The Phillips sat in the sitting room watching their favourite television programme, Super Story. The door-bell rang, but, they all remained seated. It rang again and again. The couple exchanged glances then turned to their daughters who were seated on the rugged floor.
“Someone is at the door,” Remi addressed the girls.
None of them moved.
“Won’t you go and get the door?” Baba shouted at them.
Lola and Kemi exchanged glances.
“Go and see who it is?” Lola tapped her sister on the lap.
Kemi eyed her, “Why me? Don’t you have legs?”
“I am your elder sister,” Lola stated as a matter of fact.
“Senior ko, junior ni,” She eyed her again, “We are just two years apart. It doesn’t count.”
“You are mad. Something is wrong with your brain,” she glared at her.
“And you are a fool. Instead of you to get married, you are lounging in your father’s house.”
“Is it me you are talking to like that?”
Kemi hissed, “No, it is your shadow I am talking to.”
“I have been warning you,” she poked her on the head with her finger, “Mind the way you talk to me. I am not your mate.”
“Abeg park well.”
Lola slapped her sister, “You are very silly.”
Kemi held the side of her face, “Oloriburuku ni ota e ni?”
Her elder sister slapped her again, “You are still talking.”
Kemi cried out in pain and lurched her weight at her sister. They both exchanged slaps and blows.
Remi pulled off her leather slippers and threw it at the girls.
“Ah! Maami…” Lola let go of her sister, jumped to her feet and held her head.
“Daddy…” Kemi turned to her father, holding her stomach.
“If you come near me, I will slap you,” Baba eyed her.
Kemi hissed and folded her arms across her chest.
Lola stumped her feet on the floor and slow walked towards the door. She turned the key and yanked the door open.
Her heart missed a beat when she found her elder brother standing by the doorway, “Brother!” she looked him up and down. He stood there in a black short-sleeve tee-shirt and jeans with a blue knap-sack hanging on his shoulder. His face was lean and pale, he looked thin and malnourished and was no different from the kidnapped victims auctioned at the slave market in the movies she watched recently.
Gbemiga limped into the flat and settled on the chair closest to the door. He was so tired and hungry.
Remi and Baba jumped to their feet when they saw their son. He was a shadow of himself.
“Gbemiga,” she rushed to his side.
“Where have you been?” his father seized him up. He barely recognized the boy.
“What happened to you?” Remi didn’t like the way he looked.
“You and Abisoye just disappeared just like that. You were both supposed to come home for your traditional and church wedding,” Baba glared at him.
“Gbemiga,” Remi placed a hand on his forehead. His temperature was a little bit higher than normal.
“We called the Da Silvas and they claimed that they haven’t heard from both of you. Hope both of you didn’t elope to get married. Why would you do such a thing in the first place when you have the backing of both families?”
He raised his head and stared at his father.
“Explain yourself. This is September. You were supposed to be married in August.”
He dropped his gaze and met his mother’s questioning stare. “Just thank God that I am alive,” his voice sounded hoarse.
Lola and Kemi drew close to their brother. They didn’t like the way he was looking. Where were his luggages?
“What happened to you?” Remi looked into his sad eyes.
“I have been in the police’s net since the second week of July.”
Silence filled the room.
“I was whisked out of my apartment, locked up in a hole in the police station, questioned and tortured for a crime I didn’t commit,” tears glistered in his eyes.
“What are you talking about?” Baba seized up the boy.
“I almost died,” he looked from his mother to his father.
“Why did they arrest you?” Remi held back the tears threatening to spill all over her face. It was hard to believe that their son had been suffering while they thought he was enjoying himself in Abuja.
“Abisoye stole a hundred and fifty thousand dollars from USAID and they thought I was involved.”
Remi placed both hands on her head, “Mo gbe, mo gbe, mo gbe ooooooo!” she went on her knees and began to weep.
“She defrauded the agency and disappeared. No one knows where she is, not even her family.”
Baba blinked back the tears gathering in his sad old eyes. He couldn’t imagine what his son must have gone through.
“When they discovered that I was innocent, the agency dropped the case against me. I was released, but, I lost my job. My bank accounts are frozen; they took everything from me.”
Baba sat beside his son, “But, why? If they found out that you were innocent, why punish you? What’s wrong with all these foreigners in our country?”
He turned to his father, “My association with Abisoye cost me everything. They… they took all I had. Everything I worked for… at least, I am alive,” he started to cry.
“Ahhhhhh! God punish all my enemies! Evil people! Enemies of progress! They must all die by fire!” Remi rolled on the floor, screaming and crying.
Lola and Kemi sat on the floor and started to cry too.
“You mean Abisoye is a thief?”
Gbemiga nodded and looked at his distraught father.
“How come you didn’t know?” he eyed the boy.
He sighed heavily and wiped his wet face with the back of his hand.
“You should have been sensitive enough to know the kind of woman you were getting married to. I thought you were a strong Christian. Look at the kind of trouble you have brought on us all.”
He folded his arms across his chest. How was he supposed to know? Was he a magician or a wizard? He didn’t know and his ignorance had cost him everything. How was he supposed to take care of his family now? Where was he going to start from? He looked up at the ceiling and sighed heavily.
God where are you?
“What about my sister?”
He glanced at his father, “She was the one that paid for my bail at the police station.”
Baba sighed with relief.
“She… she said she has washed her hands off my case,” his voice trembled.
“What nonsense?!” he became infuriated.
“She said I have shamed the family. She called uncle Tayo and uncle Korede. Both of them said that they can no longer sponsor my Masters program.”
“What have gotten into them?”
Gbemiga shrugged and sighed heavily. He was still trying to wrap his mind around everything that happened to him.
“They can’t do this. A promise is a promise. They must follow through on their agreement. They can’t just back out. Are they saying that you are guilty?”
He looked at his father. The man’s anger was understandable. He had also been upset when his aunt and uncles dissolved the promise they made to him during the family meeting. He came to a conclusion after many nights of restless sleep. It was only God that would stand by him and see him through the thick and the thin. No man would.
“I must speak to my sister…” Baba got up, “Where is my phone?” he looked around.
“Daddy… daddy, leave her. Leave them. Let them go.”
Baba glanced at the boy.
“They are not worth it.”
He sighed heavily and sat back on the chair, “What they did is unacceptable.”
Gbemiga nodded in agreement, “It is well. Let’s just thank God that I am alive.”