I sincerely apologize for not posting this last week. Life happened. I am really sorry. To make up for that, I have brought this here today and I will post a bonus episode after this and then return with the regular one on Thursday. 😀 Enjoy this.
Mrs. Ochoga sat in her living room, legs crossed, a warm smile on her face. Pastor Bolaji, a young man in his forties sat across from her.
“I’m not worried. They call me every day. Well, at least Nengi does. And they seem to be doing quite well.”
Pastor Bolaji smiled.
“I’m glad to hear that. Young ones can be a handful sometimes. I wish Belema was more outspoken though.”
Mrs. Ochoga laughed softly.
“That is wishful thinking. Belema has always been quiet and it got worse after their father left.”
Pastor Bolaji looked at her intently for a while. It was as though he could see more than she was letting on.
“Are you really okay ma?”
Mrs. Ochoga smiled
“I think so. Maybe not a hundred percent but I’m gradually getting there.
It’s been a lot of pressure the last few years and this January has come with its own share of trouble. I didn’t imagine I would start out the year like this.”
“Yes, the year certainly started out rather strangely for you.”
“It did o. But I’m thankful to God. The truth is, for a really long time, I’d been holding on to the belief that my husband would one day return to me but apparently, that’s never going to happen.
I saw it in the way he treated me this last time he came here. And then the way Nengi spoke to me. Nengi made me realize just how foolish I have been. That girl is young but she is so full of wisdom. She might not communicate it tactfully, but she is full of wisdom.”
Pastor Bolaji burst out laughing.
“Yes! Nengi is something!”
“I tell you! She says the first thing that comes to her mind without thinking to restructure it first.”
Pastor Bolaji nodded, still laughing
“Yes. And I’ve been talking to her about it. She’ll get better in time. I believe.”
“I hope she does.”
“Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you’re doing okay.” Pastor Bolaji said
“Yes I am. As a matter of fact, I just started thinking of relocating. Maybe find a nice place on the island to move to if we can afford it.”
“Really? That would be nice.”
“Yes. I just need to do something different. I’ve been too safe and stayed in the same place since Nosa left. Nothing about me has changed. I need to start living. But I’m still thinking about it.”
“That’s really nice to hear. I’ll keep praying for you.”
Mrs. Ochoga smiled.
Pastor Bolaji stood up.
“Let’s say a quick prayer now. I need to get back home.”
Mrs. Ochoga adjusted her blouse and stood up as well.
Seun lay on his couch with a bottle of Absolute vodka stuck to his chest. The bottle was half-empty but his eyes still looked clear. He had not heard from Belema in two weeks and Nengi who was out of town as well had simply refused to tell where she was or how she could be contacted. Their mother had told him the girls were in Abuja but she did not have Belema’s phone number.
Seun was angry. Belema was selfish and conceited. Why did she feel the need to constantly live her life as though no other people existed? He cared for her deeply, he was ready to do anything to make her happy but for some reason that was not enough?! What was the reason behind her attempt at suicide and subsequent sudden disappearance? What exactly was going on with her?
Seun moved the bottle from his chest to the couch and went to his bathroom to ease himself. He returned a few minutes later and took another swig from the bottle. If he were to be honest with himself, the truth was, he was not really angry because Belema was selfish. He was angry because there was something huge burdening Belema and she was not talking to him about it. It hurt to know that she could keep something from him, no matter what it was. They were best friends. She meant a lot to him. Why would she have anything that she could not talk to him about?
Had he somehow given her the impression that he did not care? Was that why she broke up with him and went on to attempt suicide? Was he the problem? Yes, he did not want to be stuck in a relationship that was not so exciting but was there another way he could have handled it instead of almost visibly jumping for joy when she asked for the time apart? Seun scratched his head and drank some more.
He had not touched alcohol in two years and now this. He sighed, picked up his phone and dialed Nengi’s number. Maybe he needed to just go down to Abuja and try to find them. Belema had to talk to him. Her silence was really bothering him. The call rang out the first time and Seun tried it again and the sound of happy laughter greeted him alongside a stuttered “h.hello?”
“Hi Nengi. What’s up?”
Nengi screamed playfully and dashed off from wherever she was, probably in an attempt to find a quiet place to talk to him. He could hear her panting
“Hi uncle Seun. Sorry. We went swimming and Ola was trying to pour water on my phone.”
Seun tried to smile but failed.
“It’s fine. Good to know you’re having so much when I’m here worrying to death about your sister.”
He heard her sigh.
“I’m sorry. I really want to give you her number but I can’t. I promised her. You know how touchy she can get. But she’s doing really good. Much better than when she was in Lagos. Ola and I have managed to convince her to go out with us a few times and she’s seemed happy.”
“And you think I’ll ruin that? Nengi, did she say I did something wrong? Am I the problem here? What did I do?”
Nengi was quiet for a while and Seun realized that he was hurt even deeper. Belema was fine, she was safe, she was having a great time and she didn’t want him to be a part of it.
“Uncle Seun, it’s not like that. I promise to try and talk to her again this evening. I promise and I’ll try to see if she can call you.”
Seun shook his head.
“There’s no point. Don’t bother.”
Seun hung up and turned off his phone. He picked the bottle again, shut his eyes and drank from it until it was almost empty.
He walked into his room, turned off the lights and drew the curtains tightly together. The room was semi-dark and he lay on his bed feeling grouchy. What was he to do? Get on the next flight to Abuja? He had to work so he could not attempt that. Seun shut his eyes and soon he fell asleep.
It was nightfall before Seun woke up again and the pounding headache he was feeling was largely responsible. He sat up in bed and groaned, temporarily unable to fathom why he had such a bad headache and why there was a nagging thought on his mind that he could not immediately place. And then seconds later, he remembered the call to Nengi and he sighed.
He got off the bed and walked out to his living room. His blackberry phone was flashing a red light and he picked up the phone. He had 4 missed calls from a number he did not know and a couple from Nengi. He tossed the phone on the couch and went back to his room. He did not feel like talking to anyone.
He turned on his laptop to get some work done but something tugged gently at his heart and he could not focus. He let out a frustrated breath and went back to his phone. The unknown number was calling again and he got to the phone just in time.
“Hello?” His tone was gruff
“Seun. It’s Belema. Good evening.”
Seun sighed and sat down heavily on the couch, saying nothing.
“Are you there?”
“I’m sorry. I owe you a lot of explanations and I’m really sorry.”
Seun did not respond still.
“Are you there? Can you hear me?”
Belema’s voice sounded timid.
“Please say something.”
“I haven’t heard from you in over two weeks. I have spent my days and my nights worrying about you, wondering what I did wrong. I have spent the entire day getting drunk and trying to convince your sister to get you to talk to me. Do you really think I’m the one who ought to be ‘saying something’ right now?”
“Errm. No. I’ll take the first flight back tomorrow and come straight to see you so we can talk. I’m really sorry ife mi.”
Seun simply said “ok” and then hung up. He turned the phone off and went back to his room.
Leslie drummed his fingers restlessly on his laps, chin resting despondently on his left palm. His glasses hung loosely on his face and his eyes were tired. He was seated on a small chair by a hospital bed. Ojiugo lay in the bed, eyes shut, peacefully asleep. The door opened softly and Dr. Ikem walked in, his expression grim.
“She’s still asleep?”
Leslie looked up and nodded. Ikem went to Ojiugo’s side and touched her forehead. He held her hand, checked her pulse and then gently laid it back on her side. He took some notes and scratched his head. Then he turned to Leslie and said
“Let’s go to my office.”
Leslie nodded, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes then he put them back on and followed Ikem out of the room. As they walked to Ikem’s office, Leslie noticed how quiet the entire place was. The hospital was not really bustling with activity and very few nurses were about.
“Please sit down.” Ikem said.
Leslie did as he was told.
“So what’s up? When do you think we can go home?”
“Explain to me again what happened with Ojiugo last night.”
Leslie looked surprised by the question.
“Err. Well, we were having dinner and we were discussing that girl’s disappearance…”
“The one that tried to commit suicide on New Year’s day. Belema?”
“Oh! Okay. Go on.”
“Yeah. She said she was really worried about her and she felt Belema had probably gone and hurt herself. The last time they communicated was about 2 weeks ago when we went out to meet her at the mall. She said she gave her a stern talking-to and Belema has not contacted her since then. Number never goes through, we’ve been to that house at least 4 times but never met anyone. She was really bothered by it.
Then the headaches started shortly after that and the pills wouldn’t work so I had to rush her down here. That’s it.
Why did you ask?”
Ikem ran his hand over his head and cleared his throat before speaking.
“If Ojiugo will stay 3 months with us, we have to ensure that she does not stress over anything. She must not think or worry about anything Leslie.”
Leslie’s eyes went red
“Ikem. I have tried and I keep trying. Ojiugo is stubborn. I can’t help what she thinks about. I can’t even get her to sit in one place, how much more control her thoughts!”
Ikem stood up and walked to a small fridge in a corner of the office. He brought out a bottle of water and a glass then poured some for himself. He looked at Leslie who immediately shook his head. Ikem took a sip and set the glass down. Leslie noticed his hand was slightly shaky.
“Leslie, I’m not blaming you. This is tough on you already and I know you’re doing all you can…”
“Why are your hands shaky?”
Ikem looked a little surprised.
Leslie repeated himself.
“Your hands. Why are they shaky?”
Ikem looked at his hands as though suddenly aware of their existence. Then he looked up at Leslie who was trying to hold his gaze. He turned his eyes away and sighed.
“Ikem. What is it?”
Ikem swallowed hard and pulled his nose a couple of times.
“Ojiugo might not make it to March Leslie.”