Doctor Moremi had done everything medically possible for Marshall. The shock of seeing a replica of himself had flayed him and for a moment, his lungs had refused oxygen. He had laid in bed
Doctor Moremi had done everything medically possible for Marshall. The shock of seeing a replica of himself had flayed him and for a moment, his lungs had refused oxygen. He had laid in bed for over an hour, shaking his head, his eyes bulging, when he finally fell asleep, Dr. Moremi spoke with Charity in her room.
“That was shocking to me too.”
“How is his health entirely first?”
“Not to worry. He is very fine. Let him take the medications and supplements accordingly. There is no need flying out, it was just a sign, the delay is what made his body porous to attacks.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes. Ejima, your brother is well. Now that you guys are three. What do I call you all at once.”
Charity refused to laugh.
“He is not one of us!”
“I will agree with you after I have proven myself wrong with a DNA test.”
“We are not doing any. It’s just out of the blue!”
“Yes. Out of the blue! That’s how things happen!” Dr. Moremi finished throwing her hands in the air.
“Marshall will not want anything alarming or….that will excite social media towards him.”
At that instant, their eyes collided. She faked seriousness. Bee smiled. She hated it. He was so ugly when he smiled and his darkening small set of teeth added to it.
“Nasty. Nasty Cigar Man.” She told herself.
“Well, you should have asked him at least to know.”
“That might be bad for politics.” Bee replied to what Charity was saying to Marshall.
“You should have a meeting with him on that account knowing that he is your God father. The door was open.” He pointed out to them, the reason he overhead them and stepped in.
“Charity, I want to see you.”
“Hmmm.” Came Charity’s Curt reply.
Bee excused himself and walked away.
Charity and Marshall were discussing what happened at the fund raising event. Marshall had enjoyed the evening, although avoiding alcohol on the account of his health but very enthusiastic about meeting the helm of aristocracy and plutocracy in Abuja again. His usual pep talks with different groups at intervals amidst the event sailed accurately till it came to him from credible whisper that there was another young candidate also slated to be a senator. Marshall had smiled afterwards with everyone even his uncle but frowned his way home. Charity was saying he could have asked their uncle about it before Bee stepped in.
“You remember the UI student who stood up to a lecturer for a script re-mark, the news was carried by Daily Son and Punch newspapers years years back.”
“I heard about that faintly.”
“That’s the guy, my opposition.”
“You studied in UK, that’s an edge.”
“Given Nigerians and their dramatic politicking, that’s a wrong edge.”
Charity rolled her eyes. “You worry more than Warri people, go take some air outside and meet him tomorrow. Let me go and see what the Cigar Man had to say.”
“That’s what they’ve been calling him, really?”
“Yes mango head, really. Nasty isn’t it?”
At the foot of the stairs, Bee was saying,
“I am taking this opportunity to say that I am sorry for all that has happened between us. I got everything wrong and I am not only happy that your brother is getting better but that you people are nice people.”
As he talked, Charity took another concern to his eyes, they looked very open, fixed, focused like that of an eagle. Charity wished he could simply start crying so she can console him and put his head on her soft chest. She quickly snapped out of her overrunning imaginations smiled, laughed and tapped his cheek, “Run along, will you?”
Sofiri and Abu were kicking a football to each other when Bee joined them. He stood by the side. Charity joined him. Together they enjoyed Sofiri and Abu’s leg-work. Marshall was the last to walk in to the fun. He had a glass of wine in his left hand.
Sofiri started as he kicked and ran to and fro.
“Our Senator, you should listen to Cigar Man, I mean Bee, Benson. He was a leading president of our…”
“You say whaat? His name is Benson?” Asked Charity loudly.
The twins burst out into a long cackle. The Cigar Man only watched them.
“No wonder… O.. Your mother never missed the shot!”
Sofiri and Abu looked at each other and stayed silent.
At 9pm that day, Charity could not understand why she was searching the house for Bee. His friends were in the small sitting room feeding their eyes. Marshall was in her room, they had been on phone with their cousins in Canada. She made up her mind to see Bee often and converse with him especially since they will be leaving in five days. It was when she trotted into the kitchen that it finally hit her. Cannabis and friends. She unlocked the back door.
Bee ignored her and continued to puff the smoke in his mouth. She fought herself, then, took a position in front of him, hands clutched by her side. She was pissed.
“It was the day my mother died that I drew my first smoke. Here, take a turn. I heard your both parents are dead too.”
“But I did not smoke nor become an addict of some sort and that makes me stronger.”
“Depending on the age and what your story is.” Bee sang last.
Marshall sat still for hours reading about politics, campaign and the law the next day. An iPad in his hand, watching speeches by world notable politicians, Ford was his ideal God-father.
He had met his uncle earlier that day and he had confirmed that the UI guy might well be his opposition. Marshall had said, “Well, that is very wise. You know Lord Mustapha, opposition is what makes it politics.”
His uncle had applauded him and even embraced him, that made Marshall question his uncle’s sanity. Later on, Marshall concluded that his uncle acted weirdly because he was experiencing the guilt of risking a promise he had made to a dead man. All Marshall could do from that moment was to help him fulfil the promise.
Marshall and Frank Ade were before their God-fathers, leaders and predecessors. He swallowed and pondered that the history of Nigeria is woven in kingdoms, clans and gatherings where older men were the permitted ordained leaders. Little wonder, the country might continue to have a succession of old men and women as leaders till the day breaks. He also sensed that that was what his father was trying to adjust. Lord Mustapha was the youngest among the elites present and his father had aided his political victories. He must help Lord Mustapha do same. It was like a joke on the platform when Senator Magnus asked that if it occurs that one of them was wrong in a public gathering, as an accountable Senator, what will be their respond in form of a counter. Frank Ade had looked at Marshall, spiritually edging him to speak first. Silence took a while before Marshall answered.
“Although in politics, there is no permanent enemy and there is no permanent friend but loyalty is a backdrop. I will not counter my fellow party member in public especially since the mass media is a ready watchdog. A party meeting will be held later for proper discussion and a press conference will follow to abate the situation. That is what press conferences are for, to amend issues.”
The spectators began to nod, soaking in his brilliant reply.
It was Frank’s turn.
“A political party should be versatile both in humans and variety of behaviours. Thus, a stereotype party presents a single idea to the people. I will make an open encounter on a party member that is wrong so that the world can see that we are not all in error at once and that the people might know that a political party that will deliver transparency and accountability to the people starts from within them.”
Marshall didn’t know what happened that made Frank Ade’s words take a form of charm. The sound of claps and ovation sprang up and took over the room. Suddenly, Marshall remembered himself and began to clap too, smiling his itchy armpit.
Back home, he did not leave his room till the next day and had refused to talk to his sister about it. Charity wasn’t even handy, she was busy those few days visiting her friends both married and breastfeeding.
The three friends mostly ate in the kitchen, it seemed they were drawn to Tony or cooking and eating. But that night Charity had invited them to seat at the dinning and eat like kings for once.
As they settled around, Abu bemoaned, “Na this kind thing feat pain person o, after you don eat for table finish, you go come go back to ground.”
Everyone laughed. Bee slapped Abu’s head.
“You sabi disgrace person. Hausa goat.”
Laughter again. Bee the Cigar Man looked more successful than all of them and Charity sensed that he had started becoming uneasy about the poverty air around him and his friends. Given the opportunity, Charity reasoned that Bee would like to ask a woman like her out and drive in to pick her in a flash car just to impress her. Nigerians call his attitude ‘forming.’ He sat down close to Sofiri like eating on a table was not a new thing to him. Charity smiled his attitude. She was loving how restless he had become because of her.
Marshall had told Charity that he had eaten out and needed to rest. His sister elbowed that and went to eat with the others. The meal consumption was going on when Marshall grazed in and occupied a seat. Tony appeared and served him. Sofiri looked at Marshall.
“Are you OK?”
“Do I look unok to you? Eat the food and run along.”
“You and your sister did English classes together, I see.” Bee said calmly.
“That is your burden.” Retorted Marshall.
“I can’t wait to get home to find out who you are.” Sofiri added.
“Why don’t you find yourself first. My family is well pronounced. Freeman is a prominent ring of a name. So who are you?”
Sofiri smiled and drank some wine.
“Small pikin dey worry you.” He finally replied.
“That’s enough Sofiri.” Charity ordered. “Marshall what is wrong with you? What’s the problem. Start spilling it. I know something is not right.”
“I am fine. Stop. I just have a little question to ask…while ignoring these whole insult on my person. Like, if you were asked to choose either to visit an orphanage or a company that holds a strong economic importance before your election. Which will you readily visit?”
Before Lord Mustapha, Frank had answered first, “Orphanage of course, emotional appeal is a very strong political strategy.”
Marshall had strongly answered, “Your real estate company, because the brain behind the fame needs to be appreciated. That’s where your wealth comes from, the wealth that channels provisions to the orphanage. We should not overlook your workers. A good coverage of the company while heralding its importance to the people should be a better choice.”
Marshall was surprise to see his uncle get up angrily after his reply.
He pointed at Marshall.
“Don’t you ever in your life think that the company came before the orphanage. Don’t you ever undermine my orphanage. Ever!”
Marshall was irresistibly provoked. He pushed back his chairs and walked away. As his driver drove him home, he punched is left palm. Bee had advised him to give that answer and he had failed again allowing Frank Ade aim more points over him. What was more confusing was his uncle’s tatty attitude towards the whole thing. He was acting like he wanted Marshall to back out and allow Frank Ade become the Senator or was rather acting like a puppet, controlled by whomever.
Marshall stormed into the house, Sofiri was sitting at the lobby with his friends.
“Have I met you people in my life just to spite me?”
Charity was at the living room typing on her Personal Computer, she heard his voice and went to him.
“Really? All I could get is another pass of trial. For once, I have people around me and they are still of no use.”
“Watch what you are saying to us there.” Came Bee’s retort.
“You shouldn’t be here, you should be in your rat house painting.”
Bee rose from his seat.
“You came to meet me in my rat house, you weakling.”
Marshall threw a punch that didn’t land on Bee’s jaw. He had dodged and Sofiri was getting up. Marshall’s fist collided with Sofiri’s ear. He groaned.
“Wetin be all this wahala na?”
“Your brother punched you.”
Sofiri and Marshall gazed at each other intensely. Charity was tired of the situation.
“He is not my brother! How did I even meet all of you? Get out! Get out all of you, out of my house.”
“You can’t hide that manipulative nature of yours, that’s how your brother is too.”
“Bee shut up!”
“I won’t and I dey comot now. I no even know wetin I dey do here? Na wetin dey happen to person wey leave him house pack enter another man house na him be this. And I am leaving here now. For the records, your look alike here, my friend attempted to dupe me once and had also attempted to rob me with a mask that’s why when I saw you looking like him with this woman, I thought he was up to something again. I had to protect myself. I have apologised enough especially by coming here. “
Sofiri was short of words. He sat down tiredly and looked away. Bee walked into the house, Charity ran after him. Marshall stood still looking at Sofiri.
He threw a paper he had been squeezing hardly on the floor and went in too.
Bee was inside the toilet smoking. Charity heard him flush. Bee knew she was in the room. He declined her pleas to come out and have a talk with her. Charity waited till she was fed up. She stretched herself and laid down on the bed. She reckoned that all that was causing the problem was Sofiri’s lineage. They had not found out who he really was. No one knew anything yet they were in her home. Harmony cannot strive in discordant tunes. They must all go together to find out the truth. She didn’t know when her thoughts drove her to dream land.
Bee came out to find Charity sound asleep. He stood, hands in akimbo for minutes starring at her form.
Not knowing what else to do, he paced the room. He was still angry with everything and felt weak. Carefully, he climbed to the space in bed beside Charity and stretched himself. They were sleeping.
Sofiri and Abu had found them in that picture and walked away. The whole house was plunged in silence from that evening till the break of a new day. Charity woke up to Bee’s tap and the aroma of hot coffee. She had woken up at 1am at night and realised she was not in her own bed. In the partial darkness, she beheld him in the peace of sleep, a bit far from her. She buried her head in the bed, giggled and slept off again. She was definitely on a different kind of leave.
Marshall and his sister had gone to meet their uncle the next. Mustapha, on seeing them began to laugh. He laughed harder when they must have sat down opposite him in his office.
“Daughter. How are you, how is your leave treating you?”
“Very well uncle. You are in a festive mood today. What’s going on with you and my brother?”
Mustapha had a good laugh again before speaking, “Someone once told me that opposition is what makes it politics.”
“Yes and my brother is up to it.”
“Do not tell me you have been pulling my legs uncle.”
“Of course. We were only strengthening you a bit, here and there.” He smiled. “Oh come on. I am Lord Mustapha here. A promise is a promise and besides, there is no better youth leader than my own nephew.”
“Really now uncle.”
Marshall threw his head back, “Oh I can’t believe this.”
“So what will happen to Frank Ade?” Queried Charity.
“He is a member of the party for now, that’s all.”
“Uncle that was unnecessary.”
Mustapha retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead.
“In politics, strategies resemble drama.”
That day marked Charity’s life. An amazing morning having breakfast with a man in one room. It was like her rules broke itself in her own home. Very awkward. She and her brother will join them to Port Harcourt the next day.
And when the woman looked at Sofiri and Marshall, she hugged herself and smiled first. Water formed two lines on her cheeks before she began to sob.
“Good man. Cheeeh, good man. Have you people seen? Sofiri and your father has died, look at how he died after he almost killed me… Now look at your brothers.”
Sofiri’s siblings, two young girls and a little boy sat with their visitors, all focused on Chiege.
“Just look at. Look at good people now. Should I cry for my dead child, your shameless father or your good father… Good man… Make una come see good man o. If I say I never meet people wey good pass for this life, na lie I talk. Big lie”
Chiege had lived in Abuja with her husband who had been wealthy. His constant battery on her began after her first miscarriage. He was a ruthless man who thought it his right to do what he pleased with his wife.
After three miscarriages and two still births, Chiege’s husband threatened vehemently to kill her if she did not come home with a male child during her sixth pregnancy. On the delivery date, Chiege had delivered a son. She had been in labour for two days, weeping and recounting her stories to the whole hospital. She wept and shouted out her pain, begging the doctors and nurses to make sure her child came out alive and healthy. Most persons already knew her story before she put to bed. There was a huge cloud of happiness in the hospital when she delivered the baby boy alive. Her husband had sent words that he will come and visit her the next morning. The messenger had even added that he was singing and dancing at his office. Chiege made the nurses lay the baby close to her. She kept praying that it was real. That the child was hers to suckle and mother. The husband and wife sharing the same room with her had also consoled her and begged her to calm down and put all her trust in God. They had triplets, two boys and a girl. The next morning, Chiege was very sorry to hear that one of the woman’s children had died. She felt deeply wounded that she wept with the woman. She was already a woman of easy tears. Chiege had three other children six years later, after her first son. Her husband was later laid off and frustrated. At the bottom of it, they had to move back to his state. She was a Delta woman.
She suffered further assault and domestic violence from her husband till he died one day in the streets, on his way back from his drinking affairs.
She continued to weep heartily. Chiege touched Sofiri, Marshall and Charity over and over again. What a lonely secret. Now she looked at them, she had realised that the parents of the three children had prevented her death or what could have been. It was her own child that had died.
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