“Like I said…I have nothing to say” Dafe retorted furiously as he began to climb the stairs up to the main entrance of the house.
“But sir, it’s been rumored that your mother did not die of natural causes” the sternest of the three reporters that was swamping around him insisted.
“Guards!” he yelled out in frustration. He didn’t know how they had managed to slip passed the security guards at the gate. So much for their military training, he cursed beneath his breath.
These days, it’d become almost unbearable to go out without these god damned reporters swamping around him like bees, especially now that their mother’s funeral was almost at hand. Tomorrow was the “D” day. Tomorrow, he would be saying farewell to an empty coffin. He still couldn’t believe that his father had had his mother’s body cremated. What was more infuriating was the fact that he had insisted on burying her ashes in an “imported” coffin. Somehow their father had supported Ejiafe’s idea of importing a coffin for their mother’s burial which was nothing but preposterous to Odafe. What are these people up to? He lamented.
“We have to put up a show” his father had announced in one of their irritating dinners.
“At mother’s funeral?” Odafe asked angrily. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was quite aware of how influential his family was and how important it was to always put up a positive image to the public and to the press but an act at a funeral? Their mother’s funeral? Is father running mad? Odafe has thought furiously
“The world must not know what is going on here. It wasn’t my wish to have your mother’s body cremated. She had insisted on it before she passed away” his father had explained again.
Odafe had rolled his eyes. Then why import a golden casket for just her ashes? He had wanted to ask.
“We all know that a lot of people will turn up for the event, dignitaries from all the corners of the world. Besides the fact that your mother was a former Beauty queen way before most of you were born, she was also a political figure” his father had went on answering his unsaid question.
“So please, on no account should that casket be opened” he continued ignoring the ‘now-again’ confusion on Odafe’s face. “I will assign some guards to make sure that never happens”
“I don’t get it” Odafe retorted. There was so much he could take. He was already furious that he wouldn’t have a body to say his farewell to but the fact that they had to keep on lying even to the point of her final departure was just uncalled for. Importing a golden casket he could ignore because it had become obvious his family didn’t know what else to do with money and besides, this was their mother’s funeral, golden casket, silver casket, bronze casket, whatever, he didn’t really care but…“Why can’t we tell them she was cremated? Didn’t you just say it was what she wanted? People can understand that, can’t they?”
“No they cannot.” his father had answered firmly, rising to his feet. Odafe saw the irritation written all over the man’s face but he could care less.
Now, there were reporters questioning him about his mother’s death. What was he to make of that? From the corner of his eyes, he could see the security guards dragging them out of the compound as he pulled the entrance door opened and stepped into the sitting room.
Shouldn’t he be used to it by now, being mobbed by the press? He wondered wearily as he bolted the door. It was part of their daily lives; their famous, rich and influential lives, he knew. It was a necessary price to pay, his father had often said, but he couldn’t help but admit it was one of the things he never missed when he was away from his family and now he wished for more than anything to be back to that quiet life with his wife and unborn child. He just couldn’t wait for the funeral to be over and done with.
The press was known to be snoopy, digging up unnecessary dirt, twisting and fabricating stories and …lies. Odafe remembered the night he had snuck out to visit his girlfriend Gina back when he was still in secondary school. His parents had forbidden him from seeing her because according to them, he was too young for a relationship and she was definitely not his type. What did they know? But reluctantly, he had obeyed his parents because they had grounded him and cut off all his savings and credit cards. He had no choice but to break up with her. Gina was devastated. He remembered vividly the disdainful look in her tearful eyes as she looked him over and then dashed away. She wouldn’t speak with him for months even in school until that fateful night.
He had received a text message from her asking for a meeting and so, as quietly as a mouse, he had snuck out of the house and drove all the way to their meeting spot but she never turned up.
Worried, Odafe waddled into her parent’s house in search of her only to find the front door of the house ajar which was so unlike the Ejieke’s. Curious, he rushed into the house to find his beloved Gina on the sitting room floor covered in a pool of blood. Horrified, he yelled out for help but it was obvious that there was no one else in the house and so, he dialed his phone for an ambulance and then his parents…
“Mum!” he wept into the phone, suddenly lost for words. There was so much blood…
“Odi?” his mother asked sounding confused. Her voice was low and quiet. “Why are you calling my phone? Aren’t you in the house?”
“Mum, Gina Gina….” he cried pulling his lumped ex-girlfriend’s body closer to himself. The lifeless of it frightened him and he began to call out her name desperate for her to wake up.
“Odafe, where are you?” his mother asked with the tempo of her voice rising at each word.
“Mum. I’m in Gina’s house. Something has happened. She is bleeding…” he sobbed as he wrapped his arms around her body urging her to open her eyes.
“Odi! Listen to me…are you there? Odi?” he could hear the desperate voice of his mother calling but he wasn’t listening. Gina wouldn’t open her eyes even though he could see the slow rise and fall of her chest. The cream blouse she had worn had been thrown over her head and her head was covered in bruises in ways he could only say he’d seen in horror movies. Her jeans trousers had been pulled from her waist and thrown several inches away and her underwear was still stuck between her legs and sneakers. She was naked, Odafe suddenly realized as he got up slowly to look round the room. Nothing besides a small stool had been moved from its place. The big television set hung on the wall was intact, the red cushion chairs and couches had not been displaced. Even the car keys and mobile phone were lying idly on the shelf.
This was a rape attack… Odafe realized as he pulled further away from the body and stared at the bruises on Gina lips.
Still with his phone glued to his ears, he could hear his mother telling him to leave the house immediately.
“Get out of there, Dafe. Did you hear me?!” it was his father now yelling into the phone.
“But Gina…” he stammered confused as he listened to the rage of commands blasting into his eardrums. Completely lost and frightened, Odafe turned and fled the house. Few hours later while wrapped up in a blanket sipping tea, he saw his name plastered all over the news as the prime suspect of the rape attack. Bloody reporters! It had to take all the monetary muscles of his father to get his name wiped off yet Gina’s rapist was never found…
“Sweetie, you are back!” Rhoda announced drawing him back from memory lane as she rose from the couch she’d been sitting and hugged him tightly. The memories were gone in a flash.
“Yeah” he answered placing a kiss on her forehead “How’s my son doing?” he asked rubbing her protruding belly.
“He’s fine” she grinned as she gestured him to one of the cushions in the sitting room.
“I saw the reporters. How did they get in?” she asked curiously.
“I wish I knew but I’m guessing they followed me. Do you know that they were asking if I knew what killed my mother? Ree, can you just imagine?” Odafe asked trying to keep his anger from his voice.
“Really? Killed? What do they mean by that?” Rhoda asked stunned.
“I don’t know. It’s all over the internet and newspaper. Everyone is blogging about it” Odafe answered angrily.
“This is serious” Rhoda exclaimed calmly.
“I don’t know why anyone would think my mother was killed” Odafe lamented quietly.
“Oh honey” Rhoda moved closer to him, and then wrapped her arms round his shoulders.
“Don’t worry about it. I think there is some sort of mistake” She consoled.
“Yeah there is and besides, not everything in the newspaper is true” Odafe answered rising to his feet.
Captain Efetobo stared down at the picture of his wife grinning in a frame. She had the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. It was what first attracted her to him on that fateful day they had met in a club. He had just returned from a field trip and had leisurely hit the club with two of his buddies, Daniel and Ovie. He could recall that day as vividly as he could remember his first shooting lessons.
She was dressed in a lemon green blouse, and a short jeans skirt with her hair wrapped up in a ponytail. She was laughing into her drink with two other girls, Bridget and Dima-he later learnt- giggling beside her. Struck by her beauty and ignoring the fact that there was obviously a long queue of men fighting for her attention, he had walked up to her and whispered something into her ears. He couldn’t remember now what he had said but somehow, it had worked like a charm because timidly, she had excused herself from her friends and they had gone outside of the club to talk while the other dudes glared after them in jealousy. That was one of his best nights, Captain Efetobo admitted smiling at the memory. Talking with her and hearing her laugh at his lame jokes, had been priceless.
It wasn’t long after then that he proposed; six months, seven months perhaps, he wasn’t sure but she had been so excited, dressed in a short red gown that was slit behind to expose almost the whole of her straight back. Resting on her conspicuous thighs was a silver purse that matched the color of her shoes. Her hair was thrown down to expose their curly and dark brown texture. She held a smile that could light up the whole town and lips that were so red and mushy that Efetobo was afraid that if he kissed them, they might melt away. Her cat-shaped eyes held him spell bound that for a moment, he was unable to speak. He had dressed in his favorite grey suit and pants and was hoping to God that he looked as dashing as his friends had flattered. This was the day he’d been waiting for and he must look his best.
“You look beautiful!” he answered breaking the silence. Even though the Rosebud restaurant and bar was sparsely crowded, it felt like it was just both of them in the room.
“Thank you” she grinned again, exposing her perfect set of white teeth. Efe felt his breath cut. God! I hope I’m going to survive this night.
“Efe” She laughed, “You look tense. Is everything okay?” she asked resting her hands on his.
“They will be” he answered blushing as he looked from her hands to her face.
“You sure?” she asked again, this time with a look of concern.
“Of course” he answered grinning. I just hope I’m right.
The waiter was soon at their table, pouring into their glass cups, some ice and then champagne.
“You know, you got me worried after the pageant last night. I saw you scowling. What happened?” Onajite asked spooning up a sip of the tasty soup from her plate.
“Oh that! That was nothing. Just stress you know” he answered trying to keep the uncertainty from his voice.
“Jite, I need to ask you something. He said after a moment’s silence of sipping and lungful thinking. “Are you cheating on me?”
“What?” he heard her exclaim as a look of confusion crossed her face.
He didn’t know what next to say. There’d been rumors and there were blogs writing about her affair with her model director Chima. It was all over several gossip magazines, so he’d been told. He hadn’t braced enough courage to see for himself, afraid that possibly if he did, it might just be true but he knew better than to listen to rumors and read gossip magazines especially when he could easily find out the truth….from the horse’s mouth.
“Cheating on you? What could possibly make you think I’m cheating on you? I mean…God!” She asked, her face covered in rage and probity.
Efetobo felt his breath ease. She isn’t lying He suddenly felt stupid for asking. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t been able to sleep for days over some silly rumors. There was no way Jite would have left him for some hungry ass dude. She was his! His only and she was going to be his wife…
“I’m sorry for asking such a question, Jite. I’m truly sorry” he apologized pulling back her hands and squeezing them reassuringly. She grumbled and then picked up her glass cup but just as she was about to take a sip, she paused recognizing what was in the cup mixed with the liquid. Efetobo grinned.
Dropping to his knees next to her, he asked “Jite, will you do me the honors of being my wife?”…………
Captain Efetobo thrust the photo face-down on the shelf and then walked into the bathroom. Those were the good old days, he scolded himself as crossed the slippery room and hung his towel. He has to always remember that…..for your own good, fool. Turning on the water, the fragrance of his wife’s soap filled his nostrils. He frowned. It reminded him of the night, he had returned home one evening to find her bathing. From where he had stood watching her through the glass door, he could make out every feature of her body: her smooth long thighs, her buxom backside, the curve of her hips, submerged in front by thick dark pubic hairs. She had her lips parted as the water drained down her soft and tender skin. Her hair now short precisely the way he liked it with her eyes shut to the thrill of the water.
He joined her in the bathtub feeling the warmth and soft texture of the water as he began to soap her back. His man shot up in desperation.
“Honey?” she had begun to say as he wrapped his arms around her. It’d been so long he held her in his arms, so long since he felt her moist and wet against him. Not since Ejaife. Not since… he shook the thoughts away and concentrated on resting his lips on her shoulder. I’ve forgiven you Jite, I have.
“Yeah?” he answered forgetting his thoughts with voice husky with desire.
“I’m pregnant” she announced quietly.
Efetobo froze. He didn’t want to believe what he had just heard.
“I’m sorry, you said?” he asked trembling.
“Efe, I’m pregnant” she answered almost in a whisper.
Efetobo took a step from her dripping from the water, naked and distraught. No! No! This cannot be happening. Not now!
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean for this to happen” she pleaded breaking down in tears as if she had just read his thought…
Of course you did…how could you? He wanted to say but he couldn’t let the words slip out.
Be calm Efetobo, be calm. He admonished himself
“I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen” She continued trying to hold back her tears.
“You can’t keep it” he said finally after finding his voice. His temperature had suddenly run cold and his man was now very down.
“I know, I know but I’ve tried to get rid of it but the doctors, every single one of them insisted that it would be a bad idea if I do” she lamented resting on the glass door.
“Even Doctor Isaiah?” He asked trying to keep the terror from his voice.
“Especially him. He was the first person I went to, before the others and they all said that i have a high risk of losing my womb if I try to remove it” She continued in tears. “I’m really sorry Efe, I truly am. I know how much you want more kids so I couldn’t bring myself to do it”
Captain Efetobo stood mute staring blankly at her. You should have.
“So you are keeping it?” he asked ignoring his restless thoughts. How could you be so stupid Jite? How could you? But he knew it was too late to point fingers. The deed was done; they would just have to figure out a way to get rid of it.
“I have to” Onajite answered getting up to follow him out of the bathroom struggling to tie her towel round her chest.
No you do not! He heard his demons scream and his fingers folded into a fist.
“You cannot keep it. Not here” Captain Efetobo replied instead, freeing his fisted fingers.
“What? You are sending me away?” Onajite asked alarmed.
“You are going to London to take part in a jewelry exhibition that would last for ten months” Captain answered ignoring the look of confusion on her face. “Enough time for us to decide what to do with that….thing” he concluded sarcastically.
“No Efe, No! Please don’t send me away. I promise you no one will know. I promise” Onajite pleaded comprehending his meaning. “I cannot do this alone”
“You will stay with Bridget” He concluded ignoring her pleas as he threw on his singlet and boxers and stomped out of the room.
Captain Efetobo laughed. He’d been a fool then to think he had it all figured out; Dishing out orders, making out silly arrangements, lying, scheming, plotting…. Killing….Who makes a deal with the devil and goes unpunished?
He decided not to bathe anymore as he pushed the memories back into their chests and threw a lock over them. Probably it was best to get rid of his wife’s things now, he decided; especially that irritating soap. Quickly, he called out to the house helps and instructed them to gather up all of his wife’s things. He would also need a new air fresher. One or two, he instructed the cleaners as he rested on his bed and watched them begin with the closet. Omotore would be delighted to have them he was sure but if she didn’t, he could always put them up for charity. He didn’t care who had them, all he knew was that the sooner he was done with them, the sooner he could easily get a bath….in peace.
To be continued……..
To check out the previous episode of FAMILY SECRETS, please click here