I let my hands run through the water as the boat sailed across the water.
I sent a glance at Aunt Chime, she was carrying little Ifeanyi and singing her a lullaby to make her stop crying.
I looked back at the village…where i was born, where i had lived, where i had started my life. I couldnt believe i was going to be leaving the village this way.
I thought of Ralph and i could only pray that his destructive soul rest in perfect peace.
I rested my head on my laps. Aunt Chime tapped me ‘Ivyy, are you okay?’
I raised up my head and smiled nodding my head. What could i have done without this woman? She had been very supportive during this time.
It was her suggestion we left Umueke to a faraway town the night we disposed Ralph’s body. So immediately after dropping his body beside the stream in the middle of the night, we had hurried back to the house, packed our little belongings and headed to the port that same night. We had spent the night there as we couldnt get any boat leaving the village that night.
But very early the next morning, we had boarded a boat going to Umeja.
Umeja was very far from Umueke and the journey was surely going to last for two days. Umeja wasnt an Igbo community, it was a Yorubaland and i wondered how i was going to fare.
Umueke had been part of my life. I was going to miss everyone…Henna, Kainene, Omalicha, Ijeoma, Jude, Chijioke, Ifeanyi and even Ralph…though he was no longer in this world.
But i knew deep within me that i was going to miss Henna more. It pained me that i didnt even get to tell her goodbye or apologise for everything. It pained me that i just left without a goodbye to those who mattered alot to me.
I looked at Aunt Chime again and she was engrossed with crying Ifeanyi.
I carefully unzipped my bag and brought out the phone Ifeanyi had given me. Tears trickled down my eyes.
I wanted to do away with every memory of Umueke. I wanted to forget i ever came from that village. I wanted a new life. A fresh start without worries or pains.
I wondered if i was doing the right thing. I wrapped the phone in a black nylon, closed my eyes and dropped it into the water.
I screamed loudly as the phone sunk deeper into the water.
‘Ivyy, what is wrong with you?’ Aunt Chime asked as people looked at us.
I started crying.
Oh my soul, God bless my sould.
FIVE YEARS LATER.
I marveled at the beauty of the mansion in front of me. The large swimming pool, the beautiful fountain, the beautiful garden and the beautiful cars parked in the garage.
Living in this house for sixteen months hadnt gotten me used to it.
I got down from the car, picked up my Dabana handbag and entered inside the house.
‘mummy!’ Ifepam screeched jumping into my arms.
‘oh Ifepam, you’ll not kill me…how was school today?’ i asked carrying her to the sofa. My daughter preferred being called Ifepam, thats Ifeanyi Pamela. Said Ifeanyi was too masculine.
‘school was fine mum, how was work?’
‘work was hectic, where’s aunt Chime?’
‘in the kitchen…’ Ifeanyi said biting her fingers.
‘stop dat! Its bad habit…’ i scolded.
‘heyy Ivyy dear, you are back!’ aunt Chime called emerging from the kitchen.
‘yes aunt…’ i said rising on my feet, i handed my handbag to Ifeanyi and she ran to my room to drop it. I followed aunt Chime to the kitchen ‘so whats cooking?’
‘jollof rice…’ Aunt Chime said stirring the pot.
She suddenly stopped stirring and faced me ‘Chief was here today…’
I nealy choked on the bottled water i was drinking ‘which Chief?’
‘how many Chief do you know? Chief Adetola of course!’
‘oh my God! What did he come here to do again?’
‘the same thing he has been trying to do over the years Ivyy’ she faced her pot again.
I placed my face on my palms ‘oh my God, that man should just let me be for goodness sake! I cannot marry an old man like him, why doesnt he understand?’
Aunt Chime covered the pot and looked at me ‘Ivyy, you know you cant run away from Chief forever, maybe its high time you gave into his request…’ my shoulders slumped ‘yes my dear, look around you, the luxury you’re living in, who gave it to you?’
‘God…and my hardwork…i worked hard for this aunty..’
‘oh please, lets be realistic. We all know that Chief made you who you are today. Yes, maybe you earned it with all your hardwork…but who was the person who took us in and gave us a life when we newly arrived here several years ago? Who was the person who paid all your bills and sent you to school? Who was the person who got you employed in his company as the assistant manager?’
‘Chief…’ i muttered slowly.
She shrugged ‘you see? Ivyy, marrying him will only bring us goodluck, its going to secure your future and that of Ifepam’s. She’s going to have attend the best universities in the world and marry a good man. Think about this Ivyy, dont miss your luck’
I looked down. Me…marry Chief?
I cant. I didnt love him.
I loved another.
I was sitting in my office typing something on my laptop when the door opened. I thought it was Cherpet, my secretary.
‘Cherie, anything?’ i asked without looking up from my laptop.
I froze when i heard ‘my princess’ from a very familiar voice. I raised my head ‘Chief!’ I blurted in surprise.
‘my princess, bawo ni?’ he asked holding his agbada. He sat on the chair opposite him.
I smiled ‘mo wa kpa sir. How was your day?’
He grinned at me ‘i’m very fine…i came by your house two days ago, i was told you were at work..actually i just stopped to say hi to your aunt’
‘thanks a lot Chief…’ i smiled not knowing what to say.
‘but today, i came here for my answer…my proposal…’ he winked.
Chief was a good looking man in his fifties. He had six wives and eighteen kids, his first son was an senior to me with over five years, how was i to marry a man like that?
‘erm…Chief, its…’ i played with my fingers nervously ‘i’m very grateful for your kindness towards me and my family these past few years…but…but…i…i just…i just cant…i dont know how to put it..’
‘put it anywhere dear…’
‘i cant marry you. I just cant marry you Chief, i’m sorry’ i sighed.
He regarded you for a while ‘what do you mean?’
‘i cant marry you…i’m refusing your proposal…’ i said as gently as i could.
He looked shocked.
‘i am ready to pay you back for everything you’ve done for me Chief, but please, not through marriage, i…’
‘will you shut up?’ he barked suddenly and i drew back in shock.
He stood up, an angry look on his face ‘you are nothing but an ingrate! After everything i did for you and your wretched aunt!’
I looked down not able to say anything.
‘i picked you up from the gutters and brushed you up! I sent you to school and took care of your child…provided a comfortable house for you too. And then i got you a job. You must be mad if you think i will let you go just like that!’
I stood up ‘but Chief, you really cant force me to marry you…’ i said gently as i placed my palms together ‘please forgive me Chief but i really cant marry you. I cant’
‘you are very stupid! Look…’ he said banging his fist on the table ‘you dont want to see me angry…i can ruin your life and all that you’ve worked for all these years..i can make you lose your job, i can chase you from dat house because i also own it. I can equally…look Ivyy, you better dont provoke me. I give you two day…two days to make up your mind else…you lose everything’ he said walking out in anger.
I fell back on my seat. I had a tough battle ahead of me, that i knew.
‘Ivyy, you just have to give into Chief’s proposal and you have to be fast about this!’ Aunt Chime said marching into my room holding her phone in her hand ‘Chief just called me now and you needed to hear how how angry he sounded. I’ve never heard me speak so angrily before and there’s no need telling whats going to happen if you dont marry Chief, Ivyy, do you want to lose everything overnight? What is all these nonsense?’ she barked angrily.
I sighed and rubbed my temples ‘but aunty, you know i dont love Chief, besides he’s far older than me, i cant marry him. I cant marry a man i dont love…’
Ifepams walked into the room at that moment yawning angrily.
Aunt Chime held her hands pointing at her ‘Ivyy, love…’ she pointed at Ifepams ‘love oo, love…’ i knew what she was implying at. The thing she didnt know was that i never loved Ralph ‘love is not everything…love can make someone make deadly mistakes sometimes. I just hope you know what you are doing…’ she walked out of the room dragging Ifepams along.
I fell on my bed and sighed. I was never going to marry Chief and nothing can stop me, no matter what anyone says. I wasnt going to lose anything but i wasnt going to marry Chief.
I knew he lusted for my body and maybe if he had it once, he could forget about the marriage stuff.
I walked to the window watching how the city bustled in activities.
I missed Umueke and i thought of visiting there very soon, except that i had no one to see there. Ifeanyi could have probable left the country and Henna would have probably left the country too as she had always said she was leaving the village immediately she finished secondary school there.
I let out air.
I missed them. I missed my past life. I wondered how Ije and Oma were faring. I wondered how the village reacted to Ralph’s death. Someone might be paying for my crimes now as they might have accused someone else and i wondered who.
Oh God…the mistakes i made in the past.
I just pray they dont come back to haunt me.
I looked at the mirror once more and added finishing touches to my make up. I picked up my white handbag, picked up my phone from the bed and left the room.
Approaching the sitting room, aunt Chime was seated on one of the sofas watching her favourite soap opera that showed every morning. I was thinking of setting up any business for her, maybe a supermarket or a boutique or a restaurant, anything to keep her busy.
‘aunt good morning…’ i greeted cheerfully.
She turned, accessed me with her eyes then returned her gaze back to the plasma tv on the wall.
She turned again, eyed me then returned her gaze back to the television.
I walked to the beautiful center table in the middle of the sitting room, picked up the remote and switched off the television.
‘whats the meaning of this Ivyy?’ she asked angrily.
‘aunt, i greeted you, you did not answer…’
‘so?’ she retorted angrily ‘what has your greeting done for me? Will you turn on the television at onece?!’
I regarded her for sometime and smiled ‘is this all about Chief’s proposal?’
‘give me the remote…’ she said reaching for it.
I drew back and hid the remote behind me ‘answer me aunty…’
She eyed me and hissed ‘i dont have time for this…’ she said approaching the stairs.
I let out a sigh, checked the wall clock and saw i was twenty five minutes late for work. I dropped the remote on the table, i was going to talk to her later.
I honked and honked. Where were those silly security men who were supposed to be at the gate?
I blared the horn once more, no one came out.
I came down from the car angrily ‘security!’ I shouted as i approached the gate. I wasnt really conversant with their names.
The middle aged man came out of wherever he had been holding his gun to his side.
He smiled at me through the see-through gate making no attempt to open the gate ‘madam goodmorning oo’ he greeted.
‘where did you go to? Open the gate at once!’ i said turning back to leave.
‘madam, they say make i no open gate for you oo..’ he said and i turned instantly.
‘the oga kpatakpata. He talk say if i open gate for you say him go fire me oo’
‘which oga kpatakpata?’ i asked knowing fully well he was talking about Chief.
‘Chief na. Wait, he even give me letter give you..’ he entered the small building by the gate that served as his “office” and came out with a brown envelop which he handed to me.
I quickly took it from him and opened it.
I let out a gasp as i read the later. It was a sack letter from the company. My services were no longer needed.
My heart shattered into million pieces. I never knew Chief was serious with his threat, i had to act fast, i knew i had to.
‘okay…’ i simply said and walked back to the car. I started the car and drove away.
My phone rang.
I looked at the id, it was aunt Chime. I ignored the call, afterall, i was heading home. Whatever she had to say could wait till i get home.
As i approached my gate however, i sighted aunt Chime from afar standing by the gate with several luggages in front of her. She was talking with the security man who had a stubborn expression on his face.
I immediately stopped the car and came down.
‘whats happening here?’ i asked.
Aunt Chime heaved a sigh of relief on seeing me.
‘Ivyy…’ she said holding my hand ‘you have to call Chief. You have to beg him, he has chased us out of this house. He came with his thugs immediately you left and threw out things out, Ivyy, you really have to call him, biko..’
I was shaken. Why was Chief doing this? First it was the office and now the house? Who knows what next…maybe my clothes and shoes.
Tears trickled down my cheeks. I couldnt say a word. I was slowly loosing everything. Everything i had worked so hard for.
Aunt Chime turned to the gateman begging him for something i couldnt remember.
I wiped the tears in my eyes with my handkerchief.
I turned to the gateman ‘please help me, lets carry these boxes to the booth…’
‘what?!’ Aunt Chime gasped unbelievably.
‘i’m sorry i cant…’ the gateman said ‘who knows if this is a ploy to get me out of the way so you can enter?’
‘dont worry, its okay. Dont bother. We will carry it ourselves..’ i said lifting a box and carrying it to the car.
Aunt Chime stared at me as if i had gone bananas. But after a while, she joined me and together, we carried everything into the car. She entered and i drove off to an unknown destination.
‘where are we going to?’ she asked.
‘i dont know. Maybe a hotel or something…’ i replied. My voice was shaky.
In my heart i prayed, prayed for everything to return back to normal.
I drove faster.
‘where is this place mummy?’ Ifeanyi asked as i held her lands leading her to my room in the hotel ‘why arent we going to our house?’
‘Ifepams…’ i called smiling.
‘lets get to the room first, then i’ll explain everything to you. By the way, are you hungry? Should i order fried rice for you?’ i asked.
She regarded me for a while and pouted, her pink lips reminding me so much of her father. My heart thumped a little as i remembered Ralph. His kisses, his touch, everything about him.
I inhaled deeply.
‘where’s aunt Chime?’ she asked as i inserted the key into the keyhole.
‘she’s in this room…’ i said pointing to the room directly opposite us ‘aunt Chi!’ i called ‘Ifepams is back from school…’
‘i’m coming…’ she said from inside.
I led Ifeanyi into the room and undressed her, leading her to the bathroom.
As i scrubbed her body, i noticed the way she intently gazed at me. I pretended not to notice until she asked ‘mummy, can i ask you a question?’
I smiled at her ‘yes dear, you can ask me anything. What is it?’
‘where’s my dad?’
The sponge fell off my hands as i looked at her. She had an inquisitive look on her face and i wondered what brought about the question. Ifeanyi was just five years old for crying out loud! How could a five year old ask such a critical question?
‘teacher Susan told us today that those who are fatherless are bas.tards…is it true mummy?’ she pouted again.
‘i…i…teacher Susan..i mean, why did she…’ my heart was beating fast as i spoke. God help me, telling the truth wasnt the best thing right now, Ifeanyi was too young to know about all this ‘why would she say so?’
‘someone called Nike a bas.tard in school, and when i asked her what the meaning of ba.stard was, she told me its those who do not have a legitimate father. Whats legitimate mummy?’
‘thats…i wont tell you. All this big big grammar that you speak is too big for your age..’ i forced a chuckle as i resumed scrubbing her body ‘so tell me, who’s Nike?’
‘her father owns a veryy big house..’ she used her hands and eyes in describing how big the house was ‘she told me you would practically get lost in her house if you’re new there. Mummy, i want a big house just like that..’ she pouted again.
‘Ifepams!’ i called frowning ‘you should be contented with what you have and dont eye other people’s properties, thats ungodliness, the spirit of covetousness, very bad!’ i scolded… ‘and the next time you do it, i’m going to spank you’
Her face suddenly became pale and her eyes teary ‘i’m sorry..’
I smiled at her and rubbed the soap on her cheek ‘dont feel bad baby, i’m only trying to correct you so you grow up to be a responsible child and not make the same mistakes i made’
She suddenly looked up at me, the good old inquisitive look returning to her eyes ‘what mistakes did you make mummy?’
‘maybe you should eat now baby..’ i said turning on the shower and stepping backwards as she giggled splashing the water everywhere w€tting my clothes in the process.
Someone touched my shoulders and i jerked and turned. It was aunt Chime.
‘have you called Chief?’ she asked.
I sighed and looked back at the window ‘no. I’ll call him tomorrow’
‘Ivyy! Some issues are better solved now than later…’ she placed her index finger under my jaw and turned my face towards her ‘are you alright? Whats wrong with you?’
‘i’m fine aunty..’
‘you and i know very well that you are lying’ she sat beside me ‘whats wrong? Is it Chief?’
‘no..’ i said shaking my head.
I shook my head before looking at her ‘which Ifeanyi?’
She chuckled ‘your lover of course!’
I didnt find it funny so i didnt laugh ‘Ifeanyi…Ifepams asked of her father today..’ i said slowly.
‘what? How come?’
I shook my head as the tears that had gathered in my eyes fell off ‘i dont know aunty…’ i sobbed ‘i didnt get to give her an answer and knowing Ifeanyi well, she’s going to ask again’
‘calm down…’ aunt Chime said placing my head on her bos.om ‘dont cry, Ifepams wont ask again and even if she does, dont give her an answer’
‘how possible is that aunty? You know Ifepams very well..’ tears washed my face ‘i was thinking of Ralph, i just remember him. Whenever i look at Ifepams, all i see is him. I shouldnt have killed him aunty, i regret it!’
‘shhh…’ aunt Chime quickly whispered ‘dont you ever say that again! Dont you know that walls have ears?’
‘we should never let anyone know about what we did to Ralph, do you understand? Besides he deserved it. Who was he to mess your life up just like that? And i’m sure his death would have pained his stupid and heartless mother who didnt care about you or her grandchild, thats enough revenge for her callousness’
‘but aunty, it doesnt change the fact that i killed Ifepams’ father..’
‘you killed my father?!’ a voice said behind us.
We quickly turned.
Ifeanyi stood behind the door, her face widened in shock.
Oh God, would this day get any worse?
Aunt Chime was the first to recover from her shock. She pulled Ifepams into her arms and smiled broadly ‘Ifepams, your are too inquisitive for your age…’ she chuckled looking at me ‘how would your mother kill your dad? Is your mother a killer?’
Ifepams looked at me before shaking her head slowly.
‘then why would you think your mummy killed your daddy? Of course not!’
‘but i heard her say so herself!’ Ifepams retorted.
‘certainly not my baby. We…we were only acting a play. Am i not smiling now? I was looking sober before wasnt i?’
‘whats sober?’ Ifepams asked.
I chuckled grabbing her from her aunt’s arms ‘intelligent Ifepams! Come, lets go and get ice creams from the reception’
‘yeh!’ she shrieked excitedly.
I winked at aunt Chime who secretly gave me a thumbs up and we headed downstairs.
‘Chief, we can settle this amicably, please dont do this to me..’ i said. I was already on my knees with tears streaming down my eyes. Chief was behaving stubbornly. If i wasnt marrying him then i should be ready to start life from scratch…something i was not ready to do.
I came from a poor family. I refuse to put VERY because our poverty was somewhat on a low level. Sometimes, things were quite good for us, mama made good sales and papa got a contract…maybe supplying animals to the palace for preparation of meals for upcoming festivals…something that was not regular seeing that there were so many hunters in the village. But there were times when things were really bad..so bad that i had to stop going to school for almost a week so i could hawk for Dada’s school fees.
Speaking about Dada, i felt guilty for not calling him over the past few years. Aunt Chime had insisted i left everything about my past life and start life anew. She had forced me to forget about Dada and uncle Nonso. But i had plans for him too. I was waiting for the perfect time when i would be able to send him outside the country for studying then set up a multinational company for him. But i was waiting for the perfect time and now this.
I was a millionaire…at least having nothing less than a million naira in your account also makes you a millionaire. I had a million naira and some hundreds of thousands in my account, but its going to run out with time if i wasnt working…paying Ifepams’ schoolfees and of course renting an apartment for us and furnishing it to my taste, that was surely going to half my account coupled with feeding expenses, fuelling my car and general day to day expenses. Before three months if not less, my account was going to be red. I badly needed my job back and the house. I couldnt stand going back to poverty or a life of lack, no.
‘you little ingrate!’ Chief said gnashing his teeth ‘after everything i did for you and your money hungry aunt! I took care of your child, your ba.stard child! When you came to this town, you were penniless. I took all of you in, sent you abroad to school..and upon your return, gave you a job in my company as an assitant manager and now i’m asking you to be my wife and now you are telling me you cant marry an old man like me? You really think i’ll let one hungry boy who doesnt know about your history? You must be joking Ivyy!’ he said banging his fist hard on the table.
I could tell he was really angry. But i really couldnt stand him calling my daughter a bas.tard. But i just had to bear it.
I thought about my future. I was just 22 and i still had a long way ahead of me. I equally thought about my beautiful daughter’s life..marrying Chief could guarantee her future. He could give her the things that i wouldnt be able to give her.
I equally thought of Dada. My marriage with Chief would be the right time to send my brother abroad.
Maybe…just maybe…i could marry him…tears dropped from my eyes..i would never see my Ifeanyi again so maybe i should forget about him and start life anew.
‘yes Chief…’ i blinked ‘yes Chief, i’ll marry you’
The marriage ceremony between Chief and i was a small one. We had invited a priest to his house and we were blessed. Then a small reception was held in his house with few friends and some of his children.
I noticed the angry looks i got from his children but i didnt care. God knew i wasnt marrying him out of my own freewill but for my daughter’s sake. I was only a mother on the look out for my daughter’s future.
I wanted Ifepams to do great things in life. To achieve things i wasnt able to achieve. To settle down with a well known and respected man – certainly not a man like Chief who already had wives and children and much older. But a man whom she would love and who would love her in return and give her so much happiness.
‘you’ve done the right thing my dear…’ aunt Chime said walking into the room with a broad smile on her face. Chief was still downstairs bading his friends goodbye while i waited up for him in the room.
‘aunty…’ i breathed.
‘and whats that you are wearing Ivyy? Is that how the latest bride in town is supposed to dress?’ she asked as she sat beside me caressing my hair.
I looked at myself. I was wearing a loose white pijamas and i certainly didnt see anything wrong in that.
‘whats wrong with my dressing?’
‘everything my dear…’ she said. She stood up and went to the wardrobe throwing it open ‘dont tell me you dont have s£xy nighties because i’m going to slice your hair with a scissors!’
She turned to me hands akimbo ‘i shouldnt be explaining these things to you Ivyy. You should know that tonight is going to be a special night between you and Chief. You certainly cannot turn him on wearing…that thing’
Realisation dawned on me. Yes, i was going to have s£x with Chief tonight and i was supposed to look s£xy like a seductress waiting for whom to devour.
I looked at aunt Chime disgustedly and she rolled her eyes walking back to me.
‘common Ivyy, dont give me that look. I didnt say anything bad as far as i can remember. You are a married woman, need i remind you?’ she raised my hand pointing at the diamond ring on my fourth finger ‘see?’ She smiled at me.
‘the fact that i’m wearing a pijamas doesnt mean Chief isnt going to sleep with me. I saw the lustful look in his eyes through out today and it doesnt matter if i’m wearing a caftan or dressed in a big gown, nothing’s going to stop him from devouring my body tonight….’ i sighed resting my forehead on my palms ‘i’m so in for it tonight’
Aunt Chime laughed ‘seriously Ivyy, you are nervous? You’ve got to be kidding me…’
I tried to smile but i just couldnt. I wasnt happy about marrying Chief. Marriage is a lifetime thing and its supposed to be something filled with love and happiness and not regret and hatred which was what i was already feeling.
Aunt Chime angled my face towards hers with a reassuring everything-will-be-fine look on her face ‘Ivyy, my dear. You made the right decision. I see regret in your eyes right now but my dear, you might not understand everything now but sooner, you’ll know that you did the right thing okay?’ she winked at me.
The door opened and Chief entered with a satisfactory smile on his face.
‘Chief Chief…’ aunt Chime said rising on her feet with a proud smile on her face ‘my one and only Chief’
I rolled my eyes. Poverty was indeed a disease and i was as sure as hell wasnt going back there.
‘inlaw…’ Chief said holding his agbada walking into the room ‘everything went fine today didnt it?’ he asked touching my cheeks.
‘yes indeed..’ aunt Chime said ‘uhm, Ivyy, i would just excuse you guys, you both need to rest, you must be stressed…’ she gave me a knowing look.
‘thats true inlaw. I will see you tomorrow morning’ Chief said.
‘okay. Ivyy, goodnight…’ she winked at me and left the room.
‘my love…’ Chief said smiling ‘welcome to the Adetola family…i’m so happy to finally have you as my wife. You dont know how much i wished so much for this to happen’
Yeah right…you’ve probably jerked off every night thinking about my body. I believed Chief wanted nothing more but a constant supply of my body and marriage was the best way to go about it. I just smiled pretentiously.
‘let me shower immediately…care to join me?’ he winked pulling off his agbada, revealing his slack singlet and pot belly. I wrinkled my nose in disgust but quickly shook my head.
He dashed into the bathroom and returned to the room few minutes later. He pounced on my almost immediately.
I almost choked on his kisses and his touch gave me goosebumps. I let him have full access of my body after which when he rolled away and snored away like a pig, i rushed to the bathroom and threw up.
I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom.
‘Ivyy, this is your new life…’ i said to myself.
To be continued.. .
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