well, mummy and Shirley are one. If there was no mummy, there would have been no Shirley, and neither would you have been too.” I could tell by the look on his face, he didn’t understand most of what I had just said, “Don’t worry, with time you will get to understand.” I said to him, lifting him off the floor unto my loving arms.

“Let’s go home son.”

Blogging had been my solace for about four years now. I started a blog that focused on poetry and love. It isn’t hard to figure out the link between the two. If you really fall in love, you will embrace poetry, and if you aren’t in love and embrace poetry, you would soon fall in love.
It’s Friday Morning… I had dropped Shawn off at his School – Early Springs Primary School and was back home.

I didn’t have a paid job, but I had a thriving blog; and somehow, it had begun to yield some financial dividends. My blog had become one of the most visited in the country. I guess, people never stop falling in love, and looking for poems to express how they feel. I wrote a new love poem almost every few days and also reviewed the poems submitted by other poets. Upcoming and a few famous poets from all over the world sent in their poems for publishing on the blog. The fame of my blog hadn’t really translated into much money in the bank, but I could pay my rent and fend for my son.

Ok, it’s 7:58 am on January 27th, and it’s time to review a poem. A lot of poems had been submitted, but I found this piece a little special.

THE DANCE

All you wanted was a rose

So I scampered all over the earth

 I wouldn’t let Kilimanjaro’s height scare me

Neither the length of Thames
My feet hurt from the scorching sands of the Sahara

My palms, thorns stung

But I found you a rose, and it’s red

because I want us to be more than friends
I want to dance with you beside the deep blue sea

We’d dance all night to the songs of the angels

God would be our host

The sun, moon, and twinkling stars our guests

I hope when the morning lights rise you’ll say ‘I do’

I pray you’d say ‘I do’

I promise to keep you in my heart – it’s warm

It might not be everything you desire

But if you’ll make it your home,

I’ll make it paradise

Why are your eyes turning cold?

You don’t love me as much as before?

Before you say those sad words,

Take my hand; let’s dance by the deep blue sea

All night long and maybe forever…


Review: The writer is in love and would do anything to grow that love. He would go as far as the depths of the sea, and as high as outer space for the one he loves. The writer takes it a step further… he wants her to be his wife. That is the maturity of love when you want to spend forever with your favorite girl. But it seems she is withdrawing from him. The writer expresses this by saying – why are your eyes turning cold? However, he still shows optimism in hoping for a forever together. The writer shows depth in this piece and I must salute his heart. I hope she says yes, and I pray they stay in love forever. I’d rate this poem 4 stars – very good. I wish you all a love and poetry filled day. Salute!


Everything felt a little different today. Maybe seeing Chyoma wasn’t such a good idea, especially because I hadn’t gotten over her. It’s hard to believe that four years hadn’t changed much. Maybe I should get to the gym and have a good work out session, I should feel much better within an hour. So, I got dressed and was off to Denis Hotel, off Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 2. I had just spent few minutes in the gym before my phone rang – it was Chyoma. My heart began to leap for Joy, but of course, I wasn’t going to sound surprised on the phone.

“Hey!”

“Hi.., good morning. What’s up?” Chyoma asked, sounding like she had some sweet liquid in her mouth.

“I’m good. What’s in your mouth?”

“I’m having green tea with plantain for breakfast.”

My first thought – hope Shirley doesn’t eat that too. But I refrained from asking,  I shouldn’t think ’bout me and what I like or don’t at the moment. How about what Chyoma likes?

“Green tea and plantain? Maybe I’ll try it out sometime.”

“Mitchel, I know you’d never.”

“Never say never”

“OK, if you say so. By the way, where are you at?” Chyoma asked.

“I’m at the gym, working out these muscles. I need to stay as nimble as I can.”

“Nice!”

“How ’bout you?”

“I’m lazying about the house, eating and packing my bags.”

“Where are you off too?”

“Sirea leone”

“Why? Thought you were to be around for a while?”

“Yes, but I got a call from my head of programming. There’s been an outbreak of the deadly virus in Sierra Leone.”

“I haven’t heard about that.”

“Yes, I’m hoping to be the first international journalist to bring the story to the world.”

“That would be big.”

“Yes, and that would be a boost for my career.”

“Are you going with Shirley?”

“That’s one of the reasons I’m calling you. Can Shirley spend the weekend with you and Shawn? I hope to be back by next week. Etim would pick her and take her back to my parents, on Monday.”

“That would be awesome.”

“OK. Let’s meet up at Grand Square by 11 am. My flight to Lagos is at 2:30 pm.”

“Sure.”

Boy! Was that the best news I had heard.. A weekend with the cutest little girl alive. This was going to be a weekend surprise for Shawn.

I was out of the gym in a jiffy and had a little pricing war with several cab men before I found one willing to take me to Area 11 for N300.  Not that I couldn’t pay more, but these Abuja cab guys can drive from your parlour to your bedroom, and charge you N3000 if you don’t open your eyes. Everyone is a millionaire in Abuja to these guys, even if you stay in Jikwoyi or Mpape.

Looking through my wardrobe, I was trying to pick out something nice. The options were limited, but I had to still look my best. So, I picked out a dirty denim black Jean and a polo by Ralph stripped T-Shirt. That was my best. Suddenly, everything just seemed different, there was such a joy, it was Chyoma, she had such an effect on me. I was out of the house by past 10 am… Never keep a lady waiting.., one of the rules of dating. It wasn’t a date, but to me, any opportunity I had, I determined to treat it like it was the first date.

“Where are you at?”

“I’m inside, sitting in front of a bowl of ice-cream.”

“Is that your prize for working out?” Chyoma asked.

“Naaaaaaah… Just a luxury I can afford because my body is in good shape.”

“We just alighted from the car, we are coming in now.”

It was hard for me to act normal, not around Chyoma. I smelt my body to ensure it smelled good. My hair was curled and shiny, and I crowned the good look with a smile of life.

Shirley walked in first, and immediately she spotted me, she ran towards with her arms wide open. You don’t understand how that feels if you have never been a daddy. I held Shirley tightly in my arms, with my eyes closed, savoring the precious moment. When I opened my eyes, before me stood the most beautiful woman alive, and yes she was accompanied by the most annoying man alive – Akinyele the waiter.

Akinyele was a mood killer, and he didn’t even know it. I knew Chyoma hadn’t given him her number because she didn’t even know it off the heart. So, that leaves me with only one conclusion – Chyoma must have called him. That is so bad for me. I have a competition to deal with?

“I brought Akinyele along.”

“Yes, but I only have space for Shirley at home.”

“Mitchelllll… ..” Chyoma said, and laughed.

Akinyele didn’t find it funny. Who cared anyways?  We all sat down, hoping to enjoy the 30 minutes together before Chioma would leave for the airport.

“Is Salamander cafe closed today?” I asked Akinyele.

“No, I’m just off work today.”

“O, I see. Are you like the chief waiter/chef or something?”

“No, I’m just one of many waiters, but also a trained chef whose specialty is continental dishes.”

“Where have you worked before?”

“I have worked in Ketchup and Blue Cabana, and a few other places you might not know. As you may know, I’m an embodiment of culinary experience.”

I had many other questions I really wanted to ask him, but they were not nice questions. For one, I wanted to know what he was doing in Grand Square beside me and Shirley and two, if he had heard about ukwu aba shoe, because that was what was coming his way, since his foot had refused to stay where they should. But, I wouldn’t be a jerk. At least, not today, and never before my little Shirley. So, I became as nice as I could be to Akinyele.

“Actually, Akinyele met us outside. Akin is actually off work today, and he decided to go shopping. It’s a coincidence, but a nice one.” Chyoma said, smiling at Akinyele.

I swallowed some spit involuntarily when she said it was a nice one. I also tried to smile and tell Akinyele how welcome he was. So, Chyoma hadn’t called him? That really keeps my hope alive, I thought to myself.

“What flavor of ice-cream would you like?” I asked Chyoma, as Shirley and myself were doing justice to the bowl of chocolate ice-cream in front of us.

“Vanilla will be fine.”

Akinyele was looking at me.., was he expecting me to ask him also what flavor of ice-cream he would want?. Come on man! Chyoma said it was a co-incidence, so, you were not destined for the ice-cream.

“Akin, would you like to have some ice-cream?” I asked out of courtesy, hoping he would try to be a gentleman, and would thus say no.

“I’ll share with Chyoma?”

I didn’t know when I shouted: “Why?”

Then I looked at Chyoma… “That would be fine,” she said.
Akinyele winked at me when Chioma wasn’t looking, as I was at the stand to get the ice-cream. He seemed to think this is some funny stuff. He should just not push me before I travel and bring an untamed Edi abali that would do justice to his bum-bum.

As I stood there thinking, Bamidele by Asa began to play in the background. I quickly rushed with the ice-cream and sat down beside Chyoma and Akin. When it got to the part where Asa sang – “Lawyer alagidi, first-class liar”, I quickly raised my voice and sang it, looking at Akinyele while doing so, and then I also got Shirley to sing along with me, we were having the time of our life. The next song was a fast tempo Spanish song which began to play in the background. Boy! I grabbed Shirley, we both got up and had ourselves a dance. Chyoma was adoringly watching, while Akinyele was doing so jealously too. Then it dawned on me like it had never – I was meant to be the only, and the best husband Chyoma would ever know, and I was meant to be the greatest father Shirley and Shawn would ever know. I made a pact with myself – whatever it takes, no matter the cost, I’ll never miss a second opportunity if I get another to restore my family..

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MR & MRS

Sometimes, walking away seems easier than staying back and getting hurt. “But hurt me all you can, I’ll stay with you because I love you”. I heard love is patient and kind… So, I won’t shout at you when you bad mouth ‘the Blues’ and Mourinho. I’d like to give you a lecture on what it takes to be numero uno. But because you think Arsene Wenger is the greatest of all time, I’ll accept your point of view and keep praying for you to see the light. And while doing so, I’ll buy you popcorn and a branded bottle of cold coke and hold your hands while I painfully watch the Gunners play… what else could be kinder?. Love is not Jealous…. so keep eating the juicy chicken and giving me the local fowl that makes me feel like I’m chewing on sand-paper… you think I don’t know your shenanigans? Ji sie ike! I’ll be fine. At least you have a smile on your face while eating… that’s the joy of my heart. Love is not boastful… if only I could remind you how handsome Marion Jones thought I was. Ok, yes it was in my dreams quite alright, but it felt real. I don’t want to brag about that, cos you’d feel bad. You know, I try not to look so hot when we go on a date, that way, you steal the show and everyone thinks you are more beautiful than I. I know they are right, cos you are the finest thing I have seen since Agege bread and hot Akara. Love does not insist on its own right or its own way… I’m half Calabar and I like Edi ka ikong, just the way the Calabar man knows it. What you serve me is Idi ku akong, more like a strange brother of the beloved staple soup. But it taste nothing short of perfect, I couldn’t find a single fault in your idi ku akong. The water was more than the vegetable. You garnished it with a single piece of half boiled meat. It looked more like something for Bingo or Bruno… I licked my hands after the meal. I enjoyed it because it cost you a lot of sweat, pains and joy to prepare it for me. Thank you. Love takes no account of the evil done to it… on your birthday, I cleared my account for you. You remember that diamond ring I bought you? They say only Aliko and Mr. Buffet had bought one before. Yet, you don’t even respect it. I see the way you cut the catfish and then dip your hands in big bowls of ground beans with that ring on your finger. Can’t you remove it when you want to make moi-moi? Ahn! Ahn! That ring is worth thirteen years of my hard work o. Then on my birthday, you send me a text message ‘God go make you bigger hubby… I love you. xoxoxo’. I choose not to remember. You didn’t even buy buns with your own money for me. You still had to ask me where I’m taking you to on my birthday. I’ll take you out on yours, on mine, on that of the kids too. I dey vex. But the sparkle in your eyes when I do take you out keeps me wanting to take you out. Can I take you out when Chelsea wins the league? Ok.., it’s not time to fight again, Arsene Wenger is still the greatest. Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person… I knew you snored, before we got married. But I didn’t know it was this legendary. It is bad enough that you keep me awake most nights, but it’s more traumatic when our neighbor sees me and begins to tell me how there’s a drug that can help me with my snoring disorder. He said: “mehn! Your snoring is matured, it’s on a different level”. I just smiled. But how do I tell him it’s not me? Off course, I’ll defend you in public till I die. I believe the best of you. I overheard mama Junior say she felt sorry for you because she is sure I keep you awake every night & that if it were she, I would sleep in the parlor every night. I immediately had a vision flash before my eyes of me walking toward her and blessing her on the face with my five fingers. You know, I mean that kain slap that reboots ones memory… I had to rebuke the devil because I’m born again. But since love never fails, I know one day you will believe in Mourinho and become a Chelsea fan, I believe you’ll cook Edi Ka Ikong like my beautiful Calabar mum does. I know you will buy me a Ferrari on my birthday, someday… I’m binding that spirit of el cheapo that keeps prompting you to send me SMS’ only, on such days. You will snore no more in the goodbye and bye, but till then, I’m sticking by you through thick and thin because I love you. 🙂

 

P.S:….its Tuesday, I won’t be home on time today… I know its Edi ka ikong with semovita on the menu. When last did I do something nice for Mfon the gateman? Just bless him with my own share tonight and maybe we can even bless him with my night meal every Tuesday. Let’s think about it. Love Ya!

 

I just rephrased 1st Corinthians 13 vs 4-8 (Amplified version) in my own funny way. Jesus’ love for me is Legendary. If you liked it, drop a comment, share the link, tell someone about page. Thanks.

 

Written by Richard Oti.

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Image: Courtesy – Photo by Thomas AE on Unsplash

 


OSCAR

“Dad, I know you mean well. But, I’m almost full grown and I need to make my decisions now.” Oscar said with all seriousness and almost desperation.

“Son, I walked this lonely path many years ago and this, these…. Take a look at where we live and the life you have. This is where it led me to.” Oliver began to stutter and snapped, and then he broke down in tears. It was a shameful sight. Oscar quickly reached out both forelimbs towards his dads big furry head and caressed it gently. They both cried and spent the silence staring at each other. Alvera (Oliver’s wife) looked with sadness from afar. She had been the only reason the entire family was not out in the cold shivering on this winter night. She was a hard worker.

Oliver grew up living for music. You know, sometimes in life, you find that special thing that you love. For Oliver, it was the grand, deep and rich voice of Louis Armstrong or maybe the harmony and smoothness of Jackson 5. Whatever it was, he felt he was built for music. Oliver’s dream was to be the first rat to make a living by singing. Did you say rat? YES, this is a story about a rat who decided to be an anomaly. If you stop reading now, I’d say you are biased. Do you have something against rats? C’mon, give the story a chance.

“Oliver, now you’d have to turn that turntable off and go to bed. It’s almost bedtime. You know we’d have to get very active at night when the humans are asleep. Your dad is tired and I don’t want him awoken before the night,” Alvera said with a smile. “Ok. Ok, mum” Oscar replied and turned the volume down a little before quickly grabbing Alvera’s forelimbs and forcing her to a slow dance, stepping to the soothing voice of Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’. Oliver is what the humans would refer to as eclectic. He spent as much time listening to Louis as he did Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti.

“Dad, I’m 8 months old now, I think it’s time to go hard after my dreams. I have dreamt and day-dreamed about it so much, I’m certain this is what I want to do with my life.” Oliver Said to Lucio his dad. “Son, no rat has ever pursued a dream. We live for the moment.” Lucio said and paused for a moment as if he was trying to gather momentum to say what he wanted to next.“ All the male rats in this community and are either repairmen, burrowers, storekeepers or smugglers who steal food from the humans and sell to us at a reduced price. There are no musicians amongst us” Lucio said, looking as sad as he could. “Dad, I can be the first” replied Oliver. “Se quarto e cio che si desidera (Italian: if that is what you wish)” replied Lucio in his native accent. He didn’t blink or say any more words but the look on his face was one Oliver never wanted to remember.

A year had gone by and Oliver wasn’t anything more than a good husband and father. His dreams never amounted to much. Rats do not care for music as much as Oliver would have wished for. He found it hard to pay the house rent and take care of his family. Alvera had to work an extra job to support him. Through it all, she adored him as the king of her heart and never ceased to remind him how magical his voice was.

Oliver had met Alvera 6 months after he left home to build a career in music. She enjoyed watching him in concert. Many didn’t show up when the doors opened, but she always did. She thought Oliver was amazing and she enjoyed his techno beat driven love song ‘Take my hand Aria’. It was a classic. Everyone loved it and loved Oliver but not many were willing to pay to see him in concert or buy his record. All his dreams of headlining sold out concerts and inspiring the next generation had come to nothing. The words of Lucio: “no rat has ever pursued a dream. We live for the moment” often replaying in his head had become a mental torture to him. Now you understand why he wasn’t supportive of Oscar’s dream of becoming a poet. It wasn’t merely déjà vu, it was history repeating itself. Oscar loved poetry. He had been inspired by the works of Maya Angelou, Shel Silverstein, Nikki Giovanni and Pablo Neruda. His favorite poems were “Still I rise”, “I know why the caged bird sings” both by Maya Angelou and “Love is” by Nikki Giovanni.

Oscar was really handsome. He looked more like Alvera, she was a South-American beauty. He was the only child too and that made things more difficult. But after much contention and persuasion from Alvera, Oliver finally decided to let Oscar follow his dreams.

“Oscar” Oliver said.

“Dad” Oscar replied.

“I’ll let you follow your heart. I’ll let you pursue these dreams. Se quarto e cio che si desidera (Italian: if that is what you wish). Oliver repeated the same words his dad told him the night he left home on the same path Oscar was about to take. But there was a difference in his facial expression. His expression looked more like “make me proud son”. Unlike that of Lucio which was “I hope you don’t regret this”. Alvera spent the night cooking, baking, and frying. That was her hobby anyway. She cooked all the delicacies she knew Oscar would miss. She wasn’t sure Miami would have as much good food as Bogotá did. Oliver spent half the night writing a special poem to his dad. It reads:

 

THE SANDS OF TIME

A billion footprints

Stretching as far as my eyes can see

Which do I follow?

Which will lead to gold?

Which will bring me back home?

I must follow my heart.

I must make my own footprints.

I must carve a niche, as far away from the ones I see.

Maybe it wouldn’t lead to gold.

And what if I don’t make it back home?

What if I go too far to retrace my steps?

I’ll go as far as I can.

I’ll leave a map for a billion others behind me.

They’ll scavenge on my dreams

They’ll follow my paths.

And One day, they’ll find gold.

They’ll never forget the price that led to the GLORY.

It was my lonely steps… imprinted forever in the sands of time.

 

P.S: Dad, you are a dreamer, you are my hero.

 

Oscar finely folded the sheet of scrappy paper on which he wrote his poem and placed on the reading table beside Oliver’s bed. He had spent half the night crying and writing; actually, he did more crying than writing. He took a little nap and was up by 5 am, ready for the 6 am train to Miami. Alvera had packed a bag with Cake, fried rice, chicken and little cans of yogurt. I can imagine you are wondering if rats eat all those. Why do they come to your kitchen then?

“Promise me you’d come back home someday?” Alvera said, hugging Oscar tightly, trying so hard to hold back the tears. “Mom, I don’t know how the story would end, but I know that somewhere in between, we’ll stand on this same spot and hug each other again.”

“Adios Oscar,” Alvera said.

“Mom, I’m Italian, it’s arrivedeci,” Oscar said, “You had better work on your Italian before I come back home again.”

“Alright Mr. Silvio Berlusconi” She replied sarcastically.

“Stop it, mom. I love you” He replied with a frown and then a smile.

It was a long trip. Five days of train rides and wriggling around holes to avoid being seen by humans. He met a friend on his trip. She introduced herself as Doris, but he preferred to call her Blackberry. She was Nigerian and a true African beauty and simply amazing. Bonding came so easy; they were an anomaly among their kind.

Do you want to know what happened to Oscar?

Today, he is the most traveled rat of his time. He has stood before the presidents and kings of rat colonies all over the world. He is a renowned poet and professor of literature at Rattus College, Miami. And off course, he got married to Blackberry.

 

Tell me one reason you have not to pursue your dreams like Oscar did?

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Story & Poem (Sands of time) are an original work written by Richard Oti.

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MAMA WAS A ROCK STAR

“Nzogbu Nzogbu, Enyimba Enyi!” chanted the young men as they escorted the masquerade. The older men who accompanied it chanted some kind of mystical gibberish that sent the masquerade into frenzy. It was hard to guess who carried the masquerade each year. We grew up believing the masquerade was a spirit and not human. I stopped believing that when I was 10. I had followed papa one day, it was the gathering, the one where a fellow was to put on the costume and play the masquerade for that festival. I stopped at a distance, but I had a clear view. I saw dee Nebo take a few shots of kai-kai to be in high spirits, and then he put on the costume and began to dance. Women weren’t allowed to see the masquerade at close range, it was considered a taboo. Well, a lot of things were considered to be taboo in my village, even a woman eating the anus of a chicken.

It was the festive season, most of the sons of Ibom in diaspora had returned. The prestige and respect accorded to any of the returnees depended on where they had returned from. Those who were from Europe and America seemed to be more respected than those who had returned from Asia or other African Countries. Not only because they had a unique accent, also because they seemed to be more generous.

Our house is the first house on the left, beside the famous Uduma tree, just close to the village square. This famous tree was both the hallmark and landmark of our community. As long as the tree was standing, the elders believed our people would remain indivisible and undefeatable. It was tall tree; one that strove to get to the heavens, and had its big branches spread out in every direction. It wouldn’t be misplaced to say it looked like a hybrid of Iroko and oak tree species. It produced a round smooth juicy fruit about the size of a cashew nut. The fruit often fell on its own in due season.

As a little child, I played a lot around this tree, as well all the neighboring compounds. They nicknamed me eze ndi egwuregwu. My house was a decent looking house. It was built from fired clay bricks, and had zinc roofing that had turned brown over the years. Beside our house was a little farm. My mom named it the Garden of Eden, because she grew every vegetable you could buy in the market. There were a few fruit trees scattered around the farm. My favorite fruit was |Ube, the African pear. Ube and Maize made as much sense as bread did with Akara. Mama tied little pieces of red yellow and green cloths around the trees in her garden. She wasn’t fetish, but trees with such adorning were usually a no go area for kids, and hungry men who went about frivolously plucking fruits from peoples farm. It was assumed that if a fruit from such trees were eaten, they could cause bloating of the intestines or ukwu aba shoe, the latter being a condition where ones foot becomes too big to fit into any shoe made by a human being.

My papa was a respected elder in the community. He was a revered retired wrestler, one who had dominated that sport for decades, before taking a bow when he couldn’t move as fast as he needed to again. His favorite fight was the one in which he won mama as the grand prize. He never ceased to remind mama of how she was his prize, and how he could sell her when he wanted to, for a plate of new yam with Ofe Nsala soup. Of course, he was joking. He wouldn’t have traded mama for the entire world.

Papa was quiet and had a mean demeanor, one that he had cultivated over the years; it boosted his status as Obi Dimkpa of Ibom. Mama was different o. Kai! She was always in high spirits, and couldn’t mask her emotions. It was embarrassing being around her at a funeral. She would cry so hard while singing at the same time. She would seem more bereaved than the mourning family. Or talk about mama in church on Christmas Sunday? Ah! I will tell you about that.

Our parlor was oddly circularly shaped. There were four wooden chairs in it, all facing a small brown locked cupboard. Papa kept his satellite radio in that cupboard. He brought it out on special days; like days when he hosted the Christian men’s Association of our church, or when a special visitor came around. Our parlor had two exits. The first led to papa’s room, which was opposite mama’s room, and the second led to the corridor, where my room was. It was my room, but I shared it with Ebube, Chinedu and Ngozi. But it was still my room sha. Papa’s door always had a padlock on it when he wasn’t around. It was heavily guarded like Dodan barracks. You would think that door was the pearly gate that ushered you straight into heaven. Mama’s room was filled with boxes. She had separated and kept these boxes carefully for many years. One had trinkets, another, wrappers, beads, bags, shoes etc. etc. She had been saving all these things for the day Ebube and Ngozi would get married. “My daughters must have the best in life.” Mama would say often. I often wondered why papa could not learn from his wife’s exemplary character and have boxes with Isi agwu tops, red caps and fine Italian shoes, kept for Chinedu and myself.

*Christmas Sunday*

“Ebube bia eba.” “Ngozi, if I slap you ehn, you will leave that fried meat alone.” Mama was already getting worked up. “You children will not kill me o.” It was Christmas morning. I told you earlier that I would tell you about this. “Nnanna,” Mama screamed my name. “Mama, ana ma bia o!” I answered, and quickly rushed to the kitchen. “Make sure you and Chinedu get ready to follow your father to church. As soon as I’m done cooking, I will come with Ebube and Ngozi. Festive periods were crazy periods in our house. On Christmas and New Year day, mama was up by 3am, and made sure everyone was awake too. She had to cook for the world. Mama believed that no one should come to her house on such a day, and leave without being fed. Mama cooked to accommodate every kind of visitor. So, she would cook okra and okazi soup for the middle aged visitors and then ofe nsala for papa’s friends. For the younger visitors, she would cook jollof rice. It was usually sweet mehn! Papa would have ordered his bush meat, and had fresh palm wine delivered the night to Christmas day.

*Christmas Sunday service*

The church building was unusually full by 8:00am. All those who hadn’t been to church that year showed up in style. Papa had a special corner; it was close to the vestry. He, Mazi Eleke, and High Chief Nebo sat on the first bench of that row. (Remember Chief Nebo? He was the one took the shots of kai kai, and then played the masquerade. He was a changed man now.). The bench must have synchronized so well with their gluteus maximus, so that no one else felt comfortable sitting on that bench. It was easy to know when papa and his clique were not in church; that bench would be empty. Immediately Papa walked into church, he made his way to his corner, while I and Ebube chose to sit close to the choir stand. Papa kept his Igbo bible (Akwukwo Nso) and Hymnal beside him, and then he quickly exchanged pleasantries with Mazi Eleke, while looking out for Chief Nebo. The priest, choir members and lay readers were already outside, having a word of prayer before the procession. Ebube and I had barely settled down before I felt someone’s fingers pinch me on the lobule of my ear. I hurriedly turned back to retaliate, and then noticed it was agu nwanyi, mama’s best friend.

“Nna,kedu?”

“Aunty, Adim nma.” I replied, wearing a panam smile to mask my displeasure.

It was now 10 minutes past 8am, and everyone was standing, the procession was on. The priest was adorned in a white cassock, academic hood and an English-style surplice. It was uncommon to see the priest fully-kitted except on ceremonial Sundays when the Bishop would visit the parish. The choir members were all looking lovely, decked in cream and maroon colored robes. “Mma mma diri gi Chineke, mma mma diri gi onye oma.” The priest sang, leading the procession, being melodiously supported by the choir and entire church. The service kicked off with the lord’s prayer/collect for purity. After that, it was time for that exhilarating praise and worship session.

Praise on such Sundays was led by dee Alvan, he was the choir master, a likeable and lively bloke. In the middle of the praise and worship session, mama hurriedly walked into church, holding Ebube and Ngozi by the hand. She quickly located Agu Nwanyi who had reserved a sit for her. Mama was quick to make her presence felt with her elaborate dance steps. The praise was just getting to climax when the priest tried to bring it to an end, so he could preach the Christmas message. “Umu Chineke eh!” mama quickly shouted… the reply was so loud it drowned the priests voice. Papa turned to look at his wife as she switched from one dance style to another. He just shook his head in amazement and turned his neck away. Papa wasn’t one known for much dancing or even singing. The priest was able to bring the praise and worship to an end 15 minutes later. Mama was satisfied and didn’t resist again.

The priest took his text from the book of Luke chapter two, verse one to seven. He hadn’t gotten more than a dozen words out of his mouth when mama began to sleep. It was as if mama had a pact with Agu Nwanyi, one of them had to be asleep during the sermon. Today, it was mama’s turn. Mama would wake up to the shouts of hallelujah and shout the loudest, without even knowing why the church was shouting hallelujah. Then she would scream…. “Jesus igwe,” and then everyone would respond “igweeeee.” Then she would go back to sleep.

*Offering time*

“Ka anyi na-enye Chineke anyi onyinye.” The priest said, before reaching out for his wallet for some clean bill folds. It was another opportunity for mama to dance. She was fully awake. The children usually gave first, then the youths, the women and lastly the men. Chinedu Oti, Georgina Dike, Kelechi Ekeghe, Iyke Igwe, Chiemena Egbule, Udy Okemiri, Blessing Onwukah, Chinelo Nnadi, Joy Orie, Chibuzor Ukaegbu, Onyinye Onoh, etc. etc. The line was so long. I was in the middle of the line and had determined not to dance so much, but when I saw that my best friend Chisom was in the mood, we suddenly began to dig it out. Kimon! “Our women, it’s your turn now o,” the priest said with a smile. Mama and Agu Nwanyi had taken their positions on the line. They were first and second respectively. “Agam e buru aleluya e buru, para Aleluya para.” Mama didn’t waste time to protest dee Alvan’s choice of song.

“Dee, biko, na-abu abu ozo.” Mama shouted out, being seconded by Agu Nwanyi and a few other disciples. Dee Alvan responded appropriately, and the place went wild with shouts of praises. Mama was in the mood. Ahhhh! It was from one move to another. The priest had to secretly beg papa, requesting he pleads with mama to drop her offering so that the men could give and then the service could come to a close. It was a straight line moving across a narrow thin path, so, as long as mama was in front, those at the back could not give. The line went at her pace. When she was satisfied, she gave her offering and allowed the others to give too. She then took the microphone from dee Alvan without permission and officially invited the entire church for lunch at our house. Papa’s eyes got as big as saucers when mama made the announcement. But after 16 years of marriage, nothing mama did could surprise him again. Mama has always been a rock star.

The rockiest of rock stars.

“Anyi no ebe a, anyi n’eche gi. Ok, bye!” mama said to Aunty Joan, her Favorite sister in-law. Aunty Joan was papa’s younger sister, the last child of his mother. I didn’t like her so much because whenever she was around, she would send me round the world on endless errands. And to make it worse, Aunty Joan would never let go of her change, even if it was five naira. She was working with FRCN Enugu and wasn’t married yet. I couldn’t wait for a man to come take her away forever, so she could come around less often. But mama liked Aunty Joan for all of the wrong reasons; she never took sides with papa against mama, they crashed church services, weddings and funerals together, and lastly, they rocked the dance floors together. I assure you, the only reason we were able to end the

Christmas Sunday service by 12:30pm, was because Aunty Joan wasn’t around; she and mama were a more deadly combo than mama and Agu Nwanyi. Papa had returned from church, but had refused taking off his “Christmas clothes.” Papa believed in buying Christmas clothes, and he taught us to expect it every season. Well, we were also taught not to expect it, except it was on Christmas or your birthday – papa had more important things to do with money. The satellite radio was set up on the brown cupboard in the living room. That was the third time all year that papa had brought out his special radio. That radio had given papa bragging rights. He kept tuning the frequency, in search of something soothing – he found nothing he liked. Entering his room, he began to search for his Boney M and Onyeka Onwenu cassettes.

“Nnanna!” Papa shouted. Papa never called anyone’s name more than once. If he had to call you a second time, he would do so with a cane. I was just about to kindle a fire when I heard papa’s voice. I quickly left the firewood, kerosene and match box and dashed toward his room.

“Papa, did you call me?” I asked him, perspiring like I had just competed with Hussein Bolts for a gold medal.

“Kedu ebe idosere cassette m?” Papa asked me back, not answering my silly question – because if he didn’t call me, what was I doing in his room? I began wondering how that question came about. I hadn’t entered papa’s room since April of that year. I was still surprised that he even allowed me to go past the pearly gates into his heavenly abode. Papa usually asked you to stop at the door while he quizzed you from inside. Papa hasn’t changed anything in this room for 8 months now. When will he invest some more money to buy extra property for his room? At least, that would give me something more to inherit. I was thinking to myself, looking around the room, and I hadn’t answered papa’s question yet. Papa landed a sound knock on my head – the kind the English man calls a conk. It sent a shock through my spine and nervous system at the same time. I felt paralyzed for almost a minute.

“Owughi gi kam na aju?” Papa said, looking very angry.

“Papa, I haven’t entered your room since April. The last time you played Boney M was during Christmas last year, and you haven’t played Aunty Onyeka’s music since May, when you hosted Christian Men’s Association.” I replied, trying so hard to hold back the tears.

“O bu mu ka ina asuru bekee?” Papa replied, looking like Floyd Mayweather did when he was about to land the killer punch.

“Papa ndo!” I replied.

“si eba puo osiso.” I quickly ran away from papa’s room, before he did more damage to me. But I knew how to get my pound of flesh back. It was just a matter of time – trust me.

Imeee imela Imela – Jehovah Imela Anyi n’ ekele gi nasi imela Imela – Jehovah imela. Mama sang and whistled as she walked toward the kitchen, still holding her bible, hymn and a small red purse she called – Diamond bank.

“Nna nda?” mama asked, smiling at me. To mama, I was the best behaved boy in the entire village. Which of the other boys would be in the kitchen trying to assist his mom on Christmas day?

“Nnem o, odinma.” I replied and hugged her.

“Go and bring the pot of ofe nsala, your dad must be hungry.” While papa’s soup was still heating up, Dee Alvan, Mazi Eleke, and Chief Nebo had walked into the parlor and settled in. I told mama they were around and she started complaining.

“Can’t these people stay in their houses? Or didn’t their wives cook?” Was it not you that invited the entire church to lunch? I said to myself paying no attention to mama’s groaning.

“My husbands you are all welcome, let me tell your friend you are around.” Mama said to the sitting visitors who were already having a nice time chatting amongst themselves.

“Dim oma.” Mama whispered, tapping gently on papa’s pearly gate. “Honey’m” mama said this time, raising her voice a little louder above a whisper.

“Onye?”

“O mu. Ndi enyi gi no kwa eba.”

“Ana ma bia!” papa replied in a sleepy voice. He had slept off in his Christmas attire, shortly after finding his cassettes. By the time mama got into the parlor again, the number of visitors had doubled. This time it was four middle aged visitors; two choir members and two ushers.

“Chinedu! Chinedu!!” mama called out to my little brother. Chinedu was three years younger than I was, but he was as very much responsible, almost as responsible as I was. Immediately Chinedu ran into the parlor, he didn’t need mama to say a word; he knew he needed to set up benches outside the house, under the mango trees, for the visitors who were around and those who would be trooping in shortly. “Nnukwu mmadu – ndewo!” papa said to his friends, holding his walking stick up, it was slanted forward a little, so that his friends could stretch theirs out and tap his gently. It was a revered way of greeting amongst the men. Papa didn’t waste time to slot in Onyeka Onwenu’s cassette. Her songs; Ekwe, Iyogogo and one love seemed to always set the mood for papa’s celebrations.

The people just kept coming. Mama made sure everyone except papa’s friends sat outside, under the tree – papa needed his privacy. Ebube, Chinedu and Ngozi were busy, serving the guest outside, while mama charged me with looking after papa’s guest. While serving, Ngozi rushed to the kitchen to inform me that a few of my friends were around. Iyke Igwe, Kelechi ‘Kelenus’ Ekeghe and his cousin Love Otuekere, and also Chisomistic Chisom were around. I convinced mama to add an extra piece of meat to their plates of rice, and then took a few minutes off to serve them.

“My husbands, are you enjoying the meal?” Mama asked papa’s friends. “Our wife, this is a marvelous dish. It is simply fantastic.” Mazi Eleke replied. He was one given to food and his protruding belly was a testament to that. “Come and eat with us.” Chief Nebo insisted. Mama declined the offer, but he doubled up on it, requesting mama take his meat if she wouldn’t eat with them. Mama just walked to the stool in front of him and picked out the meat from his soup and thanked him, and then she walked away. Chief Nebo looked dazed, as if someone had slapped him with a wet dish rag. The others sited tried so hard to hold back the laughter. But as soon as mama was out of the parlor, it bursted out.

“Don’t ever say what you do not mean to my wife.” Papa said to his friend Chief Nebo, who still looked a little astonished. Mama wasn’t one you played with like that – if he only knew her.

“Don’t worry the bush meat and palm wine will be coming shortly.” Papa said, bringing relief to his friend.

*Aunty Joan Arrives*

Peem Peem! Peem Peem!!

It was a car outside, trying to get the attention of those inside the house. At this time, most of the visitors outside had gone. There were just a few serial eaters remaining – some were feasting on the third plate of rice or fourth wrap of fufu. I rushed through the parlor to get outside, walking hastily toward the car to see who had come. Papa and his friends were just about to start feasting on the bush meat and fresh palm wine.

“Nnanna m ooo”

“Aunty Joan’m ooo” I responded. I didn’t like her a lot as I said earlier, but I missed her a little though.

“Aunty Nnoo!”

“Nna Daalu!” she replied.

“Mma gi kwanu?”

“Ono n’ime ulo.” Ebube and Joan peeping through the window of our room had seen me bringing out a bag from the boot. They immediately started screaming – Aunty Joan! Aunty Joan!! Mama left what she was doing and quickly rushed outside o. Right then and there, their gist began. Aunty Joan wanted to catch up on what she had missed, while mama was eager to tell her the events that were still ahead – igbankwus, burials and the church’s watch night service.

Mama and Aunty Joan’s gist would seem like forever, even if it was just 5 minutes. But there’s no better time to get my pound of flesh from papa than now I thought. So, I started to spit on the floor. I made sure I was close enough for mama and Aunty Joan to see me. Mama was caught up in her gist and pretended not to see me. I stepped up my game too. I began to drool like an infant and screamed “isi m ooo.” That did the magic. Mama and Aunty Joan quit talking, and both rushed to hold me, trying to steady me, because I looked and acted like someone who was about to faint.

“Nna Ogini?” mama asked me, looking very desperate. I took my time to explain to mama how papa knocked me on the head and how I felt a twist in my spine when he did. I knew that to turn mama on, I had to even step my game up more. So I looked at Aunty Joan and asked mama who it was. Mama replied me, asking me what kind of foolish question that was. I told her I was sorry, and that I forgot that it was Aunty Diana, the church chief usher.

“Onye bu Diana?” Aunty Joan promptly responded, removing her head tie, and tying it across her waist. I knew it was a done deal. Mama was the fire and Aunty Joan was going to be the fuel to assist the explosion. Mama didn’t waste time. She grabbed my left hand, Aunty Joan held the right and both rushed with me to towards the parlor where papa was still having a feast and telling tales of his days as a warrior.

“Warrior” Mama was already shouting from outside as she was storming to crash papa’s feast with his friends. Papa knew that when mama called him warrior – it was trouble coming. “How will you knock my son with your wrestler hand? He is just 15 years old. Do you want to kill him for me?”

Papa was still trying to calm mama down, explaining that he didn’t mean to knock me and that the knock was not the type that could black me out. I knew I had papa in a tight angle and it was time for a knock-out. I continued spitting, and then I looked at Chief Nebo and greeted him – “Dee Maximus, ndewo sir!” Everyone was shocked and afraid. But that made mama hysterical, and she began to scream and cry, the next thing she started singing the hymn – Rock of Ages. It wasn’t easy not to give my scheme and just have a good laugh at the on-going drama.

“Onye bu onye a?” Mama asked me, pointing to my father.

“O uko-Chukwu” I replied. Everyone shouted, and then mama flipped.

“Warrior, you are here smiling, eating bush meat, drinking palm wine, and my son cannot differentiate between the priest and his father because you miss your days as a fighter and decided to practice with him.” Mama got angry and packed the entire bowl of bush meat and took the keg of palm wine also with her.

“Nnam o, come and rest and eat some bush meat, you will be fine.” Mama said, as she dragged me away from the parlor. As we walked away, I turned, and my eyes caught the eyes of papa, and then I winked at him. Papa started to laugh. He knew I had played a fast one on him. But there was nothing he could do – because – Mama was a rock star, The rockiest of rock stars.

*Boxing Day Morning Devotion*

It’s 2:00 am, I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder, then a voice accompanied it, it said “stand up”’. At first, I thought it was a bad dream, and the hand must have been that of Chinedu, being one of his many body movements while he slept. The hand tapped me again, and then, I opened my eyes. Behold, it was papa.

“Papa, ogini?” I said softly, my eyes were very heavy with sleep. It had been a busy Christmas day filled with fun and activities, and I had just begun sleeping by 12:00 am.

“Soro m.” Papa said quietly, but sternly.

I stood up from the bed which was just beside the open door. “Aunty Joan! Aunty Joan!!” I whispered, trying to get her attention, so that at least, someone would know that papa was asking me to follow him at such an odd hour.

“Nnanna, Ogini? Aunty Joan asked in hushed tones.

I quickly explained to her that papa had asked me to follow him, and I wasn’t sure what he wanted to do to me.

“O, a gam agwa nne gi.” Aunty Joan replied and then continued snoring.

“I’m finished o” I said to myself as I walked to the parlour. There was no one else, just papa and the kerosene lantern, placed in the middle of the sitting room. I sat down on the wooden seat farthest away from papa.

“Nna, ibu Cain? Gini ka iji agbara oso?” Papa asked me.

“Papa, onweghi.” I replied him.

“Onye bu papa? You remember me now? Abum uko-chukwu o. Chineke si train up a child in the way he should go. Ibu nwa pastor, therefore, ibu pastor nke gi. Achorom ka mu na gi we data mmuonso na onyinye na ututu a.” Papa said, having a smile on his face.

“Papa, na ututu a?”

I knew in my heart, this was sheer revenge from papa for the previous day. I knew that the stunt I had pulled with the help of mama was going to get me punished, but I didn’t know papa would go this far.

“Guo Psalm 5:3” Papa requested. That verse was supposed to be the answer to my question.

I quickly reached for my bible which was on the wooden cupboard that housed papa’s satellite radio. After reading it out loud, papa laughed and said “Nwam nwoke, guorom egwu onyinye.”

I was angry and didn’t feel like singing any song of praise, not at this time when I should be switching gears in my sleep. So I decided to give papa a little fight too.

“Never mind them, onu kwuru njo ga ekwu nma. Aghala ha nti na ha ge ekwuokwu kwugide onwe ha.” I sang and clapped. As I was about to begin the second stanza, papa stopped me abruptly.

“Taa! Mechie onu gi. Is this a traditional gathering? My friend, will you sing praises to God.”

Without thinking, I suddenly began to sing Chineke Idi mma. I kept up the praises, papa joined in with bass and we both began to enjoy it. I started to believe that papa actually wanted to draw His presence down. But his next move changed that thought.

“I ga agu akwukwo nso Psalms. You will read the entire book out loud, and I will say amen as you read.” Papa said, not smiling at all.

“Papa isi gini?” I asked, looking mystified.

“To be a pastor’s son is not easy. Start from chapter 1.” Papa replied.

This one that papa was speaking more of English this morning. I was starting to get afraid as to how this was going to end. I was also wondering if something had been done to everyone to keep them sleeping. Why will mama be sleeping this kind of deep sleep while papa was giving me a technical knock-out?

It was now 6:00 am, I had read almost the entire book, and it was just a chapter left. As soon as papa heard mama’s footsteps, he stopped me from reading. Mama walked into the parlour, and then papa quickly raised his voice and asked me to read Psalm 150, stating that that was our lesson for the day. So now, in mama’s mind, we just began the morning devotion. Papa was good, I had just confirmed it. The man had Mayweathered me. As I began to read Psalm 150, papa stopped me and asked me why my siblings didn’t come out with me. “You shouldn’t be selfish, how do you come out for devotion and leave others behind?” Papa asked me, and then he turned to mama and they both greeted. I was sure that papa was having the time of his life. Tears had built up in my eyes, all that was remaining to provoke a free-flow was a little more pressure.

I went into the room, woke everyone and went back to the parlour. Ebube, my little sister, walked out and simply asked me to shift a little so she could sit, and that was it. The flood gates opened up and I began to cry profusely.

“Nna Ogini?” Mama asked.

I tried to explain, but the pain was so much, I was stammering and wasn’t articulate.

“Hapu ya. He’s experiencing revival.” Papa said.

Papa’s words made me cry even more.

“Chukwu, thank you sir!” Mama said, seemingly happy for me. Mama put her arms around me, and soon as they touched me, I fell on the floor, crying.

“It’s the anointing.” Papa said to everyone.

My siblings were laughing and papa was in a state of ecstasy. The devotion ended by 7:00 am. I had been awake for five hours now, sang countless songs and read the entire book of psalms out loud. But it seemed papa wasn’t satisfied. I now wished I could turn back the hands of time, just so I could return the bush meat.

“Nnanna, you will be weeding your mother’s garden this morning.” Papa said. Mama was quick to support him because it involved her precious Garden of Eden. So, I picked up my cutlass and hoe, and went straight to business.

I don’t know about your village, but in my village, Boxing Day was usually fun. The spirit of Christmas was still very present, and there seemed to be much Joy and Love in the air. It was the day kids my age went around visiting and feasting from house to house. I had already scheduled my visit to the houses of Chisomistic Chisom, Georgina Dike, lolo Blessyn Onwuka, Ichie Kelechi Ekeghe, Iyke Igwe Kalu, Kelechi Oruada and Chiemena Egbule Doris in respective order. This was going to take a few hours to do. I was done weeding the farm by 9:22am, and I was still on track to make the scheduled visits.

“Nnanna, bia eba.” Papa called out.

I quickly ran to the parlor to meet him. He handed me N1500 and asked me to go to Mazi Ndu’s place, to book palm wine and bush meat for the New Year. Papa was happily ruining my day. I returned by 10:55am, I was still on course to make the visits. Papa called me to the parlour once more. This time, he was dressed up and ready to leave the house. He pointed to the corner near the door leading to his room. He had heaped all his brocade outfits that were dirty, and I was to do the needful. It was unfair. Everyone else had left the house. My siblings had begun their own scheduled visit, mama had left the house earlier with Aunty Joan, and now, the warrior was leaving the house too.

“When you are done, you can go to wherever you want.” Papa said as he walked away.

I hadn’t eaten all morning.

I hadn’t rested since 2:00am.

I hadn’t had my bath yet.

I hadn’t visited anyone yet.

It was the saddest Boxing Day I had had all my life. I finished washing by 1:15pm, had my bath, dressed up and then left the house. I went to Agu Nwanyi’s place, mama and Aunty Joan had been there. It was Vero’s (Agu Nwanyi’s little sister) Igba nkwu. Papa had also gone to Agu Nwanyi’s place after he had visited Chief Nebo.

 

*Agu Nwayi’s Residence*

Mama was in high spirits already, and rocking the dance floor, as was her trademark. Papa was with Dee Alvan and Chief Okosisi, they were all eating pepper soup and laughing. I really just wanted to wipe that smile from papa’s face. I wasn’t in a good mood; hence, I wasn’t feeling the traditional marriage at all. I decided it was best to go visit mama-ukwu (my granny).

“Mama-ukwu! Mama-ukwu o!!” I called out as I approached the veranda of her house.

“Onye?” Mama-ukwu replied from inside the parlour.

“O nwa Lovina.” I replied.

“Ewoo! Ewoo!! Nwam oo.” Mama-ukwu kept calling from inside the house. I walked into the parlour, ushered by the loving voice of my grand ma. She quickly gave me a big hug and planted a kiss of life on my right eye .Who in the world kisses someone on the eye, I thought to myself. I realized my mother was a chip of the old block; she and mama-ukwu were unconventional.

“Papa-ukwu Kwanu?”

“O no n’ime ulo” mama-ukwu replied.

“kam ga kele ya.” I said, turning towards his room.

“O na ehi ura. He is sleeping” Mama-ukwu said, looking a little sad. And then, she sat me down and began to explain to me that papa-ukwu was suffering from insomnia, a condition where one was restless and unable to sleep. But his was a little more complex, because he could sleep most of the day, but as soon as it is 1:00am, he will begin to talk to himself and anyone around him, and he would keep talking till morning, nothing and no one could keep him quiet.

“Mama-ukwu, isi gini?” I said, almost wanting to smile, but I had to look sad for that moment. Ideas were suddenly coming to me, faster than I could imagine. Wow!

“Nne na nnam omakwala maka ihe a?” I asked mama-ukwu.

“Mba. I haven’t told them. O soso Nenye ma Afam mara.” She replied.

Aunty Nenye and Uncle Afam were my mother’s siblings who lived in Abuja and Lagos respectively.

My idea was born. But I knew I would need mama to facilitate the plan. I quickly helped granny fetch some water and fire wood, clean the house and washed her and papa-ukwu’s dirty clothes.

“Mama-ukwu, ana ma bia.” I said and ran off; going back to Agu Nwanyi’s house, hoping mama would still be at the Igba nkwu. The best time to ask mama for special favours was when she was in high spirits – the timing was perfect.

“Nnemoma. Nnem mara mma. I bu omalicha.” I told my mother, holding her hand. I asked her how the traditional marriage had been, asked her about papa and a few other things, and then I made my request.

“Mama, achorom ka mama-ukwu na papa-ukwu spend some days with us.”

“Mba Mba Mba.” Mama repeated, not liking the idea at all.

“Mama biko!” I said, explaining to her that I had visited them and that they were alone and lonely, and that if they spent a few days with us, it could make a lot of difference in their lives.

“Where will they sleep?” Mama asked.

Mama-ukwu will sleep on my bed, while papa-ukwu will sleep in papa’s room. I will sleep in the room with you mama. Mama thought about it for a minute. As long as neither mama-ukwu nor papa-ukwu was sleeping in her room, it was fine, mama didn’t like stress.

“It’s a good idea. Wait a little; we will go over to pick them together.” Mama said to me.

“A huru m gi n’anya” I replied mama and hugged her.

I took a look at papa, he was still all smiles. At this time he was having a good conversation with Mazi Princewill and Mazi Eleke. I was so happy he was enjoying himself.

It was 4:00pm, the traditional marriage was over, but the eating and dancing hadn’t stopped. Mama took her leave so we could go over to Mama-ukwu’s place.

“Nnem o.” Mama greeted as she stepped into the parlour.

“Lovina nwam.” The happy mama-ukwu replied.

“O soso gi na papa nokwa eba?” Mama asked. “Mba, o dighi mma”

You see, that’s why I love my mother a lot. When she buys into an idea, it becomes hers. Mama quickly began to pick a few clothes mama-ukwu could use for the next few days, while mama-ukwu was sorting out what papa-ukwu would wear. Mama then put a call through to Aunty Joan, asking her to tell Aunty Faustina (Mama’s cousin) to branch mama-ukwu’s place with her car. Aunty Faustina arrived in twenty minutes, and we were all out of there in a jiffy.

*Papa Returns Home*

Papa had left the door to his room open, because he had instructed that I fold his brocade outfits and place on his bed once they were dry.

It was 8:00pm when papa returned home. Mama, Aunty Joan and mama-ukwu were in the kitchen gisting, cooking and having a ladies time out. Papa-ukwu was alone in papa’s room. I had taken him into the room and asked him to rest on papa’s bed.

Papa walked into the parlour, whistling Aunty Onyeka and Uncle Sunny Ade’s classic; wait for me. I greeted him with a smile as soon as I saw him. He was surprised.

“nwa uko-chukwu!” He said to me, rubbing my head.

“Onye na-eweta n’iru mmunso Chineke.” I replied.

Papa picked the lantern from the parlour and made way for his room.

“Onye?” Papa shouted as he entered his room, seeing a figure on his bed.

“Nwam, o mu.” Papa ukwu replied.

Papa walked closer to get a full view of the person lying on the bed, and then he realized it was papa-ukwu.

“Papa, ndewo sir!” My father quickly greeted his father-in-law, “o di mma ihu gi.”

I was eaves dropping on the conversation and laughing. I knew papa was every other thing but happy to see papa-ukwu lying on his bed.

“Lovina! Lovina!! Lovina!!!” Papa shouted as he furiously made way for the kitchen, on a mission to find out what his father in-law was doing in his room and on his bed. As soon as he got to the kitchen, he saw mama-ukwu, and then, he couldn’t ask the question nor say what he wanted to again, so he mellowed down.

“Mama, ndewo!” Papa said, smiling at her.

“Nwam, nda aga imere?” Mama-ukwu replied.

“M nnoo mma.” Papa replied.

*Bed Time*

It was 12:30 am; the moment I was waiting for was drawing near. Mama-ukwu had been telling my siblings and me folktales, something she was very good at. Mama and Aunty Joan had been gisitng in the parlour, and papa was outside, listening to Voice of America on his satellite radio. Everyone began to walk towards their room for a well-earned repose, after a tiring day. I was most tired, but I couldn’t sleep for the joy ahead. As soon as papa walked into his room and shut the door behind me, I tip-toed out of bed, mama was sleepy and didn’t ask where I was going. I picked the padlock mama used to lock her door whenever she was travelling, and used it to clip papa’s door from outside, so that he couldn’t leave his room if he wanted to, except someone opened it for him.

*It’s 1:00 am*

“In-law’m.” Papa-ukwu called out several times.

“Papa Ogini?”

“Kedu ka I’mere?” Papa-ukwu asked.

Kedu ka I’mere by 1:00 am papa thought to himself, however, he answered his father in-law.

The next second, papa-ukwu asked him another question:

“Mma na mpa gi kwanu?”

“Papa, they died in the civil war.” My father replied.

“So you are an orphan?”

“Eh!” Papa replied.

“Ndo nwam. How did you survive then, since your parents died?” Papa-ukwu asked.

Papa went through the laborious motion of explaining how he and his brother trekked for days to get to Calabar and finally were able to move to Cameroon.

Papa-ukwu was quiet for 5 seconds, and then he started again.

“Nwam, I gara crusade Rev. Uma Ukpai?”

“Papa ogini, biko ogini?” My weary father replied.

I was really having the time of my life at this point.

“Agaghi m crusade Rev. Uma Ukpai.”

“Maka gini?

“Papa, I had some things to do.”

“That’s not an excuse. Nothing else should be more important. You should remember the creator in the days of your youth.” Papa-ukwu replied.

“Papa, abum nwata kiri?”

“Afo ole kai di?” Papa-ukwu replied my father.

Papa kept quiet and chose not to go back and forth with papa-ukwu, but papa-ukwu was just starting. A minute later, he continued.

“Nwam nwoke, I na anu anwuru?”

“Papa, gini ajuju wu ihe a? Papa, ogini?” My father asked, sounding frustrated and tired.

“I asked a simple question, I na anu anwuru?”

“Papa, abum an elder in church.”

“You didn’t answer my question, enyi’m I na-anu anwuru?”

“Papa, I don’t take snuff, I will never take it.” Papa replied, almost shouting at his father in-law.

This was much fun; I was enjoying every minute of it. Papa-ukwu seemed to be quiet for ten minutes, and just when papa was about to doze off, papa-ukwu was at it again.

“My in-law, gini bu cosmic effect?”

“Mba! Ah! Ah!! Papa exclaimed and jumped out of the bed and ran for the door, he tried to open it, so he could leave the room, but it wouldn’t open.

“Papa, I guola Galatians 6:7?” I said to him from mama’s room.

I put my hands around my mother and held her tight. It felt so good to be the son of a rock star.

The ROCKIEST of rock stars.

Written by Richard Oti.

 

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Image: courtesy – Yusamur SZ 


FRANCES

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FRANCES

“Sweetheart, you will find a man who is worthy of you. I didn’t invest this much in you, to give you off to some riffraff. You deserve more”. I think that was the eighteenth thousandth time I was listening to my dada repeat these same words since I turned eighteen.

My name is Frances Anita Iheanacho. I’m not your everyday kinda girl, thanks to my dad. I’m 22 years old, and I have a Ph.D. in applied physics from Yale. Can you imagine that? I know you can’t. I graduated from High School at the age of 14, got accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study Applied Physics¸ by the time I turned 18, I had graduated summa cum laude from MIT. My dad was proud of me, but he wasn’t through with me yet. Dada asked me to apply for my Masters immediately, and that was how I got into Princeton, where I did my masters in Quantum Physics. Now, I’m 22 years of age, I work for NASA and I’m both an alumnus of MIT, Princeton and Yale, and one of the youngest African ladies to have achieved such in the US.

All through my years as a student, I had never dated a guy. My dada wouldn’t put up with such frivolities. To him, that’s all it was – FRIVOLITY. My roommates called me the most beautiful girl who had never been on a date in her life. They were right. I wasn’t your average nerd who wore glasses and had braces supporting their teeth; I was very stylish, elegant and beautiful.

Well, It’s hard to understand the kind of man my father is except I tell you a little about him. Dad had migrated from Nigeria to the US in 1969. As a young man, he did any job he could to keep body and soul together. It was an era when the blacks really had no rights and privileges as they do today, so dad worked so hard but was he being paid less than he deserved. Dad’s hard work paid off after two years; he was offered a job as the head cleaner at Professor Erwin’s residence, the dean of the Humanities Department at Harvard University.

Professor Erwin was the most diligent man dad had seen in his life. It didn’t matter how early dad got up to begin cleaning the house when he got to the study, Professor Erwin was there poring over several academic materials. It also didn’t matter how late at night it was, If Professor Erwin was at home, you are certain to find him in the study. The widowed man had no time for other things except to read, lecture and write papers. Because of dad’s diligence, Professor Erwin took a special interest in him, and in no time, they had formed the weirdest of friendships – a cleaner and a professor as best friends. That friendship paid off soon. Dad suddenly developed a hunger for books, and then he wanted to get a degree, and Professor Erwin offered him the financial support he needed to achieve that.

My father has 16 years of higher education – A degree in Chemistry, and another in Philosophy, two Masters Degrees, and a Ph.D. I know what you must think. That’s what everyone thought too; even Professor Erwin – what kind of insatiable hunger for books had he developed? At age 42, dad was the first black man appointed as a senior lecturer at Howard University. It was at that year dad met my mum at the Kappa Alpha fraternity gathering on campus. They had their first date a week later, and by the end of that year, they married each other. You see, daddy only went on a date because he had become an achiever and was ready to get married. My father never stopped reading. It was a good thing that my mother was a lot like him; they spent the best of times together in the study. At 50 years of age, dad had become the dean of the Physical Sciences Department at Howard University, a visiting lecturer at Havard and Oxford Universities, and the list of achievements kept growing. Not only was my father the first Arochukwu man to have achieved such in the entire US, he was also the first black man in the history of Howard University to become a dean. You see, my dad’s success was a result of much hard work and countless hours spent in his 4 by 12 study. So, he had become a preacher of hard work, spreading the news all over.

As an Ada, what would you expect of me? It had to be like father like daughter. So I kept taking all the awards for academic excellence ever since I could spell my name, up till I got out of Yale. I have had several young men ask me out on a date since I turned eighteen, but daddy hadn’t found one that was worthy enough. These guys couldn’t just please dad, and even now that I’m 22, none still can. Well, you’d wonder why I need my father’s approval to go on a date. The answer is this: All my life, I have lived in my father’s blueprints and walked in his steps. And now, it’s hard for me to get out from under his shadow.

I can remember the last five guys that came to ask my father if they could take me out on a date. Those guys don’t even talk to me again because of their experience with my father.

Most of the guys don’t even last 5 minutes with dad before he’s done with them. I remember the last guy that came….

“Hello Dad, meet Iheanyi Achinivu,” I said, smiling.

“Hello, Iheanyi!” Daddy responded, “Where are you from?”

“I’m Nigerian, I hail from Mbaise in Imo State. It’s a beautiful State, our governor is transforming it to one of the cleanest states in the country. He is trying to bring in foreign investors….” Iheanyi said, thinking that his knowledge of the happenings in his state would impress my professor father.

“Who asked you for all these details? A simple question and you would soon tell me who the Eze of your village is.” Daddy responded.

“So, what was the best day of your life?” Dad enquired.

That was an awkward question to ask someone you just met. Shouldn’t dad be asking him something like ‘how are you?’ But that’s how my father is – very unpredictable.

“The day I saw Justin Bieber live in concert,” Iheanyi replied.

I bowed my head immediately Iheanyi said that I knew it was over. He was going to be walking out the front door in a few minutes. Why didn’t this young man just say ‘the day he understood Einstein’s law of relativity or the first day he could explain syzygy’?

“Justin Bieber?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Ima na Idi iberibe?” Dad said with a smile to Iheanyi.

Iheanyi was born in the US and didn’t really understand Igbo, so he smiled back at my father too… “Yes, sir… it was a great day!” Iheanyi said.

“Ibu onye Mbaise, a gam asi gi mba ugboro ise.” My father replied and walked away.

“What did your father say?” Iheanyi asked curiously.

“I think he likes you a lot. It’s best I don’t interpret it. Just come back some other day when he is in a good mood.” I replied and escorted him out the door. I really wondered if there was going to be a day I find that handsome prince who will be all that I have hoped for. I really began to doubt it. Was I going to marry the son of the great Einstein, so that daddy would be assured that I had made the right choice?

“Hi Mom”

“Hey Fran”

“Could I talk to you?” Frances asked, looking a little worried.

“Sure sweetheart, you know you can always talk to me.”

“What was it about dad that made you to fall in love with him?”

Mrs. Iheanacho laughed and then smiled, and then she laughed again. Your father was nothing like the kind of man I wanted to marry when I was a little girl. On the scale of David Beckham to Ben Affleck, he comes nowhere close. Neither was he athletic. But he was a rough black diamond, and I could see the beauty inside. I saw a pure hunger in him, one not willing to be satisfied with anything else but success. Your father didn’t even know how to start the conversation with me when we met at the fraternity party. He had to get a little help from the professor supervising my thesis. But being a quick learner, our first date was lovely. It took me a few weeks to work on his looks and change his wardrobe, and suddenly, he became one of the best-looking lecturers on campus. He became my Ben Affleck.

“But why is dad so concerned about who I date or marry. How smart does he have to be? How many masters does he need, to have to impress daddy?”

Mrs. Iheanacho smiled, and just kept smiling. That didn’t go down well with Frances who expected that her mom should somehow influence how things play out.

“When you meet HIM, you would know, daddy would know, I would know and even the very air you breathe would know that you have found that special one.”

Well, I had to keep on waiting for that day. Maybe it would come when I was 60 years old and a Nobel laureate or Special Adviser to the American Government on space projects.

Have I told you anything about my siblings?

I have two brothers; Mozilla and Firefox. My father named them after two famous internet browsers. Don’t ask me why I really don’t know. But what I can tell you is that they are the smartest kids I have seen in my life. At age 14, they had aced every A-level test there was, and were sophomore students at Harvard University, studying Genetics and Molecular biology. They were destined to out-do my father’s achievements in every way.

“Sweetheart, will you go with me to the fraternity party tonight?” Dad asked me, hoping I’d say yes.

“No, dad. Thanks.” I’m already super-smart and I have a smart television, I’ve got smartphones, smart parents, smart siblings and the last thing I want tonight is to be around some set of smart university kids and professors.” I replied, bluntly.

“We might just find HIM there you know.” My father replied.

“Thanks, dad. But if I wanted to marry Einstein Jr., I have got a lot of them at NASA. I’ll rather find HIM at the park, church, or a basketball game.”

Daddy just smiled, gave me a peck on the cheek and walked away. I knew he meant well and really wanted to see me happy.

It’s Saturday, 5th February 2009, and It’s 15 days to my birthday. Everyone keeps asking me what I want for my birthday. Would it be silly if I said that I want a man? Someone who would love me just for me? Not necessarily because I’ve got a Job with NASA or because I am worth almost a million bucks. But because I’m just a young lady with hazel eyes, pink lips, and a smiling face, annoying and emotional too. Well, no one expects me to be in need of a man especially when I still have lots of suitors, all wanting to take me out on a date. Dear lord, I pray I find him and I hope my father likes him.

“Hey Mozilla, wanna go with me to Nigeria?”

“Why in the world would I ever want to do that?” Mozilla replied.

“You know, this is the first time I have ever heard you give a dumb answer. Is that not your motherland?”

“If your mother was born in America and has lived here all her life, this is her motherland by all legal and natural standards. I’m from California. Thank you!”

“Ok, your royal smartness. I was thinking about going to Nigeria for the first time. I was wondering if you or Firefox would like to join me on this trip.” I asked, already expecting the answer I got.

“Have you even told dad? If I know you very well, you plan to take some days off in a few days for this trip. I don’t want to go, I really doubt that Firefox would be interested either. We’ve got so many science projects to work on. That’s a frivolity we can’t afford at the moment.”

“You are beginning to sound a lot like dad, you little Einstein. Mozilla Iheanacho will you gerrrrrout of my room now.” I ordered in a joking tone.

“Hehehe… I will, but you will be in my room soon, asking me to help you do something.” Mozilla replied and walked out laughing.

But Mozilla was right. That was an on-spot idea, and I hadn’t even discussed it with dad and mom. Do I really want to go to Nigeria on my own, for the first time in my life? That was a rhetorical question I asked myself.

Knock! knock!!

“Hey dad”

“Hey baby”

“I was thinking about going to Nigeria this week. Maybe to spend a few days and see what motherland looks like, and I hope to come back before my birthday.”

“You have my blessings and support.” My Father replied.

That response was too good to be true. I could see the sparks of light in his eyes. I guess he had always wanted me to go to Nigeria but had never offered to take me there. Well, he hadn’t been there either since he got to the US. I was a little surprised how he agreed so easily. Well, I was 22, and a big girl.

“Thank you, daddy”

*Trip to Nigeria*

I arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on the 7th of Feb 2009. The weather was warm, and it was raining. It was a total adventure. I had pleaded with my father not to call any of my uncles or cousins to pick me up at the airport. I just wanted to see what it felt like to be alone in Nigeria. I got out of the terminal when the rains subsided and there were almost ‘a million’ taxi drivers wanting to take me to my destination.

“Sheraton!” I called out to a quiet driver who was standing alone close to the mosque outside the airport.

“Madam.. you wan go, Sheraton?”

“I thought I just told you that already,” I asked him politely.

I doubt he could understand me because of my accent. The next thing he said was “Madam, enter car make we go. Na only N4,500.” Well, I didn’t know how far the journey was or if it that was a fair price. But I had exchanged $5,000 at Al Mansur Bureau de change inside the airport, so I just threw my knapsack into the car and hopped in.

The driver kept fiddling with the radio, looking for some local music. But he seemed not to like any of the songs playing. So, he just settled on one of the stations. That station was playing a song by Veridia, and the next song was by Keane, and then Switchfoot. Wow! I was so happy I just kept singing along. We got to Sheraton, and I gave the cabby N10,000. The extra money was for not fiddling with the radio when those lovely songs were playing. I walked in and booked a classic room. It was quite expensive, but money wasn’t an issue.

“Hello!” I said to the guy trying to get into the room opposite mine. He said hello back and pushed the door open and stepped in without even looking at me. Well, I felt that was a little cold, but not enough to judge what my experience would be like with others. I was starving and quickly placed an order for some Chinese over the phone. I remembered I had not called dad and mum, so I connected my iPhone to the wireless network, and then I skyped both of them. And then I ate, had my bath and also had my first night sleep in Nigeria.

The next day, I got off the bed at 6:05 am. I had 12 hours of non-stop sweet sleep. I got down on my knees and read my bible, and then I prayed. I got into my Nike sportswear and was off to the gym.

“Sorry please, where do you have the dumbbells?” I asked the man who seemed to be in charge of the gym. He pointed towards a section, very close to where the treadmills were lined up. I walked over there and picked a dumbbell suitable for my weight and then I worked out my muscles for some time before moving over to the treadmill. After about 30 minutes, I was done working out and I felt sore. So, I just walked over to the lobby and sat there. A well-dressed tall young man came and sat beside me. He had a pen in his hand and seemed to be scribbling some ideas or something else on a notepad.

“Hello!” I said to him.

“Hello!” He replied with a warm smile.”

“I’m Frances.”

“’I’m Onuegbe.” He replied.

“What does that mean?”

“Well, it’s interpreted as – nuzzle of a gun. So you can call me Mak-4, Nuzzle-man or Onu-E.”

“That’s very funny. I think I’d prefer to call you Onuegbe. What made your father name you that?”

“I really can’t explain the story behind the name. But he named me after someone he loves and respects a lot.”

“I see. Nice name.”

“Where are you from?” Onuegbe asked Frances.

“I’m from Ibom, that’s in Arochukwu, Abia State. You wouldn’t know much about my village, it’s a small scenic village with a lot of palm trees and I think a few beaches and rich architectural history.”

Onuegbe paused for a second, turned to look at her, and then he started laughing.

“Have you ever been there?” He asked me, having a smirk on his face.

“Well, I really can’t say yes or no. You see…..” Frances said, trying to wriggle her way out of the question.

“It’s obvious that you haven’t been there. That’s my village. It’s a nice place, but you made it sound like you were talking about Seychelles or Maldives instead.”

“Well, this is actually my first time in Nigeria.”

“Wow! You are welcome home. So, tell me a little about you, if you don’t mind.” Onuegbe asked.

“You are a stranger, so I’ll prefer if you tell me about yourself first. And I really don’t want to scare you with details about me.” Frances replied.

“You can’t scare me; but if that’s how you want it… I was born in Plateau state in Nigeria. My father is from Arochukwu, and my mother is from Cross River. I graduated from Cambridge with honors a few weeks ago.” Onuegbe said and paused, expecting Frances to somehow be impressed by the fact that he was an alumnus of Cambridge. “Ever heard of Cambridge?” He asked her.

“Sure. You must be so intelligent to have made it there.”

“Yes, that’s what everyone says about me.”

“So, ride on… What sports do you like? What do you do with your spare time?” Frances asked.

“Well, I watch soccer a lot. I’m a poet; I read a lot of poems, and write too when I have spare time”

“Who is your favorite poet?”

“Edgar Allen Poe or Khalil Gibran I would say.”

“Can you quote one of their poems by heart?”

Love one another but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

He quoted it with so much emotion that Frances was almost moved to tears. “That’s such a beautiful poem. You quoted it like you were the author. Would you quote one of yours please?”

“Sure, I would like to. It’s titled DORIS;

Love used to live on hope street,

But she moved away.

Now the days are long And the nights even longer.

So, I moved into her house on hope street,

Just to remember her once more.

The memories were lucid, I knew they would last forever.

So, while she was away, I slept in her bed, ate her food, wore her perfume.

Talked in her voice, Laughed like she would, and then I cried all alone.

Looked out the window a time or two, Hoping the horns were the sound of her car.

But love used to live on hope street, not anymore.”

Tears rolled down his cheek as he said the last words.

“There’s something about that poem that makes you sad. I could feel it in your voice.” Frances said.

“I wrote that poem for the queen of my heart. But she moved away… Can I not say much about it please?”

“Sure. I respect your wishes.”

“Now, will you tell me about you?”

“Alright. I was born and raised in New York, but I hail from Arochukwu, just like you. I’ve got a Ph.D. in Applied Physics, and I work with NASA, and I am just 22.”

“You are lying, right?”

“You can google my name.”

“What’s your full name?”

“Frances Anita Iheanacho,” Onuegbe responded by pulling out his iPhone 4 and searching for the name.

Wow! Wow!! Wow!!! He screamed as he saw the various news articles, and several pictures pop up.

“I told you I didn’t want to scare you,” Frances said and stood up to walk away.

“Can I have your number?” Onuegbe asked.

“You haven’t earned it.” Frances replied with a smile, and then she walked away.”

The next day, I was back to the gym by the same time as the previous day. When I was done with my exercise routine, I wanted to go sit at the lobby again, but as I moved closer, I saw Onuegbe seated. So I quickly turned around and went opposite direction.

The day after that, I was eating at Obudu Grill House, one of the restaurants in Sheraton. While I was half-way through my meal, Onuegbe walked in. On sighting him, I got up and rushed to the restroom, and remained there for about ten minutes, and then coming out quietly, peeping to see if he was still there. On returning to the table, I had lost the desire to keep eating, so I just gulped down the rest of the Chapman, and then she settled the bill and returned to my room.

Three days later, I walked out of my room and Onuegbe was walking out of the room opposite mine.

“Is you stalking me?” I asked, frowning my face. “I seem to find you everywhere I go. Now, you have decided to move into the room opposite mine.”

“Thank God I found you.”

“What did you say?”

“No, I meant good afternoon. How are you?”

“I’m fine, what are you doing here?”

“I’ve been lodged here for the past few days. I have some Job interviews with a few Multinational companies this week, and the next too.”

“Were you lodged in this room last Friday?” I asked.

“Yes, I was. Why?”

“So, you were the one I said hello to, and you gave me a cold shoulder? That’s great. So, have a great day.” I said and was about to walk off when Onuegbe halted me.

“Will you have dinner with me tonight?”

“No, thank you,” I replied and walked away.

I seem not to understand this lady, but she seems interesting. Onuegbe said and walked the opposite way to use the stairs.

I got into the elevator and began to make my way to the ground floor. It was then she suddenly realized that even though dada had not been here to say no, I had taken his place and was saying no to the first offer I had the power to decide over. As soon as the elevator touched the ground floor, I pushed the button and began to go back up. Walking out the elevator, I shouted Onuegbe several times, but the hallway was quiet. “I guess I blew it.”

Going back to the ground floor, I hurried towards the parking lot to get a cab driver who would take me shopping for African artifacts I could take back to the US the next day. As the car I was in was about to leave the parking lot, I saw Mak-4 walking very fast towards the gate.

“Hurry up!” I said to the cabby, hoping I could catch up with Mr. Onuegbe. So the driver quickly reversed and zoomed off. I was sweaty and tensed, not knowing if she was about doing the right thing.

“Hey, Mak-4,” I said, looking out the window towards where Onuegbe stood. “Pick me up by 7:00 pm. Don’t keep a lady waiting.” I said and then wound her window up. My heart was racing, and I was excitedly nervous. Looking at Mak-4 through the wound up window, I could see that he had a smile on his face, and that made me happy.

At 6:59 pm, there was a gentle tap on the door.

“Yes, who’s that?” I asked.

“Never keep a gentleman waiting,” Onuegbe replied.

“Ooo, I’m so sorry.” I rushed to open the door. Onuegbe handed me a bouquet of beautiful red roses.

“They are so lovely. Thank you!”

“You are gorgeous,” Onuegbe said.

“Thank you once more. You look great too” I replied.

I was dressed in a maroon high-heeled sandal by Armani, and she was dressed in a black evening gown by Jovani. She plaited her hair for the first time, and let its strands fall behind her back. Onuegbe was dressed in a black suit and had a black bow tie on too.

“Can I take your hand?” Onuegbe asked Frances. She gently slid her hand towards his, and in all honor, he held her and walked her towards the elevator.

“I wanted somewhere quiet and classy, so I brought you here,” Onuegbe said as he opened the door for me to get out of the car.

“Where are we?”

“This restaurant is called Nouveau.”

“I like the name.”

“You would like the ambience and the food too.”

When they had walked in, Onuegbe quickly rushed over to the table for two, and pulled out a seat and allowed me to sit down first, and then he sat too.

“Thank you! You’re really kind.” I said to him.

Onuegbe smiled, and then he motioned for the waiter to bring the menu. A copy was handed over to me, and another to him. Onuegbe suddenly dropped his menu and kept staring at me.

“What? Why did you drop that?”

“I’ll eat whatever you’d eat.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yep”

“Ok then, we’ll make it even, I’ll drink whatever you’d drink,” I said.

“Fair deal,” Onuegbe replied.

“While we wait for the food, can I read you a poem I wrote for someone special today?”

“Sure, that would be nice.”

“It’s titled – City Of Lights.”

Come with me to the city of lights

Its inhabitants would love to meet you, If they see me coming with you.

Let’s dance by the river of life

The fishes would love to greet you If they see me dancing with you.

Let’s live forever in Eden

The roses would stay crimson

If they see me living with you.

Let’s pass by the Milky Way

The stars would burn with endless light

If they see me passing by, with you.

And love would last forever

If it finds me, forever with you.

“You’ve got a beautiful heart. I’m sure that person must be really special. The food is here, let’s eat” I said, picking up the cutlery.

We both ate in silence, enjoying the occasional eye contacts made. After the dinner, he motioned for a guy named G-sax to come over to the table. G-sax walked over with his saxophone, and began to play ‘The moment’ by Kenny G, after which he began to play ‘Going Home’. By the time he started to play “Forever in Love”, I was already in tears.

No one had ever shown me such love and honor in a single night. When we were ready to go back to the hotel; Onuegbe motioned for the waiter, who came around and handed him a little basket of rose petals. He began to drop them on the floor as I walked towards the exit. The tears began to flow again. “You are about to make me a nervous wreck tonight,” I said, trying so hard to maintain my composure.

When we got to the door of my hotel room, Onuegbe stopped and thanked me for the privilege to have been my date. “I’m forever grateful,” He said, standing there, just staring at me and smiling while I walked into the room, and shut the door. I really wanted to say something, anything, but I was too scared I would have burst out in tears if I had tried to talk. It was a perfect first date.

I was off to the Airport as early as 6:00 am. I wished I had asked Onuegbe to come along with me. Was it too late to ask him to do so? I picked up my phone and typed: “I’m off to the Airport”. Wanted to knock on your door to say goodbye, but I guessed you must have been tired. Thank you for everything.” I clicked on the dial button, sending the message and hoping to get a quick reply.

Every beep and sound my phone made, I kept praying it was his reply. But it never came. Should I call him? I asked myself, but not wanting to look desperate, I waved that thought off. It was time to start checking in, and I joined the line, plugged my ears with my earphones and began to listen to Kirk Whalum’s ‘The Gospel According to Jazz’ album.

“Hello!” A voice whispered in my ear.

“What?” I responded, removing the earpiece in my ears and turning to see who was talking to me. It was Onuegbe. I screamed and jumped on him.

“I’m sorry I jumped on you, I’m just so happy to see you.”

“I’m happier… I told the cabby to drive like his life depended on it. I don’t have all the time in the world, and you are almost checking in. You remember the poem I quoted to you when we first met?”

“The poem that was written by Khalil Gibran?”

“No, the one I wrote myself.”

“Yes, I do.”

Onuegbe suddenly reached out and held Frances’ hands. “You know, the last paragraph says… Looked out the window a time or two, hoping the horns were the sound of her car. But love used to live on Hope Street, not anymore. I added an extra paragraph to it – Just when I was about to give up, I found loves’ new address, and this time, I won’t let her move away. I love you, Frances.”

“You are really special,” I said to Onuegbe and then gave him a hug. “I’d call you once I touch down.”

As I pulled my bag, I recalled the words of my mother; “When you find HIM, you would know, I would know, your Father would know, and the very air you breathe would know. It was HIM, and I knew it.”

As soon as I was on board the plane, I pulled out my iPhone from the back pocket of my denim jean trouser, and she typed a message – Dad, I found HIM, pleaseeeeeee don’t make things hard for him. I love you.”

“Come home and let’s talk about him. I love you, too, sweetheart! 🙂 “My dad replied.

Ephesians 5:25. (Every lady deserves to be adored and honored.)

Story was written by Richard Oti.

If you enjoyed it, kindly leave a comment. You can also enjoy other short stories; just check navigate through my website.

Poems:

On Love – taken from ‘The Prophet’ Written by Khalil Gibran, and used under fair usage policy.

Doris and City of Lights are original poems written by Richard Oti.

Contact me:

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ESTRELLA

Chile is a southern South American country, bordering the south pacific ocean, between Argentina and Peru. Chile is best known for its sweet wine made from pais and muscatel also its magnificent beaches that attract lots of tourist yearly. Most people dream of living in Santiago the country’s capital, home to the wealthy class. But this dream never comes true for so many.

Senor Valdez (my dad) is one of the many men who had been stuck in the peasant life. Born to don Vicente, he had lived all his life in San Rafael and had followed in the footsteps of his dad as a coal miner. Dad was married to Senora Emilia and had raised a family. At 12, I was already known as the most beautiful girl in San Rafael. People often remarked about ♍Ɣ golden hair and beautiful brown eyes. Dad worked under unfavorable conditions as all the other miners. It was common to see him with bleeding feet and severe coughs as a result of inhaling coal dust.

Bienvenido a casà papá (welcome home daddy), gracias Estrella (thank you, Estrella). Mum just stood at the corner and stared at the man she had come to love and adore. Mí amor (my love) she said softly… Mí todo (my everything) he replied as she gently ran her fingers through his curly hair giving him a kiss on the forehead. If I have a thousand lives, I would never wish to spend it with another man but you. If I have to climb San Pedro (a mountain in Chile) for you, I’ll do it mamí. ♍Ɣ dad was always fun when he was home. He somehow managed never to bring the frustration of work home. Every meal was unique, as dinner ended with he and mum doing a salsa dance.

♍Ɣ dream was to be a famous Chilean singer. I would often gather the kids and sing to them. I was quite impressive to listen to. Joaquin ♍Ɣ younger brother was already being trained in the mining business at the age of 10. Education wasn’t really a San Rafael thing. Few managed to escape the mining life, like Senor Sebastian (dads younger brother) who found his way to America and got trained as a medical doctor. Often, he would write dad and grandpa, just to know how they were. He hadn’t returned for 13 years. It was common for those who left San Rafael never to return because when they did, they were made to feel like people who had betrayed the community’s devotion to mining, tequila drinking and an every evening salsa party. They just couldn’t fit in again. Uncle Seb had missed Joaquin’s birth and also mine. But he constantly got pictures of us and often sent gifts. He had begun to raise his own family, having a child of his own.

I turned 15 and as is Chilean custom, when a girl turns 15, her dad hands her a gold Jewelry. Dad handed me a gold necklace he had bought for 2000 Peso. For you reading this, you might not know but 2000 Peso was worth 10 years of dads hard work. “Papa, no puedo recibir este” (dad, I can’t receive this), it is worth so much. I began to cry on his shoulder as he gently tapped me on the back, whispering to me “te amo baby” (I love you, baby). “Gracias papa, Gracias papa” (thank you, dad).

Daddy always was supportive of ♍Ɣ dream of becoming a music star. Mum was indifferent. She was grooming me to be a responsible housewife just like she was. Dad always thought I could be more than a good housewife. He often told me I had a voice like that of Shakira only that mine was better and I was even more beautiful. I liked that part of being more beautiful. Come on! everybody loves to be told they are beautiful. Joaquin was fast settling into the life of a miner. ♍Ɣ little brother was fast becoming a man at 13. How I wished I could just rescue him from that hard life. I always hoped to do so when I became famous.

Uncle Seb felt I would be more useful in the US than San Rafael and somehow convinced dad to let go of me. It was just like yesterday, I still remember mum crying. Dad held her tight as he also cried. As I said earlier on, it was common never to return once you left. They thought they would never see me again. I tried not to cry, but ♍Ɣ precious papí was crying, I couldn’t hold back my tears. He held ♍Ɣ hands and hugged me. I said to him: “Papi te quiero siempre” (I love you always). Joaquin put ♍Ɣ bag on the bus and I waved good-bye.

I felt it was destiny calling. I couldn’t contain the joy I felt. The cars, the crowd, the airport, the planes, everything was new to me. Uncle Seb was at the New York airport to pick me up. I had mixed feelings about seeing him. I wasn’t sure of how best to react. Semi-formal would do I thought. I saw him from afar, he looked so much like dad only he was much healthier. “Eres una chica hermosa” (you are such a beautiful girl), “gracias tio” (thank you, uncle). We both hugged each other. We got home and I quickly adjusted to the environment. It was mostly Mexicans, Chileans, and Brazilians that lived there. It was almost like being back home.

Four years had gone by now. I was 19, just graduated from music school and was about to audition for a recording deal. I got so nervous as the day drew near. How I wished dad was there to tell me how better I was than Shakira. Uncle Seb traveled to New York and had refused to tell me why. But he promised he would be in the crowd when I auditioned. All the contestants gathered on the morning of audition an hour before the crowds began to throng. We had the opportunity to familiarize with the stage for a while. Then the judges arrived and so did the crowd. I had the feeling uncle Seb would disappoint me… I saw no trace of him.

Every contestant sang beautifully, some were more impressive than others. I decided earlier on I was going to do a Whitney Houston song. She had fast become ♍Ɣ role model vocally. ♍Ɣ number was called ‘051’ [Estrella Consuella]. I remember taking the longest walk of ♍Ɣ life toward the microphone. I took a deep breath, the quiet crowd was waiting. I said under ♍Ɣ breath in Spanish “papa, esto es para ti” (daddy, this is for you). I sang like I had never in 19 years. I bet even Whitney would have been impressed with me.

It was time for the judges to announce the results. Only the top 3 were to be offered recording contracts. The 2nd runner-up was called and her entire family ran upstage to celebrate with her. Same happened to the first runner-up. It was time for the first position to be announced, every waiting contestant was nervous. Suddenly, the judge shouted the first position goes to Estrella Consuella. I ran up the stage in tears. To ♍Ɣ surprise, running towards me was dad, mum, Joaquin and Uncle Seb. They had been in the crowd and I didn’t know. We cried, laughed and hugged each other on stage. It was the greatest day of ♍Ɣ life. Today, I have sold over 50 million album copies worldwide.

 

I always thought dreams come true… YES, they do. I am Estrella Consuella, the lady of destiny.

story by Richard Oti

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image courtesy: unsplash

 


THE DANCE

All you wanted was a rose

So I scampered all over the earth

I wouldn’t let Kilimanjaro’s height scare me

Neither the length of Thames

 

My feet hurts from the scorching sands of the Sahara

My palms, thorns stung

But I found you a rose, and it’s red

Because I want us to be more than friends

 

I want to dance with you beside the deep blue sea

We’d dance all night to the songs of the angels

God would be our host

The sun, moon and twinkling stars our guests

 

I hope when the morning lights rise you’ll say ‘I do’

I pray you’d say ‘I do’

I promise to keep you in my heart – it’s warm

It might not be everything you desire

But if you’ll make it your home, I’ll make it paradise

 

Why are your eyes turning cold?

You don’t love me as much as before?

Before you say those sad words

Take my hand, let’s dance by the deep blue sea

All night long

And maybe forever…

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Image courtesy: Robert Collins


AURORA

If we held hands
Would there be chemistry?
Would I understand why Oxygen needs two molecules of
Hydrogen to become water?
Or why Sodium reacts with Chloride to liven up my pot of
soup?

If I asked Einstein
Could he help me understand why there’s a force field that
keeps me revolving around you?
That should be easy, since he can explain syzygy
When I’m still trying to understand why E=mc2

I know my heart should take a beat at a time
But it dances whenever I’m around you
I get goose bumps in summertime
And sweaty palms in cold seasons

When you smile at me
I hopscotch over to you
Then we play hide and seek
Till we’re both tired and you fall asleep

I tuck you into the bed, and stay awake to watch you sleep
Then at mid-night, I wake you up and take you to see the
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
Then while you talk, I’ll fall asleep
Then you tuck me in and watch me sleep.

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FORT KNOX

‘Most of you would not make it to the end; some of you would get missing in action, some of you would quit after a few months, some would end up on wheelchairs and would have to be honorably discharged. Many would suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and their lives would never be the same again. Others would die in combat, and their bodies might lie out in the open for days, and flies would do them justice. But they would be brought back home, wrapped in an American flag, gunshots would resound in their honor, while we lay them to rest, never forgetting the price they paid for this beloved country.’

‘I hope some of you would make it out of here alive and complete.’ he said and paused a little for the impact of his words to be felt all over the open-field. ‘But today is a day for fresh greens and grilled chicken; for your hearts are merry, and deservedly so. You have made it into your rookie year. My name is General Ashford – You are welcome to FORT KNOX’

The 6 footer debonair General walked off the stage amidst chants from the new intakes. General Ashford had been head of the Military Intelligence Unit at FORT KNOX for almost 20 years. He had been one of the most decorated officers still in active service.

‘Hey, Rookie!’ Lance said, stretching out his right hand for a handshake while holding a can of beer in his left. He was dressed in camouflage shorts and a fitted top.

‘Hey!’ Forester replied, receiving the handshake.

‘What do I call you if I might ask?’

‘Call me – The General.’ Lance replied. The other two rookies in the room laughed out loud.

‘Your name is Lance Cavalli, only son of General Bridge Cavalli, an intelligent drop-out from Harvard.’ Forester said, still holding onto Cavalli’s hand.

‘The other dude who was rapping to Tupac’s ‘dear mama’ must be Seth, and that leaves one more roommate unnamed – Adam.’

‘Wow! This dude seems super-smart.’ Adam Baning said, clapping his hands slowly as he stood, walking towards Forester to give him a handshake.

‘He’s not that smart. I knew all your names before I met any of you; it’s on the notice board.’ Lance said, having a jealous look on his face. ‘Want some beer?’ He asked Forester, lifting the open end of the can towards Forester’s mouth.

‘No, I don’t drink.’

‘Wow! Have we got a sissy for a roommate?’ Lance said, turning towards Adam and Seth, trying to get a laugh out of them.

‘If he doesn’t drink, smoke, or listen to Tupac, then he’s definitely a sissy.’ Seth replied.

‘Shut up Seth, white boys don’t listen to rap.’ Adam retorted. He seemed the most gentle amongst the pack.

‘So, tell us a little about you.’ Lance said, curving his mouth upward, already looking unimpressed with whatever Forester was going to say.

‘My name is Forester. A legal junkie and I go to church three times a week.’

‘Church boy!’ Lance replied Forester, moving a little closer, and slowly sniffing at Forester. ‘But I think you smell like a loser.’ Lance added.

Forester went ahead to repay the gesture. ‘I think you smell like a teenager who has been caged all his life and has just been set free.’

‘Woooooooo!’ The quiet Adam said. ‘I guess that should enough for our first day. What do you all think?’

Lance had his hands held tight in a closed fist. Fighting had been his trademark for many years, that’s why he had been forced to drop out of Harvard. ‘I guess, we are done for today’ Lance said to Forester and winked at him before walking to his bed.

Forester dropped his bag on one of the free beds in the room; there were just two at the time.

‘Hey homie, that bed is mine.’ Seth quickly informed Forester. Seth was African-American and he was the most physically built of them all. There was something queer about him; he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder.

‘Ok, that’s fine.’ Forester replied and moved his bag to the next bed. Unpacking his bag, he emptied its contents on the bed. He seemed to be searching for something he had kept in the bag. Dipping his hands into all the corners, he finally found it. It was two medium-sized posters. The first was a classic black and white image of Kenneth Hagin, while the other was a picture of Stephen Curry doing a slam dunk; below the poster was inscribed – I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Pasting the posters on the wall beside his bed, he felt good, as though he had properly branded his corner.

‘Out of bed you lazy slimes’ The voice yelled repeatedly, while his hand kept hitting every door, window and everything else it could. There was so much noise and jostling around, as everyone strove to get to the parade ground.

‘You boys still having  sweet dreams at 5:00 am?’ The drill instructor yelled again. It seemed his voice was as loud as a megaphone.

‘No sir!’ They all answered uniformly, still trying to adjust themselves to a formation.

‘You sleep when I say you should. You talk when I say you should. You wake up when I say you should. I am your new father and drill instructor for the next few weeks. You can call me Sergeant Price.’

It was cold. All the boys were kitted in their military boots, combat shorts designed in the operational camouflage pattern, and khaki colored short sleeve T-shirts.

‘Follow me.’ Sergeant Price hollered, and then he initiated a cadence;

Oh mama mama cant u see

What this core has done for me

Put me in a barber’s chair

Snip snap and I had no hair

And if I die in a combat zone

Box me up and ship me home

Put me in a Santa dress blues

Comb my hair and shine my shoes

Pin my medals upon my chest

Tell my mama I did my best

But my mama don’t u cry

The Marine Corps motto is do or die

Left right left

Left right left

Low right left

A lefty righter low

They group kept the chant up, until it was apparent that they had begun to enjoy the camaraderie amongst themselves. After they had run for about twenty minutes, Sergeant Price took them through several other drills; replace push-ups and squats, plank pose, regular and reverse crunches, and he continued till all them boys felt sore.

‘Hey Sissy, yo held out quite well during the drill. I’m impressed.’ Lance said to Forester, intending to brew a little trouble.

‘Ever read Proverbs 10:23?’ Forester asked Lance while trying to get out of his sweat-drenched outfit.

‘What does it say?’

‘It talks about you; such a powerful verse.’ Forester said and flipped his towel over his neck while walking to the bathroom to take a shower.

‘Can I get a little more of the cottage cheese?’ Adam asked the chef, who seemed to have a cruel face that said ‘don’t come back for more’.

‘This is the military son, not your mama’s kitchen. You’ve had your breakfast, go take a walk, and you’d be fine.’

‘Four slices of toast, a boiled egg, one banana and cottage cheese – and you tell me to take a walk. That’s baby food.’ Adam said as he walked back to the table to meet Forester. Adam seemed to get along more with Forester while Seth seemed to be in comradeship with Lance.

‘What did he say?’ Forester asked.

‘He said I should take a walk, that this wasn’t my mama’s kitchen.’

Forester began to laugh.

‘Is there something funny about that?’

‘Not really.’ Forester replied and tried to control himself.

‘You can have one of my toast, and my banana too. But my cottage cheese goes down my belly, all of it.’

‘Thanks, pal, you’re a lifesaver.’

‘Military intelligence is a military discipline that uses information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions. Most of you might think you are so smart, and that’s why you’ve found yourself in this class.’ said the disheveled professor, who was not sure if he wanted to wear his hair like David Beckham or have it stretching to the skies like James Brown did. He was one of the few civilians teaching at FORT KNOX. He had been a lecturer there since the Gulf war and was a consultant to the CIA.

‘Believe me, even Einstein would have struggled in my class.’ The professor continued with so much pomp, waving his hand and spitting cotton like he were Julius Caesar or some great emperor who was to be revered. ‘If you all make it through this class, you would make it out of FORT KNOX in one peace.’

‘What class is this?’ Adam asked, whispering to Forester, who seemed mesmerized by the professor’s sycophancy.

‘Shhhhhhh! It’s Strategic Intelligence, and Einstein would have struggled to pass it. What does that mean? You are likely to fail it.’ Forester replied sarcastically.

Intermittently, the Professor would pull his trousers up as the lecture went on. His trouser had gone way past his waist-line and was already swallowing his upper region; it kept moving up till all of his socks could be seen (he wore a white pair of socks on his left leg and black on the other). It appeared to everyone that he was really oblivious to his looks.

Professor Mildew was done with his lecture, and stayed back for a few minutes to enjoy the accolades and hand claps; not that most of the students understood the lecture, they were just impressed with his mannerism and awed by the weird look.

‘It’s 7:47 pm’ Forester said, ‘lights out in an h and 13 minutes. This is the part of this phase I find hard to understand; why does the light have to go off by 9:00 pm and then we have to sleep. It’s been two weeks, and I still cannot get used to this.’

‘Is you asking me?’ Adam replied.

‘Why would he be asking you? When he could ask his daddy – Professor Mildew’ Lance replied, looking to the ceiling with both his arms locked together, under his head.

‘That was unkind.’ Adam said, coming to the defense of Forester.

‘Unkind is when I walk up to you and smack you in the face for replying me when I wasn’t talking to you.’ Lance said, directing his words to Adam.

‘Let’s go for a walk, Seth.’ Lance began. ‘I wonder why they paired us in the same room with these losers.’ Seth and Lance walked out of the room and banged the door behind them.

‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Forester whispered, but it was audible enough for Adam to hear. It infuriated Adam the more.

‘Is that all you can say when that boy talks down to you?’

‘Believe me, I could fight and punch hard. But that only makes me the loser he thinks I am. I just think Lance and Seth are a little high on bourbon.’ Forester replied Adam, and then he turned to look at the poster of Kenneth Hagin and Stephen Curry and began to smile.

It’s 8:36 pm already, and Forester was already getting worried about his roommates. ‘Lights out’ was in 24 minutes, and neither Lance nor Adam had returned.

‘I’d like to go for a walk.’ Forester said to Adam, not wanting to fill him in on the details; because Adam would have been irritated to know that Forester actually intended to go search for Lance and Seth.

‘It’s almost lights out. Why now?’ Adam asked, sitting up on his bed, nibbling on a cookie.

‘I could do a lot with a few minutes of stretching my legs.’ Forester replied.

‘Alright, do as you please.’ Adam said to Forester, throwing the remaining pack of cookies to him. At least, he could chew something while stretching his legs.

I know Lance was high when he snapped on Adam, I wonder if the same can be said of Seth. It’s too early for those boys to get into trouble, Forester thought to himself as he walked down the dormitory hallway. It was still lively, and didn’t look like anyone was slowing down for the ‘lights out’.

Going past the dorm, Forester took a walk towards the administrative block. Looking at his watch, the long hand was at 45, and the shorthand was slowly approaching 9. ‘I have 15 minutes to get back to the dorm.’ Forester said out loud while considering whether to keep up with the search, or just return to the room.

Walking past the first two blocks, he turned around, headed for his last point of search. He could hear some movement close by, so he suddenly stopped, so that shuffling wouldn’t drown the sound he heard.

‘Don’t say that. I was always there for you as a little child. I had to do my job as a soldier, but I also performed my duty as a father too.’ One of the speakers said

‘Tell me; when is my birthday?’ The other said.

Forester tip-toed, moving closer to the location from where the words were being spoken. He could only hear in bits and pieces.

‘I’m sorry I cannot remember. But I can’t forget the day you were born, and what that day means to me.’

‘You have not changed from being the man you were. Don’t ever come around me, and I’d also never let anyone know that you are my father. That’s why I changed my first and last name.’ The other speaker responded.

‘Don’t walk away son, I love you!’

‘You don’t love me.’ The other speaker screamed, sounding very mean.

At this point, Forester looked at his watch and it was 8:50 pm. Not wanting to be one of the bad ones, and the one to be used as a common lesson, he decided to abort his mission, ignore whatever was happening and run back to the dorm.

Forester had just taken about twenty steps, before he heard a scream, more like a howl. Forester stopped, dead still; frozen by the sound he had just heard. It was after many seconds he continued to proceed towards the dorm again. Looking at his watch it was 8:52 pm. He knew that if he ran as fast, he could make it back to the dorm in about four minutes. So, he turned around and rushed towards the sound of the mournful cry.

‘Sir! Sir!!’ The voice said out loud. There was no response. ‘General! General!!’ The voice said out louder.

Peeping from a corner, Forester could see a tall figure on the ground, and a slimmer one holding the head of the other in his arms. He made a run for the scene, giving the slimmer one little time to run away.

‘Who are you? And what have you done?’ Forester said, his heart racing, being more conscious of the limited time he had than to notice who actually was lying on the floor.

There was no answer, so Forester picked up the plank beside him, in case he needed it for self-defense, and then he approached closer.

‘Adam!’ Forester said in shock.

‘Someone killed him.’ Adam said, with tears in his eyes.

‘Who is he?’ Forester said, walking closer for a better view.

‘We better get out of here.’ Forester screamed as soon as he realized it was General Ashford who had been on the floor bleeding.

‘What are you doing here in the first place Adam?’

Adam began to stutter as he was trying to explain.

‘It’s already 8:58 pm Adam. If we don’t leave now, we’d never make it back to the dorm in good time.’

So, both boys began to run as fast as they could. As soon as it was 9:00 pm, the lights started to go off all over the dorm. Forester and Adam had to slow down because they now had limited visibility. Just a few meters away from their room, they made a final turn that should usher them into the room.

As both boys walked in, the lights went on; and beside the door stood the drill inspector – Sergeant Price.

‘Where are you boys coming from?’ Sergeant Price asked Forester.

‘Sir, we went. No, I went for a walk.’ Forester answered.

‘What time did you go for this walk?’

‘I left the room by 8:36 pm. I actually meant to check on my roommates – Lance and Seth who had been out of the room.’

‘Why would you ever want to check up on me?  Loser!.’ Lance quickly replied, sounding disgusted.

‘Shut up soldier!’ Sergeant Price said sternly, pointing his right index finger at Lance.

‘So, why didn’t you come back before 9 pm?’ Sergeant Price asked Forester.

At this point, Forester was torn between his convictions as a Christian and telling the truth. If he said he heard a noise, and then an argument and then having walked towards the direction of the noise, he found Adam holding General Ashford in his arms; it was going to be a messy issue, both for Adam and himself.

‘Lord, I need your help.’ Adam said under his breath.

‘What did you say soldier?’ asked the Sergeant.

Just then, Sergeant Price received a phone call. He talked with the caller for a few minutes, and then he promised to be there shortly.

‘Hey, Soldier! What’s your name?’ Sergeant Price asked Adam.

‘Adam Baning Jr., sir.’

‘What’s your own story soldier?’ The Sergeant asked in a hurry, wanting not to waste more time.

Adam began to stutter again. While trying to explain with the aid of his hands, Sergeant Price noticed that he had blood stains on it.

‘Why do you have blood on your hand?’

‘I killed nobody.’ Adam hastily said.

‘I never said you did.’ Sergeant Price replied.

‘I cut my palm while working out tonight.’ Adam said.

‘What are you; a lady with tender palms?’ Sergeant Price asked Adam, and then he turned the light off and stepped out of the room. Seth had his eyes closed all through Sergeant Price’s interrogation, but he wasn’t asleep.

‘Why will a loser want to look out for me?’ Lance said out loud after the Sergeant had left, trying to provoke Forester.

‘You lied; Adam. You lied!’ Forester whispered.

‘Let’s go to bed, Forester.’ Adam whispered back, and then he lay on his bed.

It was 4:00 am, and there was a bang on the door. Forester, Adam, Lance, and Seth quickly jumped out of bed, thinking it was 5:00 am already, and time for the morning drill.

The lights came on, and there stood – Sergeant Price, Colonel Dwight, and three Military Police Officers.

‘Arrest both of them.’ Sergeant Price said, pointing to Adam and Forester.

‘What have we done?’ Forester asked, in a respectful tone.

There was no answer, just sounds of handcuffs being unlocked for use.

Forester and Adam were transported to a somewhere within FORT KNOX that they had never been to. It was an underground facility. As they walked down into this basement, they could see a little gathering of top military officers who stayed on the base.

‘Are these the suspects?’ General Fowler asked.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sergeant Price answered.

‘General Ashford is dead.’ Said General Fowler, who was the oldest serving General in FORT KNOX. He was a man of few words, but mighty in deeds.

‘Where were you boys at 2100 hours yesterday?’

Forester tried to explain all he could, omitting vital details that would have implicated Adam. Adam couldn’t really say much, he had been stuttering on the issue since Forester first found him holding General Ashford.

‘Lock them, boys, up, and break them, till you get all you need.’ General Fowler said to the Colonel standing beside him. The Colonel looked more like an executioner from the medieval era.

‘Though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me. Your rod and your sta…’ before the full word could be uttered, another punch was buried on the left part of his face, close to his eyes.

‘How did you kill General Ashford?’ The Colonel screamed into his ears, pulling his hair from behind.

‘Jesus! Help me.’ Forester cried, struggling to breathe.

‘You should have asked Jesus to restrain you from killing General Ashford.’

‘I didn’t kill General Ashford.’ Forester screamed as if he were using his last energy to vindicate himself, shortly before he was killed.

Adam lay on the corner of the floor, passed out after he had been beaten black and blue. Forester was gradually losing the war, but winning the battle of maintaining silence.

‘You won’t break, right?’ The fearsome Colonel began, ‘I have seen your type, and believe me, I have outlived all of them. You know what that means, right?’

‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…’ Forester quoted, wreathing in pain.

‘No soldier… you quoted it wrong. You are not going through that valley. That valley will become your home in a few minutes if you don’t start talking.’

Just when the ‘hangman’ Colonel was about to land another blow to the face of Forester, General Earl Kariski walked in with his entourage. General Earl was the Chief of Staff to the then US Government. As soon as he stepped inside, the Colonel stopped the torture and quickly saluted. Forester was very weak to stand up, but right there on the floor, he saluted him – giving honor to whom it was due.

‘Clean these boys up, but keep them in custody. No further torturing. Investigations are on-going, and a court-martial would follow as soon if they are found guilty. General Ashford was too important to the United States and the World at large for him to die this way. We will televise the court-martial if we have evidence against these boys.’

‘Sir, yes sir!’ The colonel responded.

‘Right here, the dead body of General Ashford, one of America’s finest, was found. He was murdered in cold blood a few days ago.’ The CNN reporter said, bending down and touching the sand on the field. ‘There’s been a lot of speculation as to who took his life. But undisclosed sources within FORT KNOX said he was killed by two drunk rookies. It’s a shame that America has lost one of its most decorated soldiers. I’m Elvis Mosley, reporting for CNN, from FORT KNOX.’

Forester was angry when he watched the news on TV, sitting beside Adam in the detention bay.

‘I’ll ask you as a friend for the last time Adam; what were you doing outside the room by that time of the night?’

‘The same thing you were doing.’ Adam replied.

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘When you left the room, I decided to also take a walk. So, I got out of bed and went over to Patton Museum, and then I decided to go back to the hostel using the east route. I was playing music on my cell phone, and singing along too. While walking through the field, I found the General’s body lying on the floor. It appeared that someone had just tried to murder him. He wasn’t dead yet, so I tried to quiz him, but words wouldn’t escape out of his lips. And just a minute before you came, he stopped breathing.’

‘That’s a lie, Adam.’ Forester shouted. ‘I heard an argument. I didn’t hear everything that was said, but I know two people were arguing, and then I heard a howl. Coming back to the scene, I find you holding General Ashford in your arms, and you sit here and tell me lies.’

‘I tell you the truth, brother.’

‘Don’t call me brother. My life is about to become a mess because of you.’ Forester replied in an angry tone. Adam just kept mute and said no more words.

‘Get up soldiers, or should I say, murderers. You have a visitor.’ The Master Sergeant said.

It was Lance Cavalli, and as usual, he was gloating.

‘This is a nightmare, not a visit.’ Forester said out loud, loud enough for Adam to hear him.

‘Hello Corporal Forester and Adam – the two most dangerous men on FORT KNOX. Who would have thought that the church boy and his manservant would commit murder? This is unbelievable.’

‘What’s unbelievable is that you come around here, smelling like garlic, and talking crap. Who do you think you are Lance?’ Adam asked. Adam wasn’t as patient as Forester and was in no mood for Lance’s foolishness. ‘Please, get him out of here.’ Adam shouted to the Master Chief.

‘I’m leaving, but I want you to know that I would not rest until you boys are hung, or locked up forever, and the keys are thrown into the deep blue sea.’ Lance said and walked out.

‘The investigation had been on for almost two weeks now. The post-mortem report showed that General Ashford suffered a severe blow to his head from close range, which was probably caused by someone hitting him with a plank from behind. The forensic unit had also concluded their investigation; the plank at the crime scene had the fingerprints of one Forester, and General Ashford’s body had the fingerprints of one Adam all over it. Both students are rookies.’ The FOX News correspondent said. ‘There has been no official statement from the military yet on the identity of the suspects, but this information was gathered from our investigative journalist, and confirmed by an insider who wouldn’t want his name mentioned.

 

‘We are making headlines all over the world. My mother would be heartbroken if she knew that the Forester that reporter just talked about is me. I have failed her and everything she stands for. I’m innocent, and you know that Adam. Why wouldn’t you just tell everyone the truth?’ Forester asked, looking desperate.

‘Why didn’t you also tell them the truth Forester?’ Adam said, boldly looking into Forester’s eyes.

‘I didn’t want to implicate you, Adam.’

‘Do you have any evidence that incriminates me?’ Adam responded.

‘I saw you at the scene with my own eyes, Adam.’

‘You were also close to the scene too, Forester.’ Adam said sharply.

‘Was it a mistake?’ Forester asked.

‘I had absolutely nothing to do with it. You either believe me, or you tell them what you know.’

‘So, what do we do?’ Forester asked.

‘You once said you were a legal junkie. You have to start thinking like one. We have to trust ourselves because no one else does, and we have to work together on this.’

‘It’s hard to wrap my mind around this. I shouldn’t be under detention.’ Forester said, still not really sure he wanted to trust Adam.

‘You are in this already, Forester.’

‘If I might ask a few questions… why didn’t you run for help or scream when you found General Ashford lying on the floor?’

‘How would my screaming for help save the dying man? You said you heard two people arguing. Why didn’t you scream out, or try to go stop them from arguing?’ Adam asked Forester.

‘It’s all about instincts bro. Sometimes you respond one way, at other times, it’s different.’

It seemed to Forester that Adam was either a hardened criminal who just made his way into the army, or he was just too composed for someone who had a murder charge about to be tied around his neck.

‘So, what do we do?’ Forester asked.

‘If the evidence found incriminates us…’

‘It does already, brother, didn’t you listen to the news? They called my first name and yours too. They even said we were drunk. I have never tasted anything alcoholic, and yet, I was drunk?’

‘It’s a high-profile military death Forester. General Ashford was no small figure. The investigations would end very fast, because of media pressure. They would try to frame us up, so as to close on this immediately.’

‘They can’t frame us up. Why would they want to?’ Forester asked.

‘It’s been so many years since Abraham Lincoln, J.F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.,

Chauncey Bailey and others were assassinated, and till now, some of these deaths have gone unpunished. The military doesn’t run like the civil society, Forester. You can’t have an unsolved murder in the military. So, if nothing concrete is found to exonerate us, we are going down.’

‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I’d fear no evil.’ Forester whispered, slumping further into the chair on which he sat.

‘The investigations have been concluded,’ said the officer, who was holding a brown file.

‘You might want to take a look at it, sir.’ Then, he handed the file to General Fowler.

The file contained pictures of the scene, the presumed weapon used and analysis of both forensic and investigative reports. The plank had the prints of Forester on it, and it also had the blood of General Ashford on it. The fingerprints of Adam were all over the Generals body. Forester’s number was also the last dialed number on the General’s phone. These were a few amidst other incriminating evidences.

‘Set up a team for the court-martial.’ General Fowler said over the phone to his next in command.

‘The murder weapon had my prints? My cell-phone number was on his call log? I never even had the privilege of meeting the man. How does my number end up as the last number he dialed?’ said Forester, who was more than bewildered with the evidence stacked up against him.

‘Actually, I was the one who called you with the General’s number.’ Adam said.

‘What?’

‘When I saw General Ashford on the floor, I tried to call you because I couldn’t think of anyone else to call. But then my phone fell off my hand and scattered in different directions because I was so nervous. So, I picked the General’s phone and tried dialing your number, but it wouldn’t connect.’

‘How long have you been planning this lie?’ Forester screamed, and then he kicked the flower vase beside him and broke it. ‘Forgive me Lord – I lost control. Have mercy on me.’

‘This is not a lie.’

‘So, how long have you been planning to tell me this truth?’ Forester interjected, still very angry, but more in control of his temper.

‘I was waiting for the right time.’

‘Adam, I’m a changed man. You wouldn’t have been able to say that sitting just a few meters away from me a few years ago.’ Forester replied.

Forester’s prints were on the plank because he had picked it up to use as a weapon for self-defense when he confronted the scene from which he had heard the noise. But unfortunately, whoever had hit General Ashford on the head, had thrown the plank on the ground as he ran away. Now, the case against them seemed stronger than Forester would have imagined. It was actually too late for Forester to tell them what he had seen. No one would believe he and Adam didn’t kill General Ashford.

‘This letter says we have four days to pick a defense counsel & that General Sutherland would be the judge of our court-martial. Somebody, please tell me this is a lie.’ Adam said.

Forester was still very upset with Adam, so he didn’t ask him any question, nor make a comment.

General Sutherland was also known as ‘The Bulldog’. He was a favorite for special court-martials.

‘What are we going to do Forest?’ Adam asked.

‘My name is Forester, not Forest. Don’t try to act familiar with me. I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for you.’

‘I’m sorry you have been brought into this. You have known me for over a month now. Do I look like someone who would kill?’ Adam asked, ‘apart from doing so in a war, or when it is necessitated?’

Forester had to take a few minutes to think about the question Adam had posed to him. The truth was that, as much as Forester wanted to blame Adam for General Ashford’s death, a part of him still believed that Adam was innocent.

‘Tell me what you heard or saw that night. I want to hear all of it, not just a part.’ Forester said, without batting an eyelid.

‘I’ll go over this slowly. When you walked out of the room, I decided I was going to sleep right away. Then again, I thought it wise to just walk around the block for a few minutes too. I decided to go east because I saw you go west.’

‘Why didn’t you want to go in the same direction with me?’

‘I live with you in the same room. I just needed to walk alone. Anything wrong with that?’

‘That’s fine. Ride on.’

‘I took out my cell phone and searched for something soothing to listen to as I walked. While trying to maneuver my way back to the hostel, I heard a noise. It sounded like two people were arguing over something. Then I heard a scream, and then someone seemed to be asking – why did you hit him with that?’

‘I’m listening.’ Forester said, spurring Adam to keep telling his side of the story.

‘I rushed toward the noise. I guess whoever it was could hear my footsteps and he, or they ran away.’

‘Are you saying they were two?’

‘Maybe three or four. Or maybe just one insane person who was talking to himself and replying at the same time. But when I got there, I found General Ashford gasping for breath on the floor. I admired him as much as you do, you know. He’s was my hero.’

‘I can corroborate some parts of your story. I also heard an argument, but I only heard two people talking. Your narration makes it look like there was someone else there, apart from the two arguing.’

‘Yes. So, do we have a case to argue?’ Adam asked.

‘I can’t tell if we do, or if we do not. We have been requested to pick a defense counsel for the trial. The names sent to us are; Major Cartwright, Lt. Colonel Erwin, and Brig. General Lindsey.’

‘Let’s go with the lowest ranking officer. He would want to prove a lot.’

‘No. Let’s go with someone who has a heart, someone who would believe that we are actually innocent.’ Forester said with all conviction.

‘So, who do you think that would be?’

* 8:00 am the next day*

‘Hello, Boys! I heard you requested for me to be your counsel?’ Brig. General Lindsey said. She was in her early forties and quite very pretty but tough too.

‘Yes, ma’am. Sorry, Yes General.’ Adam said, stammering.

‘If we are going to work together, the first thing you’d have to do is to learn to be comfortable around me. Yes, I’m many ranks ahead of you, but at the moment, see me as your friend; your ticket to freedom. So, ease up on my rank a little.’

‘Does that mean we can call you Lindsey?’

‘No, you shall both address me as – Counsel Lindsey’

That was strange, Adam and Forester thought to themselves.

‘Yes, Counsel Lindsey.’

‘I prefer that, so we can curtail familiarity, whilst maintaining an open room for friendship.’

‘That would be fine ma’am’

‘Ah! Ah!!’ Brig. General Lindsey said, pointing her right index finger at both boys.

‘Sorry, that would be fine Counsel Lindsey.’

‘Much better. Now, tell me all I need to know.’

Both boys took turns to narrate their story. Counsel Lindsey listened carefully and jotted down important points as Forester and Adam spoke respectively.

‘Now, you said you heard an argument, Forester?’

‘Yes, I did. It seemed like a normal conversation before it got much more heated.’

‘Can you recall anything that was said?’ Counsel Lindsey asked while taking a gulp from the coffee mug that had been placed in front of her.

Forester paced around the room, staring at the ceiling as if it held the answer to the Counsel’s question.

‘I remember one of the speakers saying he loved the other.’

‘You think it was a love affair between a female soldier and General Ashford?’ Counsel Lindsey asked.

‘No. Both speakers were male. One called the other son, and the other seemed not to want any ties with the other speaker who called him – son.’

‘So, you think it’s a father and son conversation?’

‘Yes. I think it was.’ Forester answered.

‘Ok. That’s noted.’

‘I’ll search through all the available records of General Ashford to find out if he had any biological or adopted sons that might be on US soil.’ Counsel Lindsey began, ‘And as for you Adam, You are certain you heard someone ask – why did you hit him with that?’

‘Yes, I’m certain.’ Adam replied.

‘That means there was someone else there.’ Counsel Lindsey said. ‘I’ll let you boys rest for now.

Your trial starts tomorrow. But I must tell you one thing. General Sutherland is the judge, and he is a bulldog. Try to develop a thick skin and some self-control, and you boys would be fine.’

‘Thank you, Counsel Lindsey.’ Forester and Adam replied respectively.

Everyone kept saluting as the fierce figure walked on. He was in his late sixties, but still as nimble. His appearance was neat, and his features were fine and looked as if they were chiseled. He was the epitome of what a successful military career could be defined as. Everyone stood up and kept standing till he had walked in and sat down.

‘Who is that?’ Forester asked Counsel Lindsey as they were sitting down.

‘He’s your worst nightmare; your ticket to freedom, or pass to the gallows.’

When Counsel Lindsey said that, Adam was nervous, and he began to sweat and uncontrollably swallow a lot of spit. That was the first time Adam was showing any sign of anxiety since he had been accused. The four other judges were also seated; two on the right, and two on the left, while the ‘bulldog’ was stationed in the middle.

‘You may have the floor.’ General Sutherland said, pointing to the prosecutor and his team.

‘We have pictures, we have the weapon used, and we have the phone record of General Ashford, showing that the last dialed number on the night he was murdered is the number of Corporal Forester. If these are not satisfactory to prove to this distinguished military court that these two are guilty, then we also have witnesses who would testify to that.’

‘Do we have any witnesses ready to testify?’ General Sutherland asked the prosecutor and his team.

‘Yes, we do, and it might interest you to know sir, that these witnesses are honest and trustworthy.’ Sergeant Major Olly said; he was the lead man for the prosecution.

‘Who determines their credibility, you?’ General Sutherland barked at the lead prosecutor. It seemed Sutherland’s voice had a natural echo that sent a shock through the room.

‘I’m sorry General.’ Sergeant Major Olly said. He was just encountering General Sutherland in a court-martial for the first time.

‘Proceed with your first witness.’ General Sutherland said, pointing to the row where the prosecutor was sited.

‘I’d like to call on Sergeant Price Moseley, sir.’ Sergeant Major Olly said.

‘Does this place feel cramped and stuffy, or is it just me?’ Forester asked, using a handkerchief to clean the sweat off his face.

Sergeant Price walked up to the stand, dressed in his military regalia, looking much different than he would when he was screaming at a parade or during a drill.

The oath was taken, and all formalities were observed. Sergeant Major Olly stood up and walked a little closer to the witness stand.

‘Sergeant Price, would you kindly tell this military court all you know about this case before it?’

‘I was on a routine check before lights out, and I went from room to room, ensuring that everyone was in his place. But when I got to the room which happens to be the abode of General Ashford’s murderers…’

‘One more misplaced assumption and you are out of my court.’ The ‘Bulldog’ said, pointing his finger at the witness.

General Sutherland being as fair thus far in the proceedings was quite encouraging to Adam and Forester, who were now more relaxed than they had been before.

‘I’m sorry General. When I got into the room, I noticed there were only two of the four there should have been. I made an inquiry and the two I met seemed not to know the whereabouts of their roommates.’

‘At what time was this Sergeant?’

‘That would a few minutes before 2100 hours.’

‘Can you be more specific please?’ Sergeant Major Olly requested.

‘It was 5 minutes to the hour of 9 pm.’

‘Thank you! You can ride on.’

‘Both boys rushed in at about 7 minutes past 9 pm. I had been in the room for about 12 minutes now, waiting for their return.

‘You said they rushed in?’

‘Yes, they did, and they were very nervous and apprehensive too.’

‘Did you suspect anything immediately Sergeant?’

‘No, I didn’t. It was only when I asked Corporal Adam where he had been, and he immediately claimed not to have killed anyone, I became a little suspicious. The General’s body was found in the early hours of the morning. But it was obvious he hadn’t just been murdered at that time. His body was cold, and the blood had become congealed. Asking Major Ford, the doctor who examined him some questions, we came to a conclusion that he had been killed at about 6 hours before his body was found. That would be around 2100 hours when these two were missing from their hostel.’

‘His testimony sounds very convincing.’ Counsel Lindsey said.

‘You believe him?’ Forester asked her, looking a little confused.

‘Yes, I do. But it’s my duty to find out if his testimony is really true or not.’

‘I’m done with examining the witness.’ Sergeant Major Olly said as he walked towards the bench to take a seat.

‘Would you like to cross-examine the witness?’ General Sutherland asked the defense counsel.

‘No General, not at this time. I’d request a cross-examination much later into the proceedings.’ Counsel Lindsey replied.

‘Do you have another witness you’d like to call up?’ The ‘Bulldog’ asked.

‘Yes sir, and I think this witness will really interest you.’ Sergeant Major Olly said.

General Sutherland wanted to bark at him again, but he decided to keep cool and let the witness take the stand. That witness was Lance Cavalli.

‘Hello, Lance!’ Sergeant Major Olly said.

‘You shall address every officer that breathes in my court by their rank and first name. Failure to do so, I’ll have you thrown out of here. Hope you copy that loud and clear?’  The Court Martial judge, General Sutherland, yelled.

‘My apologies General, I’d do better to stick to your terms.’ Sergeant Major Olly replied. ‘Hello, Corporal Lance! Can you tell this competent panel of Judges what you know about this case.’

‘I was out that night; I needed to take a break. So, walking out of the room with my homie Seth, we…..’

‘What does homie mean?’ said one of the military judges sitting to the left of General Sutherland.

‘It’s a slang for someone who you consider as your friend.’

‘We are all not in the new school like you rookies. No more slangs please.’

A few of the officers chuckled at what had just transpired. But the panel of Judges seemed very serious.

‘We walked to the officer’s mess, and there we spent some time listening to some good old country music. But I remember, before I left the room, I saw Forester and Adam whispering something to each other and looking at their watch shortly before we left the room. At the mess, Seth and I had something to eat, and we drank a little too, and then we left the mess.’

‘What time was that precisely?’

‘That would be around 8:40 pm.’ Lance replied.

‘What time did you get to the room?’

‘That would be at about 8:51 pm.’

‘When you did not see your roommates – Adam and Forester, what did you think?’

‘I thought Forester had gone to the chapel. He always claims to be coming back from there most times. As for Adam, I couldn’t guess. Adam has no compass to guide his life, he goes wherever the wind blows, or he’s always following Forester around.’

‘You will take those words back right now, or spend the day regretting, and wishing you had a lid over that cylinder you call – mouth.’ General Sutherland said, meaning every single word.

‘I’m sorry General, I take that back.’ Lance said.

‘What else can you remember?’

‘Forester was so obsessed with the General, he always talked about how he wanted to be like him. How he would give the world to stand by his side. At some point, he even began to stalk the General, and would tell us all the places he had been to each day.’

‘That’s a lie.’ Forester whispered to Counsel Lindsey.

‘Leave that for me to prove.’ Lindsey replied.

‘That‘ll be all for now, General.’ Sergeant Major Olly said.

‘I wouldn’t want to cross-examine the witness today, sir. I need to prepare my defense.’

General Sutherland moved the case to the next day. That’s why he was a favorite for a special Court Martial. He had never handled any case that lasted over a week. Forester and Adam were sure that within a week, they would know their fate. After the proceedings for that day, Counsel Lindsey first response was to once again go over the forensic reports.

‘The plank had Forester’s fingerprints. Was his fingerprint the module used to find a print, or was the wood thoroughly examined for all the available finger prints?’ Lindsey said out loud, while glancing at the pictures. That was one of the important assessments to be made.

The phone rings.

Counsel Lindsey seems more preoccupied with searching for clues that could help her put up a strong defense the next day. But the caller kept calling.

‘Hello!’

‘Hello Lindsey, it’s me, Roscoe.’ Roscoe was a private investigator, who had once been in the army, and he had worked with Lindsey for about two years at this time.

‘Fill me in.’ Counsel Lindsey responded.

‘General Ashford has an estranged wife by name Elizabeth Estefani. They were married for 5 years before things went south. They have a son, Ashford Cooper Hankins Jr., namesake of the late General.’

‘Got any pictures?’

‘I’m sorry, General Ashford got married to Elizabeth while he was serving as NATO commander in the Baltics. She lived with him in the US for two years out of those five. Their marriage was most secretive, and there are no records or pictures in public domain. The only way to get pictures of both the estranged wife and son might be to search the late General’s house on the base. But I learned that Elizabeth left for Lithuania immediately things got sour, but her son might be on US soil as we speak.’

‘Oh, my! This just gets more complicated. It will take forever to get a warrant to search the General’s house. That’s if we are even given the warrant considering his high-profile. And now to think that his son could be on US soil… that gives credibility to Forester’s account of events. However, this means that his son must have visited him on the day he was murdered.’

‘You are a General and you’d have a higher level of clearance access. You can make a request for the visitors’ log for that day.’

‘I can get that before sundown.’ Brig. General Lindsey said.

‘I’ll keep you posted on more findings.’

‘Thanks, Roscoe, time is running out on us. Do all you can, please.’

General Lindsey dropped the call, and then she quickly scrolled through her phone, finding the number of the officer in charge of the security unit, she requested to have the visitor’s records for 13 July 2011, the day the General was killed.

‘I’ll have that forwarded to you ma, right away.’ The officer said.

‘Thank you!’

‘He had only two visitors – Kenushi Inamoto and Rear Admiral Ralph. Both happen to be his personal Friends. That must mean that whoever killed the General must have been on this base because nothing crosses that gate without being caught on camera.’ Lindsey said, talking out loud to herself. It had been six hours of brainstorming, and phone calls, and more brainstorming, scrutinization, coffee and more phone calls. Little progress had been made thus far. Taking a break, she walked to the coffee maker and poured a cup of black coffee. No sugar and milk, just pure black. Sipping on the coffee, she stood still staring hard at the étagère before her, as if it held the key to unlocking the puzzle. Reliving Lance’s story would help answer some questions.

‘Want something to drink?’ The barman at the officer’s mess asked Lindsey, who went visiting, not dressed in her uniform.

‘No, just want to ask a few questions.’

‘That’s something we are not so good at doing here – answering questions.’

‘Well, you can choose to answer it here, under no duress. Or you can choose to do so before the Court Martial.’ Linsey said to the bearded barman who looked a lot like a winebibber, and then she pulled out her ID card. ‘Look at the name, look at it well.’

‘What do you want to know?’

‘Do you know Corporal Lance Cavalli?’ Lindsey asked, pulling out his picture from a diary in her hand, and showing it to the barman.

‘He’s popular. He has a buddy named Seth and they both hang out here, most evenings.’

‘Can you remember the night General Ashford died?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Did Lance and Seth come around here?’

‘Yes, they did, twice that day. They drank a little the first time, and then returned to the dorm. An hour later they were back again for another round, but it seemed Lance did more of the drinking the second time.’

‘Can you remember the time when both boys left?’

‘Yes. Lance was very tipsy and had already begun to make a lot of trouble. This mess is for only junior officers. But as you know, in the military, there are ranks. I recall the highest ranking officer in the mess asking me to kick Lance out because he was talking loud and laughing wildly.’

‘What time was it?’ ‘That was 5 minutes past 8 pm.’

‘What about Seth?

‘Seth wasn’t drunk; he only left because his friend was asked to.’

‘Thank you, sir! You have been very kind.’ Brig General Lindsey said, and then she walked away.

‘Find something helpful?’ Forester asked as he sat down beside Counsel Lindsey for another day of proceedings.

‘Yes!’

Adam and Forester’s eyes seemed to light up like neon signs.

‘General, I’d like to cross-examine one of the witnesses that testified yesterday.’

‘Make a call.’ General Sutherland said.

‘Corporal Lance Cavalli, can you please come forward?’

That was a polite question that really wasn’t optional to answer. So, Corporal Lance humbled himself and walked down the aisle to the witness booth and then he sat down.

‘You are a soldier, right?

‘It’s obvious he is one, Brig. General Lindsey, why the question?’ General Sutherland asked abruptly.

‘General, if he is a soldier, then he should know the implication of lying in a Court Martial.’

‘Yes, I am a soldier.’ Corporal Lance answered.

‘How many drinks did you have the day General Ashford was murdered?’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘Why can’t you? Is it one, two, three, or were you so stoned that you lost count?’

‘I just don’t know.’

‘You claimed to have been in the mess till 8:40 pm when you left.

‘Yes.’

‘That’s a lie Corporal Lance; you were ordered out of the mess at exactly 5 minutes past 8 pm to avoid an altercation. Do you recall who ordered for you to be kicked out that night?’

Counsel Lindsey asked, waiting for a minute for Lance to respond. And then she asked him the same question again.

‘Do you remember the officer who asked that you be taken out of the mess? Or were you too drunk to remember most of what happened that night?’ Lance had been put in a terrible corner. One he had never anticipated.

‘The Sergeant sitting beside Master Chief Plusher, who happened to be the highest ranking officer in the mess that night, was the one who ordered your expulsion from the mess. I’m not a judge of character, but the least of us here knows that he is an honorable man, one who wouldn’t lie. Do you want him to take the stand to testify Lance?’

Lance just put his head down in shame. It was the first time Forester and Adam had seen Lance look that remorseful.

‘Did you kill General Ashford?’

‘No. No. No. I wouldn’t for any reason in this world. I knew the man right from when I was a child. He and my father, General Cavalli were best friends. I will never do that.’ Lance quickly said in his defense.

‘No further questions General.’ Counsel Lindsey said.

‘Does the prosecutor have anything to say?’

‘No sir. Not at the moment.’

‘The defense has been able to puncture a hole in the testimony of Corporal Lance. However, it has not been able to provide evidence to vindicate Corporals Forester and Adam. You both have till Friday when we reconvene to wrap up. Take Corporal Lance into custody.’ General Sutherland said, and then he dismissed the proceedings for that day and left the building, going through the back door.

‘That was some good work you pulled off today.’ Adam said, being appreciative of Counsel Lindsey.

‘Thanks, Adam.’

‘I just want to say thank you for believing in us, Counsel Lindsey.’ Forester said, with so much adoration in his eyes for the lady that had spent the last few days, committed to their fight for justice.

‘I’ll keep fighting hard for justice, and I hope we have victory, come Friday – when a verdict is reached and judgment is passed.’

Going through the evidence again, looking for clues, Counsel Lindsey spent the entire night poring over the pictures and all the reports on her desk. Taking a closer look at the forensic report again, she found a discrepancy.

The report reads;

Examination of supposed murder weapon shows that it indeed was used as a tool to take the life of General Ashford. The blood on the wood matches his. The fingerprints on the plank were 1 sets…’

“That’s weird…. were & sets are both plural words, why would any educated fellow say the fingerprints were 1 sets. Looking closely at the number – 1, it seemed it be changed from what was originally written down.”

‘Hey, Roscoe! Sorry to call you by this time of the night.’

‘It’s alright Lindsey. Anything you need?’

‘The Forensic report was done by a private outfit – Allen & Fords Private Laboratory in Michigan. They usually would send this report sealed to the base administrative unit. But it seems that someone tampered with the result.’

‘You think someone in that unit had a hand in General Ashford’s death?’

‘No, I’m not saying that. I just believe that someone altered this report, and that should be the man who is behind the General’s death.’

‘How do I help?’ asked Roscoe.

‘I need you to get an original copy of the document, and also, I need to know who signed off for this report on behalf of the base. Can you pull that off?’

‘Sure, that’s my job. I would have feedback for you by tomorrow.’

‘Thank you, Roscoe.’

Brig. General Lindsey was able to go to bed once she had made the call to Roscoe. It seemed she had made the first breakthrough.

After three hours of sleep, Lindsey was up, and already going over the evidence and reports once again, wondering if she was going to find any other clue. It seemed like there were no ideas coming up, so she got into her car and sped off to the detention bay to talk to Forester and Adam.

‘You said the argument was likely between a father and son; that would mean General Forester and his son. We have good news and bad news too.’

‘Let’s hear the good.’ Forester said, speaking also for Adam.

‘General Forester actually has a son from an estranged marriage with a lady he met in Lithuania. That son he named Ashford Cooper Hankins Jr. There are no records of him in our database, apparently because he was not born here. I really wonder why we couldn’t get any help from the Army database, Immigration, or the IRS, the last would apply if he had been paying tax.’

‘That’s really bitter-sweet.’ Adam said.

‘Now, I want you and Adam to think back. I need to know if by any means there’s anything else you heard that night. Even if it’s just a name. Think like we have all day to do so, but remember as quick because we have only today to figure out the truth.’ Counsel Lindsey said.

For twenty minutes, both boys; sat, stood up, paced around, bit their fingernails, and kept looking at the ceiling as if their memory was hiding up there.

‘I can’t remember anything else that happened that night, which I haven’t already told you.’ Adam said.

‘How ‘bout you Forester?’

‘Give me some more time to think.’

While Adam was thinking, Counsel Lindsey decided to sort out the call record issue by talking it over with Adam.

‘The call record shows that Forester’s line was dialed from the General’s phone at about 8:55 pm. I would need to simulate this tonight to know how long it would take me to get to the hostel from the murder spot, under same conditions.’

‘How does that help?’ Adam asked.

‘I need to find out how long it will take to get to the dorm if the lights had stayed on.’

‘I don’t still understand how that helps.’

‘Never-mind Adam. You would wrap your mind around it during the proceedings tomorrow.’

‘Yes, I recall one more thing. I heard one of the speakers say – I don’t want anything to do with you, that’s why I changed my first and last name.’

‘Eureka!’ Counsel Lindsey screamed.

‘Now, I have got something to work with. See you, boys, tomorrow.’ The beautiful Lindsey said and quickly rushed out of the room.

‘Hey, Roscoe! It seems that whoever we are looking for changed his first name, and last name.’ Lindsey said, sounding excited that there had been some progress on the issue.

‘Got anything for me?’

‘Yes. The forensic report was delivered to one Sergeant Luke.’

‘Who is in his circle of friends?’ Lindsey asked.

‘We have Sergeant Hunters, Master Chief Odessa, Major Wright, and Sergeant Price.’

‘Sergeant Price?’

‘Yes. Know him?’

‘He is one of the witnesses testifying for the prosecution.’

‘Ok. What do you think?’

‘I can’t really tell. His testimony seemed unbiased and genuine. He’ll be up for cross-examination tomorrow though. Thank you so much, Roscoe.’

That night, Brig. General Lindsey and her aide were at the murder spot simulating the event. The simulated it using Adams narration, as well as Forester, and she was able to gather some useful information. ‘

Would Brig. General Lindsey and Sergeant Major Olly, please come over?’ General Sutherland said, motioning for both of them with his hands.

‘This case has to be wrapped up today. There’s no room for an adjournment. Lindsey, the onus lies on you more to prove the innocence of those two boys. Should you fail to do that, I’ll have to give a verdict. But you know you can always appeal through the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, right?’

‘Yes sir!’ Lindsey answered.

‘Ok, let the proceedings start.’ General Sutherland said.

Just when Lindsey turned around to go back to her seat, the guard who manned the door started to walk towards her, and then he handed her an envelope. It was tagged as sent from Roscoe. When she opened it, it seemed her face lightened up and then she chuckled.

‘I’d like to call Sergeant Price, sir.’

Sergeant Price stood up and walked down to the booth confidently.

‘Sergeant Price, when you sat in this witness booth the first time, you said that on that night, you were going from room to room, making sure that everyone was in his place before lights out?’

‘Yes, ma’am that is exactly what I said.’

‘If I might ask, how often do you do that?’

‘Not often, once in a while.’

‘What time did you start on that day?’

‘I started at about 8:45 pm.’

‘There are about sixty rooms on each wing of the dorm. That is thirty to the left and thirty to the right. How many minutes would it take you to cover both wings?’

‘About 10 minutes.’

‘That would be wrong. I did a simulation last night. I did it twice, and the best possible time that would have taken would have been 20 minutes; except you decided to skip several rooms on purpose.  But considering that Forester and Adam stay almost at the end of the wing, there’s no way you should have been in their room by 8:55 pm like you claimed during your testimony.’

‘I maintain my claim that I was in their room exactly by 8:55 pm.’ Sergeant Price said. He also wanted to add the fact that Lance could bear him witness, but he remembered that Lance had been in custody and was going to face a tribunal for perjury, so he refrained from saying that.

‘Sergeant Price, do you think that it could have been anyone else on this base that murdered General Ashford, except these two?’ Counsel Lindsey asked.

‘I really doubt it because everyone was in their room as at ‘lights out’. So, I don’t see how anyone else could probably have done it.’

‘Everyone?’

‘Yes.’

‘You said you stopped at Forester’s and Adam’s room when you realized they were not around. There are seven rooms; three on the left and 4 on the right, before the end of the wing. Since you said you stayed back in the room to wait for their return, which means you didn’t search these other remaining rooms. So how can you be so sure that everyone was in their room?’

Sergeant Price for the first time seemed to break a sweat, and suddenly he became thirsty and asked for a glass of water.

‘How many minutes would it take to run from the open field to the hostel, let’s assume the culprit was a fast runner?’

‘About 4 – 5 minutes, all other things being equal.’

‘What other things? Would you like to elaborate?’

‘Visibility, the frame of mind, Physical health. It depends on a lot of factors.’

‘That’s well said. I did a simulation, and I was able to run from the same spot where General Ashford lay, to their room in 4 minutes 20 seconds.’ Lindsey said, pointing her fingers at Forester and Adam, to let the court know who she meant by ‘their’.

‘I really don’t understand what you are driving at, ma’am.’

‘It means that anyone would have killed General Ashford, and would have still been able to get to the hostel before lights out.’

‘I doubt he was killed before lights out.’ Sergeant Price said.

‘The call record of the General shows that the last dialed number was that of Forester.’

‘Yes, it does.’ Price answered.

‘Now, that call was placed by Adam to his roommate and friend Forester when he found the body of General Ashford lying in open field.’

‘It means that anyone would have killed General Ashford, and would have still been able to get to the hostel before lights out.’

‘I doubt he was killed before lights out.’ Sergeant Price said.

‘The call record of the General shows that the last dialed number was that of Forester.’

‘Yes, it does.’ Price answered.

‘Now, that call was placed by Adam to his roommate and friend Forester when he found the body of General Ashford lying in open field.’

‘I do not want to believe that ma.’

‘You’re not in that box to believe anything. You are there to be cross-examined. The time log shows that the call wall made at 8:55 pm. That means; if someone else had killed the General, he probably could have done so by 8:53 pm, or 8:54 pm or even 8:55 pm, and that killer would have gotten back to the hostel assuming he could be as fast as I am. And I am not as nimble as I used to be, take note of that.’

‘Yes, that is possible.’ Sergeant Price replied.

‘Honorable court, my clients; Forester and Adam are yet to tell their story. But maybe it’s because we all believe we might have heard it already. No, we haven’t. On the night in which our beloved General was killed, Forester had heard an argument between two people. It was a father and son. We all never knew General Ashford to be married, so a lot of us might think this isn’t relevant, but it is. General Ashford had been secretly married to a lady he met in Lithuania while he served as Chief of NATO. General Sutherland, before I delve further into this, I’ll like the court to examine the forensic report that was sent by Allen & Fords Private Laboratory in Michigan, there was an alteration on it.’ Lindsey said, walking back to her seat, and pulling out a copy of the report.

‘If you look at paragraph 3, it states – the fingerprints on the plank were 1 sets. That is grammatically inaccurate. But again, it’s inaccurate because someone changed the meaning of what it was trying to say. It actually stated that the fingerprints on the plank were 2 sets. Of which one set would belong to Forester, and the other would belong to the killer. You see, the fingerprints were extracted, and each person’s identity was attached to this report, but what we have as evidence in court only has my client’s name linked to his prints.’

‘Do you have proof for the things you say, Brig. General Lindsey?’ General Sutherland asked.

‘Yes General, I do.’

‘You can ride on.’

‘Back to the point, I was trying to make before I got off on the fingerprints. General Ashford had an estranged wife, who had a son for him, and that son is in this court as we speak.’

Everyone seemed to gasp for air at the same time. There was a look of surprise and anticipation slowly building up.

‘That night, Forester heard one of the speakers, which I assume to be General Ashford, tell the other that he loved him. The other denied him and claimed to have changed his first name and last name so that there would be no association between them.’

Lindsey walked up to the bench and pulled out a paper from the file Roscoe had sent to her that morning.

‘Honorable judges, this is a copy of the birth certificate of Ashford Cooper Hankins Jr. It is boldly stated here who his father and mother is. Now, this is a valid copy obtained from the Lithuanian Population Commission.’

At this point, the prosecutor wanted to stop Lindsey from going further, by objecting, but he was scared of General Sutherland, so he just kept mute.

‘The first name and last name that was changed should have been Ashford and Hankins respectively. So, that leaves Cooper still valid as his middle name.’

‘Sergeant Price, what is your full name?’

‘My name is Sergeant Price Moseley.’

‘Do you have a middle name?’

It took almost 20 seconds and a loud bark from General Sutherland before the question was answered.

‘Yes, I do.’

‘What will that middle name be?’

‘Cooper.’

‘So, your name is Sergeant Price Cooper Moseley.’

‘Yes!’

‘Here with me are documents from a Lithuanian court showing that you changed your name shortly before you relocated to the US in 2007 to Price Moseley. Sergeant Price, I put it to you that you are the one who stole part of the Forensic evidence, you are the one who stood there that night and had an argument with General Ashford, your father.’

‘Why did you kill him Sergeant Price?’

‘I didn’t kill him.’ Sergeant Price said. At this time, he had lost the composure he usually exuded during the morning drill that made everyone fear him, and he was now in tears.

‘I believe you. I know you didn’t intend to kill him. Because it was you who also asked the assailant – why did you hit him with that? Was it not you who asked that?’ Lindsey barked at him.

‘Yes, it was me.’ Sergeant Price said, still in tears.

‘So, who did it? Tell this court and all the honorable men seated who have given their lives for this nation just like General Ashford did. Tell them the truth. Who did it?’

‘It was Seth.’ The Sergeant said.

Forester was shocked and immediately looked back at Seth, who had a blank look on his face.

‘How did it happen, Sergeant Price?’

‘Seth and I had known each other before I joined the army in 2009. We had the same kind of story. His father was never there for him, just like mine. I had not seen General Ashford, my father since he got separated from my mother. I wondered; what could I have done wrong to make him despise me this much. No calls, no SMS’, no birthday wishes, no true memories. When I left Lithuania, I promised that I was going to track my father down, and at least know why he detested me and my mother that much to have left us. On getting to the US, I had no contact or access to him, and I didn’t want to tell the world that America’s most loved General was my father, who neglected me. When I was transferred to FORT KNOX three months ago, I knew that was going to be the chance I had waited for all my life. On that night, Seth had taken Lance to the room because he was drunk. Walking towards the gym, we met and decided to go for a walk. While in the open field, General Ashford walked by, he seemed to be taking a walk too. We both saluted him, and then I asked him if I could talk with him for a minute. I asked him a few questions like – what his motivation was, how he rose to the top, and his secret for success. Then, I asked him about his family, and he lost the smile on his face. I asked him if he had a son, and he said he did not. That was when I disclosed my identity to him, and suddenly, he began to act like he had missed me all his life. He actually started crying, and he was trying to hug me. Then I started to shout at him and we got into an argument. I decided it was best if I just ran away. As soon as I turned, he held me and then, we began to struggle. That was when Seth picked up the plank beside him and used it to hit General Ashford from behind. I never meant for him to die. I loved him even though I felt he didn’t love me.’

‘So, it was Seth that hit the General with the plank?’

‘Yes.’

‘That‘ll be all, General.’ Counsel Lindsey said, and then she walked to her seat.

‘Thank you, Jesus!’ Forester said under his breath several times as Judges were deciding on the case. ‘

It took about 30 minutes for a decision to be reached. General Sutherland and his panel examined all the evidence that Counsel Lindsey had used for her cross-examination, and based on the personal confession of Sergeant Price, they came to a conclusion.

This Military Court has found Corporals Forester and Adam not guilty of the death of General Ashford. They are to be released immediately, resume duty, and their names publicly cleared. As for Corporal Seth and Sergeant Price, they would face a court-martial, and the necessary punishment will be meted out to them.’

Forester and Adam couldn’t believe the nightmare was over. It was a beautiful feeling.

‘Thank you, Counsel Lindsey, could we give you a hug?’

‘Sure!’

With tears in their eyes, Forester and Adam held Counsel Lindsey very close, it was a hug that lasted for over two minutes.

‘Could I invite you over for a date?’ Forester asked Counsel Lindsey.

‘You boys shall now address me as Brig. General Lindsey.’

Both boys smiled and saluted her immediately, adorningly watching, as she walked out of the court amidst cheers from other officers.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Richard Oti.

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JOHN HAY, WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

It was her turn to take the vow, she slid her hand forward and took his. Looking into his eyes, she recited the lovely vow she had written for him:

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll keep your heart safe. I’ll hang a mistletoe everywhere around the house, so you would never cease to kiss me (he smiled). I promise to remain your favorite girl. If our boys turn out to be half the man you are, then I would know I had raised them well. You leave me breathless and yet it feels so good. I want to grow old and grey with you. I’ll like to die lying in your arms, sharing my last moments with you. With these words, she affirmed “I DO” to him. They both adored each other.

Joaquin was born to Marcus and Selena Lopez on Feb. 20, 1986, at 8.am in Sau Paulo, Brasil. Frances the daughter of General Fredrick and Pauline Booth, was born on Feb 20, 1987, at 8.am in Cleveland, USA. She was a choleric, a natural born leader. Having her in a place was like turning on the heating system on a cold winter day, she kept the atmosphere warm. Her charm and charisma were magical.

Joaquin was smart, handsome, and like your average shy guy, introverted. His charisma and charm were 2.5 on a scale of 10, but his brilliance was simply amazing. Growing up in Brazil was pretty rough for his family. His father (Mr. Lopez) was from Nicaragua but had naturalized as a Brazilian. He and Selena ran a restaurant that served the best Feijoada you could taste. Moving to America was the biggest decision they ever made. They sold off their restaurant and realized enough money to begin a new life In Cleveland, America. They say New York is “the city that never sleeps” and we all know, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Truth said, but I believe Cleveland is the darling of all cities, that city that rocks!

Settling into the new environment was easy, especially because Clevelanders are very receptive people. The suburbs of Chagrin Falls, a scenic village of 3800 residents was where they lived. Just a few miles away in Shaker heights lived General Booth. Shaker Heights is the Paris of Cleveland, home to the crème de la crème of the city. General Booth, fondly called GB, had a mean demeanor that made him a dreaded military officer, but to his beautiful girls: Pauline, Frances, and Carla, he was the most tender-hearted man they knew.

High school was where it all began for Joaquin and Frances. In his senior year, he had moved from one of the Cleveland municipal schools to John Hay, one of the most prestigious schools in the city. Switching schools had come at a great cost, but one Mr. Lopez was willing to bear to ensure his little genius got the best education he could. He had spent only a few days in school and was already in deep communion with the nerds, he was a true representative of their brotherhood. His name was a little hard to pronounce, so most of them just called him Jackie. He was a young man of few words, who found solace in his ivory tower, the library. Frances was more upbeat and spent as much time having fun as she did studying.

She (Frances) first took notice of him in History class when he spoke for 10 minutes about the amazing architectural masterpieces found in Europe and Asia, using the Effiel Tower in Paris and Taj Mahal in Arga, India and as key structures. During lunch that day, she walked up to the table on which he sat, and without even an introduction, she said to him “tell me about the statue of liberty”. He was startled by her manner of approach, but before he could consider how to react, he was already speaking. When he was through, she went on “tell me about Niagara falls”. She had enjoyed how he made his words come so alive, they were like paintings on the canvas of her mind. Then she threw the bombshell next: “tell me about your girlfriend” she said with a grin. He almost choked on the sausage he was eating. He stammered a few inarticulate words, it became obvious to her that he had lost his amiable composure. “We would talk about this later,” she said, then quickly walked away before he got more embarrassed. He had never had a girlfriend.

It was only a few days later and he began having that feeling. You know that feeling, right? That one that keeps you staring at her all day and dreaming of her all night. Someone humorously said, “that feeling you get when you fall in love, that is common sense gradually leaving you”. True that! I’m sure you are smiling because you know perfectly how that feels.

3 months later, they had their first date. They were so thrilled to discover how much they shared in common, most especially, being born in the same month, day and hour with just a year apart. 3 years later, he took her to Renaissance Hotel for a special dinner on their birthday. He was a perfect gentleman and she felt so comfortable with him. The waiter walked up to their table handing them each a menu booklet. His accent sounded so Italian. She ordered Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta and Broccoli salad. He ordered same. The waiter returned with two plates: a white porcelain and silver hammered, both were covered with saucers. She stared at him as he walked away. Did she wonder, why two plates only? Why did he have that silly grin on his face before he walked away? The flavor of the recipes should have allowed for her to perceive the aroma, but it seemed aroma-less. She wondered if what lay under the saucers was going to be tasteless also. Joaquin quickly snapped her out of her thoughts with a slight touch. Baby, I want you to choose one of the plates. Choose carefully.

She starred at both plates with many thoughts going through her mind, as fast a bullet. She decided on the silverware. He asked her to open it, she did. In that plate lay a white gold banded ring with a single diamond and a note that read “will you marry me?”. Tears ran down her eyes as she stared at the ring and the note. He took her by the hand, knelt down and repeated the same words “Frances Kayla Booth, will you marry me? Will you spend forever with me?” With tears and a smile, she said: “I couldn’t wish for a better man, I’m ready for forever with my favorite boy in the entire world “. She used both her hands to pull his head closer to her, then she kissed him on the forehead. They were married on Dec. 8, 2008, and had their first child, Daisy, on Nov 10, 2009.

Graduating from Aviation school was a dream come through for him. He had gotten the license to fly Boeing 737 Next Generation and 747 jets. On Sunday, 22nd of August 2010, he was up early, showered and got dressed, looking gorgeous in his pristine white shirt, fitted black trousers, and a well polished Stacy Adams shoe. He held Daisy in his arms and whispered in her ears “I want daddy to be the first word you say. Don’t tell mummy I said so” the little girl chuckled as if she understood every word he had said. “I love you, sweetheart, come back home safe.” They kissed each before he drove off to Hopkins International Airport.

“I think she’s ready to fly. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking, I like to welcome you all on board Southwest Airlines flight to New Ark, New Jersey. Flight duration is 1hour 18minutes and we are expecting a fairly smooth flight today. Once again, we thank you for choosing to fly with us, we hope you enjoy your flight.” He spoke through the microphone from the cockpit. She was up in the air and running at 434knots, a few moments later, he realized the plane was veering off course. There was a mechanical failure and engine 2 was out.

“Mayday! Mayday!! Power failure on engine 2, he quickly radioed the control tower.

Control Tower: Southwest Airlines, read me?

“I read you five by five! Power failure on engine 2, engine restart failed too.”

Control Tower: “Alright, you are two miles from the closest airport to you, bring her down safely”

That was the last conversation before the plane crashed. Standing, looking over Daisy’s crib, she felt something wasn’t alright with Joaquin. She paid no attention to the thoughts until they became stronger. Then she quickly picked her phone and dialed his number, it was switched off, then she got even tenser. Less than 15minutes later, she received a call from the management of Southwest Airlines “Hello ma’am, we are sorry, our 737 Next Generation Jet going to New Ark, NJ, had a crash, but your husband is alive. We’d send a car over to pick you up right away.” She ran into the bathroom, shut the door behind her and began to cry profusely. She wasn’t sure of how truthful they were when they said he was alive. He had been in a state of shock and had just come out of it barely an hour before the car carrying both his girls (Fran and Daisy) arrived. She stood at the door of his room for a few minutes, looking at him through the transparent glass. A female doctor and a male nurse were inside running some test and talking with him. He was weak and could speak only sparingly. He was in bad shape but stable condition.

Then she took a deep breath and walked into his room. She walked up to his bedside “hey baby, how are you?” He could hardly speak, so she just kept on speaking. After a little, with tears in her eyes, the Doctor said: “I’m sorry, but he’s suffering from Amnesia and has no idea who you are.” She began to sob “Baby, you remember me right? This is our baby, Daisy, I’m sure you can’t forget her. Remember the vow? I promised to get old and grey with you. You always called me your favorite girl, I loved the way you said it with a smile. I always wanted to ask you, the night you proposed to me, what was in that second plate? Will I ever get to know? We hoped to have a baby boy next and you said he was going to be called Marcus just like your dad. Please, baby, tell me you remember?” She gently put her head on his chest and sobbed so hard. “I’ll wait for you no matter how long it takes, we can fall in love and start all over again,” she said as the tears flowed uncontrollably. He gently ran his fingers through her hair and said very faintly “I might not know who you are, but I’m sure you loved me so much”

Dedicated to MY mum and Dad… Happy 30th wedding anniversary in arrears.

Written by Richard Oti, May 26th 2013.

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DORIS

Love used to live on hope street,
But she moved away.

Now the days are long
And the nights even longer.

So, I moved into her house on hope street,
Just to remember her once more.

The memories were lucid,
I knew they would last forever.

So, while she was away,
I slept in her bed, ate her food, wore her perfume.

Talked in her voice
Laughed like she would 
And then I cried all alone.

Looked out the window a time or two,
Hoping the horns were the sound of her car.

Love used to live on hope street
...But not anymore.

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NASIR KHALIFA (GIFTED LEGS)

In life, it’s almost impossible to find that friend that sticks closer than a brother, like ‘the preacher’ said in the eighteenth book of Proverbs, the 24th verse. But in Nasir Khalifa, I found a brother, one to keep for a lifetime.

 

Our families were Coptic Christians living in Egypt before migrating to Syria many years ago, long before my father knew to spell his name. This was a few years before Hafez Al-Assad, the father of Bashar Al-Assad came into power through Ba’athist coup d’etat. Things were much different then, than they are now.

 

My father, Darwishi, and Ghahiji had moved to Syria when the oil industry there began to thrive. Like most young men eager for adventure, they left home in search of lush pastures, just like many of us still do today. But a lot of times, we do so at the expense of the unknown; the things we can’t see, which if we did, we would have never made that move. Well, that’s what makes us human.

 

My father and his close friend moved to Aleppo, the city close to the Mediterranean Sea. They were not there for the oil. But they had a keen understanding of what the impact the oil boom was going to do for that economy. It was certain that constructions of all sorts were going to be planned; Airports, Railways, Industries etc. So, having a premonition, they both founded a small firm – Darwishi & Ghahiji Limited. It was an Engineering firm, starting up with just two engineers; my father and his business partner cum best friend Ghahiji.

 

To cut cost, they both lived in the same house on Al-Shaar neighborhood in Aleppo. To further reduce expenses and maximize the little money they had migrated with; they had to eat a lot of shwarma and falafels. Those are regarded as street foods in Syria.

 

In a few years, they had built Darwishi & Ghahiji Limited into an entity that would be worth about $100,000 in today’s estimation. The years of sacrifice had paid off, and both friends began to think about settling down and starting families of their own. They still lived together with all the money they had made at this time. They had moved out of Al-Shaar neighborhood and lived together close to Bab al Faraj square. It wasn’t a rented building.

 

My father had met a lady named Khepri, she happens to be my mother. Ghahiji met a Jewish-Egyptian named Nerfetiti also, and both Darwishi and Ghahiji got married that same year.

I was born on 10th of October 1992, the last child to come out of the womb of Khepri. I had two elder brothers and a sister. That same year, November 11, 1992, Ghahiji also held his only child in his arms. The child they had waited for, for 22 years of marriage. Ghahiji named him Nasir Khalifa. Nasir meaning ‘one who wins’ and Khalifa meaning ‘wisdom’ or ‘one who succeeds’ in Arabic. He was the carbon-copy of Ghahiji. Our friendship started from the very first day we Nasir was born, so I heard. I was a month and one day older than Nasir, but still we wore same clothes as babies. When my mother went to the market, she shopped for Nasir and me. When Nasir’s mother went to the market, she did same too.

 

Nasir’s father did not live so long after Nasir was born. I heard he died in a ghastly motor accident on his way to Damascus. He was alone in the car. My father cried like a little child for many days. He had lost a vital part of him that day; a part that my mother, my siblings nor I have been able to fill ever since. Nasir was four years old when this happened. Nasir was the one person that father would look at and remember his friend. So, my father took Nasir as his own son from the very day Ghahiji died. My father requested that Nerfetiti never spend even one Syrian pound on the up-keep of Nasir Khalifa.

 

I remember our first day of High School; I was put in a different class from that of Nasir. But Nasir wouldn’t stay in his class; he would always try to be in my class. When the teachers tried to force him to stay in his class, he wouldn’t talk to anyone for the whole day; he literally just starred at the board like a zombie, till the teachers got scarred. I talked to my father about requesting that the school send Nasir over to my class. I knew that the school wouldn’t deny my father any request, he was partly the reason the school had a lot of Egyptians attending it. Nasir was sent to my class, and then like his middle name ‘Khalifa’ he began to be the one who succeeds. Nasir held the first position all through our stay in high school. He wouldn’t even let me take that position from him even once. That didn’t upset me at all; I was more handsome and very athletic. And in high school, those are the guys that rock.

 

Khalifa wasn’t as athletic as I was, but he was the most gifted footballer I had seen on the football pitch. We called him gifted legs. Nasir did things you could only do sometimes while playing a video game. I mean; the bicycle kicks, the leg-overs. And he did those with such an ease.

 

After high school, I was more interested in running the family business. I applied to study Business Administration at Aleppo University. Aleppo University is one of the Six state universities in Syria. It is the second largest university in Syria, after the University of Damascus. Nasir wanted to pursue football professionally, but he hid his intentions because he didn’t want us to be separated. He applied to study Neurology, and we were both admitted.

We resumed school on the 1st of October 2010, just a few days to my birthday. We were in different faculties, but we shared the same room. So, we still shared a considerable part of our day together. One day while we were still sophomores, Nasir couldn’t keep pretending anymore, so he began to talk to me.

 

“What do you think of someone who leaves the university to play football?.” Nasir asked.

 

“Well, it’s like someone leaving the university to become a fisherman or a barber. I think it’s crazy.”

 

“What if that was his dream for his life?”

 

“I still feel it’s a risk. There are no famous Syrian footballers anywhere in the world.”

 

“Just like there are no Syrian Neuro-Surgeons working in John Hopkins or Eisenhower Medical Center in California.” Nasir quickly interjected.

.

“What’s your point brother?”

 

“I want to play football professionally,” Nasir said, looking at me intently as if he were trying to search into my soul.

 

“I’m in school because everyone thinks that’s the right thing to do, but this is my dream, all I’ve ever wanted to be.”

 

I took a deep breath and then turned to look at him. I could tell that all he actually wanted was my support.

 

“What becomes of your degree?” I asked, still trying to make sure he understood what he meant by playing football professionally.

 

“I’ll stop school for now. I can always get a degree, but I can’t always play football. When I turn 30, the odds won’t be in my favor anymore, but as for now, I’ve still got it in me.”

 

Our friendship was everything. I was scared that If Nasir left school, we were going to drift apart. But I felt I shouldn’t let selfishness get in the way of his dream, so I stood up, walked up to him and sat beside him on the bed. I put my arm around his neck, just like I had done almost every day for many years now.

 

“I’ll buy you an Adidas boot & I’ll watch every match you play. Don’t forget who got you your first boot when you become Syria’s Maradona.” I said to Nasir.

 

“Yeaaaaaa!” Nasir shouted and jumped around the room.

 

“But you will have to convince Baba (my father) and your mother too,” I said to him. That didn’t kill his joy – he just kept jumping around like a little child would in Disney land.

 

Baba wasn’t too pleased with Nasir’s decision to play football professionally. He would have preferred him to be a part of the family business too. But the last thing Baba was going to do was stand in the way of Ghahiji’s son fulfilling his dreams. So, Baba provided all the support needed.

11th Feb 2011, I sat with Nasir at the departure terminal inside Aleppo International airport. He was on his way to Brussels for trials with WS Brussels, the Belgium Second Division Football club. I was the only one with him at the airport. Nefertiti (his mother) wouldn’t come because she had cried so much begging him not to go. But Baba (my father) had somehow convinced her to let go, so she did so reluctantly.

 

I talked with Nasir about a lot of things we had planned to do together before this trip came up. He made a promise to me – “Time and space would never break what we share.”

 

They say men do not cry, but at least our eyes get red. So, I waved Nasir as he walked past a point where I could no more escort him. I got into the car, drove off a little, and then I parked my car wound up my window and just cried like a little boy. I had never known what it was like to spend a day without Nasir. He was a vital part of me, just like Ghahiji was to my father. For the first time, I began to understand why dad couldn’t get past Ghahiji’s death.

 

*gring gring*

 

I was in bed when my phone began to ring, it was 2:05 am in the morning. It was a number I wasn’t familiar with. It was foreign, and I guessed it had to be Nasir’s. So I picked the call.

 

“Hey, Youseef!” Nasir said.

 

“Hey, Brother!” I replied, excited to hear his voice.

 

“I just landed a few minutes ago. I’m yet to talk to Baba or Mama. But I had to hear your voice, just to know how my brother is faring without me.”

 

“I miss you, Nasir. It’s been a horrible few hours without you. There’s no one to force me to eat, so I just slept on an empty stomach. There is no one to remind me to read daily or escort me to the gym. So, I have spent the rest of my day in bed sleeping. I guess that’s all I have the strength for, for now.”

“You make it sound like I was everything to you. Who is going to be to me the only brother I have in this world?”

 

“I’ll still be here for you,”I replied him.

 

“I’ll still be here for you also, my little brother,” Nasir said to me.

 

“Khalifa, What did you just call me?”

 

“Never mind.” Get some sleep, my brother. The morning comes with a lot of promises.”

 

“One love Nasir,” I replied, and then we both hung up.

 

It was March 15, 2011, the day the Syrian uprising began. It was an uprising known as the Arab Spring that began in Tunisia. There were so many protests against President Bashar Al-Assad, whose forces also responded with crackdowns. Nasir had been gone for about a month at this time. We had talked every day, keeping each other abreast of the happenings. He was doing great, although a little worried about the news of the uprising. I assured him it was nothing to worry about. In a few days, things were probably going to be stable and back to normal.

 

“How’s my mother?” Nasir asked.

 

“I try to make sure she doesn’t miss you as much,” I responded.

 

“How is Baba?”

 

“He’s alright. He’d be retiring as chairman of Darwishi & Ghahiji Limited in a few days. Khalil, my elder brother, will be taking over as head of the company. I wish you were here. We’ve planned a big party for him.”

 

“I’ll be back in three months time. The trials are going on well. I have better news than you’d expect.”

 

“Fill me in bro.”

 

“I have had steady interest from the first division clubs. Club Brugge and RSC Anderlecht have been on my trail. I don’t know how it will play out. But I could have a contract with one of them within the next three months. And who knows; I could be playing in Chelsea or Barcelona within two years. Just imagine me alongside Frank Lampard or Lionel Messi. That would be dreams within a dream come true.”

 

“You’ve always been ‘gifted legs’, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

 

“How are you faring in school?”

 

“Doing well, learning to force myself to read, eat and go to the gym. I’m also learning to live all alone. But, I still can’t learn to live without a brother. So, I’m waiting for your return.”

 

“Soon, my brother.”

 

I tried to ask Nasir another question, but I heard baba calling me, so I just asked Nasir to call me back when he could.

 

The uprising didn’t wane like I had anticipated. Things got worse each day that passed. There were increasing bomb blasts, suicide attacks and a lot of crackdowns. Although our city still remained safe comparatively.

 

June 30th, 2011, I got a call from Nasir. He had just signed a contract with Club Brugge. It was pure bliss. We screamed and shouted like he had just won a jackpot. It was more than a jackpot; it was the dream of my best friend gradually taking shape.

 

“So, when are you coming back?” I asked Nasir.

 

“I would in a few days. Once I can sort out some contractual terms and conditions, I would be in Aleppo.”

 

“I would not tell Baba or your mother. I think we should surprise them, do you?”

 

“Draw up the master plan, I’ll follow your lead little brother.”

 

“Khalifa, what did you just call me?”

 

“Never mind. Today is not a day to fight over that. It’s a day to celebrate.” Nasir said, and then he thanked me for all the support while he was out there all alone pursuing his dreams.

 

“That’s the least I could do for you brother,” I said to him.

On the Thursday of the next week, Nasir landed at the Aleppo International Airport. I was at the airport to pick him up. I help up a placard – NASIR ‘MARADONA’ KHALIFA. I just wanted to get the attention of everyone around. So, as people passed by, they asked me who Nasir was, I told them he was the greatest player Syria had ever produced and he had just signed up to play for Club Brugge. Everyone got interested to see who he was. I had gathered a small crowd to welcome our little town hero. As soon as he walked out of the airport terminal, I pointed the crowd to him and they all began to scream and clap. Nasir was shocked; he wasn’t expecting such a welcome.

 

As we drove through Aleppo, Nasir saw a lot of destruction, and he was troubled in his mind. I could see it on his face. The once peaceful city was becoming a war-zone.

I got him home in about 28 minutes, first to see his mother who almost fainted when Nasir walked into the Kitchen and asked her for Kebab or shwarma.

 

“Nasir!” She screamed.

 

It was a lovely site to see her kiss Nasir and cry like he was still a baby. I just stood at the entrance of the kitchen watching them have a mother and son love affair.

 

Then I whisked him away to see Baba. Baba wasn’t as nimble as he had been many years ago. But he stood up as soon as he saw Nasir and tried to walk as fast as he could towards him. Nasir was also his treasured son. The rest of my family was also as joyful seeing Nasir and hearing all that happenings in his life.

 

Well, my brother was home, so I just packed my bags and moved over to his place with him. We had barely two weeks to spend together before he had to go back. It was the best two weeks of my life. We did everything we had planned to do before he traveled for the trials.

 

It was a night before that beautiful morning came when Nasir had to return back to Belgium.

“Go with me to Belgium, Youssef. Even if it’s only a week you spend there, I’d like to see you in the stadium when I play my first match.”

 

“I sat down and turned my eye to the ceiling like I was thinking about it. I wasn’t really doing so. I was on break from school, and nothing in the world would have stopped me from accepting Nasir’s offer.”

 

“Let’s make this happen,” I said to Nasir.

 

“Yeaaaaaaa!” He shouted, and then we both began to sing one of Omar Souleyman’s songs and dance around the room.

 

The next day, we were off to the bus park to get a ride to the Airport. Two buses were being filled up simultaneously. When we arrived, there was just a single space in each of the buses respectively. Nasir wanted us to wait for the next bus so that we could sit together, but I didn’t want us to miss the flight. So I insisted that he and I entered each of the buses. The buses were now filled up and ready to move.

We had been on the bus for about 15 minutes and were so close to the airport. I was fiddling with my phone, trying to catch up on some news about the regime and the rebellion taking place, when suddenly I heard the sound of a loud blast. It was Nasir’s bus. It had been hit by a roadside bomb loaded car.

 

I screamed and screamed even louder as if the pitch of my voice was going to turn back the hands of time. The driver halted abruptly, and our car skidded off the road. I quickly jumped out of the car to get to Nasir’s. There was so much blood everywhere. I opened the door and got Nasir out of the car, he was hurt. I quickly took off my shirt, using it to stop the bleeding on his head. Looking down to the lower part of his body, Nasir had lost a leg.

 

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I screamed and held him close to my chest, crying.

At that point, I just wished I had listened to him and we had both waited for the next bus, or I just wished we could trade places.

 

“Hey, Youseef!” Nasir said to me.

 

“What happened?”

 

“You’d be fine.” Was the only reply I could say to him, still crying.

 

“I feel so much pain.”

 

“I know. The ambulance would be here soon.”

 

“I’m supposed to play my first match next tomorrow. Can I make it?”

 

“You are superman, brother. You can do anything.”

 

Nasir hadn’t really realized he had lost a leg but was in so much pain. It was when the ambulance came and picked him up onto the stretcher, he realized he had lost one of his legs. He just looked at me and couldn’t say anything. The tears just did the talking for him.

 

.

“I’ve lost it all,” Nasir said.

 

“No Nasir, you’ve lost only a leg. You still have life and you still have me.”

 

“No Youseef, you don’t understand he said softly, I have lost a dream. There’s really nothing more to live for.”

 

“Don’t say that Nasir. Never say that.” I said to him, holding on to his bloody hand.

 

“Youseef, I won’t make it. Thank you for being a brother. Please look after my mother.” Nasir said a little above a whisper while trying to close his eyes.

I slapped him on his face to cause to open his eyes. “Look at me Nasir, look at me very well. I’m never going to let you go, never.” I said.

 

He looked at me, and smiled and gasped a little for breath.

 

The doctors said they wanted to put him on oxygen immediately. So, I gave them a few minutes, rushing out to look for our bags so I could take them along with the ambulance. By the time I got back, the aid worker in the ambulance was doing a cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him.

 

“He’s not breathing he said to the nurse assisting him.”

 

I rushed over and pushed them both aside. I began to give him a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He wasn’t responding, I slapped him and jerked him. The aid worker tried to hold me.

 

“Leave me alone, he’s my brother,” I screamed and kept hitting him, hoping that somehow Nasir would wake up.

 

But my love for him was not strong enough to keep him. But his love for me keeps me going. And every day I miss him.

I lost a vital part of me that no one can replace when I lost Nasir Khalifa Elbi.

He was a friend that was closer than a brother.

John 16:33

Dedicated to those who have lost someone to terrorism in Nigeria, Syria, Afghan, France & all other countries.

Written by Richard Oti

Instagram: Richard OTI

Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash