This episode is dedicated specially to Henry Belleti 😀 and Ose, two major fans of the blog who both have their birthdays today. Henry’s an awesome friend as well and has a voice that would literally make your ears tingle. Happy birthday to you two dearies! May all your biggest dreams come true.
Belema sat at a table at the Barcelos restaurant in Leisure Mall. It was pretty late and that floor was almost a ghost town but she could hear the music coming from the Beer Hugz café upstairs as well as the one coming from downstairs. It was a Friday night and people were really out for the turnup. Belema sighed. She could never understand how people felt comfortable going to clubs and being caught up in crowds with lots of loud music. She already had a headache and the music was barely getting to her ears.
She brought out her phone and twirled it in her hands. She should just go home. This was really pointless. Asking Ojiugo to come meet her at the mall this time of the night and then sneaking off without telling anyone was really not smart. What had she been thinking? And what was the guarantee that Ojiugo would show up? What if she sent a message to say that it was too late? She didn’t even know where she lived. Belema dropped the phone and wrapped both arms around herself. She used to be content with her life, boring as it was. How on earth did she get to this point? It had to be thinking. She had been thinking too much. Way too much. Just like she was doing at the moment.
Belema exhaled loudly and hissed. She got up, picked up her phone and walked out. She would take the medication. The drugs would make her sleep a lot and render her useless for a bit but she would take them. As she took the steps down, she saw Ojiugo get out of the front passenger seat of a car and she sighed. She really didn’t feel like talking anymore.
Ojiugo walked briskly towards her. Belema forced a smile as she shivered slightly in the cold.
“Hi!” Ojiugo’s tone was upbeat. She hugged Belema and Belema held her closely, struck again by how small she was.
“Hi. Sorry I made you come out so late.”
Ojiugo smiled as she pulled back.
“Naah. It’s alright.”
Ojiugo looked around at the different people eating and drinking at the tables a bit far from them.
“What do you want to do? Have a drink? Something to eat?”
Belema shook her head vigorously.
“No. Actually I’d rather just go home.”
Belema clasped both hands over her mouth almost immediately and Ojiugo laughed lightly.
“No it isn’t. I made you come out here. I just keep oscillating, I can’t seem to make up my mind.”
“Trust me, that’s fine. I used to do that to Leslie too.”
Belema looked at her oddly.
“Mhmmn! I’ve had my moments. I still have them occasionally. I can be a big pain like that. So I’m not judging. I have thrown more pity parties for myself than Miley Cyrus has gone crazy so, yeah.”
Belema looked at Ojiugo and suddenly burst out laughing.
“What kind of comparison is that?”
“Well, do you know how many times that girl has gone overboard with her madness? It’s hard to keep up. That’s pretty much me and my pity parties. But I’m done with them. Or at least, I like to think so.”
Belema just stood staring and then Ojiugo took her arm.
“Come on, let’s leave this place. We look like two lost children.”
Belema smiled and nodded. She let Ojiugo lead her to the car where Leslie was seated behind the wheel. Ojiugo tapped his glass lightly and he wound it down.
“Can we talk in the car for a bit babe? Do you mind?”
Leslie nodded vigorously. His motions reminded Belema of an Agama lizard and she smiled.
Leslie got out of the car and shook Belema’s hand. Belema thought he had nice eyes hidden behind the glasses but she wasn’t sure. There were lines beneath his eyes as well. He looked tired. Actually, worried. More worried than tired. She realized she was staring at him and she turned away.
“You guys be good now. Can I get you anything?”
Belema shook her head and Ojiugo smiled.
“We’ll be fine dear. Just go and chill for a bit. Where’s your phone? I’ll call you when we’re ready to leave.”
Leslie patted his trouser pockets.
He kissed Ojiugo on the forehead and walked away.
Ojiugo opened the backseat and they both got into the car.
“What’s wrong with him?”
Ojiugo was surprised by the question.
“What’s wrong with him how?”
“He’s got these worried lines underneath his eyes. I can tell there’s something bothering him.”
“What are you now? Psychic? Because his eyes are shielded by his glasses.”
Belema shook her head and ran her fingers through her braids.
“No. I’m just very observant, even without meaning to.”
There was a brief pause and then Ojiugo spoke.
“How’s your sister?”
“She’s okay I guess. Probably still pissed off at my dad. Can’t say I blame her though. The man is just really annoying. After all he’s done, he just shows up at our house and starts giving orders like we owe him anything.”
Belema stayed quiet after that and Ojiugo kept staring in silence.
“My family is a really complex one. Everything that can possibly go wrong in a home has gone wrong in mine. Everything that can go wrong in a person’s life has gone wrong in mine. And I’m tired. Really.
I’m in love with someone who feels nothing for me. I’m pregnant for a guy whose sole reason for dating me is because he feels sorry for me and no one else would. ”
Ojiugo’s expression remained blank.
“And I’m here yapping to a random stranger about my woes. Am I not pathetic?”
“Belema, everyone has been through stuff in their lives. I’m not trying to undermine what you have been through, but people have dealt with worse and survived.”
“Were you ever molested as a child? Did you get beaten and blamed when it was discovered? Did your father suddenly walk out on you and your family and move in with some girl who is a couple of years younger than you? Do you know what it means to be in love with someone who feels trapped being in a relationship with you?”
Ojiugo was stunned by Belema’s revelation but even more by the calm manner in which she reeled out the revelations. Her eyes however did not betray her surprise. Her head absorbed the information and stored it to be processed later and with the same blank expression, she said
“Regardless, you get a shot at life. You get a chance to actually live and deal with everything that you have been through. Some people don’t”
Belema looked at her like she had suddenly sprouted wings
“Do you even know what you are saying? Do you have any idea what it means to deal with all that alone? Nobody cares! Everyone is too self-absorbed to bother about how you’re doing or what it is you’ve been through or how you’re coping. No one, not even my mum or sister know the half of what I’m dealing with! You don’t even know!”
Belema’s voice was a few notches higher than when she first started speaking but Ojiugo’s tone remained even.
“You don’t get to throw a pity party tonight Belema. No you don’t. You’re dealing with a lot but so is everyone else in the world. Nobody’s life is a walk in the park. Life is actually a jungle. Only the strongest survive. That is the simple truth. You do not get to play the ‘my pain is greater than yours’ card. Everyone is dealing with stuff. Accept it.”
Belema’s eyes were watery. She breathed loudly for a few minutes and eventually calmed down, adjusting herself to be more comfortable in the seat. Ojiugo remained in her position, blank expression still in place. Her head had begun to throb softly and she knew it was only a matter of time before it got worse. She had learned to avoid yelling and avoid loud noise as much as possible in a bid to reduce the headaches but they still came all the same. She took a deep breath as she watched Belema try to sort through her emotions. It would seem that no one had ever given her such a hard talk. She hoped she hadn’t been too tough. Her heart was burning with several questions but she held her tongue. The time was not right.
“Can I go home now?”
Belema’s small voice broke cut through her thoughts. Ojiugo shrugged.
“Sure. Let me get Leslie. We’ll drop you off.”
Belema nodded and Ojiugo got out of the car. Belema took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. No one had ever spoken to her that way in her entire life. No one. The therapist that she had seen secretly shortly after her father absconded had been nice and kind, always with sweet, flowery words of encouragement. Belema had only given her little bits of information. But this? This felt like being in training camp. Only difference was Ojiugo had not yelled at her. It felt odd though, Ojiugo was much smaller than herself. How did she managed to sound so stern?
Belema exhaled loudly as Ojiugo and Leslie returned to the car. She stayed quiet through the drive, only giving directions to her house. As soon as they dropped her off, Ojiugo said
“Get some sleep. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Belema nodded, thanked them and walked in through the back door. She was tired. She went to her room, took off her clothes and lay on the bed. She thought for a few minutes before she finally drifted off to sleep but for the first night in a long time, she slept with a smile on her face.
Nosa woke up the following morning and dialed Grace’s number. It rang out twice and he wondered why she wasn’t picking up. Grace was an early riser. He called Oghosa instead and she picked up on the first ring as though she’d been sitting by the phone with her finger on the answer button.
“Baby, you dey alright so? I don dey try your number since yesterday but you no gree answer phone. Fear wan catch me o”
The sound of her voice made Nosa smile.
“I dey o. No vex my darling. Too many things for here. I’ve been busy.”
“Bhet, you no tell me wetin happen o. Why you rush go Lagos like that na?”
Her tone was a bit indignant.
“E no dey serious like that. I don sort am. I fit come back today sef but e go be for night.”
He heard the excitement in her voice as she responded
“Ah! Very good! Benny don miss you sef. She don dey cry for her papa since.”
“I dey come. No worry. Just give am kiss for me.”
Nosa hung up shortly after. He needed to go back to Benin. At least no one would try to break a pestle on his head there.
He tried Grace’s number one more time and when she didn’t pick up, he got dressed and left the hotel. He took a cab straight to the airport and bought a ticket to Benin. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm. Nosa didn’t mind. He would wait. He took his ticket and went to find something to eat.
Nengi woke up to the sound of persistent knocking on her door. She took a quick look the gold chain watch on her wrist and groaned. It was 9:15am. Who on earth was trying to break down her door that early on a Saturday morning?!
She got off the bed and rubbed sleepy eyes with the back of her palm as she walked to the door. She opened it and was surprised to see Olanna standing behind it, a huge smile on her face.
“Aww mehn! How do you just show up here like this?!”
Olanna pushed past her and went to seat on the bed.
“How are you still sleeping by this time?”
Nengi stood by the door and scratched her head, a frown on her face.
“Err, it’s my house and it’s a weekend?”
“Mehh. Not good enough. Go and wash your face let’s talk.
Nengi shook her head and sighed.
“I swear, you are one of the major problems of this world. We need to throw you away and restore world peace.
Belema should be in her room I guess. Sleeping like every normal person.”
Olanna chuckled and sank further into the bed while Nengi went to wash her face in the bathroom. Olanna moved the pillows in an attempt to prop them behind her back and what she saw made her blood run cold.
Nengi walked out of the bathroom, a towel over her face. She walked to her bed and then took the towel off as she sat down. Olanna sat staring at her, a frown on her face. Nengi looked curious
“What’s up? Why do you look like I just robbed a bank?”
Olanna produced a packet of cigarettes from underneath the pillow and her tone was accusatory.
“I thought you quit.”
“Give me that.”
“No. You were supposed to talk to me or pastor Bolaji anytime you felt like smoking.”
“I did not smoke that!”
“Yeah? Well, two sticks are missing!”
“So? Will the world come to an end? I nearly broke my dad’s head yesterday when the nutcase walked in here trying to boss everyone around! I’ve been under pressure. I needed to take something.”
“Nengi, you’ve got to learn to manage stress differently.”
“Don’t lecture me”
Nengi snatched the packet from Olanna and stuffed it under her duvet. The two friends sat staring at each other for a while both angry and hurt. Eventually Nengi stood up, walked to her dresser and leaned on it.
“Did you come here to bug my life or help me chill? Because if you’re going to stare at me like that all day, I’ll just take the rest of those cigarettes and find some place to smoke my sorrows away.”
Olanna tried to stop a smile and failed.
“I’m sorry I judged you. I love you so much, I hate to see you go back to the old you.”
“I’m not going back to anything. I just need to chill.”
Olanna stood up.
“Yes. And that’s why we should take this trip to Abuja together. We’ll hang out with my dad, you’ll surprise Jide…”
“I can’t leave my sister now Ola. Anything can happen. We haven’t even spoken.”
A soft knock sounded on the door. Belema opened the door gently and walked in. She smiled stiffly when she saw Olanna.
“Hi Ola, how are you doing?”
Olanna smiled back warmly.
“Good, thanks. You?”
“Are you going somewhere?” Nengi asked. She noticed Belema was fully dressed and had make up on.
“Yeah. Actually, I’m taking a trip. I’m going to Abuja for a month.”
Nengi’s jaw dropped.
Belema actually laughed.
“I need the time out. Change of environment, that typa stuff.
I’m not going to do anything crazy. Believe me.”
Nengi was nodding slowly but obviously in doubt.
“I’m serious. Have a little faith in me. Please.”
“I broke my old sim. I’ll get a new one this morning and register it then I’ll call you. Can you please not give anyone the number?”
Nengi’s eyes popped.
“Are you for real?!”
“Yes. Not even Seun.”
Nengi sighed again.
“Okay. But if you don’t send me that number, I’ll find you and kill you.”
Belema laughed again. She walked close to Nengi and hugged her tight.
“We’ll talk later tonight. Ijust need this time out.”
Belema walked out as quietly as she had come in and shut the door. Olanna cast Nengi a questioning look.
“You up for Abuja trip now?”
“Hell yeah. If I know my sister, she’s probably planning to go and jump off the NNPC towers. Someone needs to keep an eye on her.”
Olanna burst out laughing and Nengi shrugged.
“Haba! Give the babe some benefit of doubt na.”
“Okay. Maybe not NNPC towers. Maybe Federal Secretariat.”
Olanna laughed again and shook her head.
“You are a case! Let’s go see her off.”