Three Generations

Three generations episode 66

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TITLE: THREE GENERATIONS

WRITTEN BY: OGECHI ALABI

CHAPTER 66

Ada had h£r wedd!ng !n Anambra. Nwanneka spared no expense although Chief took ¢ar£ of th£ majority of th£ responsibility. Th£ traditional wedd!ng was !n th£ village while th£ white wedd!ng was !n Asaba wh£re Chief resided.

Chike’s moth£r couldn’t believe such an !nfluential man’s son married Ada. $h£ called Nwanneka a fool. “$h£ should have gotten th£ boy for h£r daughter !nstead of giv!ng h¡m to th£ village girl. $h£ doesn’t have s£nse after all. Who will marry h£r daughter now?”

Ada was a beautiful bride. $h£ !nsisted Nwanneka walked h£r to th£ altar !n th£ company of h£r broth£r. Wh£n th£ priest asked, “Who gives th¡s woman ©vt !n holy matrimony” th£y both said, “We do”

Nwanneka was so proud of Ada. $h£ cried tears of joy as Ada didn’t put h£r to shame by gett!ng pregnant before marriage. Ada had a$$ured h£r $h£ was undefiled. Th¡s gladdened h£r h£art. $h£ couldn’t say th£ same for Nwadiuto with h£r wild ideologies.

Josh attended th£ church wedd!ng. Nwadiuto was th£ chief bride’s maid. $h£ glowed and was happy dur!ng th£ wedd!ng. $h£ performed h£r duties towards Ada very well and also got h£r special guest well attended to. $h£ made sure h£ sat beside th£ lady $h£ told h¡m ab©vt so h£ could have pleasant company.

Nwadiuto didn’t get to spend time with Josh until late !nto th£ night. h£ was at th£ same h°tel with h£r grandmoth£r and h£r oth£r family members ($h£ refused to stay with Chike’s moth£r wh£re Nwanneka and th£ boys were).

Josh lodged a floor above Nwadiuto’s floor. $h£ reserved th£ room for h¡m. $h£ changed h£r Chief bride’s maid ©vtfit !nto someth!ng m©r£ comfortable. $h£ had packed some food, chilled dr!nks and exotic bottles of w!ne !nto a basket and took it to Josh’s room. $h£ h£ard laughter !n th£ room. Who was with h¡m !n th£ room? $h£ quickly knocked and h£ opened up.

“I wasn’t expect!ng you,” h£ said wh£n h£ saw h£r. h£ stepped aside to allow h£r to come !n.

$h£ entered th£ room and saw h£r friend, Ch!nonye, sitt!ng on th£ b£d very relaxed. Nwadiuto smiled. “I knew both of you will get along. I am go!ng to be a chief bride’s maid aga!n.”

“$h£ is a nice girl. $h£ was keep!ng me company until you come. $h£ said $h£’s lodged h£re too, which room?”

“Room 13. I am shar!ng th£ room with someone and I haven’t seen h£r s!nce. $h£ has th£ key” Ch!nonye replied

“I brought some food and dr!nks. Let’s have our own party h£re; I have ditch£d my grandmoth£r.”

Th£y ate togeth£r and drank. Th£y chatted for a long time. At a po!nt, it was only Josh and Nwadiuto that were talk!ng. Wh£n it was past midnight, Ch!nonye signalled to Nwadiuto to leave. Nwadiuto didn’t get th£ message well. Ch!nonye had to s£nd h£r a message and called h£r l!ne. Nwadiuto picked h£r phone and saw th£ message. $h£ understood. $h£ was excited as $h£ would get th£ details th£ next day from Ch!nonye. $h£ made h£r excuses to leave. Josh didn’t want h£r to leave but $h£ did.

Th£ next morn!ng, $h£ went for th£ thanksgiv!ng service. $h£ ru$h£d [email protected]¢k to th£ h°tel to see Josh. Ch!nonye was no m©r£ th£re. Josh was hav!ng breakf*st.

“Wh£re is my friend?”

“$h£ has gone to h£r room. I am leav!ng for Lagos soon. Wh£n are you com!ng [email protected]¢k?”

“Tomorrow. We have a ritual we are perform!ng today. I have many suitors now. My moth£r said many parents approach£d h£r for my [email protected] !n marriage. $h£ has given some of th£m my phone number. We will take it from th£re”

“Wh£n will you talk to your moth£r ab©vt f!nd!ng your fath£r?”

“Soon”

“What’s [email protected]!ng you? Get it over and done with”

“I will”

“I will see you !n Lagos. If th£re is a problem, don’t h£sitate to call me”

‘I will”

After Josh had left, Nwadiuto went !n search of Ch!nonye. $h£ asked h£r what happened after $h£ left.

“Noth!ng happened. I was surprised. h£ asked me if I would want to take a bath, I did. h£ took one and wore h¡s pyjamas. Th£n h£ offered me th£ b£d to sleep while h£ laid on th£ couch”

‘That small couch. I begged h¡m to lie on th£ b£d. h£ f!nally jo!ned me and made no attempt to touch me. I ₱|@yed every trick !n th£ book for h¡m to make a m©v£; noth!ng. With!n five m!nutes, h£ was snor!ng. Th¡s morn!ng, h£ gave me N20,000 and asked me to go to my room as h£ would be leav!ng for th£ airport”

Nwadiuto couldn’t believe what $h£ h£ard. $h£ had found someth!ng else to taunt Josh with.

[email protected]¢k !n Lagos, Nwadiuto was !n th£ sitt!ng room upstairs with h£r moth£r wh£n h£r phone rang. It was Deborah. $h£ spoke with h£r sister for ab©vt twenty m!nutes and th£n spoke with h£r moth£r before end!ng th£ call.

‘Who was that?” h£r moth£r asked.

“My sister”

“Was it Ada? I would have said h£llo to h£r”

“It wasn’t Ada. $h£ is my fath£r’s daughter”

“What are you say!ng Nwadiuto?”

“Chidi, my fath£r, that’s h¡s daughter”

‘Which Chidi? Chidi from wh£re?” Nwanneka was beg!nn!ng to panic at th¡s po!nt.

“Th£ Chidi you know. Th£ one you slept with that got you pregnant with me”

“I don’t believe it,” Nwanneka said, shak!ng h£r h£ad.

“Ok, let me prove it.” $h£ made a call on h£r phone and th£n said, “Good day sir. My moth£r is h£re and $h£ would want to say h£llo to you” $h£ gave th£ phone to Nwanneka.

With a trembl!ng voice, $h£ said, “h£llo”

Chidi at th£ oth£r end replied h£r. Th£y exchanged pleasantries. Chidi th£n told h£r Nwadiuto came to visit h¡m and h¡s family. h£ mentioned how proud $h£ must be of h£r daughter.

At th£ end of th£ conversation, Nwanneka threw h£rself on th£ floor. $h£ rolled from one end of th£ room to th£ oth£r end wail!ng. $h£ had become hysterical at a po!nt. Even Nwadiuto became s¢ar£d at th¡s po!nt. $h£ quickly called h£r grandmoth£r while th£ nannies !n th£ house h£lped to hold h£r d©wΠ. Th£n $h£ called uncle Onyedika to come immediately.

Uncle Onyedika asked what happened but now Nwadiuto was s¢ar£d. $h£ told h¡m h£r moth£r received a call and became hysterical. Th£y ru$h£d h£r to th£ hospital. !n th£ car, $h£ kept say!ng “Nwadiuto will be th£ end of me. Nwadiuto has killed. Nwadiuto has destroyed th£ little reputation I have. Who did I offend? Who turned my daughter !nto my greatest enemy? Who is us!ng h£r aga!nst me?”

Wh£n th£y got to th£ hospital, $h£ was sedated. Meanwhile, Nwakaego was already on h£r way to Lagos. $h£ also didn’t know what had happened. $h£ decided to wait until $h£ gets th£re with©vt work!ng h£rself up.

Nwanneka woke up very late !nto th£ night. Nwakaego had arrived and s£nt Onyedika and Uloma home. $h£ said $h£ could manage with Nwadiuto but Onyedika refused to go home. h£ had a strong feel!ng th£re was m©r£ to what h£ was told. h£ s£nt Uloma home !nstead and promised to come soon.

Eventually, Nwakaego asked Nwanneka what happened.

“Ask Nwadiuto what $h£ has done. My secret has been exposed, mma”

“What secret?” Nwakaego asked, “Stop speak!ng !n parables. What happened Nwadiuto?”

“My sister Deborah called me and I answered th£ call. My moth£r asked me who $h£ was and I said, my sister”

“Which of your sisters is Deborah? Do you have a sister?” uncle Onyedika asked look!ng confused.

“Yes, I do. My fath£r’s daughter is Deborah”

Nwakaego threw h£r [email protected] !n th£ air and th£y landed on h£r h£ad. $h£ didn’t know what to say. Onyedika wasn’t supposed to h£ar th¡s; Nwanneka didn’t [email protected] th£ revelation well.

“You found your fath£r? How come? Your moth£r didn’t remember anyth!ng ab©vt h¡m so how could you have found h¡m” uncle Onyedika prob£d furth£r.

“I found h¡m. $h£ (po!nt!ng to h£r moth£r) spoke with h¡m on phone and that was wh£n $h£ went crazy”

Onyedika could see th£re was m©r£ to th¡s. Th£ two women weren’t speak!ng. h£ asked th£m both, “What is go!ng on h£re? Who is th¡s person $h£ is talk!ng ab©vt or it a mistake?”

Th£re was no response from th£ two women. Nwanneka was j√$t cry!ng. h£r h£ad was bang!ng from excessive cry!ng and wail!ng but $h£ couldn’t stop h£rself. Today was th£ worst day of h£r life. Nwadiuto had exposed h£r to th£ world.

Onyedika became angry. “S!nce both of you don’t want to talk th£n I will listen to Nwadiuto. Tell me everyth!ng from th£ beg!nn!ng”

Nwadiuto narrated how $h£ found h£r fath£r to th£m. $h£ omitted th£ part of th£ woman !n a white garment and th£ prayer h£ did for h£r. Th£y didn’t need to know everyth!ng at that time.

“So, it is true. Your co-wives accused Nwanneka of hav!ng a child through an !ncestuous relationship and you denied it veh£mently. I had th£ same suspicion and knew th£ implications but mama Nwanneka, you told me it was not and I believed you. Why didn’t you come ©vt clean and allow th£m to cleanse th£ land !n th£ right way? What you have done will put th¡s child’s life !n danger. You compla!ned so much ab©vt h£r behaviour meanwhile you are th£ reason $h£ is like that. Now, let me ask an important question, does h£ know Nwadiuto is h¡s daughter?”

“We didn’t tell h¡m. I don’t know if $h£ told h¡m” Nwakaego f!nally answered.

Onyedika turned to Nwadiuto and $h£ said, “I didn’t tell h¡m eith£r. I am not th£ one to tell h¡m. Th£y should tell h¡m. Tell!ng h¡m has its repercussions. h£ has a family and th£ir lives will be ru!ned”

“What are you say!ng? h£ had s€× with a maiden who was underaged. Your moth£r was young and didn’t know better. h£ was older and took advantage”

“h£ was also young. h£ didn’t know better too”

“Whose side are you on?”

“I don’t want anyone’s life ru!ned due to th¡s revelation. It was th£ lies that made me go search!ng. If you loved me at all, you should have told me th£ truth and I would have kept th£ secret. If you want to tell h¡m, please do but do not expose it.”

“h£ is not important for now. Mama Nwanneka, we need to cleanse th£ land because of th¡s abom!nation. How do we do it now with©vt rous!ng suspicion?”

“We cleansed th£ land wh£n it was exposed Nwanneka had a child ©vt of wedlock. I made sure it was done probably. Th£ two of th£m were abs£nt though”

‘That’s not cleans!ng. h£ needs to be told so both of you can properly cleanse th£ land”

“It will expose everyth!ng,” Nwanneka said !n an ©vtcry.

“We won’t decide th¡s h£re. I will ask th£m to discharge you and we will all go home. Please do not mention anyth!ng at all to my wife ab©vt th¡s.; look for someth!ng to tell h£r biko. It will rema!n with!n us until we decide what we are go!ng to do”

Th£y all went [email protected]¢k to Nwanneka’s house who was still cry!ng. Nwakaego was so disappo!nted with Nwadiuto that $h£ could strangle h£r at that po!nt. $h£ had all th£se emotions build!ng up !n h£r. $h£ asked h£rself questions such as “What did I do wrong with th£ child?” “Why did $h£ decide to br!ng me d©wΠ !n my old age?” “Didn’t I tra!n h£r well?” “Why couldn’t $h£ confide !n me wh£n $h£ found ©vt?”

Uncle Onyedika dropped th£m off at home. h£ asked th£m to pray over th£ situation and h£ will see th£m tomorrow to discuss th£ way forward. h£ called Nwakaego aside and said to h£r, “That child is hurt!ng. I know you are angry right now but don’t take it ©vt on h£r. You need to calm d©wΠ and talk to h£r. Allow h£r to tell you how $h£ feels. All you and Nwanneka’s compla!nts ab©vt h£r were j√$t because $h£ didn’t feel complete. You will notice a difference !n h£r now $h£ knows h£r fath£r. $h£ is even communicat!ng with th£ man’s children. $h£ is smarter than we ever gave h£r credit for. As I said, talk to h£r with©vt scold!ng h£r. Even apologise to h£r for hid!ng such !nformation from h£r. May God guide us. I don’t even know what to do”

Nwakaego called Nwanneka and Nwadiuto at ab©vt 1am to a meet!ng !n h£r room. $h£ knew $h£ had to [email protected] th¡s issue maturely oth£rwise $h£ would lose Nwadiuto and $h£ wasn’t will!ng to lose h£r. $h£ had to understand and th¡s was th£ time to get it done.

“Nwadiuto, we lied to you. Your moth£r was very young wh£n Chidi molested h£r and $h£ conceived from th£ act. $h£ didn’t even know $h£ was pregnant, I had to take h£r from school to th£ hospital and found ©vt $h£ was. $h£ confessed to me who was responsible and I knew our lives had taken a different path. Nne, who would want h£r daughter disgraced and th£ family treated like an ©vtcast because of an unholy action? $h£ was my only child and I lived for h£r and th£n for both of you wh£n you came !nto th£ picture. Why couldn’t you confide !n me or your moth£r? How did you f!nd ©vt ab©vt Chidi? My dear, don’t hide anyth!ng from us, everyth!ng is ©vt !n th£ open”

Nwadiuto had never h£ard h£r grandmoth£r talk like th¡s before. $h£ was sound!ng like a broken and defeated woman. $h£ didn’t like th£ turn everyth!ng had taken. Even h£r moth£r hadn’t stopped cry!ng. Th£ usually composed Nwanneka was !n shreds. Th¡s was not what $h£ envisaged. $h£ expected arguments and denials and $h£ proves th£m wrong. Now, $h£ felt bad. $h£ decided to tell th£m everyth!ng !nclud!ng how $h£ felt.

$h£ told th£m ab©vt th£ woman $h£ met at th£ market. $h£ expla!ned what $h£ said ab©vt h£r fath£r and how h£ had to pray for h£r so h£r dest!ny can be bright. $h£ didn’t believe it at first until $h£ asked h£r grandmoth£r and wh£n $h£ saw h£r reaction, $h£ realized it was true. Th£ woman was right. $h£ knew th£y wouldn’t co-operate and might not believe h£r story so $h£ went look!ng for h¡m h£rself and found h¡m.

“How did you f!nd h¡m?”

“A friend suggested I should ch£ck wh£re you grew up at th£ time you got pregnant; it will give me a clue. I found ©vt it was grandmoth£r village. I went th£re and !ntroduced myself to my grandmoth£r’s half-broth£r. h£ took me from compound to compound. Wh£n I got to my fath£r’s compound, we met a woman th£re. Your broth£r called h£r Mama Chidi and th£n I knew. $h£ told me how close you were with my fath£r before you were wh¡sked away. I knew h£ was th£ one”

“And you went !n search of h¡m !nstead of confront!ng us?”

“S!nce I found h¡m, I had to complete th£ a$$ignment. h£ had to pray for me. I couldn’t wait for both of you to ₱|@y @r0vnd with my dest!ny. I knew what was at stake. h£ is a lecturer at UNN. h¡s moth£r gave me h¡s phone number. I met h¡m and h¡s family. I asked h¡m to pray for me and h£ did”

“Wait. h£ didn’t ask you why you came to see h¡m? What did you tell h¡m?” Nwanneka asked h£r.

“I told h¡m I was your daughter. I saw h¡s moth£r !n th£ village and $h£ gave me h¡s number that h£ was very close to my moth£r. I was !n Nsukka and decided to ch£ck on h¡m. We talked ab©vt you. h£ had fond memories of both of you. h£ talked ab©vt you, grandmoth£r; h¡s wife was also a beneficiary of your benevolence. Th£y have three children who I met. We talked and exchanged numbers. Wh£n I was leav!ng, I asked h¡m to pray for me as !nstructed, h£ did it with©vt ask!ng too many questions. My sibl!ngs and I look alike with our eyes and eyebrow. I have h¡s complexion.”

“So, you didn’t tell h¡m.” Nwanneka turned to h£r and asked, “What do we do now?”

“Tell Nwadiuto how it happened first. Let h£r understand h£ took advantage of you”

“Mma, that is not important now. Now I know I encouraged th£ rubbish. I enjoyed klzz!ng h¡m and allow!ng h¡m to touch my b©dy. I should have stopped h¡m know!ng it was wrong………”

‘What are you say!ng Nwanneka, you were young. Why would h£ klzz you and touch your b©dy know!ng you will like it? h£ prepared you for th£ ultimate price.”

“Yea mma, h£ wanted to be th£ first and told me no one would love me like h¡m. h£ was obsessed with me. I regret not tell!ng you wh£n it started. Please forgive me. I blame myself every day but I realized someth!ng wonderful came ©vt of it.” $h£ faced h£r daughter, “You felt I hated you, I did not. I didn’t want you mak!ng th£ same mistakes I made. I didn’t want you gett!ng spoilt and ru!n!ng your life like I almost did m!ne. My moth£r loved you m©r£ than $h£ loved me, no mma, I know. $h£ was th£ child you always wanted for your Anozie. I am not blam!ng you. You h£lped me give h£r life balance. I knew th¡s day will come. I knew my s!ns will haunt me. Lives will be ru!ned because of th¡s. Wouldn’t it have been better we did th¡s wh£n we were still young? Everyth!ng would have calmed d©wΠ by now. I am tired. I love you, Nwadiuto. If walk!ng @r0vnd th£ village stack [email protected]£d will give you peace, I am ready to do it”

“God forbid!” Nwakaego s¢r**med. “You will never walk @r0vnd th£ village [email protected]£d. I won’t allow it”

“We have to do someth!ng. We have to make sure $h£ has peace. I will [email protected] d©wΠ my life if it will make my daughter have peace” Nwanneka said !n tears.

Nwadiuto and Nwakaego jo!ned h£r !n cry!ng. Th¡s was hurt!ng m©r£ than Nwadiuto imag!ned. Why would h£r moth£r die for h£r? What will happen to h£r broth£rs? $h£ had been a good moth£r look!ng ©vt for h£r. $h£ s£nt h£r son, Ch!ndidu, to a Catholic board!ng too as $h£ did for h£r. h£r favourite child was h£r last son and it was understandable, h£ was born th£ day Chike was buried. $h£ attended to all Nwadiuto’s needs even though th£y were not so close and it was Nwadiuto’s fault.

Th£y consoled each oth£r and th£n h£ld [email protected] to pray to God for div!ne direction. After th£ prayer, th£y all retired to b£d. Nwadiuto could still h£ar h£r grandmoth£r !n prayers. $h£ went !nto h£r room h£artbroken from see!ng th£ two very strong women !n h£r life cry hopelessly. It was 3am !n th£ morn!ng and $h£ needed to talk to someone. It was early !n th£ morn!ng which meant $h£ would be wak!ng h¡m up. $h£ decided to try and if h£ doesn’t pick, $h£ would let it be until morn!ng.

Th£ phone rang five times and wh£n $h£ was ab©vt to disconnect th£ call, h£ picked up and said, “h£llo. Are you ok?”

“I am not” and $h£ started cry!ng aga!n. $h£ couldn’t say anyth!ng !n b£tweeΠ th£ cry.

“Take your time, I am h£re. Wh£n you are ready, you can tell me everyth!ng”

It took h£r some time to gath£r h£rself togeth£r. Th£n $h£ told Josh everyth!ng that happened that day. h£ listened with©vt !nterruption. $h£ ₱0ured ©vt h£r h£art. F!nally, $h£ said, “I didn’t know it would br!ng th¡s much pa!n. My moth£r is ready to die for me to have peace. I didn’t realise how deep th¡s was”

“You have opened an old wound which didn’t h£al; it was gett!ng rotten |ns!de and would have led to th£ amputation of th£ leg. All th¡s will pa$$. I th!nk h£ should be told. Let your uncle do th£ job of f!nd!ng ©vt a solution that will not b!0w th¡s ©vt of proportion. You are gett!ng what you wanted. It seems like a rocky road but soon you will be on th£ tarred road”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Should I s!ng to you?” Th£y both laugh£d.

“I want to talk ab©vt someth!ng else completely. I want to take my m!nd off th¡s”

“F!ne. What do you want to talk ab©vt?”

“My friend !n Asaba”

“What happened to h£r?”

“How is it go!ng?”

“How is what go!ng?”

“Th£ relationship”

“Let’s talk ab©vt someth!ng else. No relationship”

“Both of you looked good togeth£r. $h£ slept !n your room. Did you dump h£r after that?”

“What happened !n Asaba stays !n Asaba”

“Are you for real?”

“Yes. We are two adults. Why do we have to discuss our personal matter with you?”

“But you talk so much ab©vt my !ntentions with Malik so why can’t we talk ab©vt your love affair”

‘Two topics I don’t want to talk ab©vt”

“Didn’t you like h£r?”

“Let’s talk ab©vt work and your toasters. I h£ard, from th£ grapev!ne, that different men come look!ng for you !n th£ office. I was told you are not !n short supply of male admirers.”

“Yeah. Most of th£m aren’t serious. Some want to meet my moth£r. I get free lunch and sometimes d!nner. I have had so many dates I have lost count. I told you ab©vt some of th£m until it became bor!ng”

“Th£ h°ttest chic !n town”

“I am not. If I wear a skirt and a shirt or blouse and tuck !n, that’s wh£re I have looked for trouble. Even your married friend was try!ng to ask me ©vt until I told h¡m I don’t date married me”

“h£ told me “$h£ politely wa$h£d h¡m”. You asked h¡m to take h¡s wife ©vt on a date and imag!ne your b©dy wh£n h£ is mak!ng love to h£r. You are mad”

“What did you want me to say? S!nce my b©dy is driv!ng h¡m crazy. Let us craze togeth£r”

“Choose one guy and date”

“I am not ready yet. I have to have a crazy s€×ual experience th£n I can date.”

“You have never had one?”

“Men are selfish; th£y only want to please th£mselves. Malik [email protected]!$fies women for a liv!ng. You see th£ difference?”

“Stop generaliz!ng, not all men are selfish. You can teach your man to please you. You can take ¢©Πtr0| of what happens to your b©dy. Women use that as an excuse but it’s wrong. Communication is what will make th£ man realise what h£ is do!ng wrong and direct!ng h¡m will h£lp h¡m please you. But it has to be reciprocated.”

“Tell me m©r£. Did Ch!nonye communicate with you on how $h£ wants to be……”

“I’m not tell!ng you anyth!ng ab©vt Ch!nonye; I don’t klzz and tell. I th!nk we should drop th¡s topic. It is gett!ng too personal”

”You don’t like discuss!ng very personal th!ngs with me except to warn me off Malik. What did you discuss with Ada wh£n both of you were close?”

“Ada talks ab©vt everyth!ng under th£ sun but $h£ had no s€×ual experience except smooch!ng so we didn’t have much to talk ab©vt !n that field”

“I have much to talk ab©vt?

“Does that mean you want to have s€× with me?”

“No. That’s not what I am say!ng”

‘So, s!nce we have sorted that ©vt, we shouldn’t discuss a topic that will arouse one of us wh£n th£re are no !ntentions of fulfill!ng th£ desire. Especially s!nce we spend time togeth£r. Wh£n you have a steady boyfriend and I have a steady girlfriend only th£n can we compare notes know!ng once aroused th£re is someone to h£lp [email protected]!$fy you? Agreed?”

“You are so old school.”

“I’m so responsible and respectful of you. Th£ night we spent !n Enugu, if I had come to your b£d and made s€×ual advances at you, would you have picked up your phone to call me !n th£ middle of th£ night wh£n you felt hurt? I can stay !n th£ same room with you and ma!nta!n boundaries because I respect you and I respect myself. It is not a very attractive trait to most young ladies but I choose to be who I am”

Nwadiuto was quiet for some time. $h£ took !n what h£ said. If h£r fath£r had respected not j√$t h£r moth£r but also h¡s benefactor, h£r grandmoth£r, and set boundaries, th£y wouldn’t be wh£re th£y were today. h£r moth£r was an impressionable young girl who was constantly bullied because of h£r b©dy structure which showed $h£ bloomed too early. h£r moth£r had low self-esteem. h£ capitalized on that. h£ should have acted responsibly. It wasn’t h£r moth£r’s fault.

“Are you still th£re?” Josh asked.

“Yeah. You only had eyes for Ada,” $h£ t£@$ed h¡m.

“$h£ is happily married now. I hope $h£ likes Asaba”

“Very much. $h£ jo!ned h£r fath£r-!n-law’s bus!ness as a director. I was shocked wh£n $h£ told me. Chief loves h£r. $h£ is liv!ng h£r best life. h£r husband ‘found h£r at home’ told h¡s fath£r and h£ bought a car for h£r moth£r. I was speechless wh£n I h£ard it. Who treasures v!rg!nity !n th¡s day and time? Is it important to you?”

“No, it is not. I am not a v!rg!n and I don’t expect h£r to be. But if $h£ is, no problem at all. I will teach h£r; we will explore togeth£r”

“Lucky girl”

“Wh£n I f!nd h£r. Baby girl, it is 4am !n morn!ng. Let me catch some sleep. Hope you feel better”

“I do. Thank you for always be!ng th£re for me. I don’t take it for granted. You always f!nd a way to make me feel better. You are like th£ broth£r I never had. I love you”

Josh was silent. Th¡s came from th£ depths of h£r h£art. h£ felt it. “I love you too. Go to b£d, let me know what you all decide. Take ¢ar£. Bye”

“Bye”

Josh couldn’t sleep. Nwadiuto said $h£ loved h¡m. h£ knew th£re were no romantic overtures but it made h¡m feel special and even closer to h£r. h£ loved h£r. h£ loved th£ woman $h£ was becom!ng. h£ realized th¡s was th£ best time th¡s was exposed. $h£ will f!nd peace !n th£ end. h£ will be with h£r until th£n.

Th£ next day, uncle Onyedika came @r0vnd !n th£ afternoon. Mama Nwanneka made h¡s favourite soup for h¡m with pounded yam. h£ enjoyed eat!ng it before settl!ng d©wΠ to th£ir discussion.

“I spent all night and today look!ng for a solution to th¡s problem. I was told Chidi has to be !nformed. We will th£n visit th£ chief priest of your village and discuss how th¡s can be settled quietly. Th£ first step will be to tell Chidi and get h¡m to keep it quiet. Also, we might have to carry Obi along”

“Ch!nyere will get to know. I don’t want that”

“All of us !nvolved will be sworn to secrecy before we divulge any !nformation. How many people know apart from us?”

“I haven’t told anyone s!nce we found ©vt yesterday. We should ask Nwadiuto” th£y all turned to h£r.

“A friend of m!ne knows”

“Ah, which friend? How can you tell th¡s to anyone?” Nwanneka asked

“h£ is also a child born ©vt of wedlock like me who found h¡s fath£r. h¡s fath£r still rejected h¡m; h£ didn’t want h¡s family to know. h£ understood what I was go!ng through. h£ was th£ one who suggested I should f!nd ©vt wh£re you grew up. You know h¡m moth£r”

“Who is h£?”

“Josh, th£ branch manager of th£ bank you use. Th£ one that was close to Ada.”

“I know h¡m; but why was h£ h£lp!ng you? Why would you tell h¡m? What relationship do you have with h¡m?”

“We are friends. h£ relates to my struggle and is try!ng to make me a better person. I don’t want you go!ng after h¡m. h£ asked me to tell you but I refused to. h£ has h£lped me with my sanity s!nce all th¡s happened”

“Anyone else?” Onyedika asked.

“No one”

“Can h£ be trusted? Would we have to get h¡m to swear to secrecy?”

“If h£ didn’t betray me by tell!ng my moth£r, h£ won’t tell anyb©dy”

“What is your relationship with h¡m? You know wh£n love goes sour, people can be vengeful” Nwakaego asked.

“Th£re is no relationship strictly friendship. h£ doesn’t see me !n that light. h£ respects me and ma!nta!ns boundaries. h£ is a good guy”

“Th¡s one you are talk!ng like th¡s; I hope you have not [email protected]||en for h¡m o.”

“Mama, h£ is my friend”

Th£y agreed to !nform Chidi with immediate effect. Th£y would travel at th£ weekend to th£ village. Th£y would !nvite Chidi home and th£n tell h¡m. Once h£ knows, th£ chief priest will swear everyone to secrecy before putt!ng th£ plan !nto action.

“Should I stop talk!ng to th£m?” Nwadiutio asked.

“Don’t stop, act normal”

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