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.
“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.
“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”
“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
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.
“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.
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.
“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?”
“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 >>>>