“Okay. . . I can see you’re dressed up. What time should we fix?”
“Well right now, I can’t say beause I want to make a stop at the Catholic Church opposite that police station by the school gate and I intend to check on Amaka afterwards.”
“Okay. I’ve been there this morning and she’s a lot better than she was yesterday. The bandage all over her head had been removed.”
“Really? How is she? Like did you get to talk to her?”
“No. She was sleeping when I got there so I didn’t get to speak to her.”
“Okay. Thank God.”
“Can I drop you off?”
“I wouldn’t mind.”
“Thanks.” I replied full of silent chuckles.
That compliment made it all seem like we might have a chance! *just saying*
* * * * * * *
The drive to the church with Jide was a solemn one. We never said a word to each other until after we arrived the church and he got down to open the door for me. Guess opening the door for a lady isn’t about me alone, guess that’s what he does for every lady he carried or everyone he gave a drive or maybe I was the one who had expected him to just treat me like trash, after all, things had gone dead between us.
“Thanks for the ride. I do appreciate.”
“You are welcome.” He said without even taking a single look at me.
It hurt damn much and I also didn’t wait to see him reverse the car not to talk of driving off. I entered briskly into the church and the first thing that caught my eyes was the statue of Jesus at the far side of the altar and the statue of St. Mary at the extreme end of the church but can be seen a little from inside the church. That wasn’t my first time at a Catholic Church ‘cos that was where I grew up church-wise, but it was my first time in this particular church and in the house of God for over 15 years. The church was silent except for a woman who I could see kneeling down in front of the Holy Mary statue praying I guess and lying dejectedly on the ground. She looked familiar from behind but I guess I would have to wait till she’s done to confirm if she really looked familiar.
The weight of the world seemed to be on my shoulders. I broke down in hot tears sitting on the bench in a second row of the church. The tears flowed endlessly and I couldn’t control it. My whole mind radiated sadness and I couldn’t find a drop of happiness. I smelled fear all over me. I was scared of losing everything that seemed to be my source of happiness. . . I had a deep long-thirst for God. I was so mad at God for leaving me all alone those times when I needed Him to show His supremacy and miracles but he never showed up. My heart was broken.
I prayed silently to God to forgive my past and to please, open a clean slate for me. I prayed concerning Amaka too and I never forgot to tell God to make me and Jide work out. He made me feel as if I had a chance at love and everything. I didn’t want to lose him, not now, not ever. I stood on my feet to walk to the altar only to discover that the woman whose back view I saw earlier on praying by the St. Mary statue was having a heated-argument with a man who was definitely in his late 50s or early 60s. I couldn’t hide my curiosity anymore as the man was seriously manhandling the woman and she was struggling with him to free herself. She was obviously not as strong as he was.
“Ha! Collins Do you want to kill me. My Lord will deal with you!”
“Woman, keep shut and stop ranting. Haven’t I told you to stop disgracing yourself all about? That’s what you and that your nincompoop of a child does! Always disgracing and bringing dent to my name. . . haven’t I tried for you both as a husband and a father?”
“What did you do? You will rot in hell. You’ve been cheating me and my daughter for a very long time. I couldn’t stand up for her nor defend her when she needed me and you think it’s gonna continue forever? Enough is enough Collins. You can’t solve our problems but add to it yet you don’t allow us free movement. All you do is monitor us about. What is your problem with my coming to church? Is it hurting you? Da mi lohun! (Answer me!)” The woman screamed!
“Woman! If you don’t shut your mouth now, I would be forced to shut it for you! You see those guards outside, I brought them for you. You better respect yourself or else, I will tell them to carry you, put you inside booth and I would make sure you don’t see the sun for three days.”
“Ha! Bastard like you! You will tell those riffraffs to bundle me and put me inside booth? Wo o, dem no born you well. What am I even saying sef, do your worst, that’s all you can do! Shameless dog!”
I was so pissed at the way he was rough-handling the woman, and I couldn’t mind my business any longer. The whole environment of the church was silent. Guess the Reverend Fathers and Sisters were not around. I walked up to them having dropped my bag in the church. The woman was shouting on top of her voice with tears in her eyes and frustration written all over her voice. I was moved with pity and yet, I still couldn’t place the face.
“If anything happen to my daughter, the whole world will hear all that you’ve done and I promise you, you will spend the rest of your years in regrets, pain and sorrows behind bars!”
“You are threatening me Folake! It’s me o!”
He made for the woman’s neck to strangle her and I couldn’t help it again but to interfere this time.
“What the hell is wrong with you sir. Do you want to kill her? For crying out loud, this woman is your wife, the mother of your child and she is a woman for crying out loud!”
“And what is your business young lady? She’s my wife. I paid her bride price. I bought and gave yams and tons of money to her family and yes, I would treat her the way I like.”
“Oh No! You won’t.” I said with so much confidence like as if I be Jack Bauer.
“I’m not intimidated by a tiny thing like you so I would advise you mind your own business.”
“Or what?” I fired at him.
Then all of a sudden, he switched from his wife to me, I couldn’t breathe, he started choking me. The woman was screaming for help, hitting him, trying to get his grip out of my throats. All of a sudden, I heard a big blow to his head. I fell on the ground and I was picked up to the arms of Jide. I felt so safe. I never knew he never left.
“Chief Coker, you don’t treat my girlfriend like you treat your wife. I hope I made myself clear.” He asked in a stern voice.
I was so surprised he called me his girlfriend. My belle was ‘sweeting’ me like as if my prayer had been answered. One thing I love about Jide most is the fact that he was highly protective and defensive of his woman; couldn’t remember the first time a man ever stood up for me in my lifetime apart from Jide. The only person that had always been protective of me was Amaka.
I watched Chief Coker lying defeated on the ground and then I remembered he was the one the Doctor introduced to me as Amaka’s dad and the woman he was beating was Amaka’s mum, Mrs. Coker.
“I would be fine my son. You guys should go take care of yourself.” She replied Jide who had run to her side to find out if she was fine.
I never knew Jide knows Chief Coker, maybe as a politician and not as Amaka’s dad cos he was a well-known political figure. Jide was so reluctant to leave Mrs. Coker there but he had to respect her wish. After all, she had been living with the man for so many years and she had managed to survive till now.
Jide rushed to my side, held me tight and placed my head on his chest and he was caressing my hair.
“I’m so sorry you were hurt. I’m really so sorry. . .” he said with his voice so calm.
I never wanted to wake up if it was a dream but it was so real and I never wanted it to be short.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“We should stop by the restaurant. I have not eaten this morning and I’m sure you haven’t too; that’s if you are okay with that” He said in a cool voice with his hand firmly on the steering.
“It’s fine.” I said without looking up.
I wonder why he added “if it’s okay with me.” Who wouldn’t be okay with eating especially when someone you love is trying to use such means to show you all is not that bad between you two and he still very much loves you.
Jide swerved into the parking lot of the restaurant and as his norm is, he got down to open the car door for me.
“Ladies first!” he said opening the restaurant’s door.
“Thanks.” I smiled for the first time in the day looking into his face and he smiled back.
We found a cool place for ourselves in the restaurant. Jide ordered for me. He seemed to have known my favourite only by three dates and this happened to be our fourth time out. He got chicken and chips for himself while he ordered Jollof rice with fried rice and a full chicken for me. We ate silently except for the time when he asked me if I love the food which I found unnecessary, after all, the restaurant had always been our go-to restaurant. I knew he wanted to talk ever since the drive back from church but I understood he was taking it slow.
“Can we take a walk?” he finally found utterance.
“Sure, why not!” I replied him.
I never knew the restaurant had a sitting lounge at the back beautifully carpeted with green and beautiful flowers. The chair was a lovers’ kind of seat, sparkling white and swinging. It had eight sets all about.
“Where should we sit?” he asked facing me and holding my hands.
“Anywhere but I think here is okay.”
“Alright. Let’s sit here then.” He said.
“Let’s order for some ice cream. I would be right back.” He said about taking his leave.
“Choc. . .”
“Chocolate, I know!” he said winking back at me.
He never even allowed me to complete the statement. Ever wonder how you meet someone and they seem to know so much about you in a short while with a sincere interest and love towards you. Jide is that person. We love each other but my past seemed to be the only impediment standing between us. I was resolute about opening up to him and whatever happened, I was gonna accept it’s for the best.
He handed me a big cone of ice cream in chocolate looking so sweet without even tasting it and his was oozing vanilla all over. Jide loved his ice cream in vanilla.
I don’t know where or how to start but I know I have to tell him all that he needed to know.
“I have never been able to look my father eye to eye ever since that incident at our home. . .” he started.
“I’m sorry.” I murmured.
“It’s really not about being sorry. It’s about you telling me all I need to know without hiding even the slightest from me. My mum and all my siblings have tried to fix this between me and my dad but I won’t allow it only if I know the accusations leveled against you by my dad isn’t true. Let me know how weighty your past is, we all have one not that it has to haunt me everywhere I go with you.” He said with so much passion.
I was sad. Didn’t know where to start from but Jide does deserve the truth from me. He had been nothing but nice to me and loving even when I felt I don’t deserve it. He has shown me I was more than a sexual image and that I could be loved, cared for and gently handled. . . In three dates, we have not even done it. I might have oozed sexual appeal to Jide but I know he had refused to see only that but more.
I have met many men in my life time than I could count. I have met guys who were interested in me in my University days but whenever I tried to tell them what I do and all of that as things begin to get serious, they flee! Jide is the first person who had made me very convenient of my past. . . Everyone does have a past! I knew he didn’t say that to get words out of me but because he meant it.
Chief Jide Jones (Snr.) is a Politician married to a ‘conc.’ Christian, Mrs. Folasewa Jones. He mans a family of six with four children and Jide was his second child. A workaholic, booze-fellow, a controlling and manipulative man. I never knew so much about him or his family because he never said much but just a little he managed to whisper and show. My first time of meeting his family was the day of that ugly incident at Jide’s home but Chief Jones was never my client.
I told Jide all that he wanted to know. I shared with him my upbringing, survival and my past. I could see sadness and disappointment radiating over him but something told me it wasn’t about me but his dad. Jide tried to conceal his hostility for his dad ever since that incident and whenever I mentioned his name during our conversation; but he wasn’t so perfect at it.
Time had gone. We had to go at least to see Amaka before I retired home for the day but one thing still remained a mystery to Jide, if I ever slept with his dad.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jide never mentioned a word to me throughout the ride to the hospital. At least this time it was that kind of silence that emits disgust and ‘too much to stomach; I need time to digest’ kind. It was expected but I was so in a hurry to know what the future holds for us.
We went straight into Amaka’s ward having been told the Doctor was busy in the wards with some patients but the Nurse told us she would make it a point of duty to let him know we were around. I was so eager to see Amaka; I haven’t seen her since Jide told me she looked lots better the last time she saw her even though he didn’t get to speak with her.
On a closer look, Amaka looked so much better but stressed and emaciated. She was lying on the bed, no bandages to her face, her wounds being attended to and healing well and her face radiated peace. I was so glad and I wouldn’t mind if the Doctor confirmed she was good to go home but I know right, in my dreams! At least, if she was well, she would need to spend at least some days at the hospital before the Doctor discharged her.
“We should check back some other time.” I said to Jide.
“She’s asleep again and I’m a little tired. . . Let’s just try and see the Doctor for necessary information.” I said with so much fatigue in my voice.
“Come on come back here. . . Where are you guys going? Chai! Una both dey selfish o.”
It felt as if a voice was delivering an angelic message to us but it wasn’t the case. I knew Amaka was pretending to sleep with her eyelids fluttering when I looked at her the other time.
“So the accident no affect your mouth?”
“Whatever!” she shrugged but I could see she was still in pains.
“So you said we should leave intentionally?” Jide said looking at me.
“Yeah, I guess so!” I laughed.
“You scared me Amaka. What happened that day and how do you feel now?” I went to her side.
“One question at a time please!” she said trying to sit up with so much laughter in her voice.
Jide rushed to her side to help her up. She gave me a warm hug and she was almost crying.
“I missed you too!” she said
“Please, don’t get me worried again. . .” I said hugging her tightly.
“But seriously if you guys are helping me to sit, when would I ever learn to do it on my own?. . . and seriously Jide, thanks for saving my life. I would have been dead without you.” she said winking at Jide.
“Don’t mention it!” Jide said puffing with smiles.
“So how are you two?”
Amaka is a fool I swear. See someone that just experienced a near death accident and the first thing that popped up her small mind is how is a relationship going!
“Well, we two think you should try and get better first!” I said pouting my face into hers. It doesn’t really matter what Jide think; he seemed to have been trying to digest all I have said to him one step at a time.
“Babe, I wan chop Usi and Banga o! I dey hungry.” Amaka said looking like a possessed human being displaying.
“No be only Usi and Banga; na Banga and Starch! Mumu girl!”
“Na you sabi. Thank God I didn’t wait for you to come thinking you’d go get it for me. Anyways, I have already eaten it. One of the Nurses helped me get it from the cafeteria here.”
“You chop Usi and Banga?” I asked looking bewildered.
“Yes I did! I have never chop that in years right! I know. . . You know say na food wey person never chop in years na wetin dem dey first ask when they return from dead.”
“Chai! E be like say this accident add to your mumulogy. . . Anyways sweetheart, I have to go now. Tomorrow is another day.”
“It’s a story book!”
“What?” I felt lost.
“I mean, Tomorrow is Another Day!”
“I shake my head for you. . . Sleep well and try to rest.”
“Hmmmm. The doctor told me you’ve witnessed a lot of things these past few days. I mean my. . .” she tried to continue.
“Amaka my love, it’s fine I promise. We would talk about all of these when you are better to my taste.” I gave her a pat on the cheek and we made to leave.
“Take care Amaka. We are leaving now.” Jide said.
“Thanks guys for coming.”
We took our leave and we couldn’t see the Doctor but I would see him some other time which is tomorrow. We drove home to my Number 5 apartment. Jide pulled a stop in front of the house and I decided to tell him one last thing I never had the opportunity to before we left the restaurant.
“I know everything I have told you today is a lot to stomach and you need time to digest it all but about your Dad Jide, I have never slept with your dad before. It’s true we’ve met but nothing happened.”
“I believe you but as you’ve said, I need time.”
Before we could think of getting down from the car, Mama Seun was busy banging the car and displaying a scene of loss and sadness and I really didn’t seem to understand her.
“Help o! Chineke. Tragedy ‘have’ struck o!”
Chai! This woman and yeye grammar. Eliza had been busy with her exams so she had been having less tutoring these days.
Jide rushed down from the car. I got down, opening the door myself this time.
“Abeg Mama Seun, wetin happen! Who died? Are my siblings okay?”
“Nothing do your siblings o! See your door, you no look?” she said panting and pointing fingers at my apartment.
I moved closer, I was scared. Jide walked up, only to discover that my door had been broken. The whole house ransacked. The tables, cushions, wall paintings overturned and broken. I summoned courage to enter the rooms only to discover that not only was my room broken into, Amaka’s room was a total show of shame. The house I left tidy had been broken into and ransacked.
“What the hell is going on!” Jide said picking his words one by one.
“I have no idea!”