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I stared in horror as I examined the mess I had made on the floor. It had been my intention to give a solid surprise but now, the nylon of provisions I was holding just had to fall down, giving me away without much ado. I quickly glanced up at my parents. They were looking at me in horror and fright. That was not the kind of expression I was looking for. Yes, the nylon falling down could have been a scare but did they have to look so frightened.
“Papa, Mama; good evening” I called with a beaming smile. “Surprise. I wanted to surprise you both. Why do you both look so frightened? I am not a ghost”
My mother seemed to be shivering. “You did not hear anything?” she asked shakily.
“Of course I heard something! You both were fighting again. What was the cause of your argument this time?”
They both shifted nervously and seemed to heave a sigh of relief. “I thought I was always the cause of your arguments but now, I discover that you also argue when I am not there” I busied myself with gathering the scattered provisions. “Anyways, this is not the time to talk about it. Why not welcome your daughter uhn?” I grinned.
I went into my mother’s waiting hands and hugged her tightly. “I have missed you my child.” She whispered.
I stared at my father for some seconds, uncertain if a hug would be accepted by him. A splitting smile lit his face and he opened his arms which I ran into for a hug. I have to accept that these are the only people in life who care about me. These are the people who love me unconditionally. They are there through the thick and thin. Despite the fact that my dad did not seem to show his love for me through his actions, I had a feeling that he loves me even though he does not show it.
“How are you doing my daughter” he asked as he released me. “I see the pregnancy is changing your body” he commented.
“Yes Papa” I said. “This apartment is really beautiful” I commented as I looked around again.
“It is” my mother responded as she went through what I brought. “Wow, you brought so many things” she said satisfactorily.
“There is more” I quickly went outside to the car to carry things and the driver helped me as well. The happiness in the face of my parents was priceless and I was glad that I brought them a measured level of happiness. The rest of the evening was spent in happy chatter and for the first time in life’s history, I noticed that my dad has a healthy sense of humor. The gifts I brought had probably been responsible for opening that part of him.
Mum and I prepared dinner even though she argued continuously that I needed rest because of my condition. I ignored her and joined her in the kitchen. I wanted to be the only one cooking but my parents would have none of that. Mum and I chatted on as we prepared the food and laughter rang out. I deliberately avoided anything that had to do with Alex, not wanting him to spoil the mood.
“Mum?” I called when we both became quiet.
“Why were you and dad arguing when I arrived?” I watched her grow frighteningly still. “Can you tell me?”
She shifted, and then cleared her throat. “No… No, it is irrelevant. We are a married couple, it is normal to fight every now and then… we would always settle our differences. Don’t worry”
I wanted to argue but knew that I should not be meddling in my parents’ affairs, so I let it go. She sighed audibly when I did not argue and I almost changed my mind and probe further but she was smart enough to change the subject instantly. The dinner was really lively and my father talked endlessly, forgetting his own ‘table manners’ admonitions.
“You both seem very happy here, are you not thinking of going back to Iguocha soon?” I asked suddenly.
“Mbanu” My father said instantly. “I am not ready to go back to poverty. I would only go back when I have enough money with me to lavish there. When I start a business and make good money, then, I know that my arrival in the village would be respected.”
I thought of what my father said and had to agree with him. In the village, my father was not accepted in so many respectable gatherings because he had no penny to give. The disgrace had been much. Whenever I saw the way rich men and women were treated, I always wished that my parents could receive that same level of honour and respect. It had boosted my dream to make it in life, but Alex had effectively trampled on that dream. Anyways, all hope is not lost.
I left the dinning and went to take my bag. I again sank into the chair I vacated as I opened my bag. My parents were looking at me and I felt, rather than saw their widened eyes as I extracted money from my bag.
“Amara” mother gasped and I smiled. I placed the large sum of money in front of my dad.
“That is two hundred and fifty thousand Naira. I would give you another one tomorrow to make it five hundred thousand Naira tomorrow. Please manage it papa and mama. I hope it can start up a small business” I said with a soft smile.
There was silence for some seconds, then, my father was out of his seat, hugging me so tight, I found it hard to breathe. “My daughter, oh, I knew I could count on you” he said, unable to control his happiness. He instantly left me and started fussing with the money.
My mother was still where she was sitting. “Is this ok with you Amara?” she asked softly, surprising me slightly.
“Of course it is ok with her” my dad answered sharply, fixing her a stern glare. “Why shouldn’t it?”
My mum glared back at him and I looked at both of them in confusion. “Don’t worry mum, this is perfectly ok with me. It is my duty to take care of you and papa. You were right; Alex is a traitor and a beast. You are the only people who love me”
Mum swallowed and murmured a low ‘thanks’, while dad continued to count the money endlessly. I pushed all my questions away and enjoyed the look of pure happiness I saw on my father’s face. I was not happy that my mother seemed rather moody but I let it pass.
Feeling exhausted, I decided to retire into one of the rooms. Ever since I produced the money, dad treated me like a queen, insisting on making bath water for me by himself. I slept like a baby that night, happy that I was not at my husband’s mansion where there was nothing but sadness and pain.
“I am not comfortable with this Nnayi” Amara’s mum said as she changed into a night dress.
Amara’s father recounted the money over and over again. “You don’t have to be comfortable. You are in love with poverty, but I am not. If you want to spend your life shamefully, and then count me out of It.” he countered.
“But we are putting Amara at risk. She nearly found out the truth today. What would happen when she finds out that she is not our child?”
“I don’t care. She should be grateful to us for picking her from the dustbin where her real mother dumped her. If we hadn’t she might not be alive today. I don’t expect her to be angry; in fact, I might tell her myself if it would make her feel compelled to help.”
Amara’s mum shook her head. “You are wicked”
He hissed. “At least I am not people with it”
Tola knocked the door of Lisa’s room softly and the door opened quietly. Everyone including Tina had gone to sleep and Tola wanted to be careful. She did not want to be seen. She entered Lisa’s room and closed the door quietly.
“Thanks for coming” Lisa said. “You are making the right decision”
Tola shifted nervously. “I don’t want to harm Amara. She has been really nice to me. She –”
“Shut up!” Lisa said sharply. “What do you mean by nice?” she growled. “She is just using you and that senseless Tina. Just because she bought you few clothes, you are falling for her? Here” she opened her bag and extracted a large sum of money. She threw it at Tola and she hastily grabbed it with wide eyes. “That is one hundred thousand Naira. You can use it to buy anything you want, anything. If you are on my side Tola, you would really enjoy” Lisa planted a pleasant smile on her face.
The money seemed to convince Tola, even though she felt bad for what she was about to do. “What do you want me to do?” she asked.
Lisa’s face lit with a genuine smile. “Good girl.” She opened her bag again and extracted a sachet of drugs. “These drugs look exactly like the ones Amara uses” she stated.
Tola’s eyes widened. “I can’t kill her o. God forbid”
“My friend, shut up!” Tola almost yelled but managed to keep her voice down. “It is not to kill her but to make her lose her baby. You just have to replace these drugs with the ones with her. She won’t notice the difference”
Tola shook her head furiously. “Oh my God, this is bad. I can’t do it. My conscience would kill me” she threw the money on the bed and turned to leave.
“If you leave now, I would make sure you leave this house first thing tomorrow morning. Amara is not around, so there would be no one to save you. It would be your loss because, I would change the drugs myself and what you are trying to prevent would still happen” she said sternly. “And you won’t be able to report me to anyone or the police for that matter because I would have you killed immediately you leave this house. You know my intentions already Tola, you can’t go freely. Your only option is to do it, or face the consequences”
Tola’s feet could not hold her. She relaxed against the door for support. “Don’t be a fool Tola, just help me. The child is the only thing that ties that slut and my husband together”
“But they are married”
Lisa smiled. “Leave that. Are you ready to do this or not?”
Tola swallowed and turned to Lisa with a look of contempt on her face. “Do I have a choice?”
I completed the money and started packing to leave. I have missed Tina and Tola and I wanted to really chat with them. I said my goodbyes and entered the car, waving at my parents until the disappeared from my view. I relaxed fully and closed my eyes. I snapped out of the short slumber I fell into when I heard Tina’s voice. She was smiling happily as the driver drove into the compound. Tina definitely made coming home worth it.
I alighted from the car with a beaming smile. “I see you missed me as much as I missed you” I said in greeting.
“You have no idea” she grinned. “There was no one to cause interesting drama at the dining” she said.
I laughed. “You swine! I hope the devil has not been giving you a hard time”
She frowned in anger. “I wish! She just orders us around like a pair of fools. She is so lazy”
I smiled. I definitely missed Tina. “What of your parents?”
“Oh, they are doing good. Going there was a good decision” I said. “What of Tola?” I asked, surprised that she hadn’t come to say hi.
“She must be in her room. She has been behaving strangely all day. I asked if she is sick but she denied it” Tina said as we went inside.
“It might be love sickness” I said jokingly.
Tina laughed. As we entered Tola appeared with a beaming smile. “Welcome back Amara” she said.
I glanced at Tina. “I thought you said something was wrong with her” The Tola I was looking at looked the same. I raised my brow. “Or maybe it is not love sickness. She probably missed me so much” I grinned. Tina busted into laughter.
Tola shook her head. “You both are impossible”
We all laughed heartily. I made for my room where I dropped my hand bag and returned to the sitting room. From the look of things, Alex was not at home, and since he had been suspended, he was surely not at work. He might be somewhere, sulking in the hands of another woman, I thought.
“Surprise Surprise” Tola and Tina screamed and my attention snapped to them. They were holding a box.
“What is that?” I asked curiously.
“Mr Bello snr sent someone here, late last night and the person brought this for you. It is an IPhone” Tina squealed.
I frowned. “What is an IPhone?” I asked.
Tola gaped, then shook her head. ” It is one of the most prestigious phones. Here” she gave it to me and I gaped in amazement. The senator had promised to get me a phone. I never knew it would be so immediate, and definitely not this beautiful.
“Jesus, it must be really expensive.”
“You can say that again. He already bought a sim card with it and I think I saw recharge cards in the pack of the phone” Tola said.
Tina frowned at her. “Why did you have to check it?”
“I just peeped. I do not even know the amount the cards are” Tola returned.
I shook myself and extracted the phone. It looked so perfect that I found myself glued to the phone for the rest of the evening, until hunger took over my system. Tina served dinner and Tola, who had been lecturing me about the functions of the phone, told me to go and eat. I reluctantly went to the dinning, with my eyes still glued to the phone.
“Tola, I don’t mean to be rude, but could you please help me with my drugs?” I asked apologetically. She swallowed and hesitated. “If you can’t, please don’t. You must be tired after teaching me…”
“Why can’t she?” I hadn’t noticed Lisa’s presence but her voice definitely announced her presence. “She is the maid here, isn’t she?”
“Don’t you dare call my friend a maid. Don’t make me pounce on you o” I returned as my eyes sparked in anger. “Never mind Tola, I would get it” I said.
“No!” She said sharply. “I would go. Sit down and relax. You should not stress yourself much in your condition.”
“The stress would not be good for the thing in her tummy, would it?” Lisa asked rhetorically.
I glanced at her for some seconds and wondered why I felt something strange going on. I could not place it so I let it slide. Unlike Tola’s usually fast movements, I noticed that her strides were slow and I made it a point to actually find out what was wrong. She might be truly sick just like Tina said.
By the time Tola got back, I was almost through with my food. She placed the small bottle of pills in front of me and stood pensively, watching me. “Do you really have to use that today?” She asked unexpectedly.
I heard Lisa shift in her chair but I paid her no heed. “Yes Tola, I forgot it at home yesterday and I have not used it since then. I should not skip it today”
She nodded nervously and I felt her eyes on me as I put two pills in my palm. As I was about to use it, it was as if the whole world had their eyes on me. The drugs rolled out of my hand and fell on the floor. “You see? Your eyes eventually carried the drugs out of my hand” I wondered why Lisa was looking at me so intensely.
“Sorry…” Tola said. “I just hate… Drugs”
I smiled. “Thank God you are not using it.” I left the ones on the floor, knowing that I could not possibly use them again. I took another pair from the small bottle. I refilled my cup with water, completely ignoring the eyes on me. I put the drugs in my mouth, put water, and swallowed. “You see?” I said to a pale Tola. “Using drugs is so easy”