Putting the two trays down, Jaiye hurried back into the kitchen for the remaining trays. Earlier that day, he had given all the servants the day off, insisting he wanted only family around for the dinner. He had cooked the food all by himself, a fact that amazed his wife who had no idea he could even cook. Actually, he couldn’t, but with the aid of a cookery book he was able to put together the meal he was now serving his family.
Jaiye had prepared well for this dinner. He wanted it to be a cozy intimate immediate family only celebration and so far he had succeeded in that. His two children were on holiday break with Adesuwa’s parents and his sister’s three had been left with the small army of nannies and nursemaids who tended to their every need in Otunba’s house where Wonuola and Lawrence live. That was okay, this was after all an adult occasion.
With a flourish, Jaiye opened the lid of the centre silverware to reveal Jollof rice, the second dish held the well fried chicken parts and the third dish contained what could pass for a salad if you are not too discriminatory.
All eyebrows raised at the sight of the food spread out before them. This is the celebratory dinner? Otunba gave a loud sneering snort; his wife’s face took on a pinched disapproving look; Wonuola snickered while her husband stared as if he had never seen Jollof rice before. Adesuwa felt a wave of mortification rush over her while Demola tried to pretend there was nothing odd about the meal. Only Seyi shrugged and decided to take it in stride.
As for Jaiye, he pretended not to see or hear his family’s reactions. He placed bottles of wine on the table then proceeded to serve each person, an action that raised even more brows. He ignored those too. With every one served, Jaiye took his seat at the other end of the table, his wife on his right side and Demola on his left.
No one moved as each person waited for someone to make the first move, specifically Otunba. He was staring at the plate of Jollof rice, salad and chicken thigh before him as if it was a heap of earthworm.
Jaiye looked round the table at everyone then gave a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He reached behind his back and brought out a gun which he laid on the table in front of him. A second gun emerged and joined the first one. He then calmly dug into the pocket of his trousers and brought out a tube-like object and placed it beside the two guns, another tube was removed from the other pocket. This time, he picked up one of the guns and screwed on the tube to the end of the barrel. He did the same with the second gun, and then holding one gun in each hand, looked up.
His family was watching him with varying degrees of bewilderment on their faces. But as yet, no one showed any fear.
Jaiye raised his head and looked across the table at his father. When he spoke, his voice was curiously devoid of any emotion.
“You know, I’ve always hated you. Even when I loved you, I still hated you. Strange, I know but that is how it has always been. I hated the way you always made me feel inadequate. I hated the way you made me feel I always fell short of every standard. I hated my having to prove my worth to you and I hated always falling short. You deprived me of satisfaction and joy in my work. No matter what I achieved I always felt it fell short of your approval. Nothing I did was ever good enough for you. You are a pompous, self righteous bastard” he pointed the gun at his father.
Across the table, Otunba’s head rose a fraction. There might have been a trace of fear in his face but it was hidden under the burgeoning anger and fast fading shock. He stared back at his son and felt rage explode in him, no one had ever dared speak to him like this and by God, he would not tolerate it.
“Jaiyeola”, he thundered, rising to his feet, “young man, you have crossed the line and . . . . . . . . “
“SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP” Jaiye screamed, rising to his feet also.
He pointed the gun and with a muted whoosh, the bullet flew out and a bottle of wine exploded in its path, sending pieces of glass flying in every direction as it whizzed past his father to lodge in the wall behind.
There was screaming as everyone scrambled to get away from the table and Jaiye. His loud “SIT DOWN” and the sight of the gun pointed in both directions at either side of the table served to restore order immediately.
The bewilderment on their faces had given way to fear. Nothing like this had ever happened to them before. They had been pampered and sheltered all their lives. This kind of evil stalked other people; not the Ojikutus or the Soareses or the Okoko-Briggs and definitely not from one of them.
They stared at Jaiye in terror. No one knew what to do or what to say. They sat in their respective chairs, huddling into the exquisitely carved wood as if it could offer them protection from this horror that had entered their affluent world.
Across the table, Otunba collapsed on shaky legs into his chair. The rage on his face had given place to the same fear that was now mirrored on all the others’. On both sides of him, his wife and daughter leaned towards him. He had always been their shield, the one they looked up to and in this unbelievable happening, they sought understanding and help from him as always. Unfortunately, tonight, Otunba had no help to offer. He was in the same situation they were in.
Still standing up, Jaiye looked down at his father and smiled. A grim smile. He leveled the gun in his right hand at his father and. “Eat”.
Otunba stared at his son, trying to make sense of what he said. When the word finally penetrated, he looked down at the food as if it was a strange entity. Wine had splashed on it and tiny pieces of glass reflecting light from the chandelier above glittered brightly on the rice. He raised his head up again to look at his son, his apparently mad son.
Jaiye’s hand tightened on the trigger and another bullet whizzed silently out. It swept past his father’s head, so close Otunba felt the hot air it made in its path by his ear. Without another word, he hastily grabbed the fork beside his plate and unceremoniously started shoving food in his mouth, pausing every now and then to spit out pieces of the shattered bottle.
Watching him, a sinking feeling lodged itself deep in everyone’s hearts. Otunba had always been THE MAN! If he could be cowed, there was no hope for any of them. They only hoped that whatever madness had possessed Jaiye would be quenched with his father’s acquiescence.
Jaiye watched, still standing up, as his father ate the rice and salad, the gun steady in his hand. He gestured with it and his father fell on the chicken and ate that too.