Training Partner

She swung her arms as fast as she could and moved her legs to a silent beat. The sun was dipping in the horizon but she had to walk one more block before she went home. She ignored the bemused stares most bystanders gave her and focused on a tree about a hundred feet away. She was almost there when she heard a voice behind her say, “impressive”.

Annoyed, she turned around to meet crinkled grey eyes staring into hers; she ignored them and bent over panting for breathe. She could see his legs: large feet in shiny black canvas, sparkling white socks with black lines, faded denim shorts. She wondered what he wanted but decided not to ask. She had been hoping for a training partner, praying even. He sounded pleasant enough, she guessed he had a degree at least. His clothes were clean and he smelled of a woody aftershave. Who knows? Maybe this was answered prayer.

She missed Ekaette her last training partner. She had been good company and committed to their daily routine. She had been sure they would be together for the next year at least.That was before Ekaette got promoted and transferred to Tokyo.

“I am Mike,” he said, offering her a tanned muscled hand.

She shook it and straightened. “Kara,” she replied, resuming her brisk pace.

They walked in silence for some time. Above them, the skies began to darken, the sun disappeared and large dark clouds hurtled across the plains.

“It looks like it is going to rain,” Mike said. “I think we should start back.”

They had barely turned around when the heavens burst open. They had to run the last couple meters to take shelter under a bus stop.

They weren’t alone: a homeless woman had her things propped up in one corner and eyed them angrily as they stomped into the shed, a teenage boy was dozing, huddled in a corner with a tray of bananas and groundnuts, a group of students were in the center arguing and laughing in the care free manner of young adults .

They found space to stand and she tried to catch her breath. The rain worsened with jagged lightening flashing through the sky followed by thunder that threatened to make the sky fall.

She clasped her hands on her ears to shield herself from the worst of it and soon found that she was shivering.

“Here, have my jacket, you look cold.”

“Thank you,” she said slipping the oversized denim jacket over her shoulders. It was warm and smelt of peppermint.

“So, how long have you been walking?” He asked, studying his nails.

Kara hesitated. She wasn’t sure what answer to give him: the detailed one covering all her starts and stops or the neat simple one. “A month,” she said after a while.

“Nice. I have walked on and off for the past year. I started when I stopped smoking. It helped me keep my weight down and stay focused.I hope I can walk for at least six months straight this time. I hate that, to keep starting and stopping.”

“Me too,” Kara heard herself say.

Soon they were talking like old friends. He was visiting Eket from Lagos. The telecoms company he worked for had laid him off. He needed time to plan his set of moves so when his sister invited him down he took the next plane over.

His sister worked in ExxonMobil. She was widowed five years ago and hadn’t remarried. She was glad to have him around now that all her kids had left for school.

Kara told him about her job as a administrator in the civil service and her one year old cat named Phillip. She didn’t tell him about her struggles with bulimia or the boxes of worthless weight pills and potions in her room. She didn’t tell him about her five year old daughter Sara or her ex- husband Chinedu.

When the rain stopped, he walked her home.

“Same time tomorrow, then?” he asked with a smile.

“Sure,” Kara replied shrugging off his black jacket.

They walked together all week. Kara found that with Mike she didn’t need to say much. She could just nod and listen as he told her about his former colleagues or his future plans. She got used it: the companionship, the stories, the sound of matching footsteps following her own.

One evening Mike didn’t show up. Kara thought he might be ill or out of town. She had never asked for his number and she had never offered hers. That evening she only went half as far as she usually did; the walk wasn’t the same alone.

After three days without any sign of Mike she got genuinely worried. “He has gone the way he came,” she thought sadly, making her way home after another solo walk. Maybe she should look for him, check on him, she thought. But where would she start? She knew he stayed nearby but she didn’t know the address. She wished she had asked him more questions, about his sister’s name or his house address.

The next day, she started off but she couldn’t take her mind off Mike. What if he was sick or worse…? She took a turn off her regular route toward the general direction she had seen him walk when he wasn’t seeing her to her door. The neighbourhood was noisier and the road bumpier. Tricycles and cars jostled along the narrow road. Pedestrians and hawkers thronged the fringes. She was beginning to feel foolish about the whole venture when she saw a small crowd gathered round a white house.

A police van was parked in front of it and three policemen where hauling a handcuffed figure into an open van she walked up to the van and saw Mike; or what was left of him.

His clothes were dirty and torn. His face was swollen and one eye was the size of an egg.

“Officer, what has he done? Why are you beating an innocent man like this?” Kara demanded.

“Madam, I suggest you stay out of this. This man is wanted in connection with the kidnap and murder of three women in Lagos.” A wiry police man in plain clothes replied as the van zoomed off.

Kara was stunned. She opened her mouth and closed it again. She tried to breathe but her chest felt like a burst balloon.

Over the next few days she would gather that his name was Cosmos not Mike. She would read with sick fascination of his alledged victims and their tragic fate. She would find that he had no sister in Eket, never worked in telecoms and smoked a pack a day.

She went to the police station to see him; part of her still couldn’t believe any of it. There had to be a mistake, the whole thing had to be mistake. She took him food and water, a T-shirt, a newspaper and a Bible.

The police station was located at the border of the town. She drove there in her white Toyota; anxiety bubbled in her belly like boiling oil. She filled all the papers and handed over the items she had brought for inspection. She couldn’t help noticing the blood smears on the walls were mosquitoes had once been or the sweat-soaked stench the place gave off. She was offered a chair but she declined and stood instead. After a while, a portly police officer beckoned to her and she followed him into a small office.

The office was a study in paradox. Several files lay on a polished table and even more files lay on the floor. Cheap blue curtains adorned the windows. An expensive air-conditioned unit hummed on the wall. Shiny new chairs contrasted with dull blue painted walls. The police man sat and asked her to do same. She sat and thanked him.

Cosmos had been transferred to Lagos. The orders had come a few days ago and he was sent via black Maria yesterday.
Kara rose and thanked him once again. She walked out of the station and down the road in the sunshine. A few blocks away she remembered her Toyota and walked back to get it.

She drove home and tried to banish thoughts of Mike Cosmos from her mind but every time it rained her mind went back to that evening at the bus stop and to the black denim jacket that smelled of peppermint.

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Good Things Come In Threes

 

Tunde never planned to have a side chick. He was by himself, minding his business, when she fell on his lap. It had been a long day at the office, battling with multiple complaints about the internet services in the agency he worked for. Usually he left most of the footwork to Oghale but Oghale had resigned last week to join his 70year old bride in Britain and the agency hadn’t found his replacement yet. He had just sold his Toyota Camry and couldn’t decide if he wanted a Benz or a BMW next so for the mean time he settled for the company bus.

He sat by the aisle and popped his earphones in, closed his eyes and waited for the bus to fill. He felt the bus move then break suddenly and something hit him on his thighs. His eyes flew open and he saw the prettiest bum in a skin tight purple skirt rise from his laps. He removed his earphones in time to hear her profuse apologies and to hear the whole bus berate the driver for his carelessness. He eased her to the window seat while trying not to make his appraisal obvious.

Her tag stated she was an intern. She looked young, early twenties most likely. Her hair was done in simple cornrows and her glasses gave her a bookish look. He looked away and was about to resume his Asa album when she thrust her arm towards him.
“Hi, I am Ima Brown.”
“Tunde Taylor”
“Again, I am so sorry for falling on you like that.”
“Don’t be, it was the driver’s fault.”
With that he smiled and wore his earphones but something had changed.

He got home an hour later, microwaved some spaghetti and chicken and had a bath. He was about to sleep when his phone rang. It was Osuchi, his fiancée, he smiled as he picked the call.
“Hello baby, what’s up?”
“Tunde love, how are you?
How was your day? Did you miss me?”
“Of course I missed you, I miss you every minute of every hour and yeah my day was CRAZY. But I am alive so, I guess that’s all that matters. How are you? Did you ace the test? Are the results out?”
“Nah, they aren’t. We hope for the best. I am so sad to hear you had a rough day. Stay strong baby.”

And they talked about the movies they wanted to watch and the books they were reading; Osuchi just finished Anansi Boys by Neil Gailman while Tunde was trying to finish Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo.  They talked about the weather in Canada where Osuchi was doing her masters and the rot in Abuja where the streetlights couldn’t stay on. They talked about the babies they would have: two lovely girls, Ola and Lola. They were joking about how long it had been since they last kissed when the line died.
— Sorry darl, looks like me airtime is gone
–Not to worry, I ll call you tomorrow
–I love you
— I love you too.

Tunde slept smiling that night, he had no idea what the future had in store.
***

Over the next few days he saw Ima everywhere. She was behind him at the cafeteria. She was waving at him across the hall. Every evening she sat beside him on their way home. They liked the same football club Manchester United, they hated boiled groundnut and semo, they were ardent fans of the Game of Thrones series. One Friday she followed him home.

While he made her rice and chicken casserole, she told him about her childhood and her dreams for the future. It wasn’t long before they were spending entire weekends together. He told her he had a fiancée but she just laughed and rode him harder. Weeks became months and soon Osuchi would be back. He had to find a way to end things gently. Ima was lovely and everything but Osuchi was his life.

He tried to make the break up as gentle as possible . He held Ima in his arms and told her how much he loves her and how he wished he had met her first, she would always be in his heart but they had to stop seeing each other. Ima didn’t say a word, she picked her things and left but Tunde could hear her sniffing back her tearsas she closed the door. Relief flooded him like a river. He had to be more careful next time, he had to make sure there wouldn’t be a next time. He slept thinking of his honeymoon.

He found himself on a beach. Before he could rise the waves embraced him and drew him underwater . He couldn’t breathe. His lungs were about to explode when he discovered he was in a bubble. He took quick breaths while trying to wonder where he was. He was traveling underwater. He could see fish, manatee and octopus as he drifted past. Strange music filled his ears as he was hurled on dry land. Two rows of women in grotesque red and yellow masks carrying spears were waiting for him. One of them dragged him to his feet and they marched him forward chanting and hitting their spears. He was frightened now but mostly he was curious.
Why was he here?
What was this?
Where was he?

Abruptly he was pushed to the floor and he hands were bound behind his back. A blindfold was wrapped around his face and he was lifted to a mat and dragged the rest of the way.

“Tunde, welcome to Zimora,” a warm sonorous voice said, “Our daughter’s tears have summoned you here. You used her and crushed her. Was that fair? Was that right? You had nothing to offer her but your manhood,in return, you broke her and trampled her heart underfoot. Our daughter has demanded vengeance. And vengeance she shall have. Henceforth you shall lie no more with any woman nor with any man. Your seed shall be ours as penance. Your heart shall be tossed as a leaf in the rain. Your days shall be long and loveless. This is our decree.”

He was speechless till he felt a searing pain on his left arm and couldn’t hold back the scream. He woke up drenched in sweat and panting. The room was dark and eerily still. He sat up and tried to breathe normally. It was just a dream. The lights came back on then and to his horror the letter Z was boldly tattooed on his left shoulder.learning-to-smoke-0308-lg.jpg

The Hangman’s Dream 1

 

 

 

I was looking for the best spot to hang myself when Alex called. She wanted to know if I could manage working as a driver with a local government chairman. I almost laughed. I would have grabbed any job: feeding pigs, washing corpses, packing shit, anything. Seven long, hard unemployed years had robbed me of all the pride, choice and hope I ever had. All I wanted was to end it; purge the world of my parasitic self, make myself more useful as fly food and manure. Then Alex called.

The interview was the next day and I didn’t have anything to wear. All my clothes were at least eight years old and most looked eighteen. The interview was meant to be just a formality but I couldn’t go looking like a loser. Alex had worked that out. She brought me a new jacket and a pair of black jeans.

“Hon Sam can be picky, so you want to put your best foot forward. Smile when you talk. Try to maintain eye contact. And for grief’s sake stop grinding your teeth!” She said rolling her eyes. I blinked away tears and tried to swallow the pebble in my throat. I was still looking for the words to thank her when she drove away.

The jacket fit perfectly but the jeans were loose at the waist. A sad smile flitted across my face; she was shopping for the old me. The one that played football, weighed 90kg and dreamt of owning a hotel chain not the underweight shell I had become. I looked into the mirror and a wave of panic hit me. What if Hon. Sam didn’t like me? What if he changed his mind? What if this was just another can of dashed hope? My blood froze at the thought. I couldn’t –wouldn’t imagine what that would be like. Before I left the house, I put the rope in my pocket and switched off my phone. If this was another of Fate’s twisted jokes, I didn’t want to be unprepared.

I left my house three hours to the interview but with unexpected traffic and a sudden rainstorm I found myself racing against time. To make it to Hon Sam’s house, I ran the last hundred meters under a relentless drizzle. His compound was massive, the size of three football fields. Its ten feet high, barb wire capped concrete walls loomed ahead of me. A kennel of dogs barked as I approached and a stone faced policeman looked me over before letting me in. I clenched my teeth to stop myself from shivering and tried to relax. I was cold, wet and scared.
A smiling young man led me to an outdoor bar to wait. We passed rows of cars in black covers. Part of me wondered which one I would drive, a Lexus? A Mercedes? A Porsche? The other part snickered: get the job first. Dreamer.

The young man gave me a seat at the bar and asked me what I wanted to drink. I wanted black tea, in a giant mug, served hot with plenty of sugar and cream but I smiled and said I was fine, while I struggled not to grind my teeth.

The Ultimatum

~Hymar David

A LETTER TO MR.OCCUPANT.

Yesterday, I did you a good turn and you repaid me by almost breaking my head. Well done.

You see, I was ill yesterday, I think you must have slipped something into that morsel of bread you threw into my corner. I got sick, yet I knew enough not to nibble on the bread you bought and left on the table. Because I didn’t want to give you my sickness. And what did I get? You chanced upon me suddenly and grabbed a broom. And I was telling Rachy that you are a decent person and not like the former occupant of the room. So much for that idea.

Our former occupant, what’s his name again? Ah, yes, Satan. That’s the name Rachy believes fits him best. The man was so evil, he planted a whooping nine traps in this tiny room. Nine traps! Just because we were so hungry we chewed a hole in his tennis shoes. How is it our fault the fool is broke and stingy? Even when he eats rice, there isn’t a single grain left on the plate, he cooks soup and cleans the china with his tongue. Once, he was eating biscuits in the presence of two friends, one of them a woman, he dropped a piece on the floor. Rachy was already jubilant because she thought the presence of his friends would deter him from picking it. But as she steeled herself for one mad dash to grab-and-run, Satan picked the piece, blew dirt off it and popped it into his mouth with a laugh.

That was when we declared war on him.

And by God, we gave him war.

We tore the room to shreds; we nibbled everything we could get our teeth on. Bedspreads? Check. Books? Check. Toothpaste? Check(not that he always had, the poverty of this man almost always saw him brush his teeth with salt and water). We called our friends in the other rooms of this face-me-i-face-you and wrecked total havoc. That huge and fearless Canine even gnawed at his toes at night and shat in his bathing water that he usually fetched and kept in a bucket in a corner of the room.

After two weeks, Satan got tired of turning the house upside down, hunting for us. He got tired of setting and resetting the traps which we had learned to navigate around. He packed his things and left.

That night, we had a victory dance in the empty room.

Dear new occupant, I am not trying to scare you, I just don’t want you to say one day that nobody told you.

I have as much right to this room as you do. I was born here. My mother’s blood has stained a trap, my father’s has stained the head of a pestle. I don’t know how my own would be but that is not my worry now. All I ask is be nice to me and I will be nice to you. After all, I eat the cockroaches you so detest. Wasn’t it yesterday your girlfriend came and got hysterical just because a cockroach crawled across the hem of her dress?

Here is a list of my conditions for peace to reign between us:

– Don’t throw away leftover food, keep it in a plate in the corner for Rachy and me. If you are too proud to feed ‘common rats’ just pack it in a nylon bag and leave it untied in the dustbin.

– If you attempt to poison us, we will know. Like my father used to tell us, ‘You know the onion by smell.’

– Keep your traps away, we are not like our cousins in the forest, if you are not eating us, stop hunting us down, I beg you.

– When you see us, don’t immediately reach for a broom or the pestle your girlfriend uses to pound yams when she is around. We are not the enemy, we are not threats. Relax, let us go our way. it is not like we sleep on your bed.

– Picking biscuits and groundnut from the floor is a sin against us. DO NOT do it.

I repeat, I am not threatening you. I just want you to know like I once heard Satan say, ‘no be by size.’ We have our way of dealing with people we don’t like. And we like you. You don’t have to like us back, just let us live in peace and feed off what you don’t want.

How is that too much to ask?

Your comrade,
Rattie

I obtained Mr David’s permission to post this here. I enjoyed reading it and would love to read your response too . Please tell us what you think in the comments. Thank you.

Photo credit: Google Images

This Just Can’t Work

I watch her sashay past and rap on the door. She looks good in her ankle length gown, golden gele and bracelets that jingle like bells.

Oga opens the door and they share a kiss before he whisks her inside. Later that evening, they stroll out, whispering in each others ears. Oga tickles her, she laughs, a lilting soothing sound and I can’t remember hating anyone so much.

Soon they are back. Oga carries all the bags. They’ve bought rice, stew, salad and ice-cream. She is talking and twirling her hands in the air to make a point. That’s when I realise that something has to be done. If she goes on this way, she’ll be Mrs Ukwak by Saturday.

My options are limited. I am not bad as far as Mercedes Benz 190’s go but I am sure you can already see my difficulty. I can’t talk, at least not without giving Oga a heart attack and I can only influence things when they are close to me. But this is no time for excuses, it is a time for results, so deliver I must.

You must be wondering how my boss’ love interest is any of my business. What does a car stand to lose from a wedding? What loyal being wouldn’t want his owner happy, settled and fruitful? Definitely not me.

I want all that for my boss and more, only, not with Amara.

I know Amara from way back, I noticed her one day at the car wash when she came to see some guy called Carl. I was waiting my turn at the sponge and I couldn’t help over hearing the telephone conversation she was having.

“Oh Dani!”Amara squealed into the phone. “Of course I missed you. The thing is, I am not in town, I travelled to Kaduna for a retreat.”
“Sure, of course, I will. I love you too. You did? Thank you, the fifty thousand will go a long way. Thank you. Bye”

Her phone rang again.

“Wow! Emeka! Yeah, long time. I have missed you too. Aww, I couldn’t make it to Lagos anymore, but I’ll try to make it up to you. I promise. The money you sent is still in my account and once I get a break, you’ll be my first stop.” She was smiling at the phone and twirling her weave.

“Oh my goodness, you are in town? You should have told me baby, I am out in Jos on business. I told you I don’t do surprises. Anyone trying to surprise me only ends up surprising themselves.”

No kidding.

Before Carl came to pick her two other callers had been given three other stories, one of them was a even a woman. At some point, I had to read the sign boards around again to myself, I had to remind myself I was in Port Harcourt, not Jos, Kaduna, Dubai or Yenegoa.

Now here she was with Oga, playing the saint, I was having none of it.

I get my chance soon. The next morning they tumble in to rush her to work. She jumps out screaming. In the process, I rip her yellow silk blouse and smudge it with some grease.

“Ouch! Oh no, Jerry! That seat just burnt me! And look, my blouse is gone!”

Oga darts out and runs to her side. “What seat, Amara? Calm down. Let me see, it isn’t so bad. We can get a new one–”

“That seat,” she says, pointing at the front passenger seat. “That seat nearly peeled off my skin. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it wrecked my best silk blouse too.” By now her voice has risen a few octaves and she looks like she is about to cry. I feel like pinching her to hurry things on but I am busy.

I am working over time to cool the seat heater. I make it just in time for Oga’s probing fingers.

He runs his palms over the black leather seat with a frown on his face. “It is normal,Amy, a little warm but definitely not bum-burning.”

“But it just burnt my bum. I sat on it and it was like sitting on a hot plate.”

“Come on, Amara, don’t be dramatic. Let’s go before I get late.”

“Oh. So I am being dramatic now?” She replies with a flip of her braids. “Your useless, archaic, malfunctioning car burns me and I am being dramatic? Well, you better get going then because I am not going anywhere with you. Sorry broke ass.”

She grabs her bag and storms away before Oga can say a word. When he recovers enough to ask her to wait, she is gone.

I smile inside. I am savouring this little victory. Oga ll probably go begging to bring her back and maybe he’ll succeed. But I have a plan for that.

For now, let’s enjoy the peace.

Mirage Mercy

He watched her wriggle into her gown, while questions flooded his mind. She smiled showing him her dainty gap tooth and even white teeth.

“I have to go,” she said. “It is getting late and I don’t want to miss my flight.”

“Of course.” Goddard said, as he rose to help her into her jacket. “When will I see you again?”

“Soon. You know how these things are. I never know when I’ll get a break from that crazy boss of mine. Let’s see maybe next month….”

Goddard knew she was lying. He wouldn’t see her for the next three months.

She would disappear.

Her phone would be switched off, his Whatsapp messages would pile up unanswered, texts would return undelivered, mini-calls would hover forever.

She would be nowhere in sight, as if she found the edge of the world and walked off it.

Just like she had last time. And the time before that.

When they met eleven months ago, he hadn’t really minded. He was travelling to Abuja from Okirika for an interview. His brother sent him money for a flight but the recent plane crashes were still too fresh in his mind. He decided to go by bus instead. Besides it was easier than travelling 100 kilometres to Port Harcourt International located at the fringes of the city. Road travel in Nigeria wasn’t hazard free but he preferred taking his chances with solid land beneath him.

He overslept on the day of the trip. His phone battery ran out and he lived alone. He barely got into the bus before it left the park.

“It looks like someone had a busy night.”

He turned to meet slate grey eyes looking into his and a full friendly smile that made him smile back instantly.

“I wasn’t that lucky. My battery died. I am Goddard.”

“Mercy”

And that was how it all began. The ride to Abuja was the shortest ever.

They exchanged phone numbers.

They talked about politics, music, the scar on his arm, her contact lens, the vice-president’s invisibility. When the journey was over and she was leaving, a part of him was leaving with her.

He didn’t get the job, there were five slots and 419 applicants. Some with recommendation letters from the Presidency.

He went back to Okirika, to the little apartment he shared with Max, his pet cat, a dozen wall geckos and his four year old TV.

He tried calling the number she gave him the next day but it was switched off. It stayed switched off for a week. He was about to delete it one evening when she called him.

“Hi Sailor,” Mercy said “Are you in Okirika?”

Yes he was. Of course he was. He gave her directions and soon she was alighting from a motorbike in front of him.

That weekend was perfect, it was like living in a dream.

She cooked, gorgeous dishes that melted in his mouth and had him wanting more.

She took, driving him to heights he never knew existed, places he had never explored.

She was a light in his drab world and he was a moth floating to her.

On her third visit she brought him a recommendation letter for a Federal job in Yenogoa. It was signed by senator Inimo Wodi.

“Where did you get this?” He asked.

“Oh Goddy, you are so serious. He is a family friend of ours. I just mentioned your case and he got interested. Make sure you go along with it though, the interview is next month.” Mercy said kneading his shoulder muscles.

He got the job. When he called to tell her the good news. Her number was “unavailable at the moment”.

He googled her. But none of the ,nine Mercy Odilis on screen were her’s.

He tried to talk her into getting on one of the Social Media Networks, Facebook at least.

“Oh Goddy! That’s so public. Eww, I could never do that. ” She replied.

So he let it go.

It wasn’t everyday one found a woman that was intelligent, sexy, caring and undemanding.

Undemanding. That was what really worried him. At the beginning he was ashamed when she would come to see him and he couldn’t pay her fare or take her out to any of the new eateries in town. Mercy never complained instead she came with foodstuff and made him gourmet meals, complete with dessert. In bed she was adventurous and fun. He was getting hooked.

But soon it was Sunday morning again and she was leaving. As he kissed her goodbye, he felt a rock settling inside him.

Soon it was a pattern. Great weekends followed by weeks sometimes months of silence. When ever he asked she laughed it off, but he wanted to know. Needed to know.

And this time he had a plan.

He had discovered a distant relative of his that worked at the Abuja airport. ‘Worked’ was an euphemism for acting as a human mule, he loitered around carried heavy luggage for small tips. His name was Dumebi.

It hadn’t taken much for him to convince Dumebi to wait for Mercy at the Airport and follow her home.

Soon he would know where she lived, from there, hopefully, who she was.

She was expected to arrive Abuja by 4pm, so he expected Dumebi’s call by 6pm latest.

Dumebi called by 8 to say he missed her. The taxi he’d hired for the chase ran out of fuel mid-way. He was sorry. Could brother please give him another chance.

Goddard threw the phone across the room. The Nokia obliged by splitting neatly into three pieces.

Fuming, he went to the kitchen and dished himself some of the Jollof rice Mercy had made that morning and a cold can of Star. He stood in front of the TV and began to flip channels when he saw her.

Mercy was on TV.

Only she wasn’t Mercy Odili. She was Mrs Mercy Wodi, the stunningly beautiful wife of Senator Inimo Wodi.

They were commissioning a new orphanage in Port Harcourt and she was smiling her open gapped, even toothed smile while her obese hubby mouthed some platitudes about giving.

The rice, remote and beer fell out of his hands.

He couldn’t breathe. The ceiling was spinning. Then all that was left was the sound of him moaning,”no,no,no o o o o.”

Guardian Angel

I told her not to marry him but it was like talking to an electric train. Her mind was made up, my words were a waste.

I listened in disbelief as my twenty-one year old sister begged me to remember her “biological clock was ticking.”

I marvelled as she bade me to reconsider, because “all her mates were married.”

I gasped when she declared that I should get used to it, she was marrying Leo with or without my blessing. Kponkwem.

As I listened to her, lava coursed through my veins. I was angry, livid even, but I wasn’t sure who my ire was for.

Part of it was for a society that made Diana think marriage was a trophy; a 50 metre sprint where the fastest women got medals and flowers instead of a gruelling marathon-relay where your partner’s skill and commitment was as important as endurance, focus and having fun.

Another part of my anger was for myself, I should have seen this coming. I should have stopped this from coming.

Maybe if I had worked hard enough on getting that government health centre renovation contract, and had the cash at hand to pay her bit for the partial Masters scholarship she had won at Emory.

Maybe if I had moved to Abuja at the beginning of the year as I had earlier planned…

Maybe, the eternal twin of perpetual regret.

I told Nkoyo that Diana wanted to get married and she was quiet. She was so quiet that the silence formed a cloud around my ears and began to ring like a bell.

We had been dating for three years and four months. She was twenty-seven and I was thirty. I knew we would be having “The Talk” soon and I wasn’t ready.

It wasn’t the money or anything. As a site engineer for a telecom outfit, I could afford a family. What I couldn’t afford was my well ordered life spinning on its heels. I liked the single life. Change was inevitable, I knew but I wasn’t in a hurry.

Hadn’t been in a hurry, until now.

I called a colleague on vacation in the US and asked him to help bring the platinum ring I ordered.

I shouldn’t have bothered, Nkoyo left me four days later.

“I am sorry, Mon. I don’t think this is what I want anymore.”

I thought she was joking.

It took two weeks of failed reunion attempts for me to get it.

I had been dumped.

Diana and Leo’s wedding held three months later, Diana was glowing like a giant fire-fly while Leo was a frowning frog.

Mom was so happy, I thought she would burst.

I hid my frustration and smiled for the cameras. But inside I was drowning in a bog.

The conversation we had at the doors of the church before I walked her up the aisle lingers…

“Monday”

“Yes, Diana”

“Be happy for me, OK? Please?”

“Diana, you know– alright. Don’t look at me like that. Look, everyone is waiting.”

“Let them wait. I need your blessing Mon, please.”

“God be with you little sis.”

“Amen.”

With that, she raised her head and straightened her back and we walked into the church. Behind her veil, tears shone in her eyes, and I began to wonder if it was real.

Could Leo be the love of Diana’s life?

Was I just being a miserable brother-in-law eating ogre?

After the wedding, Diana went back to her job teaching at a private university in Aba while Leo was in Calabar with me. He worked at a bank as a marketer, but we seldom met and never called.

A month later, Diana got a fabulous job in an international oil company in Port Harcourt. No matter how I teased she wouldn’t tell me how much she was earning.

“Mon, it is huge. Gosh! I can’t believe it.” She kept saying again and again.

Soon she called to say she was expecting. Twins. No, she didn’t know what sexes yet. Yes, she was fine. Very fine.

She had boys after ten hours of labour. Twinkle and Delight, Leo called them, like they were puppies or bear cubs. My dislike for him morphed into congealed contempt.

One weekend, I ran into him at a supermarket.

“Hey Mon, how are you doing?” Leo said.

“Good. Aren’t you supposed to be in
Port Harcourt with your family?

“I couldn’t make it man. I was tired, needed a rest.”

There was a pause. My sister was juggling twin boys, a new job, a strange town and this idiot was talking about rest?

Thoughts shifted in my head on cue, then all I saw was red, my fists burying themselves in his light skinned jowls, my knees kneading his balls in sharp succession, a tooth or two rolling on the cream tiles, and an immense sense of relief.

I smiled instead and walked away.

That weekend, I called in a few favours and by Monday, Leo was sacked.

When Diana called I sympathised. It was horrible, Leo being let off like that. Curse those horrid new generation banks.

The next time I saw her she was lying in a hospital bed with wires running out of every part of her.

“He didn’t mean to,” she croaked out of a broken jaw.

“Of course not, love. Shh don’t say a word.” I replied, crouched by her bed. That’s when everything became clear and I knew what had to be done.

The police booked it as a hit and run. Leo survived, making kids orphaned had never been my style. I was content to see him lose a leg. There wouldn’t be anymore beatings, or absenteeism.

Who knows? Maybe Diana would wake up someday and leave him. Yeah, I know, fat chance.