She came to my house at 12noon the next day. It was a Saturday, an environmental sanitation day, and I had spent the better part of that morning cleaning out the house and weeding out some stubborn plants that were growing on the edges of the pavement. I kind of enjoy cooking so I had made some jollof rice with crispy curry fried chicken awaiting my special guest. I had also stocked up on a few non alcoholic drinks in my mini-bar, remembering to make sure orange juice was included. She liked orange juice. I had also stocked up on some cool music and some bestseller movies. Hey, we weren’t going to be discussing her problems the whole time she was going to be at my place, were we? So I tushed things up a bit in preparation for my special guest.
I had been sorting through my pictures when she knocked on my door. I opened and let her in. She wore a light yellow sundress with green frills and matching head accessories. She looked classic. We hugged and exchanged pleasantries and she sat down. I offered the orange juice and she gladly accepted. I took some glasses and soon we were drinking and chatting away.
“Getting to your place wasn’t easy at all,” she said. “The bike guys refused to reach here”.
“Probably because of the environmental,” I replied. “The touts at the junction won’t let them rest. They harass them even after 10 o clock!”
She smiled and became quiet. I waited patiently.
“So, you wanted to know what my problem was…” She said quietly.
I braced myself.
“I never knew my parents. My guardian adopted me from a motherless babies home in Enugu.” She smiled sadly. “He said I brought him good luck, that as soon as I entered into his house, good things started happening to him. He was a farmer whose wife had been found by the doctors to be infertile. They had tried on numerous occasions to have children of their own but it had all been in vain. So after extended discussions with his wife, they decided to adopt. He said I kind of looked like her and that was why he adopted me. According to him,as soon as I came into the house things turned around for the better. His farm started to yield more and his wife’s petty trading improved. Soon he was able to get a bigger house to stay in and extended his land for more farming. He was able to hire labourers and business really boomed. The wife was good to me and treated me like I was her own daughter. They sent me to the best school they could afford in the vicinity and I was immediately singled out as one of the most intelligent pupils in the class.”
“How old were you when you were adopted?” I asked.
“Daddy says I was two at the time.”
I nodded and let her continue.
“When I was in secondary school, a cousin of my adopted father came to visit. I had never seen him before and was surprised that he had never visited. My guardians welcomed him joyously and thanked him for finally gracing thier humble abode, which quite honestly wasn’t so humble anymore. He seemed genuinely happy for them and kept on looking at me with interest. They introduced me to him as their daughter though over the years I had come to find out that I was adopted. Not that I minded when I found out. I think they just wanted to let me know the truth and I appreciated them the more for it. Anyway, he asked again who I was and I told them I was their daughter and he smiled and said he had seen his daughter in law. My guardians laughed and I looked away shyly but didn’t know that he was quite serious.”
“He left the next day and came back a week later with his son whom he said was about finishing secondary school to enter the university. He introduced us and let us be by our selves while he discussed with my adopted parents. Obi, the man’s son, seemed very reserved at the time. Dunno if it was shyness. We said one or two things and after a while his father said they were going. They thanked us for receiving them well and we thanked them in return.
“Over time I got to like Obi very well and even looked up to him like a senior brother. Even when my guardians teased me that he was my husband I denied it, telling them Obi was my brother. One day, as I was about finishing secondary school, Obi called me aside and told me he had feelings for me and wanted to marry me. That we should make a pact before I entered the university. I was so happy! But I drew the line at the pact. Not that I didn’t want to be with him but my mother was a staunch Christian and had warned me against taking blood oaths which is what he was suggesting. I told him I loved him and would be with him but as for the pact he was suggesting, I would have nothing to do with it. Obi was very disappointed in this and didn’t speak to me for days. I felt terrible but refused to give in. Finally however he accepted my word of faith fullness and we made up.
“I entered the university when he was in 300 level. We weren’t in the same university and we used to visit each other when we had the chance. Every once in a while he would bring up the issue of a pact again and I would refuse. I noticed that he had started to change. He followed bad gangs and told me he was no longer going to church, that church was for people who were too lazy to do things on thier own. I tried to talk to him, tried visiting him more often but he became more distant, saying if I loved him I would agree to the pact. However I held my ground on that matter.”
One day he called me late in the evening and said he was coming to visit me on campus. I told him from where? He said he was driving down from his university. I told him it was too late already that he should wait until the next day but he refused. It was like he had been drinking or something. I pleaded with him to wait, as if I knew something bad was going to happen but he refused to listen. He said I had a boyfriend and that was why I didn’t want him to come. I told him that was not the case. Hr said anyhow he was coming, that we would do the pact that day whether I liked it or not. I cried and told him to wait that it was obvious he was drunk and we would talk further tomorrow bit he wouldn’t listen and cut the call. A few hours later someone called me with his phone that he had gotten into an accident and was in a private hospital. I hurriedly called my parents and his and travelled the next day to see him. The doctor said he hurt his back badly and couldn’t walk, that he was paralysed from the waist down.
He blamed me for the accident. He said if I had agreed to what he was saying that he wouldn’t have travelled that day. I told him his being paralysed wouldn’t stop me from marrying him. I have cared for him since then. He still stays in his father’s house and has servants about him but every once in a while I check on him and he checks on me. We would have been married two years ago but his father keeps postponing the event for whatever reason. I have seen over the years that Obi has changed completely. He no longer loves me or cares about me but at the same time he doesn’t want to let me go. He keeps insisting on making this pact even as I have stayed with him until now.”
I took a deep breath. This was a lot to take in. I waited a bit though, and when she didn’t continue I asked, “What about you? How do you feel about him?”
She sighed. “I care for him. He is my responsibility. If I leave him now it will look like its because of his paralysis that I am leaving. And I honestly don’t know how he will manage if I leave.”
“So you do want to leave?” I said.
“But I can’t!” she cried. ” I can’t leave him in that state. What kind of a terrible person does that! I see him as my fiancé and future husband. In fact we would have been married if not for the delay from my father-in-law to be. I still don’t get what his own problem is. I am ready to marry his son but he keeps telling us to be patient. We have been dancing around the issue since the accident, that is about three years now. I once threatened to leave but Obi burst into tears and I had to promise him I was not going anywhere before he calmed down.”
We were silent for a while. I kept thinking of Jerry Springer’s show “Baggage”. This was some serious stuff. Could I accept her baggage? And even if I did, what would I become? The family friend? How could I help?
I sighed and she looked at me and smiled. “You are really great, Chuks. I see the way you do your work quietly. You don’t impose on people even when you are above them. I notice how you are always around to help others in thier problems. Falling for you would be so easy, but you can see why I have to keep my distance…”
“Staying with someone in a relationship just because you feel sorry for the person, never works out.” I said.
She looked a bit hurt and started to fidget in her seat.
“Please chuks, I’d rather not talk about this anymore. I made someone a promise and I intend to keep it. He may not believe me but I do not need a pact to keep my word. Please can we leave it alone?”
I sighed and sat back on my seat. She smiled and rested her head on my shoulder.
“So. What is your big secret?” she asked.
“I see things that others cannot see.”