M.O.T.I.V.E.S – Series Finale

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Like they say, all things come to an end. M.O.T.I.V.E.S by Unen Ameji’s is finally at its end.
We would like to thank our readers, new audience and fans for reaching out, liking our pages and helping out in sharing the story as it unfolded. Thank you.

M.O.T.I.V.E.S, a story set in old and modern day Nigeria, is a riveting, stimulating, suspense-filled tale of a myriad of absorbing characters with Unen Ameji’s fluid style of delivering engaging stories of greed, love, lust and power that leaves her audience on the edge of their seats, guessing and usually clamoring for more.

The story features Nigerian Tycoon and powerhouse Bello Badmus. A man who gave power as he willed, a man who controlled Presidents, a man who put men and monsters in seats of power; Florence Ohiemi aka Naomi Mambutu and her identical evil twin Josephine Ohiemi aka KudiraT Sadika Bello who are ever in battle of wills – good and evil, where evil prevails.

In a thrilling twist, the events likened to a classic game of chess sees each piece on the board take power and lose it and take it all over again. An illusion of power, an illusion of control.

The last episode will be posted next week! until then, enjoy the preview.

Read all Episodes here

*****

30th August, 2011 – Eid el Fitr Day

The man in sparkling black suit from Bello Badmus bomb blast stood anonymously in the large excited crowd. He smiled at the thought of how much his life had changed over the years. From an innocent Almajiri boy begging for his next meal to international eye for the underworld. Of course he was not just an eye to the highest bidder but one did not take pleasure in referring to oneself as a hired killer. No. One left such dark titles to those who thrived on giving unnecessary titles.
He smiled again as a young boy in his white kaftan and brown embroidered cap ran past him, shouting to his friends in a small group to wait for him. Ganbo found the brightly colored women, heavily made-up girls in kohl and animated boys running around the large mosque interesting and for a second remembered what it felt like to be part of the community.
Standing, he watched the scene play out before him. The crowd flooding into the mosque for prayers, the market filled with morning activities as big trucks offloaded clothing and fresh tomatoes to stalls along the street and vehicles entering the petrol station slowly, attendants fighting and shouting at a man who had parked his car strategically to shunt the moment the low metal gate of the petrol station opens. It was a familiar sight, the long queues during scarcity; the day being Sallah regardless.
If anyone was paying attention, they would have noticed the awkwardly tall man with the bad shoulder blade trudge past them. They would have noticed he walked briskly, stopping momentarily to ask for directions before continuing on his way, making haste as he moved from street to street, store to store asking for Gyaran Kashi, the town’s renowned bone setter; his Hausa language since failing him.
He had less than two hours to find the man he knew too well to be resourceful enough to connect him to who he needed to contact.
He had to find his father and time was ticking.
But even Ganbo, a hired eye, did not notice as men and women with extra clothing took positions in various spots, whispering into a local radio.

*****
Mubi – Adamawa State: 30th August 2011 – Eid el Fitr Day

The blazing stores, the burning human flesh, the exploding sounds of gas cylinders and stored petrol and the suffocating smell of burning petrol tanker. The thick black smoke hovering over the community moved heavily and slowly, lazily going up into the clouds, the only place it knew it could find redemption.
The roads and streets around the old large community mosque, new Pentecostal church few meters away, the busy car park adjacent to the church, the old fruit market and petrol station opposite the mosque had a new layer. Littered with dead and burning flesh; human flesh mangled with animal flesh almost in artistic depravity. A headless man had the head of a goat nestled on the severed throat in measured precision as if it were aligned. A disemboweled woman had a tuber of yam for large intestines with mashed red tomatoes for color and an amputated large bird with two right-legged limbs and male organ sprawled across the burning animal in a comical fashion.
Sounds of helicopter could be heard faintly approaching the burning community from the North and the fearless group in black hoods stood over the destruction, chanting loudly as they fired into already dead bodies, waiting for the helicopter with mounted PT-91 Twardy Battle Tank and a RPG-32 anti-tank grenade launcher. It was a fight to the finish and nothing was going to stop them.
The approaching military air vessels met their Waterloo the moment they became visible. Launch after launch, the men and vessels were blown apart. Hot dark flames falling from the skies as roar of jubilation filled the air in flagrant triumph. It was after all the fight for supremacy and the shredded bodies that lay on the streets and hanging on shrubs was evident that the end for the Nigeria State had come. The terrorists jumped into their trucks afterwards and drove away on human flesh flying their flags high while their cameraman filmed on.

*****

It was a black Tuesday as Nigerians sat across the country in front of their Televisions and watched as their country fell under siege. The live feeds coming from Adamawa and Borno states was nothing like they had seen as they saw lifeless bodies of men, women, children and animals littered callously in different communities so much that the citizens lost count of communities that had been captured, frightened and irked at the ruthlessly of the group. The live feeds looked the same in Gombi, Hong, Maiha and Demsa communities in Adamawa state. They watched as the terrorists butchered and beheaded, as the men in hoods summarily executed persons by shooting them straight in the head; they watched as the group destroyed abandoned military stations and took over their weapons and combat tanks, they watched as these men gunned down men who slept on walls, men who vowed to keep Nigeria safe, men in uniforms.
In what was the biggest terrorist attack in history of the country, the Boko Haram had staged series of suicidal bombings in different states in North East while engaging in full combat with foot soldiers and blowing up helicopters in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States as soon as they were sighted.
It was a show of barbaric dominance and it was clear what needed to be done.
The need to show force, a change in Government.

*****

Jafal swirled the cold drink in his glass, the ice cubes connecting with the glass to give a faint clinking sound. He held the remote control in his hand and raised it to increase the volume the moment the face of his puppet filled his large screen.
“We have taken over your country, your community, your government and your military. Yes, you said we could not, I say to you, you underestimated the power of Allah. Allah gives victory and He has given us victory because we fight, we fight a just cause to free our land from sin, the sin of the West. Today we tell you there is no hiding place for you. We shall fight and we shall win. We have taken over Gwoza, Biu, Chibok….we are winning. It is just the beginning. President Obama, you underestimated us. Come and stop us. We are coming for you. Yes, we shall come for your daughters, your wives and your sons. We are coming to you now. Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!! It was a hooded Yakubu who was known as Abu Bakr al-Shafik to the populace. The country had woken up to celebrate the end of the 30 days fasting but now it lay burning.
Jafal changed the channel and the flood of headlines and calls for resignation of the President took over international and local airways.
Nigeria terror: Boko Haram takes over government – CNN
Over 10,000 persons massacred in Nigeria, Boko Haram is the new government – Al Jazeera
War declared in Nigeria, Nigeria state falls to Boko Haram, casualty rising – BBC
Resignation call: President Jang to resign – NNTA
“I would say this was our biggest victory yet” Jafal said dropping the remote control and smiling wickedly to the man who sat beside him anxiously biting on a cigar.
“I would say” Bello answered, distracted. He knew something was wrong but for the first time, he had no idea what possibly could go wrong. He casually picked up his phone and sent a text. A reply came in almost immediately. Lazily, he nodded to himself and relaxed. He was Bello Badmus after all, nothing could go wrong.
But it was all coming to an end, even for Bello Badmus.

*****
M.O.T.I.V.E.S is written by;
Uneñ Ameji
Author of Memoirs of a Justified Gold Digger on Amazon.com
See new book Love on the 25th on Okadabooks http://goo.gl/hmsKnv
W: http://bit.ly/1Il23U3
T: https://twitter.com/UnenAmeji

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M.O.T.I.V.E.S Episode 6 – @UnenAmeji

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Morning People!

Finally! we have got Episode 6 of M.O.T.I.V.E.S after a loooooooooonng abrupt break. We hope you enjoy it.

Read all previous Episodes here

*****
Note from Unen Ameji
Hey guys, I must apologize for the two weeks break. Hopefully that never happens until the end of the series. The first week was the inauguration week and working in a *Buhari-oriented enviroment – whatever that means, it was a marathon. It was inevitable that I miss sending in the post. And last week Tuesday, I had an accident on my way to work – I was driving. While the facial injuries (Yup, different places) is/are healing, I sincerely hope there are no ugly scars – sexy scars I can deal. *winks
Seriously though, I am thankful and so grateful to be alive. I really am. Wasn’t the best of experience and never ever will I have a repeat.
Back to Motives – You may have to brush through the story to get flowing again, sorry about that. I promise to convert episodes into chapters and format into downloadable*s.
Soooooooo, enjoy this episode and let me know what you think – here or wherever is most convenient. I don’t mind. I love to hear/read your comments.
To Ridwan, Joesph, Ginika, Timayin, Sleekdami and her wonderful friend, Mariam, Zarah, Eve, Sim, Prince, Soulkey, Bisi, Shagkor, Temi T, ephortunate and those I have not mentioned here but have reached out…..thank you. I write most times because of your inspiring comments.
I’d love to know what you guys think – about the story; not asking me “How did it happen?” I am past telling the narrative, seriously guys.

Cheers.
https://twitter.com/UnenAmeji

*****

Episode 6

Avianwu – Auchi, March, 1982

Florence woke up to the cracked dirty walls, the soggy brown asbestos ceiling with irregular water marks from rusted leaking aluminum roof covering half of the building and large cobwebs dangling merrily in the eerily lit room. The warm air was humid as it was suffocating, with stench of decaying human waste, concentrated urine and a little of what Florence would come to know as weed. The putrid smell originated from the farther corner of the room where the en-suite toilet had no door nor roof.
Florence, faint and disoriented, tried to rise up from the sack which served as her bedding and felt her legs give away. She felt sick and the strong urge to vomit was overwhelming. Struggling to support her weak frame by holding the wall, she moved albeit shakingly, taking steady breaths. Reaching the middle of the room to where the only window was, she struggled with the metal locks momentarily and forced it opened just in time to throw up the heavy greenish slime that troubled her being.
Retching loudly and hoping to turn her insides out, she noticed movement from afar in the bushes and soon heard voices approach the building. Suddenly afraid for her safety, she looked around for the door and walked over to it, prying it open. She found it locked from the outside. As the voices neared, she hurried back to the sack and lay down, feigning to be asleep while she waited for the voices to fade.
The voices faded eventually but the thin man with extremely long limbs that entered the room several minutes later reminded Florence of the story of the giant praying mantis only that his countenance belied his fragility. His unusually black face looked like it was cast in precolonial bronze and the gun he hung loosely around his neck and pistol he held carelessly had Florence nodding when he asked if she was sleeping. Fear indeed improved Florence’s hearing ability, even when she was supposed to be fast asleep. She opened her eyes afterwards and slowly sat up after she noticed the thin man go about his business of removing his black overall.
“Where am I? How long have you had me here?” she braved as he settled at the other corner of the large room that looked like an emptied abandoned classroom.
“You are in Avianwu. You have been sleeping for 3 days or more, not sure. Found you lying in the bushes. You can remember taking a nap in the bushes?” he asked wickedly in surprisingly good English and walking over to the open en-suite toilet to take a piss. She had no answer but watched as the yellow liquid splashed on his trousers before turning to face the wall in disgust. Her stomach was rumbling again.
“Here” he said when he returned, throwing her a black leather bag. The wet biscuits in the bag would last Florence for the next couple of days and it would be the beginning of their routine that would last 24 days, three weeks and three days, Florence kept count.
24 days after her escape from the spiritualists that Josephine had staged, 24 days after she found herself in the dungeon with the thin dragon, she started experiencing headaches, cough, sore throat and high fever. Constantly throwing up and feeling cold all night, all day. Her dungeon-mate who came only in the mornings became overly worried and watched her for hours when she was sleeping and mumbling nonsensically. She would wake up at intervals to see him watching her, like the vulture – the haggard scavenger that doesn’t pay the barber visits.
Waking from one of those numerous nap, Florence, dehydrated and hungry, found a tin of clean water, a bowl of sparklingly fufu and what looked like badly cooked Egusi soup plastered on the fermented cassava dough. What was supposed to be cooked meat stared at Florence with flagrant boldness until she was tempted to throw the piece of meat away. She dared not for she felt his eyes on her from his corner.
Nke ahụ bụ ewu nwa anya, n’ihi na protein” he said in Igbo, noticing her hesitation at eating the food he had placed before her. Florence simply nodded as her stomach growled to announce her hunger despite the goat eyeball he served her as protein. Swallowing small balls of the cassava dough, the thin man with the fierce countenance fixed a direct stare at her, challenging her to eat, to throw up. Surprisingly, she didn’t. Her system seemed to like the smell of the fufu and hot green peppered Egusi soup. She was feeling better after she finished the large plate with running nose and weak limbs.
“Lock the door after me and stay in. Wandering around here gets you killed” he said almost in a murmur as he stood to get ready to go out. He had since stopped locking her from the outside. If she wanted to go, she could – so he told her after her seventh day. She had taken a step out of the dilapidated building and found herself rushing back. It was literally a jungle out there. Lighting a rolled up leaf that Florence knew was marijuana and taking a deep drag, he offered her humorously.
“Please” she croaked as the smell enveloped the room. The smell always gave her headaches and coughs and he knew it. He fixed her another stare before leaving to join the group of strange looking men who always waited for him outside the deserted building every afternoon.
The broken-down building was located at what appeared to be in a valley surrounded by tall palm trees and well-rounded large trees that Florence decided were either mahogany or Iroko. The insects that stung her, night animals wailings and the cold air that made her young bones shiver every night told her she was nowhere near civilization.
She had also joined the thin man in taking dumps in the toilet by placing newspapers or fresh plantain leaves he provided on top of the cemented floor and when there wasn’t space, she simply placed the newspapers or leaves on drying excreta and took new dump. Life was unbearable and she was certain she was going to lose the baby and die, and Josephine would be happy.
The thought however strengthened her resolve to live. She decided she wasn’t going to die, she wasn’t going to give her sister the satisfaction of disappearing from the face of the earth forever. From her kidnap to her scape and her apparent rescue after she fainted in a cassava farm, she vowed she would survive and pay her sister back in kind and in coin.
He rarely spoke to her that fateful morning, the 25th day in the forest. He simply ignored her and sharpened his knives and polished his guns the day before, smoking his marijuana without caring if she was going to vomit or faint. She stayed quiet and watched him getting ready for what she knew was going to be a raid or possibility another kidnap. Her morning sickness had reduced but the urge to throw up and weakness still woke her up every morning. Somehow her rush to the window amused him and at such times, she would see twinkles in hie eyes.
“We will be leaving tonight” he said quietly as he ate what would be his last meal, a plate of white rice and palm oil stew with dried fish he brought from who Florence came know was Mama Edo, the woman who the healing fufu and Egusi soup came from. Mama Edo was supposedly the the forest’s herbalist and food vendor.
“Tonight? To where” she asked alarmed, wondering why they will be leaving in the night, in the thick scary darkness. He was surely going to give her to another spiritualist since he had figured out she was pregnant, she thought.
“Leaving to the city. What is your name?” he asked, ignoring her eyes filled with fear. His eyes dropped to her stomach and instinctively she covered her stomach with her thinning hands.
“Florence” she answered going back to her corner when he gave her the remaining food in a blue plastic plate.
“Florence who?” he asked, his voice a little tighter than usual as he stood up and took the last drag of his stem. The thin man almost always smoked marijuana after his meals.
“Florence Ohiemi” she said taking a spoon of the already mixed red rice.
“Florence Ohiemi, from where?” he continued his questioning as he started dressing, hanging his gun and wearing his black leather overall that needed washing.
“From Ibienafe” Florence answered, dropping the spoon and pushing away the plate from her.
“Eat, you will need your strength” he admonished and she picked up the plate again.
“If I come back, we will be leaving this place. Do not sleep, be ready to go immediately I get back” he said sternly to a fearful Florence.
“Why at night? Can’t we go in the morning?” she asked as he stood up to go.
“You are the pregnant one. Do you want to leave this place? he barked and she dropped her head.
“Yes” she answered meekly.
“You don’t know where you are. How do you expect to walk into this forest and get to civilization without guidance?” he asked, looking at her like a petulant child.
“Sorry” was all she could say.
“What’s his name?” he asked after few minutes of silence.
“Who?”
“Your child. A male child” he tried a pitiful smile that made him look like a hungry wild cat, the kind that chewed red kolanut.
“I…, I don’t know. I have not thought about it” she replied with a smile herself. Her mouth felt like an algae pond, slimy and green, her breath stinking like rat died in her bowels and her body was so filthy one could use the dirt to plaster the cracks on the wall.
“Inale” he told her and looked at her thinning frame with pity before disappearing into the forest.
“Inale” she murmured under her breath as she watched him go.
He returned at midnight. When the sun had since forgotten it rose and when the moon took over the skies. However, that particular night, the moon was taking a well deserved break and refused to give night light. The stars took their cue from the moon and they too refused to entertain the dark skies. She had been waiting for him all day. A little sleep, a little murmuring of prayers. She prayed for life, her own, the thin man’s own. God knew her dungeon-mate as the thin man.
“Florence” he called in a whisper from the window and she was soon out, following him. He was with a large bag and a pistol. His appearance disheveled and dried blood on his clothes and forehead. Using flashlight to indicate his position and walking briskly into the unknown, Florence could only follow.
She ran to meet up, wet grasses rubbing her exposed legs as they took uncharted path up the uneven hills and down the meandering plains. Once, she tripped and almost fell into a hole.
“Watch where I step and be quiet” he admonished tiredly, backing the large bag and turning to lead the way.
They walked for what seemed like hours to Florence. Night birds howling, insects biting her exposed limbs, neck and face, wild animals grunting and making strange noises as they walked the lonely bushy path. From a distance, Florence could here chanting of human beings and it sounded evil. Florence jogged to keep up.
After an hour, he stopped abruptly and pointed.
“That’s the highway. When we get there, know where you want to go or follow me. I don’t want to waste time” he all but grunted and forged on.
Florence had no idea where to go to. Until that moment, she thought he was going to kill her or sell her.
“Where are you going to?” she asked, making a conversation and at the same time trying to decide where she would run to. She couldn’t go back home just yet and going back to Zaria was out of the question. With the pregnancy and her evil sister, she knew she had to stay away for a while or else Josephine would find a way to get rid of her, this time for good. And if she wanted an abortion or to give birth to the baby, she had to find out how that worked.
“Cotonou, then Senegal” he answered as they walked hastily, the thin man holding the gun and looking around as they matched on.
“That’s out of Nigeria” she said mostly to herself.
“Yes”
“What’s your name?” she finally braved up to ask as he vied off another bushy path and entered thick bush obviously an attempt to get to the highway faster. She followed, albeit cautiously.
“Friends call me Inale” he answered.
“And enemies?” she tried a joke, wiping sweat from her brows.
“I don’t have enemies” he countered.
“Everyone has enemies. You wanted me to name my child after you, why?” she asked merrily.
“Not me. Yes I wanted your son named after me” he grunted.
“How is that possible? I know for sure everyone has enemies. My own is my sister” she said continued, a smile playing on her lips. They were having a conversation and he was leading her to safety. She decided that instant to follow him. Somehow she knew he would protect her and her baby.
“Because I don’t let them live. You shouldn’t let your sister live either” he said dangerously and she felt shivers go down her spine. The conversation was over.
The next thing that happened changed Florence life forever.
Few minutes after she had stopped questioning him, Inale gave a loud scream and instinctively fired his legs, falling down in a heap. He threw the large bag away and shot at his legs some more. Florence, confused, ran back and waited at a safe distance.
Inale unfortunately had stepped in a pool of poisonous king cobras and they had fastened their fangs on his legs and thighs. They bite him randomly on his long limbs as he shot into the night, killing them, shooting himself. He was bleeding profusely by the time she went back to help him up.
“Please don’t give up. We’ll soon reach” she comforted him as she placed his arms over her shoulders.
“I won’t” he grunted as they moved.
Florence dragged him from the dead snakes, tying his legs and thighs in attempt to prevent circulation of the poison and carried the bag before they started on the path he had vied from. The mixture of pain and poison soon slowed him down and he gave up after 10 minutes to lay down on the wet grasses.
“I am not going to make it. Make sure you do. And whatever you do, don’t abort that child. Take the money in the bag and invest it. Don’t spend me like a fool” he said in between pain and cough as he tried a brave smile.
“Please, please” she was crying now, sweat rolling down her face, afraid for her life, for his. She heard the first cock crow and this time she prayed, using Inale instead of the thin man. But it was too late. There were a million and one thin men in the world and God must have saved the wrong one.
“Let me bleed your legs or at least tie it again” but Inale was long gone after she opened her eyes from the prayer.
He died at the third crow.
Florence, with the bag sat with his body until dawn, crying for her lost friend, for a man she would never know, her rescuer. She waited for help but none came.
Later, Florence would bury him in a ditch beside where he slept peacefully, a beautiful smile now on his lips. She put wet branches over him, carried the bag on her head, walked to the highway before boarding a pickup carrying fresh meat heading to Lagos.
The bag contained new crispy notes in different denomination just as Inale said. The decision to go to Cotonou in the motel room two days later came naturally. Senegal was her next stop.
And Florence did right by the bag.

*****
Lagos, December, 1999

The trip from Dakar to Lagos 18 years later with a teenager looking like his father, Florence was convinced Bello was going to be shocked and proud to have a son, Inale – a hot headed, smooth and savvy young man – carry his last name. Florence, now Naomi Mambety, was the owner of chains of hotels and fast food eateries across the capital – Dakar, Grand Dakar and Pikine and she had since understood Bello for been confused that night and forgiven Josephine after several counseling sessions for her wicked plot. She was a wealthy woman in her own right, married and divorced and was ready to return home, investment wise as well as be reunited with her sister, if ever possible. Pastor Faye Cisse seemed to believe so. Of course there was no question about her love for Bello. She still loved him deeply and she would return to find out if he still loved her. Perhaps he was married, just maybe he was unmarried or divorced like her. It was a chance she had to take, and take it she did.
The search for Bello’s whereabout wasn’t hard. The 9 o’clock night news on their third day in the country told her what she needed to know.
Bello Badmus, Nigeria’s finest entrepreneur was breaking grounds for his estate, The Castle. Slated to be the number one tourist destination in Africa, several investors were scrambling for a piece of the prime development. As the newscaster would later end, Bello Badmus was the man of the moment. Indeed he was but the woman beside Bello with a plastered smile was the beginning of another chapter in Florence’s life. The covetous smile beaming at the camera while Bello pecked her was enough to turn Florence into a burning furnace and it burnt all the teachings of the church and of her dear Pastor Faye. She knew the smile because she saw it every morning when she looked into her mirror; a smile that she shared, a smile of complete triumph.
What she feared the most, her evil twin was married to Bello and here she was, weak and a forgiving fool.
The next weeks and months, Florence would read interviews and features of the Bellos in business and lifestyle magazines. She came to know that they were married the morning of Inale’s death. She wept quietly as she thought of the months she spent leaving one boarding house to the next, trying to survive in a new country with no communication skills, no identity, a protruding stomach and a bag of money. She remembered Mama Annerose and how she had taken her in. There was no measure for the pain that went through her. Over and over, she cried and she swore. Forgiveness wasn’t the way. Inale was right, enemies were not allowed to live. They had no right to live. It was time to end it all.
Florence hired private eyes to find out more information on the Bellos as she came to regard them. The kind of dirt she needed was not available in daytime prints. She hired Eesha, an efficient Togolese to deal with these hired hands and did not go out without wearing a veil and dark glasses.
She found out soon enough that Josephine was now known as Alhaja Kudirat Bello, an architect and a nurse who supposedly carried on an affair with a prominent figure in the country. She was a Founder of a non-profit organization and friend of several ministers and politicians at the Assembly. She discovered that she, Florence Ohiemi had graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University in 1986 with a second class lower. It was the ultimate revelation – Josephine was living her life or what it would have been.
Bello Badmus also was a formidable name in the country and while everyone knew him as the ruthless man and shrewd businessman, others knew he was a silent killer and was behind many groups helped that the government to take major political decisions. No one knew what he had on the politicians but he lacked nothing and when he wanted some of them gone, the military Head of State made it happen. She found out that Bello Badmus, father to her son, was in fact a man to be feared and envied, a man rumored to have blood on his hands, facilitating executions of persons that ran out of luck with the then military government. He was no longer the Bello she had fallen in love or was he? She needed to take back her life. The greatest revenge she realized was taking her life back and getting rid of the enemy.
However, Florence would come to learn that to get things done, one did not find and trust complete strangers with semblance of honesty and dignity. One had to do it personally or at least had a great amount of control. She would learn this lesson at great cost, another twelve hard years.
As fate always have it, she saw the advert of George Ajero’s internationally-recognized law firm on the glossy pages of a legal journal in early 2000 and consulted the firm. She was told by private eyes that the firm was topnotch in handling high profile cases and after several correspondences without meeting the man in charge, the man everyone and media houses sang his praise, the man George Ajero, she decided to pay him a visit; The man she thought was going to help her bring her sister down.
George Ajero, foremost activist and SAN was a friend of the Bellos and helplessly in love with Josephine from Zaria days and Josephine loved him as much as she could but her obsession to take whatever Florence left behind had married Bello but still continued her rendezvous with him. George Ajero was the face of the man who Alhaja Kudirat Bello had her illicit sessions.
The moment Florence entered the office and he had taken a double look at her, Florence knew there was going to be a problem, but she had no idea how much.
She left the meeting hours later without telling him who her defendants were but she had a disturbing feeling he knew. She had mixed feelings of great apprehension and euphoria. George had simply waived away the resemblance of her to a friend he knew a long time ago while vowing to bring justice and making sure the father of her son acknowledge his son and the woman who had committed such atrocities be brought to justice. They concluded when she was ready, he would directly take the case and make sure the defendants rotted in jail.
It was the perfect pitch.
By the time Florence got to her rented apartment in Ikeja G.R.A after taking a drive to Bar Beach to clear her head and re-strategize, her assistant Eesha who liked to play dress up in her clothes lay lifeless in her bed, her throat slit open, her mouth opened in a muffled scream. Inale, who had gone out to play football was picked up by her driver and taken to a new apartment in Ogba. That night, she sent him out with enough money just as her friend, Inale had done and sent Ganbo, her trusted bodyguard to monitor his activities without interfering while she escaped to Seychelles, coming into the country under disguise every six months to see her son, albeit from afar and to continue her revenge plot. This time, she had to get it right and it took time.
She remembered the tears in his eyes and confusion that night. No explanation, no father, he had walked into the night just as she had 18 years ago, with a large bag of money on his back. However, with no wise words, he had squandered it in months and struggled to keep alive. Florence in years that followed invested in companies Bello Badmus owned. Naomi Mambety was vicious and on a mission and she bought shares blindly until she came to own part of his business, by proxy.
When the opportunity came to rope in the SAN, George Ajero – her new enemy, in a mining deal that failed and costed Bello billions of Naira, Florence made sure Bello walked in on his long time George and his good wife Alhaja Kudirat who was pretending to be her in similar position as she had found them over 18 years ago. Bello in turn would have George humiliated, single-handedly closing down his internationally firm while destroying years of life’s work by discrediting him in the media and releasing his black files. By the time Bello was through, an aggrieved member of Bello’s group found it worthwhile to kill the betrayer while Kudirat watched from a safe distance as they fed his wigged head some hot bullets. She had wept bitterly and mourned her lover, the father of her children for years, in dark silence. She promised George she would avenge his death and that began her quest to be in control in affairs of the State. Bello, naturally was her first target and his group of murderers followed her list; and it would take her twelve years.
*****

March, 2011 – The Castle – Reading of the Will

“Florence?” it was Josephine, breathless and moving back steadily. She looked around to confirm that she wasn’t the only one seeing her twin sister. The other room occupants looked from one woman to the other, befuddled and sitting at on the edge of their seats, except one.
“It’s Naomi now, I take you are Alhaja Kudirat Sadika” Florence laughed halfheartedly and shook her head.
“Why in God’s name would you choose that ugly name Josephine…rather unlike you I’d say” Florence continued, slowly walking to where her twin sister,a smile of triumph on her radiant face.
“What, what is this?” Josephine finally let out, flustered and looking around the room to see eyes on them. Josephine knew that for Bello to have discovered he was not father of her three children and summarily disinheriting them, there was a reason. However, to see Florence standing before her was totally unbelievable. All these years, she made sure George had the last laugh and it echoed from the grave but now the reading of the Will had silenced it and Josephine knew that the woman standing before, the one person who she hated above everyone else was the reason for it.
“What is this? I came to see you. Or rather, came to help Bello with his Will. You don’t object to the Will now, do you?” Florence said dangerously, her words lined with meaning as she fixed Josephine a stare that meant more, Inale’s stare.
“I don’t, I mean I do” Josephine swallowed nervously.
“I thought so. We don’t want to implicate you in murder and other minor crimes. We want to be reasonable, do we not?” Florence asked lightly with a small smile as she looked across the room to her son and Charity who watched without words.
“I thought you were dead” Josephine said, trying to sound firm but her voice that was strong and commanding few minutes ago was now flat and without timbre.
“You thought you had me down where Bello is lying?” Florence insinuated cheaply.
“I did no such thing!” Josephine denied vehemently.
“Of course, what was I expecting? You need proof course. I have more surprises but at the moment, I think it’s time to answer some questions” she said immediately three men in police uniforms entered the conference room.
“Mrs. Kudirat Sadika Bello, you are under arrest” the man who suspiciously looked too stocky for a police officer said as they approached the head of the conference table.
“For what?” Josephine spat, a little too forcefully.
“Oh let’s see, for the murder of your husband Chief Badmus Bello, kidnap and murder of Florence Ohiemi, forgery and impersonation – for starters. I am sure as we sweep, we’d more dead rats, like your George. You killed him, you know” Florence said as two other officers came to stand behind Josephine.
“I didn’t kill George. Bello and his blasted goons did. If there was any justice in the world it is their death” she retorted hotly at Florence.
“You talk about justice in the world. I guess this is you getting justice. Take her to the station” Florence directed the officers.
“Get your hands off me! Do you know who I am? You will lose your useless jobs for this. Jimi, get these clowns out of here” Josephine said in a loud voice as one of the officers forcefully cuffed her.
“I am afraid you have to follow these men to the station. We are representatives of the deceased and your earlier utterances are implicating. However we will arrange for your bail. This probably is a misunderstanding and it will be sorted out soon” Jimi said with a blank expression.
“You fool! You will regret this” she threatened as she felt hands at her elbow shove her to move.
“You can’t take my mother anywhere” it was Debola finally recovering from the shock of being disinherited and the exchange that was taking place.
“I suggest you two follow us” Florence said signaling the other two police officers to take Debola and Laide into custody.
“We have not done anything to warrant an arrest. I demand you impostor leave here immediately or you will regret the outcome of this pathetic ambush” Debola declared loudly, standing up and trying fierce look while Laide sat watching the scene with amusement.
“I wouldn’t be too quick to start calling names. You have been an impostor all your life, didn’t you hear your father is George Ajero and not Bello? One would rightly assume you are more deluded than your congregation. I think perhaps it’s time the world knows of your mistress and your baby. Men of God like you should be known for what you really are, don’t you agree?” Florence said returned hotly without mincing words as she turned to face Laide who was already being escorted out of the room while Debola who looked like he had electricity pass through him was ushered out.
“Move” it was one of the police officers.
“I wonder if there is any law for women who sexually abuse underage boys” Florence added with sly smile as she stood in front of Laide. The look in Laide’s eyes went from passive to dangerous.
“It is none of your business how I seek my pleasure” she hissed back.
“Of course. Pedophiles always have entitlement mentality. You abuse those poor boys because you can and because it makes you feel good. That’s the problem we have in the society these days, everyone doing things that make them happy. No one gives a thought to how such misguided happiness affects other people’s lives” she said to no one in particular as she stopped to return the stare from Josephine.
Josephine who was trying hard to be unaffected by the turn of events was thinking of possible line of action. She knew she would get freed at the station the moment she called Yakubu, the Inspector General of Police. She gave a knowing smile and Florence returned hers. There was no need to trade words; she always won at the end, always.
The officers matched them out as Florence walked to Victor who was now standing, watching the police officers take the trio out. Charity was confused. How could her father be involved with another woman and to have fathered three children with a married woman all these years? How did that happen? She was older than the first of three children with just a two years. That meant the affair was roughly the same time her mother and father got married, if not earlier. Moreover, the inexplicable way her mother had drowned in the swimming pool when she was just 8 years old still raised questions in Charity’s mind. Could her father have been in love and killed her mother to be with his mistress? Or perhaps Mr. Bello’s wife had killed her mother to be with her father? or simply out of jealously? What happened after? Why didn’t they get married or be together? Why all the disconnection and more questions instead of answers. The woman Naomi seemed to have it all and she knew she had to have them. The three-man team that sat with Jimi, looked at themselves with unvoiced questions; only Jimi had a knowing smile on his lips.
Florence stopped in front of Victor and gave a sad smile.
“I am sorry I couldn’t be physically there for you twelve years ago. There is so much you don’t know but I promise you, you will soon. Yes I sent you away but it was for a purpose and I never left you. I knew where you where every single hour, every minute and when this is all over, we will have that talk. I promise. I hope it is not too late Inale” She said with a sad smile and held his gaze.
Victor, confused and angry, nodded his head slowly as he saw his mother’s eyes water right before she turned and followed the back stairs where the men she hired to camouflage as police officers were told to follow.
The fake police officers instead of taking the front door bundled Kudirat and her children through the exit on the second floor with stairs leading to the basement. Kudirat knew the moment they pushed them down the stairs with guns urging them down stairs that Florence was no longer the clueless sister she knew and for the first time in her life felt real fear.
Just before entering the car park, they bagged their heads and Debola fought in vain to get the bag thrown over his head, removed. Florence’s footsteps approaching instinctively brought the struggle to a still.
“Florence, what do you think you will achieve with this?” Josephine asked, starting a struggle as they held her still.
“Take her to the house and take them to the other location. That dark room should do for now” Florence said to the fake police officers as she lifted the bag and smiled evilly at Josephine who had a panicked look on her face.
“Where are you taking me? Don’t hurt them. Take only me” she shouted as Florence dropped the black bag and walked the BMW 5 Series Sedan car parked few meters from where the van was.
“Where are you taking me? What are your plans? Leave my children alone!” Florence could hear Josephine’s shouts from the van as she headed to the car.
“Florence! Florence!! You can’t do this! Florence” It was Josephine shouting as the van drove off.
“Naomi. Florence is dead. You killed her” she corrected in a murmur as she closed her eyes in relish.
After twelve years of delicate planning, nothing could go amiss now. Florence glowed at the thought of Josephine having 30 days of dirt, no food, cold and smell. It was time for the coin payment and she had enough reserve.
The driver came around to open the door for her and she entered. Silence followed briefly before the other occupant of the car spoke.
“How did it go?” the familiar voice asked as she settled into the cozy leather and took the cold glass of red wine he was holding out to her. The voice that still brought shivers to her being, the voice that had accosted her in front of her hostel over three decades, the voice she had forgiven.
“Pretty much low-key for what I had in mind” she answered simply, taking a sip of her drink.
“I like when you are bad” the voice continued in a tease.
“Glad you approve Mr. Mausoleum” she said in a giggle as he found her hand and brought it to his lips as they drove out of the basement.
“So Mrs. Kudirat Bello, what’s your next line of action?”
“Dead men don’t ask questions. They know” she said evilly, smiling into his eyes just before he took her lips in a warm kiss as the sun filtered lazily into the dark car.

*****

Till Next week!

M.O.T.I.V.E.S is written by Uneñ Ameji
Author of Memoirs of a Justified Gold Digger on Amazon.com
See new book Love on the 25th on Okadabooks http://goo.gl/hmsKnv
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Have a great week.

CHAPTER SEVEN ⃝ FINDING DIDI

ǁǁǁ The bright hot morning sun filtered its way angrily into the room defying the curtain blinds as if forcing its hot vitamin D on me. Opening my eyes, I felt the dried tears stain my face, my left nostrils blocked and my dried throat hurting….crying the entire night can have that effect. Still clutching the letter to my chest, I saw Ali standing cross-legged and sipping what smelt like black coffee. He was topless, in white shorts and blue ankle-length socks. My eyes went to his mid-section before rising to his face…..no blame me, eyes sabi roam too. It was flaccid. No visible member.

“Good Morning” he said studying my face. I was not in the mood for talks so I simply nodded.

I sat up. The only thing on my mind was going to The Mirage and go home. It was a mistake coming here obviously. Ignorance sure was bliss. My world was falling like a pack of cards and I had no control over it. My head aching like a skilled carpenter had his big sized hammer positioned on the left side of brain dedicated to his art; of making sure that the six inches nail got down to touch my medulla oblongata in good tight fix. I shut my eyes momentarily to steady the slowly overwhelming dizziness and pain.

“Breakfast?” he asked as he stood before me.  

“No, I’d like to go back to The Mirage now if you don’t mind” I said licking my nearly cracked lips and swallowing down painfully. My dried throat tasted bitter. Thanks to the burnt chicken.

“Alright. I will take you when you are ready. A change of clothes” he said pointing to the neatly folded pile on the bed with his half empty cup.

I nodded and mouthed a thank you like a grateful soul. I was, wasn’t I?

He dropped his cup and went about his grooming business rather happily in the ante-room coming to the room to pick his phone and making calls oblivious to my existence. Was this the almighty Ali Bricks? It sure didn’t feel like he was that big a deal now. ***Seeing person nakedness dey get that effect all the time.

Getting up, I made a decision. I was not going to regret my actions; moments before I take my last breath.

TIP #9: You have just one life to live. Live it full, make mistakes and learn from them. Regrets are death bed affair……..Just make sure you die quickly if you have lots of them.hehehe

Mentally tired, I dragged myself to the bathroom. Funny how I didn’t tingle at the memories of what happened here last night….the nail down my brain was working. It was 9:09am before we left the house dressed in a slightly larger navy blue jeans and cute white polo shirt.

Undies?

**************************************************************************** 

We drove in silence. There was nothing to be said for now. Of course I had questions but I’d rather have the answers on my own. I still doubted the letter and pictures in my hand. I literally jumped from the car immediately at the parking lot and walked away before He had opened his mouth to talk. I wasn’t ready to have my ears troubled with coordinated alphabets.

Walked past the reception absent minded and came back for my card half way up, got to my room, packed my hand-luggage, checked out and headed to the house.

****************************************************************************

The small white old house sat peacefully in the valley like an old woman taking an evening rest under a large kolanut tree. It was an extension of the GRA right before the old Calabar Mountains. I walked slowly to the house, memories rushing in, tears blinding. The simple metal gate suffocated with sprawling vines of long stemmed weeds. The evening walks, laughter and games. Oh! She thought me how to prepare soups in this house…………..the pepper soup was my favourite @longthroat.

The first time here was like redemption. A get-away from the abuse and insistent ‘drama’. It was just me and mum. I was 14 years. Hiding out here for weeks alone-peaceful and happy; and then he apologises; she forgives and crawls back expecting a change. I hated her weakness, her inability to take a decision, her submission, her sense of loyalty and acceptance. Abuse shouldn’t be tolerated, it should be resisted.

“Why do you let Daddy treat you bad?” I had always asked.

“You won’t understand dear” was her standard reply; pulling me in her embrace while her tears wetted my hair.

When I was older; I got her tissue and walked away. I was pissed at her for taking it all in. The last time here; we quarrelled. I had nursed her wounded torso and demanded she divorce him. I was 25years. She told me she would never do that.

“Then this is the last time you will see me” I had made a resolve. I left home that year. 6 months later, Dad called me.

Mum was critically ill. She was bedridden.

I lost it on seeing her and still hearing her preach forgiveness and love. I never understood.

I still did not.

Slow rage built and in months, Dad followed.

I shook my head to clear the sad dark memories as I pushed the old rusty gate. It creaked weakly as if it voice was tired as well. ‘Who is it again’ it seems to say. The grasses over grown, the Almond tree in front of the house had its fruits littered on the floor with bird marks and the mixed sweet smell coming from the overgrown white lilies and roses. I gave a sad smile. It had been six months since I came for a visit. As was usual, I walked round the house noticing no changes. The attached garage housed my favourite car; an old black Peugeot truck. I learnt how to drive in that woman with her long slender stick that resisted my feeble attempt at changing her old gear; changed it the last time I was here though. I was to take her for a spin down the old mountain road before going back. I smiled with the memories of dragging her along the streets without guidance. She was an Igbo woman I nicknamed Agaracha….strong woman. She sabi spoil for road if you shout for her head! But she was the best, she was alive and she had ears.

The tour ended back on the front porch; the thick trees surrounding the house provided shade and squeaking birds free accommodation. I smiled at the yellow and black bird building her nest blissfully; unmindful of my presence as I watched fascinated by her skill and joy in putting up her residence on free property. I took a snap shot.

Bringing out the bunch of keys at the front door, I opened the old mahogany door to the big airy courtyard with corridor leading to the renovated kitchen with modern appliances-thanks to my last visit. I walked down corridor and took in deep breath. The central courtyard was as clean as I had left it. The two adjoining doors to our rooms just before the kitchen locked awaiting my keys. There was no sitting room.

Since her death, I had locked her room and never gone in; I wasn’t ready. I walked to the kitchen exit and powered the house. She came alive immediately. The florescent lights exposed the amount of dust that had gathered on surfaces of the linen used to cover items and some dropping cobwebs. I felt the instant need to make noodles and bush meat just the way she taught me. The hunger pang was unanticipated. I made to open my room.

My room smelt of the huge camphor I strategically placed on window planes. No much dust here. Dropped my bag and made to air the room and clean it. I was tired by the time I finished and had a bath. The headache gone.  

Went to garage and checked Agaracha….she already knew I was around and she seem to be happy to see me as I was to see her. ‘Someday, I will take you to Abuja with me’ I muttered as I stroked her head and opened the ‘bonnet’. Few checks and she powered on like she was ready for a ride. Obviously she heard the Abuja promise and wanted to show her readiness to go with me. I shook my head. Agaracha baby…..

 I went out to get food supplies and see what was new. She was sound and we raced on.

I felt free.

I was home.

****************************************************************************

The hot steaming noodles and bush meat disappeared quickly into my small intestines hours later; the large intestines will get theirs later…..hehe. Picking the half cooked onions and carrots that stained the plate with dripping nose-I got carried away with the pepper. I missed Tessy now. She would have been licking iced cubes to help her tongue………funny dog. My phone had being switched off…..low battery syndrome. I didn’t see the need to charge it. I sat at mini wooden dining table for two in the kitchen. Didn’t have the heart to let it go with the rest of the old furniture I disposed of months back. I looked over at her spot and shook my head. Mum or Aunt?

“Why didn’t you tell me” I said to no one in particular. The appetite disappearing……….after I don chop belle full.

The rest of the day went uneventful. Going to my room and pulling out an old novel by Philips Andrews….Love and Affairs….. I slept half way down the first page.

****************************************************************************

The cool evening breeze woke me up from the peaceful deep sleep. I stared at the ceiling. No reflection. I should have a mirror fixed. My mind drifted to the reason I was here. How true was the letter? Was I ready to find out? Her room would hold buried secrets, wouldn’t it? I took a deep breath. There was one way to find out. I was going to her room to find details or clues. I rolled over to get the envelope again from my bag. I looked at the pictures and got up. If this was some huge joke, Ali Bricks will pay. If not, then Akhmed will. Either ways, this was going to determine whose team I’d be playing for.

It was 5:44pm and it was dark already.

Her door gave a thick croak as I pushed its stiff joints.  The smell of dust and dampness flooded my nose. Her room smell survived though. She loved the apple drummer boy air freshener and had them hidden. I threw them away when I found them….I didn’t like them.  Tears flooded my eyes as I saw the ‘I love you mama’ stiches on calico material right from my junior secondary school days. It was a home economics project on stitches. We did it together because I hated needles and ended up sticking them in my fingers instead of the cloth. The project was too good to be mine, Mrs Vero had me do it again right in class. I didn’t. I wasn’t scored but I told mum mine was scored the highest. It sure scored the highest with me. We had it framed. She must have hung it after our last tiff.

It was old now, handing on her wall pitifully; waiting for the day it would be saved. I stood at the door unable to enter momentarily. I took the first step in and my heart gave out. A deep breath and I walked to the centre of her room; standing on the Persian rug in front of her large made bed covered with linen that had gathered a thick layer of dust.

The last time I was here was over a decade. It felt like I had her locked in but somehow she had strangely escaped. The room felt empty and totally deserted. I looked around for nothing in particular.

“Time to come down” I said to the framed cloth. It was dusty and dirtied my hands immediately with fine brown powder. Turning it over, it read………….

I wish you were mine’

Love you

Mummy.

What did that mean? I frowned at the words. Dropping the frame on the bed, I walked to her wardrobe and forced it open. Piled up boxes of books and files in cartons mostly were in the topmost shelf; I took another deep breath, dragged her bedside stool, stood on it and pulled the first heavy carton out. The weak bottom gave out on my head as its dusty webby content fell on my head with my eyes receiving blinding particles.

I rushed to wash my eyes in her bathroom. The tap croaked and croaked, then vomited brown smelly water that was almost used to wash the particles out before I ran across to my room for a good safe rinse.

Of course my eyes were bloodshot and I silently cursed the weak box, heavy content and dust for being there in the first place.

The night had come; the crickets using their vocal cords judiciously.

Soaking my eyeballs in the bowl of water and rolling it opened helped get the dirt out; gently wiped it with cotton wool.

I matched back, determined and bold.

If I was going to find out who I was, I would gladly go blind doing it.

Putting on all the lights in the room, I closed my eyes and yanked the linen covering the bed away. Packed the spilled content on the bed and started digging for my identity-my future.

This was it.

****************************************************************************

It would take two days to go through all her boxes, separate the wheat from the shaft. Took boxes of ‘wheat’ to my room to be read and digested. Of course I had different emotions playing out……….I’d cry, I’d curse, I’d laugh………going back and forth with pictures and letters.

It was tedious, it was revealing, it was worth it.

 Of course I ate and even tried out a recipe she scribbled out on a yellowish weak paper found in the pile. It was grated cocoyam balls in shredded chevon chili sauce. I made it and playfully asked her if it tasted as it should have while I ate in the now dirty room reading a letter Ali had written to her to reconsider their baby and his marriage proposal.

‘This is the last I’m going to say on this matter’

He had written on the last of his letters that I found.

The story started in love letters, the dreams and the promises. She sure knew how to compose poems that would melt resolves. Ali too had his heart out for her. It sure was ‘love’ but tribe and family background didn’t let the love be. Ali’s father was a force and Mum decided to let it go. Ali would not. She got pregnant and found another man. There was only one option, terminate it. Ali was not having it.

She was adamant. She wanted it terminated. He refused to let her. A stalemate. She would deliver the baby and give it to him.  

It would seem I had a niece-Ummi; and she was sick. Could it be that Mum thought the abuse was her punishment for abandoning Ummi? The last of her correspondence hinted that. Ali had cut off all ties after Ummi was born. And he had kept her as his solely. Mum had asked repeatedly where Ali had kept her, but either he didn’t reply or I didn’t see the letter. Good thing Mum had a good filing system.

I felt sorry for her. Why didn’t she have another child with the abuser? Aka my ‘Dad’. I  was soon to find out Ummi took her womb with her. Complications at birth. The more reason the abuse was more.

Oh mum! She didn’t disclose her status to my step-father. He was pissed.

But did he know that Ummi was still alive? No records except a little letter she had written to Debbie. I kept wondering who Debbie was.

They were close. The post marks said Lome on Debbie’s occasional replies.

Then they letters stopped.

I was on the third box. There were business letters, old newspaper clips, envelopes, books, nothing in particular.

The Fourth box had pictures. Old photo albums that had almost all its pictures damaged from moist; pictures of Mum and a younger woman. They were identical. No pictures of my old people alias grandparents though. A tall slender man appeared once in the pictures with the beautiful sisters. On the back was this inscription in Mum’s writing.

‘Me, Debbie and Philips.

1961 Christmas.

                                                                      Lome’             

Flipped more, there were other pictures of sisters in crowd of students. It looked like an orphanage establishment but the pictures were cut. It looked like deliberate cuts.

It was not until the last night that I saw a plastic folder containing sensitive documents. In it were credentials, share certificates, letters of appointments and several certificates. I was almost dropping it to continue my search when I saw a birth certificate; a pale blue cardboard paper that had suffered and survived the years waiting for such a day as this.

Registration Number: 4819

Date of Bith: 10 October, 19**

Sex of Child: Female

Full Name of Father: Philips M. Collins

Nationality/Tribe of Father: Nigerian-***

Full Maiden name of mother: Deborah C. Collins

Name of Child: Michelle Didi Collins

Place of Birth: ***

The next document cleared it all. They were adoption papers.

My adoption papers

Ali Bricks was right.

The rest of the boxes showed nothing more than confirmations and investments.

One question that kept coming to my mind was how much Akhmed knew.

I was ready to talk with Ali Bricks and decide whose team I would be playing for ǁǁǁ.

****************************************************************************************

<<< The light knock on my door brought me out of my absorption. I dropped the diary and stood up to get the door. It was Akhmed standing with a smile. Hands in pocket.

“Sorry to bother you” he said stepping into the room without waiting for an invitation.

“Come in” I said after him.

“What are you reading? Her diaries?” he was suspiciously curious.

“Yes” I said going back to the bed to cover the page. He was already scheming the opened  page.

“You didn’t come down for lunch” he said taking the seat by the window that was left opened.

“I had some cake” I said gesturing with my chin at the empty cake plate beside him on the straw stool.

“No real food?” he asked with teasing eyes. He wanted something.

“I should eat real dinner tonight” I indulged him.

“I was wondering if I could read her diaries too” he finally came out with it.

For a fleeting second, I saw something flash in his eyes. It seemed he was out to get information from her entries.

It wasn’t 48hours yet and I was already in need of “guidance”.

“Sure you can. I will send it to you after I am done. Should be done tonight hopefully. Not too late yea?” I said sweetly. He let out a hidden breath. Perhaps he thought I was going to say no.

“Tonight is good. I want to wait on performing the burial rights” he looked sad then.

Funny how he could change expressions and moods. I didn’t trust him.

“Why?” I asked offhandedly as if it didn’t matter.

“I want to be with her a little more” he said with such devotion that I would have thought sweet but thanks to the entries, every move was now suspicious.

“I understand” I said with emotion.

“So, do you go out?” he asked.

Why was he asking?

“You need me out of the house?” I asked and bit my tongue.

Careful Unen, Careful.

“I wanted going to the city. Take a drive. You want to come?” He said standing up. He didn’t seem to take notice of my tone.

“Na, I should finish and let you have these. I’m sure she would have wanted you to have this. Feels like I’m imposing” I said standing up.

“No, you are not” he said with a grin.

We walked to my door and went for the door at same time. Touching.

“Sorry” he apologised. I nodded.

He smiled brilliantly with a courtesy bow before heading down the hallway.

I went back immediately.

The need to finish more now than ever >>>.

CHAPTER SIX ⃝ UNFOLDING SECRETS…

ǁǁǁ……….As always, the dark evil force had me running for safety; closing in on me with an evil cackle that rang deep into my ears and my wildly beating heart. As always I keep running, panting with fear while he catches up with me as I try to jump a tall fence with grass wall filled with snakes I am unaware of. I am half way up the grass wall, they coil round my hands and body; I end up screaming out loud as he pulls my legs down to his grave.………..and as always I wake up sweating and breathing hard with blood running down my nose.

The same reoccurring nightmare.

Turning to look at my bedside ‘Barbie’ alarm clock she told me it was 3:30am. I won’t be sleeping back……….as always. Standing up from the bed with head raised up, I found the roll of tissue, wiped the blood off my nose and stuck a roll in to stop the bleeding. I was glad Tessy was with Uche. I made to pack a bag. I pushed in my favourite undies, toiletries, perfume and a shawl. I brought down my head, the bleeding had stopped. Cleared the bin around the house and arranged the displaced items.

4:39am had me going to the bathroom for a quick shave and a bath.

A quick dress up in faded ash jeans, a deep blue shimmering chiffon blouse, generous spray of Publication and a light touch of make-up, I sent a text to Uche as I locked the front door and stepped down the porch.

A quick trip.

Please take care of Tessy,

 Check the fridge for fresh meat packs. The car keys in the usual place.

Oh, that washed Kpomo and periwinkles still dey o.

 Carry am abeg before them transform

Call you when I get down.

Love to Tessy,

More Love to U.

Bye

 

“Madam, good morning, you dey travel ne?” It was Adamu with his Fulani intonation coming to the car. Eyes clear. He looked like he was awake all night just sitting in front of his post. He knew when I was leaving town. Maybe the “scream” gave him that.

“No, I’m not traveling. Take care of the house ok?” the usual reply. Getting into the Range Rover Sports, I saw his card. I picked it fondly and looked at it. It was simply done. His name nicely embossed in the front and his private number behind. No other detail. The events of last night brought smiles to my face. More than ever, I was determined to make him part of my life. If I was going to dig gold, I was going to dig this one. Akhmed? He will come around. I brushed his thoughts aside.

TIP #7: Never fall for sentiments. Be focused. Know what you what.

For me, it was the bigger Mine.

My ringing phone told me it was Uche.

“You no dey sleep?” it was few minutes to 6am.

“Komot jor” she said in a laugh.

“When you wake up sef?” I asked driving out of the gate.

“Dey dia dey ask me when farmer dey go farm. Come pick me for house jare” she said in another laugh.

“You sef” I shook my head as I took Femi Atoyebi’s Street to her house five minutes away. She was standing at the gate already.

“What are you doing up so early?” I asked as she got in already dressed for work.

“I got your text” she replied, her eyes dancing. Closing the door quite forcefully.

“So?” I asked looking at the rear mirror.

“So I go follow you go airport and collect the car cruise for today na” she looked surprised that I was asking. It was the drill. Whenever one of us was traveling, the other would bring the car back home.

“I did not ask you to come to airport with me. What if I took a taxi?” I asked as I drove to the Kubwa expressway; heading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport.

“You would have said that in your text” she said correctly.

“True”

“So where to?” she asked.

“Lagos” I was going to Calabar. Why did I lie? Just felt like it. Moreover, I needed to get away for few days. The dream always had me running to my little flat in Calabar.

“Akhmed aware?” she pried.

“Yes” I nodded. Another lie. I wasn’t up for answering questions this early.

“When you coming back?” she questioned.

“Why?” I asked passing the scene of the accident the night before. The memory giving me a thrill.

“So that I can tell Tessy when her mummy will be back” she gave a silly answer. I gave a silly laugh.

“Tell her soon” I replied with a smirk.

“I hear you”. She said with an attitude. I laughed.

“I’m getting married Didi” she blurted out. She couldn’t hold it any longer.

“What?! When did this happen?” I asked totally surprised; beaming with smiles.

“Last night” she said shyly showing me the rock on her index finger. I gave the legendary wedding shout.

“Oh my God! Uche! This is so huge” I said joyfully. Holding out the finger burdened with the ring.

“I thought I was dreaming when he proposed” she said studying the ring. Her face shone.

“It is not a dream o. You are getting locked” I said and she gave me a playful punch.

“You no well, I swear.” She was laughing at my demonstration of ‘locked’

“My dear, I’m so happy for you. When are you taking me to wash it?” I asked.

“Why do you think I was asking when you coming back?” she rolled her eyes.

“I know now o! I’m coming back this weekend” and we both laughed.

The wedding talks overflowed till we got to the airport.

“Alright Mrs Igwe, see you when I get back” I said teasing her.

I gave a hug.

As customary, I walked in to book the next flight to Calabar. Aero was next.

Seated beside the window and bringing out Thisday Arise magazine with a piece on Ali Bricks, my phone buzzed. It was Akhmed. What did he want now? The plan was to get his father interested in me in two weeks. That was before last night. Now I had no idea what this call was for.

The voice of the female flight hostess came on. The funny demonstrations and switching off gadget announcements followed. Sorry Akhmed. Obviously cannot pick now.

I switched off.

We took off minutes later.

It was 8:40am.

***************************************************************************

Good thing about hand luggage is going straight to check-out stand. The Margaret Ekpo international airport was busy as usual. An airport taxi and I was headed home. Home sweet home. Thinking of the little flat left to me by my mother in the old layout, I needed to stay incommunicado for the rest of the week.

I remembered the call to Ali.

“Hello, good morning. This is Didi” he picked on first ring.

“I know. I have been waiting for your call” the rich voice filled my ears and I found myself smiling.

“It feels good to know you waited” I said with a shy giggle.

“I waited all night. Where are you?” he asked in an accent.

“I am in Calabar” I said. My phone buzzing. I checked. It was Akhmed.

“Have dinner with me tonight Didi” he said almost in a plea. Abi na me dey hear dat one?

“Only if you are cooking” I said playfully.

“I will if you promise to eat and enjoy the excess salt and burnt meal” he said quite serious. I laughed.

“I will be honored to eat the burnt meal of Dr Bricks” I said in a tease.

“I will pick you up from your residence?” he asked.

“At The Mirage”. I couldn’t let him come to my house just yet. The Mirage was few minutes from my flat.

 “See you soon sweetheart” he was gone in an instant. Akhmed’s call came through next.

“Hello, Akhmed” I said in a sweet voice.

TIP #8: You have got to act like you got it all together. Always

“How are you sweetheart?” he asked in a calm voice too. He must have taken the course in anger management like me.

“I am doing alright” I stated plainly.

“I need to talk to you about last night”

“Yes?”

“I am deeply sorry for the outburst. I had no right” he said calmly.

“I apologise for the outburst too. I think it was over the top” I said modestly.

“Can we have dinner tonight?” he asked

“I will not be available tonight Akhmed”

“Still mad at me?”

“No” I said rolling my eyes.

“Alright. Tomorrow then?” He pressed.

“Sure Babe” I said reassuringly.

“I think I am getting too attached Didi” he said in thick voice filled with emotion and then he went off.

I don enter! Papa and Son.

“Please take me to The Mirage”. The driver nodded and took the next turn 

A detour.

***************************************************************************

Dropping me off, I sighed. I for the go house now o. This detour no be am at all. But the hotel experience will be good. I love The Mirage, the chilled cigar smell gives the vibe of ‘The Godfather’ living in the building.

The warm welcome at the reception and checking into Ambassadorial suite room 419 gave me a kick. How cliché. I wanted to reject the room but let it slide….was till dinner anyways.

Next I made a call to the office. It took less than five minutes. Tunde had everything under control. Getting out of my clothes, I headed to bathroom for a long soak.

**********************************************************************

The forceful buzz startled me from the deep sleep after the shower. It was raining now. The hot bath left me totally refreshed and drowsy. I slipped beneath the covers in the nude and slept the entire day. It was few minutes to 6pm now.

It was Ali. My mind skipped. I picked hoping he was calling to cancel or say he was on his way. I need to get dressed.

“Hello” I said in sleepy voice.

“Didi? You sleeping my dear?” he said sweetly. This man dey turn my flat stomach o.

“Just woke up. Where are you?” I asked holding my breath.

“I am at the reception. Are you coming down or do I come pick you up?” he said with so much care my heart did a flip.

“Emmm, come up? Room 419” I was confused. Maybe we just order dinner.

“See you in a minute”

I got up and ran to get the white bathrobe. Maybe I should wear my travel clothes. I rushed to the folded bunch for an examination. Ouch, not it.

A knock. No time to make up my mind.

Opening the door, Ali Bricks stood pleasantly in a black polo and deep blue jeans and flats. His glass perched on his nose. He looked airbrushed and I wanted to give him a hug. I stood shyly in my bathrobe with a big smile plastered across my dry lips. I gave it a quick lick.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

“Yes. Please come in” he entered quietly. The air was charged and I was suddenly aware of his sexuality. The feeling was intense. He turned to face me.

“So are you ready to go now? I have dinner ready” he said with a look that I found alluring. “Emmm, I don’t have anything to wear to dinner”

We stood in the middle of the room. Close but not touching.

“Let’s get you something to wear then” he said simply.

“Ok?” I eyed him suspiciously with a smile.

“Have another option?”

“Order in?” I rose playfully on my toes. He smiled at the gesture.

“No. I cooked dinner. We are having dinner at my place” he said holding out to me.

I gave him my hand.

“Let’s get you dressed in a cloth store” he said walking to the door.

I laughed.

“In my robe?” I asked eyes wide as he opened the door. I picked the card.

“Yes please” He smiled in a dare. I laughed. He excited me. I was up to it.

“Sure”

Hand in Hand, we left my room. I giggled all the way to the elevator like a child.

“You are feeling uncomfortable? Shy?” he said with a straight face.

“I’m with you, am I not?” I laughed.

A couple exited a room and looked surprised at my appearance. We entered the elevator.

“So what did you cook” I asked over his shoulder to his ears.

“Hmmm, burnt chicken ribs, carrots and peas. I didn’t cook the ketchup though” I gave a throaty snout.

“Very funny. I don’t think I like your food that much” we walked through the reception to the exit.

All eyes. Somehow I liked the looks. Steps improved. Dr Ali Bricks with a woman in robes hitting the headlines gave me a thrill.

Walking to the car park, I was surprised when he brought out his car keys.

“Where is your driver?” I asked

“I wanted to drive” he said simply as he opened the door for me.

“Thank you” I got in.

“So, we are going to get you a dress for dinner yes?” he asked as he powered the Black BMW. It came to life like a quiet bull that it was.

 “I think I want to eat now. I am hungry” I teased. I had other thoughts clouding my hunger pang.  

“Great. Home it is”

“So you were in Calabar?” I asked starting a conversation as drove out of the lot.

“No, I came in to have dinner with you” he said looking over at me.

“You flew in for dinner? That is sweet” I looked at him with dancing eyes. I was still in the robe and uncombed hair in a bun. Good genes helping me here. The long eye lashes and white eyes helped. Of course the whitened teeth with brilliant smile gave me confidence.

We took a turn and approached a lonely street. Never been to this side of Calabar. 

“My private hideout” he said as if reading my thoughts.

“Rather lonely”

“Yes” we drove on for few more minutes and then down the slope and drove up the gentle hill. There stood the private hideout proudly. It was no hideout, it was imposing.

“This is your definition of a hideout?” I asked in a disbelieving laugh.

“Yes” he said in a wink and we both laughed.

The gate opened electronically and we drove pass the ‘fountain’ to the car park with open coconut trees forming a drive way to the built-in garage that opened immediately he pressed a remote I didn’t notice till he was keeping it back.

I opened the door before he came round to do same.

He slipped his hand into mine again as we approached the quiet residence.

“Where are your staffs?” I asked noticing the quietness and absence of life.

“I sent them away for the night” he didn’t give it a thought.

He opened the door that was unlocked and we stepped into the wide empty space. Well, hall I’d say.

“You live in a hall?” I asked trying humour. He laughed. Simply walked on to another connecting door and turned the knob.

It was the patio overlooking a water body with cool night breeze and brilliant lights in the distant. He stood back while I went closer to take in the view.

“Nice view” I said simply. He came to stand behind me. I tensed with anticipation.

He took a deep breath of my hair and enveloped me in an embrace dropping little airy kisses on my neck. I enjoyed the feel. I welcomed it. I wanted more. Time to take it to the next level I thought with a smile. Akhmed will thank me later. I gave a knowing grin and made to turn.

“I have always wanted to do this” with that he enveloped me quivering lips in a kiss the moment I tilted my head to his face

The deal was sealed ǁǁǁ.

***************************************************************************

<<<<This was not happening. He was her father for Christ sakes. Or was he not? I was upset. Standing up to take a stretch, I peep out of the window to see Akhmed taking a walk on the premises. My heart went out to him. It really was all a mess. The man on the phone hours back reminded me that there was more to this. There was only one way to the unfolding secrets; read on and wait for the next 48 hours.

I took more ice cubes from the desktop fridge for the drinks and went back to reading>>>>>

ǁǁǁ The cool white sheets wrapped around me, I stretched lazily and studied his features. He was 50? I should ask him the secret and sell it I thought amusingly.  

“You okay?” he asked looking at me without his glasses. He looked differently and totally simple. I smiled.

“I am hungry now”

He laughed and jumped out of the bed. I remember how we got to his room; I just don’t want to share it with you.

He pushed a stainless steel trolley with his ‘burnt offering’ into the room and offered a fake bow. I shook my head at his display as he made me a plate.

“Thank you” I said as he joined me on the bed with the plate.

“Where is yours?” I asked collecting it and sitting up.

“That is mine” he said collecting the plate back.

A little drag………. I laughed silly at the playful tussle.

“Okay, wait now……..it is ours” he said for the first time sounding ‘Nigerian’.

I laughed and he joined in like a child.

The food didn’t taste so bad. In fact it was quite good except for the dried chicken, the peas and carrots in ketchup sauce saved it though.

“That wasn’t so bad” I said as I made to drop the plate over his head. Another playful tussle ensued and tickling that led to a quick bath and cuddling under the sheets. I was glad I left my phone in my suite. With head on his chest, I listened to his heartbeat and enjoyed the gentle stroke of his fingers on my hair.

Alas, it was not to last.

“Who are you Didi?” he asked quietly as I closed my eyes to welcome a deep sleep. My eyes popped open. An innocent question? I knew there was a catch. I didn’t give a reply. He stopped stroking my hair and waited for a reply that was never going to come.

“You awake?”  He shook my shoulder. I looked up at him. He had a strange tense look; like he was bursting to say something.

“Yes” I untangled from the warm embrace.

“Who are you?” he repeated the question while picking up his glass and perching them on his nose.

“Who do you think I am” I stared back blankly. He knew who I was.

“I prefer you tell me what your plans with Akhmed are” he said sitting up. I curled up as if I was stung. The reaction had me indicted.

 I should have denied? I couldn’t.

I sat up. I was quiet for a long while. He waited patiently.

“To get married to you” I said as a betrayer would.

I was no longer a gifted gold digger I thought I was and sadly had lost my touch. I should have listened to Akhmed. Could it be that he knew our little game was exposed and was trying to delude me from continuing? I felt bad now.

He picked his phone looking at me and spoke into it.

“You can go. She is clean” he said looking at me funny.

“Did you have your men standing by to have me killed?” I asked with suppressed anger.

“I considered it” he said unkindly. He rolled off the bed swiftly to wear shorts.

I stood up to get my bathrobe. I had all intention of going back to the hotel but without a wallet, in a bathrobe and at 2am in the morning; that wasn’t happening.

“What are you doing?” he asked looking at me roughly putting on my robe.

“Getting my robe back on?”

“Why?”

 “I feel better dressed than naked and vulnerable” I said sharply.

“I thought you wanted leaving” He said approaching me. I moved.

“Why? You have a guard to drive me back or you want to give me your car keys” I spat out.

TIP #7: Never give up without a fight. It is expected that when caught in the act, you should surrender. I DIDI TRAP do not subscribe to that.

“Don’t be feisty lady” he stood, towering above me.

I tied the robe tightly and took another step backward.

“We need to talk” he said calmly. As usual stretching his hands out for mine. I didn’t take it.

“Do you like me enough to marry me?” he asked noticing my countenance.

“Yes” I said boldly surprising myself. I looked down. Where did that come from? Considering marrying a man old enough to be my father? Or na dey bed-magic wey him perform dey cause dis nonsense talk? I shook my head as if to clear the web.

“But I won’t” I added. Walking away from the corner and heading out to the patio where I could think on my feet.

Going to stand in same position as before would be suggestive and was relieved on seeing armed padded straw chairs at the extreme end. I walked towards it. He followed.

We sat down almost at same time. We looked at each other and the stare turned to a smile.

“What do you want from me now?” I asked looking at him through my lashes and pouting lips.

“Why did you agree to his plans?” He asked. Because I wanted to dig your gold? I thought with a sly smile.

“What?” he asked noticing the ‘smile’.

“I wanted to. It sounded like fun. I liked you” I said trying to sugar coat.

“Not because you were getting paid to deceive me?”

I took a moment to answer.

“Plus that” I answered honestly looking into his deep searching eyes.

“I just really like you. I don’t regret my actions” I continued with seriousness.

“What happens next?” he asked.

“Go back home tomorrow. Pretend like it never happened” I looked at him.

“You can’t do that” he said standing up.

“Why not?” I asked sensing I was about to get my blind folds ripped off.

“Because you are being used Didi. And I am afraid you are going to be used some more. There is so much you don’t know about your life and it pains me I’d have to tell you tonight” he said harshly and stood up.

“What do you mean by that?” I panicked a little.

“Why do you think Akhmed picked you? You think it is just coincidence?” he gave a snort looking across the water body into the distance.

“Yes” I answered.

“Well it wasn’t. He saw my will.” He said turning to face me.

“So?” I asked totally clueless.

“He found you out because you were a beneficiary” he completed. I was still clueless.

“Why am I on your will?” I asked dumbfounded.

“Because I knew your Aunt” he said coming back to where I sat; perched on the straw chair.

“My Aunt?” I asked confused. I didn’t have an Aunt. My mother was an only child. What was he talking about?

“A long time ago. Before she married the man you think is your father” he looked sad and bitter at the same time.

“What are you talking about?” I asked looking up at him.

“Didi, the woman you thought was your mother was your aunt” he said authoritatively as one who knew all things. I stood up.

“That is a lie” I said deep under my breath.

“I told her several times to let you in on the truth, she wouldn’t listen to me” He said seriously; and for a minute I was tempted to agree to a possibility of that been the truth.

“I need to get out of here” I said as I matched right past him; going back to the room to check the bedside drawer for his car keys.

“Listen to me. I have what will convince you. I am telling you the truth” he held my upper arm. I looked at him and shook his hands off me. I stood still. My head hurting.

“Where is it?” I asked again with emotion. I wanted to prove him wrong.

“I will give you after you listen to all what I have to say” he said looking into my eyes without flinching. I was curious, I was afraid. My life, all I knew shattering before me.

I was rooted to the spot.

“She married him. Leaving me months to our wedding just because my father wouldn’t give his consent” he spewed continuing with the discussion. I noticed he couldn’t say my father or refer to him without grinding his teeth. He walked back into the room straight to the glass-top centre table turning a glass of liquor from the decanter. I followed him in.

 “You were in love with her” I summed. He was the lost love my mother always talked about whenever we escaped to Calabar from my abusive father. I remember the look in her eyes when the memories came flooding through her lips. I felt ashamed of myself. I stepped back and perched on the edge of the unmade bed that reminded me all that was done in it hours ago. I stood up.

He looked at me through the glass but didn’t answer the question. He didn’t have to. It was written on his face.

Could there be any truth to what he was saying or was he simply ‘using’ me again?

“Why did you bring me here? Why did you allow me disgrace her memories?” my chest heaving, my eyes watering.

“I am sorry Didi. I got carried away. I just couldn’t let the past go” he said as he poured the gulp in his throat. It hit the back of his throat. I prayed it choked him to death. I was vexed.

“You disgust me” I spat out.

“I disgust myself. You look so much like her, I wanted to have you. It was petty and wrong of me to use you but I’m sorry. However I do not regret it” he said obviously satisfied with himself. I fumed the more.

The tears flowed now. I had disgraced her; shaming her memories.

I took a seat and poured a glass for myself too.

There we sat quietly for an hour; the clock ticking while we were in thoughts.

“Why was my name in your will?” I asked after a clear head and readiness to continue.

“To protect Ummi’s interest if anything happens to me” he said.

“Who is Ummi?” I asked

“Your niece. She is autistic” he gave another blow.

“My niece?” I was now confused more than ever.

“Yes. When she left me, she found out she was pregnant” he took another mouthful of the content of his glass.

“Dropped her off when she had her” he took another gulp.

“How is Ummi my niece?” I asked sensing he was withholding information from me.

I wasn’t ready to belief that my mother was my aunt.

“When were you going to contact me?” I continued; asking him questions as they came to me.

“I was going to call you for a meet-up but was advised against it. Especially as it came to my notice that the office of my attorney was vandalised and some documents missing including the new will we prepared just days before. I had to be sure it was not planned. Now I know it was and who was behind it”

I was now the one in the middle, the one taken advantage off. How ironic. I almost laughed at myself for thinking I was smart.  I didn’t.

“Akhmed came after me” I said in a sniff. I was right all along but for the wrong reasons. This was more than just blackmail or greed. I sensed revenge of some sort.

“Didi, I found out months ago that Akhmed, my son for over 30 years is the son of my sworn enemy. I felt betrayed and I had to cut him off. I know it is rash but I will not have my heritage passed down to a man who has the blood of your foster father in his blood” he said waiting for the words to sink. It didn’t.

Alhaji Yerima Dotun is your sworn enemy I know that” I repeated what Akhmed had told me.

“No he is not. He was your father’s best friend. Ubah Francis is Akhmed’s father and he is the man that took your aunt away from me” he finally gave the blow.

My eyes opened, the scales falling to the ground.

“My father is your enemy? Akhmed is my brother?” I asked disbelieving him. It could not be.

“Oh Didi, where do I start from?” he looked at me with pity. It seemed I wasn’t getting the clear picture.

“Start from wherever you think I can understand” I was standing and shouted with frustration.

This was not what I came to Calabar for!

“You are not Akhmed’s sister. You are not your mother’s child. You are her niece”. I wasn’t still convinced.

He stood up abruptly, walked to his wardrope and pulled out an envelope.

“Here, I will see you in the morning” with that he left the room. I had no idea where he went.

Siting back down, my hand shook with the brown envelope wondering what truth or disaster awaited my eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. It was sealed. I licked my dry lips nervously. This felt like a dream and I was living it.

I broke the seal.

Inside were pictures of people I had never seen with my mother with a baby. A man and a woman that looked like my mother holding a baby and smiling at the camera. The resemblance was striking and they looked like sisters. On the back, it was dated 13th May, 1977. The monochrome, almost sepia faded picture was threadbare and worn out on the side. Picking more pictures of the two women in smiles, standing side-by-side in uniforms, roses in their hair with bushy hairdos. The date was washed but one thing was clear. I had an aunt.

Looking into the envelope, I saw a sealed letter in a white envelope. It was scented. I saw my mother’s handwriting. It was addressed to me. My breath caught in my throat; my heart beating faster.

I held on to it. Somehow, I knew Ali was right before I tore it open. Tears falling from my eyes, heart aching and sniffing continuously as I read the sad stories, the regrets and plea for forgiveness. It was 3 page long and by the time I was done I was drained emotionally.

The woman I knew was my aunt. My Mother was dead and I had a niece Ummi. She should have told me. That would have helped. The abuse would have been understandable…..although I didn’t regret his end, I sure would have ended it sooner.

It was 5am before Ali woke me from the couch where I had fallen asleep after the emotions washed through me. He carried me to the bed and I didn’t struggle. I was spent and turned to face the patio and watched the sunrise.

The new day would be the first of many to  come.

I knew who I was, I knew what was mine and I had found a new calling.

Here is a copy of the letter.

If Akhmed wanted a game, I was going to oblige him.

This time my mind was made up.

I was going to win ǁǁǁ.

***************************************************************************

<<<<My eyes watered. It sure was sad. I felt so sorry for her. The history, the confusion, the mistakes…………..I was overwhelmed. Opening the next page, I saw what looked like a note that was ripped off forcefully. More like in a haste. I turned the next page hurriedly.

Where was the copy of the letter?

The next page started from ǁǁǁ now that you have read the letter that reveals all I am, you will understand why I do whatever it takes to protect my interest…….ǁǁǁ

I didn’t see a letter. I quickly flipped through the pages that followed but nothing. Dropped the volume and checked the trolley. It couldn’t have fallen out. Could it?

Then it hit me, someone was here. They must have taken some pages from the books.

This was not just a case of Didi being a gold digger, it was much more.

I should have known >>>>

CHAPTER FIVE ⃝ UNEN AND AKHMED: THE PRESENT

<<<<It was few minutes past 7am before I woke up. The cold wet morning and the joyful sound of chirping birds in the pseudo-coconut trees by my window told me a new day was here. Arise and Shine they seem to be singing and dancing; jumping from tree to tree. Oh happy day indeed for them. Wondering if they ever woke up feeling like they slept on potato sacks all night or if they felt the ‘PMS’ pains.

God! Not today! I prayed the cramps away.

I wasn’t ready to ‘Arise’ or ‘Shine’ just yet. Feeling like a little more sleep, I changed position, lazily curled up as a foetus would and covered myself in the warm soft Arabian duvet. It seemed it showered in the early hours and I had just few hours of sleep, I needed some more.

I dozed off, sweetly sinking into the cocooning dream world.

***************************************************************************

The ringing intercom disrupted my sleep. I opened my eyes slowly. The streaming sunlight forcing its way past my dark heavy blinds and the quietness told me the time was way past midday.

I was wrong.

It was just minutes past 10am. The birds had gone to get food without waiting for me to ‘Arise’ and ‘Shine’. Slowly sitting up, I stretched and picked on the third ring.

“Yes” I said as an unsuspecting yawn increased the circumference of my mouth. The un-brushed mouth odour diffused into the atmosphere and into the phone. Thank God there was no device to transmit smell just yet I thought humorously.

“Good Morning Ma” It was Iya Chef.

“Morning Iya mi” I said with a smile.

“Can I serve breakfast? Your visitor is out on the premises already”

“Oh! Of course. I will be out shortly” I almost forgot that Akhmed was around. We had a burial to plan.

“Yes Ma” she said. I hung up.

Mouthed a silent thank you to God and stood up to look at reflection in my mirror. A habit I guess.

The rumbling sound from my midsection signalled personal grooming was next.

You no na, Mama Ngozi visitation time.

***************************************************************************

“Good morning Akhmed, Iya” I said light-heartedly on entering the large kitchen with the polished wooden dining table right in the centre. Iya chef was fast on the job of making fresh juice of ginger and pineapple for the household. Akhmed sat with a steaming black mug that smelt of strong coffee while reading a newspaper.

“Good morning Unen. I trust you slept well?” he said lifting off his eyes from the paper studying my appearance. It was a cropped pair of black knee-length jeans and a long-sleeved white t-shirt that had a ‘LET THEM SAY’ inscription across my chest. With the rolled up sleeves and tied up hair in a band, I looked more like I was going out to work in the garden.

“Yes I did. Thank you. Is that today’s paper?” I asked taking a seat opposite him.

Taking a sip, Iya brought a plate of what looked like badly burnt toast.

“Yes, it is” he replied putting it away.

“Iya, the toast is burnt?” I asked

“I asked that she burn it” he said before Iya chef could give me a reply.

“Alright. Please Tea” I nodded to Iya that stood by uncertain about what to do.

“Yes ma” I disliked when she made everything so official.

“So what do you want to do today?” he asked looking at his toast as if he was inspecting it before picking it up and crushing it. He chewed nicely.

“Go back to bed?” I said with a ‘snortish’ laugh while I removed my elbows from the table to allow Iya drop my hot cup.

“Don’t we all? It is a fine day to be lazy” he said looking at me briefly.

“Yes. What plans do you have for …, well the burial” I said clearing my throat. Tongue got burnt. Too hot. Iya took to the rooms to monitor the cleaning soon after I cleared my throat.

“We would get a list and send the invite” he said completely in charge.

“Okay. Sounds like a plan” I said taking a careful sip. The taste buds dead.

“I am hoping for a quiet ceremony with close friends and well-wishers” he said with a pained look.

“Alright. Her friends know she is no more?” I asked happy that he was here to help with this.

“I suppose” he said calmly.

“Meaning?” I pressed.

“She was dead to many before now” he didn’t comment further. I let it go.

“I really have not done this before, I do not know where to start. I am relieved to have your help” I said taking another sip of the burning liquid set before me. It wasn’t getting cooler. Stupid tea.

“I will be happy to help”

“Thank you for coming. Shall we go to the library then?” I asked standing up and taking my cup with me.

The walk to the library was noiseless and for a moment considered telling him to lighten up the mood……….but to what avail? I walked in front leading the way. I made small talk.

“You have been here before?” I asked.

“Yes. The workers have been changed though” he observed drily.

“Oh!” was all I said. We got in.

“Please have a seat” I said sitting on a long dark blue velvet cushion. The airy library had been cleaned and scented fresh because of the fresh roses from the garden in the ceramic vase on the table top. It was its season and it blossomed every day.

“So, we start from invites yea?” I asked. He stood around for some time before siting. It looked as if he was taking an appraisal. Wished him gone, I wanted to go finish her journals. But I needed him anyway.

“Yes” he said quietly; obviously in deep thoughts while I made to power my Dictaphone. We sat quietly for a couple of minutes.

“Why did she leave me?” he said out of nowhere. I didn’t get it at first.

“What?” I asked.

“Why couldn’t she love me back?” he asked suddenly coming across from where he had taken a seat close to the bookshelves. He stood in my front with the question hanging over my head.

“I really don’t have an answer to that Akhmed” I said looking at the old wall clock for distraction.

It said 11:49am.

Finally, He sat beside me and faced me squarely.

“She never mentioned me? Us?” he asked doubting.

“She never mentioned anyone….ever” I stressed. He studied my face; trying to determine the truth. He relaxed the stare.

“I loved her. I loved her with the whole of my being” He announced. His chest rising and falling as the feelings escaped him. I wasn’t shocked. Just thought he was probably playing out his emotions. He was allowed.

“Did she know this? Did you tell her?” I asked. It took several more minutes before he answered.

“No” he shook his head in maybe regret? I looked at him. He seemed like he wanted to say more.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I didn’t know how” he looked helpless. I didn’t buy it.

“But you were married!”

“It made it harder” Eyes begging me to believe him. I didn’t.

“Obviously you two had issues but she never told me any of it. She never told me anything at all” I said to his handsome studying face.

He nodded. We were quiet again for a while.

“Shall we get the list started?” I asked taking up my cup of tea, tasted it. It was cold. Finally, I took a mouthful.

“No” he said.

“No?” I raised a brow.

“I am not ready to let her go just yet”. He said standing up and pacing the room……..just like Didi had written.

“So what do you want to do now?” I asked getting ready to go back to my room to continue reading.

“I need to go through her things. Make me feel closer to her?” he shrugged. I wasn’t going to allow that. I patted the seat beside me indicating he should come and sit. He did.

“It is okay to grieve and be sad. God knows I am too. But if you want closure, I suggest you find a way of letting your feelings out” I said trying to help an increasingly confused man. He looked right into my eyes, I had to keep blinking to avoid a stare.

“And how do you suggest I do that?” he asked. Was he really asking me that?

“Write her a letter or you could use a Dictaphone or something” I suggested in a wave.

“And tell her what? Not like she can read it or hear” he looked uncertain. I patted his hands.

“Why don’t you try it first?” I said standing up to go to my room.

“Where are you going?” he asked

“To my room” I replied simply.

“I don’t want to be alone” he stated flatly.

“Well?” I raised another brow.

“I want to talk to you” He patted the seat beside him. I gave a smile. Nice one. I sat back down.

“What about?” I asked

“I don’t know. Maybe you ask me about anything” he gave a weak smile that was meant to be cute but turned to a silly grin.

“And you will tell me?” I asked sceptical.

“Yes” he nodded to confirm. I gave an upturned smile.

“Alright” I said wondering what Didi would have wanted to ask him. I wanted to go browse her pages, maybe I’d see a question. Well, I would ask him the questions that came to my mind I concluded.

“When did you realise you were in love with her? I asked.

“The moment I knew I had lost her forever” he said without missing a beat

“What do you mean lost her forever?” I asked taking a lean back. It was fun to hear his side of the “story”

“I wanted to prove my worth to my father and of course business partners, there was a hitch. Funds. I needed her to do something for me……….well, persuaded her kind of. I was hoping she’d refuse. When she agreed, I ……..” he didn’t complete it. He looked pained and momentarily used his fingers to squeeze his eyes shot.

“Ok? I am not sure I get that” I pretended. I knew what he was talking about of course.

“It is a long story Unen” he shook his head, hanging it and twisting his long slender fingers. He looked at me for a long time. His eyes getting red from the excessive rubbing.

“What?” I asked. He looked like he had a lot going on in his head………….the eye dance Didi had called it. I wasn’t vast in this dance.

“Wondering why she entrusted a lot into your care, thinking if I can trust you like she did” he revealed.

“Oh! We had same interest, well, most. And she was a really a gift and I guess she liked me” I summed with a shrug and a private smile.

“Yes, I bet you two had a lot in common” his tone carried a meaning I did not catch.

“How did you know about me?” I asked.

“She always told me about you and I followed you up” he said simply. I wondered when she met with him that I didn’t know but I was more interested in the follow-up.

“Followed me?” I gave a startling laugh.

“Had you investigated” he looked as if he was ready for a confrontation if I wanted one. I had nothing to hide. He sure knew how to do that, doesn’t he? I thought with malice. Akhmed was not a very likable person. Well, let me speak for myself. I didn’t like the edginess I felt.

I perceived an inner negative energy that was masked with his handsomeness and impressive hair line, black meticulous beautiful beards that reflected careful ‘tendering’ that contrasted his fair skin with pink succulent lips that could draw any light headed female into kissing fantasies and smile that made you feel special. He looked good enough to be desired.

But he was not to be trusted. Underneath the cool exterior, the polished appearance and sophistication, I saw a man that played chess with human pieces. I could be wrong.

“Great. So that means you can trust me then” I smiled after my thought. He smiled back.

“I guess” he said loudly stretching and leaning back too.

“So you persuaded Didi to marry your Dad to have access to funds yea?” if this was going to go any faster, I had to tell him what I knew. He looked shocked at the new info.

“How did you know that?” he asked sitting back up.

“I read her diary last night” I looked without flinching.  He looked back.

“What else do you know?”

“What do you know Unen?” he repeated.

“Well, I know you are not Dr Ali’s son” I said looking at him for a reaction. None.

He nodded.

Then “Yes, sadly I am not” that was too ‘normal’ a reaction……….or so?

“So, the day she agreed to marry your foster father was the day you realized you were in love with her and at same time lost her” I continued. Prodding.

“Yes” he nodded again.

“But she married you, didn’t she? That must have meant she loved you too” I helped.

He didn’t say anything.

“So when did you two get married?” I asked as an interviewer would.

“Winter 2010 at London registry down at Edgware, Middlesex. I still see the look in her eyes, the feel of her warmth that night, the preceding days, I thought she loved me too” he said with a faint smile as the memories washed through him. The dreamy look I wanted to wipe off his face. It didn’t look genuine.

This was recent? I wasn’t invited to the wedding. Didi was more secretive than I thought. That was around the time I was in London for a conference, wasn’t it? Suddenly it dawned on me; Didi was living two lives as at the time I met her. Her journals were written right before me and I never knew. I was hurt but I would deal with the feelings later.

“Why do you think she didn’t?” I continued suppressing the urge to go to my room.

“She left me without a reason” he said sadly.

“She must have thought it best when she found out she was sick” I justified.

He said nothing.

“I think she married me because my foster father asked her to” he said as if he had thought about the possibility.

“I am not too clear as to how your father, I mean foster father would have asked Didi to marry you. Why would he do that when she was meant to marry him?” I was confused now.

“That is because he is her father. Didi couldn’t have married her own father now could she?” he looked strangely calm for the deathblow he had just thrown.

“WHAT?” I sat up.

“Dr Ali, my foster father is Didi’s real father” he reiterated.

“I think there could be a mistake in Didi being Dr Ali’s daughter. Are you sure about this?” I asked truly bothered and astonished.

“And you think I am mistaken because?” he asked with budding sarcasm.

“Because I read her diary” I said with an edge detecting sarcasm in his tone.

“You sure you read everything?” he asked without an expression.

I hesitated. Well, if you were not here right now, I would have…..I thought.

“You haven’t” he rightly concluded.

“I have not had the chance to………….”

“………………because I am here” he completed.

“I thought your foster father was married to Didi or was going to” I sounded unsure. I was unsure. I should have read the whole journal sooner I thought.

“Do you believe when they say it is a small world?” he asked standing up to pace again.

“Can you sit back down?” I asked politely with irritation underlining my tone. My thoughts paced, I didn’t need him walking around the room too. I was getting hot in the cool library.

“It bothers you?” he asked with same tone.

“Yes it does” I stated. He stopped pacing, looked at me with a disbelieving smile at my outspokenness and took another seat by the window. Glad the library was spacy like the rest of the house. He could sit anywhere he wanted. He looked out for few minutes.

“My dad had an affair. When my mum found out, she had an affair of her own too. Didi’s mother was my dad’s mistress. Didi and I are products of affairs” he revealed bitterly still looking out of the window. The twitching jaw as he moved his molars gave the vibe I guess. The ‘white’ woman was Didi’s mother? That accounted for her light flawless skin I thought taking the new twist in. How could this be?

This was bad, really bad.

“So Didi is Dr Ali’s daughter?” I asked still doubtful and thinking back to Didi’s dad being right about his suspicion.

They really made a mess of everything.

“Yes” he sounded so sure.

I took a deep breath only hoping she had found out sooner than later. She couldn’t have had any carnal relationship with Dr Ali, could she? I prayed not.

“Are you sure? DNA?” I asked eyes wide. He nodded again. I took his word for it.

Can DNA be carried out with ashes? I pondered.

“So your dad, I mean her dad asked her to marry you because?” I asked.

“I have no idea. Maybe marriage to merge? After all, I started the marriage proposal to get funds, didn’t I?” he said as a man with regrets would. Standing up from the seat beside the window, he steadily approached me.

Coming to stand beside me, he stretched out his hand.

“Come with me. It is a nice morning” he simply said. I gave him my hand as he held me up.

“Let’s go for a walk”. I took my Dictaphone that had been faithfully recording the conversation so far. God knows I needed the fresh air too.

**************************************************************************

“Always a good weather around here” he commented as we walked into the manicured green field. The grasses mowed and shrubs showing excellent topiary craft. The cold wet morning still left traces of wet leaves and grasses.

The sun hiding behind the emerging dark clouds.

It was going to rain again.

We approached the garden. The apple tree had ripe fruits and I wanted one.

“Yes” I answered his earlier comment on the weather; eyes on the fruit. Taking the fashioned wooden fruit stick, he plucked two ripe apples and we took the concrete seat in the middle of the garden with a shelter. Rubbed the fruits on our clothes, teeth sunk in. It was drizzling again.

“Why didn’t you tell her you loved her?” I asked putting the Dictaphone back on.

“I just couldn’t” he looked back at me taking a big bite. With another huge bite, he would be getting another apple for sure.

“How did she find out that Dr Ali was her father?” I asked the question that was on my mind from the walk from the house.

“Wasn’t hard. He had her investigated. He found out soon enough. I got that from him” He smiled meaning his investigative streak.

“Yes. Of course”

“I thought she chose me because she loved me. Sometimes, I think she did” he smiled while taking the last chunk of the apple. I wanted to tell him there was more, I bit my tongue.

“So what changed? Why do you think she was asked to?” I asked.

“Well, nothing really. We just drifted apart. I never stopped loving her” he said.

“Loving that you didn’t tell her” I added with a sad smile. he smiled back too.

Somehow, I didn’t believe the last part. The whole revelation sounded like half-truth to me.

“Did Dr Ali find out she was persuaded by you to marry him to fund your project at any point in time?” I threw a big question. He slowed down on his chewing. I waited.

Then came Akin running towards us. I was needed in the house.

“Excuse me” I muttered.

“Ma’am, you have a phone call” he said almost breathless.

“From who?” I asked out of ear shots from Akhmed.

“He didn’t say. He just said to get you to the phone discreetly because the message is important” he said in low tone. My hair rose on the back of my neck.

A bad feeling.

“I will be right with you” I said. He ran back.

“What was that?” he asked with interest.

“My Dad says he needs to speak to me urgently. Please I will be right back. You don’t mind, do you” I asked masking the lie. I knew the call was about this man looking at me with such mesmerising eyes.

“Of course not” he said standing up.

“More fruits?” I offered pointing to the tree playfully.

He laughed. I walked fast to the house hoping the strange man was still on hold. I got to the kitchen just in time.

I picked the phone. The click told me I was transferred.

“Hello?”

“Is that Unen?” it was a rich soft masculine voice-the kind that was non-threatening but was filled with quietness that screams danger.

My heart leaped within my chest.

“Yes. This is Unen”

“You will know me soon enough for now please be careful with Akhmed Bricks. If he has contacted you already, I suggest you thread carefully. Do not believe all he says. The situation is more serious than seems. Go to Didi’s room, read through her volumes and I will call again in 48hours, same time. Again, be cautious” the line went dead. I stared at the dead phone in my hand and swallowed a couple of questions that was already at the base of my throat.

What the hell was all this about? I thought long and hard.

I sensed a game and I was right in the middle of it. I needed to finish reading.

Heading back to the garden, Akhmed sure was eating another apple.

“Got it sorted?” he asked with suspicion or was it me?

“Yeah” I said brightly stretching for an apple from him.

“I thought so” he said giving me from his newly plucked collection.

“Thank you”

“Uhuh” He smiled.

“I wanted to bury the urn right here” I said as we sat back. The question about Dr Ali finding out if he was being played was not forgotten, just suspended. I was going to search through the journals. Somehow I knew I couldn’t get the right answer from him.

“Where?” he asked.

“Underneath the apple tree. Tessy rests here as well” I shook my head tears stinging my eyes. This was acting. I needed an excuse to go back to the house and to my room.

“You can” he looked and patted my thighs.

“Yes” I said sounding overwhelmed, blinking the tears away.

“Cannot believe she is gone” I intensified.

“Me too” he said.

“She made peace with her Dad?” it was a question I left floating.

“I only hope” he said sadly. It sounded genuine. I heard the voice on the phone. Caution. I stood up.

“I feel dizzy. Let’s go back to the house please?” I implored.

“I need to be alone” he said simply with a smile.

“Okay, I will be in my room. Please let me know when you need me”

“Sure”

I walked to the house through the kitchen again and saw Iya chef preparing lunch.

“What do you want for lunch Ma’am?” she asked. I really didn’t care.

“Anything you can rustle up. Please serve him lunch when it is ready. I will be in my room” I smiled and went straight to my room, straight to my bed, straight to the journals.

The room had a different feel. An intruder perhaps.

I hated cranks calls. Now I was uneasy.

I walked to the large window and noticed it was unlatched. Did I leave it unlatched?

I felt totally vulnerable.

Iya chef must have supervised the cleaning. I brushed it aside and opened the trolley that contained Didi’s journal. They were not arranged. It looked like it was tampered with.

Alert!

Someone was here.

Surely someone had tampered with the journals. I picked the intercom to call Iya, she picked.

“Iya, can I have a slice of your coconut cake and a bottle of your lovely ginger-pineapple mix?” I asked sweetly. I decided immediately she picked to keep the suspicion to myself for now.

“Yes of course” I could hear the smile in her voice.

Minutes later, with the cake in hand, I settled on my reading couch for a good read.

I should have looked at the window once more; maybe I would have seen the departing culprit then>>>>.

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