We have come to a break in the story. After this episode, we’ll air our feet and come back for more. For Stranger In Lagos, the muse demands I don’t write on the go. So I will need some time. Two months tops.
I want to heartily thank you all for your presence here. I hardly have time to reply comments but know that I read them all. I love you so much and I feel blessed for your constant support.
Biyankavitch continues. Follow me on Instagram for a new series.
“Go on your knees before God and ask him to forgive you for this wickedness you have done to Halim. After that, go to Eben and confess all. The darkness in your heart will destroy you, Eniola.”
Pastor Love’s words. Simple, truthful and soul-rending. She has just confirmed what I have always known about myself. I am pure evil.
I think it began a long time ago, long before I even killed Tope. As a kid, I had always wondered about villains in stories. I was also drawn to them. The ones that left a mark in me were those that weren’t entirely bad. They had some goodness in them. Sometimes their evil acts sprang from a place of honesty. But I didn’t know all this then. I just knew that I hated the hero and the damsel and their happily ever after. As I grew older and began to understand the psychology of the human mind, I found even more reasons to identify with villains. I believe humans should be allowed to be furtively self-seeking, especially in a place where one must fight to be relevant. And because life is a game of survival, you occasionally have to be the villain to get what you deserve.
I consider myself that type of villain, although I am known for my generosity and decency. I learned early in life that I can be what I want to be and yet do what I need to do, and both of them do not need to depend on each other.
For instance, I want to be a woman of my own means, to hold a prestigious place in society. But at the same time, I need a man in my life to support that dream. I am certain that the man for me is Eben. For years, he’s been the only thing I’ve wanted. You won’t understand what it means to crush on someone and get crushed continuously. And then from nowhere, you get the chance to have that person to yourself, to eliminate every obstacle that separates you from them. Would you grasp it with both hands or let it slip away from you?
Months ago, in my lab back in Ako Diagnostics and Clinic in Abeokuta, I battled with a decision to choose between morality and the path to my dreams. It was no easy struggle. I was all nerves about it as I moseyed within the confines of my lab. My comfortable space of Formica counters, overly bright florescent lighting and cold, white walls seemed to get smaller as the seconds ticked by. The smell of phenolic disinfectant which I’d been accustomed to for years suddenly became pronounced. I developed nausea, and had to stop moving about to keep a steady head. In my hand was a 5ml serum tube containing Halim’s blood. She and Eben had just given samples for their premarital blood testing, and it all lay in my care to run the necessary tests and hand over their result two weeks later.
A couple of months before then, I had had as much odds as Halim to become Eben’s wife. Her engagement ring hadn’t been a threat to my chances, but Eben had bumped her up the ladder with the announcement that they were getting married soon. Thus began sleepless nights. I didn’t even know how powerful my crush for him was until that moment. The struggle was not just real; it was also hard to bear.
I continued to pace around in the lab, until by some way, the serum tube slipped from my hand and hit the floor.
I looked down. I had just spilled Halim’s blood. It was something akin to a divine intervention. Yet I felt no excitement over it. I kept staring at the blood, looking away only after I heard a sound outside.
I got a mop and wiped away the mess. When I returned to the table where I kept a vial rack that contained other blood samples, I hardened my heart and executed my plans. It took only a few seconds, and when I was through, I picked a stool and sat before the sink to let cold water run over my shaky hands.
A month prior to then, Mommy had walked into my bedroom, early in the morning, just before we left for church, to announce that the Nosakhares were visiting in a few hours. Her face had depicted an ugly version of her, twisted by a frown.
“Your father invited them for lunch, in the name of reuniting both families. Can you imagine?”
She smelled of onions and sandalwood. She is the only woman I know that uses sandalwood as a signature scent. It reminds me of something retro and dusty. Mommy was still stuck in her past. And not just in fashion taste and religion. She had lost Daddy in that past too. The current version of him didn’t exist to her. He was just the man whose name she bore, the one who had betrayed her.
“I’m supposed to cook for people I don’t like.” She crossed slim arms. They rested on breasts that were the only proof that a chubby person like me came out of a thin woman like her. We were sisters in buxomness, but dissimilar in everything else. We still did not have a relationship in which we could tell each other secrets. The only times she came into my room to have a chat with me was if Daddy messed up or it had to do with her number one enemy in the world, Aunty Ada.
That day, though, it was not Aunty Ada. It was Aunty Bisi.
“I can do the cooking if it’d be stressful for you,” I offered.
“Just boil another pot of rice and collect money for more chicken from your father. The stew I made is enough to go round.”
She walked off, her long cloak with a high neck, swooshing as she disappeared from view.
That afternoon, I left church before the closing prayers were said. I drove home to prepare lunch for my prospective in-laws. I went overboard with my culinary skills – spicy chicken, fried plantains, coleslaw and fresh orange juice. I wanted to impress. I prayed that Eben, specifically, would love the meal. He looked exceptionally handsome in church earlier, although I had caught him smiling at Halim at intervals, and I even picked out that subtle brush of his hand over hers when she handed him a tithe envelop.
I cooked with my heart, resting only when my family came home from church. The Nosakhares were to arrive in an hour. I had to endure Mommy’s yammering about how lunch was going to suck because of them. Daddy sat in his chair in silence and faced the TV, pretending he wasn’t listening to a word she said. If there ever was a man who got a good doze of punishment for his past sins on the daily, it was my old man. Sometimes I felt sorry for him. Other times, I just wanted him out of my sight for what he did to all of us.
The Nosakhares arrived a few minutes before two o’clock. At the sound of their car driving in, I ran into my bedroom to change into a dress I had picked out earlier. It had a plunging neckline but possessed a flowery arrangement that passed it off as somewhat decent. Kolapo sat on my bed and watched me as I dressed up.
“Have you finally figured out why Mommy hates them?” he asked. I shook my head, applying pink matte lipstick over my fleshy lips. “I’m sha getting tired of her constant complaining. This lunch is going to be a disaster.”
I was silent. Just seventeen, Kolapo knew nothing about what our dad had done. It was best to leave him in the dark. He reminded me of Tope a lot. Slim as she was, with the same dark skin.
“Let’s go,” I said to him, hurrying out of my room. When we stepped out to the living room to receive the Nosakhares, I was disappointed to discover that Eben was absent. Conrad also, hadn’t shown up. Only their sisters and parents had honored the invitation. When I asked where Eben and Conrad were, Aunty Bisi explained that Conrad was out of town and Eben was going to be late. He had to take Halim home from church. We were to begin lunch without him.
Under a tight atmosphere brought on by my mom and Aunty Bisi, lunch was served. Lydia and Beauty, Eben’s sisters, helped me in the kitchen. They were both younger than I was but I had always been able to hit it off with them.
Our parents used the dining table while we settled in the living room. It was a chatty affair for us girls, even though I kept pinning my ear to the door to pick out the sound of Eben’s car driving in. Soon, I heard the gate opening and when I jumped to my feet, I saw his car making it into the compound. A smile filled my face but it disappeared the moment I saw Halim with him.
For the zillionth time, I wondered what he saw in her. She was basic. A man would walk past her on the street five times and not notice she was there. She had a feminine figure and a pretty face but that was all anyone got. She wasn’t blessed as I was in the right places. Her features barely made it past the ‘small’ mark. How could a man be satisfied with just enough?
“Hi Eni.” She was standing right in front of me, smiling. I had to admit that her dentition was perfect, almost as impeccable as her fashion taste. I had always envied that about her. She had style.
“Hi Halim. I didn’t know you were coming.”
“My mom locked the door and I left my key in the house, so I couldn’t get in. I’m sorry for coming without invitation.”
“She’ll share my food,” Eben stated, looking at her as he spoke. His arm was around her. “Nini, how are you?” he asked. He had that ‘big brother’ tone.
“I’m good. Come in,” I said, welcoming them into the house.
The rest of the day went sour for me. By the time they were gone and Kolapo and I had cleared the table and washed the dishes, I was exhausted. But Mommy added to my misery when she called me to her room to help apply Shea butter to her hair and braid it into cornrows.
“I can’t believe the guts on that shameless girl. She actually entered my house.”
“Mommy, stop nau. I have a headache. I’m tired.”
“Anyways, I don’t blame her. I blame Bisi. In short, Ebenezer and the harlot fit each other. They should do and marry so that we can hear word. I heard Bisi boasting to the women’s leader the other day, saying that the wedding ceremony will take three whole days. Who cares?”
Well, I did. I cared enough to want the extravagance Halim was about to waltz into. She did not deserve it.
“They should marry themselves and leave us alone, abeg.” Mommy hissed. Her legs were shaking. I wondered how a person lived their entire life constantly angry.
I stomached her grumbling until I was done with her hair. I didn’t get a word of thanks for my efforts. She buttoned her flowing nightgown up to the neck area, dusted her feet and dug under her blanket.
“Turn off the lights on your way out.”
As I got to the door, I heard her say, “I saw the way you had your eyes on that boy.”
I turned. “What boy?”
“Ebenezer. You better take your mind off him and go and look for someone else. And better stop dressing indecently so that you don’t attract the wrong type of men.”
I switched off the lights and stepped out, even more determined to chase hard after Eben. I knew a few good ways to have him in my hands. But they were too easy. I didn’t want to be his side chick. I wanted to replace Halim.
As the weeks sped by, I thought of different ways to have her out of the picture but nothing ingenious came. It seemed there was no hope until she and Eben eventually showed up at the clinic for their blood tests. My boss assigned me to them, and just like that, I was given the chance to make my dreams come true.
So there I was, the villain of the story, hands shaking under running water. I had just turned HIV infected blood into a vial and labeled it as Halim’s. But that hadn’t been the hardest part. Breaking the news to her and Eben had been tumultuous.
I remember handing over the test results after I had just revealed that Halim was HIV positive. I watched Eben pick up the paper, shaking his head in disbelief.
“It can’t be true,” he told me flatly, annoyance on his face.
“Of course, this is just the first test,” I explained. “We will run a confirmatory test…”
Halim stood up, interrupting me. “I need to pee,” she said dazedly as she walked out.
“Nini, this has to be a joke, right?” Eben’s handsome face focused on me.
“I’m sorry, Eben. It’s not. I did the test three times to be sure. I’m as shocked as you are. But the good thing is that we can do another test. Sometimes these things give false positives.”
“I’m sure that’s the case. It…has to be a false positive.”
“I think so too.”
“Please, say nothing to Halim when she returns. We’ll run another test, both of us, just to be certain.”
He stayed quiet after I asked him how he has been getting along. His terse answer stopped me from saying anything more. Halim returned and he took her to a corner to convince her to run a second test. She agreed, and together they sat, holding hands, as I took their blood samples a second time.
“The Western Blot test takes one to two weeks,” I informed them. “But to be safe, I’ll say two weeks.”
“Just write a receipt, let us pay and get out of here.” Eben’s arm was around Halim. As I wrote down an invoice for them, I eavesdropped on Eben’s words to her.
“Hali, it’s fine. You don’t have HIV. There’s a mistake somewhere.”
Her eyes began to water.
“Please don’t cry.”
He touched her and she caved, sobbing miserably. He held her in a hug.
“It’s going to be okay,” he assured her. “It’s going to be fine, baby.”
I was unable to take in the scene, and hence I hurried out to finish with the invoice. When I returned, I handed it over to Eben and left a kind word with Halim. She gave me no response and started out.
That night I battled with my conscience, but all my heart desired still, was Eben. In fact, the more I warred within myself, the stronger my desire. Just like the first time, I did away with Halim’s original blood sample, swapping it with an infected one, just in case Pastor Love had me replaced on the case. It was also pertinent to keep up with the deception, to cover my basis. If it was discovered that I had been erroneous with the first test, I would be in trouble. Pastor Love was not known to go soft on errors, having survived a lawsuit over a similar case of wrong HIV diagnosis.
When the two weeks went by and Halim came for the confirmatory test, I was certain my heart had turned cold enough to withstand another breakdown from her. But when I looked at her and saw how she had lost weight and the miserable look in her eyes, I almost began to cry.
Guilt fell on me and I spent restless hours at work. When I got home, I locked myself in my bathroom and cried, drowning my guilt with a bottle of wine.
Two hours later and I was still there. The wine was finished and the water in which I was soaking in was cold.
“Aunty Eniola!” I heard Kolapo calling. “Mommy is looking for you o!”
I reached for my bathrobe and stepped out of the bathtub. Pushing my feet into a pair of slippers, I hurried out. I was supposed to have begun dinner earlier. I could hear Mommy griping about it in the kitchen as I entered.
“So, you’ve been in this house and dinner is not made, abi?” She was tightening her wrapper around her waist as she slammed a pot over the cooker.
“I’m sorry, ma. I’m not feeling too well.”
She observed me with intense eyes. “You better go for a pregnancy test. I don’t trust you.”
“Ha-ahn, mommy. Is it every time I’m sick that I have to go for pregnancy test?”
“I know for you?”
I aimed for the storeroom to get yam flour for amala but she stopped me. “I’ll cook. Go and continue to be sick.”
“Leave my kitchen! Lazy thing!”
I turned away.
“Your mates are married, you’re here always falling sick. God knows how many abortions you’ve already done!”
I entered my bedroom and shut the door. My guilt pounced on me again. I hid myself in my blanket and spent the night in sleeplessness. When morning came, I was burning with a fever, accompanied by nausea. The first thing I did upon waking up was to rush to the bathroom to empty my guts. I was still crouched over the bathtub when I saw Mommy staring down at me.
“Shebi you’re not pregnant like this?”
“Which one is no ma? Oya, get up!” She snapped her fingers. “We’re going to the hospital for a test.”
“Mommy, I’m not pregnant nau. I was on my period the other day.”
“I said get up, my friend! Wear something, let’s go for a test.”
“Mommy!” I yelled. I was wretched and frustrated, and she was making things worse.
“I will call your father in here and tell him how you have whored around and you’re now carrying a bastard child. You better get up.”
I lost it and hurled myself to the floor in tears. I didn’t care what she said or who she called; I just wanted to get the burden off my shoulders. She called my name a few times and I didn’t respond until I heard, “Iya mi.”
The tone of her voice made me weaker.
“Iya mi, talk to your mother.”
I felt her bony hand on my back.
“I won’t scold or judge you. Just talk to me.”
I still didn’t respond. She helped me up and dragged me back into the bedroom to have me sit on the bed. My feet were to the floor and my head bowed low. Mommy would not sit. She stood in front of me.
“Who is the father of the child? Is it Ebenezer?”
The mention of his name gave me shivers. “I’m not pregnant, mommy.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“Mommy, the thing I’ve done…”
Tears didn’t let me speak further.
“Talk to your mother. I said I won’t judge you. Sit up.” I straightened up. She used her wrapper to wipe my face, cleaning my snot like she used to do for Tope in those days. “Oya, talk.”
I heaved a few times before I opened my mouth. I started by telling her about my uncontrollable crush for Eben and how it pushed me to do what I did. But I also told her of the devastating remorse I felt that left me without peace.
“So you’re saying Halim is not HIV positive?”
“But you conducted the test twice and declared her HIV positive?”
And just like that, I got a resounding slap on my face. It stung so badly that Mommy’s colorful wrapper in my vista, of blue, red and yellow turned to black and white. The room went hazy for some seconds too. I held my cheek and glared up at her in shock.
“You’re evil, Eniola! I always knew it! You are the devil’s child! You tried to eat your sister in the womb and when that didn’t work, you came out and completed the job by killing her. Devilish child!”
Tears left my eyes in a heavy flow. I endured a long tirade from her, reminding me of the horrible childhood I had, citing instances of the so-called villainy she claims runs in my blood, handed down to me by my grandmother.
“I’m so sorry, mommy,” I managed to chip in when her anger seemingly died down. “I’ll call Eben and tell him the truth.”
“Ehn?” She put a hand behind her ear. “Say that again?”
The pain of the slap still lingered, and for fear of getting another, I stayed silent, staring at her, sort of confused.
“Are you out of your mind?!”
I pulled back slightly. “No, ma.”
“Tell him what, Eniola? Tell him what exactly?! And what about Ada?! What do you think would happen once the witch hears what you’ve done?! Or have you forgotten that she is responsible for the stunted state this family is in? Your father goes around like a lost zombie! Lekan cannot get a decent job! Kolapo can’t pass JAMB and get into the uni! And you cannot get a husband! Do you need a prophet to tell you that Ada’s juju is potent?!”
“Then why do you want to test her wrath?!”
“I just feel really bad…”
“The deed has been done and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it!”
“Halim will survive! Nobody ever died from fake HIV!”
“So keep that your stinking mouth shut!”
She didn’t add another word but remained in the room, staring at me with a mix of anger and irritation.
I heard Daddy calling her. She grunted.
“Go and take your bath, dress up and go to work. Life continues. If you hide, people will start to suspect you.”
I rose up.
I rushed to the bathroom while she attended to her husband. I spent quality time cleaning the mess I made in the tub and scrubbing off guilt from my body. When I return to the bedroom, I found her waiting.
“You worked hard to separate Ebenezer and Halim,” she said. “But your work is not complete.”
I picked my towel from where it hung on my wardrobe door and wrapped myself in it.
“You have to go for him.”
I baulked. “But mommy, you told me to stay away from…”
“And did you? You went and did something selfish that can put us all in danger. Now, you want to back out. No, Iya mi. You must complete what you have started. Shebi you want to become a Nosakhare?”
“Yes.” My answer was faint.
“Then you must become a Nosakhare. At all cost. I don’t care how you do it. Just do it. The job of restoring this family’s honor lies in your hands. Do not disappoint me, Iya mi.” Her eyes seized mine and held them bound. I was scared to blink. I saw malice in her stare. I didn’t know what she saw in mine. “Everything Ada has taken from us must be restored by you, Eniola. Do not disappoint me.”
“Yes, ma.” I curtsied in habit. “But when Halim eventually finds out that she’s not HIV positive…”
“You didn’t think of that before, abi?”
I dared not respond.
“And that is why you have to move fast. You have no time.”
“What if he sticks with her, even with the HIV?”
“And you didn’t think about that too before you did what you did. Ode!”
“Just do as I have said. Trust me, Ebenezer does not love that girl. Their mothers are pushing them into that marriage. Everything will fall apart with this HIV thing you created. So, you better do what your heart desires, iya mi. Do not bring us to shame a second time.”
She left the room, dumping something in me. I didn’t know what it was, but at that moment, I felt only half-culpable. Mommy was carrying the load with me. And in the same way, she had to get half the spoils. If I got married to Eben, I would put her back on the same pedestal as Aunty Bisi. All she wanted was to settle scores.
I was soothed by thoughts of rationalization. I told myself that I was not a bad person after all. I was only trying to restore my family’s honor. All that Aunty Ada had stolen from us would be gotten back.
And it was with this heart I moved to Lagos and inserted myself in Eben’s life. Everything seemed to be going well until Halim reappeared on my grid. It still shocks me how things went downhill so fast after she showed up. Now, I’m petrified. I can’t summon up the guts to face Eben. He has called a few times but I won’t take his calls. I am in my bedroom, pulling together a lot of nerve to break the news to Mommy. She will call me a failure. She will be broken. Losing Daddy is too much pain for her to handle, and now I come with my own woes to break her down further.
I sniffle through blocked nostrils, having cried all evening.
I hear a knock on the front door and ignore it. The knock comes on again.
“Eniola!” Mommy yells. I know she has peeped from her bedroom window and seen who is knocking. I rise from my bed. Shaky legs guide me to the living room. The absence of a peephole makes it hard for me to know who is stopping by at this hour.
“Who is it?” I ask in a shaky tone.
“Is your mother in?”
Aunty Ada’s voice sends a shockwave through my body.
“Aunty… Aunty Ada?” I stammer.
“Yes, it’s me. Open the door.”
I step back a little. I have no desire to let her in. But Mommy makes an appearance, slipping into a wrinkled kimono.
“Let her enter. Let’s know what the witch wants.”
“Let her in, Eniola.”
I unlock the door with trembling hands and hold it open. Aunty Ada waltzes in like she owns our house. An expensive perfume accompanies her, complementing the sophistication her outfit presents. Of course, she is not dressed like any other mother you can find out there. Tight jeans, sandaled-heels and a body-hugging top with an audacious cleavage leave her looking two decades younger. She whips her long weave to the back, flicks stubborn locks that hang over her eyes with her car key and focuses on Mommy with spiteful eyes.
I notice all of this because it’s all I can do to keep from breaking into a run.
“What brings you here, Ada?” Mommy asks, tying her kimono.
“I think you know.”
“Ada, I have no patience for you. Answer my question or get out of my house.”
Aunty Ada chooses neither of the options offered. She remains standing and takes a pose that lets us know she is here for trouble.
“So, Tolu, you sent your brainless, fat pig of a daughter to diagnose my Halim with HIV, just to separate her from Ebenezer.”
“What are you talking about?”
“And as if that wasn’t enough embarrassment for the Diobis and the Nosakhares, you then sent her to Lagos to complete what she started by using her stinking vagina to confuse the poor boy’s head just to make sure he never gets back with Halim.”
“Ada, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Leave my house this minute!”
“You two should clap for yourselves. You did the job well. You succeeded in separating them. You got what you wanted. But now that the truth is out, what next?”
Mommy looks at me. She tries to hide the question in her stare.
“Oh, you’re just knowing that Eniola has been exposed?” Aunty Ada glances my way. “You didn’t tell your mother? Well, Tolu, your wickedness is uncovered at last, as God would have it. Everyone now knows what an old, evil bat you are. Especially Dairo. You see, I’ve been telling him for years that you are capable of murder, but he wouldn’t listen. Today…or rather, tonight, he’ll finally agree with me that I have been right about you.”
She smiles tauntingly at Mommy. “Yes, Tolulope, your husband has been with me all through Christmas.”
“You’re lying. He’s in Abuja.”
“Yeah, if Abuja is between my legs.” She laughs. The veins on Mommy’s neck pop out. “Awww, you want to cry?”
“Of all the men in the world, Ada, why Dairo? Why my husband? What did I ever do to you?”
“You did nothing, Tolu. My heart simply goes after what it wants and nobody has been known to stop it. You go about telling people I’m a home wrecker and a witch, but you fail to recognize how gracious I was to you. I could have had him a long time ago, when he stopped loving you. He begged and begged, he was willing to throw you and your kids away for me, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do that to him, a man I deeply loved. A man you never loved, Tolu. Mama knew this and that was why she didn’t want you with him. You didn’t care about him. You didn’t have the heart to. You’re incapable of love! Even your own children know this!”
“You know nothing about my children!”
“Really? You should ask Kolapo what he thinks about you, what he tells his father about you. What were his words again? Hmmm… Hateful. That’s how he sees you. Angry and hateful. Go ahead and ask him.”
Aunty Ada glances at me. “Or her. I’m sure she did what she did to Halim out of desperation, to make you love her, but it was all a waste of time. Because even if she got Eben, you would never have been pleased. No one pleases you. Not even yourself. And that is why I’m taking my Dairo far away from you. The man has suffered enough. I made the mistake of leaving him once and it almost ruined his life and had him in a psychiatric hospital–”
“And I nursed him back! I brought him back to health!”
Aunty Ada grins superiorly. “No, dear. It took just one visit from me and a kiss on his lips for Dairo to return. And I begged him, for the sake of your children, to go back to you. I helped him get his job again at the university. I paid the rent for your house that year and the years that followed until I bought this one with my money–”
“I own your man, Tolulope. I own Dairo. I only leased him to you for a short while. And I’m afraid that time has run out.”
Mommy draws in breath and holds her head high, lips trembling violently to keep back a wail.
“You and Dairo are done. If he spends one more night in this house, my name is not Ada.”
The woman looks around and settles her eyes back on Mommy.
“Keep the house, Tolu. It’s our gift to you and your children.”
She makes a majestic turn in the direction of the door.
“You must be raving mad, Ada!” Mommy screams, her tears finally finding reason to gush out. “By the time I start with you ehn, you won’t know what hit you! Useless whore! Dirty prostitute!”
And out pour curses in Yoruba as Aunty Ada walks past me as if I don’t exist and leaves the house.
“Close that door, Eniola!” Mommy orders, but I ignore the instruction and run after Aunty Ada.
“Aunty Ada, I’m so sorry…”
She stops moving, interrupting me with a raised hand. “I ignored you because of your father. I look at you and see him. I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt him. But it isn’t me you should be worried about. It’s Ebenezer. If I were you, I would disappear from the face of the earth right now.”
I watch her leave the compound and seconds later, I hear the sound of her car. Exhausted, I lower myself to sit on a concrete slab resting under a mango tree in front of the house.
I am devastated. I can’t even pull my thoughts together. My heart and head are all over the place. I feel humiliated, afraid and angry all at once. I’m going to lose everybody that means something to me. Eben will transfer the hate he has for me on Lekan and kick him out of Crafter. Lekan will blame me. Daddy will be disappointed in me. I’ll be lucky if Halim doesn’t get me locked up. And Mommy… she’ll lay all the blame of her broken marriage on me.
Shattered, I remain outside as much as my pain can allow. I feel a fever coming on and pray that it takes me completely so that it can be my escape from the multiple reprimands that await me.
I get off the slab and head back in. My heart is not ready for Mommy’s bile but I have no option. I take slow steps, shivering as I go. But when I enter the living room, all activity in me stops. Sprawled on the floor with her hand clutching her chest, Mommy is fighting to breathe. I don’t know how long she has been in that position but I guess it’s been long enough for the attack to have her on the floor and leave her there.
My immediate instinct in moments like this is usually to dash to her bedroom for an inhaler or an EpiPen, but something comes over me that binds my feet to the floor. I don’t as much as move a finger. I have no desire to. I watch her, just like I had done with Tope twenty years ago.
My ears pick every gasp and choke, every faint mention of my name, every whisper to Jesus to save her. But I remain there until her hands stop moving and her breath dies away.
Still, I don’t move, not even when it dawns on me that she has probably taken her last breath.
Lekan enters the house. He is muttering something about the door being left open to mosquitoes when his eyes fall on her. He drops the shopping bags he has come home with and dashes towards her. He lifts her off the floor and by some miracle, life returns to her. She clutches his arm in the same way a drowning person would grapple the one rescuing them, gasping and trying to speak at the same time.
Several minutes later, after Lekan and I have helped her with her drugs and put her sleep, I learn that she had actually used her EpiPen before I came in and met her fighting for her life.
Lekan doesn’t scold me. We sit on my bed in silence for a long time before he speaks.
“Eben told me all you did to Halim. I’m not going to say anything about it. And I don’t want you to explain yourself. I just need you to go away for a bit.”
“Eni, you stood there and watched your mother struggle for life and you did nothing. Just like it happened with Tope. And let’s not talk about what you did to Halim. What if she had killed herself out of depression?”
He pauses, stands to his feet.
“I have a room and parlor I rented. I paid for it before Eben gave me the job at Crafter. You should go there and stay for some time. I’ll be sending you money every week.”
I nod slowly. “Thank you.”
He walks out without replying. I curl up in my bed, my eyes open until daylight steals in. I manage through a cold shower, dress up, pack my things and walk to Lekan’s bedroom. Together we head out. At the entrance of the house, on the slab where I had sat last night, Mommy sits. Lekan greets her. She responds with a nod. But when I do the same, she looks at me as if I am not there and then goes back to staring at nothing.
I follow Lekan to his car. When he kicks it into motion, I turn to look at her. She’s still lost in nothingness. My eyes move from her and give the house one last look before we leave the compound.
I’m Lagos bound again. The city I once hated but fell in love with because of Eben. Now, it calls me back and I return with haunting memories and a past that will continue to hang over me.
I think it’s okay to say this one more time – I hate Lagos.