“Thomas! You were hiding all these while…stop laughing, I am
not joking!”
“Ha ha…I pulled a fast one on you guys.”
“I’ll beat your brains into a pulp.”
“You can’t catch me…” Sang Thomas as he ran.
Chioma chased him hard but could not catch up with him, his
laughter echoed in her ears and she kept screaming his name. Suddenly, her legs
picked up with speed and she gained ground, Thomas slowed down and she pushed
him to the ground with her weight only to discover that he wasn’t the one she
had caught, it was someone else. 
Thomas’s laughter echoed in her ears.
“I’ll get you soon, you’ll see.” Chioma swore beneath her
breath and woke up.
It was a dream, a very convincing one and Chioma was used to
it, she had dreamt similar dreams since Thomas disappeared. Heaving a sigh, she
stood from her bed and walked out of the room, the house was empty, gone were
the chairs and the rest of the insignificant furniture they had left. 
They were
moving!
Her father walked into the sitting room, he had heavy bags
under his eyes and he seemed to have aged a decade.
“Dad…Is it today?” Chioma asked.
“Yes…it is.”
“How can we move out of this house when we know that Thomas could return any
day soon?”
Her father dragged in a deep breath and scratched his small
beard.
“Chioma, this is hard for me, believe me. I have been at the
brink of madness but… it’s hard enough as a man to be separated from his
wife, it’s even worse to lose a child. Thomas’s disappearance has been a huge
shock and I doubt that I would ever remain the same but I promise that we won’t
stop looking.”
“Looking? Aren’t we moving far away from here? How would we
know when he returns?” Chioma asked in a teary voice.
“The neighbours will tell us, I have given them my phone
number, I have also shared out photocopies of Thomas’s picture and if they see
him, we will be contacted.”
Chioma sat on the bare floor and began to cry.
“Sweet heart, it’s going to be fine. Please understand that
I…we can’t stay here anymore, I have no job and we have run out of money. My
friend Bobby gave us the best option and that is, to live in his house, while I do some jobs for him. It’s a relief and I am grateful.”
“If you never divorced mom, this wouldn’t have happened.” Chioma snapped.
“Your mother and I chose different paths and we can’t blame
anyone for our decisions.”
“You can’t blame anyone?” Screamed Chioma, “You can blame yourself!”
“Where are all these coming from, Chioma, this is a new
year, I do not want to start on a bad note.”
“You have done that already….Thomas is missing. That’s a bad
note.”
Her father squatted on his heels and looked at her.
“Chi…I am sorry, I have failed you and your brothers. This hurts me more than you could ever imagine. I have been through a lot
last year, I am just hoping that this year would be better off for me.”
Chioma didn’t respond, she looked away. The door to the room opened and
Ekene and Zubby came emerged, shuffling their feet and yawning.
“Daddy, where are the chairs?” Asked Zubby.
“Downstairs with the movers. Do you remember that I told you
about Uncle Bobby’s plans to see us?” Asked their father.
The boys nodded.
“He house is not too far from here and guess what? He has a
really big house and he wants us to live there with him.” Said their father,
feigning excitement for their benefit.
“Okay…will he let Thomas come with us?” Asked Ekene a bit absentmindedly.
“Emm …Thomas is not here, but he’ll be here soon.” Assured
their father, clearing the clog in his throat.
“He’s here.” Said Ekene.
“Where?” Asked their father.
Since Thomas’s disappearance, Ekene has claimed to have seen
him and on several occasions, speak to him.
“He is in the toilet.” Ekene replied.
“Okay…em…I’ll check up on him…okay.” Answered a confused
father, trying hard to hold back the tears.
“Ekene says, Thomas doesn’t like to be seen, will you beg
him to let me see him? I want him to go with us.” Said Zubby.
Their father couldn’t hold the tears in, anymore, he burst out in tears.
Minutes later, they were all crying except Ekene.
**************************
It was been hard leaving the home they had practically lived their lives in, but before evening, they were all packed
up at the front of the moving van and on their way to Ikeja, where Uncle Bobby
resided. No one said a word, they all stared out of the window as though
searching for someone. Christmas had been tough and the New Year was worse,
while everyone around them celebrated, they mourned.
Thomas was officially declared missing by the police and all efforts made to find him proved fruitless. Everyone they knew didn’t have a clue as to where Thomas was or could be.
Moving, was the toughest decision Chioma’s father could ever make, but as the old year drew to a halt and the new year begun, he knew he couldn’t remain jobless for so long. The house rent was expiring in January and with no hope of ever paying up, he had to make a choice. Bobby had been his secondary school classmate and even though they had lost contact since their teen years, city life made the difference as it had a way of making a huge world small. They met again and rekindled their friendship, a few months before he separated from his wife. Destiny could not have played a greater part as in the few days of misery after Thomas’s disappearance, they came in contact again. Bobby’s wealth was surprising, he was involved in a number of businesses and lived a comfortable life, Chioma’s father couldn’t help asking for Bobby’s help and after a brief conversation, Bobby decided to let them live with him and also link Chioma’s father in the ways of his business which seemed to be so buoyant.
The drive to Uncle Bobby’s house was exhausting and as soon
as the van stopped, they were relieved. Uncle Bobby wasn’t at home but his gate
man and some household staff were around. Chioma stared at the huge house
before her, it was truly gigantic, one could get missing roaming around the
premises. She had never met her father’s friend, Bobby, but from what she saw, he had quite a lot of money. Beside her stood Ekene who was busy
mumbling words to an ‘unseen Thomas’ and a worried Zubby who strained to hear
whatever Ekene was saying.
Their suitcases were brought down from the van and Chioma
could see her father arguing with Uncle Bobby’s gateman. The gateman was
refusing to allow any of their properties into the house as he wasn’t instructed by
his master about any arrangements of that kind. The van driver impatiently
waited for their father to give a directive to offload the furniture from his
van but their father was trying hard to reach Uncle Bobby’s phone line. It
wasn’t available.
Evening came and found them sitting outside the door to Uncle
Bobby’s house looking like a pack of refugees, Ekene had walked away from his
family and was on the other side of the compound, conversing with an unseen
Thomas. The van driver had long gone after carelessly offloading their furniture outside
the gate. as Uncle Bobby’s gateman had vehemently refused to let their luggage into the compound. Their stomachs churned from lack of food and mosquitoes had just
begun feasting on their legs.
An hour later, they heard the blare of a horn and rose from
their seating positions, standing as though awaiting the President of the Federal
republic of Nigeria to arrive. The gateman pushed open the gate and a car
zoomed into the compound and parked, minutes later, a man alighted from the
car. They walked up to meet him.
“Emeka Agballa, what is the meaning of this?” Barked the man,
addressing their father in his first name.
“What…I don’t understand Bobby.”
“Why is the frontage of my house littered with rubbish?”
“It’s my furniture…your gateman said…I mean… he didn’t want
me to bring them in so…”
“I told you to bring your family to live in my
house, I never said; bring your waste litters.” Shouted Bobby.
“I am sorry, I’ll look for where to keep them.”
“There is no time for that.” Bobby said as he turned to
address his gateman, “Usman!”
“Sir” Shouted an ever dutiful gateman.
“Dispose all that trash at the entrance of my house quick.”
“Yes sir.”
Chioma’s father opened his mouth but shut it up again, Bobby
looked at all of them and turned to stare at Ekene who was still in a deep
conversation with himself. His gaze lingered on
Chioma for a while, then back to her father. Dragging in a deep breath, he dipped his right hand into his pocket and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. Lighting one, he placed it on his lips and sucked in the smoke, seconds later, he exhaled. 
“In my house, I don’t condone rubbish. I have decided to help you
but i won’t let you take me for granted. The steward will show you to the boys
quarters, that’s where you all will stay from now on.” Bobby said and walked
away from them.
Chioma knew, at that instant, that she hated her father’s
friend! 

2 COMMENTS

  1. True…most times, we can't really ask for help because of the people around us. I guess Chioma would, through this medium, learn the meaning of being treated like a dirt bag more often than once.

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