Voke sat staring at his book. He had tried reading but the words in the book danced before his eyes and his thoughts drifted back to the argument, he had with Friday earlier that day. He had tried to make him see reason, but his elder brother had been adamant. He was determined to see the robbery through. Out of anger, he had picked his bag and returned back to school. Since he had known Friday, he has always been stubborn, despite his been sickly.
Friday had taken care of him, from the day, he found him on the street, after he had been beaten and thrown out of his foster parent’s house after being accused as being a witch by his foster mother. She had used to love him when she had no child of her own, but the moment his foster brother was born, her attitude towards him changed. Friday had told him that he had been searching for him for years. He said their mother was dead and best forgotten but he had not said anything about their father. “I shouldn’t have let him go. I should have argued harder against the idea. God, I hope he does nothing to worsen the situation o.” he thought to himself, shaking his head in worry. His phone started ringing. He looked at the caller ID; it was Friday calling.
Voke: “bros how far? Where you dey?” he asked; his voice filled with worry.
Obaro: “omo no be Friday o. Friday don die o.” he replied; his voice sounding hollow over the phone.
Voke: “what! I tell am o… I tell am say make e no go o. Jesus, I don die o.” the boy wailed as the phone fell from his grasp and tears fell from his eyes.
The phone rang again, the call ended when he dropped the phone. He looked at it and saw that it was still Friday, he picked it angrily.
Voke: “na una cause this thing o. Una know say e no well but una long throat no let una see road. Shebi e don die una don bellefull?” he asked, anger seeping into his voice, even as the tears rushed on.
Obaro: “guy the level no be small thing o. Na e papa house he carry us go o.” he said as soon as Voke finished screaming.
Voke: “e go rob our papa? I no understand. So Friday know where our papa dey na e no talk?” he asked rhetorically.
Obaro: “the man na one doctor. No be doctor for hospital o. Na all this book doctor dem. After we finish, Friday come tell me say, make we comot town first then also make you too still travel small. Na only me and Orezi cover our face, he no cover e own. He do transfer money go una savings account. He say make you use that one take care for yourself. He inject himself with something after we don dey wan go. I get to dey go, Orezi don enter road to Ghana. Me, I dey go village dey go farm small. Take care of yourself o.”
Voke: “wait..wait…wetin be the man name?” he asked.
Obaro: “doctor Fejiro Anigboro. He get three daughters. You get sisters. Bye bye.” He said and ended the call.
Voke sat before his books, the quiet phone in his hand, staring at the window. “Friday don die… I have sisters… Friday don die… I have sisters…” the words rolled in his head like dice as tears slowly gathered on his eyelids and fell to the opened page of his book.
Brukeme stared at the police in a daze. He was disoriented and he felt sick. He sat by himself on the veranda of the house after Dr Fejiro’s house. The drone of mosquitoes and the biting cold of night did not bother him. He just stared on like someone who has lost his thinking faculty. A footstep sounded near him and someone sat beside him.
Fidelia: “have the police finished questioning you?” she asked shyly, unable to look at his face.
Brukeme turned to look at her, his face questioning. He had not heard her question. Fidelia repeated her question, then he nodded his head.
Brukeme: “half of the time I was passed out so I didn’t really have anything to tell them.” He replied. He turned to look at her suddenly; “how did he die? the leader of the robbers, I mean?” he asked.
Fidelia sighed and looked at the police man talking with her father at the front of their house. Her two sisters were not there; neither was her mother. They were still passed out in the room.
Fidelia: “this night was a weird night. So many things happened that were curious. He committed suicide.” She said, then she stood up.
Brukeme looked at her, surprise in his eyes. She nodded and turned to look at her father’s direction again.
Brukeme: “why would he do that? The police came only after your father called them, according to what I was told.” He replied.
Fidelia: “he looked at you, raised your arm, then he laughed and said something like ‘karma’s a bitch’ I think, then he told my father that he has sent an avalanche his way and that he should get ready, then he drank a liquid from a bottle different from the one he had used on you guys. Within minutes, he was dead.” she replied.
Brukeme’s eyes widened in shock.
Fidelia: “it was a curious night. I am too tired to think and too scared to find out the truths, my thoughts will reveal. I just want to find somewhere to curl and hide. I guess you will have to tell your parents what happened?” she said, looking at him speculatively. “how much do you remember?” she suddenly asked.
Brukeme: “the last thing I can remember clearly was seeing people on their knees in your living room then I blacked out. Although I had a weird dream.” He replied, looking at her from the corner of his eyes.
Fidelia heaved a sigh of relief. “If he knows nothing about the rapes then let it remain so. I guess he wanted that burden to be mine.” She thought to herself. “where is your house in this estate?” she asked, speaking aloud.
Brukeme: “I don’t live here.” He replied, absentmindedly, his thoughts still on the weird dream he had.
Fidelia: “you don’t live on the estate! Then what were you doing, loitering around by that time of the night, we met?” she asked, suspicion in her eyes.
Brukeme: “it is not what you think. I am a bus driver. I had just returned the keys to the bus owner, who had asked for them, saying that my services were no longer required. I was contemplating my next move, when I saw you walk passed. The way you walked, bouncing like you had excess energy to spare, made me want to know you and that is the truth. I know nothing about the robbers.” He replied, guessing at the reason behind the suspicious look in her eyes.
Fidelia: “it doesn’t matter. We will never meet again. Ever. Do have a good life sir….” She stopped him as his mouth opened; “please don’t. I don’t want to know your name or anything about you.” She added, then she walked away.
Brukeme: “but I want to know everything about you. But life has never cared about what I want now, has it?” he said to himself, watching the girl walk back to her family.
He watched the father put his hands around her shoulder and hug her close to him. The man was whispering words to her but his penetrating gaze was on him. He knew it was time to leave. He got up, dusted the seat of his trousers and started back to the gate of the estate. Along the way, it began to rain but what else is new; life’s a bitch.
Ashley returned to her meagre possessions arranged beside the door of a sympathetic prostitute, Ehis, whom she had never spoken to before. The girl gave her bucket to take water to bathe, let her dress up in her room and even gave her food to eat. When she was done, she packed what she needed into a small bag and burnt the rest. She smoked as she burnt her old clothes. She ignored the customers who came late into the night, to patronise the girls. For her, that life was ended, she was going to start afresh but first, somebody will pay for her destroyed dreams and her poverty; somebody will pay. She blew smoke into the darkening sky, as the first raindrop fell on her. She laughed; “are we all not saints and sinners? But the same rain falls on us all, Lord.” She cackled again. Then she turned her back on the smouldering ashes of her burnt clothes, picked the small bag by Ehis’ veranda and walked away, never looking back.
She arrived Bendel Estate in a keke, as the rain pelted down on the torn tarpaulin, the keke claimed as protection from the elements. She had borne the cold as the keke sped through the porthole roads of Warri. The tarpaulin had managed to get her as wet as those standing directly under the rain, but Ashley’s mind was not on this. For the first time, in years, her mind was clear. It was as if, burning the clothes had removed the dew from her eyes. She could think clearly for the first time. It was like waking from a deep sleep but the sleep had been long and time has moved on.
The keke arrived at the house, she was headed to and she alighted. She paid the driver and walked to the gate. She knocked and the peephole on the gate opened. A bulging eyeball peered angrily through the hole at her.
Gateman: “yes…” he asked rudely.
Ashley: “tell Madam Stella, that a friend from Spain, Ashley, seeks her aid.” She replied, in impeccable English.
The eyeball roved over her faded green gown and the tattered bag hanging on her side and blinked. A long hiss followed the blink and the peephole clanged shut. She wiped the rain from her face and sighed. She turned to look at the deserted road. It was late…very late. A woman out on the road by this time was asking for trouble and the chances of her getting what she asked for was very high in this town. She knew this very well. She had heard tales from colleagues who stand along the roads; of what they have seen, heard and experienced from the hands of men. She knocked again, and again, and again but the gateman did not return. She looked around and saw a shop, locked up for the night. She rushed across to the shop and went to the side covered with a tarpaulin and close to the bush. Anyone passing would not see her but she could see them.
She was almost dozing on her feet when a sound woke her up. The rain had stopped; crickets were chirping and frogs were croaking. The sky was clear of clouds and the moon shown bright but she was still wet and cold. She peered through the bush and saw incoming headlights. She watched as the car drove to the gate she had been knocking earlier on and horned. Loud music blared from the car stereo into the late night. As she stood there debating, the gate opened wide to allow the car in. she thought for a second, then she hefted her bag across her shoulder and ran into the compound. As she crossed the gate, a hand came out of nowhere and grabbed her bag, effectively stopping her. As she turned to see who, a blow took the lights out of her eyes and she blacked out.
Question: Friday committed suicide! If you were Fidelia, how will you feel after witnessing all these things? Why do some people adopt children, only to maltreat them? Do you think this friend of Ashley’s will be welcoming?
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