When I joined the firm, he was one of the few people I got attracted to without really double-checking my hormones. As a sapiosexual, it was easy for his polished accent, smooth grammar and poise to melt the tall walls around my heart within split second. My mother groomed me properly so that training didn’t afford me the opportunity to embarrass my ancestors by throwing myself on his face. He was a god in human body. I found his towering height intimidating but in a good way. And since he has some active cells in his brain, I looked forward to him noticing me with every fluid in my body. Of course, I did the extra to get noticed and yes, it happened.
‘Hi, you are the new girl, right?’
He said with a smile typical of an accomplished, self-aware gentleman.
‘Yes, sir’, I replied with my heart rushing to my throat to prevent the silly butterflies in my stomach from choking life out of me.
‘Your CV is both impressive and intimating but it’s nothing compare to the aura, or let’s call it confidence your personality exudes’, he added as we made our way to the conference room.
‘Oh, thanks. You have your way with words’, I added.
‘Well, maybe! I am glad you are in management. I will get to see more of this pretty face during management meetings’, he continued.
Unable to find the perfect words for this smashing, sharp-tongued, smooth guy, I just chuckled hoping he would say something else.
‘I’m Dele’, he said while holding the door and urging me to walk in first.
‘Call me Ene’, I replied.
Through out the meeting that day, I was so distracted. I could not help but image little Deles running around the house, Dele chasing them to my amusement.
One event led to another and he thought we found love, fell helplessly into it and settled properly. It was easy for me to fit into his love because I was new in town and needed someone to show me around the town. He was of tremendous help.
Then he had to leave town to oversee a new branch for 6 months. I cried like a wife sending off her soldier husband to war.
‘I will be back before you know. I will call you every day and don’t forget, I love you!’, he assured before he drove off.
Did he keep to his words? No!
Loneliness crept in like the whirlwind. He stopped answering my call. Before long I got so used to it and the numerous thoughts of another lady grinning to his sweet-nothings.
I decided it was time to end it all. I was determined to call his line without ceasing until he picks my call.
I grabbed my phone and punched the numbers effortlessly because in my anger, I had deleted, then saved, then deleted his number until each digit got stuck in my brain.
I dialed the number while fuming due to frustration with my tongue sharpened like a chef’s favourite knife.
‘Hi Ene’, he answered in a flat tone.
‘You shall not die in Jesus name”, the pastor declared from the pulpit.
‘Amen’, I thundered without sparing a thought for the eardrum of the old woman sitting next to me.
I held my stomach hoping the amen would help me escape the excruciating pain spreading itself from my stomach to other parts of my body. I wished I had paid close attention to my health.
It started like a joke.
On the day it all began, I left the office quite late because there was so much work on my desk. I thought to clear the desk before leaving.
‘Madan you never go house? Your husband no go look for you?’
The tall security man said while beaming his torchlight at me as if he just caught a thief. He was rude but I couldn’t deny the marks of surprise and concern all over his face.
‘As you can see, I am busy’, I replied.
‘Ahh! Madam’, your children nko?
‘Night don do na’, he added in a tone that reminded me of my mother and her ear-splitting sermons about getting a man to marry.
I felt like pressing his jocular veins hard, enough to choke life out of his nostrils.
‘I appreciate your concerns but I don’t have a family yet’.
‘Sorry madam, I no know. I be family man and I no go allow my wife stay out reach 10.p.m’, he added.
I asked while searching for my phone to confirm his claim.
I gapped my phone and lo it was two minutes past ten.
I had 15 missed calls. I had muted my phone so I could concentrate. 10 were from my mother. I knew she would slice my life into two and toss the other half to the devils for cursing her with such a stubborn child.
‘Thank you, oga’, I replied.
As he walked away, I heard him murmuring only-God-knows-what.
‘Hello, mama’, I said as soon as I heard the sound indicating she had picked the call.
In a teary voice she said, ‘I thought they have killed you oo’. Kai! Marry, you won’t marry. Buy a dog, Mbah! Ok, get a security man or house help you said no. I have been standing in front of your door since 7.p.m. A good wife material girl should be home by now. Abi you sick?’, she concluded.
‘Mama, I am on my way’, I answered because I didn’t have any energy to worry about mama’s motherly tantrums.
As I stood to leave, I noticed blood stain on my chair. ‘Godmother in red showed up a few days earlier than scheduled’, I chanted.
I reached for my bag in search of a pad but found none. A quick glance at the back my beige skirt left nothing to be desired. I pulled my jacket and tied it around my waist.
I dragged myself to the car but the car won’t just start. I was left with no option but to walk to the junction to board one of those buses.
‘This will cure malaria, cancer, menstrual pain, typhoid pyam’, the trader announced.
The hunger pangs, cramp and my dwindling mood connived with my mouth and before I could get hold of myself, my life and destiny, I surprised myself when my mouth vomited the words: ‘give me one, oga’.
I drank the bitter concoction like someone who never saw the walls of a classroom.
I got home by the mercies of God. Mama had to nurse me back to life. Thank God mama was there. I got back on my feet but food poisoning as suggested by the doctor was in my experience a brush with death.
The pain was epileptic in nature and each attack left a bitter taste in my mouth. My doctors seemed helpless in the hands of prescriptions of pain killers.
My only hope and cure to my self-inflicted pain was to turn to God and say amen to every prayer.
This pushed me into the arms of my pastor. I became his daughter- in- the -Lord. I learnt to give my all and live in total submission to God. I sowed my seeds, and tears and submitted my back on the bed.
Maybe, I deserved that kind of disturbing peace and pain that won’t go away until I kept sowing in the bosom of my pastor in cash and in kind
‘You killed my son, you witch, leave our house. It will never be well with you’.
Those were the words that greeted us that sad morning when my grandmother, a widow, sent my mother and I out of my father’s house.
I was just nine but those words taunted and hunted me for a long while. Sometimes, I wondered if my mum was truly a witch and if she actually killed my father. In those overwhelming cloud of dark thoughts, I feared she might roast my soul one night and feed the members of her coven. At other times, I get overwhelmed by my mother’s sacrifices and could not deny meeting her kind and gentle soul. I grew up conflicted and didn’t know what love meant.
‘What is love, mama? I once asked when I turned 12.
Did she reply? No!
Instead, she snapped and yelled and instructed me to stay away from boys.
Like a wounded lion, I retreated into the bush where nothing else was permitted to survive.
I have faint memories of my father. Not very pleasant ones, though. I think of him as the angry wife beater that he was known for. Before he passed, I was familiar and used to his voice saying “I will kill you today’ to my mother.
‘Kill me if you like, I will never leave this house for another woman to come and maltreat my daughter’, mama had said in one of their battles. I recall feeling like a misfit, a mistake responsible for all the drama in the house.
‘I will kill you today’, were the last words my father said before his missed his step on the wet floor while trying to hit mama with a piece of metal. He died an angry man and I blame myself for it.
If mama had not conceived out of wedlock, my father would have been a happy man and maybe still alive.
She fell pregnant and her parents forced him to marry her. He was not ready, she too wasn’t. They made a mess of love and I found myself in the middle of the mess. We were just three unhappy people confined in one room.
After the funeral, we had to start from the scratch. We were kicked out of the house with nowhere to go to. We went from one relative’s house to another. At each house, we were treated nicely at the onset but as soon as the finance of house began to reflect our visit, the tables turned and it became obvious in their moods and emotions. It was always the signal to alert that it was time to move.
School became a luxury and true love, if it ever exists, became an abstract idea.
We made it eventually. Somehow, we started a business, pure water business, then we graduated to groundnut then grains. In no time, I was back to school.
I aced my papers not because I was the brightest but because failure wasn’t an option. I climbed the ladder of success with my sweat and tears.
My success was and still is a payment for the love we never had.
My lips may say otherwise when it comes to love. I have professed love to many because my hormones and butterflies in my stomach have no mind of my own.
Deep down, I see men and humans as users. So, I use men I get attracted to just to satisfy me. But my heart, none can truly go in there. It is void and empty, dark and dusty.
Don’t love me yet!
‘Nkechi, will you stop there!’ The tall lanky man in short and singlet ordered.
Leave me alone’, she said as she searched for a spot to wail.
Don’t cry, Nkechi, it is not the end of the world’, he consoled her as he pulled her up again.
I watched them from afar but something nudged me to check on them.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked the young man who didn’t hesitate to answer.
‘She just loss her mother. She sped up as soon the poor widow gave up the ghost. I had to follow her to prevent her from doing something stupid’, he added.
I jumped out of the car to assist as pity engulfed me. I thought of my mother and daydreamed about her transition into the great beyond.
It decided to help.
When we got to the uncompleted building which was their abode, we met few men there who introduced themselves as relatives. A shade of pity fell on me because my once-upon-poverty-stricken heart has tasted butter and it is not ready to grow numb or fail to savour sweetness and good life. My legs were trembling not really because of the corpse but because, I was sacred for my life should anything go wrong with my investments.
‘We are ready for the funeral since Nkechi, her only child, has been found, thanks to the kind stranger’, one of them said.
I didn’t see the need to follow them to the grave prepared but I just felt the need to act like a responsible citizen.
‘To earth you return. Fight those we killed you and greet our ancestors. Go well’, the older man said as they lowered her body. Fear gripped me as soon as they began to heap large volumes of sand on the dead body wrapped in a blue and green bedsheet.
Life is indeed meaningless, I thought to myself as I drove back home.
Somehow, Nkechi found her way into my nest and she found a spot in my life as a regular face to whom I could give bread or clothes or money without feeling irritated.
‘Step away of the car. Now! He ordered but in whispers.
‘And if I don’t what would happen?’ my sharp tongue replied.
He took a step closer and lifted his shirt to show me a black pistol hugging his fair skin tightly.
In a bid to mask my fears, I said, ‘that’s a toy gun’.
‘Oya, show her’, the fair guy ordered. Within a twinkling of an eye, the atmosphere was greeted by gunshots.
People started screaming and running for safety. I was dragged like a lamb to be slaughtered. They sped like it was the end of the world.
My mouth was gagged, hands cuffed and I was blindfolded. It felt like magic. It felt like a movie. My life flashed before me countless times until my breath reeked death.
We journey for hours because I felt tired and exhausted when the car stopped.
They dragged me out of the car into a room. I was injected with only-God-knows-what. I felt lightheaded before blanking out.
When I woke up, it was bright outside. The brightness of light was blinding but it was nothing compared to the sight before me and the things I heard afterwards.
My eyes fell on Dele, then the pastor, then Nkechi. It’s a syndicate. I was the project.
Dele did the neat job of digging up my investments when he thought we were truly in love. Nkechi did the follow up and also dug up the security details in my house. Pastor kept me vulnerable by messing up my mind and body. I thought I was intelligent. I have been a pun in their hands.
Like a joke, I heard them read out my investments.
You are worth 8billion in cash and assets, am I right? Dele asked.
‘Sign this transfer document’, he ordered with a pistol whose tip felt so cold.
As soon as I signed and inserted my password, I felt a dull pain on my forehead. It was forceful and so it overshadowed me that I couldn’t use my hand to feel it. Then I heard of voice faintly, saying,
‘that’s your grave, we will bury you.
We just murdered your mother.
No one will look for you’.
That was when I realized that the end has come.
About the Writer