WRITTEN BY: OGECHI ALABI
When they got to Owerri, Nkem came down at a park. Demian helped her bring down her luggage. He took her phone number and called her. Then he talked to a cab driver at the park while Nkem thanked Patience for her kindness. Patience asked if she would be following them back, Nkem couldn’t confirm it yet.
“You were an amazing company, Demian. I love your spoken Igbo with the phoney twist. Thank you. I hope you enjoy your holiday,” Nkem said in Igbo.
Demian smiled at her for speaking to him in Igbo. He replied, “I will see you soon. I will call to know if you arrived safely. I’ve paid the cab driver, ok?”
“That was nice of you. Thank you. Bye. Your folks are waiting.”
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Nkem entered the taxi just as Demian entered the bus. She wove to the bus as they drove off. He was nice to her. She liked him as a friend.
When Nkem arrived home, she had to come down to open the gate to the compound. There didn’t seem to be anyone at home but the pedestrian gate was open. As she opened the gate for the driver to drive in so it would be easy to offload her luggage, her two brothers came out from the factory on hearing the house gate opening. They ran to welcome her. They helped her carry her luggage inside. They were excited.
She went with them to the factory to see what was going on there. Cassava tubers were being processed. Her mother sat on a chair under a shade and collected payments from most of the people who came to process their cassava. She could see her mother looked better. She wasn’t the gorgeous woman she remembered when her father was alive but she was much better than she was before. She wanted her to be that woman again.
Nkem had plans. She wanted to be very successful. She desired to make her mother so proud of her and she would be the talk of the village for a long time. She wanted parents to use her as an example to their daughters. She planned never to mess herself up.
At the university, several guys had talked to her but she never showed interest. Because she dressed poorly in her first year, she didn’t have many ‘toasters’ but by her second year and this third year, it had increased. All thanks to her roommate Funke who allowed her to wear her clothes and even brought clothes for her from her cousins. She appreciated the help. But then, it didn’t make her feel secure. Her background was still a hindrance.
She wasn’t interested in casual sex. Her mother bragged to her often about her first sexual encounter with her father. She said, “I was popular and I enjoyed attending parties when we return to the village. Your father met me at one of the parties. Some people had told him I was a cheap girl and so he decided to try his luck. It did not work. We became friends. When suitors were always at my house, I told him to make up his mind quickly if he wants to be with me or if I can marry other men that have shown interest. He proposed. He immediately came with his family to make his intentions known. That Christmas, we got married. On our first night, he couldn’t believe I was still a virgin. He had heard stories and he discovered that night they were all lies. Some of his friends were amongst those that discouraged him from marrying me, claiming they had the evidence I was wayward. The next morning, he sent a goat to my family and killed one in his place. He told everyone he found me at home. It was a big celebration. For a man to openly brag he was the first and only man, he was very proud. He treated me like an egg.”
Those words resonated with Nkem. She wanted the same. She wanted a man who will love her the way her father had loved her mother. Unfortunately, it was short-lived and she was turned into a village woman. She refused to take handouts because she didn’t want to owe favours. “When people give you money they are indirectly buying your loyalty and you are unconsciously selling your conscience. You can’t speak the truth against such a person, it will look like betrayal. That’s why you should only accept what you need and work hard for the rest. Let it not be said, “It is because of me you and your family could eat. Mbanu, God forbid. I only collect school fees from those who have pledged to pay them. I never beg.”
Nkem was jolted out of her thoughts by her mother’s excited scream. “Nwam o!” Mama Nkem screamed when she saw Nkem. She ran to hug her. “I did not see you, my dear. How are you? You look well. Nne o. Adanneya. How was your trip back? You came back early.”
Nkem greeted the other women. Her mother gathered up her books and the cash she had with her. She said to her son, “Call Mr Chukwu so he will come and collect the money we sold today. He should sign off on it, make sure. I don’t want trouble. I am going to give my daughter food. Where is Uloma? She was supposed to be at home, where did she go? Nkem, you need to talk to her, she is not serious at all. She dropped to fourth position this term.”
“I will talk to her, mama. Let’s go home.”
Nkem enjoyed her stay in the village. When she offloaded the things she brought, everyone was happy. She had bought affordable and unique gifts for them. Her mother had sent her mother to buy them Christmas clothes from Lagos. She had bought them and was glad they fitted perfectly. The shoes too. She bought her mother a blouse and a good quality wrapper. She was very happy. She bought jewellery for her. It was also affordable and durable. Her brothers and sister got more clothes which she bought at the night market in Yaba. She told them they had to be washed. She shared the other things she bought for them including toiletries. She was glad she could do all this for them. She had saved money to buy foodstuff when she will return to school.
The next day, a car drove into the compound. It was Nkem’s uncle, Uncle Amaechi. It was a big surprise. They all ran outside to welcome him. Mama Nkem had told her brother Nkem was back and he decided to come to their house to see her.
“Nkem, you look so good. How are you, my dear?” He asked her.
“I am fine sir. I didn’t even know you were back home.”
“I came back two weeks ago but I stayed in town. I had some businesses to take care of. I brought some things for Christmas.”
“Amaechi, you shouldn’t have. You do so much for me by taking care of Nkem. You meet all her financial needs,” mama Nkem said to her brother.
“I don’t think I was doing such a great job, I didn’t realise Nkem is a growing child and would have some needs. I never put clothes and other necessities as a priority and I apologise for that. Chidindu and Chiemezie, please bring out the things in the car. Ada (Mama Nkem’s pet name), Donald gave me an envelope to give you. He said he didn’t know you relocated to the village because of your husband’s death. He said you should manage it to start something. When I told the family I was coming here, they gave me food items to drop on their behalf. Will you celebrate Christmas with us this year?”
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“I can’t come without my children and coming with them is cumbersome. How will we do it?”
“Get a taxi to bring all of you and take you back, I will pay. Come with them so we can see them. You should stop hiding. You look much better than the last time I saw you.”
“Come inside, Amaechi. We will discuss better there.”
They talked. Uncle Amaechi wanted to know how well Nkem was doing in school. Thanks to Nkem, Chidindu was able to write Jamb and gained admission. Chiemezie was next. Then Uloma. By the time it will be Uloma’s turn, Nkem would have graduated and gotten a job.
Inside the house, uncle Amaechi gave Nkem a brand new laptop still inside the pack. She was to open it herself. She was so excited. He also gave her a box. It was filled with clothes, shoes and some other items just for her. The other two bags belonged to his sister and the other children.
“Amaechi, what happened that you brought us all these?” Mama Nkem asked.
“It was Nkem that reminded me in her message there was more to school fees. It totally escaped me. I shopped more for you and your family this time. I am sorry I haven’t done that in the past but now is a good time to redeem my pledge to support you.”
“Nna thank you. What can I say except that God bless you. So my children and I will wear clothes from America? I thank God. When we see in your place, I have something to discuss with you.”
Esther had arrived home for Christmas. She missed Efe so much that she looked for a reason to travel to Lagos. She knew her father would never agree. She wondered how she would endure the two weeks she was to spend with her family.
Jake called her all the time. He wanted to visit her in Sapele but she declined. She made him believe she couldn’t even leave the house which was a lie. She was the one that called Efe. Immediately after she arrived home, she called him. He told her she was playing a dangerous game. She didn’t care, she enjoyed his company in every way. She craved his attention but he wasn’t willing to give it to her.
She felt deprived. It was like taking away her favourite blanket. She wasn’t her wonderful self during the break. Her family members observed it. Her father was especially worried about her. She didn’t want to confide in him about her relationship problems because he was her father. How would she explain to him she craved Efe’s touch so much that she masturbated to the memories of their bodily activities? She had never done that with Jake.
She decided to end it with Jake. She was willing forfeit the money and good time they had so she would be with Efe who she believed she loved. She didn’t know how to tell Jake but she was determined. When she made up her mind, she became a completely different person. She snapped out of her moodiness and became bubbly again.
She couldnt wait for the New Year celebrations to be over so she could run back to Efe. She sent him a message stating she had made up her mind, she wanted him for keeps. She loved him and no one else. She confessed her feelings and how he made her feel. She told him she wanted to spend the first few days after the new year with him.
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