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EPISODE 17

Except for the faint ray of sunlight coming through the cracks in the drapes, the room was dark when Richard opened his eyes. Beside him on the bed was Abigail, breathing deeply beside him; her face, her striking, lovely face; angled down on the edge of the pillow, her lips parted, inches from his lips. He kissed her and she reached for him, her eyes still closed. The girl’s nudeness was like a statue carved out through the night. Their bodies exhausted from the night’s rolling in the hay, and Richard’s brain was relaxed by the intensity of it. The encounter of the night before shall not be described in any more explicit detail since this may be read by devout celibates and it isn’t a wish to excite them unnecessarily. Abigail opened her eyes slowly and smiled at him, “How was my love?” she whispered as she rolled on his Unclad body, her gorgeous upper body layer encompassing his face.

“If there’s a heaven beyond that, I don’t have to know it.” Replied Richard sincerely.

It had been two week after the confession and Abigail and Richard had been quite intimate, they had taken their time to change the bed in the bedroom. On that day of the denouement, everybody had departed quietly out of the room. Richard’s father, Barrister Michael Kish had been the first to leave the room, the detective had left, Daniel had, too. Mrs. Philip had returned to where she lived; she was glad that her son had finally found happiness in the pretty lady, and she was partly unhappy that Richard could not reconcile with his father. She was still in love with the ex-robber but didn’t want to disappoint or annoy her son by showing her feeling about the lawyer–she was waiting for the moment Richard would be ready to forgive and accept him, but he never seemed to think about his father for a second.

Three days after the affair, Richard had decided to pack his things and leave the house, since his boss had died he felt he had no more business to do in the building. Abigail came in and found what he was doing.

“Are you leaving, too?” she asked him.

“I don’t have anything to do here anymore, I have to leave.”

“Mr. Chima left yesterday, he said he was going back to his hometown––his wife had just put to bed. He said he won’t be coming back. He just left as fast as a rat deserting a sinking ship. Why is everybody leaving me?” tears had begun to secrete from her eyes.

“I’m sorry, but I also have to leave.”

“Must you go? I thought you said you love me. Is this how you treat people you love? By leaving them?”

“No––you don’t understand. I just met my father and I don’t know how to take it, I don’t know what to do. I need a moment to think.”

“Do you really love me as you have confessed?”

“Abigail, why are you doing this?”

“Answer my question? Do you really love me.”

“Of course, I do.”

“Then don’t go––please, don’t leave me,” she moved closer to him, “Kiss me.”

Richard frowned, took a step backward and shook his head, “I don’t think that is a good idea, Abigail. The last time I tried it something exploded in my ear.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that, I was afraid––I was afraid for you, I didn’t want you to get hurt like Tolu. I love you madly, desperately, Richard, more than any other man on earth. Sometimes I wish I had never met you. I wish I had never fallen in love with you. But I did meet you and I did fall in love with you so madly that I would cut off my right hand for you, if that make any sense as a proof of love. I was afraid if I gave you that chance Cain would find out and he would want to hurt you. Please forgive––”

He held her in his arms, embracing her roughly. He kissed her on the open mouth, pressing until he found her tongue. It was a kiss of heated raw passion. It was filled with so much need, so much emotion, that it poured through her. Until it seemed as if he’d shared his heart, his body and every nuance of himself with her. His mouth was warm and already so familiar. As if his taste was somehow programmed into her DNA. A sensual trigger to make her body soften, her blood race.

She kissed back, really kissed him. Letting their tongues meet. Taking his tongue as if it were hers for the taking. She took everything he was offering her. And everything that he wasn’t––everything.

That was how the relationship began. Now, two weeks later, they were lying in a juxtaposing position on the bed. Their lovemaking had sharpened the way one dose of heroine only increases the addict’s desire for the next.

“Tell me something, Richie.” She said.

“If it is among the few things that I know.”

“How are you going to repair the rift between you and your father?”

He acted surprised, “My father? I didn’t have a father the last time I checked.”

“Oh, Richie, don’t be so ridiculous. Your father is a completely changed man––he’s no more what he was some decades ago. He’s now a respectable lawyer, you should be proud of him.”

“I should be proud of an ex-armed robber?”

“People change, Richie. He’s far better off than Cain, remember? He has lost six wives and two children; do you want him to lose another? He’s had too many dark sides of life. Now, the least you can do is forgive and accept him.”

Richard pondered over her words for some moments before shrugging his shoulders, “Anyway, I’ll have to discuss it with my mum, you don’t expect me to go to him spreading my arms for his embrace. His forgiveness is in my mother’s hand.”

She kissed him, “You’re such a darling.”

“I also have something important to ask of you.”

“Anything for you.” She said, tracing a line on his chest.

“I think we have somebody to show our appreciation.”

“Dan, right?”

“I think we need to show gratitude to that boy.”

“I’ve been thinking so too. What do you think we should do?”

“We should give him what he wants.”

Abigail smiled warmly, “Of course, we should get him into ‘his ‘ The Academy.”

He sighed, “You know what?”

“What?”

“I’ll love to go to that heaven again.”

“Then let’s go together.”

They rolled the blanket over.

“Oh my God!” Daniel exclaimed, “I can’t believe you guys did this for me. Please tell me I’m in a dream.”

“It’s your dream, Dan,” Abigail said, “You deserve it.”

“I’m short of words, how am I going to thank you?”

“We should be thanking you,” Richard said, “You deserve it, one who saves a life deserve every good thing.”

“I wish I were a part of this family––this new family.”

“You already are,” replied Abigail, “Not all families are related by blood. A person who saves a life is more than a family, he’s an angel.”

Daniel looked at the two sitting in front of him. They’re so wonderful, he thought, this country would be a better place if we had more of them; kind, caring, giving. They also portray the best picture of love.”

“Let’s tell him––” Richard told Abigail, squeezing her hand.

“Dan, there’s something you should also know.” Abigail said, she looked in Richard’s face and smiled before saying it, “Richie and I are ready to plight our troths.”

Daniel stood up, “Wow, congratulations!”

“Thank you.”

“You guys really deserve each other after so much both of you have been through in the hand of that rotting devil, I’m really happy for you.”

“Actually, we are thinking about making you our best man on the engagement, that’s if you mind not.”

“I’ll be honoured,” replied Daniel, “I’ll bring my parents, siblings and Hakeem.”

“Oh, that’ll be splendid, I can’t wait to meet Antonia and Juliet,” said Abigail, giggling.

“I want to meet Silas––you must bring him too,” Richard said.

“But Juliet is a bit loquacious, can you cope with that? She always enjoy the give-and-take of lively repartee.”

“Really,” Abigail said, “That is why I like Julius Agwu.”

“When is the engagement?”

“November first.”

The first day of November was a Saturday, and it was a day filled with celebration in the house. The sitting room had been decorated for the engagement. In the middle of the room was a big table; its surface had been covered with sheets, and on display were bottles of wine, trays of food, baskets of fruits, chicken, turkey, glasses, plates, cutlery, platters of bread, dishes, local cuisines, etc. while not exactly groaning, this large table was certainly whimpering softly with the overload of the victuals. Present in the flesh were the fiancé and fiancée, Richard and Abigail, standing closely together at one corner hand-in-hand like Olympic rings. Some of those present in the engagement included almost everybody present on the day of the denouement, also present were the Famous’ family and Hakeem Musa, the free boy was busy trying to stuff his food into almost every available orifice of his body, perhaps not only food, the boy appeared forcing himself into a rapacious consumption of whatever he could find edible. Daniel felt like locking Hakeem in the toilet to prevent others noticing the unpleasant sight of the boy’s vigorous mastication. For the moment, Daniel was in no mood to eat because watching the boy gourmandize had somehow robbed him of an appetite. Also in the room was Detective Lot, who was keeping as far apart from people as possible because he didn’t want to pollute the air with his cigarette smoke, he sat alone at the veranda and was sucking at his stick. The only absent person was the gatekeeper, Mr. Eze Chima, who was in his hometown nursing his ‘new baby boy’. Some few moments later, everybody in the room clustered around Richard and Abigail to salute them with handshakes, hugs, kisses. And shouts of laughter and encouragement when Richard embraced Abigail passionately, bent her backward in a theatrical hug, and pressed his lips to hers.

“Bravo!”

“Impressive!”

“Congratulations!”

“May all your trouble be little ones!”

“May twins be your first seeds!”

“Happiness forever!”

“Well done, well done!”

“More celebrations to come!” said Hakeem, with a mouthful of food.

It was a happy union; Richard had recently been reconciled with his father thanks to the detective. His mother had also forgiven the lawyer: Kish had knelt before her with a rose, and rose was Rose’s weakness. She had seen the flower obviously as what it was; a propitiatory offering from the barrister. Later, she had gladly accepted the lawyer’s proposal to marry him––Richard and Abigail had likewise been overwhelmed with happiness when they heard the news. In three months’ time, Daniel Famous would be in the camp of The Football Academy to begin his course and training. But he had yet not tendered his police identity card.

The plate above the entrance of the building which bore the inscription MARTINS CASTLE had been removed, they had considered the name quite a misnomer for that building, the property was not rightfully Cain’s after all. The rightful race which owned the property was believed to have gone extinct, and nobody deserved it better than Abigail and Richard. The couple had actually planned to replace the plate with another which would have KISH HOUSEHOLD imprinted on it––that would of course come after they had been married.

Abigail was sad for a couple of moments; Richard who was once fatherless, now had a father and, both his parents were present. Her own mother had died when she was only twenty-four months old, and her father had also died twenty years later thanks to Cain. Her first ten years after birth, she had carried an adolescent faith that her mother didn’t die but travelled and didn’t come back. She only had some of her mother’s personal belongings: clothes; some photographs only taken days before her disappearance, her eyes intense, yet calm and very peaceful; some books––mostly about domestic tips and rules; and a number of handwriting notes that she could read but not understand the messages contained therein. Aside from her mother’s photographs and a few of her clothes, the rest was of very little interest to a girl approaching her eleventh birthday; a girl still heartbroken and confused, feeling abandoned and almost alone save for her father being there to provide for her and love her; a girl too, who never thought for a moment that her mother might be dead and who prayed everyday to God to protect her mother wherever she was, a girl who carried her mother’s pictures everywhere and who searched the faces of every female stranger she saw––hoping, praying, certain, that one day she would see that familiar face in the pictures, one that would suddenly smile in recognition and throw her arms around her, sweeping her off her feet, and promising never to leave her again. It was until she turned twelve that she knew that her mother really would not be coming back. Even as she grew into a woman, the passage of time did little to ease her pain. And although her father had tried his best to keep her from missing her mother, a part of her had always been lonely, as she immersed herself in her school work and watched in abject loneliness as she saw her classmates’ mothers come to pick them up to take them home. For weekends, holidays, vacation trips, and mid-term breaks. The only memories of her deceased parents were photographs, so she had gotten the best pictures of each of her parents and had enlarged them into frames. She placed each frame of the two pictures in a corner of the large sitting room.

The large room was filled with well-wishers and families to celebrate with Abigail and Richard, there were so many ‘I’ve-been-hearing-so-much-about-you’s’.

“Hi,” Juliet greeted Abigail, “I’ve been hearing so much about you from my brother.”

“I can say the same to you.”

“He’s been telling me different things about you; he said you’re beautiful, kind and intelligent.”

“I’m flattered, but don’t believe everything he told you or you’d be disappointed.”

Juliet laughed, “He also said he was in love with you.”

“Juliet!” Daniel interjected, he almost fainted with embarrassment, and he was trying his best not to blush at the same time.

“Give unto me a break, Danny boy,” Juliet said sharply to his brother behind her and faced Abigail again, “Don’t mind my big brother, he’s always unlucky when it comes to choosing a girlfriend. Last year, he met a girl at my friend’s birthday party and can you believe what happened?” Daniel had scuttled away when he realized that his sister was about to launch into one of his past minor contretemps, “The girl came to me asking if my brother was a dumb––he kept stuttering in front of her until the girl walked away in annoyance, that gorgeous girl hadn’t greeted me ever since because of that.”

Abigail could not believe her ears, what this girl was telling her was too humorous not to achieve a laugh-out-loud situation, she looked around for Daniel, he’d simply dissolved in thin air. She faced Juliet and said, “I believe he’s going to meet his own African Queen one of these days.”

“I pray so, I’m still proud of him though, even as he’s a coward when it comes to facing a girl and proclaiming his feelings directly to her without wasting time and making the opportunity slip by him. By the way, he would be attending The Academy very soon and with luck he would be playing for this country.” She continued ranting on until her father came to Abigail’s rescue.

“Julie, I think you’ve said enough for the moment,” Mr. Famous said, he turned to Abigail who was appreciating that respite from Juliet’s loquacious brittle chatter. “Where’s your husband-to-be? I need to talk to both of you.”

Everybody in the room sat down under the plea from Daniel’s father. Daniel’s father faced the couple and began, “I heard about what happened in this house; Daniel told me about everything, it is shocking to know that somebody can be so wicked as to put his own life at risk in order to destroy the next person. I am very proud that my son was able to stop that from happening. This is the first time that I’m glad my son put his own life on the line in order to save another man’s.”

He shifted in his seat, “You see, I was shocked when, five years ago, Daniel told me that he’d gotten himself into the police force. The last thing I ever wanted for my son was wearing black uniform around and putting himself in harm’s way. I wanted him to be a medical doctor because I’ve always wanted to have a doctor in the family. I studied Medicine in school and I was a professional medical doctor, but due to some unfortunate circumstances, I could not become one again. That was actually the reason I wanted one of my children to become a doctor––it’s a profession I cherish so much. I didn’t know that one man’s sugar-coated candy may be another man’s product of defecation. Though, Daniel had always been telling us since his junior years in the high school that he would like to be a footballer, I tried my best to discourage him. I told him that taking football as a profession in this country is one of the hardest goals one can ever dream of achieving, and fame in the world of football is largely ephemeral, but he would not be deterred, I saw the determination in him but I thought as the years pass by he would seek other dreams. In his senior years in the high school he was very good in science subjects––particularly in Biology, so I became positive that he would really decide to study Medicine. I got very furious when, after his high school education, he told me that he wanted to go into a football school. He’d never even for once considered the thought of going for the course I wanted for him, his decision was so much to my chagrin that I ordered him not to go to whatever football school he was talking about.

“I think he was very angry with us too, he thought we didn’t believe in him that he would make it as a professional footballer. He didn’t want to be a doctor and I was trying to force it on him. Because I banned him from pursuing his desired ambition, he decided to get himself recruited in the police force. I was disappointed and afraid when he told me what he’d done, I was scared that he would not live long. I was angry with myself the day I learnt that he was shot. I was sorry I brought it on him, if I had left him alone and had allowed him to choose his own career, he probably wouldn’t have been shot. I went to visit him at the hospital and begged him to resign from the force and go to any school he desired, he merely told me that he would not resign merely because he was shot by a crazy driver. He added that he had always wanted to defend his country and being a policeman seemed to him the easiest way to do that.”
“We were sad and guilty,” said Mrs. Famous; Daniel’s mother made an instant positive impression on Abigail, the woman had compassionate eyes that every child deserved from its mother. Abigail presumed that she must have been very beautiful when she was younger because she was blessed with a voluptuous body; her figure was as unique, universally recognized, and dearly beloved as a Coca-Cola bottle; her face was smooth and round, her chest was protruded with a mountain of bosom that still had the effect of creating a tingle in the brains of almost every man that saw them. She was fully dressed and was so festooned with jewelry that every time she moved she clanked, clinked, chimed and pealed. “His passion is to defend his country all along and we had been trying to kill the dream in him. Though he was not happy being a policeman but he’s always happy and ready to serve humanity. Now, fate has taken him to where he’d needed to be. We wanted a doctor in the family and Juliet is already studying Medicine in the University of Lagos with passionate enthusiasm––and quite soon, we’ll also be having a professional footballer in the family,” she turned to her son, “We’re proud of you.”

“And we’re sorry for all we made you go through,” said father to son.

Mrs. Famous turned to Abigail, “You’ve made a proud family out of ours, thank you so much. You’re our savior and we’re indebted to you. You helped in making his dream come true, I didn’t know until now that we still have kind-hearted people in this country of cons today.”

Abigail smiled, “We have many kind people in this country, it’s just that there’re some rotten fish in the net. Still, there are some clouds with silver linings and a lot of apples don’t have worms in them. I met Richard when I lost my phone and money, naturally in this country, you rarely get back your things when they get lost, but Richard found my things and returned them without a pin missing. That was my first taste of humanity after my father’s death. Before Richard, my father was the only kind-hearted person I had ever known, and he had always told me to never hesitate to help a fellow if I can. When Daniel was telling us about his dream, it was like my father was speaking in his head. I knew I had to help him but I didn’t know how to go about it, it was Richie who gave the idea of getting him into The Academy, since that is one place he had wanted to go in order to achieve his dream. So, you have Richie to thank, and also my father anyway.”

Daniel’s father said, “How I wish your father were alive so that I could thank him personally and tell him that he had raised a wonderful daughter.”

“You can thank him still,” Abigail smiled warmly; “I believe he’s with us here in spirit. I can feel him smiling with us.”

She pointed to the pictures of her parents, “That is my father there smiling beside my mother,” she laughed, “Isn’t he cute?”

All eyes shifted to the two photographs at the corner of the room. The image on the photograph leaning on the left hand side of the wall was of a middle-aged good looking man, his hair was cut low and clean shaven. He was smiling broadly as though a comedian was his photographer. The other photograph portrayed the image of a fairly complexioned woman. Everybody in the room would have decided it was Abigail in the picture if not for the thin black tribal marks which appeared on each of the woman’s cheeks.

Mrs. Famous looked at the picture and smiled. How alike a child and her mother can look, she thought. She looked briefly at the man’s picture before shifting her gaze back to the woman’s. Then something struck her, she had a strong feeling of recognition; she turned her face to look at the man, she got up suddenly from her seat and moved closer to the smiling man’s picture to be sure of who she was seeing.

Mrs. Famous screamed like a banshee.

Everybody was startled by her sudden shriek; all eyes left the pictures and were concentrated on her. She was gazing wide-eyed at the picture of Abigail’s father with amazement and horror. Then she spun around suddenly to face Abigail who was looking at her with a completely bemused expression.

“Don’t tell me the man in that picture is Samson Oliver,” she said to Abigail.

Abigail became more surprised and afraid, “Yes, that’s his name. You know him?”

“Oh my Jesus!” she whispered. She covered her face in her palms and rocked her body convulsively, she continued that way for some minutes and everybody was wondering what had gone wrong with her.

When Mrs. Famous raised her face to look at Abigail her face was damp with perspiration, and tears had begun to wash off the make-up liners around the edges of her eyes.

“Miss Oliver,” she said softly, a little bit louder than a whisper, “Daniel is your blood brother!”.

Again, jaws were dropped in surprise. Some of those seated were looking at each other expecting someone to stand up and declare that what they had just heard was nothing but a cooked-up joke to pull their emotions, but it was no joke. It was another good day for aghastness in the Martins’ manse.

Daniel who was utterly astounded by the news turned his look to his father. The older man, he noticed, was anything but surprised, he looked calm and unperturbed. His father knew already.

“It’s true, son,” said Ebenezer Famous, “Sam Oliver was your father–biologically.”

“You know this already, papa?”

“Yes, what difference does it make? You’re my son, Sam Oliver was at least your father in the medical sense. We wanted to tell you when you turned twenty-one but we later decided against it. Why should we tell you that I’m not your father when your real father was nowhere to be found?”

“No, I don’t believe this,” argued Abigail, “It can’t be true, I’m the only child of my father.”

“It’s the truth,” Mrs. Famous said slowly. She reached in her handbag and extracted a photograph which she gave to Abigail, “Look at that, I take it with me everywhere I go. That’s the only thing that reminds me of him.”

It was a mini-sized sepia photograph. It portrayed the images of young Mrs. Famous with Sam Oliver. Just like most old-fashioned love-displaying photographs, the beautiful Ada Bright was sitting on the thigh of Samson Oliver; they were both grinning from ears to ears as though they had just won a jackpot.

Abigail was stunned. It’s true! Her hands holding the photograph were no steadier than a pawpaw leaf in a breeze. My father really dated Mrs. Famous! My father’s Daniel’s father too!

“But––but he didn’t tell me I have a brother, why?”

“I know he didn’t,” said Mrs. Famous, “He couldn’t even tell you.”
“Are you saying my father kept this as a secret from me––even till he died?”

Mrs. Famous paused, “He couldn’t tell you because he didn’t know that he had another child.”

“What!” Abigail stood up from her seat.

“Sit down, I’ll explain everything.”

Abigail sat back in her seat, but she was still appalled at what she had just heard. “What happened?” she asked solemnly.

Daniel’s mother took a deep breath and began her narration.

“I met Sam in 1984,” she began, “I met him in a night club, that was the mistake I made; you don’t choose your life partner in a night club. I fell in love with Sam almost immediately I saw him, he was a very handsome man––even more handsome than in that photograph. We started a relationship after the third day of knowing each other. But something went horribly wrong, I knew Sam truly loved me but I was very disappointed and sad the day I found out that he had a daughter. Truly, he wanted to explain why I met a little girl with him but I didn’t give him that chance. I would have understood better if he had told me from the beginning of our relationship that he had a child. I loved him very much and I would gladly have accepted it without blinking an eye if he had not kept it a secret from me.

“That day, before I found out about his secret I wanted to tell him that I was pregnant for him. I was not used to getting disappointed, so I walked out on him without sharing the news.”

“My God!” whispered Abigail.

“I was waiting at home for your father to come and apologize but he didn’t. It was the cruelest thing I have ever experienced. After waiting for him for about three months and didn’t see him, I decided to go and see him myself. On getting to where he lived, I met another occupant, a Hausa man, who told me that Sam had left the house about three months before him. Fear gripped my heart, I rushed to where he worked and I was told that he was one of those whose appointments were terminated because of the company’s period of retrenchment. The company had sustained a serious misfortune due to the inter-religious clash of that period, so they had to cut expenses by quitting some of the staff members therein. Your father was among the unfortunate workers. I fainted when I heard the news.

“I was already four months pregnant and I could not find the man responsible, terminating the pregnancy was not even an option––it was a risk I could not afford to take. I didn’t know any family of Sam’s, even his only friend was one of those unlucky employees. I couldn’t do anything but pray; everyday, I prayed that Sam would one day knock on the door and stand on the threshold with flowers in his hand apologizing––but it never came to pass. I gave birth to a baby boy five months later and named him Daniel.” She looked pathetically at Abigail, “Miss, your father was a very wicked human being––he took advantage of my love for him.”

The last sentence stung Abigail and she shivered, “No, my father was the kindest man I’ve ever known. I can’t believe he did such a ghastly thing. But I’m sorry, Mrs. Famous, please forgive my father. He’s dead now; please forgive him for my sake.” She started crying.

“Oh, my baby,” Ada Famous said, standing up to hold her, “Please don’t cry, I’ve forgiven your father a long time ago. It’s okay, stop crying.”

Abigail sniffled amid the sob several times before she could speak, “It’s–it’s just that I don’t want to lose you, I don’t want to lose another mother. I’ve lost too many people in my life. I lost my mother when I was barely able to walk; she died in a motor accident. I don’t remember anything because I grew up under my father’s care, the only memories of my mother are photographs. When I was still a kid my father had always told me that my mother didn’t die but went to a place where she became my guarding angel. One night, on the eve of my twelfth birthday, my father told me that it was time I knew the truth about my mother. He said that she lost her life in a car crash, he told me that we used to live here in Lagos till he was transferred to work in Plateau State––that was actually before my mother’s death. He would travel to Jos every Monday morning and return to Lagos on Fridays to spend the weekend with my mother and me. So, when my mother died, he had to take me with him to Jos. My mother died on July 18, 1984, and I moved with my dad to Jos a week after her death. We finally retuned to Lagos in June of 1985 because there was an attack by the Muslims of that area and my dad, with some others of his neighbours, had to run for their lives.”

“That means––that means it was not his fault,” lamented Mrs. Famous, “He sent his friend to me a week after I walked out on him. His friend reported that he needed to see me urgently that I should come, but I refused going. I wanted him to come and apologize. It was my fault, I should have gone to hear what he had to say but I didn’t. Everything was my fault, he didn’t know that I was pregnant––I spoilt everything with my own anger. He really loved me and he wanted to explain everything but I didn’t listen to him. Oh my God!” she held her head in both hands.

Ebenezer famous put his arm around his wife’s shoulder, comforting her.

“It’s okay, dear,” he said, “Everything that happened was in the past, you don’t have to grieve anymore. Nobody can change the course of fate.”

Daniel spoke, “So, Mrs. Martins is my sister,” he could not find the next word to say. He didn’t know if he should be glad or ashamed of himself. This was a woman with whom he had been madly enamoured and would have done anything to marry if not for the age gap. That woman was her own elder sister. Funny––very funny, and crazy.

“She’s your sister,” his father said, “And we’re your parents. You’re my son, nobody can take you from me––not even you.”

Daniel gave a very faint smile and said, “What else do I have the right to know and haven’t been told?”

“Nothing,” answered his mother, “Nothing more.”

“But there is,” persisted Daniel, “How did you meet my father?”

“I’ve explained, I met him in a night club.”

“I mean how did you meet my father sitting beside you now? Tell me, I want to know.”

His parents smiled. “Let me answer that.” Mr. Famous told his wife.

“We all have some sad stories to tell,” he began, too. “Mine occurred in 1981. I was once a married man before meeting Ada. I had a wife and a son, I was quite comfortable as a medical doctor and had my own house in a city of the suburb of Lagos––Apapa. It happened in April, I was returning from the office that night when suddenly in front of me, my house was razed by fire, and because of the many gas cylinders that we had in our house, the raze became a blast. The first blast shook the street so much that I felt its impact under my feet, and a bright rain of the fire shattered the upstairs windowpanes. The second blast shuddered the entire structure and blew out the melting glass of the windows. The third blast followed, not as loud and sharp as the first two but even more profoundly destructive, as if Satan was having a bout of sneeze in Hell. In my sight, the house seemed to swell, then twist, then shrink, and in an instant was engulfed in flames from end to end, flames seething and leaping so wildly that people even far away had to take some steps backward––not even the biblical three men from Babylon would want to take a swim in the blaze. I could not even save them––my wife and eight years old kid were cremated alive. My life sucked rotten donkey eggs thereafter. My credentials, my son, my wife––everything gone. When the rescue team came about an hour later, they found only the charred fragments of their bodies. The next thing I knew––I was diving head-on into the ocean below the Third Mainland Bridge. It would have been over––a brief struggle perhaps, and then oblivion––the end of a misused, useless, unprofitable life if not for the intervention of some fishermen who had nothing serious to do but to catch human beings instead of fish. Then I woke up lying ridiculously in a hospital bed with a broken shoulder, and thinking the prospect of being hauled up in a court for trying to take my own life. But I was discharged after spending two weeks in the general hospital without being convicted. Maybe attempted suicide was no longer a crime, I didn’t know.

“I cursed myself, cursed the people who rescued me from drowning, cursed the doctor who treated me. It was my life, wasn’t it? And if I had succeeded in the job they would have buried me piously as of unsound mind.

“It would have been the truth anyway, I was truly of unsound mind indeed. I wasn’t sane, my sanity had been burnt up in the conflagration. So, to commit suicide was the most logical and sensible thing a man in my position could do. I could not kill myself again because I have always known that after surviving one suicide attempt, you don’t try it again. But, regardless of suicidal thoughts, I became slightly mad. Research have stated that an average person has five minutes of madness everyday, but in my case, I had hours of madness everyday. I ate my shoes, slapped myself, wetted my pants, laughed without seeing anything funny. And most of all; I cried a lot. I cried for no real cause; I wept unashamedly at weddings, at anniversary celebrations, at birthday parties, at political rallies, at street fights, on Christmas and New Years’ Eves and the First of Octobers. I knew all the secrets of tears; how to use them to purge myself of grief, pain, disappointment, stress. I knew exactly how tears were manufactured, stored and dispensed. It is generally known that a mad man is always unconscious of every crazy thing he does. No, it is not true that the insane thought themselves sane; frequently the mad knew themselves to be mad. Either they were unable to fight their afflictions, or had no desire to. I was aware of every stupid thing I did, I knew they were abnormal things but I couldn’t stop myself. There seemed to be something in my head that kept jerking it spontaneously and uncontrollably. I was like a man who knew he was in a dream but could not wake up.

“I regained my sanity when I met Ada, she was coming out of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital with a baby on her back. She had probably taken the child to get treated, when I looked at her I knew that life was not treating her well. At least, we had something in common, so I approached her.”

He smiled, “I won’t tell you anything more concerning that, but that was actually how we became very close and got married. As you were growing older, you were looking exactly like Ola, my son who got burnt; you had the same look and character with him. I believed God returned my family to me; you and your mother are the family. God blessed me with three more wonderful children. You all mean so much to me, I never got my wealth and profession back but I have my family and I’ve never been so sad again.

Antonia, the girl with the quiet attitude spoke, “I guess the family has increased, we now have a big sister––someone who can scold Daniel as he does us.”

“You can say that again, Tonia,” said Juliet happily, “I’ve always wanted to have an elder sister.” She hugged Abigail, “You’re welcome to the family.”

Tears welled down Mrs. Famous’ face, “So, Sam is really dead. Oh God! Sam––Sam.” She hugged Abigail again. “I’m sorry, my baby. I shouldn’t have left your father, I should have stayed with him, and we would have taken care of you together. But I didn’t do that, I left him––I left you––oh, I’m sorry. Please forgive me––forgive me.”

“It’s okay,” said Abigail, “It’s okay, mum. I love you mum, I love you.” They held onto each other like that for a while.

Abigail was shedding tears again. You rarely laugh when you’re too happy, she thought as she held her new mother tight, when happiness comes beyond your control; colourless, salty liquid secretes from the deep crevices of your eyes. Abigail was happy. She remembered when her father had died, she had been lonely then; there was nobody she could call a family. Now she had a soul mate, a brother, sisters, parents, future in-laws. Family surrounded her and she knew that she would never be lonely again.

Mrs. Famous released Abigail and asked, “How did Sam die?”

“He was very sick, suffering from a sever case of emphysema caused from smoking too many cigarettes.”

“But Sam was never a smoker. He doesn’t smoke, I know him. In fact, he despised smokers.”

“My father was one great smoker I had ever known. I grew up to know him as a smoker, I can’t remember a day he never smoked.”

“That’s impossible!”

Abigail looked at her new mother and nodded her head. “I think I now know why he became a smoker. My father had always told me before his death that he had loved only three women deeply in this world––myself and my mother, he didn’t tell me the third woman. When I asked he only told me that I didn’t need to know, he said I would never understand. I decided that the third person was his own mother who had died long before I was born. Now I know, the third woman wasn’t his mother––it’s you!”

“Oh!”

“My father was a teetotaler; he never drank because he saw anything alcoholic as poison–he only smoked. I know better now, he was smoking due to the depression of losing two of the people he loved the most.”

“My God!” mused Mrs. Famous, “Cigarettes killed him.”

“No, cigarettes almost killed him. He was killed by Cain.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“The irony there is that Cain killed my father and my father’s son killed him–quid pro quo.”

There was a short moment of silence as if they were paying respect to the lost soul.

“All right, enough of broodings,” Ebenezer bellowed, “Now all I want to hear is the popping of corks! Daniel, will you do the honours?”

Daniel went to the table, lifted the bottle of champagne, removed the foil from the neck of the bottle and began to untwist the wire that caged the cork, then he poured everybody a glass of the non-alcoholic wine, the only sound which could be heard was the music the wine was making as it was being poured in each glass. He also poured one for himself.

“A toast,” he said, raising his own glass of wine, “A royal toast. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Abigail, of whom I have the honour of being her brother. And Richard, my-my future brother-in-law.”

People clapped.

“To Abigail and Richard,” Daniel continued, “Long may they live!”

“Long may they live!” came the answering roar, and glasses were drained, including those of Abigail’s and Richard’s.

“Dear friends, dear relatives,” Richard caroled, “drink deep from the nuptial cups and give us your blessings all. I beg of you, eat, drink and make merry. For a union as this was made in heaven, and tickets to witness the wild revelry of the real wedding will go on sale shortly. It is, regrettably, a limited engagement this gathering is.”

There was laughter, a splattering of applause as Richard clasped Abigail again and kissed lips, cheeks, eyes, hair, and whatever additional morsels came within reach.

Even in the midst of the merriment, no one had the remotest idea of the extraordinary sequence of events which was to unfold itself in the future to come, as the needle of destiny stitched a mysterious maze in the affairs of men and shuttled on and on.

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