Ejaife couldn’t resist laughing as he edged himself away from the dining room and into the huge corridor. His family and drama! He laughed swaggering down the hallway, never a dull moment. It was like always seeing an animated movie in the cinema over and over again, never tiring and forever humorous. If it wasn’t their father scowling like a cow, it was Dafe freaking out like the world was about to end and there was of course his sister, Omotore with her pretentious front- always faking it. If only she knew how fast she was starting to lose it, the whole shebang and farce. He may have to take her out of the game; much sooner than he had anticipated Ejiafe thought as he pulled the exit door open and stepped into the night.
Maybe much sooner than mom.
The atmosphere was almost airless, thin and moist as if the rain was about to pour with the moon fading fast, behind the dark clouds. Without the security lights beaming from the four corners of the fence, the whole compound would have had little or no illumination. It reminded Ejaife of the night he had sat at the swing over there at the garden smoking his pot. His mother had stood in the shadows watching him. Because of the position of the security lights, he couldn’t make out her face or what she was doing but he could swear without a single doubt that she was scowling
….that was all she was good at, scowling…
“Mum, you want some?” he had asked grinning, feeling lightheaded as he raised his head to meet her gaze but he saw nothing, only shades of her nose.
There was no response.
“Come on mom, you need to try it…it tastes like pepper soup” he winked taking a long drag.
“Why do you smoke?” she asked breaking the silence with her voice almost as still as the air around them. Ejaife could hear the sarcasm in it.
“Because it cures my soul and heals my wounds” Ejaife answered laughing. “You should try it, you know. Would ease you up a bit because you could use some easing up mom. You are too uptight”
“I will be calling the NDLEA office tomorrow” she announced quietly pretending not to have heard his last statement.
“Why? Did they make you their new president?” Ejaife mocked, sniggering.
“No.” she answered stolidly “I’m calling them to tell them that there is a drug baron living in my house”
Ejaife’s smile faded off then came back on like a power switch.
She must be joking.
“You are joking mom, I never knew you could crack jokes” he answered sniggering as he stared up at the stolid face that was his mother’s and exhaled more fumes into the air.
“I am not” she answered and then walked away. Ejaife watched her stride back into the house and he couldn’t help but assume that she was kidding. She had to be. He had always known that his mother held no love for him but she would never allow her children suffer, let alone get thrown in jail. It was part of her social shuttle being a political aspirant and all. For God’s sake, she was his mother, it was a mother’s duty to protect her children, or was it not? Besides, such a scandal would destroy her egg-shelled reputation and then all her effort of becoming the next speaker of the Delta state house of Assembly would go down the drain.
Nah, she is bluffing.
He ravished in that thought for days later, until some armed men in NDLEA jackets stormed into one of his friends’ apartment and bundled him out. It was like he was out of his body and was watching himself get thrown into a pick-up van handcuffed like a criminal. At first, when he was thrown into his prison cell, he had thought he would eventually get fed up of the fiction. He even let himself believe he could easily stand up and get back into his body; that it was just a nightmare but he had been mistaken.
His jailer would drag him out almost every day and with the help of more rude hands, beat him up merciless. They wanted to know the names of his suppliers, names he couldn’t proffer even though he wanted to and so, they tore at his skin like raving beasts. He was there for about two weeks; two weeks of endless torture. By the twelfth night, Ejaife was convinced he was going to die until his father showed up and pulled him out.
One of the security lights flickered suddenly, jolting Ejaife back to reality. Sighing, he shoved back his irascible memories and waddled down the driveway and then, towards the parking lot. It might probably rain after all, he predicted as he stopped by his car letting the wind hover around him. If memory could serve him right, there hadn’t been rain for days, not since his brother’s arrival. Considering it was still the early days of the raining season, this could only mean one thing:
An impending storm!
Mother’s dying wish
Ejaife ignored the sudden chill that ran down his spine as he pulled up the zipper of his jacket and inserted his key into the door of his car but just as he was about to turn the knot, a car shrieking to a halt at the gate caught his attention. The security guards made up of ex-military soldiers, some of who had worked under his father’s command back in the day-most of them still young and energetically vibrant- had already sprang into action. Two of them were throwing under the car a bomb detector; another was searching the boot of the car while the others were questioning the occupants. A moment later, the car was ushered in and Ejaife heard familiar voices, yelling out his name.
“See this mumus o!” Ejaife laughed recognizing the occupants of the car as he took off his translucent glasses. The car pulled beside him on the driveway and the passengers rushed out to meet him.
“Chairman!” his closet friend Uche bellowed as they exchanged their famous handshake and then a hug. Uche was light skinned with a face plastered with pimples and acnes. Despite the numerous facial creams Ejaife had bought for him and the several expensive facial treatment he had sponsored, the acnes on his friend’s face had obstinately refused to disappear instead they grew bigger and redder. So he and his other pals decided he earned the nickname “Acnes.”
“Acnes, wetin happen? Wetin una dey do here?” Ejaife asked looking from his friend to the others he called ‘disciples’. Being the richest amongst them, his pals had come to look to him as their messiah, benefactor and inspirer which of course had earned him his own nickname “chairman”
“Chairman, no vex, me and dem boys say make we come give you the informate” Uche announced grinning from ear to ear while his disciples comprising of Obinna (a younger version of Uche), Stone cold, (a gaunt and sallow young man of probably the same age with Ejaife but because his face had been so scarred beyond recognition, it was difficult to decipher how old he really was) and then lastly, Spider, (the quiet and gallant of them all), all nodded in consent.
“The goods don arrive?” Ejaife asked curiously as he looked from one to the other seeking for clues in their eyes.
“Yes boss! I be dey try call you since” Uche announced cheerfully. “you no see my missed calls?”
“Menh! I see them o. I was in one stupid dinner with my family and you know my papa na. He no dey gree make person answer call for table” Ejaife explained.” But anyway sha, make we enter inside so that I go get the full details” Ejaife explained, gesturing his friends towards the house.
As soon as the others went passed the door and into the house, Uche gestured Ejaife back and whispered into his ear.
“Chairman, you know that woman wey you say make I find things about”
“I don get her number.” Uche answered grinning.
“Really? Good, good” Ejaife answered excitedly… “Let me have it”
Uche scrolled through his phonebook and then offered Ejaife the phone. Immediately, he hit the green button and the phone began to ring. After the third ring, a feminine voice came on.
“Hello?” the shrill voice asked.
“Is this Mrs Bridget from Lakeview Hospital in Cambridge, London?” Ejaife asked holding his breath.
“Yes. I’m Bridget and I used to work at Lakeview Hospital. Who is this please?” the voice asked anxiously.
“My name is Ejaife Ogheneruno…I am the son of Captain Efetobo Ogheneruno. I’m calling from Nigeria. My mother was your friend. Onajite was her name”
“Onajite? Onajite from Nigeria? The former Miss Nigeria?” the voice asked uncertain.
“Yes ma’am. The very same one” Ejaife answered smirking covetously.
“Oh wow! I’m truly surprised you are calling me. You say you are her son?” the woman asked excitedly.
“Yes ma’am” Ejaife answered trying to keep the excitement off his voice.
“Where is your mother? Why couldn’t she call me herself? I thought she insisted we shouldn’t be in contact. I’m surprised she has my number” The voice admitted sadly
“Oh no ma’am, she didn’t have it. I got your phone number from your daughter Gina because my mother wanted me to call you. It was her last wish” Ejaife admitted feigning sadness.
“Last wish? How do you mean?” the voice asked suddenly agitated “Is your mother alright?”
“I’m afraid she isn’t. My mother passed away three weeks ago and it was her dying wish that you come for her funeral”
“I….but…” the woman stammered and then she dropped the call…
“What now boss?” Uche asked taking the phone back from Ejaife who held a huge smirk on his lips.
“Now…we wait” Ejaife answered……………
Ojako slumped into the king-size bed and kicked off his shoes. He had told himself that he was going to try and sleep and pretend that Omotore wasn’t just across the hall. He was also going to pretend that what he had just learnt about her was totally untrue. Odafe must have been joking. It was bad enough that he Ojako couldn’t keep down his erection around Omotore but to find out from someone else that they had consummate their abominable acts by having a child, was just too much to take in.
It can’t be possible, Ojako’s thoughts rattled as he began to ponder on the situation. He had always been careful, even extra careful with his niece. So, there was no way she could have gotten pregnant for him. No, there wasn’t .There had to be another explanation, he pleaded with his conscience as the memories began to unfold.
He recalled the first time he saw her. He hadn’t been present at her birth and of course while she grew up. He was always away in Kaduna trying to set up his motor spare parts business, also wanting so much to be as far away from his family as possible but when his business had come crashing down nineteen years later, he had sauntered back to his sister to seek financial revival. On his arrival, he had learnt that Odafe had moved out of the house. Good riddance, he thought gladly as he moved into the kitchen to fix something to eat- the cooks were nowhere to be found, probably they can’t stand my irresistible presence, Ojako thought as he opened the refrigerator.
On his way out, he bumped into Omotore at the door. At first, he stood speechless, staring down in disbelief at the carbon copy of his dead twin Umuto. Umuto had died in a bicycle accident on their way back from school, then in the village when they were thirteen years old, he recalled. He had watched the whole incident happen right in front of him and she had died later in his arms so there was no way she could be the one standing right in front of him giggling.
“Sir, are you ok?” Omotore asked smirking as she moved passed him into the kitchen.
Ojako swept his gaze over her. At nineteen, she looked older with her robust breasts which stood firmly on her chest and a figure like that of a coke bottle. She was light-skinned, standing at several inches beyond Umuto’s height. If Umuto had lived, this was probably how she would have looked with wide eyes like that of a cat’s and lips Ojako suddenly felt the need to kiss. This is my niece fool! He scolded himself as he drew his gaze away from her enormous backside.
“Omotore? You are Omotore, right?” he asked harrumphing.
“I am and you must be my uncle Ojako” she answered blushing. “Mum said you are around”
“Wow! You grew up fast o. Did your mother tell you?” he asked moving towards the kitchen table and then pulled out a chair to sit. “…that you look so much like my twin?
‘Twin? You are a twin?” Omotore asked stunned.
“Your mum didn’t tell you?” he asked feigning surprise. Of course she didn’t. My sister is known for keeping secrets.
“Well I had a twin” he continued “Her name was Umuto”. He gestured her to a seat and told her everything about his dead sister. Omotore had listened intensively giggling at the funny parts of the tale and somehow they had bonded instantly. Later that night, she paid him a visit; a visit that had led to the biggest mistake of his life.
Ojako rolled out of the bed. He had to see her if not anything else to extract the truth from her. Omotore couldn’t have been so stupid to have a child with him. There had to be another explanation, he muttered again as he stood at her door and knocked.
At the fourth knock, the door flung open to reveal her in a cotton nightwear. Her night wear was so transparent that Ojako could see her breasts vividly beneath it and from the looks of it; she wasn’t even wearing anything below.
She knew I would come Ojako frowned trying desperately to keep his erection down at its place.
“Uncle!” she announced “what are you doing here?” she asked pretending to be surprised to see him.
Ojako ignoring her question pushed pass her into the room which was slightly bigger than his. Although he had been in the room before- several times before his arrest- he couldn’t help but notice that the walls were still lemon green and on them, stood the same pictures and frames of fine arts and designs. Adjacent to the bed which was littered with fresh laundry stood the windows which had been sealed shut to encourage the cool air blazing down from the air-conditioner. Next to the big table dresser were the closets, which were slightly opened to display a peach gown hanging on its hedge and a pair of silver shoes just above it. Nothing much about it had changed except of course, for the toys he could see lying around on the floor, the increased boxes on the closet and a host of other puerile things to make him jump to the conclusion that Odafe wasn’t lying.
“Where is she?” he asked turning his gaze at her.
“She? Who?” Omotore asked confused. She had shut the door and was now walking towards him.
“Your daughter…the little girl I saw with you at dinner Tore…. Where is she?” Ojako asked angrily.
“Oh! She is with my brother’s wife Rhoda” she answered ignoring the look of contempt on his face.
“How could you Tore? How could you keep the fact that you had a child, my child…”Ojako fumbled with the last word “… away from me?” he continued, effortlessly trying to keep his pitch low.
“Your child? Who told you she’s your child?” Omotore asked grinning mischievously.