If a pin had dropped, it would have been heard miles away. Chekwube’s answer stunned everyone, auntie Lizzy included.
“You want to stay with me?” She asked.
“What did you just say?” Ola asked her sister.
Chekwube looked at everyone, she didn’t know what excuses to give her brother-in-law whom she’d come to like very much.
“I…I…” She stammered.
“It’s okay.” Nosike said in their native language. “If you want to go with Auntie Lizzie, I’m fine with it.”
“But our parents know that Chekwube is here, I don’t think they’d approve if they found out that you’re staying with my husband’s aunt.” Ola protested.
“I don’t want to stay here anymore.” Chekwube said shaking her head firmly.
“Let’s leave Chekwube to do as she pleases. I’m sure she’s tired of trekking the long distance to and from school on a daily basis.” Nosike said. “Besides, my aunt’s house is far bigger than this place and I think she’ll like it there.”
“No!” Ola said in protest.
Everyone looked at her sharply.
“I mean, what will we tell our parents?” Ola asked.
“Nothing, we don’t need to tell them anything.” Chekwube said quickly.
“Well, I can still give you time to make up your mind.” Auntie Lizzie said.
“My mind is made up ma, I am coming with you.” Chekwube said as she walked towards the corner of the room where a worn-out bag sat.
“She’s old enough to know what she wants.” Nosike said to Ola.
Ola nodded glumly and watched Chekwube pack her things.
“I’ll go to the kitchen to check the food. Chekwube, please bring the plates.” Ola hissed and left the room.
Chekwube shrugged and continued with her packing, when she was done she took some plates from a small basket under the table and left the room.
Mickey was searching for her pair of socks in the room her brother’s shared. Her brothers hardly ever slept in this room as they mostly spent the night elsewhere once they weren’t at home. They preferred to sleep in the room she’d shared with her mother. Her brothers weren’t around but she’d made a duplicate of their key a long time ago, so getting in wasn’t a problem. She only made sure she got out before they got in or all hell will be set loose. She still had the pictures of Ola and her brother on her phone and she was still thinking up a master plan for the grand release of the pictures.
‘The pictures will definitely break up her marriage.’ She thought with a snicker.
She pulled open the bottom drawer of the small cupboard where her brothers stored their weed and her eyes almost fell off their sockets. About twenty piles of cash wads were stacked within. Mickey couldn’t believe her eyes.
“What? Wia dem get dis kain money from?” She asked herself as she stared at the money in wonder.
Her instinct told her to shut the drawer close and run out of the room but on second thoughts she decided to dig deeper. She saw something wrapped in a black nylon bag and she brought it out. She opened the bag gently and stared at the item in her hand in shock. It was a pistol and it looked so much like the revolver she saw in movies, the ones that made no sound when fired. Her breath hung in her throat as though seized and she quickly wrapped it and placed it back. What was going on? What were her brothers up to? She thought.
She quickly hurried out of the room and locked the door again, racing towards the room she shared with her mother. On her way to the room, she brushed Chekwube who was going to the kitchen with the plates in her hand and she didn’t even bother to throw a nasty word her way.
Gbenga stared at his food in silence, he was used to eating alone and today was no exception. He quietly picked through his meal and lifted his glass of water for a drink when the girl who’d accompanied his mother on her tour to Nigeria walked in with a plate of fried yam and stew in her hand.
“I’m totally Nigerian but I’ve never tasted fried yam before. Does that make me weird?” She asked with a smile as she sat at the table and stared at him.
Gbenga didn’t look up from his meal, he felt dumped and used. Amanda had promised to be his girl but once he’d changed schools, she’d jumped ships.
“Your house is so cool but do you know what would make it way cooler?” She asked with a smile on her face. “Trees! Yep! Lots of trees should be planted in the compound. The compound is so large and I feel it’s quite empty without trees. I am a strong advocator for the Green movement. I am passionate about our ecosystem.”
Gbenga dropped his fork and got up to leave.
“Hey, I’m trying my best here…” She said solemnly.
He stopped and looked at her.
“What are you doing in this house?” He asked, trying to sound tough and manly.
“She can see right through you…you know.” Jermia said quietly.
“Who else? Your mom…she can see right through you and she can tell that you’re needy and ….”
“Who gave you the right to speak to me as if you know me?” Gbenga fired.
Jermia sighed and said nothing.
“I think the best thing to do is to tell her to leave this house and take you along.” He spat.
“Do you really want that? I mean…I could tell her to do that, that’s if you really want her to leave. I understand that you’re hurt…I mean…I have known Bums for about ten years…she was my step-mom when I was about eight years old and I know her much more than you do. It sucks that your mom abandoned you and you have to live here alone with a man who doesn’t even spend time with you.”
Gbenga looked at her, she’d hit a nerve.
“If you want me to tell her to go, then, say the word and I’ll do it but if you don’t, just give her a chance. Get to know her and you’ll be glad you did.” She said.
Gbenga said nothing, he turned around and walked away. Jermia watched him leave, she hated to feel this way. She hadn’t expected to feel this way. She was here on a mission to help Bunmi get all or most of Gbenga’s inheritance and she knew that the woman didn’t care for her son at all. She felt so terrible, having to lie to the boy who obviously was so fragile and who felt so alone.
“Really? So you’re leaving this house?” Ola fired at Chekwube.
“You leave me no choice!” Chekwube said.
They were both alone in the kitchen and Ola was angrily dishing out porridge yam onto the plates.
“If you leave, don’t ever come back! Don’t come to visit, don’t come to see me, and don’t ever come back!”
“You are selfish Ola, you think of no one but yourself. Have you forgotten what happened to me in this compound? I walk around with my heart in my mouth because I am scared. Perhaps I would feel better if brother Nosike knew about it but you’ve decided to keep it a secret.” Chekwube said.
“Don’t talk to me about secrets. What do you know? Do you think it’s proper to tell the world that your school uniform was ripped off your body by a man? Do you know that once anyone hears about this, you’re ruined? Rape is a sensitive topic and girls shouldn’t talk about it.” Ola whispered, speaking in their language.
“It didn’t happen to you, that’s why you can speak about it this way. If you experienced it first hand, then you wouldn’t talk like this.” Chekwube fired.
“Do you remember three years ago when I came home from the market with my dress muddy and dirty?” Ola asked.
“Yes, I remember. You said that Okey beat you because you threw his motorbike into the bush.” Chekwube said.
Ola shook her head and Chekwube’s mouth opened in shock.
“He forced me into the farmland and took advantage of me.” Ola said as she tried to blink the tears away. “I came home in tears and told our mother and do you know what she told me? She said that it’s my fault for parading myself in front of Okey and that I should never breathe the word to anyone or I might never get married because no man wants a woman who has been …” She stopped in mid-sentence.
Chekwube didn’t speak, she stared at her sister in silence.
“You are not the first girl that this would happen to and you’re not going to be the last. Many girls have gone through worse but they are not screaming at night or scared of their shadows. The strength of a woman is the ability to bear the worst things with head held high.” Ola said in their language.
“I can’t believe this…you mean Okey…”
“Shut up! Don’t repeat what I told you anywhere biko…” Her sister said.
Chekwube didn’t know what to say.
“I’m just telling you this because as a woman, your self-esteem, dignity and essence could be destroyed easily by the slip of a tongue. When such things happen to you, you bottle them inside and learn to live with it. Don’t go around telling people or you’ll draw the wrong attention to yourself.”
Chekwube picked up one of the plates with the food, she felt her hands shake.
To be continued….
I apologise for not posting the Faith Series yesterday. Do expect a new episode on Thursday, God willing.
Thank you for understanding.