Thanks for following this series and being here all the time. Sadly, this would be the last free chapter and last episode on the blog. The good news is that the book will be out soon. I don’t have a date yet. But it will be out.
Thank you, once again.
This episode is dedicated to D. Thank you for the other day. You’re an angel.
Traffic was insane this morning. Cheta had been on set for a shoot as early as 6:00 a.m. Two hours later, she went for a quick run and ended up spending two extra hours on her way back. She was so frustrated she almost cried. It didn’t help that her phone kept ringing nonstop. She ignored all calls until she returned to the set. Her consolation was that the shoot had progressed well in her absence.
She stayed around for a while, but at noon, when the crew took a break, she returned to her car. She then recalled that she had missed a good number of calls. It struck her as weird that Nero, Gold, and her parents had all tried to reach her. It also left her a little worried.
The first call she returned was Nero’s, but his line rang unanswered. She dialed Gold next.
“Cheta, have you been online?” Gold asked.
“Online? No. What happened?”
“Check your WhatsApp. I sent you a link.”
“Gold, what happened?”
“Please, just check.”
Cheta hung up and went on WhatsApp. She noticed messages from Nero and Nnedinma too. They had both wanted to speak with her. At this point, her pulse began to quicken. She opened her chats with Gold and saw the link about which Gold had spoken. It came with a title that left Cheta dazed.
Is Pastor Julius Azubuike A Serial Rapist?
When she clicked on link and it led her to some unknown blog, she saw the expanded version of the title.
Exclusive! Is Pastor Julius Azubuike A Serial Rapist? 5 Victims Share Their Story
Cheta lifted her eyes off her phone and looked ahead of her, staring at nothing. Did she want to read this?
She locked her screen and exhaled. Then, she went back to the article. It was the first of a three-part piece, written by Abeni, whom Cheta was just discovering, was an investigative journalist. In the introduction, Abeni put herself out there, revealing that she was one of Julius’ victims. Having survived her harrowing ordeal with the help of a woman whom she would rather not name, she began to seek Julius’ other victims, in hopes that they would tell their stories, as she was ready to tell hers and let the world know the type of man he was. It had taken her years to get to this place, she claimed. She knew the enormity of what she had gotten into, and she wasn’t going to backpedal.
Cheta then went on to read from two other women, who chose to remain anonymous, that shared similarities in their distressing encounters with Julius. Overwhelmed by their stories, she put her phone aside. She stared out again, but this time, she caught some members of crew hurdled together, all staring at their phones. She called Gold a second time.
“When did the news break?” she asked.
“Nine-ish. I was on Twitter when I saw the link on my timeline. In less than an hour, your dad was trending. I’m so sorry, Cheta. I don’t even know who this Abeni bitch is. Investigative journalist my ass! People are just wicked. They sit down and cook up nonsense stories to destroy someone’s life. Which one is that the women want to remain anonymous again? That’s how I knew that the whole thing was a lie. I’m sure one rival pastor is behind this. Or do you think it’s a politician from the east? Daddy has been speaking against them recently. Especially that stupid Imo State governor. What’s that his mumu name again sef?”
“Goldie, I’ll call you back.”
Cheta ended the call before Gold said anything more. She had kept her eye on the crew the entire time, noting that one of them had said something about her and they all looked her way. Then, they looked away quickly when they saw her watching.
“Well done, Julius,” she muttered. She went on Google to find out what steps she needed to take for a name change. She had thoughts of disowning her father.
Her phone rang. It was Nnedinma. Cheta stared at the screen until the ringer stopped and it went blank. She started her car and drove to her office. She got her first hate message on Instagram during an elevator ride to her floor.
Is your father a serial rapist? You can’t be speaking against rape and he’s raping women. Why not call him out? Hypocrite much?
Cheta turned off her data as she got off the elevator. She walked past the front desk girl without returning her greeting. She barged into her office, rested both hands on her desk, and forced calm on her brewing anger. It had just hit her that she was about to be associated with Julius’ darkness.
“Lord, I didn’t ask for this.” Tears ran down her cheeks. “I didn’t. It’s so not fair.”
Her door burst open and she turned. Nero walked in, concern on his face.
“I’m so sorry,” he said as he walked towards her. She went to him for comfort, hiding her face on his shoulder as she sobbed. He gave her a steady back rub until she was strong enough to pull herself away from him.
“I suggest you stay offline,” he said.
Cheta sniffled and went around her desk.
“If anybody asks you questions about it, don’t say anything. You don’t owe anyone any explanation…”
“You’re not going to ask me if it’s true?” She looked at him. “Hmm?”
“You are the one who stands for women, who always says that you’ll believe a woman when she accuses a man of rape until it’s been proven that the man didn’t do it. Do you still stand by that or had you been posturing the whole time?”
“What do you want me to say, Cheta?”
“Do you disbelieve those women in that article just because it’s my dad?”
Nero sighed. “I don’t know what to say, Cheta. All I know is that I am standing by you.”
“He did it, Nero,” Cheta burst out. “He did those things. Maybe even worse.”
Nero wore an expression of confusion.
“And his victims? There are more.”
“I don’t understand, Cheta. We’re talking about your dad, here—”
“He’s a rapist!” she yelled. “My dad is a fucking serial rapist!”
Nero slowly sat, stunned by her words. For Cheta, admitting verbally what her dad was left her crushed. She also sat, but she put her hands between her thighs and pressed the thighs together to still her heart. Still, the tears returned. She lowered her head on her desk, turning sideways. She cried in silence until Nero came to her and rested a hand on her back.
“You shouldn’t be here today, sweeite. I’ll stay off work too. Let’s take you home.”
For someone whose dark deeds had been brought to light, Nnedinma thought that Julius seemed too calm. Perhaps it was an old age thing. The man was in his late seventies; maybe he was numb.
But he wasn’t. Before she showed up an hour ago, he had spent the better part of two hours shouting his office down. Jonah had been the unfortunate receptacle of his wrath—this was after he had sent everyone else home.
“Go and pray!” he had told them. “The devil is out to destroy us! What we need is spiritual warfare, not office work! Go home!”
After they left, he let loose his anger, threatening to kill Hadiza and Abeni.
“And every other bitch who is behind this! I will bring them all down! All of them!”
Anytime one of the pastors came around, Jonah turned them back. Julius was in no mood to speak to anyone.
“We should sue Abeni,” Jonah suggested.
“And that will undo what she has already done and is planning to do?”
“It shows that you are innocent.”
Julius hissed. “Anything short of her coming out to retract her statement and claiming that she did this maliciously or was paid to do it by someone who had malicious intent, I’m not interested!”
“You know that’s not going to happen.”
“That’s what I want! Make it happen!”
Jonah gave Julius a look that infuriated him further.
“You’re not going to do it?”
“You know I don’t do things that won’t bring results.”
“So, what is your very bright suggestion?”
“Blood for blood.”
“Since we are certain that Hadiza is behind this, let’s go for her. Bring the truth out.”
Jonah didn’t give an answer. It took some seconds for his insinuation to hit Julius.
“You idiot! I’m not going to tarnish my wife’s image, just to get even! Do you realize that it paints me in a worse light? People would say that my family is messed up! Let’s not add that silly Cheta in Lagos who has an entire son out of wedlock.”
“I thought you’d want revenge.”
“That is an Ahithopel advice, my friend! When last did you spend time in God’s presence? You’re beginning to sound like you’re demon-possessed!”
Jonah was unbothered. “Maybe we can get Hadiza to back off.”
“Why are you still talking?” Julius shouted.
“No, sir, hear me out. Clearly, she wants something from you. Perhaps it’s an apology…”
“Perhaps she wants my wife back,” Julius added bitterly. “Let her come and take my entire empire too na, since her penis is bigger than my own!”
“I don’t think it would get to that point. I suggest you have a sit down with her and call a truce.”
Julius glared at Jonah for a long time and then nodded several times to himself like one who was going crazy. “You’re indeed possessed.”
Jonah reached for Julius’ phone, unlocked it, and dialed Nnedinma. He put the call on speakerphone once she answered. Julius eyed him before he spoke to her.
“Come to the office right away.”
“Is anything the matter?”
“What sort of nonsense question is that?”
“I’m on my way.”
Jonah pressed the red button on the screen, terminating the call.
“She doesn’t even know what’s going on,” Julius commented in disdain. “Call Chichetaram. That one definitely knows more than we all do.”
“According to my sources, Hadiza is presently in Lagos.”
“Makes sense. Em…” He tapped his desk with a finger as Cheta’s line rang. “Let’s contact the other women.”
“Let’s not,” Jonah responded. “We already did recently. Speaking to them again is unwise. They might be recording phone calls. Let’s just back off for a while.”
“But you have an updated list of all of them?”
“I have everything on every one of them.”
“Okay.” Julius continued to tap his desk.
“Cheta didn’t pick,” Jonah informed him.
“We’ll try again in the afternoon.”
“If I may suggest…? Make nice with her. You need a lot of people on your side right now, especially people whose testimonies about you would be considered credible. Your daughter is one of them.”
“I should make nice with someone who would put a noose around my neck, given the opportunity?”
“I don’t believe she has a hand in this.”
“What if she does? If I make nice with her, they would use it against me. Think, Jonah! Use your head!”
“So, why do you want to talk to her?”’
“Don’t ask me stupid questions, young man! Go and find a way to douse this fire! Get PR and tell them to fix this mess with a statement on all our social media handles! Get all the pastors to be prepared to make statements too!”
Jonah left the office and was away for some time. He returned with Nnedinma, whom he had briefed on what had happened. She walked into her husband’s office to find him seated and calm.
“You do know that your daughter is behind this, right?”
“Chichetaram?” she asked. “No, she can’t do this.”
“That girl hates me.”
“Not my Chichetaram. She is not this vicious.”
“Are you saying I’m lying?”
“Julius, not my daughter o. Not her. Mba!”
“It’s your lover that has twisted her mind against me. She has gotten into bed with Hadiza.”
“Yes, Hadiza, but not Cheta. I will not allow you accuse my child over something she didn’t do!”
“Mechie onu gi!”
Nnedinma and Julius hardly communicated with each other in Igbo. She was from Ebonyi State, and her dialect was miles apart from his. Hence, it was a pain to always communicate with him, because he made fun of her and questioned her Igboness. He used the language only when he wanted to insult her.
“Who told you that you have any right to allow or not allow me do what I want?”
He insulted her further in Igbo while she kept her head bowed, following the design pattern on her Ankara gown.
“Are you done?” she asked after he was through speaking.
“I am not finished!”
“You will travel to Lagos and go and douse this fire that your stupid lover started. I don’t care if you have to bury your face between her legs, do it! Convince her to end this nonsense she has started!”
“I’m not going anywhere, Julius.”
“What did you say?”
“I said I’m not going.”
“Need I remind you that you’re as guilty of what I am accused? How many of those women did you plead with on my behalf? How many received brown envelopes did they get from you to make sure they kept their lips sealed?”
Nnedinma’s shoulders dropped in defeat.
“I thought as much. Jonah will book a one-way ticket for you. Don’t return until I have positive feedback.”
“You may leave.”
She got up and walked to the door.
“Stay off the internet.”
The door opened and Dera walked in. He greeted her, she smiled at him, tapping his cheek.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
He looked at his father. “Good afternoon, Dad.”
“Come in, Son.”
Nnedinma walked out of the office. She tried Cheta’s phone for the third time. Why wasn’t she picking up?
Cheta was in Nero’s arms. It was a strange thing that her body had needed him when her heart was distressed. He had thought it weird too, until she began kissing him and his body responded to her touch. She made love to him in a leisurely but intense manner. He realized, only after she had cum, that it had been for her own release. He recalled that she had once told him that she did one of two things if she was distressed. She would either cry it out or seek sexual pleasure. Today, it seemed the tears didn’t work. An orgasm had done the magic, and now she was asleep on his chest.
He went online on her behalf, and the responses to the claims that Julius was a serial rapist were not good. The second part of Abeni’s series had just been published. The chick wasn’t playing with anyone. Some other lady had also dropped a thread, telling a story about a friend of hers whom Julius had raped as well. Things were not looking well for the Azubuike family. A fool had shared screenshots of Cheta’s tweets, speaking up against rape. The response to it was split. Some believed that she knew about her father’s alleged atrocities. Others felt that she should not be brought into it.
Nero put his phone away. It was too much for him to take. He left his bedroom to get a beer. Obi was in the kitchen, trying to fix himself some lunch. When he saw Nero, he pulled off his headphones.
“Is Mom okay?”
Nero took a beer from the fridge and asked him, “You’re good?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m good. Um… Grandpa has always been an asshole.”
Nero went back to his bedroom, just in time to see his screen light up with a call from Laura. He then remembered that they were supposed to have a meeting with her clients. He checked the time. He was already half an hour late.
“Can I sit this out?” he asked her when he answered the call. “I’m at home with Cheta right now. She needs me.”
“The thing about her dad, yeah?”
“Send my love to her. Nobody deserves to go through what she is going through right now.”
“I’m still expecting you, though. They are not here yet, but they’ll be in a bit. Please, Nero. Once they see you, they will sign. They trust you. You did a job for one of their family members…”
“I know, I know.”
Nero was not in the mood to leave the house, but he couldn’t turn Laura down. She had been there for him countless times.
“It’s a good thing we’re meeting close to your house.”
“I’ll be there in a bit.”
He put on a shirt and left the house. In a short while, he was pulling up in the parking lot of a restaurant. Inside the building, Laura was seated with a couple who required her architectural services for their dream home. They had also discussed the possibility of handing her the contract for a hotel they were planning to build, if they were impressed with her blueprint for the house. This was why she needed Nero, whom they trusted.
He came in a few minutes after they did and sat with them, but his mind was on the last piece of information Cheta casually gave him about her father, which alleged that Hadiza was probably behind the exposé.
Nero had questions. Was his mom doing this as revenge? Why did she wait all these years if she had known that he was a serial rapist? And why had she wanted Cheta to be the one to cast the first stone on her father?
The meeting went on without much of Nero’s input. The couple left with a promise to send Laura an agreement for both jobs, only on the premise that Nero builds the structures. He almost declined, because of the number of projects he had on his plate, but for Laura’s sake, he agreed to their terms.
“Thank you, Nero,” Laura said.
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
“Are you okay?” She stretched her hand across the table, almost touching his. “I hope you don’t believe that woman and her lies about Pastor Julius? Anybody can get up and cook up anything about anyone. It’s the age of lies, and the internet is the best tool to spread falsehood.”
Nero was silent.
“Remember that boy that took his life because of false accusations? Those girls just got up and labeled him a rapist. It’s that easy! What’s sad about this case is that they’re targeting a man whom God has used to change generations. It’s really disheartening. I can’t imagine what Cheta is going through right now. How is she?”
“She’ll pull through.”
“Please, extend my love to her. I’ll be praying for her family. God will silence their enemies and put them to shame. Pastor Julius will come out of this stronger.” Laura shook her head. “It’s really annoying.”
Nero picked his phone from the table. “Laura, I have to go home.”
“Sure. Thank you, again.”
He nodded, walking off.
Gold was exhausted. She had been baking all day, which was a good thing for her emotions, since Basim had chosen to be a turd to her the previous day. He had issues, and she couldn’t deal with them, especially during this pregnancy.
Yesterday, she explained to him why Ozzy was staying with her and Cheta’s. It was supposed to be an honest conversation between adults, but Basim lost his top, telling her that he didn’t see any reason for her kindness towards Ozzy.
“Not this same prick that came in-between us! Why the fuck do you need to babysit him?”
“Basim, he wasn’t feeling well—”
“He looked okay to me a few minutes ago!”
“Yes, he’s gotten better, but he was in a bad state, and he didn’t have anyone but me.”
“Not good enough, Gold!”
“So, what was I supposed to do? Abandon him when the doctor called? Leave him to die?”
“You are too involved in his life, Gold! That’s what I’m saying! There should be a limit to your kindness! You’re making me think that there’s more to it than what you’re telling me!”
“There isn’t, and I’d appreciate it if you stopped shouting and listened to me.”
He had refused to sit, so he stood at the entrance to the living room, arms crossed.
“I was trying to tell you that Ransome is going to pay for an apartment for Ozzy. Earlier, we went to check out the place.”
“We? Meaning, you and him?”
“Yes. Rans is sending me the money. He doesn’t trust Ozzy.”
“But you do. You trust him.”
“When does it end? First, he falls ill. Next, you get him an apartment. What comes after that?”
“Nothing. He gets his place and gets out of my hair.”
“Until he has the next seizure and you’re running off to save him!”
“Basim, the moment Ozzy leaves this house, he ceases to be my problem.”
“That’s not true.” Basim moved away from the entrance and rested his hands on the back of a sofa, facing her. “Not true at all. And that’s why I can’t trust you. You have this entire thing going on with him that you can’t even see! That’s the annoying part. You can’t see it!”
Gold gave up. “I don’t know what you want from me, Bas.”
“I want commitment from you. Total and absolute commitment…”
“How do you want me to do it? I want us together. I can’t stop thinking about you—”
“And yet, you live with your ex! Make it make sense!”
Gold was tired of the shouting, done with the conversation. “You’re very angry right now, and nothing I’ll tell you would make sense, Basim. I suggest you go home and calm down. We’ll talk when you’re not this angry.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” He drew out his car key from his pocket. “When you figure out how to fully dump his motherfucking ass, you know where to find me.”
He began out, but Gold stopped him with her words.
“You know it’s not his fault, right? If your mom had not thrown him in prison and they brutalized him, we wouldn’t be here right now, having this conversation.”
Basim turned slowly. “Excuse you?”
“Your mom is responsible for what he’s going through.”
“Wow, Gold.” Basim chuckled angrily. “You’re blaming my mom now?”
“Ozzy wasn’t the one who knocked her off the road.”
“But he stole her money while she lay in the hospital, struggling for her life!”
“I stole the money, Basim! And let’s not forget that your mom still hates me for it!”
“She does! During Christmas, she offered me some money to disappear from your life for good.”
Basim pulled back. “That’s not true.”
Gold lowered her tone. “She did, Bas. Isn’t that what you rich people do? You always try to buy off people like me.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“So that you’ll do what? You think I want to come between you and your mom?”
“Well, you’re doing a fine job of it right now while taking your ex’s side.”
“Maybe because my ex and I are from one side of life, and you and your mom are from another. Our worlds can never mix, Basim,” Gold said painfully. “I think it’s time we accepted that and stopped all this back-and-forth and just let things be.”
Basim looked into her eyes and shook his head. “Have you ever fought for anything in your life, Gold? Have you gone the extra mile to get what you wanted, even if you had to beg, borrow, and steal?”
“I don’t stress myself over things. If you’ve ever lived in lack, you’d come to accept that there are many things you can’t get, no matter how hard you try.”
“No, Goldie! If you want something, you go for it! You don’t stop until you get it. Maybe that’s the difference between people in my world and those in yours. It’s not always about the money.”
“Your privilege is speaking, Basim. When you’re short, you can’t jump high.”
He breathed out, staring down, hands in his pockets. “I don’t believe that, but in this case, I’ll have to accept it.” He looked at her. “Clearly, I’m too short to jump right into your place of loyalty. I don’t matter to you, Goldie. Your ex pops back into your life, and he takes priority. My mom offers you cash to disappear, and you mull over it without even telling me. So yeah, I’m short. And it fucking hurts.”
“Enjoy your evening, Gold.”
The conversation had been stuck in her head since then, and it had left her sad through the night, right into the morning. Baking had been a distraction all day. Now, that she was done, she sought something else to fill her mind.
She looked up. Ozzy was standing by the door.
“Whatever it is, I don’t have time for it,” she said.
“I just want to say that I’m here if you need to talk. You’ve been in a mood all day. Is it Basim?”
“Ozzy, please, I’m begging you with God…”
“What is wrong?”
“You. You’re wrong. Because of you, I can’t have a meaningful relationship. I need you gone from my life.”
“I’ll be gone in the next couple of days, goldfish, and I’m sorry for the emotional distress my presence is causing you, but Basim is not good for—”
“ENOUGH!” she screamed. “Enough! I am done! You will never ever talk about Basim to me again! Do you understand?”
“Oswald Arran, do you understand?”
“Yeah, okay. Stop shouting.”
“Good.” She wiped her hands on a towel and stomped out of the kitchen.
Hadiza’s sons were mad at her. She had no idea why Basim was angry, but she was about to find out, as he was already on his way to her hotel. Nero, on the other hand, had been annoyed since the night before, after she informed him that she wasn’t sleeping over at his house. It made no sense to him why she would stay in a hotel when she had the option of picking his place or Basim’s, or even the family house, which was under the care of a relative. But Hadiza loved hotels, and she had plans to enjoy her stay with Kadiri while Julius’ world burned to the ground.
The phone by her bedside rang, and Kadiri reached for it. She ogled his nude brawny frame as he left the bed.
“She is in the shower,” he spoke into the phone. “Send him up after five minutes.” He placed the phone’s receiver in the cradle. “Basim is on his way up.”
Hadiza’s tummy curdled. Basim had a way of making her feel inadequate as a mother. She had never been enough for him, even though she had been the parent that indulged him the most. All her efforts to build a strong relationship with him always came short. She knew she held some of the blame, but Basim was difficult.
“Call me when you’re alone,” Kadiri said, having worn his clothes and erased traces of the sex they just had. “I’ll be patrolling the corridor though.” He tossed her a bathrobe.
“Open the windows, turn off the AC.”
He did as she instructed and left the suite. Soon after, Basim walked in. Hadiza spied him from the bedroom and thought he looked stylish in his corporate-casual wear. His long legs reminded her of Mazino’s. The boy was every inch his father.
“Don’t I get a hug?” she asked, stepping into the sitting room where he had made himself comfortable. He stood and gave her a hug. She saw anger in his eyes. It was something she was used to.
“How’s work?” she asked, rubbing his cheek.
He turned away. “Good.”
“I really wanted to come over last night, but…”
“I was not interested, Mom.” He turned. “And that’s why I’m here. First, let’s talk about Hajara.”
“She’s not going back to Chicago, and I support her decision to remain in Lagos.”
“What’s her reason?”
“It’s personal to her. I think you should respect that.”
“Basim, your sister has never acted responsibly in her life. It’s from one bad decision to another. How she even managed to finish school and secure a job still baffles me. But the pregnancy and this latest stint is not at all surprising. What’s surprising, though, is the fact that you support her. That’s so unlike you. You’re always so goal-oriented and career-focused.”
“And I’m also about adults making their decisions without other people interfering.”
“All I want is for her not to wake up tomorrow and realize that she’s thrown her future away. To be honest, I’m so scared for her, Basim. She’s a baby…”
“Your sister always falls into the wrong hands.”
“She’s under my nose, Mom. In my care. Nothing will happen to her. You and Dad should stand down and let the girl live her life.”
Hadiza saw that despite his annoyance, he was patient with her.
“Won’t you sit?”
“No.” He slipped his hands in his pockets, looked up and down and asked, “Why do you keep intruding in my personal life?”
Hadiza held back a sigh. “Gold?”
The doorbell rang.
“Must be your brother.”
Basim walked to the door and let Nero in. They shook hands before Nero faced her with anger.
“Tell me you’re not behind what’s happening to Cheta’s dad.”
“Cheta’s dad?” Basim asked. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Check Twitter,” Nero answered and faced Hadiza again. “Are you?”
Hadiza sighed this time. She got off her seat and went for a bottle of wine chilling in an ice bucket on a table nearby.
“Aren’t you going to answer me?” Nero followed her.
“What answer are you looking for, Oghenero?”
“Mom, I didn’t sit almost three hours in traffic for you to stand here and give me this blasé attitude. This is serious shit.”
“No way!” Basim exclaimed from behind his phone. He was seated now. “Are you for real?”
“So, did you do it or not?” Nero continued.
Hadiza poured herself a glass of wine, drank a mouthful, and answered, “I did.” She stared at him, waiting for a retort, but he stayed silent, working out his thoughts. “You’re about to ask me why abi?” She drank another mouthful. “I’ll tell you. Julius deserves to be exposed, his victims deserve to have their stories heard, his followers deserve to know what type of man he is, and I deserve to get my revenge.”
“Wow!” Basim howled, interrupting them.
“I’m glad you were honest enough to say the last part, because I’m very sure revenge is all you want. And you would do anything and step on anyone to get your pound of flesh back.”
“If they stand in my way, yes.” Hadiza topped her wine and moved away from the table.
“But Cheta is not standing in your way.”
“Cheta?” Hadiza frowned.
“Yes, you wanted her to do the dirty job of exposing her father.”
“Oh, that… Well, she didn’t, did she?”
“When do you draw the line, Mom? When do you stop meddling?”
“Help me ask her,” Basim muttered.
“You did all of this behind my back, using an accident that happened seventeen years ago to guilt-trip her? Do you know the burden you tried to put on her? Have you any idea who Julius Azubuike is?”
“Yes, I do. Now, the whole world is going to know him too.”
“Mom, this is not some game!” Nero yelled in frustration. “If it is to you, play it alone! Don’t use my girlfriend as a pawn!”
“On no, Cheta is not a pawn, Oghenero. I never saw her as one.” Hadiza placed her wine glass on a stool beside her. “She’s a queen. There aren’t many out there like her, Son. You damn well know this or you wouldn’t be with her. Yes, I used guilt on her, but that was the only way I could get her to understand who she was and how much she could use her position to make a change. None of the women her father has raped can speak loud enough for anyone to hear. Nobody would even care. Forget all that happened today. Everything will die down eventually. You know how these things go. But Chichetaram has a voice. She holds a crown that neither Julius nor the society can snatch from her. I want her to use it—”
“He is her father!”
“I know that, Son!” Hadiza retorted and exhaled. “I know that. And I also know the weight of the burden I’m placing on her back, but she can do this. Nero, do you have any idea what rape does to you? How it eats you up from the inside and spreads like a virus until it brings you to nothing? You have to keep fighting and fighting to not let it consume you. Day and night, you face the monster in your head and in your nightmares…”
Hadiza stopped as memories and raw emotions crawled up her throat. She inhaled and let her breath out.
“All I want is for Cheta to give strength to her father’s victims, to help them fight the monster that haunts them in their nightmares. No statement would be as powerful as a rapist’s own daughter coming out to call her father who he rightly is. Her story will never be forgotten.”
“But it has to be her choice, Mom. Right now, she is broken by all that’s happening on the internet. Her DM’s are filled with hate messages. People are tagging her here and there. Even Obi’s pictures are all over the internet as I speak.”
“Yup,” Basim nodded.
“Why?” Hadiza asked.
“They say she is scum like her father for being a single mother. Soon, they will fit the puzzle pieces in and connect Obi to me.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I am. I truly am. I didn’t think it would take this direction, but it’s all for good.”
“She can clear her name by dissociating herself from him when she calls him out—”
“For fuck’s sake, Mom! Know when to stop!”
“No! You’re done! You will not speak to her about this again! Don’t stress her! Please!”
Hadiza reached for her wine. “I didn’t mean any harm,” she said with a plain face.
“And Gold?” Basim asked. “You didn’t mean any harm when you offered to pay her to leave my life?”
Nero gave Hadiza a sharp stare. “You did what?”
“Oh, she did that shit. Just like in the movies. Well done, Ma.”
“Gold is not good for you.”
“No woman has ever been good for me in your eyes. None. You canceled all of them!”
“Maybe because your relationships never lasted.”
“Has it ever occurred to you that I was the common denominator in all of them? I’m the scum that kept hurting all those women. But not this time. I’m fixing up and making things right with Gold, and you will not come between us!”
“Fine.” Hadiza’s plain expression remained. “Just so you know, she’s not Cheta, and she can never be like her.”
“Mom?” Nero scolded.
“Your brother needs to know the truth. We have queens, and we have their handmaids.”
Basim was out of words. He glared at her, shook his head and walked to the door. He opened it and said to her in a calm tone. “Fuck you and your classist bullshit. I am done with you. I will marry Gold, and you will not be invited.”
“Come on, Man,” Nero said.
“I’m out of here, Nero.” The door slammed at his exit.
“What is wrong with you?” Nero asked Hadiza. “Why do you do this all the time?”
“You won’t ask him why he would use that sort of language on me? His own mother?”
“You pissed him off.”
“He’s not yet married to her and she is already making him cuss at me and you can’t see that?”
Nero was disappointed, but Hadiza showed that she didn’t care, even though she did. If there was one person she always wanted on her side, it was he.
“Are you going to walk out on me too?” she asked in a soft tone.
“Don’t do that. Don’t try to emotionally manipulate me.”
“I wasn’t trying to, and I’m honestly sorry about how my actions are affecting you and Cheta and Obi.”
“What about Basim and Gold?”
“That girl’s ex is still in her life.”
“Ozzy? He is not.”
“I didn’t want to tell Basim, but Oswald is living in Cheta’s house at the moment.”
“Look… You children keep telling me not to interfere, but if I don’t keep an eye on you, people would do things to hurt you.”
“Well, we’re not the children here, Mom. You haven’t grown from the time we were under your care. Maybe you need to, and you also need to learn to let us be adults.”
Nero’s words hit home. Hadiza gave up arguing with him. “All right.”
He bent and kissed her cheek. “I have to go.”
“My love to Cheta and Obi.”
Upon his exit, she reached out to Abeni whose call she had missed earlier.
“Talk to me, darling.”
“The threats have started pouring in.”
“So have more stories.”
“Good. That is what we want. Follow them up.”
“Keep me posted… And Beni? Great job.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Hadiza rang off.
Cheta hated the way she felt. She hadn’t done anything exhausting, yet she was fatigued. Spread out on a sofa in Nero’s living room, she flipped through channels on cable TV, looking for something engaging enough to distract her mind. She was still ignoring phone calls; and following Nero’s advice, she was off the internet. Somewhere in the house, Obi was with friends. The sounds of their laughter and loud arguments over some computer game strangely soothed Cheta. She settled for a music channel that was playing Bob Marley and Lucky Dube’s songs. Nero had called her earlier to inform her that he was on his way home. He had asked if she wanted something to eat and she requested for fruits alone. Now, she wished she had asked for a burger or pizza.
She heard a door slam in the house, and soon, Obi was standing in front of her.
“Grandpa is on the phone,” he told her, passing his phone to her.
Cheta put the phone to her ear, cussing her father in her head.
“Chichetaram, are you saying that you’ve not been seeing my calls?”
“Daddy, I have,” she mumbled.
“I have o.”
“Then why have you not been picking them. Or have you joined the world to judge and castigate me?”
Cheta was silent.
“You know that all those things that wicked woman wrote about me is not true. I might have been imprudent in the past, but I’m no longer that person. These women just want to destroy your father, and I know that Hadiza Husseini is behind all of this.”
Cheta put the phone on speaker and sat up, crossing her legs underneath her body.
“This one that you’re not saying anything, Chichetaram,” he spoke in Igbo.
“What do you want me to say?” she answered in Igbo.
“I need you to be on my side, to support me. You know you have so many followers on social media. When you speak up on my behalf, it would go a long way to help remove this stain they are staining me with. Hmm? Adanna, anuli’m… Do this for your old man. Oh?”
Cheta looked at Obi who was standing nearby. There was irritation on his face.
“Daddy, I’ll think about it.”
“Okay. Please, think quick. Can you let me know tomorrow?”
Cheta swore silently. “Yes.”
“Okay. Thank you. Send my regards to Obi and his father. By the way, your mother should be in Lagos now. I sent her over to keep you company, because she’s really missing you children. The house is so quiet these days.”
“Daddy, I have to go. Somebody is at the door. Bye!” She ended the call and handed Obi’s phone to him.
“You’re not going to do it, are you?” he asked.
“Defend him or whatever. You’re not going to do it.”
“Obi, like I told him, I’d think about it.”
“There’s nothing to think about, Mom. He’s a rapist.”
“Obi, just go to your room, please. I need some time to think.”
Obi left the living room. Cheta picked her phone and saw that she had missed five new calls from her mom. She returned the calls.
“Cheta, I’m in your house o, and there’s nobody here. I just came, though. Is there somewhere you keep the key?”
“Mommy, I’m on my way now.”
Cheta picked the key to Nero’s Mercedes and started towards home. On her way, she called Nero and informed him where she was headed. He told her that he would reroute his journey to her house.
“Why is she in Lagos, though?” he asked. “Has it got anything to do with what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. My dad said he sent her to me, but that doesn’t make sense.”
“You think she came because of my mom?”
“I don’t know. Wait… I hope they’re not getting back together o.”
Nero laughed. “That would be really awkward.”
“I sha hope not, because I can’t handle any more drama, to be honest.”
“Same here. Anyways, see you in a bit. I know you said you wanted only fruits, but I got burger and pizza. I didn’t know which one you wanted.”
Cheta blushed. Nero was the stuff of romance movies. “Anyone is fine. Thank you, baby.”
“How are you?”
“Great. See you.”
She hung up, feeling a little lighthearted. When she arrived home and saw her mom seated out on the entrance steps, she smiled. She loved the woman deeply, and nothing from their past could change that.
“Mommy, what are you doing in Lagos?” she asked, walking towards her.
“I came to be with you. How are you?”
“Fine. You?” Cheta searched for signs of emotional distress on her face but there was nothing. Rather, she seemed happy.
“I’m good o.”
“Oh, I meant in relation to what is happening online and all.”
“Oh. Em… yes, that’s very sad. People are wicked and your daddy doesn’t deserve…”
“Mommy, stop. Please, stop. We all know he did those things. His day of reckoning has come, and I think you are quite happy.”
“What type of wife would I be to rejoice over my husband’s downfall?”
“No nau. I’m not happy. I’m…”
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…” Cheta held her hands. “I’m not a child anymore. I know about Rere, Abeni, Rifkatu, and all the other women. It’s time we stopped lying to each other over what Daddy is.”
“It’s now up to us to know how to deal with the situation.”
Nnedinma gently put Cheta’s hands down. “Let’s just go inside. I’m very tired.”
Cheta picked her suitcase, unlocked the door, and let her in.
For a second, Gold didn’t recognize Hajara when Basim’s front door was flung open and both women stood staring at each other.
“If you’re here to see my brother, he’s not home,”Hajara said.
“Oh. You’re Hajara.”
“Yes. And you’re?”
“Gold. Basim’s girlfriend.”
“He has a girlfriend this beautiful and he didn’t tell me?” She rolled her eyes. “Typical.” She moved away from the door. “Come in.”
Gold walked into the living room and stood, as if she were a stranger.
“Please, sit. He’s not back from work, but he called to say he was on his way. Me, I’m going out, because I have a date.” She grinned. “How do I look?” She swiveled and Gold nodded in appreciation of her style. Her polka-dot flare skirt with a white t-shirt and matching white sneakers was a cute combo. She topped it with a crepe-colored scarf, which rested forward on her chest. Her makeup was perfect.
“You look amazing. Your date is definitely going to be blown away.”
“I know.” Hajara giggled. “Thank you.” She started towards her room, but stopped. “Have you called Basim?”
“I actually wanted to surprise him. We fought and he’s not expecting me here, so…”
“I get it. I’ll call him to be sure he’s coming home.” She checked her time. “I can’t wait, though.”
“But how do I know you’re not an armed robber or something?”
Gold laughed. “Call Nero and confirm. But please, don’t call Basim.”
“Okay.” Hajara entered her room and came out shortly with a sling handbag. “Your girlfriend story checks out. I have to run. See you later, Gold.”
Gold sat in the living room for a while, but she soon became restless and walked into Basim’s bedroom. It was a mess, and she instinctively began to clean it up. She could hear Cheta’s disapproving voice in her head, but she didn’t stop until the place was shipshape.
As if waiting for her to be done, Basim car pulled up in the driveway just then. Gold rehearsed the words of apology in her head. She was tired of fighting with him.
She heard the front door open and shut.
“Haja! Still home?” Basim asked. He dropped his key on the center table, a habit that Gold was used to. “Hajara!”
Gold was standing by the window that was farthest away from his bedroom door. She saw him walk past to Hajara’s bedroom.
“Na wa o! This girl sha left the front door open.”
He went past his bedroom a second time, but did a reverse and stopped at the door, staring at Gold curiously. “How did you get in?”
“Hajara let me in just before she went out.”
“Okay. What are you doing here, though?”
She noted the forced frown on his face and almost laughed.
“Aren’t you supposed to be with Ozzy or something?”
“Ozzy is seeing someone else, Bas. I tried to tell you yesterday, but you were too pissed. He and I are history. Look, I didn’t come here to talk about him. I came to talk about us.”
Basim crossed his arms. “I’m listening.”
Her rehearsed speech was stuck somewhere and would not make it out, so she blurted, “I’m pregnant.”
Basim slowly dropped his arms, narrowing his eyes. “You’re what?”
“Pregnant.” Her heart began to race. The frown on his face was no longer forced. It was real this time. Maybe she should have waited for better time to break the news.
“As in, right now? You’re carrying my baby?”
“Yes. It wasn’t planned…”
Basim didn’t let her finish her sentence, as he hurried from across the room, jumping over the bed, to get to her. He caught her mid-laughter with a kiss. Then he lifted her off the floor, making her wrap her legs around him.
“This is the best news ever! Like what!”
“Are you for real, Goldie? I’m going to be a dad?”
“Yes.” She kissed him.
“I’m sorry for the things I said yesterday.”
“Let’s not fight again. Let’s do this shit properly.”
“So, will you be my girlfriend, officially?”
Gold kissed him again. “Yes.”
She was still scared of Hadiza, but her priority was her baby. They both needed Basim. They needed stability.
He gently laid her on the bed, raised her dress and kissed her tummy. “Hi baby, hi angel. I can’t wait to meet you. I love you already.” He kissed his way up to Gold’s lips. “Just as I love your mom. I don’t know how she feels about me though.”
“Bas, I love you.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“Don’t spoil a perfectly romantic moment jare.”
“Yeah, I love me some romance right now.” His eyes glistened with desire.
“Na wa for you.”
“It’s been months.”
Gold laughed. “Weeks.”
He hooked a finger on the string of her thong. “May I?”
“Yes, Daddy,” she purred, allowing her body rest fully on the bed.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Mechie onu gi – Shut your mouth (Igbo)
Mba – No (Igbo)
Adanna – Her father’s daughter (Igbo)
Anuli’m – My joy (Igbo)