Nengi’s breathing was heavy as she stood before her parents. Nosa’s eyes were popping. One second later and the pestle would have hit his head. He had stepped back just in time.
“I hate you!” Nengi yelled
“I hate you and I wish you were dead!”
Nengi threw the pestle on the floor and pushed past both her parents as she rushed outside.
Mrs. Ochoga was weeping loudly, heart racing in her chest. First her older daughter had tried to commit suicide then the younger one just tried to commit murder. What was going on? Who had she offended?
Nosa’s voice was subdued. Belema whose eyes had never left his face turned around and walked back into her room shutting the door gently behind her.
Mrs. Ochoga threw herself on the floor and burst into fresh tears. Nosa stood staring at her for a few seconds until something melted in his heart. He knelt beside her and tried to hold her but Mrs. Ochoga kept flailing her arms all over.
“Grace, calm down, please.”
But Grace didn’t listen. Eventually Nosa left her and walked outside. He looked around but couldn’t find Nengi. Nosa was shocked. What had he done that was so terrible that his own daughter would try to break his head? And when did Nengi get that violent?
Nosa sighed and massaged his forehead distractedly. Why had Grace called him? No one needed him here. What has the point of having him come home if his daughters didn’t want to see him? His phone vibrated in his pocket and he brought it out and checked the ID of the caller. It was Oghosa. Nosa silenced the phone and replaced it in his pocket. He exhaled loudly.
As it stood, he had two options. Find a hotel to stay the night and then try to make peace with the girls the following morning or take a bus back to Benin. There would be no flights at that time. He stood pondering for a few seconds and eventually walked back into the house. His bag still sat on the threshold where he’d left it. Grace was sobbing silently on the floor. As soon as he walked in, she looked up at him
“What did I ever do to you Nosa? What?! Why wasn’t I enough? Ehn? Why weren’t we enough?”
Nosa swallowed but said nothing. There was no answer to that question. Life happened. People changed. Did he still care about his immediate family? Yes. But they were no longer a major part of his life. Why was that so hard to understand? Oghosa made him feel alive. Their little daughter kept him up and about all the time. What Oghosa and Benny offered, Grace and her grown up girls couldn’t. Why were they so bitter?
“Nosa, if I ever did anything, I am sorry. Forgive me. But please, you need to come back. See our family. Everything is falling apart. Please.”
Grace crawled to Nosa and held him by his trousers
“I’m begging you… If I ever meant anything to you…Please…”
Nosa shrugged her off.
“Grace, stop. Stop it.”
This was becoming a tad bit annoying. Why was he here actually? What was he supposed to do? Belema wasn’t going to talk to him about wanting to commit suicide. So really, why was he here?
“I’m going to a hotel to sleep tonight. If the girls want to talk tomorrow, call me. If I don’t hear from you by noon, I’ll go back to Benin.”
He didn’t wait for a response. He just turned around and walked away. Grace felt her heart shatter into a million pieces. She would never learn. This time, she couldn’t burst into tears. She just sat there staring into space.
Ojiugo was half-asleep in Leslie’s arms when her phone rang. She turned and tried to reach for it but Leslie gently restrained her. It was past nine at night.
“You should sleep darling.”
Ojiugo nodded . The phone rang out then started ringing again. This time Ojiugo insisted and picked it up. The number wasn’t registered on her phone.
There was no response.
Ojiugo was just about to hang up when someone responded on the other end
“Sorry. Did I wake you?”
Ojiugo rubbed her eyes
“No. I wasn’t really asleep. Who’s this?”
The voice on the other end sounded somewhat uncertain
Ojiugo sat up quickly and cleared her throat
“Hey! How are you?”
There was a sigh. Then
“Tired. Just tired. And I can’t sleep”
“Okay. You wanna talk?”
“Yes. But. I dunno. I’m not sure what I want to talk about.”
Leslie looked at Ojiugo curiously as she got out of bed and walked away from him all the while nodding her head as though whoever she was talking to could see her.
“Okay. That’s fine. You can tell me how things went with your family today”
“Well. Pretty good. My ex pissed me off and I walked out on him, my sister nearly killed my dad but I’m hoping that next time she’ll be more successful. Things went pretty good”
Ojiugo looked like she had walked into her own surprise wedding. She opened her mouth and shut it a few times but no words came out.
“Are you there?”
Ojiugo nodded again. Then realizing that Belema couldn’t see her, she croaked
She heard Belema’s smile through her voice
“I’m not crazy. I’ve just had a rough day.”
“Ha. You can say that again. Would you like me to come pay you a visit? Is it okay if I come over to see you?”
Ojiugo began mentally planning what she would wear and how she would get to Belema’s house wherever it was.
“No. I don’t think so. Maybe tomorrow. It’s late.”
“Oh. Okay. Sorry. I really wasn’t thinking.”
Belema laughed lightly
“It’s fine. Thanks for offering. Anyways, I know this is weird, me calling you up this late and saying I want to talk and you don’t even know me. I don’t even know what I’m thinking sef.”
“It’s cool. Sometimes, it’s just a lot easier to talk to a complete stranger than it is to talk to someone familiar.”
Belema seemed to think for a while before she answered
“I don’t know… Look. Am I bothering you? It’s late. Shouldn’t you be asleep or something?”
Ojiugo sensed that Belema was about to withdraw.
“Naah. Let’s talk. I’m here.”
“No. Sorry. Let me just try to sleep. I think I’ll go take the meds. I haven’t taken any since I got back. They’ll make me fall asleep. Goodnight”
Ojiugo heard a click and Belema went off. She turned to Leslie who had a questioning look on his face.
“I’m worried about her Leslie. She’s dealing with a lot.”
“Obviously. She did try to take her own life. But you can’t make that your problem.”
Ojiugo fired him a stern look and he quickly apologized.
“My bad. Sorry.”
Mrs. Ochoga lay in her bedroom, her head throbbing slightly. She had taken some panadol for the massive headaches she’d felt earlier on and they had abated somewhat. There was a soft knock on the door but she didn’t turn. Nengi walked in and stood at the foot of the bed.
Mrs. Ochoga turned and Nengi knelt down
“I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to get you upset earlier on.”
Mrs. Ochoga was touched. She sat up slowly and tapped a spot close to her on the bed. Nengi got up and sat beside her.
“Nengi, he’s your father.”
“Not anymore. He lost that privilege when he walked out on us three years ago. Why do you even still talk to him? I could have sworn that you’d lost his number or something.”
Mrs. Ochoga smiled.
“You’re young and feisty and you won’t understand. I love your father regardless of what he might have done. He is still my husband.”
“The only reason I’m here talking to you is because pastor Bolaji said so. And then because I love you. But if you keep this up mum, we won’t have a relationship anymore.
I hate him. I really do. I hate how he treated you- how he treated us. And I hate how he walked in here trying to boss everyone around like he never did anything wrong.
And I hate that you called him here without talking to Belema or myself first. I’m just really pissed!”
“Nengi, I am a human being you know. I can feel too. Your sister tried to take her own life. I was upset and confused. I didn’t know what to do.”
“You should have talked to pastor Bolaji! He’s been our father since now, hasn’t he?”
Mrs. Ochoga sighed.
“Nengi, can we not argue tonight?”
“I’m not here to argue. I came to say I’m sorry. And I’m also tired. I’m hurting too but I’m not rushing off to talk to some ex who treated me like shit and then dumped me.”
Mrs. Ochoga winced and Nengi immediately regretted her comment.
“I’m sorry mum.”
The older woman reclined her back in the bed without a word and Nengi got up and walked out. She closed the door quietly behind her and went to her room. Her mother was too weak and it really angered her. How could any human being let another human exercise so much control over them all in the name of love or marriage? It was just really stupid. How could her mother not see that there was something wrong with being in love that much?! Could you even call that love? A situation where you were losing yourself over someone who didn’t even acknowledge your existence. Nengi thought it was the height of folly but she would never say it to her mother’s face
Nengi’s mind strayed towards Belema and she sighed. Sometimes, she wished she could run away from the nollywood drama that was her family. Her phone buzzed and she picked it up. It was a ping from Olanna.
–Babes, you’ve missed all my calls and haven’t returned any of them. I’m a little worried. You alright?
Nengi really didn’t feel like talking to anyone but she decided to indulge Olanna. They were pretty close after all. She found Olanna’s number in the heap of missed calls on her call log and dialed the number. Olanna picked almost immediately
“Hey Nengi. How far?”
“Shebi you will let the phone ring first before you answer?” Nengi teased.
Olanna laughed and Nengi could hear the relief in her voice
“As I’ve now been waiting for your call since nko?”
“I’m sorry dear. Today was just somehow. What’s up?”
“I dey. How’s Belema. She’s back home yeah?”
“Yeah. Ola, this whole thing has me worn out, I swear. Then my mum now called her husband and the man had the guts to show up here today. I was really close to breaking his head with a pestle!”
“What? I hate him. You know that. Belema does too! Anyways, I’ve spent too much time talking about this. How far?”
Olanna inhaled deeply and Nengi heard it through the phone. She felt sorry for Olanna. She knew she was a difficult person to manage when she got angry but she couldn’t help it. There was nothing to be done.
“I’m okay Nengi. I’m thinking of coming over to your house tomorrow so we can talk about the trip to Abuja. I don’t know if you’re still interested.”
“Ah. I’m not sure o. Every man on the planet is suddenly annoying me. I’m not sure I want to fly all the way down to surprise some crush. I told you this was a bad idea from the start. Now more than ever, I’m convinced.”
Olanna knew her friend enough to not push the matter further.
“Alright. But I’ll still come tomorrow to see you and Belema. Is that fine?”
“Yeah.” Nengi yawned and suddenly realized she was sleepy.
“Yeah, that’s fine. I want to go and sleep dear. Let’s talk tomorrow.”
Nengi hung up, tossed the phone on the bed then went straight to the bathroom.
Belema stealthily crept out of her bedroom. She checked the living room and kitchen to make sure no one was around and then carefully unbolted the back door. It was pretty dark and the weather was slightly cold but she didn’t care. She shut the door behind her and walked away occasionally glancing over her shoulders to ensure that no one was following her.
Nobody would ever really get her. Was there really any point? As she walked, she considered going back home but some force she could not decipher kept forging her along and so she continued to walk, one step after another.