Helen was lying on the bed with her beautiful head on my lap. She was wearing bum shorts under something that was too small to be called a vest and too large to be called brassieres, which cut her breasts into two, revealing quite the ample cleavage. This and the sight of her very striking legs left my mouth waterless. But somewhere inside of me, the fear of Dayo/NCCF kept me civil.
Helen was having a wonderful time. She was sucking on a lollypop and chattering. She would suck on the sweet, and then feed it to me. I would suck for few seconds, then she would remove it and return it into her beautiful mouth. So romantic. I wished this was happening in 2017, a million miles from Osun.
Somehow, my hand fell on her chest.
“I thought you were crippled.” She laughed.
As I began to caress her bosom, a knock sounded on the door. My hand snapped off as though it had been laid on an electric cooker. I waited. The knock sounded again, increased this time in sound and urgency.
“Who is it?” I couldn’t recognise my voice.
“It is me,” Uncle Dayo said.
My heart sank.
“Who is that?” Helen asked as she put the lollipop in my mouth.
“Please get up and put on something decent,” I said.
She frowned. “Why?”
“Kings, open the door na,” Uncle called.
I looked at Helen pleadingly. “Please get something else on… It’s the NCCF uncle…”
“And so? Is he a virgin?”
I blinked at her.
She frowned at me. “Are you a virgin?”
“What arrant nonsense,” Helen huffed as she rose to her feet. “If he has never seen a woman in bum shorts before, let him say so.”
As Helen made for the door, the lollipop fell off my mouth.
She unbolted the door and jerked it open, and then, she stood in her skimpy clothing before Dayo like Amber Rose before Pastor Adeboye. Their contrast was near the level of darkness and light. For what seemed a decade, Saint and Non-saint stood looking at each other, too piqued by each other’s respective display of blatant righteousness and blatant iniquity to speak.
I wanted so badly to interfere, break the spell, douse water on perilous fire. But I couldn’t get up because of what was happening in my crotch. I would rather be six feet under the earth at this moment than look his holiness in the eye with the evidence of my crime apparent, arrow-pointed.
“Yeeey!” someone exclaimed. Then I saw Mercy swish past Uncle Dayo to stop breathless before Helen, admiring my guest with unabashed curiosity. She took Helen’s hands as IBK zoomed in. “Oh my God, she is biuriful!”
“Aswear!” IBK affirmed. “She is hot!”
“Where is she?” Agatha shouted as she entered. “I am here to see his babe o!”
Agatha, Tina, Fisayo and Fatima, in that order soon crowded my room, fussing around an embarrassed and elated Helen.
“She looks take-away,” Tina said.
“What is your name?” IBK asked.
Helen said Helen.
“What a sweet name.”
“Why do the good girls fall for bad boys?” Fisayo asked no one in particular.
I began to frown but the whole room laughed, forcing a smile out of me. I looked sharply at the door to see Uncle gone. In his place was Agu, smiling sheepishly, Edwin, smiling jealously, and Micah, leering. I wanted to throw something at the male contingent but gave up the idea as nothing was handy.
“She is so fine,” Fisayo said, and then looked at me with a playful sneer. “At least, someone will have acceptable-looking children.”
The room vibrated with laughter. I opened my mouth to return the hammer, but Micah stepped on me and I gasped with pain instead.
IBK looked at me and warned, “If you ever look at my legs again, I will cut off something. You dare look at me even when you have someone like Helen, ehn?”
“If you cut off something,” Edwin said, “Helen will leave him.”
The room dissolved into a fit of cough and laughter.
“She should leave him o,” Fatima said. “She should go date another man, until this one finds work in an oil company.”
“I swear, he can’t maintain this beauty with 19,800 naira,” Edwin said.
Everyone cackled again.
“Have you seen my beautiful baby?” Tina suddenly broke out in a melodious rendition of Flavour’s song.
“Have you seen my tomato baby o?!” the others chorused. In that moment, Agatha sped away and returned with a bottle of inexpensive wine just as the others were singing, “Better soup na money kill am!”
Helen, that mad girl, did a little dance to the tune and the room exploded into a circus, the ladies ululating, Agu whistling and Edwin clapping his fat palms. I wiped at the sweat on my face as I rose to my feet, standing by Helen, the reluctant groom.
“I have something to say!” Agatha shouted for audience. The mob calmed down and listened. “This is a bottle of very expensive wine in my hand.” She waved the bottle of cheap fruit wine. “We are going to toast for love. Kay is a good neighbour…”
“And a renowned troublemaker,” IBK added.
“Yes!” Agatha agreed. “A real pain in the ass” — my mouth fell open as everyone else laughed and leered and Helen looked a little embarrassed — “who has been conquered by love!”
“Or lust,” an idiot added inaudibly.
Agatha began to unscrew the cork and then – pop! They cheered. I nearly smiled.
“To long lasting love between our Achebe and Helen!” Micah announced.
“Now, let’s hear what our Achebe has to say.”
“Fake Achebe,” that invisible idiot quipped again.
I smiled. Thanks, Micah. I would cut this mob down to size. I would cause them serious injury with my tongue. I would show them who was in charge.
I cleared my throat to begin.
Then Dayo poked his head into the room and his betrayed gaze met my eyes. Power left my joints.
“Please excuse me,” I said, pecked Helen on the cheek, nodded to Micah and went after Uncle Dayo.
He was seated on the bench in the veranda. He looked up when I came out, but my eyes took refuge in the graves opposite us.
“Sit down,” he said, gesturing to the spot beside him.
Ah, but I was not qualified to sit by His presence. I wanted to object. But I kept my mouth shut and sat beside the venerable. It was better to die in His presence anyway.
Dayo handed me a piece of paper. My heart sank when I saw it.
“Read it,” he said, his eyes on my face.
I already knew what was on it even before I collected it, but I read it all the same. Perhaps it wasn’t that bad, I told myself before I started.
It was worse.
“Dear Sir,” I read, “how is your daughter, Jumoke? She has been acting strangely of recent. Why don’t you take her to the hospital and check her thoroughly. Do all manner of tests including pregnancy test on her. Thanks. From a Christian brother who doesn’t approve of abortions.”
“Who wrote that?” Dayo asked.
I wrote this more than a week ago, but I’d completely forgotten it under my pillow. This morning, in my mad rush to make my room habitable for Helen, I had remade my bed, rearranged things, dusted, wiped, cleaned and swept away. That was how I swept away this letter-bomb and somehow, his eminence had gotten hold of it and recognised my duck-crawls handwriting. Now I was cooked, thoroughly.
“Who wrote this letter?” Dayo repeated.
I gave a strangled sigh. Dayo shook his head, caught by the tail of my eye.
“I am really surprised at you,” he said. “A lodge-mate may have impregnated a villager, but rather than confront him and preach against murder, you hid and wrote this silly letter. What kind of a kingdom person are you?”
I suddenly found my toes attractive, as I studied the floor.
“Children are a heritage of the Lord, haven’t you read about that?” It could have being my father scolding me, it could have been worse than my father even. “I don’t know how long ago this is, but I believe the baby is still alive. You must save that baby.”
I looked at Dayo sharply. He nodded. “Yes, you have to save the baby’s life.” He rose to his feet then, before adding, “Or, on the last day, God will tell you, I was in the womb and you let them abort me.”
My jaw sagged. Dayo left.
Then it came, anger and hatred, slowly for Agu. It started from the soles of my feet, bit hard at my ankles, crawled through my legs, hitting hard at my knee-caps, then snaked past my laps, crushed my waist, swam into my belly and squeezed my intestines in a nefarious knot, then bulldozed its way into my heart, burning it. My heart was on fire for a long second before it made its way through my neck, rushed into my head, filling my brain with hot disgust.
I stamped to my feet, grabbed at an iron pole and shook it. I wanted to uproot it, dash into my room and beat Agu into a paddy. But as soon as I touched it, my fury was replaced with cold common sense and lame frustration. I wouldn’t afford to be rash.
Slowly, I made to my room. I opened the door to a pandemonium of cheers, jeers and idiocy.
“Absent from your party!” Mercy accused.
“Hey, come right here,” IBK ordered.
But they stopped short when they saw the debris of my crumbled face.
“What is it?” Micah asked. “Is someone died?”
I nodded. They caught their breaths in fearful unison.
“Who?” someone asked.
“Our principal…” I swear I didn’t say this. The words just fell off my lips.
“Chimoo!” someone exclaimed.
“It can’t be true,” Agatha choked out.
I maintained a poker face.
“What killed him?” Fisayo asked.
“Who told you?” Edwin cut in.
“They are talking about it all over the town,” I replied.
“Chai, that good man.”
I sighed. The principal wasn’t popular among us. He didn’t welcome us for weeks when we were posted here, and had since refused to act upon our complaints of leaking roofs, mal-wired electricity, ‘toiletial’ problem and general welfare. But between the last time they saw him and his ‘death’, he had become transformed from the epitome of official malevolence into a near-saint. Nigerians!
The ‘sad news’ stood in the room like a bad smell until every one of the partiers left with sagged shoulders.
Helen came and put her hands around my neck. “I am so sorry to hear this, darling. You must have liked the man.”
I nodded. “He was like a father to me.”
“Eiyah,” Helen consoled, before burying her head in my shoulder. “God will comfort you.”
If not for the foreboding of Jumoke’s pregnancy, I would have burst out laughing. But I couldn’t help it when, a few minutes later, I picked up my phone and saw that Edwin had updated his Facebook status with: ‘Rest in peace, my Principal. God knows best.’ I hugged my pillow and laughed at the top of my voice.
“What is it?” Helen was startled.
In response, I doubled over with more laughter.
“What is it nau? Are you going mad?”
I forced a pause. “Edwin…” I choked out. “Edwin and the principal—hic—are friends on Facebook.” And I dissolved into salty particles of mirth.
Written by Kingsley Okechukwu, tweets @Oke4chukwu, and blogs at kingkingsley.wordpress.com