When Bobo arrived at the house he’d shared with his friend Benji for a very long time, the door was fastened with a big padlock. He didn’t try to get his bunch of keys from his pocket because the padlock was a different one. He resigned to the bench, fuming. This thing had to be made clear to him. He just couldn’t understand his friend’s sudden change of attitude. Say, he agreed that he messed up big time by misbehaving at work, and so? With a friend you started with from the root, there was nothing like probation. The other presumption that his friend had picked up a very wrong lady appealed more to him, hell, it was the answer to all of these. If his friend thought he’d found a wife, in other words, a good thing, he was wrong because Bobo would go the extra length of beating him to pulp to lift off the spell from him.
Now, there was no Benji to start shouting at – a good beating had to start with some noise. Worse was that his things which Benji had threatened to fling out the house was not waiting for him anywhere he could see. He got up and walked around the house and back to confirm that his friend had not literally flung his belongings as promised. He sat back down on the bench and drew out his phone from his pocket. He dialed Benji.
Benji didn’t pick the call, and Bobo being in the state he was, persisted in dialing the number. When Benji finally picked, Bobo had lost count of how many times he’d dialed the number.
“Bobo, are you finally at home?” Benji asked.
“What kind of question is that one?”
“I just want to know because I left a note for you at the door.”
“What note?” Bobo began but his eyes happened on it.
It stuck out through the suture in the centre of the door, completely obvious, even to the unobservant eyes. Bobo wondered how he had managed to miss it. He plucked it from the door and unfolded it. It read:
I’m sorry my actions are getting to you. I didn’t mean it this way. You’ve been more than a brother to me and I can’t forget our friendship in a hurry, not even by mistake. But sometimes we have to take actions in our lives that would hurt people very close to us. This is one of those actions and I deeply regret that I can’t give it any more thought.
You know you’re not an entirely good person, you rank top in trouble-making and this is the sole reason I chose to drop you a note rather than tell you the reason for my sudden change of behaviour face to face…
“What is this for, Benji?” Bobo asked settling back into his seat.
“You can read, can’t you?”
“Guy, seriously you’ve taken this to the next level. It’s no longer funny.”
“Maybe you don’t need any distraction to be able to read. Okay.”
Beep! The phone went off in Bobo’s ear. He almost dashed it at the wall. He banged it on the bench instead and maniacally read the rest of the note.
…The truth is one way or the other, what I’m doing now must be done. Maybe later in the future. It is inevitable, and believe me bro, if you were in my shoes, you would have done the same thing. A man would not remain a bachelor forever and marriage is a matter of privacy. I don’t know if that’s the right word I’m looking for but I hope you understand what I mean.
Linda has agreed to marry me and for the very first time in my life, I’m experiencing true happiness. Plans for the wedding are on the way…
Bobo what I’m trying to say is simply this: You can’t live in the same house with my wife and I. We both know what you’re capable of, and aside that, it’s not rationally right. When Baba told me about your suspension from work, it only helped me speed up my decision.
Bobo, really I don’t know when you would grow up. As a man, you should constantly think of the future. For you, it’s always things of the moment. I thought giving you this quit notice would help you reflect on your life now and your future. Mine has begun and I hope to carve it to my specification. Please purge your heart of every grudge you have against me, I’m only showing you a different but crucial dimension of brotherly love.
P.S. Your things are still in the house, I didn’t fling them out and away as I had threatened, and I’m not out of my senses yet. Call me tomorrow to arrange how to transport or transfer them to you. If things turn out fine, you would still be my best man at the wedding. Anyway, if you want trouble as I predict would be the case, please arrange for a lawyer. I don’t want trouble so I’m at my lawyer’s place at the moment.
Love you, bro.
After reading his friend’s name at the bottom of the page, the paper slipped out of his hands and sailed down slowly to rest on his dusty boots. His hands were shaking badly and he had no control of them at the moment.
This was real, he was confirming it in Benji’s own words. Benji had taken a free ride with the devil and they had begun hee-hawing their way to the land of insanity.
To hell with tomorrow, he would place that call right away. He did just that and was informed almost immediately that the number was switched off. He sat back down then in meditative silence for thirty or so minutes not really thinking about anything. The truth was there were so many truths in the note Benji had left him. He was only too hurt to consider them, so hurt to continue in his anger. He sat and keenly watched nothingness and it seemed to placate him. At last he got out his pack of cigarettes and smoked the last two sticks.
Later, he would decide on his next course of action. He only had a dim idea of what it would be. It had nothing to do with Benji, but everything to do with Sandy. Maybe his friend was right after all, maybe he truly needed a life in the future. Food for thought, he thought as he rested his back on the rough wall and stretched his legs.
* * *
Wunmi had not spent up to ten minutes standing under the awning of the closed store opposite Ochuko’s house when Miss Sharon stepped out through the gate. She had suddenly become skeptical about her mission on reaching Ochuko’s place; she thought it had been a silly idea all along. He might choose to reverse the incident at the sight of her and she’d end up with a scarred face. She had started to accept that seeing him at home was a fool’s game when Miss Sharon came along.
The lady looked familiar, she had seen her somewhere. She shuffled through the archives of her memory and found what she needed. It was the day of the incident. The lady had walked past her as she was exiting the gate, the same one she was staring at. That was long after Ochuko had left with his poor daughter to the hospital. She had been so deep in her grief and self-crucifixion that she hardly gave the lady more than a cursory glance. But she had sensed the lady looking at her while she made her way out, and that single glance she had spared, as casual as it was, was inscribed on her memory.
That she now grew interested in knowing what this lady was up to with Ochuko was no surprise to her, she wouldn’t have felt otherwise on a different day and in a different circumstance. It was her man after all, another lady becoming a normal appearance pleaded for close examination.
Now, her mind was a little relaxed as there was something else – something entirely different – to worry about. She waited until Miss Sharon was some fifty five yards ahead before she got out from the cover of the awning. She trailed behind, taking care not to appear like a stalker.
The other lady walked in fast strides like she was in a haste to get somewhere. Wunmi’s curiosity grew at each bend her victim disappeared into, she felt like she was about to discover one of the world’s greatest wonders.
The lady burst forth into the main road and looked both ways before flagging down a bus. Wunmi whirled around the moment she saw her head turn. She didn’t want to be recognized. When she turned back to her former direction, Miss Sharon was still standing beside the road. The bus hadn’t stopped. A gust of wind lifted her shirt and she held it down before it went all the way up to her bosom. She decided it would be risky to either keep moving forward or stop where she was. She turned to the right and headed towards a provision store.
She didn’t understand why she was stalking this lady, she wasn’t sure if the result would bring forth good yield. But something in her, a hunch maybe, urged her on.
She could see the store attendant clearly now, he seemed to be looking into her rather than at her, with expectation carved into every edge of his face. She decided on whim to buy a sanitary pad so as not to see his anticipation turn into disappointment. Anyway, she would be seeing her period soon, next week probably. But she must have some pads left at home, she hardly ever bought them in pieces. She sighed and turned her head towards her victim, a gesture to help take her wandering thoughts away. The other lady was no longer standing beside the road.
Wunmi gave the attendant an apologetic smile and headed out of the store. She didn’t care about maintaining the fifty five yards distance anymore, it only resounded in her head that she had lost someone who might hold a key to something – a vital information maybe. She felt her heart tighten with panic. The feeling that trouble had been set loose was so strong it was almost suffocating.
She started up the road. On arriving there, she looked far into both ways and couldn’t mark the diminishing figure of her victim. She instinctively took to her right and walked it down. Two minutes into the walk, she arrived at an intersection. If she ignored the intersection, the road went forward, and onward, of course. Wunmi didn’t ignore the intersection, she branched into the street that intersected with the road and another two minutes into this new course brought her back on track. There, in front of a bar several distance away was her victim. She stood there as if contemplating entering the bar.
Somehow, Wunmi felt her victim purposefully stood there for her to catch up. She didn’t take this serious. She walked down the street and when she was just a stone throw from her, the lady stepped into the bar. Wunmi deliberately walked past it, then returned as if she had made up her mind at the nick of time to purchase a bottle of Smirnoff Ice to cool off with before continuing on her walk home.
* * *
Miss Sharon was not fooled, she knew she was being followed. At first she didn’t want to let herself grow concerned about it, she would go the hospital and back. But the voice of her mother spoke up in her head. It warned about being careful, it told her that a single mistake at this point would ruin the mission and her forever. She hated that voice but somehow couldn’t get rid of it. It had somehow become that tiny panicky voice that gnawed at her will.
The voice had only retreated to a drone in her head when she finally agreed she would suspend the hospital visit and take care of her stalker. But just how was she going to do that? The best option was to eliminate her, take her completely out of her back like a bug. This seemed to be the only solution to anything or anyone that crossed her path. Meanwhile, she didn’t have anything handy to accomplish this.
This was what led her to enter the bar. She thought she could take a bottle of beer – she hardly took beer, but it might be very helpful today – and later retreat to the restroom. There she would take care of the nosy bitch; that was assuming the bitch would follow her scent like a hound to the restroom. Of course she would, she would stay in the restroom too long to incite her concern.
After ordering a bottle of Gulder, she asked the waitress if they had a restroom.
“We have, but it’s not inside this building.” The waitress with glossed lips and perky breasts said.
“Which building is it in?”
“Not any building. It’s just there on its own.” The waitress pointed a finger out the door.
“Come closer let me see clearly what you’re pointing at.”
The waitress came so close to Miss Sharon, almost gagging her with the cheap cologne she wore. Her perky breasts brushed her arms and she realized with alarm that the lady was not wearing a bra. What the hell is wrong with these small girls? She thought but trained her eyes to where the little lady was pointing. It was a small concrete structure opposite the bar on the other side of the road. It stood beside two stalls that were closed, and behind it was a big space. A couple of cars were parked there. She was satisfied.
“Okay.” Miss Sharon said, lightly pushing the waitress away from her. “Go and get me my drink. I’m in a hurry.”
The waitress disappeared behind the counter to get the drink and that was when Wunmi entered. Miss Sharon was aware of this because one of the guys sitting two tables away frantically tapped his friend on the arm and gestured with his head towards the door. Yes, they were gawking at her stalker, she was a lady with such voluptuous body that could get men drooling. She’ll be disposing that body pretty soon.
The waitress returned with the bottle of beer and before she settled it on Miss Sharon’s table, Wunmi approached her.
“Can you get me a very chilled bottle of Smirnoff Ice?” She asked.
“Yes, we have that.” The waitress set the drink and glass before Miss Sharon, uncorked it and went back to get Wunmi’s order.
“Can I join you in your table?” Wunmi asked, smiling radiantly at Miss Sharon.
“I can’t say no even if I wish to.”
Wunmi laughed, it sounded sweet and full of excitement. The guys stared her way again and one almost got off his seat with his drink if not for a restraint from his friend.
“You are not a bad fellow at all. You don’t look like you’d decline a request of any kind.” Wunmi commented.
“That’s not true oh. Who would accept a request from a nobody to be her husband?”
“That’s true.” Wunmi agreed.
Wunmi’s drink arrived then. The waitress shoved a pack of straw in her face and she shook her head. She took a gulp and shifted her chair forward.
“I have this feeling we’ve met before.” She said.
“I know we’ve never met before.”
“I think we met this morning at Ochuko’s place.” She paused and smiled. “The name sounds familiar, right?”
“I know Ochuko. He’s my student’s father. And that should answer every other question your eyes are asking, I’m sure.”
“Well, you’re not entirely wrong.” Wunmi took another swig. “Just that…”
“Hey,” Miss Sharon reached out and took Wunmi’s free hand. “Is there any problem? You can share it with me.”
Wunmi smiled. She was confused. She knew the lady was telling the truth, she was what she said she was, nothing else attached. Also the lady looked nice to her. She just couldn’t understand why the feeling of danger still persisted, and stronger now that she was sitting close to her.
What she wanted from this lady, she didn’t know anymore as it seemed she had just told her all she needed to hear. The lady squeezed her hand to urge her to say something. She didn’t know how to structure the sentences she wished to say. Maybe she should ask for help to win back her man, maybe she should make a new plan with the help of this kind-looking lady. Maybe.
“What’s your name, miss?” She asked at last.
“I’m Sharon. And you?”
“Wunmi is my name, and Yes, I can do with some help from you.”
“Okay then, let’s see how I can be of help.”
And just like that, Wunmi narrated to Miss Sharon her brief but unforgettable time with Ochuko. The feelings that had erupted in her, violent enough to rip out her old self, and the incident that had nipped the budding relationship. She told of Ochuko’s undying love for his late wife which she had sensed within the short period they shared, and how she wished to become another copy of his wife so he would love her the same way.
“You really want to be like his dead wife?” Miss Sharon asked, puzzled.
“Is there anything more sensible to wish for at this moment?”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t agree to anything different, but you just can’t be anybody but yourself.”
“I’ve been myself and he’s failed to love me. How long do I need to keep being myself for him to see that I need him? And with the memory of his wife still beclouding his mind, do you think being myself would erase it? It’d be a serious waste of time.”
“And how long have you been yourself with him?”
Wunmi bowed her head. It was true, she’d not spent a complete day with Ochuko. It was clear to her that she’d dwelt so much on her wishes, had in fact made a castle of it and was living therein. Love hardly followed that course, it took a great deal of time to build into something unwavering. She knew this, but really, not all things in life followed the normal course. Hers can be the exception. This was what she was asking for and it wasn’t so much to ask considering that age was no longer by her side.
“I just can’t wait any longer than the short while I’ve waited.” She said. “Maybe I’m impatient and greedy. Maybe I’m asking for what is not mine, but I strongly feel there’s no other like him. You know, when you get a new gadget, especially the one you’ve dreamt so much about, no other gadget at that moment beats it. It takes a long time, a very long time as is mostly the case, before you finally decide there’s a better one available in stores.”
“Yeah, that feeling.” Miss Sharon smiled. “But the time finally comes when you realize there’s something better. Don’t you think that time would soon come for you?”
“No, I don’t think so. Ochuko is no gadget I’ve ever dreamed of, he’s the man I’ve always prayed for.”
Miss Sharon poured herself another glass. “Would you truly love to know more about his wife?” She asked.
“Very much. I’d buy her biography if there’s one available in any bookstore.”
“How about meeting her mother?”
Wunmi stared at Miss Sharon for a long time, her mind turning over what she had just suggested. Good! The idea was in fact very fine and brilliant. If Blessing, Ochuko’s wife, was really who he portrayed her to be – and which she undoubtedly believed she was – the mother would be absolutely pleased to talk about her to someone who cared to know. It would be like reminiscing good old times, and every mother wouldn’t mind trying to instill the good qualities of her daughter into some other lady. Every mother loves to see their daughter in someone else’s girl. But she had issues relating with older people, women especially. She wasn’t her mother’s favourite but here she was, contemplating being someone else’s mother’s favourite. How’s that for pun?
There was the possibility of a breakthrough somewhere in this idea, she could almost see it. This might be her only chance at completely winning over Ochuko’s heart. She was assuming now that Ochuko loved his mother-in-law same way he loved his late wife. He would listen to her if she brought her up and proclaimed her the perfect replacement for her daughter. If only she could get past the stage of winning the mother’s trust and acceptance and ascend into the level of camaraderie, everything would become a story to be told to her unborn kids. All her problems would be no more.
“Meeting her mother would be just fine.” Wunmi said at last. “But there’s a little problem.”
“What is it, dear?”
“Would you help with the icebreaker?”
Miss Sharon laughed loud and short. “She’s such a nice woman. Every word you say to her is an icebreaker.”
“No.” Wunmi cried. “That’s not the kind of icebreaker I mean. I want you to accompany me to this woman’s house and do the introduction. That would go a long way to ease my tension. I always feel pressured in the presence of older folks.”
“Actually, getting to the house is not a problem…” Miss Sharon began.
Miss Sharon looked up at Wunmi and smiled. The lady had her cornered but wasn’t aware of it. She can’t give her NO as a reply, she had played the nice Samaritan well enough to try that. She sat straight on her chair and cleaned her palms on her trousers. Another idea had just sprung up in her head. She would lead this lady to somewhere quiet, lonely and dark and kill her there.
“I would.” She said.