I stumble out of bed at 3:25am to go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time. I have forgotten this annoying part of being pregnant, until now. And this is the exact part that almost put me in trouble back at Mercy’s boyfriend’s place.
Using my phone to illuminate my way about my business – since NEPA, or PHCN, or EEDC have done what they do best – I walk into the bathroom and sit on the toilet bowl, eyes closed in a bid to keep the sleep in my eyes until I hit the sack again.
A tiny beep, followed by short vibrations from my phone, signifies the entrance of a text message. I dally for a second or two, reluctant to open my eyes and check out the sms. Curiosity however wins, and I peel my eyes open and glance that the phone screen. Squinting a little at the blinding light coming from the screen, I click open the text message. It is from an unknown number.
‘You don’t want to know what will happen if you tell what you saw.’
“Huh?” I gasp, as sleep instantly begins to fall away from my eyes.
Stray text? Wrong number? Why at this ungodly hour? I wonder as I hit the Reply button.
‘Sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong number.’
Scant seconds after I sent the message, the reply comes.
‘No. I’m sure you believe no one saw you snooping around the house. My CCTV camera did, and I’m not going to beg you. I am telling you not to tell what you saw, or else…’
The message was left hanging ominously.
I sit there, staring at my phone and rattled to my core. Obviously, the messages are from Chidubem, Mercy’s boyfriend.
I weigh the option of calling his bluff. What can he do? I think. How much of my life does Mercy know? If Mercy knew her boyfriend wants to harm me or my family, will she allow him, or tip me off?
The answers to these questions do not weigh in my favour if I decide to call Chidubem’s bluff. So, I decide to take the threats seriously. I try remembering how many ears have heard the news. Nkaiso, Chinwe, possibly Ebuka. I doubt they would have told anybody yet. I have to ask them not to tell.
“Are you ok?” my husband’s befuddled voice jolts me out of my rumination.
“Er…yes! I…I…I came to pee.” I stammer, jumping up from the toilet seat.
My phone slips from my hand and clatters to the floor.
My husband moves to get it. Alarmed, I bend forward too, not wanting him to see the text message. We bump heads as we reach for the phone.
“Ouch!” he grunts.
“Oomph!” I wince at the same time.
“I just wanted to help you pick up the phone now!” he complains, straightening and rubbing his temple, where my head connected with his.
“Sorry – sorry, dear!” I apologise hastily, scrambling for the phone. A cursory glance at the screen reveals that I shouldn’t have bothered with him seeing the texts. The phone had already gone into sleep mode.
I hurry out of the bathroom, rubbing my forehead, where his head connected with mine.
After moving the text messages to the Archives folder in my phone, and sending text messages to both Nkaiso and Chinwe, asking them to keep what I told them to themselves, I go about my daily activities, singing songs of worship to God, songs of war against the enemy and muttering prayers in-between, foiling every evil plan of Chidubem and his cohorts, while Gabby trips me at every turn. He is obviously tired of playing alone. EEDC people still haven’t deemed it okay to restore power; at least, he would then be watching Barney and be out of my hair.
I am scrubbing out the dish cupboard when I am interrupted by knocks on the front door. I must have been so engrossed in my task, to not have heard the sound of the gateman opening the gate to visitors.
The peephole reveals who they are – Nneamaka and Nuella.
“Gabby! Ella is here!” I call out to my son, as I open the door wide enough to let them in.
“Gbabbyy!” Nuella chants excitedly, while Gabby skips to her from the kitchen, takes her by the hand and they both scamper off into his room.
“Gbabby, &^%$#@ bobo…” I hear Nuella say to Gabby as they go.
“Mcheew! These children sef!” Nneamaka sighs as she takes a seat. “Kee ihe i na-eme?” she enquires, looking me over.
“I’m just doing some clean-up jaré!” I reply, remembering my unfinished business. “Let’s go to the kitchen, so that I can finish up.” Now that I have company, I will just wrap up with the dish cupboard and end my chores there.
“Ok,” she says, getting up from the sofa.
“Our results came out this morning,” she begins with a note of excitement, as I pick my way across the plates scattered on the floor, “and someone called me to say that I made it to the top three…”
I murmur my response to her news distractedly. A thought has been hovering at the cusp of my mind since I heard Nuella say something about ‘bobo’ to Gabby. A second after my distracted response to Nneamaka, the thought finally settles.
“Oh my God…” I exclaim.
“Oo gini?” Nneamaka queries, concern and annoyance playing hide-and-seek across her face as she gives me that ‘This had better be good’ look.
“Yesterday, I dropped Gabby off at NK’s place before going for that party I told you about…” I begin.
“So, as I was leaving NK’s place with Gabby, I bumped into her husband. Gabby refused to greet him o, even when I asked him to!”
“Ahn! Gabby kwa? What did he do to him?” Concern is winning this battle on my friend’s face.
“Do you get?” I say, in concurrence. “So, when we left him, Gabby started complaining. He said something about ‘bobo’. Something like ‘he spoil it’…” My voice trails off in thought. “You know that day we went to Idodo?” I begin again, as I recall another incident
“Ehn, I remember.”
“You know that Gabby’s Elmo teddy? The one he named ‘bobo’?”
“I know that one now! He and Nuella like to play with it and her yellow teddy bear,” Nneamaka says.
“That’s like his favorite toy,” she adds.
“Ehen!! I ma nke m na-ekwu!”
“Ok, so, what about it?”
“Gabby didn’t have it with him that day I brought him home, after our Idodo trip. I thought perhaps Nkaiso’s help had forgotten to pack it in his bag, and I didn’t even remember to ask her last night. And now, I’m thinking, maybe Nkaiso’s husband spoilt the toy.”
“Hian! Ada, ibiakwa! What is Nkaiso’s husband’s business with a child’s toy?” Nneamaka says disbelievingly.
“Well, you’re right. But you know kids their age don’t fabricate stories na. And then again, why did he refuse to greet the man? Gabby who greets even gala and plantain chips vendors along the road.”
“You have a point,” Nneamaka says thoughtfully. “Let’s call him and ask him.”
“Gabby!” I call. “Let’s go to the room and meet them.” I drop the scrubbing brush and picking my way again out of the kitchen. Nneamaka follows closely behind.
We make the short trip through the passage to Gabby’s room in silence.
The two children are colouring on the new colouring book I got for Gabby. He had torn out a page for Nuella to draw on. I groan, swallowing my annoyance at that, with the help of the more pressing concern on my mind.
“Mummy, see!” Gabby chants excitedly the moment he sees me. “See my colour!” He lifts up the page of splashy reds, yellows and greens to me.
“Beautiful!” I beam. “Honey, what happened to bobo?” I ask then, kneeling by his bed, between him and Nuella.
“Bobo,” he repeated.
“Yes, bobo, what happened to it?”
“Bobo,” he says again, pausing his colouring for a short while. “Bobo…my colour…” he says, pointing at the mango he has been colouring pink.
“What was I even thinking?” I mutter to myself. To him, I say, “Yes, my darling, your colour is fine.” I give him a peck on his cheek. I turn to Nuella and peck her too. Standing, I signal to Nneamaka, who has been watching from the doorway, for us to leave.
“So, what are you going to do?” she asks as we walk back to the kitchen.
“I’ll have to ask NK.”
“What will you ask her?”
“If she found my son’s toy that I forgot in her house.”
“Ha! You think she’ll tell you she saw it? That’s, supposing her husband spoilt it?” Nneamaka scoffs.
“NK does not lie,” I say sharply in Nkaiso’s defence.
“Oh! Eziokwu!” Nneamaka scoffs again in total disbelief.
“Ifeanyi’s introduction is next week,” my husband says in between mouthfuls of beans-and-corn porridge.
“Really?” I say indifferently. “Where’s that girl from sef?”
“Anambra State, and that’s where the introduction is taking place.”
“Hmm… I thought she’s from Ebonyi State o.”
“Why would you think that?” my husband eyes me warily.
“Nothing o, just that, that evening Uncle Donatus and Ifeanyi came to advice us” – she put quotation marks on the word ‘advice’ with my fingers – “she seemed friendly with Uncle Donatus. So, I simply thought she knew him from somewhere before Ifeanyi.”
“This woman sef!” My husband chuckles. “Ifeanyi would have introduced them both before they came here now.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I agree, not wanting to go into what I perceived when I heard the two of them talking that other night. I know it will sound crazy. The fact that Leticia had never been in my good books will make my husband not to believe me.
Truth be told, for some crazy moment, I pictured Leticia when Aunty Esther was talking about the woman that broke her home.
“So, are you going for the introduction?” I ask.
“Ehen now! Am I not the father of the house?”
“Oh yes! It’s true sef.”
“I was thinking you and Gabby should come too. Tradition requires that you oversee everything about the feeding of our people with whatever her people present.”
“Hmm…Ok o…” I start to say, when I notice my husband chuckling into his water glass.
“Wait! Why are you laughing?” I ask with a small hopeful smile of my own.
“I know you’re not liking this at all.”
“Of course! I don’t have to go, right?” Relief begins to nudge its way inside me.
“No oh!” he says, snuffing out the relief. “You have to go. You’re my wife. So, you’re like the mother of the house.”
“Mummy nko? Won’t she be coming?” I sulk.
“She will, but you have to start taking over now. You don’t expect her to bend and serve people at her age, more so, when you’re around.” With my sulky expression still intact, he cajoles further, “Nne, biko, inu? Do it for me, my love.”
“I’ve heard. Shebi next Saturday…”
“Yes. That’s my baby!” he beams, reaching to pull me into a hug.
“Rapum aka, biko!” I counter, getting up and out of his reach.
Kee ihe i na-eme? – What are you doing?
Oo gini? – What is it?
I ma nke m na-ekwu – You know the one I’m talking about
Ibiakwa – You have come again
Rapum aka, biko – Leave me please
Written by Adaku J.