Peace Or Pieces?
Honey has been in hushed conversation with her elder sister for almost an hour. I had respectfully asked to be excused. I withdrew to my room to give them privacy but I have been restless. I still don’t trust Jane. Her excuse for showing up in town by this time is that she left Warri really late and did it without the knowledge of her siblings. How am I supposed to believe that?
I stretch out on my bed, my phone in hand. There’s nothing trending online and so I put my phone down and recall Honey’s question about Tarela. How did she find out about her? Did Mary let something slip?
My phone vibrates. I pick it. Tola’s calling. I hesitate to answer as my mind tries to figure out what the call is about.
Has it got to do with Mary’s case? Or something about Emeka? Or is it about our dirty history together?
I choose to ignore the call. It rings out and she calls yet again. Like before, I ignore the call.
A text comes in.
Dede, I’m not trying to get into your pants. Answer my call.
I smile. She has switched from addressing me as Uncle Jide to Dede these days. Well, I kind’a like it because it strips that unfortunate night we shared from my memory.
She is calling again. I answer her.
“Dede, good evening, sir.”
“Stop being silly, Tola. Why are you calling?”
“I’m calling to report your brother to you o.”
“What did he do now?”
“Over the past week he has been chatting with his baby mama. Initially, I thought it was harmless because she always sends Tobe’s pictures to him.”
Tobe is Emeka’s son.
“But recently, I noticed the chats were becoming of a personal nature and he has been calling her too or she will call him and they’ll talk like forever. The one that just happened this night was that she called and after they finished talking, he turned to me and said she wants to visit Nigeria.”
“I’m pissed! He has already gone to see Tobechi, so why does she need to come? And what is unfair is that momsi has kind’a been putting the idea in his head as well, that she wants to see her grandson. Me, I’m not finding it funny o! Nobody is thinking of me and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.”
Is this babe serious at all? She’s calling to report my brother and mother to me and expect that I’ll take her side because we once humped?
“Tola, first things first. Tobe is Emeka’s son as much as he’s Yazmin’s. There will always be communication between them but you should not let it bother you because Yazmin is not in your area code. Then about momsi, are you serious at all? The old woman just wants to see her first grandson; she is not trying to make your love life complicated.”
“But she calls Yazmin and they talk all the time. She doesn’t call me like that.”
“Because you are always with her, Omotola.”
“She likes her more than me because I don’t have a child for Mex. Is that it?”
“Or is she still judging me over what happened between me and you?”
I ignore the statement.
“You want her to be calling you like that too? When she starts now it will be that your mother-in-law doesn’t want you to rest.”
“I don’t care. She’s not just my mother-in-law. She’s my mom as well. Let her call me the way she calls Yazmin.”
I laugh. Tola is like Honey in so many ways. I don’t know why they don’t get along.
“Okay, I’ll talk to her.”
“And talk to Mex too.”
Tola is stress. I don’t know what she wants me to tell Emeka but I promise her that I’ll talk to him just to get her off my line.
“Good night, Tola.”
I hang up and hear someone knocking on my door. Before I answer, I hear Jane’s voice.
“Jideofor, please come.”
Curiously, I follow her out to the sitting room where I find Honey, eyes red and face distorted in anger. I have never seen that expression on her before. She is staring at some spot on the floor and wouldn’t even look up when I walk in.
“Sit down, Jideofor.” Jane points to a chair as though she owns the house and I’m the guest.
I sit guardedly.
“Talk to Honey,” she says to me. “She wants to go to Warri to fight our seniors and I’m begging her not to.”
I’m surprised at what I’ve just been told. Honey wants to fight her siblings? That’s new. Looks like I have finally gotten across to her.
“It is not advisable at all. Not now. Not ever!” Jane emphasizes.
“Sorry but might I ask why?”
“They are not human beings. Yes, they are family but they are not human beings. Erhinyuse!” Jane pulls her ear. “Don’t be stubborn!”
Next, she says something in their dialect of which Honey retorts to rather furiously. I am left in the dark.
“Jideofor,” Jane addresses me again, “what I’m about to tell you is what I told Honey that put her in this mood you’re seeing. I could have shut my mouth and kept it a secret as it has been all these years but I felt she ought to know and be aware of the type of people she’s up against.”
“My elder brothers, sister and my mom’s relatives have a hand behind Honey’s mother’s death.”
She stops and lets the breaking news sink in.
“But you did not hear it from me. I am taking great risk to relay this information to you. In short, they have no idea I am here. I left the family house and told them I was going to spend the night with a friend but I went to the park and picked a ride to come here since Honey has been avoiding my calls. The reason why I took this great risk is because they have sworn to deal with her if she fights them over her inheritance. Note my emphasis on it being hers. It is not theirs. Our father sold off all he had when he was first diagnosed with cancer and shared the money equally amongst four of us. Honey was excluded. And he told us directly that all he has left is his wife’s money which belongs to Honey alone.”
“Please could you go back to the point where you said they killed her mother?”
“I was there, Jideofor. I was on holidays from school at the time and the only one at home with Mommy Fatima. All my siblings were by then, married. Our dad had traveled out of town. That day was a Thursday and our aunt, my mom’s younger sister, visited. She had come in from Asaba. She said she was passing through to Ore and was spending the night with us. To be honest, I don’t know what she did or how she did it but by Friday morning, Mommy Fatima was vomiting and purging. It started like joke but it got to the point where all she was vomiting was saliva and water. I had to call our neighbor to take her to the hospital. The doctor called me aside and told me straight up that she was poisoned. He said he didn’t know what she had ingested but that he would try his best to make sure she is fine. By the time he treated her, she was feeling better. Saturday evening, daddy came and we took her home. But by Sunday, she started feeling terrible again. She was vomiting blood this time. Daddy wanted to take her to the hospital but she refused and told him right in my hearing that it was going to be a waste of time because she has seen her death already in a dream…”
Honey breaks into a muffled cry and I leave my seat to hers. She buries her face on my neck.
“That night Mommy Fatima spoke to Honey and also called her family members in Eritrea. After her last phone call, she instructed me to make her tea with lime; that her tongue tasted terrible and she wanted something sour to kill the taste. I entered the kitchen to prepare the tea and came back and saw her head on daddy’s chest. He was talking to her but I did not know she was already gone.”
Honey squeezes the collar of my shirt as her body shakes in sobs.
“I was like ‘Mommy Fatima, I’ve brought your tea’ and daddy went like ‘Shhh! You’ll wake her.’ So I put the tea on a stool beside the bed and was about leaving when I saw blood sipping from her nose. I said, ‘Daddy, look! Blood is coming out from her nose.’ And he said very quietly, ‘I know.’ Then I saw tears in his eyes and that was when I knew she was dead.”
“I will never forgive them,” Honey swears.
“They poisoned her, Jideofor. For no reason, they killed her. I was in shock for a long time and even up until today, I find it hard believing that they did it.”
“And your dad knew.”
“He did but he never spoke about it until the day he called in his lawyer to write his will about a month ago. I had been taking care of him because he didn’t like the nurse the hospital had assigned to him. So I handed over my shop and kids to my sister-in-law and went to the family house to stay with him. The day the lawyer came, Harry also visited. Daddy was dictating his will in my hearing and with two witnesses. As he was about finishing, Harry burst in, ordered me and the lawyer and the witnesses out, but I refused to leave. I stayed in and watched him tell daddy to ensure that the rest of us were included in the will. Daddy replied him in clear terms that he will not change his mind. I sat there and watched Harry insult him, telling him he hated him and was never going to forgive him for marrying a woman that tore the family apart. But daddy was unmoved. When Harry finished his insults, daddy said, and I quote: ‘the worst you people can do is kill me like you killed my wife. And it will be bliss for me because I’m in so much pain right now.’ Harry then replied,’ so you want to be stubborn, old man! You want to be stubborn abi?! We’ll see!” Then he stormed out and refused to see daddy until he died.”
Jane’s story has left me with goosebumps. Honey pulls away from me and that initial anger I saw has returned. It stays strong behind moisture-filled eyes.
“That is why I am here to beg Use in the name of God to leave them for God’s judgment.”
“Never!” Honey retorts. “They killed my mom and now they want to take her wealth and I should let them? What rubbish!”
“Sister Jane, with all due respect, Honey is right. We can’t just let them get away with all they’ve done. We know we can’t prove that they had a hand in our late mother’s death but we can stop them from stripping Honey of what is rightfully hers.”
“They can’t even do it.”
“But that’s what they want to do.”
“They can’t.” Jane has an assuring smile on her face. “The only reason why they think they can is because they believe that with the will in their possession, they can coax Honey into signing over everything to them but I repeat that they can’t.”
She is beginning to sound like a phrase in a song on repeat and why is that smile still on her lips?
She opens her bag and pulls out a black folder which she hands to Honey.
“I took this from Harry three days ago, photocopied it and replaced it with the photocopies.”
“Daddy’s last will and testament. It’s all in your hands now and that is why you should forget about everything and live your life like we never existed.”
Honey is speechless. She opens the folder and together we confirm that it is her father’s will. She looks at Jane.
“You did this for me?”
Jane is the one with wet eyes now. “I haven’t gotten over the horror of that weekend your mom died. It was terrifying. She went just like that! So fast! And none of us could do anything. She didn’t want us to.”
“I think she was tired of everything she had gone through and she just wanted to rest from it all.” Honey closes the folder. “Thank you, sister. And I’m sorry I didn’t pick your calls. I was mad at everyone.”
“But you took a risk coming here, sister.”
“And that’s why I’m not going back there.” She laughs whilst wiping her eyes. “My husband and I are going on this short vacation to Dubai tomorrow. He’s been here since Saturday, waiting for me. We’ll be in Dubai until the children resume school. By then I’ll have the energy to face them if they get on my case.”
Honey walks over to her and gives her a hug. I watch both sisters struggle with their tears and remind myself how blessed I am to have a loving family and siblings that would do anything and everything to ensure my happiness. I want Honey to have the same type of home with me in the future.
“I should be leaving.” Jane draws her legs together and lifts her handbag to rest them on her knees. I look at the time on my watch. It’s almost midnight.
“Go to bed, sugar,” I instruct Honey. “I’ll be right back.”
They share another hug before I lead Jane out of the house. The journey to her hotel and back home takes me twenty minutes tops. I return to find Honey, burrowed in bed covers. I slip in beside her and she naturally snuggles up to me.
“For the first time in my life I am grateful that Jane is a kleptomaniac,” she mutters.
I throw in a laugh without meaning to. Honey joins me.
“Like really, her stealing ways saved those assholes from the fire of my wrath. I was ready for them… And I’m still angry. I don’t think I can forgive them, Jide.”
I don’t reply immediately. I palm her butt and draw her closer. Her hair is in my face; she smells of apples.
“You have gotten what is rightfully yours and no one can take it from you. That’s all that matters. I think you can let go now.”
She makes no reply. We stay in silence, listening to neighborhood dogs howl into the night. And then for some reason, Honey is turned on. And I am not. I just want to sleep but she insists on making love. She says she is restless and would sleep better if she ‘feels’ me. I tell her we’re out of condoms. She begins to bug my pleasure zones and I’m weak to resist. I inform her that she’ll be on top but she begs me to be in charge. She doesn’t say why but I understand she has this need to be loved. This is not just sex for her; it’s a release from all the turmoil going on inside.
I’m ready for her in no time. There’s no foreplay or urgency. Just really low-key lovemaking that leaves Honey in an emotional state. Each time I try to stop, she holds me back in; and that’s like double the pleasure of what I’m normally used to.
I’ve not had unprotected sex in seven years. And damn! Honey feels like Elysium. I can’t quite put into words the sensations I’m feeling. Plus, there is this connection that wasn’t there before. It’s like all this time I have been simulating. Right here, right now, is where I am supposed to be. I think I can finally understand what my mom means when she says sexual intercourse is spiritual because I think Honey and I just got into something new.
I take it slow as the pleasure builds, although I badly want to let go. With Honey working me to insanity with her walls, it’s hard to stay focused. I try but I find myself falling. I eventually let go and collapse on her chest, helpless. She holds me tightly.
“I feel better. Thank you,” she whispers.
“No, thank you. You don’t know what you just did to me.”
I kiss her lips and chin and slip away from her embrace to lie beside her. She finds comfort in my arms again and not long after, we are both drifting off.
“Take a pill tomorrow, sugams,” I whisper.
“Mm,” she replies.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Honey is up before me in the morning. I wake up to find her all dressed.
“What time is it?”
I sit up. I have a client I need to see.
“So, I’m going to see Nne today,” she announces. “Then I’m off to Kalu’s office for business talks.”
“Okay. Have fun,” I say, heading to the bathroom.
“I’m not in a hurry. I’m actually here until ten o’clock.”
She follows me to the bathroom. I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I need a shave.
“So why are you all dressed if you’re leaving in three hours?” I ask her as I lift up the toilet seat.
“Oh. I’m on my period. Got up around five to pee and there it was!” She giggles. “Looks like my special diet is working. I’m beginning to feel like a normal woman again.”
“Happy for you,” I reply wittily, thinking of the lack of sex I have to endure for the next five days.
“Do you think I should go natural with my hair? You saw Jane yesterday. That was all her hair. And mine can be longer if I let it grow naturally. You think I should?”
“It’s your business. Just don’t start wearing Ankara along with it. You’ll just weird me out.”
She grins. “I’m not trying to be Chimamanda.”
I flush the toilet and turn on the shower as she walks out.
Note to self: Buy condoms, bros. Last night, as awesome as it was, should never repeat itself.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
The room is a mess when I wake up. Clothes everywhere, dirty dishes from last night’s dinner, a knife I had used in slicing onions, soiled diapers, my bra, a wig and some other nameless stuff litter the floor.
It’s like this every morning. The maid comes in during the day and cleans the house to perfection but by evening, Shady, our little girl and I, mess it up again. I always pretend not to notice the unuttered grumble on the maid’s lips that leaves her mouth in an angry pout every time she goes about her business. When she decides to speak, she complains that her pay is not enough, of which I’ll angrily yap back at her to quit if she’s tired.
Shady doesn’t like that I do that. He wants me to be considerate and sweet-talking but I’m just too frustrated to care these days. I don’t need him telling me what to do. I need him to help me get a job! This is not the life I projected for myself. I never wanted to settle into being a housewife. I had only gone off the job scene for a while to care for our baby just to realize that getting back in was much harder than I thought.
Dara is a year and eight months already and I still haven’t gotten a job. And Shady’s salary is barely getting us by. I long gave up on luxuries that came so easy for me and these days I have to manage the foodstuff because we cut back on so many things. Even money for my hair is always a problem. I keep my locks plaited neatly and use a wig whenever I can’t afford salon appointments. My friends have no idea what I’m going through. They have this perception that Shady is stingy but he isn’t. My poor husband is working his ass off in a job where they pay him less than he’s worth. I wish he would pursue his dreams, though. He’s such an amazing actor but for reasons unknown to me, he refuses to seek a career in the movie industry.
He is stressed out and frustrated as I am and it is taking a toll on our individual and married lives. Sex has become bland and if we’re not worrying about the rent, then we’re fighting each other over one thing or the other.
Take for instance, this morning. He gets up in a bad mood and has decided to take it out on me. First, he ignores my greeting and then asks me why I have left Dara’s dirty diaper on the floor.
I give him no answer and pick the diaper. When I come back to the room, I find him fixing the place up himself.
“Shady, the maid will come and do this. You’re late for work. Go and shower.”
He acts as if he’s deaf.
“Shady, go and shower.” I snatch my bra from his hand. “Leave what you’re doing–”
“DON’T FUCKING TELL ME WHAT TO DO, CELIA!” He charges at me.
“You always want to be the man in this relationship and I am tired! I am fed up! You make me feel small and inconsequential and I have had enough! If I want to clean the room, is it your hand I’m using?! Why can’t you just let a man be?!”
I slump into the bed dazedly. I have no idea what just happened.
“Shady?” I can barely hear my own voice. “What did I do?”
He continues to tidy up the room and when he is done I notice he has only succeeded in moving the mess from one place to another. But that is the least of my concerns; my brain is trying to work out why Shady would lash out at me the way he just did.
“Shady, talk to me nau.”
“So you don’t know?”
“Okay. You’ll soon know.”
He stomps out to the kitchen with the dirty dishes and comes back with a broom. I stop him as he begins sweeping.
“Shadrach, talk to me.”
“Before we left this house to Jide’s yesterday, what did I tell you?”
I hold on to the broomstick as I try to recall the previous evening. But nothing comes to mind.
“Didn’t I tell you not to take sides in the Mary and Reno drama?” Shady interrogates.
“You did,” I answer quietly.
“Then why did you go there to bash your friend?!”
I become wordless.
“You accused her of wanting to break Reno’s home! You opened your mouth and exposed that Reno and Peace were not having sex! You became judge, jury and executioner! Who asked you?!”
Oh boy. I’m so in for it today. Shady is really angry.
“Even when I told you to tread carefully, you dismissed me like a small boy! Embarrassed me in front of our friends! Because you are madam and you must talk! You must use your mouth to bring somebody down if not you won’t feel good about yourself!”
I don’t feel good about myself presently. Shady is right. I was a massive bitch to Mary last night.
“Even when it became clear that Reno was lying, you still wouldn’t stop! You were defending him at all cost ‘cause when I can’t buy you that hair or that dress or that pair of shoes, it is Peace who always takes you shopping!”
I’m not the type to cry easily but there’s this thing in my throat that begs to be released in tears. Shady has just bared open my heart and what I see inside stinks. Did I really take Reno’s side yesterday and emasculate my husband just for the little gifts Peace hands down to me now and then?
Shady enters the bathroom for a shower and I stand right where he has left me and go through yesterday’s events again. The more I ponder on the matter, the more I see my faux pas and the more I realize Reno is guilty.
When Shady is through with his shower and he walks back in, I apologize to him. He fronts a little but he ultimately lets the whole thing slide after I promise to visit Mary and ask her forgiveness over the mindless and hurtful utterances I made.
“So does that mean you and Reno are no longer friends?” I ask Shady.
“We are. Just not like before. All I need is proof that he raped Mary and he’s history.”
I ponder on Shady’s words as I make breakfast. If Reno really is guilty as we all suspect, then the only way to find out will be through Peace. But Peace is not the type to let out a secret. She is that type of woman that will kill with her right hand and her left hand will be oblivious of what she has done.
I come up with a plan to visit and charm her into spilling out something. I doubt that it will work, though. She is always on her guard when it comes to issues concerning Reno. She can defend him to death.
Shady leaves for work and the maid arrives. I give her a few instructions before leaving the house. Since Shady has taken the car today, I pick a bus to Peace’s area. I stopped being able to afford cab rides a long time ago.
I alight from the bus and proceed on a ten-minute walk to Peace’s house. The gateman lets me in. I walk to the front door to find it wide open. Usually, I’d have to ring the bell and endure listening to some gospel song from the 1950s before Peace shows up at the door. Today, I enter and rather than gospel music, I hear Peace’s seven month-old son screaming his lungs out. It doesn’t take me long to pick out his location.
“Peace!” I call out.
Little Sammy, having heard my voice, increases the tempo of his cry. I hurry to the kitchen and find him on the floor in a half-crawl, half-sitting position. His diaper is heavily soiled and poop is spilling from the corners.
“Peace o! Why did you leave Dara’s husband like this nau?!”
I put my handbag away and lift Sammy up, trying my best to avoid being soiled by poop. I take him to his nursery and find the place in a mess.
I turn on the water heater and begin to strip off his clothes. The boy refuses to pipe down. I’m sure he has not had anything to eat. I start to placate him with a song I usually sing to Dara but it seems my efforts only get him more incensed.
While waiting for the water to heat up, I wipe him with a towel and take him in my arms to check on Peace in her bedroom. I find it empty.
Sammy begins another bout of tears again and I’m forced to go back and manage the bath water as lukewarm as it is. I wash him clean, change his clothes and feed him whilst trying to reach Peace on her phone. Each time I try, it rings off the hook. I give up and decide to call Reno but only after I tie Sammy on my back and get him to finally calm down.
I dial Reno. Like Peace, his phone rings out. Strange.
I am about to leave the house to ask the guard if Peace had stepped out earlier when I remember that I have not checked the guest room.
I walk there, push the door in and see Peace lying on the floor. For a second, I lose my breath because she looks dead. But I see a finger move and a bottle of Red Label lying half-consumed at her feet. It is at this point something her former housemaid once told me came back to mind.
“She dey drink like fish! Squadi! Shelsea o! Star o! Gooda, Palmy, all of dem! She dey drink! In short, she dey use Squadi soak garri! Chop cornflakes sef! After she go brush teeth, put Tom-tom for mouth, tie head-tie, carry Bible, go church!”
That information had been revealed to me on the occasion of some fight between Peace and the maid. Peace told me she fired her for stealing from her but the maid denied the claims and said Peace fired her because she gave her unsolicited advice about her alcohol addiction.
I had laughed off the maid’s version of the story; it had seemed ridiculous a tale and even more outrageous that Peace, of all persons, would be addicted to alcohol. She was the calmest, most peaceful, most Holy Ghost sister I knew. How could she be an alcoholic?
But now as I look at her in her pathetic state, I can’t help but evoke clear signs I missed. The constant trembling hands, blotchy skin, red eyes, memory loss, blackouts, loss of interest and yes, the Tom-tom addiction. But God! She hid the signs well. Isn’t there that saying that the best place to hide something is right where everyone can see it?
We were with her the entire time and never saw that she was nursing an addiction that was slowly killing her. Reno wasn’t the only thorn in her flesh.
“Peace,” I call.
She doesn’t stir. I make a fist and give the door a loud thump that makes her head jerk off the floor. Beneath her, I see vomit. I retch.
She swivels her head left and right and manages to widen her eyes. I hit the door again. She raises her head higher and aims her eyes at me.
“It’s not Reno.”
But she doesn’t seem to hear me.
“Ray, you’re back? You’re not angry again?” She slurs. Her tiny voice comes off sounding like a five year Old’s.
“I was only joking… I won’t tell them… that you… you told me you raped Mary… I promise. I won’t say anything.”
She burps. “I pro…mise…”
Her head falls back to the floor again and I don’t know when tears leave my eyes and begin their way down my face.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not crying for her or for Mary. I am crying for Reno and what is about to befall him.
I pull out my phone from my pocket and dial my elder brother’s number. He is a lieutenant colonel in the army. I haven’t spoken to him in a while but he takes my call without hesitation as he usually does. Side note: he’s been madly in love with Mary for years but I have discouraged the two from hooking up because she’s too calm for his crazy.
“Cee, this one that you called me today, I hope it’s to tell me that my wife is now ready for me? Her diamond ring is gathering dust here o.”
“Joey…” I sigh. And then I tell him everything.
My talkative brother goes silent. For a really long time.
“I’ll send my boys,” he replies brusquely and the line goes dead.
image credits: getty images, hdimagelib.com