Love on the 25th. Episode 16
Read Previous Episodes of Love on the 25th by Uneñ Ameji Here
It was a dark. It was raining. It was midnight. The quaint white bungalow sitting heavily like an obese woman in our large compound was quiet as usual and as I lay my head on my soft feathery pillow, I waited for their voices to create the ruckus I knew would start very soon…that was the norm. They waited for the world to sleep before they woke them up with shouts so loud, the echoes stayed within the walls throughout the day until they made new ones the very next day. I counted in confusion as I stared at my ceiling; I didn’t need to wait long.
“I am the man of the house and you and your dead father cannot tell me what to do” it was his voice, loud and authoritative as ever.
“Nobody is contesting that you are a man and so cannot keep his pants up! I want you out of my house and out of the company. It was my father’s and I won’t stand by and watch you cheat with your indigenous breed and work in an honest man’s office. God knew my father warned me! You silly goat” it was mother in her usual abusive fashion. I didn’t understand the word indigenous and breed at the time and I made the mental note to check the big Oxford dictionary in the library when they had both gone to work. I was learning new words these days and they weren’t good words. Perhaps I was too smart, perhaps too pampered but as an only child, I had all I wanted – until the day mother discovered daddy was a “lying bastard frolicking with a whore who he spent all her father’s money on”.
“I have worked in that company for ten years! Ten good years and you think you can command me to leave my life’s work just because it was your father’s? I am the managing director for a good reason, and nothing is going to stop me from sitting on that chair till I say otherwise. Get that? And you better get used to having an indigenous breed as your mate. I won’t give her up. Never!” and the door to their bedroom was slammed shut; the vibrations reaching the earth core.
It was not over yet. I waited for mother to follow and follow she did.
“Ben! Ben! Come back here. You won’t have the last word and for your information, the board is ready to vote me back in. You will lose everything and you will go back to the dishonest hole you vermin crawled out from. I swear Ben, I will destroy you and take my daughter from you” she said as she followed him past the hallway and down to the guest room where he always slept after their nightly ritual. But that night, something happened that changed our lives forever.
A loud slap, a high-pitched shout and the sound of crashing glasses, I was out of my bed and was running out of my room in complete shock and fear. The sight before me had me rooted in the hallway, afraid to move. The shelf with glass decor and plates had fallen and there were shattered glass particles all over the floor. Then I saw him, holding her up against the wall in strong grip as he snuffed the life out of her, her toes barely touching the floor and her hands reaching to unclasp his hands from her neck, struggling.
There was a little tear at her mouth and a spill of blood running down her mouth. I inched closer and felt a piece of glass sink into my right foot. I saw finger marks across her cheeks, light-skinned, mother bore the evidence of his slap and her eyes red with blood clot. He was determined to shut up her, I could see that.
“Daddy!” I shouted as I stood, too scared to move, afraid of him, afraid for her. This was the first time I had witnessed anything like this and I knew our lives had changed forever. He looked at me intensely for few seconds before relaxing his hold on her neck. She coughed loudly as his hands left her neck that bore more red welts from his grip. She slumped, rapidly feeding her starved lungs with fresh oxygen as she stretched out her hands for me.
“You will not take my life from me. You won’t take Alama from me” he said quietly as he dragged me back to my room despite the shout of mother to let me be.
“Daddy, please leave mummy alone’’ I said as he lifted me up with one hand.
“Shut up your mouth and don’t ever leave your room when adults are fighting. Like mother, like daughter” he said as he yanked my door and flung me inside. I landed on the bed with my hand hitting my wooden bedside locker.
That was my first fracture. That was the beginning of my hatred for the man whose DNA runs in my blood. That was the end of my family.
The clicks, flashes and steadily increasing looks from the crowded hotel lobby as they pointed and confirmed their suspicion about who I was brought me back to the present. The tears ran up my tear duct and I pasted a wide happy smile as I hugged my long-lost mother some more. She seemed to take the cue knowing we were in a delicate position. She smiled and gave me a princess perk on the forehead as we took our hands and tried walking away from the crowd that was beginning to irritate me. Thanks to the security at the hotel, we were ushered to the closest elevator but a persistent busybody followed in determined pursuit.
“Is this your mother? Why are you both crying? When is the wedding? Is the public invited or just Invites only?” all these questions spilling from the lips of the thin girl who I was sure was uploading the pictures to some sorry gossip site or her instagram. A word was not said as we walked into the elevator holding our hands, not letting go.
“My God! You are so beautiful” mother whispered as we got off the elevator with the security man and a manager escorting us to her room.
“Thank you” I said to the duo who looked like they wanted to wait around. I waited for the door to close before flying into my mother’s arms in relief and tears.
“I thought you were dead, I thought you left me….”I cried, as I hiccuped, trying to keep it all in but I couldn’t. The last time I had seen her was at Christmas. I had just turned 7 and several months after the night father broke my hand and nearly suffocated mum. I was little but I remembered the commotion that followed afterward; the fights were rough and deadly from then on. I heard of schemes and abuses. Mother took over the company and father nearly had her head for it – until Inspector Sunday, a friend of father’s had mother detained for few hours to “maintain the peace”. That was all father needed to put his plan into action.
He ran away with me and from what I heard years later, I wasn’t the only thing he took from mother. He had already sold properties left to mother by her father and taken a huge chunk from the joint account after he forged her signature.
Mother came just as the truck loaded with some boxes pulled out of the driveway. I remember her chasing the truck as I struggled with my hands and head out of the window….tears flowing down our faces as he sped on, her distraught image was reduced to nothingness after few meters but I could never forget as she collapsed on the tarred road right before I lost her.
I cried for weeks refusing to say a word, barely leaving the room I occupied alone in where I came to know as Benin – Nigeria and in few years, I became an object of abuse. Dad was never around, his wife slapped me around any chance she got, John the old guard found a way to sexually abuse me on the pretext of consoling me and the little devil of a bastard, Oman raped me repeatedly much to the amusement of my father’s wife….she knew, Dad knew but I was all alone. I was without a mother. He had his ultimate revenge against ‘the woman’, his sole enemy, who he repeatedly said was responsible for his downfall. I hated him and waited patiently for my mother to come rescue me. She was in Ghana and I hoped for the day she’d find out we were now in Nigeria but the day couldn’t come fast enough and that was when I decided I was going to look for her. I was 16 years.
“Your mother is dead” he had said without looking up from his Sunday newspaper after I announced boldly I was leaving to go find my mother. Oman had forced his little snake into me the night before and when I had beaten off a huge chunk of flesh from his shoulders, his wife had flogged me and called me a witch like my mother. I was ready to leave and I was not going back on the decision.
“I know you are lying. You are lying. When? When?” I shouted as tears formed in my eyes. He continued reading without as much as a look in my direction.
“She died five years ago on her way to America, you were too young and I decided to spare you the grief” he announced without lifting his eyes from the newspaper he was reading. When I demanded to know how, he stood up and left the sitting room. I felt myself go weak, the hope of rescue turning into smoke and heated pain traveled up my chest.
“See this fly” it was the devilish woman laughing at my predicament.
I ran away that night without a thought to where I was going. That night I met Caleb. My first husband. My heart lurched at the name; the last conversation with Vince and follow-up picture made me hold her more, sniffing in her scent.
“I am here….I am so sorry” she said as we sat on the bed as I cried and she did too. We stayed there for hours. Looking up to her and we’d stare, a sad smile and we’d cry again.
“We have to stop crying baby” she said, patting my hair as I blew my nose.
“I can’t ….” I struggled to speak, sniffing thick gobs of mucus in. I was a mess and I didn’t care. I just wanted to curl inside her arms and never get up. I remembered the smell, the pecks and little gifts she gave me every day.
“I know…I know” she said planting a thick kiss on my head.
“I thought you were dead, he told me you were dead and I believed him, I stopped searching, I was lost mum, I was lost……” I cried some more and she joined.
“I killed him” she said in strange voice and I turned to look at her.
“When?” was all I could say.
“I finally found you, him in Benin and when I asked of you, he said you ran away. I searched everywhere, the street boys helped with your poster. The police wasn’t any good. I got so mad I emptied bullets on him and his wretched wife and I left Nigeria. I was heartbroken and I had failed you. If only I had searched hard enough…” she was saying ashamed of what she had done. I knew the guilt she was feeling. It was the guilt of taking a life, of keeping secrets buried and the wish that things were different.
“Did you kill the guard and the boy?” I asked in hope, relishing in the knowledge that I had been avenged. I took her hands as she tried to get up. I was dried eyed now and she looked at me strangely.
“I must have…..I didn’t leave a witness” she said with an evil grin and we smiled for the first time since we hugged at the reception.
“Thank you” I said and hugged her as I contemplated telling her that I had also murdered a man in cold blood. That was my secret I decided and until it absolutely had to come out, I wasn’t going to ruin the evening any more than necessary.
“My baby is getting married” she gushed as she planted a loud kiss at the center of my head and I giggled, forgetting the schemes and lies involved. The thought of having her at my wedding made the lie inconsequential. I was going ahead with the wedding – even if it was for just three months.
“I missed you” she said and hugged me.
“Let me show you my pictures” I said for a lack of a better thing to say. I switched on my phone just in time to have flood of messages and calls fighting over themselves to reach me. A call came in.
It was Kole.
“Where are you?” he sounded miffed.
“Ikeja” I answered.
“You didn’t take my driver” he accused. I knew what he was thinking – that I was with Vince.
“You do realize that we are getting married in two weeks” he sounded terse.
“Goddamit Debbie! I can’t have your affairs making headlines before the wedding. You know what is at stake here” he sounded desperate and for a moment I wanted to believe he liked women and wanted me. A happy part of me wanted the lies to be real but then Vince ….
“I am not with him”
“Are you sure?” he said releasing his pent up lungs.
“Please Debbie, just come back home let’s talk about all these” he said with a touch of a British accent and I could see imagine him running his hand through his head.
“I am with my mother Kole, can we do this tomorrow?” I said as I noticed her eyes now smiling.
“Your mother? You have a mother?” he asked, shock lacing his doubtful voice. I handed over the phone to mother.
“He doubts you exist” I said as I gave her the phone and went to get myself a bottle of water. The knowledge that she had killed the people who tormented me brought me strength and joy. I felt vindicated but I wondered how she must be handling the guilt knowing she murdered them in cold blood. What else was she capable of? I didn’t dwell on it.
“I take you think me non-existent” she started and I watched her with awe. My mother as I remembered her…smiling and nodding her head to whatever Kole was saying.
“Yes, I know. She just told me about it and I flew in last night.” She answered the questions that followed.
“Yes, we have a lot to catch up on, she is staying the night. But of course. I need to meet my son-in-law soon” she said as she looked at me and I smiled. She gave back the phone after few lines.
“So I hear mummy loud and clear. I will see you tomorrow. We should talk Deb…and I am sorry about Alex. I do want you. You should know that” and he dragged the last line and was gone.
“Trouble before the vows not a good sign baby. I am sure you know that” was all she said and I nodded. She already knew.
“We are working out few details” I braved.
“He doesn’t trust you before marriage, he won’t trust you after either and from what I think, it seems there is another young man in the picture… huhmm?” she said coming to take my hands and I laughed, shy and shaking my head in the affirmative. If only she knew there were two young men in the picture.
“Come tell me all about him, we have all night” she said as we headed out to the balcony but not before I rang for a plate of fruit salad.
I had 25 years to make up for.
I waited for her. I knew she was going to come. There was no alternative. The apartment was on a short lease, felt empty and impersonal. Two weeks after I had sent her Caleb’s picture and she was yet to get back to me. My calls were rejected, text messages went ignored. I was out of my wit and tomorrow was the wedding. I had to stop it. I had to.
I took the first flight to Lagos on Friday morning against father’s directive to host a government official. Over the weeks past, I had barely functioned at work and planned tirelessly on how to stop the wedding without making it headline news. There was only one way and I was going to need Caleb.
At 9:15am I was in Lagos, at 11:15 am, I had showered and shaved, brushed twice and changed my shirt thrice. I was excited because it was more than four weeks since the last time I saw her and was in her bed. In that time, I thought about her constantly, wished she would just stop the madness and call off the wedding. I had dreamt about her with my baby, I had thrown cups at my wall and was constantly moody and snappy. She had to call it off or I was going to disrupt the wedding publicly I had threatened in a message – that too had gone unanswered. With the arrival of her mother on scene, the wedding fever had gone higher and it was the constant rave everywhere. It was time to put my plan in motion.
‘I have your husband with me.
Doesn’t look good.
Tomorrow could be your big day, ….or not
We need to see.
C21, Block F, Boston Apartments, Alvan Ikoku, V.I’
I sent the message. Barely two minutes later, she replied.
‘See you in one hour’
Now I waited. Half expectant and half-tensed. What if she was truly married to him, what was their history? Who was she? Debbie or Alama?…..I heard a small knock on the door and knew instinctively she was the one. A deep breath, I went to open the door.
She stood there, a little frazzled, a little bold, her eyes already darting past my shoulders and licking her lips as she held her dark glasses.
“Where is he?” she asked as I stood aside to let her pass.
“He couldn’t make it today” I answered as she turned to face me.
“I know what I said”
“Why did you bring me here?” she asked, getting angry.
“Because I wanted to meet Alama” I said piercing her with a heated look.
“You don’t need to know her. I am getting married in less than 24 hours Vince. I can’t afford this kind of meetings” she said almost in a plea. I frowned.
“You can’t get married when you are already married to another” I said almost in a thought.
“Vince, I was married but we are no longer together”
“But not divorced” I pressed.
“It was a long time ago, I was under aged. I was 16 years. That is contestable”
“That is not what he said. I am pretty sure he said you were 20” I said looking at her mouth, tracing it to her chest and back to her face. All I could see was her naked underneath me and I found her avoiding my gaze as she swallowed self-consciously.
“He lied, we lied in court” she said suddenly looking at her hands and finding a seat. I walked over to her.
“I had a feeling he wasn’t telling the real story but he will, soon enough” I said taking the opposite sofa.
“What did he tell you?” she asked looking at me, tensed.
“You were supposedly in a fire and he thought you were dead”
“That is true”
“Why didn’t you find him after the fire?”
“I didn’t want to be married to him anymore. I had enough of men”
“But you are getting married to Kole”
“Yes. I am. It has been a long time”
“Why?” I pressed.
“Because it is the right thing to do. Career-wise, and we are compatible”
“Do you love him?” I asked jealous, unable to remain objective and unattached. Here she was and the only thing I could think of was making love to her till her wedding day was over.
“I am comfortable with him” she answered licking her lips.
“What happens to us?”
“There was no Us” she corrected.
“I don’t think so”
“Vince, don’t make this about you…” she shook her head.
“You could be with my child. Are you?” I asked, serious.
“Vince! I am not with a child”
“It has been over a month. Have you seen….”
“My God Vince! I can’t believe you called me here to talk of a nonexistent baby” she said standing up and pacing the space.
“What if you were with my baby, would you still marry Kole?”
“Well, I am not with your child” she defended, her hands going over her stomach in a possessive stance.
“That doesn’t answer my question”
“Will you go ahead with the wedding?”
“Will you?” I shouted as I stood facing her.
“Good” I said firmly as we stared at ourselves.
“You have a lot to answer for” I said, my head and all the questions I wanted answers too forgotten.
“God! How I have missed you” I said tracing her lips with my fingers
“Vince….” She didn’t move.
“I want you, I don’t care if you are Alama or Debbie, I don’t care if you were married…to Caleb, to Kole, I really don’t care what your past is Debbie. I am not letting you go, I’m in love with you” I said as I placed strands of hair behind the back of her ear.
“Vince, we can’t” she said, her breath fanning my hand, she was aroused. I could tell.
“I know” and with that I hooked my hand to her waist, pulling her close. All thoughts of finding out who she was, why she changed her name and what led to marrying a misfit like Caleb was lost as I found her lips. She gasped as I teased her open.
“Vince…” she called, trying to resist.
“Don’t fight it love” and I pressed. She responded slowly as I found her willing tongue and sucked on it. She moaned, her hands finding their way to my neck. Pressing closer, I found her aching nipples underneath the silk blouse she was wearing. She arched her back and without second thoughts swept her up her feet and was soon carrying her to the bedroom without a protest. If she wasn’t pregnant before, I was going to make sure she left with me inside her, the thought tightening my already stiffened groin and my heart leaping with joy.
I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.
There was no way I was letting her get married.
Not on my watch.
Love on the 25th is written by Uneñ Ameji; Author of Memoirs of a Justified Gold Digger. Get a copy. She is @UnenAmeji