The chaos raged on. Governor Wike and his comic band went all over the place endorsing rivals for political office and making crazy donations to people who did not need more money. Parts of the country were almost submerged in flood. Farmlands, moveable property, and human beings were being washed away like litter. The criminally taciturn Federal Government continued to keep mum. Peter Obi suspended his campaign to visit the victims. Speculation over the health and well-being of Atiku and Tinubu continued to overshadow campaigns, even as the latter at different fora dropped quote after quote that would make MKO Abiola turn in his grave. ASUU finally called off their nine-month strike. Oil theft stole the headlines as it was uncovered that about a million barrels of crude got stolen every day, nearly half of what the country, incapable of meeting her OPEC quota, produced. The economy continued to groan amid crippling debts. Food inflation would not abate. The Ooni of Ife scuppered all rationalization as he married wife after wife, week after week in recent times. Women of such substance as would make you rethink everything you knew about evolving times. Lizz Truss quit as UK prime minister after forty-four days setting a new record just as continued threats by Russia revived old nuclear fears in Central Europe.
Katakata street was quiet that night. Electricity supply had been good. The generators were given a rest. Twenty-four hour live television with foreign soap operas said hi. But for the occasional exclamations or urgent laughter or stifled moans from the varied activities ongoing in the different double room enclosures, it was the sort of atmosphere that brought out the best in anyone wishing to ponder about their life.
Chisco sat alone on the soak-away slab. He was alone only as far as a naked eye could perceive, for his spirit guide ensured that the conversation with himself never ceased.
“You are looking at her that way again. You never learn.”
“I have learnt. But she has a body like nothing I have seen before. She and her daughter.”
“You are a half-baked wizard now because of that body. Move back to your own place. In fact, move from this environment altogether and be what you purposed to be. You said in the coven you didn’t want a full initiation because you wanted to live like a normal person. It’s one thing to desire something and another altogether to take action. No matter how good your intentions are if you wake up in the same place every day doing the same things as before you will slip back into old habits faster than you can imagine.”
Eyonyam came out of the compound just then. His spirit guide fell silent and watched.
Chisco shifted uncomfortably on the soakaway. She wore a white tshirt wthout a bra. She tied a one-piece wrapper one inch above her knee. She looked this way and that way and when her eyes settled on him she approached and sat beside him.
“How you dey feel now?” He said to her.
“I dey fine.”
“Wetin been do you?”
“Dem broke my head na. Abi you don forget?”
“I know but I no con understand how you con enter coma. You just lie dia like dead body for two month.”
“You no like as I no die?”
“But why you no just wake up when dem repair ya head finish? Die you no die. Well you no well,”
“My inlaw which kind talk be dis one naw?”
“And when you wake up you con dey talk like mama Akunna. Small time you go talk like yaself. You let Mama Akunna dey talk with ya mouth. Now I wan know wetin dey happen. You don get yaself finish abi you still dey share ya head with Mama Akunna?”
“I be myself. That woman remove ten nut for my head with dat pilon. She no go carry dat pikin wey dey her belle.”
“Wetin you wan do?”
“Make we dey look. D man no marry am. As d man dey fuck me na so hin dey fuck am. Wetin make am tink say hin fit wound me like dat? We go see,” she finished with a snap of her fingers.
Chisco thought about Sister Esther and her pregnancy. What now?
“I no know wetin I been dey talk when I wake up. But my head don correct now.”
“You even say you wan begin sell ogogoro.”
“I tell you say I don get myself now. Make I show you.” She reached out and caressed his fly. His penis did not need a second invitation to stand at attention.
“You give me winch,” Chisco said.
“Me, Ogbu-Agu, because of you don turn to person wey dey fly for night.”
“Na you been wan fuck by force. I try make you leave me but you no gree. You fuck me come disgrace me ontop. Wetin I do you? When you put hand inside potopoto, you no know wetin go follow ya hand come outside.”
“I no wan live that life.”
“E go hard.”
“You go see. That winch, I no go do am.”
She was still caressing his fly. She squeezed and a moan escaped his lips.
“Get up and leave now,” his spirit guide said to him.
“Oya go look Evae and hin pikin,” Chisco said and put his hand over hers to stop her action.
“Dem don sleep. I come call you say make you come inside. Cold dey for hia.”
The breeze was cool following the light rain from earlier that day. No one had passed for five minutes. They could hear the sound of the television from one of the downstairs rooms. Eyonyam undid his zip with a dexterity of fingers that left Chisco’s mouth on the floor and took his hard flesh in her hand.
“Make we enter inside.”
“Don’t.” It was his spirit guide. As loud as Sister Esther of yore warning the Street about the perils of hell.
“No. I no want,” Chisco submitted meekly.
She did a quick 360° of her surroundings. Sure again that they were alone, she bent over him and slurped on his penis for a minute and came up again and said “Make we dey go.”
“Go back to your place instead,” came the voice from inside him.
Eyonyam, with hand strokes made smoother by copious spittle enjoyed the tortuous look in his eyes as he battled with his higher reasoning. Another squeeze and Chisco was on his feet. He did not bother to disguise his nonchalance as he let her lead him into the house.
It was just past midnight. Sister Esther was groaning and holding her lower abdomen. She had been experiencing frequent sensations of abdominal tightening and consistent dull backache in the past week. There had been light bleeding as well. When she touched herself now and looked, she saw mucus-like discharge mixed with more blood than usual. It was only twenty-eight weeks. Lord Jesus, what was going on?
She reached out and shook Mr Kingsley by her side. He muttered something indiscernible and rolled onto the other side and began to snore. She shook him with as much effort as she could muster and said “Please wake up. Help me. I see blood.”
That got his full attention. He became as lucid as a night owl and was on his feet in a heartbeat.
“Something is wrong. I don’t like the way I’m feeling.”
“What could it be?” he said as he fumbled around for his shorts.
“I don’t want to think it might be the baby. It’s too soon.”
“There is something mighty suspicious about declaring an emergency for something that is yet to show itself to be a grand pandemic – Billy Corgan,” he said.
“Billy Corgan kill you there! Go and call the nurse!”
“Yes yes yes” he said as he buttoned his shorts and threw a tshirt over his shoulder and exited the room.
Josephine lay in bed flipping through her phone photo gallery and pinching herself. It had been two hours since she turned in but sleep continued to elude her. Why did she even think that it was going to be different? She dialed his number again and the automated voice repeated what it had been telling her the past three days. The number you have dialed is switched off.
Maya said she did not know where he went off to. She only heard him and Clementina talking in hushed tones on Clementina’s last day in the house too. For all they knew, Clementina and Joseph were not friends. She did not think that some obscure family tree connection where they had never met until recently was enough reason to see him as anything other than a stranger. His infatuation with Maya in the beginning only strengthened that line of thought. Then one evening, while Maya was supposed to be in the bathroom they entered into a deep conversation, and the following morning before Josephine returned from her night shift they were gone from their lives.
Irikefe confirmed that he had not paid any money as rent for the shop despite collecting 500,000 naira from Josephine for that purpose. He had also taken the 300,000 that was supposed to be his start-up capital and a further 200,000 under the guise of registering the business and payment of levies to the local government – explanations Josephine did not understand and did not bother to probe. When you are in love you trust isn’t it? Then again, what was one million naira in the present economy? How far was it going to take him? Josephine was convinced it was just God punishing her. Because it really did not make any sense.
She deserved the punishment. Because before she arrived at the decision not to be attached to any man she had learnt enough to have kept herself safe but she ignored the telltale signs because of his ability to give her mind-bending orgasms. Stay away from a man that asks you for money. It does not matter the circumstance. Men are wired to be proud providers. A man who wants you will go to the end of the world to impress you. He will kill, and steal if he has to to prove his credentials. If he needs you to make him a man then he is not ready. No one knows what a man is capable of until he has money. Giving him yours is paying him to break your heart. Today’s relationships will continue to be a cesspool of tears whilst humanity strays from natural precepts. Josephine already knew all this.
Maybe it was time to finally close her legs and see what the world had in store for her. She felt surprised at how good it felt when she inadvertently stayed celibate for a few months before letting Joseph in. A little restraint was always a good thing.
The banging on her door brought her back to the present. “Nurse! Nurse!”
“Who is that?”
“It is me.”
It was not a voice she recognized. “You, who?”
“Kingsley. I have a sick woman in my room.”
“Come to the door woman!”
“Oga you are not ready.”
“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just – Pope Francis.”
It was then Josephine knew who it was. That mad man. Sister Esther!
She flew out of bed. Luckily she was in full pygamas. She reached for her first aid kit from the locker beside her bed and followed him downstairs.
It was preterm labour. It was not something she could deal with there in the stuffy room with a demented man in attendance. Already, he had uttered so many ridiculous quotes that spoke to raw fear.
“We must get her to the hospital at once sir.”
Those were the words Mr Kingsley wanted to hear.
“We have to live with a sense of urgency so that not a minute is wasted – Les Brown,” he said and was out of the door. He returned twenty minutes later with Mr Cosmas in tow.
“Let’s carry her. We found a guy with keke who will take us.”
“I can’t come like this,” Josephine said. But once you get to the hospital they will take care of her.”
Josephine went back to her room and cried.
Castro met Irikefe at the uncompleted building down the road. They could not stay in Irikefe’s room anymore as he now had roommates. There was tension in the compound such that hanging around there did not seem palatable either.
“Dem say Sister Esther born pikin and the pikin die,” Castro said. “Dem say she say she no wan come back to the house. Her mama sister dey pack her load now. When dem discharge am from hospital she go dey go from there. End of an era.”
“I no blame am. Human being no fit live with Undertaker. She kuku try.”
“As women dey feel say dem must marry by force, na so people like Undertaker go dey happen to them.”
“Dem say she dey call Evae mama name for hospital. She dey shout nwanyi Togo! nwanyi Togo! throughout.”
“Shey Chisco talk am say the woman na winch.”
“Guy, e hard to believe say winch get that kind nyash. Wetin she go gain? Na people like Mama Akunna wey dry like bonga fish dey be winch. No be fine woman like dat. As she begin dey give Chisco the kpekus you don hear am talk again?”
“Shey you remember wetin I see that woman dey do that year wey Agbonyankee still dey. Dem say person wey dey die dey know who dey kill am. Make Sister Esther go find another place to live. Maybe she go leave prick concentrate on her evangelism now. Me sef dey find house.”
“Wetin you mean by say you dey find house? A whole caretaker.”
“Carbondioxide and him papa wan use mess kill me every night. I can’t take it no more.”
“Una dey sleep for the same room?”
“Dem dey sleep for the inner room. Since dem come na only beans dem dey cook. Baff dem no dey baff.
Once dem enter bed e go be like say na competition. Praa praa proom proom faaa faaa faaa till morning.”
Castro tried to be sympathetic. Stifling his laughter was causing the visible blood vessels on his forehead to engorge dangerously.
“Laugh if you wan laugh. Because very soon, you no go see me for here again.”
Castro did not need another invitation. He fell on the floor and held his stomach. “my belle o! praa praa proom proom faaa faaa faaa!”
Ndifreke knocked on Maya’s door. She had been expecting the call. She rose and met him at the door.
“What do you want?” She said.
She looked well. Lord, she looked more than well. Her skin was like polished alabaster. Her face was like brown satin. There was sadness in her eyes, but it only gave off the quality of a magnet. Never had he felt an urge so strong to hug someone as he looked at her. She must have felt it because she took one step back.
“Did you hear about sister Esther?”
“Yes. So what?”
“I…I was worried about you when I heard what happened to her.”
“Thanks for caring but as you can see I am in good health and my last scan shows my baby is alive and well too.”
“You cannot live alone like this. Imagine if Mr Kingsley was not with Sister Esther to get help when he did, she would have been gone too.”
“I am in perfect health Mr Ndifreke. In fact, my doctor predicts that I would drive myself to the hospital when I’m due. That’s how well I am.”
“No one knows that for sure.”
“Well, I know that for sure. Only I don’t have a car to be able to prove it to you when the time comes.”
“Please…please. How can you even come here? I don’t want to talk abeg. If it makes you feel better, I will like to remind you that Nurse Josephine lives next door and she checks on me often. At night I lock my door with a key and she has the spare to be able to come in if I need her. She keeps her phone on with the ringing volume turned up for my sake.”
“What if she is on night duty?”
“Then I’ll call mama Cowbell or Evae or her mother or anyone. I am not living in a fenced mansion where people cannot reach me if I need help.”
“Please go away Ndi. Go away.”
TO BE CONTINUED.