Chidinma sat and listened to her father regale her and her mother with the story of how Biodun’s father had saved him from bad boys. She had been asleep when he returned home that night. According to her mother, this was third time he was telling the story. The story worried her very much. “if Biodun’s father is such a nice man, willing to put himself in a bad spot for a man whose testimony among others led to his son being expelled from school, what does that say of his son? Is Biodun as bad as he pretends to be?” she thought, her finger rubbing on the scar on her knee. “Well, he has gone to find his path. I hope the military makes him a better person.” She thought as she listened with little attention to his father’s story.
Mr Nzeribe: “you see this is why it is not good to judge people with ethnic colouration. See a Yoruba man helping me, an Ibo man. People will be good or bad whether they are of the same ethnic group with you or not. The people carrying out fraudulent activities in the name of self-governance are some of them not Ibos? Your brother will kill you as fast as any other man, I tell you.”
Mrs Nzeribe: “that Mr Okunola is a nice man. God will bless him. Darling let me bring food. Chichi go and set the table.”
Chidinma got up and left the sitting room.
After eating, trudged along a path, two to a cask, until they got to a spot in the forest where Papa John had marked out. They dropped the casks there and went back for the rest. After they had completely moved the casks, the boys went back to stow the boat in an inlet, where no one could find it. They then went to sleep for the night.
The next day, they woke up and quickly gathered the casks together. Biodun watched Preye, who leaned on a tree, languidly watching the gloom of the forest. Suddenly, she became alert. He turned to Papa John, to see him tapping his pipe on his canvass shoe. Then he heard it, the engine of a vehicle.
The vehicle soon appeared along the path, clearly made by its tires. A short, broad shouldered man jumped out from the driver’s seat and went to Papa John. They spoke briefly in the language that he could not seem to identify then they turned and stared at him.
Driver: “wetin be your name?” he asked. Biodun told him. “Yoruba, western region” the man muttered under his breath. “You are far away from home.” he said, staring at Biodun through hooded eyes.
Biodun: “it would appear so but I intend to get back quickly.” He replied.
Driver: “where were you headed before you were captured by Obaro?” he asked.
Biodun: “I was on my way to Kaduna to join the military.” He replied coolly.
From the corner of his eyes, he saw Preye give a start on hearing him. He turned to look at her but she averted her face.
Driver: “Kaduna…that is too far. The highways are no longer safe. I can get you to Lagos through Benin. You can find your way from there, right?” he asked, walking to where the casks lay under the leafy shade of the trees.
Biodun: “that will be nice. I am indeed grateful.” He replied, joining the man in lifting the casks into the truck.
The two boys soon returned and they joined in loading the truck. It was early evening by the time they were done. They quickly piled into the truck and the truck drove out of the bush.
Tope stood and stared at the sobbing Seyi. “What came over me? What have I done?” he went to Seyi and touched her shoulder. Her body was shaking with sobs and was hot to touch. He got up and went to the bathroom. He got a towel and ran some tap water over it. He came back to the room and gently started cleaning Seyi body with the damp towel. Seyi turned to look at him with swollen eyes
Tope: “I am sorry.” He whispered.
She looked at him then she slowly wrapped her arms around him and held him close. He could feel her heart racing and perceive the aroma of sex clinging to the bed sheet. He rubbed his hand over her head and whispered softly, his apologies and promises. “How do I handle this? What do I tell Chidinma? Will Seyi keep silent?” he wondered as Seyi clung to him, her breast mashed against his chest.
Suddenly, the sound of a car burst the bubble of peace and quiet both of them had achieved. Seyi raised her head and listened then her eyes widened in recognition.
Seyi: “that is my father. You need to leave.” She said quickly, removing herself from his arms.
Tope: “I cannot leave you like this. You are hurting and i am the cause.” He protested
Seyi already up from the bed, quickly wrapped a wrapper around her body then she threw Tope’s clothes at him. He wore them quickly, worry still on his face. She quickly pushed him to the kitchen and opened the back door for him. She pushed him out without ceremony and locked the door against his face. Tope stood and stared at the door in confusion. “How did I get myself into this mess? How do I get out of it?” he thought.
He heard Seyi greeting her father and heard the man reply. He quickly walked to the front and left the compound. He was surprised to see that it was early evening. He felt tired and disgusted with himself. He directed his steps towards home.
Mr Okunola sat in his sitting room, staring at a book. He was not seeing the words written on the pages of the novel. He was worried. Gladys came out of the kitchen with a tray carrying a jug of juice and two glasses. She placed the tray on a stool beside her husband and sat beside him. She quietly poured the juice into the two glasses and handed one glass to Mr Okunola but the man didn’t take note.
Gladys: dear, what is the problem? You have been absentminded since you came back from where you went to?” she asked, worry showing on her face.
Mr okunola: “it is Biodun. My cousin said he has not been seen anywhere inside the barracks.” He looked up at her, “Biodun is not in Kaduna.” He said quietly.
Gladys: “ha! This is serious o. where did he go to then?” she asked, surprised.
Mr Okunola shrugged. He turned and looked at his wife.
Mr Okunola: “I am the one who sent him away. Whether he has decided to go somewhere else and stay, I don’t know. He didn’t even deem it fit to find a telephone and call me. That boy…” he said, querulously.
Gladys dropped her glass on the tray then went to him. She took the book from his hands and sat on his laps
Gladys: “don’t worry, he will be fine. He knows how to take care of himself. With that his size, most people will be scared to play rough with him. Just believe.” She said, bending to kiss him fully on the lips.
Mr Okunola sighed and wrapped his hands around his wife. He kissed her back but his mind was far away.
The truck drove into a village after several hours meandering through bush roads. It stopped before a building built with planks and zinc roofing sheets. Two men came out from inside the building holding torches. The boys and Preye quickly jumped down and Biodun followed suit. They started rolling the casks out of the truck and Biodun moved to join them.
Preye: “follow me. Many people dey wey go do dat work.” She said, walking away from the truck.
This was the first time she had spoken directly to him. He turned to Papa John, who was snoring in the truck. He sighed and followed her. They got to a house built with wood lashed together with strong ropes and she entered. He stood still, unsure of what to do until Preye called out to him. There was a beautiful woman seated on the ground, gutting fish with the light of an oil lamp. He greeted her as he entered. The woman looked at him with disinterest and went back to her work.
Preye: “come. Water to baff dey here.” She said.
Biodun followed her, looking back at the woman.
Preye: “my mother. She dey see different faces everyday so no dey worried wit d way she take answer your greeting.” She said then she smiled.
Biodun was struck by the brilliance of her beauty. “Wow…if she stood in the same room with Seyi, no one will notice Seyi at all.” He thought to himself.
Preye led him to a zinc structure and gave him a bar of soap to wash with then she walked away. He stood watching her go. He entered the structure and saw a steel bucket filled to the brim with warm water. He quickly shed his clothes and proceeded to bathe. He rubbed the soap on his head and started scrubbing through it thoroughly. The soap dripped into his face and he shut his eyes to avoid the sting. Suddenly the door opened and someone joined him in the bath house. He paused and listened, the person poured water over his face and he opened his eyes to see Preye standing before him, completely nude.
When Peterson got home, he met a man at the entrance to his house; the same evangelist who had preached to him about how important He is to God Almighty. He looked at the man curiously,
Peterson: “Can i help you?” He asked
Evangelist: “Hello Brother Peterson. I’m here to preach to you again. If i refused to deliver my message according to how the spirit led, i will be punished for not doing so. I will like to invite you to a revival programme.” He said.
Peterson: “Sorry, i have no time for any preaching now; i have a lot on my mind. Don’t get me wrong please. I love God and i do go to Church to worship Him.” He replied, harshly.
Evangelist: “Okay. How about you spare me few minutes to read a verse to you from the Holy Bible?” he asked, politely.
Peterson: “To be sincere with you. I don’t want to be disturbed now. Let it be next time.” He replied, putting his key into the lock.
Evangelist: “The Almighty God sent me to you Brother Peterson. God says the salvation of your Soul is more important than any riches. That’s why God gave us Jesus so that we might be saved.” He replied, determined to share the word with Peterson.
Peterson: “Where’s that written in the Bible?” he replied, still intent on opening his door.
Evangelist: “Thank you for asking Brother Peterson. The Book of John 3 Vs 16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He replied.
Peterson: “Okay… Thank you! Was that all? I think you can go now.” He retorted, getting angry.
Evangelist: “Hmm… Brother Peterson, you actually need Jesus to be free from the bondage of sin and the devil.”
Peterson: “Where was Jesus each time a woman comes to torment me at the dead of night? How dare you say I’m in devil’s bondage? Where’s the chain or handcuff in my hands? Did you see any? I guess you have over stayed your welcome here. Please leave.” He replied, turning to face the evangelist fully.
He unlocked his door and walked into his house, banging the door behind him. he walked into his sitting room and dropped his keys. he went to the sideboard and poured himself a drink. “I hope this second option works o. i am tired of all this mysterious dreams and problems in my life. I pray it works…” he thought as he drank the hot liquor in one gulp.
He shook his head and walked into his room then he stopped dead. on his bed, coiled with its tail rattling, laid a rattlesnake. its eyes glaring at him evilly.
Question: Will Biodun fall for Preye? what do you think is about to happen to Peterson?
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