Bukky went home feeling more fulfilled. ‘Today she had made
new friends and she was going to work hard to keep their bond stronger.’ She
almost laughed at the way she gushed over Caleb, now she knew better.
Her father’s driver entered a port hole and she winced as
she jumped on her seat. Her brother yelled at the driver.
“Didn’t you see the porthole? Are you blind?”
The driver didn’t respond and this brought about more
insults from her brother who didn’t stop raining abuses till they got home. As
soon as they arrived at their house which was a big storey building, Bukky
stepped down from the car and walked to the door. She had just raised her hand
to knock at the hard polished wood when the door opened and standing right
before her, was her uncle. Bukky froze.
Her mind reverted six years back when her uncle frequently
visited the house, she was, according to him, his favourite niece but love and
childlike adoration had spun into something she didn’t understand. She could
remember one incident during one of his short visits when as usual after
dinner, he played the part of the horse while she rode on his back. That night,
her uncle had suggested trading her jolly ride with him to something much more
complicated. He had told her to reciprocate the fun he had been giving to her
since her baby days and eager to get on with her horse ride, she agreed. What
happened after that consistently disturbed her but she couldn’t complain. Uncle
lavished her with gifts and loads of free horse rides in exchange for something
she couldn’t place a finger on, all she could remember was, she was wore no
stitch of clothing during her reciprocation of her free horse rides with Uncle
Bayo and even though she enjoyed his horse rides, she didn’t enjoy what he did
to her at private hours when the whole house wasn’t watching.
“Hey pretty!” Screamed Uncle Bayo, jerking her from her
reverie.
“Hello Uncle.” She whispered, not sounding excited.
“C’mon, give Uncle a big hug. It’s been so long. The last
time I visited was six years ago. Wow! That’s such a long time to be separated
from family. I missed my favourite niece.” Uncle Bayo cooed.
They were interrupted by the scream from her brother Femi
who had just alighted from the car after raining insults on the driver, he was
happy to see Uncle Bayo and was in his arms faster that she could say Jack.
“Welcome Uncle Bayo… welcome home, it’s been so long.”
Shouted Femi in delight.
“Look at my Femi, all macho and muscular… I wouldn’t have
believed you’d recognize me.” Said Uncle Bayo.
“Why wouldn’t I? I was five when you left Nigeria, besides
we talk all the time over the phone and I have your pictures on my bedroom wall.”
“Way to go Tiger!” Praised Uncle Bayo.
They all walked into the house, Femi and Uncle Bayo chatted
excitedly. Bukky who couldn’t place a finger to her sudden change of mood
climbed up the stairs and headed to her room.
***********
It was the first day of the midterm break and Chioma
couldn’t help the nostalgic feeling that crept into her stomach at the sight of
a very subdued Ekene. He was pale and his eyes were blotched, his arms swung at
his sides and his lips pressed together in a firm line. ‘What had the Agballa
family become?’ She asked herself as she suddenly felt sick and wanted to
vomit. Her father smiled at his son as the nurse sat him down briefly at their
side, he smelt like horrible medicine.
“How is he, nurse?” Her father asked.
“He is taking his treatment better than most others.”
“When will he return home?”
“When he gets better.” The nurse replied crisply and noted
to them that she would be back to take him to his ward soon.
Ekene stared at the walls, his eyes were blank. Chioma
looked at the brother she had known all her life. Her mind flashed back to the
day he was born.
She was a little over five years old, and Thomas was toddler
then, even at that tender age she knew she wanted a sister desperately and
mummy had promised her one. As soon as the car rolled into the compound she was
already wearing her slippers and restraining herself from the maid’s clutches.
Her mother and father had climbed the stairs to the house and as soon as they
rung the bell, she was already reaching for the lock which wasn’t far from her
reach. Mummy held baby protectively in her arms and Thomas who instinctively
knew he had competition began to wail, Chioma had focused her energy on the
bundle, jumping to see the baby’s face clearly. As soon as her mother sat down,
she was already climbing the chair to sit close to her mother, curiosity
getting the best of her.
“What is it mom?” She asked impatiently.
“It’s not an it Chi… it’s a baby.”
“I know but what is it? A girl? Is it a girl? It looks like
a girl…” Chioma had said.
“No… it’s a boy.” Her mother had answered.
“Why?” Chioma wailed.
“God knows best, He brought him to you so that you can
protect him.”
“But I already have a brother, Thomas is enough… I don’t
need another.” She had whined.
“Listen Chioma, he is your brother… it doesn’t matter if
he’s a boy or a girl, what matters is, he is your sibling and as his big sister
you must promise to take care of him.” Her mother had said.
“I don’t need to mum, you are here.”
“No one knows what the future holds… if there comes a time
when you are all he has left, take good care of him.” Her mother said.
Chioma had nodded and holding out her hand she touched the
baby’s hand and instinctively, he grabbed hold of her little finger. Then she
knew, she had made a promise she would never break.
Her father’s phone rang out loud and its noise disturbed her
thoughts, Ekene still sat, immovable as though glued to the chair.
“Sorry darlings, I must answer this call.” Said her father
hastily. He picked the call and spoke, “Hello… Bobby…”
Chioma rolled her eyes in disgust, Uncle Bobby never tires
of calling her father. He made sure he hounded him everywhere. Ignoring her
father and his phone calls she edged closer to Ekene.
“Hi… Ekene, how have you been?” She asked, tenderness in her
voice.
Ekene didn’t reply, he kept starring at the wall.
“You should try and get better, Zubby misses you and I miss
you too. We have been enrolled in new schools and have made new friends.”
Still no reply.
“Talk to me Ekene please, it’s enough that Thomas is not
with us but, not you too…” Chioma continued but paused when she felt Ekene
move.
“Ekene…” She called.
“T…hh…” Ekene stuttered as though something wedged his
throat.
“You spoke… Ekene, you spoke….” Chioma said hugging him in
joy.
Her father walked towards his children puzzled at Chioma’s
gesture towards her brother.
“Did I miss something?” Her father asked.
“Ekene spoke… he said something.” Chioma shrieked in joy.
“Ekene isn’t dumb dear, he is just receiving treatment… let
him rest for a while, soon he’ll get better.” Her father said, unenthusiastic.
Chioma stared at her father in shock, ‘what had happened to
her daddy?’
Her father beckoned to one of the nurses and Ekene was led
back to the ward. Chioma was dazed by her father’s attitude, ‘why would he act
this way towards his own son?’ Their time wasn’t up yet and he was in a haste
to end their visit. They both walked out of the psychiatric center, Chioma stormed
into the car fuming under her breath while her father was too in a haste to
leave the hospital parking lot.
The car air conditioning turned on and Chioma felt repulsed
by the scent she perceived, the car smelt like Uncle Bobby, besides it belonged
to him. The silence in the vehicle was deafening as the engine purred its way
to the major road, her father broke the silence.
“You have to go spend your midterm break at Uncle Bobby’s
sister’s house.”
“What are you talking about dad?” Chioma asked confused.
“Uncle Bobby just called, his sister gave birth and is in
need of someone to help her take care of her baby. He wants you to go to her house
today.”
“Today? I am going nowhere ooo… this is the first day of my
mid-term break, I have a lot of reading to do. We have a debate competition
coming up next week and my English teacher hinted to me that I might be
representing the junior school.”
“I am your father, I give the directives and you follow.”
“That’s not my problem.” Snapped Chioma.
“Are you talking to me? Chioma, did you just talk back at
me?” Raved her father.
“Yes I did dad. I don’t know you anymore, and I’m scared
that Uncle Bobby has changed you. You now drink like him and stay out very late
at night, I am worried about you.”
“What does that have to do with the fact that you have
refused to do my bidding?” Shouted her father.
Chioma didn’t reply, her father’s newly adopted attitude
always had the best of him, he was changing rapidly and Uncle Bobby’s influence
on him was intoxicating.
“Listen to me Chioma, Uncle Bobby is the reason we are alive
today. From now on, if he issues a command, you must follow or else…” Said her
father as his threat hung in the air.
Chioma nodded quietly and stared outside the window as they
neared the place they called home.

*******************
Ego wasn’t concentrating, she was staring at him and
smiling, he was the center of her small world and she loved him with all her
heart. Around her, the other students jotted down notes but she cradled her
head in her palms and continued staring at the mathematics teacher.
Queen quickly scribbled the equation on the board on her
exercise book, she was so engrossed that she didn’t notice the boy beside her
tap her gently.
“Hey… sorry for disturbing.”
Queen’s head shot up as she turned to stare at her seat
mate.
“What is it?” Queen hissed.
“Your friend.”
“Who’s my friend?”
“That girl at the front seat, she has been staring at the
mathematics teacher since he stepped into the classroom.”
“Oh… that… maybe she’s just paying rapt attention.” Said
Queen as she focused on her work again, shutting him out. But the boy
persisted.
“Hmmm…. That’s not what it seems like to me. How come she got
the highest grade in maths? Her note is blank and she has hardly written
anything…”
“Perhaps she stores information in her head… please can I
concentrate on my work?”
“I think you’d better advise her, Mr. Nwabunor is a known
womanizer, his conquests are well known. Ego won’t be the first of his prey.”
“What are you saying?”
“Can’t you read between the lines? Are you blind? Haven’t
you noticed that she doesn’t leave tutorial classes on time? Once everyone
leaves, she is in his office till odd hours.”
“What? Are you kidding?”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t know and here I was, thinking you
want her to live her life the way she chooses to.”
“No way! Please tell me more, I never knew about this.”
“Watch her closely, after lessons try walking home with her
as you used to. If she goes with you, then I am a liar but if she doesn’t and
makes up excuses… then….”
Queen stared at the boy she hardly ever acknowledged in the
Jamb class and said;
“Thank you.”
****************************
Bukky wished the mid-term break would end, she couldn’t help
but sense the feel of dread and wished she had somewhere to go to. Everyone had
left the house, her brother had gone to his friend’s and she was alone at home
atleast for now. She was about to head up to her room when she heard the
doorbell. ‘It must be her brother’ she said and walked to open the door, only
to cringe in fear, it was her uncle.
“Bukky baby…” Her uncle cooed.
“Hello uncle, I thought you left with mum for the shop.”
“Yes I did but I had a runny stomach so I had to return
home.”
“You could have just shopped for medicine at a pharmacy, you
shouldn’t have bothered coming home.”
“Wow… my favorite niece is in a haste to chase me away. Tell
me, did you hide your boyfriend in your closet?” He teased.
“Don’t be ridiculous uncle, I am too young to have a
boyfriend.”
“Ooohh such good news, I am so glad that no one has been
spoiling you for me.”
“What are you talking about?” Bukky demanded.
“Have you forgotten how much fun we used to have years ago,
I haven’t forgotten my skills.”
“I have overgrown play.” Bukky said
“Ha ha… don’t make me laugh, no one over grows play, even
the oldest of men… let me go to my room and drop my bag, I’ll be out soon.” He
said, his voice rang with a note of promise.
Bukky expelled a deep breath, she knew she was in for her
Uncle’s mischievous plans but she had a choice, it was either she stayed and
let him use her against her wish or she leaves the house and return when her
parents came home. Running hastily to her room, she picked her purse and headed
out of the house.

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